Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story” gives an example of what I am doing in a current novel manuscript

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One of the issues for a novelist, in doing a large work, is point of view. Many novels are written in third person from the viewpoint of an “omniscient observer”, who knows everything, and who can pull the puppet strings at will. Movies often show plot points from the private viewpoints of multiple characters, before the payoff at the end. In life, though, an individual knows what he knows (a tautology). You can expand this concept to “family”, but we know that doesn’t always work. *

I’ve had this issue in my own writing more recently. Earlier novels were always from the single viewpoint (almost) of “Bill” (with occasional interruptions, like with dream sequences, to show what others may know). In “TR II” I started telling the same sorties from the viewpoints of others (April 29).

There’s a well known horror novel that shows how established authors tackle this problem. I won’t even get into Steven King right now (although I liked “Dreamcatcher” particularly). The novel in question is the 1979 epic “Ghost Story” by Peter Straub, and author about my own age, so he wrote this novel when he was in his 30s.

I recommend reading the detailed plot synopsis on Wikipedia  if you haven’t read the novel. A major part of the setup is the four elderly men in the “Chowder Society” telling each other ghost stories. This method of plot development allows the transmission of various narratives from the viewpoints of multiple characters, with the idea that the plot threads can be interconnected. In fact, toward the end of the novel, we find out a horrifying connection, a crime that had been stuffed in a trunk and buried in a lake. But the narratives on their own are fascinating. Early in the novel Sears tells about his experience as a teacher and running into the consequences of possible intra-familial sexual abuse in the story of Fenny Bate. But the novel offers an extended middle section with the story of Anna Mobley, who had been the lover of one of the member’s twin brother, who also had been in a teaching position. The entire Mobley sequences was embedded in a “novel” by one of the authors of the Ghost Stories.

The idea that there are interlinked narratives with varying degrees of “truth” relative to the base timeline of a novel is well developed in “Ghost Stories”. Straub deals with the idea that people make up stories of narratives of things they might have done or might have a propensity to do. This issue caused a major issue when I had a substitute teaching job myself (link ). The 1981 film directed by John Irvin (Universal Pictures) cut a lot of the detail from the novel and was not particularly effective. I saw it in Dallas. I think this could make a good TV series, but would it be “brought up to date” technologically?

(Published Monday, May 19, 2014 at 4:30 PM EDT)

With “Rain on the Snow” I go back to the “Academy” scenario: an erotic crime, prison, escape, and alien abductions

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Before moving on to the next “novel” attempt, I want to mention a novel-movie outline, vague as it was, that came to me in a dream as I lay in the University of Minnesota hospital recovering from surgery to repair an acetabular fracture from a convenience store fall, in January 1998.

The unnamed novel was in two parts. Part I took the first 40% of the novel and ended with a mysterious “nighthike” leading to a ritual ceremony affecting various characters, including “me” (“Bill”), and various other young men whom I had “watched” or “noticed”. The idea of such an initiation is explored in the screenpkay “69 Minutes to Titan” which I summarized here March 4, 2014. Bill “goes up” and becomes a nighttime wood spirit, disembodied, able to watch over all his charges from above on autumn nights. In the meantime, in the second half of the novel, the young men who had negotiated the initiation have various outcomes. Some will become immortals and find they are angels. Others have to go through various trials again. Bill gets to play god, from his astral perch, with all the other men. I suppose I have to give this dream a provisional title. Call it “Puppeteer” aka “The Disembodied Anthropologist”.

In a dream, there is something comforting about a Book in Two Parts, rather like the two movements of the Beethoven Op. 111.

The dream probably did influence “Tribunal and Rapture 2” The “nighthike and initiation” is depicted as a flashback (in Chapter 8), and although nobody becomes a ghost, the course of various characters’ lives seems to be affected by the experience. There is a problem with a scene like this if it is in the middle of a movie or a book, the penultimate sexual humiliation and release, the whole idea that a personality can defend and then fulfill itself by enjoying its own desecration, an idea that drives a lot of homophobia, frankly speaking. If too much happens in the middle of the book, the rest of the story can seem anti-climatic. It’s hard to follow up with an even more climactic conclusion.
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Sometime after starting TR II while in Minnesota, I switched gears and started a “simpler” novel to be called “Rain on the Snow”, (conceptual video  to be based on the “Bill gets reeducated at an Academy” concept. I can recall a moment, after checking into a hotel in Toulouse, France while on vacation in early May, 2001 about which novel I would try to finish when I went back.

The novel supposes that “Bill” loses his job in Minneapolis (soon 9/11 would happen, and the layoff did occur at the end of 2001) but gets an “offer” of a job in Texas requiring several months of “training” at an Academy in West Texas (near Abilene). The idea is to become an “asset person” capable of helping the country recover after massive terrorist-induced calamity (and it’s curious that I had thought some of this through in the 80s, (“Rapture of the Believers”, April 4, 2014, and then the first “Tribunal and Rapture”, April 6, 2014). There is a certain work ethic, dealing with the idea that “the buck stops with me” and “there is no They”.

The “Academy” sets Bill up with an apartment in Dallas, and lets him “go home” ever few weeks. At a nearby restaurant, he meets “The Prodigy”, a young man named “Matt”, working in a restaurant. It turns out that Matt has some ties to the Academy, but Bill learns about this on weekend field trips to Oklahoma, somewhere around the Wichita Mountains. Gradually, some of the other characters (from TR II) begin to appear at the Academy, including Naomi, who may be Matt’s mother.

Bill’s encounters with Matt (a softball game, then a chess game) become more personal and borderline intimate. Bill is “invited” to meet Matt at a hideway in Arizona, on the Mogollon Rim, near the site of the Travis Walton UFO abduction in 1975. Bill hitches a ride there from another one of the young men at the Academy,

In a remote hut in the desert (looking like an out-of-place ski yurt) Bill and Matt have an intimate encounter, which is very satisfying to Bill. Suddenly, Matt dematerializes. Bill leaves the scene, and find he enjoys having Matt’s body (in David Lynch fashion) until he returns to Dallas. At that point, he is stuck with his own elderly male body again, and hears on the news that Matt’s dismembered corpse has been found. Bill goes back to see his mother in Virginia, but US Marshalls and police track him down, and he is arrested.

He is held without bond in Arizona, but introduced to a mystery woman named Tovina, who prods him into having sex when she gets into his jail cell. The state drops homicide charges for insufficient evidence, but it wants to prosecute him for prosecuting a minor, because Matt was supposedly 17 at the time, and the age of consent in the state in 18. There is a trial and Bill is convicted of misdemeanor charges and sent to a work camp. Tovina intervenes, and Bill is taunted by a fat prisoner named Oeter. Bill stabs Oeter in the gut at about the time aliens arrive in Arizona. Bill breaks out of prison, and goes back up north to a “nighthike initiation”, after which the world will know that aliens have landed.

The book was set up in 25 chapters, and there was a complete text by early 2003.

After I returned to Virginia, I hit upon the idea of developing a larger novel around the core, with the pre-histories of Matt, his mother, and of the characters who run the Academy (Frankie, who had earlier dealings with Bill, and a mysterious “fallen angel” named Femeri). Of some interest is an opening sequence where Naomi bought a condo from Bill in Dallas in the 80s, lost a husband and child, and then had another child, Matt, under supernatural circumstances. It was necessary to space the years of the pre-story properly so the “age of consent” issue could make sense.

