2010: Week 43 Blots

BLOT: (30 Oct 2010 - 10:10:55 PM)

Jack O' Lanterns 2010: Guess which one I carved?

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 43
BY MONTH: October 2010

BLOT: (30 Oct 2010 - 02:58:57 PM)

[REC] 2, a horror movie sequel that follows the sequel's main rule: you have to change the rules...

In the trailer for Scream 3, the horror-movie as parody of horror-movie explains that "chapter one sets the rules" and "chapter two bends the rules." This ends with the claim that "in the finale," you see, "forget the rules." Let's put that last bit aside and focus on the rule bending second chapter in a franchise. If I had to sum up the driving energy of a horror sequel, a good sequel as opposed to just a dollar sink for bored teenagers, I would say that the two main things outside of simply continuing the storyline is to look at the events of the first movie in a new light and to change the stakes (usually by increasing them). This is why sequels like Aliens work. It wasn't really the same sort of monster. It had different rules, different motives, different aspects. Just like the victims were different, not just a single mining crew, but an entire colony was wiped out due to greed. It continued the mythos of the first film while simultaneously tapping into its own. It played by the rules by bending the rules.

For those that don't know [REC], I'll avoid making the little "dot" symbol, it follows a reporter and her camera-man on a "up at night" sort of special involving firemen. Shot in the "shakycam" method of horror filmmaking, this time the cameraman being the source, they get a call to an apartment complex to deal with a collapsed woman, but by the time they get there, they find things spiralling out of control. Apparently the collapsed woman is getting back up and attacking them, and the entire apartment complex gets shut down into an intense, sniper-maintained quarantine. It ends with a night vision scene as the final victim of the movie cannot even see her attacker (neither do we, but we do see her drug off into the door, screaming). [REC] 2, still in shakycam form, follows essentially right after and during the first movie. Its primary characters are a group of special policemen (I'm assuming something like America's SWAT) led by a Dr. Owen to investigate and find survivors. They find mostly blood and shouts in the distance. It is not long before the creatures from the first start attacking. Things go pear shaped. Explanations are given, some are completely surprising, and we have our movie.

There is, about twenty or so minutes in, the explanation. I have a feeling that people are going to be torn between hating or loving the movie for it. I dug it. It was new enough. Still scientifically quirky enough to have potential. Others, though, have reacted quite negatively. I'll not spoil anything, but I'll throw its existence out there for you. As either a reason to see the movie, maybe, or to avoid it if you think the first is absolutely perfect and any variation on its themes will ruin everything. Having a non-standard explanation frees them to try new things. While the first one is, for all intents and purposes, another entry in the MTV-zombie genre: this one has new features to try. I dug it. Seriously. Parts made me go "meh" but mostly I liked the experimentation.

The two shining moments of the film were shooting the events from multiple angles, and the use of head cams to compliment the hand cams. The different angles were not used so much to a Rashamon effect, but more to fill in gaps and to give different impressions of the scenes. A lot of shakycam footage has a necessity of being linked to single camera and shot in a faux-amateur style. The multiple cameras allows for different degrees of professionalism to show up in the shots, and to have different vibes of lighting and approach. The head cams especially thrust us into a POV, first person mode. We see to the side when they turn their heads. We look up and down with them. I wonder how well a first person horror movie would work, without the "trick" of head cam being necessary. Just a slasher that follows the viewpoint of a main character? I would like to see that, I think.

On the downside, there are moments just not realized properly. After the first half of the film is up, we jump back to the start of events and follow a group of teens who sneak into the building, more or less for the fun of it. With a camera. While it is interesting to see how much less controlled their camera work is, and their different tempo of reaction, the time stamps feel off (and what camera records the battery charge unto the film?). At least, in their case, there is the idea that they are turning off the camera to save batteries. Some are not going to enjoy a few of their reactions, though, replacing the downward spiral of the soldier types with the instant freak out of teens breaks some of the suspense the audience might have, especially the degree of comic relief wedged in. At least knowing what happens in a few of the scenes before the teens get there (having seen, say, their aftermath from another perspective) works well to establish suspense. As for the "thesis" of the movie, building up to another climax in the penthouse apartment, it felt like it wasn't entirely maintained, but it had some definite horror potential.

All in all, better than most horror sequels and enough to keep me excited from the prequel/sequel that is due to come out over the next couple of years. It's score is somewhere between Fair and Good, with a possible rewatch of both of the [REC] films to change my mind when seen in context. Since the film is fairly continuous. I wonder what it would be like to take both of the movies and to rearrange the shots so they take place in their proper time, including split screens where necessary. If I ever get bored one day, I might do that.

