Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Can't Sleep, Clown Will Eat Me!"

So I'm cruising through MetaFilter the other day when I ran across this entry: all the things you once tried so hard to forget...

KINDERTRAUMA is about the movies, books, and toys that scared you when you were a kid. It’s also about kids in scary movies, both as heroes and villains. And everything else that’s traumatic to a tyke! Through reviews, stories, artwork, and testimonials, we mean to remind you of all the things you once tried so hard to forget…Your Happy Childhood Ends Here!

Thanks. Thanks a lot. As if I need help remembering the things that scared me as a kid, as if I need prompting.

Monsters in the closet? Well, yes, for a while, but a quick, well-lit pre-bedtime search, a carefully closed door (rubber doorstops were my friends), and a Donald Duck night light took care of that. Monsters under the bed? A bit more worrisome since under-the-bed remained dark and forbidding even with the lights on, thereby precluding a thorough search--searching doesn't work if the monsters can see you first(1), but for the most part, at that time, the...things...I worried about were too big to fit such cramped quarters.

(by the way, parents, some amusing advice on how and how not to handle such problems with your own kids can be seen at Exterminator Wanted! Apparently My House Is Infested With Monsters)

But there were...other...things.

Let's start with this... thoughtful... handmade gift from some maiden aunt:

Tell me that's not a spooky-ass thing to give a 3-yr. old child, what with its disturbing semi-smile, its pale-blue, eternally-staring eyes (the photo does not do them justice), and inexplicable red poofy-balls--sort of a Casper the Gay Psychotic Clown-Ghost (2). I stuffed it in the back of a dresser drawer as soon as Mom wasn't looking, then tried desperately (and unsuccessfully) to forget it was there.

But it was.

And who knew what it was doing in there, unwatched and unsupervised? I imagined it plotting all sorts of mischief and I never looked at it again (3).

And then there were certain Saturday morning cartoons, specifically, some of the early Betty Boop features and more specifically (YouTube links), Minnie the Moocher, Snow White, and Bimbo's Initiation. You'll have to picture me at age five or so, sequestered in my darkened basement/rec room, eyes glued to the television set, bathed in bluish cathode ray tube phosphorescence, and wondering what the hell is going ON here? The Cab Calloway music was spooky, dark, blaring minor chord stuff, but the storylines were frighteningly incomprehensible, reeking of... disquieting, disturbing... dream logic: Why is there a dancing, singing walrus wraith in that cave? What on earth were those skeletons drinking that could kill them? Why are the ghosts going willingly to those electric chairs and how the hell can you execute a ghost, anyway?

Pay particular attention to the backgrounds--they were the wallpaper of my nightmares

There's more. In 1963 my parents and I went to see my Uncle Dick (among others) perform an evening magic show at some shopping mall in Lynchburg, VA. We passed a movie theater displaying the one-sheet for Children of the Damned...

...and I was immediately traumatized. Those... eyes... haunted my dreams for years.

As did this trailer for The Monster of Piedras Blancas. Not so much the monster, though he/she/it was grotesque enough to make me a little leery of nighttime strolls on the beach even today, it was all the severed heads!

And this one for Target Earth, an otherwise eminently forgettable (and supremely boring) sci-fi film of the '50s, but the scene at the very end of the trailer (skip the rest of the crap unless you're a fan of Really Bad Cinema) where the robot crashes through a window... brrrr!

And let us not forget Shock!, a syndicated TV package aired in the late '50s and early '60s that introduced an entirely new generation to the Universal Studios monsters of the '30s and '40s. I spent many a Saturday afternoon wrapped (okay, cowering) in an old army blanket (4) being terrorized by Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Claude Rains, John Carradine and Lon Chaney, Jr. while my mother took a nap upstairs (5).

No, I don't need ANY reminding of what scared me as a kid. It's all right there, seared into my cerebral cortex.

(1) One slightly boozy summer night during my late teen years a bunch of us were gathered in my friend Scot's trailer and (for whatever reason) started discussing our various childhood strategies for dealing with the perennial monster problem. Some of us insisted that the smartest method involved avoiding detection altogether--the ol' "covers-over-the-head" technique, which was based upon the belief that monsters are incredibly stupid and can't get you if they can't see you. Others held with the (obviously incorrect) "draw-the-covers-up-to-your-eyes-so-you-can-see-them-first" school of thought. For 20 pts., compare and contrast these ideas making specific mention of the numerous logical fallacies inherent in each.

