Carbondale After Dark: An Underground History of SIU

The following is not a fable — it all really happened and it has no morals.”

Carbondale After Dark by HB Koplowitz
Carbondale After Dark by HB Koplowitz

I first became aware of H.B. Koplowitz’s Carbondale After Dark and Other Stories while I was doing research on Southern Illinois University for a book on the legends and lore of Illinois colleges. Carbondale After Dark was first published by the author in 1982. A 25th anniversary limited edition was released in 2007. The new edition contains a foreword by actor Dennis Franz, a Backword by humorist P.S. Mueller, and of course a new acknowledgements by the author himself. At 132 pages, Carbondale After Dark can almost be read in one sitting, but you will want to pick it apart piece by piece. The book contains standalone articles (as opposed to one linear narrative) so there is no need to read it from cover to cover.

During the 1960s and ‘70s, SIU-C went from a small rural teacher’s college to a major university in just a few short years. That shift permanently altered the landscape of Carbondale, Illinois, creating what became known as “the Strip.” Since then, the Strip has been the scene of mass parties, riots, and a lot of fond memories. H.B. Koplowitz was right in the middle, writing for alternative publications and documenting these changes as they happened.

Carbondale After Dark is divided into three sections: The Strip, Pontifications, and A Koplowitz Now. The highlight of the book is the section devoted to Carbondale’s Strip, which also takes up the most amount of pages. What particularly stands out is a year-by-year history of the strip, from its inception to the early 1980s. Student parties and protests are mentioned, but the author also documents the origin of SIU’s massive annual Halloween party, which was a fixture of campus life until a particularly devastating riot in 2000.

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Labyrinth’s 30th Anniversary

This afternoon I watched a special 30th Anniversary theatrical showing of Jim Henson’s final film, Labyrinth. I loved Labyrinth as a kid. It was the only VHS tape my grandma owned, and I  watched it every time we visited. Seeing it in the theater was definitely an experience worth having. I was surprised to learn Labyrinth did not do well at the box office. I suppose seen for the first time through the eyes of an adult, it would seem like a silly movie. But to a child, it’s magical.

Henson’s puppets are finely crafted and the sets and characters are unique and entertaining. The music by David Bowie and Trevor Jones is outstanding. It’s a testament to the quality of the film that rather than be forgotten, 30 years later it’s being replayed in theaters around the nation.

Released in June 1986, Labyrinth is the story of a teenage girl, Sarah (played by Jennifer Connelly), who must journey to the center of a complex labyrinth to rescue her infant brother, Toby, who has been kidnapped by Jareth (played by David Bowie), the Goblin King. Along the way, she makes friends with colorful characters like Hoggle, a dwarf; Ludo, a large hairy beast; and Sir Didymus, a tenacious Fox Terrier. The film was a commercial disappointment, losing $12 million. Depressed by the failure, Jim Henson never made another feature film. He died four years later, in 1990.

The 30th Anniversary theatrical showing included interviews with Jennifer Connelly (who was 14 years old in 1986) and Jim Henson’s son, Brian, as well as a look at the Henson collection at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia. It showed the care and detail that went into making the puppets. In Labyrinth, two brass door knockers seem to come to life. The door knockers are not CGI: they were actually made of foam painted to look metal. The illusion holds up even on the big screen.

I’ve always thought that CGI hasn’t come close to the puppets, miniatures, and practical effects of the 1980s in terms of realism. There’s something too clean, too perfect and precise about CGI. Labyrinth does use some effects like matte paintings and green screen that look terrible, but overall the effects quality is solid. Interestingly, Labyrinth contains one of the first uses of a CGI animal in a film–the owl in the opening credits.

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Morgan

Released in early September, Morgan (2016) was billed as a promising new sci-fi horror/mystery movie, but quickly falls flat.  It stars Kate Mara as Lee Weathers, a “corporate consultant,” Anya Taylor-Joy as Morgan, and Rose Leslie as a behavior specialist. Paul Giamatti makes a notable appearance as the only character with emotional depth.

Going into the film, I thought it was going to explore the ethical issue of genetic manipulation and cybernetic enhancement. I thought it would pose an interesting dilemma to the audience about whether research of this nature should be pursued, like Ex Machina (2015) did for artificial intelligence. Boy, was I disappointed.

First, the film was deceptively marketed. It’s not a mystery and it barely passes for horror. Its IMDB summery is, “A corporate risk-management consultant must decide whether or not to terminate an artificially created humanoid being,” but that’s not actually the plot.

Spoiler alert: the end of the film reveals that the corporate consultant was actually a genetically-enhanced assassin, and the whole exercise was an excuse to see whether her version could defeat the newer version, Morgan. So, in the end, there’s never a question about whether Morgan should be terminated, and the protagonist never solves a mystery–she knew what Morgan was the whole time. The result was a boilerplate chase/assassin thriller.

