Happy Halloween of Horror

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.

~William Shakespeare

The artists of the past were not exempt from painting images that scare the beejeezes out of you.

Let me share some famous nightmares with you.

 

Salvador Dali, 1940

 

Mark Powell – 1985

 

Zdzislaw Beksinski

 

Henry Fuseli – 1781

 

Artemisia Gentileschi, 1620-1621

 

Vincent van Gogh, 1886

 

William Blake, 1820

 

Katsushika Hokusai, 1830

 

Hell- Hans Memling, 1485

 

Peter Paul Rubens, 1636

 

Wayne Barlowe

 

Titian, 1570

 

Theodore Gericault. 1818

Sweet Dreams!

Something Is Out There

20161210_215909I was watching TV the other evening. A horror flick. Or SF. Or both. No matter.

Predator. You know — the Sci Fi movie with Arnold and a bunch of special forces macho men. You know the story line — the alien who comes to Earth to hunt humans for sport.  Well, there was one scene closer to the beginning of the movie that made me pull out a camera and take a picture of the TV screen — a scene that flashed the words blog topic into my brain.

The men are walking through the jungle, in and out of clearings, when one of the soldiers stops. Just stops and looks ahead. At the trees, at the jungle. Silence. When asked what was up, Billy said there was something out there watching them. Something you couldn’t see.

That kind of terror gets to me much more than blood and guts.

The fear of the unknown.

Some people can sense something’s not right way before it hits you like a pie in the face. We all have intuition, but some just live with it turned on high, while others barely crack the surface.

Do you ever sense things that are — unnatural? Nebulous? Out of our sphere of reality?

I don’t care for the scientific explanations. I understand them, I agree with them. But that doesn’t stop me from wondering — what if something was watching us? Something invisible, fifth dimension-ish and all that?

I’ve seen dogs avoid places in the wild; some would rather pee on themselves than check out some particular place. I’ve heard stories of birds avoiding certain trees and wild animals refusing to walk through certain areas.

It’s like seeing something out of the corner of your eye. If you turn and focus, the thing is gone. But for that fleeting moment you swear there is someone there. It is hearing songs on the wind when everyone else hears a lawn mower. Or seeing a glow in the woods that everyone else says are lightning bugs.

I know that none of these abnormalities exist — at least not on a scientific level. The guy I dated 40 years ago dashed a lot of my airy faerie ideas out of my head when he insisted science is much more fascinating than imagination.

But through the years I’ve regained some of my fascination with the “unknown.” I love to entertain the impossible. The improbable. The ridiculous. For within those worlds lies even more remarkable truths. At least for the person experiencing them.

I have never seen the clear, wavy distortions of a Predator before they become visible. I’ve never seen a unicorn drinking from a stream or a faerie dancing through the night.

Or have I?

We all see things that aren’t there. As we get older and memories fade, what we think we remember isn’t necessarily what happened. The conversations change, the situations change — we rework the past to fit our current psyche. So what I thought my father said before he died might not have been what he really said. The punchline of an old movie might not be the quote I spout out to friends and family.

To be honest, I am spooked by things I don’t understand. I don’t like walking through the woods in the dark, or driving down unfamiliar deserted roads at night, or playing Mary Worth in the mirror. Whether it’s an overactive imagination or the true sensing of something beyond reality, I prefer to deal with the unknown my own way.

Avoidance.

I figure don’t tempt the gods.

Sunday Evening Art Gallery Blog — Anton Seminov

There are times when an artist’s view of reality is frightening.

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Anton Semenov is a 28-year-old digital painter and graphic designer born and raised in Bratsk, Russia.

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He is a digital painter, graphic designer, and, according to some, bringer of nightmares.

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His unique surrealistic style and phenomenal attention to detail and preciseness has crafted his technique into truly his own dark vision of the world around us.

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As in all nightmares, there is something fascinating about the way his mind wraps around the darkness and breathes life into it, bringing them into the daylight.

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His works feature unique interpretations of the subconscious world.

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We might not always feel comfortable with his interpretations, but we are thankful he is able to create that which we fear to share.

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More of Anton Semenov’s work can be found at http://www.awwwards.com/anton-semenov-disturbing-and-frightening-illustrations.html  and http://gloom82.livejournal.com/.

The Significance of Dreams — H.P. Lovecraft

h_p__lovecraft_mosaic_by_koscielny-d7m2fzxOctober is for Dreams

 

Howard Phillips (H.P.) Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction. His major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror — the fact that life is incomprehensible to human minds and the universe is fundamentally alien. Lovecraft’s writings were influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, and like Poe, was virtually unknown and only published in pulp magazines before he died in poverty. Fortunately for us, he is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors in his genre.

