Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 12: Clive Barker's Crowdsourced Horror Novel

Lord Shani by Raja Ravi Varma; for Shani's karmic influence, see here. Image Source: Wiki.

What better way to welcome Hallowe'en than with one of the masters of British horror, Clive Barker? Over at deviantArt, Barker is crowdsourcing a new novel, headed under the project title, Odyssey II. He writes the opening, They're Mad, They Are (here), and in eight weekly multimedia competitions of which Barker and dA officials are judges, the members of deviantArt present the rest of the story. The first submission date was October 19.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 13: Gothic Love, Romantic Death

Heathcliff on Cathy's grave. Image Source: Macmillan's Children's Publishing Group.

Gothic. Goths were eastern Germans who populated Central, Northern and Western Europe during the Roman period. Viewed by the Romans as barbarians, they were in fact sophisticated tribes. Early Gothic style, especially in architecturepejoratively recalled these peoples' cultures in France in the 12th century, and evolved into an eponymous late medieval style by the 16th century.

The reason the term 'Gothic' became synonymous with today's counter-culture was precisely because it was originally considered to be the barbarous or rude northern and western 'other,' contrasting with the persistent influence of Romans' Mediterranean classicism. The latter was especially popular in its revived forms through the Renaissance and again through the 18th and 19th centuries. In other words, these two strands in European culture - the Gothic alternative and the Roman mainstream if you will - are perpetually brought back into fashion to compete with one another, in different ways and ever-new forms.

By the 18th and 19th centuries, a Gothic Revival recalled medieval times and merged with the Romantic naturalist reaction against the cerebral, secular and neo-classicist Enlightenment.

From that time until today, love stories have lent themselves to contemplation of these trends, because the lovers and supporting characters represent opposing sides to these arguments. The pinnacle of English Gothic Romanticism must be the moment in  Emily Brontë's 1847 novel Wuthering Heights when Heathcliff embraces Cathy after death. Heathcliff represents raw, unbridled, violent and alien Romanticism. Cathy is a hybrid character who embodies Enlightenment ambitions and tastes, but she has a Romantic heart and soul. She dies as a result of her inability to reconcile these forces, her doomed love of Heathcliff becomes darkly Gothic.

Our contemplation of these forces continues. It is hard (and sad) to believe, but the lovers in Twilight and that series' sado-masochistic fanfic derivative, Fifty Shades of Grey, are the Millennial incarnations of Brontë's wild amorous protagonists.

Today, the Countdown to Hallowe'en continues exploring horror angles of this blog's themes, from love in the new Millennium, to the revival of 1920s' and 1930s' ideas during the 2000s and 2010s respectively. Below the jump, a clip from a film which presents the lovers of the Gothic Romantic, recast through the surreal lens of the 1930s. The film quoted is director Luis Buñuel's Spanish-Mexican version of Wuthering Heights, Abismos de Pasión. Buñuel originally adapted Brontë's novel in 1931.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 14: Cuban Zombie Crisis

"CIA reference photograph of Soviet R-12 intermediate-range nuclear ballistic missile (NATO designation SS-4) in Red Square, Moscow." These missiles, along with R-14 missiles, were deployed in Cuba. Image Source: Wiki.

In 1962, for nearly two weeks from 16-28 October, the world narrowly missed Armageddon. This fortnight is the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviets and Cubans began assembling nuclear missiles in Cuba which could strike the continental United States, and the Americans responded with an anti-Soviet naval blockade.

Still from Juan de los Muertos. Image Source: Chrome Yellow.

To express gratitude in the Hallowe'en countdown on this anniversary of dodging World War III, check out the 2011 Spanish-Cuban production, Juan de los Muertos (Juan of the Dead), billed as 'Cuba's first horror film,' a zombie romp spoofing the 2004 spoof Shaun of the Dead (which, in turn, spoofed 1978's Dawn of the Dead). Wiki: "the film 'resurrects the genre's political subtexts with jibes at a country where zombies are dismissed as 'dissidents' and public transport continues to run, no matter what.'" Below the jump, see the official trailer and watch it here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 15: Mystery Thrillers of the Last Century

Still from The Lady Vanishes (1938). Image Source: Making Nice in the Midwest.

