Friday, January 12, 2018

THE TWILIGHT BINGE #019: THE PURPLE TESTAMENT

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S01E19 – The Purple Testament

“Lt. Fitzgerald has found his own special wartime hell. Looking into the faces of his men prior to battle, he has the disquieting ability to see who is about to die.”

Like many a lad in the early 1940s, Rod Serling wanted to go to war. As detailed in Dave Thompson’s book, The Twilight Zone FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Fifth Dimension, “His initial intention was simply to drop out of high school and sign up on the spot.” However, teachers convinced him to wait until after graduation, after which he enlisted and was deployed to the Philippines. There, Serling eventually participated in the march on Manilla, one of the bloodiest conflicts in the Pacific. Over time, Serling’s outfit suffered a 50% casualty rate, and Serling himself was seriously injured by antiaircraft fire.

Despite his own sufferings, however, perhaps the most devastating moment Serling experienced during the war came not on the battlefield, but as he and the rest of his platoon were relaxing under some palm trees. As one of Serling’s fellow soldiers stood in front of the rest entertaining everyone with some tall tale, a food crate dropped from an American supply plane landed squarely on the man, decapitating him on the spot.

Such things leave their mark on a person, and Serling was no exception. Thompson explains, “He survived the campaign, but he was not unscathed. Physically wounded twice, Serling was to bear the emotional scars for the remainder of his life; indeed, many commentators have since pinpointed Leyte and Manilla as the crucial events in Serling’s development as a writer – and perhaps even its genesis.”

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Little wonder then that warfare, or more accurately the effects of warfare on the human psyche, would become a recurring theme on The Twilight Zone. Episode 19, The Purple Testament, is one of the earliest examples. Though set during the conflict in the Philippines, no skirmishes are ever shown. Instead, the focus remains on the soldiers outside of battle, allowing us to see how the war is wearing them down.

Knowing a bit of Serling’s service history, it’s easy to see a little of the writer in the main character, Lt. Fitzgerald, a man who literally sees death everywhere he looks. Even were he to survive the episode, he would never be the same again, not after the horrors he has endured. In an article for the Journal of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, Edward Tick, Ph.D. writes of the difficulties many such soldiers face upon returning home form combat…

“We cannot cure PTSD; it does not go away… From the perspective of the soul, a person with PTSD is stuck in hell and awash in destruction and death. Anyone in this condition needs rebirth… Healing for PTSD requires a spiritual approach because PTSD is a sacred wound to both the soul and society. It requires a different psycho-spiritual approach because the identity must be recreated and meaning discovered. It requires a communal approach because it is a social disorder resulting from isolating the warrior from civilian classes. Healing PTSD requires moving beyond conventional therapeutic practices to restore the proper relationships between veterans and communities, to provide veterans with all they need in order to return from hell and to discover the personal and socially useful dimensions of PTSD.”

Alas, as could be expected, Fitzgerald doesn’t make it to the end, so he never gets a chance at such spiritual healing. Therein lies the one criticism this episode often receives, that the patented Serling twist can be seen coming in the first few minutes of the show. Once it’s revealed that Fitzgerald can see who is going to die next, is there ever any doubt he will soon recognize death in his own face? Maybe that’s on purpose though. With the anticipation of the twist removed, all that’s left to give our attention to is the characters and what they are feeling. You have to think that’s what Serling wanted from this particular story all along.

Twilight Tidbits: The titular “purple testament of bleeding war,” a line which Serling borrowed from Shakespeare, is a reference not only to the sanguine color of blood, but to the historic practice of wealthy patrons commissioning illuminated manuscripts made from parchment dyed purple and lettered in gold. Not a fan of ostentatiousness, Saint Jerome reportedly penned a letter condemning the vanity of such purchases.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

THE NOT SO SOCIAL NETWORKER

Let's be honest, I am not a wizard when it comes to social media. That's mainly because I'm no whiz at any form of social interaction whatsoever. For instance, as of today’s date, my friends list on Facebook has a whopping 102 people on it. I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be an official indication that I'm some kind of a pariah.