That same evening we discovered that all of us, independently of one another, had mastered the technique of Chain Lighting. Here's the basic scenario: you've managed to beg/wheedle/con your parents into allowing you to stay up late and watch a scary movie ("But, mom! It's not that scary!") because, well, scary movies are cool. This is an unusual privilege and one that can be easily rescinded should the parental units suspect late-night monster movie viewing has induced even a moment of anxiety in precious little Buddy or Sis. Presumptive evidence of this would be such things as, oh, I dunno, every light in the house being left on overnight.

Point of Information in case you were mystified by that last part: these were the days ('50s, '60's) when your average household might have a single, solitary, lone television console (hard to believe, I know, but that's the way it was) located in some central area such as a den, a family room, the living room, a basement, wherever, but note that it was nowhere near your bedroom. As an added bonus our parents were Depression Babies and wasting electricity was both a personal affront and a moral failing.

So, you've just finished watching something incredibly scary (which you know because you're incredibly scared) and now you must wend your way to your bedroom but you have to turn out all the lights first or you'll never, ever get to see another scary movie until you're too old to care!

And monsters thrive in darkness.

You're boned.

Or are you? This is where Chain Lighting comes in--having carefully noted the exact location of every source of illumination between the TV room and your bedroom (uh, you did do that, didn't you?), you now move from your currently well-lit starting point to the next strategically-placed lamp, turn it on, return to your initial position and extinguish that lamp. Move back into the light and repeat as necessary until you reach your final destination, safe in the knowledge that (a) monsters are dumb (keep telling yourself that or you'll lose your nerve), (b) at no time will you be in total darkness (making you easy pickin's for hungry horrors), and (c) your parents will be none the wiser.

(2) And don't think the basic premise of Casper the Friendly Ghost didn't bother me.

(3) Until my parents moved and I came across the damned thing by accident. Forty years of silent, patient waiting in that dresser drawer paid off for the little booger--I gasped.

(4) I went the blanket route while my friend Sam refined the "let's-mostly-hide-behind-the-sofa" technique. It never, ever occurred to us to Just. Not. Watch.

(5) My parents weren't too sure about this approach/avoidance thing I had with monster movies, brainwashed as they were with the notion that such things led to crippling anxiety, juvenile delinquency, antisocial behavior, and a career in politics. I knew Famous Monsters of Filmland had once run an article entitled "Monsters Are Good For My Children" by Mrs. Terry Pinckard, mother of four, which I hoped would convince them otherwise, but I didn't own a copy (6).

(6) And still don't. Can't even find a copy online, which surprises me. There's a brief reference in this wonderful interview with Famous Monsters editor Forrest J Ackerman, Inside Darkest Ackerman, but that's about it. Sam? I'm looking at you.

Hey! You made it through all the stupid, annoying footnotes! Good for you! As a reward you get a bonus story.

In 1974 Larry Cohen released It's Alive, a movie about a mutant killer baby, but I didn't know that at the time. I was home from college one summer and stayed up late to watch something-or-other when the network aired what I thought was a Public Service Announcement:

Caught me completely by surprise... and that gawdawful baby cry at the end... ewww!

Well, dumbass that I am (that's foreshadowing, by the way, a sure sign of quality bloggery), I told my asshole kind, thoughtful, loving friends about my reaction, secure in the knowledge that they, of all people, would sympathize.

A few weeks later on yet another slightly boozy summer night (see 1) I wandered over to Scot's trailer to hang out with my...friends... and to drink a little Malt Duck. Eventually I was seized by the inevitable call of nature and as I wandered down the narrow, darkened corridor of the trailer and approached the bathroom something grabbed my ankle...

And emitted that horrible mutant baby cry.

I looked down and there in the gloom and darkness was this...this...thing...on all fours with a bloated, faceless head.

I yelped. Loudly. Very loudly. Loudly enough to elicit hysterical laughter from the living room.

