Saturday, June 30, 2007

Adventures And Escapades

This is another one of those late-'Nineties Internet memes that surfaces from time to time--make a list of things to do before you die (alternately, "things to do so that I can live")--that I find insanely interesting. See, just as I believe one can tell a lot about a person by what is on his or her bookshelves, I also believe that a list of things to do is equally revealing.

The irony of my list is how many of these things require significant travel time when I hate driving for more than about half an hour. I don't mind being someplace else, I just hate all that's involved in getting there.

Anyway, in no particular order:

1. Visit Edgar Allan Poe's grave site in Baltimore, MD; maybe even catch a glimpse of the Poe Toaster on January 19.

2. Participate in (and complete) the 24 Hour Zine Thing Challenge, which asks 'zinesters to create a 24-page 'zine from conception to final product in 24 hours straight.

3. Visit the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA.

4. See the U-505, an honest-to-goodness WWII German U-Boat at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL.

5. Visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D. C. (Official Site).

6. Ride in a hot air balloon (and let's not forget the Hot Air Balloon Festival in August!).

7. Fly in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress.

8. See an erupting volcano, up close and personal, which, since I'm not interested in looking like the victims of Pompeii and Herculaneum, probably means a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

9. See a live tornado, not so up close and personal.

10. See the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor at The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, VA.

11. Visit Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming.

12. Visit Barringer's Crater near Winslow, AZ (Official Site).

13. Fly in a non-rigid airship or latter-day zeppelin. I'd even settle for a Skyacht Personal Blimp, but a lawn chair supported by helium balloons might not fill the bill.

14. Visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, final resting place for oodles and oodles of famous people including Jim Morrison, who has much to answer for.

15. See Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley in Charleston, SC.

16. See Penn & Teller perform in Vegas (or damn near anywhere) live.

17. Visit The House On the Rock in Spring Green, WI. I read American Gods, now I want the visuals to go with it.

18. Visit Professor Cline's Haunted Monster Museum & Dark Maze in Natural Bridge, VA. May as well check out Foamhenge and Dinosaur Kingdom while I'm at it, since they're all done by the same guy. Incidentally, Mark Cline, the perpetrator of all this roadside weirdness, is the younger brother of a guy I used to hang out with when I was about twelve.

19. Visit Loch Ness and maybe even hunt for Nessie him/herself.

20. Visit Mexican volcano Paricutin. Yeah, there's a gazillion volcanoes I could choose to see, but Paricutin embedded itself in my mind when I ran across a dramatic picture of it erupting in the Golden Book Encyclopedia.

21. Collect fossils from the Burgess Shale.

22. Collect fossils from the Green River Formation.

23. Spend a couple of nights in a Futuro House. Shoot, I wouldn't mind having one in my backyard!

24. Attend Burning Man (Official Site; see also This is Burning Man: The Rise of a New American Underground by Brian Doherty).

25. Visit Alcatraz Island (details here).

26. Fire some fully automatic weapons, which I could do in April and October at The World's Largest Machine Gun Shoot and Military Gun Show at the Knob Creek Gun Range in Westpoint, KY and at the Roanoke Rifle and Revolver Club Class III shoot in Roanoke, VA.

27. Ride (sail?) in a submarine. I got to tour a U. S. Navy diesel submarine when I was eleven, now I'd like the complete experience...uh, without the depth charges and torpedoes and crash diving deeper than the hull rating.

28. Be the special guest DJ at a radio station on Halloween at, say, WRIR (Official Site) and play spooky music of my choosing all night long.

29. Re: #28. Of course, I'd arrive in my own vintage hearse. Hey, lots of people have 'em!

30. Make a large wall sculpture composed of circuit boards complete with all electronic components (here's a vaguely related article with construction tips).

31. Convert a vintage refrigerator door into a wall mount display for, well, refrigerator magnets. According to Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, it's easy to make my own.

32. Fly in an open cockpit biplane (I really want to fly in a Fokker triplane, but that's just not possible, so I'm willing to settle for the star of Stephen Coonts' book The Cannibal Queen).

33. Convert an abandoned water tower into a living space. It's been done before!

34. Spend the night in an abandoned building. A "haunted house" would be even better.

35. Obtain a Virginia Concealed Handgun Permit. (info here and here; classes at Dominion Shooting Range, Inc.)

36. Work out a semi-bizarre, semi-comic street magic act (possibly for Halloween) and perform it in public. Ellusionist has some cool ideas.

37. Write a book and have it published (NOT by or a vanity press unless there was absolutely, positively no other way). I'm not looking for bestseller status, but I'd love to create something that would become a minor cult fave. Would a memoir be too self-absorbed and pretentious?

38. Organize and/or participate in a game of Killer (aka The Assassination Game) or its recent variant, Humans vs. Zombies.

