Friday, December 30, 2005

New Universal Monster novels

I loooove the Universal monsters, Dracula, the Frankenstein Monsters, the Wolf man et al. (The Creature from the Black Lagoon, not so much)

I get excited every time a stab is made at keeping the trademarks alive, good or bad.

The Bad

The Good

  • The Return of the Wolf Man - Go figure. It's a paperback that picks up right after Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and is like one of the old movies in print.

My buddy sent me news from Sci-Fi Wire of some new novels from Dark Horse that will feature the Universal favorites:

Dracula: Asylum and Wolf Man: Hunter's Moon. The latter interests me most. Features Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man, pursued by a cult devoted to killing werewolves.

Both should be lots of fun.

Speaking of vampires and werewolves: reports that the Official Underworld: Evolution site is online. Features quite a few wallpapers, a game, trailer, vampire and werewolf family trees and a poster I believe would qualify as wicked cool.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ashley's Eyes

Ashley is the second cat to turn up on our doorstep, arriving a few months back. He won my wife's heart after just a few days and manged to work his way inside with the coming of cold weather.

He was hungry when he first arrived and had a terrible case of ear mites, so severe that he had scratched sores over his ears. We ran an ad to find his owner in our local paper but got no answers, so we took him in.

Eye problem
We realized immediately he had problems with one eye as well. Worried that there might be cancer present, our vet suggested that we might need to remove the eye.

He gave us the option of seeing a specialist, however, so we took Ash in today for his appointment with a kitty opthamologist.

She determined the problem was not melanoma. Some time in the past he suffered a severe injury to the eye, possibly even a shot of some kind, maybe a BB or pelet gun.

It mangled the retina badly although outside the eye is entact.

A case study
It was such an odd case she had the other doctors in the practice look at him. He took it all quite well.

Apparently this condition could turn into a sarcoma down the road, so his eye will have to be monitored as time goes on.

To have been through so much, he's one of the best pets we've ever had.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Will the Netflix Lead Last?

Netflix is reporting their challenge from Blockbuster has not eroded their lead in the online DVD rental industry.

As a customer since 2002, I was rooting for them most of the way, but I'm not sure their market share is going to continue if many renters are getting the treatment I'm getting. Am I seeing the ugly head of throttling, the industry's suspected practice of slowing down a heavy renter's turnaround? I ain't that heavy a renter!

Have you seen a movie lately?
Lately it seems I pretty much have to report a movie missing to get them to even check it in. I mean days and days pass before things get moving in my cue, and I live about two hours from the distribution center.

I was talking to my sister-in-law over Christmas who told me as Blockbuster by-mail customers she and my brother-in-law have had great turnaround times. He's rewatched much of the old Wiseguy season one with very short lag times between return, check in and the arrival of a new disk.

Granted they live a little closer to the distribution center than I do, but a couple of days to get through the mail is about all it should take. Even with holidays and heavy mail slowdowns I sent "Mr. and Mrs. Smith back more than a week ago and it's now showing to have been checked in today.

For the first time ever, I'm thinking I may leave Netflix and swap over to their competitors in yellow and blue.

Monday, December 26, 2005

What's on the iPod - Week of 12/25/2005

It's a video iPod after all this week. I couldn't decide on anything I wanted more for Christmas, so Christine managed to get it under the wire and under the tree by yesterday morning.

I like it - like seeing the album covers on the tunes and the video I've watched so far is crisp and clear, mainly in trailers - The Hills Have Eyes (featuring Lost's Emilie de Ravin) and Mission Impossible III.

My favorite so far, however, is the Washington Post's "Year in Pictures" vodcast.

It's an emotional spin through stunning news photographs happy and sad from the Post's metro, national and world sections and more.

Check it out on iTunes or visit

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

This year more than ever we're celebrating the holidays in segments. We've been east and west, stopping in one weekend with one set of relatives and the next with another.

The formal celebration began Thursday night with a stopover by my wife Christine's sister and her kids.

