Classic Creepy Creatures: Three of the Agent’s Favorite Movie Monsters

We’re well into October and I’m feeling damn good; better then I have in years as a matter of fact. So let’s get spoopy together as Halloween approaches.

I’ve gone on record about how much I love horror movies and how important they are to society as a whole. But other than one brief look at famous folk creatures that deserve the screaming spotlight, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about specific monsters in horror cinema. That seems odd to me since the monster is so critical to the film. They embody all of our anxieties and fears that the protagonist must overcome and reveal a great deal about ourselves in the process.

So, this year, I’d like to let this weeks article serve as a love letter to three movie monsters that I feel haven’t gotten the props they deserve and – hopefully – show you why they mean so much to me as a horror fan and a cinemaphile.

Sanda and Gaira; The Gargantuas

Even when he’s been a total jerk to the people he loves, Sanda (the brown one) still looks after his brother Gaira in his hour of need.
Source: Musings of a Middle-Aged Geek

For those of you who, like me, have a weakness for Japanese monster films, War of the Gargantuas is right up your alley. It’s the tragic tale of two brothers torn apart by their own ideologies. It’s just that said brothers are also the movie’s monsters and the ideology is mutual co-existence with humanity versus predatory survivalism. See, Sanda the Brown Gargantua was raised in the care of humans and understands their capacity for good. His brother Gaira, on the other hand, spent most of his life out in the wilds and only sees them as another food source.

My primary interest in these two is less to do with the story however and more with the technical aspects of their design. For one, the costumes that the actors wear expose more of their faces than the average rubber suit monster. This allows them to be much more expressive than others of their ilk. Also, Sanda and Gaira are supposed to be much smaller than other giant monsters of the time – only about 30 meters tall (98.4 feet). By comparison, Godzilla has been between 50 and 150 meters tall (164 – 492.1 feet) depending on the era of the films he’s in. This means that the miniature sets that the actors stomp around had to be built much larger and, by extension, more detailed than other films around that time. It’s a minor change, but one that makes it stand out if you’re a connoisseur of the medium.

The Tarman

Sometimes, it’s less the monster itself and more what it does for the genre.

The Return of the Living Dead is a staple of the Zombie Apocolypse sub-genre that turns the rising tides of the undead into an allegory (emphasis on GORY) for the drug culture of the 80’s that sympathizes with the punks who are just looking for anything to make them forget the pain of life (remember, the multiple threats of nuclear war, environmental destruction, government corruption, and the AIDS crisis weighed heavy on everyone’s minds).

Likewise, much like how the punks turned to hard drugs to escape the pain of living, the zombies in The Return of the Living Dead are addicted to eating brains to escape the pain of death. And the gooey mess that fans have dubbed The Tarman is part of a legacy started by this plot point. In addition to an iconic design that seems to show him in a state of constant rot and decay, The Tarman is regarded as the first zombie to ever moan that hunger-induced rallying cry, “BRAINS.” As a result, everyone now associates cephalophagy (that’s fancy talk for brain eating) with shambling corpses.

Shuna Sassi

Death and beauty; perfectly entwined.
Source: Monster Wiki

But let us not forget that these are horror movies and horror is all about symbolism. And few come with as much symbolic weight as Shuna Sassi from Clive Barker’s lesser-known film Nightbreed.

Throughout the film, Shuna is a VERY heavily sexualized character owing to her early life in an exotic brothel. While some may be quick to write this off as titillation for titillation’s sake, a quick look at her defining physical trait – the coat of poisonous quills that cover her body – makes it clear that she is both physically and emotionally in control of her sexuality. Nobody can lay a hand on her unless SHE wants them to; the ultimate empowerment fantasy for any sexually charged woman that can relate to the unwanted advances of another.

Shuna is also the physical embodiment of an inescapable truth of horror; people LIKE to be scared. There’s an appealing dangerous quality to the things that scare us that make us curious or even obsessed with them. It’s the main reason why we go through haunted houses, ride rollercoasters and – indeed – watch scary movies. By making someone so beautiful so intensely dangerous, Shuna Sassi captures this dualistic nature of the horror genre.

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3 Twitter Feeds That Are Totally Worth Following

I’ve spent a few articles celebrating YouTube channel that were a lot of fun and/or added to society in some small measure. But, I feel like it’s time to show some love to other social media giants.

