[Excerpt] Monster Islands

By St. Paco

In the classic giant monster movies of Japan, a trio of islands in the South Pacific Ocean are home to three of Tokyo's biggest threats: Barugon, Giant Beast Gappa, and King Kong. In real life, these isolated islands are home to some of the biggest threats to history and anthropology textbooks everywhere.

Why is it that the giant monsters in the old Japanese science-fantasy flicks nearly always originate from remote islands in the South Pacific? It has long been something of a puzzle to me, but I'm not the only giant monster movie lover to ever express interest in this subject.

In an essay originally published in 1992, cultural critic Nagayama Yasuo also pondered the significance of this recurring theme in the cinema of his homeland when he wrote: why do monsters always come from the South–specifically the South Pacific–in Toho monster films?

Sollgel Island, a fictional locale situated somewhere in the South Pacific, is home to both the giant spider Spiega, and Kamacuras, a super-sized praying mantis. The monster Mothra – a mountain-sized silkworm moth – originates from the equally imaginary Infant Island. And the suitably named Monster Island is yet another tropical land mass surrounded by the sky-blue waters of the South Pacific Ocean.

Monster Island, by the way, is like a mysterious Busch Gardens where Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and others of their kind have been segregated for the safety of all humanity.

Thus, it is probably with this firmly-established history of concocted South Seas locales in mind that some authors also mistakenly add Fauro Island (alternately misspelled as Faro or Faroe) to their lists of fictional locales in Godzilla flicks.

"The equally imaginary Faro Island is supposed to be the home of King Kong in King Kong vs. Godzilla," writes Yoshikuni Igarashi, author of the essay entitled "Mothra's Giant Egg."

Amazingly, though, Fauro Island isn't fictional at all. It is actually a very real monster island.

Film School

In King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), the scientist who tells of the existence of Fauro Island describes it as the tropical domain of a "strange god," and the natural habitat of a medicinal red berry that grows only there and nowhere else. The scientist even mentions its connection to the very real Solomon Islands and then points to its location on a Pacific Ocean map.

(Okay, not to crack anyone across the knuckles with a ruler or anything, but that's the kind of obvious factoid that no Godzilla geek worth their pocket protector should have missed.)

Then again, I should probably blame the schools. When have American school systems – public or private – ever educated its student citizens about anything regarding the Solomon Islands or the South Pacific? It isn't as if a great number of this country's World War II battles were waged there, or as if the young Lieutenant John F. Kennedy nearly died in the fighting there, right?

Wrong–unless you actually said "wrong."

After the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, America's battle to stop the spread of Japan's rapidly expanding empire would take place on and above the beaches and jungles of these little-known islands. When the war ended in 1945, large numbers of Japanese POWs were even detained in Allied holding camps established on the shores of what would later become King Kong's movie home.

The history of the Pacific War theater also plays a part in the screenplay of Gamera vs. Barugon. In the 1964 film, Papua New Guinea is the domain of a chameleon-tongued dragon that the giant turtle Gamera must fight to defend Japan against. The island is also the location of a papaya-sized opal that one of the supporting characters, a former soldier, says that he found there during the war. Amusingly, he mentions also having to hide the gem in a cave in 1945, just before "being sent to the prisoner of war camp."

In Giant Beast Gappa (1967), whose screenplay appears to steal without shame from King Kong vs. Godzilla, the story begins on begins on Obelisk, a volcanic land mass situated in the Solomon Islands east of Papua. Unbeknownst to the team of journalists and scientists who visit the island while on the payroll of a greedy publishing magnate, Obelisk is a nesting ground for a couple of griffin-like gargantuas called gappas.

Obelisk, like the islands of Fauro and Papua New Guinea in these films, is also inhabited by fearsome tribes of dark, bushy-haired "primitives." And though the placement of these figures would seem to border on the absurd, their presence on the screen actually hints at a profound reality that is infinitely even more curious than the South Seas origin of make-believe monsters.

