Monthly Archives: June 2012

Movies and Books

Went and saw the documentary movie Abe Lincoln The Vampire Hunter last night (with all footage historically accurate I’m told).

People keep telling me I’m messing that one up. I tell them their elementary schools didn’t learn them very well then.

But one fellow twitterer pointed out that s/he wanted to punch Grahame-Smith for being a sellout and destroying a crappy book by letting it be made into such a shitty movie.

Defending the guy, I replied that as under-appreciated writer-artist-types, we have to make money, and sometimes we make that money by taking a risk on Hollywood.

Response went that being a bad movie was one thing, fundamentally altering plot points and changing the story was something else. That if changed so much, the title should change to reflect that, and that if a writer respects what they do, they won’t sell out and can pump gas for money.

And as a writer and dabbling-filmmaker-photographer-helped-a-friend-on-a-film-and-worked-in-television type, I’ve got to say this bothers me some. So, if you don’t mind, I can’t resist taking this apart a bit.

First off, there’s this difference between movies and books that people seem to be forgetting these days. They’re two different artistic mediums. When I was younger, I used to love the idea of seeing a movie made out of my favorite book because I wanted to see it come alive the way I imagined it. The inherent problem here is that no two people imagine books the exact same way. The adaptation to film involves taking the heart of the story and translating it to film. What this heart is may be interpreted vastly different from writer to writer. And also, which themes are presented and work in text versus film can widely vary.

It’s like translating a poem to a photo or a painting. It’s going to be totally different, even if the inspiration is noted. Sometimes this difference is enough to prompt a change in title, sometimes not. But the change in medium should be enough to suggest that the story is going to change.

Sometimes plot points and story have to be changed to fit a movie. Sometimes radically. The message and meaning and value can still remain.

So, the first conversation should be whether the movie was good on its own, and should focus on what the themes and heart of the story was, what it was saying and doing and how it made you feel and respond. Then, if it’s so blatant that it was based on a book, you should judge the success of the work compared to each other. Sometimes they’re too different to compare. That happens.

But the fact that they’re different shouldn’t stand to discredit one over the other.

Here, with Abe, maybe the movie sucked. I thought it was fun and entertaining. Pretty much exactly what it seemed to have been made out to be. Maybe it could have been better. Maybe the book could have fit into a great movie and this was poorly adapted. Maybe Grahame-Smith should stick to books instead of screenplays.

But should a writer work shitty jobs in order to sustain himself because he respects his work too much to sell it to someone else?

Maybe other writers will disagree with me on this one, but I think that the author should produce work he’s proud of and understand that other variations may come about, but that it’s okay to make money off them. They may link back to the book but the book will always stand on its own. Like I said earlier, it’s a new interpretation, a new art form.

I don’t like calling people sell-outs unless they change their beliefs for money. And I think letting Hollywood take a stab isn’t a wrong belief to hold. Even if it gives extra bucks. If a movie sucks, it sucks. Maybe even likely it will suck, since so much of what Hollywood produces anymore is shit. But I don’t think that’s the author’s responsibility.

Now if he penned the screenplay himself and it sucks, maybe he should be punched in the face. But hey, sometimes people mess up.

But I don’t think that we writers should be forced to take shitty jobs instead of make money off our work, especially when the integrity of the work remains so long as the book remains. To think that Hollywood can destroy a book is to idolize Hollywood if you ask me. The books will always live on.

My book, Hallowtide, I think will make a great movie if done right. It’s very visual and intense and fresh. I’d happily sell it to Hollywood. But if the movie sucks, that happens. That’s the risk you take, but it’s not the responsibility you take. My integrity will remain in tact.

PS:

I’ll repost this again because I’m a big fan of this video. Filmmaker and friend AJ Street takes this apart some more in a video he made a few weeks back, and does a far more elegant job taking this apart than I do:

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to let me know down below. And ParanormalNJ, thanks for letting me use your comments for a sounding board!

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FAQ

FAQ! That’s not a clever way of writing a curse word. It’s an acronym.

This is the blog where I take your questions, and this time they’re answering the most common questions my blog gets from Google searches. Boom here we go:

The Devil Inside Spoiler:

It’s a possession movie. Lots of people die and levitate and scream and stuff and its thematically a giant letdown. If that doesn’t help you look more like a tough BAMF for your girlfriend you prolly should find a chick who likes romcoms instead.

