Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Writing - Noise - Magic

Monday, February 17, 2014

Burning Hands 3

Potty calls, "Hey rag-child, ready to get some bread today?" She pulls out a bottle of vanilla vodka and hands it to Chrissy.

Chrissy smiles like a happy baby and screws off the top. The buzzing liquid warms her up guts first, the way she likes. A dog barks flat with no echo. The train tears over their heads. The river moves with a cold wind. "How?"

Potty touches her black sunglasses. "Let's walk to the new casino. I've got these numbers. We can use them for betting. They're credit card numbers. Walk - it's cold."

Chrissy is not sure how this will work, but already Potty is climbing up to the sidewalk, and so Chrissy follows. They move up old sidewalks, gradually climbing away from the curvy river, the old flats up into downtown toward the casino, which is where exactly? Chrissy doesn't know. She sees all the buildings from dirt level all the time. Nothing looks new.

Potty asks if Chrissy stayed the night at her boyfriend's, and Chrissy says where else, exposing the rift in their friendship: that Potty won't disclose the location of her tent.

"Well, button-girl, get ready to get your own place, cause after today, we'll have some serious moolah."  Potty stops a man in a tan leather, floor-length gown. No wait, it's just a like a long raincoat thing. "Hey gentle-man, could you point the way to the casino?"

The man is wet. Sometimes the weather changes fast in Cleveland and can be different from one street to the next. The man looks at Potty and Chrissy as if he sees some letters in their hair, as if there are some kind of signs in there. He doesn't point to the tower or anything, he says, "Come on down, it's down these stairs, I'm going there."

They follow him down some ancient side stairs into some weirdo old building with brick arches over the low doorway. Chrissy thinks this is not the casino, but her feet hurt like surgery, if surgery were not hot but cold, and so she'll go anywhere.

To be continued...

Monday, February 10, 2014


Guest contributor Blaster of Reality returns this week for a book review:

Say You Love Satan (Dell, 1987) by David St. Clair recounts the 1984 murder of 17 year-old Gary Lauwer by Ricky "Acid King" Kasso. It was one of the most sensational crimes of the later part of the century and a gory snapshot of the darkness lurking under the surface of the materialistic, yuppie-infested early-mid 1980's. Kasso was a dropout/dirtbag-type kid who was heavily into heavy metal, drugs, and Satan. Story has it Kasso screamed "Say you love Satan!" as he stabbed the hapless Lauwer more than 17 times in the torso and face for $50 owed to Kasso by Lauwer over some stolen drugs.

Ricky Kasso graduated from smoking weed in the 5th grade to making regular forays into the Bronx to pick up much heavier stuff such as PCP and LSD by the time of the murder (remember, this the Bronx in the insanely violent '80's). The backdrop of this mayhem is the small, sleepy town of Northport, Long Island. It is a place inhabited by doctors and lawyers and business executives with one of the best school systems in the state of New York and resplendent with its own yacht club. It is the kind of place parents dream of raising their children in, with all the material comforts and middle/upper-middle class regalia one could ever dream of. Imagine a small, affluent town like Mentor circa '84 and you have a decent idea of what this Northport place is like. In Northport, parents are chronically absent from their children's lives and both parents and their teenage children suffer from a kind of selfish ennui and lack of concern for others (tons of kids knew Gary had been killed and knew where his body was but no on cared enough to tell the police for weeks).

It was also around the time of two developments that targeted youth. One was the "heavy metal witch-hunts" embodied by Tipper Gore and her PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) against bands such as W.A.S.P., Twisted Sister and…Sheena Easton (!) among others, culminating in congressional hearings on Capitol Hill and the resultant "parental warning" stickers for releases deemed to obscene. Also well underway was the ridiculous and ineffectual "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign of then-First Lady Nancy Reagan.

