Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas List 2008

Dear Santa,

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know--I'm making out my Xmas List at the last possible minute, but hey! You're a miracle worker and I have absolute faith in your ability to feed my greed even with such short notice.

First, as I do every year, let me remind you of how incredibly good I've been (relatively speaking):

I've fixed no elections, fomented no revolutions, nor have I overthrown any governments this year, despite almost overwhelming temptation to do so. 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 and the Shetland pony in quite a while.

We'll conveniently ignore the fact that my being good wasn't entirely by choice; after all, at my age and income level the opportunities to be truly bad are few and far between. Still, we must judge people by their actions and not their thoughts, mustn't we?

Well, whatever.

Books, CDs, and DVDs are always appreciated and I just happen to have an Wishlist set up for your convenience. Keep in mind that the more items you bring, the more I'm distracted from plotting World Domination--a bored G. W. is a dangerous G. W.--and besides, I'm well-armed and I know where you live.

Neighborhood Domination is another matter altogether and I'm figuring that some Catapult, Trebuchet, and Ballista kits would keep me busy, help me protect my backyard from pesky random insurgents and drunken college students, and increase my Coolness Factor by, oh, a lot. Throw in a Rip Saw UGV tank with suitable armament and I'll guarantee you everyone on my street will be good!

Speaking of transportation and the Coolness Factor, there's not much of it when cruising around Richmond in my 2000 Mitsubishi Galant, so I was thinking what I really need is a car that makes a statement, something like the Aston Martin DB9 for tooling around the countryside pretending I'm James Bond or the classic 1955 Lincoln Futura for tooling around town oozing Geeky Goodness, or maybe the greatest of all mechanized memes, Carthedral: "a 1971 Cadillac hearse modified with 1959 Cadillac tailfins. Welded on top is a VW beetle and metal armatures with fiber glass. Carthedral is a rolling Gothic Cathedral complete with flying buttresses, stained glass pointed windows, and gargoyles."

We all recognize the value of Gothic street cred, right?

And speaking of Gothic cred, the apartment could always use a few decorative accents and I'm thinking a nice, comfy electric chair would look great in the corner, especially if there was a Count Dracula casket beside it as a coffee table. May as well throw in a Coffin Clock so I'll know how much time I've wasted perusing Alan Moore's Lost Girls which, uh, I'll be needing a copy of as well.

Well, that's about it for this year. As usual, I'll be leaving a little something for your efforts, only instead of milk, cookies, and Fentanyl I figured you might like a change of pace--you'll be finding a couple of bottles of genuine (and now fully legal in the US!) absinthe on top of the television set: Kubler for you and Lucid for Mrs. Claus, so put on your best Bohemian garb, grab a sugar cube or two, drink up, get nekkid, and see the Green Fairy! Leave the cat alone; he's new and wouldn't understand.

Have a Merry Xmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Just Some Random Christmas Stuff

We start with the classic-but-mostly-forgotten Allan Sherman* version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas":

Which, of course, brings to mind "The Twelve Pains of Christmas" by the Bob Rivers Comedy Group. There're a slew of YouTube versions available, but I particularly like the World of Warcraft variant:

And then there's the Futurama episode, "A Tale of Two Santas":

And should you be a follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, well, here's how to make your own Xmasified/Winter Solstice version (see a big one here).

But as my late father would often say, it's just not Xmas without "Deck us all with Boston Charlie, Walla Walla, Washington and Kalamazoo..."


*Incidently, Sherman's complete works are available in a set called My Son, The Box. I really should do a post about my adolescent obsession with Allan Sherman songs someday, but for the time being let's just say it was all my friend Steve's fault. Well, him, and his two wonky brothers. And his four attractive sisters. And his flirty mom with her near-chef-like kitchen abilities.

Some of my non-seasonal Allan Sherman favorites:
"The Ballad of Harry Lewis"
"Eight Foot Two"
"Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max"

Sunday, December 7, 2008

RIP, Forrest J Ackerman

I knew it was coming (see my FJA birthday post) and had been coming for some time, but I just got word yesterday (via Boing Boing, io9, and MetaFilter, wherein lie comments and links galore) that Forrest J Ackerman, "pioneering science fiction fan, editor and writer who coined the term 'sci-fi,' " Prime Mover behind Famous Monsters of Filmland, and a seminal part of my childhood, died on December 4th at age 92.

I told my one Forry story here; I'm afraid I don't have any others.

He had a good run and is fondly remembered by many, many people as being a kind and generous man, quick to share his passions (or obsessions, your choice) with others and always, always willing to take the time to talk with a fan.

As someone said recently, "Klaatu barada nice dude."

Friday, December 5, 2008

'Tis The Season (Alternative Xmas)

Two years ago my friend Sarah commented on my (seldom-used MySpace) entry "For Your Christmas Reading Pleasure,"

"yes! i know it's officially christmas when you post "the junky's christmas".

"now all i've got to do is find the cd of the alternative rock christmas songs, listen to it on repeat, spend time listening to my senile mother (and cassie) talk to my dog about the christmas tree, and get a "it's a wonderful life" speech from everyone who's known me for over five years and thinks i'm suicidal because i didn't go to college. then it'll really feel like christmas..."

Well, Sarah; it's officially Christmas!