It continues today with our formal dinner together at home which has become the cornerstone of our personal tradition. I thought last Christmas would be my mom's last, but instead we'll be visiting her shortly and tomorrow it's one more trip to see family on my dad's side.

It's been a calm, quiet month of visits with shopping mixed in.

That's the way we roll, and I'm kind of happy with that.

May everyone who drops by this corner of the web have a wonderful personal celebration.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

I'd been believing a lie about innocent flowers

During my stint as a research librarian, I frequently had to find the legend of that favorite bright red Christmas flower for patrons. It's a Little Drummer Boy-like story of a boy with no gift for the Christ child, so he delivers a humble bouquet of weeds that turn into bright red poinsettias.

It's one of those Christmas asides, sort of like the Yule season variation on Easter's Legend of the Dogwood, I guess. It's sort of the myth that justifies the real reason we send the potted flowers: 'Cause they're red. Another example of the value of story and myth, I suppose.

Another myth
Blind fool that I am, I've believed a different poinsettia myth for years now. God as my witness, I thought poinsettias were poison.

My favorite argument-settling site,, has opened my eyes. You may not want to add red flower petals to the holiday menu, but they're not as lethal as we're usually led to believe.

Snopes reveals that story stems from a misdiagnosis in 1919.

Another example that urban myth never lets the truth get in the way of a good story.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Podcast Christmas Carol is here

A Podcast Christmas Carol that I mentioned in an earlier post is now online.

The adaptation set's the story in the present day, giving Scrooge a new profession, and it's great fun.

He's in the radio industry, and his visits from the Christmas ghosts allow the podcasters who put this together to unfold a stinging commentary about radio conglomerates and homogenization.

It's a retelling true to the spirit of the original but with an interesting spin.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dude, you're burnin' a Marketing Opportunity

Dell issued a press release the other day announcing that it would recall 35,000 notebook batteries that miiiiiiiiight "pose a fire risk."

They made the annoucement in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. Apparently a couple of coffee tables or desks have been damanged but no laps to date.

The spin
I think there could be a spin on the whole situation that could be turned into marketing opportunities:

1. Harness the technology - make the batteries flash on demand instead of their own whim.

2. Annouce that in the event of loss or theft the internal self-destruct mechanism can be activated to avoid the compromise of sensitive data on your hard drive i.e. grocery lists, bad poetry, digital photos of your thumb.

It could also make for a real nasty surprise for anyone who swipes your computer.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Don't know if I can live up to this

My fortune cookie at lunch had one of my more esoteric fortunes in a while:

"You are the only flower of meditation in the wilderness."

I try to be contemplative, though occasionally I'm hot under the collar.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This sounds like quite a party

Not doing anything a couple of days after Christmas?

The Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana, needs 70 volunteers to pull off what almost sounds like a practical joke. The kind you might have come up with as a teenager -- flushing the facility's roughly 200 toilets.

According to the Associated Press, Cajundome officials want to have toilets tested on Dec. 27 in preparation for a January concert. They're worried about post-Katrina plumbing damage and need volunteers to help identify problem areas.

So the volunteers will be flushing toilet paper down over a brief period of time.

I'm betting they draw a big crowd.

Read the full story and find out where to call to volunteer here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

What's on the iPod - Week of 12-18-2005 - New Scientist Podcast

I always stop by the New Scientist website to check the headlines. You never know when a scientific breakthrough is going to spark a story idea.

I was happy to discover the magazine/website was also producing a podcast. It's one of the best I've run across, slickly produced and always interesting.

Segments are drawn from the pages of New Scientist magazine, and yeah, they'd like you to go ahead and subscribe after listening, but the 'casts stand alone as info bursts about everything from new Alzheimer's discoveries to the sonic weaponry that recently thwarted pirates off the coast of Somalia.

If you're at all interested in science news, this one's worth a listen.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


originally uploaded by willysid.
I believe my journey to great pictures has a few more steps. I touched up the colors on this one moderately in Photoshop 7 using blending layers.

