Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Check in at the Joy Motel

I've added Joy Motel to my blog roll. It's an interesting little spot for online fiction, a tale unfolding in short bursts. Just check in and experience it for yourself.

You can also follow the tale in sort of a "real time" experience on Twitter, as the Tweets come forth periodically in the alloted 140 characters. Is it a game, an experiment? I could tell you more, but that would spoil the fun.

Just go to the front desk and ask for Bobby or Horatio to carry the luggage. They'll make sure you're comfortable.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I Didn't Know These Were Back - Monster Scenes Models Kits

The new issue of Rue Morgue Magazine includes an article by James Burreli reporting the return of Monster Scenes model kits. The originals were from Aurora and were snap-together kits, some of the first monster model kits I ever had, as they were for many kids.

For me and others they were gateways that led to the more famous Aurora monster models as well as cars and submarines and more.

The re-creations are from Moebius Models--who already offer a number of the Aurora kits--having apparently taken up where Polar Lights models left off a couple of years ago.

Monster Scenes are just being re-introduced, however. The series includess a host of kits: Dr. Deadly, a Giant Insect, the Frankenstein monster, The Victim--who was ultimately renamed the first time around I think--and even more characters, props and backdrop kits.

Though in a persona different from Warren comics, Vampirella was included in the original series of kits as well as the comic strip advertisement. I'm sure licensing is a different ball game for her today because there doesn't seem to be a reissue of that kit.

The advertising and promotion of those first kits was apparently controversial, but oddly, my parents, who were usually pretty conservative, didn't take much notice. I had a Vampirella, a Frankenstein and maybe one or two others. The day I got them, I heard my mother talking to one of her friends on the phone.

"Tell her about my new models," I urged. I'm not sure why I thought her friend would care.

"Sidney got some new model kits," my mother said in to the phone with mock enthusiasm. "Frankenstein and Vamper-roo..." she said.

"'Ella," I corrected.

"A gorilla," my mother said.

Again, miraculously not very controversial. She would object to Vampirella's outfits a couple of years later in the black-and-white comics magazines, but she must never have looked very closely at the boxes of Monster Scenes.

I reassembled the kits a lot and did a kid-style job of painting them. Eventually they broke or wore out, joining the list of toys that would be valuable if I'd never touched them and saved the original packaging.

A Vampirella leg, much like Darrin McGavin's lamp in A Christmas Story, stayed around in a box of model kit pieces a long time, but today my originals are long gone.

I don't have time for rebuilding kits these days though I worked on a Mr. Hyde again a few years ago, doing a better job than the first time.

I'm sure the Monster Scenes for serious model builders will be handled with a defter touch this time around, and we'll see the results in some web galleries. What's the old song, everything old...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays



This photo is called "Santa Lives." I believe it's from the Library of Congress, though I found it some time ago for a PowerPoint project at Christmas-Clipart.net

I've always loved it because it captures the spirit of Christmas so well. It's about hope, anticipation, optimism, all things we need this year if not more than ever, certainly as much as ever.

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. In the words from one of my new favorite Christmas songs, "Better Days," by the Goo Goo Dolls, "this is the night the world begins again."


Monday, December 22, 2008

What's On the iPod? - Hell for the Holidays

Last Christmas, I listened to adman-turned-author Chris Grabenstein's Slayride, a holiday-set thriller featuring  FBI agent Christopher Miller. I've been saving Hell for the Holidays for this holiday season. 

In this book, African-American agent Miller, whose daughter was abducted by a crazed and vengeful Russian chauffeur in Slayride, becomes embroiled in a plot involving a white supremacist group that begins on Halloween with the kidnapping of his neighbor's child.

Happily the child is rescued quickly and his abductor killed by a quick-thinking off-duty police officer, but that's just the beginning for Miller who quickly suspects there's more to the situation than is immediately apparent.

The tale is read by actor Christian Rummel and it's shaping up to be an engaging holiday-season read/listen.

After this I'm going to find some time for Grabenstein's other series featuring ex-military, small town cop John Ceepak. Titles in that series include Whack-A-Mole, Madhouse and Tilt-A-Whirl

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry is gone too

I had sort of this fanboy dream back when I was first putting pen to paper that if I ever successfully pulled off anything with fiction writing, eventually I might get to be a guest at a science fiction convention in one venue or another.

Then in suitable Martin-Short-as-Ed-Grimley fashion, I thought: "I might get to meet some of the stars of the original Star Trek, don't ya know?"

I liked Star Trek re-runs when I was growing up. I watched in the first round of syndication in 1968, when it was really becoming a fan hit. The show happily stimulated my creative imagination and was one piece in the mosaic of influences that made me want to create my own stories.  

Happily my grand design worked out, and I was able to meet some of the TOS actors over the years.  Majel Barrett Roddenberry was the first. Some ambitious fans put together a convention in Alexandria, LA, and found their way to my doorstep because they'd heard I had some books out, and I got to be one of the guests.

I met Mrs. Roddenberry when she arrived in town for the event. I don't recall the confluence of events that led to the major coolness. A lot of media stars --i.e. people who were really famous --were on hand for the convention, but somehow or other they were busy. I wound up judging the convention's costume contest beside Ms. Roddenberry.

And saying to myself; "How freakin' cool is this? I'm judging a costume contest with Nurse Chapel and Lwaxana Troi in one."

I thought of the moment, of course, when I opened the Internet Movie Database to check a factoid this week and was hit with the headline that she'd passed away, just as Trek is poised for a pop-culture re-entry in a new form.

The notion that deaths of pop-culture figures come in threes seems to have been confirmed again, with Forry Ackerman, Bettie Page and now Nurse Chapel. It's always seems to happen that way, and it's always sad.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Christmas Zombie?

Christine snapped my holiday profile picture while we were putting up the tree. I thought it was kind of an interesting shot of me and might help the blog look a little more festive. I also made it my Twitter profile pic while decorating my twitter page with ornaments and lights.

Maybe it's the small sizing that profile pictures require, but Wayne observed that it makes me look a little like a zombie--of the Night of the Living Dead variety. 

I didn't really see that until he mentioned it, but you know, it kinda does. I suppose that opens the door to all kinds of possibilities for stories. 

  • They're Coming to Get You, Santa
  • The Zombie Under the Tree
  • Zombies and Mistletoe
  • Feliz Zombie Nod
  • I Saw Zombies Eating Santa
  • 28 Days Later of Christmas
  • When There's No More Room Under the Tree, Zombies Walk the Hearth
  • All I Want for Christmas Is Brains, Brains, Must Have Brains
  • Shamblin' Around The Christmas Tree.
Yeah, Wayne didn't know what he started. 




