Oíche Shamhna

Latimer: I love Halloween. There’s something about it. And it’s not that I do anything on Halloween- I sort of prefer not to. I like to just ‘be’ on Halloween. I might watch ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’- I might not.

 There’s something in the air; the world is a very beautiful place this time of year. The chilliness, the memories maybe, of my childhood, when I used to trick-or-treat; and the bonfire! Ah the bonfire, I haven’t been to one in literally years! They don’t do them anymore where I live. Health and safety reasons I’m sure (as I’ve been saying a lot lately).

It used to be that my brothers and sisters and their friends (all older than me at the time- well, still are, but at the time they were older children!)- they would go house to house collecting stuff to use to make the bonfire. And then there was always a dummy/puppet person made for the event. Okay, it sounds weird, but it’s more like the real Halloween- it was symbolic I think. The puppet person was put on the top of the bonfire. Making said puppet involved stuffing an old pair of pyjamas with newspaper and some balloons.

On Halloween night they’d set the whole thing alight. The balloons would pop and bang- very dramatic… that sounds weird to have a burning puppet, but there wasn’t anything macabre in it, even though it was Halloween.

 Now, I don’t remember exactly because I was very young at the time, but I’m SURE there was adult supervision involved in all of this- of course!

Ah, there was a sense of community that night… I have fond memories of finishing trick-or-treating and going to see the bonfire. Darkness, the light of a towering inferno of flames, spinning tires… I don’t know where the tires came from!- but I have a memory of them… anyway, point is, there was a feeling of ancient-ness to the affair. Because that was the old Samhain festival- a harvest, and a fire to keep away the evil spirits on a cold, dark night… that was the old idea, and in some ways when I was young it was more like that old festival than it is now.

I mean, everyone used to have bonfires back then. But now, I’m sure that isn’t the case. Who on earth would let someone have a huge bonfire… ah, it’s a pity. I miss that old ritual. There’s a real sense of the true Halloween in it.

I’m recalling it now as we head into another Halloween, which seems to get overlooked by Christmas. Well, it’s all commercialised to be-damned now… there’s something tacky and un-true about it. It’s just about dressing up… but I miss the old bonfires and the idea of celebrating an ancient festival. I wish it was more like that. I’m nostalgic for my youth I guess or more accurately, the youthful memory of Halloween I have.

There’s something ancient about the night, a connection to the past. It’s a festival of the Irish, Welsh and Scottish really. That’s where it comes from; so it’s a connection literally to my past. There’s certain things we do that never really transferred to other places with the rest of the concept. A small thing that I can think of is barmbrack. We have it every year in my house. Other people in Ireland do too. It’s a cake filled with raisins and fruit and then there’s a little gold (not real) ring hidden inside it.

I’m beginning to think the reason I like Halloween so much is because I have really good memories of Halloween as a child. Going back to my friends house we used to count out what we had gotten- up-ending our bags, rejoicing in the sweets and crisps and tossing the apples and nuts aside! Ah, it’s a good time of the year.

I don’t know what anyone else out there in the vast world does during Halloween- maybe nothing, maybe it doesn’t even register, maybe it’s just dressing up in a magical way for a party… well, whatever it may be, have a nice Oíche Shamhna everyone!

Urban Fantasy

Latimer: It’s hard to be average and ‘normal’.

It’s sort of boring. Scratch that, it is boring. However, I’m not the sort who’s always unhappy about that fact. Because to be fair, life ain’t so bad; when all’s said and done and you’re healthy and content, the fact that there aren’t any monsters or mystical stuff outside your door doesn’t really matter, it’s more annoying that there isn’t than depressing.

But that doesn’t stop the mind from wondering what it would be like if there was a world beneath the everyday one. I’m talking vampires and werewolves and all that stuff that humanity has always had a morbid fascination with.

We might consider ourselves in this day and age enlightened and above the flights of fancy of yesteryear, but that’s not really the case. We do still think about magic and monsters. Hell, there’s still religion isn’t there- angels and demons? So, we dream there’s a divine overseeing force watching over us, because it’s what we want to believe. If that force takes the form of God or vampires and fairies, what’s the real difference?

