There were two spiders in the gazebo. Each spun an invisible web and hung from its filaments, waiting. I’d go out to consult with a small cigar and find each in the same spot, not moving. With all the skeeters and bugs you’d think they’d be wrapping up meals for the future every ten minutes, but they had no luck.

I called them Wal-Mart and Target, since each was competing with the other - although unlike Wal-Mart and Target they had no knowledge of each other.

“And that,” I thought, “is the extent of the metaphorical implications I can draw from this. What’s the matter with me?”

I mean, c’mon - spiders, in the dark, sitting in their ephemeral constructions I could wipe away with a hand, and I can’t find some meaning here? Granted, I’d already walked into one of the webs while walking to the neighbor’s to watch her set off some fireworks, and I’d cursed and shivered when I realized it was a spider’s web. But I’m astride the apex of things on this planet, right? There are spiders enow and I can’t be troubled. I have a scotch with ice - ice! From a button! I press the glass against a plastic tab, and ice clatters down into the glass. I never see it made. I never worry it won’t be there. Ice, 24/7/365.

When the house was built the iceman cameth, through the tradesman’s entrance we never use - a big block probably covered with straw, carried with a tongs. Hanging from a pipe in the basement is a heavy pick with a handle, used to break up the ice - how it survived, how it stayed downstairs is something I never think about, but if the original residents of the house came back they know that hook. Every scrap of their lives, from furniture to towels to dishes, all gone - but the hook hangs, and it’s still sharp enough to cut ice.

But I don’t need to cut ice, because it comes out of the chute in perfect remeasured portions. I put it in the glass and glug out a ration and head over to the neighbor’s to share some explosions. Sending fire into the sky is the most ordinary thing humans can do. All of this is beyond the spider’s ken.

Is that sufficiently deep? Nah; that’s rather banal. It’s obvious. How about this: Oh, if only I had the spider’s sense of concentration and patience

No, that won’t work. Simplistic and sentimental. A while later I walked downstairs and went outside to find wife enjoying the evening, except she was a bit verklempt - she had moved a pot to give it more sun for tomorrow, and forgot about the spider, and ruined the web. There were just a few strands hanging from a beam, and the spider and scuttled up to the roof to wait for an opportunity to rebuild.

So many metaphors there! All trite.

“Well, Wal-Mart’s still open,” I said.


“Wal-Mart. The other one, there. I named them Wal-Mart and Target because they were both operating in the same area.”

“Oh.” She looked at Wal-Mart. “Maybe they can join forces and use the same web.”

“Spiders don’t join forces,” I said. “There’s no communal spirit with spiders.”

That would be the end of it, except it’s only now I feel stupid. I spent some time looking at a spider-web, anthropomorphizing the arachnid, marveling at his skill, and it didn’t click with the news I’d read an hour before about Steve Ditko’s death. I mean, here’s the guy who made Spidey what he was, and he dies, and I suddenly have a spider visitation, and I can’t put the two together. I am losing it.

I do have a few questions, though: how did Ditko keep body and soul together? It seems unlikely the mail-order stuff was enough. The last paying job he had was what, with that Charlton stuff? I remember wanting to like it, because it was Ditko, but it was also Charlton, an operation so cheap the credits said the lettering was done by “A. Machine.”

The respect for his early work was so great that everyone gave him a pass for the hardcore Objectivism, and for his refusal to engage fans. He seemed to be the worst sort of artist: Olympian contempt for anyone who had the nerve to like his work. I admire someone who ploughs the furrow like he did, and creates what he wishes to accord with his exactly principles, but dude, you really want to move the needle, do a con or two. On the other hand, if you really don't want to be disturbed, people should leave you alone.

Perhaps the hermit routine was born of personal social anxiety? It brings Ellison to mind, another person mourned this month who was regarded with awe but was also a jerkwad. I’m not saying he didn’t have reason to Fight the Powers that Be, but when every hagiographic obit mentions how you crossed the street to pick a fight from time to time, chances are good you weren't always in the right.

It’s just odd to know that if you ever met an idol, he would cut you cold and walk away. But still we revere the name because we love the work.

Some people find it hard to be kind because things claw at them from the inside; some people find it necessary to be kind for the same reasons.

Anyway. RIP Ditko. And good luck Target. Tomorrow’s another day.

Update: the spider completely rebuilt the web but this time I walked into it. I'd feel bad, except it's not like he's paying rent.



It’s like Frankenstein! But also crap.

Any particular type of It?

This . . . is Mars. Astronauts from the US Space Command landed here in 1973. Smacked up.

A rescue shop has arrived:

. . . and one survivor is heading back; he narrates the movie, and says now he’s going back to Washington “to face perhaps another kind of death.” Meaning, they might not be happy they cracked up the vessel?

No - as we learn, it’s worse.


Back to the ship; this is a nice way of introducing the crew, I guess. Robot roll-call:


Some of the crew hate the survivor, because they thought he shot all his crew mates in order to survive being stranded. (What, no potatoes?) The pretty gal thinks he might be innocent, of course. There's no reason for this tension, you might think - but it gives the story something to do before the killin' starts.

The design of the ship is pure 50s, all struts 'n' holes:

Someone has to die to get the plot moving, so . . .

The Rules specify that we may see feet, but everything else has to be indistinct. Nice pro-wrestling move there!

Very soon after:

Everyone smokes in space. Well, it is 1973.

So two are missing. Wouldn’t you say this is a great time for the captain to go into a shaft?

So, yes. It's Alien.

Now, we get the first confrontation, and learn that space missions to Mars will, of course, have lots of guns.

They didn't have those on the Nostromo, although I'm not sure what good it would have done them.

One of the guys gets stuck in a room with the creature. Note that the actors react to the wrong line - they’re supposed to do a heads-up to “here it comes again,” not “here for the duration.” Bad editor! Bad!

It’s not a big ship. You’d think they’d need oxygen.

The monster is rather standard stuff. I can't tell you whether people at the time were scared by this. Kids, sure. Grown-ups? Can't say. Probably not.

Like I said: It’s Alien. It’s pretty good for its era, too - but when you consider that there’s only 20 years between IT and Alien, and nothing much since Alien has had the same impact, it's sobering. The genre may have peaked back there in the late 70s, and there's nothing to be done except recycle.

The trailer doesn't bother with a slow reveal. Here's Johnny:

Odd little subliminal directive at 1:03 or so.


Off to another week; see you tomorrow.



blog comments powered by Disqus