Category Archives: ogmios
Thor is a twit.
He’s boastful, arrogant, temperamental, and downright stupid. His half-brother, Loki, got the advantage on him more times than not, and Thor’s ususal response was to hit him with a hammer or come crying back (well, ok, screaming and yelling – that’s more manly, after all) to the Allfather, Odin. I can’t blame Loki for playing games with the Asgardian; he kept falling for them. He was quite possibly the easiest Mark in Norse myth, and for the trickster Loki, a source of endless entertainment.
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Perhaps it’s due to my early reading life furnished in horror, but for as long as I can remember, I have been intensely aware of my inner conversations and thoughts, because I never know who might be listening. I don’t believe in psychic phenomena, and I’ve never seen or experienced anything to dissuade me from this opinion, but I also don’t claim to have an in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of the mind or the brain’s physiology. I suppose I remain both open- and closed-minded on the prospect.
I blame Stephen King for this – some of the first novels I ever read were by him and surrounded the nature of psychic power: Carrie, Firestarter, and, of course, The Shining. In fact, I think it may be The Shining that made me really consider the idea that someone could actually hear my thoughts. While hardly a visceral terror, I find the notion of someone impinging on my mind to be a horrifying concept. I’ve always loved King’s approach to psychic power; instead of a godlike power akin to something you’d find in the pages of X-Men, King’s psychics run a whole spectrum. Some have next to none; some just have a glimmer; some shine.
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Superheroes are a ridiculous bunch, but damn it, they’re entertaining. Where else can you find a bunch of grown men and women running around in some of the most ridiculous outfits you have ever seen (most of which would cause the judge of the most outlandish and bizarre drag-show you’ve ever thought of stand up and leave the room, giggling) rescuing us mere mortals from the enslavement of some slime-beast/alien/horde/robot/equally-hilariously-dressed-supervillain-whose-only-distinguishing-features-are-a-goatee-and-differently-coloured-codpiece? But, man, the explosions.
Dating John Constantine is a hazard. Hell, knowing John Constantine is a hazard. You’re likely to end up dead, imprisoned in Hell or some other demonic dimension, or both. This applies to his love life, his “friends”, and his family.
Yet he still manages to mack the ladies. Guess they like the bad-boy thing: mysterious coat, magic, cigarettes, clandestine meetings with truly shady and bizarre characters. I’m not sure; I’m just flabbergasted at the way, and ease, with which he manages to pull in some of the most gorgeous and head-strong women in the Vertigo universe (though I’ve never seen him try to pull Death – well, there was that one time with the banana).
A caveat: this gift is for the Whovian on your list, and the Whovian alone. While some series of the reboot of Doctor Who can be seen without prior knowledge of the series, they are few and far between. Realistically, you can only start with series 1 or series 5. All you need to know for those two are that there’s this alien who’s called The Doctor, and he travels through space and time in a blue box. 2-4, plus the specials, all build off the first series, however, and this latest installment builds off series 5.
This is the second series with the eleventh Doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith, and it has some of the best episodes since the show started up again in 2005. Neil Gaiman even wrote an episode! (it’s fantastic, and in places you can hear Gaiman’s voice in the dialogue – not so much with the Doctor and his companions but with the rest of the cast) Admittedly, the series is not perfect, but it has a very captivating arc from the very first episode that permeates all thirteen episodes.
In short, how does The Doctor face a fixed point in time, his fixed point. From the first episode to the end the viewer continually asks themselves “How is he going to get out of this?”
The series arcs twice, too. This had to do with the way it aired on the BBC: it aired in two halves. It spirals towards an epic mid-season cliffhanger (and revelation, let me tell you), and then it heads back to the start. Yes, space and time isn’t fixed – wibbly, wobbly, timey-wimey (ok, so that was a 10th Doctor reference, but it still fits). The series is also very much about the Doctor and River; Amy and Rory (the Doctor’s current companions) are in more of a supportive role. Many series of Doctor Who deal with the Doctor and his relationship with his female companion, but this one is anomalous. Amy and Rory are important, and they’re by no means forgotten, but this series is about so much more than unspoken crushes.
The series is available on DVD and Blu-ray, the second of which I believe is a first for a Doctor Who series’ initial release. Exciting! Not only can the Doctor travel through time, but he can do it in high-definition.