The Junky's Christmas by William S. "Uncle Bill" Burroughs

Note that this year I'm linking to a more legible version instead of that godawful, semi-psychedelic, seizure-inducing webpage to which I normally direct you. Hell, I'll even make it easy on you and embed the YouTube video versions:

Part 1

Part 2

Additional readings:

As Harlan Ellison pointed out ever-so-long-ago (see "The Deadly Nackles Affair" in Slippage), Santa Claus implies Anti-Claus: "Nackles" by Donald E. Westlake

And lest I be thought of as a Scrooge, one of my favorite stories of all time is "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote (also available here in one continuous scroll).

Get alternatively festive, people!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Xmas Orgy Begins

Well, I managed to survive Black Friday by the simple expedient of not leaving the apartment even once (I took the day off from work). I'm not big on shopping anyway and the whole concept of Black Friday gives me a severe case of the howling fantods, so I was glad to get a little validation via Gizmodo: "10 Reasons We're Doomed: Black Friday Edition" (I see the Wal*Mart Experience reached new lows as well).

I'm all for shopping online where the only person I'm in competition with is Sid the Cat (Sid believes my lap, chair, keyboard, and computer mouse--screw the overpriced catnip-filled dingus under the sofa--are his exclusive playthings and will run roughshod over me to get at 'em); unfortunately, when it comes to certain people I lack inspiration (and fundage).

Enter Boing Boing--A Directory of Wonderful Things and their Holiday Gift Guide:

"Well, it's coming up to the holidays and I've started to make my list and fill it in. As a starting point, I went through all the books and DVDs and gadgets I'd reviewed on Boing Boing since last November and looked at what had been the best-sellers among BB's readership, figuring you folks have pretty good taste! As I was taking a walk down old review lane, I realized that many of you would probably be interested in seeing these lists too, so I've turned them into a series of blog-posts that I'll be sticking up, one per day, for the next week or so."

Things I wouldn't know about otherwise, some overlap among categories, and heavy on the bookish side (but that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned!).

Part One: Kids (less for kids, more for 'tweens 'n' teens)
Part Two: Fiction
Part Three: Gadgets and Stuff
Part Four: Comics
Part Five: Nonfiction

Some highlights:
Baby's First Mythos, "an ABC/123 picture book for kids that uses the mad, horrific imagery of HP Lovecraft to help you bring up your littlun right."

Gloom: The Game of Inauspicious Incidents and Grave Consequences: "The really interesting thing about Gloom is the story-telling aspect of game play. Though not required, when you play an event card such as "Terrified by Topiary," you may explain how this event occurs. Each character develops as more and more event cards are placed on it, so the character’s life story becomes increasingly unfortunate and, well, abnormal."

Laika: "Nick Abadzis's graphic novel "Laika" is a haunting, sweet biography of Laika, the first dog in space, who died five hours after she was launched on Sputnik II."

St. Trinian's: The Entire Appalling Business: "Before St Trinians was a (ho-hum with some bright moments) big-screen movie, it was a series of Charles Addams-esque cartoons by Ronald Searle."

Magic and Showmanship: A Handbook For Conjurers
: "I discovered the book thanks to James D Macdonald, who uses it as a teaching aid in the Viable Paradise science fiction writing workshop, held annually on Martha's Vineyard.."

Uranium Ore. One of those WTF? moments. For an entertaining evening read the comments on

Despite the fact it comes in a can
It is not cat food.

Does anyone know if there's a cure for sudden tentacles? The cat's huge and well, doesn't really look much like a cat anymore. She still answers to Muffin though. However, if she rubs against my bare leg one more time her new name will be calamari.

Needless to say, there'll be more later.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ashamed... So Ashamed...

...of how funny I find this YouTube video:

Almost as funny as...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Uncle Forry!

That's Forrest J (no period--the "J" didn't stand for anything) Ackerman for those not in the know, founder of the near-mythic Famous Monsters of Filmland and hero (if not Living Gawd) to hundreds of thousands of monster-crazed baby boomers:

When (somewhat predatory publisher James Warren) came out to my home and saw that, indeed, I did have 35,000 stills, the next thing I knew I was sitting at a dining room table with an old mechanical typewriter, and he was sitting opposite me with a sign which read, "I'm 11½ years old and I am your reader. Forry Ackerman, make me laugh!"*

Though, really, the point wasn't to make us laugh; the point was to give us ready access to the information about MONSTERS! and MONSTER MOVIES! and MONSTER MOVIE STARS! and MONSTER MERCHANDISE! with which we of a particular disposition so desperately wanted to immerse ourselves, incredibly difficult to do in those pre-cable, pre-satellite dish, pre-Web, pre-videotape, pre-DVD days. Hell, we counted ourselves astoundingly lucky if we got to see Shock! once a week (and if you remember Shock! your age is showing).

Forry took care of us for many years.

He's not doing well these days and won't be around much longer, but hey! He made it to 92 and according to the Classic Horror Film (Message) Board is in good spirits (I'd make a Ackermanesque pun here but it doesn't seem particularly appropriate).

If you'd care to send him a belated birthday card or some good wishes here's his address:

4511 Russell Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027

No period.

And some useless personal trivia--this...

...was the first copy of Famous Monsters I ever owned (1964) which I got after I wheedled fifty cents out of my poor, indulgent Dad one night in a local drugstore (for the record, People's Pharmacy, "The Little People's," in Waynesboro, VA).

* Through Time And Space With Forry Ackerman, Part V

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shrunken Heads and Vincent Price--Again!