That being said, I'm trying to get better. On January 1st, I began a couple of experiments you're all welcome to take part in. Over on Twitter, I'm going to be posting a tweet-review of a different movie each and every day. It looks something like this...

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I'm on Twitter as EegahInc (naturally) if you want to follow and have some fun.

Meanwhile, over on Instagram, I'm posting a daily piece of art taken from various movie posters, along with an appropriate quote to go along with the image.

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Unsurprisingly, I'm also on Instagram as EegahInc. Feel free to follow if you're in the neighborhood.

As long as I’m at it, I may as well list everything. There is a Facebook page for the B-Movie Catechism (just in case that isn’t where you’re reading this), which also has links to my Aleteia and SCENES articles, along with the stray comment here and there. I’m also on Facebook as myself, though the real me is pretty boring. Probably explains that whole pariah thing.

Finally, I’m trying out Letterboxd, where I’m slowly going to collect all of my old reviews from various outlets in one place. I’m just getting started, but we’ll see where it goes.

Anyway, that’s what I’m up to on social media this year. Maybe I’ll see some of you around. Or maybe not. Wouldn’t want to ruin my image as a pariah, would I?

P.S. Just for the record, none of my social media accounts contain any political commentary or content (which might also explain that pariah thing). The online world of EegahInc consists almost entirely of God and multimedia. Not a bad place to hang out, really.

Friday, January 05, 2018

THE TWELVE CLIPS OF CHRISTMAS - DAY 12: NIGHT OF THE MEEK

To bring this year's Twelve Clips of Christmas to a conclusion, let's end things with a little something from the pen of Rod Serling. We haven't gotten to this episode yet in our Twilight Binge, but what the heck, it's Christmas; consider it a gift.


Let's hear that closing narration one more time.
"A word to the wise to all the children of the twentieth century, whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers or walk with a cane and comb their beards. There's a wondrous magic to Christmas and there's a special power reserved for little people. In short, there's nothing mightier than the meek."
You know, I don't think I need to add anything to that at all. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, January 04, 2018

THE TWELVE CLIPS OF CHRISTMAS - DAY 11: LITTLE DIFFERENCES


We poke fun at the Lutherans sometimes because, well, they're Lutherans. However, be that as it may, we have to admit the fine folks over at Lutheran Satire have a way of making a point.


People still know who Axl Rose is, right?

Anyway, since the secular Christmas season now starts at least a week before Halloween, it is pretty easy to get burnt out by the time we're into the actual 12 Days of Christmas. Still, if you stay in the right frame of mind, it can be a meaningful period. As they explain over at Catholic Online...
"So bright is the radiance of the Light which has come at Christmas, so awesome is the mystery we celebrate, that a single day's observance barely initiates us into the meaning of the feast... Each year, then, Christians are given two great feast days plus the full season of Christmastide during which the Church would have us savor the mystery of the Incarnation in all its implications. She wants us to absorb it through study and meditation, to re-live it through her liturgy, and finally to begin to make it a part of our everyday lives--so that the Light of Christ which has been given to us may shine out to all those around us--to our family, our neighborhood, our associates in school or office, and out into the larger communities of national and international life."
So, hang in there for a little while longer, it's worth it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

THE TWELVE CLIPS OF CHRISTMAS - DAY 10: SPACE AGE SANTA CLAUS

If there's one thing Christmastime has no shortage of, it's novelty songs. Here's a little ditty from 1961 by the Hal Bradley Orchestra with Patty Marie Jay on vocals that's custom made for this blog, Space Age Santa Claus...


Don't let the song's goofiness fool you. Like most novelty pieces of that era, Space Age Santa Claus is actually put together with a little bit of skill. I mean, besides Lynyrd Skynyrd's Give Me Three Steps (of all things) and maybe Springsteen's Blinded by the Light, how many pop tunes can you name whose lyrics include sestains with an AABCCB rhyme scheme? Here's the first verse...

Santa Claus has a rocket sleigh
Getting ready to zoom away
On his first trip into space
In his pressurized suit with the fur along the border
And a long white bearded helmet made just to order
He’ll take the Christmas spirit every place

You know who also liked sestains, at least on occasion; the 17th century Anglican priest and poet George Herbert. His piece, Man's Medley, uses the form to explore the duel physical and spiritual nature of mankind's joys and sorrows. Being a man of the cloth, he obviously recommends those of the spirit, as the last two stanzas attest...

