A Little Perspective From Thom R. Church and Erin I. Rothback

Hey all! As usual, I’m keeping up with the entertainment realm of life and lately that’s meant watching every Ghibli movie ever produced. It started with Spirited Away when I was seven or so, and hell, I was scared of that movie. It’s not exactly the most kid-friendly Ghibli movie, and the scene where Chihiro runs back to her parents to find they’ve turned into pigs scared me shitless. It’s like losing your parents in the grocery store. Except they’re pigs now. Non-sentient, unpredictable pigs.

So my first impression wasn’t the best. That scene nagged me so badly that the rest of the movie was difficult to appreciate. I was a crummy little kid though, unable to watch the basilisk scene of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; hiding around the corner drinking milk during a family viewing of King Kong; being brought to see X-Men 2 only to cover my eyes through the entire movie. The only scene I saw was the one where the cat licks Wolverine’s claws.

But through some miracle of a trend in overly violent movies that keep upping the ante and pushing the boundary of what viewers are willing to sit through, I am now mostly numb to these kinds of things. Pig parents? Those would be like regular parents except you’d have to clean up after them instead of it being the other way around.

So I’ve watched all of the movies Studio Ghibli has to offer. I haven’t watched all of their short films, music videos, commercials, or collaborative works, but I can at least say I’ve seen all of their theatrical releases (of which there are sixteen currently in American circulation). They’re captivating in every sense of the word, and while some are better than others, I have no clear-cut favorite. I can’t make a “top ten list” of these films. I cherish them all for different reasons and would want to watch one the most under certain circumstances. I’ll do my best to explain my admiration for each of the films I list here.

[Reminder: these films are not listed in order of favorites; they are simply a group that I consider my favorite.]

1) My Neighbor Totoro

This movie is held as one of the most fantastic adventures that Studio Ghibli has ever produced, and I don’t think it could be summed up in clearer terms than with this quote from Roger Ebert: “[Totoro] is based on experience, situation, and exploration–not on conflict and threat.” He also called it “one of the lovingly hand-crafted works of Hayao Miyazaki,” who is the director, animator, writer, and/or producer of many Studio Ghibli feature films. Totoro is the story of two young girls, Satsuki and Mei, who discover creatures of varying size in the forests near their new home. These creatures are dubbed “totoro” by young Mei, who is the first one to actually see them. Her father calls them keepers of the forest who will reveal themselves again when they wish.

totoro

These creatures reveal themselves to be benevolent, fun-loving, and magically gifted. The movie focuses on their experiences with them, and while the movie does in fact have an apparent conflict, the magic in this movie comes from the innocence, imagination, and excitement of the two girls and the totoro (which, by the way, is plural in this case). It transcends the kids’ genre and I encourage anybody to watch it if they ever want to feel like a kid again.

2) Spirited Away

Let’s go ahead and tackle this one. Here’s the movie I said frightened me. Frankly, it still does, but perhaps in different ways. No, I’m not scared my parents will turn into pigs anymore, but this movie is centered around a plot in which a young girl, Chihiro, stumbles into a world of spirits. She feels out of place, lost, and lonely, and everyone she meets treats her harshly. There are some genuinely scary characters along the way, and a big-headed old woman running the show.

This movie works to alienate Chihiro, and in the process makes the viewer uncomfortable. The movie is unpredictable and surreal, and that’s part of its beauty. It’s wonderfully animated and full of suspense, as well as happy moments, paced to keep you waiting. One of my favorite parts about this movie is its soundtrack (not uncommon, as you’ll see from entries further down this list). Joe Hisaishi is a composer who often collaborates with Hayao Miyazaki in adding musical emphasis and power to Studio Ghibli films. A movie with Hisaishi as its composer is one worth watching. Notable tracks from this film are “One Summer’s Day,” “The Sixth Station,” and “The Dragon Boy.”

spirited awayThis movie is dreamlike. It may have been hard to watch and appreciate when I was younger, but it was also the first Ghibli movie I saw, and when I was older I searched for it and watched it again and found it to be beautiful. It’s absolutely worth watching.

3) Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies offers a largely different experience, you will find, than its Ghibli counterparts. The two main reasons are its premise and its director. The movie’s foundation rests on the air raids on Japan during WWII. Seita and his young and naive sister Setsuko are two children left to fend for themselves when their living situation falls apart. They are surrounded by harsh circumstances in a community that is becoming increasingly stingy with its food and money. Seita feels it’s his responsibility to look after Setsuko, who is just old enough to talk and who has a much harder time adapting than he does.

The movie’s director is Isao Takahata. Takahata is the director of only four Studio Ghibli films of the eighteen that are currently available in Japan (two of these films, Only Yesterday and The Wind Rises, haven’t been released in America). That said, Takahata is second in directorial involvement to Miyazaki, and does not often receive as much praise. I personally prefer Miyazaki movies to those Takahata produces, and their difference is only in style and interest. Takahata’s career has consisted of movies that are more “slice-of-life,” and perhaps more relevant to real-life situations. Movies like Only Yesterday and My Neighbors the Yamadas support this assertion, whereas Takahata’s Pom Poko (a movie about talking raccoons who face habitat destruction) would contradict it. In any case, I generally prefer the films Miyazaki writes and/or directs.

grave of the fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies is the exception. This movie is heartbreakingly real, and is even based on a Japanese man’s autobiography. The events described in the movie are recreations of true occurrences. The outcome of this movie, I will warn you, is harsh. But there is a magic to the movie that sticks with you long after you watch it, as well as an appreciation for life.

4) From Up On Poppy Hill

I only needed to watch this one once to declare it one of my instant favorites. From Up On Poppy Hill is actually the second film directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki. The first film, Tales From Earthsea, was good, but From Up On Poppy Hill, in my opinion, is a more worthy film and received better critical attention. Another film that falls into the category of realism, Poppy Hill details the story of Umi, who raises marina flags every morning in order to signal ships. The ship she is signalling is her father’s, who she has not seen in years.

A boy in town notices and writes a poem about it that makes it into the school paper. They end up meeting and bonding over extracurricular activities that take place in a clubhouse called the Latin Quartier. The movie is a love story, and a really good one. It was funny and endearing, and most of all it was pretty.

from up on poppy hill

Also notable about this movie was its ability to make me laugh. Studio Ghibli movies are always pretty, but a sense of humor always helps. This movie was all-around fantastic, and a definite must-see for fans. It also gave me confidence in Goro Miyazaki’s ability to succeed his father, who recently retired!

5) Kiki’s Delivery Service

This movie is one of the most inherently goodhearted and beautiful films I’ve ever watched. Everyone in this movie works to do good for each other, to be helpful and kind human beings. It’s all about a young witch, Kiki, who moves to the waterside town of Koriko in order to learn how to learn how the human world operates. The people she meets along the way become close friends and help her at every opportunity.

This movie is not conflictless, and yet it has no clear villain. You cannot even label something intangible as the enemy, such as “human greed” or “environmental pollution.” There is simply no evil afoot. This movie, like Totoro, is about the situation, and about the experience. It’s a lesson in aesthetics, and in how to treat people. Kiki and Tombo are fantastic characters, because of their inclination to optimism and their profound childlike wonder (and I may be a little biased).

This gorgeous movie was written, directed, and produced by Hayao Miyazaki, with music by Joe Hisaishi.

kiki's delivery serviceA fantastic movie and a great choice for anybody! It’s certainly something I’ll be showing my children someday. And you know the old C. S. Lewis quote: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I will never stop enjoying Kiki.