What’s the symbol in paranormal activity 3? 

Probably just bastardized occult symbols that people can now connote with Satanism more than they already did. This website seems to do them pretty good justice. Now that you know, when you put them on your roommate’s wall, be sure to use dark crimson paint, not any cheap fire-engine red crap. And if the portals to Hell open, just play dumb.

Meaning of Paranormal Activity 3

Life sucks and then you die.

And also sometimes negative paranormal occurrences are hereditary. And apparently zombie possessions too.

What happens on night 13 of Paranormal Activity 3?

Ghost stuff.

What is Hallowtide?

Hallowtide is the title of my first novel, which I’m trying for a release this fall.

The Hallowtide are the days surrounding the Halloween holiday. ‘Tide” being ‘time’ (like ‘yuletide). And to be hallowed is to be honored as holy. In the Catholic Church, All Hallow’s Day is November first, All Saint’s Day. All Hallow’s Eve is the eve of the Saint’s Day. These two are followed by All Souls Day. Collectively the holiday has mixed differently folkloric and religious traditions into a celebration that now studies, reveres, and fears those passed before us, and is now debated between being an evil holiday and a set of holy days.

Lucy Stanley Hotel

Lucy is the name of one of the Stanley’s more famous and recent spirits. After Mr. Stanley died in 1940, the hotel was passed down from owner to owner, who struggled to sustain the hotel against mounting costs. By 1977, the Concert Hall had fallen to a state of such disrepair that it was condemned and would have been bulldozed except that they couldn’t afford even a bulldozer. When the hotel landed on the National Register of Historic Places, the workers went into the Concert Hall to see what renovations they could do to keep it on the list, and there they found a young woman living there. She was in her late teens or early twenties, had a fight with her parents, ran away from home and now was living out of the concert hall. Of course, they couldn’t let her stay, and she later died from exposure in the town of Estes Park. We think she’s still at the hotel because that was where she was safe, warm, and to some extent, happy. She’s now one of our sweetest and most friendly spirits. More blog posts about the Stanley Hotel and its strange stories, and evidence can be found here.

Who was Paul Stanley Hotel

Paul is the spirit of a maintenance man who worked at the hotel from 1995 to 2005. When shoveling snow in 2005 he started to have a heart attack and tried to drive himself to the hospital and didn’t make it. In his fifties or so, he’s a grumpy spirit with a sense of humor who makes sure things are still running as well as possible, mostly in the Concert Hall.

Is Grave Encounters Real? 

Yep. Just like all found footage movies.

Grave Encounters and Ghost Adventures

The movie Grave Encounters was a found footage style horror film that told the story of a group of paranormal investigators filming a TV Show whose case goes all to hell. It’s based loosely on styles of and often nods to the popular paranormal shows out there, including Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, and Paranormal State. Beyond that, if a House of Leaves style hallway ever actually appeared IRL, Travel Channel is going to have a heyday. And no, GA nor Zak had nothing to do with the show except in inspiration.

Is Madame Vera at the Stanley Hotel real?

I hope so. I’ve seen her. Oh, like a real psychic? She’s blown the minds of many people I’ve known at the hotel. Vera is the resident psychic at the hotel, and gives readings to guests out of her small office in the lower level of the main building. Often, I hear stories of uncanny knowledge about things unconfessed almost immediately during readings. More on Vera here.

karl pfieffer

Pfeiffer. It’s ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’… and apparently ‘f’s if you’re a young writerly ghost hunting freshly out of college type. In German tho, as far as I can tell, the “EI” sound makes the long “eye” sound, and “IE” makes the long “eee” sound. That said, there’s every version under the sun these days. But most importantly, even if google doesn’t correct you, I think you wound up in the right place anyway, and welcome. I’m Karl Pfeiffer. I write. I hunt ghosts.

Crocotta

A Crocotta is a dog-like creature of folklore that likely stems from stories of hyenas. Said to lurk at the edges of farmer’s fields and mimic human voices and cries for help, it lures farmers and citizens to their deaths, where it consumes them. It’s also the name of the short film that AJ Street made for his senior project in college that follows my short story, Dreamland Crocotta (found here). The film will be released online in the fall.