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Paper Towns: An Existential Mystery

Released in July 2015 and based on the novel by John Green, Paper Towns (2015) is a coming of age story centered on Quentin “Q” Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman, childhood friends who drift apart while growing up in a nondescript Orlando, Florida subdivision. I enjoyed this film. It weaves urban exploration, road tripping, and geography/cartography around deeper themes involving free will, expectations vs. reality, friendship, and how we confront our own mortality.

The title of the film, Paper Towns, comes from a type of fictitious entry that cartographers sometimes use to discourage plagiarism or copyright infringement. This becomes important when Margo Roth Spiegelman refers to Orlando as a “paper town” before she mysteriously disappears. Her friends attempt to track her down near a famous fictitious entry, Agloe, New York.

To briefly summarize the plot, as a young boy Quentin Jacobsen, played by Nat Wolff, is immediately smitten with Margo Roth Spiegelman, played by Cara Delevingne (a discount Emma Watson), after her family moves into the house across the street. They become inseparable, until one day they discover the body of a man who committed suicide in a park. Margo wants to investigate the man’s death, but Quentin chickens out. After that, the two drift apart. Quentin becomes a band geek who always follows the rules, while Margo constantly lives in the moment and falls in with the popular crowd.

One night, in their senior year of high school, Margo asks Quentin to help get revenge on her boyfriend and her friends, who betrayed her. After sharing this moment together, Margo mysteriously vanishes. Quentin begins to break out of his shell, and enlists the aid of his friends in a lengthy search for his missing soulmate.

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Michael Moore Thinks Trump will be President

Documentarian Michael Moore thinks Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will be elected president in November, but it’s not this claim that should be scrutinized. Moore is actually on target for most of his latest piece. Bottom line, Trump will work hard to win over blue states in the Midwest (which have elected Republican governors), and Hillary is a terrible candidate who alienated too many Sanders supporters. His best quote is this:

“…if you believe Hillary Clinton is going to beat Trump with facts and smarts and logic, then you obviously missed the past year of 56 primaries and caucuses where 16 Republican candidates tried that and every kitchen sink they could throw at Trump and nothing could stop his juggernaut.”

But here is where Moore falls off the rails, as usual, with his over-the-top hyperbole. Here is how Moore characterizes Trump:

“…you and your friends are convinced the American people are not going to elect an idiot for president. You alternate between being appalled at him and laughing at him because of his latest crazy comment or his embarrassingly narcissistic stance on everything because everything is about him.”

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Dan Savage is Right about Third Parties

Professional sexual deviant Dan Savage went on a profanity-laden rant recently against people who advocate voting for Green Party candidate Jill Stein over Hillary Clinton. Here are some highlights:

“Yeah, let’s talk about the Green Party for just a moment, or third parties, getting a third party movement off the ground here in this country. Because we are sick of the two party system!

“Here’s how you fucking do that: you run people not just for fucking president every four fucking years.

“I have a problem with the Greens, I have a problem with the Libertarians. I have a problem with these fake, attention seeking, grandstanding Green/Libertarian party candidates who pop up every four years, like mushrooms in shit, saying that they’re building a third party.

“And those of us who don’t have a home in the Republican Party, don’t have a home in the Democratic Party, can’t get behind every Democratic position or Republican position, should gravitate toward these third parties. And help build a third party movement by every four fucking years voting for one of these assholes like Jill fucking Stein, who I’m sure is a lovely person, she’s only an asshole in this aspect.

“If you’re interested in building a third party, a viable third party, you don’t start with president. You don’t start by running someone for fucking president.

“Where are the Green Party candidates for city councils? For county councils? For state legislatures? For state assessor? For state insurance commissioner? For governor? For fucking dogcatcher? I would be SO willing to vote for Green Party candidates who are starting at the bottom, grassroots, bottom up, building a third party, a viable third party.

“You don’t do that by trotting out the reanimated corpse of Ralph fucking Nader every four fucking years. Or his doppelgänger, whoever it is now…”

The thing is, Savage is right. In my experience, third parties consist mainly of Democratic or Republican rejects, attention seekers, and people with poor social skills. If you can find a local chapter, they are mostly just discussion groups. No effort is made toward organizing, fundraising, and running candidates for public office. Every four years someone runs for governor or president, and barely hits five percent of the vote.

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Citizens and the Media are Asleep: A Reply to Adam Andrzejewski

Yesterday at Forbes.com, Illinois political reformer Adam Andrzejewski asked why Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan refuses to prosecute public corruption. The answer is simple: she doesn’t want to–and not enough people care.

He writes, “She’s allowed felons to serve in municipal office; out-of-towners to serve as city alderman; many politicians to hold multiple – and conflicting – offices; a junior college to award more than $4 million in compensation to its president without a lawful board vote; and much more…”

When Lisa Madigan, daughter of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, ran for attorney general in 2002, she vowed, “It’s time that Illinois’ highest legal official takes an active, hands-on role in cleaning up government. And I will not let them down.”

What happened? Well, gullible voters believed her, and she got elected. A lot of politicians in Illinois run on promises of reform because Illinois’ politics is widely seen (rightly so) as corrupt. But then once they get into office, no one holds them accountable for these promises. Certainly not the media, and definitely not the voters, who continue to re-elect them year after year.

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