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BLOT: (26 Jan 2015 - 09:21:33 AM)

The man behind Berberian Sound Studio has made a strange, stylish erotic domination love story featuring lesbian entomologists...The Duke of Burgundy.

Berberian Sound Studio was one of my favorite movies to watch last year (or did I see it the year before). It was stylish, strange, almost ethereal. The ending is odd and unclassifiable, and the sense of dread and despair is eked out of simple moments, largely tied into the spectre of loneliness and confusion. Toby Jones is a delight, and it immediately made me want to go on the lookout for more by director/writer Peter Strickland. Looks like that time is now, with The Duke of Burgundy.

Two women in bed in an embrace with head turned to feet

It appears to be stylishly-erotic, strange movie featuring two women in a lesbian relationship mostly marked by domination and doubt, and at least one of the women is either an entomologist or has a hobby of moths (even the title refers to a type of butterfly), and there are some questions of identity as hinted about by some wigs and changes of costume. I think. From what I can tell with the brief reviews I've glanced at, it involves no nudity and only hints of sex, and assuming it follows Strickland's formula in Berberian Sound Studio, I have a feeling that there will be moments of loss-of-coherence. I'm excited for it, and not entirely in the wa-hey! sense. Berberian Sound Studio is possibly the most Aickman of any movie I have seen, an ode to the absurdity of life from someone trickling towards the edge of normality with a hint of something like fear but not quite, not always. That might not be the case, here, but I sure hope it is.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: January 2015


BLOT: (23 Jan 2015 - 09:27:11 PM)

Old EC Ad: If you hate comics, you're a communist!

In red text, 'ARE YOU A RED DUPE?'

Found this gem while reading the recentish E.C. Archives: Tales from the Volume 5 (a collection reprinting digitally recolored versions of Tales from the Crypt issues 41-46). These are the final issues of the title's run, and pressure had been mounting against E.C. due to attacks that comic books were destroying the youth. A generally ridiculous claim in hindsight, but at the time it was one backed quite sensationally by Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent.* This was very close in time with a now-somewhat-infamous Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearings against comics, in which Wertham was a key witness and where E.C. Comic's own William Gaines testified on the pro-comics side.

Just four issues from the end, the above question popped up on the opening page of Tales of the Crypt 43. Followed by an anti-Soviet comic somewhat humorously tied into Mad's Melvin motif. Then a few statements of something-like-facts, building up this central claim:

In black, bold text, 'THE GROUP MOST ANXIOUS TO DESTROY COMICS ARE THE COMMUNISTS!'

It's a fascinating tactic from the end of the height of McCarthy's brand of Red Scare. Especially since the sort of moral-majority types that were bubbling behind the juvenile delinquency claims are the very ones who would probably be most pissed at the communist label.

The tactic goes a bit...pear-shaped...when the big plot twist claim is that Wertham was [with no evidence to back this up] ghost-written by Gershon Legman, a cultural critic who, when not speaking out against [sexual] censorship and standing up for sexual freedom, apparently wrote for the Daily Worker. That's a COMMUNISTIC DIRTY RED RAG! That's AIRTIGHT!

At least the whole thing ends on a somewhat "forgiving" note when it lets you know that the guy down the street who tells you that comics are evil isn't guaranteed to be a communist, he might just be a dupe:

In black, text: So the NEXT time some joker gets up at a P.T.A. meeting, or starts jabbering about the 'naught comic books' at your local candy store, give him the ONCE-OVER. We're not saying he IS a communist! He may be innocent of the whole thing! He may be a DUPE! He may not even READ the 'Daily Worker'! It's just that he's SWALLOWED the RED BAIT...HOOK, LINE, and SINKER!

I love the "He may not even read the Daily Worker!". Ah, that's good. Good stuff.

You can see the whole page, below. Click to embiggen. Note, full version is kind of sizable (9ish megabytes).

Full page ad explaining only communists are out to destroy comics...and dupes...