Friday, December 12, 2008

Forry Ackerman is Gone

I bought a recent issue of Rue Morgue magazine because a portrait of a frightened Forrest J. Ackerman stared from the cover beside the tease "50 Years of Famous Monsters of Film Land."

As you've probably heard if you ever read anything here, I was a Famous Monsters of Filmland kid. 

The mag was still around in the early '70s as were Aurora model kits of the Universal movie monsters, so I read about them in the pages edited by Forry Ackerman, built model kits of them and, again,  loved Forry's bad puns. 

A little later I had a crush on Vampirella who he created as well, so the Ackermonster added a little something to my early days, a little fun, a few shivers and a sexy vampira who battled a Cthulu-like cult.  

Eventually when I decided I wasn't quite suited to writing detective novels, I wrote horror. Of course.

Currently Wayne and I swap digital Famous Monsters cover art gifts on Facebook--my favorite is the Dr. Phibes--so really there's always a little bit of Forry somewhere. You can't see the work of cover artist Basil Gogos, who did the RM cover too, without thinking of FM and Forry's bad-pun captions. 

I knew when I saw there was an interview with him in RM that he must be getting older, and the articles inside mentioned he was not doing well, which made me a little sad. I remember seeing him at conventions in the '80s and '90s, usually with a copy of the FM retrospective book tucked under one arm.

Then the other day came the word that he had passed on, having sold his famous Ackermansion filled with movie props and posters to cover medical bills. I think Cliff got to visit the Ackermansion once. I always wanted to.

Didn't I note recently time marches on? Profound of me. Still, in some ways, as the narrator notes in A Separate Peace, there are some times that will always be. For him it was an era in which Roosevelt would always be president.

For a part of me, it will always be a quiet Sunday afternoon in central Louisiana. I'll always be working on airplane gluing pieces of Bella Lugosi's Dracula together, while waiting to be read is a copy of Famous Monsters with Yul Brenner on the cover as the Westworld robot or the Creature from the Black Lagoon or Vincent Price in Madhouse. 

R.I.P. Forry. We'll miss ya.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Chinatown: The Stones in Jake's Path

A look at obstacles and motivations in the Chinatown screenplay

This is one of several analysis pieces done as part of my MFA work. I thought it might be of some worth to anyone interested in writing, movies, mysteries and things in that vein.

Chinatown’s hero, Jake Gittes, notes in the Robert Towne screenplay that he is a businessman. It is that primary view of himself that draws him deeper and deeper into the complex plot and dangerous situations, and it affects the way he deals with the obstacles or stones that come his way.

For most of his journey, obstacles occur in the form of deception, bureaucracy and a few violent physical confrontations, yet almost every obstacle is eventually transformed into an impetus that propels the protagonist further toward truth if not victory, for in the end the last obstacle is insurmountable.

The Opening Scene
When the screenplay reader meets him, Jake is in the midst of an adultery case that his spiritual predecessors such as Philip Marlowe or even the more pragmatic Sam Spade might not have touched, and, as it plays out, a hint of Jake’s cynicism is revealed. Only the rich, he tells his blue-collar client who is contemplating a crime of passion, can get away with murder. It is a line not included in the film, yet it reverberates thematically through the entire story.

Since adultery cases are Jake’s specialty, he is chosen to unwittingly manipulate water department engineer Hollis Mulwray into cooperation with a plan to re-route water to the San Fernando Valley for financial gain. Embarking on what he thinks is just another adultery case, Jake begins trailing what he believes to be a straying spouse. In the process of this surveillance, Jake observes the first elements of the plot’s core conspiracy.

Professional embarassment
When Jake discovers his client to be an impostor, he is professionally embarrassed and is introduced to the real wife, Evelyn Mulwray. Initially incensed that he has pursued her husband, she soon becomes Jake’s new client and pushes him further into his examination of the conspiracy once her husband is murdered. The death robs Jake of information Mulwray might have provided, but serves up a reason for him to continue.

The Nose Scene
Inevitable physical confrontation comes soon after. Jake endures a water diversion that’s part of the conspiracy, then is confronted by a pair of thugs operating on behalf of the corrupt water department. They attempt to warn him off with the cutting of his nostril, but the moment is another that fails to push him away. Instead the confrontation confirms the water department’s impropriety and continues to embolden and drive Jake forward as he seeks not just professional exoneration but also a businessman’s payday, bragging he will identify the key players and sue them.

As Jake unravels the public works conspiracy, traversing a variety of obstacles using guile or tricks of his trade, he is pushed even deeper into the story’s real and tragic domestic situation and the encounter with the true villain, Julian Cross. (The character is named Noah on screen.)
Just as his false client deceived him, Jake learns Evelyn has concealed the truth about her daughter born of incest, whom she is attempting to guard from her Cross, her father. When he finally learns the truth, Jake is driven to help her.

At odds with the police
He is put at odds with the police and his former friend as he attempts to assist Evelyn and her daughter escape, creating a ticking clock situation as the story moves toward its conclusion, even as Jake identifies Cross as Mulwray’s killer and the man behind the water department conspiracy, the spot a mystery normally might end and where a degree of concluding satisfaction in the story is found. At least answers are available.

Inadvertently and ironically, Jake—when his motivation ceases to be about only business and returns to a lost idealism—sends Evelyn to her doom. He is repeating a similar incident that occurred when he tried helping someone while working as an investigator in Chinatown. Cross, who is wealthy enough to get away with murder, gets the daughter/granddaughter while the police who are owned by Cross push Jake away.

Jake’s operatives remind him they’re in Chinatown, symbolically the place where the authorities look the other way, where he failed before, and like Chinatown the universe is a place where corruption is so interwoven it cannot be conquered. It’s a truth established in the opening pages. Since the final obstacle in his path cannot be changed or conquered, in the end Jake can only walk way.

Friday, December 05, 2008

What Was I Doing Then?

I was glancing at CNN the other night, and they had a clip from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The parenthetical date after the title made my head swim--1989.

Holy Moses. That was that long ago?

Not only does that put the original Vacation's release in ancient times, but that means it's nearly 20 years since I went with my buddy and his dad to see the holiday sequel.

Holiday movies are, of course, part of the season, and wedged in after shopping or holiday activities, when it's time to see a movie to avoid fist fights with the relatives.

