Halloween Ghostly Nails

Come Halloween even the most girlie of girls wants a little touch of Halloween horror in her life, and nails are a quick and effective way to do this – without having to dig out the white face paint and fake blood.  Which I find the horror really lays in scrubbing the stuff off the next day.

I have seen a lot of great Halloween inspired nail art on the blog scene over the last couple of weeks, but I am no nail artist – I can paint my nails without making too much of a mess but when it comes to getting arty with a nail pen, I struggle. But I thought I would give ghost nails a go (if it is your blog that I got this idea from let me know and I will tag you – I can’t remember where I seen it).

My ghost’s do look more Pac-man ghosts than terrifying supernatural ghosts but they are quite cute, regardless.  When I was trying this out I actually done the ghosts pink and black as a test run, as I had the intentions of doing it again with grey polish but I start work on Monday – hence the edited photo’s.

To get this look:

1. Chose your base colour for the ghosts and paint your nails as you usually would.
2. Wait to dry – seriously, wait.
3. Use black nail art pen (I use Models Own) to draw the points at the tip of the nail, to create the outline of the ghost. You can actually see this better in the first photo. I used the brush of the nail art pen rather than the actual pen but I feel it would work better with the pen – more steady.
4. Dot two white dots using either dotting tools or free hand – I used free-hand.
5. Use the nail art pen to place the pupils – this time you need to use the pen end.

I found the layers of polish took quite a while to dry, so you might want to watch a film or something whilst you do this, as not to be tempted to do something that will smudge the polish.

What are your favourite Halloween nail art designs this year?

Halloween Horror Films For Those Who Love Horror: Part Two

Well, I was more enthusiastic than I had initially intended in Part One but there are just so many great horror films out there that I need to share.  However there are also a whole lot of bad horror films, probably more bad if I am being honest, so that is what makes these posts even more important.  People seem to be into the habit of watching horror films that are prescribed to them, such as Paranormal Activity (which is actually a guilty pleasure of mine) but there are so many better and scarier films out there, but of course everyone is scared by different things, so I have tried to keep my list as varied as possible.  I have grouped some films together in this post either due to being based on the same story or the being by the same director, and again the films are not in a particular order.

7.  The Collector (20009) (American Torture Horror).
This is one of the best films I have seen in recent years and I cannot recommend it enough, it is similar in plot to the Saw films and was considered to be a prequel to Saw but that idea was quickly dismissed.  I am glad, as although the films have similarities they’re very different in regards to the perpetrators motives and that is what makes The Collector a scarier villain than Jigsaw in my opinion. I would have said ‘killer’ but that opens the whole is Jigsaw a killer argument. 
“Desperate to repay his debt to his ex-wife, an ex-con plots a heist at his new employer’s country home, unaware that a second criminal has also targeted the property, and rigged it with a series of deadly traps”. – IMDb

8.  The Orphanage (2007) (Spanish Supernatural Horror).
I could have swore that this film was by Guillermo del Toro but it actually by another Spanish director called Juan Antonio Bayona. It is clear that del Toro has influenced his work though and in researching Bayona I had found out that del Tero is a mentor to Bayona, that explains it.  Either way it is a fantastic supernatural film, don’t let the fact that is in Spanish put you off watching it – it will captivate you until the end. The fact that this is Bayona’s first feature film is terribly impressive and I really hope he makes more films in this creepy style.   It has some great twists and Tomas will chill you to the bone (oh how cliché).

“A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, where she opens an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend”. – IMDb
9. Julia’s Eyes (2012) (Spanish Thriller Horror).
Another great Spanish supernatural horror, but I cannot take credit for finding this one, my ex-flatmate (victoriaspongepeasepudding) introduced me to this one and it terrified us both, even whilst drinking large glasses of wine.  This story of this film still chills me as it resonates with a recurring nightmare that I have, but in general if this does not scare you a little then you must be a pretty tough person.  Just thinking about one of the key scenes in the film freaks me out, a true thriller that does not need jumpy scenes to have you on edge.
“The story of a woman who is slowly losing her sight whilst trying to investigate the mysterious death of her twin sister”. IMDb


10. House of 1000 Corpses (2003) (American Exploitation Horror), The Devils Rejects (2005) (Slasher Horror), Halloween (2007) (Slasher Horror). 