Alas, this failed to persuade anyone. Truth be told, though, the writing was wearing down fast (the artwork was getting better, mind). While without the Comics Code problems, Tales from the Crypt would probably have lasted at least another year, it would have likely been a poor one. Better to die mostly-young and still-somewhat-beautiful, I suppose.

* Other claims by Wertham, beyond the general delinquency ones, were that Batman + Robin = Gay Sex, Superman's a fascist, and Wonder-Woman = bondage. All sounds reasonable to me.

Book Culture

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: January 2015


BLOT: (20 Jan 2015 - 09:09:02 PM)

Wrong Turns 6, 1, and 2

I watched, recently, half of the Wrong Turn movies—featuring sexy-young-things versus incest cannibal hillbilly mutants in West Virginia, for those not in the know—in the following order: 6 (aka, Last Resort), 1 (the original), and then 2 (aka, Dead End). There's a reason behind that. I had mostly skipped Wrong Turn, having gotten it mixed up a bit with Joy Ride and even though I kind of liked Joy Ride, the first one, alright, I did not really see too much of a need to dive into even more 2000's sequel-horror. However, I heard that Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort had an issue where the studio had to blur out some photographs, because it decided to spice up some missing persons posters in-film by using a real-life missing person photo, and I had to see that. How did the studio handle it? Like this (unedited by me):

In both, they left shots involving actors from the movie unblurred, but took out the others with a sledgehammer of a blur tool. Some photos are being discussed by the characters, but a few of the finer points of what they are discussing are lost. It makes for an intentional surreal moment. Since presumably the pictures not related to the actual missing persons case are possibly re-insertible, there might be a re-release that has these unblurred, but I have no idea if anyone would care to fix part 6 of a direct-to-DVD release sequel-horror.

As for the movie itself, it was ok. I would say that it was in no way objectively a great movie, even though it did have a couple of scenes—most notably the juxtaposition between the hunting of the sheriff and the hunting of the deer—that were well shot and set up a decent mood, and it handled the ironic salvation of the main character well—by becoming closer to his mutant hillbilly cannibal incest family, he is gaining humanity. It also has strictly-consensual-sex, which can be kind of odd for the genre that tends to toss rape scenes in because why not (something that is actually sort of explained in movie). Topping it off, it continues to [apparently] build up on the mythos of the Wrong-Turn-iverse, and all-in-all, still seems to care somewhat about the series, something not always true when it comes to sixth-installments.

Anyhow, had enough questions and so I pried into the first one, the only theatrical release one in the bunch, and found out that the sixth (as well as the fourth and the fifth) is a prequel, which gave me the false notion that the eponymous resort would somehow tie into the other movies. No. All the family story. The resort. News about the region. All that is dropped. What is explained is why the three "brothers" that ran around in 80s-camp make-up were meant to be taken seriously. In the original, the effects are Stan Winston Studio designs, and they are pretty damned amazing as practical masks that can take a beating as the actors run around and fight in them. By the time the budget bottoms out, the best special effects are gone, but as something like stand-ins for the originals, I get it. I even kind of respect it.

Watching the first one, I was fairly impressed. The acting is not always superb, but it works, especially in the two leads [Eliza Dushku and Desmond Harrington] and the strange mutants. The set-up is pretty simple—young sexy things are stranded in the woods after a car accident and decide to walk for help—but it gets in old cabins and pine farms and rustic gas stations (the kind that Cabin in the Woods warned you about) and old fire towers and it has this ridiculous slow chase scene through pine branches that is simultaneously its nadir and zenith, and an explosion. In a log cabin. Damn. Good times. In fact, my review is best summed up with a tweet:

