As a footnote to the post from yesterday about how vampires suck, er, that is, how they don’t seem to suck anymore, here’s the obvious video clip. I know you’ve already seen this clip but I still crack up when I watch it.
I joke about teaching a class one day called “Poetry for Guys” and if I ever get that opportunity, Gilgamesh would have to be on the reading list. I’ve meant to read this ancient poem (poem fragments, really) for years but I finally picked up a copy of the Stephan Mitchell translation from a guy who sells used books from a folding table he sets up on State Street. Ya gotta love a college town, eh? It’s short but I savored every page.
Gilgamesh is an epic tale about a king Gilgamesh who is oppressive and unbearable to his subjects until the gods create a perfect friend for him, Enkidu who is a wild man living in the wilderness. Enkidu is tamed by a temple prostitute, then he challenges Gilgamesh to a wrestling match after which they become best buddies. It’s a very touching story of a friendship between two guys that really can’t be summed up under the phrase “male bonding” let alone “buddy picture.” The pair go on epic adventures together, all slightly tinged with Gilgamesh’s concern that people will forget him when he’s dead. Then, Enkidu falls ill and dies. Gilgamesh is distraught with grief. He tries to seek out Utnapishtim, the only mortal who’s been given immortality. More adventures occur frequently with the refrain, and here I paraphrase “Gilgamesh, dude, you look like crap.” If nothing else, Gilgamesh depicts the grief process very palpably.
I’m mentioning the book here because there is much to commend the poem to a genre-interested reader. Gilgamesh is basically a super hero, depicted as 2/3′s divine and 1/3 mortal. There are monsters that haunt a cedar woods, scorpion people who guard the long tunnel that the sun traverses after sunset, stone-men who pilot a boat… It’s folklore from a radically different time, one not to concerned with ethics, where stories didn’t need morals. Gilgamesh also recounts a worldwide catastrophic flood that bears many similarities to the description in Genesis. The differences are also pretty interesting. The world of the Gilgamesh is polytheistic so there is disagreement and deception among the gods, gods who more or less maintain the same attitudes throughout the story, whereas with the more monotheistic world of Genesis, the God must change his mind, from anger to repentance. There’s a similar though not identical release of birds at the end of the flood. Both narratives mention a gift given as a sign that never again will the world be drowned, one is a necklace, the other a rainbow. Utnapishtim is granted eternal life whereas Noah seems to be plagued by survivor guilt and turns to drink. In an alcoholic stupor, Noah curses one of his sons thus perpetuating the kind of evil the flood was allegedly intended to wipe out. I’m sure folks have spilled much ink comparing and contrasting these two narratives. Frankly, if I had to write a dissertation on Gilgamesh, I’d focus on Shamhat, the temple sex priestess who acts as a sexual intermediary between Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
Plus, it’s short. The poem itself is roughly 120 generously margined pages accompanied by a gently pedantic introduction and an exhausting set of end notes. I’ll slog through end notes when I’m reading seriously but not for summer reading. And I have to say that Gilgamesh actually does make pretty good summer reading at least I read it this summer and it just felt right.
Fun little article at Slate.com about how contemporary vampires suck, or more precisely, that they don’t. The once terrifying Other is now just a cuddly idealized boyfriend – who no longer sucks blood. The article nicely traces a line from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to Anne Rice’s tortured immortals to Buffy’s beau Angel to the monster’s nadir in the paranormal romance genre a la the Twilight series.
( http://www.slate.com/id/2223486/ )
Makes me wonder if all objects of terror undergo a certain domestication, a processes of Disneyfication where anything that is truly terrifying is sanded flat, made safe and consumable. Happens with all attempts to depict the wholly Other, I suspect, making that “make no graven images” commandment a bit more sensible. After an experience of awe / wonder / terror / amazement it’s understandable to make some record of that encounter. But then there will be folks whose only experience of that Other is via the representation, through the vicarious thrill. At the risk of sounding like a neo-Platonist here, the continued repetition of representation pushes the Other farther and farther away from our actual experience. It’s how that piss-your-pants / fall-on-the-ground-numb / struck-blind-with-scales-on-your-eyes experience of true religion becomes gradually codified into something boring and mundane like ethics and orthodoxy.
Damn. Did I slip from talking about the Monstrous to talking about the Holy again?
Spend a night in a haunted castle; win a hundred pounds. Familiar set up for a ghost story but this one has a few nice touches mixed in with various bits of silliness.
Like many horror films of its era, Web of the Spider was released with wildly different names in different countries, ranging from And Comes the Dawn… But Colored Red to Dracula in the Castle of Terror – though Dracula does not appear and there is only the slightest reference to vampirism – to several titles involving spiders – though, again, no actual spiders appear in the movie. Its origin is Italian and it is supposedly a remake of a 1964 movie Danza Macabra (aka Castle of Blood in the US and UK.) There’s a restored version of that movie available so I’m going to scare it up.
