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#956129 - Tue Dec 18 2012 10:40 AM Interview with Stuthehistoryguy
Pagiedamon Offline
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Registered: Sun Jun 15 2008
Posts: 2538
Loc: North Carolina USA
Bruyere
Stu, you and I have known each other for a long time on here and even on the phone a few times. I'm not sure where to start in terms of your many interests but I think the vampires would be where I'd begin. Your scholarly interests include this topic. How did you become interested in it?


When I was about seven years old, my folks bought me a big, floppy activity book about various creepy creatures from folklore and popular culture. I still have it: Monsters by Don Glut. It had chapters on werewolves, zombies, bigfoot, Jekyll and Hyde, the whole schmear. One of my earliest memories is going through the encyclopedia with my mom looking up references in that book, like what Mary Shelley would have known about electricity when she wrote Frankenstein. I liked all the chapters, but the one that stuck was the one on vampires. The image of the ominous aristocrat rising among the tombstones stuck with me, and every time we drove past a cemetery, I halfway expected to see the undead stepping out of their crypts.

I got more serious about it in college. A professor put me on to two great books that came out in 1989: Vampires, Burial, and Death by Paul Barber and The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism by Jan Perkowski. Barber's book examines how natural processes of decomposition could lead people to believe that the dead were coming back to harm the living, and Perkowski looks at vampire folklore from cultural and religious perspectives. From that point on, I was hooked.


salami_swami
Have you ever caught a vampire?


Funny you should ask! When I was first reading the books above, I mentioned my interest in vampires to a college friend. He immediately piped up, telling me that they had real vampires back where he was born in Southeast Asia. He gave me a good long rundown on the vampires of his people, holding a straight face the entire time. Being nineteen at the time, I knew everything (as the parents of teens reading this can attest), so I responded by quoting Paul Barber and generally being an idiot about my friend's culture. Granted, it didn't help that he really wouldn't pin down where "home" was--he was born in Laos, but was from Thailand, and said that most of his family was in Vietnam or China. To my shame (now), I kind of blew him off. We stayed friends through college, but never spoke of vampires again.

Years later, I realized that doing a PhD wasn't in the cards for me and that I wouldn't be doing a long study of vampires in South Slavic history, so I went back into business analytics and started pecking away at a broader, more popular work on vampires in world history. I was reading Anne Fadiman's book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down about the Hmong people of Southeast Asia when I realized what my friend had been trying to tell me all those years ago. Some database searches confirmed that no one had done a thorough study of Hmong vampire folklore, so I gave my friend a call. He's a medical professional in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area now (which has a large Hmong population) and doesn't really believe in the literal truth of the Hmong vampire stories anymore, though they are still important to his worldview in the deeper sense of connecting him with his heritage. We spent some time catching up, and he shared his stories with me in a more formal, ethnographic setting. I haven't published a peer-reviewed article on Hmong vampire folklore yet, so I guess I haven't quite "caught" this vampire, but I have presented my work up to this point at a couple of academic conferences. This spring, I hope to get up to Minnesota for a week or so to collect stories from the Hmong there. I'm dating a professional anthropologist now, so hopefully she can give me the swift kick that I so desperately need to get this article (and book chapter) done.


CellarDoor
Your quizzes reveal an abiding love for baseball. Are you a fan of any team in particular? Why?


The Omaha Storm Chasers! I did my undergraduate thesis on minor league baseball in Nebraska, and since then I've really seen the value of supporting the local ballclub. We have two new stadiums my area: one downtown close to the nightlife district that hosts the College World Series and other major events, and a more family-friendly park out in the south suburbs for minor league ball. I usually go with my dad, but I've been with friends and their kids, too. They have a raised berm out past the outfield fence where you can spread out blankets and watch the game from the grass, but my favorite thing is to sit behind home plate and keep score. As I hope many of you reading this know, there aren't too many things in the world better than going to a ball game with your dad.


bloomsby
What is your main interest, apart from vampires and baseball?


That depends on the day. Probably music. I've played blues harp (harmonica) since high school. I'd like to get back into that seriously, as well as learning how to play Celtic music. I'm also an editor for a creative writing magazine, which can be fun on a good day. And, of course, there's always history. smile


bloomsby
How and when did you discover this site, and what were your early impressions of it?


