Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Message From Charlie Brown to the Rest of the Peanuts Cast

Guess what? You're all fired. Merry Christmas, bitches.
You people have been swimming in my wake for way, way too many years now, and it's time I set you straight. You jagoffs make fun of me when I try to put a Christmas pageant together and then act like a tree makeover and a little off-key caroling at the end is going to patch things up. You know what? Screw you people. I can replace every one of you. It's time you learned that little lesson. I am the only star in this mess. I'm the only one with any negotiating power.
That goes double for you, Snoopy. You think you're special because you got a Macy's float? My aching ass. You know how many Lassie's there were? I can bury you in the backyard and have a replacement beagle doing your happy dance with his water dish today. You want to try me? You feel strong? I'll take a hammer to you. I don't care anymore.
The rest of you are going to be hired back as temps. No benefits. No bonuses. And any one of you could be waiting tables at the Burbank Chuck E. Cheese by the time I finish my spa treatment. Get used to it.
Except for Lucy. You know what it means to be tricked into kicking a football and doing a backflip onto the asphalt three times a month? It means you're kicking a Percodan addiction when you're seven years old. Thanks for that. You're gone. Marcie is doing your lines, and you're gonna pull a Shannen Doherty. You'll be crapped out of the porn industry within two years. Mark. My. Word.
It's not called "Merry Christmas, Schroeder," jerkwads. You're going to show some goddamn respect, or I will put an end to every one of you.
Hey, Linus. Get me my fuckin' latte.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I'm More of a "Kill You and Drink Your Blood" Kind of Vampire

Look, before this goes further... let's clear something up:

I don't want to date you, okay? I'm not interested in a relationship. I get the feeling you probably think we're going to have some kind of weird, offbeat connection. A few chance meetings near the cemetery just after sunset. We'll know it's wrong, but we won't be able to help ourselves. We'll talk. We'll stand too close together. And we'll come back for more, again and again until a strange kind of love blooms between us, and I let you into my dark world.

Yeah, well... That's not gonna happen.

I just attack the living and drink their blood. I don't get all fancy with it.

Here's how I do things: I get hungry. I wait in a dark alley or behind a dumpster, and just grab someone and drink their blood. It could be an old lady or an overweight dude with a combover and terrible BO. I don't care who they are or what they look like. You remember the last time you found a really weird potato chip in the bag? Strange shape? Maybe a little green? I bet you ate it, didn't you? That's my point. I don't get involved. It's the same reason people don't name the animals on a farm.

Look at me. I'm dressed in a filthy track suit with a picture of Tweety Bird on the back. That's because 20 minutes ago I traded clothes with a dead guy in the parking lot of a Sizzler. (I love Sizzler. People walking out of that thing move slow. They're like stunned cattle, which is pretty ironic. I could do an ad for PETA).

I'm sorry if you're disappointed. Let's just say that some folks -- I won't name names -- go on TV or appear in the movies and ruin it for the rest of us. I run across people like you every day, and they always want something I just can't give them. Don't feel bad. Happens all the time.

Tell you what. If you want a little excitement... I'll give you a five minute head start.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Killing Vampires, Necromancy, and Making Pacts with the Devil

Here is footage collected by the creators of Across the Forest: Tales from Transylvania (not the trailer, which I posted earlier). I assume this made it into the final documentary, because it is WILD. A man admits to making a pact with the devil to get a strigoi out of his tree. A woman describes how she pounded a nail into a corpse to end the curse of a vampire. Another guy admits to dabbling in necromancy. This looks like a fascinating film.

I am using the term "strigoi" interchangeably with "vampire." Is that accurate? Eh, kinda sorta... The Stoker scholar Elizabeth Miller has a whole discussion on whether Transylvania has "vampire folklore." I think the terms are close enough; vampires are pretty universal. But check it out for yourself.

The Real Vampires of Transylvania

This is the trailer for Across the Forest: Tales from Transylvania, and it features the real people in villages across that legendary province telling about their encounters with the supernatural. Here is the website, where you can buy the DVD, and the Facebook page, which has photos and more information about the project.

I haven't seen it yet, but I am buying my copy now, and I will report back. As many of you may know, the famous story by that Stoker guy actually didn't feature too much in the way of Transylvanian lore (For more information on that, check out this book on the subject by your humble correspondent). The vampires you see in movies and read about in novels are creatures of a Western European literary tradition (English and Irish mostly). All this has tended to obscure the folklore of the real Transylvania. It's great (and really, really overdue) that filmmakers went out to capture it.

For more information, check out the review on the blog Taliesin Meets the Vampires. There is also an interesting interview with one of the filmmakers on Reddit. The interview has a tidbit on a particularly weird and disturbing folk belief:

An old lady told us of the "Horses of Saint Toader". These are men-horses who roam the village streets after midnight and "pick-up" young ladies who are late getting back home. They then take them to a kind of satanic folk-dance where they "dance them to death."

And that launches a whole discussion of dancing epidemics that occurred in medieval times. Isn't the internet cool?

(Note: Special thanks to my friend Sid W. for the tip).

