November 16, 2017

Count Dracula and Magic

There is something about Dracula which is a source of interest to many people.  For some it's synonymous with Transylvania, and for others it's the feeling of power and magic which Dracula has: he's undead.  In fact it is the father of all vampires.

The book is also uses very powerful imagery.  The idea that it is written in letters and journals and various other media make it all the more fascinating for the reader.  At that point, horror wasn't the thing- it was considered an adventure story.  The fact that there was death and evil made it more of a selling point. It was exotic in its own way- being played out in a land which, at the time took weeks of travel to get there. It gave the magic to the reader that Frankenstein and other novels of the time also created.

It didn't make money for Stoker while he was living, something that many would learn from later sources, as his widow was a strong support in keeping the novel and legacy alive. After his death it was the magic of movies one in particular: Nosferatu, which would eventually help give new life to the book.  Some changes were made, but the land, Transylvania was the same, and Count Dracula became Count Orlok.  The second setting was in Germany in Nosferatu and in Britain in Dracula.

Count Orlok vanishes in a puff of smoke at the rise of the morning sun, due to his need to feed on blood, Dracula, in the novel dies from the combined wounds to his neck and heart.

Count Dracula and magic?

With the movies and the many ways Dracula dies has always made for more of a mysterious aura and the idea that he can only die under certain events (sun, dangerous and many mortal wounds) In Nosferatu the Vampyre was see a remake of the first movie, and the ending is similar, with the sun he dies, but Van Helsing would drive a wooden stake through his heart to make certain. (Unlike Count Orlok, who vanishes with the sun)

All of them use their coffins to transport themselves to various places.  They need the coffins or some method to transport themselves over water (this is noted in Dracula with the helpers he has).

All of them are killed by sunlight or to numerous wounds.

All of them are nearly immortal. He is undead, or a walking corpse (not a zombie) with an evil character.

In most cases, they have super-healing factors, but can be killed by other means (see the Dracula novel) but that is hard to do.

In some movies, as in the book, Dracula has the power of telepathy, the ability to read minds, and to hear his "children" if they need help- should he ever be close enough. (in Bram Stoker's Dracula the movie with Gary Oldman, it's clear this is one of his powers.)

Dracula, a simple novel created magic and the genre of horror and a lasting legacy of horror where the powers of good vs evil are found and fought.  It is where science and myth join and where a land developed more of a magical meaning to more people.

November 11, 2017

Those Who Don't Learn.

It's an old cliche but today it seems appropriate "Those who don't learn their history are doomed to repeat it." That's not the exact quote, and quite, the one which is possibly more true is the quote "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (George Santayana)

It's not a false statement, but it's not entirely true in the modern times.  As a culture we have too much information now.  It can be oral tradition, or written history.  It can be a person's own memories or a biography.  Either way, there is a lot more out there for people to learn from.  But....

What sort of thing do we actually learn?

In many places there is the great push of "100 years ago this happened."  As people we can learn from wikipedia, or the glossy magazine cover of what happened so many years ago, and have a general idea of how this event or that event took place.  Unfortunately, the people who were there are no longer living testimonies to these events.

For example in Romania, the last veteran of the World War One passed on in 2007.  Based on records, there are no surviving World War One veterans alive now.  They had their memories of war, and many told their stories, but one wonders how long before similar events happen?

It's not politics.

May I suggest that if you have a moment to go and play the game 'telephone.'  As a child, it taught me  the value of messages and stories early on.  In this game you sit in a group- the bigger the better- and  one person whispers a message in another person's ear.  It's simple enough.  Then, the next person passes on that message, and it goes around in a circle.

Most of the time, the message gets distorted, and it's all rather funny when "go and get me some candy" becomes "go find the fish for me." The right words are important. That's the challenge of oral history, somewhere along the lines the story changes.  Not always because of something someone willingly changed, rather because   people can, and do mishear things.  Innocent enough when it is a simple message.  However, this game has a bigger meaning to it.

You learn quickly not to trust your hearing, and this can be a quick game.  Imagine what history would be without as much writing in it.  However, the basis of history is "words" the spoken word, then it is written from memory or from another source.

The telephone game if you will in a larger context- that of world history.  In some cases it is entire countries.  In some cases it is family.  In others simply part of the country.  In Romania, the facts are clear, the Romanian government joined with the allies and was quickly overrun by the surrounding armies.  In the end, they still were able to claim overall victory, and gain territory.

To be clear, this doesn't tell the whole story.  Romania entered the war in 1916, and by May of 1918 signed a peace treaty.  The reentered the war in November of that same year.  Sounds like a basic structure- it is basic historical fact, no one would argue this.

However, if one doesn't learn from history, or more to the point one doesn't dig deeper, then you cannot truly learn from it.  The aftermath of the First world War gave rise to the Second.  In the grand scheme of things it meant another large scale war.  In Romania and Transylvania it meant many reviews of treaties and general animosity between peoples and cultures. Oral tradition comes into play.

You learn from history yes: what do you learn though?

In learning you keep an open mind, you ask questions.  Often, it's not the simple answers that are wrong, rather is it the way we create the answers.  Hungary was a part of the losing side of the war, Romania- the victor. Even reading a book such as the History of Hungary, one will see a different tone than if it's more focused on Eastern Europe.

What is written in history is based more often upon the victor's view of things.  This is especially true when dealing with history which is more of a modern history.  There are still men and women who lived through the Second World War, and their experience changes how many view the events.  Those who had the experience should be listened to, and learned from, but as with the game of telephone, one can ask questions.

Those who don't learn....

Maybe, the best answer is: those who don't learn to ask questions from different sides are doomed to repeat them.

September 21, 2017

On Blogs, Moving and Maps. (Or the Things I've Learned this Summer)

 It's something that anyone can tell you if you are going to travel, or blog. it's simple, and usually easy to follow. Have a map, a plan, an idea, and just a bit of courage. Or, in the case of this blog, and writing about Transylvania, the past tense might be more to the benefit of how the last few months have transpired.

Moving, of any sort, is not fun, and, while moving means new adventures, and this also means that as a writer of a blog a bit of organization is a high needs piece of life, and one which I am still a WIP.  Of course, good intentions and all of that wonderful idea of writing and moving, it simply didn't work as much as I had hoped.

It's also a challenge when a blog is starting to be a part of my life again, after years of feeling as if what I was writing wasn't as needed for readers as before.  The problem wasn't readers, but rather the writer.  Learning that there is always something to say is only piece of the journey. The next part is finding that the passion is still a part of the life of a blogger.

It's not about writing a blog post every day, but rather going forward in a new adventure mode.  Even looking at things in a different way.  In this case, the old assumption of maps being a story was nearly blown to bits owing to my adventures of traveling.  There are maps, and then there is the reality of what a map can actually tell you.  This case is best illustrated with a land map, upon traveling through lakes and the lake areas we found that the map we had made it look a lot different then the actual land.

One of them showed us that the road went "around the lake." This is not entirely the case, what was done was that gravel and dirt was brought in the middle of the lake, and dammed it up- much like beavers tend to do.  After many years, the one side of the lake was marsh and reeds, and the other was, high lake- almost level with the road.  Needless to say, it made for an interesting conversation when the map really didn't show the marsh, but a lake with a road beside it.

Some of the older maps of Transylvania were probably designed more with artistry in mind, as opposed to having the exact location and geography which our modern society wants in maps.  Blogs are similar, and moving and growing, and possibly changing it around to make it stronger is all a part of life and work within the internet.

The best thing learned? Just keep writing and growing.