I like thinking about the ‘world beneath ours’… I don’t believe it’s there, but the imagining is half the fun for me. I like to picture what it would be like to turn the corner and see the unseen- to be told the great secret and be let into the mysterious world beyond this world.

And I think there’s lots of people like that. And that’s why we have Urban Fantasy on the up and up lately. Well, it’s only recently I’ve come across the term ‘Urban Fantasy’ or UF to describe a genre of books- though possibly we are more likely to see it described as ‘paranormal romance’… hmm, I don’t like to hang around the bookshelves in shops that describe it in this way! Bad marketing people; it sort of cheapens the stories to be classified in this way!

Urban Fantasy has peaked my interest lately.

I guess though, it’s not a lie to say it’s Twilight’s doing that True Blood and co. are on our screens and that the bookshelves are now awash with UF.

 It’s like there’s a special guideline authors of UF must follow; a girl, not special, finds out she’s special, meets vampire, meets werewolf and them comes the secret supernatural community wherein she meets fairies, demons, angels etc!

Sounds like I have a problem with this? Ah-ha, no, I don’t. This is the bedrock of UF.

It’s just I’m never fulfilled by it. It seems the idea is more perfect that what people deliver. Some worlds have been good (I really enjoyed the Chloe Saunders books Kelley Armstrong wrote)

But I find myself still looking for that good one… TV show or book I don’t mind.

So, where did I start with Urban Fantasy? Well, many years ago with Buffy and Angel. That was probably the start-proper for most people. I adored Buffy and Angel. But even they failed to deliver a good ending, leaving fans idling on what might have been but never was.

Then came Supernatural…

Now this is a funny one; it’s two brothers for a start, with a mixed up relationship with their missing father… and for me, I like mixed up relationships with families in books, but there was no ‘love’ in this, no women…. and I thought- that’s not really what I want; I need a relationship damn it! And I let Supernatural go.

Never watched it when it started…. BUT years later I came back to it and I was blown away!

It is the best. Better than Buffy or Angel at their height. I love Sam and Dean (gorgeous of course but as characters as well). I love sharp-talking Bobby and the Impala (yeah, even the car becomes a character in it’s own right). 

The whole show is witty, cool, charming, depressing, moving- everything you want! Even the soundtrack is cool, with classical rock songs in every episode. It has demons, ghosts and gods and all sorts of things that go bump in the night. But mostly it has this great brother-relationship between Sam and Dean. Even the way the show is shot makes it look cold and gritty. There never seems to be any bright colours. It’s always blues and greys.

I love this show. And I find that every time a ‘woman’ comes into the boy’s life I want her out of it! I think to myself ‘this isn’t for girls! This is just the boys! Get out woman!’ It’s funny how you don’t need the relationship in this one, just the Urban Fantasy.

Supernatural is by far the best.

That said my interest in True Blood was peaked when it came out. And whoooh, what a disappointment that was!

Basically it descends pretty fast into gratuitous sex-scenes and there’s hardly a thing to like about anyone anymore.

Eric Northman is most certainly the only reason I watch it.

Alexander Skarsgård is a beautiful man. But…. well, maybe he is actually a good actor, but in True Blood I find his accent (whatever he’s putting on because I know he’s Swedish, but the accent must be American via the moon via Sweden) weird and off-putting and his acting unbelievable. 

Still he is beautiful and I know the character is bad and devilish and yummy so I overlook the portrayal.

Bill is an utter joke, his acting is bad and the character is just so ‘blaaah’.

Sookie is annoying (though Anna Pacquin can act).

Vinnie from Home and Away plays Jason Stackhouse- he has changed from his ‘Summer Bay’ days; my word has he!

He looks great and sounds completely American. In fact I didn’t even know him at first; very unlike me. I notice the ex-Home and Away crowd popping up here and there on American TV shows. Anyway, Vinnie is amazing in True Blood. He’s a great actor and actually I like the Jason character (at least his sex scenes serve a purpose illustrating his feckless character)- but it’s not like he can hold the show on his own, it’d be too much of a struggle to make up for everyone else!  

