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The Confession of Isobel Gowdie

One of the sad defining characteristics of the seventeenth century was the hunt in Europe and early America for witches.  In America, everyone knows of the infamous Salem witch trials which took place from 1692 to 1693, but in Europe, witch burning was also all too common, and went on for much longer.

Witch Trials in the Seventeenth Century

Witch Trials in the Seventeenth Century

One of the most prodigious prosecutors of witches in the early modern age was Scotland.  An estimated four to six thousand people were accused, tried, and executed for witch craft in the late sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth century in Scotland.  Per capita, it was one of the highest rates of witchcraft persecution in all of Europe.  Perhaps the most famous of the witchcraft trials in Scotland was the confession of Isobel Gowdie.

Gowdie was a typical seventeeth century housewife, born Catholic but later converted to Protestant, married to an Elder, and other than being dissatisfied with her husband, seemed perfectly normal.  That is, until she was accused of witchcraft along with her coven in Auldearne, Scotland.  Gowdie, a woman with fire red hair and incredible beauty, was brought to trial in Morayshire, and confessed to being a witch on April 13th, 1662.  But it’s the manner of her confession, and the details therein, that are the really interesting part of Isobel Gowdie’s tale.

According to the court records, Gowdie provided her confession “without torture.”  However, in this time period, torture was only recorded as having occurred if it was ordered by the court after the trial began.  There’s a good possibility that Isobel was starved, not allowed to sleep, and possibly had her legs crushed or hobbled prior to the trial (or as it’s known in Republican circles, “enhanced interrogation”).  Her testimony, however, was essentially the same on four different occasions, which does seem unlikely if it was a confession under duress. At no point did Gowdie dispute that she was, indeed, a witch.

The testimony Gowdie gave shocked the court, not just in its prolific nature, but also the details, especially the erotic details of coven’s rituals.  Gowdie claimed she could turn into an animal (specifically a hare), had cursed the sons of her enemies, consorted with fairies, blighted fields, raised great storms, and had ritualistic sex with the devil himself.  She said that she had been initiated into the coven in 1647, fifteen years earlier, and had risen to become the queen of the coven.  She graphically described Satan’s penis and his “cold emissions” within her. She claimed to have a secret name (originally Janet, and then as the queen or maiden of the coven, Jean Marten), and would engage in sex with the male members of the coven at rituals held every quarter.

The truly fantastic part of all of this is that she repeated these details on four occasions from April 13th through May 27th, 1662, without variation.  Were she simply a woman forced into a confession, it’s unlikely she would have kept her story the same, and if she were a mad woman, it’s equally unlikely her story would have remained consistent.  Perhaps more interesting is that there’s no specific record of what happened to her after the trial.  While it’s entirely likely that she was hung or burned at the stake (or both, one after the other, which was, in fact, quite common), there’s no evidence either way.

Gowdie, whose legend became known as the Witch of Auldearne, remains one of the most controversial of all of the individuals accused of witchcraft.  Her detailed descriptions of rites and rituals have been used at the basis of modern Wiccan practices, and she is seen somewhat as a “patron saint” to those pagans persecuted for their beliefs.

For further reading, especially within the context of the social upheaval happening in Scotland at the same time, I recommend this Witchvox article.  You can also learn more about Isobel Gowdie in Emma Wilby’s The Visions of Isobel Gowdie: Magic, Witchcraft and Dark Shamanisn in Seventeenth-Century Scotland.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Esoterica

 

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500

500th

The Mask has made it to 500 posts!  The Mark of Reason began on 5/10/2010.  A little less than four years later, here we are at 500 posts.  For those who’d like to know, the Mask has had 968,969 views since it began, with 108,248 in a single day.  There are 706 comments on the site.  227 other blogs follow this one.

Thanks everyone who has ever read!

