A thought on Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’

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When I was young we lived in Moscow on the 11th floor of an apartment building so soviet you’d think it was made entirely from ice and concrete. Our Russian nanny Natasha would read us tales of Poe.

Ever since then I have loved Poe’s enigmatic tale The Black Cat and so here is my interpretation of it.

In Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Black Cat the narrator pens the tale of his descent from sanity to madness all because of an obsession with two (or possibly one) black cats. These ebony creatures finally drive him to take the life his wife, whose death he unsuccessfully tries to conceal.

There are many interpretations of this dark tale, from a study on the psychology of guilt to an exploration of religion. But I tend to feel that The Black Cat can be seen as an exploration of the process of change and call of the perverse that is sometimes an irresistible temptation.

At the outset of the story the narrator tells us that he is a great lover of animals, a mild mannered man and generally well meaning person. He seems to think of himself as a good and worthy character. We are introduced to a black cat, a creature with which he shares a particular affinity and whose company he values.

His affection for and descriptions of the cat are not dissimilar to his descriptions of himself. The cat can be seen to represent his good and sane self. When the man starts drinking he begins to turn on his wife and pets treating them badly. The cat exists as a reminder to him that he was once a gentle and good person.

He cannot face this reminder and over come by anger one night when the cat is avoiding him he deliberately cuts out one of the cat’s eyes.

This mutilation of the poor creature matches the man’s mutilation of himself through becoming an alcoholic. He recalls that when turning on his cat, Pluto, and tearing out its eye, ‘The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame.’

The next morning his remorse was ‘feeble and equivocal’ and his ‘soul remained untouched.’ He had been ‘grieved’ by the ‘evident dislike on the part of a creature which had once so loved him’, leading him to strangle it. This grief he puts down to the faint manifestation of his ‘old heart’ but it is so obviously a perverse delusion.

Although he feels remorse for his actions, perhaps indicative of his longing to return to his former temperament, he can no longer stand the cat’s company. He kills and hangs the cat in an attempt to assuage his guilt and ignore his undeniably shifting identity.

Despite his destruction of the animal, his guilt and self-loathing does not disappear. In fact it can be argued that his increasing foray into madness manifests itself in the second cat or apparition. As the narrative unfolds the cat turns from companion to monster, as does the man himself.

We could read this transition, as being solely down to alcohol, yet there is also a subtle implication of something else, something ‘extra’. He stresses the ‘docility and humanity’ of his infancy and his particular kindness to animals, a trait wholly at odds with the monster he later becomes.

His transformation is a curious and total about-turn. As the ‘Fiend Intemperance’ takes a hold of him he becomes abusive and violent, perhaps a soul possessed.

The story culminates in the unsolicited murder of the man’s wife when he can no longer resist the call of the soul ‘to vex itself.’ He has little or no restraint left over the all too powerful call of insanity that takes over his reason and results in his final fall from grace and incarceration.

This final act signifies his transformation from man to monster complete and is mirrored in the last appearance and betrayal of the cat, which, like the man has become a grotesque caricature of its original self. The cat betrays him by yowling out from behind the niche where his wife is entombed.

The cat which he has unknowingly walled up with the corpse represents his last attempt to lock away any connection to his other self. The cat however gives him away showing that he has ultimately betrayed himself.

This compelling conclusion resonates with readers and questions our curious fascination with and call to the perverse.

Does anyone else love Poe or think something different about the black cat?

Image courtesy of www.moviepostershop.com

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How to Charm Strangers


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Getting to know people and make new friends can be a daunting task for anyone who has moved away from their usual environment, started at a new school, workplace, or even if they just want to meet new people.

In any case knowing how to charm everyone you meet from infant to elderly will make your quest for friends, fun and adventure infinitely more exciting, enjoyable and successful.

Be cautious though! Charm, coupled with dangerous good looks is a combination that can be deadly, if you are good looking try not to use too much charm or you run the risk of being utterly adored by people you don’t like and uttered loathed by everybody else.

Secondly, a good dose of charm directed towards the wrong people can get you into a bad situation so be careful with your power and be sure to use it wisely. It may not be such a good idea to charm a prisoner, for example.

