Category Archives: Articles

Blog posts dedicated mainly to words and the things those words have been arranged to say

Chronicles of Cecil B. DeMille

Recently an interesting item crossed my virtual desk that I thought might be of interest to those of you who’ve been following the deMille Saga. A friend who’d previously heard me talking—well, let’s be honest here—geeking out about the Lost City and my various expeditions to try and find it shot me an email about an upcoming (now downgoing) film premier that would be taking place at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The name of the film? The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille.

LostCityFilmPoster

The venue was, of course, perfect for the film, being both an iconic part of Hollywood history and shaped like an ancient Egyptian temple, much like the Lost City itself. The film was an independent documentary about a group of interested amateurs (so, people rather like myself, I suppose) and their quest to locate the Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille, uncover the story behind it, mount an official archeological expedition to the site, and make a documentary about it (yay self-referential storytelling), a quest that spanned nearly three decades. A saga in of itself, probably—nay sir, definitely moreso than my own.

One of the things that immediately struck out to me is that their adventure carried a very similar underlying theme to my own, that is, that anything that could possibly stand in the way of their goal, no matter how oblique, somehow found a way to do so. Weather, bureaucracy, corporate regime changes, stuff I would never even think of, perfectly timed to completely throw a wrench in the gears your expedition. I still maintain that I do not believe in curses, but that’s pretty spooky, right?

Jokes aside, the film is both sweeping in scale and distinctly human in tone, juxtaposing the search for the Lost City with the behind-the-scenes story of the filming of The Ten Commandments (a history nearly as epic as the film itself).

The film also forced me to rethink exactly what it was I was looking for. Not a crumbling but nonetheless solid ruin which had been abandoned and subsequently swallowed up by the pseudo-desert, but a hollow façade that had been pushed over and deliberately buried to keep it from falling into the hands of a rival studio. If anything, my best shot of actually seeing the Lost City is the Oso Flaco Dunes Center, where the face of one of the sphinxes and several other artifacts uncovered by the expedition are on display, not at the actual site itself. Not that I’m going to stop trying to get there, of course. If the film taught me anything, it’s that perseverance pays off.

For those interested in seeing it (and you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t) the film will not be receiving a full theatrical release, but is available for streaming on Amazon Video, Google Play, and Vudu.

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Bestiarium: Rompo

rompo
Name: Rompo
Mythos of Origin: African(?) and Hindu mythology
Type: Mammalian, Skeletal, Chimæra, Vermin, Scavenger
Habitat: unknown

Imagine if you will that instead of being the product of thousands of years of emergent storytelling, coming up with mythology was somebody’s job, presumably at some sort of firm. Now imagine that one of the people working at that firm—let’s call him “Jerry”, just for the sake of the scenario—woke up one morning with a hangover and it suddenly realized that he was supposed to have a big presentation today of the mythical creature he’d been working on. Jerry calls the office, and discovers to his horror that the creature department had a major server crash during the night and they’ve lost everything. Desperate, Jerry hastily throws something together and prays to whomever it is he prays to that nobody would notice.

Now, that scenario is, of course, ridiculous. But if that were to happen, the result would probably come out looking something like the rompo.

There’s very little information I’ve been able to track down on the creature, but I do know a few things. It has the front legs of a badger and the back legs of a bear, the head of a hare, the ears of a human, and the torso of a skeleton. That’s 4 different animals, and a skeleton.

It feeds on human corpses, so it falls squarely within the criteria for what’s traditionally classified as a “bad” creature, but then again, the phrasing (“corpses” rather than “people”) suggests that it doesn’t actually kill anyone for its meals, preferring to nosh on whatever dead people it finds just lying around. So… less something a king would send a brave knight in shining armor to slay, and more along the lines something an undertaker might call the Orkin man to set traps for. It isn’t so much a horrible monster as it is a vaguely creepy pest.

What really gets me is its voice, described as “crooning”. Now, I know that this word originally meant a sort of soft, melodious humming, and that that’s probably the sense in which it’s used here, but I can’t help but imagine the freaky little weasel monster wandering around a graveyard belting out Fly Me to the Moon or Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.

All in all, the rompo always struck me as a bit rushed, hence my little story about Jerry and his workplace dilemma, but nonetheless I consider it another one of my favorites. It feels lazy and forced, but with such earnest conviction that the resulting bathos lends it a certain charm. It may not be the sort of monster that you scream and cower in fear from, but it is absolutely the sort of monster that one might dress up in costume and attend a midnight screening of (if monsters worked like movies, which they don’t), and in my book that’s just as good.

