The Scary Countryside 2: Children of the Stones

The original “Scary Countryside” post.

Uncial script means “old and spooky.”

As mentioned above, “the scary countryside” is a staple meme of television and movies on both side of the pond, but in the UK there is the additional refinement of “the scary countryside where people practice strange and ancient rites.”

That does not work as well in North America unless you set your TV show in Awatowi, which is not going to happen soon.

So M. and I are enjoying a little “back to the Seventies” moment, watching the British TV series Children of the Stones, which so far might be described as The Prisoner meets The Wicker Man meets Groundhog Day. Or something like that.

To quote its Wikipedia entry,

Filmed at Avebury, Wiltshire during Summer 1976, with interior scenes filmed at HTV’s Bristol studios, it was an unusually atmospheric production with sinister, discordant wailing voices heightening the tension on the incidental music. The music was composed by Sidney Sager who used the Ambrosian Singers to chant in accordance with the megalithic rituals referred to in the story.Director Peter Graham Scott was surprised on seeing the script that the series was intended for children’s airtime due to the complexities of the plot and disturbing nature of the series. The series is frequently cited by those who remember it as one of the scariest things they saw as children.

Sounds good to me. More episodes await. If Netflix had existed in the late 1970s, this would have been on the coven viewing list, I am sure.

Keep the Weird in the the West

Indianapolis blogger Roberta X muses on the literary sub-genre known as “Weird West.

Sometimes that means sort of H. P. Lovecraft-meets-Wyatt Earp, sometimes other things.

My introduction was the online graphic novel Tex Arcana, back when the Web was still young.

If your reading tastes don’t go that direction, here are Montana novelist Ivan Doig’s favorite Western reads.

Once when I asked a prominent historian what he thought of the many writings by Stegner, novelist and English-department star at Harvard and Stanford, about the background and the West, he didn’t hesitate: “He hits the nail on the head every time, damn him.”

Yep, every book that Stegner built (they always feel “built,” like Robertson Davies‘ stuff, but that is a Good Thing) was solid as the proverbial brick shithouse.

On the Keeping of Pet Hermits and Druids

Some of the eighteenth-century hermits employed by rich landowners were in fact characterized as “Druids.”

Campbell clearly had fun with his quest for real hermits. At Hawkstone in Shropshire, a bare-footed and venerable Fr Francis regularly posed with his stock-in-trade: a skull, an hourglass and book. Although replaced at times by an automaton, Hawkstone’s hermit – a hereditary post – may have survived into the twentieth century. The impecunious Charles Hamilton reputedly advertised for a hermit for his Gothic hermitage at Painshill in Surrey, offering a fee of 700 guineas (some reports say 500) to anyone able and willing to meet his stringent conditions over seven years: to go barefoot in a woollen robe, never to cut beard or nails, or to speak with the servant who brought his food. Although the advertisement cannot now be traced, the hermit undoubtedly existed, and Campbell’s exhaustive enquiries confirm how ubiquitous hermits were in Georgian Britain.

Maybe there is still a niche waiting to be exploited here, for either philosophy majors or designers of animatronic hermits.

Quality of British Crop Circles Sagging

Says the Daily Mail, which prints some examples.

Insiders say a number of top crop circle makers have quit following a clampdown by farmers and moved onto making sand circles, which are legal.

In previous years, impressive crop circles have drawn in thousands of tourists to southern England and some believers who saw the circles as the work of aliens.

But this year visitors have been disappointed by just a handful of crude patterns such as a square, a heart and a small uneven circle.

Former crop circlemaker Matthew Williams [not an  “energy vortex”] — who has given up his hobby because he suffers from hay fever — said the lack of competition is driving down standards.

He said: ‘The problem is that the best croppies have retired or gone onto something new, so there isn’t any competition any more.”

Hogwarts for Vampires

Maybe if I had a bookish teenage daughter I would know this, but the boarding-school-for-vampires (etc.) genre has exploded.

Here is a typical cover blurb:

Two years after a horrible incident made them run away, vampire princess Lissa and her guardian-in-training Rose are found and returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy, where one focuses on mastering magic, the other on physical training, while both try to avoid the perils of gossip, cliques, gruesome pranks, and sinister plots.

Margot Adler and I were discussing vampire books about four years ago, when her quest to read them all had passed ninety titles. Cradle-Marxist that she is, she was trying to understand the vampire craze as being somehow a critique of capitalism.

I don’t think so—and definitely not in the Young Adult classification. Check out this list of suggested titles, linked from a website of a public library near me.

It could be more work for Joseph Laycock, the go-to guy in religious studies for vampire-ology, but he has moved on to otherkin, of which more anon.

RELATED? “We are more interested in the zombie at times when as a culture we feel disempowered,” [Clemson professor Sarah] Lauro said. “And the facts are there that, when we are experiencing economic crises, the vast population is feeling disempowered. … Either playing dead themselves . . . or watching a show like ‘Walking Dead’ provides a great variety of outlets for people.”

A ‘Going Out of Civilization’ Sale

The local weekly newspaper arrived in my post office box today.

I see that a liquor store in my little mountain county is announcing a new 12/21/12 pricing plan:

Bud or Bud Light six packs will cost you two chickens or a goat . . . Canadian Mist 175’s will cost you 1,000 rounds of 12 gauge . . . All wine 750’s will be traded for five gallons of gas.

People up in the county seat must be well-armed and thirsty. I wouldn’t give more than a box  (25 total) of shotgun shells for 175 ml. of blended Canadian whisky myself .