 

Director of “Little Accidents” (look at a coal mining community) gives detailed remarks at Maryland Film Festival

IMG_9392 Sunday night (May 11, 2014) I went to a screening of “Little Accidents“, the new film about life in a coal mining community in West Virginia by Sara Colangelo, with tragedy and redemption. She had a lot of remarks about the writing of the script, with sponsorship from the Sundance Institute, based on her earlier short film of the same name in 2010. Part 1: Part 2: Jorge Ameer had expanded a short film with his 2006 suspense gay sci-fi film “The House of Adam”  (April 18 here). There was an after-party for the festival just north of the Charles Center area.

I “almost” see a fibbie (?) remote viewing center for ET’s; books and films on aliens; remembering Dan Fry and Understanding

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Yesterday, I was returning from Lynchburg, VA on US-29, and got curious about checking the “Monroe Institute” that is mentioned in the 1996 book “Cosmic Voyage: A Scientific Discovery of Extraterrestrials Visiting Earth”, by Courtney Brown, published by Dutton.

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The books describes a process called “remote viewing” with astral projection, which is accomplished by a variety of spiritual disciplines and meditation. It goes on to describe the idea that there was a civilization on Mars billions of years ago, before a tragedy (the planet lost its magnetic field and most of its atmosphere). They seemed to have some powers that we don’t have. I have some more detailed comments on my own DADT site here.

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Brown suggested in 1996 that the federal government and some private interests had set up a property called the Monroe Institute at Faber, VA. Now, it happens that country road 632, about 15 miles south of the Charlottesville bypass, is called Faber Road, and it leads to a baseball field and some unusual, secluded homes and estates. For all I know, there could be an “intentional community” there. However, I checked Google Maps, much more modern today than it was a decade ago, and found that the address given by the web site is actually on the west side of US 29 (on Roberts Mountain) and not on 632. The site has some photographs of the property, which you can view here. I’ll try looking for it again another time. It appears to be a private facility where you pay for extended stays (but that is how intentional communities, like Twin Oaks and Acorn, maybe 40 miles to the east (but still in the Piedmont) from there, work). It might be more like Lama Foundation in New Mexico (which I visited in 1980 and 1984 – origin of “Be Here Now” by Ram Das) but I’ll have to look into it further.

If in fact, humankind (and maybe all of life, or at least animal life) was seeded from Mars (or Venus before runaway greenhouse effect a billion years ago) or from any other solar system some light years away, it raises another question. If a person like “Clark Kent” really did exist, would he have all the legal rights of personhood? What it his DNA gave full human functionality and appearance (perhaps superior functionality in some areas) but could not produce a child when mated with a human? (Or perhaps he produces a “Rosemary’s Baby”.) Would Clark legally be human? Would he be protected by the law? The next time you see a teenager disappear (dematerialize) and reappear instantly in another location, ask yourself.

The “dadt” link above also reviews a book “The Day After Roswell” (1997, Pocket Books), by Philip Corso, who claims that the Cold War was really a guise for building a defense against aliens, like in the 1996 film “Independence Day” where a president Bill Pullman (a David Lynch actor) plays hero. Don’t forget that Paramount made a TV film of “Roswell” in 1994. And Minnesota-based director Timothy B. Johnson (whom I met in 2000 while living in Minneapolis) directed “Six Days in Roswell”.

In 1975, while living in New York City, I learned about an organization founded by Dan Fry, “Understanding”. I found out about it from a pamphlet at a vendor on 86th St as I left a movie theater. I visited the area in Arizona of Travis Walton’s abduction (Robert Liebeman’s film “Fire in the Sky” for Paramount in 1993) near the Mogollon Rim in Arizona, and met a journalist who totally believed the story. I tracked down the “saucer city” at Tonopah just off I-10 40 miles west of Phoenix and met the Fry’s. This was December, 1975, when it was unusually cold for low desert Arizona. I would attend conventions at Understanding in October 1976, 1977, April 1978, and (in Upton CA), the fall of 1979. The 1978 convention was called “Man in Space”. I remember a speaker who warned that one coke of coffee could destroy one’s psychic abilities. We believe we saw a real UFO at night in the 1978 convention.

The Understanding property seems to have disappeared; there is a cotton plantation there now.

Daniel Fry’s life and works are presented on a website in his memory, here.

His best known book (self-published) is “To Men of Earth”. (based on “The White Sands Incident”).  Fry claims that while he was in the military and stationed in New Mexico, he was abducted in the desert and introduced to a young man named “Alan” who would then appear on Earth and function like a regular person. “Alan” met messenger. Fry would get fake documents for him, and help him get a job. This could make an interesting film if someone wanted to try making it. It’s a little more subtle than “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (both versions).

Another book was “Atoms, Galaxies and Understanding”. Fry claimed that the results from the first 1976 Viking lander on Mars might really have indicated life.

I helped sponsor a unit of Understanding in New York City. In early May, 1976, about 40 people came to a meeting in my small apartment in the Cast Iron Building “between the Villages”. One member was transsexual (female to male) and claimed to have been abducted somewhere near Harriman Park NY (40 miles N of Manhattan off the Thruway) in the mid 1970s.

Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014, at 10 PM EDT.  The third picture is a bizarre strip mine for sand east of US 29 near Faber.

With “Tribunal and Rapture II” (2003) I start storytelling from “another character’s perspective”

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While I lived in Minneapolis (1997-2003), and after I had finished the first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book (1997) and then “Our Fundamental Rights” (1998), I began to look again at fiction, toward the end of the year 2000, as I best recall. I recall that period in my life well. In October 2000, I had spent Columbus Day weekend in San Francisco for a special SLDN benefit. In late April of 2001, I went to Europe for a second time (and this time had no mess-ups). Among other places, I visited the Guggenheim in Bilbao. The summer of 2001 was a strange time for me, with a certain sense of foreboding, well justified as history would show. But during that time, I turned a lot of attention to another novel to be called “Tribunal and Rapture” which I have to refer to here as “TR II”. It really is not a sequel of the other 1988 draft. Since it was never commercially published, I can make no claims to a trademarked franchise or series.

However, I tried a new tack. The novel would be told through the eyes of another character. I invited a protagonist, Ali Mogul, a mixed race (black and white) man in his sixties with a background in moderate Islam and conversion to Christianity of sorts. But Mogul is somewhat of an intellectual for its own sake, who views religion as to be balanced with science (as had Islam a millennium ago). His Caucasian ex-wife is a surgeon and expert in tropical medicine, and they have been separated as the novel starts. Mogul has a long history in the military, as an FBI and then homeland security agent, and has been tasked to investigate what seem like paranormal threats, mainly on his own insistence, because of his long history of delving into deep secrets.

I introduce myself (Bill) as a kind of mystery character, who seems to link everyone else. Bill has escaped from prison by changing his body (David Lynch style), but has a history of connections with other important characters, such as “Frankie”, who ran a “re-education” Academy in Texas, and even Ali’s own son, Amos, who got in trouble over a bizarre mainframe computer hack (long before hacking was a common plague), and a recent college grad, Toby, who seems to have his own supernatural connections to the “angels” who are about to invade.

An important element of the book is a new retrovirus, which seems to like to live in cooler areas of the body (like the legs of older men), and is transmitted by close contact. It seems to have the ability to transmit the conscious memories from one person to another. A person make wither and die, or he may survive by taking on the memory of one of the “angels” (one of the 144000 in Revelations). Gradually, his life would become that of another (as if by lapsing into the same dream, like in “Inception”). There may be other ways to survive, with less desirable results, serving the interests of others, like by causing their children to be born. As people are infected, their grip on reality changes, and so could the entire country’s.

