Sunday, July 27, 2014

Short Story #207: The Story of a Conscience by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Story of a Conscience 

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Summary

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceCaptain Parrol Hartroy happens to be at a checkpoint with a soldier when a civilian happens to pass through.  The soldier checks the papers and waves him by but shortly after, Hartroy sets off after the person and catches up with him, point a gun and telling him to surrender.  Hartroy tells the man that he knows the man to be Dramer Brune, a spy for the Confederacy.  Brune admits it and says that he will go quietly.  The next morning, Hartroy confronts Brune explaining that Hartroy knew who he was because years back, Hartroy was ordered after a long day to watch Brune over night after Brune had been previously captured.  Hartroy had fallen asleep and Brune had done no harm--either escaping or reporting on Hartroy.  In this way, Brune had saved his life.  Challenged by this Hartroy ponders what to do but as the camp begins its morning routine, he is interrupted by other soldiers and must sent Brune to his death.  While Brune is being executed, Hartroy takes his own life, recognizing that his and Brune's nobility in war are many ways no different.

Reflection

This struck me as one of the better Bierce stories that I've read in a while in this anthology.  It captures well Bierce views of the challenge of war--it's all mortal men trying to do right by their country and themselves and somehow reconcile their desires to live with others.  It also speaks to the challenge of being kind in an environment where that is not to be expected or can result in being killed quite easily.  


Short Story #207 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/27/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on Archive.org.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Short Story #206: The Affair at Coulter's Notch by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Affair at Coulter's Notch

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Summary

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceThe Federal army is positioned in such a way that it can attack an already retreating group of Confederate soldiers.  The General, upon hearing of the brave Captain Coulter decides that he would make the obvious choice to arm a gun station that is in a vulnerable position (taking up about 12 of the Confederate gun stations).  Coulter is shown the notch he is to take and asked if he is ready to take it.  Coulter asks to clarify that he is to fire upon the house and shows reluctance in assuming his duties but does go forward.  The general withdraws and watches the battle play out, continually waiting for the gun notch to become undone.  Despite the odds, the gun continues to shoot.  While observing the battle, an aide attempts to explain Coulter's background and how he was originally from the South and somehow sent back into the region in which he originally came from.  The General barely listens but continues to watch the battle.  When he returns to examine the continued actions of the gun notch, he witnesses a scene of both terror and awe.  The soldiers continue to feed the gun against the onslaught and chaos.  Dead bodies are cast aside and soldiers are doing whatever they can to keep the gun up despite the casualties.  Leading this heroic battle is Captain Coulter.  After the Confederate troops have retreated, the Federal army takes over the house that was at center of the attack.  During dinner, the General is told there is an issue in the basement.  When they go downstairs, they find a man huddled over the body of a dead woman and child.  The man unrecognizable because he had not quite cleaned himself up is Coulter and he explains that the woman and child were he family.  

Reflection

There are elements of this that remind me of Chickamauga during the battle scene and the grotesque nature of the fight wherein in order to wet the gun, they used dead soldiers' blood.  I anticipated that Coulter was likely somehow connected to the area as soon as he showed reluctance in fighting.  The idea that the man would need to choose family over country to the degree in which he killed his own family marks a powerful question about the nature of war and the sacrifice of the individual.

Short Story #206 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/25/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on Archive.org.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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Friday, July 25, 2014

Short Story #205: The Famous Gilson Bequest by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Famous Gilson Bequest

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Summary

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceGilson is known for being quite the rogue where he lives.  He was kicked out of New Jerusalem and set up shop in Mammon Hill just as  gold rush ensued.  However, despite his antics, he was making a go of trying to be a better person but was caught or at least accused of horse stealing and the community conspired to execute him.  While awaiting his death, he wrote a will in which he delegated Mr. Brentshaw to serve as the executor and to keep whatever remained after distributing the will.  The will called for people for people who could prove they had been wronged by Gilson to submit a request within five years of his execution to be appropriately compensated from a vast fortune that Gilson had but no one knew about.  The news of this gets out and soon many people are making claim to it and Brentshaw must work ceaselessly to address all the claims in order for him to get compensated as the will indicates.  Five years later, he finds himself wrapping up the money with nothing as he had hoped to be returned.  He happens to visit the cemetery where Gilson's ashes were buried and noticed the flooding had caused graves to be unearthed and even open.  It is during this time that he sees a dark figure fixing and putting the graves right and Brentshaw believes it to be Gilson himself.  The next day, Brentshaw's dead body is found in the cemetery.  

Reflection

The story was ok.  As one of the last of the horror ones in this anthology, it didn't really have much of a dark nature to it.  There's one story left that I am hoping will be a good one but many of the horror stories feel lacking in comparison to predecessors (e.g. Poe) and those who came afterward (e.g. Lovecraft).  