I first signed on in 2001, mostly just to have some fun and kill some time doing trivia one afternoon during finals week. I played for a few weeks, then tapered off and moved on. I came back in 2004 and got much more involved. I was out of grad school by then and working at a bookstore, so I had a little more time on my hands. That's when I got more involved in writing. I have to admit, it got kind of addictive for a while there. smile


bloomsby
What do you regard as the most important two or three changes to the site since you joined it?


The badges. They have really added a new dimension to site participation. The author challenges have certainly done a great job at stirring things up also. On a more behind-the-scenes note, the system for authors to communicate with editors has really improved in recent years, and it has been good to take advantage of that.


salami_swami
You've been on FunTrivia for a while, so have seen and written a fair number if quizzes. What is your favorite quiz of yours? Of someone else's?


If you look over my first few quizzes, there’s nothing special there. I was just rattling off Trivial Pursuit-style questions or trying to stump the reader with specialized knowledge of stuff that not too many people cared about. Then I took Jouen58’s “Dear Athena.” That’s when I realized what this medium was for and what quizzes ought to be. So I broke out my copy of The Holocaust Chronicle and wrote “Badges and Symbols of the Holocaust.” That’s the first quiz I ever wrote that I really consider very good, and it’s probably still my favorite. (The “date online” timestamp shows that Jouen58’s quiz came after mine, but I’m sure that’s incorrect.)

Those who have been around the site for a while know and appreciate our substantial Australian contingent. They’ve been good to me since day one, so I thought it would be a friendly gesture to write a quiz for ANZAC Day: “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” Nannanut helped me with some of the Aussie-specific content, and gtho4 took time from his yard work to make sure it went online on the 25th. (I always told gtho4 that I’d pay him back. When he asked me to edit Sports, I figured that was easier than flying to Australia to mow his lawn.)


bloomsby
You have written many outstanding quizzes and are among the most highly rated quiz authors. If you wanted to give some general advice to less experienced quiz authors, what would it be?


The best advice I could give would be to remember that quiz writing IS writing. A good quiz author should follow the same path that a good author of literature or nonfiction would follow. If you want a good quiz, approach it like you would creative writing. That includes things like grammar and punctuation just to start. Prep your quiz in a word processing program. Present your quiz like a school assignment that ought to earn an 'A', or like an article for the newspaper or a magazine. Also, pay attention to heartfelt things like seeking out the real guts of a topic and asking questions that get to the real meaning of what you're looking at. A computer can spit out questions asking how many rushing yards Adrian Peterson tallied in 2011 or how many centuries Ian Botham recorded or what Monet painting sold for the most money. It takes a human to tell us why we should care. Take facts and make them real; give them soul.

Someone a lot smarter than me once said that the writer's job is to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange, and I think that applies to quiz writing, too. Ask questions that introduce new elements to something that your audience knows well, or ask questions that bring exotic topics into common experience.


CellarDoor
Since becoming a Sports editor, have you found yourself developing an interest in an unexpected sport or athlete, or clinging more tightly to the interests you had before?


I've had to stretch into sports that I don't normally follow, but I still leave things like cricket to the Australians; honestly, if I tried to edit a cricket quiz, the author could get away with utterly boldfaced lies. The only sport I follow thoroughly is Mixed Martial Arts, so many of the more present-day quizzes are effectively my link to what's happening now in the athletic world, and that's been refreshing. Being a sports editor has gotten me more into sports in general, really.


Pagiedamon
When you joined FunTrivia, you named yourself "stuthehistoryguy". If you were signing up today for the first time, what would you call yourself: stu-the-___?


There would be no change whatsoever. smile Back when I was starting grad school, I had an email address that, because of job changes and whatnot, wasn't really relevant to my life anymore. So I started thinking of how I should replace it. My given name would have been an idea, but that was taken on the major free email servers and I didn’t want to add a string of numbers behind it. I wanted something simple that people could remember, but something unique.