I like to describe Lovecraft’s works as eloquent, cerebral, and very curly-q-ish. The following clip is the first paragraph from his short story “Beyond the Wall of Sleep.” I know it might be hard to read at first, but take one sentence at a time. Savor it. Let the sentence linger on your tongue, in your senses. And let his reflections about dreams open your own thoughts.

 

Beyond the Wall of Sleep

I have frequently wondered if the majority of mankind ever pause to reflect upon the occasionally titanic significance of dreams, and of the obscure world to which they belong. Whilst the greater number of our nocturnal visions are perhaps no more than faint and fantastic reflections of our waking experiences—Freud to the contrary with his puerile symbolism—there are still a certain remainder whose immundane and ethereal character permits of no ordinary interpretation, and whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life, yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier. From my experience I cannot doubt but that man, when lost to terrestrial consciousness, is indeed sojourning in another and uncorporeal life of far different nature from the life we know; and of which only the slightest and most indistinct memories linger after waking. From those blurred and fragmentary memories we may infer much, yet prove little. We may guess that in dreams life, matter, and vitality, as the earth knows such things, are not necessarily constant; and that time and space do not exist as our waking selves comprehend them. Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon.

You can find full texts of H.P. Lovecraft’s writings at the following sites:

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/ or http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/.

Enjoy!

 

On My Way I Found the Holocaust

red_and_black_rose_by_tianajade-d2zwb9s1On my way to researching something else…

Doesn’t it always happen this way? Earlier today I was searching for events that took place on September 8 for a blog I was writing for work, and I came across this:

1941        Sep 8, The entire Jewish community of Meretsch, Lithuania, was exterminated.

An entire community.

My curiosity took me through pages and pages of Holocaust history. Here is some of what I found: (It’s kinda long..)

1941        Jun 22, Second world war began in Lithuania. Lithuania rebelled against Russian occupation.
1941        Jun 24, Entire Jewish male population of Gorzhdy, Lithuania, was exterminated.
1941        Jun 26, Lithuanian fascists massacred 2,300 Jews in Kovno.
1941        Jul 7, Nazis executed 5,000 Jews in Kovno, Lithuania.
1941        Jul 14, 6,000 Lithuanian Jews were exterminated at Viszalsyan Camp.
1941        Jul 24, Nazis massacred the entire Jewish population of Grodz, Lithuania.
1941        Jul 29, All the Jews at Linkuva were killed.
1941        July, In northwestern Lithuania 9,000 Jews were killed by Lithuanian police. 
1941        Sep 8, The entire Jewish community of Meretsch, Lithuania was exterminated.
1941        Sep 15, Nazis killed 800 Jewish women at Shkudvil, Lithuania.

1941        Oct 28, In Kaunas (Kovno), about 70 miles from Vilna 9,000 Jews were murdered.  900 French Jews died there on 18 May 1944.

1941       Dec 25, In northwestern Lithuania 400 young Jewish women were killed by Lithuanian police. 

1941        At the Rainis Forest in the Telsiai region 74 Lithuanians were killed by Soviet NKVD and KGB troops.
1941        In Lithuania German forces slaughtered some 12,000 Jews in Stoklishki (Alytus).

1941-1944   40,000 Jews are slaughtered in Vilnius, Lithuania.  Almost 55,000 Jews were executed at Paneriai, outside of Vilnius.
1942        May 7, A Nazi decree ordered all Jewish pregnant women of Kovno Ghetto executed.
1944        Mar 27, Some 2,000 Jews were murdered in Kaunas, Lithuania.
1945        Jan 30, Nazi SS guards shot down an estimated 4,000 Jewish prisoners on the Baltic coast at Palmnicken, Kaliningrad

And that is only in Lithuania.

July – August 1941: Dozens thousands of Russian Jews are murdered by the Einzatzgruppen (extermination squads) in the occupied territories. Here are some examples:

    • 5,200 Jews murdered in Byalistok
    • 2,000 Jews murdered in Minsk
    • 5,000 Jews murdered in Vilna
    • 5,000 Jews murdered in Brest-Litovsk
    • 5,000 Jews murdered in Tarnopol
    • 3,500 Jews murdered in Zloczow
    • 11,000 Jews murdered in Pinsk
    • 14,000 Jews murdered in Kamenets Podolsk
    • 12,287 Jews murdered in Kishinev

148,000 Jews are murdered in Bessarabia between July and October 1941.