The early chapters present some other medical concepts, such as the possibility of other novel viruses, and the extremes to which physicians might have to go in the future for absolute infection control, including maybe male body-shaving.

The detailed history of Bill, and especially his “re-education” at the academy, his encounter with the super-teen “Matthias” and his history with Matt’s mother, Kelly (as a result of his personal history in Dallas in the past when he sold a condo) becomes part of another document, which I’ll discuss in detail here soon.

Here is the synopsis, presented in levels of increasing detail. The first summary is what I sent to “Mark Sullivan Associates” in New York for review in the spring of 2003.  The plot is basically a road trip that circles much of the nation.

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Book Title: “Tribunal and Rapture(II)
Author: Bill Boushka
Genre: Thriller (suspense and sci-fi)

Time and setting: Late 2004, United States (various locations) and Titan (moon of Saturn)

Premise: American society is quickly and progressively threatened by a new virus that reincarnates the “souls” of those religiously “chosen” in Biblical times and overlays these “souls” onto current victims, while at the same time these same entities provide at last a way for today’s “chosen people” to escape to other worlds. In particular, a retiring African American FBI agent seeks to rebuild his own family so that he can escape, while (in a layered plot) an aging homosexual man, recruited into training for homeland defense in the trying days to come, stumbles onto tasting again his biological youth. While both social collectivism (particularly communism) and excess individualism have reduced “traditional family values,” escape from societal collapse might depend upon rebuilding the idea of family and lineage within a closed escape environment.

Conceptual Plot Synopsis

The protagonist is a religious 60-year-old African-American, Ali Mogul, who approaches the end of a long career as a decorated (and twice badly wounded) Army officer, defense contractor, and FBI sleuth. He has become separated from his wife and estranged from his rather sissy-boy son because the “real life” associated with family performance seems mundane compared to the disconnected creativity that he discovers in those he investigates and that he would like to develop within himself.

After an older alleged sex criminal whom Ali had helped apprehend escapes from an Arizona prison by inciting violence at a work detail, another informant (Frank L’Istesso) from a civilian defense training academy invites Ali to join a clandestine intelligence school where law enforcement, intelligence and military officers learn to use extrasensory perception and remote viewing to investigate possible terrorist threats.

During his first viewing he learns that the real threat really derives from the tribulation processes roughly like those in the Bible. Startled that his own “faith” and personhood will be challenged, he first throws up and then capitulates with a major heart attack. He had gotten himself into psychic intelligence as a kind of self-indulgence. Now, facing mandatory coronary bypass surgery and recuperation, he realizes that he must rebuild his small family, not just to survive, but to understand his first viewing.

His Caucasian ex-wife, an accomplished orthopedic surgeon, has learned of a major public health threat, a new virus that gives its victims very bizarre psychic properties before they die and selects its victims in a way that it threatens the demographic stability of American society. (It prefers victims with poor peripheral circulation, like diabetics, and is much more prevalent in high-altitude areas.) She takes a break from hospital duty and decides to invite Ali back into her home and help him recuperate. (He has to persuade her to take his new career interest seriously, and as deserving of personal respect more than love.) Ali revs up and starts recovering (like David Letterman), desiring again to “escape” from the taming influence of “family” and go back into the world and investigate the threat on his own. He sneaks out from his ex-wife’s house in Alexandria, Va. and travels on the Acela to New York to meet his son, who has reformed and transformed himself from childishness and aimless compulsive criminality to being able to help others now through newfound mechanical cleverness—hacking “legally: and secretly into the PC’s of other private citizens as well as large institutions. Rebuilding communication with his son (who had almost been killed in the 9-11 attacks) is a first step in realizing his own epiphany.

His encounter with his changing son highlights his focus on how he would spend the rest of his life if his world of relative freedom really does go to “hell and a handbasket” because of unstoppable terrorist attacks or this new biological epidemic threat. He would face some choices: re-connect with his family and live through that, return to his religious (Assemblies of God) faith as rather literally interpreted, or participate in the power struggle of those officials who would hunker down and plan surreptitiously to seize power in a society, paralyzed by martial law, that is “easier” to rule. Now he is suspicious that there are people like that; over the years he has sometimes been like that himself, just as more recently has come to discover “pleasures” of living outside of himself. He will sink into a quicksand created by those others whom he has come to emulate because of his own ennui over conventional life. And, going through his own investigative files (which he rescues after his own condo is burglarized) he finds plenty of evidence that the “old men” running the remote viewing school are on to real threats, however self-serving their personal motives. So Ali’s “problem” (in novel plot skeleton terms) comes in to focus: to given himself a valid “purpose” (participation in either “saving the world” for escaping from it), he needs to rebuild his family; the converse is also true. And he needs a purpose to survive (even “religiously”) at all.

His son’s efforts point him back to his own files as a former investigator, particularly the stories of the disappearance of the toddler son (Matthias) of a (female) health club fitness instructor (Kelly Skiis) and of the apparent criminal sexual encounter, some years later, between a middle aged colleague (Bill Berkowitz) and a vivacious Smallville-like “superman” pubescent teen who may after all be Kelly’s son, returned after a mysterious “abduction” and two-year disappearance. Bill’s “personnel” records had built up during his stay at “The Academy,” a network of largely privately funded training and living centers to house “asset persons” (or “civilian reservists”) who will keep the country going after expected and unpreventable terrorist attacks. Berkowitz’s own encapsulated “Ghost” story is that of an anti-hero escaping from his own character weakness (lack of empathy for others and a predilection for living “third person” in his own fantasy world), threatened with firing and unemployment, getting a “job” as an Academy trainee through reviving a personal connection with Frank L’Istesso, a former boy friend who had become ex-gay in the military himself and then helped start the “Academy” as a private businessman after leaving the military (when the “gay” problem catches up with him under “don’t ask, don’t tell”). Berkowitz has encountered and become involved with the teen friend (that is, probably Kelly’s son) through his misadventures at the Academy, been arrested and prosecuted, sent to prison in the high country in northern Arizona, and through his own ability to tease the homosexual fantasies of other prisoners, overcome “all odds” and escaped. But during the escape Bill has transformed or disguised himself as a younger person and taken on a girl friend, Tovina who, with her motorcycle, had helped with his escape. Before his “employment,” sex crime and imprisonment, Bill had built up some amateurish notoriety as a writer pushing for a constitutional convention or town-hall to discuss a new Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights convention, having percolated for two years among interested third parties, is actually coming off, and provides Ali Mogul with the opportunity to network with old friends (especially Frank L’Istesso and a graduate student, Tobey Strickland, who had befriend Bill and helped promote some of Bill’s ideas) and solve the “mystery” as to whether the remote viewings really mean the coming tribulations and as to how to escape. Mogul goes through some “terror-related” misadventures on his odyssey to Minnestoa: a train wreck (when Tobey finds him), a construction accident in Pittsburgh (where Frankie is now working), a major security mishap on his flight to Mineapolis-St. Paul (when he isn’t supposed to fly so soon after coronary surgery). His wife, Ellie joins him in the Twin Cities and they all adjourn to a college “fraternity house” belonging to Tobey. Ali and Ellie reconsumate their relationship for the first time in ten years, while Bill, apparently in disguise, and Frankie appear.

