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Latest posts of: T. Kelly Lee
H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast Forums
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1  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Social Commentary on: January 31, 2013, 12:49:52 PM
Oh, yes, I've read Jung's Red Book. Many times. I won't say I agree with much of it, but I like it.  I believe in a collective unconscious, but not of mind - of behavior.  Humans act in strikingly similar, discernable patters.  Mapping mass behavior into a graphic image processor and watching it play out is like watching wave motion.  It's not chaotic, but precise and coordinated.

On Gettysburg: My old house is in York, close by.  Gettysburg has become ghost central because the local business community encourages it.  Civil War buffs are an ageing group - "these kids today" aren't into re-enacting and making the pilgrimmage to out of the way Pennsylvania like their parents were.  But paranormal tourism is hot as hell.  So the local Chamber of Commerce is capitalizing on their reputation as one of "America's Most Haunted Cities."  On any given night, year round, there's half a dozen formal ghost tours running, and scores of people wandering around doing EVP sessions on the battlefield.  And regardless of why these people are there, they eat at the same restaurants and buy the same sourvenirs as everyone else.  It's all about the money. 
2  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Beer names!!! on: January 31, 2013, 12:39:12 PM
Dreams in the Wychwood

BTW, if the chick on the bottom left is Keziah Mason, I'd sign her black book any day!
3  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Misdiagnosis of Racism on: January 31, 2013, 12:37:55 PM
Well, I don't want to go all meta - but let's remember that "racism" as a term came before AvPD.  In this day and age psychologists are engaged in trying to assign typology to just about all forms of behavior - everything is either a disease or a syndrome in the diagnostic manual.  There's even one now for kids who're basically just overly spoiled by their parents. 

I think before we go assigning HPL a psychosis, we should ask whether or not the "psychosis" is really just a typological naming convention for a behavior we used to call "racism." 

4  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Social Commentary on: January 18, 2013, 09:40:36 AM
Where I'm at right now in my thinking on "the occult" - for lack of a better phrase - is that is fulfills a Jungian need in us that's a by-product of consciousness.  Consciousness, as it exists in the human animal, is a recent evolutionary adaptation.  With it comes a lot of backage - fear of death, concerns about there not "being more" to life, and the brain's innate desire to make patterns.  Religion, magic, spirituality, etc. all fill the gap. 

I've met Robert M. Price a few times and I've read his works and love his Bible Geek podcast.  He's an atheist but still enjoys "high church."  I'm an atheist, but I'm utterly fascinated by ritual magic and the paranormal.  I find myself approaching it as a skeptic, of course.  If I investigate "a haunting," I want to understand the origin of the phenomenon.  I've discovered that two haunted locations, one in Gettysburg and the other in Niagara Falls, are the products of some really wierd aural natural phenomenon.  But for a lot of visitors, they immediately think "ghost."  Why?  That's what I'm interested in. 
5  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Social Commentary on: January 15, 2013, 05:27:32 PM
Oh, no, I'm a utter materialist - complete and total.  Always have been, always will be.  I think I was born an atheist.  But that doesn't undermine in the least my fascination with these things - ranging from Biblical studies to ancient magical texts and witchcraft lore.  I've been a skeptical investigator for a long time and a lot of skeptics takes the James Randi view - it's just woo woo, the people who believe it are deluded, debunk it, shake their delusion, and move on.  But that's not what it's about at all.  It doesn't really matter if those things exist to the people who believe in them.  You can do whatever you want to bunko that stuff, and the people go right on believing. 

The thing I find interesting about "the occult" - is that it doesn't matter that it's real.  Doesn't matter a bit.  Are ghosts the revenants of dead people?  No.  Dead is dead.  But people are experiencing something.  I want to know what the hell it is they're experiencing and experience it for myself.  I want to know why people think a creaky stair is a ghost or why they think they can summon a demon.  What's happening when someone tries to summon a demon - what is it that makes them think they're successful?  To experience that, I have to see someone summon a demon.  I have to follow the "recipe" and try to summon one myself.  Joe Nickell, for one, understands this - but he's never done a demon summoning ritual. 

