13 Favorite Vampire Novels

Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

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I first read this book when I was about nine. It would forever influence how I read about vampires. I know there were vampire novels before this, and I even read a handful of them, but  none of them made the impression on me that this book did because it was the first time I’d read about what would happen if vampires entered the modern world of American technology and culture. These were not the Hammer/ Dracula vampires that I’d been watching on TV, and that struck a chord with me. You’ll notice a trend in the type of vampires I prefer, either the mindless hungry monster, or the thoughtful, erudite, wise old man.

Ben Mears is a writer that grew up in Salem’s Lot and has a traumatic history with the Marsten House, which looms over the surrounding town, and has itself, a sordid and tragic backstory. Arriving simultaneously is vampire Kurt Barlow, and his human servant. Its up to Ben to convince his friends and family that vampires are taking over the town before the town is destroyed.

I’m going to have to do a review of the TV mini series, as it contains some interesting messaging about xenophobia and  one of King’s favorite topics, which was heavily tackled in It, the secrets of small-town life. The book also touches on the limits of belief and faith in the fight against evil. I’m going to have to do a lot more reading on those topics before I can tackle that though.

 

The Light at the End – John Skipp and Craig Spector

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This book just knocked me out! I will always stan for this book, which is a great descendant of Salem’s Lot. It contains both the mindless hungry monsters I adore, and the thoughtful , but evil, old man vampire, who sets the entire plot in motion while he’s on holiday in America. The characters are wonderful, the vampire action is great. This is what happens when a human being, Rudy, who is already a major asshole, gets bitten by a vampire, and turned loose in New York City. This book was part of the Splatterpunk era of the 80s, and the  writers do not stint on the gore.

The major drawback to this book is the rampant homophobia, which I found very jarring, when I listened to the audiobook recently. It does have a heroic gay character in it (who doesn’t get killed), but the road up to that moment is pretty rocky, and I think the writers thought they were being  progressive at the time. If that’s something that’s a deal breaker for you, then by all means you should skip it. (Its just that I had forgotten about it, since I read this as a teenager.)

 

Vampire Tapestry – Suzy McKee Charnas

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This is one of those types of vampire that I found incredibly intriguing as a teenager. The vampire from this book is a ruthless, heartless, intellectual, who is without sentiment about his condition. No lush prose here. The vampire in this book is direct, pragmatic and without excuses for what he is. As far as he is concerned, he is a predator, born and evolved to feed on human beings, and everything he does  is nothing more than a masquerade  to that purpose. He doesn’t have long romantic stories of his previous lives, as he doesn’t remember any of them, because, as he says, he doesn’t need to, to fulfill his only purpose, which is feigning humanity to get human blood. This is the more scientific, biological strain of vampire, but one who is intelligent and self reflective, when called to be so. He also has no idea of his age, since he sleeps for several decades at a time, after a few years of wakefulness and feeding.

The story plays out in three acts. In the first, he is captured, and kept in a cell by a ruthless man wishing to make money from him. He escapes by emotionally manipulating the man’s teenage nephew. The most intriguing part of the book is the second act where, as a college teacher, he has a psychiatric session with a woman who figures out what he is, and he attempts to divest her of her romantic notions of vampirism.  In the third act, he believes its time for him to go back to The Big Sleep, after witnessing a stage play that arouses sentimentality in him,  something he considers a liability to his survival.

The book isn’t especially  scary, but it was a great introduction to the idea of an intellectual/scientific vampire.

 

The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice

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I read this when I was maybe 18, and  I loved it. I’d never read anything like it. I followed Rice’s vampire series for several years, but since the over saturation of the market with vampires that are all ripoffs of Anne Rice, I’ve pretty much stopped reading them. That doesn’t make her original trilogy any less effective though. I can still pick up these books and become completely immersed n the lush world of 1800s Louisiana, now aided and abetted by images of Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise, as Louis and Lestat. This book is one of the first times I encountered a child vampire, and while I was never into Claudia, as a character, all that much, she is very effectively written. To my memory no one had written about child vampires much before Rice.

 

 

Lost Souls – Poppy Z. Brite

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I’m not sure how to describe this book. The vampires are definitely vampires, but unlike any of the vampires mentioned above, although the closest resemblance is to the style of Rice’s vampires. But only the style. The book takes place in the modern day, and chronicles the coming of age of a half vampire named Nobody, who meets a trio of vampires, who have been killing their way across the Midwest, and one  of whom turns out to be his father, something he discovers only after having slept with him, because that is the kind of book we’re dealing with.

Dark, Gothic, and lush is really the only way to describe the writing style, and the vampires, here. The author, Poppy Z. Brite, was something of a Goth icon at the time this book was written, and this book was all the rage in those circles. I did not run in those circles, and quite frankly, I was mostly exasperated by the pretentiousness of that particular crowd, but that has no bearing on the book, which feels like a velvety nightmare. It can be a little hard to get into, at first, because the style is very dense, and the characters are  dark and kind of emotionally remote, but once you do, its a very satisfying read.

 

Fledgling – Octavia Butler

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I wrote about this book earlier. I was not new to Butler’s books when I read it, but some of the events in this book are very jarring, and I feel I have to give a heads up on what happens. The book addresses the topic of race from the viewpoint of a new type of vampire, who can walk around in daylight. She looks like a little girl, about twelve years old, although she is much, much, older, and yes, she is Black. Right off the bat, within the first couple of chapters, she has a sex scene with the grown man (White) who rescued her. I wasn’t expecting that to happen, even though all of Butler’s books are kind of disturbing, and I should probably have expected it.

There are several scenes of her sleeping with adults, and I had a hard time getting past this, but I was younger and more hearty or something, because I managed to soldier through it, to an actually satisfying conclusion. I have not read this book since, and wouldn’t, because I can’t get past those scenes, although I found the rest of the book intriguing, and engaging.

Because the vampire’s bites cause humans to become addicted to them, the vampires acquire a “stable” of people around them, and so does she. Up to this point, the idea of child vampires has mostly not been addressed in vampire fiction, and really I suppose it should. Anne Rice got around the issue by making Claudia asexual, but Butler tackles the topic full on, and takes it as far as she possibly can. If this is something too disturbing for you, then you can skip this one, because this is a very challenging book.

 

Anno Dracula Series  – Kim Newman

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The Anno Dracula books are like a vampire’s greatest hits series, where all the most famous vampires in historical fiction get a shoutout, in the chronicle of the life of  one Genevieve Dieudonne, a teenage vampire who was created in the 16th century, whose observances, and adventures with a secret society known as The Diogenes Club, make up the bulk of the novel. This is all intertwined with a Ripper type serial killer who is preying on vampires in Whitechapel, called Silver Knife.

This one of the most unique series about vampires being written. The rest of the Anno Dracula series is about what would happen if vampires were a part of the everyday history and  life of regular human beings, and how their presence would have affected historical events, politics, and pop culture.

In the first book, Dracula actually succeeds in taking over London and turning the Queen into a vampire. Vampires have all come out of the grave. They have culture and fashions and music of their own. Most humans seek to become vampires, if only to avoid being rounded up as food, and this has an effect on the poor of Whitechapel, and the question of how vampires can survive if they don’t curb their numbers. Victorian London is every bit as Dickensian as ever, but with the addition of vampires and vampirism causing even further misery.

This is a great book, if you can get past the writing style which is a bit wry. The rest of the series isn’t as good as the first book, but if you have an interest in the history of Pop culture you might want to check out Dracula Cha Cha Cha, which takes place in 1950s Hollywood.

 

 

Blood Price Series  – Tanya Huff

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This particular series was branched out into a lovely universe with the lead vampire of this series at the head of it. I like the mythology of the series, which just manages to skirt the edges of being a romance. Henry Fitzroy is  a great character, and a good foil for the lead female character, Vicki Nelson, but it was Vicki that first captured me. She had a voice I liked. She wasn’t over-romantic,or maudlin, and never talked about her clothes and shoes. She’s a tough as nails, female, private detective, done correctly. She’s tough without trying too hard, disabled without dwelling on it overmuch, stubborn, prickly, pragmatic, and when confronted with the supernatural, in the form of Henry Fitzroy: Vampire, she takes that, and all subsequent introductions with supernatural creatures, completely in stride. She eventually becomes a vampire herself, and while Henry keeps telling her that all vampires are loners, who can’t live together in the same territory, Vicky is stubborn enough to make it work.

I wasn’t too fond of the short-lived, Canadian television series, Blood Ties, but I think the dynamic between Vicki and Henry was pretty good, it wasn’t as good as the book, mostly because Kyle Schmid is very pretty, but no Henry Fitzroy, while Christina Cox perfectly captures Vicki’s personality. If you don’t want to read the books, then the series is close enough in style to the books to give you a good sample.

 

 

They Thirst – Robert R McCammon

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This was the second vampire invasion book I read, after Salem’s Lot, and I thought it was fantastic. I don’t think it was a particularly deep book, but it was a lot of fun, and most of that fun is in the reactions of people who begin to understand what’s happening.  McCammon does get one major thing right, just as I have always espoused, is that people for whom superstition and faith are a major part of their life, are usually the ones to catch on the fastest, and survive what’s happening. People who believe the evidence of their senses, and stop trying to apply rationality to what they clearly see is happening, are usually the ones who survive.

It wasn’t my first brush with the writing of Robert R McCammon, but it is a fondly remembered book, although the book is a little more dated, as it takes place during the height of late 70’s/80s Pop culture, so some of the characterization needs work. A lot of horror novels in the 80s, were written by straight, White men ,so many of them had some serious  issues with writing PoC, and gay, lesbian and transgender characters, in the sense that most of these depictions were abysmal, as White writers had  less sensitivity  about such groups than they do now, and you have to take that into account if you’re going to tackle some of these 80s books.

I said before, I believe McCammon was building on Salem’s Lot by taking the basic premise of that book to its logical extreme, and asking : What if Dracula came to the big city, rather than a small town? How might that story play out?In They Thirst, vampires take over the city of Los Angeles, and it mostly plays out very much as you think it does. There’s less emphasis on xenophobia, but there’s subsequently  more emphasis on city life, gangs, and how disbelief in the supernatural, and  the cynicism of city dwellers, aids and abets the vampire invasion. Its not as good as Salem’s Lot, because its simply not as deep, but its a game effort, and worth the read.

 

 

30 Days of Night

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I already wrote about this series.

30 Days of Night has since become an entire series of books, with crossovers with other horror comics, and a movie starring Josh Hartnett. The graphic novel is so much better than the movie, and the movie is pretty damn good. The atmospheric art of Ben Templesmith is a huge factor in how scary the first book is. I became a huge fan of Steve Niles after reading this.

What I would like to know is why no one had ever thought of this idea before, given the icy horror of the Arctic, and the loneliness and isolation? Some of the best, and scariest, movies and TV shows have been set in this environment, so why not vampires?

The way vampires are written today, most of them aren’t very scary at all which is why I love to hype up this series. This book actually had me on the edge of my seat the first time I read it, and I’m always going to be fond of the idea, if not the various execution of the idea, over the course of the series.

 

 

 

Sunglasses After Dark – Nancy A Collins

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This is one of my favorite series because it has one of the baddest female vampires to ever be written, and tackles the subjects of sexual assault and trauma in the creation of a new vampire. Sonja Blue’s creation as a vampire was so traumatic that her personality essentially split, with one half being an amnesiac vampire, that carries a silver knife and can walk in daylight, who  kills other vampires, and a monstrous version of her vampire self that she calls The Other. She’s a bit like a female version of Blade, although I do not believe she was based on that character.

The first book is about her coming to terms with what happened to her, and how that ties in with a typical 80s, Evangelical TV couple, who want to use her for their own ends. Over the next three books in the series, she hunts the vampire who made her, while getting into adventures with various men, children, and other supernatural creatures. Most of these books end explosively, and Nancy Collins has a knack for slowly building the suspense, coiling the plot tighter and tighter, until things have to pop off. She does not stint on the gore, but she isn’t trying to write like a guy, in the Splatterpunk tradition. You can definitely tell this novel was written by a woman. This is another 80s vampire, but her writing is less problematic about PoC and gay and lesbian characters.

Later in the 90s, at the height of the Vampire RPG games fascination, Collins wrote a crossover with Sonja, and the Vampire: The Embraced series, which I thought was very effective, considering that she is a very different type of vampire than the ones from White Wolf. (The title is A Dozen Black Roses, and the first four books are available as a set on Amazon.) She even wrote a crossover with The Crow series, in the anthology “Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams”. The later books are not as deep as that first but worth reading, and there are a number of standalone short stories, to get a taste of Collins writing style and introduce yourself to Sonja Blue.

 

 

Necroscope Series – Brian Lumley

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This book was  a favorite for the sheer inventiveness of the vampires in the story. In The Necroscope series, vampirism is a virulent disease that will attempt to survive at any and every cost, and even the most seemingly innocent interaction with the infected, who are cunning, vicious, and highly intelligent, can result in a person becoming infected. The genesis of vampirism is from a planet where it grows as spores (which look like tiny white eggs) in the planet’s swamp lands, and any creature can be infected and pass it on, often resulting in hideous hybrid creatures of man and animal. The infection transforms a person into a conniving, hungry, cruel and manipulative predator, which, even more frighteningly, is still fully capable of human emotions, like love and loyalty.

In the world of the vampires themselves, they were at war with one another until only a handful of long lived lords and ladies are left, living at the top of what few mountains are left behind, called Aeries, and they totally control the human population of the planet, using them for fuel, and food, and transforming them into monstrous, but useful creatures, like plumbing systems, and transport beasts. If you’re familiar with the work of Wayne Barlowe’s Hell series, this world is a close parallel, only slimier. Pretty much everything about Lumley’s vampires is maximally disgusting.

The Necroscope is a man named Harry, who  communicates with the dead, who love him. He and the dead are often the first line of defense against the encroachment of vampirism, as they often warn him in advance of infestations, and sometimes even leave their graves to help Harry, and his special government team of vampire fighters and psychics,  to fight them. If you can get past what I thought were unnecessary descriptions of the women, (Lumley has no idea how to write about women) and some inventive sex scenes, these are very enjoyable books, although the writer’s  florid, but stilted writing style may be hard for some people to get past, too. I know I had a minute getting past the writing style, but if your’e a big horror fan this series is worth it just for the imagery.

 

The Saint Germain Chronicles – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

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This series is often referred to as horror, but there isn’t much horror in them, beyond the horrible activities that the vampire, St. Germain, has had to endure in his 30,000 year plus life. These are historical novels written from a vampire’s point of view which makes them different enough  to be of interest to me. St. Germain is a vampire who was definitely invented by a woman, think Frank Langella’s smooth, urbane, sophisticated version of in the 1979  Dracula. Since these books were mostly written in the 80s, I suspect that’s who Yarbro had in mind while creating this character, and that’s mostly who I picture when reading the books. Since she wrote this there has been a glut of historical vampire novels with characters not dissimilar to this.

