For those (very few) of you who have been wondering where I've been, I will relieve your curiosity.
I've moved my web presence to a wordpress-powered blog, and I bought my own domain. It's surprisingly cheap for a .net address, although Devilintheflesh.com had already been bought up and was on sale for five thousand bucks!
Why? Well, I really wanted my own domain. The 'blogspot' tag on my web address was something that bothered me, and so now I have my place: :Devil In The Flesh.
Why? Well, I realized that I had boxed myself with the parameters I had set up in this blog. I thought that bogging about horror and my fiction would be enough. But it's not. I like to blog about horror, writing, daily life, sex, porn, Science-Fiction, and whatever the hell I want. I have demons and I found I was censoring myself. So I moved house.
I should have thought things through a little more clearly: wordpress is set to whatever theme you've ordered, and I have to use HTML code to do anything different. The search and link history function is far worse than blogger - I don't know where my links come from. But those are small sacrifices for having my own place.
For those of you who follow me, be warned - there is now nudity (but nothing hard-core), some talk about sex, some views with which you might not necessarily agree. I've slowly been transferring all my most popular posts over to my new place. The demure book-bloggers from bookblogs.ning.com might think twice about looking through my archives unless they really do want to read my enthusiastic tributes to porn stars like Gianna Michaels or Jenna Haze. But ultimately, I think I'm happier over there and will have more success. Although I might have to buy a custom or premium theme. Or learn how to make one.
So again: Devil in the flesh is the new site. Devilintheflesh.net.
Hope to see you there!
I've been writing stories for years. I think I'm a good writer and I'm willing to bet you'll feel the same way. So here they are. Enjoy them, comment on them, tell your friends about'em, reblog them, retweet them, reread them. I have four stories in my archive so far:
"One day on the Mountain", a story of Lycanthropy, a father, and a son.
"The Boy", a story of a very ambitious and sociopathic fifth grade boy.
"The Easy Girl, A story of infidelity and unpaid sexual debts. This story is very dark.
"Brick The Mighty", a story of an aging superhero.
Although this is primarily a blog of horror, I also write about things that are important to me. I have more stories tucked away; they just need editing. There's even a few novels. There will be more to come.
PS. Feel free to leave a comment. I love comments.
Sunday, 15 April 2012
Sunday, 26 February 2012
I have the complete Internet/pay-cable packages. I get HBO and the movie central channels. So my wife and I were playing catch-up with the 24-hour selection, trying to PVR everything that we could see, until we looked at the pay-per-view section, and realized that all the movie central movies, HBO shows, and Oscar films can be ordered for free. That’s pretty cool.
Or is it? To fill a rotating selection of films and TV shows over 5 channels, 24 hours a day, without news or commercials, is not easy. So when I look through the free-order stuff on my box, I see a lot of movies that I’ve never heard of.
I’ve seen a crappy, heavily subsidized comedy-drama written by a guy I lived with in university. I’ve seen three cheapo planetary disaster movies shot over the bridge in North Vancouver; I have no idea how they got made. To those of you who only see big-studio movies: there’s a whole world of trash and treasure, mostly trash, but it’s worth looking into if you get a chance. Unfortunately, The Moment After (Part II) is not a treasures.
Released through (or by) the Christiano Film Group, and directed by Wes Llewellyn, The Moment After (Part II) follows the story of Adam, a renegade FBI agent convicted of terrorism because he helped a rabbi escape from government. The world is dominated by Global Corp, a multinational entity that has converted the world to personal biochips and one currency. It throws religious people in jail. Poor Adam has to make do with taking smuggled communion bread and reading smuggled bible pages.
He escapes into the desert and hooks up with a runaway band of Christians, or as Global calls them, ‘religious extremists.’
The first third of the movie is a typical cheap-movie setup. The last third is a pedestrian showdown with the bad guy, who just might be Satan. It’s the middle third of the movie where things get terribly odd.
The runaways signal to each other by drawing Jesus fishes in the sand. They live in the desert, and in a strange similarity to the Jews and Egyptians, or the Christians and the Romans, the Americans in this movie are persecuted nomads who are at odds with a heathen, techno-savvy enemy. The leader of the religious renegades is a rabbi named Jacob, who carries a bible and preaches Jesus every chance he gets. One woman admits that she was a ‘science major’ but is now so much more happy following the way of the Lord. Everyone hugs, wears baggy mom jeans, and unconsciously throws in bible verses in everyday talk.
And the dialogue! In one scene, one of the principal characters meets a Christian woman after a rousing hymm-sing. What follows is strangely awkward, and combined with the wholesomely meaningful looks exchanged, unexpectedly sexualized.