But as his joys are double, 
So is his trouble. 
He hath two winters, other things but one: 
Both frosts and thoughts do nip, 
And bite his lip; 
And he of all things fears two deaths alone. 

Yet ev'n the greatest griefs 
May be reliefs, 
Could he but take them right, and in their ways. 
Happy is he, whose heart 
Hath found the art 
To turn his double pains to double praise.

Yeah, it doesn't quite roll off the tongue like Skynyrd, or Space Age Santa Claus for that matter, but it's hard to argue with the conclusions.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

THE TWELVE CLIPS OF CHRISTMAS - DAY 9: THE PRUNE SONG


Not every Christmas movie can be a classic and not every song a new standard. Such is the case with The Prune Song from The Christmas That Almost Wasn't. Incredibly, this tale of Santa having to take a second job to pay his rent never caught on with the kids. It did with HBO, though, who for some reason showed this thing nonstop back in their early days. Probably because nobody else wanted it.


The word "prune" in the song has no other meaning or purpose behind it other than it's the villain's name, one meant to associate the bad guy with having a big BM. THanks to the pain of watching this movie, however, it reminds me of the verb "prune," which means to reduce especially by eliminating superfluous matter. Over at Catholic Exchange, Fr. Paul Scalia has something to say about that use of the word...
"Our Lord uses the image of pruning to describe our heavenly Father’s work: 'I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit' (Jn 15:1)... If pruning brings some degree of suffering to a plant, it must also bring the same to us. But it also brings benefits. Perhaps if we understand the purpose of the Father’s pruning we will endure it more joyfully — and avail ourselves of it more often. Our Father has, in short, the same purpose as any gardener: He prunes in order to produce spiritual health, fruitfulness and beauty... Pruning does away with the old, diseased and dead branches from a plant. God works the same in our souls. He seeks to remove the dead wood of sin and the diseased branches of vice so that our souls can enjoy greater health."
You know, given the extraordinary pain in the you know what 2017 was, the good Father's words might just be something to keep in mind as 2018 gets under way. Every time you feel the new year give you a little jab, just consider there might be some pruning going on.

Monday, January 01, 2018

THE TWELVE CLIPS OF CHRISTMAS - DAY 8: THE MILKMAID AND HER PAIL

On this day of eight maids a milking, what could be more appropriate than Aesop's classic fable, The Milkmaid and Her Pail? Of course, there are untold versions of this story on YouTube, but anybody over the age of 30 will instantly feel a twinge of nostalgia once they press play and they'll understand why I chose this particular adaptation.


Talk about auld lang syne. Who of a certain age doesn't remember the pressure of being chosen to run the film strip projector and hoping you didn't somehow miss the little beep indicating it was time to turn the knob and switch to the next picture? Or worse, they had those automatic ones that never worked properly and the teacher would have to step in and try to re-sync the audio with the correct image. Horrible.

Now, some of you young whipper-snappers out there may be rolling your eyes at this ancient tech, but when you can give me a YouTube that doesn't have the occasional buffer issues, then I'll accept your judgment. Besides, keep in mind that one day you'll be old, and all those kids who are having video beamed directly to the chip in their skull will roll their eyes at you and the thought of your antiquated social media sites. Just you wait.

However the technology develops, I hope future generations keep in mind the words of Pope benedict XVI, who wrote in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate...
"Technology is highly attractive because it draws us out of our physical limitations and broadens our horizon. But human freedom is authentic only when it responds to the fascination of technology with decisions that are the fruit of moral responsibility. Hence the pressing need for formation in an ethically responsible use of technology. Moving beyond the fascination that technology exerts, we must reappropriate the true meaning of freedom, which is not an intoxication with total autonomy, but a response to the call of being, beginning with our own personal being."
In other words, when developing new tech, don't skip the moral dimension in a rush to get to the end goal, otherwise you might drop the proverbial pail and count your technological chickens before they hatch.