In each book of the series, St. Germain travels to some new part of the world, falls in love, and has an adventure. The books were published in no particular order, and can be read in any order, as well. My personal favorite is Path of the Eclipse, a chronicle of his travels throughout Asia, from China, to Japan, to India and Tibet. Each chapter is often prefaced with an introduction to the life/lives of whatever new characters he will be interacting with, and  where he is, in the form of letters and/or documents. Yarbro manages to perfectly capture the world weariness of an incredibly long lived creature, that tries to hold itself aloof from human affairs, but keeps getting embroiled in various human dramas, often because of St. Germain’s deep well of compassion for the mayfly lives he interacts with.

If you love a well researched historical novel, with vampire, then pick up any book in the series, in any order.

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Things Are Gonna be Fun!!!

 

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I’m only really excited about a few of these, but I can at least respect that other people are very excited about some of the other, LESSER, films!

I kid, but actually I am at least mildly excited for a lot of these movies, although I probably won’t get to see most of them due to budget restrictions,  (cuz I got bills bills, bills, y’all!). I’m reasonably sure I can get Mom to see at least three or four of these movies, though. Some of the ones I’m looking forward to, do not yet have trailers, and some of them have just released new trailers.

 

January

What Men Want (11)

This is one of those movies I’m not especially excited about, but I know other people are going to love. Hopefully, my Mom and sisters won’t rope me into seeing it with them because I’m totally disinterested, probably because I didn’t like the original movie this is based on which starred Mel Gibson. It wasn’t an especially funny idea when he did it, and I still don’t think the idea is funny now, although I appreciate the racebending, gender swapping angle.

 

*Glass (18)

I think I already mentioned that I was going to see this movie. Unbreakable is one of my favorite superhero movies, and I finally got around to watching Split. I was initially dismissive of Split because I thought it was the typical, “lets terrorize some teenage girls” type movie, but it turned out to be something very different, and it was very suspenseful and effective. I love the idea of a superhero movie that’s not presented as a superhero movie, and here we get the supervillain team up done as a Thriller.

What’s more intriguing is how did David Dunn end up in the same facility as Mr. Glass? I thought his life was going well, and he was mending his relationships with his wife and son, but here we find him, locked in with the monsters.

 

February

Lego Movie 2 (2)

I didn’t watch the first Lego movie, but my nephew is crazy about both superheroes and Legos, so of course, he loved it. I’m gonna go way out on a limb here, and assume that he’s going to like this sequel.

 

Alita: Battle Angel (14)

I know there are people excited about this movie. I read the series about fifteen years ago, so I know a little sum-sum about it, but I’m having a really, really, hard time getting past those giant eyeballs, which are seriously creeping me the fuck out. I don’t know if I want to sit with two hours of that shit, even though the trailer kicks ass, and I love the idea of Hispanic robots. Unfortunately it also stars Christolph Waltz, who insists on starring in everything. He’s starting to get like whatshername from The Avengers, (except he seems to know how to stay in his lane).

 

 

March

Captain Marvel (8)

I have tried to be excited about this movie. I want to be excited about this movie. But I feel the same way about this that I felt about Wonder Woman. I’m glad other people are happy about it, and that’s it! The movie doesn’t look bad, but I think what’s hindering me is that I never cared about Carol Danvers in any of the comic books I read. I knew about her, and I liked her in  the comics where she showed up, and she certainly looks especially bad ass in these trailers, but the joyfulness just ain’t there.

There’s so much crossover in comic books that you can’t help but learn the backstories of characters you don’t read the books for. Also, I grew up reading the Monica Rambeau books, so I don’t know who the hell Carol Danvers is. But then, this attitude  isn’t really any different than how I behaved with most comic books. I’m excited at seeing her meet The Avengers in Endgame, but her individual movie is kinda “meh” to me. I felt the same way about most of The Avengers, truthfully. I read the team books, and skipped the individual books, for example, I know everything about Captain America from reading superhero encyclopedias (Nerd Alert!!!), and The Avengers books. I’ve never read a single Captain America book.

 

 

Us (15)

I got nothing. No trailer. No synopsis. All I got is Lupita Nyongo  and M’Baku  Winston Duke are both starring in this movie by Jordan Peele, and its a thriller of some kind. I want to see it because of Lupita: The Black Pearl, and  Winston Duke, who is thiccer than a bowl of oatmeal.

 

 

April

Shazam (5)

I grew up reading the Shazam books, but I don’t know that I want to watch a movie. I liked the books, and I think the trailer is hilarious, but I’m going to sort of vicariously enjoy this movie, I think. Unlike some people, I don’t get tired of certain types of movies being released, because I carefully pick and choose what I’m going to go see, and  just pretend anything else simply does not exist. One of my greatest superpowers is ignoring stuff I really don’t want to pay any attention to, and this movie might fall into that crevasse.

 

 

*Hellboy (12)

Now, this I’m very excited about. I’m a long time Hellboy fan, and I heard that this version is a little more like the comic books, in that its very dark, and kind of gritty. There’s more blood and horror than the Del Toro movies, which I also loved, but the previous movies were more Urban Fantasy with horror elements, although there is a little of the mood of the comics, in that some of Hellboy’s stories were cute and funny. This new movie carries an R rating though. And while I loved the first two movies, I’m still eager to see what the showrunners will do with the characters and story in the remix.

In the past several years, the stories have been very dark though, as Hellboy quit the BPRD, went on a pilgrimage to Hell, and is still discovering things about his heritage that are rather unsavory. Remember, according to the prophecy, he’s meant to bring about the end of the world. There’s no trailer for this yet, but David Harbour (the guy from Stranger Things on Netflix) is killing it.

 

May

*Avengers: Endgame (3)

Yeah, I am jittering around in my bunny slippers for this one. How did you know?

 

 

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (10)

Outside of knowing several character names, (Bulbasaur, and JigglyPuff), a general idea of the plot of the show, and that Pikachu is hella cute, I don’t know anything about Pokemon. I learned most of what I know from helping raise my two Pokemon addicted  little sisters. I don’t know what to think about this, really. Its really cute but is it aimed at adults or kids? I can’t tell. Its so different from the show that I’m having some trouble wrapping my head around it.

 

 

Ugly Dolls (10)

I know nothing about this movie beyond the trailer being cute as the dickens, and maybe my little niece would like to see it. The plot involves a town full of ugly toys that meet pretty toys on the other side of an immense island. Wackiness ensues!

 

*John Wick 3 (17)

I’m not excited about this, but I’m also not unexcited, if you catch my meaning. I liked the first two films, which I thought were a lot of fun, and its also a joy seeing Keanu back in his element again, as an action hero. At the end of the last movie, Wick was on the outs with the Assassins Guild he used to be a member of, and was being hunted by his former assassin-mates. Also there was some Fishburne involvement, and its just nice to see the old band, from The Matrix, back together again.

I may or may not see this movie, as I may be too emotionally drained from having seen The Avengers.

 

*Godzilla: King of the Monsters (31)

I’m definitely going to see this. I grew up watching all  the Gojira movies, so I’m really jacked about this one which features Gamera, (my favorite, becuz TURTLE!), Mothra, (who was kind of a good guy back then, but looks villainous here), and Ghidrah, which scared the shit outta me as a child. C’mon people! how can you not be excited at the prospect of a THREE HEADED DRAGON!!!!

I finally had a chance to watch Shin Godzilla ,which I thought was as scary as the original 1954 film. It had that same feeling of tragedy and horror. I have been pretending that the American versions of Godzilla do not exist, even though I think this new one is some sort of sequel, maybe. Lets pretend it’s a completely original film, and I won’t have to talk about the possibility of  other American versions existing.

 

 

June

*Men in Black International  (14)

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All I know about this one is that it stars Tessa Thompson teaming up again with Chris Hemsworth, and Liam Neeson. Hopefully, this will be as funny as Thor Ragnarok, even though its hard to top that Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones comedy combo.

 

Shaft (14)

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Hmmm? Didn’t we already see this movie come out earlier this year, but without Samuel L Jackson, so it flopped? Well, this one sounds intriguing, as it features three generations of the titular character. I’m gonna make a wild guess and say they’re all named Shaft.

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*Toy Story 4 (21)

I’m pretty sure I will end up crying at some point during this movie. I better take some tissues.

 

 

July

*Spiderman: Far From Home (5)

I really enjoyed the first movie, so I’m looking forward to this one. I know, after the last series of Spiderman movies, I said I was giving up on the character, but Tom Holland was so cute and refreshing as Spiderman, that I couldn’t help but like him, so I’m back in. Not only was he a lot of fun, but I really enjoyed his interactions with the other characters, (Ned, MJ), and even Tony Stark didn’t come off looking too much like an asshole.

I’m taking the baby niece and nephew to see the new Spiderman movie this weekend, and although I’m a little late to the Miles Morales fan club, (I was an adult when he was created, and I grew up reading the Parker version), I’m intrigued by the trailer. The past few months, I’ve been catching up on Mile’s adventures with Peter Parker.

 

Lion King (19)

I don’t know whose going to see these Disney live action reboots, but I’m sure someone is happy about this movie. I’m not fond of the animated version, so I’m not going to see a live action version. It looks gorgeous, and that little cub is hella cute, but still,  its basically Hamlet, with lions. But those of you who are excited about this let me know how you liked it.

 

August

Hobbs and Shaw (2)

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Those two guys from the Fast and Furious movies, played by Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson, have an adventure where they drive real fast, while  griping at each other for two hours.

I’m in!

 

Artemis Fowl (9)

People were very very excited to see this trailer on Tumblr. I know nothing at all about Artemis Fowl. I was never a fan, and not particularly interested in becoming one, but I’m gonna take another wild guess, and say that my niece, The Potato, probably knows all about this.

Also the trailer is mysterious and lovely.

 

 

Okay, these movies are too far away to have trailers yet, so I considered not including them, but I am excited about some of them. That doesn’t mean I’ll get to see them, however.

September

It: Chapter 2 (6)

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I did not care much for the first part of this, and I wasn’t a fan of the TV version, or the book. But somebody out there likes this, and will pay good money to go see this. I can probably be talked into seeing this by a family member, but I wont take any initiative myself. If you’re gonna see it, drop me a line, and let me know how what you thought.

 

Downton Abbey (20)

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I’m much more likely to go see this since I did watch the entire series. I don’t know that I will see this movie, but if I do, I will be sure to sneak some tea and biscuits into the theater, so I can put my thing down.

 

October

*Gemini Man (4)

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I like the premise of this movie where Will Smith plays an aging assassin who has to fight a younger clone of himself. I loved Will, as Deadshot, in Suicide Squad, but since I’m not going to get a Deadshot movie anytime soon, this will have to do.

 

Joker (4)

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Unlike a lot of people, I’m not put off at the idea of yet another Joker movie, even though I’ve heard there are at least a couple in the works. I’m trying not to be one of those people who constantly bitches and moans about superhero movies being so popular, and so far its working, in the sense that I’m not tired of them yet. I stopped reading the superhero comic books because I got bored, but that doesn’t mean I stopped reading comics all together, because there are other types of comic books. When I get tired, I’ll stop watching these movies.

So far, I’m good.

 

Addams Family Animated (11)

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This will be an animated version of the Charles Addams comic series, voiced by Oscar Isaac, and Charlize Theron. I’m not excited about it, but I did read the cartoons as a kid, so I’m intrigued.

 

November

November is so far away (although the way the world is going now,  it will probably be here in a few hours), but I can’t say whether or not I’ll get a chance to see these. I know for sure that I want to see the new Terminator movie, which ignores everything that came after movie number two, and although I grew up watching Charlie’s Angels, I’m not actually what I would call a fan. It was just something I watched on TV. I’m mildly interested in this reboot.

Linda Hamilton will reprise her role as Sarah Connor for this new Terminator, and the rumor is that the new Terminator will be played by Gabriel Luna. Since I’m probably never going to see his version of a Ghost Rider movie, I will have to settle for watching him here.

*Charlie’s Angels (1)

*Terminator Movie (1)

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December

I don’t know what to think of the Masters of the Universe movie. I remember watching the show, because that’s what you did on Saturdays as a kid, but I wouldn’t say I was a fan. Even as a little girl, I do remember thinking the show was ridiculous. Of course, I’ll go see the final Star Wars movie, as I believe I am by law, required.

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Masters of the Universe (18)

*Star Wars #9 (20)

The Walking Dead: Mid-Season – What Came After

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I reported a couple of weeks ago about Rick Grimes leaving the show, and how the show would take a jump six years ahead, to see what Alexandria and Hilltop had gotten up to in his absence. This is what came after.

The three societies are no longer as close as they once were, and that has something to do with Maggie’s disappearance, and Jesus now  being the acting leader of Hilltop, in her absence. To bring the three communities together, Jesus and Ezekiel have planned a fair of some kind, so that everyone can come together to touch base, but the impression is that the Alexandrians have withdrawn from contact with The Kingdom and Hilltop because Michonne had some kind of falling out with Maggie. Michonne is the security chief of Alexandria, not its leader, but she makes hard rules for the others to live by, even thought there is a counsel. The implication is that none of the Alexandrians should have contact with the other two communties.

We begin by meeting a new group of people who have fallen afoul of a swarm of walkers in the woods. One of them is injured in the fight and Judith, Aaron, and the others happen to come along at the right time to save them. Judith decides they should be taken to Alexandria, but Michonne is upset that she did it and advises that the new people be sent away.

The new group consists of a young Black boy or girl, (I’m unsure which, because the character in the comic books is male, but its an actress playing the character on the show), and their older, deaf sister. They communicate using American Sign, a music former music teacher, (Kowalski from Fantastic Beasts), an Asian woman who was badly injured, and another woman who is an ex-con, with trust issues. I am glad to see these two hearing impaired characters on the show because its a way to answer questions about how people with various disabilities would navigate a zombie apocalypse. I actually like the two of them because you can see the  bond between them. I hope they survive longer than one season.

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The Alexandrians take them back to the compound where we find that Michonne is nominally in charge along with a kind of counsel. The Alexandrians we meet now are much less trustworthy than they were under Rick, which makes me wonder what they went through after he was gone. There is no sign of the surviving Saviors who were attached to that community, so there may have been some event regarding that group.

There’s a counsel meeting where the newcomers are rejected because one of them was hiding a weapon, and withholding information that she was an ex-con, who had killed people. Later, Michonne changes her mind about them and elects to guide them to Hilltop, which is now being run by Jesus, with Tara as his assistant.

The alliance between the three groups, The Kingdom, Hilltop, and Alexandria, appears to have seriously atrophied.