‘The Lord is gracious, isn’t he?’
‘I suppose he is… um…’
‘Laura. It was good worshipping with you tonight. Good praise, sister.’
‘It just feels like His Spirit moves so much when we worship like that. Don’t you?”
“Yeah. Thank you.’
‘God bless you, brother.’
This is an awful movie. The acting is terrible, the gun violence is sanitized, the fight scenes are ridiculous, one character keeps a cigar in his mouth the entire movie and never smokes it, and every man has tousled mop of bedhead hair. But my fascination with the movie is cultural.
Do Christians feel in their hearts that there will come a time when they have to flee and take to the desert? I can’t see how any American citizen of European descent could claim a cultural memory that is more appropriate to someone of Mid-Eastern or African descent, and yet in these movies (and part 3 is coming) they’re the persecuted minority they were 2,000 years ago. The Moment After (Part II) was very successful with Christian audiences. Do they think this? Do they think that a large and secular government will always threaten a religious society? Interestingly, the Global soldiers wear camouflage and berets similar to UN peacekeepers. Behind the praying, the hugging, the brothering and sistering, The Moment After seems to lust for a time when Christians can fight and, more importantly, suffer for their right to exist, with the back-up knowledge that everything will go according to God’s plan, and in the end good will triumph.
But that’s already happened. Jesus died for our sins over 2000 years ago. Those great and primarily secular civilizations collapsed and these days no one worships false idols. A president cannot be elected in the US without being avowedly religious. Catholicism has replaced Islam as the fastest growing religion on Earth. Mega-churches dot the continent. There’s no longer any reason to feel persecuted, and yet these… religious fetish movies sell like hot-cakes.
But really? I hated the end. They could have gone apocalyptically, old-testament, crazily biblical with the climax, with big scary angels, but instead it was martial arts and machine guns in a barn. If you’re going to go the paranoid religious route, you should go big or not bother.
Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Have you ever heard of Usher’s Syndrome? Children are born deaf, or become deaf within the first year of life. Soon after, Retinitis Pigmentosa follows - a progressive blindness as the optic cells deteriorate and cataracts develop. But there is a team of doctors here in BC who insist that the day is fast approaching when blindness is thing of the past. We need simply the money and the will. The brains and technology are already here.
On the evening of Valentine’s day, my wife and I went to Dinner in the Dark, a fundraiser for vision research. Tickets are expensive; there was an auction of Canucks memorabilia, a Gordie Howe jersey, a beautiful kid’s bike that we bid for and failed to win, and finally, the gimmick: we had to eat with blindfolds on.
I had thought we were to eat in pitch-dark. But just how would our waiters pour our wine and serve us dinner? The blindfolds made sense.
A few things about Blindness charity dinners. They like details. All night they played Andrea Bocelli, and I was about to complain until I remembered he’s blind. The centrepiece was a glass vase of roses interwoven with leaves of kale. Why? Kale is full of eye-positive vitamins, although I don’t know why the centrepiece wasn’t also stuffed with carrots. Among the auction items were fancy bottles of French wine with braille labels.
But on to the sensory part of the evening. We put on our blindfolds early in the evening and did a wine-tasting (in stemless glasses to avoid a glass catastrophe). Servers were instructed to tap our right shoulders to get our attention. “We can fool around and no one will notice,” murmured my wife flirtatiously, until I pointed out that we wouldn’t know if anyone was noticing us.
Being blind for an enforced period is odd. You quickly begin to bellow, because you aren’t sure if anyone is listening. You’re used to seeing someone’s face, someone’s eyes, looking at you, and you begin to fear that you’re being ignored. At first, when I put on the blindfold, I was heartened by the thin band of light that shone up along the bridge of my nose. At least I’ll be able to see my food, I thought. But that was wrong: my eyes got tired of looking down, and soon all the light gave me was a bright wash at the bottom of my perception, which is how many blind people ‘see.’
Another thing: many of us assume that we could survive being blind, thanks to our Daredevil-like spatial abilities and acute hearing. We think we’ll be fighting crime and playing piano concertos in our spare time. But I lost count of the times I stabbed my plate and brought an empty fork into my mouth; I struggled with dense, three-dimensional waves of junk sound in order to hear people who may or may not have been speaking to me. All I could hear was rhubarb-rhubarb and the clatter of forks. I had no idea how much I interpreted speech through faces, hand movements, context, body language, and eye direction. Hearing is something we romanticize - in reality it’s one of our least important senses. Hearing is supported so much by vision and touch.