In all honesty, I have difficulty with Twitter. Its brand of ‘micro-blogging’ isn’t conducive to the ramblings of a long-winded so-and-so like me. That said, I still make use of it to keep up to date on happenings and goings-on. But, in my searches, I’ve found a few feeds that were genuinely good on their own merits. Such as…

Penny Underbust

I pray I look this good one day…
Source: @Penny_Underbust on Twitter

Let’s start by talking about my favorite chubby cyborg (her words, not mine).

As a recently out-and-proud transwoman, I’ve been eager to look for positive female figures to add to my life – particularly where body positivity is involved. And Penny Underbust is all about making your body what YOU want it to be and being happy with it.

As her online moniker implies, Penny’s defining trait is her rather ample bosom. And while breast augmentation isn’t quite one to one with HRT and bottom surgery, she very clearly understands the need to feel comfortable in your own skin; a need that she’s turned into a modestly successful career as a Youtuber and cosplay model who reviews clothing, plays ukelele, provides makeup tutorials, and generally spreads good vibes to all including transgender and non-binary people – “gender rebels,” as she lovingly refers to us as.

If you have an eye for fashion or just need some positivity in your life, I highly recommend following her on Twitter and YouTube and consider supporting her on Patreon.

Speaking of positivity…

Good News Network

Well, the other thing happens too, but THIS is something we can actually CHOOSE for ourselves.
Source: @goodnewsnetwork on Twitter

Anyone that has followed me on Facebook or Twitter knows that I try to start the weekend off right by proliferating the hashtag #GoodNewsFriday; my campaign to remind the world that there is good to be had in the absurdity of life. And these folks are my primary source.

The Good News Network, GNN for short, is dedicated to tracking down and reporting on people that are trying to make life just a little more pleasant for all of us. They do this through Twitter, on their website, and on their podcast. Think Buzzfeed, but less up its own tailpipe and more reliable.

There really isn’t much else to say; it’s a reputable news source that encourages people to do good in the world. What more do you want?

Pentametron

This right here… THIS is art…

So, let’s talk high-tech…

For those not in the know, a “Twitter Bot” is a kind of software that is scripted to perform certain actions on Twitter. Most of the time, it’s something annoying or outright malicious like tagging everyone that uses a certain word in a tweet to send them links to buy a useless book. But some people have begun to use Twitter Bots to create auto-generated art.

Such is the example set by Pentametron, a Twitter Bot programmed to seek out and retweet other peoples tweets in pairs that just so happen to form naturally occurring, rhyming verses of Iambic Pentameter – the style William Shakespeare was famous for using.

This is essentially a high-tech fusion of the style of Shakespeare combined with one of my favorite literary styles; the “Cut-up technique” popularized by beat poet legend William S. Burroughs in which text is scrambled and rearranged to create new works.

It’s a pleasant reminder of how art sometimes occurs by total accident and that we just need to stop and appreciate it some times.

The Agent Reviews A Game: Hungry Dragon

Live every fantasy fan’s dream; roleplay as Smaug.
Source: Ubisoft

So a lot of my essays lately have been focused on LGBTQ+ – specifically transgender – issues due to their impact on my life. However, I realize that some people might need a break from the heavy topics and just have some fun. So, let’s get back into one of my increasingly favorite topics; mobile games.

In my side mission to find entertaining distractions that I can play anywhere I damn-well please (a big deal in previous months with no reliable Wi-Fi of my own), I’ve developed a sort of affection for fun and simple little games on my phone. And they don’t get much more simple and fun for me than Hungry Dragon.

Yes, from the company that gave us Rayman and Assassin’s Creed comes a manic mobile game with a simple premise; You dragon, they crunchy. EAT. THEY. ASS.

I was immediately grabbed by the visuals. A lot of mobile games claim to have great graphics, but they lack the charm that Hungry Dragon has. All of the detailed texturing means nothing if the design is uninspired. And luckily for this game, the dragons are given so much personally and variety ranging from genuinely intimidating to cartoonishly wicked that almost everyone will have their own favorite.