Rosita and Eugene go out  to broadcast radio signals from the top of a water tower because they want to contact new people. Rosita is currently in a relationship with Father Gabriel, which I didn’t see coming, but Eugene still seems to be crushing on her. One of the more positive moments I saw on screen is Eugene’s change from timid know- it- all, to born again killer of zombies. He is definitely hardcore, and I was glad to see that. It seems he really stepped up to help care for and protect the group after Rick’s absence. Eugene and Rosita get ambushed by a swarm of walkers who are acting very oddly, and very deliberately chase them, while communicating in harsh whispers about not letting them get away.

This is the introduction of the most famous group in the comic books, the  very possibly deranged Whisperers. With the addition of this new group, The Walking Dead just got really scary again, because we know nothing of this new group except that they live like the  zombies, by hiding among them. This season will also introduce Samantha Morton as someone called The Alpha, the leader of The Whisperers, during what the books call The Whisperer War.

Meanwhile, The Kingdom has been dealing with some raiders, the last surviving members from Negan’s Sanctuary,  who keep ambushing their supply wagons. Carol ,who is now married to Ezekiel, decides to accompany their son, Henry, (the little boy we saw them training last season) to Hilltop. They get ambushed too, but as you probably guessed, Carol gets through it by being her usual murderous bad ass, and after their adventure, they encounter Daryl, who has been living in the woods like the wild man he’s always wanted to be.

 

Judith Grimes: 

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I’m trying really hard not to compare Judith to Carl and her father, but its almost impossible not to do that. She seems so much like and un-alike either of them. At this time,  Judith is somewhere around 9-11. I don’t know what her exact age was six years ago.

She’s not like your typical child of that age. She is very resourceful and extremely self possessed. She is a child who knows her limits and her power because she has had to know these things. Unlike Carl, whom we watched as he began to understand his power as he grew up, she has always had to know hers, as the zombie apocalypse is all she has ever known. For children like Judith, born after the zombie apocalypse, the walking dead are just a feature of the world, and they have nothing else to compare it to.

 

Carol and Ezekiel:

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Carol and Ezekiel are now married, a result of the marriage proposal we’ve seen him make a number of times since he met her. Jerry refers to her as The Queen, which kind of irks her a bit. Together she and Ezekiel have been raising Henry and refer to him as their son, The Prince. It’s interesting seeing the two of them being really together as Carol has always seemed to kep people at arms length, but they are very much in love with each other, and are not afraid to engage in PDAs. Their relationship is another one of the positive things about this episode.

Carol has not entirely given up her murderous ways, as she kills  the raiding group, that attacked her and Henry, by setting them on fire. Yeah, this ain’t the first group of Saviors  that she has set on fire, remember? Carol has always been willing to be extra, to protect her family, so this is entirely in keeping with her usual modus operandi.

 

Daryl:

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Daryl isn’t introduced until the end of the episode. Apparently, he has been living in the woods with his doggo, and looks his usual greasy self. How much of his current livelihood can be boiled down to Rick’s absence, we don’t know. Carol wants Henry to meet Daryl, because she is about to send Henry out into the world, and wants someone she can trust to be at his back. She knows Daryl well enough to know he will adopt Henry as his own, and he does just that. That evening, after they have met on the road, she spies on Henry and Daryl as they kill zombies together. She got exactly what she wanted – an alliance between  two of the people she most loves in the world.

 

Negan:

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Its been six years, and Negan is still locked in Alexandria’s jail. People still interact with him, but his little verbal schtick, where he mixes truth with lies to  emotionally rattle his interviewers, doesn’t get as much respect as it used to, and doesn’t seem to work at all on my girl, Judith, who not only sees right through his bullshit, but actively calls him out on it. She does not know or care who he used to be, and he can’t seem to  manipulate her the way he used to do  others.

 

Michonne:

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Michonne has been through a lot since she lost Rick, and I suspect some of that lot has to do with Maggie’s absence from the episode. She’s been raising Judith, and has been acting as Alexandria’s Head of Security. She is still not coping with Rick’s absence in a way I think is healthy. At one point, Judith walks in on her having an imaginary conversation with Rick or Carl, I’m not sure.  She has also been raising her and Rick’s son RJ, (Rick Jr.?) who was born not long after.

When we first see her, she looks as mean and cold and hard as ever, but by the end of the episode, we see that she can still laugh and smile, even if she only does it for Judith, who like her father, is very protective of her mother. It’s also kind of nice to see she’s stopped wearing that awful headband, as I was really getting tired of it. It’s Judith who helps change her mind about the newcomers to Alexandria, even after one of them comes to her home, planning to kill her. The woman’s hand is stayed  because  she witnesses Michonne interacting with her son, although Judith did have her back with Rick’s gun, which is bigger than she is.

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When Michonne was getting dressed, we saw that she had some kind of x shaped scar over the place where her left kidney should be, and I wonder at the story behind that, and if that has anything to do with Maggie disappearing. The writers keep giving us hints that the reason behind why the three society’s are not in contact with each other is because of something Maggie did.

 

Mid – Season Finale

During the mid-season finale, Negan is freed from his jail cell, and goes hunting, probably for Lucille, and Jesus is the first casualty in the Whisperer War, after he and Aaron set out to rescue Eugene from a zombie swarm.

Michonne sees Carol for the first time in several years and their meeting is somewhat prickly. Something happened between the three  communities that was so bad, that the Alexandrians entirely cut themselves off from the Hilltop, and the Kingdom.

Henry gets into some trouble with the other teenagers at the Hilltop. It’s kind of like he went away to college. he’s supposed to be apprenticing with the blacksmith there but ends up in jail after a night of drunken zombie fighting, and is in danger of getting expelled.

Now the show has entered some seriously scary territory, because the Whisperers are so unlike anything these communities have ever faced, or like anything we’ve seen on the show, and there’s gonna be a lot more death before the end of the season. I’m not entirely sure I’m up for that, but this is the scariest the show has been since the first three seasons, so my nosiness will probably get the better of me.

 

Hannibal Season Three: Apertivo

Apertivo, is  a beverage, usually wine,  that’s consumed before eating a meal, to clear the palette, and stimulate the appetite. This episode is  prelude to the  meal to come that is season three.

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In this episode, there’s not a lot of plot, but there is a lot of maneuvering, as the various players state their goals, and move themselves into position to resume the chase for Hannibal Lecter, who is living in exile in Florence, with Bedelia Du Maurier. Its not that nothing of consequence occurs during this episode, but we’ve spent the first three episodes of the season finding out where Hannibal and Will are, and what they’ve been doing, and this is our chance to find out who survived the Red Dinner, and  see what they have been doing since that night.

In a flashback, we see Crawford in the hospital next to his wife, Bella, who is dying of cancer. Just before she dies, she admonishes him for nearly getting killed, saying that unlike her he can stop what’s killing him, his obsession with the Chesapeake Ripper.Will Graham has gone home, back to fixing boat motors. The most startling change in the aftermath of The Red Dinner however, is Alana Bloom, who has become Mason Verger’s new therapist. Frederick Chilton encounters Alana when he visits Mason in an attempt to scheme the capture of Hannibal, but Mason rejects him, in favor of hiring  Alana. We start with Chilton and Mason Verger in a face off, as Mason takes off his mask, and Chilton removes his makeup, both of them showing off  facial scars received as a result of Lecter’s machinations.

You can see that Alana has undergone some radical emotional change, since her last encounter with Hannibal, when she was pushed out of a window by Abigail. Alana was as significantly changed by the events of that night as much as Will,  and Hannibal (who of course claims that he was not.) Alana is on a mission of revenge, but she goes about it in such a subtle manner that it’s difficult to tell what her plans are exactly, until she comes right out and states to Mason Verger that she is there to offer her services in capturing Hannibal. Mason is his usual vile self, making sexual jokes and asides to her, although I think he says these things to see how she will react to them. When she shows no reaction, (Alana has far more pressing concerns than Mason’s bullshit), we don’t see him talk that way to her again.

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This is also when Alana first meets Margot Verger, and you can immediately see that Margot is smitten  by her. Until now, we’ve been given no idea that Alana might be bisexual. Later, we see that the two of them have developed a romance, and are  working together to defeat Mason. The reason I find Alana so fascinating is that her survival of that night at Hannibal’s has really scarred her on an emotional level, to the point where her entire demeanor has changed, and she seems entirely unlike the woman we met in the first season.

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Alana has hardened. She is cool, blunt, and  pragmatic. She certainly seems less warm and motherly than she was three years ago. She is more calculating. This isn’t just the trauma of  having been thrown from a window by Hannibal’s protege. She is reacting to the final loss of Abigail ,a young woman she couldn’t save, the shame and guilt at not having listened to Will’s warning about getting close to Lecter, and whatever shame and guilt she felt as a result of having fallen for Lecter’s ruse that he loved her, and  the fact that he had been feeding her the bodies of his victims.

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Alana also dresses differently from the first and second seasons. Where before she wore pretty feminine wrap dresses, she now wears boldly patterned pants suits, with high collared coats and jackets, as an expression of power. In fact, she dresses the way Margot used to dress. What’s interesting is that Margot begins to dress in a more relaxed and casual manner than when we first met her, and I think it’s because her relationship with Alana has opened her  in a way she couldn’t express before. Remember when we first met Margot she wore a very severe wardrobe with high collars in stark colors, as a kind of armor against her brother.  In other words, Alana is good for her.

 

As usual though, no matter how progressive  male  showrunners believe themselves to be, they almost always fall into some of the same traps regarding female characters, by neglecting relationships between women on their shows. Often there’s just a lone female character, and when there’s more than one, the women are often in adversarial relationships with each other. This is starting to change as shows begin to hire more women writers and showrunners. I’m glad to see the show has moved away from that dynamic in the third season. We only just met Margot halfway through season two,  so don’t know enough about her other than she is a woman who knows what she wants, and has no problem making it known, and she makes it clear ,she wants Alana.

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In flashback we see Crawford visit Will Graham at his home and ask Will why he contacted Lecter to warn him that the police were coming that night. Will Confesses that he did it because Hannibal was his friend, and that he wanted to leave with him, but couldn’t. It is interesting that he and Hannibal, as far apart as they are, are emotionally sitting in the same place, regretting their actions towards each other, and missing one another terribly while  both of them are engaged in a semi-contentious relationship with a close friend.

Chilton, still scheming, goes to Crawford to ask for his help in capturing Lecter, after his rejection by Mason. Crawford tell him that he is officially out of the business of  chasing Hannibal. He says he has had enough and only wants to tend to his wife in her last days. We later find out that this is a lie, and that he has hatched a plan for Will to lure Hannibal out of hiding, so they can kill him. Or rather say, he has decided to follow Will to Hannibal. Chilton has come to the party too late, because all the key players have already formed their personal Hannibal Recapture teams.

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Eventually, Bella dies, and Crawford is enraged to find that Hannibal has sent him a condolence card. Will Graham attends the funeral and Crawford tries to talk him out of the plan to capture Hannibal. He warns Will that he will probably be killed. But Will is determined (for a number of reasons) and sets out on a boat to Florence. How does he know where Hannibal is? He simply knows Hannibal. Both Chilton and Alana are aware that Will can lead them to Lecter, but it is only Chilton who mentions this to Jack ,who follows Will to Europe. Alana elects to find out on her own, rather than attempt talking to Will again, as the last time they spoke, he rejected her.

Essentially this episode is about a bunch of horribly scarred and vengeful people teaming up to hunt down the man who did this to them before he skipped town. Its almost as if they had learned nothing from their previous inability to capture Hannibal. Later, these same scheming tactics will be in used at the tail end of the season in an attempt to not only capture the Red Dragon, but destroy Hannibal Lecter, once and for all.

The Walking Dead Season 9: What Comes After

I’ve not been reviewing this show lately but I have been paying attention, and I decided to wait until Rick Grimes last episode because it’s the end of an era, and I want to talk about that.

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Yes, indeed it is Rick Grimes last episode, but in fairness to those who haven’t watched the latest episodes , I won’t give away the very end, or add certain spoilers. Rick’s last few episodes have been especially emotional ones. No, they don’t have the resonance of those first images we saw of him riding  a horse down an empty highway, but those images are recalled by him during the episode, and there’s some musical callback to the first season with the replay of the song Space Junk by Wang Chung. This is fitting because we began with Rick, alone, remembering his family, and that’s how these last two episodes end, with Rick recalling the family he’s built over nine years.

Rick spends most of these last two episodes trying to escape a swarm of zombies ,and even though you know these are  his last episodes, they still manage to be full of suspense. You are definitely going to need some wine, (or lots of friends), to get through this one.

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Yvette Nicole Brown, who is one of my favorite reviewers, and a total Richonne stan, got to interview Andrew Lincoln, and seriously, I almost broke down when she did, because the two of them are such good people, and Andrew Lincoln is such a sweetheart. They didn’t discuss a lot of his plans for the future but the show’s creators say they will be creating a series of standalone AMC films about the events that happen after Rick, and that later in the season we can look forward to a new group of survivors called The Whisperers, (a name which heavily reminds me of the R&B singing group).

 

In Rick’s memories, he gets to say all the things he wanted to say to those he felt he disappointed, like Herschel, and see Michonne one last time. I find that I’m okay with all this.  I think it was a good send off, although you know at least one reviewer is going to bitch about how it all sucked. Rick went out as heroically as he lived and I’m at peace with his leaving, the way I wasn’t with Glenn’s passing. (I’m still pissed off about that. I don’t think the show has ever made a greater mistake then killing Glenn, while Negan gets to live, but I digress.)

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I’m definitely going to miss Rick, but we were shown some scenes from the next three episodes of the series, which look very interesting. According to the show, The Talking Dead, the show jumps ahead 6 years, and we get to see who is still alive, and what they’ve been doing in Rick’s absence. I’m looking forward to these next episodes, as the show becomes a true ensemble vehicle with no one particular leader. Rick anchored the show in a certain place and time.He was the linchpin, the sun around which the series revolved, and with him gone, the show will open up in some interesting new directions that I’m kind of excited to see.

It’s not that I won’t miss Rick, but he had a good long run, and I don’t mind seeing him step aside to let the others shine. I’m okay with it. And they will shine because we’ve had a chance over the years to watch all of them do just that.

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At the very end of the episode, we see Judith, wearing her father’s hat, and stepping into the role of a future leader. It was so fascinating watching that because I didn’t know when I was watching her scene, or who she was. I’m like, “Whose child is this? And what’s she doing with Rick’s hat?” ( I’d had a very long and emotionally taxing day, so I was a bit slow on the uptake.) She appears confident, (almost cocky), and strong willed and  I’m a fan of hers already! I just know she’s gonna work my last nerve! It’s going to be interesting seeing how she’s been raised in Rick’s absence.

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I have to  confess that I’m one of the few people who has never re-watched any episodes beyond the first season. This show is so emotionally draining engaging, that watching it is almost like a full time  job. I have re-watched the first season, but none since then. When a season is over I don’t go back, and I’m probably not going to do so here. I think my plan is to wait until the series is over and binge specific episodes. Yeah, I can’t re-watch the show while it’s airing. That’s just too much. So I’m not going to be seeing Rick again for a long  while.

