TBT: Happy Halloween!

Halloween is nearly here!  I love Halloween, so I had to dedicate this week’s TBT to last year’s Halloween post.  This Halloween is particularly fun, as I’m hosting my annual Spooktacular this Friday evening (information here).

It’s been a good Halloween season.  My girlfriend and I carved pumpkins this weekend.  It was her first time, but she carved far more elaborate ones than I did.  See for yourself:

Pumpkins 2020

Her’s are the ones on the left—the bat and the drooling pumpkin.  Mine are on the right—the more traditional snaggle-toothed variety.  The one on the bottom right reminds me of King Kong.

We’ve also watched both Halloween and Halloween II, so we’ve pretty much checked off all the boxes.

With that, here’s 31 October 2019’s “Happy Halloween!“:

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

It’s Halloween Week, and—appropriately and chillingly enough—today’s post marks my 666th consecutive post.  Yikes!  What better way to observe this unfortunately demonic milestone than with a review of 1994’s Interview with the Vampire?

The film itself is a frame story, with Cajun vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) sharing his “life” story with a reporter (Christian Slater).  Louis had intended on feeding on the reporter, but decides instead to grant him the interview of a lifetime—the titular interview with a vampire.

Louis’s story begins in colonial Louisiana, when it was a Spanish colony (the territory traded hands between French and Spanish rule).  Louis’s wife and child died, sending Louis into a self-destructive spiral of risky behavior—drunken brawls, prostitutes, the works.  All he wants is death.

Into this mix comes Lestat (Tom Cruise), a flamboyant, nihilistic, haughty, obsessive vampire.  Lestat “turns” Louis, inducting him into the world of the living dead.  Louis immediately recoils at the implications of this new “life,” particularly the feeding upon humans for sustenance.

He instead attempts to live on the blood of rats and other animals, but his slaves grow suspicious when their master stops eating, and cattle and other creatures end up dead.  Lestat does not share Louis’s sense of restraint and humanity—indeed, Lestat is fascinated by Louis’s dogged persistence in maintaining what humanity he has left—and instead views humans as mere cattle.  Louis finally breaks, feeding upon his loyal house slave, Yvette, and then encourages his slaves to destroy his mansion as he flees into the night.

Lestat, naturally, is enraged at the loss of their home and their wealth, but the two find new accommodations in New Orleans.  A plague is sweeping through the city, and a distraught Louis stumbles upon a young girl trying to awaken her mother, who has died from the plague.  In a fit of hunger and shame, Louis feeds upon the child, and leaves her for dead.

Upon returning to their shared flat, Louis is horrified to find Lestat with the young girl.  Lestat feeds the young girl some of his blood, thus turning her into a five-year old vampire.

Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) becomes a voracious, childlike pupil of Lestat, and something like a daughter to both Lestat and Louis.  They dress her in finery, give her piano lessons (she feeds upon her teacher at one point, horrifyingly and humorously), and generally dote over her.  But as time marches on, Claudia’s mind develops, though her body is perpetually trapped at five-years old.

That perpetual childish body drives Claudia increasingly mad, as she yearns to be grow and develop into a woman.  She grows to despise Lestat, who dresses her “like a doll,” and draws closer to Louis.  Eventually, Claudia and Louis escape Lestat’s obsessive, controlling nature, and flee to Europe, where they encounter other vampires in Paris—with fatal consequences.

I won’t reveal any more of the plot there, but the film does an incredible job of creating investment in and sympathy for these characters.  Louis never fully embraces the vampiric life, and yearns for his lost humanity—and mortality.  Lestat is flamboyant—he reminded me a great deal of Milo—and wicked, even by vampire standards.

But the most interesting and tragic figure is Claudia, capably played by a very young Kirsten Dunst.  Claudia is “saved” from death, but is thereby denied any chance at a real life.  Her very existence is a travesty, and is considered by the European vampires to be taboo and dangerous.  Claudia’s own mental deterioration and rage clearly illustrate why.