Cheeky Smile and Twinkling Eyes

So let’s get down to it. The first and most important trait of being charming is a genuine or cheeky smile and twinkle in your eye. The reason for this is that you must let your charm-ee know that you are not being serious.

This helps them to let down their guard and be open to laughing at your hilarious jokes or pleasant teasing. This stage is crucial.

Develop your smile to be natural and pleasant, try to convey a sense of easy going lightness and a playful aura. Likewise, many lines you will deliver when you are being charming are well tempered with a subtle wink at the end.

Convincing Your Charm-ee that they are Charming

The second most important part of being charming is to make the person you are talking to believe that they are entertaining and enthralling and that is why you are there listening to them.

They must believe that they are offering you something that you could get from nobody else. This gives the charm-ee the sense that they are important and interesting and they will remember you because you made them feel good about themselves.

Confidence and Sass

Next comes confidence. It is almost impossible to be charming without this. If you don’t have it, pretend to. The chances are the stranger with whom you are chatting has no idea about your real personality yet, so there’s no harm in experimenting with whatever attitude strikes your fancy at the time.

Tone and Expression

The tone of your voice is yet another important factor in being charming. Knowing what tone of voice to use in what situation is crucial to being able to charm the pants off any individual you come across.

If you want to flirt for example, lower you tone, speak more quietly so the person has to concentrate hard on what you are saying or lean in to hear you properly.

If you choose to be loud and energetic in group scenario’s don’t forget to include everyone into the conversation or you run the risk of intimidating, overwhelming and excluding other people.

You will also look a bit attention seeking. There is nothing wrong with being loud and fun, just be careful to let other people express themselves too. Bring them into your character don’t lock them out.

Dangerous Charm

Being charming at work or to people of authority is another hurdle because you have to be appropriate. Charm does not equally sexual. You can be charming without inserting sexuality or flirtiness.

This is a different type of charm, more about conveying energy and happiness in order to make the other person feel less serious and more attracted to your vitality. Your boss for example, you can’t be sexual towards them but you can be happy, and playful about how you handle things around the office.

Obviously make sure your doing your job done though otherwise you run the risk of being seen as a slacker.

Original Compliments

Generally speaking, people hear the same old compliments all the time, particularly if they have a stand out feature, like orange eyes or green skin. They probably still like those compliments but you will not stand out to them if you tell them what they already know.

The trick to being remembered is to tell them something they didn’t already hear from five hundred other people. Try complimenting their ‘delightfully enchanting giggle,’ or their ‘exceptionally glorious moustache.

What do your think of a charmer? Love em or hate em? Let me know in the comments below.

Image courtesy of : www.esquire.com

What’s up with the election results?

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Image Courtesy of Quickmemes.com

I’m genuinely shell-shocked to find Tony Abbott has actually become the prime minister of Australia. I mean I know the odds seemed to be ‘ever in his favour’ from the polls, but I have never heard a single living person say a word in support of his leadership.

He looks just like Mr Anderson from The Matrix and he seems like narrow minded pratt. Tony Abbott has been seen in speedos, his ears have been known to flap like dumbo when he flies around the truth and his policies are so ten years ago I can’t even fathom how he got people to back him up.

I thought Australia was a progressive country leaning towards open mindedness, I was proud to consider myself a member of a community that, in my opinion was erring towards not racist and moving towards not sexist.

I looked forward to a future that embraced high speed technology, encouraged innovation, protected national park land and cared about the environment. A country that allowed two people of any gender to legally say they were eternally dedicated to one another. Instead I find myself in a country paused upon the brink of a backwards trip along the time continuum.

Where did all this support come from? All I can say is it certainly wasn’t from Gen Y in Melbourne.

What do you think of Tony’s election as president? Let me know in the comments below.

Artist of the Day: Fiona Hall

ImageFiona Hall is an Australian contemporary Sculptor and Artist. She is best known for her installations and taking common place things and transforming them to give them new meaning.

Her most recent exhibition Big Game Hunting has toured Australia and was recently on display at the Heide Museum of Modern Art.

In this particular exhibition she takes army uniforms and plaits and twists them into creatures, a human with a gas mask and a monkey among others.

Her work speaks to the political environment of war and has a poignancy I think is missed by many other contemporary and experimental artists.

Learn more at the Heide.