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Announcements

 

The Blue Rose 009 – Deadfall

My maternal grandparents live next door to the old junior highschool for the town school district.  The building was old and run down, and closed only a few years after I graduated.  The auditorium where we used to put on plays collapsed into the gymnasium. The building sat on a huge piece of land on the edge of town. Back when I was a teenager, there was a section of the field next to the school where all of the brush and other junk was basically just piled together at the bottom of a steep drop off. No effort was made to clean anything up, it was just dumped there.  There was even the remains of a concrete shed that had once been a storage unit for the sports teams that used the fields for practice.  Mostly it was filled with the dead pine trees they had cut down along one side of the school – the trees had all died off and new trees were planted in their place, but the old trees were just dumped down off the side until they filled up almost all of the space.

Behind this small dump was a large, empty field that was owned by the city.  It was supposed to become a park, but the city didn’t have the funds to complete it.  Years later they did, and cleaned up the mess behind the junior high at the same time.  However, as a teenager, the mass of pine limbs and cast off construction material was a fascinating warren for me to explore.  The other kids all called it the deadfall, and no one else would go near it.

It was probably a bad idea that I climbed all over it.  I was warned off several times by adults, but with my grandparents house right next door, it was practically in my back yard.  I spent almost every evening with my grandparents, so it was always a place I could go exploring.  I learned how to be careful, how to choose where to step very cautiously.  I also learned all the little paths deep inside the labyrinth of junk and debris.

Nothing scary ever happened inside the deadfall.  Quite the opposite; to me, it was practically a sanctuary.  It was my secret headquarters, my fortress of solitude.  If a bully came after me, I could disappear inside within seconds and good luck finding me down in there.  It was my world, and I knew its secrets.  I knew all the entrances and exits, all the ways across the fallen limbs and crumbling concrete.  There was nothing in the deadfall for me to fear.  Adults would sometimes try to warn me out of it, especially if I were walking across the top, but I’d just disappear into the prickly limbs and hide in my little clubhouse.

I say nothing scary ever happened inside the deadfall, and that was true, but there were an incident that happened outside of the deadfall that was a little frightening.  It happened on a summer evening, those long summer evenings where the sun seems like it will never set.  A softball game had wrapped up about an hour beforehand and they had lost a ball into the tangle of limbs.  I found it hanging from a forked branch like a strange white fruit.  This pleased me greatly, for I always liked finding cast off goodies, especially ones I could play with.  I took the ball and made my way deep into the pile, not really caring that the sun was slowly setting.

It was the noise that made me first realize that it was getting dark.  I know that sounds odd, but the noise of crickets and other nighttime insects is pretty noticeable when it’s otherwise silent around you.  The deadfall was too far from the street to hear cars and no one ever came back there, so I was alone with my thoughts and the sounds of the creaking branches, and when the crickets began chirping, I knew I’d stayed too long.  I was about to make my way out when I noticed the shape of someone walking in front of the junk pile.  The deadfall was a perfect blind – there was no way they could see me, but I could easily see the shape of someone walking.  I was very quiet, not wanting to get in trouble for being in the trees.

Suddenly it occurred to me that it might be my mother or grandfather looking for me.  I climbed quietly out of my little niche to see if I could get a better look.  As I got closer to the edge of the fallen branches, I realized the figure wasn’t moving, or rather was sort of pacing away and back in front of the pile.  I couldn’t see them, not exactly, more like the indication they were there – their shadow, a glimpse of color and movement through the branches.  Something seemed off about them.  Finally they moved off, and I slipped out of the side of the pile.  I walked around, now no longer fearing reprisal since walking around the field wasn’t unusual or forbidden.  No one was there.  The open field behind the deadfall was empty, and there was no way they had climbed in while I was in there or in the few seconds from the time I exited.  I looked around, but they were gone, as if they had never been there  The ground was also muddy near that side of the deafall and there were no footprints.

I decided it was my imagination and went home.  I had the feeling I was being watched the entire way, and just before I got to my grandparents’ garage, I heard a whistle from behind me.  I turned but saw no one.