I was in the History department back then, but the study circles I ran in had a lot of people from Anthropology, Slavic Languages, Creative Writing, and so forth. Every once in a while when I was introduced to new people ("Hi, I'm Stu."), they'd exclaim "Oh, you're the history guy." So I got a Yahoo account under Stuthehistoryguy, and most everybody agreed that this was something they would remember. Because it probably wouldn't be duplicated, I started using it for everything on the internet. I still do.


CellarDoor
It's easy to picture you wandering around town with a stake and several bulbs of garlic in your free time, when you're not writing or editing, but I'm pretty sure that's not the way of things.


Why are you so sure of this, Frau Doktor?

CellarDoor
In real life, if you're faced with a completely free and empty day, how do you like to fill it?


I'm tempted to reply in the words of the Waco Kid from Blazing Saddles, but this is a family-friendly site and I don't even play chess. To tell the truth, if you look up "Flaneur" in Wikipedia, that's probably as good an answer as any. If I have an open day, I'm apt to go downtown with a book and a notepad, stroll the sidewalks, browse the shops, watch the people, and hang out where I can read, write, and drink Diet Pepsi. You meet the darnedest people that way. I used to write a lot of poetry like that; not so much anymore.

For the record, I do keep a bulb of garlic on my writing desk next to my bust of Abraham Lincoln. I have been assured by many that this is "cute".


CellarDoor
Assuming money is no object, where in the world would you most like to travel? This could be someplace new to you or someplace old.


I'm not well-travelled at all, so this question is wide open. The first places to come to mind are Giza, Dubrovnik, and London. Hagia Sophia (in Istanbul) and Rome are probably on the list, too. I have a couple of friends in Bangkok who've invited me to visit--that would be great, especially after that fine documentary on Thai culture, "The Hangover II". I do have a goal to one day visit all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the US; my progress on this is rather embarrassing.

As to places I've been, Chicago never disappoints. wink I'd like to go back to the Mississippi Delta sometime, too.


Bruyere
If you could travel back in time, what time period would you visit and why?


I don't know. My first impulse is to go back to the 1970s to warn the CDC about AIDS, but the global pandemic has been so diffuse that I'm not sure a time traveler would have made a difference. For my research, it would be interesting to travel to 1730s Serbia where westerners first learned about South Slavic vampire folklore, but I'm not sure "being there" would be the best idea; historians put a lot of stock in "stranger value," and I think I prefer my role that way.


salami_swami
Stu, I know you like history (it's in your name, gosh darn it), but what is your favorite bit of history to learn/read/play quizzes about?


Any more, I kind of dig it all. What I like best are quizzes that teach me something I didn't know about, albeit in a way that allows me to take an educated guess at the right answer before explaining the subject in the interesting information. Apart from FunTrivia, I usually read about subjects that I've sketched out book chapters on, including the Balkans, Eighteenth-Century Europe, the British Empire, East Africa, Mexico, the Hmong, and the Romani/Sinti. I'm also interested in general US history, particularly Native American history lately.


salami_swami
I know that you write; has anything been published yet? What are you working on now?


I've published my share: a few articles and book chapters, lots of poems, some book reviews, one short story (that I remember), some other stuff. I had three things come out in 2012: a paper about Dracula and the British Empire for the European Studies Conference proceedings, a book review on the golem for a Slavic Folklore journal, and an essay about all kinds of stuff for a creative writing magazine. I've been kicking a book manuscript around for years now; a reader-friendly version of my Hmong paper will be Chapter 8, and the sorry remnants of what would have been my dissertation will be Chapter 1. I'm also slapping together a short story based on a couple of Abenaki vampire legends collected in the 1890s. Good times.


Bruyere
I know you are a dog lover. How does your love of dogs manifest itself in your own life?


I have a four-year-old puggle named Buddy. My old girlfriend and I adopted him when he was one, and he stays with me now. In the warmer months, I sometimes take him on the urban strolls described above. (Don't tell my new girlfriend this, but that dog is a babe magnet. I mean, it's straight-up disturbing.) We live right around the corner from a dog park the size of a small golf course, so he has a place to socialize and run around. Honestly, some of the best, most playful dogs out there are the pit bulls, and in three years at dog park (with a puggle who can be a royal pain in the tuchis sometimes), I've never had a problem with them. It's a shame that so many cities have passed laws against that breed. If I ever get another dog, I'd really consider getting a pit. No matter what, though, I would always get a new dog from the shelter or from someone looking to place a pet they couldn't keep anymore. US animal shelters euthanize over three million pets every year; six out of ten dogs who enter shelters don't come out. For the love of all that is good and sacred, people, look to the shelter when getting a new dog.