Movies in general are often reference points, auld lang sine's in their own right, and holiday movies or holiday releases often make me think of absent friends.

Kiss Me Goodbye, I know from imdb.com, was a 1982 release. From memory, I know it was December. My college buddy Lee and I dropped in to see it at the mall cinema. Lee picked that one. Don't know why he was gung ho to see it, but it was pretty good.

It was my buddy David that I went to see the Christmas Vacation film with. He and I went to see Star Trek IV the Thanksgiving it opened also and Starman around Christmas of '84.

Rain Man was a date movie on New Year's Eve the year it opened, part of a holiday romance that lasted a while but not forever. Saw Scrooged with the same girl around Christmas the same year. Seem to remember Steve Martin's Pennies from Heaven as another holiday date movie earlier in the '80s.

I remember Jackie Brown as an outing with my then boss, Wes. Christine and I, he and his wife plus Pam Grier and Robert Forester, now wowing as an uber-villain in Heroes. Time flies.

Yep, time flies.

To absent friends.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What's on the iPod? - A Colbert Christmas

Addendum
As of a few minutes ago, the album was No. 3 on iTunes' charts, one notch above Kanye West's album. - 9:30 p.m. CST 12/3

Stephen Colbert is calling on everyone to help drive his Christmas album to the top of the iTunes charts today at 5 p.m. Eastern in "Operation Humble Kanye."

 I'd play along, but I already bought it.

I'd planned to simply watch the special, but I found myself wanting to hum along and put the Colbertnation.com Fahrenheit 451-burning Yule log on my desktop to make things feel cozy. 

The collection features some authentic tunes such as Toby Keith's right-leaning- but- easy-to-hum-to "Have I Got A Present for You" and Elvis Costello's "What's So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding?" but much of it's composed of surprisingly good song parodies. 

They sound so authentic and familiar they could almost be modern standards or at least secondary tracks on any of a host of celebrity seasonal albums, if they, you know, weren't mildly blasphemous or seemingly suggestive as in John Legend's ode to "Nutmeg."

 

It's not for all tastes of course, but it is a bit of a holiday blast. The culminating performance of "Peace, Love and Understanding" works well,  Feist's voice is lovely and Jon Stewart's ode to Hanukkah backed up by brush stick drumming  is, well, maybe not pitch-perfect but perfect nonethless. When Colbert decides to stick to his Catholic roots rather than convert, Stewart urges him to wish "the pontiff a Gut Yontif."

The only more ingenious lyric is Willie Nelson's Drummer Boy-esque ode to ganja that admonishes "let mankind not Bogart love."

Like I said, not for all tastes, but if you can take holiday flavor with a little tongue in cheek, it's parody as inspired as Colbert's take on pompous pundits.

As Willie's extra Wise Man might put it: "Yah, the bud was kind."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Who I Follow

I've become a bit enamored with Twitter in recent weeks. It's a mild addiction but certainly an interesting way to keep up with a variety of people and get occasional bits of news and blogerabilia. (Should I submit that word to the Urban Dictionary?.)

Since I work mostly at web connected computers, I haven't configured a cell to send tweets, though I could, I suppose. It certainly was a way to keep some kind of blogging going while I was at my busiest on schoolwork.

Travellin' Tweets
I relied on wireless coonectivity for tweets when I was in Denver recently, extolling the virtues with my co-workers while we watched election results roll in and I shared our evening with the twitterverse.

It was exciting to be tapped into some of the instant Twitter feeds, seeing comments from around the world roll in as events transpired. As I write this, it's happening again, in a much sadder way, with Mumbai.

Even as the web separates it connects. It's become probably the most frequent way Wayne and I communicate now, and I'm getting to know David Niall Wilson--longtime friend of Wayne and the Chicago Mafia--better via his frequent tweets. Sadly, I can't sell my co-worker who perennially has both thumbs pressed to her cell phone on Twitter's virtues.

Speaking of David, that's actually the point of this post. He's proposed a tweet up, my words, for today, encouraging Twitter users to post blog entries about three of they people they follow and why.

Lee Aase
Lee is the first person I followed on Twitter. I "met" him when he conducted a webinar segment on social media's use in enterprise, and he's become something of a mentor for me in blazing ground into the Web 2.0 arena for my company. If you put all of our social media strands together you get a modest string of folks interested in our spot, a step toward customer loyalty via the web. Lee's Social Media University is a great way to stay abreast of what's happening in social media, especially from a business perspective.

Don Lemmon from CNN
Don is one of several anchors taking Twitter to the airwaves, making viewers more involved in news discussion, expanding the possibilities. He periodically sends out lifestyle tweets as well.

Abe Vigoda
Wayne's had a fascination with all things Abe for a while, a milder version of his obsession with Elvis, I guess. Of course he'd discover and turn me on to the Abe Twitter feed. I'm not sure if the feed is really operated by Abe himself or even a connected publicist, but it's still a cool and fun feed. It trades on the idea that Abe Vigoda of "Barney Miller" was wrongly declared dead by a news report about a "Miller" reunion he wasn't able to attend for reasons other than death. His tweets periodically comment on life, the universe and everything, always tied in one way or another to a declaration that he's still alive. Hopefully it helps with casting directors.

Hope that gives a little perspective of the diversity of the Twitterverse. It's a fun place to play.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tree Trimming

Another video diary entry. Here's how Christine and I spent part of our day. (Music is from You Tube's audio swap.) View The Directors Cut with extra scenes!




Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What I'm Thankful For

Well, one of the things is that my pet, Miss Daisy, is hanging in and holding strong. It's been about five months since she was diagnosed with chronic renal failure.

Both Christine and I have learned to administer subcutaneous fluid treatments, which she requires daily. I wondered at first if it was worth it, but much of the time she is her usual self.

On her last vet visit the levels they test were holding OK. We coax and work with her to keep her eating, and I'm conscious--as we should all be with all interactions--that the time I have with her is finite. I try not be be aggravated if she wants attention or to sit on my keyboard or my lap.

That's life. This is a little video diary of Dee in her day-to-day environment. It's a wonderful world. (I'm playing Enya's "China Roses," under the at-home version.)




Monday, November 24, 2008

Working Without Annette

So I'm reading the notes on a CSS and XHTML course I'm taking online, kind of a brush-up and a reiteration of those things CSS you might have figured out but haven't thought about for a while. 

I come to a line about "list-style-image." It's the code for putting tiny pictures in the place of bullets in a list. 

It's like the devil was whispering in my ear.

