Archive for February, 2020

At the movies again, with a new 10 p.m. Friday night “Not-Quite Midnights” Indiana University Cinema feature, Terry Gilliam’s 1977 JABBERWOCKY.  Says the cinema’s program blurb:  Terry Gilliam’s first solo directorial film — less than two years after directing MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL with Terry Jones — is a wildly imaginative tale that follows a young peasant with no taste for adventure as he is mistakenly chosen to rid the kingdom of a ghastly monster threatening the countryside.  Though inspired by a line from a Lewis Carroll poem, “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch,” the film is unquestionably a product of Gilliam’s creative genius.  Restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation.  Contains mature content, including nudity, strong language, and violence.

I recommend it!  I admittedly went with a slightly doubtful feeling, having seen MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL before, the first time enjoying it well enough, but more recently realizing that it was really more a series of skits, any of which could have been good alone on the old MONTE PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS TV show, but which became tedious strung together into a feature length movie.  That is they may have been agreeably silly, and all on a medieval theme tied into a sort of quest plot, but ultimately not really rising to much more than a series of jokes.  Indeed, the docent pointed out before the film that Gilliam himself was anxious to not just produce a repeat but to put his own stamp on JABBERWOCKY, and now having seen it I think he succeeded.  There’s silliness, yes, a lot of it, but now of a kind that grows out of the situations in the film as opposed to being there just for its own sake, and giving the whole a sense of more depth.  A fleshing out of, yes, a still fairly simple plot, but combined with much better production values as well, giving for me a greater sense of completeness.  And, attempted explanations aside, still a lot of fun.

I live near the end of a postal route which means that my mail usually arrives in late afternoon or evening — sometimes in these winter months even after dark, possibly not to be discovered until the next morning.  That’s reflected here when an item often may not get posted until the next day (though of course email items can also not be received until very late) as, for instance, now.

So what Thursday’s mail brought was a fairly bulky padded package, in which was my long-awaited author’s copy of SPACE OPERA LIBRETTOS (cf. January 1, et al.), the book of [d]ramatic, large-scale stories of the distant future, focused on optimism and inclusion and blowing things up.  Weird mashups.  Actual arias.  Fat ladies singing on funeral pyres.  Watery tarts distributing swords optional.  So had said the guidelines and so, at last, it was here — part of the game is that authors’ copies, at least in print, often come slowly, publishers having to fulfill paid customers’ orders first — including my own tale in number three spot, “The Needle Heat Gun,” a saga of heroism and love on an uncharted planet with, if not formal singing, a lot of humming.

If interested, “The Needle Heat Gun” is one of twenty stories of music and outer-space (or thereabouts) mayhem, more on which can be found by pressing here.

Then for a quick Friday addendum (or electronic copies can come much faster), today’s email brought a PDF authors’ copy of SEVEN DEADLY SINS:  LUST (see post just below) with my “A Cup Full of Tears,” a brief recounting of sweet lesbian vampire love.  With it came instructions for also obtaining a paperback copy, but with a warning:  that its arrival might be less quick.

The paperback edition was actually published on Valentine’s Day, so says Amazon, and today the Kindle edition is out.  And not only that, for those who like luxury with their lust, a hardcover option came out today also.  The book:  Black Hare Press’s SEVEN DEADLY SINS:  LUST (cf. February 11, December 8), edited by Ben Thomas and D. Kershaw, and appropriate 365 days a year — or maybe this year a full 366.  My part in this, originally published in MON COEUR MORT (Post Mortem Press, 2011), is “A Cup Full of Tears,” on an evening in the unlife of a female vampire on a recruiting mission.  Or in any event, below is a rundown of the contents from Amazon’s blurb for their paperback entry.

