Two of the ‘drama’ series on TV that I enjoyed this fall have come to an end for this season. American Horror Story: 1984; Castle Rock: Season Two. I’m pretty sure AHS will return for another season but am not sure about Castle Rock. I enjoyed being immersed in the bloody, gooey worlds that each of them created but while AHS paid brilliant homage to summer camp slasher mayhem, Castle Rock failed to deliver much more than atmosphere.
The only tease that AHS failed to deliver was an appearance by Billy Idol – the season was an interesting mash up of summer camp & Groundhog Day. Killed ‘campers’ returned to life very time they were killed – each resurrection slowly taught them important life lessons: accepting that you are dead eases the pain of being dead etc. Revenge is a distraction not a solution.
Castle Rock: Season Two turned out to be all window-dressing for an essentially empty store. The premise of Annie Wilkes (Misery) backstory was promising but got lost & nearly drowned in the goo. Lizzie Caplan’s Annie was so clearly unbalanced from the get go that her drug addled journey was more boring that revelatory. She spent so much of the time covered in blood or mud I felt sorry for make up & continuity. If she ever forgot a line all she had to say is ‘Where is my daughter’ or “I’m protecting you from the dirty-bird world’ & it would have been fine.
The window dressing included Somali immigrants, most of whom disappeared after a few camera shots established them. Not even the goo people were interested in them. Joy & Chance flirt – sweet teen-age lesbians but nothing develops. Chance sure does handle a gun well though but we were spared her backstory in favour of the goo people. The window dressing of racial conflict, sexual diversity are dangled then given no substance.
Pop’s redemption story as ho-hum, Annie’s descent into madness was a forgone conclusion. Many episodes were so uneven they felt like different writers, directors were working on different shows with the same setting & then the show runners stitched the parts together. They gave us an ending that didn’t make up for the mess of missed opportunities that preceded it. The best part of the show was Fan Critical’s Castle Rock podcast commentary, they were much kinder to the show than I was. Season Two gets two blueberries. Fan Critical gets five.
Watching how the narrative elements in each series are structured is a great lesson though. They make me aware of maintaining enough logic that one’s readers/viewers understand what is going on even if they don’t know why. Don’t make backstory more compelling than the main story: Joy’s birth story & how it played out was the most interesting part of Castle Rock.
I have been thoroughly enjoying American Horror Story: 1984. It features great work by regulars Leslie Grossman, Billie Lourd & stellar work by John Carroll Lynch (he was also amazing in Chanel Zero’s No-End House – 2017). A season without stunt casting, unless one considers the 80’s look stunt casting. And what a look it has, from the workout gear, music, even bands (will Billy Idol do a guest spot in the finale?)
The plot is ‘Friday the 13th’ summer camp massacre with a handful of horny camp councillors, who one knows from the get go, that are all going to die. Throat cutting is very popular. Identities, loyalties, motivations constantly shift. Everyone is given a juicy back story while the series has time to explore the random coincidences that link them. Every trope of the genre is explored with respect & humour. Each week another one comes to the surface. Ah now it’s the spirit of the mother of the boy who drowned in 1948 whose brother grew up to a …. that is behind all the mayhem. For once I’ll be sad to see the season wrap up.
I’m now four episodes into the new season of Castle Rock. With Lizzy Caplan as a seriously disturbed Annie Wilkes the show has a real backbone to build on. Add Tim Robbins as Pops Merrill, this promises to be a great mash up of Misery and Salem’s Lot, plus we’ve already had a good helping of Stand By Me & Gerald’s Game. But one doesn’t need to know anything about those King works I just named checked, to get pulled into this multi-layered story. So many layers I’m still not sure who the ‘bad’ guys are or where the plot is going.
Each episodes has added a new layer or direction in the many plots that are already in the air. Who is Annie running from, is Joy her child, what about Joy’s friends – can they be trusted, what’s with this growing army of reanimated corpses, will Barkhad Abdi be able to keep the Somali community safe? Yes, that’s right there is a large community of Somali’s living in Jerusalem’s Lot. Steven King often uses ‘the other’ in his novels & here they are clearly present.
The race issue, which I don’t think King ever really uses in his writing, plays a big role in the superficial conflicts – but perhaps not in the supernatural conflict that the show seems to be building up to. The budding romance between the two teen girls brings yet another sense of ‘other’ in to the mix & I’m interesting seeing how that is developed. Of course, as is often the case, girl-on-girl romance is more acceptable as a plot device.