6) Howl’s Moving Castle

Erin’s personal favorite, Howl’s Moving Castle is directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki, with music by Joe Hisaishi–right in my comfort zone. Originally, Mamoru Hosoda, the director of two Digimon movies, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Summer Wars was to direct.  However, he left the production, and Miyazaki came out of what everyone thought was his retirement to direct the movie (keep in mind, this was in the early 2000s).

This movie never disappointed me. It’s a magical tale, and a more surreal one as well, comparable to Spirited Away in the sense that not everything that happens makes sense. The rules are never spelled out, but that’s something you end up understanding and enjoying. Howl is a love story between the mysterious owner of a moving castle and a young girl named Sophie who has trouble believing she’s pretty at all. It makes it all the more difficult for her to believe Howl loves her, and has been looking for her.

howl's moving castleThis movie is touching, and you end up loving the characters for their ability to protect their friends and convert their enemies. It’s a movie that’s stuck with me as being one of the most beautiful in terms of art and its story. “Now, straighten your legs, and start walking!”

7) Whisper Of The Heart

This love story was actually adapted by Hayao Miyazaki from a manga comic series. While I can’t compare the two (having never read the latter), I can honestly say that Whisper is a beautifully touching story of young romance and coming of age. It’s a story that I believe many can identify with, because it’s all about balancing responsibilities and becoming something you can respect. One of my favorite quotes from the movie is spoken by the main character’s scarcely-seen father: “Why don’t we let Shizuku do what she thinks is best? Not everyone has to follow the same path? … Go ahead and do what your heart tells you. But it’s never easy when you do things differently from everyone else. If things don’t go well, you’ll only have yourself to blame.”

Whisper has a powerful story and a wonderful message. It may feel at first as if this story is realistic fiction, like From Up On Poppy Hill or Only Yesterday, but this is a movie that creates its own magic and showcases such imaginative ideas and themes.

whisper of the heartOne of my favorites, absolutely. It also has one of my favorite scenes–the one pictured in the .gif above–of any Ghibli movie!

8) Princess Mononoke

Mononoke means ‘spirit’ or ‘monster,’ so the translation for this movie’s title is closer to “The Spirit Princess.” It’s described as a historical epic fantasy (try wrapping your mind around that one) that illustrates mankind’s effect on nature. It’s actually one of a few Studio Ghibli movies that notably delve into that subject, the others being Nausicaa of the Valley of the WindPom Poko, and Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Other films go into less detail, but convey the same message through mankind’s harmful interactions with magical presences.

Mononoke is a masterful movie. It’s a fan favorite because it’s a bit more violent than other movies, and also a bit more fantastic. The characters are ambitious and aggressive, and the art is beautiful. This movie was calculated to have approximately 144,000 individual celluloid images used in the final production, the Studio’s last cel-shaded film up until Ponyo was made. Ponyo topped Mononoke’s cel-shade count at 170,000 separate images.

princess mononoke

This is a spectacular movie, and it features one of my favorite Hisaishi songs: “Ashitaka and San.”  It’s a bit more action-oriented than other Studio Ghibli films, for all of us who appreciate that kind of thing!

9) Arrietty

This movie was really fantastic. It was actually directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, notable for the fact that he was the youngest director of a theatrical Studio Ghibli movie. It was written by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, with music by Cecile Corbel. The change in musical style was actually quite welcome, and suited the movie superbly. I paid attention to the music in this movie and ended up really loving it.

Arrietty had a cry-worthy premise. It’s about a boy named Sho who moves into a house inhabited by a tiny race of people called Borrowers. They borrow things from the humans’ residences because the difference in size is extremely helpful to them. For example, a sugar cube in the human world that would last us one cup of coffee would last the Borrowers several weeks. Arrietty is a young Borrower whose father wants to teach her how to explore human houses discreetly.

But Sho finds out about her when she is careless, and tries his best to help her. Sho reveals to Arrietty later on that he has a heart condition, and he is sick almost beyond conceivable medical help. It appears that Sho does not have much longer to live, and he says that he is helping them because, unlike himself, the Borrowers have a chance at not “dying out.”

arriettyEverything about this movie is pretty. The whole thing is wonderful, and the way that Arrietty and Sho give meaning to each others’ lives is what makes this movie really special.

10) Ponyo

I will never grow tired of this movie, not in two or three or ten lifetimes. Ponyo was brilliant in every sense of the word. From the killer cast to the breathtaking art style, from the Hisaishi soundtrack to the goofy main characters, this movie had it all. It is the epitome of cuteness and fun. I think what made this movie great was its ability to make me happy. The kids in the movie are always jovial, brave, and silly with each other, especially Ponyo who is ridiculously oblivious and always jumping for joy. When she’s not screaming, she’s sleepy. She was the most enjoyable and adorable character.

The plot managed to be suspenseful, cute, and fulfilling all at once. What also makes Ponyo interesting is that it lacks a definite villain. It was much like Kiki’s Delivery Service in that way. Ponyo was extremely imaginative and visually stunning.

ponyo

If there’s one movie I can trust to liven me up and make me happy, it’s Ponyo. 

Thanks so much for reading, everyone, and I hope you enjoyed! If you learned anything or got some insight into what to watch next, that’s a bonus!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Only a few days ago, Pokemon X and Y version were released in America. And even under all of the college schoolwork and studying, even while I sleep and exercise and eat and try keeping up with my TV shows (which are all back in season), I still haven’t been able to escape the ripples it’s made in the gaming community. If I think too long about how I don’t have X or Y, I get a little anxious.

I’m curious as hell, and I’ve decided to look more into it recently; I’ll detail my finds in this post, and hopefully inform some of you guys on why this is so exciting for me. I started by watching “Pokemon: The Origin” which was a miniseries aired on Tokyo TV on October 2nd. It was a back-to-back broadcast of four episodes of never-before-seen Pokemon adventures. Except this time it wasn’t Ash and Pikachu, it was Red and Charmander.

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For those of you familiar with the Pokemon TV show that played in the 90s (and apparently the 2000s but I didn’t keep up with it), you’ll know about Ash, Pikachu, Misty, and Brock. And as cool as they were, “Pokemon: The Origin” instead chooses to focus the story on the exact events of the very first video games ever released in the Pokemon series: Red and Blue Version. Therefore, the characters are Red (the main character, the Ash equivalent), and Green (his rival, the Gary equivalent). Ash chooses Charmander, and Green chooses Squirtle.

This series was released to commemorate the beginnings of the Pokemon video game franchise and was aired only in Japan, and therefore you’ll only find it online with subtitles. However, it was absolutely worth the watch, and made me nostalgic as hell. Its notable aspects include a detailed account of the Cubone story in which its mother died and became a ghost; a look into snippets of Giovanni’s past; and even a surprise ending to the series tying it into the new X and Y series developments, a surprise which I will not spoil for any of you readers.

Okay, so getting back to X and Y: what makes them special? I’m sure that’s what everyone’s asking, and it’s certainly what I’ve been wondering. Trust me, I’ve passed up recent Pokemon DS installments without much of a second thought: Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum Versions all looked strange to me, and I did not ever bother completing them. I never purchased my own copy of any. I bought Heartgold Version and thoroughly enjoyed it, but have not played it much since beating it. And I did not play any of Pokemon Black, White, or Black 2 / White 2. I’ve tried articulating my reasoning before, but haven’t been successful; mostly, I just thought they were slower-paced, had strange Pokemon I was not willing to take to heart, and were not familiar to me.

Pokemon X and Y developers have spent a lot of time and money trying to induce nostalgia and draw its old audience back in with the new. “Pokemon: The Origin” brought everyone back to the 90s, when they’d first started playing Pokemon. In X and Y, it was revealed before the game was even released that the player would receive a new starter Pokemon, and then shortly after, have a choice of Squirtle, Bulbusaur, or Charmander as a “second starter” option. I see it as a direct appeal to people who’ve been playing for a long time, and honestly that’s pretty badass.

