television

Things I Liked This Month: February

This post comes from the feelings I had included in an earlier post titled, “Bookishly Me.” One of the points was about how I was feeling a bit underwhelmed by book trends, reviews, and blogging. So, instead of wallowing in some sort of Medieval pit of despair that only the internet can provide, I’ve decided on a sort of “wrap-up.” Here is a collection of Things I Liked This Month: February Edition.

Besides the above illustration, this digest (in no particular order) includes posts from bloggers that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in February, my favorite things from Acid Free Pulp, and other bric-a-brac that I’ve collected from this month.

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I recently re-watched French short film, Entr’act, from 1922 that I wrote a dreadful paper on when I was a college student. I always really liked it and have watched it many, many times. You should, too. It can be viewed in its entirety on Youtube.

The Public Domain Review shared “A Relation of an Extraordinary Sleepy Person (ca.1698),” which is a “Royal Society paper delivered by Dr William Oliver describing a bizarre case he encountered of a man who fell into a ‘profound sleep’ from which no-one could wake him for a full month.”

It was loads of fun writing a most recent post titled, “Storytelling: True Detective and The King in Yellow.” If you haven’t seen the show or read the book, now is the time. Amazon lists the book as #1 Bestseller in Classic Literature & Fiction.

Nina at Multo(Ghost) wrote a post about “The Spectre Girl,” a 19th Century short story utilizing the woman in white lore. I always love all of her posts, but I am a fan of folklore, campfire stories, and white ladies, so this one especially stood out to me. It also is personally poignant as I have just watched my first episode of Supernatural and a ghostly white lady was the central plot.

The streets of Kiev are filled with violence and protest, but in an unexpected change of pace, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published photos of Ukrainian artists taking to the streets to create art. Check the rest out here.

If you need a mental health break today, take a look at the comments section for the post, “‘Beyond the Door’ by Philip K. Dick.” Watch some Twilight Zone and goof off. There are a couple of good recs left in the comments.

“What Did It Mean to be a Female Detective in the Nineteenth Century?” is bookwormchatterbox’s most recent post and she delves into the genre and highlights specific examples. Read it. It’s well-thought out and easily accessible for anyone interested in the origins of the modern sleuth and how female literary detectives were often overshadowed by others like Sherlock Holmes.

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Storytelling: True Detective and The King in Yellow

If you are not already watching my new television obsession True Detective, what are you doing here? Go watch and then we’ll talk. True Detective is an anthology series written by the novelist Nic Pizzolatto.¹ It is an eerie and unsettling look at two detectives who are tracking a potential serial killer in 1995 and are recounting the events separately during a mysterious police inquiry in 2012.

True Detective. Episode 5. Photo from HBO.

Detective Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) looks a little fleshier with a little less hair in the more recent year, but an even more interesting draw is Det. Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), who went from a brooding, introvert who takes a sketch pad to crime scenes so he can visually document what he sees to a gaunt, long-haired alcoholic in the “manic street preacher” genre.² There are elements of the uncanny that give me an uneasy feeling when watching. The show was shot in southern Louisiana, portraying that haunted beauty that only the American South can capture (they’ve won my hearts over with Spanish moss and the 24-hour chirping of hidden insects).

But less about television and more about books. Like previously mentioned the show was created and written by a novelist. Nic Pizzolatto recently revealed that he includes inspiration from the 1895 short story collection The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers. The King in Yellow itself is full of the eerie and unsettling. The stories are painted with broad strokes of the macabre, which horror fans are sure to appreciate. Because of all of the hoopla on the internet about the book and episode five’s Sunday airing (Amazon reports that the 119 year old book’s sales shot up 71% over night), I figured I would write a little about it and my favorite story from the collection.

The stories’ locations oscillate between New York City and Paris, with some of the stories mentioning an unholy play called The King in Yellow that will drive a reader insane. Snippets of the play are scattered throughout the collection and characters often make mention of it or the Yellow King, a character from the play.

artwork by ZlayerOne

Not only is “The Repairer of Reputations” my favorite, it is also the first, giving the collection a strong opening. The story takes place in the close-future from the book’s publication–1920–and is told from the POV of Hildred Castaigne. We learn that Hildred fell from his horse four years earlier and was sent to an insane asylum for treatment. From the start, the story leads us into a skewed version of 1920 New York City: there has been a “repeal of the laws prohibiting suicide…when the first Government Lethal Chamber was opened on Washington Square.”

As the story progresses, the reader gets the impression that Hildred is no longer the out-going youth he once was, but now has become obsessed with this dastardly censored text called The King in Yellow, which drives men insane, and often visits with one Mr. Wilde, who is a “repairer of reputations” (blackmail and scandal!). Hildred’s narration becomes more delusional as he becomes further engrossed with the play. He often thinks of the characters and their plights, attributing them to his own life,

I remembered Camilla’s agonized scream and the awful words echoing through the dim streets of Carcosa. They were the last lines in the first act, and I dared not think of what followed–dared not…

As Hildred’s first-person narration becomes more outlandish and his behavior can easily be categorized as most bizarre, his reliability is of course doubted. Once his unreliability comes into question, the reader will doubt the details Hildred earlier revealed. Like Hildred in “The Repairer of Reputations,” Dets. Cohle and Hart are not as they first appear and their reliability can certainly be questioned. How the viewer/reader sees events and details are extremely important to both Chambers and Pizzolatto.