Carrie Vs. Carrie (Part Two)

 

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I re-read Stephen King’s 1974 book, and I want to compare the 1976 movie version, which stars Sissy Spacek, and the the 2013 version, starring Chloe Grace Moretz, to the book version, because there are some significant changes from book to film. I’m going to argue that the book version still has not really been filmed yet. All of the significant high points are in the movies but there is also much that is absent.

One thing I’m unclear on is if King was trying to write a feminist manifesto. He says he wasn’t, and I don’t think he was, despite that he was writing his novel during feminism’s early years. His women aren’t perfect, and that’s the point. They don’t seem to be just some guy’s idea of women. They’re intelligent and decisive women,and King has a good grasp of their characters.The weakest character is Margaret White, but King has always had trouble writing about religious women. The caricature of Margaret White would eventually find her way into his novella, The Mist, as Mrs. Carmody, another murderously insane woman who wears a mask of religious piety.

One of the changes between the book and the films, and its something which always seems to surprise readers who come to the book after watching them, is that the entire novel is told in flashback, in the form of newspaper articles, interviews, and book excerpts. Even more surprising are the few chapters where Carrie gets to speak for herself, and we’re privy to her thoughts and feelings about her life, how she feels about her mother, her abilities, and her plans for the future.

Neither of the movie versions interpret Carrie, (Carrietta), entirely the way she is in the book. I hadn’t read this book for many years and I was struck by her self-awareness, and how vengeful she is, compared to the movie versions,(although the Moretz version seems smarter than the Spacek version of her, and is more deliberate in her intent), and I think this was an attempt to make the movie versions more sympathetic. The book version of Carrie is a harder, more vengeful, and more spiteful version than seen in either of the two films, although the remake comes close.

In neither movie do we get a sense that Carrie believes the way her mother believes, so I was surprised to note that in the book she does share at least some of her mother’s beliefs about religion. She hates her mother , the students who have always bullied her, and is a lot less nice a character than I remembered. Part of what motivates her vengeance, and her destruction of the town of Chamberlain, is her justifiable anger at years of being bullied by her classmates, coupled with Margaret’s teachings of a vengeful god.

The opening scene remains as depicted in the book in both films, except there is the addition of modern technology to the remake, as Carrie’s humiliation is filmed on Chris’ phone. In the original, Chris Hargensen seemed to be trying to make a statement by dumping blood on Carrie, although as played by Nancy Allen, she doesn’t seem quite bright enough to come up with that idea. In the remake, Chris (played by Portia Doubleday), does seem smart enough to come up with the idea, and makes the point of linking the two events by airing the shower scene to the Prom goers, in the aftermath of the blood dump. The newer version of Chris has less personality than the original version, however, coming across as just another generic “mean girl”. The Allen version seems to have more of an interior life, while the new version just seems mean and spoiled. In King’s book, Chris does have an interior life, but not much depth, and she and her boyfriend, Billy, come across as especially dimwitted.

The book goes into some detail about how often, and in what ways Carrie was bullied, and how she tried to break free of her situation from time to time, echoing King’s introduction, in which he tells the story of a girl he knew in High School who, like Carrie, fell at the bottom of the pecking order, and how that girl made an attempt to get free of it, only to be put back in her place by her classmates when her attempt failed. That is the foundation of the book, as this is exactly what happens to Carrie. She jumps at an opportunity to move out of the damned place into which she’s been cast by her peers. The Prom is Carrie’s last attempt to break free of her mother’s influence, and as she says, live a normal life, only to be humiliated once again. King also goes into some detail about Carrie’s thoughts on the intensely restrictive, and infantilizing existence her mother wants for her. Carrie imagines living the rest of her life that way, slowly becoming as frightened and bitter as her mother.

In DePalma’s movie, Carrie briefly mentions this to her mother only to be abused. This is another issue that doesn’t get a lot of play in the movies, the sheer depth of the physical and emotional abuse heaped on Carrie by her mother, and just how deep her mother’s insanity goes, although the first film comes the closest. There are a couple of scenes in the movie where her mother slaps her, and one where she throws tea in her face, but the horrible physical abuse, where her mother kicks her, at one point grabbing her by the back of her neck and flinging her into the closet, has been toned down, and is almost absent from the remake.

In the remake, Peirce has elected to show a very loving version of Carrie and Margaret’s relationship. Julianne Moore’s Margaret isn’t crazy just to seem crazy, and seems to genuinely love and care for her daughter. Even when she’s trying to kill her there’s no sense of the mad glee with which Piper approached the role. Moore’s Margaret seems regretful that she didn’t kill Carrie earlier, and takes no joy in harming her daughter. The result is that Carrie is genuinely surprised that her mother is trying to kill her as her mother had given no indication that she was considering it. This is not the same Margaret in the book, or the first movie, where Carrie and Margaret rarely touched, or showed affection for each other. They didn’t have normal conversations. Margaret threatened, and made pronouncements, to which Carrie acquiesced. Margaret gave orders, and Carrie followed them.

Another thing that’s been toned down for the movies is the depth Margaret’s madness. King’s version sees nothing positive in the world, and is obsessed with the sin of sex, and anything related to it. Carrie argues to her that everything isn’t a sin, but to Piper’s Margaret, everything is a sin. For Margaret, life itself is a sin. Even having sex with her husband is a sin. In the remake, this attitude is interpreted by the director as proof that Margaret experienced some horrific sexual trauma as a child. In the original film no reason for it is even implied.

The details of Carrie’s physical abuse are important because of an event from the book that has never been captured in either of the movies. The idea that Carrie was born with her abilities, that she had been suppressing them until a stressor occurred, and that her mother knew about her powers, and was afraid of her. The fall of the stones is an event recounted twice in the books. Once from a neighbor’s point of view and the second from Carrie’s point of view.

The fall of stones is precipitated by four year old Carrie seeing the neighbor’s daughter sunbathing in her front yard. Margaret, who had been feuding with the neighbors about it, saw Carrie talking to the neighbor, and lost it. She grabbed Carrie, hauled her into the house, beat her mercilessly, and threatened the little girl with a knife. Carrie, in her terror, causes a rain of rocks and ice to fall only on their house. The event is recounted in the local newspaper, and later, Carrie recollects the event herself, including the moment when she threw the dining room table through one of the windows of the house. Carrie wonders if her mother remembers the events, thinks she might, and knows her mother is afraid of her. The remake has an extended scene of Carrie’s remembrance of this event. This was cut from the theatrical release, and the mood of it is very different from the book version, as Margaret White’s reaction is much less extreme, and she is fully aware that Carrie is responsible for the golf ball sized hailstones, as she pleads with her to stop.

Carrie’s mother “seems” to know about her powers before Carrie uses them on her, but this is unclear. (This would have been made more clear, in the remake, had the excised scene been kept.) In the original, Margaret mentions wanting to kill Carrie when she was a child, but why is also not made clear. In neither movie are we given any indication that Carrie has used her powers before “discovering” them, at the onset of her menses.

One scene that did not make it into Depalma ’s movie is the confrontation between Chris’ father, and the school principal, who has threatened to suspend Chris from school. I enjoyed that scene from the book, and I’m glad it made its way into the remake. It’s also indicative of how much sympathy in which Carrie was held by many of the adults around her, and about which, Carrie is unaware. Ms. Desjardin, the gym teacher, genuinely cares about her well being, and the principal shows real backbone in his fight with Chris father, in seeing that justice is done on Carrie’s behalf. There is a scene in the original film where one of Carrie’s teacher’s is an asshole to Carrie, for no apparent reason, and I thought that was a bit much, but that scene is there to show Tommy’s character. That same scene is present in the remake, but the actor who plays Tommy is such a non-entity, that there is no illumination of the character.

In the book, Billy is just some thug that Chris is dating, and he cares not one wit about her, although in both movie versions, we are given to believe that he and Chris are involved in some grand, Bonnie and Clyde style, love affair. This is meant to contrast the sweet respectfulness between Tommy and Sue Snell.

The book version of Margaret White gets more backstory. The remake adds the idea of some sort of sexual trauma, making her a much more sympathetic character, while the 1974 version is more of a caricature than a real person. In King’s version, Margaret White was always a religious fanatic, who was estranged from her mother and father, and was prone to hysterics.The 2013 version of her depicts Carrie’s birth scene, and Margaret’s indecision about killing her, while none of these things are mentioned in the first film. As I said in my review of the first movie, it is mostly spectacle with not much understanding of the why of the characters. This makes sense since it was written and directed by men. There’s a bit more emotional depth in the remake ,and I believe that’s, in part, because of its female director.

The book consists of excerpts from a book written by Sue Snell, called My Name is Sue Snell, interviews of several town folk who survived Carrie’s rampage through Chamberlain, by something called The White Commission, a body of professionals who were convened to determine what happened during what the nation called The Black Prom. Sue and Tommy’s motivations are called into question by The White Commission, and there is some argument that Tommy was involved in the plans to humiliate Carrie.The movies mention none of the aftermath of these events. They both end with Carrie’s death, and the seismic impact of what Carrie did, the sheer amount of death and destruction is not captured in either film, although the remake comes closest to the images from the book.

The depiction of Carrie’s powers, is a little more accurate in DePalma’s version. She does appear to be in a kind of fugue state, and the book goes into detail about how the use of her powers affects her physically. She is mostly aware of what she’s doing, but becomes increasingly unhinged the longer she uses her powers, until by the end she is mostly delirious, and only half aware of where she is, let alone what she’s doing. After Carrie kills her mother, her powers are simply functioning on automatic. In the first film, the house falls down around her, while she holds her mother’s body, and DePalma makes it unclear if Carrie is doing it , or if it’s God’s retribution. In the remake, Chloe’s Carrie is very deliberately using her abilities, and has complete control right up until the end. Its not until the end of the 2013 version that we see the rain of stones, and this moment would have had more impact, if that earlier scene of Carrie remembering that event, had not been cut.

Margaret’s death in the original is all spectacle as she, pinned to a wall by kitchen knives, loudly moans like she’s having an orgasm. The book is more subtle, as Carrie gently stops her mother’s heart. The remake is not without spectacle itself, but I found it more moving than all the hollering in the earlier film. The first film isn’t particularly interested in the emotional relationships between all these women. Margaret White is a terrifying, but ridiculous caricature, and receives the kind of death that befits such an over the top portrayal. Julianne Moore’s Margaret is more subtle. She’s almost too subtle, and I have to admit, I prefer the jovial batshittery of Piper’s version, to Moore’s quietly morose insanity, even if I was more emotionally moved by Moore’s version.

Peirce’s version is also true to the book, as there is a last confrontation between Carrie and Sue. In the book, Carrie’s thoughts and feelings are being broadcast to anyone in the town. Sue is able to follow Carrie’s meandering progress through the town by following Carrie’s thoughts. She finds Carrie, exhausted and delirious, lying next to a tree, and holds her hand as Carrie’s thoughts spiral down into death.

In the original film, Sue’s act of compassion is jettisoned in favor of that jump scare this movie is famous for. Once again, DePalma chooses spectacle over substance. He seems to prefer camera trickery, something especially apparent during the Prom, when he goes to a split screen during Carrie’s devastation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the camera work has the unintended side effect of distancing the viewer from the horror of the moment, something which Peirce took care to avoid.

Peirce wants the viewer to sit with their discomfort. Her camera doesn’t look away from what’s happening on the screen. In the remake, Sue finds Carrie just after Carrie has killed her mother. Carrie is distraught, and starts to attack Sue, who pleads with Carrie for her life. For me, this was a more moving moment than the jump scare at the end of the original. Note that Chris Hargensen also pleads with Carrie for her life, but because she has always tormented Carrie without mercy, she receives none in return. I think Sue’s one act of atonement is probably what saved her life, just as Ms. Desjardin’s compassion saved hers.

I don’t want to give the impression that I dislike the first movie because it really is one of my favorite King films. It’s a beautiful looking film with an iconic soundtrack by Pino Donaggio. The newer version has nothing like it, and is mostly unmemorable. I don’t even have a problem with the eroticism of the teenage girls in that movie. It was the 70’s and that was to be expected in filmmaking at that time. Also, that sort of thing was considered liberating for women at that time in American film, as everyone was just coming out of a repressive studio system that only allowed certain types of nudity. The DePalma version also has a superior cast. Spacek, Irving, Laurie and Allen were simply much better actors, who were capable of selling all that spectacle without looking ridiculous. The best actor in the remake is Julianne Moore. Grace-Moretz and the others are just too young, and do not have the acting chops of those powerhouses from the 70s, but I forgive them because Peirce’s movie has a different, more emotional, agenda, which remains true to the spirit of the source material.

Now, if we could only get a happy medium between these three sources, we’d have the perfect Carrie.

Where Are All the POC in Horror Movies? — Dark Matters

“The irony is: being black in America lends itself very well to the horror genre because every day is a potential horror movie.”

via Where Are All the POC in Horror Movies? — Dark Matters

The irony is: being black in America lends itself very well to the horror genre because every day is a potential horror movie. We’ve seen time and time again how a seemingly safe, casual moment can turn deadly in the blink of an eye.

 

Halloween Horrors Directed By Women

XX (2017) Anthology

I recently watched this anthology of horror shorts, directed by women, on Netflix and found it very effective. Not particularly frightening, but moving nonetheless. I not only enjoyed the stories themselves, but there were some interstitial moments between the episodes that I found pretty creepy, and which also tell a kind of story. Of the four stories, three of them deal with the idea of motherhood as a harrowing and anxious experience.

One of the middle stories, and the most frightening, is The Box,  about a woman whose family slowly starves themselves to death after the son peeks into the box of a stranger on a bus ride. I think I read this as a short story somewhere because it felt familiar. Its a very effective and emotional scare, as the mother is helpless to save her family, who are determined to destroy themselves. One of the other stories chronicles the adventures of a mother whose husband dies in a giant panda suit just before his daughter’s birthday party called, appropriately enough, The Birthday Party. It’s the funniest of the stories, but I was exasperated by it because it didn’t fit the gray mood of the rest of the anthology.

Dont’ Fall is the most straightforward horror story with no message to it. A group of people go camping and run afoul of an ancient cannibalistic evil. Her Only Living Son is a favorite of mine. Its like a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, if she had run away from  all the people trying to manipulate her, and tried to  raise her son not to be the AntiChrist. It’s interesting that the two most effective stories are about mothers trying to save their children from the aftermath of bad choices.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, and was a little dubious about watching it, at first. Women directors in the Horror genre are very rare, but this turned out to be pretty good. The types of stories  were  female-centric in a way that men’s stories just aren’t, and that was refreshing.

This movie is available on Netflix.

