Quotations on Writing

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“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

                                                                              Stephen King

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“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

                                                                             Ray Bradbury

 

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“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

                                                                             Toni Morrison

 

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Favorite Horror Films: Part 7 — The Invisible Man

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One of the more interesting and unusual horror films of the 1930s is The Invisible Man, directed by James Whale and produced by Carl Laemelle Jr. for Universal Studios (1933). This film is based on H.G. Wells’ novel of the same name, and it is a reasonably close adaptation of the book. Some changes were made to the story line, notably the addition of a love interest and moving the time from the Victorian Era to the 1930s.

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(en.wikipedia.org)

The film was unusual in the caliber and sophistication of the special effects, which still hold up to contemporary scrutiny.  It is important to remember that these filmmakers were not using computer generated images to create their effects; rather, they were forced to create from ingenuity, creating new techniques in cinematic art.  The end result shows visual images that are still powerful and compelling.

The story is well told and excellently acted. Claude Rains  stars as Dr. Griffin, the Invisible Man, and he does a superb job in his performance. He creates a convincing character of the scientist, who much like Victor Frankenstein, exhibits hubris in his research.  He succeeds in finding the way to invisibility but goes insane as a result and becomes homicidal. The film ends with his character being chased down and killed, and before perishing, he admits he should not have explored forbidden areas of science.  Again, this reinforces the theme earlier seen in Frankenstein.

Another interesting theme that is hinted at in this movie is the danger of drug abuse, as also show in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Griffin uses a drug identified as “monocane” in his formula, and the consequences are his becoming dangerously insane. While he does not use the drug as an addict might, he still ruins his life through its usage.

The film did well at the box office and is considered by many critics, including me, to be one of the best horror films of the 1930s.

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(https://en.m.wikipedia.org)

 

Favorite Horror Movies: Part 5–The Bride of Frankenstein

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It is interesting that the sequel The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) to Universal Studio’s Frankenstein  (1931) is a far better film and more faithful adaptation to Mary Shelley’s classic Gothic novel than was the original movie. James Whale directed and Carl Laemmle Jr. produced this film.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

The movie opens with a sequence in which Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley appear, which is a nod to the summer of 1816 in which the three writers shared time together and decided to writer ghost stories.  Mary Shelley’s contribution was a short story about a young doctor who reanimated a corpse, and which she later expanded into the famous and deeply important novel. In this scene, Mary explains  that the story did not end, as shown in the first movie, with the death of the creature in the burning windmill.

Whale imbues this film with both highly religious symbolism, as when the creature is captured and tied to what looks like a crucifix and to references to important sections from the book.  The creature famously finds a friend in the blind man, who is able to befriend the creature because he cannot see his deformities.  This is a clear reference to stereotyping and bigotry.

In the novel, the Creature demands that Frankenstein create a mate for him, so that his loneliness can be alleviated. In this film, Elsa Lancaster, who also plays Mary Shelley in  the opening scene, plays the bride.  But as would be expected, it does not go well when she rejects the Creature’s advances, and he says the powerful line, “We belong dead.”

Jack Pierce again did the famous makeups, and Boris Karloff starred again as the Creature.

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This movie was successful financially and critically. It is one of the rare times when a sequel improves on the original film. The Bride of Frankenstein is the best film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel.

It is, in my opinion, a cinematic masterpiece!

 

A New U.L.S. member, and a post on 1984 by George Orwell

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Underground Library Society

Thank you to Robbie Cheadle for her post on 1984 by George Orwell. With this entry, Robbie has joined the U. L. s., the Underground Library Society, dedicated to opposing book censorship and book banning. Please visit her blog Robbie’s inspiration .

If a society similar to that depicted in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury were to somehow come into existence and all books were banned, I would want to be part of any group involved in preserving books. If that meant learning a book off by heart, I would be prepared to do that. The big question for me would be what book to choose.

Out of all the wonderful and amazing books out there, my choice is 1984 by George Orwell. My over view of this book and my reasons as to why I believe it is still relevant to us are as follows:

1984 is a dystopian novel that was written years ago to portray a possible future for mankind as envisaged by the author in 1949. Why would anyone want to read this book now? 1984 passed more than thirty years ago so why would this book still be a worthwhile read today? The answer is that the content and ideas presented in this book are still relevant and it portrays a future that is still a possible outcome for humanity if the threats to our existing lifestyles and our planet are not resolved and harsh totalitarian measures need to be introduced as a last desperate measure to save our world. The threat of world destruction using nuclear weapons is much less likely now than in 1949, but modern people merely face new threats and obstacles which are also of our own   creation.

