Monday, January 18, 2021

channel freakboy: SWINGTOWN


How much do I love this very short-lived series which originally aired on CBS during the summer of 2008?  Well, I believe I can declare it my favorite television series.  I know, I know.  I hear some of you shouting "What about DOCTOR WHO and POPULAR and HATERS BACK OFF!?"  I do love those series, and the latter is my favorite Netflix series, but there is something about SWINGTOWN that emotionally turns me on. 


SWINGTOWN takes us on a retro disco ball spin back to 1976.   America is celebrating its 200th birthday and Susan and Bruce Miller are celebrating their new home.  Susan and Bruce were busy raising their kids during the counterculture/sex revolution, so it's surprising when the celebration leads to a swingin' night with adventurous new friends Trina and Tom Decker.  Trina and Tom have open minds and an  open marriage, making them the polar opposites of Janet and Roger Thompson.  Janet and Roger are friends of the Millers from the old neighborhood and they are not fans of change, especially Janet.  How will they fit into Susan and Bruce's new life?  The answer to that question is the key to this under-appreciated series. 



There is so much more to SWINGTOWN than the titillation of a key party and the retro-horror-glamour of '70's fashion.  Take a peek under the covers and you will find emotionally authentic and complex characters.  You will become intwined in relatable storylines from first loves to forbidden loves to finding strength within yourself in a changing world.  You will also experience character development on a  scale rarely seen in American television.  Even a thread of teen angst is explored in a mature, thoughtful way that reflects the growing pains the adults are experiencing.



It's the character development that keeps me popping in the DVD's.  The characters you meet in the first episode have grown in different ways by the last episode.  I hesitate to say the characters change because it's not that simple.  The development patiently evolves from confronting their fears or exploring their desires throughout the series.  Sometimes this is as subtle as perusing a scrapbook and sometimes it's as bold as eating a pot brownie.  Either way, the collective journey of these characters feels very real and is a remarkable piece of writing. 

As for the acting, I think the entire cast is great, but it's the three main actors who are riveting to watch.  Molly Parker brings an effervescent aura and down to earth intellect to Susan Miller's search for her authentic self.  Lana Parrilla brings a quiet strength and a disarming vulnerability to Trina Decker's examination of herself and those around her.  Miriam Shor brings fierce determination and hard-earned sympathy to Janet Thompson's struggle to find her place among new ideas and experiences.  Yes, fully realized, emotionally complex women are the main characters in a series dealing with swingers, which is one more reason I love SWINGTOWN.  



I must add that SWINGTOWN was tragically canceled after one season.  Sometimes I wish it would've lasted longer, but as I've said before in this blog, maybe it was for the best.  Sure, the series ends with some unresolved issues, but I feel satisfied after the final episode  because I understand where the characters are heading.

In conclusion, I could go on and on about this series, but my goal is  to wet your appetite for this overlooked gem.  So, if you're in the mood for a bit of fun, with a tease of wild and a generous helping of emotional stimulation, then let SWINGTOWN turn you on. 

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S.  If SWINGTOWN is my top TV series, then what is my favorite film? 

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My certain feeling about SWINGTOWN is why I'm extremely proud of this review of DARK EXCURSIONS...

Monday, January 4, 2021

Bubba's Truck

 (a short story by John L. Harmon)


    Bubba was 15 when his pop died.  This forced the lanky teenager to make a decision.  School or work?  Someone had to take care of his mama, so Bubba took his pop's position at the factory.  His mama wished it could be another way, but her age and health limited the options available to them. 

    Bubba didn't mind the monotonous factory work.  He found the repetitive actions calming and interesting.  All the pieces of metal he assembled each day with his own hands gave him an idea.  He would fix up the old truck that had been rusting in the barn for as long as he remembered. 

    The library had a book on auto mechanics and that's what Bubba read when he wasn't at the factory or taking care of mama.  His mama didn't know of his plans for the old truck.  She was just happy to see him reading.  He read that book cover to cover and back again until he was ready. 