To be continued...

The YKFS management hopes that you have enjoyed this teaser excerpt of St. Paco's "Monster Islands." The full essay will be published in a future collection of similarly themed essays written by the author.


Semi-automatic dai-kaiju fanatic

In the miles-long litany of clever samples used by the RZA for various Wu-Tang songs, one of the least recognized could be the other-worldy whine looped under the chorus of "Semi-Automatic Full Rap Metal Jacket" (Wu-Chronicles, 1993). It's likely that even the most astute rap music nerds never linked the mewling sound effect to the voice of Japan's beloved dai-kaiju (giant monster) Gamera. But that is where this genius sample came from. Press-N-Play™ the link below to hear it for yourself.

Wu-Tang Clan – Semi-Automatic Full Rap Metal Jacket ft. U-God, Inspectah Deck & Street Thug


Your Kung Fu Sucks! Grindhouse Cinemas™ proudly presents its very first Monsta Mashin' Saturday Matinee™ featuring the classic War of the Monsters aka Gamera vs. Barugon (1966). As always, true believers, this Vintage Video™ is available as a free mp4 download courtesy of the fine folks over at Archive.org. But you're also more than welcome to watch it front-row-and-center at the YKFS blog. But bring your own popcorn, Sno-Caps and Jujubes, please.


Kodak Moment (Take a picture, it'll last longer)

Dear diary blog,

It's 2AM and I'm perched at the keyboard finishing the most difficult essay that I have ever attempted to write.

This long-problematic piece was actually started nearly ten friggin' years ago. Because the subject matter was so close to heart, though, it was always difficult to retain objectivity about the proper direction and the quality of the actual work.

But tonight, after two days of just chipping away at it again (for the god-only-knows-how-many-eth time) I finally feel what I've always wanted to feel: that both the rhythm and wording are right, and that the whole is worth every bit of the seemingly endless effort.

Now, after nearly a decade of starts and stalls one would think that I'd managed to pen something equal in size to Plato's Apology. But it's only a 3,000-word essay–albeit one that shoehorns some 50,000 years of human history into a thoughtful and entertaining text. 

That is partly what made it so damned difficult to write. 

And it's also kinda personal too, but had to be made much less personal to make it work; letting go of the parts in which you have an emotional investment is probably the hardest part about writing. 

For me it is, anyway.

Two years ago, one of my previously failed attempts to rework the essay in question resulted in the "Black East" piece that was published in Giant Robot magazine. That was my first published piece and is in many ways a pre-quel to this one.

Coincidentally (but there are no coincidences, right?), Runoko Rashidi contacted me a couple of weeks ago. The somewhat well known historian and lecturer asked if he could include the previously metioned piece in his new travelogue called African Star Over Asia

When I finally find the words, I'll say something about just how...legitimizing the opportunity feels. Right now, though, all I can say is that it's an honor.

As to the title of my old-but-new essay – and it has had a number of 'em throughout its decade long gestation period – "Monster Islands" is the title that was settled upon in 2010 and it's still a perfect fit.

Oh, and diary blog, I just had a thought. 

If I could take a picture right now of what I'd like my life to look like it would be something like the screenshot that I just captured. See it?

Click to enlarge

Well, at the center of the image is the current work-in-progress, which is essentially complete except for a lil' fine-tuning. On the top left side of the screen, the movie Monster From a Prehistoric Planet (aka Giant Beast Gappa) is playing with the volume turned down. And underneath the minimized media player screen is a map of Papua New Guinea, which – like the movie itself – is referenced in the essay.

Over there on the right side of the screen is an antique photograph of a young maiden from Papua New Guinea––something discovered during one of the Raiders of the Lost Ark-style research runs. Beneath that stunning portrait is an iTunes window that displays the song "Genocide" by the Reavers (featuring rappers Spiega, Billy Woods and Kong) as it plays with the volume turned down low.

