She Who Lurks By Day|
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|Monday, August 31st, 2015|
Oh, my. There's a stage show of "The Thing on the Doorstep."
Oh, dear. I'm going to go to this, you realize. I have no idea whether this theater company is any good, but what of that? It's staged Lovecraft! Anyone who wants to come should ping me, though I suspect I'm the only extreme Lovecraftian among us who has proximity and free time for this.
|It was one of the nights when my insomnia was particularly abysmal
Rec o' the night: Sarah Monette's Kyle Murchison Booth stories. aedifica
introduced me to these about a year ago (and now I think about it, I hope to goodness I returned the collection she loaned me).
Kyle Murchison Booth is a designated weird fiction protagonist: nervous, cultured, shabby-genteel white guy of no particular age, who suffers from insomnia and undiagnosed depression and works at a museum in (unnamed city), sometime vaguely in the early twentieth century. Distasteful supernatural things happen to him, to his co-workers and to people they have to deal with. Booth sometimes manages to help, and sometimes watches helplessly.
Horror stories involving Kyle Murchison Booth that are free online: Wait For MeTo Die for MoonlightThe ReplacementWhite Charles
(contains link to bonus audio version)The Yellow Dressing Gown
|Sunday, August 30th, 2015|
|good things of late
My legs feel like noodles today, but in a good way. I went to the Middlesex Fells again with another meetup group, and hiked the Rock Circuit Trail. It's about four and a half miles, with all sorts of terrain--rock falls and cliffs, smooth dirt trails, pebble slides. There are a lot of bare rock hilltops from which you can see Boston's skyline, the harbor and the surrounding towns. I love strenuous exercise. It's hard to give myself permission to do it; my phases of low-key depression, personal inertia and misguided work ethic tell me that it's frivolous and pointless and a waste of time when I should be, I dunno, doing work around the house or getting some writing done. But I need to have more strenuous exercise in my life.
There's a house near here with a massive grape arbor covered in nearly-ripe fruit. I was walking past there just as one of the owners came out onto the deck, and I plucked up courage and asked him if I could pick some grapes to make jelly in a few days. He said "How much ya want?" and on hearing that I wanted about a shopping-bag full, he said yes. Hyperlocal grape jelly, thou art within my grasp.
I rearranged my bedroom with my bed pushed up against the window seat, and I like this a lot. It's like sleeping in a screened porch plus having a vast bedside table. The only downside is that my toes are now vulnerable to monsters since they're within pseudopod-reach of a screened window, but an extra layer of blankets helps with that. The air smells fantastic now it's a little cooler. Like decay, wetness, falling leaves, growth, crushed greenery, clouds, travel.
My morning glories are starting to blossom in earnest. Every morning they surprise and delight me.
Lots of good social stuff coming up this week: one friend is giving a dance party at her house, and a friend of a friend included me in movie night, and I have a tentative writing date with G. I've felt a strong upswing in my need to be around people, this last month or so, and fortunately I have lots of ways to gratify it. I suppose I still like a lot of alone time, but I straight-up feel like I need a fix of the company of people I like, almost every day, in order to be myself. Senpai noticed me
. Will I ever stop being happy about the HPL limerick contest? All signs point to no. \;;;/ ~;;;~ /;;;/ \;;;\ ~;;;~The New England Folk Festival application form is open
, until October 3rd. I'ma gonna apply to do stuff again. I went through a phase in my early twenties of performing there a lot, and then a phase of being like, "I'm burnt out on performing, my parents and well-meaning older mentors kind of railroaded me into being so perform-y, I feel lonely and weird about getting all this attention as a singer/performer when I can't really share
it with people, who am I anyway?" Then I went to last NEFFA riding the coattails of other performers who put together a group show, and enjoyed my participation. I know I'm going to be there for the weekend this year, because I'm committed to the same show again, so I might as well take the opportunity to perform and lead workshops/sing-arounds/participation sessions, as much as they'll let me.