"Do it, Sid. Come on, use that line of code."

It's the curse of web developers everywhere. You've seen the horror of personal websites in which everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in. A weather bot on one side, transparent waves of snowflakes wafting across the home page.

"I've learned something new. I must put it on my website with all the other new things I learned last week, and my web cam pointed at a lizard in a terrarium."

List-style-image is not new, but I don't have a lot of occasion to use picture bullets on our corporate website. All serious, you know.

I probably would have just turned the page, but we have a fairly new and slightly edgy area of our intranet. It has super heroes with our corporate logo, created by my buddy Steven Butler, and it has a list of service principles. 

What does a list of service principles on an edgy site cry out for? Picture bullets!  Especially if, just sitting on your hard drive asking to be used, is an artist's rendering of an exclamation point--already sized to 32 x 32 pixels because it's the favicon. 

If in Japan the hand can be used as a knife, in Adobe a favicon can be converted to a png in a matter of seconds.


What you see
So I went to the WYSIWYG area of the service principles article, switched to the HTML source view and entered the style code, fought with the parser a few seconds and voila - my bullet points were small orange exclamation points.

On my computer. 

I have Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox to name a few of my browsers. I'm a web editor. After about eight years of war, our IT department conceded about a year ago that maybe I ought to have a few more network rights than the average clerical worker.

Everyone else in our sphere has IE 6. IE 6 really hates CSS. 

In IE 6, for some reason, my bulleted list pushed an entire right-hand column where the service principles resided, down under the page's central column.

Oops. Hope no one is looking. 

I excised the code and returned to a traditional bulleted list then popped over to a neighboring office to check the re-set on a computer using IE6.

And the column stayed under the middle column. 

I returned to the WYSIWYG editor and started to tinker with the code a little more. One of the secretaries came in then to show me an invoice. 

"What cost center should this newsletter go to?"

"I don't know. Whatever cost center we used the past 52 times we've done that newsletter."

The service principles disappeared. I wish I could make secretaries go away like that. I had to go find a project manager who had the original copy so I could put them back. (Always save a back up.)

Then the phone rang.

"Hello, Mr. Williams. We need to ask you a few questions so that we can renew your free subscription to Network World. Can you respond to which of the items on this list you might influence the purchase of in the coming year..."

Speaker phone - yes, no, maybe...

Meanwhile back at the train wreck
I cut and pasted from a .pdf to Notepad then to the WYSIWYG editor.

Service principles back in place. 

Column still at bottom of page.

"How many people are in your organization. More or less than one million? Slightly less than one million?"

There are people among those employees who have used the web before, so they are experts on web design, usability, demographics, social media and optimization of all kinds. I was convinced the were looking at the same web page I was trying to fix, while I was trying to fix it. I envisioned them preparing to call to "help" me by telling me an errant column was pushing to the bottom of the intranet microsite home page.

"Really? You don't like that? It's not aesthetically pleasing?" 

I went back to the HTML view and typed the unordered list code in exactly as it is supposed to be. No go.

Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhh!

I e-mailed the guy who maintains the intranet server. He didn't respond. He's the guy who picked the free, open source content management system we're using. 

I made more adjustments. Nothing.

I tore locks of hair out. I wept. I gave up on pure code, cut the principles from the .pdf again with bullets represented with just text. 

I pasted that into the WYSIWYG window. 

Hit Save.

The column jumped back into place, and I quit playing with the code. Well enough alone and all that.

What's the moral of the story? Don't try new code without a sandbox. Sometimes the absolutely correct code isn't the right thing to do if everybody is using IE 6, I guess.

And don't do things on a whim, no matter how cool they'll look.



What Writers Can Learn from Doctor Who

Doctor Who has settled into a comfortable place in America again. Between The Sci Fi Channel, BBC America and DVDs not to mention audiobooks and other spinoffs, The Doctor is widely available on our shores.

His next appearance is a Christmas special in Britain, The Music of the Spheres, followed by a series of TV movies then a change of lead actor and perhaps format.  If you haven't come to know Doctor Who, and you're interested in writing, you should check out the Russell T. Davis-penned era that's drawing to a close.

Isn't this show about goofy aliens
It's replete with goofy aliens and strange story arcs to be sure, but it's also rich with character and relationships that are worthwhile for any storyteller to observe, especially any interested in penning tales with fantastic elements.

For those who don't know, The Doctor, the title is a bit of a joke, is a Time Lord, a race found on the planet Gallifrey. He's the last Time Lord as the new series opens, a "lonely god" as one character puts it. 

In the opening episode of the new series, The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston  and later David Tennant, he regenerates instead of dying)  meets Rose (Billie Piper), a twentysomething Londoner who's having a bit of trouble finding her way in the world.

After helping in defeating one of The Doctor's recurring foes, Rose joins The Doctor on his time- traveling TARDIS for adventures in time space. Turns out she loves traveling.

Time traveling
Soon they're jumping forward to the end of the universe--in what's probably an homage to early series writer Douglas Adams of restaurant at the end of the Universe Fame--visiting Charles Dickens in the past and dueling Daleks. They're The Doctor's arch enemies and source of his planet's demise.

That wanderlust trait for Rose is at the core of the first two seasons of the new series. For a stunning viewing experience, view those two seasons as one long, incredible story arc and study what tugs at the heart strings even as people with goofy faces and occasional flatulence put in appearances.

It's really fabulous and tear-jerking, and the supporting players in the mix enhance the adventures exponentially.

Watch for the relationships, the character nuances, the clever plotting, the foreshadowing. While there are many stand-alone episodes, most things are interconnected. There's also a chilling episode called "Blink" that's worth viewing for those interested in crafting subtle chills. Angel statues can be scary, I'm telling you.

It's really worth the effort of a few hours. Is there a writer on your Christmas list? Think about Seasons 1 & 2. 

That's not a hint. I have Seasons 1 & 2. I uh, could use Season 3. 

Christine, if you're reading this...


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quantum of Solace - A Shaken and Stirred Mixture

I'd heard mumbled comparisons with the Bourne films in reference to the new James Bond outing, Quantum of Solace. Those are not untrue, but nor are they pervasive. 

Action scenes never seem to get to quite the bone-crunching levels they did in Casino Royale, but they are frequent and kinetic, with a couple of early ones offering the blur and bash of Bourne. Things happen so fast your senses require a few frames to catch up. To me that wasn't disappointing at all because things were soon settled into a nice plot-to-action ratio with some Bond-cool chases and battles.

