Thursday, October 31, 2013

Phantasm

Phantasm is a 1979 horror film. This was my first time to see it, though The Elder Son suggested it years ago. I'll eventually make it through all these old horror movies. Eventually. I think my appreciation of this one would've been greater had I been a 13 year old boy.

Interesting sound track.

trailer:



Moria says, "It is, as the title suggests, a ‘phantasm’ –a figment of the imagination or an illusion– and you can only appreciate Phantasm not as coherent narrative but as a film that seems to operate on the logic of a dream." 1000 Misspent Hours says, "Phantasm legitimately is a mystery —a detective story, even!— despite dealing in subject matter that would normally mark it as a pure horror tale." Slant Magazine closes with this: "Phantasm is better experienced than explained, and to paraphrase Jung: "A dream is an end undoing, and to analyze the dream is to undo the undoing." Empire Online concludes, "Extremely gory. Horror fans should delight." Stomp Tokyo says, "Phantasm is that rarity of rarities -a low-budget horror film that is scary." Roger Ebert gives it a skimpy 1 1/2 stars and says, "It's put together rather curiously out of disjointed scenes, snatches of dialog, and brief strokes of characterization." Rotten Tomatoes has a 63% critics score.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a 1974 horror film directed by Tobe Hooper. This is my first time to see this. I was never a horror film fan, and slasher films are still my least favorite sub-genre. I'm trying to make my way through the older films I've missed, and The Elder Son loaned me his copy of this for that purpose. I think I've had his DVD for 2-3 years and am just now getting around to it. It's less gory than I expected It's not converting me into a slasher fan, and I'm wondering if some of these movies need to be seen soon after their release to really "get" them. It's based on a true story.

I must say that watching Franju's Blood of the Beast first provided an interesting perspective.

trailer:



Moria says, "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre redefined horror by stripping it of all classical motive. The assaults in the film come without rhyme or reason." 1000 Misspent Hours closes with this: "taking in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is so discomfiting an experience that I’m not a bit surprised that many viewers come away with the impression that it is far more graphically violent than is actually the case." Slant Magazine gives it 4/4 stars and closes with this: "Hooper may well end up being remembered solely for Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film that fully earns him a place alongside the greatest malaise-shredding horror mavericks." Empire Online calls it "Genuinely disturbing, even now." DVD Talk opens by describing it as "up there as one of the most influential horror movies of our time." Roger Ebert seems torn, calling it well done but without purpose "unless the creation of disgust and fright is a purpose." Rotten Tomatoes has a 91% critics score.

Blood of the Beasts

Blood of the Beasts is a 1949 horror short film, actually a documentary on French slaughterhouses, directed by Georges Franju. He directed Eyes Without a Face, and this short is included on the Criterion release of that film.

via youtube:



Horror News says it "was one of the earliest short films documenting animal cruelty" and "the film was directed to shock and disturb". FilmReference.com calls Franju "one of the cinema's authentic minor poets". It has no critics score at Rotten Tomatoes but has an audience rating of 94%.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a cult classic science fiction/horror/comedy film from 1988.

trailer:



I agree with Moria: "There’s really nothing to it beyond the basic gimmick of the title concept." 1000 Misspent Hours calls it "one of the funniest things I’d seen in ages" and says it has held up well. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 75%.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Legend of Hell House

The Legend of Hell House is a British haunted house film from 1973. It's based on a novel by Richard Matheson, who wrote the screenplay. Roddy McDowall stars. I like haunted house films and ghost stories, and this is a fine example.

trailer:



Moria says, "The Legend of Hell House was the single best work that [director] John Hough ever turned out. 1000 Misspent Hours calls it "one of the last great English horror flicks". DVD Talk says, " It gets moving right from the get-go, tells the story without any excess padding or draggy moments, and does manage to pull off a few surprises with what happens to, and around, the characters." Twitch Film closes by saying the film is "still nerve-jangling, especially if you're watching alone, late at night, and wondering what those strange noises are, emanating from the shadows behind you." Horror News has praise:
The Legend Of Hell House’s direction and cinematography are impressive, the compositions are suitably atmospheric, utilising split-focus and high, low and wide angles, and finally, the film’s electronic score (by Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson of the Electrophon company) is one of the creepiest ever committed to film.
Horror Express calls it "an atmospheric and impressive entry in the haunted house genre." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 46%.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Thanatos Syndrome


The Thanatos Syndrome is a 1987 novel by Walker Percy. It was his last novel before his death in 1990. I consider this a science fiction or maybe a horror novel, but you'll find it shelved with literary fiction if you can find a book store that stocks it. I like the books I've read by this author (The Moviegoer, The Last Gentleman, Love in the Ruins) and this one is no exception. He writes a thought-provoking story.