Vampires are interesting and terrifying figures in folklore, and they are inherently demonic:  they represent a horrible inversion of Christ.  Christ died for our sins and shed His Blood for our salvation.  When we accept Christ, we are covered in His Blood, and our sins are washed away.  There is redemption and new life—eternal life—in Christ’s Sacrifice.

But vampires offer a perverted undead—an “un-life”—through their blood.  It is a form of immortality, but one that is entirely tied to this world, and completely separated from God.  Thus, the vampire is an eternal nihilist.  The implicit bargain of the vampire is a Devil’s Bargain:  enjoy as much of the world as you want, but you can never truly leave it.  The vampire is also damned—a common theme in vampire movies and books—and can only hope for Hell, or walking the Earth for all eternity, like Cain (who is often considered the father of vampires).

As for the film itself, I highly recommend it.  Anne Rice’s books about vampires quite good, too, and the film does justice to the source material.  It’s also fun seeing a pale Tom Cruise running around in flouncy eighteenth-century garb.

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Lazy Sunday LXXXIX: Halloween Hijinks

Regular readers will know that love Halloween.  Indeed, I use the entire month of October as an excuse to revel in the fun of the season (instead of covering the election, the point of a blog ostensibly dedicated to commenting upon and analyzing politics).

I love it so much, I’m hosting a concert from my front porch, the “TJC Halloween Spooktacular: Front Porch Edition.”  I’ve got a couple of opening acts lined up, and then my buddies and I will take the stage for this second annual Spooktacular event.

So I thought this Sunday—the Sunday before All Hallows’ Eve—would be the perfect opportunity to look back at some spooky Halloween hijinks:

  • Halloween Week!” – This short post was one of my many paeans to Halloween.  It details South Carolina’s unfortunately hot and humid Halloweens—quite different from the crisp, autumnal Halloweens popular depictions of the holiday always portray.  I’m praying for a chill in the air this year!
  • On Ghost Stories” & “TBT: On Ghost Stories” – This post briefly discusses the importance of ghost stories, and why they’re so delightfully fun.  Victorians used to read ghost stories around Christmas, so I’m thinking we should just dedicate the last three months of the year to reading them.
  • Happy Halloween!” – THE post on Halloween!  I showed off some pictures of the pumpkin I carved (the featured image for this post).  As soon as I’m done with this post, I’m going to do this year’s carvings, so I’d better wrap it up!
  • Monsters” – … right after one more post.  This little piece looked at some previews of essays about monsters and the monstrous.  I also discuss the possibility of cryptids (like Bigfoot), and why God’s Creation is so limitless and interesting, it’s entirely possible such creatures could exist.

That’s it.  Now get your costumes, grab some spooky stories and movies, and get ready for HALLOWEEN!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Jack O'Lantern 2019 - Lit

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Monsters

Back in May I stumbled upon an online culture journal, The Hedgehog Review, a publication of the Institute for the Advanced Studies of Culture.  I don’t know much about either the publication or the IASC, other than they’re based out of the University of Virginia, so I can’t speak to their degree of implicit Leftist infiltration, but default position is that any organization in 2020 that isn’t explicitly conservative is probably Left-leaning.

It’s sad that I even have to make that disclaimer, because some part of me still clings to the old ideal of a broad, humanistic approach to knowledge—that we should examine ideas on their own merits, not on the politics of the entities espousing them.  I still believe that ideal is worth pursuing; I just also believe it is currently dead, or at least on life-support.

But I digress.  The then-current issue of The Hedgehog Review was dedicated entirely to the theme of “Monsters.”  It being the Halloween season, the time seemed ripe to revisit those pieces, and the idea of “monsters.”

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Lazy Sunday LXXXVIII: The Mountains

It was another weekend on the road, which makes 2020 my most traveled year by far—one of the many weird paradoxes of The Age of The Virus.

