Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Deadwood - "I Was Going to Tell Him Something Pretty"

Nobody I work with watches Deadwood first run. Well except for one guy in upper management, and we don't chat casually about television shows. Hmm, in fact we don't chat casually at all. I don't think he's speaking to me. Do you think it was something I said?

Anyway, I was hoping to talk to someone about the episode because it was disturbing in a horror sort of way - Deadwood's not horror but it certainly has horror fiction's grim, take no prisoner's attitude.

To deflect a gunbattle and save Trixie, his former prostitute "lover" who's left the trade, Al Swearengen had to kill an innocent hooker from his brothel to appease season-long villain George Hearst (almost as casually as say, Hearst Magazines recently killed off underperforming mags Shop Etc. and Weekend.)

When told that wasn't fair, Al--who's had some actually heroic moments this season--asked: "Since when did that enter into it?" (Thanks to Entertainment Weekly's review for that quote.)

Of course we've known all along that historically the real George Hearst not only secured mining interests in South Dakota as he's been seeking all fictional season but also went on to hold higher office. Yet the hope still lingered for some satisfying resolution within that arc.

'twas not to be and what remained was a grim slice -- take that however you want.

Hearst rigged an election, a girl died and even stalwart and perpetually pissed-off lawman Seth Bullock barely batted an eye, though he noted he would lose sleep over the death.

Yep, that's what horror fiction often says. Good guys and bad lose in horror fiction all the time and the only message from the usual omnipresent narrator is pretty much what the average counselor says every day:

"Life's a bitch, learn to live with it."

Counselors and psychologists just put a little more glitz on it.

Kind of like Al apparently meant to do when he told his barkeeper, Johnny, that killing the prostitute had been a necessity.

Only later does the episode's title come into play when he sadly mutters: "I was going to tell him something pretty."

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Favorite Short Stories: The Lonesome Place by August Derleth

"The Lonesome Place" is a classic horror short story that's always stayed with me. It's about fear breeding fear essentially, and it really leaves the horror to your imagination.

It's from the pen of August Derleth, who's a recognizable name to most serious horror fans but may not be to casual readers of today. If you have not read him, catch up.

He became the custodian of the Cthulhu Mythos after H.P. Lovecraft's death and carried it on, founding Arkham House. He also penned stories about Solar Pons, a Sherlock Holmes-like detective. Then there are also Sac Prairie tales of the Midwest and much more.

I read "The Lonesome Place" first in the great horror collection I've mentioned before "Horror Times Ten." It originally appeared in a1948 issue of the pulp magazine Famous Fantastic Mysteries.

Once upon a time, I read a story from Horror Times Ten every Sunday afternoon, or from the collection "Gooseflesh" I bought along with it. Guess that went on for 20 weeks at most but it seems like a whole chunk of my early teen years.

Reading for a lonely October
"The Lonesome Place" is chilling even for afternoon reading, but it's perfect for any midnight and perhaps well suited for a chilly autumn night -- the kind of night describe in the story or at least that I think of when I read it.

It's set sometime in the early mid-20th century, when kids might still be sent to a corner grocery for a loaf of bread after dark and where monsters of supernatual origin fueled fears more than say John Mark Karr.

The first-person narrator's opening line explains:

"You who sit in your houses of nights, you who sit in the theaters, you who are gay at dances and parties--all you who are enclosed by four wall--you have no conception of what goes on outside in the dark. In the lonesome places."

There's one spooky spot by a grain elevator that all the kids have to pass, and everyone is convinced a monster lives there.

Derleth takes us running and terrified past that spot in the narrative, then recounts the later discussions amid friends about the thing that lives there.

Everyone adds a layer, a tail, scales and more.

And I won't say where it goes from there. I'll just say again it's, to me, one of the perfect chiller stories that focuses on the power of imagination.

I'm almost certain it was floating around somewhere in the back of Stephen King's mind or in his subconscious when he conceived It.

Seek it out if you like stories that make you shudder.

Further reading
August Derleth autobiography

August Derleth bibliography

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ponderables

Is anyone else sad that The Baha Men are considered a one-hit wonder?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fort Worth Jammin' - Brad Hines at the White Elephant

Before my ongoing stream of consciousness ramble was interrupted by my Google glitch (see previous post), I was going to talk about my trip to Fort Worth and tell you about some music that's gonna be on my iPod soon.