It was into this illusion of safety Richard Kasso came of age, oldest child of Dick and Lynn, and brother to 3 girls. By all accounts he had a relatively normal childhood growing up alongside lifelong friend James "Jimmy" Troiano, but he grew into a social misfit and outcast by the time he hits junior high, and is a regular drug user and fan of heavy metal as well as a chronic runaway. A chance encounter at a bookstore introduces him to Satanism, which is further fueled by his appetite for substances and the burgeoning '80's mall metal scene. References to heavy metal acts such as Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne abound (hate to see how these kids would have turned out if they had discovered say Venom or Slayer, but they were firmly mall metal), and the book is embedded with mini-love stories between both Troiano and a girl named Lucia and well as Kasso and the blonde-haired fellow dirtbag Debbie. Over time Ricky Kasso becomes a major player and pusher in the underage drug scene of Northport, earning himself a dedicated following of young burnouts (chief among them Jimmy Troiano) and the title  "Acid King." This, coupled with the special relationship he believes he has with his "main man" Satan, serve to give Kasso an inflated sense of egotism, invulnerability, and invincibility.

One night at a party, Lauwer steals some hits of mescaline out of the chest pocket of the sleeping Kasso, setting in motion a chain of events that would culminate with the brutal murder of Lauwer by Kasso in an area known by the name of Aztakea Forest during a PCP and mescaline-hazed hangout fest late one night. After unsuccessfully attempting to collect the monies owed for the mescaline, Kasso lures Lauwer into Aztakea Forest on the pretense of friendship and after some tense build-up, stabs Lauwer repeatedly while ordering him to "Say you love Satan!" Present at the time of the murder is both Jimmy Troiano (who was charged as an accomplice) and Albert Quinones (who agreed to testify in exchange for permanent immunity from prosecution). It was weeks later that the decomposed, eyeless, noseless, and lipless body of Gary Lauwer is discovered, only after an anonymous tip-off alerted the police that Lauwer had been murdered. Prior to that, Kasso had freely admitted, even boasted that he killed Lauwer, going as far as showing some of the local kids who ran with him the corpse. After being arrested for someone calling about them sleeping in their car parked illegally in the yacht club lot, they are taken in and charged with the murder.

We know how the story ends: Kasso is found hanged in his cell before the murder trial begins (he had repeatedly claimed he would kill himself if he ever went to jail). But in a lemony twist, Kasso's accomplice, 19 year-old Jimmy Troiano is found innocent by a jury after no one there that night could keep their story straight during testimony on account of being fried from drugs.

It is a suburban crime tale that has a unique '80's flavor to it as well as a quintessential American-ness at its core. It was a few years after the Amityville murders that also occurred on Long Island, and which also had a chilling alleged occult connection. It is a classic true crime story from the darkest depths of the Reagan era, a nightmare for the paranoid youth-haters of the time, but also a source of fascination for people who are interested in the depravity that could be associated with something as harmless as heavy metal tapes bought at the local mall. The story of the Acid King rips the facade off of American suburbia to expose the underlying horror beneath it and the vapid hypocrisy of 1980's America, and ultimately is a tale of the death of promise in the form of young Gary Lauwer and Ricky Kasso.

Monday, February 3, 2014


Happy Imbolc... Happy Chinese New Year of the Horse... Happy Groundhog Day, Fellows! 
Guest contributor Blaster of Reality is back with another review:

     Beyond the Black Rainbow is a 2010 sci-horror flick directed by Panos Cosmatos (son of George, who directed  '80's Stallone action vehicles Rambo II: First Blood and Cobra among others). Beyond the Black Rainbow has been touted as a homage to '80's sci-fi drive-through/B-flicks, but it functions as so much more both stylistically and content-wise and spans many more decades of cinematic influence while still retaining that essential 1980's retro feel to it. Beyond the Black Rainbow contains the sterile cleanliness of THX 1138 and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the mutant powers of Scanners and Firestarter (complete with the underage female protagonist of the latter), the B-movie escape caperishness of Logan's Run, the essential aesthetic and film quality of say, Cyborg or 2019: After the Fall of New York, the whacky science of Being John Malkovich, as well as presenting some trademarks that would not be alien to a Stanley Kubrick movie (i.e. the over-arching theme of dehumanization and authoritarianism favored by Kubrick as well as intense close-ups of emotional faces and shots of long, uniform hallways, for starters). In short, it is a beautiful, but engaging mess land-mined with unanswered questions, inconsistencies, and plot holes big enough to ride a Sentionaut through. 

