Camera Girl is Buying Goats

I think it is a sign of the coming apocalypse that suburban residents think they need to have farm animals on their property.  And women are entirely impractical about pets.

Now, coming from an individual who in the past has kept four of the six giant snake species in a Brooklyn apartment this might sound slightly self-serving and hypocritical.  In fact, it probably is.  But everybody always says a boy needs his hobbies.  No one ever says a girl needs her hobbies.  QED.

But I maintain that I am a reformed former animal horder.  For this reason, I feel that I have the right to pronounce judgement against this misguided practice.

Going through the various animal keeping proclivities of our marriage, it is obvious that eventually we would branch out from indoor menageries and end up in the barnyard.  And after the fiasco of the Great Quail Fail of 2017 (as it came to be known) it was inevitable that Camera Girl would want revenge.  But my actual problem with the new animal introduction is practical.  The winters in New England can be brutally cold and snow filled.  It occurs to me that during some prodigious snow fall when the goat enclosure is engulfed by some absurd 50” snow fall that I will be called upon at some god-awful hour to go out and clear a space for the goats to allow them to get at their food and water.  And based on my memory of Lovecraft’s description of Shub-Niggurath, (“The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young”), I believe there is a better than even chance that the critters will take advantage of my proximity and vulnerability to stage some kind of satanic attack upon my person.

Alright, I don’t really think it will be satanic.  But goats are jerks and they will probably butt me with their stupid horns and that will probably really hurt.  So, there’s that.  Plus, I’ll have to clean out their pen because let’s face it, men always get stuck with the crappy jobs.  So that’s why I hate the goats.  But Camera Girl does feed me and stuff so I guess it’s still a good deal.  I guess.

But have you ever looked at goats.  They’ve got those weird eyes that are really weird and maybe they are satanic.  And they’re gonna eat everything they can get their teeth into so they’ll turn their pen into the Plain of Gorgorath where nothing can survive.  Plus, I’ll bet the pen will be under constant assault by the local coyote pack and they’ll be howling every night and I’ll probably have to defend the stupid goats as if I actually wanted them to survive.  It’ll be like that scene in Whisperer in the Darkness where the old guy is defending his compound from the giant fungus lobsters with his rifle and german shepherds.  Except that german shepherds are actually useful and goats aren’t.  And I don’t have a rifle.  And coyotes aren’t lobsters.  But it was in New England.

I feel that the only hope is if biological science makes rapid advances in genetic engineering.  If genetically modified goats that only grow to the size of crickets could be commercially available then my problem would be solved.  I could set up a pen for them in the kitchen junk drawer and they would be a very small problem to take care of.  So that’s what I’m banking on at this point.  The goats are supposed to arrive a week from Saturday so there’s still time.  I know it’s a long shot but my luck’s got to change some day.  Maybe this will be it.  So, come on you genetic researchers, stop being so selfish and put aside all this cancer jazz for a minute, and solve a really urgent need, the world’s cricket-sized goat shortage.  What color ribbon is still available for the cause?

Why No Love for the Craft of Howard Phillips? – Part 1- The Whisperer in the Darkness

I originally discovered H.P. Lovecraft because in the 1970’s the Ballantine Fantasy book imprint put out a series of paperback books of Lovecraft’s stories that sported covers that were wonderfully disturbing.  The one called “The Shuttered Room” had an image of a human head with sharp shards of glass sticking out of the forehead and cranium area.  The eyes were alert but the head terminated at about the upper lip. Below that it was just a dripping ooze of decay.  How could I resist?

The world divides into two camps.  Those who think H. P. Lovecraft was a great writer and those who don’t.  I fall solidly into the second camp.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate the guy and some of his writing is somewhat interesting.   But his writing style (if it can be called that) makes you want to throw the book at a wall or tear it in half.  Plot twists are telegraphed so blatantly that surprise is virtually impossible.  The plots themselves are sometimes so badly contrived as to suspend the suspension of disbelief in even the most sympathetic reader.  The prose is so arch and artificial that it descends into self-parody.  Sometimes he appears to be imitating Edgar Allen Poe but Lovecraft never makes it work for him.  So that’s my case against him.