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Terror of Cecil B. deMille

My latest voyage into the unknown wastes of the Guadalupe pseudo-desert got off to a bit of a rocky start. Even when you’ve gone out of your way to prepare for everything that can possibly go wrong, it seems there’s always the possibility of something going wrong that you hadn’t prepared for. Having previously discovered and subsequently named the (alleged) Curse of Cecil B. DeMille, I probably should’ve taken this a some sort of bad omen, but in the great horror movie of life, I’m that arrogant intellectual guy who balks at the suggestion that vampires might be real even as the blood is being messily drained from his neck by some impossibly old European creep in a costume-shop opera cape, so I didn’t.

One of the things I’ve noticed on my various excursions is that Santa Maria, the closest real (but still rather small) city to my destination, has a ton of motels. I imagine serving as a stopover for people from Southern California taking road trips up north, or vice versa, must be one of the major industries here, because nearly every major motel chain seems to have a branch in town, and there are entire streets worth of little local places. There are even a few real hotels. There’s a FedEx airstrip just outside of town, of course, but there’s only really three planes there at a time, tops, and FedEx planes don’t exactly carry passengers so I don’t think that alone really justifies the disproportionate amount of accommodation available for out of towners. There’s really an awful lot of places to rent a room for the night, is what I’m saying.

Why do I bring this up? Because every single one of them was sold out. I went to the Best Western, and they sent me to the Travel Lodge. I couldn’t find the Travel Lodge, so I went to the Holiday Inn, and they sent me away as well, assuring me that there were no rooms available anywhere in town. Supposedly there was a wedding, a softball match, and a soccer match. There must’ve also been some sort of biker meetup rolling through town, because traffic both in town and on the journey back home was repeatedly held up by enormous hordes of bikers zipping past along the dividing line.

As it turns out, my stubbornness paid off, relatively speaking anyway. Despite the assurances of the guy at the front desk of the Holiday Inn, I was able to nab what was apparently the last room in town: a smoking room in the Motel 6 right next to the freeway (though to be fair, around 75% of the town is right next to the freeway), which from the way the lady at the desk described it, had apparently been rejected by other prospective guests earlier that day. But it didn’t appear to be haunted, the air freshener they used to drown out the tobacco stench of the previous tenants was subtle enough to not totally overwhelm my sensitive olfactory cells, and it was far too late in the day to turn back around and start the 3-hour trek back home, so I took what I could get.

Upon settling into my room, I decided to give myself a quick refresher on the use of my borrowed Garmin GPS, only to discover that the batteries had died and had to locate and download a copy of the user manual just to figure out where the battery compartment was even located, no less how to open it. This was, however, easily resolved the next morning (a curse cast in the age of silent film really can’t be expected to account for the ease with which a 21st century man can obtain AA batteries) and the GPS proved fairly intuitive to use, so I gassed up the car and set out.

A cool wind was blowing off the lake when I arrived at Oso Flaco, and with the Garmin telling me exactly where the fabled lost city I sought was located—less than a miles hike away from the trail—I was feeling quite optimistic about my chances of finding it.

That didn’t last.

It seems that with all the time and effort I’ve spent on the intellectual challenge of finding deMille’s Lost City, I’d neglected to put any thought into the physical challenge of actually reaching it. As a born city-dweller who has always seen nature as something to be admired from afar, I have almost no experience with wilderness hiking. Because of this, I made the rookie mistake of assuming that hiking is just like walking in that a short hike automatically means an easy hike. This is not the case. Between the steeply angled dunes, the treacherously shifting sand, the thick-growing desert scrubs and my own moderately sub-par physical condition, it rapidly dawned on me that this hike was one I simply wasn’t adequately equipped to make, and I was forced once again to turn back.

On the road out of Santa Maria, a large convoy of assorted fire department vehicles passed me going the other way. Their sirens were off, so I didn’t think much of it. But as I approached the twisting mountain road that joined the two highways along my route, that now all-too-familiar acrophobia was suddenly joined by a dread of something much more terrible as I past a sign warning me in big red letters that today’s forest fire risk level was “EXTREME” and I remembered the news reports on the spate of record-shattering wilderness fires that had been plaguing Southern California most of this season, and the small amount of gasoline that had spilled on the outside of my car when I removed the slightly defective gas pump filling up this morning.