So now I'm hooked. I want to see how one became the other, and so sat down and watched Wrong Turn 2: Dead End and it is exactly the kind of movie that is good in ways that most people wouldn't like it. I don't mean "It's so bad, it's good," I mean that it has a lot of heart—from Henry Rollins having a damn good time hamming it up as a drill sergeant type to the director wearing a Battle Royale t-shirt—and kind of a fun, high-concept story—the characters are contestants in a reality show whose theme is that they are in a backwoods apocalypse having to survive things like...well...mutant hillbilly incest cannibals...but then also has annoying characters and really contrived set-ups that are kind of funny but not always good movie-material. The behind the scenes machinations of the reality-TV show were probably too few, and the mutants are a bit more superhuman this time around, but the set-up is overall the good parts of Troma without quite the full-Troma package, including an explanation for things a lot more Troma than what Wrong Turn 6 set-up. And the effects are still quite functional. It is not a perfect hit, but it is very much so the kind of movie you can get drunk while watching.

So now I am on to the other half, the end to the original trilogy and the first two prequels. I have no idea what to expect, but I'm a little excited. See you with an update in a few days. Will the Wrong-Turn-iverse be split by conflicting Dead End/Last Resort origin stories? Time. Will. Tell.

Horror Movies

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: January 2015


BLOT: (19 Jan 2015 - 08:30:14 PM)

The strange persistent existence of food-based urban legends and a generational claim issue

In today's article from the Daily Offbeat, The Kentucky Fried Myth Of KFC Gets Battered, Tony Sokol writes, "A rumor hit the internet earlier this year claiming that KFC changed its name to KFC because the chain uses mutated chickens with extra limbs...". He then quotes a a Business Insider article that also talks about the myth. Both articles note that the myth has been around before, but both sort of lay a patina of contradictory newness at the same time. Urban legends, generally speaking, are both new and old at the same time: one generation's "man calling to see if anyone is home" becomes another's "man chatting with children to see if parent's are home" becomes another's "man is.." whatever. What's funny in this case is that not only is this one already hit once before—Snopes cites a 1999 email and the 2001 American Gods includes a reference to it—but it is patently the second most ridiculous food-based urban legend I know.*

While on the subject, here are some other Food based urban legends. Note the persistence of some of them. The actually true Apple-Seeds-Contain-Cyanide one shows up all the time [that video at least mentions that it takes a lot of apple seeds], and Pop Rocks + Coke has some new life in the combination of Mentos and Diet Coke. Old myths repackaged with some new labels.

I imagine there are reasons why these urban legends persist from generation to generation. For one, people who heard them years ago lose some degree of context and so resurface them, changing details, possibly inadvertently, to make them seem more reasonable based on a current-worldview. This ties into a certain generational claim, these persistent myths become our myths as we update them, truer for us than they have ever been before, and the fact that they keep changing details but keep the same rough structure implies that the general form of them that appeals to near-timeless rumor: companies doing bad things, healthy foods that aren't healthy, hidden dangers known to those with knowledge, crazy ideas that are just "too weird to be made up". Plus, urban legends tends to be popular and yet vague, so that while we all hear about the kid eating candy and drinking soda and dying from it, we never quite seem to hear the whole story and this might actually help it to resurface, for when we hear it again, it fits a pattern we heard...somewhere...before.

I quote a lot of Snopes in this article, but what's sort of fun is that Snopes has an article from it's "TROLL" section that claims that KFC really changed its name to avoid Kentucky litigation. Ah Snopes, you tricksters, you.

Just think, in 15 years, you will get to hear, again, how apple seeds contain cyanide. And how KFC is selling you mutant chickens, or maybe vat-meat. And how some candy+soda combination killed a kid somewhere. And some of those will be told as though they were brand new.

* The dumbest is the $250 Neiman Marcus cookie recipe, which requires people to believe a number of facts unrelated to how the real world works. Going along with the theme of this post, numerous versions of that have existed since at least 1948, for a variety of foods and reasons why someone would be forced to pay it.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: January 2015


BLOT: (05 Jan 2015 - 03:02:14 PM)

My simple little RGB matching game. Want to see how good you are at matching colors?