You see, apparently once he heard I was coming over, my friend Wally decided to don a fencing mask and hide out quietly and patiently (oh so patiently--at least an hour) in the hallway until such time as I needed the bathroom.

He was damn lucky I have excellent bladder control.

The Wayback Machine is on Overdrive

So the other day my friend Sam shot me an e-mail containing this little piece of history:

Jeebus help me, that's Mrs. Wheeler's 1961-1962 1st Grade class--MY class--arrayed on the steps of Jackson-Wilson Elementary School in Waynesboro, VA. Sam is in the front row, third from your left, and I'm... well, see if you can spot me.

A couple of things:

--notice the distinct lack of... diversity... in the student population; Waynesboro schools weren't integrated/desegregated until the fall of 1965.

--Jackson-Wilson was originally Wilson High School and, at least as far as I could tell, had had no significant maintenance since it opened in 1922. During fire drills students on the upper floors exited via rickety fire escapes which under load tended to sway and pull away a bit from the brick walls. Didn't matter; the place was a firetrap anyway, what with all the tinder-dry wooden floors and walls, the latter being slathered with asbestos-laden-but-still-highly-flammable plaster guaranteed to save our parents the expense of having our little bodies buried after we asphyxiated from smoke inhalation. Oh, and our Civil Defense drills (the infamous "duck and cover" technique detailed in this masterfully understated 1951 film) were a hoot! The teachers would march us out of our classrooms and into the hallway where we assumed the ("kiss your ass goodbye!") position and waited patiently for the coming Nuclear Holocaust. Yeah, we were all going to die horrible radioactive deaths, but at least we were arrayed alphabetically!

Here's the original school complex--1st & 2nd grades in the building to your left (site of my class photo), 3rd and 4th grades (plus an auditorium) in the middle (note the aforementioned fire escape), a rarely-used gymnasium and the School Board offices to your right. To your farthest left (and all but invisible) is the "Cafeteria Building" which housed the (duh!) cafeteria, 5th and 6th grade classrooms, and the Main Office, wherein dwelled the Supreme and Exalted Ruler of our little domain, Mr. Wright, the Principal.*

And here it is as it stands today. They tore down the two middle buildings around 1968, soon after they moved the student population to one of the newer elementary schools (Berkeley Glenn, should you be that interested).

Another view. The Waynesboro School Board still occupies "The Hill," the metonymous term used by local teachers to precede the phrase "did something really stupid today." My mother, a 9th grade English teacher for 13 years (and head of the department for many of those years--her tales of Machiavellian manipulations within the school system would stand your hair on end), used that phrase a LOT.

The Cafeteria Building, still standing, still used, only now it's occupied by the (Shenandoah) Valley Program for Aging Services.

So did you figure out which one was me? No? Well, I'm the guy dead center, face partially obscured, standing between the two hot chicks (a feat rarely repeated since):

*Who was a nice enough--looked like someone's grandfather and probably was--but OMIGAWD! He had a spanking machine in his office! A SPANKING MACHINE! And he was allowed to use it whenever he wanted for whatever offense he so chose! I know this is true because the 6th graders told us!

Edit: For those of you too young to catch the Rocky & Bullwinkle reference in the title, here's some information on the Wayback Machine.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Saturday Night Snicker

Okay, so it's actually way early Saturday morning as I write this but, well, you know, Intarweb time is flexible, relative and rarely approximates Real Time.

Or some such nonsense.

Anyway, I was cruising reddit the other day when I ran across this post concerning a contest whereby two people could win a simultaneous movie date with Scarlett Johansson (most likely heavily chaperoned by big, burly, highly-trained, well-paid, sociopathic men with a penchant for breaking bones at a moment's notice) and since Scarlett happens to rank quite high on my Celebrity Lust ListTM, I had to check it out. As is often the case with reddit, the user comments were more amusing than the link itself:

(Warning: politically incorrect, contains sexual innuendo and inappropriate commentary, objectifies women, the remainder of this post is fully capable of making me appear as a complete and total sexist pig, which I'm not, most of the time, except that I am a product of my only moderately enlightened generation and testosterone-enriched environment but at least have the good sense to be embarrassed about it)

"Even though its only for a moviegoing date, I'd still hit that like a baseball player hits another's behind. Which is ever so gently, ever so gently."