    On a day off, and while mama was napping, Bubba swung open the barn doors. The afternoon sun shined on the run-down truck and the sight took Bubba's breath away.  He saw beauty in the rusted shell and cracked windshield.  He saw what nobody, not even his pop, ever saw in that truck. 

    "You and I..." Bubba spoke to the truck like an old friend, "We're gonna go places." 

    Days turned to weeks as Bubba stole moments between work and taking care of mama to fix up the truck.  A daily ritual emerged early on from the routine.  When the light started to dim, Bubba climbed inside the truck's faded, torn interior and sat behind the decrepit steering wheel.  There he watched beyond the wide open barn doors as the sun disappeared beneath the flat horizon. 

    Weeks turned to months as Bubba realized it was going to be a long road ahead.  The truck was in worse shape than he expected and the book didn't fully prepare him for the extensive work.  He was disappointed, but, like when his pop died, this wasn't going to stop him.  He had his youth, his wits, and all the time in the world.  

    Months turned to years as he saved up money to buy parts for the truck here and there.  It wasn't easy with doctor bills, but he got what he needed when he could afford it.  His mama was less worried about her own health and more worried about her son.  She had watched him over the years as he woke up in the morning, walked to the factory, came home, worked on the truck and then went to bed.  All the while taking care of her.  It just didn't seem right. 

    "I wish you would find someone to take care of you, Bubba," she said as he helped her from bed. 

    Bubba learned to just say he was looking even though it wasn't true.  He hadn't caught anyone's eye and that was fine.  Friends and romance were for others.  Bubba had his job at the factory.  He had his mama to take care of and he had his truck to fix.  That was enough for him. 

    One morning Bubba woke up and found his mama dead.  He sat with her for awhile, holding her hand one last time.  Then he kissed her goodbye on the cheek and phoned the doctor.  After they took his mama's body away, Bubba went to the factory and later worked on the truck.  He didn't know what else to do, but that evening's sunset filled his eyes with heavy tears.

    There had always been some chatter around town about how queer Bubba was.  All he did was work at the factory and tinker with some old truck, but he took care of his mama, which made him a good son.  Now that his mama was gone, chatter became gossip as the years turned to decades.  Not that anyone cared enough to try and know him.  They just sat with their cups of coffee and watched and talked from a distance. 

    Bubba didn't care what others had to say.  There was still the factory work and the truck to fill his days. He just went about his life without making a fuss, even when he had to wait a couple of weeks for a part he ordered.  That was just how it was and he had the sunsets in the truck to look forward to. 

    One day Bubba's work on the truck was done.  The passing years, and Bubba's determination, had been kind to the truck.  It's fresh coat of deep blue paint glistening in the late afternoon sun took Bubba's breath away.  The passing years, and the factory work, had been less kind to Bubba.  His youth was gone, his wits were faded and all the time in the world had flown by. 

    Bubba climbed into the black-upholstered interior, using the sleek steering wheel as leverage.  He situated himself and then started the old truck up.  It's engine purred like a newborn kitten and Bubba smiled as bright as the sun shining on him and his truck.  He was going to take it out for a spin, but he was tired.  It was enough for him that he brought the old rusted truck back to life.  He turned off the engine, leaned back and watched through the smooth windshield as the sun disappeared beneath the flat horizon. 

    News spread around town that Bubba was found dead sitting in his spiffed-up truck in that dilapidated barn.  Theories ran wild about how he died.  It didn't matter that the doctor ruled it a heart attack.  Folks were gonna say what they were gonna say, and they said a lot after his burial.  They said Bubba would've been a disappointment to his pop.  They said his mama must be spinning in her grave over the fact he spent more time with that dumb old truck than with people.  They said he never really did anything or went anywhere in his pathetic life, but they could never see what Bubba saw.  Every evening since he was 15, Bubba sat behind the steering wheel, gazing beyond the barn doors at the sunset and he went places in his truck.  Places as far away as his dreams could take him.