Pig Man Stanley Hotel

See this.

Pig bear thing, Shining movie.

See this.

Telepathy Art. 

I don’t know anything about this… BUT NOW I MUST

Absurdity

You begin with rejecting materialism, that fundamental staple of the West. Americana. You’ve survived if you could buy a home and support a family. You’ve thrived if you could buy nice things for them and for yourself. Wealth has become the yardstick of our society.

And you define the ridiculousness of such a yardstick. It’s only stuff. These books are only slices of trees and ink. Your clothes are woven threads. Your car only metal and gasoline. That we cling to these things, that we hold them above all else, is meaningless. Your house burns down. You’ve lost four walls, however shiny or complex. You’ve lost the stuff within. You remain. You are still alive and so you’ve thrived.

But reducto ad absurdum. Wander the outdoors and find stimulation in the running of wild animals. The world around us is just as arbitrary. Trees are only wooden sprouts. Grass is only a weed. These elements and objects, however fundamental, have only as much meaning as we supply. Are they so different from your flashy car and tailored clothes?

If meaning is only so where we attach it, we can only combat the absurd, the nihilism, the meaningless, with the challenge of putting good meaning to those things we hold close.

If we’re going to worship, choose. And then create. And in what you create, hold close, find a resonance. And know that the value of such creation is not within the object itself. So burn your words and wipe away the art in your sand and shed no tears when they’re gone.

the Magic Show

It’s become almost a cliché, to point out that when we go to magic shows we want to be fooled.

Which pop culture television show or movie can we quote to represent this? The Prestige?

“Now you’re looking for the secret, but you won’t find it because, of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.”

From fourth season of House: “How’d you do the trick?”

“Aw, if I explain, you’ll lose the actual magic.”

Actual magic?”

“The fun is in not knowing.”

“It’s meaningless until I explain it… If the wonder is gone when the truth is known, there was never any wonder.”

The magic show. The performance. One of the strange forms of entertainment where we attend for the lie. We ask to be lied to and we revel in the fact that we cannot figure it out, much as we might think we want to. We don’t want it to be fake. We want to go to the show to believe that magic is real, if just for a moment, the way we watch an illusion, to have our minds bent, to wonder for a moment, at the world not operating the way it was meant to.

We go for the lie, and in order to wonder at the lie. To hope for a moment that it might be true.

How different from any fiction? A film perhaps. A novel. Where the hero saves the day and gets the girl, that it all works out happily ever after or, should it not, there is at least meaning or reason. We watch and wonder if that might not be true in the world we’ll return to.

We’re finding meaning, truth, but a lie. We attend these movies, we attend the magic shows, knowing, however deep inside, that it’s a lie. But we want to believe. We love that we can’t see the strings. We love that no matter how hard we try, we may never know. And there’s joy in not knowing. And meaning.

With Stars

Last night it was just me and the stars. I had a daytime investigation in the small mountain town of fairplay, at a gorgeous old bed and breakfast that overlooked vast Colorado expanse of hills and mountains. The night before I drove into the place under a black sky filled with stars and clouds and a bit of smoke from a nearby wildfire.

It brought with it that strange moment of creation. The way you arrive at your hotel or destination or vacation in the middle of the night–the way you step off the plane in Hawaii and you smell the sea salt and the air falls heavy on  your skin and you can hear the waves from your room but when you peer from the window there’s only a darkness untouched by city lights or civilization at all. Your reflection alone, looking back. An image of  yourself.

It brought with it that strange feel of a presence there, but without form, not yet realized.

I could draw parallels to Quantum Mechanics and the tree that falls in the forest, the cat in the locked box, two slits in a metal barrier, the way human observation effects the very foundations of our reality.

But here there’s just wonder and terror. Wonder at what already exists, terror at being a part of it, not knowing it until the morning light. Whether the hills grow sooner or farther, whether the trees are sparse or dense. It’s up to you, make it up as you wish, as you hope, play on who you are and see, after falling asleep, how right or wrong you might be.

This carried with me when I pulled my car to the side of the road, backed it against a far thicket of trees that lined a clear stream (the sound of which I could hear). Only a small image of what was around me would appear at a time in my flashlight, a teaser, and was gone as soon as the light flickered away, and could have changed while I wasn’t looking. The mist in the beam I couldn’t call mist or fog or low hanging clouds or dust, perhaps smoke, but I couldn’t smell it. It was like the stuff of creation. Charcoal dust you blow from your paper in art class.