Ali will have the legal duty to get Bill arrested and returned to prison if Bill “tells” who he really is. As the congregated acquaintances bridge the tensions among themselves and put their heads together and hack further into Academy records, they decide to visit a series of sites to look for “clues” that confirm their worst fears: that “angels” from Revelations will capture the personalities of many male persons, leading to the tribulations and the end of modern civilization, but that an escape to a new civilization (facilitated by “miracle” technology available through the angels to those who meet religious requirements) on another planet will be possible. For Ali, the clues and capabilities are in his own life to understand something like this. For example, Ali recalls the modern physics and engineering courses way back at West Point and then at war colleges, and reconciles this Wissenschaft with the Assemblies of God religious training (including speaking in tongues) that forces appreciation of a kind of aesthetic realism as well as the selective theology surrounding the “rapture” and the remote viewing. But the most important evidence comes from the story of superboy Matthias Skiis (who had died after the sexual encounter with Bill), as he has actually been to Purgatory and seen what tribulations are coming, as well as confirming that our recent technology came, not from extraterrestrials in the usual sense (“Roswell”) but from the “144000” angels who commute between our world and “Urantia.” There is also “Second Kind” evidence of “angel visits” related now to what he saw in the initial remote viewings: that very ancient societies (back to Atlantis) had information technology superior to ours but kept it within their priesthoods and conveyed it to the “masses” through ingenious mechanical technology with devices such as astrolabes (and monuments constructed as “computers”). Ali comes to understand that his eligibility to “escape” will depend on his ability to participate again in a closed society that will for some generations depend on blood family dynamics and propagation, and that this ukase will be even more critical for Bill. He makes a deal with Bill that Bill can go on the ship (and escape arrest as a fugitive from prison) if he proves that he can “perform” with Tovina and potentially father a child.

By now the nation is disintegrating as the news of the epidemic spreads and mass evacuations of higher-altitude areas where infections are common proceed. The “tag team” meets victims (and spouses) of the disease victims, and recognizes now how the disease has personally affected them, all of this providing and ante-climax. Frankie helps Bill, Ali, and others “escape” to the spaceship site at a major strip mine in West Virginia, but, having hijacked a train during the final race for the launch site, is arrested and kept behind to live in an unpromising world—a disappointing but deserved end for a character who as a young man had been almost as gifted as Matthias, without having (like the Clark Kent character) the advantage of indirect extraterrestrial lineage. Ali will take his reconstituted family into space because there is no other future, and Bill will get to go now once (on the last night of their “road trip” when a “first experience” provides a personal point of recognition) he has proven that he can procreate and start a family, however late in life. The ship takes off and makes a 24-hour journey to Saturn’s moon, Titan, which, at the end of the novel, the characters learn has always been synonymous with Purgatory. During the “transoceanic length flight” angelic medical technicians determine that Tovina is indeed pregnant with Bill’s child. The journey to one other reachable civilization some dozens of light-years awayangels can get them close to Einstein’s limit of light speed but they don’t violate the laws of physics and “uncertain” causality will require families to be able to carry on lineage for a generation while living in a closed space environment, yet ironically none of the major characters escaping had established lineage until near the time of their group departure.

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Major Characters:

Ali Mogul: An African-American, born 1940, has had a career in the Army, severely burned in Vietnam in 1969, loses both legs in an auto accident in 1977 in what he believes to be a collision with a UFO; has had a career with FBI in covert operations and domestic homefront preparedness; in 2000 has joined a highly classified government program preparing for an alien threat. Converted to Christianity from Islam during early boyhood.

Ellen Cantor, white, born in 1941, married to Ali Mogul, married Ali Mogul at a West Point ceremony when Ali graduated in 1962, went to medical school and became a surgeon in an era before many women could do this (and tried to raise Amos at the same time). Separated often by Ali’s military and government duties, Ali and Ellen have become estranged after Ali’s second accident, and have been separated but “friends” since the 1980s. But Ellen has very recently become more curious about Ali’s work after learning through her contacts of a surgeon of “rumors” in the medical community about a second “AIDS-like” virus.

Amos Mogul: Only son of Ali and Ellen, born 1962, grows up and (perhaps because of less parental attention as he has been raised by a nanny) becomes a somewhat effeminate homosexual, has a relationship in the 1990s with an Air Force pilot, Gary. He had stood by Gary as Gary mysteriously developed diabetes, in a manner unrelated to AIDS. But then he falls into committing computer crime, and is fired and jailed for supposedly trying to pilfer money from insurance agent commission checks. Reformed, he has become a much more practical and trust-gaining persons, and now works as a process server and, secretly, as an Internet security consultant.

Bill Berkowitz: White and single, born in 1943, has lived a life of a “professional” homosexual dilettante. He has attracted the attention of the government by gradually stumbling onto pieces of the UFO research program.

Frank L’Istesso: Born 1960 to a West Virginia coal miner, he is apparently gifted and his his parents send him to school with relatives in New York City. He decides that he is gay and “comes out” at 18. Then his family has a crisis, and (keeping his sexuality to himself) he joins the Marine Corps to help his family with income. He does extremely well in the military, joining Naval Intelligence. He has also developed more interest in the opposite sex. He eventually marries a female Marine who has been thrown out after being falsely accused of lesbianism. After he leaves the military, he helps establish a company, Handyman Systems, that will secretly help the government set up homeland security while publicly acting as an I.T. consulting firm. .

Kelly Skiis: Born 1958. A woman with Ukranian and Turkish roots, has worked as a fitness instructor since the early 1980s. She marries a financial planner in 1980 and with her husband has bought a condo from Bill. She has a son, Dan, who dies in 1986 in a freak accident, being struck by lightning. She has a second son, Matt, in 1986. She has trouble raising him as a single parent, gets fired, and then goes to work at one of Handyman’s rural training facilities in Texas. Her son disappears, only to reappear in Utah as a very precocious teenager who has enjoyed an epiphany on another world.

Tobey Strickland: Has graduated from a Twin Cities area college in the late 1990s, and though starting a career acting and modeling for high-end commercials, has secretly entered the world of covert planning for a national emergency after meeting Bill.

Robert Stiles: A young resident surgeon whom Bill had befriended in the 90s.

Arthur Femeri: Born around 1930, informal head of a shadow government (informally called “The Brotherhood”) behind the FBI and part of corporate America who has gradually set up preparations for an eventual “rapture”—literally, escape to the outer reaches of the solar system where those favored by Revelation have set up a space station on Titan Femeri has at times functioned as Ali’s “matrix” boss both the military and the FBI. (This is a loose reqorking of the idea of an “Opus Dei.”)

THE SET-UP

An aging African-American FBI agent tries to re-establish his ties with and then “escape” with his estranged wife and adult homosexual son after he learns of a grave and probably unpreventable national security threat and, at the outset of his effort, has a heart attack himself.

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LONGER SYNOPSIS:

Prologue:

Ali is attending his first remote viewing session in a secret facility in the Virginia Blue Ridge. He experiences “becoming” two characters from pre-Incan South America and then views a social encounter between an aging homosexual, Bill Berkowitz, and a graduating college student, Tobey, whom Bill is courting.