When I open my eyes to dream, that screenshot offers a perfect example how I'd like my life to look. But in the vision, I actually make a good living doing what I love as both a writer and artist. And if not every single day, most of my work/play days would look like that. 

Okay, the only deviation from what's captured in the image is that there would probably be two flat-screen monitors on my desktop––Oh, and the desk itself would be something new from Ikea.

As for tonight/today, though, I'm happy with what I've got, and happy with how my life looks.

One to grow on

Hey, kids! I would like to suggest that you not try the multiple applications thing without adult supervision. While it isn't exactly uncommon for yours truly to have multiple files open simultaneously, and iTunes also running in the background, it is not NOT common to also have a movie playing. But, due to the breakthrough that occurred with "Monster Islands," I rewarded myself with some extra (but still related) visual stimuli. Also, kids, if you do listen to music while reading, writing or doing math homework, it is always best to keep the volume turned down low, so as not to distract from the work.

And that's one to grow on!



The T.R.O.Y. Blog Presents Monsta Island Czars - Return to Monsta Island, Vols. 1 & 2

At the start of the summer, Dirt Doggy Dog and the crew over @ the T.R.O.Y. Blog brought heat to the interwebs with two beastly compilation mixtapes featurin' your favorite dai-kaiju inspired hip-hop crew and mine, Monsta Island Czars! That's right, true believers, because those underground favorites never got around to releasing a sequel to 2003's Escape From Monsta Island!, the mad scientists at T.R.O.Y. Industries™ bumrushed the lab and went completely Doctor Frankenstein. The result is two mixtapes that give a welcome fix to anyone who's been jonesin' for more MIC brand dopeness. Both of 'em have been in repeat rotation since I got 'em, and it seemed like a really good idea to share 'em here at YKFS Central.


T.R.O.Y. Presents Return To Monsta Island Vol. 1

01. X-Ray – A Monsta (Intro)
02. King Geedorah – Fazers
03. Rodan – Ability to Speak (One Week)
04. Jet Jaguar – All Y’all
05. Spiega – Now That’s Sweet
06. Megalon – Revelations
07. Gigan – Live Wirez Remix
08. Kong – Use Me
09. Kamackeris (as Kwite Def) – All is Fair
10. Megalon (as Tommy Gun) – I’m Counting on You
11. Gigan – In Search Of
12. Jet Jaguar – The Way
13. Spiega – I Seen It All
14. King Geedorah – The Fine Print
15. Jet Jaguar – Stable
16. Kamackeris (as Kwite Def) – Khadijah 2008
17. Rodan – No Degrees
18. Megalon – Rain Blood
19. Gigan – Gunshots
20. Kamackeris – Untouchable
21. Kong & Spiega – True Believers
22. Megalon – When I Go Out
23. Rodan – Human Inquisition
24. X-Ray – Monstaball (Outro)


T.R.O.Y. Presents Return To Monsta Island Vol. 2

1. Rodan- Century 21 ft. Megalon
2. Rodan- Roll Call ft. Kong, Kamackeris, & Gigan
3. Kong- Beast ft. Spiega
4. Kong- Die ft. Megalon, Egyptian Queen, King Ceasar, Loch Ness, & Spiega
5. Kong- War ft. 5th Element & Spiega
6. The Reavers- Genocide ft. Spiega, billy woods, & Kong
7. MF Grimm- Taken
8. Megalon- Yahkoo
9. Kamackeris- Kill Or Be Killed ft. Spiega, Rio, & Foul Language
10. Kong- Get Your Money Right
11. Kong- Lifted ft. Gabarah & Monsta X
12. Megalon- Keep It Street
13. Gigan- Outta Jail
14. MF Grimm- Dancin’
15. The Reavers- America ft. Spiega, Hasan Salaam, & Akir
16. Darc Mind- Spontaneous ft. Kamackeris
17. Rodan- Flight Lessons (Lyric Medley)
18. billy woods- Death From Above ft. Kong & Spiega
19. MF Grimm- The Original (DJ Fakts One Remix)
20. Kong- Red Tears ft. Spiega & Delilah
21. Rodan- Run The Sphere V. 2.3 ft. Kong, Loch Ness, Megalon, King Ceasar, Kamackeris, King Ghidra, & Jet Jaguar
22. MF Grimm- Voices (The Final Chapter)