The problem with joining up to participate in folk festivals, conventions, etc. is that they're planned anywhere from six months to a year in advance. One of two things tends to happen: either I'm feeling happy and peppy and energetic at sign-up time and I offer to lead and take charge of a ton of varied stuff, in a spirit of enthusiasm, and then six months from now I'm sick/stressed-out/harried from other stuff, and I'm not really feelin' it and I'm like WHYYY DID I SIGN UP FOR ALL THIS NONSENSE WHAT IS MY LIFE. Or the other thing happens: at signup time, I have a lot of other stuff going on and I don't offer to lead/organize/participate in anything because it all feels like a burden, and then six months later the event happens and I enjoy myself and go, THIS IS BRILLIANT WHY AM I NOT MORE INVOLVED I LOVE THIS SO MUCH I SHOULD BE MORE GENEROUS WITH MY TIME.
This is all on my mind because I didn't offer to take part in programming at Arisia last year and then regretted it. Must fix that this year. And NEFFA, of course, and possibly I should apply to take part in Readercon programming as well.
Just for fun, I'm toying with the idea of going to some other convention I've never attended. Providence Comic-Con in November would be a good move, and I'm informed Doug Jones will be there signing autographs. Other than meet one's screen crushes and admire cosplayers, I have no idea what you do for fun at such a giant affair as Comic-Con, but I could happily keep amused in Providence all day because I like the city, and just walking around the con chatting with people would be a good day for me.
Does anybody want to recommend other conventions I should try? I like small groups rather than large, participation rather than being an audience member, literature more than other media, and some tabletop games, RPGS and a little LARPing. I feel like I should follow up this adventurous mood while it's with me.
|Sunday, August 23rd, 2015|
|I looked in and saw an oddly dressed company, indeed
I'm so tired I could do a faceplant on the table. But before I forget:
I went to Necronomicon just for the day today. It was lovely despite the fact that the overall convention was sold out when I got there, and so
first I went for a walk over College Hill and snarled at myself about my frustration with my own poor planning, and then I thought about turning around and going home, but it seemed like a shame to spend all that time in the car without even getting to talk with anyone. So I rode with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind returned to the con, went to the dealers' room and the free/open events, and did HallwayCon. I'm very happy with that decision. Things got better almost immediately.
I had some fun conversations in the dealers' room, enthused together with a woman who shared my interest in Cahokia, petted some severed body parts (NSFW: realistic gory severed body parts), got a selfie with a camo-green insect stilt creature, bought a Tanith Lee book, and attended excellent live shows including an Innsmouth-themed all-filk chantey sing.
The chantey sing included a limerick contest, with a "small prize" for best entry.
I won. This was my limerick:
There was an Innsmouthian mammal
Who knew of anatomy damn-all.
She said that a dude
Looked "quite bactrian" nude,
But "bactrian's" just a damn camel.
People laughed like anything, and I received handshakes from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society members who were present and leading the filk sing. It was tremendously cheering and encouraging. To be sure, I've had a talent for making up lewd doggerel, off and on, all my life. But it felt fantastic to do a tiny poem in a short time, and amuse people with it. Their laughter was very rewarding.
The reward was very rewarding, too. It's a copy of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society's album The Curious Sea Shanties of Innsmouth, MASS., with an accompanying scholarly monograph from Miskatonic University Press (1927). The monograph is by Albert Wilmarth* and Carlton J. Connolly**, and it is a marvel of research. There is a bibliography. There are footnotes. There are references to actual folklorists like Colcord who existed and published. The last time I read a traditional song collection edited with this much care and thought, it was Norman Cazden's Folk Songs of the Catskills (1983). This is a quiet and elaborate joke that will only be noticed by nerds, such as, for example, me, and I love it.
--I need to start committing a full weekend to conventions that I really like. It always takes me a while to warm up to people and start enjoying myself and relaxing, and going for one day doesn't feel like quite enough anymore.
--Likewise, I gotta start buying memberships and tickets ahead of time for things I really want to attend. I think I have the urge to leave my options open till the very last minute, just in case I feel like bailing on the actual day. But the reality is that if I commit to do something, I can trust my own judgement that I'll enjoy it when the time comes. The struggle is to let myself do the fun thing: allot enough time to get there early, and enter into it fully. The only bad move would be not to play.
--Tanith Lee is an underappreciated genius, and I now have her Tempting the Gods, so I need to take the T more often this week to make sure I have more reading time.
--Singing is fun, and I need to do even more of it in the future.