Safe Word by A.L. KingGoodbye, Casanova by A.R. DeanFlaunt by A.R. JohnstonLouve Garou by Blake JessopAramis and Shelby by Catherine KenwellPoison Lust by Cindar HarrellTruly Human by Clint FosterNice Face by D.J. EltonFair Game by Dannielle VieraSexcapades by Dawn DeBraalFreedom by Eddie D. MoorePrimal Urging by Edward AhernMarionette by Erica SchaefZantiel by G. Allen WilbanksChad by Gabriella BalcomOf Oyster Shells and Shit by Hari Navarro#IAmHuman by J.L. RoyceThe Red Pierce Reunion Tour by J.M. MeyerThe Fae’s New Dawn by J.W. GarrettA Cup Full of Tears by James DorrPrey by James LipsonA Matter of Perception by Jason HoldenMermaid at War by Jessica ChaneseL’amour L’mort by Jo SeysenerThe Selkie’s Appetite by Jodi JensenLust for Life, or No Job for an Ordinary Woman by John H. DromeyThe Council of Six and a Half by K.B. ElijahLucifer’s Lament by Lyndsey Ellis-HollowaySanguine Enamel by M.J. ChristieUnplugged by M. Sydnor Jr.Podcast of the Dead by Mark MackeyTiger Nut Sweets by Maura YzmoreTaming the Beast by Maxine ChurchmanTortured Word Games by Michael D. DavisBlooming Day by N.M. BrownI Want You by Nerisha Kemraj My Girl by Nicola CurrieLocal Girls Are Waiting For You by Raven Corinn CarlukThe Stranger by Rhiannon BirdSome Body by Robin BraidGood Intentions by Sandy ButchersDigits of Doom by Serena JayneDamned by Stephanie ScissomI Warned You by Stephen HerczegI Got a Message for You by Sue Marie St. LeeDarkness Consumes by Terry MillerCoitus Interruptus by Thomas KearnesLittle Man of Apartment No 1610 by Tristan Drue RogersWhat Hears Your Prayers by Wondra VanianPi by Ximena EscobarThe Fallen: Lust of the Dragon by Zoey XoltonContains adult themes (my title thoughtfully set here in boldface for quick identification)

For the Kindle edition, from which one can reach its two hard copy manifestations as well, one need but press here.

STUFFED is a documentary about the surprising world of taxidermy. Told through the eyes and hands of acclaimed artists across the world, the film explores this diverse subculture, where sculptors must also be scientists, seeing life where others only see death.  From an all-woman studio in Los Angeles which has elevated taxidermy to the forefront of fashion and modern art, to fine artists in the Netherlands, these passionate experts push creative boundaries.  The film highlights a diversity of perspectives including an anatomical sculptor in South Africa and a big-game taxidermist in Ohio.  And, in an unexpected twist, STUFFED reveals the importance of preserving nature, using taxidermy as its unlikely vehicle, and the taxidermist as its driver.  So says the IU Cinema’s blurb, but of course, as horror readers and writers, what we’re interested in is psycho taxidermists handling people as subjects.

Aren’t we?  That is, I have at least one story on that subject making the rounds now, perhaps not so much about a psycho but about a group that considers human taxidermy not abnormal.  But that’s not the point in watching the film anyway, it’s about what is in its own right a fascinating subject (including in movies — anyone remember the furry fish in the 2001 film BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF?*).

That aside, very little taxidermy today involves things like hunting trophies, as the film pointed out, but rather combines both science and art, especially the former in venues like natural history museums where context — environmental details of an animal’s habitat — can be as important as the main subject.  But also there are artistic approaches, to tell a story perhaps in a scene with multiple subjects.  And there are such concepts as “rogue taxidermy” — creating perhaps a mythical concept combining parts from different animals — or “novelty taxidermy,” a particular fad in Victorian times but coming back, an equivalent of pictures popular not that long ago of things like dogs playing poker (I seem to recall, though the film didn’t say, that frogs in human-like poses were prized in the 1900s), or even fashion, like feathers in women’s hats — but also perhaps an entire small bird.  Also as to the animals themselves, most will have died from natural causes, often already in captivity (think zoos, for instance), or due to accidents as being hit by cars — indeed most taxidermists, having come to cherish life through their art, tend to be avid conservationists as well.

So actually, no, the movie did not discuss stuffing humans, nor did a post-film discussion including IU Biology Department Senior Director Susan Hengeveld and William R. Adams Zooarchaeology Laboratory Director and Anthropology Department Associate Professor Laura L. Schreiber.  But it was still fascinating to watch.

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*In the film’s parlance, an example of rogue taxidermy.