I’ve also been enjoying Fan Critical’s Castle Rock podcast as they discuss each episode in some detail. They also talk about which of the King works are being infused in each episode from plot details, character names or even locations merely mentioned. I look forward to their comments almost as much as I do each episode.
In October TOpoet.cahad many days with over 60 hits. India tops the list with Canada at the top of the hit list, 2nd place is USA, with India regaining 3rd. Increases seen from Mauritius & Kenya coming on strong. The blog now has 359 followers (up from 298 at the start of the year). 246 Tumblr followers. Steady increase is best. Finally down to the end of Coal Dusters one more short chapter to wrap things up in November 🙂 It’ll come in at just under 138,000 words.
My Twitter account was suspended without warning or explanation other than I had broken their rules but they refused to tell me which ones: hate speech? spamming? using copyright materials? When I pressed for an answer I was told not to bother them & that they would not reply again to my requests for explanations. So my twitter following is down to 0. It was a time waster & did nothing to enhance my productivity.
The only event, so far, in November is the Hot Damn! show on November 7 at Buddies in Bad Times. Season 5 winner Wes Ryan will be the feature. I’m giving NaNoWriMo a rest this year. Though I managed good work last year it had become a chore rather than a challenge. I may focus on organizing Picture Perfect which I hope to start blogging in 2020. Not sure what Tuesdays will bring – maybe another photo blog similar to Sunday’s.
Other blog days will remain the same. Pictures may become even more random than they are now 🙂 Friday will see lps covers & such that I’ve come across on my walks. People throw away the oddest things :-). Taking pictures is more practical, for me, than taking objects.
TV pleasures include American Horror Story; 1984 – so far one of the best arcs of the series. Past seasons have felt stretched out by plot tangents. This one has been tight, taught & bloody good fun. The new season of Castle Rock has started & the Misery/Salem’s Lot mash up is off to a good start. Hopefully Space won’t screw up the running times as badly as they did last season. I also hope they broadcast it same time same day, instead of moving it around without notice.
Currently I’m reading: I Am Providence – a biography of HP Lovecraft by S. T. Joshi – fascinating not only for his life but for the literary context of the time – letters-to-the-editor often became like twitter wars – with strangers taking potshots at each via the anonymity of these letters. Also a critical study by David Kalat of Toho’s Godzilla movies putting them into a cultural context. As well as the final piece in the Works of John Addington Symonds – his biography of Michelangelo.
First a recap of March 🙂 March was cold then cool, dark then sunny. Started the rewatch of Taboo. The series is as intense as I recalled, also as illogical. The image clarity of the DVD is clearer than the original broadcast so some things are more noticeable – no this plot holes but the make-up on the King& other characters doesn’t hold up at all. But Tom Hardy is a magnificent beast & the tattoo work is exceptional. His great coat pulls focus everything he walks down the street.
Also rewatching Castle Rock. Knowing what is going on from having seen the series already doesn’t detract from the mystery but does let me ignore the endless red herrings, and frequent incidents that only exist for atmosphere or for the writers to show us how clever they are. Re-listening the the Fan Critical commentaries as well.
Speaking of Fan Critical I have also been listening to their reviews of ‘event’ movies I’ll never get to see until they turn up on TV. This is a very funny, intelligent group of commentators. Their newest addition is the ‘Worst of Netflix.’ Hilarious.
As I expected with the end of google+, my WordPress hits have dropped from frequent 60+ a day – to an average of 20 a day. My followers have increased: WordPress – 312, (following 36) Tumblr: 223 (following 54). TW: 215 (following 99). The Tumblr purge hasn’t ended the site & the nudes keep coming. I’m still deleting follows from hetero porn sites.
Coal Dusters is moving along well. I’ve blogged just over 90,000 words with at least 40,000 more words to go. This is clearly a second draft & not the final draft. I realize that I have to iron out wrinkles in time. I have to makes sure I have a time line that all these events can fit into. I suspect I have to get some of my geography settled as well. I am using some imaginary places i.e. Castleton– but also real places i.e. North Sydney, New Waterford.