December 8: Chelmno (Kulmhof) extermination camp begins operations: 340,000 Jews, 20,000 Poles and Czechs murdered by April 1943.

March 17: Extermination begins in Belzec; by end of 1942 600,000 Jews murdered.

May: Extermination by gas begins in Sobibor killing center; by October 1943, 250,000 Jews murdered.

Country              Estimated Murdered

Austria                               50,000

Belgium                             25,000

Bohemia/Moravia           78,000

Denmark                           60

Estonia                              2,000

Finland                              7

France                               77,000

Germany                           142,000

Greece                               65,000

Hungary                           550,000

Italy                                   7,500

Latvia                                70,000

Lithuania                         140,000

Luxembourg                   1,000

Netherlands                    100,000

Norway                            762

Poland                            3,000,000

Romania                        270,000

Slovakia                         71,000

Soviet Union                 1,000,000

Yugoslavia                     60,000

It is estimated that the SS and police deported at least 1.3 million people to the Auschwitz complex between 1940 and 1945. Of these, the camp authorities murdered approximately 1.1 million.

 

My mind cannot begin to wrap around those numbers. Some are as large as a town.  A high school. A football game. One million people is more than the city of San Francisco.

When we say “We Will Never Forget” when 9/11 comes along, let’s not forget the horror that came before.  And let’s vow never to let it happen again. th6

Scared Straight

scaredA beautiful Sunday morning — a bit cloudy, a bit cool, but quiet, romantic, inspirational. The younger side of me says I should go for a walk, clean out the basement, do all sorts of “active” things on my one full day off. My creative side says it’s a great day to sit and write. You can imagine which one I am going to listen to.

I was all pumped up this morning to write about an article I just wrote for Retirement and Good Living (http://retirementandgoodliving.com/retirement-is-a-10-letter-word/) which is about retirement and the doors that open once you say sayonara to punching a time clock or being a slave to an alarm clock. (It’s really a great article…check it out!)

But on my way here I had to pass through Yahoo, and couldn’t help but stop and peek at the news headlines.  A singer demands a wheelchair-bound member of the audience stand before he continued his concert. Another singer asked the world to “Forget My Weird Butt — Check out my Underboob!”   This sports figure beat his 4-year-old with a switch and this other knocked his girlfriend out. And I begin to wonder — what’s the point?

We struggle all our lives to make it to the golden grounds, only to find it’s polluted with nonsense and outrageous behavior. I know show business has been show business since the first caveman bopped another on the head and a third thought it funny. But I also am seeing how it takes more and more to get a rise out of an audience these days. Things that were off-color years ago are the rage today, and being a close-to-senior makes it even more difficult to fathom where entertainment will go next.

I myself am a parody of the media of today. One of my favorite television shows has turned gruesomely violent this year, and some part of me still wants to watch what “happens” to all of them in the end. As if my moral compass ticks and says, “they’re all so bad something bad HAS to happen to them.” Another show I started to watch has turned into such a screwed up mess that all I want to do is see what the alien baby looks like. I could care less about the drama surrounding the main characters. Just let me see the end product. One of my favorite chefs is a pillar of manners in one show and a cursing madman in another.

The world has become a frightening place of voyeurs watching, not doing. I myself am squirmy at blood and guts. I abhor violence and am a fraidy cat when it comes to people yelling or losing their temper and throwing things (or worse). Yet I find myself sitting on the edge of the entertainment world, watching it from afar, uncomfortable and nightmarish, looking for a silver lining amongst the blood and gore.

Even the writing world has broken its limits as to what is readable and what is not. Everyone around me has read this entertaining novel about a man who murders a family and the girl survivor who unknowingly hitches a ride with him in his camper. I freaked out about half way through the novel, tried to read it again and again, but just couldn’t get passed the kid who was killed and stitched up in the window.

What makes the world rotate like this? Why is humanity such a violent place?

I know this topic is way off the retirement mark. But it’s like I pretend that once I “retire” I can cut off the horror of the world and live in my own antiseptic version of reality. That I can wake up and write and clean a little and go watch my grandson play soccer and the world will be a safe one to fall asleep in.

Which, of course, is a fantasy in itself.

My solution is a naive one, yet I believe it will help me keep what little innocence I still have. Stop watching TV shows that butcher anything but a chicken, let the entertainment world entertain itself, and stick by the simple things in life that make me happy. I don’t need to be involved with the parts of the world I can’t do anything about — I should stick with those parts where what I do DOES matter. Work with disabled children, walk for the Cure, be a shoulder to cry on for friends who are having a hard time of things.  Go to charity events that benefit those I love, help those less fortunate get back on their feet.

