Friday, August 30, 2013

Quick Jots--Syria, and This Crazy, Dangerous World

More thoughts that don't have the steam (or maybe I just don't) to be their own blog entries.

--Completed 200 pages of my novel manuscript, and we're rolling right along.

--Sox's text polls are actually advertisements for AT&T and for whatever options are available.  For example, today's poll is for the fans to vote for their favorite non-Sox event at Fenway Park.  Options are Picnic in the Park (happening soon), Frozen Fenway (advertised heavily throughout this game), concerts (several coming up) and...well, you get the idea.  Each text is $.99 for AT&T, of course.  So the sponsor makes out, and the Sox ownership, which also owns Fenway, makes out.  A win-win.  And they show which option leads by using percent scores, so an option that has 10% could have 100 of 1000 total votes--or 1 of 10 total votes.

--I'm looking forward to seeing Boardwalk Empire and The Following.  What shows are you looking forward to?

--Just in the past two weeks, a 1 1/2 year old baby in a stroller, and a 1-year old baby in her babysitter's arms, have been shot dead, the latter yesterday in New Orleans.  What the hell is going on?  Defense exhibit 256,348 about why I mostly keep to myself and stay in my own cave.  It's a crazy, dangerous world out there.

--And, oh yeah, an 88-year old World War II vet was beaten to death by two teenagers, one of whom said the old man was trying to cheat him on a crack deal.  Camera footage clearly shows the youths beating the snot out of the old man, and does not show anything at all that would indicate a drug deal.

--Reading a good book slows down this very crazy world.  Or, it seems that way to me.

--I've got a bet with a friend that Jerry Remy will return this year to NESN to broadcast games for the Sox.  My friend says he'll never return, not even next year.  I think, and hope, that he's wrong.

--The nighttime darkness falls like a heavy curtain now, at least in my neck of the woods.

--The latest iPhone commercial is yet another example of how most commercials are better without a set, typical script.  Music and images that highlight the use of the product make great commercials.

--I don't know if striking Syria is what we wanna do.  I say this while knowing admittedly nothing at all of the situation over there.  But the latest I heard, the Syrian attack on its own civilians--while despicable, of course--have not been a danger to this country, and / or our allies.  I suspect there's something that went on, or that has been threatened, that we don't know about, but we're spreading ourselves sort of thin already.  Does Syria have WPDs, or has it threatened terrorist attacks here?  If I'm severely out of line, or misinformed, please (nicely) let me know.

--I told someone today that horror movies don't scare me.  The daily news, however, horrifies daily.

--Nice to know someone else famous felt the same way.  From Robert Frost's "Desert Places" (and, whoa!  As I type this, a car commercial's narrator says the phrase "the road less traveled."  Scary symmetry, man...):

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars–on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

(Me, again.)  Is it me, or is Frost saying that the human race is the scariest thing in the universe?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shakespeare Had No Part in the Publication of His 1609 Sonnets

Photo: Title page of the 1609 Sonnets, from its Wikipedia page.

Clinton Heylin's So Long As Men Can Breathe: The Untold Story of Shakespeare's Sonnets is a very quick and interesting read about Shakespeare's unauthorized (according to the author--and I agree with him) 1609 Sonnets.  He deals with the times very well, and with the publishers, printers and other authors of the time, too.  He tackles a lot of issues, a lot of theories, and a lot of the works of other critics, both old and current (including current literary critic Katherine Duncan-Jones, who he criticizes so brusquely, so often, and with such glee, that it seems personal), and does so with a breezy writing style and a lot of his own research and proof.  He writes more about how many critics are wrong about something (especially the fore-mentioned Duncan-Jones) than he does about what he's right about, but finally he takes a stand about why he thinks Shakespeare played no part in the publication of his sonnets in 1609. 

I don't like the method in which he does this, however.  He essentially summarizes the thoughts about a topic, then writes about what literary critics throughout the ages have written about that topic, then writes about why he thinks they're wrong about what they've written (again, especially Duncan-Jones, who he really seems to dislike personally), and then--and only then--writes about what he believes is correct, and why.

