Month: February 2012

Things I Think that You Need to Have Read

Written horror is still my first love, hands down. There’s something visceral about a published piece that you can’t get with a movie.

A Hellbound Heart, or its companion Hellbound Hearts

This list is not written in any particular order. Hellbound Hearts is in my current line of sight, therefore, it’s the first on my list. Clive Barker’s A Hellbound Heart is near the top of my list of ‘fiction that does symbolism really, really well’. If you enjoy modern horror classics (which I really would call Hellraiser) then you need to read the novella that inspired it. If you don’t want to read the original, then at least read Hellbound Hearts which is an anthology of short fiction inspired by Hellraiser.

“The Yellow Wallpaper”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is in fact my favorite piece of symbolic horror and I will go out on a limb and say that it’s one of the best symbolic and feminist horror pieces ever written.

You probably read this piece in high school when it was required reading. Go back and read it, because part of what makes it so effective is that I’m not sure that so much has changed- they may have changed the color of the room and made it a little larger, but I think that her message is still scarily appropriate.

(And this ends my interjection of personal politics for the evening).

Dracula and Carmilla

The granddaddy of all vampire fiction. I think that it goes without saying that if you enjoy sparkly vampires you should probably experience where that genre started.

If you can get your hands on it, read Camilla for the feminine counterpoint.

A Christmas Carol

This one is probably going to make people think that I’ve lost my mind, but I also think that it’s probably not too much of an overexaggeration to say that this is the most familiar ghost story in American popular culture. Dickens has a writing style that’s beautifully wry. You really should read the book.

M R James and HP Lovecraft

The Comte and Durkheim of horror (I will work geekiness into everything if you let me). I will admit that I can handle interpretations of Lovecraft better than his original works, and that it took me years to appreciate James’s work to a level that it deserved, but these two arguably helped shape the face of modern horror. Besides, it takes talent to make octopi and bedsheets scary.

Salem’s Lot or The Shining

I will admit that I’ve been disappointed with a lot of Steven King’s recent work, but these are what I would list as his among his best work. A lot of his short pieces are exceptionally good as well, and you really need to be familiar with what a lot of people would call America’s best horror writer of recent decades.

The Turn of the Screw

Henry James has a knack for ghost stories that’s almost perfectly creepy. This is one of those stories that you’ll recognize because it’s echoed in so many modern works, but probably won’t realize is its own piece. The handling of the theme is wonderfully executed, and personally, I find James to be a lot easier to read than some of his contemporaries.

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Strawberry Swirl Cupcakes

I have an odd emotional attachment to Chobani greek yogurt.

I don’t particularly like greek yogurt, it feels like wallpaper paste in my mouth. But there’s a large Chobani plant about 5 minutes from where I grew up that’s really supporting the community out there. That’s saying a lot- there’s not exactly a lot of industry there.

The first yogurt cake I made was TheĀ  Pioneer Woman’s Whiskey Pumpkin cake, minus the whiskey. I love what plain yogurt does to a cake. Strawberry swirl cupcakes are a straightforward yellowish cake base made with yogurt and strawberry jam. They’re yellowish because they have egg yokes, so they can’t be a white cake, but they have too few eggs to be a true yellow cake.

I used Wegman’s organic strawberry jam, because I had it and it’s alreay sort of runny. I also left it on the oven while it preheated to get slightly more runny.

In-between-ness.

Forgive the horrible photo. That’s the best I can do, even running it through GIMP.

Using an ice cream scoop, place about 3/4 of a scoop of batter into the cupcake liners. Add a spoonful of strawberry jam.

Swirl jam into batter with a spoon, and cover with about 1/4 of a scoop of batter.

The scoop makes fairly uniform, pretty cupcakes.

My excuse as to why the pictures are so horrible:

The weather when I made these. Oh sun, how I miss you…

Strawberry Swirl Cupcakes

1 cup plain yogurt

1 stick butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup milk

1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 and line cupcake tins.

Cut butter into thin slices and cream with the sugar.

Add yogurt, milk, and vanilla and beat until just mixed.

Adding eggs one at a time, beat until just mixed.

Add dry ingredients and beat until combined.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill liners and add jam.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Makes 18 cupcakes.

Posted to here

Think Pink

Wake Wood

I’m going to start out this out with a warning- if you have issues with animal violence (violence enacted by animals, or scenes including animals engaging in violent acts) this isn’t the movie for you. The action centers around a dog attack and there’s a scene with a cow.