Fleming forever
Happily the new film follows the tone of the Royale reboot, with just a few light touches of past Bond flavor or twists on the old style. We get a red-haired character named Strawberry Fields, as Flemingesque a character name as we've heard since Holly Goodhead, and there's a repeat of the by-the-book--the book being Fleming's Casino Royale--cocktail recipe, which cements that as the replacement for "shaken, not stirred." It's actually a bartender who utters the description this time as a slightly-soused 007 asks "What am I having?"

There's also an homage moment with oil replacing a different precious resource and a set-piece ending both down-to-earth and as extravagant as the best of the set-piece endings in the Bond film canon.

Solace also offers a quality baddie in the person of Mathieu Amaric as Mr. Greene, less grotesque than a Goldfinger but almost as sadistic as Casino's Le Chiffre.

Daniel Craig remains fabulous and grim as bond in his second outing. He is Bond, without question. I'm up for more installments with him in the lead.

Overall, a nice mixture of new formula and old, and a nice early kickoff to the holiday movie season.




Saturday, November 22, 2008

Looking Backward and Forward - The Time Tunnel

Re-runs of The Time Tunnel allow looking backward in more ways than one. 

It, of course, offers a return to various historic eras--via TV sound stage--in its plots of heroes thrust into out of control time travel.

As with every show from time gone by, it channels memories of when it was first viewed as well.

First viewing
I didn't see Time Tunnel when it was on network TV. Loved Lost in Space, also from Irwin Allen, but We just didn't discover it, I guess. 

However, though it lasted only one season, the 30-odd episodes worked for a weekly slot on one of the Baton Rouge, LA, TV stations, which we got on cable when I was a kid.

Educational opportunities
My old man and I must have found it while flipping the dial one Sunday after church, and periodically we'd tune in to catch scientists Doug and Tony as they hopped from one historic event to another--the fall of Jericho, the Alamo, the Titanic. My old man was better informed about the historic underpinnings so it usually allowed a little educational discussion along the way.

The heroes seemed to land at pretty much the worst possible times in history. Funny how those technical glitches in time travel apparatus work.

They were using the Time Tunnel--developed by the military industrial complex--pre-maturely in order to avoid a funding cut from Congress. Their activities were monitored by soldiers and scientists using one of the most impressive big-screen TVs on the Earth's side of Capt. Kirk's flat screen monitor. The Time Tunnel itself allowed viewing of but not communication with Doug and Tony, you see.

Catching up with the past
I'm getting the gaps filled in on episodes I've missed on Hulu. Who knew they landed in the belly of a moon rocket? I don't recall encounters with silvery, Lost In Space style aliens either. I think those must have been introduced to give ratings a boost with young viewers. Oh well.

The earlier episodes stand up surprisingly well. Irwin Allen knew how to stage a disaster after all, and he re-staged the Titanic long before he sunk the Poseidon.

It's good to watch again, almost like having my dad kicked back in his recliner at my side.

Extra reading

Friday, November 21, 2008

Absalom, Absalom!

I had the idea years ago that I should read more Faulkner, for my own edification if nothing else. "A Rose for Emily" is one of my favorite short stories, and you can pick up Faulkner novels and thumb through them and find brilliant passages, imagery that literally makes things real. 

I had trouble with Absalom, Absalom!, though.  Couldn't get through it in 1984 when I was just out of college and picked it up on vacation from my first job. I put it down shortly afterwards.

I'm older and wiser now, and recently, for school, I had to read it. Had to i.e. a course requirement. 

No way out. Useless to struggle.

OK, I possibly could have begged my advisor, but "had to" offered a nice push, and that's a good thing.

Masterpiece is the right term for Absalom, Absalom!, and while it's what might be called inaccessible, it's worth the effort to penetrate the long, winding sentences of Miss Rosa Coldfield, and to follow the exploits of Thomas Sutpen and his establishment of his plantation empire in Yoknapatawpha County, MS and the aftermath of his attempts to further his design.

His story is told not just by Rosa, his sister-in-law, who's sharing with 2o-year-old Quentin Compson, who gets a little further explanation of events from his father and finally re-examines events told in the first two thirds of the book for his friend at Harvard.

In the latter portion, events that we've already witnessed are illuminated, as if Poirot were explaining what was early seen but not understood, and it all transpires with a dark, Southern Gothic flavor that, if not chilling, is still disturbing in the way the best non-supernatural horror manages to be.

I recommend everyone pursue a degree that requires the reading of Absalom, Absalom!, or, if you're better disciplined than me, just pick it up and read.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To do list

Just finished my last creative packet for the semester for my MFA program. Got a few things I want to do now.

1. Koyanaskatsi on Hulu.com. I'm ready to veg.

2. Finish The Weather Warden #3: Chill Factor. Started it right before the semester. Had to read so much for school, couldn't finish it.

3. Then The Open Curtain by Brian Evenson. Ditto, started a page or two before the semester. Couldn't finish before I had to start reading for school. 

5. Saturday, what a day, feelin' like the Fourth of July!  

6. Dexter Season 2.

7. Blogging with a little more frequency. I've been reading everyone and posting as I've had time. Hope everyone is doing well.

Addendum
Oh, and how could I forget 8. The Colbert Christmas Special!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Autumn Toms


I'm not sure why, but my tomato plants have proven to be more prolific in autumn than they were over the summer months. They were most productive just before I had to leave town for a week in July, so my co-workers enjoyed that produce.

Until things get too cold, looks like I'll be harvesting. Some of my Cherokee purples may turn soon as well. 


Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's on the Ipod? - Footprints in the Snow

I crossed paths on MySpace with Black Pharaoh of the metal/Gothic band,  The Old Ones, appropriately of Providence, R.I. 

On their profile page, the really eerie "Footprints in the Snow" was playing.

BP was kind enough to share an MP3 with me, which I promptly added to a playlist.

It's a Lovecraftian tune that speaks of an eerie, unsolved mystery, coiling forward from one generation to the next. The haunted persona proclaims:



"Sooner or later the moment will come
When together with my reason, I'll lose my life,
Fighting against that merciless ghost
Ominous whispers in the darkness"

It has the unsettling quality of "The Shadow Over Innesmouth." It's a concise and open ended short story set to music, and it pounds with some of the same menace of a favorite of mine, The Gothic Archies.

Drop by the profile and  check out the playlist which also includes: "Funeral Song," "Spirits" and "Hall of the Astral King."

They're great tunes to get you in the mood for writing scary stories. 
  