As a Southern writer he writes Southern characters who ring true. Sometimes when I'm reading a book I'll come across something and say, "This is not something a Southerner would say," or "People down here never talk like that." That never happens in a Walker Percy novel.

There are some literary and artistic references in this book -Emily Dickinson and Tolstoy and Kurt Vonnegut, for example, and Andrew Wyeth get passing mention. There are Biblical and pop culture references, too.

favorite quotes:
  • "A great scientist said the genius consists not in making great discoveries but in seeing the connection between small discoveries."
  • "If there is such a thing as a Southern way of life, part of it has to do with not speaking of it."
  • "The Great American philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce, said that the most amazing thing about the universe is that apparently disconnected events are in fact not, that one can connect them. Amazing!"

from the back of the book:
When Dr. Tom More is released on parole from state prison, he returns to Feliciana, Louisiana, the parish where he was born and bred, where he practiced psychiatry before his arrest. He immediately notices something strange in almost everyone around him: unusual sexual behavior in women patients, a bizarre loss of inhibition, his own wife's extraordinary success at bridge tournaments, during which her mind seems to function like a computer.

With the ingenious help of his attractive cousin, Dr. Lucy Lipscomb, Dr. More begins to uncover a criminal experiment to "improve" people's behavior by drugging the area's water supply. But beyond this grand scheme are activities so sinister that even Tom More wouldn't believe them if he hadn't witnessed them with his own eyes....

Monday, October 28, 2013

Baby Let's Play House

Baby Let's Play House:



sung by Elvis. This song made it onto USA Today's list of 20 essential Elvis songs.

Lyrics excerpt:
Oh, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby baby, b-b-baby baby, baby
Baby baby baby
Come back, baby, I wanna play house with you

Well, you may go to college
You may go to school
You may have a pink Cadillac
But don't you be nobody's fool.
...
...
Yeah
Now listen to me, baby
Try to understand
I'd rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man

Now baby
Come back, baby, come
Come back, baby, come
Come back, baby
I wanna play house with you

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Books That Will Change Your Life

BuzzFeed (via Literacy Mid-South) has a list of 32 Books That Will Actually Change Your Life:
1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
3. Cat’s Cradle
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude
6. Invisible Monsters
7. White Oleander
8. In Cold Blood
9. Middlesex
10. Play It As It Lays
11. Ada, or Ardor
12. Beloved
13. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
14. Push
15. It
16. Under the Banner of Heaven
17. Me Talk Pretty One Day
18. World War Z
19. The Giver
20. The Fault in Our Stars
21. A Brief History of Time
22. Sophie’s World
23. Crime and Punishment
24. Life of Pi
25. Invisible Man
26. Joy of Cooking
27. Catch-22
28. The Train
29. The Artist’s Way
30. The Beautiful & Damned
31. Prodigal Summer
32. Never Let Me Go

Ones I've read are in bold print. Honestly, every time I begin to think I'm fairly well-read I come across a list like this.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Blindness


Blindness is a 1995 novel of indeterminate genre by José Saramago. I could make an argument that it's a science fiction novel of the apocalyptic sub-genre and I could make an argument that it's a horror novel. It was shelved with literary fiction when I found it, probably because the author is a Nobel Prize winner.

Favorite quotes:
  • "And there are certain things that are best left unexplained, it's best just to say what happened, not to probe people's inner thoughts and feelings..."
  • "It is foolish to ask what anyone died from, in time the cause will be forgotten, only two words remain, She died..."
  • "... it is not unusual for good to come of evil,less is said about the evil that can come out of good..."
The book is scattered throughout with short sayings. I actually found that part of the book annoying.

There are a lot of literary references, which I enjoyed. There's no telling how many of those I missed.

It's been adapted for film, but I haven't seen it. Having read the book, I'm not much tempted to see the movie. The book was fine, mind you, but I don't want to watch this blind-leading-the-blind story played out on the big screen.

from the back of the book:
A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and assaulting women. There is one eye-witness to this nightmare who guides sven strangers -among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears- through the barren streets, and the procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation and a vivid evocation of the horrors of the twentieth century, Blindness is a powerful portrayal of man's worst appetites and weaknesses -and man's ultimately exhilarating spirit.
NPR says not many books are worth re-reading but that this one is, saying,
Saramago tackles all of human nature — love, loyalty, fear, jealousy, bravery, heroism, cowardice, violence, happiness, disappointment — it's all in there, revealed through characters so beautifully rendered, so vibrant on the page, that each time I read it, I immediately join Saramago's sightless band, tossed together by circumstance first into a chaotic quarantine center for the newly blind, and then loosed into a world that has fallen apart.
Kirkus Reviews calls it a "masterpiece".