However, at that point, he states his case well, and the reader has a thorough understanding of the idea, the history of the idea, all the people surrounding that idea, what the critics have written about that idea, and finally what he thinks about that idea.  When you're done, you feel as if you've learned something, and you feel like you've just read from an authority, which I suppose you have.

And so to take it from there, listed below are my reasons for why I believe Shakespeare had no part in the 1609 publication of his sonnets.  If I can toot my own horn here a moment, I'll point out that I wrote all of these down after I read up to page 91, and that Heylin only writes about a couple of them.  The rest--for better or for worse--are all mine.

I believe that Shakespeare did not approve of, or participate in, the publication of his Sonnets because:

--He was in semi-retirement by 1609, rather late in the game to publish a book of sonnets.  Such a thing would've been done to jump-start a career at that time, not end one.  Shakespeare would be fully retired just four years after its publication.  He'd be dead within seven years of its publication.

--The sonnet fad had petered out in London by the late-1590s.  Shakespeare was a follower of fads; his thumb was very much on the pulse of his public.  He would not have published something a decade out of fashion.  If he'd wanted them published at all, he would have published all 154 of them by 1595.

--By the end of the 154 sonnets, he was clearly tired of them as a mode of expression.  Shakespeare was forever changing his writing styles, so much so that by 1609, his Problem Plays showed a roving creative mind that was at odds as to how it wanted to express itself.  By 1609, Tempest-time, he was WAY over the sonnets as a mode of expression.

--Though he embedded sonnets into his plays throughout his career, he last used them in his plays with seriousness of presentation in Romeo and Juliet, in roughly 1593.

--The Sonnets have a very (infamously) questionable Dedication that speaks more of its publisher and procurer than it does of its writer.  Or of Pembroke, or of Wriothesley, or of whomever.

--By 1609, the leading dramatist of London, a part-owner of the Globe, a very wealthy man and a very esteemed Gentleman, owner of two huge homes and two large tracts of land, and the favorite of all of the King's Men to the King himself, had no need at all of a sponsor, of an Earl of Anything, to support him, or to sponsor his writings.  But he would have in 1593, though not any later than that.  And he would not finish writing something by 1595 and wait until 1609 to publish them--if he wanted to publish them at all.

--In 1593, sonnets were hot; in 1609, they were not.  Shakespeare, who was very good at making money, at striking while the iron was hot, would've published all 154 of his sonnets--if he'd wanted to publish them at all--by 1595, in order to make as much money as possible from them.  Though a huge name by 1609, his sonnets would not have been, and indeed were not, a bestseller.  He would know that.  Though not one to turn away from money, he would not have needed it badly enough by 1609 to publish these sonnets.  But Thomas Thorpe was that desperately in need.  How did he procure these sonnets if Shakespeare didn't give them to him?  Nobody knows.  But they did not know each other well.  Thorpe was not amongst his friends.

--We're taught that the Sonnets, when combined, create a storyline created by three large groupings of them.  An older, wiser man urges a younger man, whom he obviously loves, and fantasizes about, and whom he is possibly having a relationship with, to procreate so that he can live forever (though the narrator insists that his art of writing will do this for the younger man as well); a convoluted affair between the younger man, the narrator, and a "dark lady," creates anguish for the narrator; the "dark lady" and the younger man leave the narrator stewing in his own bitterness and lust.

This is actually not the case.  There's no connected storyline here.  The three groupings are not seamlessly connected.  In fact, quite often, back-to-back sonnets are not connected.  Shakespeare would not have published them like this, in these groupings.  They are three distinct groups, one not having to do with the other.  And I'm not even convinced that there are three groupings here.  I'd bet that Thorpe put this together more than I would that Shakespeare did.

--Sonnets 1-17 strike me as a group of sonnets that a 1590s Shakespeare would have been hired to write so that whomever hired him could deliver them to the Earl of Pembroke, who slept around a lot, never wanted to marry, ignored his Queen's urging to marry specific women, who was apparently super-handsome and beloved by all (if you know what I'm sayin') and who finally married, though not happily, nor exclusively, by 1608.  It was a common practice for writers to get paid to write such things, as well as elegies, eulogies, songs for others' plays, etc.

