Tag Archives: HP Lovecraft

Some Of My Literary Influences

2 Sep

September 2, 2014

Over on Facebook, Matt Cowen tagged me to list, off the top of my head,  10 books that stayed with me in some way and a brief explanation. Matt is a man who knows his stuff. I urge you check out his blog over at Horror Delve (horrordelve.com) if you are interested in finding new, old, popular, and obscure horror stories.

This is off the top of my head, and I’m sure I’m leaving out a lot that deserve to be here. I’ve read many lists that other people posted, and their lists were full of “Golden Parachute” books, academic treatises on aging, and no telling how many books that are considered classics but honestly, no one reads very much anymore. (War and Peace, for example.) Those people were liars, more interested in having an impressive list than being honest. I have a few children’s books on my list. Why? Because it is the childhood influences that stick with you, that form you. Who doesn’t still have fond memories of The Cat in The Hat? A lot more than have fond memories of The Lives of the Great Composers by Arnold Schonberg, which someone listed.

And frankly, where’s the fun?

I’ve expanded my descriptions just a bit from what I wrote on Facebook, and, in no particular order, here we go.

1- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. More than any other book, this influenced my sense of humor and writing style. (So you know who to blame for my blog.) I also read to tatters a couple of copies over the years. Although I think his second book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, has the single funniest section (dinner at Milliways) of anything Adams ever wrote, it is this book that is the overall classic.

2- Tales of the Lovecraft Mythos by HP Lovecraft and others. My Grandmother had a whole set of Lovecraft, and one rainy month at summer camp she sent me this book and I was hooked. There are HPL books I like more, but this started it all. Plus,  it has Notebook Found in a Deserted House by Robert Bloch, which is just superb. (And not on the list, but at about the same time I first read Dracula, which I went on to teach.) Coming in right behind this one is At The Mountains of Madness and The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

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3- To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Hands down the best Dr.. Seuss book, in my opinion. The power of imagination!

4- The Martian Chronicles. I was always a casual sci-fi fan, but it was this book, given to be by a high school science teacher, that got me hooked on the genius and beauty of Ray Bradbury. The originality of the fates of the first few missions just drips from the pages.

5- Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol, any volume. These short mysteries are still in my mind when I write my own Hollywood Russell mystery stories. I still remember the one Encyclopedia solved based on how a man ate his hot dog with mustard on top of the sauerkraut instead of below.

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6- Beware The Fish! By Gordon Korman. First in a series of sadly out of print YA novels about Bruno and Boots, two kids at a private school in Canada and the hijinks they get into. I always wanted to be one of them.

7- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. The Knights of Camelot, time travel, and Mark Twain wit. Looking back, my gateway drug to alternate realities and Quantum Leap.

8- Han Solo at Star’s End/Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Yes, a pair of Star Wars novels. Not only the first of the “Expanded Universe” books, but, written by Brian Daley and Alan Dean foster, brought a more hard sci-fi tone to the fantasy of Lucas. To this day, I call them the only Star Wars books worth a cent.

9- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Wow. Just wow. After Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, this is the ultimate American novel, and I dare you not to cry at the end.

10- Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. Wow. Just wow. If I could read only one book for the rest of my life, this is it. I’ve not only read it over and over, I taught it five or six times and there is always something new to find in there. More than any other book on this list, I could fill a book about this book.

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I left out my first Nero Wolfe book, forgot about all the UFO books I devoured as a kid, didn’t add The Hardy Boys, and this really could have been a top 50 list. Hunt for Red October, and on and on and on…

And not a single book credited to the Department of Elder Affairs at a major university among them.

Up, Up, and Away!

15 Mar

March 15, 2011

According to an article in the NY Daily News and elsewhere, a team of  folks working on a National Geographic TV show replicated the flying house in the movie Up by actually flying an empty house (it had no interior) with 300 giant balloons.

Personally I don’t get it. It is cool, I suppose, at least until NORAD decides it is a threat. I don’t know if I would go up in it, but in this world where stories about people flying in balloon-powered lawn chairs is common I guess there is no shortage of pilots. Or, depending on high this thing goes, space cadets.

However, this does give me an excuse to repost one of my favorite movie reviews. I warn you in advance, it is way, way out there, a mix of Nazis and HP Lovecraft with at least one awkward sexual reference.

From 2009, I hereby present My Review of Up.

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Up is Disney/Pixar’s sequel to last summer’s Down, the ill-advised animated biography of Satan.

This is the first Disney film aimed squarely at the geriatric set. It opens in 1939. Young Carl Flopsweat is at the movies seeing the latest installment of his favorite serial, The Air Adventures of Stuttgart Nazi. This was the ninth and penultimate chapter. Reich colonel Stuttgart Nazi, in his zeppelin The Spirit of Valhalla, had finally reached the fabled Plateau of Leng. There, following clues laid out in the Pnakotic Manuscripts, he hoped to travel to lost city of R’lyeh and resurrect the Old Ones, which would lead to the Thousand Year Reich. However, in the cliffhanger, Stuttgart Nazi found himself face to face with the ancient Jews of Abraham. Would Stuttgart defeat the Jews and bring about the Aryan glory of Germany? Come back next week for the final exciting chapter.