Lately I’ve enjoyed a couple of weekend trips to the mountains of western North Carolina, and I’ve grown quite fond of them.  When I was a child, we would go to my great-grandmother’s house in the mountains of southwestern Virginia, and these trips to North Carolina have reminded me of those childhood visits.

So, seeing as I got back this afternoon from the latest trip, I thought I’d dedicate this Lazy Sunday to the mountains:

  • SubscribeStar Saturday: The Mountains” – This post detailed our explorations around Burnsville, North Carolina, during the weekend of my older brother’s fortieth birthday.  We tried to visit Mount Mitchell, but the park was closed that Sunday afternoon for some mysterious reason.  Otherwise, it was a wonderful trip!
  • More Mountain Musings” – This piece expanded further on the Burnsville trip.  I also reflect on the spirit of mountain folk, and their ability to subdue the wilds and carve a living from the hollers.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Bearwallow Mountain” – I wrote this post about a hike up Bearwallow Mountain, outside of Hendersonville, North Carolina.  It’s a beautiful hike up the mountain to a pastoral landscape.  I uploaded some beautiful photos with this post, which give a good sense of the scenery.

That’s it for now!  Time to get ready for another week of work.  But my mind is still up on Bearwallow Mountain.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

blue-ridge-mountains-in-fog

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Bearwallow Mountain

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Also, last week’s post on my third trip to Universal Studios in 2020 is coming soon—I promise.  This past week consumed far more of my time than I anticipated, so subscribers can expect that soon.

My uncharacteristic year of travel continued this weekend with a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, the hipster capital of the Southeast.  After our family trip to Burnsville, North Carolina, my girlfriend was itching to get back to the mountains, so we decided to come up and spend a day exploring the area.

It’s the first weekend in a few weeks that’s it actually been cold, and we reveled in the cold mountain air.  The high was around 60—perfect autumnal sweater weather.  It also made the hike up Bearwallow Mountain more pleasant and endurable.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Cross-Posting on OCF

Readers surely noticed that this morning photog and I cross-posted to each other’s blogs.  photog—the proprietor of Orion’s Cold Fire—contributed a review of the 1953 film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

To read my essay to his site—“The Concerns of a 35-Year Old Man in 2020“—you can click here.

photog asked me to comment on the concerns facing a Millennial in today’s world, so I dove into the various financial and social strains that have marked my generation.  I hope my whining adequately covered some of the nuance of the difficulties my generation endures, while also acknowledging our considerable blessings.

It was a great deal of fun to collaborate and guest-post with photog.  I’m a big admirer of his blog, and have contributed before, so it was great to share posts and get some fresh perspectives on the site.

galaxy-575239_960_720

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Guest Contributor – photog – “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” – A Science Fiction Movie Review

Blogger photog and I decided to swap posts this Friday as a bit of cross-promotion for our sites.  photog is a multi-talented man—a writer, a photographer, and a reviewer—and he possesses a real knack for writing great movie reviews.

So when he asked me what he should write about, I proposed something related to science-fiction, a genre he knows well.  I was thrilled when he came up with a review of an Atomic Age gem, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, from 1953.  The film was apparently a major influence on the Godzilla films, and spawned a number of “creature features” in the 1950s.

You can read more of photog’s reviews, as well as his political writing, at www.orionscoldfire.com.  It’s worth checking out!

With that, here is photog’s review of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms:

This 1953 movie is the grandaddy of all the atomic monster movies.  The next year saw the appearance of “Them,” the giant atomic ants and Godzilla which really was a sort of knock off of the “Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.”  At least theoretically this movie is based on Ray Bradbury’s short story “Fog Horn.”  But other than the one scene where the Beast attacks a lighthouse there isn’t anything in the story that informs the plot of the movie.