1984 is set in a world where the inhabited landmasses are divided into three significant superpowers, all of which are ruled by political parties where the systems of government are centralized and dictatorial and require complete subservience to the state by their citizens. The three superpowers are continuously at war and their populations live in a state of perpetual deprivation and fear of being bombed. The reason for this state of affairs becomes clear to the reader at a later stage in the book.

Winston Smith, the hero of the story, is a member of the Party and this requires him to believe in their political mandate completely and entirely. No questioning of Party doctrine is tolerated in any form and the party has methods of policing every aspect of their members’ lives including their thoughts and dreams. Every party member has an invasive screen, in the manner of a modern television, which the party can access to spy on the activities of its members. Party members are encouraged to suppress any sexual feelings other than the need to reproduce and children belong to clubs and groups where they are effectively turned against their parents and encouraged to spy on them for the state. In this way, the Party has broken down all the natural human bonds and relationships and turned people into lonely individuals with no way of forming into dissenting groups.

Winston is a thoughtful man with a high intellect whose job involves changing previously printed news articles and books to recreate the past in the manner dictated by the current wants of the Party. Nothing is safe from intervention by the Party, which is represented by a giant picture of “Big Brother”. Even the dictionary is continuously being re-written to delete unnecessary words and party members are encourage to use a reduced version of language know as New Speak.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
― George Orwell, 1984

He questions the society he lives in with its continuous deprivation and lack of emotions and relationships. He thinks that things must have been better in the past. Winston believes that there is a brotherhood of dissenters who are working to overthrow the party. He believes one of its member’s is an inner party member whom he has interacted with by the name of O’Brien.

Winston decides to start recording his thoughts and ideas in a blank book, an action that is against Party rules, in case he ever gets the opportunity to share them with O’Brien and join the brotherhood.

Winston meets a young woman called, Julia, who is also a dissenter in her own young and uncomplicated way. Julia does not share Winston’s belief that the Party could be overthrown and a better life for people re-created. Julia’s approach is to breach Party rules and take the freedoms she desires in a non-confrontational way. Despite their significant differences in age and attitudes, Julia and Winston become physically involved and fall in love. This is against Party doctrine where the marriage of couples has to be approved and would not be if the couple were strongly attracted to each other.

Winston and Julia both know that they are risking their lives with their affair and other behaviours and, despite knowing the harsh consequences, are prepared to take the chance.

 

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”

― George Orwell, 1984

The reason I believe this book is still so relevant is because we are living in a world on the brink of massive climate crisis and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Drastic action by the governments of the world will be required in the foreseeable future to remedy these massive issues. How will governments do this without taking decisive steps to control population growth and consumerism? If you think about these problems, the world of Winston Smith doesn’t seem so impossible.

To take this thought process one step further, we may already been on the slippery slope towards a totalitarian government. Our current environment of increasing nationalism, nativism and opposition to immigration, indicate that many people of moving away from the inclusive new world order that world leaderships worked towards in the aftermath of World War II. Have we forgotten the horrors of this war and the devastation and inhuman activities that took place? I think this book may be more valid now than ever before.

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

George Orwell, 1984

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Once again, thank you to Robbie Cheadle!

Favorite Horror Movies: Part 4: Frankenstein

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The movie that I will discuss in this installment is Frankenstein.  This 1931 film was directed by James Whale and produced by Carl Laemelle, Jr. Universal Studios was following up its huge success with Dracula earlier in the year, so this film seemed like a natural choice to make.

While the title and characters come from the 1818 Mary Shelley novel, it is a loose adaptation of the text.  Interestingly, the sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, is a much more faithful treatment of the novel than this first film. This movie, one of the most important in horror film history, introduces Boris Karloff as the Creature. Karloff gives an impressive performance as the lost and lonely being who is unsure of who he is and his place in the world.  This sounds like so many teenagers and young people, and while frightening, Karloff also gathered empathy from viewers in his nuanced performance.

Bela Lugosi had been offered the part of the creature but apparently turned it down because of its lack of speaking lines.  Lugosi made a terrible career choice, because Karloff would supplant him after this film’s success as the top box office star and would continue to dominate Lugosi’s subsequent film career.

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The movie is powerful and atmospheric and is highly influenced by the artistic movement German Expressionism that had a stylistic impact on cinema especially in the 1920s and 1930s. Whale used large Gothic structures in the set and deep slashing shadows in creating the atmosphere of the film.

Jack Pierce designed the Creature’s distinctive makeup, which was an ordeal to apply and remove from Boris Karloff each day before and after filming. It is a work of design masterpiece, but it is completely different from the Creature’s appearance in the novel.