*note for those who aren't into Lovecraft: Wilmarth is the (fictional) scholar protagonist of The Whisperer in Darkness
**I've never seen this name before; possibly a real person, but who even knows?
|Wednesday, August 19th, 2015|
|Sunday, August 9th, 2015|
|Until they come to get me, I will hold your hand in mine
I've been having a binge of Robert Aickman short horror/weird fiction/who t.f. knows. His short story collection Cold Hand In Mine
, if you have the urge to scare yourself so badly it's impossible to sleep.
The last time I read a lot of Robert Aickman, I was a lot younger, still living with my parents, and not officially a horror reader; I was far too squeamish, and I demanded more solidity and explanations in the fiction I read. No fair leaving things ambiguous; that annoyed me a lot more, back then. I've changed so radically that I love the fact that virtually none of the scariest things in an Aickman story are ever explained. Like the Oscar Wilde quote about cigarettes, they are exquisite and they leave one unsatisfied. I feel tense while I read these stories, as if I'm in a slasher movie waiting for the scares to start. And maybe they will, maybe they won't, maybe I'll just watch these obvious first victims get dressed and make breakfast instead of dying in this very shot.
(I mean, I've been a Lovecraft fan since I was about thirteen years old, but for the ultimate Weird Fiction writer, it's impressive how much he explains. He seems to have an undeserved reputation for delicate implication and ambiguity and leaving everything up to the reader, and he doesn't do any of those things, except in a few of the very short stories. There are explanations for everything that goes on in his fiction, if you look hard. He's just good at delivering it in unobtrusive manner.)
I love Robert Aickman's depictions of horror as enabled by social anxiety. "Did I do something wrong? Why is everybody staring at me? All the servants are conspiring against me. That dude is shackled to the cafeteria table by his ankle--do I say anything? Maybe I'm the only one who cares, they'd probably think I was strange. My wife is obsessed with ugly clocks and never owns less than thirty, and she seems to have Old Father Time stopping by the house periodically to wind the clocks, and I have no one to talk to about this because I am really bad at making friends and I'm kind of stuffy and self-enchanted, so I never talk to anyone but my wife, but... see above."
A lot of the stories aren't complete; they're story fragments, almost like creepypasta now that I come to think of it. Protagonists existed and had a nice time; antagonist supernatural menace crushed them for no understandable reason; story peters out in a trickle of blood, because there's not a lot left to say. Horror usually happens to people for crappy reasons, or no reason at all. There isn't the annoying sense that I get with M.R. James, that the the horror is trying to point a moral at me.
I often think that the typical M.R. James story presents "Nerd Does A Thing And Suffers For Having Done It" as a life lesson where the moral of the story is "Don't ask questions, don't do research, don't read old books, look at engravings, do archaeology, or do much of anything really--just sit down and shut up or you'll end up like this poor jerk." That may have not been what James meant, but that's the sense you get after you read a whole collection of his stories, or other supernatural fiction, for that matter.
James's protagonists blow whistles, address flippant remarks to dead people, do research. Robert Aickman's protagonists seem sometimes to suffer for just existing. It's oddly comforting to know that there doesn't seem to be anything they could have done. Everybody runs out of gas far from a gas station or talks to the neighbors or gets crushes sometimes. "The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own..."
Or, then again, they surprise me by failing to suffer. There's a story in here about a woman living in reduced circumstances in a rented house somewhere in the wilds of France, where she's thinking over her life's love affairs and, it's implied, sinking into depression. I was fully expecting Aickman to use this protagonist for maximum horror by telling the audience she was a slut and then having something awful happen to her. Instead, she blunders into conversation with someone who may or may not be a clergyman, and then has an experience that gives her a little hope again.
Aickman also has a vampire story and a maybe-kinda-werewolf story in here. He's very original with his boogeymen, and so it was a surprise to me to find a story where Not-Lord-Byron is seducing and vamping an adolescent girl at a party. (It's "Pages From A Young Girl's Journal," which made Alexx and Kestrell laugh earlier today. Fortunately, apart from the vampires, it has no relationship to Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary
.) It's pretty on-the-nose and hits a lot of vampire cliches. The vampire is one of the Byron/Ruthven style, there's the neck wound, the garlic, the the inability to enter a church, the young girl getting sexual and violent and frightening the stodgy old people around her, and even a chorus of howling wolves here to worship at the vampire's feet. The things that made me love it nonetheless were the sense of desolation and non-humanity that the vampires carry, and the increasing agency of the young girl narrator--you watch her go from a bratty but dependent child, to a girl who considers herself a sexually active woman, to a fangy queen of evil who can make people see exactly what she wants them to see.