As for the gameplay, it’s a simple endurance game. You fly around the world eating anything you can fit in your gob – humans, livestock, goblins, OTHER DRAGONS, etc. – while dodging hazards like hunters, mines, and larger predators. Eat enough at once and you breathe a massive gout of flame that makes quick work of everything in your path. Keep eating and avoid starvation for as long as you can to get cool loot.

And the loot is indeed cool. You’ll end up unlocking pets that give stat bonuses, costumes that change how each dragon plays, and larger dragons that grant access to different pray and new areas of the world. Again, there’s enough variety and the designs are inspired enough that you’ll quickly find your favorites.

One of the things I appreciate most about this game though is it’s one of only, if not THE only mobile game I’ve played that doesn’t harass you to play it on its schedule. I’ve railed in the past about my disdain for games that force daily login goals just to keep players and how they make a simple game feel more like work. There’s no sign of that in Hungry Dragon. All you ever get is the occasional notification that an egg you’ve been incubating is ready to hatch. It makes for a much more casual, laid-back game perfect to unwind to after a long day.

While this is easily one of my favorite mobile games at the time, I have my qualms with it. For one, the graphic intensity of the game does tax my phone slightly resulting in some minor loss in frame rate. It’s not enough to ruin gameplay, but it does break the immersion for me. What’s more, I feel the lack of a competitive multiplayer mode is a bit of a missed opportunity. Games like Agar.io proved that people quite enjoy the concept of a player-eat-player competitive game.

Other than those minor points, however, this is a solid mobile game that I have yet to find myself leaving. It’s relaxed, it looks amazing, and it’s just silly fun to inhale an entire village only to find your controls have suddenly been reversed because you accidentally got tipsy on the town drunk. Download this game – you will not regret it.

The Social Side Of Transitioning: Reflections On Coming Out As A Transgender Woman

 

I call this look, “Corporate Casual Goth.”

So after a PAINFULLY long hiatus as I dealt with moving to a new apartment, fighting with the former landlady, and living without regular and reliable internet access, I’ve finally gotten back into the swing of things. and it’s a good thing too; I was going stir crazy beating myself up about not making regular posts and making myself feel incredibly guilty over circumstances I had no control over.

But over the extended break from The Archive and in-between the packing, I was able to reflect on my new life as an out and proud transgender woman. And I came to a sudden realization; everybody talks about the PHYSICAL changes that people go through, but it feels like almost no one discusses the SOCIOLOGICAL changes one faces.

Now, obviously, there’s a good reason for that; physical changes can be quantified and measured and patterns often emerge that we can build accurate predictions off of. Social changes depend on, not only the individual’s personality but also the environment they were raised in, the environment they currently occupy, and the general attitudes of the public as they change and develop over time. Basically, Sociology and Psychology are “soft sciences” and much more difficult to predict and discuss.

That said, I CAN give my own personal reflections on the transition in the hopes that it will spark a conversation where others share their experiences and someone will find something relatable to their situation.

Now to give context to my experience, I feel I should let you know a few things. First, I’m 33 years old, so I’m starting the transition much later than most these days. Second, I’ve only been on HRT for 6 weeks, so I’m still relatively early on in my physical transition. And third, I live in southern New Hampshire and the state is a bit divided on LGBTQ+ issues. The stereotype is that the north(i.e. Cow-Hampshire) is nothing but cattle farmers and covered bridges (so very little context for or interest in LGBTQ+) and the south (i.e. New Massachusetts) is nothing but Malls and Drag Queens (so more interest in LGBTQ+, but not always proportional understanding).

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about my observations. For example…

Cisgender women are significantly more friendly to me

I have honestly lost count of how many times I’ve been out in public and a random woman has stopped me to compliment me on my clothing, marvel at my long legs, or offer and trade advice on how to do hair and eyeliner. It honestly makes me feel really good to know that so many total strangers are willing to be so neighborly.

It almost feels as if, trans or otherwise, women simply feel more comfortable in the presence of other women. It’s a feeling that I can relate to even BEFORE I came out. (NOTE: this is not too bad mouth my guy friends; you are awesome too).

It’s not a universal thing, obviously; I still catch the occasional cock eyebrow from a random woman from time to time. But the ratio between the two extremes is so vast as to be jaw-dropping.