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pet Sematary


Pet Sematary is a 1983 horror novel by Stephen King. I haven't read much horror, but I've been wanting to read some of the better known modern horror novels and had been looking for this one in particular for months. I was happy to find it on the shelf at our main library's used book store.

I'm irritated by the misuse of words, and this book has a couple of doozies:
  1. "She'll stay to supper, I guess, although I don't think she'll eat nothing. She's gotten peckish." So she won't eat because she's a bit hungry??? Although I suppose "I don't think she'll eat nothing" means "I do think she'll eat something," but that meaning isn't supported by the context. It does look like the word "peckish" is just misused.
  2. .....
  3. King refers to the need to have the main character's cat "spayed" two or three times. That should prove to be difficult since it's a male cat.
I like to think these errors have been corrected in later editions. Sheesh! doesn't anybody pre-read these things? How were such obvious mistakes able to make it into print? It interferes with my ability to enjoy a book when I run across such prime examples of stupid.

Other than those problems (which are real problems for me, make no mistake)... It was a quick and easy read, but after the pet sematary was introduced and explained the course of the book seemed fairly predictable. There was one plot element that came as a surprise, but it was a minor element not crucial to the plot. There is at least 1 film adaptation, which I have not seen.

from the dust jacket:
Can Stephen King scare even himself?

Has the author of Carrie, The Shining, Cujo, and Christine ever conceived a story so horrifying that he was for a time unwilling to finish it? Yes. This is it.

Set in a small town in Maine to which a young doctor, Louis Creed, and his family have moved from Chicago, PET SEMATARY begins with a visit to the graveyard in the woods where generations of children have buried their beloved pets. But behind the "pet sematary," there is another burial ground, one that lures people to it with seductive promises... and ungodly temptations.

As the story unfolds, so does a nightmare of the supernatural, one so relentless you won't want ... at moments ... to continue reading ... but will be unable to stop.

You do it because it gets hold of you, says the nice old man with the secret. You make up reasons ... but mostly you do it because once you've been up there, it's your place, and you belong to it ... up in the PET SEMATARY - and beyond.
Paste Magazine says, "This is King’s best book and one of the best horror novels ever written. Go back as far as you want: Lovecraft, Stoker, Shelley, it doesn’t matter. This is the top-of-the-line deluxe monster model." Kirkus Reviews closes with this:
Filled out with overdone family melodrama (the feud between Louis and his father-in-law) and repetitious inner monologues: a broody horror tale that's strong on dark, depressing chills, weak on suspense or surprise--and not likely to please the fans of King's zestier, livelier terror-thons.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Let's Scare Jessica to Death

Let's Scare Jessica to Death is a 1971 horror film starring Zohra Lampert (also in Splendor in the Grass). An unstable young woman just released from a mental institution starts seeing things after relocating from New York City to the country, a move that was intended by her husband to help her recovery. This one is creepy. It's definitely watchable by folks who want a bit of horror but don't like splatter fests.

via youtube:



Moria says, "part flower child ghost story, part vampire movie and considerably lacking in explanatory logic, it is nevertheless a film of often unnerving and eerie effect." Classic-Horror.com says it's "a film about insanity, but what makes it so astounding is that it doesn't ask us to study madness, but rather to share in it" and calls it "one of the finest horror pictures of the 1970s".

HorrorNews.net says it's one of Stephen King's favorites and says,
An intelligent script with plenty of genuine scares, a great deal of moody atmosphere, an intriguing subtext regarding 1960s drug culture, and one of the best-ever female performances in a horror film. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is, quite simply, one of the best ghost stories ever filmed.
Slant Magazine doesn't like it at all, closing with this: "OVERALL: Let's bore gorefreaks to distraction." DVD Talk calls it "an impressively creepy little horror film, quite good for such a modestly budgeted work with no stars" and says, "In all departments the film is above average." Dread Central says, "Though it was slow and creepy, it was almost too much of both, which led to an overall dull viewing experience." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 33%.

City of New Orleans

City of New Orleans:



sung by Arlo Guthrie, heard recently on WEVL.

Lyrics:
Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin' trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

[Chorus]
Good morning America how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Dealin' cards with the old men in the club car.
Penny a point ain't no one keepin' score.
Won't you pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumblin' 'neath the floor.
And the sons of Pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father's magic carpets made of steam.
Mothers with their babes asleep,
Are rockin' to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they dream.