Ravenous (1999) Antonia Bird

I reviewed this movie some time back, and advised people to listen to the DVD commentary, because it’s very informative. I’ve since learned that Antonia Bird died from cancer in 2013. Her films include a few others I’ve watched: Priest, Safe, and Mad Love.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/geeking-out-about-ravenous-1999/

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) Ana Lily Amirpour

This is a nice little nugget of a film available on Netflix, which I have not finished watching yet, because I was interrupted. (I was about thirty minutes away from the end, which is probably when all the best stuff happens.) This is a remarkable story about an unnamed and  beautiful Iranian vampire, who spends her nights trying to resist her hunger, in the presence of an innocent young man named Arash. The movie isn’t frightening, so much as it is melancholy, although The Woman, as I call her, does manage to cause plenty of death.

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Jennifer’s Body (2009) Karyn Kusama

Despite people hating this movie, I actually enjoyed it , and thought it was pretty funny. This was my first introduction to Megan Fox ,and based on her performance here, I wish her career had continued. I wasn’t sure what to expect actually. I think I expected the director (who, at the time,  I did not know was a woman) to simply use the plot as an excuse to have Megan Fox be naked and/or sexy. I thought the trailer a little misleading. But the movie turned out to be a lot deeper, as it was about the friendship between these two very different characters, and how people change and grow apart as they get older. The movie was also written by a woman, Diablo Cody, which explains some of its humor.

Anita, played by Amanda Seyfried is friends with a bitchy cheerleader named Jennifer. Now I should have paid closer attention because I was unclear if Jennifer had been turned into a vampire, or if Jennifer actually died and was replaced by some creature. At any rate, its up to Anita to try to stop her, because, obviously, Jennifer is evil. It was hard not to like Jennifer though, because she’s actually funny, and some of the best dialogue in the movie is between her and Anita during their knockdown fight at the end.

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Raw (2016) Julia Decournau

I have yet to watch this film, but I really  liked the trailer, and so its on my Halloween list. It heavily reminds me of a cross between the movies  Thelma and Jennifer’s Body.

Its interesting to me that so many horror films directed by women seem to involve the concept of eating and the  forbidden and blood.   The anthology XX had an episode about people denying food, A Girl Walks Home Alone is about a vampire, and this one is about a young vegetarian developing a taste for raw meat after a horrible campus initiation. Ravenous and Jennifer’s Body are about cannibalism. At some point someone is going to have to analyse why that is.

Pet Semetary (1989) Mary Lambert

This is the one movie on this list I’m not a big fan of, but a heckuva lot of people really really love it, so I’m recommending it for viewing. I thought the movie was kind of ridiculous, and some of the acting was simply terrible. On the other hand, Fred Gwynne, who played Herman Munster on the sitcom, was great, and I liked Denise Crosby, who was really likable here. I was creeped out by the family cat, but I  laughed at part of the ending, when this tiny munchkin went on a murder spree. I don’t hate this movie ,but I don’t have happy thoughts about it either, although I did enjoy the Stephen King book it was based on.

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Near Dark (1987) Kathryn Bigelow

I gave a review of this movie earlier in my blogging career. This was directed by the great Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar for her movie The  Hurt Locker, and gave us such great characters as the Aliens version of Ellen Ripley, and the Terminator 2 version of Sarah Connor.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/near-dark-1987/

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Carrie (2013) Kimberly Peirce

I did a review of this one where I compared Kimberly’s version to the one directed by DePalma, charting the difference between when a man makes a female- centered film vs. when a woman does it. Basically, there seems lot more meaningful interaction between the women in a female directed movie. At some point I’m going to revise this review to add some new thoughts.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/carrie-vs-carrie/

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Honorable Mentions (Not Directed By Women)

These five movies were not directed by women, but the women characters are not just in the center of the plot, they are the plot. Any one of these movies would be great for a female themed marathon on Halloween night, along with longstanding favorites, like Alien, and Halloween.

Ginger Snaps (2000)

This is one of my favorite werewolf movies, right up there with the newer movie, Wer. Here, two teen Goth sisters, Bridgette, and Ginger, the local high school weirdos of a small suburban town,  discover that Ginger has developed lycanthropy, after being bitten by a wild animal, while on their way to play a prank on another girl. There is a parallel here between the disease and sexual maturity, as Ginger has just had her first period, which is why the animal attacked her. Ginger Snaps considerably deepened the discourse around the subject of feminine transformation, rage, and sisterly love,  and upped the werewolf game.

Thelma

This is a repost of a mini-review I did  in May of this year.

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I’d been looking forward to seeing this for some time, and it did not disappoint. Now, when I first heard the description of it, I had not yet seen the trailer, and I was expecting something like Carrie, but quieter. Then I saw the trailer, and found that it’s something wholly different from Carrie. This movie isn’t about vengeance, it’s about desire, and what happens to a person when that desire is repressed.

For one thing, this is a much quieter, and more subtle movie than Carrie. It’s so low-key, that the supernatural aspects of the story kind of sneak up on you. They sneak up on you because they’re  loosely covered by several other issues that you will find compelling enough to be distracting.

The film is based in Norway, and the lead character, Thelma, starts to experience epileptic seizures, except it’s not seizures. Her doctor says they are psychosomatic, and stem from emotional suppression. At the same time, she meets a young woman who comes to her rescue, after she has a seizure in the college’s public reading room, while that room’s giant picture window is battered by a flock of birds. Every time she resists her feelings for Anja, or tries to suppress her powers, she has a seizure.

Thelma and the young woman, Anja, start to get closer, but Thelma comes from a quietly strict Christian background, and she becomes very conflicted about her relationship with Anja, which starts to take a romantic turn. It turns out that Thelma isn’t necessarily conflicted because of the Christianity, but because she has the power to make things happen to people, when she strongly wants it. The Christian beliefs her parents espouse are what was used to keep her powers in check.

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When Thelma was a child, she became jealous of her baby brother, and wished him away several times. The last time she does it is emotionally devastating to her mother and father, but this isn’t something you find out until the middle of the film, and only in flashbacks, and explains why her parents treat her in the quietly aloof manner that they do.

As Thelma becomes overwhelmed about her relationship with Anja, (she keeps having sexual nightmares involving snakes, and dreams about drowning, which is classic symbolism of someone being overwhelmed by a subject), she wishes Anja away too, and it’s a testament to the low-key horror of the movie, that even at the end, you’re not entirely certain that what is happening is real. Did she bring Anja back? Is Anja even real? And then there’s the further question, brought up by her father, about whether or not Anja truly loves Thelma, or did she make Anja love her because she wants her to love her.

It’s not a straight horror movie, with jump scares, and frightening moments. The most frightening moment in the movie is when Anja disappears, and Thelma kills her father. But mostly it’s those nagging questions,that stay with you, as you start to realize Thelma is far more dangerous than you may at first have believed. Her mother and father were in a car accident a few years before she went to college, and though it’s not explicitly stated, you wonder if it was Thelma who caused it.

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After Anja disappears, Thelma leaves college to go back home, where her family welcomes her, but her father decides that she can’t leave. She takes control of her abilities, takes a horrific revenge on her father, and walks out of the house. She goes back to school, where she is greeted by a newly returned Anja, who passionately kisses her.  Her mother is disabled, and uses a wheelchair after the accident, but by the end of the film, Thelma has given her the ability to walk again.

Like several other movies I’ve seen in the past few years (It Follows, Annihilation, A Quiet Place), the horror comes not so much from what happens in the movie, but from its mood. The wintry landscape of Norway, and the remote location of Thelma’s home, is very effective. On the other hand, I can’t say that the movie was enjoyable, either. It’s too haunting for that, and I am still disturbed by the questions that arose, and the answers I came up with.

For those of you on the LGBTQ spectrum this movie is safe enough to watch There is a brief moment when you think there’s a Kill Your Gays Trope, but by the end of the movie, that has passed. Its a movie about overcoming repression, and acceptance of the self.

Thelma is available on Hulu.

It Follows

I’ve done two reviews for this movie. One is an examination of the meaning of the monster, and the other focusing on the female -centric symbolism embedded in the film.

https://wordpress.com/posts/my/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com?s=it+follows

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/it-follows-2014-more-thought

Added Bonus:

28 BLACK WOMEN HORROR FILMMAKERS:

http://www.graveyardshiftsisters.com/2018/02/28-black-women-horror-filmmakers-meosha.html

Halloween Horrors Written By Women

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

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The first time I read this story I was about 14. it knocked me for a loop. Needless to say, I should not have read the story at that age. It horrified me then and does so now, but it took adulthood to connect the parallels between that story, and my life in the US as a Black woman. I suspect that was why the story resonated with me so much.

 

The Shining Girls  by Lauren Beukes

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I had never heard of Lauren Beukes before this book, but checked it out based on a single review in Publisher’s Weekly. I was not disappointed. I think the real horror, at least for me, comes from the idea of snuffed potential. In Shining Girls, a serial killer travels through time, using an old dilapidated house, with a special key. His task is killing young girls who have some kind of special future. One of the girls discovers his secret, and begins hunting him instead, which helps to turn the Final Girl idea on its head.

 

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

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The precursor to this novel is the novella, Rolling in the Deep, about an attack on a sailing vessel by cannibalistic in-humanoid underwater dwellers, otherwise known as mermaids. The sequel is about a young woman investigating the death of her sister who was a passenger on that boat. I like mermaids, and I’m fond of stories about people being eaten by mysterious creatures they didn’t know existed, and while  there are plenty of books out there with demonic merpeople in them, this is the first time I’ve ever read such an engagingly gory book about them.

 

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

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The very first warning I must make about this book is that it is very difficult to read, as it does involve a child vampire having consensual sex with adults, right in the first couple of chapters.

If that is something triggering or enraging for you then probably skip this book. On the other hand, this is Octavia Butler we’re talking about, and there’s always a purpose behind what she writes. The events stem from the nature of who she is, and the culture she’s unknowingly a part of. I wasn’t warned. The primary character is named Shori, a genetic hybrid of a little Black girl  and a vampire, who is much older than she looks. She has to fight against the racism of the vampire race, The Ina, she wishes to become a part of.

 

Dreadful Skin by Cherie Priest

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Dreadful Skin is a novella by the incredible horror writer Cherie Priest, about a nun hunting a werewolf across the American South. Priest has written a lot of Southern Gothic horror, but I chose this one  because I love werewolf novels, and pistol packing nuns.

 

Sonja Blue Series by Nancy A. Collins

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I read this series waaay back in the nineties. Every now and then, I like to revisit some of the stories, and I’m still wowed by them. Nancy Collins has an incredible voice for her character, Sonja Blue, who is probably  her most famous. Sonja was transformed into vampire hybrid during a sexual assault, and spends the next several decades hunting the vampire who turned her.

There are several books and short stories involving Sonja, including a crossover book with The Crow, and a crossover  with The Kindred rpg novels. Sonja inhabits a horrific urban environment full of monsters and ghosts, but she is the top predator, as she is a total badass. The only vampire who can touch silver, and walk in daylight, she keeps her hunger for blood strictly controlled, but every now and then “The Other” (as she refers to her vampire half) breaks free, and serious carnage ensues.

 

The Hexslinger Series by Gemma Files

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Gemma Files has written the only Weird Western trilogy I’ve ever encountered that prominently featured, as its main character, an Irish, openly gay, gunslinging, warlock, named Chess Pargeter. It also features a Chinese witchgirl, a spellcasting, undead priest, Indigenous ghost talkers, spiders the size of horses that you can ride on, flyaway cities , and a trek through the Aztec underworld. It’s a journey.

The first book in the trilogy, A Book of Tongues, chronicles Pinkerton Agent James Morrow’s attempts to capture Chess’ outlaw gang of spellcasters, which includes Chess lover, Rook, who intends to release an Aztec hell on Earth, through a goddess named  Ixchel, with whom he made a devil’s bargain. If any of this appeals to you, then this is the series for you, along with a bunch of related novellas, but good luck finding those. The only place I’ve ever seen them is on Hoopla.

 

 

Feeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough

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Sarah Pinborough has never completely gotten away from her Horror roots, for which I’m glad, because she is an extremely effective writer of horrible events. Feeding Ground is the sequel to Breeding Ground, where a race of spider-like creatures, having bred in the bodies of women, have caused the destruction of human civilization. There’s  spiderpocalypse, intrepid survivors, and plenty of  “ewww!” If those subjects interest you…

 

The Quick by Lauren Owen

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One of the best Victorian vampire novels I’ve read in a good long while. When Charlotte’s brother, James, leaves their ancestral home and goes missing in  London, she heads out to rescue him, and discovers he has become involved in a blood-cult that might or might not be actual vampires. Lauren Owen has a beautiful writing style which makes an otherwise pedestrian story very engaging. I liked Charlotte, and I liked her brother James, and I was rooting for the two of them  during  their adventures.

 

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

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There are a lot of books and movies about The Donner Party, but Katsu’s books is one of the more effectively creepy interpretations of what happened to a group of settlers who, having become trapped in the Colorado mountains in winter, resorted to cannibalism to survive. I haven’t finished this book yet, I’m about half finished, but I am definitely feeling a chill.

13 Great Comic Books For Halloween

I stopped reading superhero comic books, a little while back, and went back to my roots. When I first starting reading grownup books, I started by reading Horror novels by Stephen King,  and comics like Eerie, and Creepy. I never completely got away from them over the years, but when I gave up superheroes (because of the paucity of storylines, and the hot mess of continuities that is Marvel and DC), I  started reading the work of individual writers, and following different artists I like, which led me back to reading horror comics again.

Here are some great comic books to read for Halloween. I’ve read all of these except the Honorable Mentions.

 

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles

30 Days of Night has since become an entire series of books, with crossovers with other horror comics, and a movie starring Josh Hartnett. The graphic novel is so much better than the movie, and the movie is pretty damn good. The atmospheric art of Ben Templesmith is a huge factor in how scary the first book is. I became a huge fan of Steve Niles after reading this.

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Arkham Asylum: A Serious  House on Serious Earth  by Grant Morrison

This is one of my all-time favorite Batman books. If you ever wanted to know what being inside Arkham Asylum must be like, this should give you a pretty good idea why the criminals keep trying to escape. But this isn’t your typical Batman chases down some insanity through Gotham. No, Batman has to journey into the heart of the asylum, where he not only confronts his greatest opponents, but the inner workings of his own psyche. Naturally, it’s the Joker who asks the most important  question: Why isn’t he in there with them?

The artist is actually Dave McKean, but I think you can see a pattern forming, in that I like either cutsie, or painterly, styles of art.

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The Nocturnals (The Gunwitch) by Dan Brereton

I was intrigued by the  illustrations for this series long before I’d ever heard it was a comic book.That first image was of The Gunwitch, and I loved that name so much, that I went on an all out search for more of it, and came across The Nocturnals. Essentially, this is a Halloween superhero team, with the various members having superpowers based on being supernatural creatures. The Gunwitch is the former bodyguard of the young lady holding the stuffy, with the pumpkin purse, named Evening Horror.  The art is funky and colorful and, despite the presence of sexy women, this is safe  for juveniles.