On the other end of the spectrum…

Cisgender MEN are significantly LESS friendly to me

Again, this is not a universal truth; my male friends since before coming out have been extremely kind and helpful to me as I transition. However, in terms of total strangers, it seems that nearly everyone comes off with an air of indifference towards me or complete distrust – looking at me just long enough to cast a judgemental eye and go back to their business.

Now, I can’t say for sure what those penetrating stares are all about (3 seconds isn’t a lot of time to psychoanalyze a person), but I can’t help but feel like they feel betrayed when they see me. As their gaze says, “What’s wrong, are we not good enough for you?” And as someone who cares quite a bit (perhaps too much) about other people’s feelings, that sort of thing can eat me alive from the inside out.

But enough about interacting with strangers, let’s talk about closer interpersonal relationships.

It’s easy to forget that coming out affects others – not just me

I don’t always recognize the judging glances when I go out to dinner with friends or what passers-by are thinking while I’m sitting in the park with my dad having a heart-to-heart. I’ve spent so much time – over 30 years – worrying about what other people think, I just don’t care anymore.

Of course, therein lies the problem. I want to start focusing on making myself happy for a change before it’s too late, but doing so means leaving the people I care about to reconcile the aftermath I leave behind. Thankfully, most of the people in my life have been more than understanding in that regard and know that I need to start showing a little self-love. That said, it’s not an easy thought to handle and I frequently guilt trip myself about it.

 

Cisgender people get misgendered too

Not to mention any names, but I do have some older ladies in my life that have struggled with misgendering. They’ve lost the figure they had in youth, stress has caused hair to thin, and I have to imagine that it hurts just as much for them to be called, “Sir,” by a cashier as it does me.

That said, it does help me deal with it a bit better. Sometimes, honest mistakes happen and no one means any harm. Just politely remind them and try to move one if they start getting indignant.

Of course, if you’re the sort of person that KNOWS better than to call me a man and you still do to insult me or because you’re too ashamed to call me a woman around your friends, I’m going to be judging the s*** out of you for the rest of your natural life.

Archive News: Almost Back To Normal

So, yesterday night was a huge evening. We finally have our new apartment and are in the middle of setting up things. It’s honestly been a nightmare every step of the way, but it’s refreshing to know the vast majority of it is behind us.

As for the state of the blog, we have a stable, albeit temporary internet connection again. The only thing preventing me from doing something today is utter exhaustion from the move. Next week will see a return to form. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on making my new home livable again.

I’ll see you all next week!

Archive News: An Update On the Move and Starting My Transition

Once again, Field Operatives, I apologize for not being very active through the last few weeks. I’ve had to make do with whatever limited wi-fi I can find in my travels which vastly limits my posting frequency. That said, I did want to at least fill you in on what’s happening in my life.

Firstly, It seems that I finally have a date for when the new apartment will be ready. I should be rebuilding my life come August 25. It will be a bit of a struggle to get through, but it will be a positive change overall. My rent will be more manageable, the landlord is a good friend, and I’ll be back to having AC to get through what has been one of the most inhospitable summers in my recent memory.

I’ve also FINALLY started Hormone Replacement Therapy HRT. As is often tradition among the trans* community, I’ll be keeping a visual record on my Twitter account complete with body measurements documenting physical change weekly. I’m also considering a more in-depth review of my transition here if there’s any interest.

At any rate, the hiatus will continue until I can be sure that my internet connection is more consistent and stable. I’ll try to keep you all posted on any changes that may occur in the meantime.

Thanks again for being so patient with me. I’ll be back as soon as I can.

Archive News: Everything went FUBAR

Hey, Field Operatives. I just got back from my trip to New York. It was most pleasant and I feel fully refreshed.

Good thing too, because everything turned against me while I was out.

Firstly, due to trouble on the road and having to divert from the original path to avoid MULTIPLE accidents on the highway, I’ve arrived late and don’t have time to work on an article this week.

Another time-consuming factor is the news that my landlady is bumping up our rent, so it looks like we may have to vacate unexpectedly. That means a lot of time spent packing and possibly time without internet access.

I’m currently looking at workarounds to fix the internet issue. That said, even if I can’t get regular articles out for a while, I’ll at least keep you all posted on my living situation.

Here’s hoping we get back on schedule next week.