Tag Archives: trickster

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Episode 934: The Pet Detective

“I don’t know what to say either, except that he died horribly.”

A man is dead.

Like, super dead. You know how some people are dead? Well, this guy is even more dead than that. Way more.

Kneeling, the Sheriff pulls a discreet sheet over the deceased, shaking his head.

“Have you told his family?” he asks the people who were in the room when the man died but claim that they have no idea what killed him.

“No, I didn’t quite know what to say. I thought after you saw him…”

“Well, I’ve seen him,” nods the sheriff. “And I’ve seen that room that he was destroyed in. I don’t know what to say either, except that he died horribly.”

He paces around the crime scene. “I’ve never seen a room destroyed the way that one was, or a corpse that looks like that!” He sighs. “I haven’t the faintest idea who, or what, murdered him.”

Yeah, no kidding; you’re a Collinsport sheriff. You live in the most murdery town in America, and you’ve never solved a single crime.

Continue reading Episode 934: The Pet Detective

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Episode 910: Epistemology of the Portrait

“Look, I’m really not someone who lived a hundred years ago.”

We’ve got it all wrong, of course. We usually do.

An understanding of virtually any aspect of modern Western culture must be not merely incomplete, but damaged in its central substance to the degree that it does not incorporate a critical analysis of the structured binary opposition between the signifiers “Quentin Collins” and “Grant Douglas”. The only way to properly understand these meanings is to deconstruct the assumptions and knowledge systems that produce the illusion of singular meaning.

Quentin Collins understands that. I understand it, too. The rest of you are just going to have to catch up.

Continue reading Episode 910: Epistemology of the Portrait

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Episode 859: If I Were You

“Oh? And what a strange suicide that would be!”

Fridays have always been fairly freaky on Dark Shadows, but this week they’ve upped the ante with a body swap story featuring the mad wizard Count Petofi’s hostile takeover of teen idol pop star Quentin Collins’ body. Petofi claims that he’s stolen his co-star’s face because he wants to escape from a pack of gypsies baying for his blood, but I think there are some other things at play. I know what I’d do if I suddenly looked like Quentin Collins, and I wouldn’t be wasting my time researching I Ching hexagrams.

But body swap stories tend to be light on the benefits and heavy on the downsides, a way to explain and reaffirm the status quo as the best of all possible worlds. This goes back to the first example of the trope, an 1882 comic novel called Vice Versa.

I’ve been reading Vice Versa lately, and it’s pretty funny. It’s about a pompous English businessman named Paul Bultitude who can’t stand children, up to and including his own son Dick. In the opening chapter, the winter holidays are over, and the boy’s about to go back to boarding school. Dick isn’t looking forward to it, so Mr. Bultitude delivers a pompous lecture about the joys of school and boyhood, ending with a wish that he was a boy again.

As it happens, Bultitude is holding a magic stone that his brother-in-law brought back from India, a region with a high rate of magic stones per capita. His wish is granted, and he’s turned into a perfect duplicate of his son. Delighted at the chance to skip school, Dick wishes himself into his father’s body, and then sends his perplexed dad off in his place.

The novel follows Mr. Bultitude through a very uncomfortable week at his son’s terrible punishment school. He tries to act like the mature gentleman that he is, in order to demonstrate that he’s not actually Dick — which gets him bullied by the other boys, persecuted by the headmaster, and generally ill-treated by everyone.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but I assume that it ends with father and son going back to their own bodies, wiser for their experiences, and then they go and burn down the school, to the delight of all. That’s the point of body swap stories, seeing the world from the other person’s point of view, and learning to appreciate other people’s perspectives. Except for the movie Face/Off, of course, which is about figuring out whether it’s better to be born looking like Nicolas Cage, or to be born as somebody else and become Nicolas Cage later on in life.

Continue reading Episode 859: If I Were You

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Episode 841: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

“He revels in every form of torture and bloodshed known to the mind of man!”

“It’s the third one,” says Dr. Julia Hoffman — blood specialist, hypnotherapist and the world’s most adaptable person. “The Kun hexagram.”

“What does it signify?” her captor asks, and Julia consults the reference material.

Julia’s flipped back in time to the late 19th century, where she’s currently assisting mad god Count Petofi, the Butcher of Ozhden, as he attempts to bend space and time to his implacable will. He needs to take his legendary magical hand to the far-off space year of 1969, and he’s going to use the I Ching, a Chinese divination technique that he has no prior experience with. So now he’s casting the I Ching wands, and Julia is looking in her Junior Woodchucks guidebook to see which of the 64 hexagrams he’s laid out on the table.

She’s doing this under duress, if that helps. Julia does a lot of things under a lot of things.

“There will be great progress and success,” she reads, and Petofi’s face lights up. “The character Kun shows how a plant struggles, with difficulty, out of the earth, gradually rising above the surface.” Petofi is utterly thrilled, but there’s more.

“The top line is divided,” Julia warns. “The horses of the chariot are obliged to retreat. There are weeping tears of blood.”

Petofi grabs the book out of her hands, and snarls, “I will hear no more!” Then he sits down in front of the hexagram, meditating furiously.

Now, this is where Count Petofi and I part ways. If it was me, the weeping tears of blood would give me pause. But what do I know, I don’t even have a legendary magical hand. I just have regular default hands. I didn’t even know magical hand was an option.

Continue reading Episode 841: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

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Episode 837: The Trip

“She’s got doom and disaster written all over her face!”

Edward Collins finds an unconscious stranger, just outside his front door. It’s a woman, with a strange hairstyle and an unfamiliar style of dress. He helps her to her feet, but she’s groggy and unsteady. Edward brings her inside, and she looks around like she’s in a daze, squinting and blinking as if she’s never seen the inside of a house before.

