Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

The Time Warp

In the early 1980s, before our daughter was born, my husband and I decided to attend the local revival of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. At midnight sharp, we were sitting in the audience at the old, art deco Millbrae Theatre in Millbrae, California, anxious for the movie to start. It was fun to look around the theatre at the many strange costumes worn by Rocky Horror fans. But, watcher beware! Once the movie started, we were pelted with candy, rice, and popcorn, and squirted with water from squirt guns, as fans reacted to various scenes in the movie. That was the fun of the revival – interacting with each other and the movie.

That couldn’t even happen nowadays because the Fun Police would be out trying to shut it all down. Kids are missing out on a lot of clean, harmless fun!

At that time, there were old, art deco theatres in just about every town along the El Camino Real, the main business artery that courses down the San Francisco Peninsula. I remember the red plush seats and elegant, red velvet stage curtain in the old Millbrae. I was fascinated by the gold gilding on the intricate art deco interior designs. Sadly, most of these theatres have been demolished or closed down.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) has always had a large cult following of people who just want to have a good time. The story is quirky, the characters and costumes bizarre, the music lively and entertaining.

Barry Bostwick (Brad Majors) and Susan Sarandon (Janet Weiss) play a naive, “square,” straight-laced couple whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Forced to take refuge at Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s house, they are reluctantly exposed to the twisted, bizarre characters who live there.

Tim Curry plays the transvestite scientist, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who is experimenting with creating the perfect male sex symbol (Peter Hinwood). The theme of the movie is pursuing “absolute pleasure,” which reflects the overriding social theme of the 1970s.

One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is the musical number, The Time Warp. Here’s where the audience gets up out of their seats and starts dancing in the aisles!

Enjoy! And don’t let the Fun Police spoil your fun! They are already trying to shut down Christmas this year.

Dawn Pisturino

October 11, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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My First Author Interview

My Very First Author Interview was with Underneath the Juniper Tree on March 9, 2012. I wrote poems, limericks, and short stories for their publication until the online ezine finally folded due to internal conflicts.

The Interview:

Dawn Pisturino has been a staple in our dark little pages since before I can remember. We had a chance to dig through her delightfully warped mind and find out more about her fantastic writing. Please, meet Dawn Pisturino.

1. Stephen King once said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Which books do you find yourself always going back and reading over again?

I’ve read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights fifteen times. I love its Gothic elements. Most recently, I’ve been reading Mary Downing Hahn’s middle-grade books. She writes creepy ghost stories and historical fiction for children.

2. How do you start a story? Do you start at the beginning, or do you dive right in the middle?

I start with a vision in my head and try to capture it on paper. Cutting out the fluff and getting right into the story engages the reader. Since I get bored easily, it keeps my interest, too.

3. Do you have any rituals before you start writing? Do you need to warm up? Or do you go right into it?

I must have my morning cup of tea before I do anything! If I want to establish a particular mood, I play music, read poetry, watch a movie or TV program, and read passages from Lovecraft or Poe.

4. What is your dream project?

My dream project is to finish the adult literary horror novel that I started, make it a best-seller, and sell the movie rights. Isn’t that every author’s dream?

And for all you budding writers out there, here’s some advice from Dawn:

Read, read, read. Not just popular fiction, but classic fiction and nonfiction. Everything you read stimulates your imagination and expands your point of view.

Check out Dawn’s interpretation of darling little Lizzie Borden in our February 2012 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Excerpt from “Miss Lizzie’s Tea Party,” by Dawn Pisturino.

Miss Lizzie tackled me to the ground and held me there while the cook bound her bloody hand with a towel and telephoned the police. My chest heaved with great, gulping sobs as Miss Lizzie’s face drew closer and closer until her lips brushed against my ear.

“You see how easy it is,” she whispered.

Dawn Pisturino

http://www.dawnpisturino.org

Copyright 2012-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Godzilla Rules

After the bombing of Hiroshima, filmmakers became obsessed with sci fi movies that exposed and speculated about the harmful effects of radiation poisoning on humans and the environment. Giant, monstrous creatures produced from radiation exposure became a popular theme, particularly in Japan, where the original Godzilla was born in 1954. A whole series of movies featuring Godzilla and sundry other monsters followed. Even today, remakes of the Japanese originals remain popular. And merchandise sales of T-shirts, toys, and other items remain strong. Godzilla even earned his own pop song:

Blue Oyster Cult – Godzilla
Godzilla original movie theme, 1954.