Short Story #205 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/25/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on Archive.org.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Short Story #204: The Other Lodgers by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Other Lodgers

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Summary

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceA colonel explains to his companion that if he must travel to Atlanta, he must make sure not to stay at the Breathitt Hotel.  He relates his experience there.  The hotel was is horrible condition as if it were abandoned.  When he checked into the room, the clerk took him to his room and left him a candle but did nothing else.  In the middle of the night, he awakes and finds that the floor is entirely covered in bodies, all of which are dead.  The man makes his way out of the room and goes to the clerk.  He demands an explanation but the clerk is silent.  The clerk eventually disappears and a man enters.  The man explains that the hotel has been abandoned for a long time and that the building was used as a hospital for a while.  The room that he was in was where they placed the dead bodies.  The clerk that the colonel saw had only died a few weeks prior.  

Reflection

Not entirely impressed with the story but I found the interaction of the colonel with the clerk capable of maintaining some element of the uncanny.  However, I again found it strange that this story was in the "war tales" and not the horror.  

Short Story #204 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/21/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on Archive.org.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Short Story #203: The Man with Two Lives by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Man with Two Lives

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Summary

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceDavid Duck was travelling between camps at night in an area where tensions were high between soldiers and Indians.  He believed he found a reasonable place to hide for a while and sleep but he is awoke by and chased away by gunshots from Indians.  Eventually, they chase him into a corner and he holes up for several days but lack of food, water, and sleep lead him into one final attack.  He awakes later and makes his way back to camp and checks in with the doctor.  The doctor is confused by his appearance and whom he claims to be since the doctor had buried David Duck some time prior.  Duck is unable to explain this and the major puts him in holding.  Duck eventually escapes but continually returns to the spot where he might have died.

Reflection

The story is mildly amusing as it is told through the eyes of Duck but it doesn't have a lot of substance to it since it is over nearly before it begins.  A tale such as this could have been much more developed and drawn out, but this one races so fast that it misses the opportunity to linger in the mind of Duck to understand the experience.  

Short Story #203 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/21/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on Archive.org.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Short Story #202: A Resumed Identity by Ambrose Bierce

Title: A Resumed Identity

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Summary

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceA man stands overlooking a field in the early morning trying to see everything there is despite the poor light.  Soon, he sees a large battalion of soldiers making their way down the road but for some strange reason, he cannot hear them at all.  He attributes this to some strange element of the winds and proceeds to run off and warn his battalion.  As he moves away, he looks back and sees nothing but continues to seek out his battalion.  Along the road, he encounters a doctor whom through conversation realizes that the man is quite confused since the war had ended years ago.  The man is confused by this and flees.  He eventually finds his way through the woods and finds a marking that identifies the sight of the battle and the buried bodies of his comrades.  It has been raining and near one of the graves, the puddle is filled enough that he can see his reflection.  He crawls into the grave and dies again.

Reflection

Like Chickamauga, this has a chilling effect overall--more so than many of the horror stories in this collection.  The two most haunting parts are the beginning as the day begins and the silence is so prominent and at the end when the soldier climbs into the grave.    

Short Story #202 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/21/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on Archive.org.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

My Top 101 Films Part 4 (of 10)

I skipped posting last week because i was busy, but I am back herein with the next selections in my top 101 films.  Here's the running list of previous entries:

Fat Girl (2001)

DVD Cover - Fat Girl
There's something I about French films that I love.  They often has some surreal element to them or have some element that runs over the viewer like a ton bricks.  Fat Girl is no different in this regard.  It's a film about the female body, the uses, presentation of, and understanding of it along with how one navigates through a world when one's female body is not the socially-acceptable norm.  The film follows two sisters and how their different bodies (one considered attractive and the other not) leads to different outcomes in their experiences with their parents, with society, and with each other.  However, be warned that this is a hard movie to watch particularly the end of it.  One cannot watch it without feeling uncomfortable, which is probably why I appreciate the film.  Like others on this list, they offer an opportunity to confront something many of us would not be able to understand or experience otherwise.  You can view the trailer for this film on Youtube.


Fight Club (1999)

DVD Cover - Fight Club
A major reason I like this film is that it is a modern day Jekyll and Hyde tale that must go by another name in order to have the same effect.  I also find it to be an adaptation that captures and in some ways, improves upon the text because of the ways it can misdirect the viewer and challenge their conceptions of storytelling.  The social critique embedded in the novel in terms of masculinity, capitalism, and identity is fascinating and resonant and compares interestingly to the film American Beauty, a contemporary to the film that grapples with the same themes and challenges.  You can view the trailer for this film on Youtube.