"I'd hit it like the fist of an angry god."

"I'd tear that ass up like junkmail."

But the winner, the absolute jewel, the one that made me spew Diet Pepsi all over my monitor, my portable hard drive, my wireless router, a pile of CDs, a few random books, and Sid the Cat was:

"I'd hit it so hard, whomever pulled me out would be the rightful king of England."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baconpunk: In the Event of Impending Apocalypse...

...stock up on canned bacon! Yoder's Canned Bacon (Warning: Baconporn!) to be precise, since there seems to be no alternative.

(yeah, y'all thought I was through with Baconpunk, didn't you? Fat *snicker!* chance.)

"Fully Cooked, Ready to Eat, 12 Cans per case, 40 to 50 slices per can," 10-yr. shelf life, refrigerate after opening, requires adult supervision, consult your cardiologist before using, and only $109.95!

Bacon. Is there any problem it can't make better?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Saturday Night...Uh...Uhhhh...

Oh, hell; as cynical as I am even I can't label this a "Saturday Night Snicker." It's a headstone not far from my father's grave in Riverview Cemetery, Waynesboro, VA and it's one of those things where I really and truly don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Makes me think of the iron dog keeping watch over a little girl's grave in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Howard P!

 Image©Lee Moyer

Yep, today is H. P. Lovecraft's birthday and ya gotta wonder what the ol' boy would have thought about his later influence on popular culture. Maybe this. And as an avowed nihilist he might have appreciated Why We're Here (pdf) and possibly even Who Will Be Eaten First, but the truth is all these things came too late As Joyce Carol Oates pointed out in "The King of the Weird," "{l}ike Poe, Lovecraft died believing himself an ignominious failure. In his most fantastical musings this artist of 'cosmic pessimism' could not have foreseen his posthumous fame."

But we of a certain...twisted...mindset can reap the benefits!

H. P. Lovecraft's Fried Seafood Cart by Todd Schorr

Cthulhu Escaping R'lyeh

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Next-Door Neighbors

Spotted on MetaFilter: Smith Magazine ("Everyone has a story") "takes a bunch of renowned artists and writers from the world of Indie Comics and asks them to tell stories about memorable Next-Door Neighbor experiences.

Well, you know me--I just happen to have a couple of my own.

(1) Throughout the 'Eighties I worked for the University of Virginia and lived in a crappy little 10-unit apartment building* populated mostly by students:

One day I came home to find the cutest, blondest, perkiest, petite-est, friendliest little 1st year female student you could possibly imagine lugging boxes into the apartment next to mine, and so I'm thinking, "Wowsers and yowzers! Let the twitterpation begin!" Unfortunately, it turned out she wasn't the one who was going to be living there; she was merely helping her boyfriend of long standing move in, after which she was heading back to the Independent Duchy of Northern Virginia** to do...whatever.

The Boyfriend seemed nice enough at first, maybe a little fratboyesque, but it wasn't long before his place became Drunken Party Central--booze, dudes, babes, and bad music all weekend, most every weekend, which would have been fine if there'd been any soundproofing between his unit and mine, but there wasn't and I spent many a Saturday night being relentlessly pounded by whatever godawful MTV-derived '80s music was climbing the charts at the time*** and being amazed at how quickly and seamlessly he shifted allegiance to (spectacularly slutty-looking and rather, uh, vocal, if you know what I mean... and I think you do) Girlfriend 2.0.

A couple of months passed and then early one evening I heard a soft, almost plaintive, knock at my door. I opened it and, lo and behold, who should be standing there but Girlfriend 1.0 with an elaborately decorated birthday cake:

"Have you seen (The Boyfriend)? It's his birthday and I wanted to surprise him!"


Since she didn't know the town and had no place else to go I invited her inside to wait... and wait we did. Three hours. Three loooong hours punctuated with foot-tapping, clock-checking, and uncomfortable silences. Eventually, The Boyfriend did return and she dashed out to meet him... only to return thirty minutes later, a tad crestfallen, to say thanks and goodbye.