I have.  I didn’t summon a demon, but the thing did impact my psychology.  I couldn’t laugh it off.  Within the context of the ritual, even the skeptic’s mind realizes you’re breaking some serious social taboos.  And I never realized that before trying. Imagine doing a demon summoning in the 15th century.  You’ve basically proven to YOURSELF that you’re a bad mother who doesn’t care what the Catholic church – or god himself – thinks about you.  By breaking the taboo, you now have power over the thing that created the taboo in the first place.  Doesn’t matter if a demon rolls up.  And we all know it won’t.  Magic isn’t like turning on a light – it’s about affecting a psychological change.  The ritual process is internally empowering.  A lot of folks who dismiss it overlook that.  That’s why it doesn’t matter that the kids who try magic these days aren’t following a rigorous system.  I didn’t understand that 20 years ago – I do today. 
So I feel like if, as a researcher that’s going to study these phenomena, even if I don’t believe in them, I have to engage in them.  I have to “play the game” to understand why people still get off on doing this stuff in our technological age.  I have found this to be a very enlightening perspective on human psychology. 
6  General Category / Episode Discussion / Re: Episode 142 - "The Lair of the White Worm" on: January 15, 2013, 09:09:12 AM
I don't get it.  Maybe my head's too full of junk literature from this time period, but I've read this book a couple of times - in both formats, and I like it just fine.  It's an interesting story concept, the reveal is fairly compelling, and the mythic lore tied to the Romans in the old Kingdom of Mercia is pretty cool.  Lady Arabella is one of the few genuine female baddies in lit from this time and it's clear HPL swiped some of the concepts here for stories like Dunwich Horror.  Wilbur packs heat to shoot dogs the way Arabella blasts the mongoose.  And, of course, the irony of Caswall is that his own attempts at Mesmerism have been thrown back at him through his kite.  He's frickin' Mesmerized himself. 

Yeah, it's disjointed in places, but I just don't think it's that bad.  Dracula rambles in spots as well and there are parts of the written narrative that never make it into films, because they're not really integral to the narrative.  I think when we see "Dracula" we think - cool movie character, often forgetting the somewhat rambling nature of the book.  Yeah, there's devolution between Drac and Worm, but not THAT much. 
7  General Category / Episode Discussion / Re: Episode 141 - "What Was It?" on: January 15, 2013, 08:56:41 AM
How are we certain it was male, again? Sorry, I listened to the dramatization and skipped re-reading the story. Why didn't they just paint the thing to get a sense of its form as it was tied up? Oh, maybe paint hadn't been invented yet, that's right. Smiley

If they are anything like the stoners that live down stairs in my weekday apartment, they're too effed up to do anything logically.  Just sayin'. 
8  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Lovecraft sketch on Rod Serling's Night Gallery!!! on: January 15, 2013, 08:55:01 AM
One of the best Night Gallery's!  It runs as HPL film fests from time to time, along with Cold Air and Pickman's Model. 
9  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Social Commentary on: January 15, 2013, 08:52:44 AM
HPL said he most identified with the Henry Armitage, the professor and librarian at Miskatonic University who almost literally acts as a deus ex machina at the end of that story.  I confess that when I saw Dunwich Horror as a kid I locked in on the Armitage character, plated by Ed Begley, Sr.  We re-watched that move and my wife pointed out that the older I get the more I look like that character - even dressing like him.  And I'm also an archivist and professor with an interest in the occult.  Um.  Awkward. 

I remember studying the occult as a young person - gobbling up everything I could from the uni library, etc.  And then I had a chance to meet some "real" cultists and hang out with them - doing some "occult" stuff.  Massive disappointment.  It wasn't what I thought it'd be at all.  They didn't know anything, I thought, about their spiritual system.  They were making it up or cribbing it from Anton LaVey.  And then hitting the beers.  I was looking for the kind of "rigourous study" like you find in horror stories.  No such luck.  The fantasy is better than reality - and I bet the same was true for HPL as well.  I'm not sure there are any cultists like you find in a Dennis Wheatley novel.  Which is kinda sad...
10  General Category / Episode Discussion / Re: Episode 141 - "What Was It?" on: January 08, 2013, 09:56:20 AM
The monster's crime, of course, was being "unnatural" at a time in history when dis-order and non-comformity were harshly frowned upon.  This story is pretty reflective of Victorian values.  These are the guys who chopped the penises off ancient statues before putting them in museums and who created braces to prevent erections.  Serious mass repression.  So the threat of an invisible, naked man-like monster is a metaphor for LOTS of things.   Wink
11  General Category / Episode Discussion / Re: Episode 130 -- 133 - "The Great God Pan" on: January 08, 2013, 09:46:53 AM
I know most people will disagree with me on this, but I actually really like Lair of the White Worm.  It's a tolerable "exploring ancient evil" story laid with heavy atmosphere.  I like the Arabella March character as a female villain and her origin story is interesting (no spoilers!)  The story also has good atmosphere and some decent action. 
12  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Social Commentary on: January 08, 2013, 09:40:34 AM
When HPL was a young man he was writing poetry and essays celebrating the Southern cause in the Civil War and villifying what he saw as the burden of supporting the "black race" in the USA.  By the time he died all that stuff had completely fallen out of his letters and he was writing openly about universal suffrage, socialism, and poverty as the prevailing cause of America's problems.  "The Steet," for example, is a long was from "Dunwich."  Whether or not he experienced a "change of heart" - he certainly learned how to moderate his views for virtually his entire audience, even his friends.  I like to think that Sonia and Samuel Loveman helped in this.  HPL's developmental arc is that of someone going from knee-jerk conservatism to settling in as a slightly left of center (for his day) FDR New Deal Democrat. 

I would say that in, for example, 1920 HPL was MORE racist than your average New Englander but by 1933 he was probably on par with the majority of his localized contemporaries. 

