Monday, October 31, 2016

The Strain - Season Four? What For??

With Season Three of The Strain at an end, I'm compelled to think of Guillermo Del Toro's series as a whole up to this point. This season, by far, was the low point in the series. The first few episodes in particular felt so rushed, with overnarration as a substitute for telling us how much time was passing and what the new state of affairs was. Perhaps I can concede that Eldritch Palmer's character had the most interesting development, but I thought this should have happened last season when they killed his girlfriend Coco, a plot thread that sadly went absolutely nowhere.

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Seasons One and Two were top-notch: great development of all the major players and extremely interesting plot points. This last season felt like a poor effort to keep going even with the knowledge it was going to be their last season. Except, apparently, it isn't. So this is just a season that lost its momentum and sense of artistic effort in many ways, and watching Season 4 will be more like an obligation, never a good thing with so many other watching options. Certainly not good for getting Del Toro the funding he desperately needs to take on the projects I must see before I die (At the Mountains of Madness, Monster).

For me, how I feel about The Strain comes down to the division of the plot into different character groupings. The characters that are the best--Vasily Fet, Setrakian, & Eichorst are the ones that I watch for, and seem unobjectively to get the more interesting and integral plots. I also really liked Gus, but his plotline was sidetracked into strange and nonurgent places. I sincerely hope Miguel Gomez gets more work, because he was absolutely excellent.

Image result for carl grimesI was never really a fan of Ephraim's, though I understand his centrality to the plot, and the understanding of vampirism as akin to a disease. I just never could get in that guy's corner. But I also didn't hate him enough to relish his presence in another way. I care about Dutch even less. Nora's absence from this season did not have a sting, as she was just one more body in their vampire-hunting group, and Councilwoman Feraldo also came and went without me caring an iota. Those avenues were plot without urgency. The absolute biggest letdown is the amount of time spent on Kelly and Zach. My empathy for Zach as a character stopped a long time ago at his complete uselessness to the plot. What I'm about to say applies to the acting and the writing, and sums up exactly why I don't care about Zach. He's no Carl Grimes. And his inability to grow up and be useful just dropped an A-bomb on Manhattan. That kid's an A-hole in plain English.

I wish they had spent more time giving Gus something important to do, or spending more time on Quinlan's backstory. Their segments of historical fiction--with regard to Quinlan and to a much higher degree, Eichorst and Setrakian--were some of the best segments of this show, and I was sad not to see more of that in this season. Guess I'll have to wait a little longer for Del Toro's next best thing. In the meantime, I'll be rewatching Crimson Peak.

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Blue Velvet - Weird for Weird's Sake

I have only recently becoming completely enamored of David Lynch's television series Twin Peaks, which aired from 1990-1991. I was in the first grade at that time. Not quite appropriate then, but absolutely wonnderful now. Having seen the series before Blue Velvet, I had very high expectations. It did not, sadly, live up to them. 

Part of what I loved about Twin Peaks was the smooth blend between charming small town quirks and cosmic, supernatural darkness. And the bizarre nature of the supernatural made perfect, organic sense to the story, because Laura Palmer's killer is a demon of some mysterious sort that takes possession of a member of the community (no spoilers, sorry). So the characters dig deep into the Black Lodge for very good reason. 

A Guide to Twin Peaks
"I am the arm."

Image result for blue velvetIn Blue Velvet, I don't understand why Jeffrey (played by Kyle MacLachlan, the lead of Twin Peaks) does any of the things he does. He straddles the line between small town and the bizarre, but for no obvious reason. He gets involved in said weirdness, including the very strange and fetishistic woman who is played very well. The first voyeuristic sex scene is a strong scene on its own, true to Lynch's aesthetic, but the story was very tenuous. I just didn't see the pieces come together in a meaningful way, and the characters all acted illogically. Not just weird, I can do weird, but it didn't really have a reason for being. And that made me sad. Because I know, from watching his show, and the followup film Fire Walk with Me, that Lynch can do much, much better. I wait with baited breath for the new show.
K Rating: 6/10

Friday, October 28, 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Monster Mash! Literary Horror

As Halloween nears, we inundate ourselves with lists upon lists of great horror cinema to watch - I fully support this, as I did with an earlier post about found footage films. But it doesn't go far enough. We must remember that some of the scariest things are those conjured up by our own imaginations, summoned for us by storytellers of old. With that in mind, I've assembled a list of amazing horror stories that helped developed the tropes that have stayed with us--the ghost, the vampire, the mummy-- and have linked to full texts of these tales. All true fans of horror should know them, but readers, beware--bring a nightlight to bed.