(quick sidenote: if you need to get caught up or have your memory jogged on how to actually play the games, I’ve done my best to describe the gameplay involved in Pokemon here, and subsequently here)

All the Pokemon hype has had me playing Platinum religiously. I’ve got a copy now and I’m trying like hell to create a balanced team of Pokemon I’ve never used before, and to beat the game so I can move on to White version. Once I’ve caught up, maybe I’ll be in a position to play X and Y. That’s a bit aside from the point I’m trying to make.

Here’s what makes X and Y special:

1) X and Y have received the highest Metacritic score for any handheld Pokemon game in recent years. Metacritic has kept tabs on the handheld Pokemon game franchise since 2003, or since the release of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire Versions; they both scored an overall critique of 82. Since then, the highest score given to a handheld Pokemon game has been an 87, which was given to Heartgold and Soulsilver; Pokemon X and Y officially received an 88 and an 89, respectively, with user scores slightly higher, making them the best-critiqued handheld Pokemon games to date, according to Metacritic. Gamespot’s user reviews are funneling in, and Y’s average score of 8.8 is lagging behind X’s, which has so far teetered at 9.3.

2) In the past, Pokemon games have differed mostly cosmetically. After the new types (dark and steel) were introduced in Generation II of Pokemon (Gold, Silver, Crystal), there haven’t been many additions to the Pokemon formula. Berries can be grown, the Vs. Seeker allows trainer rematches, the bicycle has two gears instead of one, etc. Ultimately, aside from the addition of one hundred plus Pokemon every generation, the games aren’t too different all the time, if you think about it. They’re still fun, but they tend to bank on success with minimal addition.

X and Y are the most major upset to this trend I think I’ve seen so far. First off, there’s the fact that this game truly belongs on the 3DS because it allows free, 3D overworld movement. You don’t walk on a 2D grid anymore, you can move in any direction the joystick can command. You get roller skates as well, a small and rather basic change, but with some neat uses. This is the first Generation to introduce a new Pokemon type since Generation II: the Fairy type is now in play, some of its more notable members being Mawile, Sylveon (new Eevee evolution), and lots of those “pink” dudes we think are cute. Fairy is super-effective against Dragon. Think about that.

The option to receive a second starter (Squirtle, Bulbusaur, Charmander) eliminates some of that ever-present fear that your rival will kick your ass. The 3D battle animations are much more enthralling and thrilling. The new Pokemon are abundant and presumably fun to raise. And there is an entirely new territory to explore, the Kalos region, which I don’t know much about and don’t want to until I experience it for myself.

A last paragraph about some other innovative features introduce for X and Y: there’s Pokemon Amie, which is a function of the game allowing you to play with, pet, and feed your Pokemon in order to get more accustomed to them. The benefits range from increased experience in battle to a better chance they’ll survive a normally-lethal hit. Also, the Pokemon Bank is a paid service (price not yet revealed) that allows you to maintain virtual boxes full of Pokemon. It allows for the transfer of Pokemon from previous games to the boxes via Wi-Fi, so that the awesome teams you end up getting at the ends of playthroughs are more tangible and not so forgettable. The Internet compatibility of Pokemon games seems to only be expanding nowadays, and some people argue that this is “as close as Pokemon will ever be to a massively multiplayer online game.”

Pokemon-X-and-Y

3) These last two additions are significant enough to mention on their own. The first of which, Super Training, is a new way to level up Pokemon statistics. This seems like more of a competitive-edge type function, for people who tend to level-grind their Pokemon to battle gym leaders or friends. Personally, I appreciate that the option is there, because there were definitely games in the past where your only training options became wild Pokemon or the Elite Four. This function allows you to basically take on the role of a personal exercise trainer, and raise your team’s stats individually (not their levels). It functions like Protein, Iron, and the rest of the Pokemon “vitamin” items that were utilized in the past.

The other new thing is Mega Evolution. This means that many Pokemon in their final form will be able to surpass their final stage of evolution temporarily to look badass and deal some major damage. Mega Charizard, Mega Alakazam, Mega Gengar, and others have been officially released. This adds a brand new battling dynamic and aesthetic to the game. Pretty damn cool. Not only that, but their forms differ between versions X and Y. That means that stats and appearance are completely divergent depending on what game you got.

List of Mega Evolutions documented thus far

So there you have it. That’s about a complete a list of things I can tell you guys without spoiling the hell out of the best parts of the game. I’m sure fans of the series will love it, and from what I’ve heard, even newcomers will find it fun and welcoming (and perhaps a little overwhelming). Happy playing!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Over the past week or week and a half, I’ve done something I never thought I could have: watched an entire show on Netflix. Many, many hours being watched in the space between homework and sleep (sometimes the three overlapped). But I did it.

I am all caught up in Breaking Bad.

I started last Thursday. Erin is a huge fan, my brother is a huge fan, and so naturally I knew I would be a huge fan. I am, and I am so glad I got into it before the series finale, which is tonight.

So for those of you who don’t know what it is, let me describe it.

For one thing, it’s like nothing I’ve ever watched. It’s about a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico who is diagnosed with cancer. Fearing he will have no money to leave to his family when he passes, he begins manufacturing methamphetamine and getting irrevocably involved with serious and dangerous criminals. The series mostly deals with his struggle to keep the details of his second life from his family, and simultaneously meet the right quotas and serve the right people.

What I like most about the show is that it’s clever. It has some of the biggest “holy shit” moments I’ve ever seen. It’s dirty, messy, and gritty. And above anything, it just seems real. It feels like the kinds of crazy and unexpected outcomes are what would occur in real life; nothing goes as planned, Walter (the main character) or his other partners always get hurt, and someone always suffers.

The show’s characters really shine as well. The cast went from relatively unknown men and women to celebrities in a matter of a couple of seasons. Walter White is played by Bryan Cranston, best known for his role in the decade-old sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle.” Anna Gunn is his wife, Skyler White, and his young street partner Jesse Pinkman is portrayed by Aaron Paul. These three actors are mostly the show’s focal point, and they are all fantastic; but the surrounding cast is awesome as well, particularly the villains that Walter is pitted against, and others like Walt’s brother-in-law Hank, the Drug Enforcement Administration Agent.

What most fans like to speculate on is the moral ambiguity seen in Walt and others. As the series progresses and the characters wade deeper into crime, it is difficult to tell what their true motives and beliefs are anymore. Walt always restates that his reasoning in doing anything anymore is for his family, but playing that card so often muddles its effect and makes it seem like he’s only trying to excuse himself from any blame. It is evident later on that Walt receives some sort of sick thrill from producing and dealing drugs. The kind of power he exercises over people is arbitrary and sickening in some cases, and it truly turns some fans off. Fans want so badly to root for him, but it is made impossible sometimes.

His partner Jesse is a bit less offputting. What is interesting about Jesse is that he is technically the definition of a hoodlum, and yet I always find myself rooting for him. The reason is because he is shown to have more heart and humanity than Walt has. Walt tends to use Jesse and manipulate him sometimes, while Jesse ends up losing interest in the money and clout that Walt strives for. Jesse tries establishing relationships with women and finding some modicum of normalcy, but is always torn away by the drug business. And while he is an addict and has many low points in the series, as a fan I only want him to renounce all of his misdeeds and remove himself from the show’s negative influences. 

Those two main characters properly introduced, I will now go on to say that (I will not spoil a thing for you guys!) they get into some serious trouble together. That is, to me, the appeal of the show. Fans sometimes define Breaking Bad as

“that show that leaves you lying in a fetal position at the end of every episode”

-Tumblr.