There's also a story that I think of as "Humbert Humbert is a werewolf." It's a lot less formulaic, because there isn't a werewolf literary tradition in the same way that there's a vampire one. It's sad and fragmentary and even less explicable than the rest of the stories.
I seem to remember an Aickman story where someone was raising piranha kids who could apparently fly and had eaten at least one person. It was like a more empowering version of the clues in the creepy bedroom from "The Yellow Wallpaper"--in this case, the children had gnawed all the woodwork in a room with their icky little teeth, even in places ten feet off the floor. I want to go back and read that again, and see if I get anything different out of it today than I would have five years ago or ten years.
|Saturday, August 8th, 2015|
|Valderee, valdera, valderee, valdera-ha-ha-ha-HA-ha, valderee...
And today I went for a hike with a Meetup group, into the wilds of the Middlesex fells. It was excellent and I'm glad I went. It's ridiculous that I've lived in the Boston area for three years, and in Somerville for four months, and not been there yet. But now I've remedied that. Pine trees, deep woods, and open hilltops, rolling terrain, and a mixture of easy walking trails you could drive up with a golf cart, and craggy rocks you have to scramble over. There's a reservoir, though you can't swim in it. You can rent a boat (which seems potentially much grosser, but there you go, no one said they had to be consistent). We saw a family letting their two little girls swim off the side of their canoe. Shortly, a ranger popped out of the woods and yelled and scolded and carried on. I was too polite to watch. The temptation of the water was too great for anyone really to be blamed.
Does anyone feel interested in my organizing a group hike, to explore the Fells some more in the next couple of months? If so, let me know and I'll include you when I start planning that.
|Monday, August 3rd, 2015|
|Rates are facts and so are taxes
Returned from weekend of bike rambles, reading, picture taking, museum visits, and catching up with friends. Found two envelopes in my mailbox. One is an invitation to apply for a credit card. The other is a bill from a minute-clinic that I visited back about a month ago when I had a persistent sore throat, and which assured me at the time that I wouldn't have to pay anything. They're now charging me $265 for telling me it was just a sore throat.
*sigh* Rationally, I know I will be able to settle this by calling a lot of people and demanding to know what's going on, and maybe writing some sharp letters. It is going to be dreary work that I don't want to have to do. And, God forbid, maybe they'll succeed in making me pay it. But I'm angry, because the staff told me my insurance covered everything, and I let that reassure me.
And I'm also angry because I'm scared, because two years ago I was flat broke and had parking tickets and an outstanding phone bill I couldn't pay, and I got threatening letters telling me I was racking up more and more overdue charges, which didn't change the fact that I couldn't afford to pay the bills in the first place. And my choice was to tell my parents and have to face their disapproval, or fall behind in the rent in order to pay the bills. I have a bit more money these days, and I haven't had to rely on my parents for anything at all for a year and seven months, but I still worry about it. Also, I'm angry because I was in a good place today after being away from everything for a couple of days, and this is real life popping up and hitting me in the face the second I get home.
Just wanted to post about that, in case anyone out there was envying me or thought I was leading some sort of carefree life of merry wandering. I'll post photos/more details from this weekend, when I'm feeling more the thing.
|Saturday, August 1st, 2015|
|As I look to yon high hills
I'm in Burlington, Vermont for the weekend. There's no particular event happening; I just haven't been here since the Champlain Valley Folk Festival a few years ago, and I wanted to revisit the Shelburne Museum
. It feels good to be somewhere that nobody knows me, I have no set schedule and I can wander at length and admire things and places and people.
Burlington is on Lake Champlain, and I'm hoping to go biking tomorrow. The hills of New York across the lake are huge and blue and a little eerie
. Even people who aren't usually fanciful get thoughtful and poetic confronted with those hills; I remember a family friend who was not given to remarks like this, saying that they looked like fairyland.
Turns out there's also a Festival of Fools
in town, so I might check that out when I return. But right now I'm burning daylight when I could be admiring the weathervane collection, so I'm going to head out. I'll report back if I see anything of interest.
|Friday, July 31st, 2015|
|A peasant stand up thus!