Now for the sneak peek part of this post. First up is Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam Season 5 finale at Buddies in Badtimes Friday April 5, 7 p.m. 5 Cities! 8 Poets! But only 1 Champion. I can’t wait to see who wins the grand prize of a trip to Capturing Fire Slam, the International Queer Summit & Slam in Washington DC. I love everything about this expect the part where I can’t afford to go to Washington DC this year 😦
The Hot Damn! feature is a dream come true! The out of this universe fantastic Nasra Adem NASRA is a queer, Muslim, Oromo creator/curator living in Amiskwaciwȃskahikan (Edmonton) on Treaty 6 territory. They were the Youth Poet Laureate of Edmonton from 2016 to 2017.
So far tickets have been booked to see Henry VIII, Nathan The Wise, & Little Shop Of Horrors at Stratford. Considering Private Lives, Othello if good seats go on sale. Tickets booked to see Sex at the Shaw Festival. Yet to book there is The Ladykillers. Oddly I’ve never wanted to any of their actual Bernard Shaw plays.
Not so distant future coming event is why I can’t afford to go to Washington DC this year: my visit to Cape Breton in August. I haven’t visited since June 2012. Plans include a visit to Fortress of Louisbourg, day trips to North Sydney, New Waterford for Duster’s & Picture Perfect research. Sydney has an unexpectedly lively lgbtq+ community now. Judging by the large number of Squirt profiles there are lots of men on the prowl too.I guess I got the seven year itch?
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tackle NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve done good work every outlast year it felt like work – previous years were like sailing without needing a steering wheel. Last year was like rowing in molasses. So this year I’m going to start with cliche plots, queer them up & see where that takes me.
Cliche plots will include haunted houses, possession, paranormal investigators, explicit gore and who knows what else. I’ve been watching the current season of American Horror Story (mildly enjoying it), recently watched Castle Rock, have the current Channel Zero on my pvr to watch – so I’m clearly interested in this genre yet have never really written about it so time to get on that broom 🙂
Rather than try to fashion a single plot, plus sub-plot I’m going to a series of linked short stories using the same characters in various supernatural circumstances. Perhaps allowing the lead pov to move from story to story. Starting with one of them getting a mysterious letter informing them that they’ve inherited a mysterious estate in a mysterious country.
I also want to play around with various form of narrative – Frankenstein is told by the captain who finds the doctor on the ice floes; Dracula is told via letters & journal entries. I recently watched The Saragossa Manuscriptin which a man tells a story in which a man tells story about man telling a story. James Joyce’s Ulysses as a horror novel 🙂 Working title The Blludstun Chronicles.
Please keep in mind this is a fresh off the keyboard sample that has had minimal editing – I haven’t even checked it for typos.
“Matt, You’ve got mail!” It was a text message from Don, my partner.
“Thanks” I texted back. I checked my email box and there was nothing there. Don would often send longer messages as emails because typing them in the cell phone annoyed him.
“There’s nothing there.” I sent back to him with a frown emoji.
He texted back a photograph of a letter addressed to me. ‘Mr. Matthew Taylor, 75a Crombie Mews, Toronto, Ontario” All written by hand.
“Very clever marketing.” I texted back. “Looks like real handwriting.”
The video alert flashed and Don was sending a live feed of the envelope.
“It’s not marketing.” Don said. “I recognize real ink.”
“Show me the stamp.” I said.
He angled the letter so the stamp came into view.
“It’s a real stamp!” Don said as he picked at a corner of the stamp. “Glue not pre-sticky.”
The stamp was a Greek athlete throwing a disc. The lettering on the stamp wasn’t one I recognized. I did a quick image search on Google. It was from Dashan.
“It’s from Dashan!” I exclaimed.
“Who is Dashan?” Don asked.
“It’s a country not a person. Who’s the sender?”
“I can’t tell. The return address is in that gothic font.” He brought the return address into view on the phone.
“It’s blurred.” I said. “Hold it still.”
“I am.” He pulled the cell away from the developed so it was all in view.
“Strange. Everything else is readable except it’s like there’s some smudge on your lens distorting it. Open it!”
“I don’t think I should.” Don panned his phone’s camera to the lower portion of the envelope.
In thick red hand printing it said “To be opened only my the addressee.”
“Go on,” I said. “The envelope won’t know who opened it, will it?”
“Something important?” Frank, my supervisor was standing by my desk.
“Yeah. I got mail!”
“Not on company time.”
“Sorry. But I mean I got snail mail.”
