Showing posts from June, 2014

Short Story #180: An Arrest by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  An ArrestAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummaryAfter Orrin Brower is arrested for killing his brother, he is placed in jail awaiting trial.  At one point, he overpowers his guard and flees again into the night.  He believes he escapes when he enters a clearing in the woods to find a man with a gun waiting for him.  Without a word, the "embodiment of Law," directs him back to the jail.  Orrin has trouble getting a clear view of this man but eventually, determines it to be  Burton Duff.  Only once he is back in the prison, do we find out that next to the jail is a table with a dead body on it, the body of Burton Duff, the guard that Orrin had overpowered to escape.   

ReflectionNothing particularly grand about this story except for the phrase "embodiment of Law".  It's a fun phrase within the story since it refers to so many things.  Duff is the embodiment of man laws:  death, justice, legal law.  That Bierce was able to pull these together into this supernatural …

Short Story #179: A Moonlit Road by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  A Moonlit RoadAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummaryThe story is composed of three statements, one of Joel Hetman Jr., one of Caspar Grattan, and one of Julian Hetman through a medium.  Joel Hetman explains that he was the son of Julia and Joel but that Joel was usually very possessive of his wife.  While Joel Jr. was away at college, he received word that his mother had been murdered.  When he comes home, his father explains that he had come home early from a business trip one night and found her murdered.  He had witnessed someone leave the house but it was under the cover of darkness.  Joel Jr. stays home to help his father who is entirely distraught with the events.  One night, while walking home the two see the house and in what was Julia's room, there is a light and the silhouette of a woman.  When Joel Jr. turns back to his father, he is nowhere to be found and he never sees him again.  Caspar Grattan explains that he has lived his life as a recluse for many years now.  He …

Short Story #178: A Wireless Message by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  A Wireless MessageAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummaryAfter visiting his brother one evening, William Holt takes a walk in the country when he becomes lost.  As he tries to find his way back, he finds everything appears to have a soft, red glow to it.  He chalks this up to the new moon but every time he looks toward the source of light, it always seems behind him.  Eventually, there is another large and blinding light that covers the area and within this, he sees his wife and child.  Then darkness ensures and Holt eventually finds his way back to his village but by the opposite end of which he left.  Later, he received a telegram about the death of his wife by a sweeping fire in Chicago.  

ReflectionAnother 2-pager without much meat to it.  Again, classic elements of the supernatural from Bierce but nothing of consequence.  

Short Story #178 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  6/21/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins…

Short Story #177: Present at a Hanging by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  Present at a HangingAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummaryThe story begins by explaining that a peddler had disappeared years ago after visiting old man Baker, a recluse of the area.  Such disappearances were not uncommon to peddlers who if successful would have lots of money on them.  Years later, a reverend is walking along a path in the area and comes upon a bridge where he meets peddler.  He offers a ride but the peddler does not respond.  Meanwhile, the horse grows restless.  When the reverend looks away and then back, the man has disappeared.  The horse takes off at this point and eventually the reverend regains control.  He returns home and the next day, he brings friends to investigate.  They find Baker hanging from bridge and on the ground under his body is the buried bones of the peddler.  

ReflectionNot much of a story--it was less than two pages which makes me wonder if it qualifies.  I do find that curious--a 2 page story and wish the anthology had more information about t…

How To Be a Good Friend on Social Media Part 1 (or 2)

Social media has changed some of the ways we interact with friends and family for good or for bad.  This new space of engagement changes much of how we interact and to what degree we see our friends' larger picture.  We no longer see friends in as limited lens as we might have before but have a larger context of other friends, acquaintances, and family.  Because of the nature of these environments, it's as likely for one person to having meaningful dialogue with their friend on social media as it is one of their friends' friend whom the person has never met.  It means many of us are trying to navigate unclear waters and I thought post might help people better understand how to renegotiate friendship online.  

They are a mixture of Do's and Don'ts to help navigate this tricky new space that many of us find ourselves in.  We're often good at figuring out what to do in the face-to-face environment, but online isn't always as clear as it would seem.  