Part 1:

After the viewing session, Tobey gets a bizarre email from his estranged wife. Disoriented from the remote viewing, he falls ill with a frank myocardial infarction and is rushed by helicopter to University of Virginia hospital. He is told that he is acutely ill and must have immediate bypass surgery, and join “the zipper club.” He recognizes one of the surgical residents, Robert Stiles, as a friend of surveillance subject Bill Berkowitz, and also notes bizarre new infection control procedures at the hospital. Stiles helps Mogul reach his wife, who drives down to visit as he recovers. From the hospital, he reaches (by cell phone) younger business associate Frankie L’Istesso, who confirms his suspicion that an upcoming shadow convention on rewriting the Bill of Rights was actually set up by Bill Berkowitz, who has escaped (with some underground cooperation) from jail in Arizona where he had been convicted of sexual activity with someone under 18 (Matthias Skiis) in an encounter two years ago where Matt was found dead.
Ali and Ellen drive back to Ellen’s home in Alexandria and note a large number of mishaps along the Interstate highway. Once home, Ali begins to recover very quickly and is well enough to visit his own condo near Frederick Maryland when he learns that it has been burglarized and the nearby gated residential area disabled with an e-bomb. Ali had kept his dossiers on several “subjects” in his home, perhaps foolishly, but he had converted them to optical format and some of them were scanned personal papers, so they are intact. He picks them up.
He “escapes” the “prison” of his wife’s house and rides an Acela train to New York to visit his son, Amos. Amos takes him to his secret, post-terrorist-attack sniffing facility in New Jersey and hacks into various databases for information about this “new disease,” a retroviral disease of skin and central nervous system attacking mostly middle aged men, causing them to hallucinate that they have become other people connected to the “angels” who will live on earth after the Rapture, and then to die—although some disappear and some are found in various landfills and campsites with body parts missing.

Part 2

Ali continues his journey by train the shadow convention in Minneapolis. (He is careful not to fly because of his invasive heart surgery.) But his train wrecks on the Eastern Continental Divide, near the Horseshoe Bend curve. He hitchhikes to a truck stop on the Pa. Turnpike west of the Allegheny Mountain tunnel. He encounters Bill’s important college-age friend, Tobey Strickland, who made it through the tunnel ten minutes before a bomb closed it. Tobey says that Ellen called him, but he wonders how Tobey knew his movements.
Tobey drives him to Pittsburgh to meet former business partner Frankie L’Istesso, who has had to find freelance work as a high-rise building security consultant. Along the way, Tobey talks about having to cancel plans for competing in the Rockies next year in the annual cycling race. Ali didn’t even know that Tobey had become a competitive athlete, and Tobey indicates that Bill’s knowledge of Tobey’s previously colorful life as a college student was limited to Tobey’s modeling and movie-extra cameos.
Frankie provides Ali his own biographical notes and burns some of Bill’s paperwork onto DVD;s; given the distraction of Ali’s surprise visit, makes a mistake an allows a tragic accident in a high rise drill using a net-funnel. Frankie will lose his job for real, and find himself on the run.
Ali now must fly to Minneapolis to get there before the convention. A fellow passenger—an elderly man—becomes sick on the plane and goes into hallucinations, and then Ali becomes sick in sympathy. He is grilled by airport security but allowed to pass.
When he reaches the safety of his hotel in suburban Minneapolis, he reviews all of his files. Bill’s notes tell the story (in “flashback” fashion, relative to the observation point of the novel) of how he was “recruited” by Handyman to attend a homeland defense “Academy” in rural Texas just before being fired from his conventional I.T. for uneven performance and perhaps for conflict of interest over “the power of his pen.” During the travels associated with his apprenticeship, he encounters precocious teenager Matthias Skiis, who eventually tricks Bill into a fulfilling homosexual encounter, after which Matthias mysteriously dies.

Part 3

By now Ali is convinced that some younger men, affiliated with Bill (including Tobey), have become upwardly affiliated with angels by their “infections” with the new virus and the ability of the virus to transmit identity cells holographically.
Ali, Frankie, Kelly, Tobey, and other associates attend the Shadow Convention, just before Thanksgiving. Bill—looking younger after an apparent makeover—helps to lead it in conjunction with several conservative groups. Is it really Bill, or mistaken identity? As long as he is not sure, Ali does not have to make an arrest of Bill as an escapee. Bill has a new girl friend, who picked him up recently in Wisconsin and brought him to the campus.
The convention takes a shockingly left wing turn, as participants view collective good as more important than individual rights.

Part 4

The participants adjourn to Bill’s adopted “group home” with other “younger” college students in St Paul. Kelly tells her story, including the two-year-long disappearance of her gifted son, Matthias and his reappearance as a “young man.” She apologizes for the trouble her foreclosure caused Bill, whose note she had assumed twenty years before. Bill brags that he has a capsule DNA sample to prove he is no longer the same person; Tobey had arranged his status as a graduate student in philosophy.
That night, Ali and Ellen have their first satisfying sexual encounter in 20 years in the master bedroom of the house. But Bill, now bringing along a “diesel dyke,” Tovina, who had mysteriously assisted with his escape from jail, has lost sexual interest in Tobey.

Part 5

Picking up on the gumshoe work of Amos but without any more illegal Internet hacking, Tobey presents proof (in the form of an Internet worm) that “the Club” (the underground network of government officials and defense contractors who have been preparing the comprehensive civilian emergency readiness program) expects societal capitulation and preparing an escape for the chosen few. News reports report the disease spreading rapidly, by the day, in all locations in the United States at higher elevations. Tobey takes off, and lets Frank, Bill, Kelly, Ellen, Ali and Tovina take off on a cross country road trip, visiting several locations with important progressive clues about the escape. At one point, they visit the astronaut training center in the high country of Arizona, which is now being closed while nearby high-country civilians are evacuated. Near the Academy, north of Abilene , Texas, national guard units are managing mass evacuations and local authorities are setting up legal infrastructures. The “disease” epidemic has started mainly in areas of high altitude (where presumably blood carries less oxygen) and high air pollution, and moved out. Congress has quickly passed a law bringing back the draft.
The travelers wind up on the Texas Gulf Coast, where Frankie hijacks a train to wheel them to the space ship, which will be launched from a large strip mine in West Virginia. Bill consummates his “relationship” with Tovina and must prove that he can sire a child if he is to join the escape—indeed partake of “real life.”. But in just two more days political disintegration of the country is quickening, after e-bomb attacks on several smaller communities in the Eastern states. Several states plan to secede and announce their own sovereignty as mass casualties among the middle-aged and older male population mount, and evidence of mass infertility among younger men is reported.

Part 6

The tag team assembles at the space ship in the middle of an artificial “moonscape”—a deep strip mine in the West Virginia Alleghenies. Mystery “bad guy” from the Club, who has apparently been courted by these omniscient “angelic” beings from Revelations, Femeri shows up (the first time he appears “on camera”) to arrest Frankie but falls ill. Amos must stay behind to help them both. Bill is allowed to go if he will marry Tovina on ship.
The “flight” to Titan takes about as long as a flight from New York to Australia. On board, they have a consciousness-raising group, watch some unusual time-lapse videos of human growth and aging, sleep, are served breakfast, and get views of what the mysterious Titan really looks like. It has been settled in only one area with a small, “Disneyland” type model city and artificial gravity wheel. Kelly relates that this is where Matthias was educated. The “Angels”— now clearly shown as monosolar beings intermediate between God and humans, run the place and use Atlantean-like technology that seems like magic and can never be widely shared (as on the Internet). The tag team will go to another world 60 light years away (requiring two generations of extended family life on the space ship) and start over a new experiment in freedom.

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Breakdown by Chapter Follows:
Part 1 Family First

Chapter 1 “Chest Work”

Ali Mogul has heart attack after first remote viewing exercise and is evacuated to hospital.

Chapter 2 “Sick Leave”

Ali is prepared for surgery and learns about a bizarre new disease.