I saw the production of Shakespeare's
Nothing Will Ever Be Okay Again This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things King Lear
on Boston Common last night, and I recommend it for anybody who wants to watch a good production of a harrowing and nihilistic play. It's running Tuesdays through Sundays till August 9th, it's free, and more info is here
This is not a review. It's a reaction to the play in general.
Golly, there sure are a lot of scenes in this play where a whole stage full of people have to stand around watching helplessly while something terrible happens in front of them. All the better to shock us when that one poor background servant comes forward and tries to stop Cornwall and Regan from maiming Gloucester, and gets killed for it. ~you tried~ Nameless Servant, we hardly knew ye.
And yet... was the life of Nameless Servant sacrificed in vain? I don't think so. You know what, that's the first time that the villains are hurt or lose out in any way. Up to that point, the villains have had everything their own way. Lear himself (arguably the villain in his first scene) has rejected Cordelia, and pissed away his good relationship with Kent, to indulge his ego. Gloucester (ditto) condemns his son to death on the most bogus evidence ever. Goneril and Regan have profited by their father's bad decisions and are all set to kill him by neglect (mad in a hailstorm in his undershirt outdoors at night), so he won't bother them anymore. Edmund has manipulated his father into taking out a hit on his brother, then immediately handed over his father for torture and death, and Cornwall has helped his wife arrange Lear's death and then tortured Gloucester to indulge his wrath. The villains are effective, strong, and apparently invulnerable up to that point.
But Cornwall decides to gouge Gloucester's eyes out, the one servant has an attack of conscience and tries to stop him, they fight, and Cornwall kills the servant but gets his death-wound in the process. Realistically enough, Cornwall dies sometime later, offstage, of complications from the wound.
That means Regan is a widow, which is the only thing that could free her up for bad decisions--she and Cornwall seem like a happy pair of villains in love. In a twisted way, I kinda root for them a little bit. She's a champion manipulator with no conscience at all; they probably call him the "fiery" duke because that's nicer than saying "the murder basement duke." I do love husband-and-wife teams. I don't think Regan would have made her move on Edmund if her husband had still been alive, but once he's dead she's available to do stupid things for his love. Goneril and Regan get stupid fast, once they become rivals in love for the same guy. If they'd remained Team Evil, and Cornwall had still been alive, and Albany had remained loyal to Goneril, and Edmund hadn't let his sudden sex appeal go to his head, then maybe Team Evil could have won.
(I guess the lessons for Team Evil are twofold here: (1) make sure the public likes you, (2) keep your pants on and zipped and your shitty love triangles postponed until you are finished seizing power.)
But their first failure is when Cornwall gets stabbed, and things get worse from there. For want of a nail, the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe, the horse was lost, etc.
|Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015|
|That was made from my passport picture
I'm looking for entries in this category, which I appear to be interested in: Films Where An Actor's Real Face Represents A Mask They're Wearing Over DisfigurementThe Face Behind The Mask
. Very short programmer with a budget of nearly nothing and a lot of reused sets. Horror/gangster/romantic comedy/revenge drama/religious allegory/who the fuck knows. Featuring Peter Lorre as Janos (aka "Johnny"), a wide-eyed and gentle-hearted young immigrant to New York who gets maimed in a fire, about ten minutes into the film. After that, things REALLY get lively. Acting is the best special effect out there if you're pretending your face is a stretchy rubber mask; Lorre puts strips of sticky tape around the sides of his face to hold his "mask" on, and affects a death's-head stillness except for angry blazing eyes. Compulsory viewing if you like Peter Lorre; worthwhile overall because it's much cooler than it has any right to be. Go here
for excerpts that hit the high points but don't really do it justice. The Abominable Dr. Phibes