--Shakespeare was also not one to beat a dead horse, or to repeat something over and over without even the slightest of thematic change.  Yet all sonnets 1-17 say is: "Give birth so you don't die," and nothing more.

--Shakespeare was a hugely profitable and popular writer by 1609.  He would not have given any writing to Thomas Thorpe, who already had one foot in bankruptcy and the other in ineptitude.  His writing would've gone to the best publisher and bookseller (as one was commonly both) in London.

--The Sonnets are infamously uneven.  Some are eternal masterpieces.  But #145 is clearly an earlier sophomoric, badly-conceived, melodramatic, juvenile effort, probably written for Anne Hathaway (as her name is punned within it) before they were married, when Shakespeare was about 19.  By 1609, at age 45, he would have blanched to see it in print, for all of super-critical London to see.  This would be like me seeing my high school stories in print.

--The Sonnets, as I mentioned, do not have an arrangement that Shakespeare would have devised.  The last two sonnets, called the "Cupid Sonnets," have nothing at all to do with the previous 152 sonnets.  Numbers 29 and 30 are clearly companion pieces, mirror-images of each other.  But #129 is a bitter and violent purge of self-hatred and regret, about a narrator who lusts uncontrollably for a "dark lady," and is in a self-created Hell because of it.  #130 is an amusing over-exaggeration of a woman's physical imperfections, too numerous to be taken seriously, the point being that their love is special because it's not based on a superficial physicality.  In other words, there's no lust involved.  These simply do not go together.  The genius who intertwined the complexities of the double-plot of King Lear, and who combined pitch-perfect self-examination with a revenge plot in Hamlet, did not put these sonnets together.

--#126, alone of all 154, are six pairs of rhyming couplets--12 lines, not 14--and therefore also does not have the same rhyme scheme as the others.  It's a well-written experiment, not meant to be included with all the rest.  #99 has 15 lines, not 14, as line 5 is extraneous.  Further proof that the Sonnets were published without Shakespeare's supervision--and certainly without his approval.

These are the reasons why I believe that Shakespeare played no part in the 1609 publication of his sonnets.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Elysium--Movie Review

Photo: Movie's poster, from its Wikipedia page.

Elysium is a very satisfying action / sci-fi movie with a surprisingly blatant social commentary about immigration and health care.  Because immigration is such a fireplug, your stance on it may very well decide how you enjoy the movie.  As a guy who's usually sick with sinus infections, and who has a mostly-liberal bent, this stance was okay with me, but if you're a solid conservative, or severely anti-immigration, consider yourself forewarned.

It stars Matt Damon, who can do this sort of action movie in his sleep these days, and Jodie Foster, in a role that's rather thankless and one-note.  Foster, in fact, is sort of wasted in this role, and she gives herself an occasional accent that befuddles as well.  Writer / director Neill Blomkamp didn't seem to know what to do with her character after the film's bad guys enter Elysium (the utopian society in space populated only by the rich), though while watching the movie, I thought her character could have still gone places: though a psyche reversal was clearly not going to happen, she could have been more of a problem for Matt Damon's character.  Maybe Blomkamp felt the bad guy was more than bad enough, and I suppose he is.  After all, he gets a large chunk of his face blown off, and stays conscious the whole time until he's re-configured by one of Elysium's health pods.  And as you may imagine, if he was a really angry bad guy before his face was blown off, he becomes even more severely pissed off afterwards.  In truth, his character is a comic book villain, and I have already taken the character more seriously than the viewer is supposed to.  Suffice it to say, he, more than Jodie Foster's character, is Damon's character's obstacle.