And it’s true. Astoundingly difficult-to-deal-with curveballs are thrown at the viewers all the time, assuming they understand what’s happening. The main characters are always facing down a problem, whether they know it or not. As soon as they let their guard down, something happens to bring them back to the forefront. Walt is always in danger, and understandably so is his family. Walt is the target of gang crimes, kingpins’ hitmen, and the DEA alike. The latter means that he is in conflict with his own brother-in-law.

So why watch this show? If it hasn’t been made apparent yet, I’ll restate it: there’s never been anything like it. I remember watching the premiere in 2008 and being completely enthralled (although I didn’t quite have the stamina back then to keep up with it). If shows in the future take pointers from this show, we can expect cleverly-written, well-acted, and insanely gripping masterpieces soon to come. And with the finale occurring tonight, I’m sure that I’ll be in the fetal position, wondering what to do now that it’s all over.

For those of you who haven’t seen a lick of this show (and now want to), happy watching; for those of you who are all caught up and will be watching the finale tonight–happy watching.

Image

 

http://stories.illinoisstate.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Breaking-Bad.jpg

 

 

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Hey guys! How’s college, you ask? Not bad, thanks.

Let’s get down to business though! Or actually, let’s get away from the formality and talk about short stories. One of my personal favorite literary mediums, I’ve got loads of short story collections at home and have brought a few with me. I can’t get enough. Sometimes I’ll say “that’s enough poetry” and stop reading poems for at least a few good hours. “That’s enough of Greek plays for a while.” “That’s enough philosophy…” Some subsections of literature make me feel queasy after a while.

But it’s rare that I ever get fed up with short stories. Perhaps it’s because I know where to look. I’ve got all my favorite guys nearby all the time–my Lovecraft, my King, my Vonnegut, my O. Henry–and needless to say, the Internet helps sometimes if I don’t technically own what I’m reading.

Today I am in an awfully literate and musical mood. I am feeling as poetic as ever. And I wanted to give you guys the low-down on what some of my favorite short stories are; the select tales that stand out in my mind as being truly spectacular. For each story I relate, there will also be a song; perhaps the song is what the story reminds me of, or vice versa. Perhaps playing the song while reading makes the experience all the more sublime. I will be sure to elaborate, don’t worry.

And four more things!

1) For your convenience, I will be sure to label the story in question as being relatively “short,” “medium,” or “long,” emboldening whichever one the story in question happens to be. That way you know what you’re getting into. These stories all take less than twenty minutes to read, and some take even less than five. Trust me, they’re bite-sized. But they will (hopefully) fascinate you, just as they fascinated me.

2) I will have you know that this is indeed a “list” post, meaning that I will be listing these things in order from least-appreciated to most-appreciated. However, don’t take that to mean that these are my top ten favorite short stories of all time. That list is ever-changing. These are merely ten stories that I hold in very high regard for some reason(s) that will hopefully be made apparent upon a read-through.

3) I will not use more than one story per author, to spice things up. And the stories (and songs) will be linked within their respective places in this post, so that you don’t have to search frantically all over the Internet.

4) The blog only allows so many Youtube videos to be embedded on the page, so some will show up merely as links, you may click them and be taken straight there.

Enjoy!

10) A Rose For Emily — William Faulkner

short | medium | long

This story is chilling and peculiar. It can sort of be classified as a “thrilling” read, but I wouldn’t say it’s a horror story; it’s just not something I’d really expect from Faulkner after trying to understand The Sound and the Fury.

Now, hold on a second. I know that I just recently wrote a post about scary Internet stories, but you can trust me when I say that I have my reasons for including any scary short stories on this list (there are a total of four, counting this one). I am generally a fan of scary stories and concepts, so this one got my attention and has held a place in my mind ever since. I can’t name many stories written in the first half of the 20th century that are so absolutely strange. This story is unique, both as a styling of Faulkner and as a work of literature during his period in history. As far as I know, people regard it well.

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~drbr/wf_rose.html

This link will take you straight to the story. It reads in a bit of a formal fashion, but stick with it and I’m sure the ending will surprise and interest you.

A Song to go Along

If you’re reading a creepy story, you’ve gotta be listening to something slow and edgy, perhaps a little haunting. That’s where this Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s song comes in: it’s called “A Journalist Falls In Love With Death Row Inmate #16.” It is about just what it says, and it is both strange and somewhat endearing.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

9) Little Drops of Water — Kurt Vonnegut

short | medium | long

This story is a step in the opposite direction. There is something magical about Kurt Vonnegut’s stories, and I don’t know if I could ever really pinpoint it, but one of the best ones I’ve read by him was “Little Drops of Water.” It deals with an older man who often has loose romantic flings with his younger piano students; but one of those students decides not to be taken so lightly, and the events that unfold are a stroke of genius.

https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/jenor/ADS/HarpersMagazine-2009-06-0082535.pdf

Above is the link. Like I said, this story is opposite to “A Rose for Emily;” it made me happy when I finished.

A Song to go Along

This story put a skip in my step, and naturally I’d pick a song that does the same. I’d go with an upbeat Coconut Records song, particularly “It’s Not You It’s Me”…

It’s a feelgood song worth dancing to!

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

8) Uncle James — E. Nesbit

short | medium | long

Out of the millions of children’s stories on the planet, some of my favorite have been by Seuss, Milne, and Nesbit. Edith Nesbit wrote fantastic childrens’ stories, lots of which involved dragons. Her style is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, but perhaps a little more grounded in reality, because many stories involved young, princess-and-commonboy protagonists.

“Uncle James” is one of those stories. Tom, the gardener’s boy, is in love with the young princess Mary Ann. They live in Rotundia, a world where things meant to be big (elephants, whales, etc) are small, and things meant to be small (guinea pigs, rabbits, etc) are big. The story is wonderfully written and even admits at a few points to be skipping over the more boring details of what occurred.

http://www.online-literature.com/edith-nesbit/book-of-dragons/2/

Read it and enjoy! And then go back and read the stories that will never fail to make you feel like a vulnerable little kid again.

A Song to go Along

Listen to “White Daisy Passing” by Rocky Votolato. It’s a pretty, Elliott Smith-esque song that turns a normal walk into an endlessly pleasant experience. And I’ve always associated children’s stories with nature and comfort, wonder and tranquility.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

7) The Boogeyman — Stephen King

short | medium | long

Reading this story for the first time was terrifying. I couldn’t sleep well for weeks. Maybe I was merely young and impressionable, but honestly this story is masterfully creepy and awesomely surprising. It’s a must-read, absolutely, for any horror fan.

http://loloyd.homeip.net/ebooks1/Stephen%20King%20(Bibliography)/1970’s/1977/Short%20Stories/Stephen%20King%20-%20Night%20Shift%20-%20The%20Boogeyman.pdf

 

This story is guaranteed to deliver.

 

A Song to go Along

Well, I actually have two. The first one, “Haunted” by Radical Face, is a primer. It gets you in the mood, makes you feel haunted and eerie. It’s like wind blowing down a subway tunnel, or climbing into bed with the lights off. It’s just the right atmosphere to instill before reading a creepy book. Immerse yourself dammit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoCiyB8dMPk

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

Then listen to this song while reading. It’s from the Dead Space video game original soundtrack. It’s actually pretty horrifying and yet also unobtrusive, because it has no lyrics. Give it a try.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfbV6sSrn_4

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

6) I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream — Harlan Ellison

short | medium | long

This story is truly mortifying. It’s an astoundingly dark take on the progression of robots and computers, set in some strange future, where a handful of humans live together, taunted and tortured by a merciless Artificial Intelligence. The narrator is one of these people, and he talks about who they are, and who they all used to be before the machine systematically wiped out humanity. It seems that the only reason they are still alive at all is to be treated as playthings, because a computer with no test subjects apparently is capable of growing bored. The ending is strange and may be pretty shocking, but it’s a story that deals with one of many possible futuristic outcomes. And while it’s a little bit hard to foresee happening, it’s still brain food in a way. It gnawed at my mind for days.

http://pub.psi.cc/ihnmaims.txt

Read it, dwell on it, curl up in a ball.

