In the vein of last week and the week before that, I'm interviewing someone who considers themself a bit of a horror "fanatic" and asking which work or works in the genre has stuck with them and how their feelings toward it have changed depending on time or events in their life. In this final case, I'm cheating quite a bit and speaking with someone I know rather intimately: myself.
Continuing last week's theme, I've turned to a fellow horror buff and asked them a few questions about what work in the genre has stayed with them, for better or worse, and how their feelings toward it has changed over the years or due to events in their life. This time around, my close friend Xander Harrington stepped up to the plate.
It's the 31st, which means two things: it's Halloween, one of my favourite days of the year, and The House on Ash Tree Lane is back and revamped. I said this site would focus exclusively on horror from now on, so to get us into the groove of things three horror buffs--one of my current favourite writers, my best friend, and yours truly--elaborated on how certain works in the genre have stayed with them over the years, and how their feelings toward them have changed. I present to you the first.
So it's been two months. Jesus, it really has. I actually haven't abandoned this site, all 20 of you that care, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have other things on my mind. Job hunting is my biggest priority at the moment because, quite frankly, I'm getting tired of listing "barista" as my occupation in the mini-bio on the front page. Likewise, my weekly Monday posts were starting to feel more like an obligation than something I actually enjoyed. Every once in a while I wrote something I felt very proud of but otherwise I was kicking myself over how to make writing about my favourite albums interesting. Perhaps one solution is to abandon the rigid, every Monday without fail (and even that wasn't certain) framework I had and opt for shorter yet more sincere pieces whenever the mood strikes me.
In my living room stand three largish bookcases, all of which are positioned around yours truly in the picture above. Each contains one or more forms of media: one holds books, another one comic collections, and a third a mixture of movies, video games and CDs. While I’m attempting to introduce new hobbies into my routine, my first and foremost pastime will remain the collection and cataloguing of media. I really do love it, whether it involves organizing, maintaining or, of course, enjoying my collected works.
Summer is winding down once more, thank God, and there’s no better way to celebrate this hot, dismal season’s slow passing than with the Xbox’s Summer of Arcade promotion. Starbreeze Studios’ Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is the first of four games to see release this month. Set in a vaguely Norse, medieval land (assuming the former based on Starbreeze’s Swedish origins), Brothers follows a pair of male siblings as they venture across country to find a cure for their widowed father’s ailment. Though simple in concept, it’s now one of my favourite puzzle-oriented adventure games as well as one of the few in any gaming genre to affect me emotionally.
I want to buy a Lego set.
No joke. A Lego set. Or Meccano, or K’Nex, provided they still make those. And not some highly specialized Star Wars ship or Lord of the Rings set piece kit, but one of those huge buckets most of you reading had as a kid, with God knows how many pieces, all of which presented choking hazards.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive was my surprise favourite film of 2011, a vaguely ’80s crime drama that contrasted a smooth, stylish aesthetic with blunt brutality. It was also the first movie to really sell me on Ryan Gosling as an actor, the former London, Ontario resident immersing himself in the quiet and increasingly frightening role of the film’s nameless driver. It also had an amazing soundtrack courtesy of most-underrated-film-composer-ever Cliff Martinez and electronic artists like Kavinsky, College and Desire. So I was as psyched as possible to watch Only God Forgives, the second collaboration between Refn and Gosling, again featuring the music of Martinez.
But as Drive was as unconventional a crime thriller as they come—in spite of its premise, less The Fast and the Furious and more Manhunter with cars—Only God Forgives is as unexpected a follow up to Drive as I could have imagined. I went in expecting Drive, but in Thailand, and ultimately watched what felt like something Stanley Kubrick might have directed… but in Thailand. And that isn’t a bad thing.
Pictured: the atmosphere inside my house.
Things I would prefer to this week's heat wave:
- Having my toenails yanked off one at a time.
- Running face first into a tree.
- Stubbing any and all of my toes.
- Being forced to replay the final episode of The Walking Dead game on repeat.
- Being shot non-vitally.
I feel like I’ve lost a friend I’ve never met.
Ryan Davis, co-founder, columnist and chief raconteur of video game news website Giant Bomb died last Wednesday at the age of 34. The news of his passing wasn’t released until this morning on Giant Bomb, and as of yet no cause of death has been mentioned. I respect the late Mr. Davis too much to speculate on the circumstances of his untimely death, so I’ll avoid the subject. Instead I just want to express my sincere condolences to his wife, whose name I unfortunately do not know and who tragically was only married to Ryan for a few days before his sudden passing last week.