For the bloodthirsty, look to Count Magnus from M.R. James. Usually known for his ghost stories, told traditionally at Christmastime, this is one of his tales that veers more towards the vampiric. Then, of course, there's Carmilla, by Sheridan Le Fanu, which predates Dracula.

Image result for m valdemarThought modern zombies started with George Romero's Night of the Living Dead? Think again, with this not as popular but oh-so-terrifying tale from Poe: The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. Also a healthy dose of hypnotism and mind control, some of Poe's favorite things! There's a great, creepy adaptation in the film anthology Tales of Terror.

H.P. Lovecraft is the god of sea monsters. Though his favored child has become Cthulhu, I was always more drawn to the suspense of The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Done excellently on film in Dagon.

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Image result for lot no 249Mummies abound in literature and in film! Lovecraft worked with Houdini on a story, Under the Pyramids,  recently adapted into a Dark Adventure Radio Theater Drama by the Lovecraft Historical Society, Imprisoned with the Pharaohs, but I am ever partial to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's tale Lot No. 249, and Bram Stoker's longer work Jewel of the Seven Stars. Not Stoker's best work, but it is mighty gruesome. Both of these helped to solidify the mummy tropes that continue to haunt us.
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Everyone loves a good ghost story. M.R. James does it best at Christmastime, but for this season I reserve my favor for Le Fanu's The Familiar, which James himself loved best, and Algernon Blackwood's The Empty House.

Werewolves have just as long-standing a tradition, with Wagner the Wehr-Wolf by G.W.M Reynolds, and Hugues the Wer-Wolf by Sutherland Menzies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Propnomicon: Cthulhu Fhtagn! Evergloff Edition.

Propnomicon: Cthulhu Fhtagn! Evergloff Edition.

I can't wait to see this finished product - It's perfection in the eyes and tentacles, and will surely need to be added to my Cthulhu collection!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Outlander Review

Lord Almighty this woman needs a better editor. Over the course of reading this first installment of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, I was struck first by its inconsistency. Gabaldon is a great storyteller, and whether it's moments that are painful, joyful, or poignant, many of the scenes carried a resonating, haunting character that stayed with me. Yet I can't say that I was always pleased with that. One of the hurdles I had to overcome midway through reading was a particular scene in which the protagonist Claire is beaten by her new husband. Now, for people who know me or have visited this blog before, this is not inherently a problem. It made perfect sense in the world of Jamie Fraser, the 18th-century Scot whom Claire forcibly marries after being transported back in time two hundred years. My problem was how Claire handled it, forgiving quite easily. It made no goddamned sense. It was infuriating, actually, to see it written thusly. But then again, plenty of the things that Claire does don't make a whole lot of sense.

It's perfectly clear that Gabaldon put a lot of effort into the characterization of Jamie, and of Scottish culture in general. These are the things she does best. And her action scenes too-including a bona fide witch trial- perfectly described--and I'm saying that as a witchcraft expert. But Claire--I just don't get her. She goes through lots of very emotional things, and only very rarely do we get insight. Gabaldon constantly dodges the issue of writing first person emotions, by saying repeatedly that other characters could read her emotions on her face, and they respond to that. So everyone else emotes, but not Claire. For the trauma of losing her first husband, finding love with a second, and all the peril in between, her telling of things is very perfunctory, and sometimes cold.

