All posts by Keith

I consider it a good day if you find yourself in a torn Army green t-shirt, using a badly notched machete to split open a coconut and hand half of it to the scantily clad woman sitting on the beach next to you as you stare out at the waves and listen intently for the sound of war drums drifting from the dense foliage of the jungle behind you.

Cultural Gutter: The Challenge from Beyond

In 1935, Fantasy magazine contracted five of the most popular pulp magazine authors to write a round-robin style story, with each contributing a page or two before passing it on to the next author. On The Cultural GutterThe Challenge of the Challenge from Beyond looks at how these five accomplished professionals created something about as good as a fourth grade class undertaking the same assignment. And while C.L. Moore, A. Merritt, and Frank Belknap Long are along for the ride, the main show here is the hilarious philosophical clash that comes when H.P. Lovecraft’s section is continued by his friend, Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard.

Alcohol Professor: School for Scoundrels

In an admission that will surprise no one, I’m a big fan of the website Atlas Obscura. And not too long ago, worlds collided when my job working for vice beat for Alcohol Professor led me to the streets of Chinatown after dark to cover Atlas Obscura’s Cheater’s Party: A School for Scoundrels. What follows is a twisted tale of secret casinos, cardsharps, con men, scantily clad dames, and nearly two centuries of bad behavior in the neighborhood once known as Five Points.

Alcohol Professor: How Dry I Am

September is Bourbon Heritage Month, and while the idea of limiting my celebration of bourbon to a single month is hilarious, I have never the less chose to honor the month on Alcohol Professor by writing about my old home, Oldham. How Dry I Am is a look at how a dry county came to produce two master distillers, Lincoln Henderson and Marianne Barnes, and its own distillery, Kentucky Artisan Distillery, which just became the home base for Jefferson’s bourbon.

The Hourglass Sanatorium

Allegory, symbolism, fantasy, and surrealism are often the refuge of artists working under the oppressive thumb of authoritarian regimes. Usually, it works, thanks in large part to the average censor being unable to process art on any but the most literal of levels. To them, a cigar is always just a cigar. This short-coming of the censorial mind is a blessing, allowing artists to slip all sorts of subversive work under the nose of watchdogs. Sometimes, however, an artist has the bad luck of running afoul of a censor who is a little more savvy to the trick, either being more creative of mind than fellow censors or having perhaps been burned enough times after a work was heralded for its subversive nature by critics in other countries. That sort of thing eventually gets back to the native censors. And that can breed over-sensitivity. In the case of Polish director Wojciech Has’ confounding, bewildering, and wonderful 1973 film Sanatorium pod klepsydrąThe Hourglass Sanatorium, everything was reversed. Censors perceived a political film in what was meant to be a personal film. Censors saw concrete criticisms of life under Soviet rule and were upset by it, decided it should not be seen. Has had intended to screen the film at Cannes but was forbidden from doing so. He did it anyway.

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Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

When it comes time to make a fairytale movie in the United States, we tend to either take a macabre old story and scrubbing it relatively clean of shocking aspects and trolls yanking the thumbs off a child and forcing the poor tyke to eat them (pretty sure that’s a real story), which are replaced with singing home appliances and household pests; or we go the “21 century gritty and edgy” route, where the picture itself is digitally filtered and color tinted, the costumes showcase a lot more cinched-waist leather and absurd weaponry (almost always a rapid fire “machine gun” crossbow), there is more gore and computer generated blood, and the dialogue is made more modern and peppered with a greater amount of foul or modern language. This is not to say that entertainment cannot be wrung from these sorts of films. Wearisome devotion to the same color alteration, leather outfits, and general tone aside, the modern “dark and grim” fantasy genre has produced some winners, or at least some films that were perfectly acceptable entertainment. But it’s much more impressive to unnerve, chill, enchant, and disturb the audience in the bright, cheery light of a sunny meadow full of flowers. And that’s exactly what is accomplished by Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Valerie a týden divu), an allegorical Czech fantasy film which on the surface is about a teenage girl just trying to get a decent night’s sleep.

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Cultural Gutter: Whatever Happened to Saturday Night

Over on the Cultural Gutter, I’m celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The world doesn’t need another review of the movie, so Whatever Happened to Saturday Night? is instead a mini-memoir about my first time seeing the movie, at Louisville’s Vogue Theater in 1987, what it meant to me, and how radically the movie — and that old theater — changed my outlook on life for the better .

Alcohol Professor: Lady Day on Swing Street

2015 is the centennial of two of the most important figures in American music and the history of New York. We took care of Frank Sinatra already on Alcohol Professor, so now it’s time to bow down to the woman he said was the most influential artist in his life and in modern American music history. Lady Day on Swing Street is a two part look (part one here, and part two here) on Alcohol Professor at the life and career of Billie Holiday, the Harlem Renaissance, and the rise and fall of Swing Street and Greenwich Village jazz clubs.

Good Knight, Sweet Prince of Darkness

Teleport City’s relationship with Sir Christopher Lee, about which he never knew a thing, goes back almost to the very founding of this site. Where would have been in those early days without Dracula or Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf, which though they have since been rewritten and re-dated, represent some of the earliest reviews posted to this site. We have, on occasion, made light of the career and attitude (particularly toward Hammer and Dracula) of venerated horror film icon Sir Christopher Lee, but never with malice. I hope, at least, that came across. Lee was and forever will remain one of the giants of cinema, a man whose dedication to his chosen profession I much admire and whose life is one the likes of which I could only imagine in my wildest dreams. A commando; a key field agent in the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare; a man who stood atop a high tower in The Vatican as the Nazis and Fascists were chased from Rome; a man of great culture and passion and, despite the way he might have at times across, humor.

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High Spy: The Espionage Fiction of Adam Diment

He was young, handsome, popular with the ladies, and knew how to dress. And just like that, he vanished. It was such an abrupt and, at least to those who did not know Adam Diment, unexpected departure from the public eye that many assumed he had been murdered, or committed suicide, or perhaps been spirited away in the night to a quirky village full of people who knew too much and needed to spend time wearing cardigan sweaters and running down the beach away from giant balloons. The reality, as it so often is, of Diment’s jarring disappearance was rather more mundane that some of the wild conspiracy theories that popped up in the wake of his stepping away from the limelight. He left behind a literary legacy of only four relatively short novels, almost entirely forgotten today but, in their time — the time of London during the Swingin’ Sixties — much beloved, as was their author. Adam Diment, a shaggy-haired, dope-smoking, free-love cat who decided one day to set about writing the counter-culture equivalent of James Bond.

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Bond Vivant: Pan Am Worldport

007 is no stranger to New York City. He was here for Live and Let Die, both the film and the novel, and returned for the (really) short story “007 in New York,” which Ian Fleming was compelled to write by way of a “make peace” after his travel book, Thrilling Cities, peppered readers with an unending barrage of insults directed toward the city. In fact, he visits several more times, in Diamonds Are Forever and Goldfinger, both by Fleming, in For Special Services and Brokenclaw by John Gardner, and in the short story “Blast From the Past” by Raymond Benson. But it is Live and Let Die that gives us the most involved look at James Bond’s New York. He arrives in New York via John F. Kennedy International Airport. Only in 007’s case, he gets to emerge from a terminal we denizens of the 21st century cannot: the Pan-Am Worldport.

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