Posted by: Mark | January 16, 2019

The Thing on the Doorstep

After Long Day’s Journey into Night, Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep” was a breeze.

It’s one of his more interrelated works with elements touching on many of the mythology and geography of other stories, especially the Deep Ones.

I gave Lovecraft a hard time for racism with “The Rats in the Walls” but I’m not as harsh with the charges of sexism that are levied at this one.

Lovecraft does suggest that men can perform black magic better than women but, to me, that’s more of a slap at men’s natures than an assault on women (I doubt if Lovecraft meant it that way but that’s how it comes off).

True, Edward does refer to his wife’s body as not entirely human but that was clearly because she was part fish-monster, not because she was female.

Finally, the villain turned out to be initially male. I don’t think this can be seen as a slight against the transgendered because he only did it as a last resort to maintain a living body. He was just a sadistic creep, and a white, male American creep at that.

All in all, I don’t think it’s as good as “The Rats in the Walls” but it’s still worth reading.

Posted by: Mark | January 15, 2019

Long Day’s Journey into Night

To be honest, I have never been much of a fan of Eugene O’Neill. I’ve read Desire Under the Elms, The Iceman Cometh, and Mourning Becomes Electra and now Long Day’s Journey into Night.

Characters in O’Neill’s plays tend to sit around, drink, and bicker at each other. I had a hard time liking them but Long Day’s Journey into Night seemed more sympathetic and realistic. It’s based somewhat on O’Neill’s life which might have been the reason.

John Ruskin, noted literary critic and pervert, divided stories into books of the hour and books of all time, meaning some stories become dated and some don’t. O’Neill feels more dated to me but I’m sure many disagree.

One aspect that seems timely is one of the character’s addiction to opiates after being prescribed a medication by a quack doctor. I hope that becomes dated in the future but I doubt if that will happen any time soon.

All in all, Long Day’s Journey into Night was well written but I don’t feel compelled to read more of O’Neill’s plays.

Posted by: Mark | January 14, 2019

Resolution Update 2

Better in some ways than last week, worse in others. The year is still early.

1.   Run 365 miles: 2.1 on the elliptical machine and 1.1 on the treadmill, for 5.7 miles overall.

2.  3,000 push ups: 120.

3.  Lose 15 pounds: gained 2.2 pounds since last week’s eight pound lost, still 5.8 down.

4.  Send out 100 resumes: One.

5. Send out 100 manuscripts: one (already rejected) .

6. Write 40,000 words and five new stories: 1,722 words.

7. Support 12 local artists: two (Nathan Singer and Katherine Wynter).

8. Read ten new H.P. Lovecraft stories: one (“The Rats in the Walls”)

9.  Read 15 works: one (War with the Newts by Karel Capek) and working on Long Day’s Journey into Night.

10. 400 blog posts: this is 17.

Posted by: Mark | January 13, 2019

Psuedo-Betta Report

At one point I was documenting the number of bettas at the pet store whenever I cleaned their tubs (usually twice a week). Their population ranged from the 40s to a record of 106 Bettas.

For some reason, our supplier has slowed down shipments, resulting in a mere dozen bettas. I didn’t clean them but here’s the breakdown:

3 male doubletail
2 male black orchid
2 male copper (new type)
2 male platinum dragon (new type)
2 male veiltail
1 male crowntail

No females in the bunch. No telling if things will change for the better.

I had to alter the rankings a little to get these immediately after the deaths of two gerbils but, since the rankings involve mostly guesswork, who cares?

I used to like both songs and talked about them with weird friends in high school and later used them to make the kids stop fighting in the car. Honestly, neither of them do much for me now but I was weirder as a teen.

I quoted “Dead Puppies” in a not-nearly-as-weird acquaintance’s year book in my senior year. He was not amused but I think that gives it a leg up over “Dead Dog Rover.”

That puts them at:

“My Dead Dog Rover” by Hank, Stu, Dave, and Hank

“Dead Puppies” by Ogden Edsl

Posted by: Mark | January 11, 2019

The Good Die a Day Later

One of Killer’s brothers was dead near a pile of his sleeping relatives this morning. The social gerbils have a 55-gallon tank to live in, many times the size of Killer’s wire cage.

Unnamed brother had his eyes squeezed shut so I couldn’t tell if he was albino or leucistic. The poor guy never did a bad thing in his life and, as a reward, lived a couple hours longer than his psychotic killer sibling.

In gerbil lifespans, that might be more significant but it doesn’t seem to pay to be good.