[Chorus]

Nighttime on The City of New Orleans,
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee.
Half way home, we'll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea.
And all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rails still ain't heard the news.
The conductor sings his song again,
The passengers will please refrain
This train's got the disappearing railroad blues.

Good night, America, how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.
Lyrics © AL BUNETTA D/B/A JURISDAD MUSIC

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Quentin Tarantino's List of the 12 Greatest Films of All Time

Open Culture has a list of Quentin Tarantino's list of 12 greatest films of all time:
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
The Bad News Bears (Michael Ritchie, 1976)
Carrie (Brian de Palma, 1976)
Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963)
His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1939)
Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
Pretty Maids All in a Row (Roger Vadim, 1971)
Rolling Thunder (John Flynn, 1997)
Sorcerer (William Friedkin, 1977)
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
I prove how lacking I am in some of the basics when I admit I've never seen Jaws or Taxi Driver, and I've only seen Carrie on TV with commercials. I mean that's gotta make a difference. I do have Jaws on DVD waiting for me to get around to it...

4 out of 12! Of course, none of these movies would be on a top-12 list if I were making the list.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Thief of Always


The Thief of Always is a 1992 Clive Barker horror novel, intended for children but easily readable by adults. I found it enjoyable enough. It would've been a nice book to have around when the kids were young for them to read in October as an introduction to horror novels. I wish I had found it back then. It reminded me just a bit of Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

from the back of the book:
Mr. Hood's Holiday House has stood for a thousand years, welcoming countless children into its embrace. It is a place of miracles where every childhood whim can be satisfied. There is a price to be paid, of course, but young Harvey Swick, bored with his life and beguiled by Mr. Hood's wonders, does not stop to consider the consequences. It is only when the house shows its darker face -when Harvey discovers the pitiful creatures that dwell in its shadows- that he comes to doubt Mr. Hood's philanthropy.

But the house and its mysterious architect are not about to release their captive without a battle. Mr. Hood has ambitions for his new guest, for Harvey's soul burns brighter than any he has encountered in ten centuries...
Kirkus Reviews says, "The House is a splendid conceit, but Harvey (Barker's first child hero) is as real as a Norman Rockwell kid". Thursday Review says, "The Thief of Always is one of the few horror novels that can easily be shared with young children, or the young at heart. The story-telling is swift, neat, and accompanied by illustrations from Clive Barker himself." Dreadful Tales recommends it in their review. Green Man Review thinks it may be too disturbing for children.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Turn of the Screw


The Turn of the Screw is an 1898 horror novel (a ghost story) by Henry James. In the public domain, it can be read online at numerous sites. My local bookstore didn't have it on the shelf, so I read a free version.

This one is a classic. I've read it several times and highly recommend it. It can be read in different ways, depending on whether or not you believe in the reality of the ghosts.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Eyes of Fire

Eyes of Fire is a 1983 horror film. It takes place in 1750 on the American frontier, and involves an outcast preacher, Indians and a haunted wood. The special effects and the music are dated, typical 80s fare, but the story and pacing are good. There's Magic. And Faery. I'm adding this one to my list of western horror films.

via youtube:



The New York Times calls it a "bizarrely fascinating story". HorrorNew.net has screen shots, a lengthy plot summary, and this conclusion: "For general creepiness and overall weirdness, I give this film 4 fangs out of 5. If you’re a die-hard horror fiend, this one belongs on your shelf!"

Twitch Film closes by saying, "for all its shortcomings it still treads gloriously bizarre territory and very much deserves to be seen and assessed by a new generation of cinephiles." Killer Reviews says, "The movie does what so few horror films do nowadays: it builds up tension." Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have a critics score but has an audience score of 70%.

Red Banks

Red Banks:



by Amy LaVere, Memphis musician/actress.

Lyrics:
Walking down by the river
He'd take me there by the hand
We'd watch that sunset on that river
Just me and my man
Yeah, just me and my man

Walking down by the river
He asked me where I been
He said if I go with another,
He gon' push me in
Yeah, he gon' push me in

Walking down by the red bank
I found a skipping stone
Well, I took aim, I closed my eyes,
And I prayed that stone was gone
Yeah, I prayed that stone was gone

I thought about trying to hide,
I thought about running away
I thought about digging six feet deep
Down in the mississippi clay
Well, he made a hole in the river
He weighed that water down
He made a hole in the river
No, he didn't make no sound
No, he didn't make no sound
No, he didn't make no sound