 

A Song to go Along

The song “Anthem” by Emancipator is, in my mind, a perfect fit. It has that synthetic, futuristic, tech feel that this story offers. It’s kinda slow, dark, and fosters a contemplative mood. Try listening to it while reading and see what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PEGDGxZdzA

You will be a changed human.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

5) The Last Leaf — O. Henry

short | medium | long

O. Henry stories have always been the best. They have plot twists, which in my eyes is a sign of creativity and intelligence. And they’re not cheap either, they’re genuinely clever. And mostly they tend to be meaningful, which is something I can easily appreciate. “The Last Leaf” is one of my favorites.

http://www.online-literature.com/donne/1303/

It’s witty, it’s quick, and most of all it’s touching.

 

A Song to go Along

A song to go along? How about the song that hasn’t left my iPod since sophomore year: “The Past and Pending” by The Shins. No matter how many times I listen, there is something so compelling, so soft, so soothing and intimate about this song that makes me want to listen again. Most songs dry up and go away, but I will always listen to this song when it comes on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6dYB35lF_0

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

It’s fantastic and it’s calming, and it fits well with the story. CHECK IT OUT!

 

4) Pygmalion and Galatea — Edith Hamilton

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Now, this story isn’t actually the written property of Edith Hamilton. She’s just the Greek historian who managed to simplify it from poem form and basically synopsize it. But no matter what form it takes, I will always love this story. It’s about a man who detests women and decides to create a female sculpture in order to expose all the flaws of the gender–what happens next is not worth spoiling. I’ll link you guys to the Hamilton retelling of this story but encourage you all to read Ovid’s 10th poem in Metamorphoses, which fully accounts for the supposed experiences of Pygmalion.

http://www.dl.ket.org/latin/mythology/3fables/love/pygmalion.htm

It is one of the more touching love stories I’ve read before.

 

A Song to go Along

I like soft love songs, and so I’ll let you guys give this a listen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aZh261KZWI

It’s one of the prettier songs I can call to mind, and it makes me feel sad and in love at the same time. And while the song may end on a bit of a morose note, and while certain parts of it may seem flaky and too honest, it just reinforces my own notions of true love and of keeping promises–in any case, it’s a pretty song, and I recommend giving it a listen. It may make your read a bit more interesting, and hey! It sounds like the narrator of Lua is disillusioned with the idea of love, just like Pygmalion.

 

 

3) A Calendar of Tales: August — Neil Gaiman

short | medium | long

If you have not yet read Neil Gaiman’s Calendar of Tales, go do it! Or better yet, have them read to you! Just pick a month and give it a listen, they never disappoint. Gaiman decided to connect to his audience by asking them what ideas they had about all of the months of the year; then he handpicked certain Twitter replies and wrote stories about them. It was a fantastic and generous idea.

My favorite of them all is August, closely followed by April and then July. But here’s a direct and obvious link to August:

http://keepmoving.blackberry.com/assets/desktop/pdf/neil-gaiman/august-story.pdf

This one is all about forest fires, and also the kinds of misconceptions humans have and perhaps the false sense of security they sometimes have in the face of danger. Ultimately, though, it’s just really poetic, and made me feel good at the end. It made me happy.

 

A Song to go Along

This song. Red Right Ankle by The Decemberists. It’s beautiful and charming, just like the August story. It makes me feel like sitting outside on a stoop, shooting the shit with someone close, watching things happen in the heat of August.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYwkmPKsctQ

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

2) The Yellow Wallpaper — Charlotte Perkins Gilman

short | medium | long

This story is probably the greatest psycho-thriller story I ever hope to read. It was the most insightful and interesting look into the mind of a psychotic I’ve ever seen, written by someone who may or may not have ever been this sick. Without spoiling it for you, I will just go as far to say that the narrator in the story, a woman on “holiday” with her husband, who is a physician, is afflicted with some sort of mental issue which causes her to become depressed. The rest is warped.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/literatureofprescription/exhibitionAssets/digitalDocs/The-Yellow-Wall-Paper.pdf

It is a bit long, but honestly it is perhaps the most rewarding “long” short story here. I promise.

 

A Song to go Along

I can’t even really think of a song to match what kind of eerie feeling this story manages to purvey. Here. Listen to the sounds Jupiter makes via electromagnetic waves. It’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever heard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3fqE01YYWs

You’re welcome.

Listen to this “song”:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

1) The Green Morning — Ray Bradbury

short | medium | long

This story is right out of The Martian Chronicles. Brief aside, of all the things and people I owe my relationship to Erin with, Bradbury is probably number one. We bonded over him quickly and excitedly because every story, every single story we’ve ever read by the guy is fantastic. He’s imaginative, creative, brief, simple, and yet so thought-provoking it’s ridiculous. We can never get enough of him.

Normally I’d go on and on about “Usher II” which is Erin’s and my favorite story in The Martian Chronicles. That story is absolutely fantastic, especially if you know your Edgar Allan Poe. But I decided to go with a story that wasn’t scary, and that didn’t require too much prior knowledge to certain things to appreciate the story. So I went ahead and chose “The Green Morning,” which is by all means spectacular.

http://anton.shpigunov.com/2011/07/the-green-morning/

And for your further enjoyment, if you appreciated that, you can read the entire book here. Pick a story and go with it, they’re all short and all fantastic.

 

A Song to go Along

A good song? Hmm… how about “Broken Afternoon” by The Helio Sequence?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYOEm_H5nQA

This song is vocally powerful but instrumentally soft, as if the singer is preaching or proclaiming his ideas. It’ll make you think of Johnny Appleseed when you read the story, or Benjamin Driscoll rather: the Johnny Appleseed of Mars.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

Well, I hope you guys enjoyed! If you ever want more musical or literary recommendations, be my guest and ask me. I will absolutely give you guys some pointers.

Thanks for reading!

 

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Hey guys! Guess where Erin and I are now? You guessed it: college. And it has been quite a time for us both–since we’re both separate we’re keeping in touch as best we can, and with schoolwork in between we’re making do. We plan to see each other soon, and I dunno about you guys but I’m pretty good when it comes to sending Erin all things, all the time. God bless the internet.

Admittedly, I get a little bit down from time to time though, because I miss Erin and my friends and my family, and I’m sure that’s normal. And one of my methods of self-recuperation (besides talking to Erin of course) is to watch videos.

They’re sometimes funny, sometimes weird, but mostly they’re just distracting! And boy, do I like distracting. Long day of school? Watch some Netflix. Sick to your stomach? Watch this guy read you stuff. Feeling like a li’l shit?

Watch Attack on Titan.

You know why? Because the main character is the angstiest li’l shit I think I’ve ever seen. And you won’t feel like half the li’l shit you felt like after watching him yell this.

“Does he have character development?” you ask. “Is he a likable character?” “Does he grow on you?” “Is he romantically involved?”

Sort of. To all of those. He is sort of everything.

And sort of freaking batshit crazy.

Here ya go: the top five reasons you should watch Attack on Titan.

5) It’s Unique

“But lots of shows are unique!” you whine. “Every show is unique!” Well this one takes the cake. This show is not even your typical action-anime show, it’s pretty much in a realm of its own as far as I can tell. Between my brother and I, action-anime shows have been watched in my household, and none were like this.