There were a number of parents of Usher’s Syndrome children at the event. You knew them because they still wore the blindfolds when we adjourned to the auction room before the main course. The rest of us chickened out and took off our blindfolds when we went to the auction; they kept them on. They wanted to know what it was like to be blind, to stumble around in the dark, to constantly be at ease in a world that can run you over, bang your shins, cop a feel, or just simply ignore you in your world of clattering sound. They wanted to know blindness long term, because their kids would know nothing but.
The keynote speaker was a blind journalist and writer. He told us, flat out, that he wanted us to donate to the cause, but not for him. He wanted to stay blind, because he had a gimmick: he wrote about being a blind father, and he travelled the world and wrote about being a pathetically blind traveller. He had a unique niche in the writing biz. He even went to Egypt during the uprising, and the hotel staff took care of him with an earnestness that suggested they thought God had given them an onerous task. At the end, after we had nearly soiled ourselves laughing at his jokes, he thanked his wife. “She lets me fail,” he explained. It was a privilege to hear him speak.
We went home, paid the babysitter, and looked at our own kids. At the same time, many other parents were coming home and looking at their kids, and wondering if they were to be the blind people on the bus, desperately trying to prevent other passengers from stepping on their dogs tails. They probably thought of trust funds, surgical procedures that might one day work. I like to think they felt supported, that they had hope.
So if you get a chance, donate to your local blindness-fighting charity. If the doctor who spoke that night is right, we’re around the corner. We just might beat blindness.
Friday, 17 February 2012
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
I like the Harry Potter novels. Even if the first five books are a bit too much like five extended episodes of Scooby-doo. You know- there’s a pattern to all of them: Harry goes to Hogwarts, has the customary banquet in which the teacher wear their eccentric college robes. Strange things happen and things are not as they seem. Harry and his friends explore, there’s a battle and people are put at risk, the evil is vanquished, and then there’s another banquet. Add Draco, Crabbe and Goyle. Things do turn out for the better during the last two books, in which all sorts of people die and Harry and his friend at last leave the fictionally confining halls of Hogwarts. I like Harry Potter. My kids adore Harry Potter.
But Lev Grossman’s books, The Magicians and the Magician King, are better.
It’s unfair to say this. Grossman stole from JK Rowling with all the vim and vigour of a plundering pirate who happens to be classically educated writer of far greater talent. It’s about a school for magicians called Brakebills, in which eccentric genius kids practice magic in all its guises (including an astonishing test of physical magic that involves turning into a goose and flying across the world), in which there are cliques of friends who fall in love with each other and do their best to solve its mysteries. The school is covered in protective, concealing spells; there are portals that whisk people around the world; the students practice arcane little games; there are corresponding magic schools around the world.
But these kids fall in love, get drunk, and have sex. They even - horror upon horrors - use the internet. Rowling admirers often reference the absence of technology in her books - there are no computers or internet but only the world of magic and that of the poor muggles, who only have cars and telephones. In the Grossman books, people use smartphones and wikipedia and the magic is still there, and the story is the richer for it. Magic is given a far richer and more scientific basis, and Grossman has somehow woven it into a mythology that is respectful of its theft victims while staying original; magic here is painted as something arduously, impossibly technical, available only to people with the memory, the pure bloody-mindedness, to memorize the infintesimally delicate arrays of finger movements, language, and intonations that form real magic. Grossman makes it seem possible.
Then there is the writing. Here is a perfect example: Julia is teaching herself magic because she couldn’t get into Brakebills. She performs her first spell from a file she found in a dusty forgotten corner of the internet.
What this image was, once she had zipped and decoded it, was a scan of a handwritten document. A couplet—two lines of words in a language she didn’t recognize, transcribed phonetically. Above each syllable was a musical staff indicating rhythm and (in a couple of cases) intonation. Below it was a drawing of a human hand performing a gesture. There was no indication of what the document was, no title or explanation. But it was interesting. It had a purposeful quality, draftsmanlike and precise. It didn’t look like an art project, or a joke. Too much work, and not enough funny.
She practiced them separately first. Thank God for ten years of oboe lessons, on the strength of which she could sight-sing. The words were simple, but the hand positions were murder. Halfway through she went back to thinking it was a joke, but she was too stubborn to quit. She would have even then, but as an experiment she tried the first few syllables, and she discovered that something was different about this one. It made her fingertips feel hot. They buzzed like she’d touched a battery. The air resisted her, as if it had become slightly viscous. Something stirred in her chest that had never stirred there before. It had been sleeping her whole life, and now somehow, by doing this, she had poked it, and it stirred.
Throughout Grossman’s books, there is a constant beautiful but bemused quality, as if he begs the reader not to take the subject matter too seriously. After all, beneath the magic, people are just people and magic changed nothing.