“What?” He stepped inot the cubical to take a closer look at the photo on my phone. “I’ll be.”
“I gotta go. I’ll open it when I get home.” I turned off the video link.
“It’s not your birthday.” Frank said. “Or did I miss the reminder.”
“It was at one time a tradition to snail mail birthday greetings.”
“It’s not my birthday. I have the Beaufort report to finish.”
“George Innis was on that case?”
“Yes. His notes are impossible to read and transcribing his audio is no easier. When he isn’t spilling coffee on his paper he’s slurping it went he records his findings.”
(Matthew works for a corporate investigative firm that specializes in corporate surveillance.)
When he got home he saw that the envelope was on the dining table. Unopened. He went toward the table and the air was noticeably cooler.
“You feel it, too?” Don came out of the kitchen and kissed Matt. “The cool.”
“Yes. Must be draft from one of the windows?” Matt hugged Don and looked over his shoulder at the envelope. All day he’d wanted to get home to tear it open but now he wanted to wait.
“You didn’t open it?” He asked Don.
“I … it didn’t feel right.” Don said. “After I showed it to you with the cell I couldn’t wait to put it down. It was almost if it jumped out of my hands.”
I stared at the envelope. It was an off-white, a little larger than standard business.
“Why are you staring at it. Open it.” Don gave me a little nudge toward the table.
“I don’t know.” I approached the table. “I get this strange vibe from it too. Fuck! It’s even colder here. Maybe I’ll need my gloves to even pick it up.”
I picked it up and the cold immediately dispersed. The paper was a linen weave. Expensive, not some drugstore bought envelope. I could see the return address clearer but the name was indecipherable.
“Open it.” Don said. “The suspense is killing me.”
“Okay. Here goes.” I ran my finger under the back flap. As it opened I caught a scent, sort of a peppery rose, that came from it. A place red mist flashed out of it then dispersed. I dropped the envelope. The lights flicker and dimmed in the room. I could no linger see anything around me.
Don moaned. I looked at him and his eyes rolled up in his head. He stepped back unsteadily, turned and reached for the sofa. He collapsed to the floor before he could reach it. I tried to help him to sit but my hands couldn’t grasp his body. It felt like I was trying to pull spotting out of an oily river and that something kept slipping out of my hands.
“You have no choice. Don’t make the wrong one.” Don spoke but the voice wasn’t his.
The room had gone from freezing cold to suffocatingly warm. I hooked two of my fingers into Don’s pant waist and pulled him to me. I clasped him to me. His body was vibrating.
“You have no choice. Don’t make the wrong one.” He repeated several times. For a moment I couldn’t feel the floor under me. Don’s body shuddered then went limp in my arms. The lights returned to normal.
“What does it say?” He asked.
“You don’t remember what just happened?”
“Yes you opened the envelope. What? Did I miss something?”
“You went into some sort of trance.” I said. “When I opened the envelope you seemed to be taken over.”
“Taken over? Please.”
“I don’t want to know what’s in that letter. From what’s happened already without even reading it I don’t want to know.”
“Whatever it is, now that you’ve opened it you have no choice.”
“I can put it in the shredder undread, I mean, unread.” I stopped to pick it up and saw the the contents had scattered on the floor. One of them, folded in three, was held by a gold ribbon. I picked it up and turned it over. It said “The Last Will and Testament of Thomas D. Blludstun”
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet
Hulu’s Castle Rock was satisfying & more fun to watch than I expected. It never became as bloody (or as silly) as American Horror Story, didn’t get as gloomy & relentless as Taboo or Handmaiden or as soapy as The Dome. Overall I enjoyed the writing, the cast & in particular the music.
Spoiler warning: there may be spoilers in this review but I’ll try not to give too much away either. Based on locations & characters out of the entire Stephen King oeuvre the writers do a great job of referencing without being slavish to King. Episode One started in Shawshank Prison and I was doubtful of enjoying the series.
I have read King extensively but not recently, so this opening made me fearful that I wouldn’t understand this world without an extensive knowledge of his work – but I didn’t. The plot & subplots are quite clear without knowing a word of King. The show is full of ‘Easter eggs’ small references to some of his writing i.e. there is a Claiborne’s Cafe in the background of some shots.