Is it one of the bloodiest I’ve ever seen? Yes. Around 18,600 people believe that Attack on Titan (aka SNK which stands for Shingeki no Kyojin–the show’s Japanese name) uses blood like other anime shows use cherry blossoms, which is a nearly unbearable amount. But is it thrilling? Absolutely. Are you engaged and on the edge of your seat the entire time you watch? Pretty much. Do people die lots of devastating deaths? Let’s just say it’s not normal to go an entire episode without watching someone get killed.

That’s the other thing: characters that are introduced and characterized are literally shown being killed before your very eyes, and it’s hard deciding if you’re more physically appalled or emotionally detached now that they’re gone. But, points for originality. Right? Wouldn’t want the good guys to just kick ass all the time. That wouldn’t be fun. It’d be pointless.

Humanity gets whooped all the time in this show.

4) The Fans

Take this reason with a grain of salt: there is no show on the planet where all the fans are completely sane. Not even Jeopardy. And admittedly, I will often find tumblr posts about Attack on Titan that do not appeal to me at all, involving alternate universes and stranger-than-strange fan fiction, etc. I’m sure anyone with a computer knows what I’m talking about. There are always going to be the oddball fans.

But with that disclaimer, I must say that the *funny* Attack on Titan stuff is absolutely hilarious. Some people are creative and some people have lots of time on their hands–and some people have both of those things. And they spend it making beautiful, AoT art.

ImageImageImage

This is the tip of the iceberg. And while you may think “huh, creative” or smile a little, ya gotta realize–watching the show opens up an entire world of jokes that I don’t want to spoil for you. NO SPOILERS. I promise.

Oh, and here is a site devoted to drawing one-minute depictions of the main character, Eren Jaeger.

3) The Characters

Action-anime shows (especially ones with this much blood) tend to have characters that place emphasis on being badass. That’s cool, I understand. But Attack on Titan is a strange offshoot–it is full of cowards.

There are funny cowards. There are funny idiots. There are heroic idiots. A lot of these people die. But when it comes to the way in which the characters combat the titans, it’s honestly incredibly realistic in the sense that they aren’t all hack-and-slash and awesome; the people are genuinely scared. Even the people in charge are scared. There are multiple points in the show where you’re thinking “are people going to rebel? Will people leave the fight to save their own skins?” I won’t tell you the outcome, but the people who are truly talented and badass warriors are few and far between.

I won’t tell you what kinds of backstory is offered on main characters and what their personalities are in general, but I can assure you that at least I am satisfied with what kinds of cool decisions they make and how they move the show along.

2) It’s Artistically Original

The show itself is really interesting. If you compare it to other styles of animation, it just kinda has its own feel. The characters feel more outlined and defined, the colors are kind of dark most times for effect, and the expressions on their faces are versatile, but never typical. Some shows animate their characters in a non-realistic way sometimes to illustrate (in a usually funny way) the way that they’re feeling, but AoT never has to do that. It really helps bring you into the world of the characters a little bit more.

Also interesting is the realistic take on a by-gone age. The show takes place in a strange and undefinable era that can only be described by me as “the Middle Ages with a higher degree of technology”. The people eat bread in mess halls and wear tunics. There are cannons, but apparently guns do not exist. And yet they are able to travel via Maneuver Gear, which is basically like hip-mounted cables that act much like Spiderman’s webshots. They cling to nearby buildings and allow gravity and other factors to build up a certain momentum for the user to travel swiftly about their environment. It’s certainly a really cool concept. Also, they’ve got swords.

Pretty original, right?

Oh, and the titans are freaking horrifying.

1) The Premise

Alright, so you’ve gotten this far through my post and you’re probably like “why in the hell have you only given me vague hints as to the premise of this show?” The reason is because it’s the best part. It’s just a really, really cool idea. Honestly whoever conceptualized this show is a creative genius, because in my opinion, few shows come close to the level of awe that this show inspires merely by thinking about it.

It’s a show about a human population that exists within massive walls. A century or more ago, mankind was nearly eradicated by giant humanoid monsters, but they all mysteriously vanished, and mankind was left to repopulate some, and even prepare for the next unpredictable wave. The show begins right when the titans return, and wreak havoc upon the citizens within the outermost portion of wall. Within the wall are more walls, so that external towns kind of act as barriers and buffers against attacks on the interior.

Mankind knows almost nothing about how the titans; their anatomy (they have no genitalia and I’m pretty sure they’ve never seen a baby titan), their weaknesses, and their level of intelligence are all strange mysteries. But the main character Eren, after witnessing something particularly unforgettable, vows to learn to combat the titans, and to kill them all for the sake of humanity.

Sounds neat right? Well there have been more than a handful of twists along the way, and this show is definitely more than it seems on the surface. Add that level of depth, and you’ve got a show you probably can’t stop watching.

Enjoy.

Image

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

I recently came to the realization that I can potentially make a top ten list for literally anything. Potato recipes, torture methods, even methods of insulting your elders. But today’s list will focus on cartoon pigs, and my personal favorites.

Keep in mind that these pigs are ones I’ve grown with and loved. I won’t list a pig if I don’t know jack about it, so I (regrettably) can’t talk about Porco Rosso, Natalie Porkman, or “Treat Heart Pig” from the Care Bears animated series.

10) Nago, Princess Mononoke

Most animated shows or movies tend to go with the “cute” pig approach, but Studio Ghibli went ahead and spun that around for their (relatively) edgy release Princess Mononoke. Nago was a giant, wild boar who rampaged into town and was eventually subdued by the locals. It was revealed that Nago was aggravated because he’d previously been shot by Lady Eboshi. His rage caused him to literally become somewhat demonic, setting the stage for the movie.

Nago is a tribute to badass pigs everywhere. He shatters the cutesy pig stereotype, and even helps represent the primeval and retaliatory side of nature in the movie. Come to think of it, he’s probably the only pig on this list with any depth at all. Cute pigs are just better.

Image

9) Card Wars Pig, Adventure Time

This one is important because of its tangible strategic value. No other pig has had this much tactical importance before, and I think that after this episode of Adventure Time aired, a kind of global understanding of a common pig’s tactical usefulness was suddenly conceived. This pig occurred in an episode called “Card Wars,” which was all about a holographic card game mimicking todays’ Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh and the like. When Finn “floops” the pig, it eats all of Jake’s corn, which translates to Jake losing vital energy and support for his troops; ultimately, this episode’s blatant wisdom led to the Pig Flooping Act of 2013, and the world witnessing a drastic decline in world hunger and street crime.

Image

8) Inoshikacho, Dragon Ball

This porcine selection is actually part boar, part deer, and part butterfly, all in one. Its name comes from the card game Hanafuda: Koi Koi, where it is possible to match up all three of the aforementioned animals to achieve the Boar-Deer-Butterfly (Ino-shika-cho) combo. But in Dragon Ball, it’s just a big conglomerate of all three animals. In the show, Inoshikacho was actually a cute little purple pig, but it was raised under the negative influence of Master Shen, and grew up to be a rampaging douche. It just makes me wonder how it would’ve turned out with a little care and nourishment. All of us are products of our environments–even pigs.

Image

7) Peppa, Peppa Pig

Peppa is from a kids’ TV series that hails from the UK. And while I am not particularly familiar with her show, I am familiar with her personality and her way of handling particularly displeasing situations. I feel like Peppa has a very humanistic and sassy side to her that not many pigs have attempted to, or accurately, portrayed. Watch the video below to see what I mean:

6) Hen Wen, The Black Cauldron

Hen Wen is an unlikely sidekick on an epic adventure. The Black Cauldron is just a fantastic movie, and Taran and Eilonwy by themselves are great characters, but I’m sure you’re already aware that things go better when they involve pigs. While she’s not with Taran for the entirety of the movie, she does manage to be especially helpful: she is oracular, meaning she has the power to prophesy certain events and view Taran from afar. Coolest damn magic pig I’ve ever seen.