Pagiedamon
Over the years, I've been struck by your terrific sense of humor. Is there a joke you like to tell over and over again?


So a guy walks into a talent agent's office....

OK, that's not going to fly. Neither is the folk poem that I've been known to recite for my writing group late Saturday evenings. Lately, truth be told, the best joke that I've been telling in mixed company is a little off-color, but it was the highest-rated joke in the US according to a 2002 study.

Quote:
Two guys come out to a golf course to see if there are any open tee times. "You're in luck," the pro tells them. "Three guys in a regular foursome just cancelled. I'll put you into that slot with the remaining guy, Gus. He plays out here all the time. Nice guy."

So, after customary greetings, Gus and the two newcomers tee off and start their round. When they get to the seventh hole overlooking a suburban boulevard, Gus tees up and addresses the ball. Just as he starts his backswing, a hearse comes down the road. Gus stops his swing, drops his club, and removes his hat as the procession goes by. When the mourners are out of sight, he puts his hat back on and picks up his club. As Gus starts to address the ball again, one of the newbies, overcome with emotion, says, "Sir, that was one of the most decent, respectful things I've ever seen."

"Well," says Gus, "I was married to her for over thirty years."



Thanks to all who took part.
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#956163 - Tue Dec 18 2012 01:39 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: Pagiedamon]
ClaraSue Offline
Forum Champion

Registered: Sun May 18 2003
Posts: 7837
Loc: Arizona USA
What a fun and interesting interview! And I'm with you 110% about adopting dogs from shelters. I am a firm believer in that and am sickened by the puppy mills that are so prevalent because people want to have a "pure-bred". There are literally millions of pure-bred dogs at shelters, too.
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May the tail of the elephant never have to swat the flies from your face.

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#956172 - Tue Dec 18 2012 02:18 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: ClaraSue]
rossian Offline
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Registered: Sat Jun 10 2006
Posts: 1566
Loc: Merseyside UK 
That's just as interesting an interview as I expected. I was in Dubrovnik in October for a return visit (having previously spent one much too short day there in 1972). I can promise you that you will not be disappointed if you put it at the top of your list.
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#956181 - Tue Dec 18 2012 03:32 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: rossian]
lesley153 Offline
Mainstay

Registered: Fri Sep 07 2007
Posts: 725
Loc: Bedford England UK           
I went to Dubrovnik when it was still Yugoslavia, and my son's been to Croatia twice in the last couple of years - the first time on an orchestra tour, the second time with friends because he wanted to. I don't think you'll be disappointed either.

If you come to England, turn left at London, go north for about fifty miles till you get to Bedford, and I'll buy you a beer.
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#956204 - Tue Dec 18 2012 05:03 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: lesley153]
stuthehistoryguy Offline
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Registered: Fri Aug 20 2004
Posts: 1302
Loc: Omaha Nebraska USA      
Originally Posted By: lesley153
I went to Dubrovnik when it was still Yugoslavia, and my son's been to Croatia twice in the last couple of years - the first time on an orchestra tour, the second time with friends because he wanted to. I don't think you'll be disappointed either.

If you come to England, turn left at London, go north for about fifty miles till you get to Bedford, and I'll buy you a beer.


Much appreciated, mate. Might take you up on that wink
_________________________
Peace,
Stu
Editor, Sports

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#956219 - Tue Dec 18 2012 06:03 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: stuthehistoryguy]
lesley153 Offline
Mainstay

Registered: Fri Sep 07 2007
Posts: 725
Loc: Bedford England UK           
That'll be nice. wink
_________________________
I appreciate people who are civil, whether they mean it or not. I think: Be civil. Do not cherish your opinion over my feelings. There's a vanity to candor that isn't really worth it. Be kind. ~ Richard Greenberg

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#956235 - Tue Dec 18 2012 07:26 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: lesley153]
agony Offline

Administrator

Registered: Sat Mar 29 2003
Posts: 11740
Loc: Western Canada
Great interview, Stu. I read "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" a few years ago - it was a dime at a garage sale and looked interesting - and am ashamed to admit I had never even heard of the Hmong people before that.