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2021, John L. Harmon 

__________________
Bubba's Truck was inspired by a talk-to-text translator mishap during a conversation with a friend about his music, which can be found here...



Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S.  A different short story from a different time...

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New Month! 
New Year! 
New ๐Ÿ‘

Monday, December 28, 2020

Snowy Year's End (December 2020 in Hindsight)


December is drawing to a close in a winter yuck-land, which is why I'm posting this early.  I don't want to chance the library being closed on the 31st due to weather.  So, what have I done this month? 




I blogged a lot about NOWHERE and added another piece of the supernatural jigsaw puzzle I started in 2014.  NIGHT CALLING made me feel kind of proud.  I also released a video about my small town life.  



I don't want to officially say SMALL TOWN PERCEPTION is my final video for The FreakOptic Files, but I feel like stepping back a bit from my visual blog.  Even though 2020 has been an artistically good year for my video creations, I'd rather focus more on writing in 2021.  Yeah, I'll probably end up in an obsessive video creative jag next year just to make myself sound like a fool. 

Where will my writing take me in 2021?  I hope to continue my aforementioned supernatural jigsaw.  I imagine at least two more short tales in the series.  I will also be participating in a blogathon in January, which should be fun!  There are other projects on my radar, so we shall see.  All I can promise is to try to keep my freak light shining in the new year. 



Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words this month and this year!  I appreciate you more than I can say! 

Catch you in 2021!

Freak Out, 
John L. Harmon 

P.S.  PHOTOGRAPHIC GHOSTING was my most read post this year and DRONES OVER NEBRASKA! was my most watched video.   
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The Collective Eye is going to open a little differently in 2021, so here is one last glance at December...
๐Ÿ‘

Monday, December 21, 2020

freakboy muses music: NOWHERE (music from the gregg araki movie)

"LA. is like..nowhere.  Everybody who lives here is lost." - Dark 


I was living in Omaha, Nebraska in the late 1990's when my boyfriend (at the time) and I were driving around.  The radio station we were listening to announced they were giving away free CD's in their parking lot.  This was before Spotify, so we were soon part of a crowd digging through a pile of plastic cases.  There was some sort of contest about a ticket hidden in one of the CD's, but I remember not really caring about the prize.  I was more interested in the music, especially when I  picked up a soundtrack to a film called NOWHERE.



I became obsessed with this compact disc.  What kind of film was NOWHERE?  How did the songs on the soundtrack fit into the film?  How had I not seen nor heard of this film?  I was even more intrigued because I recognized some of the actors in the photos, but this was either before Internet Movie Database or before I heard of the site.  So, I searched all over Omaha for the film, but NOWHERE was, like...nowhere. 

I just kept listening and obsessing over the free CD I stumbled upon.  I was introduced to some great music, which painted many hypotheticals of NOWHERE.  A few songs quickly became favorites.  Life Is Sweet (daft punk remix) by The Chemical Brothers is a repetitive techno-beat that I wished my fave dance club would've  played.   Nowhere by Curve is a sexy, sultry ode to destruction ("An end must come to all this fun").  I Have The Moon by Lush may go down in history as my favorite love song because it's romantic, sad and wonderfully tragic ("You're  bound to die under the sun").  Trash by The London Suede is a joyous celebration of living on the fringes of society, which I related to then and now ("We're the litter on the breeze").  Plus, 311, Hole, Chuck D and Marilyn Manson provide some edge to NOWHERE.

In a plot twist of fate, a cousin in Grand Island, Nebraska randomly rented NOWHERE and she knew I needed to see this crazy film she discovered.  It was like the clouds parted and a beam of light shined down upon me.  I finally found out what NOWHERE was about and the music & photos at last made sense, well, sort of.   I eventually located NOWHERE in an Omaha video store.  There was a DVD available but I didn't own a DVD player, so I purchased the VHS.  Flash forward 20 years or so, and I finally found a DVD on eBay.  (More about that happy moment here...http://freakboyzone.blogspot.com/2020/12/freakboy-on-film-nowhere-1997.html

In conclusion, I enjoy the soundtrack to NOWHERE so much that I purchased a used CD after my free radio station copy was stolen during the infamous 2004 Memorial Day Break-In of my Omaha apartment.  For those without a gadget that plays CD's, I've noticed a NOWHERE playlist or two on Spotify and they may include a more complete soundtrack than the disc.

"NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" - Dark 

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S. A different post about a different Omaha soundtrack...

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In case you want to give the gift of words this holiday season...

Friday, December 18, 2020

freakboy on film: NOWHERE (1997)

I Googled my book (Dark Excursions: the complete set) one evening and spotted a copy on eBay.  This lead me down an eBay rabbit hole of searching for whatever popped into my mind.  Eventually, a DVD of Gregg Araki's NOWHERE was on my screen and it was reasonably priced.  So, I placed my very first order from eBay.  I've enjoyed a lot of the Araki films, but this one has long been my favorite and I had been hoping to find it on DVD for years.


What is NOWHERE

Well...

                    "Are we still in reality?" - Dingbat 

(written & directed by Gregg Araki)

Dark is having a really strange day.  His girlfriend believes in giving love and sex freely to anyone.  A dreamy boy from class has been occupying his mind.  He feels his time is near, like a premonition of his own death.  An alien (directly out of Star Trek) is wandering around abducting people.  Oh, and it's Armageddon Day, but all Dark wants is someone to love him completely.  What's a morose 1990's teen gonna do?  Buy a bunch of CD's, play kick the can, go to a drug-fueled party and brood, of course. 



What else can I say about this neon saturated, alterna-pop, frenzied sci-fi, satirical drama of teen angst and ennui at the end of the world?  The plot, if there is one, weaves through various oddly named characters and their romantic entanglements.  All of these threads connect through sex, violence and music, culminating at Jujyfruit's party, the social event of the season.  When viewing NOWHERE, I recommend checking your critical mind at the door and just go with the crazy dialogue, the surreal visuals and the fun cameos. 



Beverly D'Angelo (Vacation) is Dark's loudly blunt mom.  Eve Plumb and Christopher Knight (The Brady Bunch) are parents of a very troubled son.  David Leisure (Empty Nest) is a father to a very troubled daughter.  Charlotte Rae (The Facts of Life) is an intense street corner fortune teller.  Lauren Tewes (The Love Boat) is a talking head on the perpetually bad news program.  John Ritter (Three's Company) is a televangelist leading the teens to a questionable salvation.  Plus, in a tragically all too brief scene, Traci Lords (Cry-Baby), Shannen Doherty (Heathers) and Rose McGowan (Scream) turn up as a trio of post-'80's Val-Chicks.



There is also plenty of familiar faces to be seen in the main cast.  James Duval (Independence Day) is our moody protagonist Dark.  Rachel True (The Craft) is free-lovin' Mel.  Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions) is oversexed Shad.  Heather Graham (Boogie Nights) is sex bomb of little to say "Dogs eating people is cool" Lilith.  Scott Caan (Varsity Blues) is the nice guy with the epitome of nice guy names...Ducky.  I could go on and on with this list but there is one familiar face that stands out and is truly a revelation.



Christina Applegate (Married With Children) expertly leaves vixenish Kelly Bundy far behind as awkward, kind of nerdish Dingbat.  She's smart, down-to-earth, and brave, despite her ridiculous name.  There's a genuine sweetness and innocence in Dingbat, which is a stark contrast to the debauchery going on around her.  In a film full of highlights, Christina Applegate shines bright and gets some great lines.  "Am I like the only person on this cosmic plane who ever goes to class?"

So, that is NOWHERE in a nutshell. 



The DVD I ordered arrived in about a week and was exactly in the condition described.  My only complaint, which has nothing to do with the seller, is the company which released this DVD omitted a post-end credits scene.  A little disappointing, but I can live with this oversight.  Overall, the first half of my first eBay experience was a success.  Yes, there's a DVD of a recently reviewed film heading my way from Greece.  It probably won't arrive until 2021. 

In conclusion, watch your step, grab a corn dog, keep an eye out for roving gangs named after classic gaming systems and enjoy NOWHERE!  

"I'm outta here." - ????? 


Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S.  A recently reviewed film... ๐Ÿ˜‰
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The Collective Eye for December is open!
๐Ÿ‘

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

NIGHT CALLING



     "He's alive." 


    She whispers in the corner of her prison.  What else would one call a room with a solitary barred window?  The joke is on them, for they are the ones in prison.  The prison of denial. 

    "I saw him." 

    She whispers and softly laughs.  There he was on the night the sky burned.  Stumbling from the fire as if the flames somehow returned him to the world.  He melted into the darkness before she could call his name.

    "Henry." 

    She whispers and quickly covers her mouth.  The forbidden name brought her to this prison.  She said it to them.  Shouted that he lived but they scolded her.  Moral girls do not venture out at night unescorted.  Sane girls do not imagine seeing phantoms.

    "He was flesh." 

    She whispers and wipes away tears.  He was real but moved in a dream.  Someone learning to be new.  Was he not the same man she listened to?  Coins for conversation, unlike the other boys.  Conversations and confessions that would have brought him here.  

    "I'm not mad." 

    She whispers and closes her eyes.  Squeaking wheels shriek into her prison.  Which night is it?  Clanking metal keys thunder into her ears.  Is it her night?  Creaking hinges scratch at her mind.  Is it the kind one?  The one with the promise? 

    "You are not mad."

    The night nurse whispers.  She enters the small room, leaving the cart in the corridor.  The suffering, disheveled creature huddled in the corner turns to see and visibly relaxes.  She kneels and locks eyes with the patient. 

    "This is the night." 

    The night nurse whispers the promise.  A faint smile shines from the patient's smudged, tear-streaked face.  She chose this tragic soul with one glance of loneliness.  Whose loneliness?  Such thoughts no longer mattered.

    "You will be strong." 

    The night nurse whispers, drawing close to the patient.  How many lives has she transformed?  She lost count long ago, but she senses this will be her last.  Brushing away tangled blond hair, she moves closer.  A white film slides over her obsidian eyes.

    "You will be beautiful." 

    The night nurse whispers before sinking her fangs beneath skin.  She drains the pain and memories away.  Close to the edge, but leaving a breath of life.  Specific preparations must now be seen to, but they have all night.  Gently wrapping a peach-hued scarf around the patient's neck, she cradles her in the darkness of the asylum.

    "You will be forever." 


2020, John L. Harmon 
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This story may share threads with...


 




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Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S. A different post about different vampires...

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In case you want to give the gift of words this holiday season...

Monday, November 30, 2020

Short Hair Traveler (November 2020 in Hindsight)


I got a haircut and it ended up being very short.  The kind of short that would have sent me into tears in my younger days.  Now that I'm a mature individual in total control of my emotions, I just wore a hat and refused to take new haircut selfies.  Well, until now...




In other news,  I've been getting around this month.  I traveled from my small Nebraska town to 42ND STREET in NYC.  Then, on the way home, I stopped off in EERIE, INDIANA.  I'm obviously referring to this blog.  Oh, and I also celebrated my birthday in video for The FreakOptic Files...



I guess November has been a somewhat uninspired month, creatively speaking.  Maybe all the birthday pizza muddled my brain.  I will hopefully find motivation or inspiration in December.  At least I can look forward to my short hair growing out a bit. 



Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S.  Here is one more glance through November's Collective Eye...

๐Ÿ‘


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In case you want to give the gift of words this holiday season...