Sep 28, 2010

ESR was on the street

Yesterday, ESR made its seventh appearance at Word on the Street, Canada's largest literary fair. After intermittent rain for the previous several days, the weather held up, even though the temperature was a little cool. WOTS is perhaps a lot like Christmas Day: you spend weeks preparing for it, and the day passes so quickly, that in the following morning, it feels like it never happened. I never get over that sensation of the calm after the storm, which begins immediately at the close of the fair, when the park is near empty, and most of the tents are already undergoing destruction-- one would never get the impression that less than an hour earlier, there was so much life on these streets.

Happily, this was probably the most stress-free WOTS attendance yet, despite that we premiered two new releases this year. It always seemed that in previous years, things always came down to the wire, whereas the night before (or sometimes even the morning of...) I'd be scrambling to take care of things. But this time, the issues were already ready in the box before the weekend began, and I was able to spend quality time with Susan on Saturday night instead of the usual scurrying around before Sunday's big adventure. And now that that big adventure had passed, dear reader, I am about to fulfill a promise to somehow get my life back to basics. This year flew by as I had spent a couple months largely inactive due to sciatic injury, then renovations, then a heatwave which pretty much killed my ambition to work on the projects I do after the full-time job (no, sadly, ESR is NOT my premiere employment). But in the meantime, in preparation for the new issue, I had de-discovered something easily forgotten: the simple act of JOY I get with sitting down and transferring my thoughts to paper (well, its electronic equivalent). Thus, as the fall (my favourite time of year) unfolds, I hope to regain that creative sense, as I clean up a lot of psychological clutter, and get back to a more simple kind of livelihood that had easily been neglected due to the running around in circles over the past year.

Sunday began on a humourous note, as for weeks I had cursed the fates that the latest edition of Dion's all-night "Shock and Awe" review was scheduled for the night before, and obviously I couldn't attend in order to stock up on blue light specials. In fact, when we arrived at WOTS, they were probably beginning to show Ghoulies. However, it was great to see a couple of regular customers drop by, AFTER seeing Shock and Awe, and picking up the new issues before going home to bed. It was also great to finally meet in person some "virtual" friends: Aaron Keele, whose CD release Present Idiolect I have enjoyed for many years (in fact, the final tune "Retribution Song" plays on my iPod almost daily), and Paul Corupe (webmaster of Canuxploitation), who was there with his wife and one-year-old son. Plus, for me, WOTS just isn't WOTS with doing the customary stops at Cineaction's table and the Musicworks buck bin.

Yet, as the hours wore on and the sales got slower, I became more melancholy, as the day ended not with a bang but a whimper. On the drive home, however, I came around as the stereo played, guess, "Retribution Song", and the lyrics perhaps spoke to me in a way I hadn't previously heard:

"How can I move forward
The song is just reward"

Then, instead of the quiet mourn of dusk, I was reminded of the promise of a new day, with the feeling I always get upon driving into the festival for the first time in the morning, seeing "The Eclectic Screening Room" tent sign slowly dollying into view, and reminding myself again, "Wow- I did this." Again, in "Retribution Song":

"I give thanks for everything I had
Not in measures of first and last."

One of the most valuable times of the entire trade show experience is the morning after. As I quietly tiptoe around the house, make coffee and look at the pink sky of dawn, I am finally given time to reflect upon how many lives this project has touched. Even if what I do enriches just one person's life for a moment, well, that's all we can ask for, isn't it? I'm one lucky son of a gun.

new ESR releases

After a full year of inactivity here at ESR (save for screening dates, and attending tradeshows), we're back in print with two more releases.

Our -gulp- twenty-third issue of The Eclectic Screening Room (or ESR for short) returns to its roots. For the first time in five years, ESR has released an issue not devoted to one central theme, offering a more -ahem- "eclectic" grab bag of articles than recently seen. To start the issue off with a bang, Brian Random offers his wonderful piece on the Superbug films, made in Europe in the early 1970's to cash in on the "Herbie Love Bug" craze. Then yours truly offers a couple of nostalgic pieces on good old Hollywood melodrama in 1952's Phone Call From a Stranger, and one of my favourite films, 1977's Citizens Band (also known as Handle With Care).

The centerpiece of the new issue is a lengthy piece discussing a dozen films by Hugo Haas, an unfairly maligned and all but forgotten B-movie auteur of potboilers in the 1950s and 60s. Haas wrote, directed, produced and starred in these films, which as history records, may be a fall from the grace of his work in his native Czechoslovakia, but there is clearly a great deal of surprises to be found in his American films, which, if addressed at all in print, have usually been regarded as "camp".

Although the new ESR was designed without a particular theme in mind, serendipitously it became an indirect look at the 1950's, with the pieces on Haas, Phone Call From a Stranger, and the closer, "They Came from the 1950's", in which Rob Craig offers up four reviews of fantasy films from the decade. These pieces by the way were extracted from a much longer body of work, It Came From 1957, which discusses over 50 fantasy films released in that year. The four films in the ESR issue are actually titles which were produced earlier in that decade, however re-released that year, and deleted from It Came from 1957, as that book now entirely focuses on titles initially released in that pivotal year.

It Came From 1957 has over four-dozen analyses of fantasy films, all written by our old friend Mr. Rob Craig, in his typical revisionist fashion: sometimes knocking over sacred cows, while championing lesser known works of the period; all while correlating the work to the social tempers of the time- as issues of atomic energy, Communism, racism and the seeds of the feminist movement are all weaved into the text.

Both of these titles are now available to order. The new ESR retails for $4.00 CDN, and It Came From 1957 sells at $6.00 CDN.