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Artist of the day: Roy Lichtenstein

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Lichtenstein has always been one of my favourite pop artists. He was an american dude whose attire was so Steve Jobs it’s hard to believe that brewing inside him was a flurry of brightly coloured dots and lines.

He rose to prominence in the 1960s along with others in the pop art movement such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and others. His art is based on the comic strip often parodying the characters in comics such as in Drowning Girl.

He uses precise composition and many series of dots and occasionally lines to produce large prints. He was a master of appropriation.

Applying a systematic approach to his creative energy, his entire body of work was constructed following a sophisticated strategy of image selection, reinterpretation and reissue.

Lichtenstein developed a central creative principle that became a potent formula: an ability to identify over-used cultural clichés and to repackage them as monumental remixes.

Lichtenstein collage

The Rotten Desert: Part 2

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As lying under a freezing preservation cabinet is not the most tenable position for a would-be escapee I decide now is the time for action. While it had seemed a natural place to hide whilst plotting an escape route I had suddenly come to the realisation that with Juniper trapped in my room, no-one could stop me.

I slipped out from the gap and stood up to stroll confidently through the doors towards Shirley, the annoying Voice System grew more insistent.

‘Ben Blackthorne. Get back to your room and release me immediately. You can’t get past Shirley; she’ll dial the gov’s immediately. You don’t want that Ben, if they find out about you they’ll take you away. You’ll be much worse off than in here. Come and let me out right now!’

She was whining now. I knew she could see me, she had access to all the interface walls, but there wasn’t much she could actually do about it since she was the only person running this place. I had trapped her in my room this afternoon as she turned her shapely back to the collection of ‘healing’ evaporation phials she usually forced me to inhale.

It was hard to tear my eyes away from her lab uniform covered curves, but it was a good opportunity. The door hissed closed behind me. Automatic Security meant only one person could come in and one person go out, but given how shitty some parts of the lab seemed, I had to make doubly sure. I had dragged a large freestanding bio-cabinet in front of the door that was impossible for Juniper to move with her slender frame..

‘Ben please! Don’t leave me in here. I can’t get out. Are you really going to leave me here to die?’

She was being dramatic, someone would be down before long. Although come to mention it I couldn’t remember seeing anyone else here, apart from a blurry memory of people on the day I was woken up. In recent weeks I had tried to seduce her, before realising that she had an unwavering preference for women and as it stood, I could see no benefit from having her in my debt. Besides, she had resorted to pleas that meant Shirley wasn’t as much of a threat as she made her out to be.

As I crossed the last chamber floor the turquoise writing changed to an infinite scroll that spelled ‘FUCK YOU BEN BLACKTHORNE.’ Shirley rolled her oversized eyes up at me picking her pink nails. Through a narrow window in the door behind her I could see an elevator shaft. I leaned against the wall by Shirley’s desk.

‘Hey Shirley.’ I drew out the words holding her eye contact.

‘Ben.’ She said dismissively.

‘I’m going to grab some food at Vegas how would you like to be my date?’ I just hoped android woman were as taken with expensive dinner propositions as earth girls were. Juniper had mentioned something about Vegas being a great place to eat.

‘Ben.’ She said in a tone if possible even more dismissively than before.

‘Come on Shirls. I’ve had my eye on you since I woke up.’ I only hoped she found me calling her Shirls endearing and not disgusting as one Shirley I had known did. She blinked seductively and emitted a high pitch squeal that I chose to take as a sign of robot arousal.

‘Ben.’ She burbled. I waved my hand in front of her. ‘Ben.’ ‘Ben.Ben.benebenebenebenben’

Robots were still shit. No replacement for real people. I walked straight past the malfunctioning skankbot. I waved my hand in front of the lift sensor several times before it blinked and displayed an icon that looked like a square crushing a spring.

I supposed that meant the lift was coming. The lift doors were made of thick patinated steel with large bolts punched around the frame. It reminded me of a large navy bunker I’d once purchased for redevelopment.

No sooner had the doors opened than something was hurtling at me. The thing was large. It looked like some kind of brown leather clad animal. The thing knocked me off my feet before tripping over its own feet and landing next to me with a thud.