You will either love these films or you will hate them.  I am a little bias since I love Rob Zombie (the musician and director of these films) and his wife Sheri Moon Zombie who is one of my favourite horror actresses. I love the humour and horror geekery that comes with Rob Zombie films – you see his passion for horror in the films.  As both a musician and a film director he has a large cult following from the alternative scene but that might simply be because we are also very passionate about horror as a film genre and sub-culture.  

House of 1000 Corpses

“Two teenage couples traveling across the backwoods of Texas searching for urban legends of murder end up as prisoners of a bizarre and sadistic backwater family of serial killers”. IMDb

My favourite Rob Zombie film because it almost has everything that I want in a horror film – gore, reference to serial killers, a clown, torture, humour, a wonder of ‘what the fuck’, a banging soundtrack and a little bit of slashing.


The Devils Rejects

The follow up to house of 1000 Corpses but it is quite different in plot and is more of a straight thriller/slasher film but it has some great punch lines and the same great characters. 

“The murderous, backwoods Firefly family takes to the road to escape a vengeful police force which isn’t afraid of being as ruthless as their target”. – IMDb


Halloween

A remake of course and I suppose I am a little hypocritical after expressing my distaste for remakes in the first post but I genuinely prefer the Rob Zombie presentation of the origins of Michael Myers to the original version. I do recommend the other original films though, I just prefer this as an introduction to what Halloween is about. 

“After being committed for 17 years, Michael Myers, now a grown man and still very dangerous, escapes from the mental institution (where he was committed as a 10 year old) and he immediately returns to Haddonfield, where he wants to find his baby sister, Laurie. Anyone who crosses his path is in mortal danger”. – IMDb



11. The Exorcist (1973) (American Supernatural Horror)

I couldn’t write a post about horror films and not include the classic horror that is The Exorcist.  The original demon possession film and one that shook audiences to the core when it was first released – ambulances on cue from people passing out.  Nowadays it is more funny than anything else, but I was scared the first time I seen the film when I was 9 or 10. 

“When a girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter”. – IMDb


12. Funny Games (1997) (Austrian Psychological Thriller), Funny Games (2007) (American Re-make) & The Strangers (2008) (American Psychological Thriller).

All three films concern being held hostage and tortured.The Leopold and Loeb murder case is said to have influenced the film as it revolves around committing the ‘perfect crime’.   The remake of Funny Games is based on the Austrian original and The Strangers is based loosely on those two films. 

Funny Games

“The plot of the film involves two young men who hold a family hostage and torture them with sadistic games”. – Wiki



The Strangers

Not one to watch when you are in the house alone or live on your own, it will have you questioning every little noise you hear and making sure that your door is locked, but it is one of those films where you think ‘hmm I would do that different and survive’. 

“A young couple staying in an isolated vacation home are terrorized by three unknown assailants”. – IMDb


13.  Hostel (2005) (American Torture Horror).

Written by one of my favourite horror geeks Eli Roth, Hostel is essentially a world-wind of gore and raises some horrifying questions about the world we live in.  The gore does not phase me much but the story behind Hostel is safely in the back of mind whenever I go somewhere new – see horror keeps you safe. 

“Three backpackers head to a Slovak city that promises to meet their hedonistic expectations, with no idea of the hell that awaits them”. – IMdb


I could have continued going all night but I didn’t want to burden you with a massive list but I might write more horror film lists, about more specific genres if this post is popular. 

Halloween Horror Films for Those That Love Horror – Part One

I love horror and I love Halloween, and although I watch horror films all year round I know that not everyone does. Halloween is a time for the non super-horror-enthusiast to lust after horror films and I want to make sure that you find some decent ones, for I know more than most that the horror market is chock full of bad horror. 

The below list is not in a particular order but I do highly recommend the first two on the list to horror geeks. 