Remember my last Halloween Countdown post, Vincent Speaks!, where I referenced the wonderful Shrunken Head Apple Sculpture Kit? Well, this Monday Boing Boing posted a pic of one for sale at a Brooklyn flea market. Check out the bonus link:

"Imagine little kids back then sitting on Santa's lap at the mall, innocently asking for Vincent Price's Shrunken Head for Christmas. I dunno, it probably came cheap enough, but I don't think any mothers would get full of Yule tide cheer sticking that thing under the tree. 'Well honey, looks like Santa brought you just what you asked for. A tricycle, army men, and the means to forge a shrunken head without learning the ancient art of voodoo.' "

I'm thinking I should add this to the annual Xmas List.

Well, Dammit! George C. Chesbro Died...

George C. Chesbro, one of the coolest writers you've never heard of, died Tuesday, November 18 and I'm very sad.

Lifted from the MetaFilter article which lifted it from somewhere else:

"Out of nowhere, believing that it is good for the soul to have one insane idea a day, whether you need it or not, the notion of a dwarf private detective came to me [...] I considered such a character bizarre and absurd, unworkable and unpublishable, and thus a waste of time to spend any length of time trying to develop it. I kept searching, but the damn dwarf just wouldn't go away. [...] It was to be a satire. Halfway through, I discovered a key to the man's character was a simple quest to be taken seriously, for dignity. That touched me, and I started over again, this time doing it "straight" (or as straight as I'm able). I gave Mongo dignity, and in return he gave me a career. The diverse background was, I thought, necessary in order to properly equip him in a 'world of giants'."

You read right--his series detective was a former circus acrobat with dwarfism, a black-belt in karate, and a professor of criminology at a New York City university. In less capable hands such a hero would be just... ludicrous... but Chesbro is not blowing smoke when he talks about "a... quest... for dignity," which is the beauty of the Mongo novels and short stories.

He writes... uh, wrote... purty, too.

In 1990 I was engaged in the relentless (and ultimately fruitless) pursuit of an attractive woman I met at a friend's wedding, a bridesmaid, in fact (and later she would refer to herself as "the Bridesmaid from Hell," which was more prophetic than I realized). In the course of a few weeks I decided she was no less than my soulmate: she loved Halloween, trashy horror movies (claimed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was one of the funniest things she'd ever seen), Charles Addams/Gahan Wilson cartoons, decently-written splatterpunk stories, Tango & Cash, Vicks NyQuil...

...and the novels of George C. Chesbro.

I'd never heard of him, so she bought me an autographed hardcover copy of Bone as an introduction and after devouring the damn thing in a single night I was hooked, tracking down previous novels, anxiously awaiting the new ones, scouring the local libraries and used bookstores for whatever was out of print... you know, my usual OCD-tainted routine.

"Noir brutality, occult tension, detective science... bizarre villains," "mathematics and mystery." Great stuff.

The Bridesmaid decided my obsessive nature was a bit too much to deal with and so she moved on to greener, saner pastures, leaving me heartbroken but with a decent pile of reading material in which to lose myself.

Soon thereafter, Chesbro disappeared during the great "let's-dump-our-marginal-mid-list-authors" purge of the '90s and all his books went out of print until he and his wife formed their own publication company.*

And now he's dead and I'm very sad.

Check out his website, check out this great Bookslut article, "Short, Sharp, Shock: The Work of George C. Chesbro," and light a candle for one of the great underappreciated genre writers of our time.

*This happened to a number of writers I dearly loved-- Lewis Shiner comes to mind and, fortunately, like Chesbro, he secured the rights to his work and began self-publishing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back By Popular Demand!

Since a couple of people have asked, to wit:

"WHERE ARE YOU???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????"
(The Mighty Wayne)


"What, hath the (Ferg)-o-blog gone tits up.? Nay! Pray say not thus! (by the way, how long does it take you to produce a blog entry?) Hope your day was wonderful."

The short answer is that Real LifeTM, as it so often does, has been interfering with my Fantasy and Intarweb life, which sucks because I much prefer my Fantasy and Intarweb life. Take work, for example. We're currently shorthanded and will be for some time since the Powers That Be (your Gummint) refuse to acknowledge that one either matches the workload to the available staff or increases staff to match the workload. In practical terms this translates into lots of involuntary overtime and ol' G. W. coming home so tired and worn-out and brain-dead that all he wants to do is watch NCIS (love that Abby!*) and House (love a good curmudgeon!) reruns until it's time for bed. Unfortunately, he also has to do other things, normal things, like, I dunno, feed the cat, brush the cat, find the missing cat toys, scoop the kitty litter box, shop for groceries, gas up the car, cook dinner, wash clothes, wash dishes, take out the trash, take the occasional bath, shave the whiskers from off my thorny hide...**

Okay, so there's a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder involved as well; I'm drag-assing all over the place. This, too, shall pass, but not unlike a kidney stone.

Take-home message: like death, taxes, and Herpes, I'm still here!

* Last night while watching Abby go through her paces I text-messaged a bunch of people with "Why are there no half-naked Goth girls running wild in my apartment?"

Big Gay Cliff: "'Cause I don't have naked skater boys in mine. Next silly question...?"

And then this exchange with Sarah:

Sarah: i dunno. you should ask Jeffie.
G.W.: Why Jeffie?
Sarah: cuz she's the closest thing to a goth girl i know
G.W.: There's Cara. You think we could get the two of them to do a lesbian porno together? The overhead would be low and we'd make a fortune!
Sarah: Jeffy'd do it for the attention. Cara'd do it for a couple of jelly packets and a cup of mayo. This sounds like a plan!
G.W.: Throw in a couple of cans of cake frosting, one for Cara to eat and one for them to smear all over themselves, and we'd be the Kings of Internet Porn!