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Oh I’m so happy. I’m having a fangirl squee over here in the corner. Hammer’s releasing films again. I know I’m probably the last horror blogger on the net to be talking about that, but I’m absolutely estactic that such a classic house is releasing work again.

I decided on Wake Wood because I wanted noise to do yoga to (and yes I’m just that macabre). The description didn’t give me much hope- anything that’s described as a pagan ritual in a horror film makes me a little queasy.

I’m so very glad that I picked this one. This movie creeped me out, and honestly? This is the first movie in a very long time that I would be willing to say scared me. There’s a heavy supernatural element to it, but most of the actual scares are very much based in reality.

Alice’s father is a veternarian. While feeding one of the dogs in his care, she is mauled to death. Her parents move to the town Wake Wood, where they discover the promise of returning her to life- and full life, not zombified, for 3 days and 3 days only to finish the grieving process.

The ritual aspect of the film is, to me, treated with as much respect as can be in a film. This is as much as about not accepting the gravity of your actions and interference as is it doing the unthinkable and unnatural. The treatment here reminds me of Hellraiser, where the big bad isn’t the obvious ‘evil’.

The movie strikes a really solid balance between the absurdity and the terrifying. The magic in the film is heavy, but it doesn’t feel forced- if you think the old Hammer films are too campy to be taken seriously, this may be campy, but you don’t want to stop watching either. In doing some poking online I’m finding comparisions to Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby) and while this is defintely not a classic, I can see the comparisions.

Sunday Legends- The Beautiful Ones, Part 3: Pooka

sundaylegends

One of the reasons that I love horror so much is the way that the genre relies on traditional imagery. There are so many folkloric stories that influence popular culture, but they sometimes receive so little attention. Sundays will be the day where I pick one story or one image and examine the history and variations of the legend.

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The Pooka

Someone accused me once of being a pooka.

Someone accused me once of having the oddest stories.

It was years before I knew what a pooka was, at which point I wondered what a teenaged pooka would be doing hanging out at an independent bookstore in Oneonta.

And what could I possibly be doing to earn such a…specific label; though maybe, in retrospect, it would explain a lot.

A pooka (also spelled puca, puka, or pwwka, among others) is the Irish equivilent of a goblin. However, this spirit generally takes the form of an animal- most often a black horse though other darkly colored animals are used. The pooka is a shape-shifting spirit and takes on whatever form it chooses. In some regions it does take on a humanoid form.

Pookas are trickster spirits but unlike other horse spirits they are generally pretty safe. They like to play with humans- people who ride them are never sure where they’re going to end up at the end. However, they generally don’t do anything to actually harm the rider.

However, some variations on the legend do have the pooka destroying property. For some reason, chickens seem to be particularly scared of pookas. They don’t lay eggs if they’ve been near one.

Pookas can talk. One of the traits associated with pookas is that when they talk, it’s to provide advice to the audience. This is especially true on November 1st, which is considered to be the pooka’s day. While November 1st is considered its holiday, the spirit is most strongly linked to Samhain during which any crops left in the fields are considered fairy-touched and belongs to the pooka.

The Legend in Popular Culture

Arguably, elements of Donnie Darko echo this legend, though it’s not a perfect parallel. The pooka that be most likely be familar to people would be Harvey the rabbit. The titular character in Darby O’Gill and the Little People has a horse that becomes a pooka (it’s a really cute movie, you should see it if you haven’t already).

More Reading

Puca/Pooka

the pooka

Pooka in pop culture

Part 1

Part 2

My Big 3 Monsters

I love most horror, but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t play favorites.

Come on now, most people play favorites with everything. At least they do if they’re being honest.

There are 3 major villians/monsters that stick out in my mind as my big 3 favorites.

Pinhead

I’m going to start with my first love. My first academic writing on horror was on Hellraiser. I have seen that movie so often that I can literally sleep through it. I even love the theme waltz.

Pinhead is, in my opinion, a completely solid character because he’s all of us, or at least, he’s the capacity we all have for going too far. He’s both our desires run out much farther than they should have ever gone plus the inevitable snapback that’s going to happen because of those actions.

I also love that Barker is capable of using deviance in a way that’s both horrifying without making the deviance seem horrible. It’s hard to take something and use it to comment on society and humanity without making it seem like you’re demonizing that thing. The cenobites are so wonderfully strange because they’re literally demonic but in the end, they’re not the real monsters of the series.