Godzilla Rules!

Dawn Pisturino

October 2, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Puttin’ on the Ritz

I’ve read that performer Michael Jackson was a big fan of Fred Astaire and studied his dance techniques. This became obvious in the style of some of his costumes, and in his own dance routines.

One of my favorite dance numbers by Fred Astaire is “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” The song was written by Irving Berlin in 1927 and published in 1929. In 1930, it became the central theme of the musical, Puttin’ on the Ritz. (See video below.)

The phrase “puttin’ on the Ritz” meant dressing fashionably in the slang of that day. The “Ritz” referred to the Ritz Hotel in London, England.

Fred Astaire performed his famous dance routine in the film, Blue Skies (1946). (See video below.)

Mel Brooks included a dance scene using Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in 1974, in the movie Young Frankenstein.

The song and the dance were revived by the Dutch singer, Taco, in 1982 and became an international hit – MTV even aired the music video.

The music is still catchy, and makes you want to get up and dance!

Fred Astaire version (1946), courtesy of Drive-In Movie History on You Tube (includes a short clip from Young Frankenstein):

Taco version, courtesy of Taco on YouTube:

Harry Richman version (1930), courtesy of Addehiovy on YouTube:

Ritz Hotel, London, England

Dawn Pisturino

September 29, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Norwegian Black Metal Bands – Satanic or Psychotic?

Mayhem

The 1990s rock-and-roll scene spawned a second generation of black metal music – an offshoot of 1970s heavy metal, 1980s New Wave British Heavy Metal, and punk. This highly elitist genre catered to musicians who wanted to develop their own style and leave a permanent mark on the music industry. (Baddeley)

Bands adopted Satanic themes, and the music became more bizarre and atonal, preferring chaos over organized harmony. Make-up and costumes reflected the fierce competition between bands – the more exotic and dark, the better. The Goth movement was in full swing at this time and became another hallmark of the black metal look and sound. Images of death, suicide, and violence dominated the performance stage and album covers. “Corpse paint” – the distinctive black and white face paint used by many black metal bands – became the standard, inspired by such heavy metal bands as KISS and punk bands like the Misfits. (Baddeley)

Some bands fell under the influence of occultist Aleister Crowley, Anton La Vey – founder of the Church of Satan, – and the iconic imagery from The Lord of the Rings books. Using Satan to create a unique look, sound, and feel became a marketing tool for many bands trying to succeed in the music business. But other bands took Satanism to a far more serious level. (Baddeley)

In the 1980s, in Sweden, the black metal band Bathory began combining images from Norse mythology with neo-Nazi fascism, inventing the gruesome genre called “death metal.” This spelled the end of the group, but the fascination caught on, with other groups taking on the mantle. (Baddeley)

In Norway, an independent record label named Deathlike Silence was started by Oystein Aarseth, who nicknamed himself “Euronymous.” He claimed to be a true Satanist and owned the record shop, Helvete. In 1984, at the height of the first black metal wave, he formed the band, Mayhem, along with bass guitarist Jorn Stubberud (“Necrobutcher”) and drummer Kjetil Manheim. In 1988, Per Ohlin (“Dead”) joined the band as the lead vocalist, and Jan Axel Blomberg (“Hellhammer”) became the band’s drummer. (Baddeley)

Euronymous’ record store became a focal point for the second generation of black metal bands to flourish in Norway in the early 1990s. An elitist group of black metal bands formed the Black Metal Circle under the influence of Euronymous and his Satanist theology. His interpretation of the Bible’s story of the war between Heaven and Hell formed the basis of his Satanic beliefs. And he eagerly embraced Satanic ideas about evil, hate, and revenge. (Baddeley)

Other bands in this circle included Burzum, Emperor, Immortal, Enslaved, Arcturus, and Dark Throne. Dark Throne gradually fell apart as members became isolated, anti-social, and sociopathic to the point where they no longer got together to record any music. (Baddeley)

Kristian Vikernes was the leader of Burzum. He went by the stage name “Count Grishnack.” Later, he changed his Christian name to Varg, which is Norwegian for “wolf.” The band’s distinctive sound covered a wide range between sad and deeply emotional to dark, angry, and furious. Grishnack himself believed in the darkness versus light mythology embodied in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and embraced the violent, conquest-driven history of the Norwegian Vikings. It wasn’t long before the Black Metal Circle began to indulge in fantasies of race-based neo-Nazi fascism. (Baddeley)

The darkness that surrounded Mayhem made its presence felt when lead vocalist, Dead, committed suicide in April, 1991. He had been having fantasies about murder, for he said, “I started to imagine a heavy fog lit up by a full moon. This fog oozed up from that place, drifting woefully in silence to extinguish the lives of the local people and bring their souls to Lord Satan” (Rolling Stone). He died by slitting his wrists and throat and then shooting himself in the head with a shotgun (NME). He left a suicide note in which he expressed his alienation from the world and desire to live alone in the forest (Baddeley). He also wrote, “Excuse the blood” (NME).