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#956252 - Tue Dec 18 2012 10:33 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: agony]
stuthehistoryguy Offline
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Registered: Fri Aug 20 2004
Posts: 1302
Loc: Omaha Nebraska USA      
Originally Posted By: agony
Great interview, Stu. I read "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" a few years ago - it was a dime at a garage sale and looked interesting - and am ashamed to admit I had never even heard of the Hmong people before that.


I was in the same boat, mate. Take solace that you're hardly alone. Mention the Hmong outside of Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Northern California in the US and you'll get a lot of blank looks. I've tried referencing the Clint Eastwood movie Gran Torino, but I guess his fandom doesn't reach as far as I thought it did.
_________________________
Peace,
Stu
Editor, Sports

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#956258 - Tue Dec 18 2012 11:05 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: stuthehistoryguy]
Bruyere Offline
Star Poster

Registered: Sat Feb 10 2001
Posts: 18396
Loc: California USA
Funny you mentioned the Hmong book as we have it here and I did a multicultural session on them for my teachers' ed course recently. It's come in handy as some schools have about ten Hmong kids in a class. I'm in Northern California though. Huge communities here. Excellent book to introduce you to their community.

I've learned things from this interview!
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#956264 - Wed Dec 19 2012 12:02 AM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: Bruyere]
CellarDoor Offline
Multiloquent

Registered: Sat Feb 12 2000
Posts: 4893
Loc: Seattle
  Washington USA   
Great interview, Stu! This

Quote:
Why are you so sure of this, Frau Doktor?


cracked me up. And I now really want to watch a baseball game from a blanket on a raised, grassy berm.
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Just because there's twilight doesn't mean we can't tell the difference between night and day

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#956317 - Wed Dec 19 2012 06:50 AM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: CellarDoor]
stuthehistoryguy Offline
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Registered: Fri Aug 20 2004
Posts: 1302
Loc: Omaha Nebraska USA      
Originally Posted By: CellarDoor
Great interview, Stu! This

Quote:
Why are you so sure of this, Frau Doktor?


cracked me up. And I now really want to watch a baseball game from a blanket on a raised, grassy berm.


You and me both. Hurry April!
_________________________
Peace,
Stu
Editor, Sports

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#956324 - Wed Dec 19 2012 07:30 AM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: stuthehistoryguy]
ozzz2002 Online   FT-cool
Moderator

Registered: Mon Dec 03 2001
Posts: 17241
Loc: Sydney NSW Australia        
Great interview, Stu, and please, please leave all the cricket quizzes to me! smile

Bedford is about as far away from Sydney as you can get, but there is an icy-cold beer Down Under with your name on it, too.
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The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not smashing it.

Editor, Hobbies and Sports, and Forum Moderator

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#956552 - Thu Dec 20 2012 03:28 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: ozzz2002]
bloomsby Offline
Moderator

Registered: Sun Apr 29 2001
Posts: 3662
Loc: Norwich England UK            
Excellent interview, Stu. Many thanks for answering all our questions.

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#956587 - Thu Dec 20 2012 06:28 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: ozzz2002]
stuthehistoryguy Offline
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Registered: Fri Aug 20 2004
Posts: 1302
Loc: Omaha Nebraska USA      
Originally Posted By: bloomsby
Excellent interview, Stu. Many thanks for answering all our questions.

It’s beyond my pleasure, sir. Thank you for taking the time to think of them.

Originally Posted By: ozzz2002
Great interview, Stu, and please, please leave all the cricket quizzes to me! smile

Heh. That Ian Botham thing up there is probably not even in the ballpark, is it? Seriously, likewise with the baseball and US Football and such. If they sit out there for too long, slap me upside the head. I can take it.