Chapter 3 “Pivot Point”

After surgery, Ali recalls a turning point in his life, an auto wreck in which he lost his legs and which he thinks a crashed UFO was involved. Then he learns that one of his attending physicians, Rob Stiles, is gay, and this brings up a former long-term contemporary, Bill Berkowitz, who has reportedly escaped from jail after sexual involvement with a precocious teenager, Matt Skiis, who died in the encounter.

Chapter 4 “Family Life”

Ali’s estranged wife, Ellie, visits him as he learns more reports about the disease.

Chapter 5 “Your Duty to Escape”

Frankie calls Ali, still confined to the hospital bed but adept with palm pilots, to tell him more about Bill’s escape and his disguise as a younger man, to escape not only arrest but this bizarre new disease. The “new Bill” still plans to direct a liberty conference.

Chapter 6 “Do Men Still Change Tires for Women?”

Ellie drives Ali to her Alexandria, Va, home and along the way they witness many accidents before they have a breakdown themselves.

Chapter 7 “The House”

Ellie teases Ali about their being an interracial copy before Ali’s former boss, Art Femeri, calls him and tells him that his own condo in exurban Maryland has been burglarized. When Ali gets there he finds the complex was targeted by an e-bomb but he is little affected since he had stored his own data on optical CD’s.

Chapter 8 “Remembrances With and Without War”

Back at the House, Ali plays the CD that shows Bill’s “going down” and conversion to a younger man.

Chapter 9 “More Streets and Roads”

Ali reviews his entire history with Bill in flashbacks, back to the 50s days that Bill introduced him to backyard baseball.

Chapter 10 “Full Tray”

Stiles advises Ali to have a pacemaker implant. Ali agrees, and decides to go on a voyage to look for Bill.

Chapter 11 “Coming Alive Through the Lord”

Ali attends an Assembly of God revival in northern Virginia and spots on of Bill’s idols, Williams, still unphased.

Chapter 12 “Sometimes a Great Notion”

Without his wife’s permission, Ali escapes the House and takes an Acela train to New York to visit his estranged son, Amos, who is putting his life back together as a process server after a conviction for computer hacking..

Part 2 “Frankie and the Path”

Chapter 13 “The Path Pit”

Amos takes him out to New Jersey where he still has access to a computer that he can hack, into Frankie’s “Academy” computers where there is a lot of information about the new disease and rumors of extraterrestrial origin.

Chapter 14 “Train Wreck, and the Cab Stays On”

Ali takes another train, intending to go to Pittsburgh and catch up with Frankie, and then proceed to the Liberty Forum. On the way the train is wrecked.

Chapter 15 “Tobey”

Bill’s younger friend Tobey (from the Introduction) appears near the wreck site to escort him to Pittsburgh. Tobey was also present when Bill was “changed.”

Chapter 16 “Consultant Kelly-Boy”

Ali catches up with Frankie in Pittsburgh, where Frankie is testing a new escape chute for high rise buildings. There is another accident as the chute falls.

Chapter 17 “Frankie’s Pre-History and How He Changed”

Femeri comes to give Frankie a chance to tell his side of the training accident. This is the first time he has been in real trouble in his life, despite a long military and the industrial history with the corporate right wing (and a forced “reparation” from homosexuality while in the Marine Corps).

Chapter 18 “Airline Security”

Ali, against doctor’s orders, tries to fly to Minneapolis, but an adjacent elderly male passenger (with the disease) goes crazy and vomits all over him. The Ali gets sick himself. The plane lands in Cleveland and Ali will make the rest of the journey by bus.

Chapter 19 “Bill’s Current History and Proof of Illness”

Ali settles into the hotel, and reviews his history of Bill, how he attended Frankie’s (civilian reservist) Academy, met teenager Matt Skiis, and gradually moved into a fatal sexual encounter, followed by arrest and prison.

Chapter 20 “Getting Arrested”

Ali and Josh Williams go on a walk in the area where Frankie claims he “initiated
Bill so he could disguise himself as a young man. Now Ali realizes that Robert Stiles, Tobey, and Williams himself are undergoing transformations that will change their identities to live through a coming catastrophe.

Part 3 “Bill and the Path Pit”

Chapter 21 “The Instantiation of Bill”

Ellie appears, and then Bill, looking a bit oriental, at the hotel, and Frankie convinces Ali that Bill has legal cover.

Chapter 22 “Shadow Convention”

They hold Bill’s shadow convention, which deteriorates into angry exchanges over meritocracy.

Part 4 “Virile Grad Student”

Chapter 23 “Meanwhile”

Bill, Ali, Ellie, Tobey, and Amos congregate at the old 1521 club and Bill will enjoy his new youth. He confers the supernatural nature of his experiences, even with respect to helping convict Amos after his own trial. Frankie assures Ali that Femeri (as of the time of the accident) expects martial law soon.

Chapter 24 “Virility”

Ali and Eli consummate their marriage again.

Chapter 25 “The tribunal of Frankie:

Over breakfast, Frankie gives his own account of his viewing Stonewall as a boy, his encounter with Bill 25 years before, and his straightening in the military.

Chapter 26 “Tough Love”

Kelly tells the story of her purchase of a condo from Bill, her default, and the virgin birth of Matt Skiis after her divorce, followed by Skiis disappearance and reappearance as a young man.

Chapter 27 “U.S.A. bis Australia”

They discuss the evidence of the new disease hitting eldery men, first at high elevations, and decide to go west, to see a country that will lose its mountain playground as a habitable area.

Part 5 “Tag Teams and Ascensions”

Chapter 28 “Road Movie Personnel”

The seven friends now head first to southern Minnesota for their first clue, in a gun shop, and Frankie finds out that he is fired.

Chapter 29 “Back to Sparta”

Their next clue is near the site of Bill’s initiation, near the bike paths in Sparta WI, in a house that used to be a smaller remote viewing center. The woman living there and her aging gay son claim that Femeri used to be their father and a good family man until he “changed” and seemed hell bent on bringing on the purification.

Chapter 30 “Waters of Jordan”

They visit the Jordan commune in Montana, near the site of the 1977 accident, and find more clues of a previous crash, including clues that the craft might have been the relic of an earlier earth civilization rather than extraterrestrial. Amos is given a competence test with an arranged girl friend and fails. Bill, of course, already has Tovina (from the ceremony).

Chapter 31 “Black Mesa”

They visit northern Arizona, including the Academy training site for the astronauts, and Tobey is “processed.” Tobey has become an angel and will have immortality but not procreate. Williams tries but doesn’t make it.

Chapter 32 “Academy”

They visit a refugee camp as most of the higher altitude areas are being evacuated. Then they stop by the Academy, where Amos find the remaining information and evidence that the spaceships that they will escape on were brought here in the 1970s by selected survivors from an ancient civilization.

Chapter 33 “Hijacked Trains”

Bill impregnates Tovina, to prove that he can father a child to take off the planet, and Frankie steals a freight train to take them to the space ship.
Part 6 “New World”

Chapter 34 “Escape for the Raptured: Few are Chosen; Many are Taken”

They arrive at a West Va. Stripmine where the ship is stored. Frankie is arrested and taken away by federal troops as they learn that martial law is nationwide now. The rest board the ship.

Chapter 35 “Titan”

The remaining travelers make the quick voyage to Titan. Bill and Tovina are married on ship, but Bill shows his hots for Tobey as they descend to the surface. Femeri disintegrates and Amos dies. The last triumph belongs with Tobey.

