Month: October 2010

Weapon Of…

There’s no argument, no debate. This is one of the greatest music videos ever.

Ever since I saw this, my feet itch every time I walk through an empty hotel lobby. I’m telling you: one day, I’m not going to be able to help myself.

Pray that day never comes, kids.

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Dreamweaver

So. Who read the article about the virtual VCR for dreams (do we even talk in those terms any more? Should it be the DVR , or hard drive? The latter feels a bit Neuromancer for my liking… where was I?) that popped up yesterday with mixed feelings? Me, that’s who.

At first, I thought it was a great idea. Then I remembered some of my dreams.

Now, my Other Half, he rarely remembers the stuff that goes on in his head when he sleeps. But I can usually recall a good portion of my dreams, at least for a while after I wake. By lunchtime, the memory is normally buried under so much crap (“Ooh, shiny” or “Mmm. Biscuits” on a typical day) that it’s gone like smoke on the wind–but I know that for me to have a permanent record of my dreams would be a Bad Thing.

There’s the dreams which are designed to infuriate you. You know the ones: you’re talking to someone, but they’re really someone else, and you’re in a house which is also a pumpkin and if you touch it it will eat you and turn you into a goblin and you don’t know how you know that butyoujustdoOK? and then you’re suddenly back in your fifth form English class and the only homework you’ve brought is the Biology stuff. In Japanese.

Then there are the Other Dreams. The ones you’d rather forget. I’ve had my fair share of those, too–some of them, in all seriousness, quite horrific. I’ve had what we’ll refer to as (finger-quote) Episodes (finger-unquote) in the past, and these have always but always been preceded by a month of the kind of dreams which make me jealous of insomniacs. There’s no way I’d want those on record.

And then there’s the embarrassing ones, the ones that you wake up from and think, “No way. Not ever.” Fortunately, most of these were back in my hormone-raddled teens, but Christ, I bear the scars even at this distance. Would rather not know they’re knocking around on some hard drive somewhere.

Of course, I know the brain doesn’t work like that. Outside of Hollywood, you can’t just jack (hack?) into someone’s brain and download their dreams, however tricksy the tech. But the concept made me uncomfortable enough to realise I like the inside of my head to stay there.

Mind you, what do I know? Maybe there are dreams you’d want to keep, something you might like to look back on or show to another person… what would they be, I wonder–and what would you do with them?

Ouch

For various reasons, few of which make any particular sense to me, and even fewer of which will make any sense to the rest of the world, I’ve been skimming make-up FX stuff online this afternoon.

And, given the time of year, I figured I’d share some of the fruits of other people’s labours:

Loving the zombie. And that’s something I didn’t think I’d be saying anytime soon… Urk.

My Beautiful Librarian

I’ve spent lots of time in libraries, as I’ve mentioned on here before. And I have many opinions (often involving some quite colourful language) on Shelving Systems I Have Known And Loved–step up, Senate House and your quite remarkably bonkers system which no-one understands noteventhestaff…

Anyway. I fear librarians are a misunderstood, much-maligned lot–or at least, I did until I saw this epic article over on io9: librarians who have saved the world. Woot to the librarians! (My favourite’s Lucien. Because he’s, you know, Lucien. But you knew that already.)

Oh, and on the subject of books: she’s not a librarian, but is arguably no less beautiful – the downright fabulous Sharon Ring of Dark Fiction Review has announced that along with Del-Lakin Smith, she’s setting up a brand new audio magazine site: Dark Fiction Magazine. It launches, of course, at Halloween, and I can’t wait to hear what they’ve got in store.

Suffer the Little Children

At Reculver in Kent, not far from Herne Bay, there’s a ruined church.

The Romans–always ones with an eye for strategy– built one of their Saxon Shore forts here and it became an important lookout point over the mouths to the Thames and the Medway rivers.

Later, the Anglo-Saxon kings took it as a seat of power: Aethelberht of Kent was said to have moved his court here from Canterbury, taking over the abandoned Roman site. A large church–St Mary’s–was later constructed, and along with it a wealthy monastery. A 7th Century cross, most likely a high cross, was discovered by archeologists outside the church and is now kept at Canterbury cathedral.

The church, and the village it served, was perilously close to the sea by the 17th Century, and by the 18th, the village was largely abandoned and a new church built further inland. St Mary’s was suddenly surplus to requirements.

As the buildings around it (including the vicarage and the original village inn) were claimed by the sea, the majority of the church was demolished. Its imposing towers, the Twin Sisters, were allowed to remain as a navigational aid, and the ruins were protected from further sea-attacks by the construction of a series of groynes.

Illustrious–and complicated–as its history is, it comes with an even more interesting and particularly gruesome legend–that if you listen carefully, you will hear the sound of a crying baby in the ruins of the church. And that’s fair enough, you know. Ruined churches. They’re spooky, right? But in the 1960s, archeologists working on the site discovered a number of children’s skeletons buried deep beneath the walls of the Roman fort. The legend tells that they were buried alive as a sacrifice to protect the fort and its inhabitants….

Is it me, or did it suddenly get a bit chilly in here? Brrr.

Double Duty

Friday. Music. You know the deal.

However: small change to the rules this week in that I’m doing a repost. The reason for this is twofold – first, that I reallyreally like this song; second, that it now has its “proper” (as opposed to the lyric) video, in all its post-apocalyptic neo-scifi glory.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I want to be Party Poison right now.

 

And also, in celebration that a bunch of us managed to turn one small corner of Twitter Anglo-Saxon (thank you particularly to the stellar Dave Moore for his smooth Old English stylings), you get a bonus post. Yes. I have found a site which features the entire of The Dream of the Rood being read aloud. In Anglo-Saxon.

Contain yourselves, people.

