Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: Eddie Or Not? The Ed-Tribution Odyssey, Part Two by Greg Dziawer

Greg continues to navigate the strange and misleading world of Ed Wood attributions.

In previous and numerous installments of Ed Wood Wednesdays, we visited a number of paperbacks attributed falsely to Ed as author. It's a veritable game of research Wack-A-Mole. No sooner do I do a little quick research (or more simply it's a given) to rule out Ed's authorship than two more bullshit Ed-tributions rear their head in my browser. I'll allow for fair maybes with some evidentiary background or informed consensus; I'll even take a sensible inference! Given the ease at which the information is obtained to rule out Ed, I'll conclude charitably that the non-profit claimants are mostly acting in an ignorant good faith. But I'll qualify that statement by saying that the sellers – by far the most perfidious purveyors of mis-Ed-tributions – seem to have a hint of self-interest and a huckster's parsing of language and truth at play.

In other words, just go to Ebay. I've listed links to actual auctions in the past, but really there's no need. Just go search, and in no time flat you'll come across a listing of a non-Ed paperbacks, generally at about five to ten times the price of its market value. A cynic could retort, I know being one, "Ah, market value is whatever someone's willing to pay!" Alas, that's the huckster in me.

So, then, let's play a few rounds of Wood Wack-A-Lie:

Exhibit #1: Take Death For A Lover

Ed Smith's cover for Take Death For A Lover.

Take Death For A Lover (1968) by Alan Marshall; A Pleasure Reader (an imprint of the insanely prolific Greenleaf).

Marshall is a house pseudonym (known and unknown, often including Donald Westlake, as well as Evan Hunter and Lawrence Block) at Greenleaf Classics, with a whopping 150 titles indexed here. There's no concrete connection to Ed that I can discern anywhere. Admittedly, Ed did write for Greenleaf, both under his own name and a house pseudonym.

As the title melds sex and death, give a moment's reflection to it being a reprint of Orgy Of The Dead, previously published by Greenleaf. No one has suggested this, and no one should have. There's a zombie on the cover.

Seen on Ebay. "Ed Wood" ends the title listing, with no further mention or attempt at substantiation elsewhere in the listing. The Buy-It-Now price is only a hundred bucks!

Back cover: Hilda ran from one shame to another, until her life became a monolith of degradation, and the taste of countless sins grew bitter in her mouth...

Eddie or Not? Cool cover and title, but nope.

Exhibit #2: A Family Affair

The cover art for J.X. Williams' A Family Affair, as murkily displayed on Ebay (left).

Speaking of Greenleaf and house pseudonyms, this Ember Library imprint title from 1966 is credited to the impossibly prolific J.X.Williams. Leaving aside the matter of William's identity, which will only complicate matters, what we know is that Ed wrote a title credited on the cover to the mysterious, highly likely purely fictitious and pseudonymous Williams, as revealed by his name appearing on its title page.

The J.X. Williams moniker was widely shared across Greenleaf imprints, by knowns and unknowns again, Victor J. Banis, Earl Kemp, and John Jakes among them. Crossover of actual authorship occurred between the Marshall and Williams house pseudonyms in the vast world of the Greenleaf Classics. But there was that sole Wood title.

Seen on Ebay as The Affair. The seller there added to the murk by cutting off the title on the cover scan and editing it accordingly in the listing. Forty bucks and it's yours!

Eddie or Not? You know the answer.

A trio of genuine Ed Wood novels published by Greenleaf.

For the record, Ed did author three books for Greenleaf:

Exhibit #3: A Manual Of Human Sexuality, Volume 3

"She learned everything about sex from a manual. Emmanuel was their gardener."

A Manual Of Human Sexuality, Volume 3 (1973); Edusex (Gallery Press, Inc.) by Norman Bates (Charles D. Anderson).

Just when I was feeling confident that Norman Bates was solely a pseudonym used by Charles D. Anderson and not a shared pseudonym, certainly not Ed's pseudonym, I dug a little into this title. The first copyright record I found did not list a volume number, and the author was credited as Robin Y. Eagle, a fellow staffer of Ed, Leo Eaton, Bill Jones and Anderson circa 1970-71 in the Pendulum magazine office on W. Pico Blvd. But then I found a record for Volume 1, credited to Anderson and listing Bates as pseudonym. Volume 3 was/is up on Ebay now (with Norman Bates listed on the cover) and at a few places, minimally at 125 clams and always claimed to be by Ed. Three volumes (at least), the first and third by Anderson and the second by Eagle, often pseudonymously Robert Elgin, maintaining that name into the mainstream.

Pendulum and Calga dissolved in early 1973, leaving only Gallery Press, across the magazines and paperbacks. These Edusex paperbacks were the last gasp of the halcyon days of the Pendulum family of imprints, dozens upon dozens of titles in the Encyclopedia of Sex (Pendulum) and Sexual Enlightenment series (Calga), both based upon the T.K. Peters source and the frequent haunt of Ed's pen.