Please deposit 'fiddy' cents

"If I ruled the world..." by way of royal edict I would order Capcom to produce a special edition Street Fighter arcade version that pulls double duty as a jukebox. That way, whenever players clanked a couple o' quarters into the slots of the Capcom vs. Wurlitzer Classic™, they'd get more bang for their half-a-buck by getting to pick out a def jam as well. And on those nights that I had my incredibly fetching female chauffeur drive me to the 24-hour laundromat to throw down against some hapless mark, the song "Chun Li" by Ryu Black (aka Ravage the MeccaGodzilla) would be my #1 draft pick. This infectious lil' posse cut was the first single from Ryu's 2011 album, Perfect 天, and features some stellar assists by Random (aka Mega Ran), Masia One and DJ Sarasa. On the infrequent occasions when I get Street Fighter on the brain (see previous post), I've simply gots'ta to hear this song. And though it has already been blogged about here before, just like the classic game that inspired it, "Chun Li" is always worth a replay. – SP

Ryu Black – Chun Li ft. Random, Masia One & DJ Sarasa


Five hundred + hit combo!

A puny 98-pound weakling could have knocked me over with a pink feather boa when I figured out that the "Shaolin Break Dancing" post from a few months back had generated over 500 page views. Some of these YKFS postings are lucky to even break fifty (not really), but that piece generated hits like a Street Fighter™ combo on crack.

Even more remarkably, though, a few other postings generated well over 700 and 800 hits. Sha-zam!

The reason that this merits mention is 'cuz I told a buddy some months back that it was cool (for me) just knowin' that there are a couple dozen YKFS readers. Now, though, havin' seen the actual number of page views that some of these pulse-pounding postings have generated, I'm getting inspired with the desire to touch even more eyeballs.

As beautiful fate would have it, it was just over a year ago that I blogged about how if it nailed down, I'd be bringin' it – whatever it might happen to be – to Your Kung Fu Sucks. Gauging by the page views earned by some of these posts since then, methinks this lil' ol' blog has managed to 'level up' a tad.

So, this quick missive has been written to show my appreciation to the subscribers (all six o' you), the lurkers and the information superhighway passers-by. You're the reason that bloggers put fingers to keys. In the immortal words of Bartles & James: "Thank you for your support."

– SP


From the slums of Shaolin

 click to enlarge

"Me say me comin' from the Shaolin Temple /
Me know me set a better example..."

Reggae records from the 1970s colorfully convey how the kung-fu flicks of that era made as big an impression on brothers and sisters in the slums of Jamaica as they had on their counterparts in the slums of urban America. Songs like "Iron Fist" by The Upsetters, "Hap ki do" by Augustus Pablo, "Natty Kung Fu" by Dillinger and "Fist of Fury" by Prince Jammy are but a few fine examples of the martial arts movie-inspired music of the islands. But the best of 'em would probably be "Shaolin Temple," an early dancehall record produced by Henry 'Junjo' Lawes and vigorously crooned by a young Barrington Levy.

The high tenor-voiced Levy (pictured right) was only 16 years-old when "Shaolin Temple" was recorded in 1979, but his vocals on this righteous riddem display the maturity and discipline of a white-bearded master. Junjo's pulsating drum and bass arrangements are as hard as they come on the track, but Levy's razor-sharp warbling still rips right though 'em like flying daggers through a rice paper window.

If you dig vintage reggae but have never heard "Shaolin Temple," your eardrums are in for a sweet island treat. Submitted for your approval...

Shaolin Temple – Barrington Levy (1979)