HPL's racism is reflective of the attitudes of his day.  When we analyze his writings we have to be conscious of that - as much as we might like our literary heroes to have been ahead of their time on social issues.  (For instance, it's always bothered me that Poe was vehemently pro-slavery, which seems inconsistent with his overall political outlook.  But, well, sigh...) 
13  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Azathoth, Cthulhu and the Migou... on: January 02, 2013, 08:48:08 AM
Actually, this is one I've looked into myself and one of the reasons I remain skeptical of HPL's foreign language skills.  In this case, I fault Joshi for not being a careful scholar.  In point of fact, HPL did not "translate Ovid."  To say he had pulled off something like that as a child would, truly, be a miracle and worthy of high praise.  Ovid's Metamorphoses is a 15 volume work.  Book one, alone, has 779 lines.  The complete text is literally thousands of lines. 

In reality, HPL translated the first 88 lines of book one - and that translation was so poor it took him 116 lines to do it!!   Wink  We know this because the text still survives and - if memory serves - was actually once published in HPL's Juvenalia volume.  Around about 1893, again, if memory serves, a popular volume of Metamorphoses had just been printed.  Even today, translating sections of Ovid are a popular Latin grammar exercise in school.  I think I got through the first 60 or so lines myself in high school. 

This is one of those areas where, I think HPL scholarship has let the myth run over the facts a little bit.  A rough 'n ready translation of the first few lines of a popular, grammatically correct Latin poem done at the grade school level in 1897 would be fairly consistent for a boy with HPL's level of learning at that time.  But we know his education did not continue.  And I have always conceded that HPL, like a lot of folks from his day, had enough Latin to get around a phrase or two. “Knowing Latin” means a lot of things.  You can graduate college with a degree in Latin and not be able to read a medieval monk’s MS.  That takes years of practice – because the language had evolved following the fall of the Roman Empire.  This is, roughly, the difference between Elizabethan English and “LOL Speak” to get an idea of the degradation.     

But this little fragment remains the extent of HPL’s foreign language literary output, to my knowledge, in all of his years of writing.  I think the HPL encyclopedia (I don’t have it with me at the mo) has a pretty complete article on his Juvenalia, which will verify.  But, seriously, the notion that he “translated Ovid” has been way overblown.  Yes, he translated about 1/900th of Ovid – along with every other schoolboy in Providence! 

I am not really interested in belittling HPL’s gifts and achievement, but I am interested in what he was interested in.  I think Joshi gets it TOTALLY backwards, here, referring to HPL as a “literary man” or somesuch who read a lot of science.  No.  HPL was a would-be scientist who had an aptitude for literature.  And this follows a long tradition of writers in the 20th century – Michael Crichton and Robin Cook come to mind.  When HPL found his scientific career frustrated he turned to writing – and found great gifts for it, ranging in everything from the amateur press to his weird fiction.  However, HPL turned down just about EVERY SINGLE professional writing gig he was ever offered.  And he was offered a number of significant posts, from travel writer to pulp editor.  He was not a man interested in writing purely as a career, but as an outlet. 

I think, because of some of these  - “scholarly misconceptions” – we get a picture of HPL as a latter day Poe or as someone more akin to Robert E. Howard or August Derleth.  No, those guys were writers.  They sat down and cranked out words for bucks.  But HPL seemed to have a whole different motivation.  I almost think of him like a modern-day fulltime “forum geek.”  He spent his whole day reading what he wanted to read and reading/writing letters to and from his friends.  He geeked out and he wrote stories when the spirit moved him.  If he got paid for those, all the better…it bought that ice cream and cans of beans. 

But HPL really wasn’t a serious scholar, beyond the scholarship he exhibited in works like his early astronomical papers and his writing as a critic of weird fiction.  He just didn’t have that much of an interest in it. 
14  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Happy New Years!! on: January 02, 2013, 08:09:18 AM
Man, sometimes I feel like the stars are NEVER gonna be right...
15  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Social Commentary on: January 02, 2013, 08:08:44 AM
HPL's writing evolved throughout his lifetime.  On the matter of racism, his positions evolved.  Early in life, as is evidenced from his letters, he clearly believed in WASP superiority and was downright fearful of non-whites.  However, he was careful with whom he shared these opinions - even Samuel Loveman was unaware of HPL's position until late in life.  And, as has been mentioned, as time passed and  HPL became more experienced, his views moderated.

For me, his major theme was what I call the "Big Joke."  It's essentially the notion that human endeavour is meaningless in the "cosmic scheme of things" to the point that even our religions and spiritual systems are just perversions of the grand reality of the universe.  So unsettling is the truth of the universe that, when discovered or hinted at, most protagonists are driven insane or have to be killed.  A rare few, such as Randolph Carter, have minds capable of handling this knowledge.  For me, it's a metaphor for HPL's belief that materialism and science would triumph over religion and superstition but, along the way, the mind would have to evolve to handle it all. 
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