Now I walk that river bridge,
That river bridge so tall
And I count all the sunsets,
And I saw him fall
Oh, I saw him fall
Well, he made a hole in the river
He weighed that. water down
He made a hole in the river,
No, he didn't make no sound
I didn't push him in,
No, I didn't push him in
Oh,I didn't push him in,
No, he'd 'a killed me if I did.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

50 Science Fiction/Fantasy Films That Everyone Should See

Flavorwire (via SF Signal) has a list of "50 Science Fiction/Fantasy Films That Everyone Should See" (specifically excluding superhero movies, horror films, monster movies, and movies made primarily for children:
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Pan’s Labyrinth
Moon
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
The Princess Bride
Labyrinth
Men in Black
Edward Scissorhands
Mad Max
Princess Mononoke
Spirited Away
Gattaca
Primer
Blade Runner
Fantastic Planet
The Wizard of Oz
The Secret of Roan Inish
Dark City
The Matrix
Time Bandits
Raiders of the Lost Ark
“La Jetée”
Brazil
Metropolis
Big Fish
Solaris (the Tarkovsky version)
Jurassic Park
Alien and Aliens
Orpheus
Dark Star
2001: A Space Odyssey
Avatar
Back to the Future
Star Wars Episodes IV-VI
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
A Clockwork Orange (It's on my shelf waiting.)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
The Fountain
Sleeper
City of Lost Children
The Harry Potter series
The Day the Earth Stood Still ('50s version)
Donnie Darko
Invasion of the Body Snatchers ('50s version) "Also of note: the 1978 remake, which was, surprisingly, nearly as good."
Ghostbusters
Being John Malkovich
Akira
The Terminator and Terminator 2
Strange Days
Serenity
I've seen the ones in bold print and enjoyed them all except for E.T. and Back to the Future, which I never cared for. Of the ones I haven't seen, I've never heard of The Secret of Roan Inish or Strange Days. I'm disappointed not to see Stalker, The 5th Element, and Tron on this list.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Naina

Naina is a 2005 Indian horror film many say is an unauthorized remake of the Hong Kong movie The Eye. The movie's plot revolves around a young woman who was blinded in a car accident when she was a child and who now receives a corneal transplant allowing her to see again. Only now she sees ghosts. And impending deaths. It seems the cornea donor was cursed. I like Naina. I'd be interested in seeing the original that inspired it.

via youtube:



Weird Wild Realm has a review comparing it to and contrasting it with The Eye. DVD Talksays it's "deadly dull, painfully derivative, and endlessly redundant" and "about as scary as a soap commercial". Planet Bollywood says, "On the whole Naina is worth the watch. When compared with other Bollywood horror´s in it head and shoulders above the rest!" Monsters at Play says it's ok "for those who aren't burned out on the "creepy Asian ghost story" subgenre".

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Haunting of Hill House


The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is a classic horror novel. I've always loved the film based on it, but I'd never read the book itself. It was no disappointment. It makes a wonderful companion to the film, different in some ways while telling the same story. I recommend both. They sustain an eerie quality that attracts me.

Laura Miller's introduction (spoilers abound, so read this intro after the book) is reprinted here. She says the book "exudes a lingering, clammy dread," and she compares it to Henry James' The Turn of the Screw.

On Eleanor's way to Hill House (and the quote recurs through the book):
Journey's end, she thought, and far back in her mind, sparkling like the little stream, a tag end of a tune danced though her head, bringing distantly a word or so; "In delay there lies no plenty," she thought, "in delay there lies no plenty.
From Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, it's a song:
What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure.
She also quotes, "Journeys end in lovers meeting" throughout the book. This is also from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night:
O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear; your true love's coming,
That can sing both high and low:
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know.
Early in their time at Hill House, the doctor mentions having brought Pamela along to help him sleep. I got a big kick out of this since I've read that book. It can in no way be called a riveting read. The doctor says, "If any of you has trouble sleeping, I will read aloud to you. I never yet knew anyone who could not fall asleep with Richardson being read aloud to him." He later mentions having brought Clarissa Harlowe to read once he's done with Pamela, and I honestly think Clarissa might be even more boring than Pamela. When he does finish Pamela, he begins Charles Grandison (another epistolary novel by Richardson). Can he pick 'em or what!