I don’t think I went back to the deadfall much after that.  My memory is hazy, but I believe the rest of the summer was spent in my own backyard, or riding my bicycle anywhere but back there.  Eventually the city cleaned up the mess and hauled all of the trees and debris away to the city dump.  I didn’t even realize it was gone until much later, when I walked back there and saw that the hillside was bare, and my hidden playhouse was gone.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Scary Stuff, Weird Stuff, Writing

 

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The Blue Rose 029 – Beneath the Surface

This story came from someone who started as a rival, became a friend, and ended as an enemy.

Just after my college days, I lived in a three bedroom townhouse with a pair of friends, a couple, who were into New Age Wiccan crystal whodilywoo.  I was never convinced, but they were my friends, so I played along.  They introduced me to a young man named George, who, they claimed, knew much more about the “dark arts”.  George was the kind of guy who sets my hackles up.  It’s something in the way he spoke, or moved, or seemed to be far to familiar with my friends when I had known them far longer.  He immediately became a rival for the affections of these two, whom I sought approval from as a young man just setting out in the world.  They were the best friends I’d ever had at that point in my life, and George was an interloper.

I say all of this to imply that when George told his story, I was nothing but skeptical, and the version of the story that remains in my memory is likely less sensational than the one he told on a dark, stormy night when the power was out and only the flickering flames of candles illuminated our tiny apartment.  Eventually I would come to view the young man as a friend, for a time, before his betrayal of my companions put proof to my misgivings about him.  We never spoke of this story after the night of the storm, and I have no idea how much of it was truth, but it makes for a good campfire-like tale.

George’s tale was from his teenage years.  He grew up in western New York, not far from Rochester, along the banks of a small river.  His father was a doctor, his mother an accountant, and they lived in a house built in a rural area that today is likely overgrown with urban sprawl.  Even growing up, there were always houses being carved out of the woods near their home, and George never felt like he was a country boy. But he did love the river.  Only during the spring run off did it run fast enough to be dangerous, but it was very wide, nearly a half mile across and he had been told it was very deep.  George was very cautious around the river, in part because there were plenty of stories of kids who had drown in its seemingly placid waters.  Those stories were from the other kids at his school, most of whom also lived in the pseudo-suburbs that were growing more civilized and less rural every day.  George himself never heard of any real stories about anyone dying in the river.

He spent most of his summers playing on the banks of the river, building elaborate GI Joe sized tunnels in the sandy mud shores, or swimming out to the end of the wooden dock and back.  He never went farther than that, per his mother’s orders, and he was always a dutiful son.  Or so his mother believed.  In reality, he would often swim out nearly half way across the river before heading back.  He was a strong swimmer, and sometimes he even dove down to see what was under the placid ripples of the river.

The summer of his fifteenth year, George decided to see just how deep he could go under the river.  He swam out past the end of the dock, into the deep part of the river, and dove down to see what was in the dark water.  After a few feet he couldn’t see a thing.  It was just too murky of water for him to get a good look, but something caught his eye.  It looked like a bit of wood poking up, like a broken pier, but it was much to far out on the river to be part of an old dismantled dock.  He thought about getting a closer look, but realized he had been down for nearly a minute and needed to breathe badly.  He swam to the surface, maybe ten feet up, and took a deep hitching breath.  He was going to dive back down, but he heard his mother calling him to supper and decided to wait for another day to explore his discovery.  He swam back to shore, but as he got out, he thought he heard something behind him, a voice calling out “Hey!”  He turned, but no one was there.