Here's the real problem though, and it's not a small one. Claire is supposed to be an Englishwoman transported from 1945 to 1743. Nothing--and I mean nothing about her says this. Gabaldon never successfully got inside Claire's head-only Jamie's. This woman's attitudes are too modern for a women who just lived through World War II, which is addressed in such a peremptory fashion that it begs the question as to why Gabaldon chose that as the backdrop. Additionally, she's no Englishwoman. She's an American, through and through--her characterization never read as anything other than a stand-in for the author's sensibility. It's a shame, because she had a good narrative, but the relationship between Claire and Jamie builds so slowly (editor, editor, get me an editor) that it really does get in the way of enjoying this fully. No way should this have all been in one book. Easily two, both condensed for better flow-some places were downright plodding, while others hopped with tension. Yes, I understand lulls are necessary to plot structure, but in almost 900 pages, it was a bit much.

I can only hope that the flaws this book suffers from can be corrected in the same way as George Martin's work. I've heard enough reviews about his atrocious writing style to deign not to read the series, but I'm an avid fan of the Game of Thrones show, and sometimes, you need a team of writers to turn something into the best possible version of itself. So I'll give the first season of the Outlander show a spin, and see how it stacks up.

K Rating: 6/10

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Troy Gallery - Commissions

Didn't mean for the second installment of this series to be so far behind the other one, but my head got stuck in less important stuff...reading, work, you know, the usual. At any rate, this category seems to make sense for me: commissioned pieces.

My husband and I are very unusual gift-givers: books,games, and dvds are infrequent options, along with other standards like clothes, because we usually just get those things as they come out, and there's a rotation in this house of books that don't get a permanent place on the shelf, and video games too, so for us, media can be impersonal. And we're a very affectionate couple (I know, blech!), so we show our love in other ways. Like with museum quality mummy linen. I'm dead serious. BUT, as that is not a one of a kind thing he created just for me, I'll stick in this post just to those kinds of things.

The first commission, sweetly enough, was a portrait of me, done for my birthday. This was when we had just started dating, the first occasion we had to exchange gifts with each other. We also got our wedding date written in Mayan Calendar style on our honeymoon. Nice and colorful, and personal. Then, things got weird.

We tend to be repeat customers of artists we love, so I have lots of things from M.S. Corley, who is now designing some of the most beautiful book covers I've ever seen for Valancourt Books and others. It started out with Lovecraftian portraiture, like a hall of descendants--with Wilbur Whateley, Obed Marsh, and Nathaniel Peasely, among others. This one, an inked sketch of the crucial scene of M.R. James's "The Mezzotint," is one of my absolute favorites. This is the animated image from his blog.

Other sketchwork includes another literary reference, this time to Matthew Lewis' The Monk. If you're the kind of person to read this blog, and you haven't read this definitive Gothic title, shut down this page and go do it right now. It's that goddamn good. This is a scene of the Bloody Nun, an apparition that one of the protagonists of the story draws after hearing the legend attached to her abode. I'm simply thrilled with the details of the characters, their expressions, and the architecture. Just as much care was given to the paper, stained with tea for age, and Goya as an influential stylist--a great success.

More complicated pieces: Hubby and I are tremendous Vincent Price fans. A memorable one is House of Usher, inspired by the Poe story "The Fall of the House of Usher." In this film,  Price's character Usher showcases a series of family portraits, done for the film by Burt Schoenberg, considered an experimental artist to capture the insane and the bizarre in this images. Some of the originals sadly disappeared, which made getting the reproduction you see here very, very difficult. But the result was excellent, no?

Then there's the model car from the Etsy shop Classic Wrecks, modeled after Dante Ford's beat-up '57 Chevy in my husband's novel Grim Devices. It wasn't enough to have the car and the color right, I just had to include the blood and teeth of the neo-Nazi who gets his face broken on the fin. Obviously.

One I'm most proud of is the Lutin, done by the sculpture genius Jacob Petersson. His style is incredible, and was a perfect match to represent the classic French trope of the lutin, written chillingly well in Andy's short story, "Sac a Dos," in Silver Blade magazine Just as I had hoped he would, the lutin appears to float on his perch, sitting on an invisible plane. This one was probably the coolest, because Jacob kept me involved in the process, and I got to see pictures of various stages as the magic happened. I'm so pleased with this one, and it will travel with us wherever we go.