And honestly, Sydney is more someplace I’d want to LIVE than a place I’d want to just visit wink
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Peace,
Stu
Editor, Sports

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#957662 - Thu Dec 27 2012 02:35 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: stuthehistoryguy]
Rowena8482 Offline
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Registered: Mon Mar 12 2007
Posts: 1408
Loc: Hartlepool Durham England UK
And Lesley will invite me to come for that beer too, I know it laugh
Stu, you are oddly fascinating to me (not in a creepy sad or stalkery way honest! I just realised how that might sound) - you are one of the people on my "If I could have dinner with any four people past or present who would they be" list for sure laugh
If you ever do come to the UK, come "Oop North" and let me give you a grand tour of our historical sites complete with a Whitby Vampire walk in all it's commercialised glory laugh
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#957682 - Thu Dec 27 2012 04:32 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: Rowena8482]
salami_swami Offline
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Registered: Thu Nov 01 2007
Posts: 8236
Loc: Colorado USA
Oh, he's on my list as well, Row.


Edited by salami_swami (Thu Dec 27 2012 04:36 PM)
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#957693 - Thu Dec 27 2012 05:52 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: salami_swami]
stuthehistoryguy Offline
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Registered: Fri Aug 20 2004
Posts: 1302
Loc: Omaha Nebraska USA      
LOL. I'm one of the most boring people I know, mates. Rowena, Salami, my next quiz is dedicated to you--if it passes muster!


Edited by stuthehistoryguy (Thu Dec 27 2012 05:55 PM)
_________________________
Peace,
Stu
Editor, Sports

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#957700 - Thu Dec 27 2012 06:21 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: stuthehistoryguy]
salami_swami Offline
Forum Champion

Registered: Thu Nov 01 2007
Posts: 8236
Loc: Colorado USA
You are not boring. :P
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"The only water in the forest is the River."

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#958035 - Sat Dec 29 2012 10:55 AM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: salami_swami]
BxBarracuda Offline
Multiloquent

Registered: Wed Sep 05 2007
Posts: 4945
Loc: Bronx
New York USA     
Stu, what are your top 3 Vampire films of all time, Top 3 other monster films of all time and what are your thoughts regarding how the current on screen vampires from "Underworld", "True Blood" and "Twilight" are portrayed?

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#958056 - Sat Dec 29 2012 01:29 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: BxBarracuda]
stuthehistoryguy Offline
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Registered: Fri Aug 20 2004
Posts: 1302
Loc: Omaha Nebraska USA      
Originally Posted By: BxBarracuda
Stu, what are your top 3 Vampire films of all time, Top 3 other monster films of all time and what are your thoughts regarding how the current on screen vampires from "Underworld", "True Blood" and "Twilight" are portrayed?


Interesting questions!

Top Three Vampire Films

1. Nosferatu (1922 version). A pioneering work in so many ways. Director F.W. Murnau showed us how literary works can be deconstructed and how unspeakable horror could be implied by light and shadow. In spite of its inherent horror and supernaturalism, as well as the implication that sex can be used as a weapon against the undead, this film was among those recommended by the Vatican in the 1990s. That says a lot.

2. Let the Right One In. I saw this in an Omaha art theatre when it first came out in the US. This film takes so many common motifs of the vampire genre - the Renfield, the vampire as immortal treasure hoarder, the numerous vampire apotropaics, the forbidden fruit of vampire/human love - and utterly deconstructs them and makes something fresh. It is simultaneously "everything you ever wanted in a vampire movie" and a refreshing work of creativity devoid of cliche; as oxymoronic as this sounds, it's true. I walked out of the theatre ready to throw my fists in the air proclaiming my love for the vampire movie I'd been waiting for. Then I saw the rest of the audience filing out silently, their eyes fixed forward, wearing visages not unlike the Cubs fans I had known in October of 2003. I decided to keep my enthusiasm to myself.

3. Isle of the Dead. Very underrated film. Boris Karloff plays a general in the Balkan Wars quarantined on an island infected with plague. He is torn between the modern interpretation of the disease, which holds that it will disappear when the siroccos kill the insects transmitting the disease, and his visceral folk sensibility, which leads him to suspect that one of their number is a vampire. This film gets short shrift from a lot of critics; its own cast and crew hated it because of multiple logistical breakdowns during production. Taken on its own merits, though, it is an incredible document of the conflicting worldviews that undergird nationalist movements, as well as being generally creepy and an acting tour-de-force by Karloff.