True Blood is a funny one. I don’t like it, but I still watch it. I don’t know why. I keep up-to-date with it- but I fast-forward through ALOT of it. I think it’s probably loss of Supernatural. Which won’t be back until September.

Has True Blood just caught the people looking for a summer boredom-UF fix? In me, I think it has.

This brings me onto another UF book series turned TV. I’m late to these. I know. It’s not that I don’t know they’re there, it’s just I keep them on the periphery until they do something to peak my interest.

Here enter the Vampire Diaries…. and what lured me in? Isn’t it always a bad-boy… Damon Salvatore!

So… I got the general idea of it- two vampire brothers fighting over the human girl with a mysterious family history- nuff-said, I’m in!

And so, I settled down and munched my way through the 1st series.

And I really enjoyed it. I’m not saying it’s obsession worthy, it’s not without its flaws, but I’d easily overlook the small hic-ups, because it reminds me of early season-Buffy (the last seasons were just a joke). The strange town protecting itself against the vampire threat that none of the average folk know about- only the overseeing forces…

The vampires are old school, blood suckers as well. Monsters, the way they should be (mostly). There’s gore and a certain amount of the viewer feeling being a vampire is not a good thing. A nice touch here is that the Salvatore brothers have enchanted rings that mean they can go out in the daylight. It gives an added joy to see the daytime with the vampires as opposed to having to leave them to the night.

It’s set in an American town called ‘Mystic Falls’ (what a name, nice) and it’s very picturesque… because of Supernatural and shows where people live or pass through (regularly) these, woodland/town/village places in America, I’m left thinking ‘is this what it’s like in the ‘country’ in America?’ and ‘I want to see it’. There’s something nice and quaint about the town that’s getting harassed by monsters. I like it.

A lot of problems come from a bad leading lady. Elena is mouthy, but she’s not stupid and she works things out pretty quickly all by herself. So, yeah she’s a good enough character. They’re never perfect. Could I say there’s one I love- no, not really, but I can name plenty I dislike (Sookie, Anita Blake, Cassandra Palmer, Elena the werewolf from Kelley Armstrong’s books and Bella Swan).

So if I don’t hate, I like well-enough- I like Elena.

Her friends have secrets, her family is hiding things. Her town has known misfortune of the vampiric sort before… hmm, interesting right?

So let’s look at our leading men shall we? I’m wondering why is Damon so much more handsome than Stefan?

Is this a sign (haha). She’ll end up with him by the end (not because he’s better looking though- if Elena/or we, meet him first she’ll end up with him- factoid (it’s an unspoken rule)- did she meet him first in the books I wonder? I’ll never read them, so I’ll just go by the TV show)… mark my words… Damon is the troubled soul, he needs her more.

The actor that plays him has amazing eyes (stunning is the word! Unnatural!)… I won’t get into that though, it cheapens the musing to harp on about the man (he’s lovely… mmmm…. yummers).

As a character, Damon is as bad as they come (bad as in evil… well, he DOES kill people, many and without a second thought). He’s conflicted and caught up in his past. But his character evolves and the actor that plays him does a fine job at playing a cocky bastard. Damon reminds me of Dean from Supernatural (and I adore Dean). They have the same sort of rock-devil-may-care attitude. And younger brother complexs I guess.

Okay, The Vampire Diaries isn’t perfect. But it’s comes worlds closer to it than the likes of True Blood. I’m looking forward to the next series basically. It was enjoyable. Young and fresh and yeah the backdrop is a lot ‘nicer’ than that of True Blood.

It’s taking some time for the good Urban Fantasy to rise above the rest of the crap. But maybe it’s a case of getting back to basics… get back to ground roots early-Buffy-style.

Why do we have to be subjected to the porn without plot? Come on, people. It’s nice to have a bit (don’t get me wrong), but too much really leaves a bad after taste in the psyche!