Saturday, November 08, 2008

Secret Messages from My Cat


I'm not sure what my cat, Miss Daisy, is trying to tell me, but she typed a cryptic message into MS Word a little while ago:

"8999999999999999999 89999999999999999 8999999999999"

Maybe cats have some secret knowledge to impart, kind of like those looms they had in Wanted, only with more benevolent messages.

Or maybe it's something simpler.

"The laptop is warm. Go do something else. I'm sitting here."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Another good song

"In the unlikely story that is America, there is nothing false about hope." -- Barack Obama





Saturday, November 01, 2008

Weekend Chiller Theater

It's Halloween weekend, and The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror isn't on until tomorrow night, so here's a brief little chiller for the interim. 

It's a subtle and unsettling piece from blackdogfilms, and it's called There Are Monsters. Close the curtains, settle back and have a look. 


Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's on the iPod? - Doctor Who Forever Autumn

Sorry I haven't checked in for a while guys. Didn't have a new flash idea and kind of wanted to keep the flash at the top of the blog for October. I will get a jump on next year, and I hope we can do the round-robin again. That's a great idea Charles had.

I have been busy mostly working on things for school or watching too much political coverage.

School has devoured a lot of my time. I also finished a graphic novel script in and around writing a portion of a prose novel for school.

It's good to be blogging. I've just popped a Doctor Who novelization to the top of my playlist for Halloween time. It's called Forever Autumn, written by Mark Morris and read by Will Thorp who sounds a lot liked David Tennant.

The scares will all wind up being scientific, but the Doctor can often edge into the horror realm.

It's about two hours, so it's perfect to get me through to the 31st. The synopsis reads:

It is almost Halloween in the sleepy New England town of Blackwood Falls. Autumn leaves litter lawns and sidewalks, paper skeletons hang in windows, and carved pumpkins leer from stoops and front porches.

The Doctor and Martha soon discover that something long-dormant has awoken in the town, and this will be no ordinary Halloween. What is the secret of the ancient chestnut tree and the mysterious book discovered tangled in its roots? What rises from the local churchyard in the dead of night, sealing up the lips of the only witness? And why are the harmless trappings of Halloween suddenly taking on a creepy new life of their own?

As nightmarish creatures prowl the streets, the Doctor and Martha must battle to prevent both the townspeople and themselves from a grisly fate...

Sounds like fun!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Horrortober 2 - Halloween Horror Fiction

Here's another piece of flash fiction in keeping with the Halloween-month celebration started by Charles and now including: Avery, Stewart , Miladysa, L.A. Mitchel and Laughingwolf.

This one might not be for the squeamish. If any of these tales are.


Jack-O-Lanterns

You need sharp tools for carving. It helps with the detail. I won't carry on any pretense that I'm talking about a pumpkin. You're too smart for that.

You've seen Tales from the Crypt, or you've even heard of EC Comics and William M. Gaines and those tales of revenge. In those stories you'd have to watch or read until almost the end for the twist, in which it's revealed that the carving involves not a pumpkin but the head of my wife's lover.

"The Revenge of the Cuckold" it might be called, and the build up would be all about the pumpkin carving and all of the careful, precise cuts.

Only in the last frame might it be revealed that the lover's head was the stand-in for the more traditional choice for Jack-O-Lantern.

The wife might return home to see the lover's ruined face, staring at her from the front window, eyes hollowed out, a permanent grin carved into the lips, a candle shoved up through the throat.

Quite a story, but not the one on the agenda. I've already done that carving. It's the head of my wife's ex-lover, the one before you. I wanted a little practice.

If I put it in the window,  she might not come in, and we wouldn't want that. We'll want her here--stop struggling, it will do you no good.

We'll want her here, so that she can watch when the carving begins on you, so that she can see the detail work even as you scream.

And she'll know that after that work is finished...she'll be next.

Now included in my collection Scars and Candy or here for Amazon UK




Saturday, October 11, 2008

Horrortober - Halloween Horror Fiction

Since Charles has been posting some cool Flash horror stories in celebration of October, and Avery, Stewart , Miladysa, L.A. Mitchel and Laughingwolf are joining in, I feel inspired and compelled to join the fun. Halloween's my favorite holiday, too.

All right, Gramlich. I'll play your little October game. This is inspired by Charles's "Spot."

Having His Say

Shuck is my only friend. The old man dragged him in by the scruff of the neck one day when he was just a little squirt and tossed him in the corner beside me.

He’s not the first dog I’ve had. That was Blue. I loved Blue, but he messed the floor until he had to be punished.

The old man didn’t do the punishing. He made me do it. He said Blue and I both had to learn.

Shuck has been a little better. I knew what the cost would be if he didn’t learn, so I made sure he was paper trained quickly. He knows now he should only make when we go into the back yard—we’re only allowed to go in the back yard. The fence is electric there. The old man knows we can’t get past it.

But, yeah, Shuck is a fast learner, especially now that he’s not a puppy anymore. He’s grown big. He’s getting bigger, and I think he understands real words.

He’ll fetch the ball I throw, and he’ll heel.

Pretty soon we’re going to test a new word he’s learned.

“Shuck, THROAT,” I’ll say.

Then we’ll go out the front door, and the old man won’t have any say any more.

He literally won’t have any say.

Food for the Soul

I'm a little delinquent in reporting on a book I received via the Library Thing Early Readers program, so let me tell you about this interesting title. It's called Food for the Soul by Chana Rubin, RD. It carries the tag line "Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating.

It really includes practical food advice for anyone interested in staving off eating-related health issues, though it does sprinkle in epigrams from sacred texts and address matters such as "Diet and Health: The Jewish Connection" and "Jewish Women: Setting the Tone With Food."

Topics covered also include everything from Jewish holiday meals to the complexities of carbs with sub points such as: "What happens when you eat a bagel?", "Drinking for your health," and the place eggs fit into the diet.

The final section is Recipes with everything from stuffed bake potatoes to chocolate chip cookies.

I'm going to be trying some of those.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

End of the Week Humor

Well, it's been quite a week. A little humor for the weekend seems like a good thing, especially since I've been focused a little on surrealism this week in my schoolwork.


Friday, October 03, 2008

A bill passes

Well, this week has been sobering.
I think this animation which helped me with civics when I was younger left out a few stages in the process.




They don't mention the failing in the House, going to the Senate for a few billion in sweeteners, then riding back to the House on another bill for another vote.

Sweet land of liberty!