Being a normal fifteen year old boy, his attention span could be measured in the time between commercial breaks of his favorite cartoon, and thus he quickly forgot about the strange wooden object in the river.  It would flit into his mind occasionally over the next few weeks, but a combination of bad weather and a new skateboard purchased at the mall that had sprung up down the road made the whole thing fade from his memory.  It wasn’t until a month later, in early August, when he had ridden his bike down to the mall and was wasting an afternoon studying each and every object in the toy store, much to the clerk’s dismay, that he remembered the mysterious object in the river.  The reason his brain finally locked back in on his discovery was because of one of the items in the store.  It was in the row of summer toys, mostly brightly colored plastic junk that would fall apart after a week or two of play, but kids didn’t care because they were just summer toys, and parents didn’t mind because they were very cheaply priced.  What he found was a swimming pool play set, with goggles, fins for his feet, a snorkel, and most importantly, a flashlight that was able to be used underwater.  All this for just $5!  He happened to have an Abe Lincoln burning a hole in his teenage jeans, so he bought the set and quickly rode home with it tucked securely under his arm.

He got home too late to go swimming.  It was nearly seven in the evening, and though it was another two hours until the sun would finally drift lazily down under the western horizon, his mother had dinner ready and she was a firm believer that if you swam after eating, you’d surely get cramps and die, even if it was only wading into water up to your waist.  Why she often sent him to the bath tub after dinner remained a mystery to him, but he assumed if he got a cramp in the tub, his parents would be there to quickly assist him.  Of course, considering his usual activities in the tub, which for a fifteen year old boy included a good deal of scrubbing of certain unmentionable parts, he wasn’t sure if he did have a stomach cramp that he would call for any sort of help.  He’d just drown in the tub (even a teaspoonful can kill you!) with his boner in hand, too mortified to yell for help.

So it wasn’t until the next day that he could finally go look at what was under the shimmering veil of the river.  He found the requisite batteries for the flashlight, four AA’s scavenged from various toys, screwed the cap down tight, feeling the rubber o-ring that kept the water out of the battery case seal nice and firm.  He clicked the flashlight on and was satisfied with the bright white beam it produced.  He turned it off, grabbed the goggles, snorkel and fins, and headed out in just his swim trunks to see what was down under the water.  There was no fear at all in him.  It hadn’t even occurred to him to be afraid of anything.  He was exploring, nothing more, and his inquisitive mind now had to know the answer.  He’d put it aside for so long it had become like an infected splinter that had to be removed.

His parents were at work, but the gardener, a guy his father called “Big Barney”, was trimming the hedges out front, so he didn’t feel completely alone.  He was fifteen and his parents had stopped having a babysitter for him during the day three years prior, but he did like knowing someone was around if he needed help.  He walked out to the end of the dock, past the rusty dingy his father proudly called his “yacht”, and sat down on the rough gray wooden planks.  He put on the fins, slipped the goggles on and clipped the snorkel to the goggles’ elastic band just like the instructions had said.  He lowered himself down, carefully holding the flashlight so it wouldn’t bang against the pier, and slipped into the river’s cool embrace.  Sunlight was flashing a million daggers from the rippling water, and again there was absolutely nothing frightening about what George intended to do.  He took a deep breath, popped the snorkel in his mouth, and dove down into the murky water.

It took him a few minutes to get used to the snorkel.  He wanted to breathe through it, but that wasn’t how it was meant to work when you were completely submerged.  He also found the fins odd, but soon came to like the extra power they gave him under the water.  The flashlight worked well, though it only illuminated about five or six feet in front of him.  It was still better than without the device, and so finally ready, he made his way toward the center of the river.

Almost an hour of searching went by before he found the strange wooden structure.  When he did, he came upon it very suddenly, without any indication it was right below him most of the time.  He went to the surface, grabbed a good lung full of air, and dove back down.  It became immediately apparent that the thing in the water was, in fact, a cross.  George and his family were Jewish, but he was fully aware of what a Christian cross looked like, and this was definitely one.  It was life sized, or rather, it was as big as he’d imagine a real cross used for crucifixions would be, and it was slightly canted to the side.  There were very old, very rusty spikes driven in to the cross bars, just like you would have on a real cross, and it was upon discovering this that fear began to creep into his spine.  He could imagine that someone had, for some reason, tossed a cross down here, maybe from an old Easter display or a Nativity scene.  He actually liked those, the light up kind that appeared in front of every church in town sometime in late October to early November, and remained until mid-January.  They reminded him it was Hanukkah.  But the weird iron spike were kind of frightening.