** That's a really obscure Jimmie Rodgers song reference:
My husband was a logger
There's none like him today.
If you poured a little whiskey upon it
He would eat a bale of hay.

He never shaved the whiskers
From off his thorny hide.
He'd just drive them in with a hammer
And bite them off inside.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vincent Speaks!

Halloween Countdown Day 28

It just isn't Halloween without the mellifluous tones of Vincent Price and now, courtesy of a LiveJournal friend of my friend Anne, you can experience his full range with The Twelve Greatest Things Vincent Price Ever Did (A Personal List--Your Price May Vary).

I'd forgotten about the Shrunken Head Apple Sculpture Kit (1975) until I read this article. I'm 53 and I still want one!

Addendum: a YouTube video of the 2008 Richmond (VA) Zombie Walk!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Skulls Again

Halloween Countdown Day 27

Spotted today on Boing Boing Gadgets:

"A zygomatic bone glommed together from old sauce pots; a mandible constructed from rusty whisks; a maxilla ossified from dinner plates and moustachioed with unwashed spoons. This gloriously sepulchral skull constructed entirely from old cookware and crockery was on display in London's Regent Park a couple weeks ago as part of the Frieze Art Fair."

Oh, what I wouldn't give to have this on my front lawn (such as it is). Properly lit, this would be the coolest, bestest, awesomest Halloween decoration ever!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More Music, Please!

Halloween Countdown Day 26

Novelty Halloween songs are all well and good (examples: the classic "Dinner With Drac" and yet another version of "The Monster Mash," this one featuring Mannheim Steamroller and William Marshall), but we all know Halloween is less about monsters and more about the lifting of the veil between the living and the dead.

Which leads us to Teen Death Songs (YouTube links): "Leader of the Pack," "Teen Angel,"Last Kiss," "Tell Laura I Love Her,"and so many others, all shrewdly calculated to make teenage girls of the '50s and '60s go gooey inside.

But how about the ultimate Teen Death/Halloween crossover?

Yeah, liven...uh...deaden up your Halloween party with that!

And before I leave:

One more (though I've posted it before), for Wayne:

G. W. Posts! Zombies Invade Richmond! Other Halloween Stuff!

Halloween Countdown Day 26

My friend Wayne writes:

"I've been Major Tom this week, I took my protein pills and put my helmet on . . . Just out in space deciding what direction seemed the one I needed to take. Then I realized it was Hallowe'en coming up, and last year around this time I was posting on the way cool song 'Frankenstein's Den' by The Hollywood Flames."

I relate, especially to the second sentence, except in Wayne's case he's been productive while all I've done is watch reruns of House and NCIS (not surprisingly, I have an incredible crush on Abby*) while sorting through my late father's coin collection.**

I even skipped out on the 2008 Richmond, VA Zombie Walk.

Well, it was cold and rainy and dreary, perfect zombie weather, but not so good for zombie photography,*** so I stayed home with the cat, figuring maybe they'd postpone the event to Sunday.

They didn't. Here's the proof.

*sigh* There's always next year.

In other Halloween-oriented news, Boing Boing links us to some Insanely Intricate Pumpkin Carvings...

And some seasonally appropriate artwork by horror virtuoso Clive Barker...

*And anyone who knows me and the character will understand why, but STAY AWAY! I saw her first on The Drew Carey Show!

**It's actually more of a coin accumulation, but that's a post for another time.

***And since I've only gone so as to document the event in years past (see my 2007 photos) I had a hard time mustering the motivation to go out into the drizzle. Yeah, I could have dressed up and left my camera at home and I may do so next year--with my body proportions I'm thinking of going as the zombified version of the Skipper from Gilligan's Island--a simple costume to put together assuming I can get the make-up right and find a willing individual to walk along with me as a half-eaten Gilligan.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Halloween Miscellaneous

Poopie-bears. I got distracted (don't ask) and wound up ignoring the Halloween Countdown for an entire week. In fact, I just realized I never even finished my supposed catch-up post. Sucks for me that life interferes with my having fun. Ah, well; better late than never.

Halloween Countdown Day 15

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. I said I was going to play catch-up and then wussed out on Day 14, but I have an excuse--last night my friend (and Hugh Laurie look-alike) Robio* dragged me to the The National for the Buckethead concert, which is vaguely-- vaguely--Halloween-related. To wit,

Buckethead wears a (KFC**) bucket on his head and a white plastic (William Shatner) mask similar to that of Michael Myers.*** He was inspired to wear both items on the night he watched Halloween 4.[1] Whenever dressed like this (most of the time during performances) he represents a character who was 'raised by chickens, and has made it his mission in life to alert the world to the ongoing chicken holocaust in fast-food joints around the globe.'

Here he is leading off with some specifically Halloween-appropriate music:

When he wandered offstage he probably sucked down a few frou-frou Halloween Cocktails:

*His name is actually Robert, but a few years ago when his hair was much longer we used to tease him that he was going for the Fabio look. The name stuck. Mea culpa.

**But not last night; he wore a generic white fast food bucket instead. My guess is the KFC people caught wind of his act and expressed a little... concern, since guitar music fully capable of sterilizing toads at 2000 yards is probably not something they want associated with their corporate image.

***Don't forget the boiler suit! We musn't forget that!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Halloween Countdown Catch-Up

Halloween Countdown Day 13

Anti-virus software fixed. Computer all better now. Sissy Spacek crush in remission. Countdown resumes. Randomness (i.e., few transitional phrases) ensues.