Monday, September 29, 2008

On a night like this

I find myself thinking tonight of my parents. As the world apparently melts down and the future is awash somewhere in the liquefied remains, I'm reminded theirs was dubbed the Greatest Generation, and I'm reminded of why.

They lived through the Great Depression and then through World War II on its tails. My old man lost his father when he was 15 in the mid-'30s and made his own way and headed to the Pacific Theater when he was called. More or less called. He joined the Navy because he preferred sailing to marching.

My mom was the youngest child in a single-parent family. They had them then, too. My grandmother had been abandoned by one husband and was left a widow by a second.

Mom held the homefront. Her brothers went to Germany.

The Depression and the war were the realities of their teens and twenties.

I've never really sat back and thought about what the '50s must have looked like when they finally rolled around. I wonder if there's something like that in our future.

And what will they say of us, those people of the future, and our generation as we are looked at further down the road?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman is Gone

A couple of headlines just hit me on my Google home page, announcing the death of Paul Newman, and I'm having to wipe away a tear or two, not something you usually do with the word of a celebrity death.

Newman certainly was one of the finest film actors to achieve star status. He played characters on screen, not always himself, and I've always admired his altruism as well. I've had his fair trade coffee a lot of mornings, doused a lot of salads with his salad dressings and downed a lot of his chocolate cookies. I have also witnessed the handiwork of checks from Newman's Own benefiting charities in my community.

He's also, always kind of defined Lew Archer for me because I was introduced to the Ross MacDonald detective series because of the movie tie-in edition of The Drowning Pool in which Newman re-created his portrayal of Lew Harper. The name change came about when the first Archer novel, The Moving Target was being adapted and Newman wanted to follow the success of Hud and Hombre with another H title. The Moving Target became Harper, and the later Twilight was really kind of an Archer/Harper movie w/out the name.

It's a sad day on many fronts.




Friday, September 26, 2008

Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn

(Charles was right the other day when he noted people can have strong feelings and not understand how others can have different ones. This is generally a pop-culture and personal diary blog, not a political blog, but some days, whether it's good for me or not, I feel compelled to babel about the real world. )

The real world looks more and more like the world of The Dark Knight every day, not in a literal way with set pieces of dire chaos but in a symbolic way as we live through a whirlwind of financial and economic turmoil.

A line from the Batman movie's been playing through my head all week, but I wasn't sure where it applied until last night and this a.m. as reports about yesterday's meeting at the White House unfolded.

Sen. John McCain, after yet another bold, "maverick" move to "suspend" his campaign that was analyzed best, as usual, by The Daily Show:

made a few more public appearances then blew into Washington to fan flames of dissent in a meeting he had called to build agreement.

As the New York Times reported:

At the bipartisan White House meeting that Mr. McCain had called for a day earlier, he sat silently for more than 40 minutes, more observer than leader, and then offered only a vague sense of where he stood, said people in the meeting.

Perhaps the "suspension" and the effort for consensus were inaccurate. Clearly Sen. McCain is more an agent of chaos with a goal articulated by Michael Cain in The Dark Knight.

"...
some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."

Addendum
Salon's Joe Consan assesses McCain's roll in the derailment.

Portfolio.com Blog: McCain's Economics


David S. Broder: McCain as Alpha Mail, "imbalance in the deference quotient"

Some on the right are joining a chorus of criticism over Sarah Palin

Newsweek: The Bailout Bill Failed, Should We Blame McCain?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Twittering Mad Men


Wayne and I have been engaged in a bit of interesting anachronism this week. Pretty much all of the characters from AMC's Mad Men are on Twitter where they post microblog updates on their activities.

It's possible to send them messages, and to receive messages, and there are little stories or characters touches that are playing out.

Most notable is the quiet desperation of Betty Draper (January Jones on the show). She's the wife of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) philandering creative director of Madison Avenue ad agency Sterling-Cooper. That's one of the best known TV ad firms since McMahon and Tate, I suppose.

I sent Don a message. Twitter posts note how the person conveyed his message, whether it's the web or mobile device.

Don's are being posted from the web, so I asked how he was managing that from 1961. He messaged back to note he was living in 1962. My bad. Should have remembered all the Jackie O references from the show.

Lots of companies are using Twitter to push out information to their employees, and I'm sure there are more TV shows at work but Mad Men makes for interesting interaction.

It's probably more added fun for current viewers than it is a conduit to attract new ones, but it's certainly an interesting use of Web 2.0 for enterprise, and it's certainly fun to join the Mad Ave boys for after dinner drinks, especially on a week like this. Their world was on the brink of drastic change just like ours is. We all live in interesting times.

Now, let me get back to check out what Joan Holloway is up to.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Meltdown One Liners

I know there's not much funny about what's going on, but a couple of one-liners hit me this a.m. Fortunately on the web, there are hyperlinks to Wikipedia that can replace rim shots, though I'll try for onomatopoeia.

"Looks like the financial bail out will arrive for the taxpayers CDO." Ba, dum - chussss.

"It appears Congress, the Fed and the Treasury spent the night in the tranches." Ba, dum - chussss.

Hope everyone is hanging in!

Addendum - 9-21-08
Conde Nast Portfolio is offering a slide show of editorial cartoons about the crisis under the heading "Laugh if You Can."

Addendum - 9-23-08
And more from Conde Nast: Financial One-Liner of the Day.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An ARC Arrives: Any Given Doomsday


I received an ARC in the mail yesterday of Any Given Doomsday via Library Thing's early reader program. I will be fitting the reading of it in soon and hope to report back.

Looks like an interesting new series kickoff in the Urban Fantasy realm. It introduces Elizabeth Phoenix, a woman with a touch of psychic ability facing the end of the world and an assortment of demons and other dangers.

The ARC's letter from author, Lori Handeland, explains she had always wanted to write about a "character who rises and falls, moves forward, steps back and who lives and learns and loves like the rest of us--but in a world very different from our own."

Looks like it will include some laughs and chills. It's due for release in November.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Post Ike

We were very fortunate once again with Ike. Some of the alarm is always the weather services working not to understate the problem, but I continue to be amazed that storms are more and more an issue so far inland.

When we lived in Central Louisiana I can remember occasions where we taped the windows and brought in flower pots but never really felt any concern.

For a while yesterday it really seemed like wind might be cause for concern, but in the long run we rarely lost out Dish signal and went without power only a couple of hours.

At one point we were thinking it might be a while before the lights came back on because we were listening to Christine's disaster-proof radio and one utility company was explaining they were having to wait for gusts to die down before they could risk going up in bucket trucks.