I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t what got to me, laying in my backseat under a comforter and half my windows blocked as best I could. Anything could be out here with me. The lights of a small town were only half a mile away, but out here, were there someone out here, would be someone I didn’t want to meet. And if they were, I wonder then, how much a part of me were they,

just for being there, in the dark? Alongside and unwitnessed.

High Park Fire Update

Computer is back up and running, so today, in following up on the High Park Fire burning west of Fort Collins in the hills, I’ve got my panoramic shot of Horsetooth Reservoir, the damn on the right along with the glow of the city, the hills ahead where car headlights cut through the fog of smoke, and then the fire burning along the hills on the other side.

Below are two time lapse videos I shot from Loveland on Monday the tenth and a slight bit of the smoke clouds later that evening.

And here are two related time lapse videos of the fire from KDVR Denver that I did not shoot but found quite awe-some. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcUlSFndciI&feature=relmfu and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbVOpvMVtFw&feature=related

From Fort Collins on Monday evening along Overland Trail. Hundreds of cars drove by in hopes of getting to the reservoir, only to be turned down by police. So instead they drove Overland like it was the main drag in the fifties, parking along the sides while watching and wondering.

 

Photo Blog: High Park Fire

The High Park fire in the mountains west of Colorado has grown to some 40,000 acres when I’m posting this, with zero percent containment. Low humidity, high winds and temperatures have created the perfect situation for this fire to consume anything it would like. The Sheriff at this time still believes the fire started due to lightning. This is mother nature’s doing.

I couldn’t stay at home last night reading or watching a movie–Knowing the fire was spreading, I was restless.

Two stills from time lapse photos I shot two days back. This was when the fire was only at a few thousand acres. (Apologies for not having the time lapses. My computer is shot and I don’t have the programs I need/prefer to edit them. Same goes for color correction in these, but I did my best).

When I got to Fort Collins, the campfire smell hit me almost immediately, and a light fog covered the streetlamps and headlights of passing cars. I drove west toward Horsetooth reservoir.

View of Fort Collins from Horsetooth Reservoir. Covered in a smoky haze. The lights of the city look like small spots of fire themselves. The fire consumes/us/even as we sleep or think or worry of it.

Though I missed the sunset rush, when apparently deputies and police were running onlookers thick as ants from the sides of the road, at eleven, the parking lots were still packed. Irony seemed as thick as the smoke that later clouded the hills and drove off the spectators. Teenagers smoked cigarettes. I realized how many songs were on my driving CDs about fire.

AWOLNATION belts burn it down baby, burn it–burn it down. Tragedy Machine hums so come on tonight let’s burn the city down. Let the streets ignite into a battleground. The rhythm and violence, pleasure and sound, come on come on, lets burn the city down. 

I suppose if God wants to destroy things, we want to watch.

There was a strange feel to it. The fire coming weeks after graduation, after I moved out of my apartment and into my car. When the smoke is as thick as fog it feels almost as if it is erasing the world, in a gentler, dirtier way than a snowstorm.

I realized, watching the fire lapping at the trees from across the water, that the park bench I was sitting on was the same one I’d sat on the summer before with the girl I was breaking up with, this being the spot where she realized that it really was over. The sun was setting on the water back then as the area fell into night. Now it was night and any hint of the water was obscured by the smoke.

There was a reckless feel to the place. Reminiscent of a short story I wrote about a group of college kids watching the world end in a blast of fire. The same way the smell was reminiscent of late summer camping, of the burning smell on the air during Halloween. Cars lined the the road. Young people laughed and waited and shot back and forth along the county road to find a better shot of the destruction.

And if there was laughter. It was nervous.

“The hope for containment is tenuous,” they say on the news.

When I crawl into bed, my lungs itch and when I talk it’s hard to get vowels to sound right. When I wake up I learn the fire has almost doubled in the night. Theres bits of ash on my ipad screen. But the air down south is clear.