The banner link above should tell you all you need to know--I'm not the only freak who worships at the altar and cauldron of Halloween (no, I didn't make it, you goofballs; I ain't that skilled). Seems there's a whole (g)host of people doing a "31 Days of Halloween" thing and you really need to check 'em out--cool stuff a-plenty!

Speaking of cool stuff...

Mr. Gervais will even sell you a DVD loaded with this and other animations.

Shifting gears abruptly, my belief is that a good Halloween party demands a good Halloween game and Mafia variant Do You Worship Cthulhu? looks to be a winner:

"One person acts as moderator, overseeing a village of people, one (or more) of which are secretly Cthulhu worshippers! The worshippers begin sacrificing other villagers one by one. Deceive your friends and lie through your teeth..."

Because, let's face it, any game based on deception and lying to your friends guarantees hilarity will follow.

Eventually, I'm going to do what everyone else seems to do around this time of year--post my favorite Halloween-related music links (and there are many); meanwhile, let's get the obligatory "Monster Mash" (interesting trivia on the Wikipedia link) out of the way, but this time with a twist. See, the song was originally co-written and recorded by Bobby "Boris" Pickett then, much to his annoyance, immediately covered by venerable Horror Host John Zacherle. Forty years later the two of them performed what no less a light than Elvis Presley (allegedly) called "the dumbest thing he'd ever heard."

Version 1

Version 2

(Boris Karloff voice) "So Elvis, if you're out there listening, we're still here"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Not A Halloween Post

You may be wondering what happened to the Halloween Countdown.

Well, the other night I was online, cruising' along, minding my own business, having a grand ol' time reading this and posting that when a little pop-up informs me there's a nice little update for Norton Antivirus and I really, really need to download and install it right damn now or else dire things might happen to my computer, to me, to my friends and family; in fact, failing to do so might hasten the heat death of the universe and I certainly wouldn't want to be solely responsible for that.* Besides, it comes free with my subscription, so, being one of those people who like to keep his/her security software current, that's exactly what I do.

Now, Symantic products are fine, not great, good enough, but as many of us know from bitter experience they're damnably slow to download, install, and activate. One gets used to, nay, expects the inconvenience, and when the screen says "please wait while we rid your hard drive of all those decidedly inferior versions and replace it with something newer and shinier and even more bloated and slow than what you're using now," I figure it's time to read a book, watch a movie, and/or go to bed. In the meantime, my computer is naught but a heat-generating paperweight, otherwise useless.

Several hours later my computer remains a heat-generating paperweight, otherwise useless, which just seems wrong.

Damn. Okay, time to stop the installation and do it again.

Uh-uh. Won't do it. In fact, Norton refuses to respond at all except to refer me to all kinds of online help which, as I discover after couple of hours of pointing and clicking and downloading and extracting and re-booting and re-re-booting, is perfectly useless for solving whatever the problem happens to be.

Fine. I'll do something different later.

Later comes and I try again...and again...then I try some different things...and some more different things...and begin to wonder where, at this hour of the night, I can find a dead chicken to wave over my computer.


To make an incredibly long and boring story just a wee bit shorter, I finally contact Symantic's help line where a lovely woman named May, for whom English is a second language, takes control of my computer and finally...finally...after four long hours...restores my antivirus software to its original state--sans upgrade.

Three days, people. Three days of a balky computer.


Now you know why my wallpaper is a picture of HAL 9000.

In other news, I ran into my good friend Sissy Spacek at Barnes & Noble Friday evening.

Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. We don't actually know each other (duh!), but this is the third time we've been in close proximity:

--Back in the late '80s when I worked for the University of Virginia my friend Roy and I were heading to The Corner for lunch when who should be walking towards us but Sissy Spacek and her father (who was a patient in the U. VA Med Center at the time). Roy was chattering away about some inanity or another**, completely oblivious, and I wasn't about to point and shout as Sissy walked toward us. No, I waited till they passed and then said, sotto voce, "Roy, if you turn around right now you can catch a glimpse of Sissy Spacek's butt."

--In the early '90s I was Chrismas shopping for my Dad at some fancy-ass men's clothing store in Charlottesville, checking out the hideously overpriced shirts when this woman sidles up to me and starts asking about socks. Yep, Sissy Spacek! We continued to chat while we waited in the check-out line, though we spoke of nothing more profound that how huge the Holiday crowd was that year.

--And last night as I entered Barnes & Noble there she was, daughter and daughter's boyfriend (I'm assuming) in tow, muttering something about how the boyfriend had yet to read the books he'd already bought.

That's all. The Halloween Countdown will resume in the evening.

My Gal-Pal Sissy

*Well, on most days.

**As he was wont to do. Roy's dead now, but I'm positive he's currently bending God's ear about yet another imagined slight he received from some snooty Seraphim.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

...Wearing Clothes That Were Not His Own

Halloween Countdown Day 7

It simply wouldn't be Halloween without a passing mention of Edgar Allan Poe, who died (I almost said "passed") on this day in 1849. Strangely enough (or suitably enough, your choice), in yet another example of life imitating art the exact cause of his death remains a mystery. Alcoholism? Syphilis? Rabies? Brain tumor?* Cooping?

We'll probably never know and maybe that's for the best--a little mystery (above and beyond the Poe Toaster) is a good thing.

Postscript: Jeebus Murphy, am I the only online entity acknowledging Poe's death today? I've searched all the usual suspects and no one's sayin' nuthin'. Guess I'm going to have to light a candle.