Identify Wh…

Short Story #176: One of Twins by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  One of TwinsAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummaryOne of a set of twins explains to someone how he has never really experienced much in terms of strange phenomena as a twin except for this one series of events in which he will relate.  First, he explains that they were so identical that it is likely they were switched back and forth many times in their infancy.  Upon growing up, they moved to San Jose where they ended up living in different parts of the city.  One day, he encounters a man who begins talking with him and assumes him to be his twin.  The man invites him over for a meal and he agrees thanking the man by using the man's last name, even though he had never met the man.  When he meets up with his twin, his twin randomly asked the man for the address the next day--having somehow known about the meeting.  The man, Mr. Margovan, has a daughter to whom the twin becomes engaged to.  Meanwhile, the narrator explains he found an inexplicable desire to follow a woman whom he ne…

Short Story #175: The Haunted Valley by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  The Haunted ValleyAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummaryThe narrator introduces the reader to a valley that he always feels weird walking across and feels as if he knows something will happen.  He moves on to discuss his encounter with Jo' Dunfer, the man who owns the land in this valley.  Dunfer is a bit of an odd fellow who has a strong disdain for Asians and narrator asks him about this one day when visiting Jo's bar.  Jo initially explains that he had an Asian working for him years ago who was helpless and arrogant.  Despite Jo' supposedly tolerating this for a while, he set up a project he figured would be too much for the Asian person, Ah Wee.  Jo' explains that Ah Wee couldn't fell the trees right and this made him awfully angry.  Before he can go on, Jo' sees an illusion in a knot of wood on the wall that the narrator also sees, it is that of a large black eye.  The narrator leaves and eventually wanders into the valley to where the site of the cabin wa…

Short Story #174: The Man and the Snake by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  The Man and the SnakeAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummaryHarker Brayton is relaxing on a sofa when he comes upon a snake in the room.  The narrator then proceeds to explain that the snake is that of Dr. During, the owner of the house that Harker is visiting.  During is a zoologist and collector of different animals but most particularly, reptiles.  Typically, he keeps them stored away in another wing of the house, nicknamed, the Snakery.  Brayton initially decides to retreat from the room with the snake but wonders if he should confront the snake.  He continues to stare at the snake and determine its plan of attack but the snake continues to be motionless.  However, he feels a blow to his face and chest.  Shortly thereafter, Dr. During is called to the room to check to discover that Harker is dead, clearly bitten by one of his snakes.  However, when During looks in the room, he finds a stuff toy snake and wonders how it got in there.  

ReflectionAn amusing story, I'll give it tha…

Short Story #173: A Vine on a House by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  A Vine on a HouseAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummaryA house lay in ruins with nothing but a vine running through it.  It had been abandoned for a while since the Harding family went away.  First the wife was sent away to visit her mother several states away while Harding and his sister in-law remained.  Eventually, they too disappeared and the house fell into disrepair as well as became victim to marauders.  Years later, a minister and attorney find that it is the perfect spot to meet between their two dwellings.  After several meetings, they decide to explore the house.  They decide to take down the vine that rings through the house.  As they get to the root of the vine, they discover it is oddly shaped in the form of a human body with one leg (which happens to be a description of the wife).  Further inquiry leads them to discover that the wife never did visit her relatives and no one knows what happen to Harding and the sister-in-law.  

ReflectionA reasonably creepy story that rem…

Short Story #172: The Fruitless Assignment by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  The Fruitless Assignment
Author:  Ambrose BierceSummaryHenry Saylor is assigned to go investigate a house on Vine Street that neighbors are claiming are haunted and write a story about it.  People regularly show up, walk in, and if they come out, they disappear.  People have tried to break down the door but with no luck.  He climbed in through the rear window with the help of the police.  Once in the house, he hears all sorts of movement throughout the house.  He moves through the house and finds a woman's head.  He brings it toward the window examine it and continues to hear people.  He believes people outside has stampeded into the house.  When they enter the room and see him with the head, he tries to explain but they just laugh and kick the head around.  He left the house and goes to the office.  He reports that there is nothing going on in the house.  

ReflectionThe silenced report is an interesting conclusion to this story given Bierce's own experience as a journal…

Short Story #171: The Realm of the Unreal by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  The Realm of the Unreal
Author:  Ambrose BierceSummaryWhile travelling by himself, Mr. Manrich encounters Dr. Dorrimore who insists that Manrich gives him a ride.  Manrich is no fan of Dorrimore, who is a magician of sorts from India whom Manrich has seen perform.  He gives the man a ride but hopes his interaction with the man will be minimal as he believes Dorriomre to be a fraud.  He discovers that Dorrimore is staying at the same place as him.  Shortly thereafter, Manrich's paramour arrives and he spends some time thoroughly enjoying her company.  They spend a few weeks together and he reluctantly introduces her to Dorrimore.  One night, a few weeks later, Manrich is sitting near a graveyard at night when he sees Dorrimore with his love.  He sprang forward but then awakes the next morning in his room with his bruises on his body and throat.  When he asks about his love, he finds out that she has not been staying there and that Dr. Dorrimore has left that morning.  Later …

Short Story #170: The Damned Thing by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  The Damned ThingAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummaryEight men are present in a cabin, standing over a dead body that is covered.  William Harker enters and is sworn in to give testimony about the dead person, Hugh Morgan.  Harker explains he was visiting Morgan and invited to go hunt quail.  While wandering, their hunting dog goes crazy and Morgan shoots at what appears to be nothing in Harker's eyes.  However, there is a roar and clear movement in the aftermath of Morgan's shot.  Something surges forward and brutally beats Morgan to death.  After finishing his tale, the jury asks what asylum did Harker escape from.  Harker rebuts the insult and tells the coroner to read Morgan's journal for more insight.  The journal covers the events leading up to Morgan's death as he becomes aware of an invisible creature that he is hunting.  He reasons out that it lacks color or has a color that renders it invisible but to make sure he is not crazy, he plans on inviting Harker wi…

Tales of Running: Vibram-Gait (Get it?)