The library was still plagued by outbreaks of flying books—three weeks ago a whole flock of Far Eastern atlases had taken wing, terrifyingly broad, muscular volumes like albatrosses, and wrecked the circulation area, sending students crawling under tables. The books actually found their way out through the front door and roosted in a tree by the welters board, from which they raucously heckled passersby in a babel of languages until they got rained on and dragged themselves sulkily back to the stacks, where they were being aggressively rebound.
Like I said before, I like Harry Potter. Rowling is talented and I credit her for inventing the genre of Adventurous Student Magician. But students are young adults, and they experiment, get in trouble, and make the most regrettable mistakes. They also grow up, and occupy a strange nether region that is neither childhood and adulthood. Harry was a child all the way through, despite some of Rowling’s hints of Harry's shouty independence. In the and, marriage and family happened offstage, as if Harry’s entrance into adulthood might have marred the mystery of Hogwarts. Lev Grossman has combined puberty, maturity, technology (but this book isn’t steampunk), magic, and misbehavior, and yet still added the magical world of Fillory over it all.
If Harry has made Rowling a billionaire, may these two books, far better than the Potter books, please make Lev Grossman at least a millionaire? It would be somewhat fair.
Saturday, 11 February 2012
Source Code, the techno/SciFi thriller directed by Duncan Jones in 2011 (and on Movie Central right now, which is why you’re reading this), is a vigorous little thriller that makes the viewer think. How many alternate realities are out there anyway?
Army helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhall)wakes up in a commuter train sitting across from a beautiful woman named Christina. He realizes several things - he’s somehow in the body of Sean Fentress, a schoolteacher; he supposed to be Afghanistan and he’s not sure how he got here; there’s a bomb on the train and in eight minutes it kills him and everybody on the train.
He wakes up in a strange capsule. Staring down upon him is a flatscreen with Air Force Captain Colleen Goodwin on it, telling him to focus and return to his mission. She’s looking down at him from a command centre, surrounded by eggheads. She’s his contact. Those eight minutes are going to start again, and he has to find that bomb and whoever planted it, because the explosion has already happened and Homeland Security needs to find out where in central Chicago the madman will plant his next and far larger bomb. Colter Stevens will have to relive those eight minutes as many times as necessary until he finds the bomber and the bomb.
Finally, after several unsucessful eight-minute runs, in which he chases a train-sick Indian Businessman, gets tazed by Amtrak security, and kisses Christina, only to die in the blasts, the government scientists tell him the truth. Colter was the victim of an insurgent attack, and only barely survived. The US government declared him dead, and harvested part of his brain so they could merge it with the memories found in the dead brains of terrorist attack victims. But the memories are only of the last eight minnutes of the victims life. Colter’s imprisonment in the capsule, the memories of Sean Fentriss, who died on the train, are all illusory.
But here’s the kicker - Sean Fentriss’s memories are of an entirely whole world that includes details Fentriss couldn’t possibly know, such as the location of the bomb, the results of internet searches, and the reactions of each passenger to varying actions. That’s because the scientists have used quantum mechanics to put his consciousness into Fentriss’s source code (his memories), and now Colter is not just in Fentriss’s memories, but of another reality. Each action alters history and puts Colter on a different course. Every stream of time results in a different world, decoherent from the next, but all those streams are from the same quantum superposition. This is all thanks to Hugh Everett, a physicist who formulated the Many-Worlds Theory as an answer to the Schrodinger’s Cat paradox. Colter Stevens is in his own world, as much as the scientists want to think he’s simply a ghost being tossed again and again into the same point of the data stream.
This poses many questions.
Jake Gyllenhall has been plagued by gay rumours. They’re muted, because everyone likes him and he’s not part of a creepy California ‘church,' but they’re there and constant. Could he have once been straight, and was then converted by the energy generated by the wishful thinking of a thousand horny gay gossip bloggers? Did someone in an alternated timestream stop Mohammed Atta while he was applying for crop-spray funding, thus preventing 9-11, and is now living in a wonderful world of cheap gas, cheap houses, and reading the fine books of a talented but slightly pompous Chicago author and senator named Barack Obama, and dozing away during John Kerry’s Oval Office speeches? In another timestream did Bill Gates and Steve Jobs team up and take over the entire planet with lovely, streamline computers that ran like our Apples, looked as damn sexy as our Apples, but were as flexible and cooperative as Windows PC’s? Or is there another reality in which the terrorist really won, and we’re all wandering blindly around a cloud of radioactive dust, looking for a few rats to shishkabob?
Never question whether or not things could be different, that’s what I learned from this film. Ask whether things could be better or worse.