Euronymous found the body, took photographs, and kept a piece of Dead’s skull, which he wore as a necklace (Baddeley; NME). He also scooped up part of Dead’s brains and, later, ate it in soup. Members of the Black Metal Circle called Dead a hero (Baddeley).

Dead’s suicide led to an international resurgence in black metal music. The Black Metal Circle designated “Norway as the Aryan homeland” (Baddeley), impugning other countries and other bands as inferior, and sparking a war that led to threats and harassment from all sides.

In June 1992, a stave church (medieval wooden church) was burned down in the Norwegian town of Fantoft. Several more churches were burned, and in January 1993, Grishnack was arrested for arson (Baddeley). Months later, on August 10, 1993, Euronymous died from 25 stab wounds to the face and chest. It wasn’t long before Grishnack was arrested for his murder. During the investigation, police found a notebook in Euronymous’ apartment detailing “a merit system whereby status [in the Black Metal Circle] was determined by the number of evil acts perpetrated [for Satan]” (Baddeley). Other members of the circle were arrested on charges of arson, rape, and other horrendous crimes (Baddeley).

Although these crimes brought negative publicity to the group, Mayhem still thrives “as the most unremittingly evil black metal band” (Baddeley), cashing in on the death of Euronymous.

In 2021, we can see the influence of death, darkness, and destruction on young people and their mentors in our schools and universities. While the social justice movement started out with good intentions, it has morphed into a negative force that destroys young people. They will never be able to survive in society except as hate-filled warriors. They will always be looking for trouble and getting themselves into trouble because their heads are filled with delusions of injustice wherever they go. They will never form healthy relationships with others because their hearts are filled with suspicion and hate.

By the same token, rock-and-roll started out as fun music that fostered dancing and socializing. Lyrics were simple and didn’t require too much thinking. Young people could interact without worrying about getting beat up, raped, or murdered. But rock also morphed into something negative and destructive. And our young people are the ones who suffer under its nihilistic influence.

Dawn Pisturino

September 28, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Baddeley, Gavin. Lucifer Rising. London: Plexus, 2006.

Grow, Kory. “Mayhem’s Long, Dark Road to Reviving a Black-Metal Classic.” Rolling Stone. 2017.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/Mayhems-long-dark-road-to-reviving-a-black-

metal-classic-129097/

Pattison, Louis. “Mayhem: Meet the Band with the Wildest Story Ever Told.” NME. 2016.

Mayhem: Meet The Band With The Wildest Story Ever Told

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Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf

Thanks to Balladeer’s Blog, I became aware of another Victorian Gothic horror penny dreadful, Wagner the Wehr-Wolf. It was written by George William MacArthur Reynolds (1814-1879) and serialized in Reynold’s Miscellany between November 6, 1846 and July 24, 1847. Later, it was published in novel form by Hurst & Company Publishers, New York. During his lifetime, G.M. Reynolds was considered the “Master of the Penny Dreadful” and as popular as Charles Dickens. Few people have heard of him, nowadays. Yet, his werewolf story was one of the first to be written in England.

EXCERPT:

WAGNER, THE WEHR-WOLF.

By GEORGE W. M. REYNOLDS.

NEW YORK
HURST & COMPANY
Publishers

PART I.

PROLOGUE.

It was the month of January, 1516.

The night was dark and tempestuous; the thunder growled around; the lightning flashed at short intervals: and the wind swept furiously along in sudden and fitful gusts.

The streams of the great Black Forest of Germany babbled in playful melody no more, but rushed on with deafening din, mingling their torrent roar with the wild creaking of the huge oaks, the rustling of the firs, the howling of the affrighted wolves, and the hollow voices of the storm.

The dense black clouds were driving restlessly athwart the sky; and when the vivid lightning gleamed forth with rapid and eccentric glare, it seemed as if the dark jaws of some hideous monster, floating high above, opened to vomit flame.

And as the abrupt but furious gusts of wind swept through the forest, they raised strange echoes—as if the impervious mazes of that mighty wood were the abode of hideous fiends and evil spirits, who responded in shrieks, moans, and lamentations to the fearful din of the tempest.

It was, indeed, an appalling night!

An old—old man sat in his cottage on the verge of the Black Forest.

He had numbered ninety years; his head was completely bald—his mouth was toothless—his long beard was white as snow, and his limbs were feeble and trembling.

He was alone in the world; his wife, his children, his grandchildren, all his relations, in fine, save one, had preceded him on that long, last voyage, from which no traveler returns.

And that one was a grand-daughter, a beauteous girl of sixteen, who had hitherto been his solace and his comfort, but who had suddenly disappeared—he knew not how—a few days previously  to the time when we discover him seated thus lonely in his poor cottage.

But perhaps she also was dead! An accident might have snatched her away from him, and sent her spirit to join those of her father and mother, her sisters and her brothers, whom a terrible pestilence—the Black Death—hurried to the tomb a few years before.

No: the old man could not believe that his darling granddaughter was no more—for he had sought her throughout the neighboring district of the Black Forest, and not a trace of her was to be seen. Had she fallen down a precipice, or perished by the ruthless murderer’s hand, he would have discovered her mangled corpse: had she become the prey of the ravenous wolves, certain signs of her fate would have doubtless somewhere appeared.

The sad—the chilling conviction therefore, went to the old man’s heart, that the only being left to solace him on earth, had deserted him; and his spirit was bowed down in despair.

Who now would prepare his food, while he tended his little flock? who was there to collect the dry branches in the forest, for the winter’s fuel, while the aged shepherd watched a few sheep that he possessed? who would now spin him warm clothing to protect his weak and trembling limbs?

“Oh! Agnes,” he murmured, in a tone indicative of a breaking heart, “why couldst thou have thus abandoned me? Didst thou quit the old man to follow some youthful lover, who will buoy thee up with bright hopes, and then deceive thee? O Agnes—my darling! hast thou left me to perish without a soul to close my eyes?”

It was painful how that ancient shepherd wept.

Suddenly a loud knock at the door of the cottage aroused him from his painful reverie; and he hastened, as fast as his trembling limbs would permit him, to answer the summons.

He opened the door; and a tall man, apparently about forty years of age, entered the humble dwelling. His light hair would have been magnificent indeed, were it not sorely neglected; his blue eyes were naturally fine and intelligent, but fearful now to meet, so wild and wandering were their glances: his form was tall and admirably symmetrical, but prematurely bowed by the weight of sorrow, and his attire was of costly material, but indicative of inattention even more than it was travel-soiled.

The old man closed the door, and courteously drew a stool near the fire for the stranger who had sought in his cottage a refuge against the fury of the storm.

He also placed food before him; but the stranger touched it not—horror and dismay appearing to have taken possession of his soul.

Suddenly the thunder which had hitherto growled at a distance, burst above the humble abode; and the wind swept by with so violent a gust, that it shook the little tenement to its foundation, and filled the neighboring forest with strange, unearthly noises.

 Then the countenance of the stranger expressed such ineffable horror, amounting to a fearful agony, that the old man was alarmed, and stretched out his hand to grasp a crucifix that hung over the chimney-piece; but his mysterious guest made a forbidding sign of so much earnestness mingled with such proud authority, that the aged shepherd sank back into his seat without touching the sacred symbol.

The roar of the thunder past—the shrieking, whistling, gushing wind became temporarily lulled into low moans and subdued lamentations, amid the mazes of the Black Forest; and the stranger grew more composed.

“Dost thou tremble at the storm?” inquired the old man.

“I am unhappy,” was the evasive and somewhat impatient reply. “Seek not to know more of me—beware how you question me. But you, old man, are not happy! The traces of care seem to mingle with the wrinkles of age upon your brow!”

The shepherd narrated, in brief and touching terms, the unaccountable disappearance of his much-beloved granddaughter Agnes.

The stranger listened abstractedly at first; but afterward he appeared to reflect profoundly for several minutes.

“Your lot is wretched, old man,” said he at length: “if you live a few years longer, that period must be passed in solitude and cheerlessness:—if you suddenly fall ill you must die the lingering death of famine, without a soul to place a morsel of food, or the cooling cup to your lips; and when you shall be no more, who will follow you to the grave? There are no habitations nigh; the nearest village is half-a-day’s journey distant; and ere the peasants of that hamlet, or some passing traveler, might discover that the inmate of this hut had breathed his last, the wolves from the forest would have entered and mangled your corpse.”

“Talk not thus!” cried the old man, with a visible shudder; then darting a half-terrified, half-curious glance at his guest, he said, “but who are you that speak in this awful strain—this warning voice?”

Again the thunder rolled, with crashing sound, above the cottage; and once more the wind swept by, laden, as it seemed, with the shrieks and groans of human beings in the agonies of death.

The stranger maintained a certain degree of composure only by means of a desperate effort, but he could not altogether subdue a wild flashing of the eyes and a ghastly change of the countenance—signs of a profoundly felt terror.

“Again I say, ask me not who I am!” he exclaimed, when the thunder and the gust had passed. “My soul recoils from the bare idea of pronouncing my own accursed name! But—unhappy as you see me—crushed, overwhelmed with deep affliction as you behold me—anxious, but unable to repent for the past as I am, and filled with appalling dread for the future as I now proclaim myself to be, still is my power far, far beyond that limit which hems mortal energies within so small a sphere. Speak, old man—wouldst thou change thy condition?  For to me—and to me alone of all human beings—belongs the means of giving thee new life—of bestowing upon thee the vigor of youth, of rendering that stooping form upright and strong, of restoring fire to those glazing eyes, and beauty to that wrinkled, sunken, withered countenance—of endowing thee, in a word, with a fresh tenure of existence and making that existence sweet by the aid of treasures so vast that no extravagance can dissipate them!”

A strong though indefinite dread assailed the old man as this astounding proffer was rapidly opened, in all its alluring details, to his mind;—and various images of terror presented themselves to his imagination;—but these feelings were almost immediately dominated by a wild and ardent hope, which became the more attractive and exciting in proportion as a rapid glance at his helpless, wretched, deserted condition led him to survey the contrast between what he then was, and what, if the stranger spoke truly, he might so soon become.

The stranger saw that he had made the desired impression; and he continued thus:

“Give but your assent, old man, and not only will I render thee young, handsome, and wealthy; but I will endow thy mind with an intelligence to match that proud position. Thou shalt go forth into the world to enjoy all those pleasures, those delights, and those luxuries, the names of which are even now scarcely known to thee!”

“And what is the price of this glorious boon?” asked the old man, trembling with mingled joy and terror through every limb.

“There are two conditions,” answered the stranger, in a low, mysterious tone. “The first is, that you become the companion of my wanderings for one year and a half from the present time, until the hour of sunset, on the 30th of July, 1517, when we must part forever, you to go whithersoever your inclinations may guide you, and I—— But of that, no matter!” he added, hastily, with a sudden motion as if of deep mental agony, and with wildly flashing eyes.

The old man shrank back in dismay from his mysterious guest: the thunder rolled again, the rude gust swept fiercely by, the dark forest rustled awfully, and the stranger’s torturing feelings were evidently prolonged by the voices of the storm.

A pause ensued; and the silence was at length broken by the old man, who said, in a hollow and tremulous tone, “To the first condition I would willingly accede. But the second?”

“That you prey upon the human race, whom I hate; because of all the world I alone am so deeply, so terribly accurst!” was the ominously fearful yet only dimly significant reply.

The old man shook his head, scarcely comprehending the words of his guest, and yet daring not to ask to be more enlightened.

“Listen!” said the stranger, in a hasty but impressive voice: “I require a companion, one who has no human ties, and who still ministers to my caprices,—who will devote himself wholly and solely to watch me in my dark hours, and endeavor to recall me  back to enjoyment and pleasure, who, when he shall be acquainted with my power, will devise new means in which to exercise it, for the purpose of conjuring up those scenes of enchantment and delight that may for a season win me away from thought. Such a companion do I need for a period of one year and a half; and you are, of all men, the best suited to my design. But the Spirit whom I must invoke to effect the promised change in thee, and by whose aid you can be given back to youth and comeliness, will demand some fearful sacrifice at your hands. And the nature of that sacrifice—the nature of the condition to be imposed—I can well divine!”

“Name the sacrifice—name the condition!” cried the old man, eagerly. “I am so miserable—so spirit-broken—so totally without hope in this world, that I greedily long to enter upon that new existence which you promised me! Say, then, what is the condition?”

“That you prey upon the human race, whom he hates as well as I,” answered the stranger.

“Again these awful words!” ejaculated the old man, casting trembling glances around him.

“Yes—again those words,” echoed the mysterious guest, looking with his fierce burning eyes into the glazed orbs of the aged shepherd. “And now learn their import!” he continued, in a solemn tone. “Knowest thou not that there is a belief in many parts of our native land that at particular seasons certain doomed men throw off the human shape and take that of ravenous wolves?”

“Oh, yes—yes—I have indeed heard of those strange legends in which the Wehr-Wolf is represented in such appalling colors!” exclaimed the old man, a terrible suspicion crossing his mind.

“’Tis said that at sunset on the last day of every month the mortal, to whom belongs the destiny of the Wehr-Wolf, must exchange his natural form for that of the savage animal; in which horrible shape he must remain until the moment when the morrow’s sun dawns upon the earth.”

“The legend that told thee this spoke truly,” said the stranger. “And now dost thou comprehend the condition which must be imposed upon thee?”

“I do—I do!” murmured the old man with a fearful shudder. “But he who accepts that condition makes a compact with the evil one, and thereby endangers his immortal soul!”

“Not so,” was the reply. “There is naught involved in this condition which—— But hesitate not,” added the stranger, hastily: “I have no time to waste in bandying words. Consider all I offer you: in another hour you shall be another man!”

“I accept the boon—and on the conditions stipulated!” exclaimed the shepherd.

“’Tis well, Wagner——”

“What! you know my name!” cried the old man. “And yet, meseems, I did not mention it to thee.”

“Canst thou not already perceive that I am no common mortal?” demanded the stranger, bitterly. “And who I am, and  whence I derive my power, all shall be revealed to thee so soon as the bond is formed that must link us for eighteen months together! In the meantime, await me here!”

And the mysterious stranger quitted the cottage abruptly, and plunged into the depths of the Black Forest.

One hour elapsed ere he returned—one mortal hour, during which Wagner sat bowed over his miserably scanty fire, dreaming of pleasure, youth, riches, and enjoyment; converting, in imagination, the myriad sparks which shone upon the extinguishing embers into piles of gold, and allowing his now uncurbed fancy to change the one single room of the wretched hovel into a splendid saloon, surrounded by resplendent mirrors and costly hangings, while the untasted fare for the stranger on the rude fir-table, became transformed, in his idea, into a magnificent banquet laid out, on a board glittering with plate, lustrous with innumerable lamps, and surrounded by an atmosphere fragrant with the most exquisite perfumes.

The return of the stranger awoke the old man from his charming dream, during which he had never once thought of the conditions whereby he was to purchase the complete realization of the vision.

“Oh! what a glorious reverie you have dissipated!” exclaimed Wagner. “Fulfill but one tenth part of that delightful dream——”

“I will fulfill it all!” interrupted the stranger: then, producing a small vial from the bosom of his doublet, he said, “Drink!”

The old man seized the bottle, and speedily drained it to the dregs.

He immediately fell back upon the seat, in a state of complete lethargy.

But it lasted not for many minutes; and when he awoke again, he experienced new and extraordinary sensations. His limbs were vigorous, his form was upright as an arrow; his eyes, for many years dim and failing, seemed gifted with the sight of an eagle, his head was warm with a natural covering; not a wrinkle remained upon his brow nor on his cheeks; and, as he smiled with mingled wonderment and delight, the parting lips revealed a set of brilliant teeth. And it seemed, too, as if by one magic touch the long fading tree of his intellect had suddenly burst into full foliage, and every cell of his brain was instantaneously stored with an amount of knowledge, the accumulation of which stunned him for an instant, and in the next appeared as familiar to him as if he had never been without it.

“Oh! great and powerful being, whomsoever thou art,” exclaimed Wagner, in the full, melodious voice of a young man of twenty-one, “how can I manifest to thee my deep, my boundless gratitude for this boon which thou hast conferred upon me!”

“By thinking no more of thy lost grand-child Agnes, but by preparing to follow me whither I shall now lead thee,” replied the stranger.

“Command me: I am ready to obey in all things,” cried Wagner. “But one word ere we set forth—who art thou, wondrous man?”

 “Henceforth I have no secrets from thee, Wagner,” was the answer, while the stranger’s eyes gleamed with unearthly luster; then, bending forward, he whispered a few words in the other’s ear.

Wagner started with a cold and fearful shudder as if at some appalling announcement; but he uttered not a word of reply—for his master beckoned him imperiously away from the humble cottage.

(To continue reading Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf, the book can be purchased on Amazon or downloaded for free at Project Gutenberg.)

Dawn Pisturino

September 21, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

3 Comments »

The Hollywood Blockbuster vs. Independent Niche Films

This poster and other Star Wars posters can be purchased at film/art gallery.

After abandoning the auteur film directors of the 1970s, Hollywood turned to independent filmmakers who were willing to follow “the blockbuster formula” (Lewis 387).  Auteur producers began relying on market research and special effects to produce high-grossing films that awed audiences and kept them clamoring for more.

In the 1980s, Hollywood reversed course and returned to its established roots: genre films.  The studios reaped big box-office profits from “the blockbuster, the so-called event film which provides audiences with a sensational experience independent . . . [of] plot and performance” (Lewis 359).  This trend was prompted by the huge success of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Both of these films followed classic formulaic plots, reinvented by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg for a modern market (Lewis 359).

One of the most successful genres in the 1980s-1990s was the action-adventure film.  Born out of the success of the James Bond movies that hit the theaters in the 1960s, action-adventure films are driven by a heroic protagonist, a murderous antagonist, heart-stopping action and speed, and a sensational climax.  Successful movies in this genre include auteur producer Joel Silver’s Lethal Weapon and Die Hard (Lewis 359-365).  They both reflect Silver’s particular style.

The heroes in action-adventure films are muscular, strong, independent, and rugged.  They are men who defy convention.  They are men willing to go to any length to overcome the bad guy(s) and win.  The hero hangs in there against all odds, finally discovering “what he is made of, what he is capable of” (Lewis 361).  These movies are often called the “male rampage film” (Lewis 360) because of the brutal, explicit, and law-bending use of deadly force.

At the same time, the hero forges a strong bond with his male cohort.  The two men are bonded by the danger and near-death experiences which they have experienced together.  It’s the kind of bond that excludes other people because nobody else can understand it unless they have been there themselves (Lewis 360-361).

The 1980s also saw the rise of independent auteur filmmakers not backed by the studios.  Unlike the big blockbusters, these films generally have grossed less than “$2 million, suggesting a small but loyal target audience” (Lewis 390).  They are regarded as “niche films, films produced by and for a specific and relatively narrow demographic” (Lewis 390).  LGBT films fall into this category.  In addition, niche films are disproportionately made by women and minorities.  By the end of the 1990s, most independents had been absorbed by the Hollywood studios (Lewis 390).

While violence can be explicit and widespread, as in many Coen brother movies, it never rises to the level of the action-adventure films.  Independent movies tend to move slower and focus on the wants, needs, and desires of real people (Lewis 390-391).  Controversial themes are often explored in independent movies, such as John Sayles’ movie about worker rights, Matewan (Lewis 393).  Only rarely does an independent film become a Hollywood hit.  An exception is Steven Soderbergh’s film, sex, lies, and videotape, released in 1989, which grossed over $25 million (Lewis 393).

If Hollywood is about making money, anybody who can consistently crank out high-grossing movies can become a prominent auteur director or producer.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 23, 2018

Copyright 2018-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

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How Technological Innovation and Competition Shaped Hollywood

Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Studios

Motion pictures developed during the Golden Age of American innovation, expansion, and wealth.  The motion picture industry was forced to keep evolving due to ever-increasing technological advances and fierce competition.

Advances in photographic techniques and equipment paved the way for motion pictures.  Thomas Edison invented the “first projected and screened moving pictures” (Lewis 3) in 1896.  This tallied with the general shift to industrial progress all across the country.  People began leaving the farms and moving to the cities.  Without this shift, the movie industry could not have survived (Lewis 3-4).

The first conglomerate in the motion picture industry was the Motion Picture Patents Company Trust, overseen by Thomas Edison in 1908 (Lewis 4).  Modeled on the Henry Ford system of assembly-line “standardization and efficiency” (Lewis 4), it controlled “production and distribution of American movies” (Lewis 4).  But the conglomerate failed.  Independent innovators—like Carl Laemmle— who had challenged MPPC’s monopolistic practices in court and won, eventually moved to California (Lewis 21-23).  By 1915, “80 percent of all the films made in the United States were produced in the Los Angeles area” (Lewis 23).

Laemmle introduced multi-reel motion pictures to the industry, which allowed longer and more complex movies to be produced (Lewis 21).  Characters could grow and change; complex stories and plots developed; and the process of organizing and delivering narratives refined (Barsam 68-69, 122-160). 

The studio system developed during this time, based on “standardized and professionalized policies and procedures” (Lewis 46) that satisfied Wall Street investors and the bottom line.  Exclusive contracts made with stars, directors, carpenters, and other key people, were an efficient way to increase profits (Lewis 46).

The development of sound technology helped studios make films that were culturally “more modern, more lifelike, and more central to the evolving American experience than their silent counterparts” (Lewis 92).  But this new technology demanded new equipment and production methods that required a large layout financially.

Western Electric produced the first successful sound system in 1924.  Named Vitaphone, the sound-on-disc technology was first adopted by Warner Bros. in 1925.  The brothers were counting on sound to bring their operation into the big league.  Other studios tried to purchase shares in Vitaphone, but Warner Bros. was more interested in licensing the technology to studios and theaters (Lewis 96-97).

The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson and released in 1927, was produced as a hybrid of silence and sound.  Its success (the film completed two runs) caused Warner Bros. stock to skyrocket “from $21 a share in 1925 to $132 a share in 1927” (Lewis 97).  In 1929, at the first Academy Award ceremony, Warner Bros. was specially honored “for producing The Jazz Singer, the pioneer outstanding talking picture, which has revolutionized the industry” (Lewis 98).

Fox introduced Movietone in 1927, a system that was more adaptable to on-location shooting (Lewis 98).  In 1928, Paramount, Loews, First National, and United Artists signed contracts for sound-on-film technology from Electrical Research Products, Inc. (Lewis 98).

After the Wall Street crash of 1929, many of the theaters which had taken out loans to convert to sound were bought up by the Hollywood studios, giving them even more control over exhibition, production, and distribution.  Studios became less competitive and worked together to protect the industry as a whole (Lewis 99).

The advancement of film color technology took much longer to complete.  Although several companies had developed color technology, it was not until 1916 and the creation of the Technicolor Corporation that a viable color system was developed.  In 1932, Technicolor process No. 4 (a three-color system) became the industry standard.  Technicolor Corporation exploited its success by requiring studios to rent their cameras, use only Technicolor camera operators and makeup, and send their films to Technicolor labs for processing.  In spite of its success, however, “only 1 percent” (Lewis 102) of films were produced in color as late as 1936.

The development of color television in the 1960s spurred movie studios to finally convert to color so that TV could be used “as a second-run venue for their films” (Lewis 102).  Computer technology has brought the movie industry even farther, allowing studios to digitally create characters or an entire movie (Barsam 111-114).

Competition and technological advances have shaped the development of the film industry.  These advances spurred competition and forced movie studios to adopt the new technologies and work together in cooperation to maximize profits.

Dawn Pisturino

December 13, 2017

Thomas Edison State University

Copyright 2017-2021

Works Cited

Barsam, Richard, and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies, 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2016.

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

                                                                                                                                         

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Be an Independent Thinker!

the-thinker

The Thinker by Rodin

In a world bombarded by information, where are the independent thinkers?

Where do the fresh, untarnished minds hang out?

Where does ORIGINALITY rear its beautiful head?

In a world deafened by conformity instead of individuality, the imaginative Creators of art, music, literature, and science are silenced under the dull roar of sameness, mediocrity, and

group think.

I will not be hampered by intimidation!

I will not be silenced by coercion!

I will not bow down to threats!

I will rise above the mundane crowd and be, above all,

AN INDEPENDENT THINKER!

Dawn Pisturino

February 7, 2017

Copyright 2017 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Art by Rebekah Joy Plett FOR SALE!

Rebekah is a fantastic artist and the artistic director for Underneath the Juniper Tree.

this literary life

This is your chance to buy the stunning, grotesquely beautiful, insanely unique art of Rebekah Joy Plett. Rebekah’s art has been featured in several galleries in which the price is generally out of most people’s price range. So here is your chance to buy several of her paintings at a discounted price (NOTE* prices do not include packaging and shipping).

Take a look at the art and contact me at brianne.ogden@gmail.com if you are interested in purchasing. *Some prices are negotiable so feel free to email me with any questions.

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