When I stopped in Santa Barbara for a rest, a snack, and a chapter of Machen’s The Great God Pan, my fears seemed to be confirmed as I found the entire town cloaked in a cloud of what appeared to be smoke, so thick that it turned the ocean to the west all but invisible and called to mind my brief experience with the Silent Hill franchise. I didn’t smell smoke, but then again, my own home town of Pasadena has allegedly had a smoke problem for the past week, and I never smelled that, so I wasn’t sure.

As I continued south, my journey was punctuated by alternating bouts of apprehension and reassurance as I mentally debated whether the cloud that still covering me was really smoke, or just whatever the hell weird-ass low-hanging cloud phenomenon I’d encountered during my last excursion. Much of the vegetation to my left appeared to have been recently burned, and I thought I felt the air heat up and my eyes start to burn a few times, but that might’ve just been my imagination. The cloud kept up all the way  past Ojai, and I told myself that it must be fog, because even the largest blaze wasn’t that big. Still, every time the traffic slowed to a crawl, I held my breath, nervous that it might be due to some sort of road closure caused by the fire.

It wasn’t. I never saw any fire, and none of the roads were closed. In fact, most of the times the traffic slowed, it was caused by the entire left lane having to move over to let all those bikers I mentioned earlier pass, or everyone rubbernecking at one of the minor accidents they’d left in their wake. Not that seeing a ten thousand maniacs on motor bikes zip past at the speed of sound, so close that they’d have hit me if one of them so much as sneezed wasn’t alarming in its own right. Still, by the time I reached Thousand Oaks and the cloud finally started to let up, I still hadn’t found out for sure whether it really was smoke or not.

As much as I hate to leave the story that has become the Cecil B. deMille Saga without a satisfying conclusion, I don’t think I’m going to be doing this again in the near future. I’m not exactly going up to Santa Maria just for the local color (you can get that anywhere), and my true destination is blocked by a hike that is, for me, currently impossible. I don’t see much point in traveling three hours, two days, and three tanks of gas just to stop within a mile of somewhere I can’t reach. For the time being, it seems best to demote visiting the Lost City from an active goal for the immediate future to the proverbial “one that got away”. Perhaps some day I’ll be ready to go back and try again, but I’m sad to say that it’s time for this particular chapter of the deMille Saga to come to an end.

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BrokenEye Media is now on Etsy

I’ve just finished setting up shop for the beginning of my trial run on Etsy. Currently my stock is limited to single copies of ten of my favorite works of mine, but if these do well, a larger stock is soon to follow.

The link to my shop can be found below:

etsylink

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Redistribution of Output

I’ve just finished updating my copyright policy to allow all you guys to share my work to a handful of approved sites, and added the appropriate sharing buttons to all my posts. I’m still waiting on info on a handful of sites not currently included to see if I can add them as well.

And before you ask, no, I will not be adding sharing buttons for Facebook, Google+, or Tumblr. Ever. Unless, of course, they get their shit together at some point in the foreseeable future and rewrite their policies in a way that doesn’t completely disregard the intellectual property rights of content creators (and, for that matter, international intellectual property law), which doesn’t really seem likely given their history.

On an unrelated note, in the process of adding the sharing buttons to all my posts, some of them actually had their content deleted. I’m pretty sure I fixed all of them, but if you see a blank post, let me know and I’ll fix it. Thanks.

The True False Prophet has spoken!

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Bestiarium: Yara-ma-yha-who

This is kind of a new feature I’ve decided to start posting here on the BrokenEye Media blog. I’m starting a series of illustrations depicting various mythological and folkloric creatures, both well-known and obscure (but mostly obscure) that I think are interesting, with a description of each in my usual turgid, irreverent, aside-laden parlance, in the tradition of mediæval bestiaries. However, unlike mediæval bestiaries, I’m abandoning all pretense of having anything to do with beasts allegedly found in nature, and I will not be going way out of my way to shoehorn an unnecessarily preachy and ridiculously contrived lesson on woefully outdated middle-aged quasi-Biblical morals into each description (which they did, because mediæval theology was weird). So if the Word of God as (allegedly) taught by the (allegedly) natural creatures (allegedly) of His Creation is what you’ve come here for, I’m afraid you’re going to leave disappointed, but I doubt that it is. So, without further ado, here’s the first entry in the Bestiarium:

yara-ma-yha-who color

Name: Yara-ma-yha-who
Mythos of Origin: Australian Aboriginal mythology
Type: Monster, Bogieman, Humanoid, Abhuman, Assimilative, Hematophage, Tentacled
Habitat: The canopies of fig trees

This one is probably one of my favorites because of how… creatively horrifying it is.