Speaking of Damon, he does a good job here, even though he plays an ex-con, a side of his character that is not heavily covered, which is perhaps a good thing, since Damon doesn't come across as an ex-con kind of guy, whatever that is.  He's too earnest, too sacrificial.  In fact, all of the ex-cons (and current cons) on Earth come across much more altruistically than I'm going to guess ex-cons really would.  There's not a sincerely bad guy in that bunch; they're all victims of dystopian class-consciousness.  Originally his character was going to do some shady things in order to get himself to Elysium's health pods, to cure him of a massive radiation blast he accidentally incurred at work.  He's got just five days to live otherwise, and a truly depressing, soul-sucking, worker-ant life to go to even if he is cured, so he really has nothing left to lose.  But when we're introduced to a little girl who needs to get to Elysium's health pods to cure her of Stage Three leukemia, you know that Damon's character will willfully get the short end of the stick.  It is one of the slight letdowns: the viewer never has a doubt that he will overcome all odds and save the little girl.

Despite the transparency of the plot, the movie still worked for me because of Damon's earnestness, because of the incredible special effects (which are shown only with necessary, and never overdone to the point of CGI overload), and because of the great action pacing.  And the score, too, I guess, though that, more than the special effects, gets overused at times.  I also could have done without the blatant moralizing, though I do agree wholeheartedly with its point.  It's just that the message is as in-your-face as the action sequences, and so they made odd bedfellows to me.  If that message doesn't bother you, the movie is worth seeing if you like action / sci-fi / special effects movies.  If the message does bother you, I still recommend the movie if (and only if) you really like action / sci-fi / special effects movies.  There's enough to like here without the message getting in the way, if you don't agree with it.

And what is that message, exactly?  That every immigrant who wants to come to the U.S. for health care should make it?  (In the movie, Earth is very clearly Mexico, or other very poor countries, and Elysium is very clearly the U.S.)  That health care should be universal?  That the U.S. / Mexican border wall should come down?  I don't know, and I don't think the movie really knows, either.  But it's some combination of all of those things.  The movie won't sway you, either way, and it certainly won't change your mind, no matter what side of the fence you're on.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stealing Shakespare--The Shakespeare Thefts (book review)

Photo: A 1623 First Folio in the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London.  From the Wikipedia page, "First Folio."

Extremely easy-to-read and interesting book, but probably only for those interested in Shakespeare, his folios, or really old books.  I talked about this recently with a friend and she just rolled her eyes.

But I thought it was interesting, and the author's fascination and joy of his subject also leaps off the page.  He clearly loves what he does, and he is clearly very knowledgeable of what he does.

What is that, exactly?  Well, he's a Shakespearean scholar, and an overall authority on the 1623 Folio, and its 250 or so copies out there, out of the 750 total copies that had been made in 1623--and sold without binding.  If you were alive in 1623, and if you bought the First Folio, you bought it in manuscript form--a pile of paper (or cloth, actually), and then you paid one pound extra (25% of your yearly average income in 1623) to have it bound, often in calf-skin.  (The author, Eric Rasmussen, believes there are maybe 250 more out there, somewhere, possibly in boxes in libraries--or in somebody's attic.)  His lifelong ambition: to very minutely survey and catalog every single copy of the 1623 Folio out there.  To authenticate every page of every folio out there.  To find missing folios.  Why?  Because they're frequently stolen, because even one in poor condition is worth a few million, and because...well, because he's sort of a fanatic about it.  And I mean that in a very, very complimentary way.  Had I the education of this stuff, and the time and the money, I would definitely join him on his travels.  Though the whole waiting, and the dealing with people, I would have to leave to he and his team.  I mean, if there were a painting of the real Shakespeare (there probably isn't one), wouldn't you want to own it, regardless of the value?  (Rasmussen bought a painting he hoped would be of Shakespeare, since the provenance made it a possibility.  But his purchase had been painted over.  He still hopes it's Shakespeare, but it isn't.)