That being said, I think Lovecraft had a very powerful imagination.  Buried inside some of his stories are elements that strike a nerve.  Sometimes he’ll describe a scene or paint an image that resonates.  Something primal and disturbing.  It’s almost as if he could pluck things out of his nightmares and embed them into a framework of poorly written and inept story elements.  I believe that Lovecraft’s horror talent was of a visual nature.  I have a theory that the best way to present his work is cinematically.  If a writer/director was sufficiently attuned to what is authentically frightening in Lovecraft’s works, I believe films based on some of his stories could be much better than the stories that Lovecraft left us.  But is there enough there?  The stories are a hodge-podge of plot elements and scenes.  Quite a bit of work would be needed to create a movie from any or even several of them strung together.  And is there actually enough of an audience to even warrant the expense of a major motion picture?  Director Guillermo del Toro attempted to bring “At the Mountains of Madness” to the screen but failed.   So, we’re stuck with the stories.

In this series of posts, I will give a few examples of what I think is some of his worst writing and then I’ll finish with some things that I felt were well done.

The first story is “The Whisperer in the Darkness.”  This is the story of two New Englanders communicating mostly by letter about an infestation of super-intelligent space-faring winged, giant lobster-shaped fungus creatures in northern Vermont.

There are many examples of terrible prose to choose from but one of my favorite passages is the one where the narrator recognizes the lobster man’s footprints, “Too well did I know the marks of those loathsome nippers, and that hint of ambiguous direction which stamped the horrors as no creatures of this planet.  No chance had been left me of merciful mistake.  Here, indeed, in objective form before my own eyes, and surely not made many hours ago, were at least three marks which stood out blasphemously among the surprising plethora of blurred footprints leading to and from the Akeley farmhouse.  They were the hellish tracks of the living fungi from Yuggoth.”  (italics by HPL).  So, the footprints are blasphemous?  I’ve got 12 years of Catholic school education and not once were lobsters mentioned except as an abstention during Lent but no blasphemy angle.  And he calls them the living fungi.  If they weren’t alive wouldn’t the story be kind of pointless?

So here we have a giant lobster that walks upright and apparently is able to propel itself through interstellar space on wings.  Also, even though these creatures have technology that allows them to traverse intergalactic space, wage war on super-intelligent aliens and remove human brains from their bodies and keep them alive and sentient inside a metal tank they are unable to prevent themselves from being drowned in the flooding of small Vermont streams and are also highly incompetent when confronted by a farmyard protected by an old man with a rifle assisted by his german shepherd dogs.

And one of the dopiest plot holes is the fact that every night the old man would withstand a siege at his farmhouse by these creatures but by the next day, he was free to go unmolested for miles in every direction to buy bullets and new guard dogs and even post the letters that were the text of the story.  Why didn’t he just keep driving until he got to Montpelier and then show the authorities the proof of his discovery.  Or at the very least just drive away and escape altogether?  Was he afraid the lobstermen would come after him in Boston or Providence.  Wouldn’t they be kind of conspicuous with the wings and claws and fishy smell?  And also New Englanders really like lobster meat.  I’d think of this whole invasion as a sort of food business start-up opportunity for the protagonists.

In addition to the ludicrous details of the flying-lobster-mushroom-men is the absurdity of the protagonist being unaware that one of the lobster men is dressed up as his friend and talking to him in the same room.  Endless clues are provided that point obviously to the identity of the “Whisperer” but apparently the narrator is possessed of such indestructible stupidity that at the end of the story he is shocked to discover the truth.  Maybe this is Lovecraft imitating some 19th century gothic horror story convention.  But it’s just plain ridiculous.

This story more than any other had me for a while entertaining the idea that Lovecraft was actually writing comedy.  I was imagining John Belushi or Chevy Chase dressed in a giant lobster suit with big floppy wings and covered with mushroom decals sitting across a dining room table from Wallace Shawn performing the dialogue from “My Dinner with Andre.”

Then I wondered if Lovecraft was a morphine addict.  But finally, I settled on the obvious reason.  He was a starving hack writer chronically broke and churning out dreck as best he could.  And this was what he produced.  Very sad.

Stay tuned for more Lovecraft complaining soon.