An interesting quote from midway through the book:
"No physical danger exists," the doctor said positively. "No ghost in all the long histories of ghosts has ever hurt anyone physically. The only damage done is by the victim to himself."
from the back of the book:
Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House. Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Luke, the adventurous future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past. As they begin to cope with chilling, even horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers - and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

From the Dust Returned


From the Dust Returned (2001) by Ray Bradbury is only sort of a novel. Actually it's a collection of themed short stories, many of which were written decades ago, and many of which have appeared in other Bradbury collections. I bought it because it came highly recommended, but I do feel a bit cheated. I'd rather not have short story collections repeat stories I already have in other collections by the author, and I'd rather not buy something that's represented to be a novel turn out to be a group of old short stories cobbled together with new interconnecting material. Humph!

A big deal is made of the cover art (you can view it here), which was a Charles Addams drawing that illustrated one of these stories when it appeared in a magazine long decades ago. Oddly, that cover art does not appear on the edition I have, which has a red, stylized spider instead. Humph, again!

Bradbury died in 2012 at the age of 91, and I was sad to see him go. He's one of the science fiction authors I began with way back in my childhood. Because we've always been fans of the TV adaptation of The Halloween Tree, which is narrated by Bradbury, I hear this book in Bradbury's voice.

There's a mention of Memphis, TN, on page 14.

from the inside of the book:
They have lived for centuries in a house of legend and mystery in upper Illinois -and they are not like other Midwesterners. Rarely encountered in daylight hours, some of them have survived since before the Sphinx fist sank its paws deep in Egyptian sands. And some sleep in beds with lids.

Now the house is being readied for the gala homecoming that will gather together the far-flung branches of this odd and remarkable clan. But in the midst of eager anticipation, a sense of doom pervades. For the world is changing. And death, no stranger, will always shadow this most singular family...
The review at SF Site says, it "has been hailed as a return to his former stylistic pinnacle. It spans the length of Bradbury's illustrious career, stringing together stories about an unusual misfit "family" of Halloween creatures." Kirkus Reviews closes by calling it "One of his most attractive and satisfying works in quite some time."

Infinity Plus is less enthusiastic, saying,
it is a book of prose that contains six previously published short stories, three new ones, and a goodly number of short (often extremely short and inconsequential) interpolated prose passages that sometimes verge on short-storyhood but are mainly just included for the sake of atmospherics. The book itself is short: many of those 204 smallish pages are blank, and the leading of the type is very generous.
and closes with this:
The overall impression with which one comes away from this book is thus, sadly, that it is a slight work ... and that it's about time to dig out that dusty copy of Bradbury's splendid non-novel Dandelion Wine (1957) and read it yet again.
There's a reading guide here.

Too Much Coffee?

Caffeinated Joe shared this guide to how to tell if you've had too much coffee:
You’re Drinking Too Much Coffee When:

You ski uphill.
You speed walk in your sleep.
You answer the door before people knock.
You sleep with your eyes open.
You just completed your third sweater today,
and you don’t know how to knit.
You grind your coffee beans in your mouth.
You have to watch videos in fast-forward.
The only time you’re standing still is in an earthquake.
You lick your coffee pot clean.
Your eyes stay open when you sneeze.
The nurse needs a scientific calculator to take your pulse.
You can type sixty words a minute with your feet.
You don’t sweat, you percolate.
People get dizzy just watching you.
People can test their batteries in your ears.
Your birthday is a national holiday in Brazil.
Your Thermos is on wheels.
You can outlast the Energizer Bunny.
You don’t even wait for the water to boil anymore.
You don’t tan, you roast.
You soak your dentures in coffee overnight.
You think CPR stands for “Coffee Provides Resuscitation.”
It's hard to drink too much coffee, but it can be done. The Elder Son claims 4 cups a day will keep Alzheimer's at bay, but I'm so small I think I might float away. I usually get 2-3 cups a day, and it's almost always a morning thing with me. At that time Coffee does Provide Resuscitation.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

As Slow As Possible

Today is the day for the next note change in this performance of John Cage's As Slow As Possible.

What? You don't want to wait so long for the piece to continue? It can be performed more quickly than this. You can buy a CD of the 71-minute version at Amazon.com. Watch a performance of that short one here:



I'll be long dead by the time the 639 year long performance is completed in 2640.

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Vanishing (1988)

The Vanishing is a 1988 Dutch horror film. Very suspenseful. I'm not claustrophobic, but this film made me feel as if I were.