     The film begins in (a little contrivedly perhaps?) 1983. Elena (Eva Allen), a telekinetic 17 year-old, is being kept prisoner by the sinister and deranged Dr. Barry Nyles (Michael Rogers) in a sterile, largely empty research facility called the Arboria Institute, where she is kept in a small, square cell with only a television as company. The Arboria Institiute was founded by Eva's father Dr. Mercurio Arboria, who though still alive, remains senile and medicated somewhere on the grounds of the facility. Dr. Nyles torments Eva with a daily series of interrogations and oppressive physical and mental manipulations, which seem designed to break her will and enslave her under the guise of studying her psychic abilities. In addition to this unpleasantness, Dr. Nyles also harbors a creepy sexual obsession with Eva. Eva's only responses are to lash out telekinetically at Dr. Nyles and to demand to see her father. Dr. Nyles has the ability to dampen Eva's psychic abilities with the use of a mysterious glowing triangle that is also located somewhere in the facility. 
     After being pushed too far one day (killing a staff member who has "cannon fodder" written all over her in the process), Eva escapes from the facility. But not before she receives a visit in the middle of the night by a mysterious, red leather-clad humanoid called the Sentionaut (whose exact origin and purpose is unclear), and encounters an albino mutant in heavy restraints, who is only a shadow of their former human self. Eva's escape naturally makes Dr. Nyle apoplectic with rage. 

     In a cool, washed-out black and white flashback sequence, it is revealed that Dr. Arboria, Dr. Nyles, and Dr. Arboria's wife were all colleagues in the '60's, researching and exploring consciousness and it's potential for expansion and ultimate fulfillment. Dr. Nyles agrees to volunteer to immerse himself in a pychotropic "dark matter" to try to unlock the secrets of human consciousness. The tableaux that the already-unstable Dr. Nyles witnesses while submerged in the "dark matter" pushes him in to full-blown psychosis and upon re-emerging from the "dark matter" he brutally murders Dr. Arboria's wife. Not long after that Eva (who is still a baby) is immersed in the selfsame "dark matter" by Dr. Arboria and Dr. Nyles, and it is hinted that this experience is what gives her her psychic abilities.
     Back to 1983: Dr. Nyles is in full rampage mode, and has donned a leather battle suit of sorts and is searching for Eva in the area around the facility (or at least that's my impression), but not before he kills Dr. Arboria with a lethal injection. In the course of his rampage, he encounters 2 young dudes who are partying while listening to Venom on a boom box (hey at least it wasn't Motley Crue) and kills both of them. Not long after that, he finally comes face to face with Eva, where he either slips or is pushed telekinetically by Eva, hitting his head on a rock and killing him. And like that, the story is over. Eva wanders toward a lit building in the night, and nothing else is known of her fate.
     Beyond the Black Rainbow, while being a piece influenced by decades of cinema, also reminds one of fairy tales of old, where the princess is being kept prisoner by an evil (insert the title of your choice here) in a (insert structure of your choice). It is minimalist in both sets and in dialogue (a further similarity with 2001:… there are long stretches of silence littered throughout the film). Its cinematography and imagery are interesting and visually arresting. It is full utilitarian whites, grays, and blacks, symmetrically contrasted by rich reds, purples, and magentas. Squares, triangles and other geometric shapes serve as symbolism for rigid control. It wants to be a film from 1983 that was never shot, and is almost like a dream of such a film. Some writers have said is a thinly-veiled commentary of the Baby Boomers and New Age ideas, but to be honest, it is best to simply suspend disbelief and enjoy the film at face value.  Otherwise, you might be infuriated by the plot holes that riddle …Black Rainbow like so many holes in Swiss cheese: who was the Sentionaut? Was he someone known to the facility? How did Dr. Arboria not know of Dr. Nyles's murder of his wife (among other wrongdoings)? How long has Dr. Nyles had control over Eva? How did the glowing triangle affect Eva's powers? But whatever you do, remain open-minded about it's ostensible links to the '80's and view it as a standalone piece. That way, you can ignore the earnest attempts to model it after an '80's movie and enjoy it more for its own merits.…Black Rainbow is itself like a drug-induced trip, as self-contained and hard to grasp as a dream of a movie. Ultimately, it is entertaining and engaging, and like a Rorschach test can be as cerebral as you like it, or as popcorn-driven fluff as you like it. Either way, you, the viewer wins. 

Readers may also be interested in another take on the film. Here is a link to Robert Beveridge's critique of Beyond the Black Rainbow: Readers may remember Robert Beveridge from my interview with him last July.