She drove away and I wound up with the birthday cake.

(2) A year or so after I moved to Richmond I acquired a Golden Retriever named Casey and some new neighbors, a gay couple, whose primary source of entertainment seemed to be arguing LOUDLY with one another, arguments often accompanied by the sound of breaking plates and hurled cutlery. They also had this hideous-looking little dog named Gizmo who soon became Casey's best friend.

As the neighbors' fights became more frequent and increasingly vituperative, Gizmo took to hanging out in my apartment****, lounging on my threadbare sofa with Casey and, eventually, the three of us sleeping together in the bedroom.

Since the neighbors weren't feeding him and he rarely went home, I finally got Gizmo his own food and water bowls figuring well, now I have two dogs (and wondered if I could sue for puppy support)... until I came home from work one evening and found Gizmo missing--the neighbors had broken up and Gizmo's owner had moved out.

I was sad, but Casey was devastated. For the next two months he wandered the apartment and the back yard on a regular basis looking for his buddy; he'd hang out for what seemed like hours at the neighbors' back door then come home, lie down beside Gizmo's food bowl, and... wait.

We never saw Gizmo again.

*110 Carrollton Terrace, Apt. 6. The building itself was atop a hill and my apartment, which you can barely see at the farthest end of this photo, was thirty feet above some active railroad tracks. Noisiest place I've ever lived and that includes Boston and New Orleans.

**Virginians do not consider Northern Virginia to be an actual part of the Commonwealth; this is probably because people from Northern Virginia believe the geography beneath them is also...beneath them. They insist that the land due south of Prince William Co. is Deliverance country, full of banjo music, hookworms, inbreeding, and sodomy.

***Thereby interfering with my ongoing and intensive study of the deconstructionist thematics in Beany and Cecil.

****An easy task since I kept the back door open at all times. Dogs are great, but they're always on the wrong side of the door.

The Saturday Night Snicker

Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.
--J. B. S. Haldane

So I was talking to my friend Sarah tonight. Now, Sarah is a lovely woman, certainly future ex-wife material*, but she's also something of a Weirdness Magnet. It's her own fault; she actively seeks the strange, which then, of course, sticks to her as if Superglued.

Anyway, Sarah confessed she'd been poking around recently and there amongst the gardening clubs and book clubs and bridge clubs and Vegan groups and so forth and so on she found (I'm not making this up!) the Richmond Werewolf Meetup Group:

"Meet other local people that feel very closely connected to an animal (believe that an animal is part of their soul). All types of shifters and weres are welcome. THIS IS NOT A GAMING GROUP! This is not the land of make believe, this is a group interested in the real deal!"

Great. The furries and otherkin have finally emerged in central Virginia. I suppose it was only a matter of time, but get this: guess where they're holding their August meetup?

You ready?

Waffle House. No, really.

Waffle House!


No, no, no, no, nooooo. If that's where they're going to meet then they need to change their name to The Waffle House Werewolves or, even better, they need to arrive en masse on scooters and call themselves The Waffle House Werewolves on Wheels!

I would SO buy a sweatshirt (in black, natch!) emblazoned with The Wafflehouse Werewolves on Wheels, M. C.! Wouldn't you?

And, oh, sweet Jeebus, tell me that's not the perfect title for a cult novel or a really, really bad movie!


*By the way, please note this: I've promised Sarah my skull after I die, which means someone is going to have to retrieve my head and send it to Skulls, Unlimited for, uh, proper preparation.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Chainsaw Maid

Serendipity is a wonderful thing.

Mere minutes after reading gore-guy Wayne's "And Why Didn't I Think of This?" post (featuring the one-sheet for Creature From the Hillbilly Lagoon which, I'm guessing, is a documentary about what it was like growing up in my hometown) I ran across this totally awesome, totally brutal, blood 'n' guts-filled piece of Claymation Zombie Cinema:

Yeah, that'll get ya goin' on a Saturday morning! Now all we need is for someone to do an updated version of Redneck Rampage and my day will be complete!

Comic Book Memories: Web of Horror

Wayne and JSam will like this one!