1. Shutter (2004) (Thai Supernatural Horror).  There is also an American remake but I would advise watching the Thai version first. 

“A young photographer Thun and his girlfriend Jane discover mysterious shadows in their photographs after fleeing the scene of an accident. As they investigate the phenomenon, they find other photographs contain similar supernatural images, that Thun’s best friends are being haunted as well, and Jane discovers that her boyfriend has not told her everything. It soon becomes clear that you can not escape your past”. – IMDb

This is without a doubt one of the scariest films I have seen, and I have watched a lot of horror films.  Not only is it scary, jumpy, but it has mystery to it too, and a great ending. A top notch horror film.


2. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) (Korean Supernatural Horror).  This what the American horror The Uninvited is based upon, I haven’t seen the later but I am going to assume that the original is better – they usually are. Another Asian horror film gem. 

“Two sisters who, after spending time in a mental institution, return to the home of their father and cruel stepmother. Once there, in addition to dealing with their stepmother’s obsessive and unbalanced ways, an interfering ghost also affects their recovery”. – IMDb

This one takes quite a lot of thinking and you need to pay attention to it to understand what is happening, but it an excellent film once you have your head around it. I advise you watch it with someone so you can discuss what is happening – I advise this for most Asian horror films. 



3. The Amityville Horror (1979) (American Supernatural Horror). Before I discovered Shutter this was my ‘most scary’ horror film.  Like the last two films mentioned the original is far better than the remake, if you want a swatch at Ryan Reynolds abs then watch the 2005 remake – but I find the original so much more eerie.  This film will set you on edge and having you flinching at every little noise you hear. 

“Based on a true story that was claimed by writer Jay Anson, The Amityville Horror is about a large house on the coast of Long Island where newly weds George and Kathy Lutz and their three children move into the house that they hope will be their dream house but it ends up in terror”. IMDb

This film scared me for a long time and the background story behind the Amityville case is also really quite interesting.



4. Ringu (1998) (Japanese Supernatural Horror).  Only watch the Japanese series of Ring films, if you watched the American versions and found them really good then this is probably the wrong post for you. 

“Reiko Asakawa is researching into a ‘Cursed Video’ interviewing teenagers about it. When her niece Tomoko dies of ‘sudden heart failure’ with an unnaturally horrified expression on her face, Reiko investigates. Shes finds out that some of Tomoko’s friends, who had been on a holiday with Tomoko the week before, had died on exactly the same night at the exact same time in the exact same way”. IMDb



5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) (American Slasher Film).  This is very possibly the first horror film I ever bought. It was that or Friday the 13th (another one to take note of).  I just absolutely love the story of Texas Chainsaw Massacre – the crazy dysfunctional family and the psychology behind leather-face (based on serial killer Ed Gein).  Taking into account the small budget this film had, it is a great horror.  I sometimes feel that modern special effects make films less scary. There is a great coldness to this film and the silence in parts really does create a horrible atmosphere both in the film and around you – grab a blanket. 

“Five friends visiting their grandpa’s old house are hunted down and terrorized by a chainsaw wielding killer and his family of grave-robbing cannibals”.

I also enjoy the follow up to this film also by Tobe Hooper (not to be mistaken for the remakes, gosh I seem to really hate remakes). IMDb



6.  The Shining (1980) (American Supernatural Horror).  Without a doubt this is a classic.  Based on the Stephen King novel, it is simply a great tale of mystery, psychology and supernatural activity.  It is a film I have yet to proper work out, but one day I will sit and tear it apart, perhaps with a glass of red-rum.

“A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future”. IMDb

It is a Stanley Kubrick film and it stars Jack Nicholson – need I encourage you further?

At the moment I have no opinion on the prequel to The Shining that is currently in the works.  I don’t know whether it is a good idea or a disastrous one – I suppose time will tell.  I do have a lot of opinions of the remaking of American Psycho though – again blooming remakes!



Stay tuned for part two and my post for halloween films for those that do not like horror.  