He regarded them for so long that his chest began to burn.  He pushed out his air through the snorkel as he swam up towards the surface, but just as he was about to break through to the open sky, he felt something brush his leg.  As he came up out of the water, he screamed like a little girl. What he had felt were fingers.  He was sure of that.  Grasping fingers that tried to catch his ankle.  He started swimming as fast as he could for shore.  As he did, he was certain there was something in the water following him.  It was under the water, like the shark in Jaws, coming for him.  He kicked his fins for all he could, losing one of them to whatever was grasping at him.  The snorkel snapped free and fell away as he got within ten feet of shore.  The flashlight, held on his wrist by a nylon strap, banged him hard in the face with every stroke.  He was almost safe when the cold, slimy hands clasped around his ankles.  He tried to scream, but only received a mouth full of muddy water for his efforts.

He was being dragged back to the cross.  In his mind he saw himself crucified, the rusty iron spikes driven into his wrists by some crazy underwater Jesus who hated the Jews for killing him two millennia earlier.  It was stupid, crazy, but as he was dragged through the water, his brain snapped hold of any thought it could, no matter how irrational.  He was almost all the way back when his thrashing kicks connected finally and the hands that were pulling him released.  He swam hard, not caring about the pain from the flashlight smashing him, not caring that his other fin was missing, or that somehow his goggles were around his neck instead of on his face.  He had to escape, had to get away from whatever was in the water.  He swam as hard as a fifteen year old boy has ever swum.

He reached the shore, pulling himself onto the familiar sandy stretch with aching muscles.  He coughed out river water and heaved as his body worked to replace the air it had lost in the mad struggle for survival.  He looked back at the water and a dark shape floated just underneath the surface about a dozen feet away from him.  Again he heard a voice say “Hey!”, but this time, he was sure it came from the thing under the water.  He got to his feet, despite his exhaustion, and ran into the house.  He spent the rest of the day watching the water from his bedroom window.  The black shape was clear as day, slowly drifting a few yards out from shore.  It was still there when his parents returned home.  He didn’t tell them what happened, didn’t say a word.  The flashlight was broken, cracked with water still in it.  He threw it out along with the goggles.  He was never going in the water again.

After that incident he never went swimming in the river again.  He never discovered the origin of the cross or why it would have been under the water like that, but he did discover that the river had been dammed up for many years, and it was possible that section had once been dry land.  There had been an active KKK chapter in that part of the state in the 1930s and 40s, and George believed that the cross might have been one they used to lynch blacks, Jews and anyone else they didn’t like, but he never found proof of that.

He did see the thing in the water again.  Just before he left for college, he looked out on the river.  His recollection of the terrifying incident had faded somewhat over the three intervening years, but he still felt a great deal of fear when he looked out at the water.  The thing was back, floating just under the surface, waiting for the day George would again go for a swim.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Scary Stuff, Weird Stuff, Writing

 

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Clairvoyant Theories

Maybe Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really is getting better.  Certainly there’s been a lot more fan theory on who the Clairvoyant, the mysterious head of the Centipede operation, is, at least among the remaining fans who didn’t give up on this series.  However, I believe after Captain America 2 comes out next week, the series will get new scrutiny, and it really is a binge watch kind of show.

WARNING: THERE WILL BE CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 SPOILERS BELOW

 

 

 

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…of the many theories on who is the Clairvoyant, there are some that people are taking as “front runners”.  One in particular comes mostly from spoilers for Captain America 2, but it also makes the least sense.  So I’m going to go over some of the top theories and either shoot them down or call them plausible.