39. Explore the Catacombs of Paris.

40. Visit the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic (photos here and here).

41. See the Blue Man Group live (obligatory Wikipedia link here).

Useful Links:
Roadside America--Your Online Guide to Offbeat Tourist Attractions
Weird Virginia by Jeff Bahr, Troy Taylor, Loren Coleman, and Mark Sceurman (2007)

Gothic Wish List

This is less an entry than a place to plop some boilerplate.

Every year in my other online journal I like to post a supposed Christmas List of weird, useless, and overpriced items with some introductory text along the lines of...

Dear Santa,

Just a quick note to remind you that I've been incredibly good this year, though I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't entirely by choice. I mean, at my age the opportunities to be truly bad are few and far between, but, be that as it may, I've fomented no revolutions this year nor have I overthrown any governments despite almost overwhelming temptation. I haven't engaged in mass murder, no serial killings, no random acts of violence, no choke sex (hell, no sex at all!), no waylaying of strangers to harvest their body parts, and only minor, completely excusable corruptions of youth. I've refrained from kidnapping any heiresses, selling any government secrets, or even holding the planet for ransom. I haven't tampered with things man was not meant to know, much, and that annoying human sacrifice thing is now in the dim, dark, distant past. I've limited my stalking activities to the online realm and I haven't propositioned any of my female associates to do that...thing...with the Waring blender in quite some time, so, while keeping that list in mind, please allow me to present to you this year's Christmas List.

(insert Links O' Blatant Materialism here)

As usual, I'll leave out the cookies, milk, and Fentanyl, so come on over, set a spell, take your boots off, etc. Kindly leave the cat alone; he hasn't recovered from your last visit and I don't care how you and Mrs. Claus do things at the North Pole, that wasn't a chimney.

Thanking you in advance,

Your pal, G. W.

The current "Links O' Blatant Materialism" are:

"Count Dracula" coffin
Coffin Clock
Black Death sweatshirt
Catapult kit
Tribute "Midnite" Steel Casket
Many fine items at Pushin' Daisies--A Mortuary Novelty Shop
Knightmare Chess--The Original Game of Chaos On the Chessboard
Knightmare Chess Set 2
Full-size Black KA-BAR USMC-style Knife, Straight Edge
Short Black KA-BAR USMC-style Knife, Straight Edge
Just about anything from Skellramics

More to be added as I run across them even though they'll all make me look like an 11-yr. old Goth Girl.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fifty Things About Me

This is one of those late-Nineties Internet memes I found interesting (interesting in that it allowed me to be unabashedly self-absorbed), but never got around to completing. It is far more than any sane person would ever want to know about me and yet seriously incomplete; nonetheless, it serves as a decent introduction.

1. My eyes are gray, my hair is brown, but my beard is jet-black. When I had sideburns in high school (and long, bushy ones, at that) I had a rather freakish appearance...and enjoyed the marginal notoriety I achieved.

2. I majored in Biology in college (Virginia Tech, B. S. '77) with an emphasis on pathogenic microbiology. I then went to graduate school at Tulane University to study Parasitology where I promptly drank myself out of a stipend and a career.

3. My favorite candy bar (when I eat them at all) is Kit-Kat. They broke my heart when they discontinued the dark chocolate version. I also have a Peanut M & M fetish.

4. I have three near-vintage, high-end shortwave receivers (Yaesu FRG-7700's, if anyone's interested) and like to monitor pirate radio broadcasts and the mysterious numbers stations.

5. I hate, hate HATE talking on the telephone. I have no idea why, since in my younger, drunker days I would talk on the phone for hours, especially if the person on the other end was female (see drunk dialing). These days, thanks to answering machines and Caller ID, I can choose when and with whom I talk--in other words, leave a message.

6. As a child and through my early teen years I collected rocks, minerals, and fossils, especially fossils. I spent many pleasant hours identifying, classifying, labeling, and cataloging them. My parents worried that I wasn't socializing enough, that I was lonely, but I remember being perfectly content. In fact, that was one of the happiest times in my life--alone in the basement delving into the mysteries of historical geology.

7. I also maintained a surprisingly well-equipped laboratory in my mom's laundry room, built around a Lionel-Porter Chem-Craft set and a black Tasco microscope. Unbeknownst to my parents (even to this day), I made gunpowder, contact explosives (nitrogen tri-iodide, for instance), chlorine gas (which bleached some of my hair and don't think that was easy to explain), etc. My mother was horrified when I showed her the protozoans living in the water of her ivy plant cuttings.

8. My favorite cartoon shows as a child (oh, hell; even today!) were Beany & Cecil, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Jonny Quest, The Bugs Bunny Show, Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, and George of the Jungle. By the way, I was so obsessed with Jonny Quest (which came on Friday nights at 7:30 p. m. in those ancient days) that I wouldn't spend the night with friends unless I was assured we could watch it. In later years I became a fan of Ren & Stimpy, Duckman, Family Guy, The Simpsons, and Invader Zim.