Have a good one.

Word.

Deadly Town

(or the town so haunted, it died)

On the outskirts of Cornwall, Connecticut, if you look hard enough–and are brave enough–you’ll find Dudleytown. Named for the sheer number of Dudleys (allegedly descended from the Dudleys who got into so much trouble in the 16th Century) settled there, it was an isolated community which legend says was so cursed that it killed the town. Strictly speaking, of course, it’s technically not so much a town as it is an outpost of the Cornwall township, whose church served the community.

A run of bizarre deaths–barn-raising accident, attacks by hostile Native Americans, cholera outbreaks, lightning strikes and suicides–swept the town through the 18th & 19th Centuries, along with tales of missing animals, dementia and madness, and finally the disappearance of two children (who were never found). There were rumours of hauntings and demonic activity and slowly, the community dwindled.

Its location can’t have been much of a help: surrounded by hills and forest, winters there were long and harsh, the soil was rocky and the ground swampy. Not exactly the ideal spot to build a town. But the stories that came from Dudleytown left their mark and soon it was deserted.

In the early 20th Century, so the story goes, a Dr Clarke from New York bought the land in which Dudleytown sat and built a second home there. He and his wife would spend weekends and summers there–until one weekend he was called away to an emergency, leaving his wife behind. When he returned a day later he found his wife completely insane, raving about terrors that had come from the forest. She took her life soon after.

The land is now owned by the (ominously named) Dark Forest Entry Association, who have closed it off–not that it stops the tourists, ghost-hunters and thrill-seekers. The remains of Dudleytown still stand, although in recent years they have been vandalised: like they haven’t had to deal with enough.

Whether you believe the stories or not–whether it’s ghosts and demons, or whether it’s plain bad luck and a collision of circumstance–there’s something odd about Dudleytown. Visitors who have braved the considerable wrath of the DFEA report a strange atmosphere about the place, of hearing strange sounds, of being touched or even scratched by unseen hands.

Maybe it’s all just a legend, something built upon with each telling. Or maybe not. But whatever might have caused the place to be abandoned, it seems that it still has plenty of ghosts…

 

I’m “Archer Hairline” – what type are you?

I took a bibliography course as part of my undergraduate English degree, and through the misty fog of ages, I remember a section on the history of printing, which included a visit to St Bride Print Library. It left me with a general (albeit fairly shallow) interest in type and typefaces. Yes, folks, I’m a font geek.

I cringe at the ubiquity of Papyrus (and am well aware of the recent Avatar controversy, oh yes) and even though I’m not a massive fan of the Downfall meme, I do rather enjoy the Comic Sans version:

(It’s funny because it’s true. All except the Hitler part. I think. Saying that, of course, there was a huge typeface-related dispute in Nazi-era Germany, revolving around the Antiqua & Fraktur types and resulting in the ban of Fraktur for being “Jewish”.)

I love the idea that it’s not just what you say, but what you use to say it: how some fonts are plain ugly and some are deeply inappropriate. Type is just type–you use it to put words together, and they’re the things that count, aren’t they? Who’d have thought letters could be so important in their own right?

There’s a new book out on the subject, which will be going on my Christmas list–thanks for asking–Simon Garfield’s Just My Type. If you’re not convinced by the idea of fontgeeking, Garfield wrote an excellent piece on it in last weekend’s Observer by way of a taster for his book.

So when I found a site which helps you determine which particular typeface you are, you can imagine how I reacted. Exactly. And I came out Archer Hairline: clear but with touches of elegance (snort); flashes of emotion in an otherwise composed face. In short: emotional, understated, progressive & disciplined.

Groovy. Because at least I’m not Papyrus….

Shakin’ to the Bones

I have no idea where or why I first saw this: if you tweeted it, or put it on Facebook and I’ve nicked it, then give me a shout so I can credit you. All I know is that it’s very funny, and the guy’s an absolute rockstar–and if you’ve had a grey day, something like this will make it all better. Promise.

 

But You Can Never Leave

Now you’ve done it. You’ve got me onto The Rawk. This could be either good, or bad, depending on your opinion of classic rock.

Amongst the dusty recesses of my (virtual – the Other Half has put all our cds onto a hard disk the size of a planet–that’s why they call it a terabyte, isn’t it?–which I somewhat predictably cannot work) record collection, you will find a copy of the Eagles’ “Hotel California“. God, I love that album.*

Thing is, I was poking around the internet the other day, as you do, and I stumbled across all the urban legends connected to it–mostly to the title track and the album artwork. I had no idea.

They’re even more fruit-loops than most internet rumours: that the song is about Devil-worship (really? Really?); that it’s a hymn to an actual hotel, or an asylum, and that the album artwork is full of images of the dead and Anton LaVey (ooookay).

The interpretation’s obviously a sore point. For an example of the most incredible songwriter-smackdown, read Don Henley’s response to a music critic’s comment on the lines: “So I called up the Captain / Please bring me my wine, / He said: We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969″

“Thanks for the tutorial and, no, you’re not the first to bring this to my attention—and you’re not the first to completely misinterpret the lyric and miss the metaphor. Believe me, I’ve consumed enough alcoholic beverages in my time to know how they are made and what the proper nomenclature is. But that line in the song has little or nothing to do with alcoholic beverages. It’s a sociopolitical statement. My only regret would be having to explain it in detail to you, which would defeat the purpose of using literary devices in songwriting and lower the discussion to some silly and irrelevant argument about chemical processes.”

Ouch.

Mind you, growing up with it (which I did) I always had it pegged as a song about the descent into addiction, so what do I know?

Whichever way you cut it, it’s still a damn fine song.

Even in Spanish.

 

*with the possible exception of “Try and Love Again” which is, you know, a bit meh.