Final Fantasy: Advent Children (2005)

DVD Cover - Final Fantasy Advents Children
Final Fantasy VII was and remains a great game that I enjoyed and have returned to replay over the years.  It's a video role-playing game at its finest with what were at the time great special effects and fascinating (though overly complicated) plot that pulled me in for countless hours of play.  The movie is a great adjunct to that tale as it provides closure and further exposure into the fantastic world of the game.  The animation coupled with the intense soundtrack brought me back into the game play of my mind and restored the rich essence of the game's world.  All that being said, I would note that this is a personal favorite and probably not as nearly exciting and interesting to others who have not played any of the Final Fantasy games.  The film can be enjoyed on its own but is less likely to be as engaging.  You can view the the film for free on Youtube.



Frankenstein (1910)


Many might argue whether this is even a film.  After all, it is barely 10 minutes.  But I'm a big fan of adaptations and seeing how authors' works are turned into director's visions.  I'm particularly fascinated with an early attempt to adapt Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as it is such a classic text for me and my studies.  The 1910 adaptation clearly cannot come even close to fully adapting the text but it does some rather interesting things around story-telling and early cinematography.  In terms of content, the final scene where Victor confronts the monster that he has created provides a much more complex consideration than what we see in the Karloff version mentioned below.   You can view the film for free on Archive.org.



Frankenstein (1931)

DVD Cover - Frankenstein 1931As an adaptation, the film gets so much wrong, it's hard to view it as a serious adaptation of Shelley's work.  However, it does provide the canonical point of reference for all visual renderings of Frankenstein since its inception.  As early as the 1940s, even comic adaptations took their lead from Karloff.  So while I knock it for its failure to live up to the novel, it has merit for its longevity and influence upon the Frankenstein mythology.  Additionally, there are some fascinating elements to this film when you slow it down and try to take it in the detail.  When you have an opportunity, it's best to listen to a good commentary on this film (David Skal does one that highlights all sorts of fascinating elements).  I also give the nod to Frankenstein as it was one of the films that set off the monster-horror explosion of the last 80 years, of which I am grateful.  You can view the film for free on Vimeo (with Spanish subtitles).


Freaks (1932)

DVD Cover - Freaks
Todd Browning's infamous film that followed on the heels of Dracula is a complicated film that both problematically and positively presents people of various physical ailments and ultimately proved too exploitative for many people's tastes.  The film follows a carnival of "freaks" and how they are undermined by normal human people.  It's a challenging film to watch at time and while the plot is not particularly spectacular, it does not need to be since so much of the focus is on showing bodies than engaging minds.  Again, the film does provide some positive presence to the "freaks", one never feels quite settled in with all of it.  You can view the film for free on Archive.org.



The Fly (1986)

DVD Cover - The Fly
I've seen the original and I've even read the short story that it is based upon but neither of them really do as well with a variety of questions and thoughts about the limits of science than this version.  Jeff Goldblum is fantastic as the eccentric scientist and Geena Davis has great chemistry with him.  Though I found certain elements disappointing (e.g. Davis's character needing saving by the misogynistic male), the film as a whole both deviates and holds to the original short story wherein the lover is compelled to kill the man who went too far.  The film is also fascinating in terms of studying and thinking about bodies, what we do with them and how we are both a part of and apart from our bodies (or at least think so at times).  There's much in this film that connects to District 9 which is also on the list.  You can view the trailer for this film on Youtube.


Grease (1978)

It's one of the few musicals within this best list.  I am a fan of musicals though I lean more towards the rock and roll and high-energy musicals such as Rent, Moulin Rouge, and Across the Universe than some of the more traditional ones.  Beyond its nostalgic grasp at the 1950s from the later 1970s  (reminding me of The Outsiders in many capacities), it mixture of music, standard high school love story, and other amusing side plots (Beauty school dropout!), it regularly amuses and delights the viewer.  It captures a variety of essential cultural elements from drive-in theaters to drag races to US masculinity to teenage sexuality.  You can view the trailer for this film on Youtube.


Haiku Tunnel (2001)

DVD Cover - Haiku Tunnel
I'm a big fan of Office Space but I still don't think it holds a candle to Josh Kornbluth's masterful comedy about life in law office as a temp.  Kornbluth's comedy comes in the form of capturing the strange idiosyncrasies of lawyers, naming conventions, and the routine of office life and human interaction which contrasts with his complete inability to navigate.  Coupled with this, Kornbluth is more your average American than anyone in Office Space.  He's physically represent the American average which adds much more the viewing experience.  Finally, his mimicry and energetic eruptions during asides to the viewing audience are often hysterical and spot on.  You can view the trailer for this film on Youtube.




Your turn!  What are some of your favorite films and why?  Post them in the comments!