Posted by: Mark | January 10, 2019

Killer Dies in Solitary

Most gerbils are social but one of them was anything but. He fought his litter mates nonstop and killed one before I put him and one of his brothers in their own cage. Within two days, he killed his brother and lived the rest of his life alone.

He was albino, out of a litter of albinos and leucistics. I’ve heard people attribute problems to albinos but all of the others were fine. He didn’t seem to mind or act out of sorts until today when he was curled up dead. There’s no telling what went wrong with him to make him so mean but he outlived many of his nicer siblings.

Posted by: Mark | January 9, 2019

The Rats in the Walls

My first story of Lovecraft’s in 2019 is “The Rats in the Walls.”

It combines many of Lovecraft’s strongest elements:  an ancient family with a sinister past; twisted monstrosities of god, men and beasts; scholarly investigations into dark histories; affection for cats; a gradual reveal of a horrid truth; a preserved tableau of unspeakable horror; devouring of human flesh; and descents into madness.

It’s not a perfect fit into his mythology but, accounting for an unreliable narrator, it can be worked in.

The one flaw of an otherwise stellar story is the name of the protagonist’s black cat. Not only is it a racial slur but it’s not even a creative one (apparently H.P. owned a cat by that name earlier in life–Cthulhu help us!). Granted, based on the protagonist’s background, the name might not be farfetched for a black cat but it’s never addressed by anyone else.

I just read War with the Newts which was written in Europe in the same time period and white Americans were presented as morons obsessed with brutalizing anyone with darker skins. Considering “The Rats in the Walls” is set in England, it’s hard to handwave the racism away.

In the past year, I’ve felt fatigue brought on by surgery, fatigue brought on by radiation, and fatigue brought on by chemo, but the fatigue brought on by having to defend Lovecraft sometimes feels heaviest of all.

Some editions of the story, starting in the 50s, have changed the cat’s name to “Black Tom.” I am against amending Mark Twain’s work like that but, in this case, I wouldn’t object.

Posted by: Mark | January 8, 2019

Jury Duty No More!

The county just sent out the notice ending my jury duty. I went to the court house twice and never was selected for a trial. That Batman must be working.

Posted by: Mark | January 8, 2019

War with the Newts

Years ago, I read Gladiator by Philip Wylie which is often described as the first superhero story. Many fans of Wylie feel he hasn’t got his due for creating the first literary Superman. After reading the novel, I think Wylie has the reputation he deserves.

For a while, I felt this way reading, The War with the Newts by Karel Capek. Capek is best known for coining the word “robot” in his more famous story, R.U.R. I haven’t read R.U.R. but I’ve heard the gist of it–mankind creates robots, mankind exploits robots, mankind is usurped by robots.

This is the basic structure of War with the Newts, a sea-captain discovers a species of intelligent amphibians, capable of learning speech and using tools. He and others exploit the newts until they become so plentiful that they begin to destroy all land to make room for themselves.

It’s clever (Capek uses footnotes and excerpts from supposed outside text much like David Foster Wallace did in Infinite Jest) but it feels long and off-balance. Hitler is partially to blame because writing a social/political satire in which Nazi Germany is considered normal, doesn’t seem possible today (although when have there been normal heads of state in the last 100 years or so?)

Similar to Max Brooks’ WWZ, the book examines life around the world in light of the newts. The U.S. is regarded about as important a country as Bolivia, never doing anything other than lynching black people and being religious fanatics. In fairness, after the “America First” policies followings WWI, that’s probably how most Europeans of the time saw Americans. I bet it’s not uncommon now.

The thing is that what was global status quo in 1936 quickly changed and the book feels more than outdated.

The newts succeed because humans consistently did the absolute stupidest things they could do (if you’re familiar with the Draka series, you’ll understand). The problem isn’t that people wouldn’t really do the stupidest things in real life but in a book, it comes off as uninspired.

The story has a traditional ending point which left me feeling like I wasted my time. Then the final chapter resolved by having Capek’s conscience assail him for writing something so bleak. At first Capek defends himself in a similar manner as comic writer Mark Millar but eventually gives in to an ending where the newts kill themselves and humanity is saved. Many people would say that was cheap and having things both ways but it was funny and much more satisfying than the way the previous chapter ended.

I’m not sure if I would recommend the novel unless it’s to someone who has read old science fiction (Capek comes off more like the SF of Jack London or Arthur Conan Doyle than other writers from the 30s). Thanks to the final chapter, I think I will read more of Capek’s work especially R.U.R.

Older Posts »