Archive for americana

Poem: LEGACY

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2017 by smuckyproductions

I wrote a version of this poem a long time ago, and it felt like the time to put it out there. Not all history, not all legacies, are something to be proud of. 

LEGACY

Dimming, grandfather requests
“Have kids while I can still
speak their name.”
I tell him I’ll try.

My constitution does not permit
ruining his notion with my prophecy
That our name dies in my loins
made to seek peace in
things he would wither to think of

For some grandfather, exponential greats
took arms to smear his seed in this soil
sprinkled on the bones of children
snapped to pieces by invader teeth that
gnash in ecstasy at their righteous carnage
drag their white worms to claim this
stolen ground as they have committed
an act worth celebrating –

This is my legacy.
This is what dies with me.

And what if it withers?
What is pride when boiled in that blood
of children who never got to choose
between silence and gloating?
This scaffold of corpses around a rotting cross
who refuse to really die –
whisper from dirt at beating hearts
grandfather’s, father’s, and mine
but my ears are stopped, jaw soldered
against harmonizing with them
but against rebellion, too.

In my way I lie in the plot beside him
and sew my silence in kind.

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Forbidden Tomes: BELOVED by TONI MORRISON

Posted in Forbidden Tomes, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2015 by smuckyproductions

 

America’s past is full of horrors. Red stains that we have tried to expunge. But while scrubbing away the colors may dull them, it only embeds them deeper into the fibers, where they fester. It is rare to find a book or a film that honestly and completely explores these stains; and it’s no surprise that one of the greatest examples comes from Toni Morrison, in her powerhouse novel BELOVED.

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Set in the years just after the Civil War, this novel acts as two things: a historical thriller and a ghost story. It occupies two times, weaving the narrative of a woman who escaped slavery, and the aftermath of her family some years later. They live in a house haunted by the ghost of the woman’s baby. When a man whom the woman knew before she escaped comes to visit her, along with a mysterious young girl who may not be human, the woman is forced to confront the horrific past that she may not be able to reconcile.

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Morrison is an undersung genius in the art of the metaphorical Gothic. Her novels are populated by strange, but deeply human, characters – people like Milkman and Pilate in “Song of Solomon,” Sethe and her haunted family in this story. These slightly surreal elements are intriguing from an entertainment perspective, but by the time the reader has become interested, Morrison has already unleashed the full blow of her disguise. Her fantastical elements always stand for something else. She never undercuts them by retracting from their reality, though – in the world of the story, they exist, but they also represent something in our physical world.

The ghosts in this novel, amongst things both literal and nebulous, stand for past trauma. Sethe and her living daughter, along with the supporting characters, are haunted by the horror that their mind cannot escape: the nightmares of slavery. Morrison doesn’t spoon-feed these metaphors to the reader, though. She embeds them in the terror, making the reader feel every wrong done until they can’t deny it. Her vivid details serve a more horrifying purpose because, to many people, they were reality.

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This is a deeply important novel. Morrison’s ghosts are those of our own history – and they are not at rest. ‘Beloved’ is far from a traditional scary story, but it embodies the truth of horror so completely, and digs up terrifying graves that were never really buried. The aura of doom that pervades the characters’ lives is a doom that exists. For that reason, it is impossible to look away, or to forget. This book’s truths are more haunting than any phantom.

Films That Haunt Me: RAVENOUS

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2015 by smuckyproductions

As December approaches and the air grows cold, it’s time to start talking about those chilly horror classics best consumed in front of a fire while the wind howls outside. What better time to talk about the Wendigo? This elusive and freakish beast is little scene in film, which is unfortunate – it appears to great effect in one of the more unique horror offerings of the last 20 years, Antonia Bird’s RAVENOUS.

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Like an unfortunate number of 90s films, this one got misrepresented by its marketing team. While trailers make it look like an action-packed gore-fest, Bird has actually created a bizarre but terrific mix of pitch-black comedy and ruthless horror. The film follows a U.S. soldier who, disgraced during the Spanish-American war, is sent to a remote California post where nothing happens… until an unknown man stumbles in from the wilderness, half-frozen to death and terrified. He claims that his traveling group got lost in the mountains and had to resort to cannibalism – an act that possesses the eater with an ancient vampiric evil. When the soldiers go to search for the man’s crew, they realize the story is truer than they expected… and far more hideous.

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There is a veritable melting pot of genres in “Ravenous.” It’s a war epic, a vampire movie, a bloody slapstick routine, and a grand horror story straight out of Blackwood. This may have been what drove many critics and audience members away – but for those who are open to the originality, Bird mixes the genres amazingly well. It’s one of the most original films to come out of that era of horror – and possibly one of the bloodiest. When it isn’t busy being a riotous satire, it actually gets pretty frightening – there were more than a few scenes that unsettled me to my core.

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It’s fascinating, too, for its brilliant evocation of American legend. The images of the army fort and its ragtag team of soldiers are straight out of “Dances with Wolves,” but far more interesting, as Bird soaks them in gallons of guts. The Wendigo myth – something pilfered from Native American culture as a symbol of starvation and desperation – is used to comment on the nature of the American Dream: devour before they devour you.

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Sure, this theme is drawn a bit too boldly in the film – they say various versions of the above about twenty times – but it pairs the overt message so powerfully with brutal images of man eating man. The film is so ironically masculine, loud and proud about its violence, that it ends up tearing down those ideas in the same way that characters rip each other apart. Whatever patriotism the film might have had is mauled, slaughtered without mercy. It may be one of the more honest depictions of the pioneer myth. These soldiers are animalistic, and they kill like animals.

If this all sounds too crazy, then this film isn’t for you. But its gory humor and horrific statements about Americana are worth exploring. Especially as the winter sets in and the snow seems to call out, scratching hungrily at the window, begging to be fed.

A Photographic Trip through Sleepy Hollow

Posted in Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2015 by smuckyproductions

I took a little trip up to Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown yesterday, to honor the season and the legend that evokes its name. For any Hallow’s Eve fanatic, this town is a dream – its entire tourist income is based around this month, of course.

Despite the clearly marked tourist draws and the commercialist air, I still found that Sleepy Hollow carried the aura that Washington Irving immortalized in his legend:
“A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the entire atmosphere.”
Time seemed to flitter away without measure, and the longer I stayed, the stronger sense I had of an uncanny peace coming over me. There is some sort of spectral quality to that area.

Here are a few photographs of the highlights, from the town center and the surrounding neighborhood.

Resident scarecrow.

Resident scarecrow.

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Music hall on Main St.

Antique store.

Antique store.

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One of the many impressive decorated houses.

One of the many impressive decorated houses.

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