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Your City In Ashes, A Godzilla Primer


Godzilla is an atomic chicken come home to roost. Born out of fears of nuclear radiation’s generational impact, he has arisen from the depths of political subconscious to burn your playhouse of complacency down to ash. You think war-mongering is an answer? You think your guns will protect you? Your cities will fall to skeletal crumbs and your property will be left smoldering like a cigarette crushed under foot. Once Godzilla lays his cold reptilian gaze upon you, you are about to get got with an atomic shot and not even hell is a low enough place to duck.

Godzilla was born to cinema in 1954—conceived as half gorilla, half whale, wrapped up in a reptile skin –a walking volcano that combines the power of an earthquake with nuclear devastation and everything we don’t understand about nature.

I don’t remember what happened to my brain synapses when I sat through my first Godzilla movie at age 5, but nothing was the same thereafter. For the first time since my birth, the house fell quiet at the altar of the tv, and according to witnesses, I assembled a belt extending my spine into a sand-dune flattening prehistoric tail and re-enacted the miracle of destruction I JUST witnessed on the 3 o’clock Ghoulie Movie. Sometime later, an old white man dressed as a superhero with a washing machine door for a helmet had the first news on TV I ever paid attention to: There would be a Godzilla movie marathon at the UC Theater in Berkeley that Saturday and if my parents ever wanted peace in their house again… I held my parents hostage to my pre-adolescent desires until my father dropped me off downtown Berkeley and dusted his hands happy to be rid of me without having to drive hours to the desert.

From then until now, 28 movies and three decades later and I remain a student of Godzilla’s mythos. I even study oceanic tides around the world for sudden changes “just in case”. Over time he has been cast as both hero and villain, though it always stings a little to see him die… Damn human science and King Kong’s larger, thinking brain!

What should one expect from the Godzilla experience? In honor of a certain movie opening, submitted here is a brief breakdown of the traditional Godzilla film’s modus operandi. 1) Newton’s Law of Bad Science Fiction, 2) The Raise Up, 3) The Runners, 4) Military Showdown, 5) March Thru The City, 6) Battle Downtown and 7) Triumphant Conquest and Return to the Deep.

Newton’s Law of Bad Science Fiction

Devo dressed alien hoodlums from arid planets of synthesized moon dust; meddling human scientists who boil fish in their own juice via nuclear testing; explorers unearthing long buried mythological monsters for personal financial gain; all elements aligning to awaken the demon peacefully sleeping at the ocean’s depths. Woe & mercy upon you, meddlers! You’ve gone and done it now.

An alien will stay alien until they discover earths’ pristine waters and resources and decide a planetary take-over is necessary. They’ll bring three headed demons with them as one might bring a dog to a beach. We got a dog, too, alien scum! And our dog has toenails long as a city block.

The Raise Up

What are the long term effects of atomic testing on life forms? Short answer: Not good. Godzilla rises from the harbor like an old man standing from a very comfortable chair. A mountain of water ruptures off his back, sliced by his serrated dorsal fins. The air around him precipitates, fishermen standing on the docks mouths agape with screaming, drown. It is like watching a complete building rise, its chest hyperventilating with anger, sweating seawater in droplets the size of Cadillacs.

He announces his presence with a bulletproof glass shattering war cry: a song, a blues. The Sound a hell-cry collage of rusted metals and explosions played like musical instruments. Along the horizon the sea town resembles spilled rock salt beneath a giant shadow. Each footfall has building crumbling magnitude and a swipe of Godzilla’s tail flattens iron and steel and concrete towers as if they were aluminum cans.

But his presence, imposing as it is, isn’t the worst of it. Submitted for your approval: Godzilla’s atomic breath. What exactly happens when you piss off an easily pissed off omniscient reptile?

Along his back are multiple rows of blade serrated dorsal fins that stiffen and glow with anger. He inhales, the atmosphere swirls and sparkles around him, dripping with ball lightning. He aims and a gamma wave emits from his throat, snapping the tendon of the sound barrier, and his body becomes channel for a blast that bores volcanic holes into a million years of rock. He can easily vaporize an opponent into a blood colored mushroom cloud of flame then barely has the decency to wipe his mouth of the residual molten lava.

The Runners

One worships’ Godzilla by running.

Godzilla is only happy to detonate a parking lot full of shoppers with a mushroom cloud of Fuck You or pick off military planes like playing Centipede at the arcade.

During years of silence, harbor cities host annual Godzilla runs – heart healthy drills to keep the populace able to sprint across town once the apocalypse takes a notion to walk the land. Children hide beneath school desks and kiss their virgin asses luck that their spirits make it to the other side without their little halos glowing from nuclear radiation. The populace learns to drop everything and run. But where exactly are they going? Home is mushroom cloud of splinters and smoke. Worse: Godzilla is thorough and easily annoyed by movement as humans are of a trail of insects on the kitchen sink. His chest is eternally full of Raid and no matter how smart you are or how much money you have, you are just a roach cowering in the corner at Godzilla’s Coliseum sized feet.

The Military Showdown

Machinery of mass destruction fails and offers no competition. Godzilla holds flagrant disregard for the ways and concerns of men. He holds them in outright disgust if not just reptilian indifference. And how they greet him as he crosses the threshold of land! Swarming jet fighters, heavily armed tanks, missiles armed with drill heads… He mosquito-swats jets from mid air with annoyed impatience, and incinerates rows of military tanks until they burst with layers of red and yellow flame.

March Thru The City

There’s so much damage we can only count the survivors, sir. OK—How many survivors? Me.

Otherwise, your city will lie in smoldering ruins, its champagne air livid in radiation. Godzilla uses buildings as punching bags and they dissolve into powder at his touch. He screams to the scattering masses: Fuck your couch??? Lol! How about: Fuck your WHOLE CITY!!

Battle Downtown

Wrestler and fighter, Godzilla willingly stands toe to toe with any alien creature in a fight to the death. Even if said creature is 2 or 3 times his size. Take for example, King Ghedorah, a three headed lightning eating punk. Yeah, you got three heads, you’re part trucker, part biker, all mythological nightmare, but your goose is easily cooked leaving globs of fat stuck to the ribs of city hall and the coliseum. Ghedorah fights until its defeated, get resurrected through supernatural powers only to get blown up again into a galaxy of embers by Godzilla’s atomic kiss. Nice try. Maybe you should host a talk show and give up trying to take Tokyo, dude. You got nuthin.

Triumphant Conquest, Return To The Deep

Godzilla’s work is done when the alien has been reduced to skin cells and the surrounding boxing ring of a city glows with stray fires and thick plumes of smoke. He lets go a vibrant, chest clearing war cry and stomps back into the ocean where he rests peacefully until some scientist/alien/industrialist makes an error in judgment and decides to start some shit.

To Godzilla, even we human beings are aliens to be barely tolerated.

He saves the day, refuses payment of anything except silent obedience, turns his back on us puny humans and pimp strolls back to his underwater paradise man-cave at Monster Island. What awaits him there? How is his man-cave tricked out? Wouldn’t you like to know. All you need to know is this: Shut up, kids and get off Godzilla’s lawn!

Wanna be starting something? Selfish multi-millionaire scientist asshole? Inconsiderate alien-life force? Nosy explorer? Overgrown thing from beyond? Make some noise and watch what happens. I double dog dare you! . The ocean boils with city-sized tsunamis. The doors of a volcano are thrown wide open. Hell is coming. Apocalypse approaches.

Cue Music.

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