. Vincent Price perfects the art of over-under-acting, as a reviewer I can't track down right now said. Funny and lighthearted horror about a serial killer who is disposing of his victims with a Ten Plagues of Egypt theme. (Yeah, Moses could cast "Plague of Rats" and "Plague of Bats," and "Plague of Projectile Brass Unicorn Head," because he was a sufficiently high-level cleric, now stop asking silly questions.) I think one of the reasons I like this movie is that, along with all the goofiness, it's the story of a grieving man who is taking out his pain on the wrong targets because he's convinced himself he is a righteous avenger. Dr. Phibes thinks he's the hero. By the way, the movie saves the big reveal that Phibes is wearing a mask (or possibly undead?) until very late in the game. But the ad campaign spoiled that twist by showing Dr. Phibes' mutilated face in the promo posters
.Mystery of the Wax Museum
. Featuring Lionel Atwill as Ivan Igor, so villainous they named him twice. I haven't watched this one (yet), but there's a comprehensive review here
.Captain America: The First Avenger
. Hugo Weaving as
Red Skull. Very solid real-fake-real-face acting. He even does the little thing of grimacing and tugging his neck down like his mask isn't glued on all the way. Darkman
. Liam Neeson as Burn Victim Jesus
(image NSFW / gore), not to be confused with Bird Jesus
or Cyborg Jesus
. I watched this recently and loved it. Of course I'm a sucker for movies with severely disfigured characters, but this one is special. I have never found Liam Neeson attractive before, because I only ever saw him in stuff like Taken
and thought of him as a grouchy dad. Welp. Turns out he looked like a giant puppy when he was young. goodbye my friends i am gone
. After our hero Peyton Westlake (my god what a nerd name) gets mostly-killed, there's a moment when you see him covered in third-degree burns and filthy bandages, but he still has his dorky plastic-framed glasses awkwardly shoved on the front of his skull. *heart eyes forever* There are some iffy special effects that are established early on as not-intended-to-be-realistic, since they're nightmares and self-loathing hallucinations. Makes it easier to accept them in the same way you accept the cartoony effects in Hausu
. The villains are also great (Ayn Rand protagonist, gangster with machine gun leg, gangster who collects fingers and is trying to seduce yet another gangster). And the fake-real-face thing is exploited to hell and gone. The actors all do a good job of playing Peyton-Westlake-playing-this-guy. You know what I love? Doppelgangers. I haven't really thought about the reasons, but doppelgangers are wonderful and scare me senseless. (Have D.G. Rossetti's "How They Met Themselves
.") There is one beautiful and messed-up doppelganger moment in this movie that made me jump up and down and go "Yeeeeaaaaaaaah!" in delight.
That's all I can think of for the moment. Have I missed anything?
|Sunday, July 19th, 2015|
|I still can't raise my ass off the ground!
I need a laugh. It's movie blooper time.Classic Movie Bloopers '4
0. I'm sure I've linked to this one before. Features five guys spontaneously ballroom-dancing with one another when they forget their lines. Classic Movie Bloopers '4
1. (Warning for a gross sequence where two guys force-feed an egg to a third guy.) Featuring "AWW why do I have my hand in my POCKET all the god-damn TIME?!" and "Yeeaarhgh, hold 'im tight, grab a hold of him there!" and
(offscreen voice addressing madwoman in the attic): "What a becoming negligee!"
(madwoman, making bedroom eyes): "Why, whatta you waiting for?" Classic Movie Bloopers '42
. Featuring a kiss so hot it turns a guy into three different actors and makes his mustache combust. Also Humphrey Bogart vs. chair, and "Ohh yes,
my darling, a thousand times yes, and if he doesn't cut I don't know what the hell I'm gonna do." And "People who went over there. And never came up. Never showed up. Never came back. That son-of-a-bitch drowned." And an Arsenic and Old Lace
blooper with Raymond Massey!
"One of my cardinal principles is never to interfere in anybody else's wife. Life. Uh."
Bette Davis: (hits him with a pillow) DON'T LOOK AT ME AND SAY THAT!
"Or would you rather hear how I finished a three-act play with one hand, while making love to a Maharajah with..." *sits down and thinks about it*Breakdowns of 1936
. Featuring Edward G. Robinson being a cutie and lots of other famous people embarrassing themselves.
There are a ton more, but these ought to do for a start.
|Thursday, July 9th, 2015|
|Ahahahahaaa! Chop the wood to light the fire
I just finished watching "Over The Garden Wall." You should watch it too. Here are some reasons:
--It's fantasyland Americana done well. The protagonists wander through a landscape that looks like folk art of early 19th-century New England and New York and the Mississipi River. There are grotesque and beautiful characters who look like something Tove Jansson would draw if she'd lived in Lovecraft country, or like faces carved on gravestones, or like Washington Irving illustrations.