She’s docile, at least — clearly not a danger to anyone — and he’s able to lead her into the drawing room, and park her on the couch. Slumping in her seat, she stares at Edward, a puzzled look on her face.

“Can you hear me?” he asks, patiently. “Can you understand what I’m saying?” She just looks at him. He persists. “Why did you come here?” No reply. “Who are you?” Still not receiving.

At a loss, Edward cries, “Where have you come from?”

She squints up at him, and says, “I don’t know, man. I mean, where does anybody come from?”

Continue reading Episode 837: The Trip

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Episode 793: The Puppeteer

“Can’t you tell what I’m doing? I’m choking you.”

Quentin lights three black candles, and we get the spooky summoning ritual music. “Oh, hidden spirit,” he chants to nobody in particular, “climb out of the pits of Hell, if that is where you be!”

He’s trying to reach Angelique, the sorcerous soap vixen, because sometimes things really are that bad.

“Hidden spirit… Make your presence known to me!”

His face was shredded by a legendary artifact called the Hand of Count Petofi, and just when he hoped to use the Hand again to cure himself, an intruder showed up and snatched it away.

“You are needed! NOW!”

But it’s no use, Angelique doesn’t show up. Last time he tried to call on her, she flew out of the fireplace on demand, but this ritual is a bust. That’s how bad things are for Quentin right now; his most desperate prayers go unanswered.

Magda tells him that they might as well give up, and run away. She rushes to the door, opens it — and finds Angelique, who’s just standing there on the porch. She didn’t hear Quentin’s summoning ritual or anything; she just happened to be coming by anyway. Angelique is a baller.

Continue reading Episode 793: The Puppeteer

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Episode 714: Inherit the Win

“This is my house, and I decide what is legal from now on.”

Let’s begin with the Trojan War. I know, I’m always nattering on about the Trojan War, but bear with me for a second.

It all started with the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Peleus was a hero in Greek mythology, but not one of the good ones; he’s mostly known for killing his half-brother and his stepmom in hunting accidents. Thetis was a shape-changing sea nymph, and Peleus got her to marry him after he snuck up on her and tied her up while she was sleeping. They were a terrible couple and shouldn’t be marrying anybody, really, but you know the ancient Greeks, anything for a party.

Anyway, they had the wedding on Mount Pelion, which is amazing, because usually it’s booked, like, two years in advance, and all of the deities were invited, except for Eris, the goddess of Chaos and Discord.

Irritated by the snub, Eris showed up anyway, probably in a Lady Gaga meat dress, and she tossed a golden apple into the middle of the room, inscribed with the word “Kallisti”, which means “to the fairest”. Pretty soon, the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite were all squabbling over who the apple belonged to.

Now, think about that for a moment. Aphrodite was so beautiful that she was literally The Goddess of Beauty, and Hera and Athena still thought they had a shot. That right there tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Greek weddings.

The three goddesses asked Zeus to decide between them, but Zeus mumbled something about a very important phone call that he suddenly needed to make, and he pointed them at Paris, the prince of Troy.

The girls all tried to get on Paris’ good side. Hera offered political power, Athena promised skill in battle, and Aphrodite said she could give him the love of the most beautiful woman on Earth. Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite and ran off with the beautiful woman, who happened to be Helen, the queen of Sparta. This started the Trojan War, and a ten-year siege that ended with the destruction of both the Achaeans and the Trojans.

So who triumphs in this tale? Only Eris, the goddess of Chaos and Discord, who orchestrated the destruction of empires, just to hear the funny sound it made as it all shattered to the ground. Then Eris invented television, and you know the rest.

Continue reading Episode 714: Inherit the Win

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Episode 710: Been Caught Stealing

“Now you’re dead, and you’re going to stay dead.”

Pursued relentlessly by the muffled-tympani sound of a beating heart, black sheep and future poltergeist Quentin Collins races downstairs to the study, to check on his dead grandmother.

This is the first running of the Telltale Heart Grand Prix, and as Quentin applies the brakes and shudders to a stop, he finds Edith sitting up in her casket at the finish line, grinning at him like being dead is the most fun she’s had in years.

So there we are; it’s happened. The haunter has become the haunted.

Continue reading Episode 710: Been Caught Stealing

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Episode 701: The Most Important Thing About Quentin

“Life was more exciting, when I was around.”

So, the lesson, I suppose, is that you shouldn’t lock up your relatives, build paneling over the door, and pretend that they went to France.

I mean, I understand the impulse. Quentin is selfish and mean, and practices dark sorcery. You’ve tried to kick him out of the house, but he just laughs, and keeps on drinking other people’s brandy. And then there’s a sale at Home Depot, and you think, This could be so easy…

The downside, of course, is that then your descendants come along and unseal the tomb, because they’re young and curious, and you forgot to write “Dangerous ancestor, do not open” on the entrance portal. Although they probably wouldn’t have paid attention anyway; descendants are dumb like that.

So now the genie’s out of the bottle, and nobody knows the magic words to get him back in. The sinister specter is running roughshod over the house, stealing children, throwing mediums down the stairs and messing with people’s hairstyles. But eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has decided that enough is enough, so he uses the mysterious Chinese art of I Ching in a desperate attempt to communicate with the ghost.

Strictly speaking, this is unnecessary, because the kids already have a magic telephone that they’ve been using to communicate with Quentin for months. Barnabas could talk to Quentin any time he wants; Quentin just doesn’t care. Communications technology is not the issue.

Continue reading Episode 701: The Most Important Thing About Quentin