I don't know whether it's because of ComicCon 2008, the zeitgeist of the online world, the furor over The Dark Knight, or mere hyperattention on my part, but I've recently noticed a spate of comics-related postings all over the Intarweb*.

Now, generally speaking, I'm not a comic book kind of guy**; in fact, I make fun of those people*** because, well, they annoy me, but when I was younger... hoo, boy! The funny animals phase, the superheroes phase, the war comics phase, the Mad magazine phase, the Underground comix phase...

...and horror comics.

Oh, sweet Jeebus, yes, the horror comics.

I missed out on the EC comics, which were emasculated with a rusty razor and then sanitized unto death less than a year before I was born (thank you very much, Frederic Wertham, you perverted old prig), but I was just in time for Creepy, its slightly younger companion, Eerie, and the slew of lesser-quality rip-offs spawned by various fly-by-night publishers.

The rip-offs were, not surprisingly, pretty lame--long on gore, short on story, lacking in production value (and printed in Smudge-O-Rama); however, there was one stand-out:

Web of Horror.

It had decent stories by decent writers and was illustrated by decent artists (a young Bernie Wrightson, among others) as far as I can recall, but that statement is a little suspect since it's based on the opinions of my significantly unsophisticated 14-yr. old self and I don't have an issue handy. Why? Because... well, because (and here comes the sad lament of Baby Boomers everywhere)... my mom threw mine away!

I won't go into that; it makes me sniffle****, but the glory of the Intarweb is that nothing is ever completely lost--check out these, uh, borrowed images (click to make 'em big):

Trivia: Web of Horror only lasted three issues and as recounted by Bernie Wrightson here,

"{The publisher} just literally packed up and left overnight. We had to take this incredibly long trip to get there—Bruce {Jones} lived in Flushing at the time and from there we took a train to the end of the line and from there we had to take two buses and then walk about 10 blocks to get to the office! It was an all-day thing and we finally get out to the office. It was on the second floor, and we went upstairs, open the door, and the place was empty. All the desks, all filing cabinets, everything, was gone! There were only scraps of paper blowing across the floor—it was like the Twilight Zone—and we never learned where the guy went and what happened to him. We had all this stuff for the fourth issue and we were planning issues five and six—Bruce and I were going to take over the magazine and make it like Creepy or EC Comics—but they just left! Mysteriously, in the middle of the night."

Which, I guess, is an appropriate ending for a magazine of the mysterious and macabre.

*Two examples (and revel in the obsessiveness!), "The Man Who Laughs," which is a nice piece on why The Joker became who and what he is, and this MetaFilter collection of links about Herbie, probably the most bizarre character in comics history.

**Though I have been sucked into the occasional graphic novel, which I greatly prefer to single issue comics. In 1978 there was Will Eisner's A Contract With God, and Don McGregor's Sabre: Slow Fade of An Endangered Species, then in 1986 it was Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale. Later, there was Neil Gaiman's Signal To Noise, Harvey Pekar & Joyce Brabner's Our Cancer Year, Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan series, Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Daniel Clowes' Ghost World.

Incidently, all of the above come highly recommended by yours truly for whatever that's worth.

***Which, obviously from the above, is pretty damn hypocritical on my part. What can I say? I contain a multitude of contradictions.

****Especially given that I had won my copy at a Boy Scout Christmas party in 1969--a rare instance of a pleasant memory from my scouting days which were otherwise a series of horror stories in and of themselves.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blast From the Past:--TAG: The Assassination Game

Over at io9 ("Strung Out on Science Fiction") they've been yakking about "the very best scifi death sports captured on film," including my particular favorites, Rollerball and Death Race 2000 (the originals, not the trashy remakes, thank you very much).

Quick aside: part of what I loved about Death Race 2000 was a young Sylvester Stallone as Machine Gun Joe Viterbo...well, at least his car. Check it out--twin Thompson .45s and a big-ass bayonet dead center, perfect for driving the, uh, seedier parts of Richmond, VA.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about.

No, see, among the more obvious films under consideration (Mad Max: Beyond Blunderdome) was one I was beginning to think no one besides myself had ever seen: T.A.G.: The Assassination Game, starring, of all people, Linda (Terminator) Hamilton!

