Sunday, October 9, 2011

Countdown To Halloween--Day 9 (Coffins!)

Halloween should be a time for spooky gift-giving; in fact, no less a luminary than Neil Gaiman has modestly suggested a new tradition, All Hallow's Read, wherein we give one another scary books during, or during the week of, Halloween. As a tried and true, through-and-through, book junkie, I cannot express how much this idea thrills me! On the other hand, sometimes a book just isn't enough, especially in this, the Post-Literate Age, in which case something else from the spooky category might be appropriate.

Say, coffins.

Well, maybe coffin-shaped objects; real coffins/caskets are a tad on the expensive side, $2000 and up plus as much as $500 shipping (yes, I've done the research. Go away.).

Got a cat? Want a Gothic Kitty? Check out Coffin It Up's cat bed (found via Catsparella):

Got a Gothic Kiddie? Check out Monster High's Draculaura Jewelry Box Coffin-- part jewelry box, part doll-sized coffin canopy bed:

Need that perfect finishing piece for your Gothic mantle? Black Rose Gothic Clothing Emporium has a simply lovely coffin clock:

For big-budget items, there's all sorts of coffin furniture at, including the Caravagio Gothic Display Cabinet:

But sooner or later, most of us are going to need a real coffin, of which there are gazillions on the Intarwebs. I'm partial to this particular model from Tribute Direct:

Might also make a nice bed, if you're of a morbid bent of mind. Not that I would ever consider such a thing... no, not I!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Countdown To Halloween--Day 8 (Minnie the Moocher!)

Not exactly about Halloween, but it fits the mood...

Ages ago I wrote about the things that scared me as a kid in "Can't Sleep; Clown Will Eat Me." I left out one particular item, a Betty Boop cartoon so damn... surreal... so outright... spooky... it haunts me to this day.

It starts out simply enough: Betty take a pro-ana stance with her parents, infuriating them, and so, after calling her friend Bimbo (ahem!), she runs away from home. Night descends, things get spooky, and the two of them seek refuge in a convenient cave (yeah, that's a good place to hide), whereupon a ghostly walrus strutting in the style of Cab Calloway sings (with the help of Cab's voice and band) "Minnie the Moocher." Weirdness ensues.

Scat-singing skeletons drink themselves to death...

...And reappear as ghosts.

The backgrounds are particularly disturbing when you're 5.
So is the idea of a dancing, singing, ghostly walrus.

My little brain, conditioned to funny cartoons, had
a bit of difficulty assimilating all this.

Three ghostly prisoners are politely escorted to electric chairs...

...take their seats willingly, scatting all the way...

...And are executed, only to pop up for one more chorus.

Another disturbing image for a 5-yr.-old.

And wtf is going on with Momma cat and her kittens?

Here's the all-singing, all-dancing portion of the cartoon:

Nor is this an anomaly for the Fleischers; check out the musical portion of their version of Snow White (doubly disturbing backgrounds here, by the way):

A far cry from, oh, say, Hugh Laurie:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Countdown To Halloween--Day 7 (Poe!)

Today, as you may know, is the 162nd anniversary of the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe. I've babbled about this before, in ...Wearing Clothes That Were Not His Own and in This Time the Burial ISN'T Premature! (where you can see Sarah J. and me paying special tribute to Edgar at the Poe Museum here in Richmond, VA), so I won't belabor the point. What I will say is, long before the Intarwebs decided H. P. Lovecraft and Great Cthulhu were ├╝ber-memes, cultural poachers focused their attention upon Poe.

And who better? While Lovecraft grappled with dark, unspeakable cosmic forces infesting the universe with malign intent with humans merely inconsequential window dressing, Poe dealt with what were essentially human tragedies, albeit deeply macabre ones. Nothing wrong with either approach, but there's something more... personal... in Poe's stories.

Which makes them that much more unnerving.

And perfect for late-night October reading.

Occasional fake date Sarah J. and I pay tribute at the Poe Birthday Bash in Richmond, VA, January 19, 2009

"Happy Poe" by JSam

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Countdown To Halloween--Day 6 (Repost!)

It's just not Halloween until someone posts a seasonally appropriate dessert recipe, only this time, instead of pumpkin bread and somesuch, we have...

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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Countdown To Halloween--Day 5 (Charles Addams!)

Probably no one could do Halloween like Charles Addams (nice profile here)!

In searching The New Yorker's online archive I happened across two non-Addams Halloween covers I particularly like:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Countdown Lagniappe 2

In my previous post, I babbled about Dick Smith's Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-Up Handbook and its influence on an entire generation of Monster Kids. I neglected to add "And after we tore up Mom's make-up table and Dad's workshop, we went on to make our own monster movies." No, really; lots of kids did... including the kid posse of which I was a part (Moriser Productions, {Severely} Ltd.). Here's the proof:


Yes, that is your humble blogger as the monster.
See me on fire starting at 7:36 and fully ablaze at 8:40.
And that's not acting, that's panic.


Countdown To Halloween--Day 4 (Make-Up!)

When I was a kid, way, way back in the 'Sixties, when the world was young and Shock Theater ruled the airwaves, when Forrest J Ackerman was nigh-on a god and Famous Monsters of Filmland was the Word and the Light, there one day appeared on the newsstands a special edition of FM, the...

And, oh! The World changed for many a Monster Kid! Now, instead of reading about monsters and thinking about monsters and dreaming of monsters, we could BECOME MONSTERS! At least, for a little while (though our parents might have disagreed).

Halloween would never be the same. The cheesy Collegeville costumes from the local five and dime? Forget 'em. Kid stuff. Let's raid mom's make-up table for eyebrow pencils and cold cream, figure out how to get our hands on some liquid latex and mortician's wax, appropriate ping pong balls, model paints, Karo syrup, food coloring, brushes and sponges and gauze and whatever, take over the bathroom and MAKE SOME MONSTERS! Rick Baker started out this way during his freshman year of high school, as a matter of fact.

Oh, it was great, messy, sometimes disappointing and sometimes surprising fun!

The Handbook stayed in print for some years, then eventually became a collector's item. Eventually, Imagine, Inc. acquired the rights and published it as a paperbound volume through five editions. It's currently out of print, but used copies are available all over the Intarwebs.

Better still, walt74 has made the pages of the original handbook available as a flickr set. If you're looking for a good introduction to fantasy make-up, if you need a few good ideas for this year's Halloween costume, if you're thinking about doing a Zombie Walk but don't know how to zombify yourself (and, especially, if you want to learn the secret to making gallons of stage quickly and cheaply), look no further!

The blogger in his decadent Super-8 youth, make-up and fx courtesy of JSam: