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All the world’s a page…

Today is World Book Day, a fact I was made aware of by Audrey, who went to school dressed as a witch, (her class are all being Harry Potter characters for the day) as part of the global celebration of all things literary.

Obviously I’m going to cynically use this as an excuse to promote Stories In Green Ink, the anthology containing my first published works of short fiction (written as Guy Thair)

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…ahead of the second collection featuring another one of my stories, which should be out later this month.

But I’m also going to take the opportunity to recommend a few of my (possibly rather predictable) all time favourite book series, starting with one that is soon to make its long-awaited appearance at the movies.

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Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is an extraordinarily ambitious and groundbreaking epic that defies classification.
It takes a classic western theme and mixes it with elements of thriller, mystery, fantasy, horror and sci-fi, resulting in a deeply satisfying and unique tale that takes the reader on a thrilling journey that manages to combine our world and that of the anti-hero, Roland, the last Gunslinger in a way that is natural and seamless.
Many people have told me they hadn’t read the books “because I don’t like horror stories”, but King is so much more than a horror writer and if you appreciate a fantastic story that’s beautifully written then I urge you to enter the world of the Dark Tower, I promise you won’t regret it.

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I know I’ve enthused about the genius of Douglas Adams on many occasions, but this is simply because I cannot praise him enough.
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy books are without doubt some of the funniest I’ve ever read (even after reading them over a dozen times, they still make me laugh out loud) and the story of Arthur Dent and his adventures in Adams’ surreal universe are endlessly inventive and thought-provoking.

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I couldn’t possibly talk about books without once again plugging the awesome Terry Pratchett and his hugely popular and influential Discworld™ series.
Terry has been compared to writers as diverse as P.G. Wodehouse and Jonathan Swift; his talent for taking everyday situations and familiar stereotypes and relocating them to his own version of the universe enables him to discuss important social issues and intellectual concepts in a way that is not only accessible but hilarious, with a wit and warmth that very few authors have ever achieved.

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And finally, a series of which many of you may never have heard; G.W. Dahlquist’s Glass Books of the Dream Eaters trilogy.
“Steampunk” covers a wide range of styles, but I think the Glass Books series epitomizes the genre; a faux-Victorian setting, a rollicking adventure, dark humour, a creeping sense of dread, erotic undertones and mysteriously advanced technologies being put to sinister use, Dahlquist crams all this and more into his books, which follow three wildly differing protagonists who have to rely on each other to foil the dastardly plans of some truly despicable villains.

So there is my contribution to World Book Day, I hope you are sufficiently tempted by my choices that you go and seek out at least one of my recommendations. With nearly fifty titles to choose from, it should be a while before you need to top up your book pile.

To play us out, who else but Elvis Costello and the 1983 classic, Every Day I Write The Book.

 

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The changing face of horror…

Many years ago, a friend of mine (hello Becky, or “Becqui” as you called yourself back then) sent me a postcard from eastern Europe, where she was on holiday.
If my memory serves me correctly, I think she was visiting Transylvania at the time, soaking up the gothic atmosphere that gave rise to the region’s vampiric myths and legends, although that isn’t strictly relevant, as the subject of the card was a painting by an Italian artist.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a sixteenth century painter who took the stuffy, formal format of portraiture and gave it a bloody good shake up.
He didn’t achieve this by choosing to pose his subjects in interesting or controversial ways, but by using something other than their own bodies to depict them.

His more conventional art is now largely forgotten, but the paintings he produced in his own inimitable style are still fascinating people to this day

Here is the picture Becky sent me:

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Yes, it’s a man made of fish.

He also used vegetables, plants and animals in his surreal composite images, all themed to tie in with the subject of the portrait.

I have always thought it was a fabulously warm and somehow friendly picture, and yet many people I’ve shown it to find his art disturbing and uninviting.

Which got me thinking; When it comes to the human form, what is it that makes something disturbing to look at?

Our faces are an important part of what defines our personality to other people, but not necessarily to ourselves.
Having multiple piercings, for instance, may give some folks the impression that a person appears threatening or in some way confrontational, yet (despite my own personal antipathy towards any sort of “body modification” such as piercings and tattoos) I’ve met all sorts of perfectly lovely people who, when you actually make the effort to get to know them, just happen to like covering themselves in ink and/or metal studs and are otherwise no different to you or I.

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Rolf Buchholz – the world’s most pierced man. Airport security was always a lengthy process.

There are of course cultural differences;
The Tā moko face tattoo tradition of the Māori people, which has been the norm for hundreds of years, would almost certainly be deemed unacceptable in western society, a social convention which is reflected in the fact that most tattoo artists are reluctant to have their art facially displayed, even in today’s liberal society.