I don't know how to explain the joy someone would have about reading stuff like this, except to maybe give you an example.  I'm sort of a nut about old baseball cards as well.  The cream of the crop for such things is the 1909-1911 T206 Honus Wagner card, which even in poor condition is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  A very good one sold recently for seven million dollars.  People are absolutely fanatic about this card.  Many would steal it, if given the chance--and not for the money.  Just for the chance to hold one.  And to own one?  Heaven.  Bliss.  I feel that, too.  I saw one a few years ago at the New York Public Library in Manhattan.  Someone thought it would be a great idea to paste that one to a scrapbook page, so that all anyone would ever see of that card is the front of it.  Not only does this greatly reduce its value, but it's not about the money--it's about the awesomeness of the card itself.  If you can say, "So the hell what?" then maybe this book isn't for you.  But if that makes you grind your teeth with frustration and anger, because some idiot made it impossible for anyone ever again to turn that card over to see the back, you'd enjoy this book.  The card is so awesome that it deserves to get turned over and seen in its totality, you know?  ::sigh::

The stories in this book about the trials and tribulations that people--and their folios--have undergone over the years matches the above example.  People have stolen them just to have a copy.  Just to hold it in their hands, to flip through the cloth pages, to...You get the idea.  Being a Bardolater (supreme lover of Shakespeare) is probably a must to feel this way about the folios--which Shakespeare himself never got to touch.  They were edited and collected by Henry Condell and John Heminges, actor friends of Shakespeare's, at great personal cost, in terms of money and of their effort and time, and published in 1623.  Shakespeare died in 1616.  If you didn't know any of this (I did), then maybe this book isn't for you.  If the thought of holding one and leafing through its pages makes you giddy, then it is.  I bought a facsimile of the 1623 Folio at a consignment store for $38, which still feels like a bargain to me.  I have to admit that I'm a Bardolater.

You'll learn how some of them were stolen, how some were returned, how some are missing, and how some have mysteriously disappeared.  For example: Sir Thomas Phillipps, compulsive collector of tens of thousands of very old and very valuable books, had a son-in-law who was in the habit of cutting up very old and very valuable books and scrapbooking some of his snippets.  (If this makes you recoil in horror, as it does me, you'll want to read this book.)  Well, this made Phillipps horrified as well, so to make sure that this son-in-law (married to Phillipps's only child) wouldn't cut up and scrapbook anything in his collection after he died, he had his entire vast library moved out of his mansion and moved into another, bigger, mansion, in 1863.  He then had a will made up that said that nothing could be taken out of this second mansion, and that this son-in-law, and Phillipps's daughter, couldn't go into this mansion.  (He had to do this because the first mansion hadn't been originally his, and his descendant had a will that didn't have these restrictions.)


--this mansion was so huge that he rode a horse from room to room.

--it was so huge that prepared food would be served cold because the kitchen was so far away from the dining room.

--the book collection was so vast that Phillipps had to hire 175 men to drive 250 cart horses pulling 125 wagons to this second mansion 20 miles away.  This took a few years.

And it didn't matter.  Someone, probably the daughter or the son-in-law, stole the 1623 Folio anyway.  And it's been missing ever since.

If the thought of a 1623 Folio being cut up and mutilated, and of a couple of these mutilations being scrapbooked, doesn't make you grit your teeth, Rasmussen's book isn't for you.  Ditto, if you can't understand why someone would have so many books.  I have a few thousand, none of them very valuable, so I can completely understand this.

Anyway, if owning a 1623 Folio just to own it, regardless of value, sounds super-awesome to you, read this book.  It's a very fast and enjoyable read, at just 172 pages, minus acknowledgements and notes, which are sort of interesting as well.  (The 1623 Folio, by comparison, had over 900 pages, and cost one pound--about 25% of the average worker's salary in 1623.)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Quick Jots--Rolling Stone, Self-publishing, etc.

More ideas that didn't find a way into their own blog entry:

--In a country of Freedom of Speech, Rolling Stone had the right to put the Marathon Bomber on its cover.  Stores like Walgreen's and CVS have the right not to sell it.  And the consumer has the right not to buy it.

But I wonder if any of the above has read the article, or even the headline and the sub-headline.  The point of the article--and the reason why the cover shows the bomber in, apparently, one of his most cute shots--is how a cute-looking, gym-going, college-attending and popular guy can turn into the Devil.  True evil, it seems to me, will look attractive, in its many guises.  That's what Rolling Stone was trying to say in its article, and the controversy about how cute the bomber looks on the cover proves Rolling Stone's point.

