Tag Archives: chaos

“The Devil in the Belfry” by Edgar Allan Poe – Time, Chaos, and the Disruption of Order

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I was not sure what to expect from this tale, having neither read it before nor heard of it until I happened across it in my anthology. It is a very short parable about deviation and disruption of order, and the chaos that ensues as a result.

The story is set in a town called Vondervotteimittiss. Very early in the tale, the narrator explains that he does not know the history of the town’s name, which implies there is some significance to the name.

Touching the derivation of the name Vondervotteimittiss, I confess myself, with sorrow, equally at fault. Among a multitude of opinions upon this delicate point—some acute, some learned, some sufficiently the reverse—I am able to select nothing which ought to be considered satisfactory.

The name of the town is a sort of Germanic transliteration and play on words, so the town should be pronounced “wonder what time it is.” The key then to understanding this story is the importance of time as a constant.

The town of Vondervotteimittiss is built in a circle, symbolizing a clock and the eternal cycle of time, which is a constant. The town is comprised of “sixty little houses” which represent the sixty minutes and sixty seconds which are the foundations of time. In addition, the steeple in the center of town, which houses the great clock, has seven sides with seven clock faces, symbolizing the seven days of the week, another important symbol of time and structure.

The great clock has seven faces—one on each of the seven sides of the steeple—so that it can be readily seen from all quarters.

The final number to keep in mind is twelve, which are the numbers on the clock face and the number of months in a year.

So one day, a stranger comes into town, and the way he is described conjures the image of the devil, or possibly the trickster archetype. He commandeers the clock tower, and as the clock strikes twelve noon, he causes the clock to chime once more, making it 13 o’clock.

“Twelve!” said the bell.

“Dvelf!” they replied, perfectly satisfied and dropping their voices.

“Und dvelf it iss!” said all the little old gentlemen, putting up their watches. But the big bell had not done with them yet.

Thirteen!” said he.

Thirteen is considered an unlucky number and portends evil and disruption. What Poe is expressing here is that deviation from the norm, disruption of the perfect order of things which is symbolized by the steadiness of time, results in chaos, which is exactly what happens in the town of Vondervotteimittiss.

Meantime the cabbages all turned very red in the face, and it seemed as if old Nick himself had taken possession of every thing in the shape of a timepiece. The clocks carved upon the furniture took to dancing as if bewitched, while those upon the mantel-pieces could scarcely contain themselves for fury, and kept such a continual striking of thirteen, and such a frisking and wriggling of their pendulums as was really horrible to see.

We now accept time as something relative, but for millennia, time was the constant, so the thought of what we view as stable crumbling is a sign of chaos and collapse. I look around us and we have created an illusion of stability, but I cannot help but see the potential for chaos at the slightest deviation.

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Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1953: Beyond the Fences

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For me, one of the problems with reading serialized arcs is that I don’t remember the nuances of previous installments. So for this arc, I decided to wait, collect the three issues, and then read them in one sitting. That worked really well for me.

In this tale, Hellboy and two other B.P.R.D. agents go to a small town in California to investigate the disappearance of several children and the mutilation of an adult. The encounter the monster responsible, which is actually a dog that mutated after eating some mysterious material that was the byproduct of a nuclear test. There is also Cold War conspiracy and intrigue woven in to the tale, which works nicely.

What I found most interesting about this series was the use of the fence as a symbol. The fence serves as a metaphor for what divides the two realms of reality, existence, consciousness, and so forth. On one side of the fence is the archetypical 1950’s community, but on the other side, chaos and the psychological uncertainty in the post World War II nuclear age. Also, there is the division between ordinary reality and alternate dimensions. The fence symbolically separates what we perceive in our normal state of consciousness and what lies beyond the veil in the subconscious regions of our psyches, Moving beyond the fence and exploring these areas of the subconscious can be terrifying and dangerous.

The writers and artists who collaborate on this do an amazing job of drawing on occult philosophies, symbolism, and thought. But it’s not just heady mysticism—the story is very good and engaging. It is well-written with excellent dialog, and the artwork is top-notch. I highly recommend reading these three issues if you have time. I suspect you will enjoy them as much as I did.

Cheers, and keep reading cool stuff.

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Alice Cooper vs Chaos

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This was a six-issue arc that I just finished reading. I decided to write about the arc in a single post, as opposed to writing about each issue, mainly because it didn’t warrant that level of attention. (Although, I did write about the first issue when it came out.)

Overall, I found the series entertaining, but that’s because I am a huge Alice Cooper fan. The other characters from Chaos I could not really relate to, and actually, I found them to be somewhat annoying. Definitely a Chaos comic is not something that I would regularly read. Still, I liked the themes of being an outcast, having to face one’s fears, and so forth. These are themes that are part of Alice’s music, so they resonated with me in this comic series.