The plot hinges on the discovery of Bill Skarsgård as “The Kid” in an isolated cage deep in an abandoned part Shawshank Prison. Is he evil, good or merely in the wrong dimension? He asks for Henry Deaver (André Holland) who turns out to be a lawyer. In the course of the show we meet Sissy Spacek as Henry’s adoptive mother Ruth Deaver; Scott Glenn as Alan Pangborn – a character who appears in King’s novels & some short stories; & Noel Fisher as prison guard Dennis Zalewski.
The atmosphere is eerie as opposed to scary. The story telling is often done in flash-backs. The Dark Tower multiple universes concept is more a distraction than an explanation. The finale wrapped things in a tidy way – Henry gets the Kid released in the beginning & in the end Henry becomes the Kid’s new jailer.
I loved the episode 7 “The Queen” & hated episode 8 “Past Perfect.” Episode 8 was great fun at the Dead & Breakfast in an American Horror Story way but was so deliberately clever I was disappointed. It showed that the only reason there was a Jackie Torrence character was for the punch line of her wielding an axe. One direct King referencethat didn’t advance or add to any plot line but merely existed for the witty Shining references.
What I enjoyed as much as the show was the Castle Rock Critical podcast with a fine set of hosts who explored each episode scene by scene, theorized what might be happening, pointed out the many King references & made it all fun. On their scale I’d give the season 4 out of 5 blueberries. It loses a berry for too many unresolved plot threads and for events that were only there for atmosphere i.e. the dog that takes the severed head. I’d give the podcast 5 blueberries.
The performances were all excellent. On line & on the podcast there was a lot of sexual ogling of Bill Skarsgård, who as an actor was excellent, but as a sex object I find to be a tall glass of tepid water. Give me André Holland (please), or even Noel Fisher any day (or night). Then again this Castle Rock takes place in a non-diversity dimension with no LGBTQ people.
‘They found another elbow in the park.’
My mother was doing something to eggs on the stove. The scrape of the spatula dull on the frying pan as if she wasn’t fully playing attention to anything.
‘I said they found … ’
‘I heard you dear. I’m afraid they have to be scrambled.’
I hated scrambled eggs. I could cook my own breakfast, but when I started she would hover, then take over as if she was doing me a favour. Saying something like ‘boys shouldn’t cook’
‘Left or right’ she asked.
‘The elbow, was it left or right?’
‘I didn’t hear.’
The eggs were a yellow clump with browned edges
‘That makes the fifth elbow this month.’
‘Soon they’ll have enough for a whole body’ my mother half laughed. ‘How are the eggs?’
‘Can they tell left from right?’ She stirred her coffee. ‘It’s just an elbow joint.’
‘Yep. The eggs are fine. Severed clean. I suppose there’s enough for them to tell from the way the joint moves.’
‘Yuk.’ My mother shuddered. ‘Gives me the creeps to think of an elbow like that – of some csi guy manipulating it with their hands.’
She manipulated an invisible elbow in the air over her coffee cup.
‘Would it squeak like a rusty door?’ she made a weird squeak with her voice. ‘Creeeeeequee.’
We both laughed till tears ran down our cheeks.
‘Could you pass me that book?’ Mrs. Coude gestured with the stump of her right arm.
‘This one?’ I picked up the English text that had fallen off her desk.
She’d had two complete arms yesterday. In her sleeveless dress the stump was hard to miss. A complete left arm and nothing on the other side. As if it was trick of the light. My eyes were almost seeing what was once there. I didn’t want to stare too obviously. It wasn’t a red raw. The end was smooth, healed. The nub, just before where the elbow would be, was so natural, as if there had never been a limb beyond it. It seemed impossible to me that less that twenty-four hours ago she had a flesh and blood arm there and now her forearm was gone.
She was the first person I had met who had suffered the loss of an elbow. I had so many questions. I had to know how did it happen.Did she feel anything when it happened. Did she wake up in this morning and her elbow was gone.
She went to the board and started to write with her left hand. The letters were childlike, less controlled, as she went along. At one point she rubbed some of it out with her right shoulder. She stopped abruptly, her back to us as she sobbed into her left hand.
A couple of students went to the office to get the vice-principle. It felt like we were telling on her, but something had to be done.
Mr. De Codo took her by the shoulders and gently lead her out of the room.
‘You boys behave. Someone will be with you directly.’
We sat still, silent, looking at the scattered smudge she had put on the blackboard. Then began to copy it as exactly as we could. One never knew what was going to be on the exams.