As for what's next? Well, cover art for books doesn't just make itself...I'm very pleased with the writing of A Vision in Crimson, first installment in my series of epic romantic fantasy infused with the paranormal. It's a one of a kind story, and it should have a one of a kind cover. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Lost and Found - Best Found Footage Films

I have not yet gotten the chance to see the new Blair Witch, but I know I will. It was not necessarily a foregone conclusion, since found footage style filming is generally a turnoff for me. But, there are some shining examples that use this technique to its best creative ability, where the choice to do this is organic, and not an obvious side effect of a nonexistent budget. Most horror films, especially from upstarts, are all in this predicament, but those writers and directors don't all turn out garbage as a result. The deliberate and careful choice of found footage can pay dividends. Here's where.

Always important for me is the use of found footage in a way that makes narrative sense to the film. That's done beautifully here, as it records the very premise of the film, namely, the fraudulent performance of exorcisms and the exploitation of the spiritual gullible. It pulls you into a realistic world, so that the supernatural as it's filmed here can be much more effective. A unique approach to an overdone style, AND an overdone topic? Wonderful.

This should not come as a surprise. We have made fun of this film without end ever since it was released, but let's be honest. That is more due to the acting than anything else. The pacing of this film, and especially the rotation of different kinds of cameras, was effective storytelling, highlighting those horrifying moments in their simplicity. Perhaps we could argue that certain scenes are too forced, too staged, but it does not detract from the outcome, most importantly, putting found footage on the map.

Here is tension mixed with horror, and the deft ability of the filmmakers to weave the connection between their tale and deeper ethical issues of journalism, evidence creation, cover-ups, and the like. The man holding the camera is a true character, who acts and makes decisions. It's truly a shame this was remade, because it overshadows the power of this original.   

Of course you try to capture trolls on camera. Obviously. Are you seeing the thread here? Organic storytelling is paramount, as is using the right film qualities to properly convey not only your plot but your mood. Done brilliantly in this Norwegian piece -great filters and coloration, so that when you do actually capture the troll on film, my jaw dropped at the sheer scale of the frame. That darn good. Euro indie filmmaking at its best.

Hands down, the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. And I've seen it all. Part of it is the film quality, the grainy grittiness of it that makes you feel unclean just watching it. The other part is what you're watching. The line between reality and filmmaking is very grey, especially with actual violence against animals and sexuality approaching porn. I am not at all ashamed to say that I had to turn my head away. The only horror film I could not finish. And unlike some small minded people who scoff and cry out about films such as this degrading our society, I can appreciate this as a supreme artistic effort. Art should challenge and disgust us. Else, why does it exist at all?  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Past Imperfect - The Bloodletter's Daughter

My apologies in having the space between book reviews be so long--blame Audible. I was using my free trial to listen while driving, first The Atlantis Gene, which I would never have read beyond the first chapter if I hadn't been lulled into listening to it. When I finally pulled the plug, I switched to The Bloodletter's Daughter by Lindsay Lafferty, choosing something that had been on my "to-read" list for a while, but somehow had not yet made its way into my print collection.

Image resultI have mixed feelings about this work. Some things the author does very finely--descriptions are tops in this regard. Of the places in Bohemia and Prague described in this historical fiction, of the bodies of the main characters, and especially and most superlatively, the smells. I don't think I've ever read a book that gave me such a wonderful idea of how everything smelled--whether it was baked goods, flea-bitten men at the bathhouse, or a mad prince. Favoring that sense above all others in her descriptive language was a unique approach to her tale.

Her characterization merits mentioning as well. She did best with the despicable ones--Marketa's mother Lucie and the lunatic Don Julius are standouts. I was horrified by their actions, and sat in my car, in the dark, after a long day and an hour plus commute home, to finish a passage. The many tragedies of her story tug at your sensibilities and don't let go for a second. Don Julius is especial in this regard--you can see the nuances in his madness through the brilliant scenes of a pathetic figure, or one with clarity, and that combined with his bizarre and brutal behavior makes him all the more real.