LABELS: Zombie Movies

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 43
BY MONTH: October 2010

BLOT: (30 Oct 2010 - 02:05:15 PM)

Hint Fiction: An anthology trying to capture the world 25 words or less at a time... (Robert Smartwood, Editor)

If you had twenty-five words to write an entire story, what would have to go into it? Plot would be nearly impossible, even a short, "He came home to find Sheila waiting for him," would burn up 9 of the 25 words. Unless you pull an immediate punch, you have only 16 words to go. You'll have to rely heavily on suggestion. "She was wearing a thin diamond necklace he had not bought for her. Explanations were absent." I think that would make the whole "story" 25 words. I made that up, writing this post, but it shows off the overall form of the micro-story, the literary equivalent to a one minute movie. You can only imply. Telling, explicitly saying what happened in short form could be a temptation, but doing so utterly wrecks any chance of the micro-story to breathe. No one wants to know that Sheila cheated on Frank. Maybe she got a raise. Maybe it was a gift from her mom. The point is that it works because it plays with the notion that husbands give certain types of gifts to their wives, and as long as you are knee deep in implication, the brain tries to fill in gaps.

So we have Hint Fiction a collection of 125+ micro-stories. An introduction exlaining them. Also explaining how the "For sale: baby shoes, never used." story may be apocryphal (if not Hemmingway, who did write it?). Then Smartwood, the editor, discusses the concept of "hint fiction" as opposed to short fiction. Hint fiction is designed to hint at the larger story, by resonating with the reader. To paraphrase and possibly speak for Smartwood. That is our collection, these micro-length hint stories, some by well known writers and others by less known. They are pooled into three large categories—Life and Death, Love and Sex, and This and That. Each page has one story, with its author, a title. Sometimes the title is used cheatingly, to fill in gaps the story does not answer. I guess that is fine as long as the whole thing, title and all, is less than 25 words. I have not counted. That would seem to be petty.

Speaking of the title, these are often innocuous words used to "mark" the stories. In a couple of cases, they are the key to the story. Joyce Carol Oates' "I kept myself alive" does not require the title "The Widow's First Year", but it does significantly change the flavor of the story. In one case, David Joseph's "Mein Fuhrer", knowing the title ruins, for me, the vibe of "By now, I have burned more pages than I have read." It becomes a critique of fanaticism, and feels like little else when those words were invocation on their own.

The experiment is interesting and worthy, as are a good number of these micro-stories. I was especially intrigued to see a number of horror/thriller writers contributing (LANSDALE!). The problem, for me, is that many would make awesome first lines or last lines to a story, would make intriguing twists at the middle, flavorful punches somewhere near a climax, but feel too open to be standalone. I know the goal is to "hint" at the larger story, but it still feels more like I am hearing the set up rather than the summation, given the shout (or sometimes cough) of a story but not its soul. The introduction cited "For sale: baby shoes, never used." says just about all it needs to say. It doesn't have to exist in the context of a fuller story to have all the emotional impact. It does exist in the context of a larger story but it is that longer story's utter essence.

Bill Napier's short piece is possibly my favorite, discussing small houses with smaller couplers inside a cadaver. Amazing how much imagery went into it.Jack Kilborn's "Chuck", which is apparently about a stewardess eating vomit, gets a special clap for being as much of a horror/gross story as you need in under 25 words. L. R. Bonehill's "Cull" also manages to punch in some horror in a short space: "There had been rumors from the North for months. None of us believed it, until the night we started to kill our children, too."

Overall, I am going to give the book a Fair, and do recommend it, though (maybe sadly), not quite at its $13.95 price tag. Borrow it, if you wish. Buy it if it intrigues you. Just maybe try it out first. It is not just a gimmick, but neither does it caome across as full realized product.

TAGS: Book Reviews

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 43
BY MONTH: October 2010

BLOT: (28 Oct 2010 - 03:31:12 PM)

Woman shakes baby to death for interrupting her Farmville playing

From the Montgomery Advertiser: Baby killed after interrupting mom's Facebook time.

And you said horror stories weren't real...

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 43
BY MONTH: October 2010

BLOT: (28 Oct 2010 - 02:30:58 PM)

NPR Article Title of the Day, Hands Down? "Did Steampunk Forget the Meaning of the Word Dickensian?"

Besides having an awesome title, Did Steampunk Forget the Meaning of the Word Dickensian?, the article has a fair point. Or well, it quotes Charles Stross as having a fair point: that the Victorian era was a time of paradox. While the cornerstones of civilization were drawing dandy pictures of tea-sipping and writing novels about forlorn lovers, you had brutal elements of colonization in full swing, some wide-spread oppression of women, and a deep rooted poverty right in the midst of the cities that were held up as bastions of the first world. No real commentary outside of the article itself, but it does make some food for thought.

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 43
BY MONTH: October 2010

BLOT: (27 Oct 2010 - 12:43:02 PM)

The Stormy Passage from Scottsboro to Huntsville

As most of my local friends know (and some not local but still in the area o' storms): there were lots of tornado warnings issued yesterday, but luckily not much damage. Around the start of the festivities, say about 2pm, Sarah and I were leaving Scottsboro and heading home. As we got done finishing off a rapid lunch at the Dairy Queen at the edge of the town limits, the sirens started. A few of the people there started speculating about where it [the storm, not the sirens] was coming from and I had to chuckle because the weather out behind them, to the east, was black and forboding. The weather in front of them, to the west (towards Huntsville) was cloudy and windy but sort of bright. I guess the actual tornadoes were to the south-west and coming up, but it still strikes me as weird that it wouldn't occur to them to look towards the storm.

Anyhow, the drive from there to Fontainbleu Terrace wasn't super eventful, but there was much weather involved. We would have blue sky, and then dark sky, and then heavy rain, followed by no rain. Wind, which pushed the Volvo around so I hate to think how it was impacting the 18-wheelers, was about the only constant. I snapped about 40 or 50 picks, and then edited it down to the half that were decent to look at. Notice how somewhere in the middle, we have heavy enough rain to soak stuff going on, but there are lots of blue sky patches overhead. Oh, and there was some interesting depth theory experiments going on with the clouds: clouds way low down with high clouds above them and, in one case, a giant pyramid in the clouds that never reached blue sky but was some weird cone punched out of them.

Perhaps the strangest thing of all was when we got home, there was this eerie silence. No birds or animals. All the kids were inside. You could hear an electrical hum in the distance, and some cars on University, but that was about it.

TAGS: Huntsville Weather

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 43
BY MONTH: October 2010

BLOT: (25 Oct 2010 - 11:53:20 AM)

Have there been any good attack ads, lately?

[Doug's Note: Did not mean for the "13 Days of Halloween" to take over my blog. Not entirely. But a mixture of trying hard to stick with it plus not having time to blog about other things have caused that effect. I'll work hard to correct that, this week.]

Have there been any good political attack ads out of Alabama, lately? How about where you live, if where you live is != Alabama? With the singular exception of Sunday night Fox (i.e. the animated block), I have not caught ad-based local TV in a month or two and advertisements there have largely involved zombie Billie Maze (get it?) promoting the Haunted Corn Maze. I do catch WHIQ on a regular rotation, but APT stations aren't going to run the sort of ad I am talking about.

Alabama can put out some real stinkers. Such and such is soft on crime, involved in corruption, was suspected of a murder a couple of years ago. No I wasn't, says such and such, but my opponent once killed some orphans, on tax payer money, for the joy of it. Not because he had to kill them, but because he wanted to kill them. I remember four years ago thinking about writing in Jesus as my vote for governor after the Riley-Baxley ads. At least that year had a couple of write-ins to make it feel like a proper circus. Remember Loretta Nall? "Vote Nall, Y'all!"? The picture with her showing off her cleavage and various 'Bama politicians and the tag-line: "Less of those boobs, and more of these..." (maybe vice versa in the wording, but you get the intent, right?). Good times.

This year started out strong. We had, "Anglish, doo u spack it?" by the Son of Fob. And dude on a horse talking about the Facebook profiles of his opponents. And there was some throw-down about believing in the Bible after Guy 1 said something about believing versus not-believing and Guy 2 said "BABYLONIAN WHORE MOUTH!" and Guy 1 pulled a retraction in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot. Who was that? That's right, it was Bradley Byrne. He said, "parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not." Which he later clarified to mean "by some, I meant all and none, respectively". I'm paraphrasing, of course.

Since then, my entire exposure to the Alabama political spectrum has been utterly useless signs by the road—of which, the one proclaiming "Twinkle" catches my eyes the most, though I have no idea for what Twinkle is running—and the occasional AL.com post. Frankly, I avoid many of those out of fear of catching sight of some classic AL.com comments and losing IQ points. Then I get these mailers that proclaim absolutely surreal things like "Vote for X to put those FAT CATS in Montgomery out of business!" and it will show a Rush Limbaugh look-a-like with a cigar in his mouth and it is paid for by the Alabama Republican Party. I don't get what they are getting at? Do we really have "fat cats" in Montgomery? Are they entirely and plurally made up of only Rush Limbaugh? Will voting for X really "put them out of business"? Or the calls I get, where one candidate for something to do with school boards or something education said that she was a mother and a good wife. As a significant chunk of her qualifications. Surreal.

Robert Bentley is pushing for, and I quote, "the toughest ethics law that's ever been passed by any state in this country". He, of course, does not outline what this means. You know and I know that it means he is hoping that the whole B'ham scandal is still fresh enough that ethics are a chief concern. I link to this article because he then goes on to say the dirty Democrats will whip out a few more attacks. Fear might be involved in their craven behavior. It strikes me as fail because not only does he go on to "whip out" a few of those empty word attacks himself, but also most of those fliers and phone calls I have received have been Republicans attacking Democrats, however passive-aggressively and ineffectively. Welcome to Alabama politics as usual. He says that, his supporters get up a cheer: "He's right, those libs must be terrified!" And it does its job.

I'm digressing though. Back to my original question, where are these attack ads he is talking about? Have there been good ones?

TAGS: Alabama Politics

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 43
BY MONTH: October 2010

Written by Doug Bolden

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