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Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin

This is similar to The Nocturnals in theme. I discovered this comic in an anthology series about Halloween, about a group of neighborhood dogs, (and one cat), who fight the various monsters that keep invading their territories. My favorite part is the relationship between the various pooches, who are all brave and  good doggos. It’s not all sweetness and light though, because the stakes are very real, and sometimes the dogs get killed. It’s safe enough for pre-teens because there is very little gore, but not okay for small kids.

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http://deadshirt.net/2014/03/11/hellhounds-and-scaredy-cats-why-beasts-of-burden-is-the-best-horror-comic-youre-not-reading/

 

Constantine Hellbalzer: All His Engines by Mike Carey

I would definitely consider myself a Constantine fan, as I’ve read most of the graphic novels. Not all, but most, and I do have some favorite storylines. This is a particular favorite of mine, because apparently all you have to do is throw in an old Aztec god, and I’m in. The art is exceptionally well done, very detailed, and disgusting, and very, very effective. In this one, Constantine manages to find his way  to Los Angeles, investigating why his best friend’s grandchild has fallen into a coma, only to find its a trap meant just for him, in a war between an ancient god, and a demon wannabe.

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Spiral/Uzumaki by Junji Ito

This is one of those comics that has no gore, but nevertheless, haunts you long after you’ve finished the story. A curse causes the people in a small Japanese town to become obsessed with spirals to the point where they begin physically  transforming into spirals. If you like geographical horror, like the movie Annihilation, this is a great spooky story for Halloween.

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Enormous by Tim Daniel

The earth has been taken over by gigantic monsters. In the first story, Ellen Grace tries to get some orphaned children to a safe place, after the death of her mother, and the destruction of most of Arizona.

You know how much I love monsters, and the art for this series is truly spectacular, with full color paintings. It also has a female lead, ala Ellen Ripley. This is a pretty graphic and harrowing adventure story about not just physically surviving, but surviving emotionally. This is a comic you read in small sips.

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Wormwood: Gentlemen Corpse by Ben Templesmith

I mentioned this series some time ago. I love horror-comedy mashups, and this is Ben Templesmith knocking it out of the park, with the hilarious, and terrifying stories of Wormwood, a tiny little worm inhabiting a rotting corpse, which  has not stopped him from living up to his responsibilities of  drinking, cussing, and saving the world from the interdimensional, Cthulhu-like horrors, waiting to destroy the Earth.

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The Goon Series by Eric Powell

For those of you who like monsters, but don’t like being scared, here’s some  humorous horror from Eric Powell. Think Ash vs. The Evil Dead, (and everything else), including mad scientists, zombies, Cthulhu, and femme fatales, set in the forties. The Goon usually wins by punching things, and when that doesn’t work, his loudmouthed partner will offer to shoot it. Don’t let the artistic style fool you. These books are nice and gory, but that’s okay, because they’re also deeply, deeply silly.

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Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing

I knew about the original backstory of the Swamp Thing because I read the comics when I was a little  kid, but when Alan Moore began his run in the 80s, he turned all of that on its head, and created one of the best story arcs for any character in the DC universe. Moore was aided in this endeavor by the  artists Bernie Wrightson, Steve Veitch, John Totleben, and Steve Bissette. (Please read the 1984 story “The Anatomy Lesson” if you want to be emotionally devastated.)

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Shaolin Cowboy by Geof Darrow

I was first introduced to the art of Geof Darrow in the book HardBoiled. A book with almost no dialogue, but plenty, and I mean plenty, of art. His work is so incredibly detailed, it’s ridiculous.  I went on to read Big Guy and Rusty (Who remembers that cartoon, but me?), and this crazed adventure here, Shaolin Cowboy, about the supernatural adventures of a Shaolin monk, in a techno alternate future America. Once again, there’s no dialogue to speak about, but you will spend hours staring intently at the pages trying to parse every detail, and it will be worth it, because Darrow likes to add lots of easter eggs to his work. It’s fun without  that anxiety producing gameshow feeling of  having to search for Waldo.

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Criminal Macabre by Steve Niles

Criminal Macabre is like if Ash from The Evil Dead had been born with the psychic ability to see the supernatural world, and tried unsuccessfully to suppress that power with a ton of booze and drugs. This series is deeply funny, mostly due to Cal McDonald’s ability to wisecrack, in even the most dire situations. This man takes so many drugs, it’s a wonder he’s able to stand up straight most of the time, often walking into fights drunk, high, or both, yet still somehow managing to prevail. And for those of you who consider comic books a little  too juvenile for your taste, there is a nice, fat, prose anthology of Cal’s adventures called Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories. The prose version isn’t as funny as the comics but the plots are just as ridiculous.

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Hellboy and B.P.R.D Series by Mike Mignola

I’m a long time Hellboy fan. Some of the love is at least partly due to the artistic style of Mike Mignola. If your only knowledge of Hellboy is through the two Guillermo Del Toro movies, then I urge you to check out the comic books, graphic, and prose novels, which are deeper than the films, and if possible, even more dark and moody. The biggest difference between the style of the movies and the books is tone. There’s not as much color or  humor in the books. If you’re looking for fun and funny, this ain’t necessarily it.

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https://nerdist.com/hellboy-rise-blood-queen-comics-history/

 

 

Honorable Mentions or What I’m About to Start Reading Soon

Aliens Salvation by Dave Gibbons

I actually haven’t read a whole lot of books in the Alien franchise. It doesn’t mean I don’t like the series. It mostly means I’m  too chickenshit to consume a steady diet of them.

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Beautiful Darkness by Fabian Vehlmann

This story about tiny mutated people living in and around the rotting body of a little girl abandoned in the woods, sounds suitably horrific and yes, very, very strange.

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Gyo by Junji Ito

I’m told that the actual title of this book is called Death Stench and has something to do with people dying horribly from intestinal gas. This should resonate with anyone like me who is lactose intolerant and has ever made the mistake of drinking dairy products.

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Hillbilly by Eric Powell

Since I love the midwestern horror stories of Manly Wade Wellman, I’m pretty sure I’m going to like this other series by Eric Powell, about a Hillbilly guardian who fights monsters, in the hills of Appalachia, accompanied by his friend, a giant bear.

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Neonomicon by Alan Moore

I heard that this book was deeply frightening, about two government detectives stumbling across a supernatural mystery. It’s written by Alan Moore, so I trust that assessment.

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Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs

Another monster book, about a couple who decide to spend their honeymoon hunting bizarre natural monsters. It sounds really cute, and I hope it’s not too scary for me.

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These Shows Look Exciting

For some of these TV shows, I already posted trailers, but recently new trailers were introduced at the New York Comic Con, which got me enthused all over again. Now these are surefire shows and returns that I will definitely be watching when they air, usually because I enjoyed the first season, or read the book, or because I just like the premise and actors.

Wolf Creek Season 2 – Dec. 15th/?

Some of these shows, I don’t have concrete dates for, and for some of them I don’t even have a network, nevertheless, I will be scrolling through my TV guide to find them at the appointed times.

I remember doing a mini review of this when it first aired. The series was unexpectedly good. I say unexpected because I hated the movie on which this was based. Wolf Creek is based on the story of a real life serial killer who roamed the Australian Outback, several years ago, and I had trouble watching the film because it was more like torture porn than a legitimate movie, and seemed to be glorifying the killer, and I seriously didn’t like that. I also hate films where the soundtrack consists entirely of women screaming. I was sort of expecting that with this series, but what I got was a tension-filled thriller, where the  usual “Final Girl” plays a long cat and mouse game with the man who destroyed her family.

This time around I didn’t see any of that in the trailer, and there seems no continuation of the fallout from the first story, as far as I can tell. I think this is an entirely new cast, although once again, there’s a little bit too much glorification of the killer for my comfort. I’m not a fan of portraying real life serial killers as funny and entertaining, but I will tolerate that, if the show is really, really compelling.

We’ll see.

Good Omens – 2019/ Amazon/BBC

I’m a big David Tennant fan, so I will probably be here to watch this. No, I didn’t read the original story and have no great urge to do so. Sometimes I like to watch a source based show, solely on its own merits, and I want to do that with this one. I like the premise, and it looks hilarious, which I’m told is also true of the book its based on.

The Passage – 2019/Fox

I mentioned being excited about this earlier this year. Now this series, I did read the book but not because I knew it would become a TV show. I read it because it has some truly scary vampires in it, and I really liked the writing. The trailer heavily reminds me of Carey’s The Girl With All The Gifts, and I can’t help but think this may have been influenced by it, (although it wasn’t.)

The one problem I had with the first book in the trilogy by Justin Cronin was about halfway through the first book the story really slowed down, especially after those great first 200 pages. I seriously considered simply dropping the book, but I persevered, and I’m glad I did, because it picked up again for the last 50 pages or so, and the last part has some relevance to the next book in the series, called The Twelve.

The makers of the show have said they plan to stick pretty close to the first book as much as possible, including that 100 year jump that happens just after the events in the first 100 or so pages. Now I’m curious as to how they’re gonna pull that off without losing their audience. I almost didn’t finish the book for that reason.

Titans – DCEU Streaming/Today

I have no plans to subscribe to this network. I’m not buying one more damn app to watch shows on. I spend enough money now on cable. Nevertheless, I’m still excited about this show, not so much because of Anna Diop, but because I’m a big fan of Beastboy, mostly from watching Teen Titans Go, with my niece. (I’m probably one of five people, in the US, who doesn’t give a single  gotdamn that Starfire is being played by a Black woman. I think she looks gorgeous! I still hate her outfit.)

Star Trek Discovery Season 2 – Jan. 17th/ CBS All Access

The more of this I see, the more excited I am for the new season. I hope to get more insight into the Bridge crew, and I actually like Pike with his cocky ass. It’s still kind of bittersweet when you consider his life trajectory, though. It’s fitting there would be some Spock in this season, as Spock eventually comes to serve with Pike on the Enterprise, before Kirk became Captain. I really like Michael, and I love how she was so much of the focus of the first season, as is fitting, but I’d also like to see a little less focus on just her, and a little more of a focus on her interaction with the rest of the crew, and what their lives are like together.

And I have to watch it for the promised reunion between Culber and Stamets.

Siren – Jan. 2019/Freeform

I mostly enjoyed the first season which was kind of uneven as far as pacing and character. It seems like this season the show is going to focus on Indigenous shapeshifters, not just the mermaids, which I think is very exciting, and it appears the show will  continue to  slam it out of the park on the diversity angle, by adding more Indigenous people to the cast.

Daredevil Season 3 – Oct. 19th/Netflix

I’m almost excited for this new season because the trailer looks great. I was okay with the last season. I give it a C, as it could’ve been better, and mostly I just seemed to see all its faults. Well, it had a lot of faults. But I really like Vincent D’Onofrio though, so I’m looking forward to seeing the Kingpin again, only because Vincent is so damned good at playing him. The fight scenes look really good, and I’ve heard the other characters on the show get some major screen-time, separate from Matt’s shenanigans as Daredevil. Frankly, Foggy deserves it.

American Gods Season 2 – 2019/Starz

Do I even need to talk about how excited I am for the second season of this show. I do have a few misgivings though because the prolific Bryan Fuller is no longer in charge of this season. I think Nei Gaiman has taken over the writing or something, which is good, but Neil is not Bryan and I don’t know how or if he will approach the racial issues of the story the ay Bryan did. I’m always wary of White writers when it comes to the subject of race, unless they have proven track record of care and improvement. I like Neil, and have read many of his books, but I don’t know how he planes to approach the show.

Nevertheless, I’ll remain optimistic based on this trailer, which looks pretty good. I’d watch the show even if I hated the trailer, because I’m looking forward to meeting all the other Gods, like Mama-Ji. There’s also an Indigenous character, a young woman, that was added from the book, and another Asian woman called New Media, since Gillian Anderson left the show. New Media represents the god of social media and the internet, and is strongly aligned with Technical Boy. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of the Native gods of America, even though they were briefly mentioned and seen in the first season, although I have to say that such beings don’t show up til the end of the book, not that I think we should wait to see them.

What I’ve Been Watching: Mini-Reviews Of Dr. Who And Others

TV

Dr Who

I’m hooked! I know I’ve stated that I do not consider myself a Whovian because I’m not as steeped in the history of the show as some other more knowledgeable people might be, but I’ve always liked the show, and watched specific episodes when I was a kid in the 70s. I remember the Daleks from back then, and I know most of the villains on the series, and am familiar with a lot of the Doctors and their companions. I’m not steeped in minute details, but I know enough to navigate my way around a season.

In season 9 I started watching the show in earnest, because of the presence of Peter Capaldi, of whom I’m a big fan. I really loved him as the Doctor and I loved his new companion Bill Potts, and I was sorry to see them both gone.

I didnt actually know what to think of Jodi as the new Doctor at first. I was reserving my opinion on the entire issue until I saw some trailers or something, but after I saw the first trailer, I was intrigued, and I’ve seen her interviews about her new role, and her love and enthusiasm really captured me. I really like the actress herself. She so captures that sense of the Doctor. In fact, she reminds me of one of my other favorite Doctors, David Tennant whose career I’ve been following ever since. The first time I saw Jodi was in Grabbers, playing a drunken cop, and killing aliens, and I liked her in that movie, so when it was announced she’d be the new Doctor, I wasn’t upset, because I kinda knew of her.

Well, I watched the first episode and she is a darling . I really like her and I plan to watch the rest of the season. Now don’t get me wrong, the show isnt perfect, and did some things I found frustrating, but not frustrating enough to stop watching it, or lose interest, and overall, I really enjoyed myself. Some parts of it were a little heavy handed, and it remains to be seen how her companions, three at the moment, two of them PoC, will be treated by the writers. I have it on good authority that there are PoC in the writers room  for the very first time, so I feel optimistic about it.

Her new companions are a Black fellow named Ryan,and  his White stepfather, Graham (which is a dynamic I hope will be elaborated on in the future as their relationship is not an easy one), and a young Asian woman named Yasmin, who is/was a minor detective with the police. I like the relationship between Yasmin and Ryan as they are old grade school chums.

As for the Dr., she is her usual obnoxiously intelligent self, but with that little something extra that only Jodi could have brought to the role and something which all the actors who have played the Dr. were chosen for, their unique take on the character. It doesn’t hurt that she’s as nice to look at as any of the other Doctors like Tennant or Capaldi. I love her usual  know-it-all enthusiasm, which can get a bit grating after more than a little bit of it, but that’s okay, because the doctor usually prevails, and that’s also part of the reason I like this show so much.

So I guess this actually does make me a fan, huh?

Supernatural

I’m cautiously excited, and yet dreading, the rest of the season, because I care  so much about all  these characters, and know they’re in for a hard road, and some of them ain’t gonna make it out alive. Well, I’m in it til the end, so there. I’ll give a more detailed review at my other website and link it to this one. But I  really liked the premiere, and I’m going to give it a pretty high rating, and hope the rest of the season continues at that same level.