Ashley Fraser, The Ottawa Citizen
I feel a genuine sense of accomplishment every time I see one of my favourite musical artists perform, as if I've just checked another item off my bucket list. I've felt this with, in chronological order, Tool, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Kathryn Calder, and now as of last night my eventual passing (preferably in my sleep at the age of 106) will be made a little easier after having seen David Byrne in concert.
I like okay singers a lot. This is not to say I dislike great singers--David Bowie, Peter Gabriel and Maynard James Keenan are at the top of my list for male vocalists--nor that I like straight up bad singers--Ian Curtis' voice will never win me over no matter how many times I hear "Love Will Tear Us Apart." However I do greatly appreciate frontmen who may not be the best on a technical level and yet manage to rise above their limitations in a holistic fashion.
Early yesterday afternoon, CBC Radio 2 was celebrating the life of Mario Bernardi, a longtime conductor for the National Arts Centre, Calgary Philharmonic and CBC Radio Orchestras, who passed away the previous Sunday. In remembrance of him, a former colleague of his suggested playing his recording of Postcards from the Sky, a piece by Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich as performed by the CBC Vancouver Orchestra.
Last night, HBO aired "The Rains of Castamere," the ninth and penultimate episode of Game of Thrones' third season. I haven't seen any of the third season as of yet, preferring to watch it all in one big lump after next week's finale, but having read A Storm of Swords, the bulk of which serves as the basis for this season, I knew the Red Wedding was coming. Without spoiling too much, the Red Wedding is one of the major turning points in ASoS and involves a shitload of characters, many of them important and almost all of them decent human beings, being mercilessly slaughtered by turncoats. So an emotionally and arguably awful part of me eagerly awaited to see how that portion of Game of Thrones viewers who hadn't read the books would react. The Internet did not let me down.
Holy crap, guys. It’s been nearly a year and a half but we have reached the end of my terrible Aliens vs. Predator fanfiction novel. We’ve had a lot of laughs, and we’ve felt a lot of pity, but it’s time to replace this digital tome in the virtual stack from whence it came. Let’s see off these alternately idiotic and morally depraved characters, shall we?
Back in January, I compiled a list of my all-time favourite songs, though the title is a bit of a misnomer in hindsight. My tastes are quite temporal, and I can say that since that piece was originally written at least one of its entries was knocked off the list by another. Keeping with my preferential inconsistency, what follows are my top five favourite albums in this point in time, arranged in alphabetical order. Please enjoy this mindless self-indulgence.
Another short post this week, this time due to a bout with the cold that left me both physically and creatively drained. A poor excuse, perhaps, but at least I can introduce my--hopefully growing--readership to some really interesting articles and features I've stumbled across online the last few weeks.
I've been doing a lot of puzzles as of late. It doesn't matter where I get my hands on them, be it in the newspaper or online; you give me a little conundrum like the one pictured above and I'll slip into a cryptological trance unti I've either completed it or given up on it.
This week's post is on the short side, not because the subject at hand has ironically distracted me from thinking at length about it, but because I don't believe I have much to say beyond a few neat things.
Holy crap, guys. What you’re about to read is the penultimate entry in the now over yearlong critique of my preteen Aliens versus Predator 2 fanfic. I have actually devoted over twelve months of my life to compiling this, which is possibly longer than I spent writing the damn thing back in grade school.
With the morally appalling Predator Swift-Death having accomplished what he set out to do, much to the chagrin of General Rykov and pretty much anyone forced to read this, we track jackass Marine Andrew “Frosty” Harrison and talkative Alien Jimrakh as they attempt to rescue the Empress.
Right about the time when the rest of the Marines entered the POC, Harrison, Jimrakh and the accompanying were making their way down the dark, cavernous tunnels. For the past hour, Harrison’s motion tracker had remained silent. Still, Jimrakh was at his ready.
Not at the same time, mind you. Just right about. Little me seemingly could only give enough of a damn at this point to ballpark it.
While he's occasionally been featured on this site for his twisted sense of humour, Riley Byrne is probably best known around Ottawa as ambient-electronic musician Radioactive Bishop. I recently had the chance to interview him (i.e. I sent him a texting saying "interview?" and he replied with "coo"). So here we go.