For those familiar with the novel, it is significant that not only the Creature’s appearance but also his personality and level of intelligence are vastly different from that of the character from the book. In Mary Shelley’s work, the creature is one of the narrators and is both intelligent and self-educated.  Both of those characteristics are missing from the inarticulate and not very bright film Creature. This kind of vastly different portrayal of characters and themes is something that is, unfortunately, typical of many horror films, or should I say, many film adaptations of books. That, however, should be the topic of another post.

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The film was very successful financially for Universal Studios.  It is also considered by many cinema historians and critics to be one of the most important films made. It spawned numerous sequels and parodies, not limited to movies.  From Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein to the character of Herman Munster in The Munsters to Young Frankenstein, the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation have been fertile ground for satire and spoofing.

If you have not seen Frankenstein, then you should. I recommend it highly.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

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Available on Amazon

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Available on Amazon

 

Favorite Horror Movies: Part 2–The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari

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In this post, I will continue my series on favorite horror films, specifically of the 1920s.

Another  brilliant horror movie of the 1920s is Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — The German title is Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari — (1920). The plot of the film centers on a mad scientist, Dr. Caligari, a hypnotist, played by Werner Krauss, who exploits a sleepwalker, Cesare, played by Conrad Veidt, to commit murder. It is one of the earliest horror movies and ushers in a decade of greatness in film-making, especially in German cinema.

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The true power of the film is in its cinematic style, that of German Expressionism, which is based on the artistic movement of the same name. German Expressionism uses sharp angles, deep shadows, heavy use of darks and lights, and distorted forms to explore the psychological impact of visual images. In this art, the world is often not as it seems to be, and the artists explore distortions that lurk under the surface of apparent normalcy. What is perceived is often deeply disturbing and challenging.

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“The Prophet” Woodcut by Emil Nolde: 1912

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Weine employs these revolutionary cinematic techniques to disorient, frighten, and interrogate the audience. Cesare is a common man, forced by an arrogant authority to become a murderer, which is clearly a commentary on the dark forces at play in Europe in the early parts of the 20th Century, some suggested by contemporary writers. As Weine suggests, the mass of people in Europe would, in the coming decades, be manipulated into creating the horror of Nazism and the Holocaust. I am not claiming that Weine somehow could see into the future, but that he perceived the traumas occurring in Europe, and those distortions appear in his film. Like Weine, other writers, such as Franz Kafka, also saw such coming disturbances.

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While only some of Franz Kafka’s brilliant and disturbing literary works had been published at this point–“Metamorphosis” (1915)– is the best example, Kafka’s treatment of the darkness and alienation in society could be an influence on this movie. While it is not certain, I believe it is the case. Regardless of if this is true or not, Weine creates a deeply disturbing movie, one that maintains its power to this day, one that I recommend for all lovers of film.

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

32570160

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

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Available on Amazon

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Available on Amazon

Favorite Horror Movies! Part 1: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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October is one of my favorite months of the year for several reasons: it is the true beginning of Autumn weather, my birthday is this month, and so is my favorite holiday–Halloween!  This month, I will do two series that fit well with the spirit of Halloween: favorite Horror movies and favorite Horror novels! I will begin with horror films.

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I have been a fan of horror movies since I was a child. I grew up watching Universal movies from the 1930s and 1940s being shown on various themed TV shows with horror hosts. As an adult, my love for these films has not waned; in fact, it has grown and helped to feed my scholarly interest in film. I use these films in some of the classes I teach in college.

Several films, in particular, stand out to me from the 1920s.  Two starred Lon Chaney Sr., the Man of a Thousand Faces, and were made by Universal Studios.

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The first film is The Hunchback of Notre Dame, (1923) based on the Victor Hugo novel, and it is an extraordinary piece of cinema that stands up today. It was a very expensive production at the time.  Estimates range in the $1,250,000 to $1,500,000 range.  Given the year, that is a huge sum of money. The movie accurately reflects Hugo’s examination of the capacity of human beings to be intensely cruel to each other and of the abuse of power by those in positions of authority.  Wallace Worsley directed the film, and Lon Chaney Sr. gave a magnificent performance as Quasimodo.  It is also important to remember that Mr. Chaney created all of his own makeups.  If all you know of this story is the Disney version, you need to see this production.  I would consider it one of the best and most important films ever made.

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The Phantom of the Opera (1925) starring Lon Chaney Sr. is based on Gaston Leroux’s novel and was a huge success. Chaney played the deformed writer who falls in love with a singer and who becomes her kidnapper. This tale of horror and love has been redone numerous times, including the well known stage musical, but none of those productions have reached the sterling height of this extraordinary film.  As with the Hunchback, Chaney created this makeup, and his performance is sublime.  Again, if you have not seen this film,  I recommend it highly.

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32570160

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

 

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Available on Amazon

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Available on Amazon