(Published Tuesday April 29, 2014, 2 PM EDT)

 

 

Easter Sunrise Service, Arlington National Cemetery, 2014, my video clips

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I made some video clips of the Easter Sunrise Service on Sunday, April 20, 2014 at Arlington National Cemetery.  Here is the footage that I have.

Easter Sunrise Service, Arlington National Cemetery, April 20, 2014, 6:30 AM

Part 1 Stanford, “Danny Boy”

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7 Sermon

Part 8 “He Lives”

Part 9 Handel, Hallelujah Chorus

Part 10 Handel, conclusion

Army Chorus at Nationals Game April 27, sings “God Bless America”

“Judas Kiss” and “The Tree of Life” (and a few other surreal films)

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In another post about scrambled-egg identities and maybe time travel, before I get back to my own work again, I wanted to talk about a few LGBT films, and maybe a couple more mainstream independent films.

The main source of inspiration right now seems to be the 2011 film “Judas Kiss”, directed by J.P. Tepnapa, written with Carlos Pedraza.  I saw the movie at the Reading Cinema on the Minneapolis East Bank at the LGBT film festival in 2011 and the director was at the QA. The film is now distributed by Wolfe.

The basic concept is that a flailing screenwriter and director Zachary Wells, now supposed to be about 35, played by Charlie David, returns to his alma mater Keystone University (depicted as being in the Seattle area) to participate as a judge in a college filmmaking contest.  Soon, in a nearby disco, he meets Danny Reyes (Richard Harmon), who suddenly seduces him.  Quickly, Zach finds out that Danny is trying to enter the same short film (“Judas Kiss”) about family child abuse into the contest, and begins to suspect he has time-traveled and that Danny is another incarnation of him.  One critics on Rotten Tomatoes called this the “The movie about the man who had sex with himself” (“and it’s never mentioned again”), link (and plot details) here.

What makes this movie work for me is the trio of three young gay male college students: Danny, then Chris (Sean Paul Lockhart, generally known from “adult cinema”) and Shane (Timo Descamps, a rising star in both the music and film world from Belgium and the Netherlands).  All three are athletic, clean-cut, role model type gays (too young for chest hair, in comparison to Zach), including “bad boy” music student Shane Lyons, the alpha male of the group, who can have anything (and anybody) he wants because he is the biggest and strongest, and the richest.  Yes, Danny “fears” Shane the way one should fear God (the “back rub” scene between them is one of the most gently erotic in all of cinema).  There is a youtube video where Timo Descamps and Richard Harmon run a race, and Harmon actually wins.

But does the premise make sense?  Is Zach-Danny the same person in two bodies?  Who owns the chain of consciousness?  Will Danny get a second chance for a “better life” and change history?

There is something about the male student atmosphere here.  It seems like a world where homosexuality is the norm, and where heterosexuality need not exist (except for Ronald Reagan, especially when took his pants off in “John Loves Mary” – showing, as “Christopher Street” pointed out in 1985, that Ronnie had gone downhill fast) because, well, the stork will bring you babies, collect on delivery.  No need for the caring intimacy of a husband for the entire childbirth process (as filmmaker Morgan Spurlock shows for his wife at tend of his own “Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?”)  Different strokes for different folks.

There are a few other films to dispatch here.  One is “The House of Adam” by Jorge Ameer.  In the Tahoe area, a business owner hires a gay man (Jared Cadwell) to run his café. When the business is taunted by homophobic visitors, the owner hires his son to check up on things.  This was a first a short film in the set “Straight Men and the Gay Men who Love Them”.  You wonder after twenty minutes where Ameer is going with this material.   The story gets messy.  Pretty soon, Cadwell is murdered in a home invasion, and then some time after, a new couple moves in, and starts to encounter an angelic ghost or reincarnation of Adam.

One idea that works in films with this kind of material is to go on the road, and see what’s “out there” to change your view of the universe, even as Jack Kerouac (“On the Road”, “Big Sur”) would see it. One of these is a notorious short film, “Bugcrush” (2006) by Carter Smith.  A high school “bad boy” Grant (Donald Cumming) takes a naïve but nerdy Ben (Josh Caras) on a road trip to a (a la Stephen King) Maine “cabin in the woods” to show him his bug collection, and then seduce him.  The last five minutes are riveting, as you wonder if Ben (after being undressed) is being prepared to become bug food.  The film runs 36 minutes, too long for most shorts  festivals but seems very spare; it could well have been a feature, with a little more explanation of the ambiguous ending.  The film is released by Strand as a set “Boys Life 6”

Another road film, without supernatural ideas but stylistically related, is “Old Joy” (2006), by Kelly Reichardt.  People may compare it to Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” but it is a much simpler narrative.  From Portland, OR, a young heterosexually married man Mark (Daniel Landon with a pregnant wife goes on a weekend road trip into the Cascades with a drifting old buddy Kurt (Will Oldham). After an appropriate buildup and arrival at a lean-to near a natural hot sbring, the men enter a hot tub, and Kurt, in gentle fashion, brings on the intimacies.  Dan seems to need this one last time in his life.

The “time travel” component of “Judas Kiss” comports with that of a much larger film, “The Tree of Life”, by Terrence Malick, which I had seen at the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis the night before (when a couple of celebrities appeared).  The theater management actually offered refunds to people disoriented by the unusual effects in the film.  The main backstory of the film concerns a family in Texas, with the senior Mr. Obrien (Brad Pitt) and then the son Jack (Sean Penn as an adult).  The elder regrets has not having become a musician (a theme in my own life).  His son may become what dad should have been, but the adult son, after a setback of his own (seems to be shot in downtown Minneapolis) suddenly has a vision of the end of the world, all the way until the Sun becomes a red giant.  I’m not sure what is said by the collapse of time at the beginning and then the end of the movie.


Perhaps I should have been a composer and pianist myself, as I have written elsewhere.  If I meet someone a few decades younger who writes the way I do and expresses the same attitude, and succeeds professionally as a musician, and if I can anticipate his new music in dreams, have I experienced some of “Judas Kiss” or “Tree of Life” (which seems curiously parallel to the gay film).

“Lost Highway” and other David Lynch films; “Body Snatchers”: can people ever trade bodies?

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One of the most controversial films of David Lynch is “Lost Highway” (1997).  In the plot, a troubled saxophone player Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is taunted by a “Mystery Man” and intrusive video tapes left at his home.  He winds up accused of killing his wife and in prison, even on death row. Suddenly he seems to switch bodies with a young auto mechanic named Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty).  Eventually, he switches back.

One can read the entire plot synopsis on Wikipedia, with all its twists and connections between the two protagonists’ narratives. But does it really make sense to “trade bodies”?  Would the composite person have recollection of both lives?  Would he bear the consequences of his actions in both lives?  Of course, we could pose the questions for “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and its remakes.  And remember that in Season 3 of Smallville, Clark Kent and Lex Luthor switch bodies for one episode?

Some commentators say that the Dayton part of the (“Lost Highway”) film is a  “fiction fantasy” where Fred has to come to terms with his own inherent evil. Others say he is an impotent “incomplete character”, like J. Afred Prurock.

Other films have this aspect of strangeness.  “Blue Velvet” (with its famous song) presents Kyle MacLachlan as a college student, returning home to Lumberton, NC “where woodchucks chuck.”  His finding of a severed ear and his curiosity leads him on an odyssey, hiding in a nightclub singer’s apartment, as her child has been kidnapped.

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Maybe one of the most layered is “Inland Empire” (2006), where an actress’s life starts to mimic the film she is making, and which was a remake of a project that had failed before because of a tragedy.