Though it can be described as the Aboriginal version of the vampire, the yara-ma-yha-who actually has very little in common its European brethren. True, it is a monstrous humanoid that sucks the blood of humans and can transform them into one of its own in the process, but the similarity ends there… which isn’t nearly as reassuring as it may initially sound.

This little red man makes it home in the branches of fig trees where it waits patiently and surprisingly stealthily for some poor, unwary traveler to pass by. When they do, the yara-ma-yha-who strikes in an instant, ensnaring them in its long, tentacular fingers lined with tiny lamprey-like suckers which it uses to slowly drain their blood. Not that it needs the blood for sustenance, mind you. It’s just that prey that’s weak from blood loss tend to be much less likely to resist or fight back. Once the creature’s hapless victim has been rendered nice and languid, the yara-ma-yha-who unhinges its toothless jaw and swallows them whole. After taking a drink from a nearby stream (because its important to stay hydrated), the monster takes a nap, it’s prey imprisoned—weak but very much alive—in its distensible stomach. When it wakes, it vomits up its victim, their skin ever-so-slightly redder, their build ever-so-slightly shorter than before.

If the victim is lucky, they’ll merely be sent on their way (feeling utterly horrified and no doubt somewhat violated) with the knowledge that they should stay away from that tree, lest they be caught and swallowed again. If they’re not lucky, the beast will skip the waiting, grab them again and repeat the process right then and there, swallowing and regurgitating them again and again until they’re completely transformed into another lurking yara-ma-yha-who ready and patiently waiting to prey on innocent travelers.

So yeah, kinda like a vampire, but a thousand times more abhorrent and not even remotely sexy. Unless you’re into that, I guess, though the knowledge that there are actually people who are into that (whatever the hell that is) just makes the whole thing all the more abhorrent.

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The Westin

At long last, some more pictures.

This one’s a bit closer to home, so there’s not really much of a story behind it. The Westin is this mall… like… thing… of some sort just off Colorado Blvd in Pasadena, conveniently located just across the street from City Hall. It’s not really a mall, so much as it is sort of a place with some stores. There’s a gym there and a CPK, and a very nice looking hotel, along with some pretty interesting architecture, and that’s what this is all about.

Oh, oh yeah, the parking lot stair well has some pretty unusual and dramatically industrial-looking utility equipment.

Pipe Junction

Pipes

Alright, I’ve a confession to make. This was actually two photo expeditions. See, I went in the evening, and intended to get both the above and below photos in one go. Problem is, by the time I finished the below shots (most of which I have not published as I took them solely for own visual reference and not for art and aren’t really that high quality shots anyway), it was dark.

Meant to finish a few times since on the way home from work, but weather, poor planning, and a dead camera battery put the nix on most of those so I wasn’t able to get the shots from up top done until the other day. So here they are.

Dragonfly

Dragonflies

An interesting water feature/sculpture thing they have there. That’s city hall in the background.

Lanternway

Lanternway

Stream

Stream

Westin Hotel

Westin Hotel

Westin Lobby

Westin Lobby

Stair Rods

Stair Rods

Weeping Wall

Weeping Wall

All Saints Episcopal Church

All Saints Episcopal Church

Now, this Church isn’t technically part of the Westin, but I’ve always thought of it as if it were. The Westin is a sort of a ‘U’-shape, and the Church is located in the area between the two… top parts of the ‘U’. Prongs? Risers? Whatever. Anyway, pretty cool old looking Church. It was supposedly open when I was there, but the big oak doors in front were locked up tight, which is a shame because I really wanted to take a look inside.

And no, I am not going to break into a church. An abandoned church, maybe, but not a regular one. Ooh, I wonder if there are any abandoned churches near me. I’ll be those would be pretty cool. I should look into that.

All Saints Tower

All Saints Tower

All Saints Front

All Saints Front

The Way to Below

The Way to Below

Overlooking Apartments

Overlooking Appartments

Hotel Deco

Hotel Deco

The Westin

The Westin

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Curse of Cecil B deMille

I arrived home at six today, my arms numb from four hours at ten and two, from my third expedition to try and find Cecil B deMille’s Lost City of the Pharaohs. This time it was a two day trip. The idea was to spend the night in town so I could get up bright and early and head right to the Dunes while the day was still young.

It didn’t help.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t make it to the Lost City, but I definitely made significant progress towards finding it before external circumstances beyond my control swooped in and ruined it.