9. I can recount incredible amounts of dialogue and songs from those shows and will, for hours on end, given the opportunity. Friends know not to lead me down that path since I have a hard time stopping and they have a hard time listening.

10. I avoid housecleaning and laundry for as long as I can. The limiting factors are when I trip over dust elephants and run out of underwear and socks. I have a LOT of underwear and socks.

11. I drive like an old lady. This probably stems from receiving two speeding tickets in a single month back in the 'Eighties, which propelled my car insurance rates to astronomical heights.

12. I dislike musicals but know the lyrics to an awful lot of show tunes for a nominally heterosexual male.

13. I cannot hit or catch a baseball or softball for the life of me. I cannot get a basketball through the hoop. Let's not talk about tennis or ping-pong. Only rarely can I toss a wad of paper directly into a trash can.

14. I love cemeteries, especially at night. New Orleans above-ground burial vaults were a special treat for me and I spent a lot of time wandering through St. Louis' Cemeteries 1 & 2 when I lived there. I even left an "X" on what was purported to be Marie LaVeau's tomb.

15. I've been to Amsterdam, Athens, Rome, Florence, and London, but I hate driving myself any distance--100 miles is about my limit and I'll bitch about that.

16. I keep a monkey brain in a jar on my bookshelf and I have an extensive (replica) human skull collection. Needless to say, my favorite holiday is Halloween.

17. I go through phases where I pretty much eat the same thing for weeks on end.

18. My preferred beverage is Diet Pepsi and I drink it virtually non-stop during the day. My second favorite drink is iced tea, any flavor, with lots of lemon and sweetened with saccharine. I'll drink coffee on occasion, but prefer my caffeine cold. I've threatened to make lemonade with those various caffeinated bottled waters.

19. I'm fifty-two years old and I've never been married. Not even close. I can't even imagine being married, it's such an alien concept, not that hordes of adoring females are vying for my attention. I prefer to live alone and interact with people face-to-face only for brief periods, which may be why I love e-mail, instant messaging, and online journaling.

20. Someday I'd like to own a vintage hearse. I've wanted to ever since I saw one in private hands as a child.

21. I do not like hot weather, I do not like high humidity, and I do not like to sweat. Fall is my favorite season.

22. The first horror movie I ever saw was Son of Frankenstein. I was around five or six.

23. My parents knew I was a "different child" when I cried my heart out during The Wizard of Oz...

24. Because they killed the Wicked Witch of the West.

25. For reasons that remain unclear to me, my mother forbade me to watch The Three Stooges when I was a child.

26. My favorite "color" is black; it has been since I was at least four. For some reason, this bothered my parents a lot. Mom recalls getting ready to go shopping and asking me what I'd like her to bring me, to which I replied, simply, "something black." A significant look resulted. The first crayon to be completely used up from my Crayola box was, yes, black.

27. But I didn't start to wear black clothing until I was well into my thirties.

28. One of my more annoying habits is referring to an attractive woman as "my future ex-wife."

29. Having had many friends who've worked as waitpersons (Crom, I hate that word!), I tip generously, much more than 20%.

30. In my mid-teens I wrote a lot of what would these days be referred to as bad Goth (if that's not redundant) and poor man's Beat poetry. In my senior year of high school I got pissed off at...well, some guy...and wrote a long piece of invective in the style of Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock." Let us all be thankful that very little of this drivel survived the passage of time.

31. My brushes with celebrity include Sailor Bob (a local cartoon show host of the 'Sixties), Horrible Howie (the early '70s host of Slime Theater based in Charlottesville, VA), Mohammed Ali, Joey Ramone, Rose-Marie (of Dick Van Dyke Show fame) and her singer sister, the members of GWAR, Patti Smith, Richard O'Brian (of Rocky Horror Show fame), Christian Slater, the guy who played Renko on Hill St. Blues, Anne Thomas Soffee, horror writer Elizabeth Massie, artist Cortney Skinner, Wayne Allen Sallee, Brian Hodge, Robert Jordan, Patricia Cornwell, Robert Bloch, Forrest J Ackerman, John Zacherle, Boris Karloff's daughter, Sara Jane, Bela Lugosi, Jr., Dwight Frye, Jr., Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, John Landis, Joe Dante, Angus Scrimm, Kelly Freas, Brinke Stevens, Curt Siodmak, Ann Robinson, Conrad Brooks, and Sissy Spacek.

32. I sunburn so easily that I rarely venture outside for long periods of time. When I'm forced to, I'm slathered in SPF 35 sunblock. I prefer to roam at night.