Wigtown Soap Company – Peppermint and Pumice Soap

I am a complete sucker for soap, especially fancy soap, so when I seen handmade soap in the produce tent at Wigtown Book Festival I had to get me some. I must have spent a good twenty minutes smelling all the different soaps and trying to pick one. I eventually settled on peppermint and pumice for myself and a shea butter one for my boyfriends Mum for Christmas.

The Wigtown Soap Company are a small family business specialising in the production of natural soaps. They avoid chemicals and focus on using quality ingredients including natural essential oils fresh and dried fruits, flowers & herbs. All of the soap is made in small batches and cut by hand. The basic recipe for the soap contains only 4 ingredients: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Organic Fairtrade Palm Oil and Lye

I have always been a fan of minty scents and with the winter coming up I figured that a little pumice would do good in scrubbing away any dead skin.  It does smell a little like something you would use on your feet, but it makes a welcome change from the usual teatree and mint Original Source shower gel. I bought it with the intent of using it in the shower but it is more drying than moisturising, but it will make a lovely hand soap. They also make lovely Christmas gifts – £3.50 each.

Publishers Stuck in the Stone-age – Tahir Shah

“People get very worked up about creating a book and having their name on it.  Write for yourself. Not for anyone else”.
Tahir Shah is an Anglo-Afghan Indian author and a controversial character in the literary world, for he is not afraid to talk about how the book publishing world is behind with the times or about how self-important authors annoy him. Shah has strong views on traditional book publishing practices and assertively refers to those publishers who do not employ new methods as being ‘stuck in the stone-age’.
“I am quite against the conventional model that publishers use to sell books. It’s really old fashioned and really boring. I think the printing is really shoddy and pathetic.  I am so passionate to recreate beautiful books”.
Timbuctoo, Shah’s latest book, a historical novel about the first Christian man to visit Timbuktu, is self-published on the grounds that Shah is fed up being embarrassed by his books being published in such a ‘shoddy and pathetic’ way, with cheap paper and unoriginal cover art. He almost commands that there should be more respect for books, as works of art rather than cheaply put together paperbacks.
The new book was a complete sell out at Wigtown Book Festival and those who did not manage to get a copy enquired to as where they could get one (Amazon – if anyone is wondering).  The aesthetic beauty of this book caused quite a flurry of excitement in the audience. It is rare to see such a striking looking modern book.  We have become used to seeing brightly coloured book covers, filled with cheap paper.
People queued up after hearing Shah speak to have a better look at the book, and feel the weight and quality of the book in their hands.  The book feels expensive and you would be proud to have it on your coffee table, as a conversation piece, some might say.  There are tastefully illustrated black and white maps that fold out from the book, and create a whole new dimension to the story being told.
Being a self-published book this also gave Shah the freedom to experiment with new methods of publicising the book – “What I have tried to do because I have published this myself is to hype the book in ways that is not usually done in the media.  For example geocaching things – you hide items, anywhere, like in the countryside or a city, and then people with their smart-phones use the GPS to find it. So, I have hidden e-copies of the book on USB drives, lots of them, all over the country”.
Shah argues that publishers are actually not as great as some might think at publicising books and he hopes that they change their approach soon, as to avoid ending up with the problems the music industry has.  He feels the currently publishing situation can be adeptly compared to a book called The Tale of the Sands – “In it a river wants to cross the dessert and it gets absorbed by the sand and the wind tells the river that if it wants to cross the desert it can but it needs to change its form.  You have got to come in to the wind as mist and I will blow you across. I think publishing is similar to this.  They have been living in a la la cuckoo land for too long. I hope a new model is emerging”.
Another of his pet hates is when writers are self-important and in turn almost end up being some sort of celebrity.
“I feel so embarrassed. It is kind of like a carpenter – ‘yeah I made a pretty good table today’. I just see writing as a craft, like woodwork. I don’t want to know what the carpenter ate for breakfast or what his sex life is like”.
Despite his complaints about publishing and of other authors his arguments are all based around the philosophy that you should write for yourself, as it is the journey you embark on during the writing process which is the most important part of writing a book, above everything else.