I’ll include a quote from the final issue in the series that nicely sums up my attraction to Alice Cooper’s music.

I used to play your stuff as loud as I could. It scared me, y’know? Monsters and demons and nightmares and… all the fun scary stuff. But underneath it all there was something else… there was someone who understood… what it was like to be an outsider. What it was like to be a freak. You showed us it was okay to be afraid. And that we could control our fears.

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Alice Cooper vs. Chaos #1

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I stopped into the local comic store on the way home from work yesterday, and my friend who owns the store had put aside this new Alice Cooper comic for me, knowing that I am a big Alice fan. So of course, I bought it, even though I had no idea who or what Chaos was.

I found this comic to be just OK. Certainly, nothing like Neil Gaiman’s Alice Cooper comic (which is a must read, imho). This one, has some cool looking demonic characters, and it seems as if they will be attempting to kill the Coop, but otherwise, I closed the cover thinking I really didn’t care too much about this. I suppose if I was familiar with the Chaos graphic series, this would be more interesting for me. Anyway, because it’s Alice, I’ll continue reading it, but unless it turns out to be something incredible, I probably won’t be taking to time to blog about them. As such, if you see a subsequent post, you can assume that this arc has taken a turn for the better.

Cheers!

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Afterlife with Archie: Issue #3 (Things Fall Apart… Quickly)

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Archie and the gang trying to survive the zombie apocalypse; it just doesn’t get much better than this.

Issue 2 left off with Archie and the gang holed up inside Veronica Lodge’s mansion, but with the revelation that one of them was infected. That one turns out to be Midge. Meanwhile, Archie sneaks out to find his parents and discovers that chaos reigns in Riverdale.

My favorite passage from this issue is spoken by Veronica’s father, Hiram Lodge. After his butler reports on the status of things, Hiram comments: “Good Lord, how did it all fall apart so quickly?” We all like to think that our social structure is so secure, but the reality is that is not the case. Things fall apart, and when they do, it happens quickly. I remember being in Miami when Hurricane Andrew struck. What I witnessed first-hand changed my view of society’s stability forever. In no time at all, people were shooting at each other over water, breaking into each other’s homes to steal food and supplies. It was complete chaos.

Our society has become so digitized, I shudder to think what would happen if there was a collapse in infrastructure. How many people have money or food stores on hand? Very few. If all of a sudden no one could use a credit card or withdraw from an ATM, what would happen? Things would fall apart… quickly.

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Black Widow: Issue #9

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The two previous issues of the Black Widow series each included an appearance by another Marvel hero, and this one continues the streak with the inclusion of the Punisher. I get a sense that the writers are weaving together a story that will ultimately connect others in the Marvel universe. That works for me. It is like a bonus feature.

In this installment, Natasha continues her search for the mysterious organization, Chaos. She locates a vessel off the coast of Costa Rica that is being used as a transmitting station by Chaos. It is there that she encounters the Punisher who aides her in overcoming the Chaos henchmen. Unfortunately, the vessel is destroyed and Natasha is left with unanswered questions.

The reader is also left with unanswered questions, which make you want to get the next issue and find out what happens (great way to ensure you meet your sales projections). I have to say, I am enjoying the complexity of this storyline. It seems that there are a lot of strands that are all leading somewhere.

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Black Widow: Issue #6

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In issue #5, Natasha is captured by Damon Dran. In this issue, she escapes and captures Dran, handing him over to S.H.I.E.L.D. While in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, Dran is assassinated by a Chaos operative. As he is carrying out the assassination, the operative says “Chaos rains, Mr. Dran.” I found this to be a clever double-entendre, implying that chaos reigns. I personally ascribe to the theory that order is constantly striving to move toward the chaotic state. Because it requires so much energy to maintain order, it just seems logical based upon the idea of entropy that order would tend toward disorder. Anyway, let me back away from that rabbit hole.

The theme of this issue, and the subtitle, is “Paranoia.” Throughout the issue, the idea of how paranoia affects covert operatives is explored. Natasha accurately acknowledges that the state of being alone fuels paranoid thoughts. This ultimately leads to the fear of trusting another person. Trust can be scary under ordinary circumstances, but in the clandestine world of spies it becomes dangerous, too.

But who can I trust? Because I don’t know if I can do this by myself… It takes so much effort to get close to someone. To navigate those finely woven threads of doubt and trust. But sometimes… sometimes you need someone else.

I’ve found that the ability to trust comes after one gains a sense of self-confidence. We need relationships with others in order to share what is going on inside. Isolation is not a healthy state of being.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading!

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