Top Three Other Monster Films

1. Frankenstein (1931 version). This film is done so well in so many ways. Karloff, Colin Clive, and Dwight Frye are at their best as the suffering monster, the irresponsible, vain creator, and the maniacal assistant (though the other performances are pure Hollywood cardboard, unfortunately). Director James Whale and Cinematographer Karl Freund craft an amazing presentation, highlighted by the amazing makeup of Jack Pierce (whose composition of the monster is so commonplace now that we take it for granted) and Kenneth Strickfadden, whose amalgamation of electronic miscellania is impressive even today. In other words, this is one hell of a movie.

2. The Wolf Man (1941 version). Lon Chaney, Jr. is at his best here as an everyman, "aw, shucks" kind of guy who returns from a virtual exile in America to help with his family's manor in Wales. In a cautionary tale about the dangers of peasant superstition to the most modern of people, Chaney's telescope technician turned noble heir is afflicted with a horrible curse through no fault of his own. This is a gripping illustration of how things we cannot hope to understand can bring down anyone. The A-level cast (Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi, Evelyn Ankers, and a host of Hollywood vets) doesn't hurt, either.

3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The one that set the mold. Perhaps not a monster film per se, but I think Cesare the Somnabulist counts for these purposes. In many ways, this is the mother of all art films, not just horror films. I suspect many of you have never seen it. If you are among that number, do your level best to correct this. Preferrably, try to organize a screening in your community wink Seriously, without Caligari, modern film is unthinkable. (And, yes, I've got a thing for German Expressionism. Sue me.)

ETA: My folks dropped me off at a college screening of Caligari when I was eleven. That probably says more about me than anything in this interview.



I have only seen the first Underworld film (and frankly found it forgettable), but I'd maintain that the Twilight and True Blood franchises are the successors to the postmodern vampire that Anne Rice originated in the 1970s. The sensibilities of our time reject general stereotypes of any group as inherently evil or good. We deconstruct broad categories, and look for inner motivations with which we can empathize. Along these lines, postmodern vampire authors present us with characters that are not entirely good or evil. Anne Rice's Louis and Lestat may do evil things, but the reader can understand their motivations and is led to sympathize with them (to a degree) instead of calling for their heads. True Blood's Bill Pulliam is shown to have largely overcome the vampire's antagonism toward humans and seeks to become a more "mainstream" member of society (though in recent seasons he is decidedly less noble, and his rival Eric has emerged from his earlier sociopathy to become more sympathetic). I haven't read or seen much of the Twilight franchise, but I understand that Edward Cullen is almost entirely noble, even when it is implied that the majority of vampires are still stone-cold killers. Postmodern vampire fiction holds out the possibility that anyone can be good, regardless of circumstance.

And that's bloody dangerous.

To be continued....





Edited by stuthehistoryguy (Tue Jan 01 2013 09:03 AM)
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#958061 - Sat Dec 29 2012 01:54 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: stuthehistoryguy]
stuthehistoryguy Offline
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Think for a moment: what is the most familiar canard of the bigot? "Oh, sure, there are some good ones, but most [insert targeted ethnic/religious/sexual orientation group here] are no good. Just look at how many of them [insert stereotypical antisocial behavior here]." By equating vampires - archetypal undead scapegoats for all kinds of human misfortune - with existing groups in our society, contemporary authors run the risk of reinforcing prejudice. Vampires ARE inherently evil in almost all of these fictional universes. They are naturally motivated to feed on human blood, for crying out loud. It's only a very select few who can overcome this. By broadly comparing vampires with targets of prejudice in real society, works like True Blood and Twilight are simultaneously comparing stereotyped populations to vampires. In other words, it works both ways, and the implications are not good.