So, this is the story of an arctic atom bomb test that predictably thaws out an amphibious dinosaur.  After killing one member of the military team via avalanche the beast heads south to re-enter his old stomping grounds in the Hudson River undersea canyon.  On the way it capsizes a couple of Canadian fishing ships, demolishes a Maine lighthouse and flattens a Bay Stater walking along the shore of Massachusetts.  Well, for that one you really can’t blame him.  I’m sure the guy had it coming.

And as these movies usually go, the military gets in touch with an academic expert on dinosaurs who is always an old man with a funny accent who always has a somewhat attractive young woman working as his assistant.  The military provides the old professor with access to a bathysphere and the scientist descends into the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to the Hudson River and is promptly eaten (or something) by the beast.

Now the protagonist (a French scientist who was somehow associated with the US Army’s arctic A-bomb test) rallies the military and leads the effort to destroy the monster as it rampages through lower Manhattan.  Early on it eats one of New York’s Finest in the person of a cop who attempts to take down the giant reptile with his service revolver.  Then the beast goes on a stroll down Broadway and crushes various cars and small buildings.  Finally, the Army moves in some bazookas and draws blood from the beast by blowing a hole in its neck.  But, wouldn’t you know it, its blood is full of virulent germs that have the soldiers keeling over after only minutes.

Fearing that explosives would start a plague the French guy proposes that a radioactive projectile be shot into the wound on the beast’s neck and thereby kill him without spreading his germs.  After swimming back into New York Harbor, the beast resurfaces at Manhattan Beach (which is in South Brooklyn) and the beast heads straight for Coney Island and begins destroying the Cyclone, the big rickety wooden roller coaster at the famous amusement park there.

The French guy and an army marksman don radiation suits and take a roller coaster ride to the top of the coaster’s highest hill in order to have a clear shot at the beast’s neck.  From that vantage point the marksman hits the bullseye and then they clamor down the side of the coaster before the beast’s death throes bury them in the rubble of the demolished ride.  Of course, the wooden ride bursts into flames proving just what a death trap it really is.  But by then the beast is dying and as we watch he breathes his last.  French guy and somewhat pretty paleontologist are now free to explore the romantic relationship that almost always await the survivors of atomic monster incidents.

This is one of my favorite old monster movies because New York is my old stomping grounds.  In fact, the beach in Brooklyn (Manhattan Beach) where the beast resurfaces was where I first met Camera Girl forty-five years ago.  So, we have that in common.  There weren’t a lot of famous actors in this movie but the special effects were handled by Ray Harryhausen and the sharpshooter was played by Lee Van Cleef of spaghetti western fame.  Now there isn’t any detectable acting going on except for the old professor played by veteran actor Cecil Kellaway.  But it combines the gung-ho attitude of all military movies before the Vietnam war era along with the silly mayhem expected when giant monsters are eating and stepping on people.  I highly recommend this silly romp but warn millennials that it was shot in black and white (the horror!).

TBT: The Joy of Hymnals

It being October, I tend to focus on the spookiness of the season.  I love Halloween, ghost stories, and scary movies, but it’s important not to get too bogged down in the chills.

So as I was going through posts from October 2019, I stumbled upon one of my old favorites:  “The Joy of Hymnals.”  My small church roped me into playing piano for Sunday morning services maybe two years ago, and it quickly rekindled an old love of hymns and hymnals.

Hymnals are my favorite items to find in old second-hand shops and antique stores (the latter of which often selling them at an egregious markup).  It’s fun to see which hymns do—and, more importantly, don’t—show up in any given hymnal.  I particularly like slender volumes, the kind that were meant for carrying from service to service or camp meeting to camp meeting, and which tend to possess hymns from the canon, if such a thing exists, of hymnody.

I even recorded and released a very lo-fi EP, The Lo-Fi Hymnal, which consists of crude recordings of my Sunday morning playing.  That short collection also includes a PDF version of today’s TBT feature.

Here is “The Joy of Hymnals“:

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