I had a plan for a HSV (hue, saturation, value) matching game where you are given one color (a target HSV) and a current/starting color and then a number of steps (say 17) to get the starting color to the target color by single steps on either the H, S, or the V. It was a way to explore how one hue is related to another hue, or to the same hue with another saturation, etc. Oh, the trick is that you only see the color, not the number, so you learn the relationship as a visual difference, not a mathematical one.

I realized I could relatively easily make something similar, using RGB values (values of red, green, and blue) and Javascript. The player is given a target color and a starting color adds|subtracts} {red|green|blue} one step at a time and matches the colors by watching how the shade of color changes. The values are restricted to sixteen steps (to stop you from having hundreds of possibility per color). Options are added to allow you to match either the red, green, or blue immediately. Then you can turn on "cheat text" to see what the current value is.

If you want to play Doug Bolden's Simple RGB Match Game, then please do. I plan on extending its functionality a bit out if I can. Adding some UI elements and other aspects as I go. For now, though, it is playable. As for whether it is fun, that's entirely dependent on your definition of fun.

Doug Designed Computer Games

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: January 2015


BLOT: (01 Jan 2015 - 08:16:51 AM)

Bolden New Year's Traditions and Superstitions: No cleaning, do what you want to do for the year, food, etc

Growing up down in Lower Alabama, my parents' house had only three New Year's superstitions which I remember well: you had to eat black-eyed peas, cabbage, and hog-jaw; you didn't sweep; you didn't do laundry. The food one is a big one in the South. I imagine more black-eyed peas are eaten on New Year's than any other day in the year. And, though it has been watered down in most places to only be black-eyed peas [maybe with a penny cooked in for pecuniary-luck], where I come from it is a whole meal: peas, greens, and hog. The cleaning one seemed a little non-precise. Laundry was out. Sweeping was out. Washing dishes was ok. Wiping down things was ok.

Since moving out, I have worked out a few variations on my own. Peas and greens I keep, but since I don't do pork I try and work in at least one other rich-dish. Sarah and I eschew cleaning of any form: no dishes, no laundry, no vacuuming, no sweeping, no wiping-down. We make perhaps the biggest deal about do-as-you-want-to-do-for-the-rest-of-the-year. We try to do a little bit of everything we want to do for the rest of the year. You eat good food. You rest up. You read books. You watch fun movies. You chat with loved ones. You make love. You go for walks. You play with pets. You imbue the year with good vibes. Oh, and we try and kiss at midnight. And by try, I mean no matter where I am Sarah will find me and wrestle at least one kiss out of me.

That is about it for our household, but I thought it was fun to look up other New Year's traditions/superstitions (via Snopes.com) and see which ones we skip. How about you? Which ones do you do or avoid?

Some favorites from that article include:

You might notice I am blogging, again, after a month-plus absence. That's on purpose. I needed a break, for reasons that will show up in about three posts down the road, but am ready to get back into it. Happy 2015, everyone.

Bits that Illuminate Some of My History

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: January 2015


BLOT: (20 Nov 2014 - 08:48:42 AM)

An interesting writing prompt from the second paragraph of Robert E. Howard's "The Black Stone": the final tragic night of Alexis Ladeau

Even though I have reached the point where I should probably be focusing on other authors—I have at least a Haruki Murakami book to finish—I still find myself traipsing through weird lit. In this case, I've been enjoying going back to some of the seminal works of mythos-lit, the kind found in the James Turner edited Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. It is always interesting to see what constitutes the literature of the mythos in a post-Cambell, post-Ligotti world as contrasted to a world where writers like Frank Belknap Long and Clark Ashton Smith corresponded directly with Lovecraft, himself.