A few areas were not as graceful: passages of Mattias, the rival of Rudolph II for the crown, were perfunctory at best, and did not appreciably hold my interest. The characters in those scenes went underdeveloped compared to the heart of the tale, and so I could not be convinced to care. Another sore point was  the dialogue. It tended to be repetitive. When the author tried hard to keep the plot points in your head, she recycled phrases, and so what should have been one solid exposition, done fine the first time, became tedious in the second and third (and sometimes fourth) go-arounds.

Lastly, and this is not insignificant, I take issue with the Bloodletter's daughter herself, Marketa. I couldn't get a read on her. Throughout the book, whether she would be sensible or silly was unpredictable. Her characterization was not nearly as consistent as the rest of the cast in this book, whose behaviors are solid indicators of them as people. And though the plot was not predictable in any real sense, all the characters save Marketa acted with a distinct sense of narrative logic, even though, I'm led to believe by other reviewers, not accurate to history. Not so for Marketa. As a historian, the inconsistencies struck me as the author's struggle to get inside this character's head, inserting a modern sensibility against what would have been the circumstances of her life, even if a girl living in her time may not have. I just couldn't suss out what I was supposed to make of her, and it left me unsatisfied in the end.

Be that as it may, all writers are human, and few very works in this world are perfect. The overall journey of The Bloodletter's Daughter and its descriptive power will bring me back for her other titles. But I don't trust Audible anymore, as convenient as it is. My eyes are the more powerful critics.

K Rating: 6/10

Monday, October 10, 2016

Stick with It - Review of Cat People

Love love love the style of these older posters--horror art at its best
It's that time of year again, when actual work goes undone in favor of my life's work--watching all the horror films my husband and I have amasssed. The grab-box for this Halloween season was geared towards films acknowledged as great that we have not yet seen, with a heavy leaning on vintage film. The first draw was Cat People (1942),

Short by today's standards, the first half of the setup for this film was quite slow. The premise was laid out in a very sweet and plodding way, with only the subtlest of hints as to the dual human/cat nature of Irena, the Serbian immigrant who marries the American Oliver Reed--oh Reed, finding your way into films before your time--it tickled me.

To the film's great credit, we're not sure of the caged jaguar, the object of Irena's obsession. You are on edge as to if or when she's going to release this beast, even when nothing else is happening in the scene--so kudos to the makers for keeping us in suspense.

The slow start of the film and the hints of Serbian witchcraft and cat cults pay off at the end, where the tension stacks up incredibly after Irena's unconsummated marriage. It was here that I knew without a doubt that I was watching a horror film, and a fantastic one by the conventions of its day. The lighting, sound effects, and use of the live jaguar are edgy, and keep you wondering just how much you will be allowed to see as Oliver's female co-worker Alice is stalked by a jealous Irena. The tension of one scene in particular is broken by a screeching noise from a bus-- is done very effectively--the oldest cheap scare I've seen, and one of the greatest, because it came entirely unbidden. The transitions here are not direct by any measure, but by god, they are ever the more thrilling for it. I shan't spoil the beauty of it, but I urge you--go and watch for yourself, and you many come to the conclusion I did--They rarely make them like this anymore, making Cat People and its coterie all the more precious.

K Rating: 9/10

I Name This Land, Icarya!

As a historian, I know better than to celebrate Columbus Day for what it is. but discovering new worlds in the name of great fiction--now that's something to celebrate. So in honor of the holiday I'm going to divulge a little background about the setting for A Vision in Crimson, the first installment in my fantasy series Frostbite.

Icarya's inception started from several sources. The first was from Narnia--a classical treatment of fantasy and hybrid creatures. A perfect setting for a half-man half-vampire like Luca to find his way in life. The base of that high-fantasy concept also suited my sensibility of fantastic creatures, formed from many years of watching Greek myths in Ray Harryausen films, Xena and Hercules, and being born half-Greek myself.

Image result for narnia map

Image result for london night dickensTo that base, many layers were added. The female protagonist, Kate, was born in a place I know very well--Victorian Britain. She and her siblings were nearing adulthood as they discovered this world themselves. They valued progress and modern conveniences, and at the beginning of their reign, started an initiative to electrify their capital city, Castelmor. Their struggle to keep Castelmor lit is what catapults the beginning of my tale.