This blog often comments on how popular culture reflects the changing times. In the mid-20th century, a genre connected to horror, the mystery thriller, similarly revealed cultural shifts at that time. Several of Alfred Hitchcock's films belonged to this genre, and he crucially adapted the genre's transition into modern horror by adding noir, crime, gore and ghost story elements. His films, Jamaica Inn (1939; see it here), Rebecca (1940; see it here), and The Birds (1963; see it here) are all adapted from stories by British writer, Daphne du Maurier. Du Maurier's novels are an eerie combination of mystery, suspense, ghost story, and thriller.

Unlike pure horror stories, du Maurier's mystery thrillers play on the imagination. They leave the reader with a deep sense of creepy uneasiness, a feeling that things have gone very, very wrong in ways that cannot be remedied. When they were published, du Maurier's novels were called mystery romances, but they involved elements of the paranormal not normally associated with romance. Du Maurier rarely explained much of what was going wrong in her stories: the characters were left, along with her readers, to wonder at the meaning of her intricate catastrophes. In a way, these mysteries symbolically parallelled the history of the 20th century, with its brutal changes, social destruction, bloodbaths and genocides, which were overtly explained but to this day have not been deeply understood.

Mystery thrillers were especially popular from the 1930s to the 1980s. They involved new circumstances adversely affecting established families, their wealth and their old houses. Another common symbol in these dramas was the train, the driving mechanical force of a departing era. The train became emblematic of a self-enclosed mystery, hurtling through the darkness, on which any of the 20th century's social and economic tensions could resolve themselves in murder. Good cinematic examples which used the train symbol included The Lady Vanishes (1938; director: Alfred Hitchcock; see it here) and Night Train to Munich, a British film which as early as 1940 actually depicted a mock set of a German concentration camp (1940; director: Carol Reed; see it here; thanks to -C.).

See all my posts on Horror themes.

See all my posts on Ghosts.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 16: Bollywood Dracula

Batman, Vol. 1, #351 (Sept. 1982) © DC Comics.

Horror is a genre which explores moral boundaries and changing values. In other words, it pegs the Zeitgeist. Vampire stories appear wherever something is going wrong in a society. European vampires had origins in the Black Death and in the transgressions of the late medieval nobility (as here and here). From around 1800 onward, the Romantic insomniac suave and decadent vampire reflected the sordid vanities of aristocrats. That preoccupation with class inequality persisted over the next two centuries in the Old and New Worlds alike, whether the vampire was a Gothic immigrant, a surrealists' favourite or an expressionistic caricature, pulped (like DC comics' Batman character, who is basically a metropolitan playboy vampire-turned-vigilante, although the editors make the connection plain only occasionally), or reworked as a celebrity, a rock star, an addict or a fashion model (as below). Millennial America produced vampires who were suburbanites and depressed teenaged vegetarians.

In India, two of the Ramsay brothers directed Bollywood's vampiric answer: Bandh Darwaza (1990).  This film is a clunky cult favourite, whose vampire spans the distance between old-fashioned Indian familial expectations and a rapid move into the modern world. See it below the jump.

There is a list of depictions of Dracula in popular culture here.

Noot Seear's vampiric Mona Lisa for Yves Saint Laurent's Rive Gauche ad campaign in 1998 cast another light on the mysterious smile. Image Source: Cute and Beauty Girls.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bully For You

The Vancouver Observer asks: Is Facebook culpable in Amanda Todd's death?

The Internet is a magnificent tool, but the Web has an ugly side. In its side alleys and social networking corners, anonymity and lawlessness combine. People show what they are when they fear no repercussions and no connections between their online actions and the real world. My friend, C., comments that the Internet is like the island in Lord of the Flies. Anything can happen, there are no rules and no adults. (Even many of the adults aren't adults.) The only decencies to be found are ones that online users consciously seek to preserve, as here.

Sometimes, the lawless online mentality rampages full force into the real world. In those cases, the shameless vicious hatefulness of those born and bred in the cyberverse - who don't care if they remain anonymous or not - is astonishing.