Moria gives it a great review, calling it "an excellent thriller" and praises its genre-bending plot, saying, "The elliptical nature of the plot and the subtlety of the clues laid out is breathtaking." Best-Horror-Movies.com closes its review with this: "The greatest thing about this film is that it really can appeal to so many people. It’s a horror movie for people who dislike horror movies and a horror movie for people who can’t see enough horror movies. In that way, it’s quite brilliant." Time Out calls it "An unforgettably chilling psychodrama". Roger Ebert gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars and calls it "a psychological jigsaw puzzle, a plot that makes you realize how simplistic many suspense films really are." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

14 Great Foreign Science Fiction Films

Blastr has a list of 14 fantastic foreign sci-fi movies you really need to see:
2046
Akira
Alphaville
Battle Royale
The Clone Returns Home
Gojira
La Jetée
Metropolis
Solaris
Stalker
The Host
Timecrimes
Troll Hunter
It's a joy to see Stalker on this list. It's an absolute treasure, yet no one I talk to has even heard of it. It's available to view online, so there are no excuses. I've heard of Troll Hunter, but I don't remember ever hearing of the others. I'll have to look into them.

HT: SF Signal

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Horror Books and Short Stories

I haven't read much horror, but last year I began to remedy that. This is a list with links to my posts on what I've read.

Short Stories:

1800s:

The Elixer of Life (1830), by Honoré de Balzac
The Black Spider (1842), by Jeremias Gotthelf
Carmilla, by Sheridan Le Fanu
Green Tea (1872), by Sheridan le Fanu
The Torture of Hope (1883), by Count Villiers de l'Isle-Adam
The Upper Berth (1886), by F. Marion Crawford
The Horla (1887), by Guy de Maupassant
The Ensouled Violin (1892), by Helena Blavatsky
The Yellow Sign (1895), by Robert W. Chambers
The Turn of the Screw (1898), by Henry James

1900s:

The Ash Tree (1904), by M. R. James
The White People (1904), by Arthur Machen
The Bell in the Fog (1905), by Gertrude Atherton
For the Blood is the Life (1905), by Francis Marion Crawford
Lazarus (1906), by Leonid Andreyev
The Voice in the Night (1907), by William Hope Hodgson
The Willows (1907), by Algernon Blackwood
For the Blood is the Life (1909), by F. Marion Crawford

1910s:

The Wendigo (1910), by Algernon Blackwood
The Beckoning Fair One (1911), by Oliver Onions
The Room in the Tower (1912), by E. F. Benson


1920s:

Seaton's Aunt (1923), by Walter de la Mare
The Night Wire (1926), by Henry Ferris Arnold

1930s:

Pigeons from Hell (1934), by Robert E. Howard

1940s:

Smoke Ghost (1941), by Fritz Leiber
The Lottery (1948), by Shirley Jackson

1950s:

The Veldt (1950), by Ray Bradbury

1960s:

Famous Ghost Stories (1965 collection edited by Bennett Cerf)

1980s:

Night They Missed the Horror Show (1988) by Joe R. Lansdale
The Wine-dark Sea (1988 collection), by Robert Aickman
Nightcrawlers (1989), by Robert R. McCammon

2000s:

Just After Sunset (2008 collection), by Stephen King

-------------------------------
Novels:

1930s:

Who Goes There? (1938 novella), by John W. Campbell, Jr.

1950s:


I am Legend (1954), by Richard Matheson
The Haunting of Hill House (1959), by Shirley Jackson

1980s:

Pet Sematary (1983), by Stephen King
Hellbound Heart (1986), by Clive Barker

1990s:

Mrs. God (1990)
The Thief of Always (1992), by Clive Barker
Blindness (1995), by José Saramago
Bag of Bones (1998), by Stephen King

2000s:

From the Dust Returned (2001), by Ray Bradbury
The Terror (2007), by Dan Simmons
Duma Key (2008), by Stephen King

The Terror


The lost Franklin expedition set off in May of 1845 to find that elusive Northwest Passage, was seen by a whaling ship in July of that same year, and then was never seen again. The Terror is a 2007 historical fiction horror novel which tells what happened to them. Author Dan Simmons, whose Hyperion Cantos is a modern science fiction classic, writes a compelling page-turner here.

from the back of the book:
The men on board the HMS Terror -part of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition- are entering a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, stranded in a nightmarish landscape of ice and desolation. Endlessly cold, they struggle to survive with poisonous rations and a dwindling coal supply. But their real enemy is even more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror clawing to get in.
There's mention of a Tasmanian Devil on page 251.