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Castelmor is exactly what it sounds like. A Castle Town. Many of the locales on Luca and Kate's journey in this story are influenced by the variety seen in fantasy adventure games like The Legend of Zelda and Ni no Kuni. An example of that is the lakeside village of Veruna at the base of the Northern Mountains, a blend of Zora territory and Lake Annecy, set up in the French Alps. Annecy is one of this world's truly beautiful places. These muses among others helped imbue forest areas throughout the series with intangible, sacred qualities.

As Luca is tracked across the universe by the father of all vampires, the reader is brought to Cathair, Icarya's harbor town. The Great Sea keeps Cathair slick with sweet water, blending with the near-constant aroma of beer and fish in a town fashioned after Marseilles in the nineteenth century, a small, bustling town built into a hill.

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Shoggoths and sea wyrms wander Cathair's coast

Frostbite Book Two will take us to further exotic locales, but that tale, I'm afraid, is for another day. Check back in soon for more details about the upcoming title A Vision in Crimson.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Scare Yourself to Death-Best Horror Games

For when reading, watching, painting, writing, and drawing horror aren't enough. Sometimes you need to be in the story to have your socks scared off. As an avid gamer, I could not survive without quality horror gaming. Played over the course of years, here's the short list.

8. Catherine:
Games of all genres that strike close to my heart are built on strong stories. This one has that in spades, although my one wish is that they had taken it farther. Great undertones of relationships and coming of age, creepy dreamscapes paired with a waking nightmare of mysterious deaths. The titular character, Catherine, is an incredible element of this game, and figuring out what to make of her, your girlfriend, and the arcade game in the bar are where the fun's at.

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Honestly, who wouldn't want to play with her?

7. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father
One of the ways that video games shine is when the research and attention to detail shows. Jane Jensen's game does just that with voodoo culture in New Orleans. There's a brooding sense of malevolence and secrecy throughout this adventure-style title that tells more about New Orleans spiritual culture than plenty of dry academic works. Trust me. I know.

6. Deadly Premonition
Recently re-released with all the buggy complaints of past players fixed, this game packs a wallop in the WTF department. Originally intended as a Twin Peaks game, this title split off from its primal source, keeping the feel of David Lynch's bizarre imaginings in a small town, combined with a really intriguing serial killer and questions about reality and the supernatural. Something unique is your role as the player-the character thinks of you as his alternate personality. He asks your opinion, and lets you take over in sequences requiring combat. Clever and suspenseful.

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5. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
Plenty of games and other forms of media pull from the Lovecraft mythos for their inspiration. Few do it well. This title is bursting with beautifully haunting environments, suspenseful chase sequences along with rewarding combat, and a story based on one of my personal Lovecraft favorites, Shadow Over Innsmouth. That main thread, complete with complex cult activity and interaction with cosmic forces, is paired expertly with Shadow Out of Time, another Lovecraft tale. Excellent all the way around. Really special here is the fluctuating sanity of the player. Get too close to the universe's mysteries, and you'll start mumbling to yourself.

4.  Silent Hill 2
Unfortunately, this franchise is hit or miss. Story has always been one of its strong suits, but user-friendly interface has not. Nightmare sequences in the more recent titles are predictable and boring in some cases, what you never want in horror survival. But this sequel fixes some playability problems, and adds so much in environment and atmosphere. It's most effective when seemingly static environments (toilet stalls, mannequins, etc.) come alive. Not necessarily to attack, but just to scare the ever-loving shit out of you. It keeps you on your toes.

Image result for eternal darkness3. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
An excellent title, with wonderful and varied environments, characters, monsters, and weapons. Lovecraft and artistic license at their finest. And one of the most complex magical combat systems I've seen. For mood, we've got pillars of flesh, a player who gets cut in half at random, and fake-me-out system shutdowns. The game deliberately fucks with you. And it works.

2. Fatal Frame:
For most people, this should be obvious. But hey, you never know. And one of the best things about this franchise is its wonderful consistency. Solid games, all. Sound effects out of this world. The first will always have a special place in my heart, as does the third, which has a pants-pissing approach to what happens when you're not dreaming. Do not play this alone. Nope.