Adventures and Talking With Robots

Adventures and Talking With Robots – Post for The Wigtown Book Festival Blog
The weirdness that encompasses the world is something that a lot of us would not have any qualms admitting we are incredibly curious about; those that claim otherwise are liars.  Reality TV would not be such a hit if this were the case.  Humanity has always had a kink for the unconventional and ‘strange’, from the freak shows of the Victorian era to the Jerry Springer Show of the modern day.

Jon Ronson author of such books as The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Psychopath Test has made a career seeking out some of the most obscure people and places in the world.  Obscure might sound like a detrimental word but Ronson argues that he is in no way mocking those that he documents, as he doesn’t laugh ‘in an imperialistic way, I equally write about my own ridiculousness.’ 

As a journalist I was excited to hear Ronson speak at Wigtown Book Festival, about his adventures, and the mishaps embraced on his journeys as a documentary film maker and writer. 

Ronson has interviewed a whole bunch of interesting people but the one that caught my attention was Bina 48 – the most sentient robot in the world.  He described Bina 48 as being a ‘better interviewee than a psychopath’. Profound questions such as: What does electricity taste like and do you have a soul, were asked. Bina’s reponse – Doesn’t everyone have a solar?

‘I don’t consider myself better than those I interview; we’re all a bit lost at sea’.

He finds it hard to trust aggressive journalism, and prefers the realistic approach of knowing his own weaknesses and being able to take the mick out of himself as part of the job.

His new book Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries discusses the lost at sea theory further, sharing tales of his zany adventures such as being on patrol with real life superheroes. I left Ronson’s talk aching to find out more about his adventures and the people he met.  If you want to read about investigative journalism without pretences and hear some wonderful stories then this is a book for you.  


“and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?

To have got to the end of  my adventure into the depths of the book wonderland that is Wigtown, and to have not mentioned the bookshop’s feels almost like a crime.  Perhaps, I am in denial about how many books I returned home with.  The answer is twelve, twelve books.  Two or three books I could have justified, but I am struggling to justify why I need twelve new books, when I have eight unread books sitting at home, and I am getting a Kindle for Christmas.  The charm of the second-hand bookshops just like a charm of a handsome man has sucked me in, that’s the story and I am sticking with it.   
My two weeks of being one of the journalism interns at the festival is over and has brought me to the conclusion that Wigtown is like retreat for writers, and other creative individuals. But coincidently with the amount of books you will be returning home with, you might find yourself needing to visit rehab or book buyers anonymous.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”
The comfort of being surrounded by so many books and people who love books is wondrous.  Big chain bookstores do not capture the essence of book love on the same level. You don’t walk into a chain store to be greeted by the musty smell of old books, the elegance of leather bound covers that have survived the times, or a warm fire.  Fire in a bookstore, trust me the atmosphere created is worth the potential hazard.
Even when the bookstores are closed the atmosphere is one of wonder, with the clear dark skies and the stars shining brightly.  If you haven’t already, take two minutes to just stop and gaze at the Wigtown sky at night. 
There really is something for every niche in the arts at this festival: from music, poetry, theatre, book sculptures, grass weaving and of course literature. But at the heart of it what makes the festival so wonderful are the visitors, the staff, the community, and the volunteers with their warmness and enthusiasm. 

Laura Ashley Skirts and Acoustic Guitars – The Train in The Night Review

Being a music critic demands one skill above most: being able to listen to and understand music. But what happens when you are faced with the double tragedy of not being able to hear music the way you once did and it causing you actual physical pain.
Nick Coleman has been a music critic for over 25 years and is forced to deal with this exact problem due to neurosensory hearing loss, a condition which has a devastating effect. The way Coleman explained his first couple of days after the illness hit is terrifying.  His description of the frustration of being stuck in bed unable to move and not knowing exactly what was wrong but with a constant ringing in his ears that alarmed him that something was very wrong makes the most calm person feel anxious.
He spoke at Wigtown Book Festival where he promoted his book The Train in the Night: A Story of Music and Loss. You might think that the event would be a bit of sob story but it was actually the opposite. Any music lover hearing him talk will learn to appreciate music on a whole new level and anyone who suffers from any medical ailment will find his strength inspiring.
“Am I going to get it back?” I asked, repeatedly, trying not to be a bore. “My hearing is my most important sense. Well, to me it is. I need both ears for work. Music is my greatest passion in life. I do it a bit, too. I’d rather lose an eye, a foot…”
One of his first difficulties after being diagnosed was to go to see his team Arsenal play. He described the aftermath of this challenge as feeling the highest he has ever been legally due to the happiness he felt at having began his journey towards living with this illness.
He also talked about how his relationship with music has changed. The use of the word relationship could not be more appropriate.  When music is such an intrinsic part of you it does become like a friendship. If you’ve had a bad day you stick your favourite record on. If you’re feeling sad you stick on a song that you can relate to so you no longer feel so alone.

