The Green Grass of SILVER BROWN

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

I was eight years old when the feature film The Dark Crystal was released in theatres way back in 1982 (and from there you can calculate how old I am, if you must). Easily one of the movies that defined my childhood. Certain aspects of the premise were confusing as all shit, and it was both criticized and praised for being noticeably darker than the rest of Jim Henson’s body of work up until that point. But the movie’s visuals were striking for the time and continue to be so, especially considering it came out well before Tinseltown began its love affair with CGI.

For those of you who haven’t seen The Dark Crystal, the story is set on another planet. One whose name is curiously never mentioned in the screenplay or credits of the film itself; we only know what the planet is called from the derivative works that were released after the movie. Thra orbits a triple star system, and is home to a host of delightfully strange creatures. Among them are jet-black murderous crabs the size of rhinoceroses. A Lhasa Apso-like mammal that curls itself into a ball and rolls along like tumbleweed as its primary means of locomotion. An old woman with bighorn sheep-like protrusions growing out of her head who has the ability to pull her own eye out of its socket and use it like a periscope. A beast that looks like a cross between a colossal moth (sans wings and compound eyes) and one of the elephants depicted in Salvador Dalí’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony which is astonishingly easy to tame and can be ridden on like a horse. This doesn’t even touch upon the plant life, which is interesting in itself. It’s a world that has stuck with me over the years since I first visited it as a wee lad. But I couldn’t stay on that planet for long. No sequel was ever made. The movie only pulled in modest returns at the box office during its initial theatrical run.

Thirty-seven years later (gadzooks, has it been that long?!), just when I had all but forgotten about the planet Thra, it aligns with Earth once again. This time on a medium whose very existence was unimaginable to the common folk of 1982 – Netflix.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is not a sequel to the original movie, but a prequel. In the feature film, the heroic Gelfling race were portrayed as a hair’s breadth away from extinction, having been all but wiped out in a genocidal campaign embarked upon by Thra’s villainous ruling class, the Skeksis. Age of Resistance takes place at a time well before that, when Gelfling society was thriving. Across the ten episodes, we get a slew of insights into Gelfling politics and social customs that were largely absent from the movie. A living goddess by the name of Sigourney Weaver narrates their history to us, which by itself adds several layers of kickass to the whole production.


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Filmmaking technology has obviously advanced considerably since the day Mr. Henson drew his last breath – a factoid that has not gone unacknowledged in the series. The Skeksis dining scene in the original film struck a prepubescent version of yours truly as amusingly disgusting. But Age of Resistance takes the disgusting to a whole new level, to such an extent that it makes the Skeksis of the movie look like proper gentlemen with impeccable table manners. The striking and fantastic of the movie is also taken to new levels as well as the disgusting. Hypothetical life forms that would be next to impossible to capture on celluloid with even the most sophisticated Hensonian puppetry are very possible with 3-D modelling software. We see quite a few digitally rendered creations in the series. Impressive ones, too. Ones that would come pretty damn close to making James Cameron blush.

Even more impressive if you watch the entire series after a couple of bong rips. Which I did. Twice.

Riding that enchanted canoe through the innards of outer space, I elected to live-tweet my first impressions of Age of Resistance, as a nostalgic throwback to that quainter period of human history when people regularly used Twitter for something other than douchey political ranting.


 

The Zen of SILVER BROWN

Autumn Pagan Rituals For The Whole Family

Every October for the last four years (time and the availability of a suitable location permitting), I have taken to constructing a makeshift effigy of myself for the purposes of offering it as an erotic sacrifice to the dying sun. Raw materials used to build the wicker man include three or four long thin pieces of wood to form the skeleton and plenty of dry foliage to stuff it with, and several items of clothing I own that have since become unwearable on account of being threadbare or having gaping holes in the crotch or what have you. The whole thing is held together with twine. A small log of rotting wood typically serves as the effigy’s head, preferably a log in such a state of decomposition that one can easily bore a hole in it without any special tools, but not so rotten that it falls apart the second you try to mount it on the effigy. This year I was unable to find such a log, so I had to improvise a bit…


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Part of the tradition of building one of these wicker men is the inclusion of a handwritten list of everything you would like to lose in the coming year, which gets burned along with the effigy. This year I killed two birds with one stone and wrote my list directly on the effigy’s head. You can make out the words “WHATEVER CAUSES WRITER’S BLOCK” in this next picture if you tilt your head just right…


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After dousing the whole thing in booze (this year’s poison: Bacardi), the magick happens with one flick of the Bic. It’s always a hoot to see what kind of eldritch ghouls manifest in the flames. Here’s the Grim Reaper peering out from the effigy’s innards…


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Several ghouls can be seen in this next shot, if you know where to look. Methinks the prominent one on the bottom right bears an uncanny resemblance to the late great musician Nash the Slash. If you haven’t the foggiest who that is on account of the fact that you’re non-Canadian and/or millennial (or simply because you’re among the untold millions who wouldn’t know good music if it came out and bit ’em on the arse), you know what Google’s for.