The-first-avenger04-1024x947Armin Zola
The Theory: Last seen in Captain America 1, he reappears in Cap 2 as an artificial intelligence that’s been running S.H.I.E.L.D. all these years, leading to the reveal that S.H.I.E.L.D. is just HYDRA in disguise.  People have latched on to the fact that the Zola AI uses predictive modeling to know what’s going to happen before it happens.  Clearly, then, it must be the Clairvoyant!

Why it’s bullshit: One of the big points throughout AoS has been that the Clairvoyant cannot see what happened to Coulson after he died.  However, Nick Fury had a file, a file that existed in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s system (Coulson tried to access it and couldn’t), an official file in the system, that described what happened with Coulson.  It had the drugs, the procedures, the doctors, everything.  If Zola was the Clairvoyant, it would have had access to that file all along.  Perhaps it wouldn’t have been able to figure out where or what the Guest House was, but the problem with that is a) the Guest House reeked of HYDRA, so Zola should have known about it and b) Fitz and Simmons were able to follow the paper trail to the place – if they could do it, Zola could as well.  Additionally, if Zola was behind all of it and wanted to know more about Coulson’s recovery, it could have just have set him up in any of a hundred ways to put him in the hands of Raina and the magic memory machine, there was no need for the big production number.  It also wouldn’t have sent S.H.I.E.L.D. all over the globe breaking down its own Centipede labs.

modokAIM/M.O.D.O.K.
The Theory: Centipede is just a front for AIM, first appearing in Iron Man 3, and while Aldrich Killian was killed, AIM itself lives on.  One of AIM’s most infamous creations is M.O.D.O.K., Machine Organism Designed Only for Killing, a giant floating head with little arms and legs.  Basically a demented humpty dumpty, MODOK, like the Zola theory, is a being that can “see the future” through massive data analysis.  Further, AIM had access to Extremis, one of the component parts of the Centipede device, and the magic memory machine would also be up their alley.  Also, the Clairvoyant is described early on as not “lik[ing] to be touched” which would certainly fit MODOK.

Why it’s bullshit: This particular theory may be correct.  The reason I think it’s not has less to do with the facts and more to do with metafacts, i.e., stuff about the show.  First off, MODOK being the bad guy has been going around since before the show began, meaning it stands to reason he’s a giant sized red herring.  Second, while they could change him a lot to fit into the cinematic universe, he’s still one of the weirder parts of Marvel and I’m not sure he fits on a small screen production.  Also, in universe, AIM would not have needed to contract out to build Deathlok.

Avengers_-_Loki_(uniqueLegend)Loki
The Theory: It’s all Loki!  He’s the bad guy in the Avengers, he hates Coulson, he’s currently (Thor the Dark World spoilers, but you were already warned) pretending to be Odin.  Sure, making super soldiers isn’t his bag, but Loki does like having an army!  And he would want revenge on Midgard.

Why it’s bullshit: First, Tom Hiddleston isn’t going to show up on AoS.  Loki is way too bigtime of a villain for the show.  Second, he’s been done to death now.  Marvel wants to move on to Phase 2, and Loki isn’t the big bad there.  Third, and in universe now, Loki never gave a damn about Midgard, the whole invasion was a ploy to get back to Asgard to take the throne from Odin.  He used the Avengers, he used Thanos, and he won, just as I predicted.

Ultron2013Ultron
The Theory: We know Ultron is the big bad in Avengers 2, we know like Zola and MODOK, he can calculate the probabilities to see precognitive, and hey, isn’t the show supposed to be supporting the main universe?

Why it’s bullshit: Oh so many reasons.  Let’s start out by saying that Marvel would never start the Avengers big bad in a TV show like that. That’s the quick and dirty meta reason – they aren’t going to let AoS steal Avengers 2′s thunder.  But in universe there are problems – first, Ultron likely isn’t even built yet.  That’s very likely to be covered in Avengers 2, so it’s extremely unlikely he’s even in existence yet.  Second, Ultron does not use inferior humans to do his work – he would not be making super soldiers, he does not create large organizations like Centipede, and he generally isn’t the type to let folks like Coulson’s team just dangle – he would have crashed the Bus or blown them out of the sky long ago.  Ultron does nothing piecemeal.