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Another odyssey was “Wild at Heart”, a cockroach and vomit-laced road trip from North Carolina.

“Eraserhead”, one of the earliest films, gave us a monster born fetus for the forlorn couple to raise.  “In Heaven, everything is fine” according to the Radiator Lady” (link).  Lynch talks about this film on “The City of Absurdity” here; a wiki explains this odd lady character here.

Of course, we all remember the famous CBS series “Twin Peaks” in the early 1990s.  The mystery kept building up, with echoes of aliens and wood spirits in the background.  I remember the episode that ended with the line “Warm Milk”.

My 1994 manuscript “Handymen” shows some shifts of emphasis in my novel plots

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I developed my next two manuscripts after returning to Arlington VA from Dallas in 1988.

The second of these two, called “Manuscripts” survives in print, apparently from an early ink jet printer, and provides some new ideas.  I wrote it in the period from 1991 to August 1994. I remember “finishing” it after returning from a vacation trip in Colorado where I had my “epiphany”, deciding to write the first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book.  Following the custom of “My Weekly Reader” grade school quizzes, I’d have to give it a best name, which would be “Handymen”.

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There are some new ideas and changes in focus.  For one thing, there is more attention to the sexual destinies of other characters again, but some of this may be accomplished in rituals.  I am no longer the only character to pass through a “tribunal”.  Another idea is that, while the idea of going to an “academy” is strong, there usually is not a separate “commune” later.  While many characters are at the “academy”, the outside world has some kind of calamity.  In this novel, the idea of a novel retroviral disease is developed further, and eventually will spread to much of the population.  The novel pays much more attention to the spread of the disease than had “Tribunal and Rapture”.

The other big idea is that the impetus of the novel comes from the mysterious disappearance of a coworker (Dan) whom Bill admires. The novel is set in Texas, and Bill is working for a company that services the training academies (again related to civilian defense reservists, and other things).  One day, Dan doesn’t show up in his usual bombastic fashion at work, and Bill calls Dan’s wife, a surgeon.

Bill meets a lead investigator, Rudy, who happens to be gay, and whom he had once observed on the paddleball courts in Coney Island.  Bill eventually gets infected, and the novel breaks toward a connection between those who are “infected” and “born again”.

The novel also explores computer security issues in a way that foreshadows modern concerns about viruses and Trojans, but just in a mainframe environment.

There was an earlier version of this book which was lost, but which was different in that the story starts in Dallas but the openings section includes Bill’s relocation to Virginia.  During the trip back (while stopping in Arkansas), he meets a young man who will become the “Rudy” character.  The military remains secret control of the “academies” in this version.

Both versions appear to have been created in Word Perfect on an AST Research computer that I bought at the end of 1988.  Both documents were created while I lived in the Country Club Towers in South Arlington, the second after I had moved into a larger apartment.  During the work on the first document, I worked for a small consulting company (the forerunner of today’s Lewin) and then for USLICO (to become ReliaStar and ING later) during the later.

(Published Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 11:15 PM EDT)

 

My 1988 Manuscript, “Tribunal and Rapture”, submitted to Scott Meredith then

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The novel “Tribunal and Rapture”, completed in March 1988 as a printed manuscript on an ATT 6300 computer with “QA” is the word processer and printed with a 1985 HP laser printer (one of the earliest possible at home), at 546 double spaced pages, is at this time the most complete fiction manuscript that I have.  The diskettes are lost, but I do have one printed, very legible copy (a few pages tore out and are missing).

The first cut of the book was written throughout 1986, in the second of the two condos I owned in Dallas, a two-story unit in the “Canterbury Crossing” development on Lake June Road in the Pleasant Grove Section of Dallas.  I have a vivid memory of the day I finished the first draft, and then couldn’t sleep that night as a stray dog barked all night long.

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The novel has some threads similar to the “Rapture” document of the previous post, but the story is more compact and takes place over much less time.  In particular, it starts as “Al Bruckner” (that’s the pseudonym for me, “Bill”, this time) struggles at his mainframe IT job in Dallas and meets a charismatic young man, Craig Nickershtann, at a pseudo-evangelical church service.  A couple meetings happen, and Craig tells Bill about a strange research facility and “academy” in West Virginia.  In time, Al loses his job in Dallas and travels to West Virginia to attend the “academy”, where be slowly builds up a relationship with Craig.  The relationship comes to a climax about the time that Al tells of his background and a previous experience with “tribunals” at William and Mary.  Bill undergoes the “tribunal” at the end of his training in West Virginia.

In the meantime, the external world is falling apart.  As in the previous novel, but offstage this time, Communists attack the East Coast with dirty bombs, and part of the country comes under commie control.  But Craig has arranged for Al to be “raptured” along with other people chosen to be “angels”.  But then the geopolitical climate settles down, and the US is partitioned, with a communist East and a privatized but “fascist” (and heavily Mormonized) West.  Al finally returns to Earth (from what looks like an angelic output on Titan, the moon of Saturn) to see Craig get married, and he gets to be best man.

The novel is in 32 chapters, divided into four parts.  Part I is “Peripetia”; II is “Communion”; III is “Tribunal” and IV is “Rapture”.  Each part is prefaced by a title page with a few applicable literary and biblical quotes.

The relationship between Al and Craig is built up slowly with repeated scenes and a lot of tension. Craig is represented as a musician, able to play some of Al’s old piano compositions at the academy in an event just before the “tribunal”.  He shares his own past, and eventually, for the “tribunal”, Craig satisfies Al’s every fantasy.  Later, during the “Rapture”, the significance of Al’s lifelong fantasies is discovered with great detail.  In particular, Bill can watch the changes of his own body (and those of others) in time-lapse.

The novel, like the two previous ones, is “concentric”.  It assumes that the protagonist (here Al) resides at the center of his own universal, like anyone does in the sense of cosmology and physics, due to the nature of space-time.  His world seems normal and “universal” to him, even if it seems weakless (by cutting out normal heterosexual passions, which still can be manufactured) when compared to the worlds of most men. He feels anyone could become tantalized by his own universe.

There is a passage in Part 3 that speculates on a new kind of retrovirus, one someone what like AIDS, but which prefers to live in cooler areas of the body, as on the legs, perhaps of diabetics.  The books speculates that a retrovirus with very limited transmission might have longer incubation periods when smaller amounts are transmitted or the transmission is cutaneous.  I am not aware that any disease has ever clearly fit this pattern, but if one ever did, it could have enormous implications for public health and for calls to regulate sexual freedom. (See “Do Ask Do Tell Notes” blog Feb. 11, 2014, here ).

The manuscript was mailed to a literary agent, Scott Meredith (author of ‘Writing to Sell”) in March 1988.  In about four weeks, he wrote back quite a long commentary, while rejecting the manuscript.  He did say that the speculations on public health were quite frightening and seemed credible, and that the relationship between Al and Craig did show a lot of tension and suspense as it built up.  He said that the relationship had been the subject of some “meetings and conferences”.  But he thought that the plot itself was weak; outside of Al and Craig, the other characters seemed stock and their interconnections not well developed or particularly interesting.  A successful novel of this size (or film or television project) would need a number of diverse interesting and original characters, not just two.

There was a much earlier attempt to write this novel, which I sketched in 1985, my first year at the Lake June Condo, but with the “academy” still in Texas, and with the superman character named “Charley”, introduced early in the book, and with a second “commune” scene on a space colony (much as in the 1982 novel).  This document is lost.

(Published Sunday, April 6, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT)

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