Plan 9 from Ed Wood

Ed WoodThis is quite a day for birthdays. And frankly, I threw a bunch of people into “other birthdays” that I normally would have highlighted. So don’t take offensive. Not that you would.

On this day in 1917, the great jazz pianist Thelonious Monk was born. I am not often in the mood to listen to him, because he is challenging. But if I’m up to really listening, there really is no one better. Here he is with his quartet doing his most famous song “Round Midnight”:

The great playwright Harold Pinter was born in 1930. I like his work, but I’m not a big fan. In fact, I’m only listing him because I had no idea that he died back in 2008.

Musician John Prine is 67 today. I still love his very first album and listen to it at least a few times per year. He is a great songwriter. Here he is doing “Hello In There,” which still gives me chills:

Julia Sweeney is 54 today. Here she is doing the beginning of Letting Go of God:

Other birthdays: scientist Henry Cavendish (1731); the Romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813); art forger Han van Meegeren (1889); actor Charles Dance (67); and complete entertainer Ben Vereen (67).

The day, however, belongs to the film director Ed Wood. He is known for making “bad” films, but people who think this are idiots. Wood made low budget films with lots of problems. He certainly could have used a second unit crew because his films often lack proper transitions. But at their best, they are wild and wonderful. My favorite thing about his films is that they are subversive. Plan 9 from Outer Space attacks the whole idea of the Cold War nuclear arms race. In it, the aliens have come to earth to destroy the human race because we are about to develop a new bomb that will destroy the universe and they don’t think we are mature enough, “See! Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!” And so we were and are. Here’s the scene; it’s great:

Happy birthday Ed Wood!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Plan 9 from Ed Wood

  1. On Julia Sweeney, this might be the funniest thing she’s ever done, although a low-quality-video which played better on radio:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry-LwxR746s

    Terrible zoning!

    As to Ed Wood and nuclear doomsday devices: did you read Eric Schlosser’s "Fast Food Nation"? If not, read it, it’s fast and fun and angry and informative. DO NOT READ Schlosser’s new book, "Command And Control." It’s not fast, it’s not fun, and it’s about the scariest damn book ever written. I’d rec it; it’s vital and a tremendous journalistic accomplishment; but it’s so frightening it actually can screw up sleep cycles.

    In short, Ed Wood wasn’t far wrong.

  2. @JMF – That was excellent. Thank you. I like her one woman shows. Of course, that’s about my favorite form of entertainment. I like people telling stories. I don’t know why it is so rare. But maybe it is that others don’t like this kind of stuff as much as I do.

    I’m sure I’ve at least scanned [i]Fast Food Nation[/i], but I certainly didn’t spend much time with it.

    What’s great about Wood is that he raised these issues without really understanding them. In [i]Plan 9[/i] the wrong people (the humans) win. I don’t think he was aware of just how dark the ending was.

  3. Glad you like that Sweeney bit. She’s one of my modern heroes.

    And why dismiss off-handedly "Fast-Food Nation"? It has one of the better codas in today’s nonfiction: "The history of the twentieth century was dominated by the struggle against totalitarian systems of state power. The twenty-first will no doubt be marked by a struggle to curtail excessive corporate power.”

    If that doesn’t describe it, I don’t know what does. Fascism, which we debated, was a state-controlled system which gave goodies to complicit businesses. The modern right wing wants to eviscerate the state, and turn all its functions over to profiteering business interests. That’s maybe even fouler than fascism, but it’s technically not the same thing.

    Schlosser’s pretty cool. "FFN" is just a rip-roaringly delightful book, for those who like nonfiction and hate factory farms. "Command And Control" is something else, a tome with 80+ pages of endnotes. I found it too technical at first, then not technical enough, then eight levels of scare-the-shit-outta-me. And I am not easily scared.

    Don’t pooh-pooh Schlosser, who is a good reporter. Serious journalism is of necessity less immediately grabbing than opinion pieces. I’m surprised anyone could find "Fast Food Nation" insignificant, but if they did, "Command And Control" is something else entirely. I thought you might enjoy the one and not the other, but if you thought "FFN" was too light, "C&C" is, assuredly, not.

  4. @JMF – I’m not dismissing FFN. It is just that I recall vaguely going through it. But it isn’t exactly my focus. But since you are so keen I have requested it. But I’ll warn you: I don’t like people messing with the joy I get from my happy meals!

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