33. And yet I like to go camping, hiking, boating, tubing, and swimming.

34. I have a bottle containing 100 gms. of phenobarbital in my medicine cabinet.

35. I own an Interarms-imported Walther PPK/S .380 semi-automatic pistol, a Magnum Research "Baby Eagle" (aka Jericho) chambered in .45 ACP, a CZ-75B semi-automatic in 9 mm., a Springfield Armory 1911 Mil-Spec .45, a Ruger mini-30 carbine, and a PTR-91 carbine. I also have two WWII-era Japanese Arisaka rifles (Type 44 and Type 99) and an officer's sword my Dad gave me. I stalk the wily paper target, the evil tin can, and the crafty watermelon; hunting is not my thing.

36. I HATE having my hair cut. I don't wear it long as any sort of statement or style; I wear it long because I hate sitting still in a chair and having strangers mess about with my head. That, and those fine little hairs that embed themselves into my collar drive me insane.

37. I refer to water towers as "Martian war machines" and use the word "slut" as a term of affection. I usually substitute "Crom" wherever I might otherwise use "God"

38. I hate wearing neckties; I hate wearing turtlenecks. I don't like things that are tight around my throat.

39. I rarely make eye contact with people unless I remember that I'm expected to do so, but then I do it so intensely that it comes across as staring.

40. When I was a kid I could hold my breath underwater for three to three-and-a-half minutes. This scared the hell out of lifeguards and my parents.

41. I suck at card games unless it's something like Uno or solitaire. Poker holds no appeal for me and, though I played Bridge a few times and wasn't horrible at it, I wasn't particularly interested.

42. My first computer was a Macintosh 512KE with an Apple ImageWriter printer and a second, stand-alone disk drive, purchased in 1987. When I finally got a (2400K) modem, I ran up a $300 phone bill in the first month fooling around on various BBSs and so decided to get an account (71131,562) on CompuServe. I maintained that account well into the 21st Century.

43. I was a Zork, Trinity, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Infocom text-only adventure game junkie. Dark Castle was a cool, graphics-based game for the Mac, but it required eye-hand coordination I did not possess. With the exception of Myst and Riven, I haven't played a computer game with any seriousness since the late 'Eighties, though Lord knows I've tried.

44. I'm likely to burst forth in song at any moment, for any reason, or no reason whatsoever, especially in the car. Not that I have a great voice or anything; it just amuses me to do so.

45. In my early 'teens, some friends and I made Super-8 monster movies. Since I was the only one patient enough (or stupid enough) to sit still for the long make-up sessions, I always played the monster. One of these films (The Ring) is in the archives of Roanoke College, Virginia).

46. In 1992 I got a Golden Retriever/something-or-other mix from the local SPCA shelter. His name was Casey and he was just a great dog; unfortunately, he developed an autoimmune disease and I had to have him euthanized in December of 1998 (at some point I'm going to have to write one of those godawfully maudlin doggie memoirs, but not tonight)). In 2004, after my therapist recommended that I get a cat, I wound up with a 16-yr. old mackerel tabby named "Da Bus" (because her previous owner's husband often said she was "one bus-headed cat." I have no idea what that means). Bus had been an indoor cat for years but, apparently, was overwhelmed by the presence of two children, one dachshund, and another, younger cat. She became a neurotic groomer, tearing out much of her fur until her owner decided the only thing she could do was make her an outdoor cat. Neither of them was happy with this solution so when I announced that I was in the market I wound up with Da Bus. She lived another two years before succumbing to renal failure in December of 2006. I am currently owned by Sid (originally named for Six-Dinner Sid, a character in a children's book), a stray, long-haired white cat with tan markings.

47. I am a recovering alcoholic/addict (sobriety/clean date 31/Oct/97), I suffer from periodic bouts of severe depression (though I haven't had a serious incident since 2004), and I've been officially diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

48. I read--a lot. My apartment overfloweth with books of all shapes, sizes, colors, and descriptions. I always carry at least two books with me at all times (one serving as back-up should I finish the other) and will read whenever the opportunity presents itself--in line at the grocery store, in restaurants, on the toilet, in the bathtub...I read. And I'm not particular; my primary criterion is that a book be well-written. Fiction, non-fiction, whatever. If it looks the least bit interesting, I'll read it. In the event of nuclear war, come on over to my place; the books will shield us from the radiation and my small arsenal will protect us from ravenous zombies.

49. The first book I could read by myself was You Will Go To the Moon by Mae & Ira Freeman. I was four.

50. My current hot interests are astronomy (especially transient lunar phenomena), street magic, high-powered rocketry, personal memoirs (of others--not just my own), target shooting, urban exploration, lowbrow and outsider art, and (big surprise!) Wikipedia. Any and all of these are subject to change and revision at any time and for any reason.

So, who wants a date?