I left for the trip up at 4 on Sunday. I knew there was no way I’d make it to the Dunes before they closed, but I wasn’t planning on going until Monday morning, so that was fine. I stopped in Santa Barbara (which despite what certain goofy psychic detective would have you believe, looks nothing like British Colombia) for dinner at thus little organic pizza place, and ordered “one with everything” (yes, it was really called that. The place was very tongue-in cheek about their hippiness) which was good, but didn’t really agree with me. Back on the road, I hit a bank of fog with the approximate mass and density of nine-day-old pease porridge around the time I passed some Air Force base or other (I don’t remember what it was called, but it wasn’t Vandenberg) which stuck with me all the way up until I reached Santa Maria, where I checked into a motel only to discover that I’d left the wall charger for my smartphone at home. “Not a problem,” I thought, “I’m sure its got enough charge to last until morning”.

But I was wrong.

As it turns out, my phone’s charge did not last until morning, and that was the beginning of the end of my little voyage. I figured I could just let it charge in the car on the way to the Lost City, but when I got to the point on the road nearest the coordinates I’d found for the Lost Citywhich turned out to be not to be in the part of the Oceano Dunes I’d previously visited, but at a separate part called the Oso Flaco Lake Trail, which had its own parking area on the complete opposite side of Guadalupe (I did say Oceano Dunes was fucking enormous)my phone was still at only 10% power, which was a problem, because I needed my phone’s GPS to find my way the rest of the way to the coordinates. I decided to idle the car for a hour or so to build up a little more charge… and that’s when the second domino fell.

As I’m sure you’re aware, when you use a car charger to charge a phone’s battery, this draws power from the car’s battery. This is all well and good when I’m driving around and my hybrid’s wheel well generators (or whatever they’re called) are spinning, but with the car idling that power supply becomes decidedly more finite. Especially when I’m idling for an hour or so. So I was sitting there in my car with the window open, watching two tractors with huge, comically disproportionate wheels like on a child’s toy plow a field and reading a book, when I looked up and notice that the lights on my dashboard had gone dark. “Oh,” I thought, “the car must have turned itself off automatically. That’s a smart feature, I guess.” This was, however, not the case, as I discovered when I turned my car back on only to find that I’d all but drained the car’s rechargeable battery. In the middle of the desert. Several miles outside the most backwater little bump in the road I’ve ever visited that wasn’t in New England. Far from anything that could reasonably described as being “a building” or having “an address”.

Turns out that, beyond having to explain to the Triple-A guy that, “No there isn’t a cross street. There is only one road, and I’m all the way at the end of it”, this wasn’t a huge problem. What was a problem was that all three (yes, all three) gas stations back in Guadalupe were mysteriously out of order at the time. Oh, and one of them claimed they “didn’t sell gas”, despite being, you know, a gas station.

It was at this point I began to suspect that Cecil B deMille’s Lost City was cursed, presumably for authenticity’s sake. I don’t believe in that kind of hocus bogus bullcrap, of course, but I was up against a Final Destination-grade contrived coincidence that seemed determined to prevent me from getting there. I know they say that everything that can go wrong will go wrong, but it generally doesn’t happen everywhere at once. But did I crumble? Did I lay down and die? Oh no, not I.

So the tow guy towed me to the neighboring (read: far away, but with nothing of any significance in between) town of Oceania (also in the middle of nowhere) to refuel and recharge my car, which I did, and everything worked great again… except that it was now 2pm and my phone was back down to 5% charge from calling roadside for assistance, so there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to drive around for long enough to get it charged, get back to Oso Flaco, trek out to the Lost City, and still get back home at a reasonable hour, and I couldn’t stay overnight again, because I have work tomorrow morning.

I got lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall in Oceania (ah, but I repeat myself), which was delicious but agreed with me even less than the pizza did, and headed home with no Lost City and no photographs. I did discovered to my relief and annoyance that the painfully long, unbearably mountainous detour from the 101 freeway that my GPS had been telling me to take on this and previous trips up, and which I’d obediently taken against my better judgement, had been completely unnecessary, and that I could just stay on the 101 the whole way… so yeah, I guess that’s something.

Another weekend, perhaps. I’ve dedicated too much to this to give up now. The damn thing isn’t even lost anymore. I will get there, even if its the last thing I do. And if things keep up the way they’re going, it just might be.

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Update: You don’t have to call me darlin’, darlin

Just a quick update, I’ve finally grown comfortable enough with this new platform to post my name and picture on the “about me” page. So if you were planning on ordering a hit on me or something, now would be the time to do it.

The True False Prophet has spoken!

PS: Please don’t actually order a hit on me. That wouldn’t be very polite.

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