Some friends introduced me to the White Elephant on open mike night, and we got to hear Brad Hines, who has an incredibly rich voice whether he's singing his own tunes or covering Tom Petty and others.

"Forever in His Debt" is a fine piece of personal, honest country poetry--spirtual and redemptive without being didactic.

Check it out here or listen to the whole song on Brad's Myspace page.

Login Craziness

I've been having HELL with logins - I guess related to Blogger Beta or Beta Blogger or whatever. It's really a beta blocker - yuk! yuk! yuk!

After several rounds of autoresponses referring me to forums for help, I think a human being actually did a little resetting.

Then I had to repeat several steps to get back in - it's a Google/Blogger merry go round.

Anyone else having this headache?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hardboiled Horror

Seems in this electronic age I go through various stages of reconnecting and losing touch and reconnecting again with friends I've passed on the journey.

Ironically this week, I've touched base electronically with two pals from Coast Con Days.

Exchanging electronic missives with one of them, Christopher Mills, reminded me it had been a while since I had checked in on Femme Noir and other residents of his Supernatural Crime site.

I thought Femme Noir was fabulous the first time I read a few panels. It has a certain flavor and style that reminds me of Will Eisner's The Spirit, though it's all fresh. It's a great blend of dark noir mood, crime and horror.

If you're a horror comics fan, the site will keep you busy for hours.

We're talking dark, rainy streets, gats, shadows and that's just in Femm Noir. The site also features the adventures of a host of other grim figures and occult detectives.

Give it read.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Favorite Short Stories: The Ship That Saw A Ghost by Frank Norris

When I used to hang out at conventions more than I do now, horror writers were always arguing about quiet horror vs. I, don't know, noisy horror. That's horror achieved with a whisper vs. horror achived with a chainsaw.

I ran across a piece of quiet horror last summer, penned by an author not particularly noted for his ghost stories. The Ship That Saw a Ghost sails from the pen of Frank Norris, best known to me at least for McTeague, a novel my friend's class had to read in college. I didn't have to read it. I went to a different college.

On the good ship Glarus
The short story tells the tale of men aboard a tramp steamer named Glarus on a secret and nefarious mission off the coast of South America in 1902. A visit to a lost and dangerous island promises to make the crewmates rich.

Fate has other plans, however, and to give much away would spoil the story which is available free at the link above.

I suppose the relationships of the sailors including the key mates known as the Black Crows as well as the reports of their San Francisco port of call all mesh with other Norris work.

The sense of sea life and of sailors at home is captured, but the core premise and the chills provided the imaginative reader make it a great late night read.

Put on a candle, imagine the creak and moan of a ship topping constant waves, far away from anything, then imagine being stuck in the middle of nowhere in a dead calm.

It's quite horror but its chilling.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Get Getting Lost

My buddy Wayne wrote the A to Z Lost Glossary with 600 plus entries that culminates this new book on the Lost TV series.

It's called Getting Lost in case you have images turned off, and it's a collection of essays including an interesting intro from editor Orson Scott Card who outlines a series idea he had a few years back that had a similar premise. Getting the great Sci-Fi and somtimes horror (Lost Boys) author's take as well as the synopsis of his "lost" (sorry) idea makes it quite worthwhile, not to mention the additional essays and viewpoints.

It's a must if you're a "Lostie" suffering through the summer months with only reruns and the Lost Experience, it's a definite bromide.

So, speaking of can't wait until September, anyone heard any new rumors?


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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Wouldn't it be cool if they re-animated London After Midnight?

London after Midnight may be one of the best known "lost" films, a silent terror classic. It's a collaboration of Lon Chaney and Tod Browning, the one where Chaney wears the cool top hat with his black cape. I remember it first from a Famous Monsters of Filmland thumbnail cover, featured in their back issue gallery.

Mark this
While it was remade as Mark of the Vampire with Bela Lugosi and imdb.com reports a still picture re-creation, it's one of those legendary horror tales you long to see and lament.