Image

5) Spoink, Pokemon

How could you not love Spoink? Erin fell in love with Spoink the minute I gave her Pokemon Ruby Version for the GBA. On her travels, she came across a gray-and-purple pig with a spring for an ass and a little pink ball on its head. And the way she doted on it caused both of us to fall in love with it (I was falling in love all over again). Spoink is cute, bouncy, and he’s also psychic, which to me is the most badass Pokemon move type. Spoink is the ultimate pig Pokemon, beating out Tepig… and… Mankey? A pig monkey? And… Swinub? A… small… uh…

5spoink

4) Pig, The Legend of Zelda Games

The pigs in the Zelda games are special. They don’t… do much, really, but they’re special nonetheless. They’re cute, and they’re funny–one of the villagers in Windfall Island actually says that one of his pigs is “special” and doesn’t respond to human contact by running away. The definition of “special” can kind of be interpreted as… negative. Ultimately, I viewed the pigs as fun-loving, perhaps small-brained, additions to the scenery, and it was always fun trying to catch one by crawling around and sneaking up on them. They were also very useful sometimes because tossing bait caused them to dig a hole and unearth very important treasures. Fascinating little creatures.

4zeldapigs

3) Piglet, Winnie-The-Pooh

We can never forget the classics. I love Piglet. He’s a worrisome and tender little fellow who would follow Pooh to the ends of the earth. That kind of loyalty and devotion is unparalleled by any other pig in the entire cosmos. A wonderfully gentle and surprisingly quaint little fellow, Piglet is a fantastic pig.

3piglet

2) Tonton, Naruto

Tonton is an amazing pig in my eyes. She’s not only Shizune and Tsunade’s sidekick–she’s like, their mutual best friend. She’s an adorable little pig with a little sweater and even a pearl necklace and she can sniff out danger and aid in the combat by running supplies and medical equipment around on her stubby legs. She works so hard that sometimes Shizune even has to patch her up. She’s a spunky little pig.

2tonton

1) Waddles, Gravity Falls

We love Waddles. Everyone loves Waddles. The pig practically embodies the image of a cute, lovable, cartoon pig. It’s small and silly and it’s the perfect partner for Mabel, who likes to be goofy and weird and throw parties with Waddles and stuff. The episode where Dipper gives up a shot at dating his crush so that Mabel can keep Waddles is a truly glorious moment in the show’s history, and the addition of Waddles to the show is nothing short of brilliance.

MABEL, WADDLES

There you have it! Some truly awesome pigs. Here are some runners-up:

Babe (Babe)

Oolong (Dragon Ball; bit too pervy and humanlike for my taste)

The Pig character (Adventure Time; Erin says his barritone voice ruins it… but I like him)

Porky Pig (Looney Tunes)

That’s it for today. And while today’s top ten list was suited to a very specific niche in the broad spectrum of human interests, I assure you there’ll be more to come–perhaps ones that are even more general.

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Hi again! Did you enjoy the list? I hope some of my personal top ten Creepypasta stories scared or entertained you, but you know what can be even more scary and entertaining?

The bad ones. The really awful, horrific, almost anti-Creepypasta stories that, intentional or not, suck total arse.

They’re scary. But in a different way. In a way that affects you a lot more than an actually scary story… it hits home harder than you’d think. Look at the atrocious grammar. The way in which they fail to address certain plot points and leave gaping holes in their alleged story. The way in which they jump from supernatural concept to concept with no regard to the reader’s tolerance.

Without further ado, here are the best ten anti-Creepypasta stories I’ve found while looking for the real deal.

Disclaimers: These stories’ titles are emboldened and underlined, but do not link to their place of origin. Don’t worry, you’ll get the full story–they’re short, sweet, and to the point. Also, these stories will be in italics, and will be copied and pasted, atrocious grammar and all. Enjoy.

10) Topsoil

This story is an environmentalist’s nightmare. Its place of origin is on a Reddit thread, and boy did it scare everyone witless:

Someone told me it was frightening how much topsoil we are losing each year, but I told that story around a campfire and no one got scared.

The fact is that this is scary and deserves to be told around every campfire in America. This is scarier than any smiling pair of twins, any muddy boogeyman, and any demon baby. This is reality.

How You Should Tell It Around The Campfire

The execution is not so important as the message. Use it as the ultimate one-up story. Right after your friend finishes their story–“And they were never seen again…!” just butt in and say “You know what disappeared, never to be seen again? Topsoil.” No one will be sleeping that night. No one.

9) Wrong Number

A crucial part of this story is the “OP” — original poster. This story has been told in many forms, but the form we see today exists thanks to Yahoo! Answers user “Turkey Sammich,” AKA spinner of scary masterpieces.

The phone rang, a kid picked up the phone said hello. The voice on the other end said……’Sorry, wrong number.’

Chilling. Absolutely chilling, Mr. Turkey Sammich.

How You Should Tell It Around The Campfire

Turn on your scary voice, and slow everything down. Convey the sheer horror that kid exudes when picking up the phone… “Hello…?” he asks, as if he is confronting the most heinous man on the planet. “The voice on the other end said…” Keep everyone in suspense. Pause to achieve the maximum effect, but don’t pause for too long or else everyone will think that you forgot what the voice is supposed to say. “Sorry, wrong number.” And then just start screaming.

8) The Story of Fidgety Philip

How many times have you heard a story where the protagonist is only ever described as “fidgety”? Probably never. Straight out of Der Struwwelpeter, The Story of Fidgety Philip has scared innocent little German kids since the 19th freaking century. It’s a cleverly disguised wives’ tale that is aimed at keeping children from being little brats.

It details “a boy who won’t sit still at dinner who accidentally knocks all of the food onto the floor, to his parents’ great displeasure.

This is by far the creepiest freaking “wives’ tale” I’ve ever read. It’s such a cliffhanger! What course of action will the parents take? Will they string him up by his ears? Will they perform psychological malpractices such as EST and lobotomy? Will they lethally inject him? Who the hell knows?

How You Should Tell It Around The Campfire

Man, really make this story your own. Embellish a little. “Little Philip exclaimed ‘Oh, heavens!’ and accidentally knocked his bowl of sauerkraut all over the bearskin carpet. The small countryside shack suddenly took on an unpredictably dark atmosphere, and his parents’ brows simultaneously furrowed. ‘Philip,’ they said in eerie unison. ‘You have caused us great displeasure…’ “

7) Then Who Was Phone?

This story is an Internet classic that was created in response to the surge of thrilling, entertaining Creepypastas a few years ago. It doesn’t disappoint:

So ur wid yo honi and ur makin out wen the phone ringz. U ansr it n da voice sayz “wut r u doin wit ma daughter?” u tel ur girl n she say “ma dad is ded.” THEN WHO WAS PHONE?

Once you get past the fact that this story is only barely intelligible, you realize that the shock factor runs deep. This is a story that will cause all you happy campers to break out in a decidedly cold sweat.

How You Should Tell It Around The Campfire

It’s hard incorporating bad grammar into real-world speech, but with a little practice you can translate your forced dyslexia into a severe handicap on your story-telling ability. Talk like you suck at talking, but maintain the undertone of grave importance. After saying “ma dad is ded,” rise slowly from your seat and look around at all of your listeners, and then quietly whisper “… then who was phone?”

6) The Bully

This story was found while reading some of what Stephanie Springer had to say on the subject of scary stories that suck. I think this story tends to shine above its peers–it falls into the archetype of the tormented protagonist.