Robert W. Chambers

The fictional play within the book and the loosely fitted connection it has throughout a chunk of the stories has inspired authors including HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, Raymond Chandler and many others. Also, it is clear that Chambers himself was inspired by great horror writers like Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce, even taking the latter’s name for Carcosa, a fictional city, and utilizing it heavily throughout The King in Yellow. Chambers’ two motifs, the Yellow King and the Yellow Sign, are clearly interpreted in True Detective (don’t worry–no spoilers from me) and Pizzolatto loves including images and lines from the fictional play within the book,

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

*The King in Yellow is available for free in the public domain through Zola BooksProject Gutenberg and Feedbooks.

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Further information…
  1. And with music coordinated by T Bone Burnett!
  2. Love New York magazine’s approval matrix noting that True Detective should win the Best Toupee Emmy.
  3. Try doing a Google image search for the book; lots of fan art that looks like it should be on a Led Zeppelin album cover.

The Jim Moriarty Mixtape Playlist

While re-watching the previous episodes of Sherlock in anticipation of the new season this past Sunday, I noticed that über-villain and super criminal Jim Moriarty often listens to his headphones, leading me to ponder his ultimate mixtape playlist…

  1. The Thieving Magpie by Gioachino Rossini. What else is there to listen to while you are breaking in to steal the Crown Jewels filmed with a cinematic wink to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange?
  2. Testify by Rage Against the Machine. Actually, I think pretty much any RATM song suits the “consulting criminal,” but this just seems a perfect match. Runners up: Killing in the NameBulls on Parade from the aptly named album Evil Empire.
  3. Send Me an Angel by Real Life. For all those cozy moments when Moriarty tells Sherlock that, unlike him, he is on the side of the angels.
  4. Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon. Mutilating old ladies and warnings of potential evisceration warm this international criminal’s heart.
  5. Antenna by Kraftwerk. Richard Brook, or is it Reichenbach? All those zeros and ones, and the elusive all-mighty computer algorithm that controls everything. German plus computers obviously equals Kraftwerk.
  6. Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees. The song that Moriarty is listening to on his headphones right before that infamous rooftop scene.
  7. Fever by Peggy Lee. Partly, because I imagine him listening to this at the end of a day full of dastardly deeds and also, for any of you fans of the second option to how Sherlock faked his own death in the first episode of season 3.
  8. Sonata for solo violin No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001 by Johann Sebastian Bach. Moriarty mocks Sherlock’s playing of this solo violin Bach piece.
  9. Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen. It’s always been Moriarty’s endgame for Sherlock to kill himself and what better song to make that psychotic Irishman flash his sly smirk.
  10. Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash. Because he doesn’t let getting thrown in the tank get him down.
  11. Money by The Sonics. “Give me money/that’s what I want”. Simple lyrics tell it all. Power, money, and attention.
  12. I am the Walrus by The Beatles. Just because, really.

Poe Ho Ho

poe ho ho

I’m taking a few days off (in fact, this post was pre-scheduled), so I leave you with Poe Ho Ho, the Christmas card I sent out this year. I hope everyone can get a few days break to relax. Here are a few bookish and not so bookish links from this blog and around the internet just for you to leisurely peruse:

  • The Following. Über-villain Joe Carroll, who once was a literature professor and failed novelist before he turned to serial killing, escapes prison with the help of his cult of groupies. Not the greatest show ever made, but I can’t resist the fact that the killer is obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe. Nevermore is smeared in blood plenty of times and icons of Poe litter their creepy lair. Schlocky and ridiculous? Yes. Do people in creepy Poe masks immolate others in public? You bet. Marilyn Manson’s cover of “Sweet Dreams?” Of course! All can be watched on Netflix featuring what is essentially the soundtrack from Donnie Darko
  • Things I’ve Learned as a Writer: Craft. Last weeks post concerning craft and four things to consider when writing. Also, open to any more suggestions.
  • Photomicrography. This is something I’ve been oblivious to, but apparently there are a few contests honoring photomicrography. This year’s winner of Olympus Bioscapes is Dr. Igor Siwanowicz with a photo of a carnivorous plant called a bladderwort. All photos are stunning. Nikon also had a competition and a gallery of current and past winners.
  • Sad Cat Diary. 95% of the internet is fueled by photos and videos of cats. True fact.
  • Paperback Game. For those game inclined book lovers out there, try the paperback game which Dwight Garner wrote about in the New York Times. All rules are laid out and he even writes about another game that Christopher Hitchens played “that involved replacing the word ‘love’ in famous book titles with the phrase ‘hysterical sex.’ … Thus you’d get titles like ‘Hysterical Sex in the Time of Cholera.'”
  • The First Film Adaptation of A Christmas CarolAccording to Interesting Literature, the first film adaptation of this Dickens work was in 1901. Look at those special effects!
  • Santa Claus. I, myself, can be a bit of a Scrooge. I’m not a fan of Christmas music, but I do like The Sonics and they have a song called “Santa Claus.” Give it a try. All of the cool kids are doing it.

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