His perception of himself and who he is changed so profoundly that everything felt different.  Anyone who has suffered from either a physical or mental illness will relate to the book on this level; for these are events that can either make or break you as a person but Coleman’s courage in pulling himself out of the darkness is palpable.
He spoke about how he has to use his memory to listen to music since physically was no longer an option.  It’s your brain that makes music meaningful and therefore it is possible to ‘listen’ to music without actually hearing it. We have all had days whereby you have a song sticks in your head – nine out of ten times it’s one you don’t actually like. When you apply this to a song that you have a deep emotional relationship with it can be very moving.
Nick Coleman’s ability to tolerate music has improved and he reviews folk music for The Independent on Sunday as this is the music that he finds the easiest to listen to and understand.  He described his job as “Laura Ashley skirts and acoustic guitars”.  He feels Amy Winehouse is one of the greatest singers the UK has ever produced and that every piece of music has the potential to be good.
The Train in the Night is a must read for anyone who loves music or needs some inspiration in their lives.

Scottish PEN

In the United Kingdom we tend to take our freedom of expression for granted. Most of us have grown up being able to say what we want and with very little consequence if we do say something that is out of turn.  As much as us brits love to complain we should be thankful that we live in a country where we can express how we feel without fear of persecution.
Scottish PEN, part of the International Pen network spread over 100 countries, campaigns for the freedom of expression in places where this simple human right is suppressed.  PEN is committed to campaigning for writers under threat as well as supporting cross-cultural exchanges to build co-operation and fellowship amongst writers.
“Literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals”.  – Scottish PEN
The Scottish PEN event as part of Wigtown Book Festival surprised me, how sombre I felt after hearing the writers: Kirsty Gunn, Pippa Goldschmidt, Andrew Cassell and Chrys Salt reading aloud articles by those who champion freedom of expression. The event was chaired by Jean Rafferty, a highly credited journalist, who has written award winning pieces on shocking subjects such as torture, suicide, murder and prostitution.
Andrew Casell read from a James Harkin’s piece from The Guardian.
“My father went back to Homs and he saw our house and my brother’s house. They’ve taken everything. The army broke the locks to search for weapons, and later let the Sabiha rob our houses. They have stolen everything they can carry – fridges, washing machines, cookers – and broken everything they can’t”.  My brother got married two years ago and spent everything he had on his new house. But they’ve even taken the taps. I’m very sad. I miss Homs, but we can’t go back”.
At every Scottish PEN event stands an empty chair representing those that are imprisoned, in hiding or the deceased. To remember them and applaud their fight against the regimes that silenced others.
When I think things I worry about such as the rain or not having time for a coffee they do not compare to the above concerns.
Although the UK does have problems most of us live a comfortable life when compared to the atrocities that happen in countries like Syria where blood is shed due to religion and Mexico where according to Mexico’s National Human Rights commission 74 media workers have been killed since 2000.
We have the advantage of being able to speak out freely against our government and anything else we feel discontent about; the freedom is also there to speak out for those that cannot speak out for themselves.
If freedom of expression is something you feel passionate about find out more at: www.scottishpen.org.  New members are always welcome. You will be joining an international community, exchanging experiences and ideas with fellow writers and reaching new readers through events and projects.
Do not let those who are silenced remain in silence; we have the power to speak for them.