Plus, he’s just completely terrifying. Very little horror scares me anymore, but I remember just gaping at that face. Just avoid the later movies- they’re either way too silly or they take themselves way too seriously.

Pyramid Head

Pyramid Head’s on this list for similar reasons to Pinhead, but I will openly admit to fangirling for Pyramid Head.

Remember how I said that Pinhead is desire taken too far? It’s not an overreach to say that Pyramid Head is almost the other extreme. Pyramid Head is what happens when a person doesn’t acknowledge let alone act on desire until it completely festers. In the case of the Silent Hill series, Pyramid Head is a reaction to the fact that James is incapable of ever acting on his guilt.

The fact that he has such a dynamic appearance helps significantly too. I’m attracted to highly artistic monsters.

The Rubber Man

I know what the official version of the story is, but I still hold that the rubber man is a multisymbolic monster. I know who rubber man is, but I still think that he’s as much the house itself as any specific individual.

The rubber man is one of the most visible ghosts on American Horror Story. Dressed in a full latex suit, the identity of the ghost remains a secret until a grand unveiling. Throughout the series he functions as a grim reminder of sorts, pushing the storyline into deeper and darker areas.

I love the blankness of this character. Since he’s faceless, he’s quite literally anyone. There’s so much that can be read into the character, and prior to the reveal, most of it could be right because you know nothing about it. It makes it so much creepier because it’s fed to us piecemeal. I loved reading fan threads and seeing where people were going with it.

What I Do When Mid’s Not Around

Mid told me once that he thinks that I sit around on the computer all day when he’s not around, and that’s why the house is never spotless.

I wish.

This is pretty much how my Sunday went while he was at gaming-

But first. My glasses came in. The world is in sudden clarity.

– Grocery day. I went to the gas station and then Price Rite to pick up a few groceries. So exciting. Bell peppers in four colors and chicken breast was on sale. Woo. Actually though, part of the reason I’m so obsessed with stratch cooking right now is that it is so much cheaper in the end.

-3 loads of dishes. Scratch cooking means a lot of dishes. I could do hours of dishes a day just to keep up.

-Packed laundry for the laundry mat later in the evening.

-Made a double batch of rice to seperate and freeze.

-Cut up the bell peppers and seperated them to freeze along with an onion. I put them in 1 cup bags for stir fries and a couple of the soup recipes I’ve been eying.

-Made sweet chili sauce and chili paste to have in the fridge.

-Spent an hour on Pinterest organizing my pins, working on my Ostara and Beltane ideas, and starting a body confidence board.

-Seperated and froze the chicken breast. Aldi’s chicken is nice because it’s done for me, but this was $.20 a pound cheaper and I didn’t have to make another trip.

-Roasted a whole chicken.

Chicken! This chicken fed us until Wednesday, and I still need to boil the carcass down for stock. I’m thinking about roasting one every few weeks now, if it’s going to stretch that long.

-Cleaned the top of my stove. Trust me, it needed it.

-Marathoned Supernatural. I’m not certain where I stand on this show. I think there’s enough folklore out there to not turn us into the big bad (I’m thinking about the scarecrow episode, and remember, I just mentioned having an Ostara board on Pinterest).

-made a week’s worth of peanut butter sandwiches and froze them for back-up work lunches.

-made coffee concentrate

This picture hates me. I had to throw it into GIMP to get it to get it to stay rotated…anyway. I love the color orange so much that when I broke my french press last spring I had to get the orange one.

Coffee concentrate is so easy, and it’s really cheap because you really -should- use the cheapest ground coffee you can get. I’m not certain what the difference is, but cheap coffee really does make better concentrate.

Put 1 cup of grounds into the french press, and then 1 to 2 cups water. I like it to be slightly less strong so I just fill the french press the rest of the way with water. Let the coffee sit for 4 to 12 hours and then press. It keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

The View From My Front Porch

Time lapse update time.

I have started a Picsa to store all the photos online. I want to see if I ahem actually manage to keep with this for awhile before I let it loose on humanity.

It has been running long enough that I can sort of see a difference. Though it’s really exciting. Nothing like watching snow melt. Sometimes Google lets me download small versions of the photos. I don’t know why (and I’m not certain I care enough to figure it out though I’m certain it’s straightforward and simplistic). Even the small ones show the differences.

I’m wondering how long I can keep this up before my neighbors call the landlord.

The view a week ago today:

February 16

This week:

February 20

February 21