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Monday, July 21, 2014

Short Story #201: A Lady from Red Horse by Ambrose Bierce

Title: A Lady from Red Horse

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Summary

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceThe story is a series of correspondence from Mary Jane to her friend Irene.  She explains that she has found a man that is amazingly beautiful and compelling where she is currently staying and she finds herself almost incapable of pursuing him.  Meanwhile, a childhood friend, Raynor, has appeared and is causing trouble.  Mary Anne explains that Raynor and she were part of a trio as kids and that the third had died a while aback.  Additionally, since she had come into fortune, it was often a strain (but one she tried to overcome) to continue their friendship.  As the beautiful stranger continues to court her, she doesn't know what to make of it until finally, the lover reveals that he is the childhood friend and in fact, he had not died but was just wounded.  

Reflection

 It's a bit of stretch to put this into the horror tales as it feels more like a romance than it does horror.  It's only the chance that the childhood friend had been reported as dead that adds any supernatural element ot the tale.  

Short Story #201 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/21/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on Archive.org.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Short Story #200: The Suitable Surroundings by Ambrose Bierce

Title: The Suitable Surroundings

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Summary

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceA boy lost in the woods at night stumbles upon the old abandoned Breede house where he sees a light emanating from the a window.  He slowly approaches the window and looks in to see a man staring at the window with a candle in front of him on a table.  The boy believes the man might be dead and starts to move, but the supposed deadman reels back in fear and blows out the candle.  The boy runs home.  The story moves to earlier in the day when a writer named Colston rebuffs an acquaintance named Marsh for reading Colston's story in the wrong conditions.  Colston insists that if Marsh is to read his ghost story, he should read it in the right atmosphere, not on a trolley car in the morning as Marsh had been doing.  Colston is clearly offended and accuses Marsh of not being brave enough to read it in the right setting.  Marsh takes him up on this challenge and Colston hands him another story he has on him to read in Breede's house at midnight.  The narrative jumps to the following day wherein the boy is bringing several men to the Breede house to reveal the body that he has found.  The men don't believe him but when they get there, they find a body and it is Marsh.  Upon his body is the supposed story by Colston.  However, it is not a story but a suicide note that Colston wrote after having felt guilty about not speaking up with Breede (the old owner of the house) had committed suicide several years ago.  An addendum piece reports that Colston was apprehended while trying to commit suicide and had been admitted into an insane asylum.

Reflection

I liked this story much more than some of the other Bierce I had been reading.  It had a good amount of moving parts and elements to the story and kept the reader guessing through the entire story.  It was interesting to see Bierce's belief about the nature of relationship between author and reader too:  

"The right to the reader's undivided attention. To deny him this is immoral. To make him share your attention with the rattle of a street car, the moving panorama of the crowds on the sidewalks, and the buildings beyond--with any of the thousands of distractions which make our customary environment--is to treat him with gross injustice. By God, it is infamous!"

Short Story #200 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/19/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on Archive.org.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Short Story #199: An Adventure in Brownville by Ambrose Bierce

Title: An Adventure in Brownville

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Summary

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceThe story begins with the narrator explaining how he resides in Brownville, which is a vacation spot but one of the last resort.  He teaches at the school there but regularly encounters visitors.  While walking a path in the woods one day, he hears a man and woman talking and the woman saying that she believes the man will kill her.  Silence ensues and the narrator looks to locate the people he has been listening to but it is night now.  Finally, he sees their bodies in the dark and goes to the woman's rescue and they disappear.  The next day, he discovers there are a pair of sisters that staying at the hotel, the older one who sounds exactly like the woman he had heard.  They are chaperoned by a man who also sounds like the man the narrator heard.  Almost a month passes and the older sister is found dead in her room with her sister.  The report is heart trouble but the sister initially accuses the chaperon.  At this point, the narrator begins to keep an eye on the younger sister and the man and eventually, gets her alone after hearing her tell the chaperon that he is going to kill her just like he did to her sister.  The narrator tries to convince the young woman to say something to the police but she refuses and tells the narrator that she will lie if he tries to tell them.  She then becomes friendly with him and a bit flirtatious.  They meet the following day and they find themselves wandering until atop a cliff.  The chaperon appears at this point and begins talking with them.  The young woman gets an odd look in her eyes and flings herself off the cliffs.  When they get to the body, the chaperon tells the narrator to wait with the body while he gets help and that he was relieved there was a witness to the insane woman's death.

Reflection

The story has an intriguing and curious drive to it but the end of the story doesn't quite give a clear sense of meaning.  However, I think the failure is mine in part as a major piece of the story has the chaperon regularly singing and whistling music from Rigolletto, an opera that upon reading a summary of, has some similar qualities to.

Short Story #199 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/19/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on Archive.org.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.