And for the record, Rolling Stone is not, and never has been, just a music magazine.  It's also a news magazine, and a cultural magazine, and a magazine of the same age demographic that the bomber himself was.  After all, even at the end of Stephen King's Firestarter, Charlie McGee, who could have gone to the New York Times or Newsweek, told her story of government control and murder--to Rolling Stone.  Again, it's not just about music.

It was then, and still is, a magazine of our times.  This recent controversy goes further to showcase that than the magazine itself, or any one article in it, ever could have.

--A quick thanks to all my readers who continue to read my blog despite my recent disappearance as a commenter on your blogs.  It's no excuse, perhaps, but my novel-writing and my blog-writing, as well as the house and yard renovations, are taking all my time.  I appreciate your readership.  I'm reading yours, too--just not commenting much right now.  Thanks for not leaving my blog due to that.

--I just sold my above-ground pool, thinking that if I didn't have the dying need to go into it this summer, than I never will, and therefore the upkeep of it seemed like a waste of time and money.  I have central air, too, and the country club, literally down the street, has really inexpensive seasonal pool passes.

--Sometimes I think that I can become rich and famous going the self-publishing route, and other times I think I'm crazy and I hope to God that an agent and a publisher love my soon-to-be-finished novel.  I could make a go of the self-publishing thing, as I'm a decent salesman and, hopefully, a decent writer.  But I don't have the time to do so, and I'm not exactly computer- or internet-savvy.

--I feel old when I realize how much I enjoy sitting in my backyard, or on my deck overlooking the cove.  Luckily, I also feel that I'm too old to care that I feel old, or to care that others think I'm old.

--I'm thinner than I was five years ago.  Then again, I'm sleeping a lot less, too, and not eating or drinking the same things, and in the same quantity, that I used to.  But, like, whatever.

--Vitamins and antibiotics make me lightheaded.  It's when I remember this that I truly do not understand how addicts and alcoholics can consume what they do, without disliking the side-effects so much that they alone make them not want to consume those things anymore.

--Considering a Congressman's recent hateful language about Latin Americans, legal or not, it occurs to me that every generation has to have someone to hate.  We're ending the time, hopefully, of politicians' hatred toward homosexuals, so who's next?  The immigrants, of course.  And which ones?  The ones who speak Spanish; the ones the pols think are making English the second language.

I wonder: After that wave crashes ashore, who will we hate next?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

American Horror Story: Murder House

Photo: 1120 Winchester Place, Los Angeles, CA.  This is the real house used in the series.  From the show's Wikipedia page

I decided to view Season One of American Horror Story after viewing Season Two and liking it so much.  Season One was also good, though not as much as Season Two.  The writers seemed to have written themselves out of the main characters, as the secondary ones take over here, and where they go is interesting, but since they're already dead, you care less about them as characters.

At first the very dysfunctional family of husband, wife and (suicidal) high school daughter move into this (very) haunted house.  Turns out, the house has many ghosts in it: a gay couple, murdered fewer than three years before the current occupants; a surgeon who can't pay his bills, and the wife who shot him, and then herself; one of his freelance abortion patients; and, most dangerously, a teenage psychopath who had killed many students in his school before he was shot in his bedroom by the police.  He's a very angry, or still-psychotic, ghost who later kills the gay couple (and does something really nasty to one of them with a fireplace poker), and later rapes the mother, a current occupant, who later dies giving birth to what the show insinuates is Satan's spawn.  Was the killer used by Satan, or was he evil to begin with?  Or both?  The viewer can decide, but the characters themselves conclude that he is just pure evil, and the Devil's spawn angle is downplayed, though never really done away with.  And there are many, many other ghosts I haven't written about here, some of whom have little, if anything, to do.