This week, the Canadian media and parliament are discussing the suicide on 10 October 2012 of a British Columbia teenager, 15-year-old Amanda Todd, a victim of cyber- and real world bullying over the past several years. Her tragic problems began when she was apparently ran across an cyber-pedo stalker online, who destroyed her life, blackmailed her and poisoned every new start she made. The Vancouver Observer remarks: "Amanda's death, at least in part, was a result of our society's inability to bridge the divide between digital and 'real' lives."

Todd's own testimonial, posted 7 September 2012, is below the jump. The tool through which Todd was hounded from school after school and from town to town was the happy friendly marketing vehicle of Facebook. Ironically, the very pivot of her demise hosts a memorial site to her here. On that Facebook page and on Youtube, the bullies have continued to jeer at this poor girl, even after they drove her to her death.

I haven' t confirmed this, but according to Vice, autopsy photos of Amanda Todd were then leaked to the Internet:
Unfortunately the Amanda Todd story gets worse, as her exploitation did not end at death. After autopsy photos of Amanda, naked and deceased, leaked onto the internet, the hacktivist group Anonymous responded. Anonymous claimed that a teenager named Alex Ramos distributed the photos, and proceeded to bomb his Twitter account. In what was publicly available on Alex’s Twitter timeline yesterday night, he insisted that what he found was simply available over Google Images. The biography of his Twitter account has now been hacked to say “Raging faggot that loves posting nudes of a dead suicide victim.” ...  
In what can best be described as extremely bad taste, Hunter Moore has thrown a handful of horrible tweets into the Amanda Todd discussion. Hunter, the creator of IsAnyoneUp, a now defunct website that allowed guys to post photos of their naked ex-girlfriends with public links to their Facebook profiles, is an online architect that has helped people like Kody Maxson reach girls like Amanda Todd.
After tweeting shit like “I wonder if Amanda Todd will be on walking dead tonight” and “Life’s a Bleach - Amanda Todd” which is a reference to Amanda’s first bleach drinking suicide attempt (it’s not clear if this is how she committed suicide on the 10th), he was met with the usual torrent of hatred and disgust that the man has grown accustomed to. In response to the backlash, Hunter tweeted: “i lost 200 followers from my amanda todd joke. then gained 250 from making fun of a girl for wanting me to take her buttonhole virginity. <3 .="." strong="strong">” 
On 14-15 October 2012, the hacker group Anonymous responded and claimed to have tracked down the man who allegedly had blackmailed and stalked Todd, and published his name and address on the Internet. By 15 October, hackers had already bookmarked a Wikipedia page for the alleged stalker, Kody Maxson:
Anonymous' Identiy Configuration
Amanda Todd's Punisher

Extorted amanda todd for pictures. This is the pedophile that social engineered Amanda Todd into supplying him nude pictures.

Identity: Kody Maxson
Online Username: kody1206
Location:Sapper St, New westminster,BC
Birthdate 1980, age 30
We Are Anonymous.
We Are Legion.
We Do Not Forgive.
We Do Not Forget.
Kody Maxson.
Expect us!
Anonymous evidently used an underground 2010 Capper Awards Youtube video to identify Todd's stalker. Urban Dictionary:
"Capper: In fansubbing, a person who captures audio and video directly from a television broadcast and saves it to their computer to later be downloaded by a fansubbing group. Most cappers are located in Japan, since they have easier access to anime broadcasts there." 
The man Anonymous named, who goes by the username, Kody1206, was nominated in these awards as the 2010 Blackmailer of the Year: 
  1. Anonymous' Identiy Configuration
  2. Amanda Todd's Punisher
  3. Extorted amanda todd for pictures. This is the pedophile that social engineered Amanda Todd into supplying him nude pictures.
  4. Identity: Kody Maxson
  5. Online Username: kody1206
  6. Location:Sapper St, New westminster,BC
  7. Birthdate 1980, age 30

According to one Website, Kody Maxon is a former (?) Facebook employee. Using the information that Anonymous provided, the Website Vice tracked down more of Maxon's information. Jezebel:
If Maxson is the creep who Anonymous alleges him to be, he's in for a world of pain, as Facebook groups have already popped up with names like, 'Kody maxson WILL die,' and 'Kody Maxson Better Sleep With 1 Eye Open.'