My buddy, Robert the Professional Photographer, has offered suggestions about white balance. So far with my Sureshot S50 I've had better luck letting the auto white balance do the job, but I’ve tugged the manual out again to study a little more.

Robert's philosophy
I find I'm self conscious about walking around with a camera. Working at a keyboard is a much more solitary and less conspicuous way of creating.

I am working to follow Robert's philosophy that the subjects you need for great photographs are close at hand - you don't necessarily have to travel the world to find beauty. He did a showing recently that included a series of black and whites of a single tree.

In keeping with that this shot is behind my day-job office.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

King Kong menaces small Southern town

My aunt Maude didn't speak English. She spoke a language of her own made up of not-always-easy-to-understand euphemisms. I was an adult before I realized that when she spoke of a girl she knew having "boogers" in her head that she meant lice and not the nostril by-product we all try to avoid. The described phenomenon had always puzzled me up until my epiphany.

The King arrives
Any anecdote from Aunt Maude required a bit of interpretation. So I have this story from her lips but not with precise details. I never heard her actually say that it was King Kong she and her siblings went to see, but I believe 1933 would have been a reasonable time frame for the incidents she described.

On the night in question, several members of their large family went to see a scary movie. I can't remember what clues helped me ascertain it was Kong, but somewhere over the years I did.

Watermelon dreams
After the movie, everyone returned home for watermelon, and then they all went to sleep.

Dozing with a stomach full of watermelon, my aunt began to have vivid nightmares, so vivid she woke believing they were real. She went to my uncle's room and got him convinced something was wrong as well. I've never heard the words "giant gorilla" so I'm not sure what fueled their planned evacuation.

Even though he had not been dreaming, he tossed on a coat and they started waking other members of the household in preparation for a grand escape from the sketchily defined evil. Luggage may have even been involved, so apparently it was a persistent threat.

Folie à deux or more
Somewhere in the flurry, my Grandmother was awakened. Not having attended the film, she provided the voice of reason that finally quelled the shared psychosis.

The homestead was not abandoned. Heartbeats returned to normal, but for all of their adult lives, the family members there that night laughed about the time Maude woke everybody up.

I tell this now because I think it's a clear sign of the original film's power, and an indicator of why 70 some odd years later there's a remake.

After I see it, I think I'll be careful about what I eat.

J.N. Williamson dies

I was sad to open an e-mail from my buddy Wayne this morning and learn that Jerry Williamsom had passed away on Dec. 8 in a nursing home. He was known to most readers as J.N. Williamson and was one of those astonishingly prolific authors as well as editor of the Masques horror anthologies.

A friend who lived near his Indiana stomping grounds once told me his hometown newspaper had set a special interval for articles about his books because there were so many.

Brief meeting
I think it was at a World Horror Convention in Nashville--though conventions and hotel lobbies run together--that I sat with him and some other friends and chatted a while in the lobby about books we'd liked or tales we wanted to tell.

I've read many of his books over the years and have a few in my personal stacks that I have yet to get around to. Ironically he popped into my mind the other day and I wondered how he was doing.

Some of my favorites of his books are Noonspell and Brotherkind, an aliens among us thriller. I didn't know until the e-mail that Wayne's featured fictionally in Noonspell as a cop who's killed off.

More information

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Colin Farrell and Jamie Fox in the "Miami Vice" Trailer

In one of those new product placement deals, the Miami Vice trailer is now available on a Bacardi site. The film stars Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett and Jamie Fox as Ricardo Tubbs, and it's interesting to see the looks that have been developed for the two.

Appears it's a drooping mustache instead of five o'clock shadow for Crockett and stylish suits and a goatee for Tubbs - none of those South Beach pastels from the eighties.

A Podcast Christmas Carol

Noticed on iTunes a Podcast Christmas Carol is coming up, a collective effort by a group of Podcasters.

I'm a big fan of Old Time Radio and of everyone's favorite Christmas ghost story, so I'm interested to hear how this turns out. Oddly, I never get tired of A Christmas Carol, no matter how many times it's redone. I'm even reasonably fond of the Jack Palance Western version.

