Friday, October 14, 2005

A Million Bright Ambassadors of Morning

Having mentioned Pink Floyd in yesterday's posting, I was moved to pick "Echoes" (their Side 2 epic from 1971's Meddle) as the accompaniment for last night's half-hour session on my Vitamaster 1000XT exer-cycle. It's a slow and dreamy song, unlike the more energetic music I usually find essential for exercize, but it's never just one thing for long. It's got a sense of not only going somewhere, but going somewhere important that makes it an ideal soundtrack to peddling for that length of time in a stationary place. Listening to it again reminded me of what a singular place this song has occupied in my life; in fact, the word "song" seems inadequate to describe all that "Echoes" is.

Suffice to say, a lot of nice things have happened to me over the years while listening to "Echoes." One of the ones I can tell you about involves my friend Michael Lennick, a writer-director-special effects designer who lives up in Bala, Ontario.

I first met Michael on the set of VIDEODROME in 1981, where he (the video effects supervisor of a future movie classic directed by David Cronenberg) won me over by saying to me (a writer for Cinefantastique), "You have my dream job, you know?" Since then, he has directed the award-winning short film SPACE MOVIE, supervised the special effects on the WAR OF THE WORLDS TV series, written-produced-and-directed the excellent Kubrick commemorative documentary 2001 & BEYOND as well as a full season of the self-produced series ROCKET SCIENCE, and he's presently embarking on a documentary about his affiliation with THE ALL-NITE SHOW, a much-missed Canadian cult TV phenomenon of the early 1980s. He has also written for VIDEO WATCHDOG on a few occasions, on such beloved topics as STAR WARS, Stanley Kubrick, and STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Donna and I took a trip to visit Michael and his sweetie Shirley back in 2000, partly to enjoy their warm company and the hospitality of their lakeside cottage, and partly because Michael had volunteered to produce my audio commentaries for Image Entertainment's BLACK SUNDAY and KILL... BABY, KILL! (never released) during our stay. A working vacation, if you will.

During that visit, it came up during one of our late night conversations that Michael and I had both heard rumors that Pink Floyd's Roger Waters may have originally written "Echoes" to accompany the "Jupiter and Beyond" sequence of Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. On the spot, Michael decided to sync them up. After one false start, Michael had the eureka to use the film's first planetary "reveal" as a sync spot for the first sonar "ping" of "Echoes." Once that was done, Michael hit his remotes and we were off... As best I can remember, the film and music played out in surprising if not perfect synchronicity, with little "flashes" of perfect alignment that made us laugh out loud in appreciation. Remarkably, the two pieces do run at roughly the same length. Our conclusion about the theoretical Kubrick/Waters connection: who knows, probably not, but pretty neat anyway.

"A Million Bright Ambassadors of Morning" is perhaps the most inspired of the imagistic lyrics of "Echoes," and it offers me a perfect segue to two days ago, when I received a package from Michael containing his two latest achievements: an hour-long documentary called DR. TELLER'S VERY LARGE BOMB, which he wrote, produced and directed, and a complementary article "A Final Interview with the Most Controversial Father of the Atomic Age, Edward Teller," which appears in the Summer 2005 (Vol 21 No 1) issue of AMERICAN HERITAGE OF INVENTION & TECHNOLOGY.

As I watched Michael's documentary, the recurring and escalatingly horrific images of atomic detonation and the attendant shockwaves rushing toward the camera brought that phrase from "Echoes" back to mind, though these giant mushroom clouds were, to bend a point, bright ambassadors of mourning. It's an engrossing and informative program that touches not only on Edward Teller, but on J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Soviet spy Klaus Fuchs and other key players in America's "hell-bomb" program, and there is also contemporary commentary by Dr. Teller, fellow scientists, published authorities, and Teller's own grandson Astro (I kid you not) who talks about the human side of the Father of the Atomic Age. I was also surprised to see actor Reed Hadley (ZORRO'S FIGHTING LEGION, RACKET SQUAD) turn up as the host of a military film made on the occasion of the first hydrogen bomb test in the South Pacific. I felt my friend's presence and could sense his complete engagement in every aspect of this important story, and I congratulate him and his colleagues at Foolish Earthling Productions for pulling it off. DR. TELLER'S VERY LARGE BOMB was a labor of love for Michael, and it has so far aired only once in September, on a French CBC station in Quebec. It makes the important point that Dr. Teller was a great man not for conceiving of the most destructive weapon known to man, but the literal weapon to end all weapons. He succeeded in making the heads of opposing nations fear their own capabilities and step back in dread from the threshold of Armageddon, and the technology necessitated to realize that invention now assists everyone reading this in their everyday life. This program deserves to be aired on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and God knows whatever science channels are abounding. Interested parties and programmers can approach Michael via his production company website,

Why the last interview ever granted by the father of the atom bomb isn't mentioned on the cover of INVENTION & TECHNOLOGY, I can't imagine, but Michael's interview with Dr. Teller is admirable and the paragraphs leading up to it are the very best writing he's ever signed: lucid, dramatic and brilliant. Reading his comments about all the hoops he had to jump through, all the little spot quizzes proposed to him by Dr. Teller right up to the final rolling of tape, all to reassure the great man (who died in 2003) that his time wouldn't be wasted, left me wondering how I've managed to rate so remarkable a friend as Michael -- but then, all my friends are remarkable, and it makes me very happy and very proud when I see them follow their dreams and achieve success.

Way to go, Mikey.

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