And if you think all this is a descent into the morbid, well, go read Horton Hears A Heart.

Then go read The Poe Shadow.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Vintage Creepy

Halloween Countdown Day 6

Direct from Boing Boing: "Steve Chasman is posting one old timey Halloween photo every day during the month of October."

Halloween in the Time of Cholera

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ya Want Pumpkins? We Got Pumpkins!

Halloween Countdown Day 5

Yeah, it ain't Halloween without Jack-o'-Lanterns, but while settle for the dull and boring when you could have something weird and wonderful?

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories really love(s) Halloween, detailing all sorts of DIY projects like the Cylon Jack-O-Lantern (see above), the too-adorable-for-words Robotic Snap-O-Lantern, and my particular fave, the Robotic Dalek Pumpkin:

Sure, you'll need a bit of eye/hand coordination, some mechanical/electronic skills, and the ability to wield a soldering iron without causing third-degree burns, but look at 'em! They're worth the risk!

And speaking of pumpkin carving, last year Wired ran a post asking readers to Show Us Your Geeky Jack-o'-Lanterns. The results were both impressive and inspirational.

You may as well check out all the Flickr pics tagged with "jackolantern" while you're at it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Time To Terrorize The Kids!

Halloween Countdown Day 4

When I was in elementary school--probably in third grade-- one of my favoritest books of all time was Robert Arthur's Ghosts and More Ghosts. Oh, it was great stuff and certainly not a mere collection of ghost stories (which were popular at the time... and boring)--far from it! No, these were creepy-ass tales ranging from the outright scary ("The Rose-Crystal Bell," "Footsteps Invisible," "Do You Believe in Ghosts?") to humorous ("Mr. Milton's Gift," "Don't Be A Goose") to wistful fantasy (the frequently anthologized "The Wonderful Day," "The Marvelous Stamps From El Dorado") to, well, strange ("Obstinate Uncle Otis," "Mr. Dexter's Dragon," "Hank Garvey's Daytime Ghost").

The interesting thing is these stories were originally written for an adult market (pulp magazines) and not for children, which may be why I loved them so much.* People die (sometimes the monster gets them; sometimes they're killed by irony); people disappear, never to be heard from again. In fact, this may be why the damned thing remains out of print (that, and a few anachronisms that puzzled me in '63**)--some of the stories are pretty intense for children even today. Still, they were anthologized and marketed for "young people" in 1963 with a bit of retro-fitting: see Arthur's A Note to the Reader from the 1st edition:

Most of the stories in this book were written at a time when I lived in a large house in the woods in New York state. The house was called Many Stories; first, because it had three floors, plus an attic and a cellar, and secondly because many stories had to be written to pay for it. It was a house just right for the writing of strange and spooky stories. When I moved in with my family, the house had stood empty for years, and it was supposed by the neighbors to be haunted. Late at night, as I wrote, I could hear strange, ghostly sounds in the house--small scurryings in the cellar, scamperings and whisperings in the walls, squeaks and rustlings in the attic just above my head. The sounds in the attic, I discovered, were made by a whole colony of bats that had lived there for many years while the house stood empty. Sometimes, as they came and went through the cracks they used for doorways, the bats made a wrong turning and got into my third-floor workroom by mistake. One night three bats at once were swooping and gliding in the air around my head, as if weaving some ancient magical spell about me. I knew they didn't want to touch me any more than I wanted to touch them. So I kept on writing, and the rustlings in the walls and the whisper of leathery wings in the air all around me made a spooky accompaniment to the tapping of my typewriter keys. It was a grand atmosphere in which to conjure up ghosts and demons and spirits and spells and witchcraft. I hope some of it found its way into Ghosts and More Ghosts, and that you will enjoy reading the stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Astute baby-boomers will recognize Arthur as the originator of the (then) wildly-popular Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series; he also edited Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful and Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery (among many other things; see this nice biography by his daughter).

Bottom line? Do yourself a favor, track down a copy of this book, and read it to your kids on Halloween night. You owe it to them to leave them properly terrified!

*Picture me at 8 or 9 huddled (and near-suffocating) under the bedcovers way past my bedtime reading and re-reading by flashlight.

**The story that disturbed me the most*** was "Do You Believe in Ghosts?," which involved a weekly radio show (Dare Danger With Deene!) and its thrill-seeking host. By the time I read it (1963-1964), commercial radio consisted of either round-the-clock news or Top 40 music programs, so I was a little puzzled by its use as a story-telling medium.

***Nick Deene hosts a weekly radio show wherein he travels the world seeking excitement and danger; however, his "travels" are entirely studio-produced and Nick never leaves the comfort of his broadcast booth. Nick realizes his listeners are becoming more sophisticated and significantly less gullible, which means his ratings are dropping precipitously, so he decides to pull off a real-life stunt--spending the night alone handcuffed to a bed in a haunted house. It's all humbuggery, of course, though he really does broadcast alone, handcuffed to a bed, while his crew and a couple of newspaper reporters wait just down the road. At the last minute he rejects the idea of a run-of-the-mill ghost and conjures up a story of some ghastly "oyster-faced" thing that lives in the swamp adjacent to the house, successfully thrilling his listeners and crew as he details his imaginary midnight encounter with the Curse of the Carriday mansion. The broadcast ends, the crew goes to pick him up...

And something happens.

Crystal Head Vodka Update: You may recall my previous post on the subject; apparently there's a sizable Intarweb contingent who believes this is some sort of viral video intended to generate pre-buzz for Ghostbusters III or the DVD release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Well, I can't rule out such things entirely, but Crystal Head Vodka is real enough!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Smells Like Goth Spirit!

