cobaltnine: cobaltnine name and retro-looking shapes (Default)
2010-08-07 11:51 am

VNS Day 12 - Craft Day

Craft Day.

three lobed gods eye

Story going to be late tonight. Lost a day yesterday due to some after work stuff. It was planned, but not really planned around, and the upshot was that I felt a bit off until about an hour ago.
cobaltnine: cobaltnine name and retro-looking shapes (Default)
2010-08-04 11:05 pm

VNS Day 10 - The Necronomicon

Necronomicon - Parody and Prop.

The Necronomicon is a perfect example of how a few details can lead to an extremely useful plot device. The few details are that we know who wrote it and when (A. Alhazred, 8th c CE), and some history of the physical book. It is precisely because so few of the details are described that later authors, as well as contemporary ones, could ascribe almost anything to the text. It does have the potential to act as a deus ex machina by containing anything that would be useful to the plot, and its lack of specificity, as well as its suggestive and pronouncable name, compared to other fictional tomes his writing circle created, has arguably led to its becoming anemic. Everyone seems to be able to get their hands on a translation, both in stories, and, thanks to various occult publishers, in real life. The horror and Otherness is diminished by access.
cobaltnine: cobaltnine name and retro-looking shapes (Default)
2010-08-03 10:27 pm

VNS Day 9 - Music and HPL's Otherness

(NB: there is no Day 8.)

Original post: Othering and Other Artists.

The source post demonstrates with music, which, given yesterday's discussion of sound and Lovecraft, is fine to continue with. Not to be flippant, but there's a resonant line in an episode of 'The Venture Brothers': " No, no, no, you're not ready to step into The Court of the Crimson King. At this stage in your training an album like that could turn you into an evil scientist."

You know how some people in their late 20s-mid-30s were raised by parents who listened to the Beatles? Mine listened to Yes, and Cream, and Blue Öyster Cult and, yes, King Crimson. I can't hum more than a few bars of 'Hey Jude' but Aqualung comes on Rock Band and I don't need to look at the screen. The combination of willingness to deviate from the standard format of what consists of a song, as well as what was appropriate to sing about at the time - be it fantasy epics, space, or the unsavory parts of real life - made it transgressive and the form it took was often ethereal.

Other types of artists which I suggest fall into this same experimental mold include Fluxus musicians such as Nurse With Wound and Fantomas, in particular 'Delirium Cordia'; over an hour long, starting with the sounds of medical equipment.
cobaltnine: cobaltnine name and retro-looking shapes (Default)
2010-08-02 08:48 pm

VNS Day 7 - Sound in HPL's writing.

I read 'The Festival' at lunch, as the compilation I grabbed this morning was missing 'Nyarlathotep.' Both stories mention sound. (A quick survey of 'At the Mountains of Madness' failed to reveal many references.) There appear to be two types of sound in Lovecraft's writing - sounds that portent madness or the great foreign Otherness, and a lack of sound that illustrates solitude.

The solitary scenes are emphasized by their lack of sound, and nearly always, 'deserted streets', or the lack of lights in windows. These serve to show isolation of the body. Sound then pierces the still air, which is effective in modern films and only slightly less so when the atmosphere has been built up to be quiet and alone. As most reading is also done in quiet places, this can be compounded within those persons who have the ability to have a strong focus on his or her task. (Strong focus, incidentally, is correlated with the ease by which a person may be hypnotized.) The sound is rarely the sound of crowds or of another human person breaking the spell of quiet, or solitude. The sound serves to transport the narrator over the lintel of silence into the Other, as it is an unidentifiable, horrible sound.

Flippant remark: I think Lovecraft would hate my favorite falafel place.
cobaltnine: cobaltnine name and retro-looking shapes (Default)
2010-08-01 07:40 pm

VNS Day 6

"Using your chosen film as a starting point, discuss Lovecraft’s influence on Carpenter’s
oeuvre in 300 words or less."

Well, given that whatever I watch for this assignment is going to be the extent of my John Carpenter film viewing. I haven't seen Halloween, and we did own a copy of Christine for a while, but I haven't seen it recently.

I do own several more-independent Lovecraft films, including the first compilation from the Film Festival. Lovecraft's work is appealing to film-makers with its potential, but translates poorly. Short films, such as Bryan Moore's 'Cool Air', seem to work better than stretching out and/or padding the short story to feature length. 'Nyarlathotep,' on the same disc, doesn't try to follow a character, but slides deeper into the artistic side of filmmaking - fitting for a story that is a few steps above a fever dream.

After several technical problems, I did get 'Cigarette Burns', the shorter film by Carpenter, to load. Madness transmissible by a film - an unspeakable film, that corrupts all who touch it, which compels victims to it - these are Lovecraftian echos. The unseen adds to tension; the gore takes away. The religious themes (definitely shades of 'The Ninth Gate' or 'The Club Dumas') and the Electra themes don't quite work in a film this short, and I feel like the conclusion seems a bit incongruous. I'm bothered by the amount of blood - not by the blood itself, and I feel that the scene with the French 'filmmaker' does work, because he is not just committing one act, but has been compelled by the film's madness over a longer period of time and is working to further its viral transmission. The scenes near the end, including the part with the projector, are self-limiting.
cobaltnine: cobaltnine name and retro-looking shapes (Default)
2010-07-31 10:34 am

VNS Day 5 - Craft Day

I haven't done Day 2 yet, since I've been cleaning my apartment, and right now I'm out of state at a friend's house. This is a trip - to Massachusetts, actually, which is fitting for a Lovecraft project - that I make every six months. I also rarely drive my car, so each of these trips is preceded by an oil change.