--There are all sorts of silly and scary visual and auditory references. Hey, was that title-card image based on Albert Pinkham Ryder's Death on a Pale Horse
? You bet it was. And that town was called [REDACTED] which is a slang term for [REDACTED]. And the antagonist is singing songs based on the Hansel and Gretel
opera, or a blasphemous "O Holy Night
." (Warning: loud.) And [characters] really are acting out that one folksong, which would mean...
--It's addictive. There are ten episodes and each one is just over ten minutes long. Each of them has its own little plot, and also furthers the overall storyline. If you watch the first one, you'll have a good idea whether OTGW is your sort of thing, and you'll only have committed ten minutes to finding out.
--It's funny and sad, and has a grim sense of humor but never loses its kindness and humanity.
--It's pants-peeingly scary. There are things in here that you shouldn't watch when you're alone in the room and it's late at night. Even when there's a nice surprise and the tension is undercut by something good happening for a change, there's also some jarring or uncomfortable note struck.
--You can treat this series as horror, you can treat it as a YA mystery/adventure, you can treat it as an Oz-like quest fantasy where the side quests are the most important part, you can treat it as a comment on human nature. \o/ Symbolism! And no matter how you interpret it, the stakes are sky-high for everyone by the end of the narrative.
--Elijah Wood, Tim Curry, John Cleese and Christopher Lloyd are among the vocal talents.
--There are musical numbers, more often than not, and this is such a natural part of the action that there's usually someone talking over the song and it isn't even the main focus of the show. This is as tantalizing and frustrating as you would imagine. You will find yourself trying to track down voice files at one in the morning and wondering if you should .
--Pumpkins and black cats and witches and bells and talking horses and highwaymen and a whole riverboat of dancing anthropomorphic frogs, and mean bluebirds and fishertrouts that catch people, and bassoonists, and Gibson girls, and charity concerts saving the day, and knowledge of historical design styles saving the day, and a whole episode of tribute to 1920s animation just because they can, and terrible black dogs, and magical sewing scissors.
The comments are open for spoiler-filled discussion, if anybody has watched this already and wants to talk about it.
|Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015|
I just got back from seeing Ex Machina
, because cucumberseed
gave it a positive review, and I think it's brilliant. It's short--about an hour and forty minutes, which is short for movies these days--and it's focused--virtually all the action takes place in one building and the surrounding countryside. I'll write about it later. For the moment, it delights, it horrifies, and it satisfies, and I recommend it very highly.
|Monday, June 1st, 2015|
|send your plants unto me
I just posted this on the book of face, but I thought it also appropriate here: If anyone in the greater Boston area has flowers, herbs, or other garden plants that they want to divide up and/or get rid of, please tell me and I'll come take some. There's a lot of planting space in our yard and not enough cool stuff growing here. I'm in search of periwinkles, thyme, sage, lilies, day lilies, foxgloves, violets, bleeding heart, Solomon's-seal, peonies, honeysuckle, clematis, creeping phlox, and anything else pretty or scented or cool-looking or tasty. So, y'know. Hit me up if you wanna thin out your plants. I love purple and blue flowers, but, really, I'll take anything. The only things I don't need are basil, yarrow, and rosemary, as I have plenty of those thanks to redcolumbine and my own rosemary-rooting ability.
I finally went back and completed these verses. They stemmed from a conversation I had with sovay and cucumberseed at this past Arisia.
Had I a sunlamp and a slab of stone,
Had I a dish full of gobs of meat,
Then you should treat them as your own,
And alternately sleep, bask, and eat.
Had I a mouse grown fat on millet,
You wouldn't even have to ask;
You could distend your jaws and kill it,
And alternately eat, sleep and bask.
Much as I yearn, still we are not snakes;
We wander, work, wait, and wish and weep.
Yet my soul slithers and coils, and aches
To alternately bask, eat, and sleep.
|Sunday, May 31st, 2015|
|Flash flood warning in effect, Somerville
I just got a scary text message from the city of Somerville. The sudden rain means that we're on a flash flood alert till six-thirty p.m.
Fortunately, I don't have to go out again today, but I know some people will have to, so stay as safe as you can.
|Thursday, May 28th, 2015|
|Oh what a day! What a lovely day!