It's a silly, predictable, almost-suspenseful movie about college students playing a game that suddenly becomes all-too-real, who will live, who will die, blah blah blah, but oh! The game!

Yep, there really is an assassination game known variously as Assassin(s), Killer, KAOS (Killing As An Organized Sport), Gotcha! and so forth and so on...

From one website:
"The basic idea of KAOS is simple. Each player receives a weapon and a target to hunt. Annoying constraints such as lawsuits and noise complaints from elderly inhabitants prevent us from using actual firearms. These are replaced by silent, non-lethal plastic guns of dubious South-East Asian origin. In any case, each player is being hunted by another player. If you are killed by your hunter, you are out of the game. If you survive and make your kills, you live. Eventually, only one player remains."

...and I want to play. Sweet Jeebus, do I want to play! Plenty of rules and logistical considerations online and there's even a (sadly, out-of-print, but I have a copy) book. Click the pics for further info.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems with this idea, problems as in (1) personally, I don't know enough people in one location who'd be interested, much less mature enough to not get, shall we say, carried away and (2) in these days of heightened Homeland Security a bunch of people running around with ersatz weaponry and no interest in a loooong vacation at Guantanamo Bay could possibly generate a few...problems.


One more thing for my list of fantasy doings.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Odds & Ends, Steampunk Version

In the off-chance you hadn't heard, Steampunk has emerged from its Victorian closet and hit the streets...uh...the fog-ridden, cobblestoned, gaslighted avenues of popular imagination, kinda, sorta, what with such things as a New York Times Fashion & Style article ("Steampunk Moves Between 2 Worlds") and a humorous piece in McSweeney's ("Mom, Dad, I'm Into Steampunk").

Okaaaay, then.

Nothing against Steampunk as genre; I like that part of it, but its recent incarnation as a lifestyle/fashion statement/subculture throws me a little off-balance. Lolita Fashion? Neo-Victorianism? WTF?

Still, there are some decidedly cool aspects to (forgive the oxymoron) Modern Steampunk, such as this War of the Worlds Martian tripod sculpture in Woking, England:

(see more fantabulous pics here)

And the case modders are having a field day:

(The Steampunk Laptop)

But for me, Steampunk means STEAM and the place to go for steam is Crabfu Steamworks!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Fishnets For Vigoda!

Or, Let's Start An Internet Meme!

It's probably a bad idea allowing me online without adult supervision, especially when my friend Wayne is added to the mix, but, well, things happen.

You may recall from The Saturday Night Snicker that Wayne and I went into schoolboy convulsions imagining unlikely actors portraying The Joker; Ernest Borgnine and Abe Vigoda being the candidates we found most hilarious.* Well, one thing led to another and finally we decided ol' Abe really, really needed greater Internet appreciation, best accomplished with a viral meme (click for larger image, not that you'd want one**)

So Friday evening Wayne sent out a mass mailing...

Hey, everyone. This is a joint request from myself and GW Ferguson in his Secret Lab up in the Virginia hills. I am attaching a photo. Of Abe Vigoda in fishnets. If you are doing a different blog tonight, simply add this one as well. GW and I would like to see the subject heading as "Fishnets For Vigoda" on each blog so that this would appear very high up on the Googleometer.

Again, a simple request. In return, I shall mail everybody who does this a bus token good for any ride in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. My late Uncle Tony owned a tool & die joint and left me about three hundred tokens.

Let's do this and make Abe Vigoda the star he is!!!



...and I posted hither and yon...

Want to be part of something...different...on a Friday night? Well, my pal Wayne and I are trying to start an internet meme, "Fishnets For Vigoda!," and what we'd like you to do is make a blog post somewhere, somehow, entitled (duh!) "Fishnets For Vigoda" and include this picture (safe for work, but not your sanity).

Tell your friends, your family, that creepy guy with a laptop in the corner of the coffee shop! Let's make "Fishnets For Vigoda" register HIGH on the ol' Google-o-meter!

It's in the wild now, so let's see what happens.

*Or not. After all, it was Lon Chaney, Sr. who once said "A clown may be amusing in a circus ring, but what would be your reaction to opening your door and finding that same clown on your front step at midnight?" Admit it--there would be something undeniably...disturbing...about either Borgnine or Vigoda in Joker makeup. Which reminds me of a slightly off-topic story:

Soon after the release of Blue Velvet, Dennis Hopper (who played the seriously deranged Frank Booth) made an appearance on David Letterman and good ol' Dave asked the question on everyone's mind at the time (well, one of them)--what was it Frank was huffing during certain scenes? According to Hopper, the script originally stated it was helium, but that was David Lynch's idea and Lynch, apparently, was significantly drug-naive. Hopper explained to him that helium would do nothing except give the character a Donald Duck-like voice and then suggested amyl nitrite, to which Lynch acceded, saying really, what it was didn't matter. And then Lynch paused and said something to the effect of "but, you know, it would be really interesting if we did do it with helium."

And to this day I can't listen to "In Dreams" without thinking of Donald Duck screaming "Don't you fucking look at me!"

**You know, for something as simple as attaching a pair of fishnet be-stockinged legs to a portrait of Abe Vigoda, that was a LOT of work! I don't have Photoshop and, sure, I could have downloaded GIMP, but that seemed akin to hunting rabbits with nuclear weapons--overkill. I made use of what I had: Microsoft Paint, the software that came with my (aging and obsolete) Olympus D-380 camera, OpenOffice, back and forth, clipping and cropping, erasing this and that, converting to monochrome...whew!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Porn Tales (Not What You Think)

Over at Whitechapel,* Warren Ellis's discussion forum, they've been talking about porn shops (see so i just got to scream at a 60-ish year old man). Well, actually, they're mostly talking about what the porn shop counter clerks have to put up with from their customers, so, of course, I had to tell my little story:

(and, yes, I've told this before elsewhere but that was long ago and far away...)

From the other side of the counter...

My (former) girlfriend decided she wanted to get something...special...for her brother's boyfriend's birthday and so she asked me to take her to one of the local adult bookstores to see if they might have something...appropriate. Now, you have to understand that the girlfriend was a little hard of hearing and tended to speak RATHER LOUDLY at all times.

We get there and since this is the South where real, live, flesh-and-blood women simply do not appear in traditional adult bookstores (we have Priscilla's for those desiring an experience less filled with sleaze), we create something of a stir amongst the three or four customers, who shoot us nervous glances while kinda, sorta trying to disguise their sealed copies of Leather Lads and Tales of the Dungeon Master. Their unease increased as the Girlfriend started to look around and ask questions:



"IS THERE SUCH A THING AS GAY KARAOKE PORN?" (the brother's boyfriend was a big Karaoke fan)

The manager looked at me helplessly, I shrugged, saying "Hey, she's the one buying!", and the aforementioned customers quickly and quietly replaced their potential purchases and sped off into the night.

*Oh, the number of posts I've written in my head that begin with "Over at Whitechapel..." It is a prime source of bloggery inspiration and if I can ever conquer my innate laziness you shall read them all.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Saturday Night Snicker

So it's Saturday night and I'm sitting around cruising the Intarweb before heading off to my 11:00 p. m. Super-Secret Support Group meeting when I run across my friend Wayne's blog entry discussing, among many other things, the new Batman movie. The take-home message was how difficult it was reconciling Heath Ledger the actor with Heath-Ledger-as-Joker:

"Seriously, if I had been in space for the last several years (not an unlikely possibility) and I saw the film (back on Earth) and was asked who played Joker, well, I'd have needed several dozen guesses, after ruling out the obvious, Ernest Borgnine, Abe Vigoda, either of the Olsen twins, Mr. Food."

Which got me to thinking:

"THERE'S an image for ya: Ernest Borgnine or Abe Vigoda playing The Joker in some Bizarro World Batman movie. Oh, I would SO love to see that! Oh, shit. Now that image is embedded in my braaaaain!"

To which Wayne responded:

"The outfits would be crotchless, front and back. Fishnets for Vigoda. Hey, Rev. Let's come up with something involving the tag phrase 'Fishnets For Vigoda.' Let's go viral."

And we should! Forget Andre the Giant, it's Abe Vigoda all the way!