Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happy Birthday to Blog

At midnight tonight, Macabre Republic officially turns one.

Last August 1st, I launched this blog with a specific goal in mind: to publish at least one post (pertaining to the subject of American Gothic in literature and popular culture) every single day for the next year. I'm proud to report that I did maintain that routine for the past twelve months (in fact, yesterday I reached the 400-post plateau).

Going forward, Macabre Republic will keep its borders open to lovers of all-American Gothic, and will continue to run its familiar Features (as well as introduce some new types of posts).  But I want to inform the followers of this blog that henceforth I will be moving away from a post-per-day schedule (in order to devote more time to some other writing projects that I have in the works).  My intention, though, is to still publish new material here at least 3-4 times a week.

So keep on trekking back, all you Twisted Citizens, to the Land of the Red, Black, and Blue.  If you have any suggestions/recom-mendations for the blog in the year ahead, please don't hesitate to shoot me an email.

Okay, midnight fast approaches.  It's almost time to blow out that birthday candle--and to relish the darkness that ensues.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


This 2008 documentary directed by Donna Davies (available for Instant viewing on Netflix) is slickly produced, blackly humorous, and thoroughly entertaining.  It features interviews with special fx maestros Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero, authors Max Brooks, Wade Davis, and Brian Keene, and (best of all) legendary film director George Romero.  With the help of such commentators, Davies traces the history of the zombie in horror cinema (a slew of grue-some film clips are included) and ponders the monster's cultural significance.  Modern phenomena are also addressed, such as the rise of zombie walks, Brooks's Zombie Self-Defense Lecture tour, and even the work of a zombie portrait artist.  As fun as it is informative (e.g. Romero offers some wonderful anecdotes about the filming of Night of the Living Dead), Zombiemania is a must-see for every Undead-head wandering around the Macabre Republic.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Quicklist: The Six Best Zombie Novels I've Ever Read

In alphabetical order...

*Cell by Stephen King.  Frighteningly relevant, it taps into our modern phobias concerning technology and terrorism.  The opening section dramatizing the "zombie" outbreak in Boston is as good a hook as King has ever written.
*Green Eyes by Lucius Shepard.  A lushly-detailed Southern Gothic/quasi-S.F. masterpiece.  One of the first books to transform the zombie figure into a sympathetic protagonist.

*Ladies Night by Jack Ketchum.  Hard-core homage to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, in which beleaguered males square off against legions of infected females in New York City.  The action here is fast-paced, but the reader will be slow to forget the various scenes of bloody mayhem.

*The Damnation Game by Clive Barker.  Not strictly a zombie novel, but the passages employing the unwittingly undead Anthony Breer as the viewpoint character are absolutely amazing.

*The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell.  Cormac McCarthy's The Road meets AMC's The Walking Dead.  A supreme work of post-apocalyptic fiction, filled with unforgettable characters.

*The Rising by Brian Keene.  The book that ostensibly launched the zombie renaissance in pop culture.  Features a terrific--and truly terrifying--premise: fugitive demons inhabiting and reani-mating human and animal corpses all across the globe.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


[For the previous game of Hangmany, click here.]

Can you solve the following puzzle within 20 seconds, or are you going to choke?


" T  ___  ___  ___ '  ___  ___       ___  ___  M  I  ___  ___

T  ___      ___  ___  T      ___  ___  U ,

___  A  ___  ___   ___  A ."


HINT: cemetery teasing

Answer appears in the Comments section of this post.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Short Story Spotlight: "Twenty-Three Second Anomaly"

"Twenty-Three Second Anomaly" by Ray Wallace   (The Zombie Feed Volume 1)

To delve here into details of plot would surely spoil the reader's enjoyment of this story (and gradual discovery of what is actually transpiring).  I'll just say that "Twenty-Three Second Anomaly" could be envisioned as a Deleted Scene on the Day of the Dead
DVD.  In this short piece, author Ray Wallace creates a significant amount of suspense by ticking off the seconds on a stop watch (the numbers steadily creeping up to the "twenty-three" foreboded by the story title).  Such methodical progress is reinforced by the hideous image of a fly crawling across an open, unblinking eye.  The climax of the story packs all the wallop of a close-range head shot, as Wallace demonstrates that the shocks of zombie fiction involve more than graphic depictions of cannibalistic carnage.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Zombie Week Begins: Ranking the Romeros

It's Zombie Week here at Macabre Republic, and I'm going to kick things off with a post ranking the six films in director George Romero's ...the Dead series, from worst to best.

6.Survival of the Dead (2009).  Ridiculous melodrama 
concerning feuding Irish-American families on an island off the coast of Delaware.  Playing like a bad Western, this one could have been dubbed Gunfight at the O'Shea Corral.  The indisputable nadir of the series.

5.Dawn of the Dead (1978).  A much-too-long film whose single-note satire (of American consumerist greed) quickly grows old.  There are also some jarring bits of slapstick (pie-faced zombies!).  Most laughable of all, though, is the blue-pancake makeup on the undead extras.

4.Land of the Dead (2005).  Unfortunately, Land is riddled with three major fault lines: the attempt to depict zombies as a sympa-thetic proletariat; the equipping of the undead with handheld weapons (a decision that distracts from the distinct threat posed by zombies--their sheer voraciousness); and the casting of John Leguizamo (whose putative acting could ruin any movie) as one of the leads.

3.Day of the Dead (1985).  All that bickering between the soldiers and scientists grows wearisome, but the film has a great premise (research experiments are being conducted on captured zombies at an underground base) and some brilliantly graphic special effects.  The shift to a sunny Florida setting also makes for a nice change from the first two, Pennsylvania-based entries in the series.

2.Diary of the Dead (2007).  Surprisingly effective, this one modernizes the living-dead film by adopting the camcorder viewpoint/pseudo-documentary format so prevalent in 21st Century horror cinema.  It also reboots Romero's series by setting its action at the time when the zombie outbreak has just begun.  The bits involving the student film (featuring a shambling mummy) are fiendishly clever.

1.Night of the Living Dead (1968).  More than four decades later, the original remains the strongest film in the series.  A groundbreaking (not just in graveyards) work whose apocalyptic scenario and ghoulish violence are rendered even more haunting in stark black-and-white.  The claustrophobic, house-under-siege setting has furnished the template for countless future horror flicks.  Night's dark and bitterly ironic final scene constitutes one of the most memorable endings in the history of the genre.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Something There Is"

Here's a short story I wrote a few years back--a continuation ("sequel" seems too audacious a word) of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado."  "Something There Is" was podcast in October 2009 over at Pseudopod.  B.J. Harrison does a fantastic job of reading/performing the piece; I encourage you to click the link to the site, launch the pop-up player, and then navigate back here to Macabre Republic and view the complete text of the story as you listen.  (Also, if you're interested in checking out some of my other Poe-related fiction, you can purchase my ebook "Midnights Drearier" [an American Gothic riff on "The Raven"] from Damnation Books, and read "Aftershock Treatment" [a modern variant on Poe's Blackwood's-style "tales of sensation"] for free online at Short-Story.Me!.)

Something There Is

By Joe Nazare

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
--Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

Ever downward he descends, winding and winding into the hollowed depths. The corkscrewing staircase terminates at last, spills him into the long tunnel. Torchless, he finds seeming antidote to the dark in the nitre-rife walls. Their encrustation casts a sallow glow throughout the catacombs, illuming the skeletal pilings lining both sides of the pathway. Oblivious, though, to his anonymous ancestors beside him, he presses forward; his pace and his pulse quicken in tandem as he glides along the damp ground, penetrates vault after vault. Until, abruptly, he’s halted. The wall looms directly before him, blocking off the crypt’s darkest heart. Eleven tiers of amateur masonry, holding steadfast against time’s weathering tides. Except—yes, there toward the center, a missing stone has left a blackened gap in the edifice. He stands staring at it for an indeterminate period, then belatedly sees his own hand reaching toward the breach. Panicked, he tries to will stasis into the mutinous appendage, which is arrested only by the sudden concussion. As if shelled from its far side, the wall explodes toward him, enveloping him in churning shadow. He thrashes like a drunken seaman in a maelstrom as the darkness floods his mouth, his nostrils, even the corners of his clenched eyes. All the while the engulfing torrent sounds a single word inside his head, filling it with the same five siren syllables.



Montresor lurched upright, sloughing the sodden bedclothes. He gasped for breath and tried to blink himself oriented. Still, he managed a falsetto shriek upon spotting the wizened jester at his bedside reaching toward him.

“Easy, old friend.” The figure slurred the words slightly while pressing an assuring hand to Montresor’s shoulder.

Montresor’s shock-addled brain needed a few moments to identify the signore keeping such surprising vigil. “Luchesi?” he spoke at last.

“Here, lie back.” Luchesi guided Montresor back down to the nest of pillows. “Just came to check on you,” he explained. “When I met one of your attendants in the streets tonight, he said you’ve been ill with fever.”

That last word jogged scattered sickbed memories. “Afraid I haven’t been myself lately,” Montresor admitted, then paused to take in Luchesi’s parti-striped dress. “Nor do I seem to be the only one. What are you doing going around in such crazy costume?”

The bells on Luchesi’s conical cap jingled as he chuckled. “So wrapped in your own delirium, eh, that you’ve missed the start of carnival?”

“Ahh, the supreme madness,” Montresor replied, suddenly understanding. “I hadn’t realized its season had come already.” He glanced over towards the window of his bedchamber. Though day had dawned, tireless revelers could still be heard carrying on in the streets below. Montresor could easily imagine Luchesi numbered amongst the celebrants.

As if reading Montresor’s thoughts, Luchesi reached down toward his feet; his hand came back proffering a long-necked bottle.
“Here,” he spoke in a conspiratorial whisper, after shooting a look towards the palazzo’s attendant-less hallway. “Medoc—what I just happen to have handy with me, you understand. But it should serve as a worthy substitute.”


“In your sleep, just now: you were calling out for Amontillado.”

Vestiges of his nightmare shrouded Montresor’s thoughts. Dry-mouthed, he attempted to swallow nonetheless. “You must have misheard me, I’m sure. Please—no.” Frowning, Montresor brushed aside the bottle held under his nose. Luchesi simply shrugged and helped himself to a drink.

Montresor did not regret the curtness of his refusal. His companion should have more sense than to make such offer. While ignorant of the reason why, Luchesi knew full well that Montresor had lost the taste for such spirits five decades ago. In fact, the proud connoisseur had been the main buyer when Montresor promptly sold off all the casks and puncheons from his family vaults.

Picturing those catacombs now drew Montresor back again to his troubled night’s sleep—and to the more vexing question of the cause of his recent unrest. Montresor darted his gaze across the room to his escritoire, a finely crafted piece he’d imported from Paris many years earlier. There, in its locked drawer, lay the days-old pages upon which he’d finally recorded his vengeance fifty years post facto. Presently Montresor had to wonder if his quill and not his trowel had perpetrated the true crime. He’d been plagued by ill health and worse dreams seemingly ever since inking those bold words, as if the actual scripting of the tale had summoned guilt’s long-dormant demons from the pit of his mind.

Montresor swung his view back over to his visitor. “Tell me…
have you ever wondered what really happened to our old acquaintance?” As Luchesi’s heavily-lidded eyes narrowed further in puzzlement, Montresor elaborated: “Who went missing, and whose body never turned up…?” For some reason, he hesitated to voice the name outright.

“That fool? Surely his bones litter the riverbed to this day.” Luchesi waved a dismissive hand as he alluded to the once-popular theory—that the missing nobleman had stumbled and drowned during carnival. “Not that I ever cared enough myself to go dredging. Too busy burying my tool in his widow, eh? Seems my tastes were a match for Fortunato’s after all!”

Luchesi gave a hearty laugh, his eyes momentarily twinkling with what Montresor assumed was the memory of past debauchery. Montresor himself could only force a weak smile for his friend.

The septuagenarian jester rambled on: “No surprise if Fortunato’s footing betrayed him. We both know he already had a tongue made too slippery by drink.” Luchesi, though, apparently was not too tipsy to forget tact; he came no closer than that to referencing Fortunato’s notorious slights of the Montresor family. “But what makes you waste thought now on that long-dead wretch?”

(The Amontillado!)

The unspoken words sloshed in Montresor’s ear, ravaging his equilibrium. He tried to shake his head clear of the echo. “I…I fear my own death,” he muttered at last.

“What? Nonsense. S’only a touch of fever.” Luchesi gave a sniff toward the bed, wrinkled his nose in mock disgust. “And you seem to have done a fine job of sweating it all out.”

“Um, no,” Montresor stammered, “what I mean is—”

“Enough of this,” Luchesi cut him off, as if such talk were an affront to the season. “You are fine. You just need to get up and ambulate.” Luchesi himself rose from his bedside seat, patted Montresor’s arm. “Why don’t I call on you again tonight, and we’ll go out to celebrate carnival together.”

“No, I couldn’t—”

Luchesi ignored the plea as he headed toward the doorway. “If you won’t join me in drink, then at the least we can feast together. We’ll find some young lovelies to ogle, and even more drunken ones to fondle.” He paused, and turned back sporting an impish grin. “And should all that excitement somehow prove the death of a couple of old letches like us, why, we’ll just caper our way right down to merry hell. Ha! ’Til later, old friend.” Luchesi lifted the strangled wine bottle in salute, and exited.

Despite his own weariness, Montresor could not help but be buoyed by Luchesi’s spirited nature. Perhaps the man was right. It was carnival, after all, a time for shucking off the burden of yesterdays and living for the here and now. Montresor would do well to stop dwelling on the long-buried past, to get out of this bed and to get life flowing back into his limbs. Resolved to do just that, he moved to untangle himself from the bedclothes. And then froze.

For the love of God.

Looking down upon the backs of his suddenly shaking hands, Montresor spotted the scab-less abrasions on his knuckles and the crescents of grime caked under the ragged edges of his fingernails.


Montresor had worked his way deep into the labyrinthine cavern of leering skulls and pointing limbs before he even realized that he stood barefoot and barely dressed. No matter—if his fears were confirmed, then such ill-clad ambling was nothing new for him.

He pressed on, arm extended. The catacombs’ nitrous atmosphere dulled his flambeau’s luminescence to an eerie glow. Even pitch blackness might not have prevented his passage, though; the very muscles of his legs seemed to know the twisting route by rote.

The steadily sloping descent carried him through a series of low arches until finally he found himself in the sought-after crypt. Tremors beset Montresor’s hands the moment he entered, complicating his attempt to set his torch in the sconce alongside the threshold. For in that instant of arrival, he’d had plenty of time to glean that the rampart of bones he’d erected long ago at the far end of the chamber had since been tossed aside.

Reluctantly, Montresor traversed the crypt, sensing for the first time the chilling dampness of his family vaults. The lump he bore in his throat seemed to cut off his breath as he approached the exposed rear wall. He could only snort his dismay upon closing in and spotting the state of the mason-work.

The wall hardly stood inviolate. Fist-sized gaps pocked its surface, pitch-black portals onto its inner secrets. Haphazard stones bulged like herniated organs on the formerly flat plane. Surely something more intemperate than time had been beating against this barrier.

Montresor dropped his gaze to his bruised and dirtied fingers, then lifted it back to the faltering wall. How much of this was his own—if only somnambulistic—handiwork? No wonder he’d been bedridden in recent days, if this was where he’d been spending his nights.

Unease enfolded him like a roquelaire as Montresor tried to fathom what exactly had been drawing him down in such nocturnal journey. Standing there now, he was certain of only one thing: in its current decadence, the wall formed an abomination. It was like some rough, itching scab that needed to be picked, and Montresor doubted he would know a moment’s peace until he did so.

As the ensconced torch flickered behind him, wispy shadows slithered across the wall in front of him. For a moment, he imagined that the shadows were being sucked into the wall, the various apertures forming a host of greedy mouths. The impression unnerved him, and spurred him into action. With a shrill scream he launched himself, pounding and clawing at the wall. Amidst his frenzy, he could feel his fingernails bending sharply backwards. They did not snap off, though, because the wall proved surprisingly pliable. It was as if the unremittingly dank atmosphere of the catacombs had somehow transmuted stone and mortar into a sludgy mush. Finding purchase in the existing holes, Montresor began to tear away sizeable clumps of the formation. He was too exhilarated over finally attacking it in full, wakeful force to even marvel at the cataclysmic results. Before he even realized it, the wall was no more, its materials strewn across the cold floor of the crypt.

Montresor surveyed the damage, his lips curling into appreciative smile even as his gaunt chest heaved. He felt utterly relieved, rid at last of some infernal weight that had been pressing down on him. For several glorious moments he drank in the spectacle of the wall’s ruination, before turning his attention to what he’d uncovered.

The niche had been created by the pair of colossal supports that stretched up the back wall of solid granite and pressed up against the vaulted ceiling. The resultant recess measured a mere four feet deep, three feet wide, and six or seven high. These dimensions framed the macabre tableau within, the slouching figure of Fortunato.

Or at least the skeleton thereof, the bones dun-colored and dusted with ancient decay. The chain that had bound the erstwhile jester like some parody of Prometheus now hung loose as a sash across the fleshless chest and ribcage. Fifty intervening years had meanwhile bleached the color from his motley dress, had eroded it to a tattered rag. The fool’s-capped skull had tilted forward, as if Fortunato stared continually dumbfounded down at his own predicament.

Montresor stood eyeing his mortified nemesis. “Free at last,” he pronounced in creaking voice.

Fortunato remained speechless, which only served to loosen Montresor’s own tongue. “What? This is what you wanted, no? Why then do you wait? Perhaps a helping hand…” Montresor seized Fortunato’s slender neck, snatching him forward from the niche.

“Go then!” he shrieked. “Off to whatever hell or hellraising beckons you!”

But instantly upon disturbance, the skeleton lost its tenuous structure, its outline of former manhood. Fortunato deconstructed into a bony jumble upon the crypt floor, and Montresor found himself holding only a hollow skull. He ventured no poor-Yorick soliloquies, quickly tossing the thing like a hot coal.

Bells jingled as the head rolled. And then kept on ringing even after the skull bounced to a halt.

Now Montresor was the one dumbfounded. With his own eyes he could see the discarded cap lying motionless, yet somehow the bells persisted. If anything, they increased in pitch. Their metallic rattle reverberated off the walls, seemed to amplify every last trickle of moisture from the riverbed above the catacombs. The din grew toothache sharp, and Montresor spun around trying to pinpoint its source. No such luck—the impossible noise rang on all sides of him at once. Dizzily he clapped his hands to his ears—then soon reversed such gesture as the warble trapped inside his head amplified. When he staggered off whimpering, the merciless jingling trailed him through the crypt.


Bells, bells, bells—they chimed a paean to torment as Montresor surfaced into his palazzo. His own maddened cries could do nothing to drown them out. The tintinnabulation continued even as he chased off his handful of confusedly fawning attendants. When he tried to bury his head under his pillows, a tinkling ghost cap seemed to slide right under with him. The cacophony dogged him for the remainder of the day, scrambling all thought until eventually driving him to his ultimate determination. Only when he moved to execute the plan did the enveloping jangle seem to slacken. Did not stop altogether—just softened, as if in encouragement of his chosen course.

So now, having gathered and transported the fresh materials, Montresor found himself standing once more before the exposed niche in the deepest reaches of the catacombs. It felt like decades rather than hours since his ordeal had begun. He paused in momentary contemplation, but then the bells rang in piercing knell and prodded him into action.

The long-lying trowel that had sealed Fortunato’s fate now wore a coat of rust, but the tool proved trusty enough to spread the fresh mortar. Montresor fought off a devastating sense of déjà vu as he set to the task of laying the tiers of building stone. Really though, the experience differed this time around. Proved more arduous—and not just because he was fifty years the worse for wear. He fought for elbow room within the cramped workspace, struggled to lift and maneuver the strategically-piled pieces into place. Then there was the inevitable loss of light to contend with, leaving him to proceed practically blindly. Still, he plastered, undeterred, even as the foul air choked phlegm-laced coughs from him.

All things considered, he was doing a damned fine job of walling himself in.

The wall had been raised to ten tiers, with room for one more, when Montresor suddenly realized what he’d achieved. Blessed silence. He tossed aside the trowel in exultation, relished the serenity he had banked on.

Languor set in almost instantly. Montresor grew cognizant of the fatigue saturating his body, as the cessation of the bells meanwhile worked on him like some mellifluous lullaby. Unable and unwilling to resist, he sank down within the enclosure and drifted off into heavy, dreamless slumber.

He woke to darkness, the flambeau on the far side of the wall having long since guttered out. So black were his surroundings that the resurrected wall almost seemed nonexistent. Tentatively he stretched his fingers in verifying touch, and brushed the frigid stone. Feeling the barrier in front of him somehow heightened his sense of the pair of supports flanking him and of the granite wall at his back. Hugging his knees, he imagined these barriers slowly closing inward and compressing the dark into greater density.

But even if his eyesight wouldn’t, his mind gradually adjusted to the encompassing opacity. He managed to relax, settling back and counting his blessings. After all, he’d succeeded in walling out the harrying clamor. And despite his recent illness and current environs, he didn’t feel the faintest hint of a cough scratching at his throat. Yes, this was suitable sanctuary indeed, the privacy more important than any privation. Montresor took solace in the fact that whatever time remained to him—be it measured in minutes or days—would be spent with him resting in peace.

No sooner did the thought cross him mind than the tremors started. An unearthly quaking whose epicenter lay deep within him. When Montresor tried to voice his fright over the abrupt quivering, he discovered that his tongue and throat had turned bone-dry. His convulsion was outstripped by a singular compulsion, but strangely, water did not represent the quenching liquid desired. Montresor’s spirits drained into the abyss of his chest as he sensed a delirium other than fever bedeviling him.

No! What more could be asked of him? Surely he had mended the rift, leveling the wall and then rebuilding it with himself inside. Yet as he was now forced to recall what had once lured Fortunato down to this site—

(The Amontillado! Yes, the Amontillado!)

—Montresor realized that the issue at stake had never been atonement. It had been appeasement. The denied draught from the fancied cask, Fortunato’s dying wish devolving into eternal want. Thereafter a most carnivalesque curse must have riddled this tomb, the overwhelming desire for drink filling the unhallowed space like some wretched effluvium.

Montresor’s own burgeoning craving for the absent Amontillado grew incrementally unbearable. His mouth felt as if it raged with stinging fire-ants that only the liquor could douse. As hoary memories of bygone imbibing plagued him, his very being seemed to curl in awful withdrawal.

From his knees, Montresor tried to beat an escape through the enclosing wall. The mortar had long since dried, though, clutching the stones in impervious grip. Heedless of any pain as his knuckles were driven back into his fists, Montresor indulged his festering hatred for his own handiwork.

He continued, screeching, until suddenly he froze mid-whale. Dear God. Was there something—

He wanted—so desperately he wanted—to believe that his frenzied movements had merely jostled the stapled chain hanging on the wall behind him. But what he truly feared to have heard, nearby on the opposite side of the wall that fenced him in, was derisive laughter intermingled with tinkling bells.

This latest affront trumped the thousand other injuries Montresor had suffered in his lifetime. The half-century legacy of his masonry fell over him like a pall as he belatedly grasped what a wall such as this was bound to create. Anything but separation.

He felts shards of stone or perhaps even bone biting into his bare heels as he stretched himself upright. Breathless, he flattened himself up against the wall that rose to just below eye-level. He pressed his gaze into the crypt, in dreadful search.

For a neighbor, waiting, in the darkness beyond.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Poe Poster

This poster just debuted at Comic-Con out in San Diego, so it couldn't have been included in the Top 20 Countdown that ran here at Macabre Republic a few months back.  But it definitely deserves an honorable mention.  I love the black, white, and red color scheme, the bloody scrawl of a film title, and that Rorschach-like splatter across the top.  Needless to say, I can't wait until The Raven hits theaters next March.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Today I'd just like to share an anecdote about life echoing macabre art.  When I first started dating my girlfriend back in high school (yeah, I'm talking Way Back), I quickly grew enamored with her smile.  She had such an amazing set of teeth: tiny, pearly white, perfectly aligned.  I joked with her that my fascination reminded me of a short story I had recently read for my English class--a ghoulish Edgar Allan Poe tale in which a disturbed narrator fixates monomaniacally on his cousin/fiance's dental attributes.  I never actually mentioned the title of the story, though, and didn't think much more about it--until the first time I drove my girlfriend home from school.  That's when I found out (and was freaked out by the discovery) that the street she lived on bore the same name as Poe's toothy title character:


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Poe Openings

Chief among Edgar Allan Poe's talents as a writer is his ability to seize hold of the reader's attention right from the start of a piece.  The openings lines of Poe's stories instantly establish a Gothic atmosphere, or the mental instability of the narrator; they create curiosity by hinting at extraordinary events to be related.  Here's a sampling (no, I won't say "Poe-pourri") of some of the author's best beginnings:

We had now reached the summit of the loftiest crag.  For some minutes the old man seemed too much exhausted to speak.

"Not long ago," said he at length, "and I could have guided you on this route as well as the youngest of my sons; but, about three years past, there happened to me an event such as never happened before to mortal man--or at least such as no man ever survived to tell of--and the six hours of deadly terror which I then endured have broken me up body and soul.  You suppose me a very old man--but I am not.  It took less than a single day to change these hairs from a jetty black to white, to weaken my limbs, and to unstring my nerves, so that I tremble at the least exertion, and am frightened at a shadow.  Do you know I can scarcely look over this cliff without getting giddy?"

--"A Descent into the Maelstrom"

Of course I shall not pretend to consider it any matter for wonder, that the extraordinary case of M. Valdemar has excited discussion.  It would have been a miracle had it not--especially under the circumstances.  Through the desire of all parties concerned, to keep the affair from the public, at least for the present, or until we had further opportunities for investigation--through our endeavors to effect this--a garbled or exaggerated account made its way into society, and became the source of many unpleasant misrepre-sentations; and, very naturally, of a great deal of disbelief.

It is now rendered necessary that I give the facts--as far as I comprehend them myself.

--"The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar"

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.  I know not how it was--but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.

--"The Fall of the House of Usher"

True!--nervous--very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?  The disease had sharpened my senses--not destroyed--not dulled them.  Above all was the sense of hearing acute.  I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth.  I heard many things in hell.  How, then, am I mad?  Hearken! and observe how healthily--how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

--"The Tell-Tale Heart"

For the most wild yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief.  Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence.
Yet, mad I am not--and very surely I do not dream.  But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburden my soul.

--"The Black Cat"

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.  You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat.  At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled--but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk.  I must not only punish, but punish with impunity.  A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser.  It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

--"The Cask of Amontillado"

The chateau into which my valet had ventured to make forcible entrance, rather than permit me, in my desperately wounded condition, to pass a night in the open air, was one of those piles of commingled gloom and grandeur which have so long frowned among the Appennines, not less in fact than in the fancy of Mrs. Radcliffe.  To all appearance it had been temporarily and very lately abandoned.

--"The Oval Portrait"

The "Red Death" had long devastated the country.  No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous.  Blood was its Avatar and its seal--the redness and horror of blood.

--"The Masque of the Red Death"

Ye who read are still among the living; but I who write shall have long since gone my way into the region of shadows.  For indeed strange things shall happen, and secret things be known, and many centuries shall pass away, ere these memorials be seen of men.  And, when seen, there will be some to disbelieve, and some to doubt, and yet a few who will find much to ponder in the characters here graven with a stylus of iron.

--"Shadow: A Parable"

Let me call myself, for the present, William Wilson.  The fair page lying before me need not be sullied with my real appellation.  This has been already too much an object for the scorn--for the horror--for the detestation of my race.  To the uttermost regions of the globe have not the indignant winds bruited its unparalleled infamy?  Oh, outcast of all outcasts most abandoned!--to the earth art thou not for ever dead? to its honors, to its flowers, to its golden aspirations?--and a cloud, dense, dismal, and limitless, does it not hang eternally between thy hopes and heaven?

--"William Wilson"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On the Road with Silver John: "The Spring"

(For previous ballads about the balladeer, click the "On the Road with Silver John" label under Features in the right sidebar.)

"The Spring"

A miraculous mountain spring heals the ills
Of all those who from its waters take draft.
Now a fetching witch seeks to seize control of it
By drawing on the dark powers of her craft.

Yet Zeb's loathe to sell his land, and like John,
Wants nothing to do with the wanton Craye.
Finally tiring of the girl's dirty dealing,
John moves to wash her clean away.

Manly Wade Wellman's short story "The Spring" can be found in Owls Hoot in the Daytime & Other Omens.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Most Gothic Place Names in the United States--Rhode Island

For previous entries, click the "Most Gothic Place Names" label under Features in the right sidebar.

Unsurprisingly, some tremendous appellations crop up in Lovecraft Country, such as Chopmist (a.k.a. Arterial Spray), Dyerville (sounds like a town in terrible trouble), Nooseneck (suburb of Stillmanville?), Purgatory (everyone's on the waiting list to get out), Lonsdale (Chaney's kind of place), Grayville (everlastingly overcast), and Black Plain (stark darkness, as far as the eye can see). Nevertheless, all these names are overshadowed by...

Locustville.  No seventeen-year breathers here; this place is perennially plagued.  Or imagine a town where grasshoppers are on the menu at every restaurant, as an ostensible appetizer.  Then again, Locustville could simply take its name from the locals' fondness for a certain Nathanael West novel (and its angry-mob-scene climax in particular).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dark Passages: Songs for the Missing

Some books are so good, they hurt.  The prose is so masterful, it makes a fellow writer despair of ever reaching such skill level.  Or the characters are so well drawn, the emotional and psychological realism immerses the reader in the drama, makes him/her share the fictional figures' pain.  Stewart O'Nan's novel Songs for the Missing qualifies on both fronts.  The book (one of the most moving I have ever read) traces the heartache and angst experienced by the family and friends of missing teenager Kim Larson.  Consider the following passage, which follows a trajectory from the quotidian (as Kim's younger sister Lindsey prepares for bed) to the macabre (as Lindsey can't help but imagine a terrible fate for Kim):

[...] Just like at school, at camp they moved in different circles, but in such a limited, informal setting, Kim's popularity swamped [Lindsey].  She was Little Larsen, and after the first morning competition, no team captain made the mistake of choosing her just for her name.  The flip side was that being Kim's sister protected her from the nastier pranks, most of which involved bug spray or wiping bodily fluids on the victim's pillowcase.  It was always the problem: without Kim she would be free to be her own person, but she would also be picked on or ignored because that person was weak.
In bed, with the light out, she resolved to be strong tomorrow, as if she could pay her back that way.  "If it was you," her father had said, "do you think Kim would just be sitting in her room?"  From now on she would do whatever she had to, whatever she could.  For once, Lindsey would save her.
Outside, a car splashed by.  Cooper [the family dog] twitched and whimpered, running in a dream, then subsided.  She held her breath, straining to make out the faintest noise from her parents' room.  There was only the constant, rhythmless drumming overhead.  She'd thought the rain would help her sleep.  Now she was aware of it falling on the backyard and the woods, on the fields and farms and creeks that fed the river.  She imagined the water in the gorge rising slowly in total blackness, a smudge of a pale body drifting downstream, caught in the rocks.  On one rubbery hand would be her grandmother's cameo ring.  She opened her eyes, rolled on her side and squeezed them shut again.  A minute later she sighed loudly and rolled the other way.  She could see Kim naked and lying in the mud, her dark hair tangled like seaweed, part of her face neatly buried like a rock uncovered by the tide.  She smacked her pillow flat, then flipped it.  The rain pattered, maddening.  Stop it, she thought.  Just stop.  (73)

Work Cited

O'Nan, Stewart.  Songs for the Missing.  New York, Penguin Books, 2008.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Musings on The Killing

Reading Megan Abbott's The End of Everything this past week put me in mind of the AMC series The Killing (whose inaugural season concluded last month).  Here are some random thoughts about the crime drama (to read my earlier review of the show, click here):

Yes, the show has a dynamite narrative hook (the mystery surrounding the murder of a teenage girl), but perhaps the true secret of its success is its characters--they engage us with their emotional realism, intrigue us with their individual complexity.  In fact, one of the strongest episodes of the season put the homicide investigation on the back burner to focus on the characters of (and relationship between) Linden and Holder as the former frantically searches for her missing son Jack.

Paradoxically, one of the show's strengths also proves to be a shortcoming.  Week after week, The Killing presents some terrific plot twists, as (in Chandleresque terms) the wavering finger of suspicion points towards another character as the killer; that figure is then exonerated just when he/she had been looking the guiltiest (e.g. Rosie Larsen's teacher Mr. Ahmed).  The problem is, such plot machinations grow less effective with each subsequent use, and when the next prime suspect emerges, the audience can't help but think this will prove another red herring.  The logistics of an ongoing series also come into play here, because it seems unlikely that the mystery of Rosie's murder will be solved at a point with several more episodes still left in the season (or with a whole second season looming, once AMC's renewal of The Killing was announced).

Speaking of the murderer...after watching the first season, I have two main suspects.  First is Gwen, Darren Richmond's campaign advisor and paramour (who maybe murdered Rosie out of jealousy).  Second is Det. Linden's fiance Rick, who flew under the radar for most of the first season after relocating to California (Callum Keith Rennie also just has the kind of face as an actor that suggests sleaziness).

One last thought: is it merely coincidence that the Larsens share the surname of the grieving family in Stewart O'Nan's similarly-themed novel Songs for the Missing (a book I'll address further in tomorrow's post)?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review: The End of Everything

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott (Reagan Arthur Books, 2011)

In her fifth novel, Abbott (Queenpin, Bury Me Deep) moves beyond the genre of noir crime, but that doesn't mean the subject matter isn't dark.  The specters of abduction, molestation, and murder loom over The End of Everything, which focuses on the baffling disappearance of 13-year-old Evie Verver.  But the novel's narrator, Evie's closest friend Lizzie, isn't capable of just sitting back and letting the police do their work.  Desperate to learn what has happened to Evie--and to restore her to her devastated family--Lizzie actively involves herself in the investigation.  In the course of her surreptitious sleuthing, Lizzie discovers some startling truths about her best friend, the Verver family next door, and the small town where they all reside.

Abbott taps the American Gothic vein here, probing the dark underbelly of 1980's Midwestern suburbia (the word "secret" buzzes through the entire narrative).  What might have been a magical summer--the last one before Lizzie and Evie would move on to high school--is instead overshadowed by heartache and horror.  Even worse, Lizzie finds her past childhood experiences being tarnished, as she's forced to consider that life never really was as innocent and idyllic as she perceived it to be:

These are all the good things, and there were such good things.  But then there were the other things, and they seemed to come later, but what if they didn't?  What if everything was there all along, creeping soundlessly from corner to corner, shuddering fast from Evie's nighttime whispers, from the dark hollows of that sunny-shingled house, and I didn't hear it? Didn't see it? 
Lizzie employs an appropriately Gothic rhetoric in her narrative, speaking of "ghosts," "ghouls," and "creeping monsters," "haunted spots" and "unimaginable horrors."  The image of imploding/ demolished domiciles--a la Poe's House of Usher--also recurs throughout.  Poe is indeed an interesting touchstone, since Lizzie aligns with the tradition of the unreliable narrator (her motivations are complicated by her serious teenage crush on Evie's father, and her powers of recollection hardly prove infallible).  The Gothic motif of the double, which Poe helped popularize in American literature, likewise comes into play here (by novel's end, even the song "Me and and My Shadow" from Lizzie and Evie's earlier tap-dance recitals achieves ominous resonance).

Inevitably, comparisons will be drawn to such works as The Lovely Bones and The Virgin Suicides (whose author Jeffrey Eugenides, like Abbott, grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan).  But The End of Everything also seems to echo novels like Dandelion Wine (with Ray Bradbury's Green Town being suggestively rechristened "Green Hollow"), The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum's dark variant on a coming-of-age tale), and Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov's classic novel of tragic love).  Perhaps the most significant debt, though, is to the literary mysteries of Henry James (surely it's no coincidence that the Ververs have the same surname as the main characters in The Golden Bowl) and William Faulkner (Lizzie's imagination of a climactic conversation between Dusty Verver and her sister Evie hearkens back to a central scene in Absalom, Absalom!)--novels where the emphasis is less on "whodunit" than who knew what, and how.

All this allusiveness notwithstanding, the book is distinctively Abbott's.  Her stylistic hallmarks are in evidence once again: the ability to build scenes replete with sensuous detail, and to craft plots that feature stunning twists (every time you think you've figured out where this novel is heading, you're presented another wicked curve).  This is a brilliant work of dark fiction, an engrossing read that continues to haunt long after the book's covers have been closed.  It is also far and away Abbott's best book to date (and that's saying a lot, considering the success of her previous novels).  I suspect that years from now we will look back and note how The End of Everything marked the beginning of the major phase of the author's career. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Killed...

Talk about dicey situations: a Minnesota woman was murdered by her own children last Christmas when she proposed the family play a game of Yahtzee (I'm guessing that the murderous brood's temperament was better suited to Clue).

But while the bizarre details of this case invite a bit of sardonic
commentary, they also strike a distinctly American Gothic chord.  I can't help but wonder what exactly was going on behind the closed doors of that house, what made the family so dysfunctional, the children so disturbed.  This story just serves as another reminder that shocking violence can erupt anytime, anywhere in our Macabre Republic.

To read more about this case, click here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Babysitter Chagrin (poem)

Here's a little poem that I wrote as follow-up to yesterday's post...

Babysitter Chagrin

Crybabies, story beggars,
Bedwetters, pants-poopers,
Fussy eaters, food fighters,
Peeping Toms, creeping Tinas,
Hyperactives and sleepwalkers:
I've had them all, and none of them prepared me for
The antics of this toddling nightmare tonight.
Still, I can't say Mrs. Woodhouse wasn't on the level;
She told me right up front her son's a little devil.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fantastic Casting: Rosemary's Baby Remake

No, the classic Polanski film isn't being rebooted (at least as far as I know), but if it were, who would be the best choices to portray the main characters?  Here's my take (if anyone would like to nominate an actor or actress, feel free to leave a comment below):

Rosemary Woodhouse:  I'd go with Michelle Williams, not merely because she's already shown she can pull off the Mia haircut, but because she has the acting chops to elicit audience sympathy.

Guy Woodhouse:  Tom Cruise would be an interesting choice here to play the dashing yet conniving actor (the role would also serve as an ironic rejoinder to all those tabloid reports of the Scientologist Cruise's torment of wife Katie Holmes).

Roman Castevet: Harrison Ford (who's approaching his 70th birthday) possesses the requisite elderly charm, and he's demonstrated in the past that he can play sinister (see What Lies Beneath).

Minnie Castevet: Oscar-winner Ruth Gordon is a tough actress to follow, but Susan Sarandon (recently seen as a hyperkinetic 
grandmother in The Lovely Bones) would have no trouble portraying Rosemary's pushy, busybody neighbor.

Satan: Zach Galifianakis, just because it's hard to imagine anything more horrific than being mounted by this hirsute brute.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Most Gothic Place Names in the United States--Pennsylvania

[For previous entries, click the "Most Gothic Place Names" label under Features in the right sidebar.]

Pennsylvania abounds with suggestive appellations, such as First Fork (the vanguard of lynch mobs), Hicks Run (around barefoot, usually), Chaintown (closely linked with Fetterville), Tomb (supremely sepulchral), Jonestown (where the Kool-Aid is to die for), Maze (a labyrinth even for the inhabitants), Tryonville (home of Harvest Home?), Drinker (alcoholics ubiquitous), and Slaymakersville (a serial killer breeding ground).  Unfortunately for all these towns and cities, though, the title of Most Gothic Place Name in Pennsylvania belongs to...

Banetown.  Where a blighted existence is to be expected, because this place just ruins everything (the destruction projects are ongoing, and coextensive with town history).  Sounds, too, like this could be the poison-brewing capital of the Macabre Republic (wolfsbane, name it, they make it).

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Gothicism of American Gothic: "Meet the Beetles"

[For the previous entry, click here.]

The Gothicism of this episode is evident right from the opening, as Caleb and his friend Boone visit the ruins of the Temple house one foggy evening.  When Caleb falls through a rotted floorboard, his foot gets caught inside the ribcage of a skeleton that seems to clutch at him as he thrashes.

"Meet the Beetles" also features several graveyard scenes.  Caleb is perplexed by the discovery of a tombstone bearing his name (he dreams of digging up the grave, only to have his own undead self leap out at him).  What's actually buried here, though, is $30,000--a cash offering from Sheriff Buck to help get the orphaned Caleb started in life.  Buck further tempts Caleb with the vision of building a "big old estate home" where the Temples' house once stood (Buck now owns the land).  The picture the sheriff paints--of luxuriating in a hammock while being weighed on by servants--calls to mind Thomas Sutpen's obsession in the classic Faulkner novel Absalom, Absalom!.

A good old Southern Gothic murder mystery forms the dark heart of the episode.  Married men with rumored connections to Selena keep ending up dead, their corpses (though only days old) curiously stripped of skin and flesh.  When  the investigating Lt. Jack Drey (guest star Bruce Campbell) finds himself chained inside a makeshift coffin and covered with carnivorous beetles, his 
gruesome predicament firmly establishes "Meet the Beetles" as the most horrifying of American Gothic's first seven installments.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


[For the previous game of Hangmany, click here.]

Can you solve the following puzzle within 20 seconds, or are you going to choke?


___  R  ___  ___  ___       ___  O  W  ___,

___  L  L  ___  ___  O  ___  ___


HINT: Spaulding plays here; the Lonely One preys here

Answer appears in the Comments section of this post.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Launch

On Thursday night, I got a chance to meet up with the lovely and ultra-talented (and my former NYU classmate) Megan Abbott.  She was at The Strand bookstore in Manhattan to celebrate the release of her fifth novel, The End of Everything.  Perhaps the only thing more enjoyable than reading one of Megan's books is listening to her read from, and discuss, her own work.  You definitely don't want to miss one of her events if her book tour brings her to your neck of the Macabre Republic.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Midsummer Nightmare

Taking your son to a Major League Baseball game, hoping to catch a foul ball--a summertime ritual as American as 4th of July fireworks.  But events took a tragic turn last night at a Texas Rangers game when a 39-year-old father flipped over the front-row railing and fell twenty feet to his death.  The man had been trying to grab hold of the baseball that the Rangers' left fielder had tossed amiably up into the stands as a souvenir.  Imagine the horror of a nine-year-old boy witnessing his father's fatal plummet (if that doesn't scar a person for life, nothing ever will).  How awful, too, that the player who threw the baseball into the crowd was none other than Josh Hamilton--a superstar who has battled terrible substance problems, and who will now likely have the additional demon of guilt to wrestle with.  All in all, a heartbreaking story, and proof that Gothic darkness can eclipse even our national pastime.

To watch a video report and read a news article chronicling the incident, click here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On the Road with Silver John: "Trill Coster's Burden"

[For previous ballads about the balladeer, click the "On the Road with Silver John" label under Features in the right sidebar.]

"Trill Coster's Burden"

John's good-hearted beloved Evadare ventures
To save the soul of a grieving man's deceased wife.
The volunteer sineater perhaps bites off too much, though,
When she assumes the spiritual debt of a truly iniquitous life.

For the sins take shape as misty, green-eyed beasts,
The predatorial byproducts of Trill's wayward behavior.
But a jealous temptress who herself has eyes for John
Interferes--and forms an unlikely, unwitting savior.

Manley Wade Wellman's short story "Trill Coster's Burden" can be found in Owls Hoot in the Daytime & Other Omens.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Most Gothic Place Names in the United States--Oregon

[For previous entries, click the "Most Gothic Place Names" label under Features in the right sidebar.]

This week the trail leads to the Pacific Northwest, and to such superlative names as Bitter Lick (unsavory, to say the least), Starvation Heights (where the hunger strike is an official competition), Roads End (likely at the border of Terminal City), Neverstill (the natives are restless), Remote (isolation's zenith), Lost Lake Resort (has a no-checkout policy), Hoodview (a criminal lineup on every street corner), and Jimtown (the kind that takes shape Under the Dome?).  But if you peer hard enough, you'll discern that the Most Gothic Place Name in Oregon comes from:

Mist.  Atmosphere is everything, and this town's must be saturated with ominousness.  A place where cyclopean monstrosities lumber unseen through the beclouded streets, and where getting stuck at the local supermarket proves a terrible ordeal.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beelzebub Tweets

BLZ, Bub

[For previous tweets, click here.]

Rise & shine, all you wage slaves in the bittersweet land of liberty.
--6:00 A.M., July 5th

What a holiday: hot sun, alcohol, firecrackers. We're talking Maim Street, U.S.A.
--3:43 P.M., July 4th

"God Bless America"? Isn't it time to give up on that one? (Take a look around: the perennial request has been continuously disregarded.)
--12:27 P.M., July 4th

I'm petitioning the Boss to implement a new torment Down Below: endless replay of Katy Perry's "Firework."
--10:08 P.M., July 3rd

I love to throw a couple of dogs on the grill in the summertime.  Chihuahua, Shih Tzu--it doesn't matter.
--6:35 P.M., July 2nd

Monday, July 4, 2011

DVD Review: Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue

What better way to celebrate the 4th than checking out this 2009 documentary (available for Instant Viewing on Netflix).  It traces the history of horror cinema, from Lon Chaney's silent films to present-day screamfests like the Texas Chainsaw remakes.  The critical analysis offered is hardly groundbreaking (as the films are situated within the cultural context of the Great Depression, World War II, Cold-War concerns about atomic fallout and Communist takeover, etc.), but it is still fascinating to listen to legendary directors (Romero, Carpenter, Corman, et al.) discuss their work.  Without a doubt, though, the documentary's most compelling element is its incorporation of countless clips, replaying unforgettable scenes from classic movies.  The colorful chaos flashing onscreen (many of the clips are shown in skillfully-edited montage sequences) makes the most brilliant fireworks display seem dull by comparison.  Every American who likes his/her movies red-blooded will be awed by this spectacular documentary. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Universal Monsters in Our Midst

The Wolfman Bifold Wallet

If you have a special spot in your heart for The Wolfman, then you'll love having this (appropriately black-and-white) accessory in your pocket.  The classic bifold is perfect for stashing the cash you'll use to purchase Lon Chaney, Jr. memorabilia.   But, please, leave out the coins--there's no place for silver inside this wallet.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kingly Trivia

[For the previous round of this game, click here.]

The action of these two (unconnected) Stephen King novels is set squarely in the month of October.  Name those novels.

The answer appears in the Comments section of this post.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Countdown: The Top 20 American Horror Movie Posters--#1

[For a recap of the previous selections, see yesterday's post.]

#1. Night of the Demons

This poster scared the bejesus out of me as a youngster, but I've grown to love it.  Angela's Gorgon-esque monster makeup is absolutely stunning.  That jagged set of fangs makes Jaws seem toothless by comparison; those long, lacquered nails look like chitinous insects crawling from the fingertips.  The poster's tagline
opportunistically knocks the stars of the Friday the 13th and Nightmare and Elm Street movies, and concludes with an appropriately devilish double entendre.  The conflagrant party invitation, though, is the best touch of all, assuring viewers that the festivities will take an infernal turn.

Reactions? Disagreements with my choices?  Endorsements of posters that didn't make the Top 20 Countdown?  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section of this post.