It struck me like a diamond bullet
I was struck by a notion while reading about the restoration of lost segments of the Doctor Who serial The Invasion. Two lost chapters of the tale will be recreated via animation, and the 30-second clip on the BBC website looks incredible.

So how cool would it be to see "London After Midnight" given a similar treatment?

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dueling 19th Century Magician Projects

I'm rather excited by The Illusionist and The Prestige, what seem to be Warner Bros. and Touchtone's rival 19th century magician projects.

They are:

a.) based on literary works -- the short story "Eisenheim the Illusionist" and the novel The Prestige respectively.

b.) not brand items unless they're Edward Norton/Paul Giamatti/Jessica Biel and Hugh Jackman/Christian Bale/Scarlett Johansson pictures, and even star brands break the summer trend of sequels and remakes only.

Six minutes is a long ride
I discovered via the Risky Biz Blog that Yahoo is offering a six minute clip -- don't get too excited a lot of it's credits --of The Illusionist, but there's an additional scene as well. Both serve above all to introduce the film's great sepia, Victorian visuals.

So far there's just a trailer for The Prestige, from the director of the fabulous Memento, but that's also enough to begin building my anticipation.

Oddly Christine was not excited by the premise when we saw it on the big screen at Lady in Water.

I'm prepared to support both, just because they're baked reasonably fresh.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Dark Shadows Returns

When I was barely old enough to comprehend television shows, I watched the exploits of Barnabas Collins on the Gothic soap Dark Shadows ( more here). I guess that's evidence my grandmother didn't watch me closely enough.

I don't remember being really terrified as much as intrigued by the tales of ghosts and vampires.

Christine and I were happily able to watch much of the series in the early '90s on The Sci Fi Channel, and I was also fortunate enough to interview many of the cast members of the brief '90s revival of the series.

The soap was not a perfect show. It's had the usual limitations of video. But there are still some particularly good horror tales within the the thousand or so episodes.

Phoenix rising
Early on they were in black and white and really chilling. Just before Barnabas arrives in the series, the Collins family and their foundling employee Victoria Winters face down a modern day and potentially fiery phoenix.

Later, after one of the series most popular though convoluted time travel arcs, a Lovecraft-inspired tale began. I enjoyed that one quite a bit although ratings in the '60s dropped and it was wrapped up quickly.

New shadows gather
I was rather excited to discover while poking around the Big Finnish Audio site that a new series of Dark Shadows audios is coming soon.

Installments, sold on CD, will feature many original cast members including David Selby who played Quentin Collins, the show's second major heart throb after Barnabas. Laura Parker, John Karlen and Maggie Evans aka Kathryn Leigh Scott will be featured also.

Pay a visit to the site for wallpapers of the cast memembers, audio clips and of course, ordering information.

If you've never experienced Big Finish or Dark Shadows, set some money aside. I suspect these are going to be good.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ash's Meditation

We don't know what Ash went through before he found his way to our doorstep. He had a little "will provide companion animal services for food" sign when he showed up.

I've mentioned in this space before he's blind in one eye. Though the eye is entact, his vetinary ophthalmologist found the retina pretty badly damaged. Could have been a BB or some other injury in his past.

That's led us to wonder if he has a touch of neurological damage.


The perfect feline

Or at least I speculate that. Christine think's he's the perfect cat. Monty, our oldest tom, is trying to teach him bad habits but so far few have stuck.
He definitely has some practices that differ from the other cats in the house, most notably a meditative ritual he performs several times a day.

He usually undertakes this on the Afghan on the back of the sofa. That's preferable to what Monty tends to do to the sofa. He has, uh, scratching issues.

Anyway, perching on the sofa, Ash begins to knead with all four feet; it's a constant, gentle stomp. Sometimes he does it quietly, other times it's accompanied by howling meows.

The first few a.m. times these awakened me I thought Monty was killing him.

I'm not sure what he accomplishes -- sometime he hops down and moves on to other cat business after he's stomped a while. Other times, he curls up and goes to sleep, so maybe it's just an instinctive, flatten-the-grass-down-for-a-nap trait he picked up from his ancestors who lived in the wild.

Or ancient temples.

Monty just seems to look at him a little nonplussed when all this goes on. And he seems to shake his head and say: "I just don't understand his religion, but he certainly adheres to his rituals faithfully."


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