Forgive me if this seems out of the blue, but I'm starting to come around on Paul McCartney.
I've been a Beatles fan since my dad gave me the White Album for my 13th birthday. My love for the band has fluctuated in its intensity in the intervening years, but it peaked concurrent with the 2009 remastering and reissue of their discography and has remained at a healthy plateau since. Just the other night I listened to Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road--their three best records in ascending order--in one sitting.
Where I haven't been so consistent is in my appreciation for the individual members of the group. If there is one constant, it's George Harrison, who has been my favourite Beatle since I first listened to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and Martin Scorsese's Living in the Material World documentary only augmented my professional and personal respect for the man. And I suppose I've always liked Ringo, because I like underdogs and "Octopus's Garden" is a genuinely great song that I want to play over the end credits of a Call of Cthulhu movie. But my admiration for John Lennon and Paul McCartney has been like a see-saw over the last decade.
Roger Ebert died this week. For close to half a century, the man’s name and image were synonymous with the very idea of film criticism, far and away the most recognizable person in his field and, in many ways, the most accessible. An active presence on social media networks for the last few years of his life, he arguably connected with his readers more than most critics half his age. And perhaps most importantly, his work showcased humility and unguarded humanity, even in the last week of his life.
“Booker, are you afraid of God?” “No. I’m afraid of you.”
Irrational Games’ BioShock was the first game I ever bought for the current generation of consoles—purchased, in fact, a good three months before I even had an Xbox. Luckily, my floor in residence had no less than three 360s available for my use. The game still sits on my shelf, and let it be known that I’ve played through the entire thing no less than four times in the last five years. Just to make it clear how much I enjoyed BioShock, the only game I’ve replayed more than it is the GameCube remake of Resident Evil, which has been one of my all-time favourites going on a decade.
So understand me when I say the newest installment in Irrational’s franchise, BioShock Infinite, showed me just how broken, or at least seriously flawed, the first BioShock was in both design and storytelling. Infinite is not only a far better game, but an excellent one in and of itself, making up for any quibbles I might have with its gameplay with well-drawn characters and the sheer audacity of its story.
Holy God, I can’t believe we’re on the third-to-last chapter of this thing. To think that some half-cocked idea I came up with to satisfy an approaching deadline last winter has become the longest-running feature on this site. That’s actually… kind of sad. Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers. For your “enjoyment,” Predator warrior and all out vain bitch Swift-Death reaches the conclusion of his gaiden in this month’s edition of the Annoted Aliens versus Predator: The Story.
Edited by Kevin G. Bufton
Cruentus Libri Press
On the surface, The Dead Sea should have been one of my favourite reads this year, a collection of nautical themed horror stories. I've written about how an intimidating environment can do wonders for horror, and with its vastness and potential for tumultuous weather the ocean is no exception.
Unfortunately, The Dead Sea is marred by frequent grammatical errors and, in one case, poor story selection--two aspects that I can't help but think could have been improved by a more experienced editor.
Well this is unexpected. Here I am thinking I’d only be able to look back on David Bowie’s older albums on this site and then he goes and puts out his first record in a decade. The Next Day hit physical and digital stores today, though the album has been available to stream in full on iTunes for the last week or so. After listening to the whole thing a few times over, I’ve stumbled across another surprising fact: it’s very good. Now, you think that would go without saying, it being Bowie and all, but he honestly hasn’t put out a record this good in a long while.
2008: What could have been.
In early 2008, I came across screenshots for a then upcoming game called Aliens: Colonial Marines. In development by Gearbox, creators of Opposing Force and Blue Shift expansion packs for the original Half-Life as well as the Borderlands series, Colonial Marines was to be a squad-based tactical shooter that promised an authentic recreation of the atmosphere and aesthetic of the sci fi action classic Aliens. To say I was enthused would have been the largest of understatements. In fact, it along with BioShock inspired my Xbox 360 purchase later that year.
But then… things started happening. Delays are common in the video game industry, especially among high budget, high profile titles (Grand Theft Auto V, which was to be released this spring, will not see the light of day until September). One of the key factors contributing to Colonial Marines’ belated release was the announcement of British developer Rebellion’s long-awaited return to the Aliens versus Predator series. So while I was irked by having to wait a little longer for A:CM, I knew I would have another game of a slightly different flavour, and by a developer familiar with the franchise, to tide me over for the time being.