41d96f7ce0ec3b8ed93645476907831c-the-leader-hulkThe Leader
The Theory: This is actually my favorite one, and the one I hope is right.  The Leader, Samuel Sterns, showed up in Incredible Hulk.  That movie is still canon, even if we’ve changed actors for Bruce Banner/The Hulk.  By the same token, we could see the Leader recast (and Brad Dourif would fit…).  The Leader is another “data crunching” precog, like Zola and MODOK and Ultron.  He doesn’t like to be touched either, and he’s a nice dangling loose end from a film.

Why it’s bullshit: I hope it’s not.  I think the Leader is the most plausible explanation right now.  The only concern I’d have is that as a Hulk villain, they might be saving him for a potential new Hulk film.

Other theories:
Here’s some other ideas, none of which I believe will be the correct answer, but best to list them just in case: The Controller (this could actually be true…he’s an Iron Man villain and does like controlling folks…), The Kree Supreme Intelligence, Captain Mar-Vell, any of the main cast, Adam Warlock (who I think actually was sort of referred to in May’s history as the gifted who was worshiped), Nick Fury himself (which makes zero sense), Baron Zemo (I don’t think they’d introduce a major Cap villain this way, but eh, sure)…

Theories that it CAN’T be:
Some folks love bringing in ideas from stuff the Marvel studios can’t use.  Here’s a short list: Atlanteans, any mutant including Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, or Destiny, Doctor Doom, Galactus, any Spider-Man villain including Mysterio, the Mad Thinker, or Norman Osborn.

Conclusion: We still don’t know who the Clairvoyant is, but man is this show finally getting interesting.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in External News

 

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The music of Angelo Badalamenti

You have likely heard music written by Angelo Badalamenti.  The 77 year old composer has been a prolific producer of quirky musical scores for movies and television.  He’s most well known for working with David Lynch. Badalamenti composed the score for Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway and of course, Twin Peaks and the movie, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

However, he also composed music for the movie Secretary, aka 50 Shades of Gray long before it was cool.  He wrote the music for The City of Lost Children, Dark Water, and even Nic Cage’s horrible Wicker Man remake. He even composed music for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (aka the best Nightmare).

Badalamenti’s style is sort of a slow jazz, very understated compared to the big brassy sounds of movie composers like John Williams or Danny Elfman.  His music slides under a scene instead of dominating it.  This isn’t to say the other composers aren’t as good – it all depends on the tone of the film. Badalamenti’s music fits best with mysteries, dramas, and horror; his music is a perfect companion to a slow burn, not an explosive action thriller.

The composer was awarded a lifetime achievement award in 2008, and won a grammy in the 1990s for Twin Peaks.

If you haven’t taken a listen to his work, I highly recommend checking him out.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in External News, Opinions, Personal

 

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The Blue Rose 012 – The Movie

Back when I was growing up in the 80s, Sunday afternoons were the worst time of all.  We didn’t have cable, so we had a total of five stations to watch; the big three networks, PBS, and an independent station that would become a Fox affiliate a couple of years later.  The major networks had nothing but sports on, and I mean NOTHING but sports.  That was it for Sunday afternoon, and not being a sports fan, that meant nothing for me to watch.  PBS sometimes had good stuff on, but you were just as likely to end up with a run of Upstairs Downstairs (the 80s version of Downton Abbey) as a good Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes.

That left the independent channel.  The problem was, at that time, the TV guide didn’t publish what they were going to be showing, so it was always a crap shoot.  Sometimes it was really good, sometimes it was really awful, and you never knew what you were going to get.  When it was really bad, I’d go outside, or read, or play with toys, you know, stuff later generations will never understand.  But when it was good, I’d sit in front of the 15 inch color tv in my uncle’s old room at my grandparents’ house and watch for hours and hours.