I'm sure someone's going to come along and say "Get a grip, Stu, it's just a movie." So were Triumph of the Will and Birth of a Nation. I'm not saying this is intentional by any of these authors. I'm certainly not calling someone like Stephanie Meyer a bigot, but by emphasizing the nobility of the exceptions (like Edward Cullen or Bill Pulliam) the author necessarily emphasizes the depravity of the rule (vampires in general). This isn't a call to action - I LIKE True Blood . I also like Ice T and Disney's Song of the South, but it's necessary for responsible viewers to recognize the implications of some art forms and distance themselves from them. (Granted, with Twilight, that might be too hard. I understand one of the werewolf characters identifies a newborn baby girl as his soulmate and intends to marry her as soon as she's old enough. Ew.)

On the other hand, Season 2 of True Blood was particularly awesome. I like how they drew the main antagonists from Euripides. I hope this inspires more interest in The Bacchae - that would make a heck of a movie.

Sorry this turned into so much of a rant. It's been that kind of week. In deference to Paige, Sue, and the others who moderate this forum, I would encourage anyone who wished to discuss these points to start a new thread in Movies and TV.


Edited by stuthehistoryguy (Sat Dec 29 2012 04:15 PM)
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#958109 - Sat Dec 29 2012 07:20 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: stuthehistoryguy]
BxBarracuda Offline
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Wow, I understood my question might have been a big loaded but you suprised me some and I as always am impressed with your honesty on topics.

I have been told on more then one occasion "To get a grip" in regards to my views on the kindler/gentler vampires, so you are not alone in those thoughts. I liked Ice-Ts more controversial early work too, as well as Rage Against the Machine, though I didn't always take the views they expressed to such a degree as they did.

I liked the first Underwold, especially the Victor character and lost interest after the ending of the 2nd movie.

I haven't been able to see a full season of True Blood though or one of the Twilight movies.

Thanks for your open responses.

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#958458 - Mon Dec 31 2012 03:51 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: BxBarracuda]
Jakeroo Offline
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I've been looking forward to this interview for awhile now and was fascinated by your comments Stu.

p.s. you are ANYthing but boring!
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#961392 - Wed Jan 16 2013 12:31 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: Pagiedamon]
Jazmee27 Offline
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Registered: Tue Mar 09 2010
Posts: 634
Loc: Pennsylvania USA
Excellent interview. The writing advice was great, and one of my favorite parts. I generally try to write well, but sometimes I trip up (seems like more often than not lately, at least when trying to come up with quizzes).

I’m also into history, and when I was in college one of my favorite courses was Western Civilizations (I used to loathe U.S. history, e xcept for topics relating to slavery and Native Americans, but as I got older I found my interest broadening).

When I was younger, I used to stay as far away from the scary stories, but now I can’t understand why: I’ve always been into fantasy, and that often times crossed over into science fiction. Thenm, as I began writing my own stories, I just quit avoiding the subjects I gravitated toward.

Right now, I’m reading a book on the origins of the KKK, and I have another called “Vampireology” that I believe I’m half done with.

Your story about animals and animal shelters reminds me of the one and only book about dogs (nonfiction, that is) I really liked. It was called “Don’t Dump the Dog,” and many parts were downright hysterical.

I just remembered: another of my favorite classes in college was Cultural Anthropology. The instructor… well, there was much to be desired there, but the books we were required to read were interesting. I could have done without so many assignments—but, then again, in hindsight I can say they only heightened my interest. Since I cannot read print, my grandmother kinedly took the time to record my textbooks. In addition to “Monique and the Mango Rains” and the “Culture Sketches” book, she read the articles I had printed from the school library for my report on “Ireland Today.”

I did read the Twilight books, but haven’t yet watched any of the films (I think I saw bits and pieces of the first one, though).

By the way, Stu, the people who consider themselves
boring are anything but – it’s those who are full of themselves you should look out for. Lol.
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#961466 - Wed Jan 16 2013 06:35 PM Re: Interview with Stuthehistoryguy [Re: Pagiedamon]
kyleisalive Offline
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Registered: Mon Mar 07 2005
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Quote:
I walked out of the theatre ready to throw my fists in the air proclaiming my love for the vampire movie I'd been waiting for.


I'll share in the glee. I wrote a pretty great essay a couple years ago about this LTROI that ended up getting me an A+ in a course. tongue


Edited by kyleisalive (Wed Jan 16 2013 06:36 PM)
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