Later on 15 October, the Gaming Central Channel on Youtube posted a video claiming that Kody Maxson had been arrested by the police. Gather:
Amanda Todd may soon get justice for the torment and sexual blackmail she endured the last couple of years. Although police are investigating the case and claim to have more than 400 tips with 20 to 25 investigators prioritizing those tips, their work is done.

According to the Twitterverse, Amanda's tormenter has been tracked down and identified. It is amazing how these savvy computer users managed to do something the police haven't. This report, which is very informative and thorough, reveals Anonymous managed to unearth the identity of the troll who made Amanda's life a living hell. At this point, this information has not been definitely confirmed, but Anonymous names the perpetrator as Kody Maxson of New Westminster, British Columbia.

This is a map of sorts to back up the theory that Kody Maxson is the guy who drove Amanda to suicide. According to this news report, it sounds as if people have actually gone to this man's house in an attempt to confront him. This is not the way this situation needs to be handled. A lynching is not acceptable. Let the authorities handle it. If Kody Maxson is indeed the man behind Amanda Todd's torment, it is likely he is doing the same thing to other females. He will get put away.
Topsy reports today that Vancouver police arrested a Dakota Maxson on sexual assault charges. But local news reports that hackers posted the wrong address online, and would-be lynchers are showing up at the wrong house.

Image Source: Topsy.

Countdown to Hallowe'en 17: River Phoenix, Dark Blood and a Falling Sky

River Phoenix in Dark Blood (1993). Image Source: Box Office Benful.

There is something odd about the fact that River Phoenix returns to us now, waiting for the end of the world. This post on Samantha Mathis at Are You There God? It's Me, Generation X, reminded me that the last film starring River Phoenix, Dark Blood (1993), has been finished by its director, George Sluizer. The film was incomplete when Phoenix died on Hallowe'en 1993, outside Johnny Depp's Hollywood club, The Viper Room (see my post on Phoenix's death here).  Sluizer is seeking wide release of the film after a few private screenings of his director's cut a couple of weeks ago. He filled in missing parts of the film with voiceovers. The Guardian reviews the 'finished' piece as "fragmentary, uneven and odd" but still compelling:
Imagine Polanski's Knife in the Water relocated to the Utah Desert and you'll come close to its essence. Jonathan Pryce and Judy Davis play Buffy and Harry, a Hollywood couple who have driven out into the desert (filmed with a grandeur reminiscent of old John Ford films by Ed Lachman) for a dirty weekend. Their Bentley breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Just before they die of thirst, they're rescued by Boy (River Phoenix), a loner who behaves like Huck Finn as played by Klaus Kinski. He is still in mourning for the death of his wife, whose cancer was caused by radiation poisoning from nuclear testing.

Boy is convinced the world is about to end. He also has a strong attraction toward Buffy and wants her to join him in his underground bunker. Unlike the pampered Hollywood star played by Pryce, he is in touch with nature. Living off rats and snakes, communing with his mongrel dog, he has a primal quality. Phoenix brings a wild physical energy to his role – in truth, his character verges on the preposterous but Phoenix tackles it with such commitment that he just about keeps absurdity at bay.

Pryce and Judy Davis are likewise impressive as a bickering couple utterly bewildered by the idiot savant who has kidnapped them. Davis, who reportedly didn't get on with Sluizer at all, combines prickliness, flirtatiousness and vulnerability to good effect. She shows her character's desire for Boy as well as her growing disgust at his behaviour. Pryce is the Brit abroad, growing ever more pompous as Boy keeps him in captivity and eventually discovering a capacity for violence.
Phoenix's family has reportedly refused to support the film.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 18: The Walking Dead

Rick Grimes at the beginning of The Walking Dead #1 (October 2003) © Image Comics.

Today in North America, The Walking Dead season 3 premieres on AMC. You can see the season 3 trailer here. The show is immensely popular; the season 2 finale drew 9 million viewers earlier this year, and it ranks as the "top-rated show in cable history among the adult demo." It is also critically acclaimed. The television show is based on a ground-breaking black and white comic of the same name, created by Gen Xers  Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. Having read the comics on which season 3 is based, I am sure that TV viewers unfamiliar with the source material will be shocked by what is coming.