Therein lies the problem of the first season: the writing in the last six episodes or so meanders, and seems very unsure of itself as it does so.  The Black Dahlia is introduced without reason, more as an homage to the L.A. noir style itself, and maybe James Ellroy, who famously wrote about her, and who infamously said she may his mother, or that her killer may have been his father, or both, I forget.  Other homages include Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula, in the sense that the movie's music is played in almost every episode.  Other movies in the Dracula, Frankenstein, and Southern Gothic modes, as well as lots of Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, and the like are paid homage as well.  Part of the joy of the series is catching and appreciating all of them.  You don't have to know them, though, to appreciate the series.

But back to the uneven writing.  What to do with the family?  Well, the writers didn't seem to know, either.  What to do with the many very unhappy ghosts?  In a nice twist, the family of ghosts ends up a much happier trio together than they ever did while they were alive.  Is the American family unit the "horror story" of the title?  It certainly seems that way, except the adults are so caught up in their own garbage that they don't even realize their daughter is dead.  (Though, to be fair, she doesn't know this, either, until she's told.)  The most wacky thing to me was that none of the ghosts seems to care too much that they're dead.  This is especially true of the father at the end, who is the only one left alive, and who seems to have the most to live for--his new child.  When he's killed by the ghost of his very young mistress (Kate Mara, older sister of Rooney Mara, from The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo), he seems mildly chagrined, at most.  The mother also doesn't seem to mind, though she knows she's without at least one of her newborns (she's told the first one died, but it didn't, and that's the one she ultimately ends up caring for); she also doesn't know her daughter's dead until her daughter visits her and says to let go of the pain, which the mother does.  (This seemed like too much of a condoning of suicide for me, which is how the daughter died, as well.)  Anyway, if the characters don't seem to take their lives very seriously, how can the viewer?

And that's the whole point at the end: the series creator's don't want you to feel sad for the family, and you don't, as they're clearly happier and better off than they had been.

How does it want you to feel about the Jessica Lange character, the devious and unsaintly and witchy neighbor who had lived in the house with her psychotic son, her wayward husband, her loose maid and her other two children, all of whom die before the very end?  Well, good and bad, in turns, though at the end she's gotten what she's asked for--a grandchild--but does she really want to take care of Satan's spawn?  I don't know, though I doubt it.  Jessica Lange does great work with a meandering role that makes her a victim and a killer.  You feel badly for her, because most of her siblings are dead and/or psychotic (and, in one case, both), but you also see her kill her husband, their maid, and almost the daughter next door.  In that last case, the daughter and her mother are victims of three psychotic people who want to kill them as others had been killed in the house.  Luckily, one of them eats the poisoned cupcake meant for the daughter,'s an example of the meandering.  Turns out, this entire series of events was unnecessary to the outcome of the whole thing.

So, at the end, this was like a good horror movie.  Riveting and sometimes creepy while watching it, but the second you think about the whole thing afterwards, it is very easy to see its many flaws.  But, if you haven't seen any of it yet, I do recommend it, especially if you're knowledgeable about the genres it pays homage to.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Conjuring House

Photo: I took this pic of an open crypt door at a cemetery near The Conjuring House.

After watching The Conjuring (my movie review, here), I decided to take a trip to Burrillville, Rhode Island (about half an hour away) and see the house it's based on.  My intention was to just go for a nice drive with my dog and to get out of the house for awhile.  If I could inobtrusively get a glimpse of the house from the road, fine.  If not, I'll just drive by and see what there was to see.

I want to make it clear that I do not condone anyone going to the house and loitering around.  There's an old couple that lives in there now, and they have a right to their privacy.  Having said that, I won't be a hypocrite, and I'll admit that I took a few pictures from the street of the house's front door (that's all of the house you can really see; it's not at all like the one in the film) and of the nearby barn, which I thought looked creepier than the house.  I was hoping for a glimpse of the lake in the backyard; the house is in a management area, so there's a real possibility of such a thing.  But, alas, no.  Anyway, I do not condone or advise for anyone to do what I just said I did, even from the street, and I'll explain why.  But before I do, ask yourself: Do you want a crowd of people congregating in the street, gawking at you and your home, and taking pictures of your house and barn?  One of the women I met there even told someone she was going to go up to the door and knock on it, or ring the bell.