Sorry for leaving all y’all on a cliffhanger last week. Chapter 14 was just too long to snark all in one go. So without yanking the rug out beneath you any more, here’s the conclusion of “The Third Species War” from my Aliens versus Predator 2 fanfic.
The first of the Species Wars had taken place four million years before, on the same rocky ground of Lv-1201, when Aliens and Predators battled over ownership of the planet. The second Species war was fought between the Aliens and humans in 2179, on 1201’s sister planet of Lv-426, where the humans emerged the victor, but with many lives lost. But now, the ultimate war was taking place between all three species.
I only have two questions: is it on pay-per-view, and will Paul Bearer make an appearance?
Following a recent—and still ongoing—gaming binge I’ve realized that open world action games, best exemplified by the Grand Theft Auto series, constitute my favourite genre in the video gaming medium. Following the fairly on-rails single player experiences of the Call of Duty and Gears of War games I’ve come to really appreciate interactivity or at the very least well-executed mechanics: games like Half-Life 2, the Halo series and BioShock give you a variety of tools but don’t hold your hand, preferring to let the player work their way through a scenario as they see fit.
In the case of open world games, where missions are accessed in a continuous environment and non-player characters abound, the beauty is how you can make other entities react, like dropping a pebble into a pond just to see the subsequent ripples. Or, in the context of GTAIV, dropping a live grenade in the middle of a traffic jam smack dab in the centre of Star Junction.
As I’ve told a few of you, my dreams have been incredibly lengthy and vivid as of late. I’ve curled up for an eight or nine hour sleep and woken up at the end of it after what, to my subconscious mind, has been days and, one time, even a whole week. Every night becomes a surreal adventure, albeit sorely lacking the backwards cadence of Twin Peaks’ Man from Another Place.
But the ones that actually irk me are those I can’t clearly remember as being dreams. One time I imagined a friend and I chatted about cats at length, and once awake had to firm up with her if the conversation actually happened (as we do regularly talk about the abnormally cute kittens we’ve discovered online). It’s gotten to be quite annoying, as these fairly mundane dream fragments can be nearly indistinguishable from the chunks of memory that lie on the outskirts of the conscious mind.
What I’m saying is, I’m starting to think I need a totem.
The following are a mixture of the most bizarre and bizarrely mundane dreams I’ve had to date.
everyone goes through two periods of knowing me
when they mock me for listening to peter gabriel
and when they start to believe—Riley Byrne
Three years ago, I knew exactly three things about Peter Gabriel: that he was the original frontman of Genesis, that he wrote some great songs for Pixar’s Wall-E, and that he sounded like a slightly raspy Phil Collins. Most of my knowledge of the guy came through my dad or the slightly Pete Gabe-obsessed man quoted above. But something happened after picking up the 25th anniversary rerelease of So for the former this Christmas. Maybe it was the sound quality—most of Gabriel’s songs sound like they could have been recorded last year—or the variety of the music or those funky world beats, but Peter Gabriel has become one of my favourite artists in the last month.
Anyone who has read any two given posts on this blog knows I love horror. They also know I’m ridiculously forgiving of horror films with problematic plots. Thus it comes as no surprise that I’m recommending Andrés Muschietti’s Mama, a feature length adaptation of his 2008 short film of the same name.
Hear that synth? It can only mean one thing: the long delayed return of the Annotated AvP: The Story! Please forgive me for being a few days late. I had originally planned to run a review of Mama this week, but Ottawa’s current borderline-Antarctic temperatures prevented me from walking downtown, so that’ll have to wait for next week and now this week’s post is delayed and… eh, fuck it. Here’s some Godawful fan fiction.
This month, I give you my attempt at writing a full-fledged battle scene, which is of course shamefully ripped from The Lord of the Rings movies and a cop-out to boot. Do try to enjoy.
I'm really surprised I've never written on this subject before. I've touched on music previously, of course, but apart from Christmas music I doubt any of my regular readers (all three of you!) have any idea of what I consider the apex of popular music. So, in alphabetical order, my ten favourite songs of all time.
To start it off, I'm posting my drunken, New Year's Eve liveblog of Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining, starring a very frenzied Jack Nicholson and a very shrieky Shelley Duvall. Typos are, of course, unintentional, but preserved for the sake of chuckles. My companion for the evening was a 2011 bottle of Henry of Pelham baco noir, which has just the right amount of sweetness and generates a warm, fuzzy drunk.