So why recommend a series of television as a gift for which you must have prior knowledge? Because I refuse to admit for an instant that our readers are devoid of Doctor Who fans. The thought is ridiculous.
At just under three hours in length, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack is simply the best thing I’ve heard all year, and it’s been out for less than a week. When I first downloaded the six-track sampler available through nin.com, I felt it was just a darker extension of Reznor and Ross’s earlier foray into soundtracks, their Oscar-winning effort, The Social Network. After a full listen, however, I was blown away, and that was even before I heard the additional 33 tracks.
This is simply the best of Reznor’s instrumental work – it takes the best of the instrumental tracks from all of his more commercial Nine Inch Nails releases (those on Broken, The Downward Spiral, The Fragile, Still, Year Zero, and The Slip), the all-instrumental Ghosts I-IV, and The Social Network, and it rolls them together with layers of complexity that are not easily described. There are haunting synthesized soundscapes that would not be out of place in a David Lynch film, eerie child-like overlays of pianos and xylophones, and outright disturbing beats and guitar riffs. The soundtrack, like the subject matter of the film it scores, is unnerving. There have been hints of the soundtrack’s varied elements throughout Reznor’s work, as well as those of collaborator Atticus Ross, but there’s something new here that I cannot quite pinpoint. Maybe it’s the huge number of layers and varied sounds, or it might be the echo of previous work brought together in a wonderful package, or maybe it’s just because I’m an unabashed fan-boy (though let it be known that I do hate at least one Nine Inch Nails song: “Deep” – even I have discriminating tastes when it comes to things Reznor).
I’m not going to break it down track by track, but a few tracks deserve special attention, the most well-known of which is their take on Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, which they perform with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O. This is the track from the first trailer of the film, and it’s just fantastic. If not for my eagerness to listen to the rest of the soundtrack, I could easily listen to this song on repeat for hours. It’s a fantastic, hard, synthesized, and loud version of the original. The end is reminiscent of the lesser-known Reznor track “Driver Down” from the Lost Highway soundtrack, where it descends into noise and a constant hard-driving beat. It’s just fantastic.
Then there’s the track “Cut Into Pieces”, which while subtle, is just disturbing – I couldn’t help but think of a much-better produced “How to Destroy Angels” by Coil (funny that, given that’s the name of Reznor and Ross’s band, along with Reznor’s wife, Mariqueen). While Coil used carving knives, Reznor and Ross achieve a very similar effect with synthesizers and stringed instruments. Two other Coil songs I couldn’t help think of listening to tracks on this soundtrack were “Various Hands” and “The Swelling of Leeches” – while perhaps not direct influences, I’m certain the Balance-Christopherson experimental band had more than its small share of influence on Reznor and Ross. The last one I quickly wanted to mention, speaking of potential, whether conscious or unconscious influences, is the track “Oraculum”. This is part of the full soundtrack as well as the six-track sampler, and the first thing I thought of was a western, synthesized version of Hans Zimmer’s “Mombasa” from his soundtrack to Inception. The latter is definitely African in influence, if with western overtones, but “Oraculum” is something just as frenetic but as if done by those with a love of keyboards from the early 90s . . . Oh, wait!
Anyhow, I highly recommend you get this soundtrack; it’s outstanding. It’s also a bargain at $11.99 at iTunes (or via Reznor’s independent label, Null).
Ask anyone where they were on November 22, 1963, and I’m sure they can tell you. To date, I have you to meet anyone who was alive that day who didn’t know exactly where they were and what they were doing. The only similar experiences I can draw upon from my own lifetime were the death of Princess Diana on August 31, 1997 and the horrible sequence of events that ended in the tragedy of September 11, 2011. I feel the second of these is far more akin to the assassination of President Kennedy: horrible tragedy, worldwide effects, and, sadly, a hotbed of conspiracy theories.
Death is the terrfying reality of life, as it is its only guarantee. At some stage in our lives, we become aware of its presence, whether this be in some abstract way or through the horrifying reality of losing friends, family, pets, or some other loved one. Tears are shed; bodies shake; admissions are made; grudges fizzle or exacerbate. There’s nothing quite like death to focus our attention on the feelings we have towards ourselves and towards others.