Sometimes the movies or shows were really strange stuff, like low budget movies that the station bought on the cheap so they had something to air.  These were actually sometimes fun movies, stuff that today goes straight to the bargain DVD bin or straight to streaming.  It was no surprise, then, when I turned on the TV and saw a movie I didn’t recognize.  The people in it looked vaguely familiar, but it was really low budget, and the camera was shaky and clearly digital tape.  Back then, shaky camera was not something considered “cool” in movies, and it had that really noisy, florescent digital look of a home VHS camera.

From what I could put together in a minute or two of watching, the main characters were two cops and they were going on a call for a domestic disturbance.  There was something really unsettlingly familiar about the landscape they passed on their way.  The cameraman was clearly just sitting in the back seat filming them, and had it been a few years later, I would have assumed it was an episode of COPS.

The police car pulled up to a trailer on a dirt lot off of a rural road.  The cops got out and went to the door.  The cameraman followed, but you never saw him open the door, he just followed as if nothing was there, which would make sense if they had removed the door for filming.  The cops knocked on the door.  No answer.  They knocked again.  Still no answer, but there was a low pitched moan.  One of the cops decided to kick in the door.  He clearly wished he hadn’t a few seconds later.

Inside was a bloodbath.  People use that word and it’s lost a lot of meaning, but this was really a bloodbath, floor to ceiling blood.  A man was lying on the bloody carpeting, his head half missing.  I was really surprised at how good the effects were.  Near the man was a woman who had been shot through the chest.  A dead baby was in her arms, it’s little head smashed open, the hammer that did it right beside.  And the low moan was coming from the kitchen of the trailer, an open archway leading to it.

Here’s where it went really weird for me.  As the cops swung around the wall into the kitchen, the camera following them right over their shoulders, I saw a boy sitting on the floor of the kitchen, gun in his hand and blood all over him.  I KNEW that boy.  His name was Seth and he was a year or two older than me.  He had helped me out when I first joined the school band.

I rubbed my eyes, not believing what I was seeing.  It was Seth.  There was no doubt about it.  The cops had their guns out pointed at him.  He looked up and said, “I did it.  I fucking killed those fucking bastards.”  Now I was really freaked out.  No way would any channel let the f-word fly on air.  I smacked the button on the tv to turn it off, but it wouldn’t.  The camera zoomed in on Seth’s face.  He lifted the gun in his hand, I could tell by how his shoulder moved, and the cops immediately filled him full of holes.  Blood spurted all over the camera, but I was barely watching.  I reached over and yanked the plug from the wall.  The tv went black.

I ran downstairs, thinking to tell my mother what I’d seen or maybe just at least convince myself I’d fallen asleep and had been dreaming.  That’s when I heard the emergency scanner that my grandparents kept in the kitchen go off.  Two officers were reporting that the domestic had ended in fatalities. They were calling for the county coronor for two adults, one infant and a juvenile.  I knew right away that what I had seen was real.

I never told anyone about it.  I sat in the kitchen for a while, until it was almost dark.  I went back upstairs and plugged in the tv.  I didn’t know if I wanted to see anything else, but when the tv came on, it was just a commercial for dish soap followed by an old John Wayne war movie already most of the way finished.  It would have had to have been playing when I saw that awful movie.  I turned off the tv and went back downstairs.  I sat in the living room with my mother and grandparents the rest of the night.

The next day at school, everyone was talking about how Seth had killed his mother, stepfather and baby brother.  Apparently his parents had been really hard on him and had forced him to quit the football team.  He went crazy, got his stepfather’s gun, and killed them all.  I wasn’t shocked.  After all, I had seen it happen.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2014 in Scary Stuff, Writing

 

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