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Māori or Sharpie – you decide.

However, the Yakuza, (famously-inked Japanese gangster hard men) cover their entire bodies with tattoos, yet shy away from continuing their decoration above the neckline, presumably to make membership of the crime organisation somewhat less obvious.

So it isn’t just how “hard” you are which determines how you wear your face, nor should you assume that someone is going to stab you, just because they’ve got Mummy tattooed on their neck.

But the use of the face to give us nightmares is a long and freakishly enjoyable tradition.
Whether it’s the simple application of grease paint to achieve the look of that most terrifying and disturbing of entertainers, Clowns

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Stephen King’s Pennywise the Clown from IT – “We all float down here!” – soon to terrify an entire new generation.

…or the reliance on everyone’s ability to imagine the pain of having sharp points pushed into their flesh, like cheerful sado-masochist and Cenobite-in chief, “Pinhead” from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (which you can watch in full at the end of this post) there is a deep-seated visceral reaction to any type of facial disfigurement.

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Pinhead – “Another hedgehog joke and you’re going to hell.”

The reason for all this physiognomy fixation comes from yet another burst of photographic and digital fiddling that I’ve been engaged in this week, this time using my insertion and layering gadgets to assemble new and interesting versions of my own face, using only parts of…..yep, you guessed it, my own face.

And the odd hand or two.

The resulting monstrosities portraits were posted on my new Facebook photo page, much to the horror of several group members, who seemed to find the new me somewhat less attractive than usual.

But why? What is it about this type of  face manipulation that makes us so uneasy?
Well, now you can judge for yourselves.

Brace yourselves, it’s face time.

First of all, I went for a bit of face-palming…

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…then I tried a bit more organ transplanting..

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…which ended up getting a bit out of hand.

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Potato head.

After that, things just got a bit silly…

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…culminating in this masterpiece of unhinged and demented clownery.

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All body parts model’s own.

The catchphrases of two ’80s crime-stopper shows spring to mind at this point;
“Keep your eyes peeled” (not literally) and “Don’t have nightmares.”

Here’s some bedtime viewing for you.

Enjoy.

Bonus movie.
Watch Stephen King’s original IT ***HERE***

 
12 Comments

Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Arts, Music, Photography, Video

 

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And on the eighth day…

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Entering the second week in the company of Tenuous Tina and her Lynx of Love, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever again have a thought which I don’t automatically try to connect to another by way of a tortuous route through cultural references trawled from my memory banks.

That being said, I’ve found some excellent stuff that I would not usually have come across in the normal course of writing a blog post, so I’m not complaining.

And today’s collection of multimedia nuggets are no exception; the full first episode of yet another of my TV highlights from 2013; the original ’80s pilot of one of my absolute, no competition, hands down, top TV shows of all time (no, not Twin Peaks this time); a hit single by the star of that same show AND two complete audio books by one of my favourite authors.

Don’t say I never do anything for you.

If I remember rightly, we ended yesterday on Boss, the drama in which Kelsey Grammer chews up the scenery as the mayor of Chicago.
So today;

A real life mayor who has been in the news of late and possibly the year’s most honest and frank politician, Toronto mayor Rob Ford admitted to smoking crack, although he did point out that he only did so whilst in an “alcoholic stupor”.
Well that’s okay then.
He was interviewed on television by Conrad Black, who was born in Canada but has a British peerage (he is officially Baron Black of Crossharbour)
Orphan Black was a top new science fiction series from this year and it was filmed in Canada but made by the very British BBC..
…and co-stars Matt Frewer, possibly best known as the man behind the glitching rubber mask of neurotic sci-fi cyber-clown Max Headroom and his real world alter-ego, Edison Carter.
Max Headroom provided the vocals for The Art of Noise’s hit single Paranomia and I think that’s the cue for a song.
Take it away Max…

Paranomia is a song about not being able to get to sleep, or insomnia, as the condition is known. Insomnia is also the title of a novel by Stephen King and you can listen to the whole audio book right here.

Bringing me to a much anticipated literary event, the launch of Dr Sleep, King’s long-awaited sequel to The Shining.

So at Christmas, when the turkey has been stripped to the bone and you can’t move from eating too many mince pies, settle into your favourite chair, plug in your headphones, close your eyes and listen to Will Patton read the latest chilling masterpiece from one of the world’s greatest writers.

You’re welcome.

Wow, there was some good stuff in there!
Make sure you check out the Max Headroom link to discover the origin of a cult TV comedy legend and I’ll see you tomorrow for more exhaustively researched randomness.

 

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