Carl Flopsweat was very moved by this. It was 1939 and you could go to the movies all day on one nickel. You’d see a newsreel, a serial, some cartoons, a B-movie, and the main feature. It was possible to stay in the theater all day. This led to long, long lines for the bathroom. It was while waiting one of those lines that Carl’s imagination would soar. “Wow,” thought young Carl. “I wish I could be a Nazi.”

Carl didn’t become a Nazi but he did beat up a man named Goldfarb. However, that was still in the far future.

Young Carl was imaginative and would often pretend to be his hero. He would dress in the official Stuttgart Nazi helmet and junior Nazi Air Ace uniform, goose-stepping his way across town. It was on one of these jaunts, where Carl would pretend to round up “undesirables,” that he met the girl he would love forever, Eva.

Eva was everything Carl was not. She was smart and strong, while Carl was puny and stupid. In fact, on their wedding night, she made him ride reverse cowgirl. The one thing they shared was their love of The Air Adventures of Stuttgart Nazi and a desire for racial purity. Carl pledged that one day they too would fly to the fabled Plateau of Leng and found a nation of racially pure Aryans. However, Eva soon died after a night of autoerotic asphyxiation, leaving Carl old and alone.

Flash forward 70 years. Carl is still alone and racist, living life one heartbeat away from death. Ironically, only his hatred of life kept him alive.

One day Carl was informed by his local council that his house was going to be torn down to build a vitally important shopping mall and that his bedroom was slated to become a Pottery Barn.

“Fuck that,” Carl said. “I’m going up.”

So Carl did the only logical thing.

Did he:
A- get a lawyer and fight the city?
B- move to Florida?
C- die of a heart attack?
or
D- fill a gazillion helium balloons and float away?

The answer is C, he died.

No, he didn’t die. He launched his house into the air in an attempt to reach the Plateau of Leng and fulfill the promise to his dead wife, the same promise he had totally ignored for seventy years. At any time he could have bought a plane ticket to South America, but I told you he was stupid.

Along for the ride is Mungo Jerry, a Junior Platypus Ranger. Mungo has every badge the troop has to offer. He earned the Camping badge, the Squeezing Lemons badge, the Bathing the Elderly badge, and only needs the Befriending the Near-Dead badge, which he hopes to earn with Carl Flopsweat.

The ride was anything but smooth. First, Carl had badly over-estimated the power of the balloons and he shot up to the stratosphere. He barley managed to cut away some of the balloons and come back to a manageable altitude before he blacked out. Secondly, NORAD picked him up on radar and shot an ICBM at him. Only some fancy flying kept the house from being blown to smithereens. Lastly, he left the plumbing unconnected and anytime he or Mungo flushed the toilet, the refuse shot straight down and out the house, hurtling to Earth at speeds usually not reached by feces.

Little by little Mungo Jerry got on Carl’s nerves. “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” “Where are we going?” “Why do you have so many balloons?” “Who is ‘Adolph’ and why do you have his autograph?” The only thing that kept Carl from firing Mungo out of a window was the question of who would give Carl his sponge bath.

Eventually, what goes up must come down, and come down they did, somewhere near, but not quite on, the Plateau of Leng. The plan was to tether the house to Mungo (he was a bit rotund) and walk it over to the plateau and set it down. However, before they had traveled a yard, they were set upon by the savage Hounds of Tindalos, minions of the mad god Ithaqua, the Wind Walker. Carl, fortunately, was well-versed in ritualistic combat and displayed the five-pointed star of C’thulu, from which the hounds turned and ran.

“Gee,” said Mungo.
“Shut up and pull the house, monkey,” said Carl.

Unbeknownst to either of them, a shoggoth, which is the spawn of the Elder Gods, had settled on the roof of the house.

Also unbeknownst to Carl or Mungo, but very much beknownst to anyone who still followed this predictable film, Stuttgart Nazi was also on the lost Plateau of Leng, and he very much wanted to capture a shoggoth for his own arcane rituals. (This despite Stuttgart being well over 100 at this point.)

As you may well imagine, it isn’t too hard to track a floating house, and Stuttgart Nazi tracked Carl and Mungo and invited him to his Floating Lair of Doom. Of course, he didn’t call it that, he called it Ernestine, but with all the evil Hounds lurking about and the stench of blood in the air, well, Carl should have known better.

Stuttgart took Carl on a tour of his Museum of the Arcane and Eldritch while Mungo ate some candy. Stuttgart showed Carl his human ear collection, the Hall of German Experimentation, and his own private and very personal collection of German shizer porn. Carl was impressed.

Well, one thing led to another, and the film soon degenerated into your standard “who can get the shoggoth first and use him to summon The Lurker on the Threshold?” You’ve seen it a thousand times.

In the end, Carl killed Stuttgart Nazi, proving that even an old man can still kick ass. He captured the shoggoth and sacrificed Mungo in a ritual to bring forth a creature of the Dark dimension, but accidentally turned himself into a banana.

Disney/Pixar’s Up was a hit at the local senior center, where I viewed it with some of the inmates, er, residents. Those who remained awake by the end were both envious and appalled by the characters, with many curious about the shizer porn. Others had just had their meds and were made happy by the pretty colors on the screen.

Pixar is hard at work on Sideways, the stirring story of a man, his pet rat, and a crazy plan to burrow to Mars. It is due out next summer.

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If for some reason you like this review and your brain damage isn’t too severe, check out my review of Disney’s Ratatouille. It has no Lovecraft references but a lot of Star Wars stuff. And more Nazis. Who doesn’t like their Hitler humor?

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