Life is too short to be worrying about entertainer’s wardrobe malfunctions or their asinine antics in front of an audience.  Let them live in their world, and I’ll live in mine.

Besides — how funny would it be if MY wardrobe malfunctioned?

 

Harry Potter vs Hannibal Lecter

 I just finished watching the movie Silence of the Lambs. This movie is brutal and unnerving and psychological and graphic. It forces the audience to watch in fascination one minute and hide our heads under the blanket the next. It’s kinda like people who slow down to take a peek at an accident on the side of the road ― it’s scary yet fascinating.  Voyeurism at its worst. And it makes me wonder why a simple, hard-working, middle class wife and mother, catalog coordinator, ex-soccer mom and spaghetti queen, watches a movie about someone who kidnaps women and strips them of their skin.

Why do we watch what we do? Why does society make movies like they do?  Movie making, like writing, is a bizarre connection of our deepest fears and highest nspirations.  The thought of such travesties existing outside our sphere of consciousness practically takes our breath away. Yet movie moguls make cinema magic focusing on psychos, mass murders, and psychological monstrosities all the time, and most of us have shared at least a piece of their legends. Writers such as Stephen King and Dean Koonz strip away our walls and prey on our vulnerable humanness. So I have to ask ― do movies and books reflect our true self?

 The human mind is a confusing labyrinth of thoughts, impulses and memories. That’s why it’s so easy to get lost in it. Not only do we want cuddly children and sentimental songs and feel-good endings ― we want to be confronted with things that terrorize us. Things that unconsciously test the possibility of taking us to that last fishing hole in the sky. Because of this always-changing labyrinth, we find ourselves asking eternal question, “What if?”  What if we/you/they had made a different choice? What if the chick that was captured in Silence of the Lambs decided to stop for a beer with her girlfriends and got drunk and wound up in Cleveland instead of helping the dude with his sofa? What if Melanie in Gone with the Wind had not died? If Luke Skywalker had grown up hanging around with his dad?

 When we are young, there are many choices in front of us. Our love life, our jobs, our cars, all are ripe apples to be picked from the abundant tree of life.  Life is nothing  but one big choice. But often the energy and pressures of our existence make our choices come from circumstance and necessity rather than free will. Hence, one of the trials of being human ― the ever eternal million-dollar question.

But back to the crazy movie. In watching this psychological mess, I oft-handedly wondered if this kind of movie reflected my inner self. I have many friends who talk about the movies they watch:  middle-aged love comedies; retro pot-smoking, chick-banging absurdities; historical pieces.  Some are huge fans of horror; others cannot live without s lot of sex and drama. Do these favorites define who they are? Do these choices influence their cosmic journey? Does Star Trek and Fried Green Tomatoes influence mine?

I think I make too much of a simple case of being human. For more years than there are leaves in a tree,  homo sapiens have been pigeon-holed into categories and titles and labels that may or not be true. Not only are we defined by our religion and our politics, but by our style of dress, choice of music, and our diet. Eventually, many of us figure out that labels, like time, mean nothing. They are nothing but illusions created to give us a feeling of being in control. Which is an illusion in itself. We all know there is no such thing as control ― only the temporary organization of chaos.

Are we too old to appreciate the humor of movies that showcase bare breasts, devil lawyers, psychos, marijuana, and farts? On the contrary! One of the challenges of getting older is there are so many new thoughts, impressions, and attitudes in the world that we cannot possibly keep up. The older we get, the more we want to show the world that we can indeed fit in with the aforementioned thoughts, impressions, and attitudes. And you know what? The gift of experience gives us the tools to do so. It may be that our attention span is much narrower, our need to shoot off at some erratic angle not as strong as hen we were 16…but it shows us that the more the world changes around us, the more it stays the same.

You see, the voice of individuality has never really changed. An individual can be Frank Sinatra mixed with Elvis mixed with Metallica mixed with Keith Urban.  Why can’t we like chocolate and vanilla and tooti fruiti too? Why can’t we talk about football and Texas sheet cake and transcendental meditation in the same breath? Why can’t we wear silk one day and denim the next? We should revel is our uniqueness; revel in the fact that we can enjoy all of the above and not compromise who we are.  Peeking at a horror movie doesn’t mean we are going to dismember the neighbor; watching two women run away and drive off the cliff does not mean we will get the same uncontrollable driving  urge.

I am quite satisfied with the landscape of movies and music before me. The only problem is that I keep dreaming of Harry Potter vs. Hannibal Lechter. Both powerful main characters that keep you wanting to know more. Where does this polarity leave me?

            Satisfied.