About a month ago, I across several of my feeds that Vibrams had recently settled a big lawsuit.  Now, we all know here that I'm a big Vibrams fan.  They are a shoe for all seasons as far as I see it.  So when I found out that they had settled a lawsuit, I was pretty surprised, initially.  

They lawsuit did not have to do with injuries incurred by the users but by the health claims associated with Vibrams.  They claimed things about their product that were not scientifically proven and someone called them on it  Fair enough--no company should falsely represent itself in such a manner.  However, I noticed that a good amount of people have used the loss to gloat, laugh at, or validate their belief that Vibrams are bad.  I get why they have done so but of course, as someone who has made a fundamental lifestyle change (that is, became a runner) that was a direct result of Vibrams, I feel I need to speak to what the lawsuit does and doesn't represent for me.  

Vibrams settled and the…

Short Story #169: John Mortonson's Funeral by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  John Mortonson's FuneralAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummaryJohn Mortonson sits in his casket with his family members weeping about him.  Soon, friends come to visit.  The minister arrives and delivers a eulogy.  As the ceremony is wrapping up, the mother runs to the casket and throws herself upon it and opens it to see her son one last time.  His physical appearance causes the audience to be repulsed and one man knocks over a support for the casket.  The coffin calls and breaks open, wherein Mortonson's cat walks out from within the casket.  

ReflectionThis story was never published but found among Bierce's writings after his death.  It was a short story without much punch besides asking the obvious question of how did the cat get in there in the first place.  

Short Story #169 out of 365
Rating:  (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  6/16/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bier…

Short Story #168: A Watcher by the Dead by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  A Watcher by the DeadAuthor:  Ambrose BierceSummaryThe story begins with a man sitting in a room at night with a corpse under a sheet.  Seeing that his candle is low, he blows it out in order to save on the candle should he need it later on.  The story moves to a Dr.'s office where two doctors and an aid are discussing the topic of death and sanity.  Two of them singularly believe that facing death in some challenging way such as doctors or soldiers do proves the quality of a man.  They agree to take a bet on a man, Jarette who will stay in a room with a corpse all night.  The story returns to Jarette who becomes increasingly anxious in the dark and indeed even hears footfalls.  The next morning, one of the doctors and his aid walk over to the house.  While there, they see a great commotion about the house and wonder what has occurred.  They discover that Jarette has killed their friend who was pretending to be a corpse.  They conclude that they had best leave the country …

Short Story #167: The Death of Halpin Frayser by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  The Death of Halpin Frayser Author:  Ambrose BierceSummaryThe story begins with Halpin Frayser speaking the words Catherine Larue into the darkness and we're told that he died shortly thereafter at the age of 32 of unnatural causes.  As he wanders the darkness, it is clear there is something devious about and he is stricken with fear but tries to fend it off.  He confronts the darkness and claims power over it.  He quickly grabs quickly begins to write but before he can write too much, he is confronted by the corpse of his mother.  The story then switches to telling us about Frayser's upbringing in Tennessee.  He never fit in with most of his family except for his mother.  His penchant for poetry--albeit bad poetry--makes him a favorite to her.  As Frayser becomes a young man, the relationship between mother and son is perceived as strange as they are together constantly.  One day, Frayser tells her that he will take to California and though she initially tries to go w…

My Top 101 Films Part 3 (of 10)

So we're trekking along and are now into part 3 of a 10 part series that covers my favorite 101 films.  For those that missed the first two posts, here they are:

Films 1-10Films 11-20
So let's see the list!

Dark Crystal (1982) I've always been a fan of fantasy and what can be done with it.  Couple with that a fascination with puppetry a la the Muppets and Fraggle Rock, and well, it's no wonder that Dark Crystal is part of the mixture.  It's one of two puppet films on this list and of the two, it is the one that is family friendly.  However, what I liked about the film was its darkness and complexity.  The film presents itself as pulled into a larger mythology and history that the viewer is only getting a glimmer of.  Coupled with that we have characters built from tragedy and horrific characters that are in fact, good (the witch, always weirded me out).  There's also elements of whimsy within the film such as the first time we learn that female gelflings can fly. …