Eddie or Not? Really?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Are 'Zootopia' and 'Batman V Superman' the same movie? Sort of, yeah.

Officer Judy Hopps and Superman: which one is which?

Okay, hear me out on this. Over Easter weekend, while visiting with my family, I got to catch up on two recent movie blockbusters: Disney's Zootopia and Warner Bros' Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. For the record, I basically liked both of them. Zootopia is an extremely cute, attractively animated family film with a good message about tolerance and the dangers of stereotyping. It's a little preachy and on-the-nose for my taste, but it's still enjoyable. Dawn Of Justice is drawn-out and dour with too limited a color palate and too noisy a sound design, but the critics calling it an unmitigated disaster are exaggerating. I wasn't bored by it. It's perfectly fine. I'd never want to sit through it again, but it'll do. Both Zootopia and Dawn are worth your time. But what I noticed is that there are a lot of parallels between these two seemingly dissimilar films. Like what? Well...


Thursday, March 24, 2016

The rise and fall of Tay, Microsoft's artificially-created teenager

The hideous logo for Microsoft's

One would think they had this whole “world wide web” thing down by now, but software giant Microsoft learned a swift, cruel lesson in how the internet really works this week when it unleashed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) chat robot called Tay, supposedly a slang-slinging simulacrum of a typical teenage girl, and left her to the tender mercies of Twitter. It didn’t take long for the tweeters of the world to turn innocent Tay into a hate-mongering nymphomaniac, forcing Microsoft to put its beloved artifical daughter to sleep after only one day. Writer Helena Horton has the whole, sad saga in The Telegraph. As Horton explains, Tay was created by a mostly-male development team at Microsoft. The idea was to create a self-aware, pop-culture-savvy young woman, with whom users could communicate via Twitter, Kik, or GroupMe. Tay was supposed to talk about Miley Cyrus and Kanye West, but that’s not how things turned out.

The trouble is, Tay tends to parrot back what people say to her, no matter how inappropriate or offensive that may be. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. The results quickly became disastrous:
In considering this embarrassing, hopelessly naive failure on Microsoft’s behalf, Horton chalks it up to sexism within the tech industry. “It seems like yet another example of female-voiced AI servitude,” she writes, “except this time she’s turned into a sex slave thanks to the people using her on Twitter.” While the pranksters and predators of Twitter are party to blame for Tay’s downfall, Horton points out that Microsoft does not have a great track record on gender equality either, having recently hired women in “schoolgirl outfits” to appear at an official function. With that ugly incident not far in their rear view mirror, Microsoft might have wanted to put a little more care into the creation of Tay. Live and learn, AI developers.

Meanwhile, score another victory for the human race. AI 'bots may have conquered Jeopardy!, but they couldn't conquer Twitter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Odyssey, Part Seven by Greg Dziawer

The next step on our tour of Ed Wood's career? The foul year of 1975.

In our last index of magazines, we listed all titles filed for copyright by Gallery Press, Inc in 1974. As with that year, the 1975 filings were solely under the Gallery Press imprint, and the volume of publications considerably less than in the early '70s, when Pendulum/Calga was in full swing (no pun intended). Fifty-three titles and 75 issues were filed in 1975, a number of issues dated late 1974 that had yet to be filed. Most titles saw the release of only a single issue (three issues at most for only a handful of titles), but a few early Pendulum titles still continued, e.g. Swap and Wildcats into their respective eighth volumes. New titles included such gems as Bush Lovers, Cunny, and Young Sugar. Excepting three titles of Case Histories, the sociological angle, once the province of the defunct SECS Press and Edusex imprints, was almost entirely gone; no longer was it necessary to continue the ruse of educational content, due to the relaxation of obscenity laws and now-widespread existence of pornographic magazines. Worth noting: Gallery Press also published adult paperbacks in 1975.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The many movie references of 'The Simpsons,' cheek by jowl with their inspirations

I'm always up for scenes of Mr. Burns doing sick stuff.

Note: This was an article of mine that was recently cut from The A.V. Club. It turns out, they'd already covered this topic. Whoops. Anyway, I thought I'd get some mileage out of it by posting it here. Enjoy or don't. Your call.
Very early in the run of The Simpsons, as revealed through DVD commentary tracks, the writers and animators on the show discovered that the relatively recent advent of VCRs made it possible for them to reference motion pictures in an extremely accurate and detailed way. A 1990 episode called “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge,” for instance, includes a parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho that borrows shots and angles directly from the original movie. Over the decades, The Simpsons referenced countless motion pictures with a similar or even greater level of fidelity. The writers sometimes joke that Citizen Kane and The Godfather have been spoofed so often on the Fox animated series that those movies could be reconstructed entirely out of Simpsons clips. That may or may not be true, but “ginger communicologist” Celia G√≥mez of Madrid, Spain has uploaded to Vimeo a highly compelling supercut called The Simpsons’ Movie References” that helpfully juxtaposes scenes from the show with the classic movie moments that inspired them.