Halloween Countdown Day 3
Being mostly a motley collection of vaguely Halloween-ish links with a Gothic edge I need to purge from my Google Notebook:

What Halloween Party would be complete without a Skeleton Disco Ball? It's exactly what you think it is--a motorized, revolving 8-inch skull covered with little mirrors. Though smallish, is still perfect for an apartment-based Zombie Prom Night theme!

From the original post on Boing Boing:

"If only we'd had one of these skull-shaped disco balls in the Malden High gymnasium during prom night. A magical night, in which I convinced the DJ to play 'Bloodletting' during the last dance of the night, which I spent futilely trying to slip my hand under the blood red corset of my consumptive-looking goth date. Sigh. Our love making? It would have smelled of cloves."

Poor guy. He might have had better luck if he'd first arranged an intimate, elegant Halloween dinner and used these skeletal serving forks (again from Boing Boing).

Or, had his finances been tight, a simple Gothic cook-out with the Cthulhu Roaster. Add a couple of My Little Cthulhu ponies (see the comments on MetaFilter) and various items from the Gothic Garden as a centerpiece and, yeah, the clove smoke would have filled the room. And should there be a little, uh, accident, there's always the Gothic Cradle!

*sigh* I have got to start dating.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Halloween Countdown, Day 2
A couple of things to covet...

You know you're going to need something to wash down (or distract you from) Penn & Teller's Bleeding Heart Gelatin Dessert, right? Well, according to MetaFilter* there's a new booze in town and Dan Aykroyd is pimping it: Crystal Head Vodka.

Quadruply-distilled alcohol blended with water from the aquifers of Newfoundland then triple-filtered through Herkimer diamonds to infuse it with...

Well, I have no idea, but Dan talks about it real purty, almost as if his Bass-O-Matic salesguy character had finally gotten his bipolar disorder under control and yeah, there's a lot of hoo-ha about paranormal phenomena and UFOs and ghosts and mysterious doings and the crystal skulls, but the bottom line is this:

I don't drink anymore so I don't care if it has mystical powers and/or tastes like rat urine mixed with cow dung; IT'S A DAMN COOL-LOOKING BOTTLE O' VODKA AND I WANT ONE!

No, two! For my skull collection!

And wouldn't your drunken Halloween Bash be just a leeeetle cooler if your bar was well-stocked with these?

Just remember to send me the empties.

And speaking of skulls and paraphernalia for your drunken Halloween Bash, Brass Goggles reports on an artist who's made a pinhole camera that incorporates the 150-year old skull of an 13-year old girl child:

*See also the comments on reddit. They're a hoot!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Halloween Approacheth!

Day One

Oh, yes, YES! It IS almost time! The weather is cooler, the leaves are turning, it's getting dark earlier... there's rain and wind and menacing clouds*... my Halloween Tree is up, the skull collection is dusted and nicely arrayed, and the cat is quaking under the bed for fear of being dyed black. I'm in the process of untangling the purple mini-lights and illuminated eyeball strands, and maybe this year, just maybe, I'll find the perfect Deathly Door Decoration.

Sweet Zombie Jeebus, I am SUCH a Halloween Junkie!

All I need is a party invitation.

C'mon guys; now is the time to be planning some Spooky Festivities and by including me you will automatically gain access to my vast collection of trashy horror movie.s my Halloweenesque mix CDs, my delightfully morbid/cynical sense of humor, plus, assuming you'll allow me to use your kitchen (mine is something of a disaster area), I'll even make a special dessert!

*crickets chirping*

No takers, huh? Well, let me give you the dessert recipe anyway because, well, because it's too good not to share:

Penn & Teller's Bleeding Heart Gelatin Dessert
(from Penn & Teller's How To Play With Your Food)

The title says it all. It's the perfect coup de grace for your intimate dinner at home. As your guests sip their coffee, you unveil a glistening pink gelatin heart on a pedestal cake stand. Then you whip out a carving knife and stab it. Dark, gooey blood issues majestically from the wound. You cut dainty slices off the lobes of the heart and flip them onto dessert plates. You hold each portion under the oozing gash until it is nicely sauced with gore, add a dollop of whipped cream, and serve.

4 cups of water
4 3-oz. boxes or two 6-oz boxes of peach (pink; think of lung tissue) or strawberry (redder; think of livers and hearts) gelatin dessert mix.
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 12-ounce can unsweetened evaporated milk

1/2 cup grenadine syrup
1 cup light corn syrup
1 small bottle (0.3 fl. oz.) red food coloring
3 drops blue food coloring
1 1-gallon food-storage bag (the plain kind without the zip closure)
6 1/2 cup heart-shaped gelatin mold or cake pan

Boil the water. Put the packaged gelatin dessert and unflavored gelatin in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it, stirring constantly. Cool to room temperature (very important or the next step may present problems). Stir in the condensed milk. Note how it already is acquiring the color of freshly skinned flesh.

Pour the mixture into the gelatin mold. Cover the bottom of the mold (this will be the top when you serve it) with a layer about half an inch think. Refrigerate until it gels firmly.