The version of the movie I saw was hardly restored and in fact, it presented a collection of faults from various source media. There were scratches from film stock and several passages of chromatic aberration likely from video tape transfers. And a maddening pan-and-scan attempt to collapse the widescreen composition to a TV. I feel like an idiot mentioning these problems, like a book reviewer who comments on the margins. The overall feel of the movie is a psychedelic mishmash. The costumes don’t match in period; the colors are wondrously lurid; the soundtrack is distortion and harpsichord; the audio felt like it was dubbed in later. In other words, a pleasant enough way to spend a summer afternoon.
This movie appeared on my Netflix queue because it features Klaus Kinski playing Edgar Allen Poe and because it is supposedly based on a story by Poe. Like many of the Corman Poe movies, the resemblance to anything actually written by dear E.A.P. is mostly one of suggestion and mood. Given Poe’s insistence on mood as the primary effect of literature, this isn’t as damning as it might be of other adaptations. Kinski is only on screen for 10 or so minutes in the framing story but his performance is everything I expected, a deranged, drunken, brooding Poe who insists that his writing is journalism, that everything he has described he has actually observed. There is a particularly nice P.O.V. shot of Kinski smashes open a coffin lid, filmed from inside the coffin.
I found Web of the Spider interesting as well as irritating. Some of my criticisms of the story could be directed at some ghost stories. I think the high brow academic description is the changing rhetorical position of the protagonist. Our hero, American journalist Alan Foster enters the house and spends most of the first act poking around, giving himself scares by seeing himself in mirrors, etc. Then he mistakes a portrait for a person and begins having auditory hallucinations (voices, music.) He plays a keyboard and thus joins the music/delusion and then is invited into a very physical interaction with Elizabeth, one of the ghosts. Nudge-nudge. Know what I mean. She is murdered by another ghost, then disappears. Then Alan happens upon a Dr. Carmus, a book of whose Alan has just been reading. Carmus is a metaphysical researcher and he lectures Alan somewhat tediously throughout the middle of the movie until Carmus leads Alan to a vantage point to observe a ghostly party. For a large portion of what I estimate is act two, the protagonist is even less than a passive observer. He is not depicted in the action and he does not interact with what he presumably is watching. He’s as good as taken the seat beside us in the theatre. After this segment ends, Alan is able to watch a previous attempt to spend the night in the now haunted castle, again as a pure spectator, and to see the tragedy repeat. However, this time, Alan appears in the frame of the action and actively tries to interact and prevent the tragedy. He cannot and the participants again dissolve. After that “play” has ended, poor Alan finds himself all too apparent to the ghosts, now who move in narratively convenient slow motion. They need his blood to live, evidently, though that metaphysical explanation didn’t seem to be adequately foreshadowed. All he needs to do is survive a few minutes more and to escape through the castle grounds. But he dies, crushed by the castle gates and in a voiceover Alan says he did it to spend eternity with Elizabeth, the ghost he was intimate with earlier. The various rhetorical placements of the protagonist with respect to the action could have been exploited better to be more effective. For instance, say Alan finds he is no longer able to carry a candelabra that he once was carrying around. There are moments shown when he is unable to move certain doors but the overall effect was to muddy the action rather to heighten the terror.
I am not a gore-hound but I really would have appreciated a bit more vivid depictions of the deaths. It was sometimes so understated (or censored?) that it wasn’t entirely clear who was being killed. Also, geesh, a little more sex too, or at least “chemistry,” that electric attraction between characters. I find it hard to believe that Alan would give up his life for such a passion-less one-night-stand. But then again, little is revealed about Alan’s character. Perhaps he was fated to land in this particular spider’s web… and I would have felt so much more satisfied if I had the slightest inclination that was the case. There was really nothing connecting the central character with the events of the story.
Quibbles all. As I mentioned earlier, I think the mood of the piece was Poe-esque and to be brutally honest, Poe’s own characters and plot-lines were often not the most interesting aspects of his stories. Web of the Spider was a good popcorn movie, not particularly scary though moderately intriguing. Think about screening it next January 19th (Poe’s Birthday)
This clever marketer produces cremation urns that actually resemble the deceased. Seems to me, you could keep it on the same shelf as the honey jar that looks like a beehive or a cookie jar that looks like a chocolate chip cookie.
( http://www.cremationsolutions.com/Personal-Urns-c109.html )
File this under “All the Fun Stuff Happens in England:”
Just when I thought police budgets were being squandered on surveillance cameras that no one watched and tasers with lethal force, I at last hear of some police who are taking an active and more narratively direct approach to inciting paranoia and fear. These officers staged the crash landing of a spaceship and the abduction of a schoolteacher by aliens all for the benefit of a school children. The intention was to heighten the students’ power of observation and I’ve heard of stunts with a similar goal though nothing on this scale. I for one wish this story had detailed every glorious moment in photos… though I realize that sort of defeats the purpose.
(Female, 40′s) This is probably the saddest dream I’ve ever had, and I think it should count as a nightmare.
It was the end of the world. Everyone knew it– everything was shutting down. The government had fallen apart. There were no utilities– no lights or heat or water. There was chaos in the streets. There would soon be no food. It was like a war zone.
I was in my home with my husband and our two kids, our son and daughter– they were all a little younger than they are now. Somehow, earlier, for this situation, I had obtained from a pharmacy 4 suicide kits, and I had kept them until the last moment because we could either die together now or soon all die horrible deaths. We were all together in our living room, sitting on the floor, and I was busy doing what I always do– making sure everyone had what they needed, a drink of water, whatever. So I missed following the directions– there was a liquid to drink and then about 20 pills to swallow. My family members were already through the process when I was just starting. And I was confused– what do to first? But they were falling asleep in front of me, losing consciousness. They looked like they were peacefully asleep, but I knew they were each dead. And I wasn’t– not yet. It was so sad that they had all died without me.
I swallowed the liquid and the pills in some random order and waited. They were taking effect, but very slowly. I felt myself getting tired, and my arms and legs getting heavy. Some neighbors came in the house, looking for food. I told them, “Take whatever you want. We don’t need it. You can even have our house, if you want.” One of my neighbors had had cancer, I knew, and I thought how odd it was that she had outlived my healthy children. My veins felt tingly and I felt cold. I knew I just had to be patient and soon the drugs would take effect. I could hear people running and guns outside. I kept telling myself to relax. I just had to wait.
The ingeniously twisted artists at the collective known as “Bob Basset” have come up with another hand crafted Cthulhu mask. Reminds me a bit of wet folded origami. I’m still waiting for one with animatronic tentacles.
I feel debased to have to mention that Cthulhu is a character from H. P. Lovecraft’s eldritch horror and weird fiction universe. I suspect there are some who think this visage belongs to Davey Jones from The Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Sorry, thanks for playing. Personally, I preferred Davey’s earlier work with the Monkees.
(Male, 30′s) This dream was going fine until the very end when something happened that continues to creep me out now I’m awake.
“…some kind of insect has attached itself to me…”
I was at some kind of cottage, maybe even a campground with a bunch of other people my age. I think we were all grownups, that is, I don’t think this was a youth summer camp but they were folks I recognized from high school, just all grown up, folks I don’t normally see. A group of us had been swimming in the lake which wasn’t the greatest place to swim. There were lots of leaves floating in it and it didn’t really feel like it had a sandy bottom, more like little bits of rotten leaves and things. Still it was the lake we had. It was a co-ed camp, men and women so we were splashing each other and I think we were all carrying drinks in glass stemware, like martini glasses.
We all got out of the lake and went into the shower room which was one big room with many individual showers each separated off with a curtain. I went in and started a shower and as I washed I could hear other people talking. For the most part, they were all talking about the wild sexual experiences they’d had. These were the people I’d gone to high school with, who’d lived their whole lives in the suburbs and they were talking about some pretty crazy stuff. I was by far the most innocent one there.
I get out of the shower and start to dry off and I realize that I am still wearing my bathing suit which is so stupid. Who showers with a bathing suit? And as I notice that fact, I also notice that some kind of insect has attached itself to me. It’s body is probably two inches across and it’s got sharp, beetle like claws. It was attached to my belly roughly four inches to the left hand side of my belly button. I touched it and it squirmed, still very much alive. It didn’t hurt, in fact, I couldn’t even feel it. On impulse, I grab it and yank it. It snaps apart leaving its head still buried in my skin. I’m thinking, “with all the scummy lake water, it’s sure to get infected.” The body of the bug that I held in my hand was still alive, its legs still twitching.
What else could the Grim Gnome do but grin when confronted with these statues of self-destructive garden gnomes? They depict scenes of grievous bodily harm, like an arrow skewering the head, a sword impaling the heart, swallowing the barrel of a handgun, all depicted with the maniacal glee one expects of a garden gnome. Collect ‘em all!
( Or http://www.amazon.co.uk/s?ie=UTF8&x=0&ref_=nb_ss_lp&y=0&field-keywords=dead%20gnome&url=search-alias%3Doutdoor )