You also get little prompts to inspire some thought and debate, of which I want to talk about one here. Early in "The Black Stone", Robert E. Howard's 1931 mythos tale which is the second appearance Friedrich von Junzt's Nameless Cults1, now most often translated into the German as Unaussprechlichen Kulten, you have this passage:

Von Junzt spent his entire life (1795-1840) delving into forbidden subjects; he traveled in all parts of the world, gained entrance into innumerable secret societies, and read countless little-known and esoteric books and manuscripts in the original; and in the chapters of the Black Book, which range from startling clarity of exposition to murky ambiguity, there are statements and hints to freeze the blood of a thinking man. Reading what Von Junzt dared put in print arouses uneasy speculations as to what it was that he dared not tell. What dark matters, for instance, were contained in those closely written pages that formed the unpublished manuscript on which he worked unceasingly for months before his death, and which lay torn and scattered all over the floor of the locked and bolted chamber in which Von Junzt was found dead with the marks of taloned fingers on his throat? It will never be known, for the author's closest friend, the Frenchman Alexis Ladeau, after having spent a whole night piecing the fragments together and reading what was written, burnt them to ashes and cut his own throat with a razor.

Von Junzt's journey into depravity nets us a single core manuscript, written about in Howard's stories as a literal listing of cults around the world and their beliefs, not seemingly worthy the 2d8 Sanity loss that the 7th edition The Call of Cthulhu RPG gives it (nor the up-to double digits of mythos knowledge). However, the quote above hints that there are hints, and that someone who reads close enough will see something between the lines, behind the words.2 This is then spiced up a bit by having von Junzt, at his death [via taloned fingers], working on a second, even darker, manuscript: the pages torn and scattered about his room. His good friend, Alexis Ladeau, tries to piece together the new book but after a single night slices his own throat open.

What I like about this bit is how it ties into the real life story of William S. Burroughs. After shooting his wife—in something like an unintentional homicide that was nevertheless totally his fault, as he was playing William Tell with live ammunition—he sparked into becoming a writer. Fleeing Mexico before his trial was finished, he went to South America and then came back to the States. He tried mind altering drugs. He hit on Alan Ginsberg, and was rejected. Eventually, he went to Rome and then to Tangier. There, he got really high and wrote what would become Naked Lunch, but only after Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac came to Tangier and helped him type and edit it into...well, you know, not cohesiveness, but a book.4

Combining those two, you could come up with an interesting story. Ladeau tries a couple of times to reach his friend, who has long toiled under the darkness of his writings5, and is saddened to find that his friend has died. Maybe the cops are calling it suicide, death by razor, though Ladeau knows the truth. Even with the official stance, the word gets out and copies of Nameless Cults are burned by those who have them in fear of some unspoken retaliation for ownership. Ladeau tries to maintain his friend's literary and academic name and reputation, but is failing.

Finally, Ladeau figures that he can assemble the unfinished, fragmented book. He gets it into a rough order over a night or two, and cleans up the pages after another night. He sits down to read it, and...

...eventually slits his own throat.

Just seems like you could have a lot of fun in the midst of those ellipses.

1: The initial appearance was earlier that year in "The Children of the Night" and would show up again the next year in "The Thing on the Roof". Lovecraft's fiction is the first place that it showed up with its German title, Unaussprechlichen Kulten, with stories such as 1932's "The Dreams in the Witch House". Interestingly, in the Hazel Heald coauthored "Out of the Aeons", the book is referred to by its English title, Nameless Cults.

2: It stands to be said that Howard was a practical man in his prose, and had perhaps a better grasp of pulse-pounding than spine-tingling. Later in "The Black Stone", we get a naked cult baby-smashing ritual with whipping and gyrations, only to have the horror be confirmation that yes, Virginia, giant toad-like things do live down in caves.

3: Steven Marc Harris, in his somewhat difficult to track down "Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten: A Preliminary History", gives the book the title of Unbeschreibliche Gotter or, in English, Indescribable Gods.

4: Another odd intersection is that one of Lovecraft's friends, R.H. Barlow, was the professor who taught Burroughs about Mayan culture. Barlow went on to commit suicide shortly after.

5: Again, see Harris's work for some excellent flavor on this.

Weird Lit

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: November 2014


BLOT: (14 Nov 2014 - 09:42:51 AM)

My vows-turned-poetry, Et Cetera, as piped through the Gizoogle engine...

At work, the question of "Do you know Gizoogle.net?" came up. It is a search engine that has an extra feature: "Gizoogle lets you translate pretty much anything on the internet into gangsta slang." It is a silly concept, and mostly for a one-off gag. However, it is capable of moments of semi-brilliance, such as when I pipe the poem posted from my wedding vows into it. It sort of outright fails by the end, but lines like "I breathe moments, n' I drop a rhyme eternity," have their own innermost light. Here you go, then, the whole thing. Warning, languge. And if you want to read the rest of the ceremony Gizoogled, feel free.

Dougz Vows, tha poem, "Et Cetera" (as rendered by Gizoogle.net)

I be tha bonez of stars, born dying.

I be tha grandchild of bacteria, clingin ta tha thin scab coverin a scaldin wound hustlin at 7 point 0 times ten ta tha fifth milez per minute round a middle-aged star glorious all up in unimpressive on a galactic scale.

I peep space, n' I conceive infinity.

I breathe moments, n' I drop a rhyme eternity.

I be thrust all up in nuff muthafuckin points, a unwittin travela up in time, mah own microcosm incomplete.

I stand atop a mountain, a trazillion light muthafuckin years tall.

I swim all up in tha bottom of a sea, a trazillion light muthafuckin years deep.

Just another of tha Million-Bizzleion Dougs, mah nuff Feynman cousins, legion n' disparate, adrift.

Adrift, solidly awake aloud up in tha Universe,

Brightly asleep like MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI, unable ta hold mah eyes open up in a thugged-out dawn of a gangbangin' finger-lickin' distizzle inconceivable even though it is constantly painted across all tha windowz of dis myriad dream.

All dem Million-Bizzleion:

Some have took a dirt nap n' some have thrived,

And there but fo' tha grace of god go I.

Because fo' all mah wonder, kickin it n' aware of all dem indefinite, unique, dope moments, witnizz ta tha splendor,

I

am not.

I be nothing,

Made not a god damn thang by bein a We.

I done been kickin it, ta date, thirteen-thousand, six-hundred n' sixty-three days yo, but I done been ME fo' ten years. Three-thousand, six-hundred, n' fifty-two days, props ta tha miracle of two leap-years.

Ten years. In ten muthafuckin years I have gained

myself my color my direction mah hoe

MY WIFE! Let me introduce mah hoe. Da warmth I gladly hold, tha real deal I gladly face, tha laughta I gladly play all up in jokes, tha tears I embrace even when I be unsure of em.

Bitch is solid. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Biatch is dope naaahhmean, biatch? Biatch is kind. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka!

Bitch is silly. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Biatch is cute. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Biatch is crazy. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Biatch is mine.

Faith, hope, n' ludd fo' realz. As they say, these three remain. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. So let our asses tend ta these three.

Sarah Lindsey Bolden, I vow ta have FAITH up in you, n' up in what tha fuck you can do, fo' ten muthafuckin years more, n' twenty muthafuckin years afta that, n' thirty muthafuckin years afta that, n' et cetera.

Sarah Lindsey Bolden, I vow ta always HOPE fo' tha dopest up in our marriage n' ta expect only even mo' impossible thangs up in our next decade, n' up in tha decade afta that, n' up in tha decade afta that, et cetera.

Da top billin is LOVE, they also say, n' wit dat I can agree, so letz end, here, a funky-ass bazillion year trip a mazillion milez up in tha making, wit this, simply...

Sarah Lindsey Bolden, I vow ta LOVE you mo' than books. Et cetera.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: November 2014


Written by Doug Bolden

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