Meanwhile, prepare a nice bladder of blood. Stir together the corn syrup, grenadine, and food colorings (we do it right in the measuring cup to save dish washing--every erg saved in preparation is an erg one can use to enjoy the Payoff). For the bladder (the bag that keeps the blood together inside the mass of gelatin) take the gallon-size food-storage bag and turn it inside out. Pour the blood mixture into one corner of the bag and twist it closed so that no air bubble is caught between the sauce and the twist. Tie a knot in the twisted plastic. Adjust the position of the knot so that when the bag lies on the counter, it's about 1 1/2 to 2 inches high, and tighten the knot. With a pair of scissors, snip off the frilly extra plastic outside the knot.

When the gelatin on the bottom of the mold is stiff and firm, position the bladder of blood in the mold, with the point of the bag just inside the point of the heart. Make sure there is at least 3/4" of space between all sides of the bag and the walls of the mold (this will ensure that your guests don't see clues ahead of time). Pour in the remaining gelatin until the mold is as full as you can handle. Don't worry if you see a little of the blood-bladder grazing the surface of the gelatin, as longs as it doesn't project too much; the side you are looking at now will be the bottom when you serve it.

Refrigerate until gelled firmly to the texture of fine, lean organ meat. It takes about 4 hours.

To unmold, put about 2 1/2 inches of hot, but not boiling water in your sink. Set your mold in the water so that the water comes just below the edge of the mold for 15 to 20 seconds; the time depends on the thickness of the mold pan. Remove the mold from the water, and run the blade of a knife around the edge of the gelatin. Invert your serving platter, ideally a white pedestal cake plate, on top and hold it firmly in place. Then use both hands to turn over the mold and the plate. Remove the mold; you may need to tap or shake the mold slightly to free the gelatin.

The blood looks prettiest when it flows over white plates, doilies, and table linen, which it may stain permanently--but what the hell, it's the effect that matters. To serve, use a nice, big Psycho-style chef's knife and stab the side of the gelatin about one third of the way up from the pointed end of the heart. Twist the knife slightly, and blood will start to ooze out. Bare your teeth like a Marine jabbing with bayonet, and widen the wound. When the blood is coming at a good slip, grab a dessert plate, and cut a slice from one of the lobes of the heart. Flip it onto the plate, and drizzle it with blood by holding it under the edge of the pedestal. Add whipped cream and serve.

This dish delights all five senses:
1. Sight: red, glossy, and elegantly surreal when the blood starts to flow.
2. Taste: sweeeet.
3. Smell: classic artificial-fruity
4. Touch: cold and wiggly.
5. Hearing: the screaming of guests.

I don't particularly like the Valentine's Day mold, myself, but fortunately there are... other... options at The Anatomical Chart Company, The Anatomy Warehouse, and all over the Web.

On the other hand, since zombies are all the rage these days this particular recipe might be even cooler with... BRAAAAAAAAAAINS!

Brain Jello Mold From The PrankPlace
Quiggle Adult Size "Brain" Gelatin Mold (warning: annoying music)
Archie McPhee's Zombie Brain Gelatin Mold
The Brain Gelatin Mold at Steve Spangler Science
Brain Gelatin Mold from Anatomical Chart Co. (via Amazon)
Or simply search the Intarweb--there seem to be dozens of varieties.

Mischief managed.**

*Which also means it's time for the State Fair because tradition demands a drizzly opening.

**Geezie-peezie, did I just make a Harry Potter reference? Someone really needs to assault me with a +5 Gauntlet of Bitchslapping.***

***Damnation, now it's Dungeon & Dragons references. What is wrong with me tonight?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Welcome To Autumn!

Ah, the first day of fall! Cool mornings, cooler nights, pumpkins on the vine, leaves turning (at least for today on the Google website*), impending frost... you know what this means, don't you?

Halloween's a-comin'.

Oh, YEAH, baby! Halloween! The only holiday worth getting excited about! Time to get out the spooky decorations and put up the ol' Halloween Tree** so as to garner favor with The Great Pumpkin and, no; it's not too early-- celebrates for two whole months!

Expect a lot of Halloween-related posts in the coming days.


**I actually have a Halloween Tree, as if there was any doubt. My surprisingly indulgent friend Pam (seen here to your left as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing) made it for me. It's a small tree branch stuck in a gravel-filled pot wrapped in white crepe paper adorned with dozens of little plastic bats. She even made me some ornaments (including a really scary one of Oliver North, who was big in the news at the time; see Iran-Contra Affair). Twenty-some years later I still set it up in the living room every Oct. 1.

Edit: Some of you out there are muttering, "What's this Autumn People by Ray Bradbury crap? Ray never wrote a book called The Autumn People! Sure, there's The October Country, but whoever heard of The Autumn People?"

Oh, ye of little faith. The Autumn People is an anthology of EC Comics versions of some early Ray Bradbury horror stories. According to Wikipedia,

Some of EC's more well-known themes include:
--Adaptations of Ray Bradbury science-fiction stories, which appeared in two dozen EC comics starting in 1952. It began inauspiciously, with an incident in which Feldstein and Gaines plagiarized two of Bradbury's stories and combined them into a single tale. Learning of the story, Bradbury sent a note praising them, while remarking that he had "inadvertently" not yet received his payment for their use. EC sent a check and negotiated a productive series of Bradbury adaptations.

Quick reminiscence: My Mom & Dad were not real keen on my childhood fascination with all things dank and leprous, believing with many other parents of the time that it would warp my personality (ahem!); consequently, I was forced to do what any self-respecting pre-adolescent would do--I hid it. My friend Sam was good enough to loan me his copy of The Autumn People during our stint at elementary school (4th grade?) and I smuggled it home in my book bag, reading it clandestinely long after my official bedtime under the covers with my trusty flashlight.