Hidden Gems: The Twilight Zone

Unfortunately it’s already the last week of October, which means that this is the last post of the horror-themed Hidden Gems series. I can’t believe how fast it flew by, especially being busy with midterms and existential dread about the state of the world. I’ve really enjoyed sharing some of my favorite works of horror art, I just can’t believe how much I didn’t get to cover; there’s pretty much an endless amount of art that I could talk about when it comes to horror. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t see a spooky post now and again, especially if the inspiration strikes or I watch a particularly good movie. For my last post of spooky season, I found it fitting to talk about a work of art that is extremely close to my heart, a show that inspired my lifelong interest in the supernatural, science fiction, and horror: The Twilight Zone.

Depending on your generation, you might already be extremely familiar with the show; it was groundbreaking when it aired it 1959, and has inspired countless knock-offs and remakes due to its incredible popularity. However, I’ve noticed that has been brushed under the rug recently; I find less and less people who have ever seen it, let alone enjoy it. Unfortunately, the show’s age has been a large deterrent to modern viewers. It is filmed in black and white, as expected for the time, and not all of the acting has aged well. Although it is certainly an old show, I would argue that it has an unmatched amount of charm, and that the intellectual ideas presented in each episode are incredibly fascinating and still relevant today.

The original Twilight Zone of 1959 lasted for 5 seasons and spanned over 150 episodes, making it an incredible catalog of science fiction. Each episode is a self-contained short story and usually features some sort of social commentary or moral. The range of the show is incredibly broad: examples of topics include aliens, time travel, beauty, living inanimate objects, and other unexplainable phenomena. The one thing shared between all episodes is the haunting and iconic introduction by Rod Serling, the show’s creator. Each introduction is unique, but they all convey the same thing: anything can happen in the Twilight Zone, a place where not everything is as it seems, but a place where any of us could end up without knowing. It’s an incredibly powerful introduction, and one of my favorite examples of how art and media can create such strong emotions in the viewer, which in this case happen to be fear and uncertainty. The black and white filming of the show is also extremely conducive to the aesthetic being portrayed in each episode. One might expect it to be a barrier from realism, but I find it to be incredibly immersive, since so much attention is drawn to the characters and the story, not so much the visuals and special effects. More often than not, the immersion is actually broken when they attempt to use ambitious special effects; on the flip side, they use clever practical effects to achieve surprisingly convincing results. Episodes like Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? are a perfect example of this duality: some unfortunate prosthetics are especially jarring, while some of the practical effects are clever and so well done that it almost beats anything that could be accomplished today. In general, all of these aspects of the show make it extremely charming and memorable. Even if not every episode is perfect, they all come from a place of creativity and attention to detail is evident in every one.

With that being said, I can’t recommend the show enough; some seasons are currently on Netflix, and it’s the perfect show to watch during the month of October. Although the show has a notable reputation, it certainly doesn’t receive the amount of appreciation it deserves, especially considering how groundbreaking it was and how much it influences horror and science fiction writers today. If you do decide to watch it, these are some of my favorite episodes, and ones that I would recommend watching first: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Time Enough at Last, The Monsters are Due On Maple Street, Eye of the Beholder, and To Serve Man.

Study Hal: Week 24 – Costume Party

Hal is gearing up for Halloween this weekend! In his excitement (and to procrastinate on school projects…) Hal made costumes for him and his dog Sparky! They’re based on his D&D campaign, where he plays a wizard named Ignatius Lightshield with a dragon companion called Smokey.

Despite their fun outfits, Hal and Sparky are staying home this year. It’s unsatisfying to get all dressed up with nowhere to go, but it’s better to keep everyone safe! They’re watching scary movies instead, but, I think Hal likes the scares more than Sparky does… What about you? Are you a horror movie fanatic like Hal? Or would you rather be watching cartoons like Sparky?

In case you’ve missed it, Hal is a University of Michigan student taking remote classes this semester. He’s back on Tuesdays to share his experiences. Check out the Study Hal tag for more, or check back next week (preferably after you’ve voted)!

Mile Long Mixtapes: Ep. #0, Introductions

I usually pull off onto State St. from my house on Catherine, drive south through campus, past Briarwood Mall and the Ann Arbor Airport, and keep driving till I hit downtown Milan. From there, I’ll loop around on Saline-Milan Rd., take Whittaker back north until it turns into Washtenaw, Arborland, and campus all over again. It’s the perfect route because it’s essentially a gigantic square, and for the most part, it’s wide-laned, grassy country roads, the kind where the sunset bleeds crimson through the trees no matter the season. The square manages to encapsulate the majority of my life within its limits– I grew up in a rural area between Ypsilanti and Milan, technically Ypsilanti Township. It’s right around the Washtenaw/Augusta county lines. There’s not a lot to do around here; my high school years were spent frequenting the Tim Horton’s and the Aubree’s Pizzeria. Late at night, after extracurriculars ended for the day, the only thing to do to avoid going home was to drive around and park in driveways and lay on the roofs of our cars and look up at the night sky. The stars are a lot brighter out there than they are here on campus. 

 

I take this drive probably once a week. It takes around an hour and a half to make the round trip; conveniently the approximate amount of time it takes to listen to two complete albums. The driving is just enough for my brain to focus on, but not enough to fill it up– driving frees up space in there, I think. That wasn’t why I started though. Considering present circumstances, I, for one, just wanted to get out of the house. But aimless driving isn’t really aimless, for the most part. This route, besides being easy to drive, passes by my parents’ house, my old elementary, middle, and high school, my ex-girlfriend’s house, and my old favorite coffee shop. The square, in its entirety, is a topographical etching of any significance I’ve found in my life so far. So every week, for the past few months, I’ve traced it, around and around and around. 