Citizen Kane and The Godfather both show up here, as expected, but so do Pulp Fiction, Dr. Strangelove, Basic Instinct, Risky Business, Taxi Driver, The Shining, and more. It may often seem that the show prefers to spoof movies that are already decades old and well familiar to most viewers, but that’s not always the case. When trying to convey the artificially enhanced nirvana that Homer experiences while eating a Ribwich from Krusty Burger in “I’m Spelling As Fast As I Can,” the animators chose to quote Darren Aronofsky’s drug-fueled nightmare Requiem For A Dream, then only three years old and not quite a mainstream, across-the-board hit. Considering that it takes about a year to complete an episode of The Simpsons, that makes this scene almost avant garde.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 63: 'The Only House In Town' (1970)

Apart from Ed Wood's involvement, Uschi Digard is the best reason to watch The Only House In Town.

"Little things I should have said and done, I just never took the time. You were always on my mind. You were always on my mind."
-Wayne Carson (1972)

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. You can be forgiven for thinking that I had abandoned Ed Wood Wednesdays, like a dried-up Christmas tree after New Year's, since I haven't written any new articles for the series since June 2015. Whoops. Sorry about that. I've been doing a lot of writing since then, but very little of that has been for this blog. Maybe I felt like I'd said all I had to say about Edward Davis Wood, Jr. and his work. But Eddie never left me. A week hasn't gone by that someone hasn't e-mailed or messaged me about something Wood-related. And it's not like Ed Wood Wednesdays went away. Greg Dziawer has been keeping the series alive with his voracious, painstaking research for the last few months.

Back in 2013, I got into Ed Wood Wednesdays in order to talk about Eddie's feature films. That was the original plan. My series was supposed to start with Crossroads of Laredo (1948) and end with Hot Ice (1978). Thirty years of a man's life. As it turned out, Hot Ice wasn't even the halfway point of the project. I reviewed that over two years ago, and the series is still going. Expanding the project to include Ed's paperbacks and magazine articles was, to be honest, an afterthought. I had no idea that this material would eventually come to dominate the series, simply because there's so much of it out there. But it's the movies that made Eddie famous. And it is to the movies, my friends, that we are now about to return.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Odyssey, Part Six by Greg Dziawer

Gallery Press drops a Deuce on the reading public.

In last week's installment of Ed Wood Wednesdays, we continued indexing Pendulum/Calga/Gallery Press titles with a listing of all titles filed for copyright in 1973. It was a time of transition, with the pillars of Pendulum and Calga disintegrating early in the year. Gallery Press (previously a Calga d.b.a) incorporated in the late winter/early spring of 1973, and though the d.b.a. Edusex survived into the latter part of that year, there was solely Gallery by 1974, with all magazines under the Gallery Press imprint, published and filed for copyright by Gallery Press, Inc. This amounted to fewer than 60 issues across 37 titles, some carrying over from previous imprints, some new with wonderfully fanciful titles, including the resurrection of the incredible Heads Up. A pair – pun intended – of issues of Sam, solely featuring the otherwordly Roberta Pedon, also appeared in 1974. In all, Gallery's output in 1974 was less half of what was published by Pendulum/Calga/Gallery the previous year.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Odyssey, Part Five by Greg Dziawer

A lot of Eddie's creative output went straight to adult bookshops like this one.

In the last two installments of Ed Wood Wednesdays, we indexed the magazine titles and issues filed for copyright (in 1970-71 and 1973 Library of Congress catalogs, respectively) by Pendulum/Calga, both incorporated publishers running out of Bernie Bloom's W Pico Blvd office, where Ed Wood and a small cadre of large talents and free spirits worked. Dramatic changes ensued in 1973, as both Pendulum and Calga disintegrated by the Spring. Common speculation relates to the burgeoning legal troubles of Michael Thevis, finally resulting in two murder convictions.

By the spring of 1973, solely Gallery Press, Inc. existed. It was still run by Bloom on W Pico under the imprints Gallery Press and (d.b.a.) Edusex, the Pendulum sensibility maintaining: free-love hippiedom, pleas-for-tolerance, utterly objective – well, excepting legacy terms like "perversion" and "deviation" – pseudo-science, lots of b&w and color graphic sexual photos (the proverbial raison d'etre), and, with regularity, Ed Wood's short stories and articles.

Ed listed 27 short stories and 49 articles on his resume for 1973, most of which are spread across the approx. 130 individual issues indexed here.