I went and saw Mad Max: Fury Road
. I'm happy with my decision. Gotta report, though, I was WAY oversold on the amount of Women Doing Stuff in this movie. Various friends of mine have come back from this movie much more excited about the female characters than I am. That's fine; I accept that they saw things differently. As far as I'm concerned, though, this movie had one female protagonist, Furiosa, who was reasonably interesting for an action hero, and five or six women who mostly got to sit around in their bras and underpants, wringing their hands and being deadweight. Occasionally one of them had a heroic moment, but for the most part, they were like Buttercup from The Princess Bride
minus all her redeeming qualities.
The motorcycle gang of old ladies was pretty decent, at least. They kicked the shit out of a lot of bad guys and looked cool doing it. One of them had a basil sprout growing in a goat's skull, so of course I liked her. Mostly they died, though, and the ones that were left were not allowed to know things like basic first aid, but were forced to stand and wring THEIR hands in an emergency. This permitted the male protagonist to know just what to do in an emergency situation and save the day. Never mind the fact that a bunch of tough old ladies would need to know first aid in order to survive to get old.
(If anybody's seen Gone With The Wind
, there's a similar moment of crappy writing where old, experienced, wise people act improbably clueless and helpless so that the heroine can tell them what to do and save the day.)
But people are going nuts over how this is a movie about women who actually get to Do Stuff. I am sad that it was built up and built up for me as being this special confection of my favorite flavors. Good thing I went to see it before my expectations got any higher, eh?
G. and I were talking about this, and we decided (paraphrasing a post we saw on Tumblr somewhere) that "if you're wandering through the desert dying of thirst, you'll drink anything, even lukewarm Yoo-Hoo." I think Mad Max
is that can of lukewarm Yoo-Hoo, and it looks good to people right now because the standard fare is no women characters at all, or one woman who's only there for the hero to have sex with. I hate that we're all so goddamn thirsty we'll gulp Yoo-Hoo and fight for more.
Having got that off my chest, I must say that this movie was an adrenaline-filled thrill ride. I had a great time, believe it or not. Everything else you've heard about this movie is 100% true. The villain has a monster truck that carries the movie's soundtrack around wherever he goes, with an eight-man drum kit and a flamethrower guitarist. The entire goddamn movie is a car chase. Tom Hardy gets put in a bite mask and used as a hood ornament. There's a cult of guys who all look like Nosferatu, and are purposely bred to be expendable mooks, and they worship cars. Charlize Theron's character has an artificial arm that's pretty realistic (again, for an action movie): she can do an awful lot with it, but she can't do just anything, and it's inhumanly strong but it can also fall off if someone hits it really hard. aunt_zelda
pointed out that this was a rare case of a character with a prosthetic arm who still isn't evil. And it's her left arm, yet!
I got emotionally invested in the one weak runt of a villain from the Nosferatu-car-cult guys. IMDB informs me that the cult members are War Boys and this guy has a name--Nux. He and his brother are the ones who strap Max to the hood of their stupid little battle sedan. Nux is smaller and younger than the rest of the War Boys, and has big worried eyes, and he's named his neck tumors Larry and Barry and tattooed little faces on them, and is trying very hard
to be a villain and not really succeeding. Really, he just wants attention. There is a moment where he waves and grins at the heavy villain and then gets the vapors and is all, "Eeeeeee he looked at meeee!" Then there are multiple sequences where he tries to impress Villain-senpai by doing The Brave Scary Action Thing, and it tanks and he fails instantly and gets sneered at. I liked this guy a lot. I like poor jerks, and characters who aren't that good at villainy, and people having moral qualms about their paths in life, and people who are trying too goddamn hard, and poor lost puppies who need a cuddle, and Nux was lovely on all counts.
See, why can't characters like Nux ever be damn well female
? Oh right, the gods forbid a woman be unattractive or funny or morally ambiguous.
(There are already Amazon parody reviews in the voices of Mad Max
characters, just for a little dessert here.)
|Tuesday, May 12th, 2015|
|How do I television
(cross-posted from Tumblr, thought I'd ask here as well)
Please speak gently to me, as you would to a child, and tell me the best way to watch a currently airing TV show. I got addicted to “Penny Dreadful,” and for the first time in basically ever, I want to watch it as it comes out, not just wait for the season to conclude and buy it on Amazon. Usually I can figure things like this out from context, but not at the moment.
I need a friggin’ Showtime subscription? Ew. I don’t want to subscribe to anything, but on the other hand the only other options seem to be sketchy fourth-hand hosting sites, and at this rate we shall never get any further.