Monday, November 22, 2010

This is a Death Cult, NOT a Pyramid Scheme

Greetings! Glad you could make it. Your brother Jason told me about some concerns that you had, and I wanted to come out of my mind-connect with the Astartians to address them. As you know, we are waiting for the first Friday in May to arrive at the Four Selected Shoney's franchises where we will take 42 blood sacrifices before shedding our earth bodies. We're all clear on that, right? Everybody's pretty excited to finally meet the Ones Above.

And because of this, we will need certain tools:

AR-15 rifles and ammunition;
24 smoke grenades;
Nylon rope;
Matching jump suits, colored red and green in accordance with the Scriptures of Steve.

There are other items of course, but the point is we are going through the sowing season, and we are now gathering funds for the Shoney's Rite. And to do that we are selling Northprise Beauty and Home Products to friends and relatives. We've been able to raise more than $20,000 in three months alone, and we are about a quarter of the way to our final goal.

Now, most of you understand why selling soaps and scrub brushes from Northprise helps us reach Total Overcoming. But some people are questioning why they have to kick up 20% of their sales to their Peer Leaders. It's simple. I get that. If you've been pounding the sidewalk like Teresa here, and you managed to pull off a $2,000 weekend, you feel like you should be credited for the whole amount. If you've put in the hours that Jason has, calling everyone in his family to sell Norbait Mouse Traps, you want to qualify for that Exalted Red Chair on the Sacrificial Chariot that will carry us beyond the stars. Totally understandable. But unfortunately, that's not what the Scriptures of Steve tell us. They clearly say that the Lowlier Ones will pay the One-In-Five Credits in the Great Sowing Season to their leaders, as a way of honoring their commitment to the sacrifice. I'm taking it right from the book, people.

Look, cementing your relationship with your Peer Leaders is as important as selling Northprise Products. I know we all drive Lincoln Continentals, and once a week I and the Peer Leaders go out for the Time of Sinning at that club. But we do that to keep sanctified. We do that for you.

Look, it's not about making money, folks. It's about making 42 people taste the Wrath of the Sacrifice, and then dying in a shootout with local authorities. Sure, I could tell you to keep your money. It would be easier for all of us, wouldn't it? But then we wouldn't be doing the right thing... Am I right? Am I right? I thought so.

Okay. Now let's get out there and sell some bodyscrub!

A Real-Life Frankenstein Tale

In 1803 a scientist named Aldini and his team pulled the corpse of a convicted killer fresh from the gallows, brought him to a packed hall at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, and hooked him up to a very large electrical battery. That's when the fun began:

When Aldini applied conducting rods, connected to a large battery, to Forster's face, "the jaw began to quiver, the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and the left eye actually opened". The climax of the performance came as Aldini probed Forster's rectum, causing his clenched fist to punch the air, as if in fury, his legs to kick and his back to arch violently.

The effect was called "galvanism," and an 1836 illustration of it is above. Read the rest of the gory details in this fascinating article in the Guardian here.

Mary Shelley would later describe how experiments like this excited her and made her think: "Perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued [sic] with vital warmth." I found the quote in the excellent Frankenstein: A Cultural History by a friend of mine named Susan Tyler Hitchcock.

The Face of the Devil

I found this on Wikimedia, and the picture is by Giovanni Dall'Orto.

The description says it is the "head of an Italian automaton (The Devil), carved in wood, 15th and 16th centuries, from the Wunderkammer owned by Ludovico Settala. It could roll its eyes and move its tongue, emit a noise and spit smoke from the mouth. Applied Arts Collections Museum in the Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy."

Below is a full-body shot, also from Dall'Orto:

The Story Behind "The Pit and the Pendulum"

NOTE: This is the beginning of a series of posts in which I try to find all the helpful source material and commentary available online for horror's greatest tales.

If you want to discover the story behind The Pit and The Pendulum, you should start with the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia Library, which has a definitive version of The Pit itself here. Poe's story begins with a Latin inscription:

Impia tortorum longas hic turba furores / Sanguinis innocui, non satiata, aluit. / Sospite nunc patria, fracto nunc funeris antro, / Mors ubi dira fuit, vita salusque patent.

The UVA library version actually translates it, which is helpful:

Here the wicked mob, unappeased, long cherished a hatred of innocent blood. Now that the fatherland is saved, and the cave of death demolished; where grim death has been, life and health appear.

Poe describes this quatrain as being composed on the gate of a market erected over the site of the Jacobin Club House in Paris. Over at Blogicaster, there is a detailed investigation about where these verses really came from. Evidently, the "market gates" was artistic license.

The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore has a wealth of information about this story, including:

  • A list of printings of the story, with some versions transcribed online.
  • An essay by James Lundquist about how the tale is a kind of religious allegory about salvation.
  • A draft of a 1936 lecture which characterizes the tale as a "Tale of Pseudo Science." The lecturer, Richard Hart, has developed a system for classifying all of Poe's work based on the kinds of evils the protagonist faces.
  • A short piece that describes how Poe was influenced by a book on the Koran and Arabian history in describing the tortures his main character faced.

Scholars say that Poe was also influenced by a short story called "The Iron Shroud" by William Mudford. You can find the text here. It is a classic Gothic tale, overwrought and lurid and full of dark, dismal fun. The piece appeared in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine more than a decade before The Pit. Poe even mocked this style of writing in his humorous piece entitled How to Write a Blackwood Article. But that didn't keep him from using the style for his own purposes.

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