favorite quote:
In a particular moment of rare calm, everything strangely quiet except for his labored breathing, Crozier suddenly recalls a resonant instance from when he was a young boy returning home late one winter evening from an afternoon in the wintry hills with his friends. At first he rushed headlong alone across the frost-rimmed heather, but then he paused half a mile or so from his house. He remembers standing there watching the lighted windows in the village as the last of the winter twilight faded from the sky and the surrounding hills became vague, black featureless shapes, unfamiliar to a boy so young, until even his own house, visible at the edge of town, lost all definition and three-dimensionality in the dying light. Crozier remembers the snow beginning to fall and himself standing there alone in the darkness beyond the stone sheep pens, knowing that he would be cuffed for his tardiness, knowing that arriving later would only make the cuffing worse, but having no will nor want to walk toward the light of home yet. He enjoyed the soft sound of night wind and the knowledge that he was the only boy -perhaps the only human being- out there in the dark on the windy, frozen-grass meadows on this night that smelled of coming snow, alienated from the lighted windows and the warm hearths, very aware that he was of the village but not part of it at that moment. It was a thrilling, almost erotic feeling -an illicit discovery of self separated from everyone and everything else in the cold and dark- and he feels it again now, as he has more than a few times during his years of arctic service at opposite poles of the earth.
Kirkus Reviews describes it as "One of Simmons’ best." The Guardian calls it "A chilling speculation on the fate of Franklin's ill-fated expedition to the Northwest Passage, with added horror to thoroughly freeze your blood". Strange Horizons says, "what a tremendous example of popular fiction this novel is: gripping, vivid, exciting, dream haunting. It's hard to imagine this sort of book being much better written." Horror Novel Reviews reports, "I have it listed in my top five horror novels of all time and believe me, this is a horror novel." The Washington Post says,
The fate of Sir John Franklin's last expedition remains one of the great mysteries of Arctic exploration. What we know, more or less, is this: In the balmy days of May 1845, 129 officers and men aboard two ships -- Erebus and Terror -- departed from England for the Canadian Arctic in search of a Northwest Passage to the Pacific. They were never heard from again. Between 1847 and 1859, Franklin's wife pushed for and funded various relief missions, even as the expectation of finding survivors was replaced by the slim hope for answers.
...
the novel presents a dramatic and mythic argument for how and why Franklin and his men met their demise.
The Wertzone says,
The Terror is a meticulously researched novel. ... The details of shipboard life are fascinating, and Simmons is painstaking in ensuring that the reader understands at all times the options and problems facing the expedition's leaders, ... The characters - virtually all of whom are given the names of the real Franklin Expedition crewmen - are vividly drawn, ... Simmons also nails the biting, freezing atmosphere of the Arctic and imbues the story with some very atmospheric descriptions of the frozen ice landscapes.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

10 Groundbreaking Horror Films

Screen Crush (via SF Signal) has a list of 10 groundbreaking horror films:
The Exorcist
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Frankenstein
Godzilla
The Blair Witch Project
Jaws
Nosferatu
Psycho
Night of the Living Dead
Alien
Surely I can watch the ones I haven't seen before the end of the month. That's my goal.

Silent Horror Films

FearNet has an article on horror films in the era of silent movies in which they say, "These films built the foundation upon which a century of horror movies would be constructed." I think silent horror films are perfect for people whose tolerance for horror is limited by their dislike of the gore/blood/violence and startling jump scenes so often found in today's horror. The silents tend more towards to eerie feeling than towards the startle factor.

The article names these:
Dante's Inferno (1911)
The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920)
The Hands Of Orlac (1924)
Nosferatu (1922)
Phantom (1922)
Faust (1926)
The Student Of Prague (1913)
The Golem: How He Came Into the World (1920)
Destiny (1921)
Warning Shadows (1923)
Häxan (1922)
The Lodger (1927)
Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1920)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
The Cat And The Canary (1927)
The Man Who Laughs (1928)
Wolf Blood (1925)
Hangman's House (1928)
I've linked to posts of the ones I've seen. At those links are videos where you can watch them online.

HT: SFSignal

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Tips for Making Good Coffee

The Atlantic (via Open Culture) has suggestions for making good coffee, and I'm always open to ideas for how to improve my coffee-making skills. The Atlantic explains the history of how coffee quality is judged. They offer these 6 principles:
Buy good coffee beans
Grind your coffee just before brewing
Store your coffee properly
Use the right proportion of coffee to water
Focus on technique
Use quality tools
They say you should consider these 4 variables to make coffee suited to your taste:
The grind size of your coffee beans
The temperature of your water
The amount you agitate your coffee grounds during brewing
The ratio of water to coffee
They say it's less about science and more about art.

The article is adapted from this book, which is only available on iBooks so far. The book's authors Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez have a youtube channel. Here's their video on how to use a pour over coffee maker:


I admit I've never even considered being that accurate in my measurements. I've never owned a scale that could be used this way. I think I'm going to be satisfied with coffee that's "good enough".

Join the T Tuesday party at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog.