Monthly Archives: December 2010

Pig Men and Psychics

Room 1302, the Manor House, the Stanley Hotel. Callea, Connor and myself. Approximately one o’clock in the morning, straight up, two hours after beginning our time in the room. Very little perceived spirit activity since we began at eight that evening but not without a feeling of strangeness, an unfamiliarity. It’s my first time seriously investigating in the manor house or in room 1302.

I’m laying on the bed with my hands folded on my chest. I’m thinking of the story of a man laying in the bed who awoke three times to the weight of a person laying atop him. My eyes are heavy. If I close them without letting myself drift, if I might try to understand the witness’s point of view, maybe I’ll feel touched too, that perhaps it is in this moment of vulnerability, of sleep, that the spirit will approach.

You’ve been in this moment – falling asleep on the couch with your friends or family, drifting; at that point when your thoughts blend to dreams, when your imaginings and wonderings about the day or next week or the movie you just saw or the girl you like or the case you’re on start to blend with the alien, the abstract, the stuff of the subconscious. It feels natural enough, makes sense even. It’s a wash. Awake enough to be aware of your transition, to watch yourself begin to dream…

Until you catch yourself awake again. Sometimes it’s a falling dream, enough to stumble and jerk awake, sometimes you just become aware again. Only then do you realize your thoughts had taken you into dream, an image you didn’t intend.

I let my eyes drift closed. I listen to the sounds of the room. I’m waiting for something strange, a knock, a far off cry. My thoughts are running, my eyes are heavy.

It is natural, not sudden, when it comes, and it carries a kind of sense with it.

I see the image of a man. Crossed with a pig.

Vivid, sharp. With hollow eye sockets, the flesh dark, curving into the pits, a pig’s face like paper mache perfectly sealed against a round human skull. There is no line between the human and the animal. The skin is mottled in places, but firm. Bald head, a stringy wisp or two of hair laying against the skin. Those pointy ears jutting to the sides, goblin-like. There is no snout, but the idea is there the way the idea of a nose is there in the lost hollow cartilage of a skull. He’s wearing clothes, but the image is like that of one through a peep-hole in a door, a fish-eye lens, a face alone, just looking.

Then I’m back. In the instant that I realize this is not my thought, I’m fully awake again.

The room is quiet. I’ve only been out for maybe twenty seconds, if that. There is no pressure against my chest, physical or emotional. There is no feeling of the creeps that overcome me when an intense energy has been near. Quiet. I’m at peace. The image of the pig crossed with the man has not scared me.

I grunt, unsure of how to mention what I’ve seen.

“What?” Callea asks.

“I don’t know. I kinda just closed my eyes for maybe twenty seconds – not falling asleep, but just sort of putting myself in a position of…”

“Opening up?”

“Yeah. Or even like, falling asleep like the people.” That guest who’d reported the presence against him. “I don’t know, I just kinda got like a really clear, momentary, nightmarish image of a face crossed with a pig’s face only a bit mottled and creepy.”

The image was more vivid than any dream I’ve ever had and with a detail that my mind does not sustain. I was an artist in high school, working in photo-realism and surreal media, studying the line between good and evil with pastels and charcoal and graphite and acrylics. But I never had the skills to visualize specifics. I could not draw from my head the way I could draw from an image. This kind of thinking among situational conditions lead me to put aside the brush and I’ve not picked it up seriously since.

It is rare when I can visualize a face in memory, and when I can, it flees in under a week. I’m left with only brushstrokes.

Already the image is fading in the way of a dream.

“Karl, you’re freaking me out right now.”

“I know – it’s kinda weird.”

“No – You don’t – You’re totally freaking me out right now.”

I took up writing six years ago. Still, my imagination does not take me. My thoughts come slow, and general. I do not get lost in my stories. I still struggle to design creatures of the dark. Always, I admired the concept artists on the behind-the-scenes features on fantastic DVDs, walls plastered with boogeymen and orcs, lights over drafting boards and computers rendering 3D monsters. I could never draw a good monster.

I write horror fiction but I cannot imagine creatures like this for my work.

“I don’t feel intimidated in here, so I don’t know that it’s anything like that.” If this image of a pig-man was a presence, it is not in the room, of this I am almost sure.

“No,” Callea says. “I just mean, you’re not the first person I’ve heard describe that thing.”

A beat.

“Really?”

“Seriously?” Connor asks.

Callea laughs and says, “Yeah.”

“Now you’re freaking me out,” I add, laughing too.

“Sorry.”

“Where did you hear it?” I ask.

“You don’t wanna know.”

“Yeah I do.”

“Madame Vera,” Callea says, “the resident psychic/medium at the Stanley Hotel, said the same thing in this room almost a year ago.”

(But the story gets even weirder. Read here for an Elemental Update…)

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For Perfection – a review of Black Swan

Finally got around to seeing Black Swan last night – all by my lonesome, surrounded by gigglers and murmurers but thankfully no laughers or talkers or hecklers. And the teenage couple with all lusty eyes and smooches actually watched the movie, so I can say that the movie-going experience itself was mostly a success.

Though I will always remember The Dark Knight at eleven in the morning after opening night, the silence thick as butter, when one child began to cry in the opening production studio titles and a lone voice from the front yelled “shut that kid up.” A bit much, but with no less a feel of reverence rare to find these days.

My name is Karl Pfeiffer and I don’t condone yelling at children in movie theaters.

Of course, neither do I condone bringing them to the Dark Knight.

Respect. That’s what I ask.

So, Black Swan.

Brilliant writing. Not too much. Not too subtle. Brought together at the end, and brutally, elegantly honest. Brilliant acting. I found myself smiling with Natalie Portman, as if encouraging or sharing or participating in her struggles and victories. Her tears are real, her character is real. Her swan is real. Especially in a story of a girl losing herself in a role, acting in this movie is everything, and it is genius. Brilliant directing. Confession, my first Aronofsky film. But I’m impressed. His eye and feel for the story is inherent in every aspect, with a kind of permeance in each nevertheless individually fantastic component, from acting to sound to photography to score to feel.

This movie did it right. Like putting the pieces of a 4D puzzle together, spatially, temporally; this was a prime time for Aronofsky to make this movie. Following the visceral psychological Requiem and the intensely human “sport” film Wrestler, Darren has not only been building to a supernaturally inclined psychological thriller, but a – key point – critically respected psychological supernatural twisted horrific film.

Thank god.

I’m a huge proponent of the intellectual horror genre. I believe that the depths of consciousness (and equally) the heights, and where those meet at the veil are places intimidating, scary, far beyond us in ways that our own small psyches can’t process in our own small bodies. Lovecraftian. Celestian. Of a fear found looking into the eye of a great squid. Human emotion and the richness of things like love and loss and fear and joy intertwines so elegantly with the unseen world, and that’s really at the heart of my own work, my own passion, and most directly at the heart of this movie.

Early on there’s discussion of losing one’s self in a part, of transcendence through passion, perfection by passion and not technique, of a kind of living beyond the ballet and the form and the dance, blurring a line between expression and the thing itself. For Portman’s Nina Sayers, she must fulfill the role by becoming the Black Swan herself, a seductive, sexy, rebellious character. Everything she herself is not. She plays the White Swan perfectly already, Thomas Leroy, her instructor tells her, timid, reluctant, afraid. Oh, and she’s a little bit nuts. (I would be too with a mother like that.)

And so the premise is laid for the tale to intertwine, to study, to rise above. Psychologies and realities, justifications and unions, masturbation and sex, between two, between one, between selves and something higher, about sacrifice.

There aren’t a lot of answers in the film, but by the end they become clear. There’s ambiguity, but a comfortable one. What’s in her head, what’s not, what’s supernatural, what’s insanity, what’s art and what’s performance and what’s perfection.

The story is the hows.

Truly a study, paralleling the story of Swan Lake, of loss, of gain. This movie is a dance of themes itself, and they’re my themes.

In my short story, Dreamland Crocotta, I play with many very similar issues. A man comes into contact with the darkness as he loses himself and his grips on this material, horizontal world. Things get hard then; the world stops making sense, there’s reality and then there’s unreality and then there’s what’s real beyond these things we touch and feel and call real and we start to see a plane and as we reach for emotion and we touch teardrops and speak to spirits, there comes something more. Can we call it perfection? Can we strive? Can we make art perfect without losing ourselves? Is it blasphemous to ask what it is that we really have lost?

Yes, this movie was tailor-made for me.

Yes, it’s immediately become one of my favorites and deals with those issues that I think each of us as artists, as spiritual investigators, as human beings, should be studying.

And for that alone, yes, you need to see it. And I hope you can appreciate it as much as I did.

Playing Ketchup – Updates!

Too much for a tweet – decided to type up a quick blog entry to at least brush the dust off this thing. Oh, watch out, it’s all floating around now and I don’t want you to get any in your eyes – yeah. like that. Sorry about that. Just blink a lot and maybe go rinse off that contact. Sorry. I really didn’t mean to. I just wanted to look all epic when I blew the dust away like in a movie.

That said, I’ve finally hit break for school. The last month kept me awfully busy and so now I’m back to fulfill a few promises.

Firstly, those evidence vlogs have fallen by the wayside, but not for long. I have some very impressive things to share with you, many controversial topics I’d like to discuss with you, and yet a month still of untouched evidence to get analyzing. Be sure to visit www.youtube.com/karlwpfeiffer to check out all the old vlogs if you haven’t yet, and be sure to hit that subscribe button because I’ll be keeping you busy these next few weeks.

I did tweet just the other day about taking Hallowtide back to, well, not the drawing board, but back a step. A filmmaker friend of mine took a look over the draft and added some very important suggestions that made me want to redraft the entire thing. It would be the fourth or fifth draft at this point, which isn’t weird for a novel. Many novelists will kind of brag about how many drafts they do and how much was cut from the original as if that’s some kind of writing necessity. I think a story is ready when a story is ready, and if you spend enough attention to the first draft or three it can be shiny quite quickly. But it’s important to be aware of your work at all times, and while it will never ever be perfect, you want it to be as good as possible. Hallowtide is a very graphic, violent, hard story to read. And if it’s not firing on all cylinders, I don’t want anyone to have to endure it if it’s not maximally rewarding.

I also may have jumped the gun in saying rewrite though. Depending on how good or bad or wrong I am about the quality of the writing as I go back through the story, it might not need to the full rewarding that my recent experience has encouraged, and that would shave off months, as only a few pieces of the story would need rewritten.

The publishing process takes a long time. Querying takes months and months and then when I do land an agent, they have to push the book to publishers, and when they pick it up, it takes months to copyedit, format, and print. It will be a while, but worth it in the end.

Essentially, I’m encouraging patience with me. For all those eager to read it, you warm my heart. Everything I do is a thank you to you because without readers I’m outside, screaming at the stars to blink and consider me. So my many thanks to you.

So what do I have to offer you of my writing before then? All you have is Dreamland Crocotta to keep you warm this winter and you haven’t seen new work since July! Fear not, my robot skeleton minions, I’m exercising a treat for you to come soon. It won’t be a Christmas present – or if it is, it’s because Santa had too much eggnog and his killer hangover pushed him closer to the New Year than Christmas day.

Until then? I encourage hooking up an account at smashwords.com and reading Dreamland if you haven’t already. You can find it here; http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/20276. If you have read it, I strongly encourage writing a review (good or bad, you don’t have to like it), there are only two up yet and the more there are, the more new readers can find my work, hence my eternal gratitude.

Keep eyes peeled for big things on the way! I’ve got a lot floating around right now. Thanks for carrying on the journey with me and supporting me even as my career shifts, and a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to all out there.

-Karl