No, the Goth Cat Triana once again stayed at home, concentrating on her important work of holding down the bed.  After all, if she didn’t it could drift away — and then where would either of us be!  Be that as it may, “CatVideoFest 2020” (cf., for 2019, June 8) was also sold out at the Indiana University Cinema, though again I had bought my ticket early.  And it’s for a good cause, as notes the IU Cinema blurb:  A percentage of the proceeds from this event will directly support Lil BUB’s Big FUND, the first national fund for special-needs pets.
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We are excited to welcome Yorick and Grace from the Monroe County Humane Association’s V.I.Paws program to CatVideoFest 2020!  V.I.Paws is an MCHA program intended to share the support and success of the human-animal bond and provide animal-related therapies in the community.   V.I.Paws is a specialized group of volunteer handler and animal teams.
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Yorick and Grace will be positioned in our lower lobby prior to the CatVideoFest 2020 screening from 3:15–4 pm.
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The Ranch Cat Rescue will also be be present for CatVideoFest 2020.
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(In particular, we may recall the late Lil Bub, Bloomington’s own special-need cat and video star who passed, at the age of 8, on December 1 2019, having spent her short life, among other things, publicizing and raising money for animal rescue groups.)
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And of CatVideoFest in general:  CatVideoFest is a compilation reel of the latest and best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, classic Internet powerhouses.  CatVideoFest is a joyous communal experience, only available in theaters, and is committed to raising awareness and money for cats in need around the world.
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Even without Triana’s presence, this afternoon’s presentation was great fun.  Lil Bub was represented too, in one of the videos, as well as a comeback of Henri, le Chat Noir (who in a way we owe for the whole thing), this time with “Part Deux.”  And otherwise, drama, action, thrills, and lots of humor — including a sequence on cats’ relation with beds!
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For an idea of the Fest for yourself, to see the “official” trailer press here.

You don’t get many movies at the IU Cinema that are announced as sold out only days after first being listed, but this was an exception.  The Korean “Best Picture” Oscar winner, PARASITE, but with an added twist.  This would be the black and white version.

Why black and white? As noted by HOLLYWOODREPORTER.COM, Director Bong Joon Ho has suggested, first, that movie classics we remember, the NOSFERATUs, earlier Alfred Hitchcock, et al., were in black and white, so why not modern films as well?  But it’s not done lightly:  The new version of PARASITE was actually made before the original color edition had its premiere in Cannes, where it won the Palme d’Or.  Bong, with his director of photographer and colorist, worked on the new grading shot by shot.

“You can’t just put it in a computer and turn it into black and white,” he said, adding that he faced extra difficulties because he hadn’t considered black and white when working on the film’s production design or art direction, making particular scenes — such as the flooding, with mud water floating around — require extra consideration.

With the color removed, he said, viewers were given a stronger sense of contrast between the rich family and the poor.

“We can focus more on the texture,” he said, emphasizing the “very glossy and clean” surfaces in the house of the rich family.

Or, as the IU Cinema itself put it:  Regarding this version, which was created prior to the film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Director Bong Joon Ho said:

“I’m extremely happy to present PARASITE in black and white and have it play on the big screen.  It will be fascinating to see how the viewing experience changes when an identical film is presented in black and white.  I watched the black and white version twice now, and at times the film felt more like a fable and gave me the strange sense that I was watching a story from old times.”

“The second time I watched it, the film felt more realistic and sharp as if I was being cut by a blade.  It also further highlighted the actors’ performances and seemed to revolve more around the characters.  I had many fleeting impressions of this new version, but I do not wish to define them before it is presented.  I hope everyone in the audience can compare their own experiences from the color version and find their own path to PARASITE in black and white.”

And so it goes.  I have not myself seen the color version, however, so — with memories, granted, of the films cited above, as well as Japanese films like RASHOMON and the original SEVEN SAMURAI, as well as American film noir classics — I (having bought my ticket well in advance), went into the theater prepared for what might be an unusual experience.  And in short, it was, with I thought the black and white version working quite well as an Asian sort of film noir in its own right, but quite a bit more too.  And — very possibly — better than it might have been in the color version.

Beyond that, the docent said before the film that “a lot of fun for this movie comes from not knowing anything about it,” though adding three points that pervade the film:  (1) that “money tends to smooth rich people out” — that is, despite being ignorant of those below them, they seem nice; (2) a lack of class solidarity (particularly in the lower orders); (3) the hand of American capitalism coloring all, e.g. “[knowledge of] English is almost like a commodity.”  In an earlier blurb, the IU Cinema classed the film’s genres as Drama and Thriller, though I was also struck by how funny the film is, in a knowing, satirical manner at first but, in the end, also darkly hilarious.  Also while not a horror film, really, there are horror tropes.  And mostly, in a perverse kind of sense, it’s a film about family — at least in my opinion.

Then, finally, to quote the “earlier” IU Cinema blurb:  Winner of the 2019 Cannes Palme d’Or, Bong Joon Ho’s newest film is a darkly comedic, genre tale of class struggle that has drawn comparisons to Jordan Peele’s US.  Ki-taek’s family is close, but fully unemployed, with a bleak future ahead of them.  Ki-woo, Ki-taek’s son, is recommended for a well-paid tutoring job, spawning the promise of a regular income.  Carrying the expectations of all his family, Ki-woo heads to the Park family home for an interview.  Arriving at the house of Mr. Park, the owner of a global IT firm, Ki-woo meets Yeon-kyo, the beautiful young woman of the house.  Following this first meeting between the two families, an unstoppable string of mishaps lies in wait.  In Korean with English subtitles.  Contains mature content. 

Once again the third Sunday of the month and time again for the Bloomington Writers Guild “Third Sunday Write” (see November 18, et al.).  These are sessions where a bunch of us will be given prompts, assignments, whatever for timed (short) writing sessions, sometimes resulting in usable ideas for subsequent stories or poems, otherwise possibly only for fun.  But one never knows, my most recent story for instance came out of just a portion of a long past exercise, combined with some quite unrelated ideas — or at least until they became parts of the story.  But mostly . . . well . . . this time one cue was to make a list of things done every day — in my case I picked things I did every morning.  Then we were to pick just one item, but draw it out into a set of instructions (so others, presumably, could do it too?)

So we ran out of time fast (in fact, I had to complete my last half-sentence in “overtime”), but here’s my contribution:

“FEEDING THE CAT

“1.  It is important, first, to avoid stepping on the cat — the cat’s breakfast should be a full and enjoyable experience for all involved.

“2.  So, deftly avoiding the cat’s extremities, reach down and pick up her water dish.  CAREFUL, DON’T SPILL IT!

“3.  The Water Dish:  Empty it first into the sink, then run water in it to wash it out — use fingers, if needed, to capture soggy bits of food the cat may have dropped in it.

“4.  Then fill it with fresh water just over half full, and bend down again carefully placing it gently on the newspaper that serves as the cat’s place mat, being careful, again, not to let it spill when the curious and/or hunger-crazed cat tries to head-butt it out of your hand. . . . ”

(Perhaps next month we’ll learn that the other bowl is used for dry food, along with the extra challenges that may bring.)

(And older cats can use it as well)

This will be another quickie report, that BURNING LOVE AND BLEEDING HEARTS (see February 5, January 20) is now available in paperback format. To let Amazon tell it:  Britain’s most respected living horror writer Ramsey Campbell has said of this magazine-sized charity book of short stories:- “A fine anthology for a fine cause.  Invest your imagination in it and you’ll be investing in the world as well.”  BURNING LOVE AND BLEEDING HEARTS is a collection of dark Valentine’s Day tales; a charity anthology to raise funds for the Australian bush-fire victims, and ALL sale proceeds will be donated to the Australian Red Cross.  For more information, including a list of all authors and titles, one need but press here.  (Or if preferred, the Kindle edition, to be released officially Friday for Valentine’s Day, is available for pre-order as well.)

That is to say the anthology SEVEN DEADLY SINS:  LUST (cf. February 6, December 8 2019), Black Hare Press’s promised compilation of tales of . . . well . . . lust, careening toward a less-than-two-weeks-after-Valentine’s Day, February 25 release.  My story in this, a brief tip of the hat (or other item of clothing) to sweet lesbian vampire love, “A Cup Full of Tears,” originally published in MON COEUR MORT (Post Mortem Press, 2011).  But before publication, the details of authors’ biographies must be checked over to ensure correctness.

So yesterday late afternoon, mine was.




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