I advised her not to do so.  Not only is it loitering and trespassing, but, also, according to the true story, that's the same front door that the evil spirits banged on relentlessly.  This latter part worked.

So I started off from my house with my dog and my directions.  Driving up there was very easy.  I got a little lost from poor signage, but I found the house in question, no problem, and even drove past it and soon entered Massachusetts.  I pulled over beside a large local cemetery (of course), and I let the dog out in some nearby grass away from the cemetery.  (People who let their dogs go to the bathroom in a cemetery at all, especially if they don't clean it up, are committing a blasphemy of some sort.)  Unfortunately, the dog did #2, so I double-bagged it and then threw that into a Dunkin' Donuts paper bag, so at least it didn't smell, and later I threw it away in a garbage can at a nearby gas station, much to the cashier's dismay.  I also entered the cemetery on my own and saw four other people also in it, which is rare.  I looked around very quickly for any stones from real-life people mentioned in my research, but I didn't find any.  I did not look very thoroughly, to be honest, and later I realized it was a waste of time, anyway, because I was now in a small town in Massachusetts, which people living in a house in a small RI town would not be buried in.  Didn't quite think that through.  A few pictures of this cemetery follow:

So I turned back around and headed to The Conjuring's house, which is mostly hidden behind some tall, thick trees, not far from a main road (for Burrillville, anyway) without a breakdown lane.  I saw six other people come out of an SUV and just stand, mostly out of view from the house, so I stepped out of my car.  I noticed the barn, quite a bit away from the house, so a few pictures were taken of that.  I did not want to spend time in front of the house, as I felt very strongly that the homeowners would be ready for that, and would be very unamused.   But I stepped out when I saw the others, and we talked about where they were from, and how long it took to get to this house.  Schenectady, and almost three hours, as I'd mentioned.  I took a couple of pictures of the front door through the many trees, had time to realize that the real house looked nothing at all like the movie's house (it's a lot smaller, and not as obviously old), and a woman next to me swore, and that's when I saw the swirling lights of the police car.

I walked slowly back to my car before he even stopped out of his.  The cop was very, very stern-looking, a countenance that he must practice in the mirror every day.  Nobody is that serious and stern, I swear.  But I'll bet that he gets a lot with that look, so that he doesn't have to say anything, or threaten anyone, or anything.  In fact, he didn't say a word to any of us, and we all went back to our cars immediately and drove away.

I doubt it was the first time he was at that house (it was about one pm when I got there) and I doubt it'll be his last.  In fact, I was surprised not to see a sign of any kind at the house.  I'll bet there'll be one there soon.  I drove away feeling very sheepish.  I mean, I wouldn't be happy if lots of people even drove slowly past my house, never mind actually stop, get out, gawk, and take pictures.

So I feel badly about it all, which is why I won't post pics of the house and barn here.  But, like I said, you're not missing much, as there wasn't much to see to begin with.  On the way back I stopped at a lake and waterfall, pictured here:

And after I left there, I went sight-seeing for a little while, and drove by two or three local cemeteries on both sides of the narrow road, so that it seemed like I was surrounded by them, which I was.  When I saw the open crypt door, I knew I had to turn around and take a picture of that for something I'm writing--a novel that mostly takes place in TB-infested Rhode Island of the 1880s and 1890s, and is told from the third-person limited POV following the doctor of Rhode Island's most famous example of vampire folklore, Mercy Brown (blog entry here).

So I took some pics of that open crypt door, and the very cool rusted-iron Victorian fence that surrounds some of the gravestones, pictured here:

And that's it.  That's my story of traveling to The Conjuring's house.  Truth be told, the lake, waterfall, crypt and cemeteries were more interesting, and much easier to take pictures of.  And I regret not opening that metal door on the inside of the crypt, with the diamond shapes.

What's your favorite recent (or not-so-recent) horror movie?  Have you ever visited the real-life place, or researched the real-life subject matter or story, etc. of that horror movie?

And would you have gone inside that crypt's open door?