A ghoul TV broadcast
To the west tower at the foot of Mechanic Street, shortly before 11 a.m. on Memorial Day, came a distant sound that turned out to be drumming, but hard to hear clearly; then a few minutes later three rifle volleys. At the time I was reading Barbara Tuchman’s history, “The Guns of August,” describing in detail the events of that summer as the First World War broke out in Europe and the Mediterranean 100 years ago. As I read the pages an almost heretical thought drifted across my mind — if they could have made their opinions known, would the people we remember on this day really approve of being memorialized by the very sounds that had put them under, the sounds of drums and shooting? We can only hope the answer is yes, for if it is not then we have perpetrated a continuing injustice on those whose lives were expended under those conditions.
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By exhorting the wharf rats that spin their wheel here in the north tower to ever greater efforts, I was able to procure enough electricity on Thursday evening to watch John Carpenter’s 1988 monster movie “They Live.” It is one of the few monster movies I know which presents an essentially post-Cold War political point of view, as it tells the story of ghouls who have infiltrated society disguised as humans, and who have tranquilized the population with a hypnotic beam transmitted via television.
The ghouls are presented as an alien race dedicated to economic exploitation, whose twin tactics are the beam with presents a subliminal message of continuous consumerism and unquestioning obedience, and an offer to certain humans to become their collaborators in return for heaps of money. Only a few people are left who have knowledge of the monsters’ disguises and methods. They have developed special glasses that allow them to see the ghouls among us in their true form, and to read the subliminal messages that are posted everywhere. When the Resistance is wiped out, a few stragglers pick up the fight, and one of them makes it to the roof of the television station and destroys the beam seconds before being killed. Suddenly the humans are able to see the monsters everywhere, and their minds are cleared of the hypnosis. Here the movie cleverly ends, not in a triumphant battle the sweeps the enemy from the planet in the manner of “Independence Day," but in the awakening of humanity to its own exploitation.
If this is not political, coming at the end of eight years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency (a ghoul TV broadcast talks about it being “Morning in America," a line from a TV ad for Reagan’s reelection campaign in 1984,) then tell me what else it might be. By the time I had finished watching it, the wharf rats were exhausted, and slept instantly in a heap at the bottom of their wheel as I drafted a proposed city ordinance aimed at preventing the installation of alien broadcast beams on top of our tallest buildings here in Rockland. I urge citizens in all our neighborhoods to support this ordinance when it goes to the ballot box. I insist, in fact I order you to obey, and meanwhile you must all keep consuming. Resistance is futile.
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If we needed any evidence that the change of seasons has begun to place tourists among us again (or are they monsters? Surely not!) then I will pass on to you the newsy piece of gossip that one restaurant in Rockland is said to have served an estimated 845 oysters on the half shell last Thursday evening, while I was watching the monster movie.
So far this spring I have seen cars from Wisconsin, New Mexico, Kentucky and Hawaii, as well as the usual ones we tend to see.
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Reflecting on things warlike, I recently found the answer to a question that has bothered me since I was about 10. In those days we lived in a town in South Wales that is overlooked by a mountain. Not a craggy and spikey mountain, but a round and smooth mountain, covered with gorse, ferns and other greenery. No trees. The mountain lies between our town and the nearby capital city, Cardiff. On the mountain beside the footpath leading to the top I found a deep pit lined with grass and small shrubs which seemed like 20 feet to the bottom, where I used to play. I wondered why there would be such a pit, and one day I noticed another one on the other side of the footpath, which raised my suspicions about this pit, but it was not until Good Friday this year that I found my answer on the rather useful Google Maps website. I found the mountain and zoomed in to get a better look around the footpath which is still there. Sure enough I found that my pit was but one in a straight line of 14 such pits, evenly spaced and crossing the footpath, aligned roughly in the direction of Cardiff. Checking elsewhere, I read that a German bomber had released its cargo while trying to escape the searchlights and defensive gunfire over the capital in 1940 or 1941 when my dad was a boy there.
Living here, you are fortunate to have no idea what you missed. Or what missed you.
David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.