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The smoke had a distinct fruity smell to it. I’m not sure if that was because of the Bacardi or because of the discarded exoskeleton of last year’s soul, but the way it hit my nostrils definitely killed something in me. Something I needed to have killed. I found myself spiritually naked. Naked is good. Always. Walking around in the nude is most certainly liberating.


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The Journey of SILVER BROWN

I Served A Werelizard

A former colleague of mine contacted me by phone a few months ago. He offered me a job. Decided not to take it, though. For two reasons. The first reason being that he was very insistent I move back to Toronto to take the job. Something I have precisely zero interest in doing. I lived and worked in Toronto for a number of years, and those were arguably the darkest years of my life.

My old program coordinator at Sheridan College once advised a more naïve and innocent version of yours truly against seeking work in the Big Smoke upon graduation. Her exact pearl of wisdom was: “You’re just not a Toronto kind of guy.” I probably should’ve taken her advice in retrospect. But I didn’t, and learned the hard way what she was getting at. I ended up working for a psychopath who eventually got arrested for stabbing a dude, but that wasn’t the half of it. Toronto is only exciting and glamourous if you’ve never had the experience of living or working there. Otherwise, it’s the most miserable little hellhole on the face of the earth. Douchebaggery and shameless materialism are epidemics in that town. If you dare to base your whole sense of self-worth on something other than the number of zeros on your paycheque, people actually think there’s something horribly wrong with you.


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I hate myself and want to die. That’s darling! #WhatIWore

The second reason why I turned down the job is because I’ve already made definitive plans as to what I’m going to do with the post-Ellis Galea Kirkland phase of my professional life. Plans which I may or may not elaborate on in a future blog post. I’ve done the corporate stooge thing, and have experienced firsthand that there is no contentment to be found in a corporate stooge existence. Deriving some kind of satisfaction from my work would be a good and welcome thing, methinks. So now I’d like to devote my time and talents towards a more noble endeavour. All the paperwork with regards to said endeavour has been completed and submitted to the relevant personnel; I should be hearing back from them in a few months’ time.

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It was the first time I had spoken to the aforementioned former colleague in four years, and the conversation did not revolve entirely around this job he was offering me. Among other things, he enlightened me to the fact that our one-time boss did not actually commit suicide, as was initially reported in the Globe. That was the “official” explanation given to the media, but the truth is even stranger (and hence far more interesting) than that. She died accidentally. Hypothermic shock.


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As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, Ellis Galea Kirkland was a cancer survivor. She successfully bought her way back to relative health, but not before her years of illness rendered numerous biological functions defective. One of those functions being the human body’s natural thermoregulatory ability. Over a period of years, her body temperature would gradually lose its propensity to remain consistent regardless of external atmospheric conditions, and would instead fluctuate in response to her body’s immediate surroundings. In short, she ceased to be a normal warm-blooded mammal and became cold-blooded. Like a reptile.

Years ago when Ellis first discussed this particular quirk of her physiology with me, I made some wisecrack to her in response about how she was a human lizard. Despite her hair-trigger temper and her tendency to take herself way too seriously, she laughed that one off. The joke likely reminded her of the pet iguana she used to have back in the Eighties.

Yeah, you read that right – being the near-Michael Jackson level of eccentric she was, Ellis once had a pet iguana. I never met the iguana, unfortunately. This little guy had been dead for years by the time I first met her, but I’ve personally seen old photographs of her posing with it. She would tell me that this critter expired prematurely as a result of an unintended moment’s exposure to a particularly harsh Canadian winter. In a weird way, one could say the iguana eerily presaged its owner’s death some thirty years later. There’s at least a one in ten million possibility that the iguana’s manitou cursed Ellis in retaliation for forcing it to spend the majority of its mortal existence in her abominable presence somewhere in a wretched urban swamp right next door to the ninth circle of hell, but don’t quote me on that.


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“And it shall come to pass…”

With her reptilianism in some unbeknownst waxing phase (she was medically a werelizard, I’m pretty sure of it), it would be a mere five minutes outside on a bitter New Year’s Eve in the financial capital of a certain country far in the Northern Hemisphere known the world over for its harsh winters (if nothing else) that would ultimately do her in. A demise that recalls the Wicked Witch of the West, in the sense that she was killed by something that has been naturally present on Earth for millions of years which the comfortable majority can easily withstand exposure to without suffering any life-threatening medical complications.

I may or may not use this as a plot device in SILVER BROWN. Some variant of it might show up, but right now it’s really too early to tell. It’s certainly fucked-up enough to make excellent fodder for fiction. The stuff of a good biological horror story worthy of Cronenberg. There are quite a few characters in SILVER BROWN that cannot be accurately described as human, so if I find myself having to kill one of them off, it would be only fitting to give them a very inhuman sendoff.