 

There’s nothing I love more than an album– a playlist is great, sure. But one complete story, a series of motifs and callbacks looping through the tracklist, one person’s experience– somehow, by being more singular, it feels more universal. Over the next few months, I’ll be writing about the albums I’m listening to on my weekly drives– the memories it reminds me of, and the stories behind the albums themselves. And maybe, if I’m lucky, someone reading this will feel a little closer to me and the universal human experience. 

Can’t say it? Sing it. (#1)

Hello, world. Or hello, Michigan. Really just hello to whomever happens to be reading this. My name is Josie, I’m a current senior at UMich studying English and Spanish with a minor in music, and this is a weekly glimpse into the chaos of my mind.

As to why I am writing on arts, ink:

For as long as I can remember I have been most easily able to express myself through written words. I’ve been anavid reader and writer since I was about six years old, and have taken my passion for writing in many directions since then. Poetry, prose, forensics, stage, and screen acting are all avenues I’ve pursued in some way, shape, or form throughout the last fifteen years or so of my life. However, from very early on, one particular way of expressing myself fought its way to the top of my list of passions.

Songwriting.

I first picked up a guitar at age 8 after 4 years of piano lessons. Within a few months, I wrote my first song–a simple 3-chord children’s song I called “Sun is Shining.” (My mom still whistles it while she does house work and such sometimes). From that moment on, I was hooked. I was never a diary kid. I didn’t see the point in writing all my feelings down on a page that no one would ever read except me. So instead, my guitar became my notebook, and my lyrics became my diary. I wrote about what moved me, the things which made me feel emotions strong enough to need to sing about, and people I met along the road of life who helped to change me in some significant way.

 (9-year-old me)

When I was feeling lost in middle school, I wrote a song called “The Road to Nowhere.” When I was facing challenges in high school I wrote a song called “Wings” whose chorus read “I will take my wings / and I will learn to fly / so if I ever fall / I’ll fall knowing that I tried.”

(The picture below is from a small concert I gave at a local sub station where I played a few of my original songs for the first time. It was one of the moments I can remember which solidified in my mind that music was the one thing which could make me truly happy.)

I wouldn’t be an angsty young adult if I hadn’t written some sappy young love songs too. My relationships have forever been immortalized in the words of an embarrassingly long Word document of songs on my computer.

But why is music so important to me?

In the words of the introduction to the book I wrote on musical role-modeling in high school, “Music has gotten me through the good times, the bad times, the horrible times, and all the times in-between. It’s been something I can fall back on when life gets hard, and it’s led me to some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and I’ll ever know. It’s created opportunities for me of which I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and has always managed to put a smile on my face. It’s a part of me I wouldn’t trade for the world. Music nurtures, it teaches, and it grows inside a person until it’s an irremovable part of you. It allows you to believe more firmly in yourself, and helps explain so many situations of which you otherwise couldn’t explain. It’s a feeling you get deep inside—a joy of sorts that reassures you no matter how bad things may seem—how sad the song—those things will resolve. They’ll end on a happy note.”

My biggest role model growing up was my choir director in high school, Mr. Brusubardis. He was famous in our Wisconsin small town for saying really deep, intelligent things to his students. In fact, somewhere I still have a poster my friends and I made my senior year of our favorite quotes of his. But the one thing I remember him saying constantly was that music is a universal language. You can sing in English, Spanish, Greek, Yiddish, or complete nonsense syllables, and people will be able to understand what you’re trying to tell them through the emotion you put into the performance. In many cases, you don’t have to know which are the ‘right’ words to sing when you perform a song. You don’t have to spend hours painstakingly picking out the perfect words; you can just let go, be in the moment, and share what you feel inside with other people. Even if they cannot literally understand you, they will emotionally.

Because of this fact, I would like to welcome you to my 2020/2021 arts, ink blog: Can’t say it? Sing it. 

I’ll be posting about the songwriting process, sharing some of my own work, perhaps featuring other writers I know, and doing my best to relay meaningful information about music I’ve had the pleasure of learning in the last few years of my life.

I had the opportunity to work and learn within SMTD as a voice major my freshman year before switching to a music minor, have done workshops and masterclasses with relatively well-known musicians, and have spent over 12 years now crafting my own personal songwriting style. I also have participated in choral groups, 20+ musical theatre productions, and Michigan A Cappella for 4 years now. I’d be happy to answer any questions about any of my experiences!

Thanks for taking the time to read my slightly-long-winded introduction, and I look forward to posting in the weeks to come!

 

©SKETCHES BY MAKO: 00000000dreams

In perhaps my very first dream,

Last night I swam with sharks.

I was driving a rental

From suburbia to sea,

Golden light spotted

Against hooded car and pleather seat.

Komorebi Baby,

Can We Run 

Away From Everybody?

Until I reached a sandy shore,

Car smashed into fraying plank.

Dead fish atop rock,

Bones exposed, its skin peeling.

000000000000deep breath.

000000000000dive, into saltwater brink.

And below I find

The body of a shark,

Gills pulsing with the foam of crashing waves.

The flip and turn of a fin and tail—

Her majesty sings in ultrasound.

I look on with awe

As my ribs splinter

Her jaws take me in,

And I let her

Because to be

Consumed by something

So large yet so beautiful

Is perhaps the most peaceful way to die-00000