A little while after that our lights came back on. We have a different utility company.

I read, worked on the laptop and spent a little while debating whether to waste battery power on a DVD of The Spiderwick Chronicles, so we were much more fortunate than others, though my indoor-outdoor cat, Oliver, suffered some mild depression having to spend Saturday indoors.

So it goes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My First Packet

My first packet of critical and creative writing for my MFA is back, and, happily, after a lot of anxiety, I received a positive response from my adviser who reviewed my materials.

It's almost time to do it again, so I'm feverishly working on my second packet which will include more of my creative piece, more annotations of books I've been reading and one longer examination of a book.

I've been re-introduced to the world of literary research, tapping into online databases, which is kind of exhilarating and exciting even though the task of writing critical analysis that can count on my permanent record is daunting.

Head rush
The research is even a bit addictive. While I've decided not to write my longer paper this time about We Have Always Lived in the Castle, I found a piece called "The Hero is Married and Ascends the Throne": The Economics of Narrative End in Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Honor McKitrick Wallace. That, I think, may require more blood flow to my brain than my organs can produce and pump.

Still it's fascinating to delve into the different ways a work can be dissected, and to follow trails of thought here and there.

It's also interesting to see how hard-core critics can disagree, with me at least, on other works I've been pondering including The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I'm exploring that in part because it's such a cornerstone of the mystery genre.

Oh well, onward and upward. It's kind of interesting to be staring down a new packet deadline and Hurricane Ike.

I'm far, far inland, but the weatherman is scary. I'm charging my laptop so I can keep working if we lose power and generally hoping for the best.

Addendum
It's looking by the maps now, that the storm will be downgraded further than first expected before it reaches my neck of the woods. It should be a tropical storm and no longer a Category 1 force storm.



Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin Supporters Speak Out

Wayne turned me on to this program. It's called Red State Update:

For those interested in a more serious review of just one of the issues on the national agenda--a matter with a little more gravity than lipstick--check out the discussion of renewable energy by Thomas Friedman on an episode of Fresh Air from earlier this week.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Palin Contradictions

I just thought this compilation of clips was hilarious. No contradictions here.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Chrome at Home?

I haven't decided if I need Google Chrome, Google's new browser, at home. I'm test driving it at the day job because it's a good idea to see how a site looks in different browsers, and I think a lot of people will be using Chrome just because of Google's ubiquity. (Does the logo remind anyone else of the old Simon game?)

A site that looks lovely in Internet Explorer 7 may not degrade so nicely to Internet Explorer 6. I once spent a day trying to find a piece of template code that would change line from purple to orange in IE6 while it was as rich as Blogger's orange in 7.

Happily Chrome has no problems with any sites I have anything to do with. Any problems are mine. Gotta upgrade my personal home page to utilize CSS one of these days.

Google Chrome has some nice touches. It's succinct, no frils, gives you a full view of a web page without much wrap-around. It has a memory for site's you visited that's a bit like Opera's Speed Dial, and it seems fast and handles Flash content and the like readily.

It takes a bit of getting used to to access the tools on the upper right corner, but that will probably come with time.

It features some new "incognito" touches that are the current rage as well.

I guess I haven't found many points not covered in Infoworld's review. As they note, I use a few addons in Firefox that it won't accommodate but I don't stick to one browser anyway.

For quick easy surfing, I think chrome may not be a bad choice.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Palin's Speech to the Convention

Wouldn't it be cool if it were Michael Palin who was appearing in the Twin Cities?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Books I've Been Reading For School: We Have Always LIved in the Castle

The last few weeks have been a bit hectic, reading and writing for school while juggling other projects and the day job. The flip side is that I'm getting through some interesting books, some I should have read a long time ago, I know.

It's schoolwork that's not too bad, eh. I may get beaten up on my first packet, but time will tell. A lot of us first semester folk have been sweating a bit until we get the hang of things.

One of the works I've had to annotate so far is We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I wrote--in a gig Charles turned me on to--a Masterplots article about The Haunting of Hill House ages ago, but I'd never checked out this other great and eerie tale from Shirley Jackson. The gist of the analysis I wrote for school focused on the fact that Jackson's technique of distancing the reader actually engaged me more.

An unreliable narrator
The novel is narrated by Merricat Blackwood, and she doesn't tell all. She hints at facts in some cases. In others she reports events and lets dialog from other characters reveal things that have come before in the recent Blackwood family history. She, her sister and her uncle are the only family members left alive after arscenic poisonings. Why? Well, she'll get to that eventually.

Merricat frequently raises questions then waits a long time to answer. To me that made even mundane events take on much more weight. I was leaning into the book to try and figure things out. It's a far from passive reading experience.

Reliable chills
By the story's end it's posible to interpret all including the things Merricat doesn't say, and to me that made it all exceptionally chilling, scarier on an emotional level that was more affecting than The Haunting of Hill House.

If you haven't, you should.

BTW
I love the cover from the Popular Library edition which I've included here. It's the edition I own, and it features a painting, obviously of Merricat that's fabulously rich in meaning.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Strange Beginnings

Once upon a time, OK, according to electronic time stamps it was 2/3/2007 and 2/9/2007, I must have been fooling around with Google Documents.

The document storage area of Google, which you can access from anywhere with a web connection, does seem like a good idea for capturing story ideas or great sentences when you're on the go.

At work? Log in and jot down that great notion before it slips away, then back to work and the story can be resumed later.

On the go? Log on via mobile device if you got 'em, or Internet cafe if you don't.

I must have thought that in February of last year anyway.

I happened to open up Google documents the other day and discovered on the dates mentioned I jotted down some lines in separate files. Or maybe they're quick brown fox sentences to show you how it all works? I don't know.

Maybe I read the lines and thought they'd be great to save. The flaw in the great plan is that it doesn't work if you enter the ideas and then don't access them for a year and a half, so that you've pretty much forgotten everything.

On 2/3/07 apparently I hammered out:

He found the note under his lunch box just after his shift ended at the welding shop.

And on 2/9/07

He doesn't remember growing a beard. Yet his face is covered. It feels like a mask as he slowly awakes. He rubs the whiskers, more than a few days' growth.

At last he opens his eyes and the light hurts.

I don't know about you, but those lines kind of make me want to read more.

What was I thinking? Or what was I reading? Does anyone recognize those lines?

Or, can you use those lines?

If anyone wants to take them and run with them, thank me in the acknowledgments. And if you use Google documents to move files or save files, again, remember to check them now and then.
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