Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cryptic Curiosities: "Ring Around the Rosie"

It's likely that you are familiar with the nursery rhyme and children's game "Ring Around the Rosie" which conjures whimsical, idyllic imagery of children dancing in a merry circle. However, it is less likely that you are familiar with the song's macabre implications...

Ring-around the rosie,
A pocket full of posies
Ashes! Ashes!
We all fall down.

Many have noticed a connection between the songs lyrics and symptoms of a plague. The "Ring around the rosie" is reported to allude to red rash found all over a victim's body.  "A pocket full of posies" was a method used in an attempt to stave the prevalent, overpowering smell of disease and death.  "Ashes, ashes" indicates the cremation of the bodies of the dead, claimed by the plague.  "We all fall down" ominously suggests the inevitability of death.

While the lyrics match up to historical accounts of the Bubonic Plague of the 1330's called the Black Death and England's Great Plague of 1665, the similarities are apparently nothing more than coincidental according to folklorist and historians.  The song was published in an 1881 edition of Mother Goose, which is far removed from both outbreaks.  However, you probably won't think of this nursery rhyme the same way ever again, will you?

The photography at the top of this post is the work of Tom Chambers.

Note:  As one of my two readers, you might have noticed that this and a few other posts in this vein were previously titled "Freaky Factoids", but I changed the name to "Cryptic Curiosities".  Turns out that "factoid" refers to a fact that is untrue, not a "bite-sized" tidbit of trivia as I had always assumed.  I couldn't live with myself after I found out, so I came up with a new title...  Plus, I can never pass up an excuse to apply my aptitude for awe-inspiring alliteration!

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Full Moon on Friday the Thirteenth

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a special post tonight considering that it is not only Friday the Thirteenth, but also a Full Moon!  As you probably already know, this is a very rare occurrence.  The next time that a Full Moon will fall on a thirteenth Friday is on October 13, 2049.

Why not sit back for a few moments and enjoy this ominous event while thinking of lycanthropes and other maniacs?

The Art of Drew Struzan

Whether it's "floating heads" or Photoshop gone horribly wrong, there is just something missing from the movie posters of today.  They are horribly lacking in character.

Drew Struzan is an artist who has for decades produced some of the most beautiful movie posters of all time.  Even if you had never heard of Drew Struzan, you would certainly recognize his work.  His style is instantly recognizable and really captures the attention of audiences.  I know I use the word "iconic" quite a bit, but there aren't many other words that could be used to describe Struzan's work.  

Struzan was the stereotypical "starving artist" early in his career and he struggled to make it as an artist before finally landing jobs at a record companies creating artwork for bands such as Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper.

 It wasn't long before Struzan's work captured the attention of movie advertising agencies and thus began his career as a movie poster artist.

Raiders of the Lost Ark 

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

A triptych for the Star Wars Special Edition trilogy

Return of the Jedi

The Back to the Future series

John Carpenter's The Thing
The Goonies

Unused artwork for Jurassic Park:  The Lost World
Unfortunately, the cost and time that used to be devoted to movie advertising has changed greatly since the creation of Photoshop.  Studios would much rather spend less money and time using computer-generated images.  Thus, Struzan's movie poster output has decreased.  However, a number of directors have sought Struzan out for various projects, including Guillermo del Toro and Frank Darabont.

Unused artwork for Hellboy

Unused artwork for Hellboy


The Mist

Pan's Labyrinth

The Walking Dead
Unfortunately, Struzan has retired as a movie poster artist.  But he continues to produce artwork for his own enjoyment.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Music of Krzystof Penderecki

Krzystof Penderecki is an award-winning polish composer and conductor whose career has spanned nearly 6 decades.  His style has changed at various times to incorporate string orchestras and choral sections.  Many of his acclaimed works have religious themes featuring harmonic melodies.

This is not the man you would expect to be the composer of the soundtrack to your nightmares.

However, at several point through his career, Penderecki experimented with dissonant sounds and odd time signatures to produce some truly disturbing pieces.

Penderecki's first composition to feature these elements was his Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, a tribute to those that perished in the first atomic bombing.  To achieve the odd sounds heard in the piece, members of the 52 instrument orchestra employed techniques such as playing behind the bridge of stringed instruments and blowing into the tailpiece of the brass and woodwind instruments.  The result is a very unsettling listening experience.

Among these experimental works, Penderecki's most famous among horror movie aficionados is his piece Polymorphia which is featured in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

A final piece for your listening "pleasure"...  A work featuring choral accompaniment, Dimensions of Time and Silence.  I do not recommend listening in the dark!