It was then, as the thing got to its feet dusting off a very large brown trench coat that I realised it was, in fact, a man. He had wild curly brown hair. Some kind of metal circuit was attached to the side of his head. He looked ever so slightly like a tramp. A tramp that thought he was dressed professionally. The man stared down at me.

‘Are you Ben?’

Inside the Apple Store

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Apple Store 
Inspired by Daniel Kharms Tumbling Babushkas
For miles about the battered people line. Behind the shop of snake-ish fruit sign, to dissolve the last make. The first person enters and is told that now skin sample is required. Gladly biopsied for the white thick solid. He is gone amidst the ample t-shirt help. The next one, out of curiosity, lured inside by sterility followed the first. And she too into white and silver plastic sea was lost to technical waiting line. Later, emerging from comatic state of peoples backs walks Olma who hasn’t heard of the PRODUCT. Her turn, ecstatic beam eyes to find only disappointment on flat pack tables.

NailPolish

Tesselate
Nailpolish
I tessellate
when i consider the anxious options
spread apart like a pattern the edges
Apply
            like our fingers sometimes
   brushing against each repeated shape
capturing a part of the infinite expansion of perfectly set rotations
A piece fits to its neighbour
             As a lock slid into its natural comfortable place
I tessellate this moment in my head
again
            again
                        again               
                                    again
 

The Rotten Desert: Part 1

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There is  a noise like a high-pressure gas valve being released coming from above my head.

I am hiding under a cryogenic storage cabinet in an underground laboratory where I’ve been frustratingly trapped for the last eight weeks.

This particular cabinet looks as though it has grown red fur from all rust built up on its surface. The cabinet is six-foot long with a foot gap underneath, next to a wall. It is the one-foot space under this cabinet that I am currently occupying.  I squint out across the floor to the door in the distance.

The room I’m in is almost identical to the others I’ve been living in for the last eight weeks. A cold cast chamber with digi-glass interfaces covering all the walls. The words ‘BEN BLACKTHORNE GET BACK TO YOUR ROOM,’ my name, scrolling in turquoise across the walls.

The walls, although plastered with an interface much further advanced than anything I’d ever encountered, had acquired a stickiness to them that suggested they hadn’t been cleaned for a while, or knowing Juniper who owned the lab, perhaps never.

Every room including mine was always chilled, even now my breath frosts out from my hiding place, like dragon smoke rolling across the chamber. This room is characteristic of cryotech, run-down. The door scanners were temperamental, only some of the digi-glass display functioned, the bio-detection systems were clearly bunked.

My room, although it has the semblance of homeliness is small, claustrophobic and still housing my iron cast preservation chamber. Everything inside it is grey except the writing that scrolled across the glass surfaces of the walls.

The lights never dimmed which made sleep difficult and there were fake windows that showed me Salvador Dali paintings as though they were the scenery outside. Which for all I knew of the outside world, could be accurate?

Inside my room I can access a small alcove hidden behind the glass walls that served as a toilet, but unless Juniper came to take me to the medi-room, I couldn’t leave. The only sense of day and night I had was through scrolling pictures on the interface walls that would occasionally display something that looked like a sun or a moon.

This place had been my hell. The woman who worked here deflected my requests to be allowed outside. I was well enough. I guess that’s what led me to my current position. There is also a noise buzzing through the air. It is loud and annoying and a woman’s. At this point in time I am choosing to ignore it favour of concentrating on my escape route.

A door and the possible exit to the cryolab is two chambers from the one I am in now. I narrow my eyes, giving myself door tunnel-vision. Of course there is supposed to be biological detection systems in all the rooms. But, it has been my suspicion over the last few weeks that this lab isn’t as up-to-date as they’d have me think. And now, those suspicions have been confirmed. I had army crawled across the cryolab floor for three chambers before realising no alarms had gone off. I could simply walk.

Hiding under the cabinet had was probably an unnecessary precaution. It smells like feet and probably contains an unsuccessfully reanimated body, I squint through the door. There’s an Androbot at the exit. Her name is Shirley; she looks like a cheap prostitute from my time, garish pink nails and a ghastly Australian accent. She was outdated but Juniper had told me that prostitute-chic had been big when she’d been installed. Shirley, the prostitute android; the last obstacle between me and potential escape…

Read Part 2