From the Mound

Was in the Aurora area of Denver yesterday afternoon when I heard the tornado sirens go off. Severe thunderstorm was brewing a couple miles southeast of me and wasn’t moving. Bored, after working all day, and sweating in the afternoon heat, I’m not sure why I hesitated to chase it down, but I did. Drove into it, trying not to rearend the cars in front of me while staring at the sky.

Found a high spot in a parking lot, where in the east purple clouds sat as far as I could see. Above my head and toward the west, the clouds spun and churned and boiled, fast enough to follow their motion with my naked eye. The sirens went off again. I got out my camera.

Took some time lapse photos and put them in this youtube video (which starts with a couple earlier shots I played with in Idaho Springs the day before. It’s pretty shaky because I need a remote and timer, but for amateur work it was pretty fun).

I need a wider lens to really capture the magnitude and motion of the storm. But what I got was good. And for a while later as the clouds blurred together again and inched back east, I sat on the back trunk of my car and watched them. From the south a line of rain and hail and lightning was slowly coming at me, which is where I decided I might grab a bit of fast food for dinner and take in a show.

The lightning began fast and the rain fell hard and lasted the next four or five hours. The lightning fell so frequently I found I could easily take a dozen photos with my iphone alone, without cheating the aperture and shutter speed to delay for a few seconds to take in all the lightning. I’m sure it was no midwest storm, but it was possibly one of the best I’ve ever experienced, and I was glad I got my camera and my car and sat back to watch.

This trip has been funny. Stressful. Already I’m fighting off a pretty focused cold, I’d prefer an apartment, and deadlines are beginning to loom on the writing. But I find myself smiling and laughing a lot. I’ll jump back into my car with my SLR during a dry spot when the wind has settled and the rain has stopped and I’ll sit there, laughing, looking like a crazy person. Half of it is a kind of nervous laughter, a stress finally boiling over, the sheer ridiculousness of it, the hopelessness, the excitement, the fun. So be it then.

And at night I still toss and turn and stretch my legs out at funny angles. But falling asleep to the sound of hail and lightning like paparazzi flashbulbs–it’s like watching the game from the mound.

Weeks that make me feel EPIC

Quick update in a non-vloggity way about the coming week. Tonight, this Friday night, I’ll be interviewed on LiveParanormal.com’s Show 3000 Celebration at 9PM Eastern time. So if you have an hour to kill and want to listen in, I’d highly encourage it.

Next Friday night I’ll be at Avogadro’s Number in Fort Collins, Colorado to give a reading along with a number of other brilliant writerly types who will be reading all sorts of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Also I think there will be live music. More about the event here.

Following that Friday I’ll be in Estes Park for the public Stanley Hotel investigation on Saturday (also there’s a hunt on Friday night, but I obviously will not be in two places at once!), which runs from eight to one in the morning. You can check out tickets for that over at the Stanley’s lovely website under tours or tickets or purchase or some possibly slightly misleading but logical in hindsight tab.

This weekend I’ll be investigating in Georgetown on Saturday night and creeping about in the mountains until a Denver investigation on Thursday night before the reading. In between, much as I should be researching, I have a couple chapters that need writing, a novel that’s two days over deadline already that needs another half of it fully revised to send off to a few editors and beta readers, and an article due in a week for the Paramagazine. So it will likely be coffeeshops and libraries and probably some genuine car living during that week.

So I’m busy as hell and loving that. Except for the still not having a home part. That’d be a nice addition to things. But I’m not complaining.

There’s also been some recurring chatter about possible exciting other things I can’t really talk about but think would be sweet if they happened type stuff too. (Vague enough for you?)

As I alluded up above, I’m working desperately under deadline for Hallowtide. I’ll elaborate more on that in the coming weeks after I get a bit of feedback. But right now I’m trying to polish this draft and get some feedback on whether I should greenlight a fall release for the novel. But keep that under wraps until I can lock down more solid information. Winks. Which is half the reason I’m not getting a real job for the summer, as the work that would go into publishing that will consume my time. That and the America’s Haunted Road Trip book.

I’ll also be posted a few blogs as Hallowtide develops about the indie publication process, my release plan, and why I think it’s actually a good idea despite every traditional writer/publisher scowling at the taboo (also read as: why I might be a little bit crazy in the head).

After all, this is the “develop your own compass and trust it, take risks, dare to fail” college commencement address part of my life.

And we’ll see how it goes.