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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Since I Have No Life...

...I live vicariously through the lives of others, in this case my friend Sarah.

So I was watching a rerun of That '70s Show this evening (because I have an incredible, horrible, completely inappropriate and undeniably creepy schoolboy-type crush on Laura Prepon) when I got a text message:

world's biggest douche bag* is at (local 19th Century celebrity writer-themed pub** featuring live music having nothing to do with aforementioned 19th Century celebrity writer). he keeps saying he runs a restaurant. he's a manager at (somewhat pretentious restaurant chain specializing in Italian food for people who don't really like Italian food***) in colonial heights****. ps he brought his tarot cards

To which I replied:

Boys in bars with Tarot cards make the baby Jeebus cry.

I speak from experience.

Years ago I lived in New Orleans and spent hanging out in a bar called The Dungeon***** (on Toulouse St. next to Molly's Irish Pub and about the only place in the French Quarter were one could hear Lou Reed's Rock 'N' Roll Animal and at a volume sufficient to sterilize toads at 2000 yards), slinging back whiskey sours or a noxious mix of Wild Turkey and grapefruit juice (I was going through a Hunter Thompson phase). Problem was, my thirst for alcohol and my ability to pay for it didn't exactly coincide, so I came up with a little plan involving a pack of Tarot cards and and incredible line of bulshytt--fiddle around with the deck until someone expressed curiosity about these weird-ass cards (Tarot was not so well-known in those days) then offer 'em a "reading" in exchange for a drink or two.

This particular scam worked surprisingly well and I often managed to get decently plastered for under five dollars. The downside was I developed a serious drinking problem and a horrifically cynical view of humankind.

So, Sarah, if you wanted further proof of your ex's assholery--as if you needed it--the Tarot cards are the icing on the cake and the turd in the punchbowl.

*Ex-boyfriend who, obviously, continues to elicit intense feelings of anger and resentment. Witness our recent MySpace exchange:

From: sarah hates you
Date: Sep 14, 2008 8:53 PM

i was going to send a message about being bored, but then i saw your profile. what are more than one of my ex boyfriends doing on your page? greg i can understand, but do you have to have a picture of the ultimatly more evil one on there. yeah, that's his wailing bed wetting face in the picture of roslyn. seriously? you're friends with them. i highly disapprove.
From: G. W.
Date: Sep 14, 2008 11:36 PM

Seriously? Purely coincidence; I had no idea. When local (i.e., Richmond-based) groups ask for an add I just do it whether I know who they are or not (some people appreciate the additional numbers). I have NO problem deleting, but you're going to owe me a night of strip Risk or a one-shot X-rated D&D game.
From: sarah hates you
Date: Sep 14, 2008 11:53 PM

if you want to stretch it, both in the picture are ex's. the peruvian one only lasted a couple weeks. you can make up for it by saving your cat litter. anne and i will be needing it later. we're going to dump it on his front lawn.
From: G. W.
Date: Sep 15, 2008 1:38 PM

So, you're saying I'm going to be an accessory to a drive-by kitty littering? Oh, yeah, baby; LET THE POOPIE CHAOS BEGIN!

As a matter of fact, I have a trash bag-full ripening in the kitchen even as we!

**Which really should be a Goth bar except that the Goth population in Richmond isn't large enough to support a full-time Goth bar.

***Aka "McDonalli's"

****Often referred to by long-term residents as "Colonial Whites."

*****Off-hours, indeed. Super-Secret Support Group members who've heard my story will recognize this as "(the) bar which opened at midnight and closed at 8 a. m. Ya know how I know it closed at 8? That's when they asked me to leave." Now named "Ye Olde Original Dungeon" it has, as far as I can tell from its website, been tarted up and sanitized considerably, but back in '78/'79 it was dark and dank and seamy, full of leather-clad bikers, darkside hippies, budding alcoholics, and a surprising number of Wicca-oriented proto-Goth girls in black who'd read too much Ann Rice and were seeking their vampire lovers (or had just seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the zillionth time and figured here was where they were most likely to encounter Dr. Frank N. Furter, esq.). In fact, the Dungeon was the Urschleim from which Goth bars arose.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Your Morning Poetry Jam

Dear "Canadian Viagra" Spambots:

Well, I don't know how you do it*, but you always manage to outwit my ISP's fine-mesh e-mail filters. Y'all are pretty damn clever.

I must admit I admire your tenacity. I mean, for years you've been sending me innumerable variations of your basic premise ("a longer, stronger you!") and for years I've been dutifully deleting your daily electronic promise to transform me into a Throbbing Python of Love. Not once have I expressed even an iota of interest in your products, yet you continue devoting time and resources trying to convince me to take advantage of what has got to be the longest-running limited-time offer ever.

See, here's the deal: unless you're offering a package deal (drugs and a willing Jessica Alba), your products are of no use to me. I'm just not a playa'. Hell, I haven't had even a date since June of 1999 and me being who and what I am, I'm unlikely to have one any time in the foreseeable future.

You're taunting me and that's not very nice.

I'd gripe more loudly, but according to the latest from the Virginia Supreme Court, "the ability to be anonymous (is) more important than the problem of spam."


Here's a question: has anyone ever taken you up on your offer? No? Have you considered a modest career change? You latest missive leads me to believe you could have a promising future in the field of avant-garde/post-modern poetry! No, really! Look:

eat succour bushwhack

LaEeVsImTsReA - $3.64
FoEMAcLE VwIoAvGsRnA - $1.54
CsIzAaLzIcS - $1.97
SOnuMA - $0.45
UeLoTsReAuM - $0.43

work mammon

That's great stuff! I subscribe to LiveJournal and occasionally read Poetry magazine, so I've read far worse. Seriously, there could be a whole new world of Arts and Letters just waiting for you.

And maybe then you'd stop cramming your crap in my in-box.

*actually, I do, but that's neither here nor there.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Image of the Beast

Speaking of books...

Okay, we weren't, but it's a dark, gray, and rainy Saturday morning as Tropical Storm Hanna passes through Virginia and I'm having difficulty mustering the motivation to do much of anything beyond some Intarweb-assisted free association, which means I'm thinking about books. Hey, at least I'm not Googling the names of former girlfriends and would-be-girlfriends-except-they-really-didn't-like-me-all-that-much; that's gotta count for something!


Many years ago (during college in the '70s, actually) I got caught up in Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series (instead of focusing on the intricacies of microbial genetics or the workings of the Winogradsky column). Since I tend to become a tad... obsessed... about stuff, you might understand why I then sought out every damn thing the man had ever written, just as I do with every author who fascinates me.

With PJF that wound up being a mixed bag. The man has an incredibly odd imagination, which can sometimes be a bit...uh...let's say off-putting, and yet he's managed to publish and keep in print an absolute shitload of stuff.

Oh, and he pretty much introduced sex to science fiction.

So there's my awkward-ass, not-quite-a-segue to Image of the Beast and its sequel, Blown, a couple of multi-genre-crossing novels originally released by erotica/porn publisher Essex House.

Briefly (from the collection of reviews on Farmer's own web page),

"THE IMAGE OF THE BEAST (1968) is a tongue-in-cheek horror cum porno sf thriller set in an eerie smog ridden Los Angeles where Herald Childe*, a laconic gumshoe down on his luck gets involved in gruesome encounters with a curious sexual underworld where Farmer blends vampirism and alien invaders to good effect. If the symbolic structure of the book is somewhat awry at times, the shock effects and perverse encounters Farmer literally scatters throughout the plot are genuinely original."

"Farmer calls both THE IMAGE OF THE BEAST and BLOWN (1969) its less assured sequel (where Forry Ackerman and his famed book collection become major characters), exorcisms, and one supposes that what needs exorcising is the beast in man, the terrifying Dionysian destructiveness his hero encounters."

"The images Farmer uses are outrageous: we see the detective's partner being castrated by a beautiful woman with a set of false iron teeth and a sinister, almost parodic Dracula figure; another major character has a snake-like symbiotic character living in her vagina. Farmer had of course become a past master at outre' "biosexopsychic" situations in his earlier books and better short stories, but the editorial carte blanche of Essex House allowed his imagination to take full, fluent flight. It is not always in the best of taste, but he is certainly a master of startling speculative concepts. (Maxim Jakubowski)"

Note that "Forry Ackerman" reference; it's important. That's Forrest J Ackerman, noted SF fan, collector, former editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland (1958-1983), and, because of the latter, a seminal part of my childhood.

Now, when Ray Ferry revived Famous Monsters in 1993** he started things off with a huge launch party chock-full of SF/Fantasy/Horror celebrity guests including Forry. Since this event was being staged in Crystal City, VA and I figured never again would so many of my heroes be so close to my home (or alive, for that matter), I called up my friend Sam*** and coerced him into going with me for a weekend of autograph-hunting, celebrity-stalking, and intensive Monster Geekery.

And I took along my copy of Image of the Beast.

I figured it would be pretty cool to get Forry's autograph on something besides a back issue of Famous Monsters. That, and I wondered what, exactly, his reaction would be to something so off-beat and obscure, so I kept looking for an opportunity to corner him and get his signature, but, as you might imagine, he was pretty busy the entire weekend. However, at one point the organizers did set up a signing table and I quickly joined the long line of adoring fans while clutching my little paperback in my sweaty, not-so-little hand. Eventually my turn came and as I handed my book over to Forry he shot me this...look...and asked,

"Does your mother know you have this?"

I couldn't resist, not with such a perfect straight line.

"Does your mother know you're in this?

Bless his heart, he laughed, signed the inside cover, gave me a wink, and sent me on my merry way.

*Get it? Herald Childe? As in heralding a new age? As in "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" by Lord Byron? Oh, and later on in Blown we find out he's to be the leader of a gang of warring aliens because he's a descendant of--guess who?--Byron. About as subtle as a baseball bat to the crotch.

**Thereby unleashing a storm of controversy resulting in lawsuits a-plenty. See the Wikipedia article. Ray Ferry presents the his side of the story in Life is But A Scream! The True Story of the Rebirth of Famous Monsters of Filmland.

***The man who introduced me to Famous Monsters back in the '60s and, consequently, horror film fandom. Much of who I am today we can blame on Sam.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

It's Christmas In September!

So I wander home from work today to find a package on my doorstep. "Hot diggety damn!" I said to myself (or words to that effect). "My copy of Neal Stephenson's Anathem got here before the official release date! All hail the Mighty Power that is!"

But I was mistaken. It was better than a package from Amazon; it was a package from Psycho Soul Brother Wayne!

And what was inside? Well, some cool pics, a cool note and...


James C. attempts to integrate such a thing into his world view.


Rob L. has a mixed reaction. Or maybe not-so-mixed...

Ariel, on the other hand, is a bit scandalized...

...but then decides everything's cool.

Thanks, Wayne! The day was turning into something of a SuckfestTM for reasons I'll not go into tonight, but you made it a whole lot better.

So, do ya think I'm psycho, mama?