Charmed

I’ve been trying to drum up some enthusiasm for this show, but it’s been hard. I’m not a fan of the original show. In fact, I pretty much hated it, and that might have something to do with this retread. I don’t dislike this show. It’s only been one episode but I have a couple of objections.

I was really hoping, since the characters are meant to be Latina, that there would be some introduction of Brujeria magic into the show. Instead what we got was more of the European stuff, with Latin, and sparkly lights. It would have been a great idea to introduce Hispanic/Latinx cultural traditions into the show, and I would have liked to have seen that. I’m also against remaking old shows with Brown characters. Just give us a new show with a new name, maybe even the same characters, but an original show.

Now the show isn’t actually bad. One of the minor concepts in the premiere was the issue of sexual assault on campus. There’s a background story about one of the Professors being exonerated of sexual assault charges, who later turns out to be a demon who feeds on women’s strength. I thought that was neat little dovetail connecting the two issues, although occasionally heavy handed.

My biggest issue was the acting and the actresses. I’ve never seen two of them in anything, so I don’t know them, but they need a little work on their skills. And the youngest sister is one of those annoying narcissistic teenagers who doesn’t want to be special because it will ruin her chances to pledge with a sorority. The middle sister is a Lesbian with anger issues. Normally I’d have a problem with that but the writers try to be subtle about it,and it’s implied that the anger is a result of her coping with her mothers death, so this gets a pass. She’s the most intriguing character becasue I don’t know her as much about her, whereas with the younger sister, you feel like you know all you need to know about her.

I did like Mantocks older sister though because I understood her, and she’s just a better actress than the other two. Remember Mantock from Into the Badlands, so she’s got a great deal of experience p,and I liked her on that show. She shows up at the house after the girls mother dies and she’s lonely, and looking for a family. At first the two sisters reject her, and I kinda felt for her on that, but eventually they accept her, and try to bond with her. Mantocks acting is top notch. She almost brought me to tears a coupe of times. She’s also a scientist, which is something that plays out in an interesting way in the show. I liked that the writers combined some of her scientific knowledge with the magic,and it’s also really rare to see Brown women in STEM, so I’m all for it.

I feel like the writers need to spend time fleshing out their characters more, which they will of the show lasts beyond season one. The baby girl seems like she’s the comedy relief, and she can hear peoples thoughts. The middle girl seems to be the hearts and feelings one. She can stop time. The oldest played by Mantock is the brainy, logical one. I forget what her unique gift is though, so now I need to watch it for that.

Well, I don’t hate it, but I don’t dislike it either, and sometimes it takes time for me to determine if I liked something. I’m leaning in the direction of I Cautiously Like It. I’m not in love with it, but there’s the possibility of love, maybe.

Black Lightning

This is another show I’m invested in. I enjoy these characters, and want the best for them and like the dynamics between them. I’m a little tired of Tobias Whale as a villain and hope the season moves on from him, but I get why he’s present. There were a number of unexpected plot turns in the season premiere, so I’m looking forward to how the season turns out. I continue to be impressed by Anissa and even Jennifer. Yes, she’s still a  bratty teen who doesn’t want superpowers, but circumstances will force her to face her issues, whether she likes it or not, so I’m interested in what happens to her.

I didn’t see Siren’s (Tobias henchwoman’s) death coming. She was less likable than Tobias, so I’m not too broken up about her being killed by a sharpened stiletto through the throat. Incidentally, Anissa’s fight scenes are definitely the shit. I love to watch her put her thing down. She’s less conservative than her father. She’s a lot more of a maverick, and it shows in her fighting style, and I like that. When told that she can’t do something, she manages to find a workaround.

Jennifer is losing control of her powers, but that statement implies she was in control of them in the first place. She mostly tried to deny having them. At one point she has to be rescued by her father, when she can’t turn off her abilities. When she’s manifesting, he’s the only one who can make physical contact with her without dying, and from the looks of it, it’s still pretty painful for him. I mentioned to my Mom that in the comic books, she’s basically a sentient  bolt of lightning (or at least that’s how she’s drawn, and that her sleep/ floating is an indication of her flight powers manifesting.)

Lynn is her usual beautiful self. My mom and I had an interesting discussion about Lynn’s statement that Jennifer needed therapy. My mom thinks that’s a crock. What’s a therapist gonna do? But she feels that way about a lot of therapists. Some things she thinks talking about doesnt help at all, but I think Jennifer has been going through some major traumatic events outside of having superpowers, and needs to talk to someone who’s not her dad or sister.

Jefferson outed himself, and Anissa, to the Police commissioner. I didn’t see that coming, and I wonder what that means for their future endeavors as vigilantes. Is it gonna be like a Gotham city Batman type thing, where he quietly calls on Black Lightning to help him out from time to time, or will it be  a Dark Knight thing, where he has to pretend to want to catch him?

The show started off with a young Black man being killed by the police for having superpowers. This event is tied into the Black Lives Matter movement very neatly by a preacher on the show who says that the police are using the presence of superpowers to terrorize and kill young Black men. Now that’s how you do a racism allegory, by tying the fantasy aspect into the actual real life oppression of a marginalized group, and showing how that would affect that group. I talked about how I’m not a fan of racist allegories that don’t include any members of the group that the allegory was appropriated from. Here, it’s been done correctly, in a way I stated I would like to see in a sci fi fantasy show. And since it involves superpowers, this is done in such a way that I don’t too caught up in my feelings about police brutality. There’s a bit of an intellectual remove. If children from marginalized communities were suddenly developing superpowers, how would that affect how they’re treated by the dominant culture, and  their community. How would they react? It seems like the show will be addressing some of this. I hope they elaborate on it a bit more.

I loved the music for the show, too. I think Anissa’s fight scenes get some of the best music and its usually a reflection of her youth and general attitude. Jefferson’s music tends to be a bit more old school R&B, with some Jazz thrown in.

So, yeah, I’m definitely invested. Hopefully, the show will continue at this same high level for the rest of the season.

The Walking Dead

I’m watching it. Things seem okay. It certainly seems less depressing than previous seasons. I understand that this is Rick’s last season on the show, so I’m curious as to what is gonna happen to him and Michonne, and if the show can survive without him. I think it can. The show has built up the other characters enough that it would still be an emotionally compelling show without him.

I’m not a huge fan of intrigue and political gaming shows, though. It’s one of the major aspects that I dislike about Game of Thrones because I’m not interested in watching people fight with each other over who gets to be in charge, and I don’t want to see Game of Thrones during the Apocalypse, which is what this seems to be becoming, as Maggie and the others scheme to …well, I’m not sure what they’re scheming, but it feels bad though. I like these characters, and don’t want to watch them fight each other for power, although I’m always here for watching Michonne beaning somebody over the head when they start acting a fool.

I’m curious about the outcome of this season, but I’m kinda burnt out on the show, as a result I’m less enthused about it then I have been in the past. I’m pretty sure some of that lack of enthusiasm was caused by the death of Glenn, who I really, really miss. The show hasn’t felt right since his death. Without him, the past two seasons have just felt pointless, and depressing, in a way it didn’t when he was on the show. I’m not entirely done with the show, but I’m not making the huge emotional investment that I did in the past.

Also, part of the reason I’m reluctant to become as emotionally involved in the show is that I’m too damn tired to do it. Things are so batshit right now in this country, that I’ve quite used up all my emotions, and don’t have any to spare for a TV show like this. If it were a more intellectual series, than maybe I could, but this show is not Westworld, a show which requires less emotional investment, only a mostly intellectual one. This is actually a pretty draining show, which is part of the reason why I stopped reviewing it.

Well, I can always keep abreast of the show through the Talking Dead show which airs right after. I’m not a fan of the host of the show, since he tries too hard to be funny, but the guests discuss their characters and the plot in depth, and I can get an idea of what’s going on without having to sit through an entire episode.

Mr. Mercedes

This series is based on the trilogy by Stephen King, which I really enjoyed. The first season was based on the first book, about a serial killer, named Brady who plays cat and mouse games with the retired cop, Hodges, who assigned himself to capture him. He’s accompanied by a young black kid, named Jerome, his love interest/neighbor Donna, and a young woman on the autism spectrum named Holly. (Hint: I’m a huge fan of Holly.) The first season, and the book, ended with Brady in a coma, being kept in a special hospital.

The new season skips over the second book, which doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Brady, and skips to the third book in the series, called End of Watch, and chronicles Brady’s mental superpowers that result from his doctors experiments with drugs, and Brady using those powers to target the people who put him in his condition.

Since I didn’t finish the first season of the show, I missed out on the fact that there are a lot of PoC in this show. Sure Hodges is the center of it but not completely. The other characters get major screen time and are shown to have lives and family outside of Hodges. Especially Jerome, whose father is going through some financial issues, while his little sister seems to be going through some emotional ones. I already like Jerome, but his family members didn’t make a good impression on me because the plot requires them to be assholes to Jerome, and I didn’t care for that.

I’m going to stick around for a bit and see if what happens on the show lines up with what happens in the book, which I think was the best book in the trilogy.

Mr. Inbetween

I’m not a huge fan of shows which sympathize and humanize incredibly violent men but this show is intriguing because it does some unexpected things with the characters and I liked the mood of it. The show is out of Australia and that may have something to do with the approach which, while kind of light at times, is not played for comedy. The humor arises out of the dialogue and decisions characters make on the show. The violence is not played for laughs.

The lead character is named Ray, a hitman, and an ex-con, who gets into various misadventures while trying to juggle his relationships with his loved ones, and attend anger management classes. The most poignant relationship is with his young daughter, who is really cute, and so far as I’ve seen, does not exist to be put in danger, and his relationship with a young woman he just met. The show is unremarkable beyond the acting and dialogue. The plot consist of Ray getting into and solving crazy situations while being harangued by whatever criminal employers he’s with that week, while sorta keeping things secret from his family. The Typical “hitman as lovable rogue” type plots really.

The Devil Went Down To The Crossroads

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above “have mercy, now save poor Bob, if you please”
Ooh, standin’ at the crossroad, tried to flag a ride
Ooh-ee, I tried to flag a ride
Didn’t nobody seem to know me, babe, everybody pass me by
Standin’ at the crossroad, baby, risin’ sun goin’ down
Standin’ at the crossroad, baby, eee-eee, risin’ sun goin’ down
I believe to my soul, now, poor Bob is sinkin’ down
You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
That I got the crossroad blues this mornin’, Lord, babe, I’m sinkin’ down
And I went to the crossroad, mama, I looked east and west
I went to the crossroad, baby, I looked East and West
Lord, I didn’t have no sweet woman, ooh well, babe, in my distress
— Cossroad Blues – Robert Johnson

 

I was inspired to write this essay  by an episode of Supernatural, titled Crossroad Blues, which aired in season two, and is a direct reference to the above song. In the episode, Sam and Dean are investigating the deaths of two people who said they were being followed by Hellhounds, and chronicles their first meeting with a Crossroads demon, whose job it is to collect the souls of humanity by offering people their fondest wishes, for a limited span of time. When their time is up, (a year, or five, or ten), Hellhounds are sent to collect the hapless soul.

The  folklore about haunted crossroads comes from many cultures, but the folklore referenced in this particular episode of the series is sourced directly from  the part of the South in which my mother was born, the Mississippi Delta. This is the kind of music I grew up listening to, and my Mom was the one who tried to explain the concept of Hellhounds to me.

The idea of Hellhounds (Black Hounds, Black Shuck, or Fetches, as harbingers of death) isn’t unique to the South either, but all these ideas come together directly from a song by Robert Johnson, where he sings about a man named Willie Brown, meeting the devil at a crossroads, making a deal with him for fame, and naturally, because the Devil is the Devil, regretting the whole matter, when it was time to pay up, and having to deal with the Hellhounds now on his trail..

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Tales of bargains with The Devil are even older than that, with one of the most popular being the German  legend of Johann Faust, who makes a deal with The Devil/ Mephistopheles, for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. So many movies, operas, plays, and stories have come from this legend, (and the Greek legend that spawned it), that it has become its own genre, The Faustian Pact/Bargain, in which a greedy person makes unethical, or soul destroying choices to get fame and glory,and pays a nasty price, although these specific stories are more religious in theme and origin than Southern folklore.

There are also lots  of tales of The Devil traveling down South and losing bets, due to the cleverness, or skills, of a human opponent. Before The Devil Went Down to Georgia, he was sung about in Lonesome Fiddle Blues, a song later adapted by the Charlie Daniels Band in 1979. In the song, a boy named Johnny competes in a music contest with The Devil, for a golden fiddle, and wins. It’s an entirely appropriate song for the show Supernatural, containing elements of Rock music and Country/ Bluegrass folk songs,  and its David and Goliath theme of a little guy being underestimated, and triumphing, over a supposedly larger, stronger foe. Sounds like a couple of guys we know, huh?

 

Going down to a Crossroads, to make  Faustian bargains, is also a popular trope. In the 1986 movie Crossroads, which was inspired by the legend of Robert Johnson and featured the title song, Joe Seneca stars as Willie Brown, who must go to the crossroads, and make a deal with The Devil to get back the soul he bargained away decades ago.

Willie is accompanied in this soul quest by Ralph Macchio, as Eugene,  and Jamie Gertz, as Eugene’s scheming love interest, Frances. The movie culminates in a guitar showdown between Eugene and a famous Rock guitarist, named  Jack Butler, played by Steve Vai, a contest which directly echoes the fiddling contest in The Devil Went Down to Georgia, right down to referencing  two different genres of music. The Devil, also known as Legba, (from Voudon), and Scratch, (a very old Southern name), is gleefully played by Robert Judd. The very first time I ever heard that name for the Devil was from guess who!

The entire movie has a poetic resonance, because the music Eugene uses, in a desperate bid to win his contest against Jack Butler, is the same classical music style that he’d spent the first half of the movie treating  with some contempt.

 

The 1941 movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster, is another retelling of the Faust legend  in which a famous lawyer goes up against the devil in a courtroom, to save the soul of a wayward farmer. Its based on the short story by Stephen Benet. The original title was changed to  All That Money Can Buy.

 

In the 1987 Angelheart, The Devil, played by Robert Deniro, as Louis Cyphre, gets as far South as Louisiana in his search for a runaway soul housed in the body of Detective Harry Angel, played by Mickey Rourke. This movie was most famous for the sex scene depicted between  Rourke, and Lisa Bonet, who was fresh off her stint on the much more wholesome Cosby Show. It’s a gorgeous film, although somewhat gory. This doesn’t contain a musical contest, but more of a contest of wills between Harry and Louis.