An older man asked me if I was making a sweater. I wasn't very far along, so that's understandable. I told him a lie. I did not admit I was making a creepy, woolen tentacle.

Knit Tentacle
cobaltnine: cobaltnine name and retro-looking shapes (Default)
2010-07-31 09:21 am

VNS Day 4 (A little behind schedule)

VNS: The Cute Cthulhu Debate.

I tried to only be a day late with this, but between a three hour drive, half of that on the accursed Mass Pike, followed by a late-night viewing of 1966's Incubus, starring a pre-Star Trek Wm Shatner and a bunch of people speaking a language non-fluently, my brain rebelled at doing such prosaic things as typing coherently.

I'm guilty of indulging in 'The Cult of Cute Cthulhu,' although with irregularities borne out of my discomfort with it. My reflexive complaint is that it's lazy. Making something that is supposed to be an unspeakable horror easy to access is offensive to me in the same way that, to use an out-dated analogy, AOL was offensive in the age of dial-up. It let people engage without any pretense of understanding either the underlying [infra]structure or cultural background that made it possible. Goetia for Dummies. Do-it-yourself suture removal. Flow-bees.

In contrast, when I was in college, I found out my senior year that one of the first-year writing classes was using the new-at-the-time Penguin Classics collection of Lovecraft's stories. That was a much better introduction, I hoped, than the failed Campus Crusade I'd started, the one that involved reading modern mythos fiction on picnics and a failed attempt at atmospheric roleplaying. Modern mythos fiction often skirts a line between capturing the intent of Lovecraft's world (the Otherness) and appropriating images, characters, or worlds, and placing them in modern, or at least different, settings.
cobaltnine: cobaltnine name and retro-looking shapes (Default)
2010-07-29 05:44 pm

VNS Day 3

VNS Day 2
300 words or less on the connection between Lovecraft’s personal biases and the Otherness of his mythos.

To continue the ideas laid out previously, I propose that the two sides in many of Lovecraft’s stories consist of what is perceived to be quantitative, clinical and scientific human perspective in opposition to an insular, secretive, cryptic ‘other.’ This other can take the form of the limitless void; the depths of space, or the abyssal depths; it can also be sensed, by someone of Lovecraft’s time and inclinations, to be present in the ethnic enclaves of cities, of insular small towns such as in ‘The Rats in the Walls,’ or, to take it to an extreme, in non-Anglo cultures of any type.

It could also be argued that the perception - especially by someone in an anxious state - that oneself can be understood but cannot understand, due to language barriers or other cultural states that foster an ‘other’ identiy for the purposes of cultural cohesion - can create a sort of paranoia. Knowing in part consists of being able to quantify; anything innumerable or being perceived to be so - the rats, in this story, but consider anti-immigrant statements that speculate on either women who never leave the house or the number of people sharing housing. Lack of cultural knowledge further creates barriers to knowing, or to community, creating an ‘other’ not out in space, but on the other side of town.
cobaltnine: cobaltnine name and retro-looking shapes (Default)
2010-07-28 12:29 am

VNS #1 - Dagon

A discussion of the ‘scientific’ themes of Lovecraft’s early short story ‘Dagon’ is possible in two manners; first, in comparing it with previous fantastic literature from the 19th century, or by simply discussing the ‘scientific’ in contrast to the emotional style of writing which becomes apparent throughout. As some time has passed since I have spent significant amounts of time with earlier authors, I cannot consider myself familiar enough with them to make a comparative example.

‘Dagon’ is a first person tale, framed with conscious implied past and future behaviors taken, or to be taken, by the narrator. The entirety of the middle is recited as if it consisted of a dream. The dream state is suspected by the narrator, but this interpretation is dismissed. The dismissal, among other behaviors, is ‘hand-waved’ away by the narrator. There is no discussion of emotional state; the chest does not swell with fear, and sights do not evoke memory or a desire for companionship. Instead, the narrator dismisses those moments in which irrational thought could intrude - and in refusing the dream explanation, he dismisses the idea of irrational thought and insists that all which has occurred is real. Single words suffice - ‘horrified’ and the elaborate ‘nauseated fear.’ There are a few poetic reminiscences, consisting of references to Doré and Milton. These stand out as things which the narrator has to pull from memory, versus the ‘scientific’, arguably cold, reactions of detailed observation.

Detailed descriptions of objects, beings, and place become more common in later writings of Lovecraft, but in ‘Dagon’ we take away enough for the scant word-count: what can be measured (days only, as our narrator has no watch and no way of tracking his distance) is, and what cannot be is glossed over. Thus time is counted, as a way for the narrator to persuade himself that all which happened was not a hallucination, and specifics are described in detail. Much like a dream, however, his appearance in scenes is not by his own initiative, and he does not know how he gets washed up in either location; objects in the middle ground, like the beach itself, are relegated to two word descriptions.

The detached, somewhat clinical review which Lovecraft’s narrators use upon their world serves to show alienation; this can either apply to interpersonal interactions in those stories with relatively high levels of depersonalization, or, among objects, try to categorize in unchanging ways - inches will not change, the color should not - in order to rationalize the unreal. In ‘Dagon’, the only change is the rising of the new island (unnoticed by the narrator) and the sinking. Later works will discuss the horror which is the changing of things meant to be inviolate.