1. Clock Tower
Scariest.Game.Ever. The jaunty graphics of the NES work to their best possible effect in this early title, originally not available in the states. Based on Dario Argento's Phenomena, you investigate occult activity while trying to escape a manic child wielding gargantuan shears. Mood and real scares abound. If you don't have an old Nintendo or emulator lying around, get one. Just for this. It is worth it.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Troy Gallery - Weapons

Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, so the saying goes. Me, I hang it on my walls, perch it on my bookcases...let's be honest--these days, I put it wherever I still have the space. So I'm going to share my heart--that is, my art--with you.

There is simply too much to put all in one post, for I fear the image function would explode. So I've decided to group them, the first of which is weapons. All for show, until some unsuspecting person picks the wrong house to burgle...

Sadly, some of these things are in storage, and not being shown at the moment to their fullest glory. After all, what is a baby-safe place for a sword?

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Ready to slay vampires of any kind - this Western style hunter kit was amassed by my husband as a Christmas present. Complete with ash tree stakes whittled by hand. (I still can't imagine him doing this while I was at work), a matching hammer, holy water, Israeli grave dirt, a 19th-century German bible, the blood of a virgin (Party City- we're not that weird), and of course, wolfsbane. Which is poisonous, and had to be handled with gloves. So, yeah, NOT baby-safe.

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If that fails, there's also this bowie knife, fashioned after Quincey Morris's fatal weapon in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Totally unfriendly for kids and intruders alike. Just imagine--you think it's going to be a normal robbery, just like any other, until--surprise! Mom takes your head off. What a wickedly stylish way to go.

Chinese vampires, or jianshi, can cause just as much of a stir, as seen to great effect in HK films like Mr. Vampire and Encounters of the Spooky Kind. So to be fully prepared, we have this feng-shui style combat kit, complete with mirror, binding thread (chicken/duck blood not included), and a coin sword. Also a gift.

Image result for kukri knifeFor real weapons, we also have a kukri knife in storage, gifted to my hubby by his uncle, who's lived just about everywhere. We've also got a snakeskin dagger in the Tamerlane style, a katana, and a set of steel throwing darts set in a wrist guard.

Image result for master sword propOn the fantasy side, there's Evilsbane. Or, for those not in the know, the Hero's Sword carried by Link in the Legend of Zelda series. An impressive piece for a prop--and I assure you, the blade is real. Lying around here somewhere is a custom-quality Freddy Krueger glove, too.

Looking to add a production prop of this one: not easy or cheap to come by.

Xena  Warrior Princess replica movie prop weapon

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Vampire Proof - The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival

All foodies should go to a garlic festival at least once in their lives. What's not to love-garlic salt potatoes (a local classic), garlic ice cream, garlic braids, dips, breads, and endless tastings of French, Bavarian, Italian Purple, Russian Red, Music, and a million more artisanal varieties. I'm partial to the annual festival in Saugerties, NY. It's the perfect blend of local artistry and agriculture, for the love of all things garlic. Here are some of the highlights from this year.

After much raw garlic on toothpicks and a good dose of heartburn, my husband and I settled on French, a mellow, pervasive flavor excellent for roasting, and Russian Red. The raw heat is immensely powerful, and will still pack a punch after cooking. Look out, mashed potatoes!

 A perfect herald for autumn, you can fill your home with the wonderful fragrance of garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage, and lavender with these lovely seasonal decorations, which last well beyond the season, and can be used in the kitchen when you're done decorating it. I picked up one woven with dried grape vines from the farmer's own crop. That makes it one extra special.
Bought at my first Garlic Fest
The festival showcases great local farms and artists. This creepy guy captured my soul at the first moment, begging to be added to my collection and take his place beside this black and white piece, another dark artwork from the eclectic mind of Heather Gleason.

We also picked up fantastic peppers and unfiltered honey that I can't wait to slather on some fresh bread. The kimchi and pickles from Mac Donald's farms are perennial fest favorites. Newcomers that made a splash offered specialty breads and pastas like Pappardelle's Merlot rigatoni, mushroom duxelles, ginger-based tea elixirs from ImmuneSchein, and black garlic ghee.

                                               Today, I am much richer, happier and fatter.