The protagonist was a little boy who was being picked on by a girl bully. He got her in trouble and then she threatened to make him pay. Kate never got the chance. She suddenly got sick and died.”

Sure, there’s more to the story, but why not just end it there? A bully torments a kid and then gets sick and dies! That’s pretty damn scary, innit? Karma, that’s what I say. Taken to an extreme. That’s the scary part. Hey, don’t tease that kid about his glasses or you’ll freakin’ die.

How You Should Tell It Around The Campfire

“Once there was a little boy who was picked on by a little girl,” you say. “And do any of you know what happened to the little girl?” Watch as they all shake their heads. You lean in to the fire a little, illuminating your face. “The little brat freaking got sick and died.”

5) Russian-fied Stories

Don’t ask me where they started or if they’ve ended, but sometimes it works to take a classic campfire story and tell it again, just from the point of view of a Russian man. Rework a few key plot points, make the setting Moscow, and you’re in business.

You are home to watch Pravda on televisir about degenerate murderer who is on the loose. You look out the window door to beet field, and you notice Man standing in the snow. He look like foto on televisir and he smile at you. You gulp vodka, picking up fone to your right and dialing Local Militia Precinct Commissar. Back out the glass you look, pressing fone to ear. Notice he now closer to you. You drop vodka in shock.No footprints in snow. It was reflection. You dullard! Your apartment is bulldozed down to make way for glorious tractor factory.

See? Just as thrilling as the original if not more so! And the ending change heightens the Russian experience.

How You Should Tell It Around The Campfire

I don’t have a good Russian accent, but assuming you do, just make sure you remember the acronym “KGB” — Kiev, Gulag, and Booze. Three words that should probably be in your story.

4) The Heron

This story has stuck with me for quite some time. Out of all the punishments promised at the end of scary stories, The Heron’s threat is by far the most bizarre and bloodcurdling.

I am a heron. I have a long neck and I pick fish out of the water with my beak. If you don’t repost this comment on 10 other pages, I will fly into your kitchen tonight and make a mess of your pots and pans.

But that’ll take forever to clean up!

How You Should Tell It Around The Campfire

The Heron is your ticket. Talk him up a lot. Become the heron. “I have a long neck,” you say, “and I pick fish out of the water… with my beak.” That feat in itself is astonishing. But by golly if your campmates don’t reblog your post at least ten times, you’ll make a huge ass mess of their pots and pans–really drive home that point. It’s all about being in character for this one.

3) John Stalvern

This story surfaced on Reddit as well, and a casual commenter remarked that he had kept reading in the hopes that it would end half as well as it started, but slowly degraded into a horrifically shitty story. That’s why it’s up here.

John Stalvern waited. The lights above him blinked and sparked out of the air. There were demons in the base. He didn’t see them, but had expected them now for years. His warnings to Cernel Joson were not listenend to and now it was too late. Far too late for now, anyway. John was a space marine for fourteen years. When he was young he watched the spaceships and he said to dad “I want to be on the ships daddy.” Dad said “No! You will BE KILL BY DEMONS” There was a time when he believed him. Then as he got oldered he stopped. But now in the space station base of the UAC he knew there were demons. “This is Joson” the radio crackered. “You must fight the demons!” So John gotted his palsma rifle and blew up the wall. “HE GOING TO KILL US” said the demons “I will shoot at him” said the cyberdemon and he fired the rocket missiles. John plasmaed at him and tried to blew him up. But then the ceiling fell and they were trapped and not able to kill. “No! I must kill the demons” he shouted The radio said “No, John. You are the demons” And then John was a zombie.

This is Dead Space gone freaking apeshit. Not only is John Stalvern fighting zombies–he’s fighting demons. And I think Stalvern is a protagonist that–can it be?–we can relate to! I fight zombie demons on a daily basis, and I aspire to be a ship base protector for the space fleet of… Cernel… Joson…

How You Should Tell It Around The Campfire

Well this one’s got the potential to be fantastic, but you’ve really got to capture that space feeling. Exude that atmosphere. There are blaring alarms, ceaseless sirens, and the air is thick with anxiety. The airlock doors are losing their pressurization and all around you, demons are gathering to bring about your certain demise. Tell them what happens to John Stalvern. Tell them.

2) The Gypsy Blood Girl’s Ghost Host

This story is told in the cult-style of “numerous spelling mistakes” and is clearly better off for doing so. It is a tragic story told from a third-party perspective.

Well you see, my best friend lives down the street and her family comes from a bad bad I guess you could say. Her mother has gypsy blood in her. Her mother has connections to spirits and very strong senses. She is not phycic though. My friends brother use to talk to a spirit when he was little but my friend was not like that. Now though she is like that. For the past week she has been telling me how she fears she is going crazy but i’m telling her she’s just pariniod. This fear she has all started when evertime she takes a bath the lights flicker. This sounds crazy too, but she fears she is being watched all the time and her cat acts weird. So lat night she was up around 2 in the night and went to bed. She heard a noise and freaked out and noticed that a picture of her was missing. When she went over to look the picture had scratches on it and was burned at the bottom. She was crying telling me this and showed me the picture. She is a ghost host you see, and the spirit obviously does not like her. This doesn’t sound scary but imagine it happended to your friend. I can’t believe it, like I fell this is not real but it is. Believe it if you want, it doesn’t matter to me.

Imagine if this happended to your friend. Just imagine it. This is a crazy, roller coaster ride of a tale that is sure to bring your campmates to the brink of insanity, no less. They will literally go fetal by the end. I did.

How You Should Tell It Around The Campfire

Enunciate the spelling mistakes because they add to the story. “She is not phycic though.” “She’s just pariniod.” “Evertime she takes a bath the lights flicker.” And please, oh please, get the attitude right at the end. Hold up a hand and say, mustering up every ounce of your sass, “Believe it if you want, it doesn’t matter to me.”

1) The Day Of All The Blood

This story was written by a seven year old and it tops everything everyone has done ever. It made me wet my pants with feelings that I couldn’t properly identify.

THIS IS THE STORY OF A DAY WHERE THERE WAS ALL THIS BLOOD. A MAN WAS WALKING AROUND AND BLOOD STARTED COMING OUT OF HIM EVERYWHERE. THERE WAS SO MUCH BLOOD THAT IT FILLED UP AN ELEVATOR. HE WENT TO THE STORE AND THERE WAS JUST BLOOD ALL OVER THE PLACE! PEOPLE WERE SLIPPING IN IT AND THEY WERE ALL GROSSED OUT. HE TRIED TO GO SWIMMING AND ALL OF THE SHARKS WENT NUTS AND BITTENED EVERYBODY. HE GOT CHASED BY ALL THE VAMPIRES EVER. ONE TIME THE BLOOD GOT A KID AND A DOG. AT THE END OF THE DAY EVERYONE DECIDED THEY WOULD SEND HIM TO SPACE SO THAT HE WOULD STOP GETTING BLOOD EVERY WHERE. THE SCARIEST PART IS THAT THE MAN WAS YOU!!! (OR HE WAS A LADY IF YOU ARE A LADY) AND YOU FORGOT THAT THIS HAPPENED

And you forgot this happened…? Think about it. That could be anyone of us. Any one of you readers could have experienced these traumatic events and completely forgotten about them. This is a master work in horror and deserves to fill the top spot on this list, undoubtedly.

How You Should Tell It Around The Campfire

Talk like you’re speaking in all caps, and by that I mean scream. From the very moment you begin to the moment you end, maintain the same decibel range–stay in the neighborhood of 90-120. Shout in your campmates’ ears. And on the last line, take note that there is technically no period, and that means that your sentence is never over. So let your words, your tone, your message ring constantly in their ears, and let them experience true terror like no one has ever felt it before.

Thanks so much for reading!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

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