My favorite scene is one of the more innocent looking ones, where Deniro offers Harry an egg. Within the context of the movie, and its version of Christian mythology, the peeling of the egg is highly symbolic:

In the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, Easter eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ, with further symbolism being found in the hard shell of the egg symbolizing the sealed Tomb of Christ — the cracking of which symbolized his resurrection from the dead.

In this instance the egg represents the soul, most specifically  the soul of Harry Angel as Louis Cyphre peels off the egg shell, which is symbolic of the plot of the film, as Harry peels back the layers of his life and memories, until he reaches the film’s tragic conclusion.

Angelheart is available on Hulu.

 

One of my personal favorites is this little nugget  called The Devil and Daniel Mouse, based on the above movie, and created as a Canadian Halloween special in the early 80s. It took me a really long time to find this again. Once again, we get echoes of The Devil Went Down to Georgia, as the lead character tries to bargain back her soul from the devil, and is aided by the mouse who loves her, who contests the Devil in a musical fight.

This is available on Youtube.

 

 

Another cartoon offshoot of the Faustian Bargain is an echo of the above story called Rock and Rule. This is another favorite of mine, as it introduced me to a lot of different artists I’d not heard of before like Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop. I was already a fan of Debbie Harry, though. Its a very surreal film, with lots of music, and well… no people, just these furry type citizens living as if they were people, and while the Devil isn’t going down South in this movie, it does contain  the Devil’s Bargain theme. My favorite character is of course Mok, voiced by Don Francks, and sung by Lou Reed. My favorite song from this movie is Debbie Harry’s Angel’s Song.

(The full movie is available on Youtube.)

 

 

Check out any of the above, and if you have any recs for more Faustian Bargain movies, let me know in the comments. I may or may not have seen them.

Other Faustian Bargain films to Watch for Halloween:

Rosemary’s Baby

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Ghost Rider

Spawn

Devil’s Advocate

The Witches of Eastwick

Constantine

 

Finally here, have some more Robert Johnson:

October Is Here!

I love October! Its what many of us Octoberites call Halloween month, the weather has changed, which is an especially good thing for those of us suffering from Summer allergies, or who just hate any temperatures above 80 degrees, and I get to knit lots of hats, sweaters, and scarves without looking weird.

Its also time for me to focus on Scary Movie Stuff (which is the technical term, probably). Of course I do this all year long, but I have the excuse now to drop everything else I’m writing and focus on things like the scariest short movies, and reviews of my favorite scary films.

So here we go, and I’m going to start the month off with my top five  favorite scary short films right now. There will be more of these as I fall down that rabbit hole of short, scary films on YouTube.

 

Tinglewood

This is a very effective, straight horror story with genuine emotional depth. It’s  about a family that goes camping, and ends with a fight for survival, when they meet with the unexpected.

 

 

 

Mannequin

I think I told you guys about my fear of inanimate objects coming  to life. This film worked for me just fine.

 

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

This isn’t scary so much as tragic, but I loved the style in which it was done. It’s been Gorgeously filmed, Backwards!

 

 

 

The Monster Under My Bed

This one startsed  off pretty scary. I too have that monster under the bed fear sometimes, but ultimately this turned out to be deeply cute.

 

 

 

Battleground

About twenty or so years ago, this video was in an anthology show of Stephen King stories based on his book, Nightmares and Dreamscapes. This specific story however is from his very first anthology, written in the 70’s, called Night Shift, and it’s also one of my favorite short stories, written long before the movie Toy Story. It’s both funny and deeply terrifying.

 

 

As an added bonus here are some  of the scariest movies to watch this month:

 

The Ritual

I talked about this movie in one of my short reviews. It’s still available on Netflix. It’s a lot deeper than it looks.

 

Radius

Although I was somewhat disappointed in the ending of this movie, I did get really caught up in this movie’s premise. It’s about two people, a man and a woman, who can’t be separated from each other for a certain distance. They have to remain in each other’s radius, or everyone else in their radius will die. The movie spends the first third with them figuring out what’s going on, the second third of the movie is spent putting them in intense and inevitable situations where they will be separated, as they try to solve the mystery of what happened to them and why.  I thought the final third of the movie was rather anti-climatic, but makes sense given the setup of the first part of the movie. This is also available on Netflix, and is for those of you who like suspense, but not a lot of gore.

 

The Monster

I thought this was a pretty terrifying premis especially since the monster is never explained. Which means of course that the monster isn’t really the focus of this movie, and is a symbol of something else.

A mother and daughter are fleeing an abusive relationship, I think, and their car breaks down on a deserted road, and they are menaced by a monster. This is pretty straightforward but the plot is complicated by the antagonistic relationship between the mother and daughter, which I found just as compelling as the danger provided by the monster.

Theres quite a bit of for in this one, and those of you who don’t like to watch children in danger, take warning. This movie is  free for Amazon Prime subscribers.

 

Seoul Station

If you’ve seen the Korean zombie movie, Train to Busan, then this is the animated prequel. It chronicles particularly of how the zombie plague in the second movie began and stars a different cast of characters. I discussed this in one of my mini-reviews. Like the live action film, it’s basically one long chase scene, but entirely animated. This is the first time I’ve ever encountered an animated zombie film, and it is a very intense film that is not for children.

This is also available through Amazon Prime’s Shudder subscription. Shudder has a monthly cost of 5.00. I got it as a gift for  my Mom because she absolutely loves horror movies.

 

 

 

 

Topics For Discussion (Weekend Edition)

Image result for burning sneakers

I don’t know if I’m a smart person. I’ve been told by various individuals that I am, (my brother would refer to me as a forgetful bobblehead), but I have spent my whole life trying to find out as much about the world as I can. To know as much as I can find out. So, to see the world descending into the real life version of the movie Idiocracy, is incredibly galling. I watched that movie a couple of years ago, thinking it would just be a stupid comedy, but I had a real emotional reaction to watching a movie about the decline of the human mind into… well, whatever that was in the movie, and I had to stop watching it, about halfway through. If you have never seen that movie, and your head contains brain cells that work, BY ALL THAT IS HOLY, DO NOT WATCH IT!!!! That will only end in tears.

Watching that movie will eliminate any and all faith that you had in humanity, and send you into a hell of depression and anger, as you recognize which version of the universe we are all now living in. People destroying property they have already bought, in protest of some corporate disfavor, is surely one of the signs of the apocalypse.

And don’t think this is just a problem of the Right. The Left has engaged in this sort of thing as well. Its the kind of behavior that people engage in when they have perhaps heard of protesting but aren’t quite sure how the process works.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/from-nike-to-keurig-conservatives-keep-blowing-up-things-they-bought-to-own-libs?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

The stunts aren’t really boycotts at all, but attempts to channel political impotence through consumption. One American can’t change much with a vote, but she can easily set fire to her sneakers, in accordance with her political leanings.

 

 

 

Actually this article was both terrifying and hilarious. Also, it really just cements the idea in my head that bigots are people who simply lack any real imagination. Such people cannot imagine the world in any other  way other than one where they aren’t masters of everyone else in it. The only dynamic they seem to be able to  understand is one in which they are dominated by some other group, (which utterly terrifies them), or they dominate everyone else (which largely consists of bullying, terrorizing, and murdering those others.)

Being an effective artist, (especially a writer), capable of expressing nuanced ideas, requires a level of self examination, and people-knowledge that such bigots are wholly ignorant of. It requires an understanding of complexity. Anything that comes out of their imagination can only be simplistic, often appropriated from elsewhere, or pulled from their truncated understanding of  how the world works. They don’t know enough about people to write them well. They don’t know enough about the world to be able to imagine it in any  way  outside of their terror of it. These stories are full of the authors imagining the worst for stand-up, straight, morally righteous, White people, like themselves, or the worst for everyone else.

 

 

If you visit the website, linked in the article, you will have to sit there for quite a while. The author says he managed to sit through 19 minutes of it and couldn’t fastforward, go back, or pause. If you leave the site, you will just have to start  at the beginning, watching you don’t know how many minutes of a montage of videos illustrating the White Savior narrative in movies. There’s a part of me that finds that deeply funny.

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https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/terence-nances-whitepeoplewontsaveyou-org-and-the-never-1828809698

The Blind Side is just one of many white-savior films Terence Nance skewers on his sublime WhitePeopleWontSaveYou.org—a website that just plays scenes from them on an endless loop while a chorus sings “White people won’t save you.” Also, the website doesn’t allow you to pause, rewind or fast forward. You just have to sit and watch and wonder when it ends. (I watched 19 minutes of it last night, so I know it’s at least that long.)

 

 

This article asks the age old question: Why don’t people ride bikes during or after the apocalypse? The answer is that’s something that only works in books, and looks a lot less cool than wearing BDSM gear on a motorcycle. We are so used to the Mad Max version of the the end of the world, I think we would have a hard time grasping the image  of people riding bikes during it.

We Westerners also  seem to think that that would be a global phenomenon, too. It just  occurred to me that huge parts of Asia would not be entirely up-heaved by the end of the world. People in Japan, India, and China already regularly use bicycles right now.

Image result for bicycles

https://www.thedailybeast.com/where-are-the-bicycles-in-post-apocalyptic-fiction

Bicycles don’t break their legs, they don’t need to be fed, and on a modern road, their gait is a lot smoother. The bicycle was a radical transportation breakthrough, especially when combined with the paved road, which is why millions and millions of people in poor countries still use them.

 

 

 

Image result for bright

This article discusses how science fiction gets racial allegories wrong. The writer points  out how the people being feared and despised by the populace  (mutants, aliens,  orcs), are almost always given enough power that  makes the fear of them entirely justified. Racial allegories written by White writers really just end up justifying real world racism. Basically saying, it’s okay to police the bodies of Black and Brown people because they really are dangerous to the dominant group. This was the major problem with the movie Bright.

http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-cringe-worthy-way-sci-fi-fantasy-deal-with-prejudice/

So, in the least-racist way you can, please imagine black people are hideous violent monsters who are physically stronger than humans and have large protruding fangs. Then understand in your kind human heart that we should accept these hideous monsters as equal to us normal, beautiful humans.

 

 

 

I thought this was especially interesting. One of the reasons I didn’t make any effort to watch Crazy Rich Asians is not just because I’m not a fan of romantic comedies, but because of the presence of Awkwafina, a female Asian rapper, who traffics in the usual tired appropriation of whatever African American tropes are floating around in her head.  She needs to find a way to express herself that does not involve stereotypes of Black culture.

I have met (and befriended) both Asian Americans, and White people, who grew up in Black culture. They lived in the ‘hood, went to school with Black kids, and all their friends were Black. They dressed, spoke, and acted just like the Black Americans around them. I do not think this is what’s happened in the case of Awkwafina. Is this some form of minstrelsy when engaged in by Asian Americans, and what does it say about them, as a group, that they  feel a need to choose between being Black or White?

Image result for awkwafina

 

https://www.colorlines.com/articles/performing-blackness-wont-fill-our-asian-american-culture-deficit-op-ed

“If first-generation White European immigrants…could use minstrelsy…to not only ensure their status as White people, but also to distance themselves from Black people, can Asian Americans use hip hop (the music, clothing, language and gestures, sans charcoal makeup), and everything it signifies to also assert their dominance over Black bodies, rather than their allegiance to Black liberation?”

 

 

 

 

Image result for n k jemisin

The people fighting against diversity in publishing are fighting a lost battle, I think. The Hugo Awards are probably trolling the Alt- Right at this point.

https://www.vox.com/2018/8/21/17763260/n-k-jemisin-hugo-awards-broken-earth-sad-puppies

But as we’ve also seen, these pushes for social change have led to backlash tinged with racism and misogyny — most notably through Gamergate, the unfortunate 2014 movement that essentially underpinned the rise of the alt-right, codified harassment campaigns against women and people of color for years, and helped give rise to the ideological polarization of the internet.

 

 

I’m always fascinated by the ideological differences between Eastern and Western approaches to technology. This article reminds me that I’ve seen very few movies and TV shows out of the East that make robots the bad guys. I’m sure there are some, but none come to mind for me. Asians have a very different approach to thinking about technology, than Westerners do. For Asian people robots and AI are friends, or allies, or happy tools that perform specific purposes. For Westerners (i.e. White people) there’s a tendency to think of robots as rivals, or enemies.

Image result for robots

https://www.wired.com/story/ideas-joi-ito-robot-overlords/

Technology is now at a point where we need to start thinking about what, if any, rights robots deserve and how to codify and enforce those rights. Simply imagining that our relationships with robots will be like those of the human characters in Star Wars with C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8 is naive.

 

 

This article is about how music (and musical styles) have degraded over the years. I still say that the 20th century was the time of the Great Vocalists, and although there are people who are good vocalists today, that an unprecedented number of them were born in the last century, and we will probably not see something like that again, (unless its an era that repeats itself later this century).

Article Image

https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/tragic-decline-music-literacy-and-quality

Music electronics are another aspect of musical decline as the many untalented people we hear on the radio can’t live without autotune. Autotune artificially stretches or slurs sounds in order to get it closer to center pitch. Many of today’s pop musicians and rappers could not survive without autotune, which has become a sort of musical training wheels. But unlike a five-year-old riding a bike, they never take the training wheels off to mature into a better musician.

 

 

 

Image result for natural hair

An interesting article about what it’s like to navigate an environment in which your hair is a source of fascination and political rebellion. I started wearing my hair in its natural state about three, maybe four, years ago, not for political reasons, but because I got tired of trying to keep it straight. None of the White people I know has evinced an ounce of interest in my hair. So far they are keeping silent about their thoughts. Black people however are willing to ascribe all manner of political motivations to me wearing my hair the way it just grows out of my head.

Even in Africa, Black people are fighting battles about how and where they can wear their natural hair.

https://qz.com/africa/1215070/black-hair-myths-from-slavery-to-colonialism-school-rules-and-good-hair/

This is one of the first dilemmas that black people face: do I let people touch my hair and under what circumstances? The question, “can I touch it?” becomes one of the most awkward social moments and can break relationships before they even start.

 

 

This was the topic that got to me though. Mostly I was just intensely baffled by it. The very first image that came to my mind was a scene from the book World War Z. There’s a chapter where one of the interviewees describes something called “Quislings”. He says its a French word for turncoat or something like that. Well, anyway he says that certain types of people ,when confronted with some emotionally overwhelming horror, try to appease that horror by becoming it, and that’s what quislings were trying to do, by pretending to be zombies. Of course, the zombies know they’re not zombies and promptly ate them. He describes a scene where zombies ate a quisling, but the person was so wrapped up in the delusion of being a zombie, that they were eaten alive while not making a sound, still pretending to the end.

Make of that description what thou wilt.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-young-men-of-color-are-joining-white-supremacist-groups

Tarrio and other people of color at the far-right rallies claim institutional racism no longer exists in America. In their view, blacks are to blame for any lingering inequality because they are dependent on welfare, lack strong leadership, and believe Democrats who tell them “You’re always going to be broke. You’re not going to make it in society because of institutional racism,” as one mixed-race man put it.