Have a Patrick Stewart Christmas
Years ago--wow, too many when I think about it--I bought a CD of Patrick Stewart's one-man rendition of A Christmas Carol for Christine from the Signal's catalog.

She's not a big fan of Star Trek, Next Gen or otherwise, but she's always like Capt. Picard.

The CD quickly became mine, and I've listened to it around Christmas many years. Last year it became one of the first non-songs on my iPod along.

It's another of my personal traditions, I guess.

As scholars note, ACC was written at a time when Christmas traditions were dying out. The work was an important part of revitalizing the season, and I think that's why it's always welcome.

It's romantic Victorian setting and its tale of redemption is perpetually new and universal. When Scrooge finally says: "I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year," he's really speaking for all of us, wearied by the day to day grind but refreshed by the spirit of the holidays.

Like the Goo Goo Dolls say in "Better Days," it's the night the "world begins again."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

What's on the iPod - 12-11-2005

I discovered John Altenburgh's Christmas at Buzz's Restaurant online as Christmas 2000 approached, more or less giving birth to one of my personal holiday traditions.

That year, we were immersed in a major web project at my job, and I worked through it while listening to the jazz and blues renditions from Wisconsin artist Altenburgh.

His versions of standards such as "Silent Night" and "O' Christmas Tree" with piano accompaniment help set a perfect holiday mood.

The original tunes compliment the mix and comprise my favorites on the disk. "Christmas Story" with its bouncy tune and wry lyrics such as "The sugar plum fairy got run out of town..." make it a wry addition to a Christmas playlist.

The title track is a soft, sentimental song harkening back to a bygone time made hazy and more romantic by memory. It has rich imagery of a place once real now lost. Buzz's is a place we all recall as we build up a list of Christmases past that likely outnumbers those Christmases yet to come.

Now the bad news - I think "Christmas at Buzz's" is out of print and it's on Altenburgh's own label which unfortunately isn't represented on iTunes.

You have to seek it out on the web. I bought mine after the Yahoo streaming version stopped being available, but I'm glad I did.

Holiday and Loss

Image from stock.xchnge

A psychologist on television the other morning was giving tips on coping with grief for those who've lost a loved one.

The first holiday season after the loss is the hardest, the counselor stated. I gave it some thought and I decided I disagree.

This holiday season is the hardest after a loss. And the next will be as well.

The pain grows less acute, but holidays are landmarks. They hold strong memories and always will.

My old man made a special sauce every year to flavor the turkey. His own concoction, possibly based on his brother's. In my mind's eye, I can see him still, hovering over a heavy old cook pot dropping in a bay leaf, stirring with an old wooden spoon. It was a sign of Christmas as much as trimming the tree or hanging a reef.

Remembering is bittersweet, but remembering is also coping.

Because he is gone does not mean he never lived.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Speaking of Scary Movies - Wolf Creek

Had to install Flash 8 to load the Wolf Creek website, but it offered up some interesting graphics once I got it working. They're providing the trailer for iPod and PSP as well.

I decided not to ask for a video iPod from Santa. I think I'm going to let it gestate a while longer and buy the inevitably improved version that will come probably sooner than later, but it's encouraging to know I'll have plenty of things to watch in waiting rooms (and boring meetings) when I do spring for one.

The lips say Texas Chainsaw but...
That Hills Have Eyes remake may not be necessary after all if Wolf Creek proves to be as chilling as the trailers and review epigrams suggest. It's being poised as an Outback Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though the site bears a Blair Witch influence with it's "based on a true story" overtones. There's definitely plenty to do there since the film is a don't open until Christmas--you get a blog, some true story browsing, clips and an ongoing slideshow backdrop.

It really strikes me as a gritty new take on The Most Dangerous Game (Warning: That link contains popups if you're not wisely using Firefox) from sophmore English class. I guess that tale is a little too far off the pop culture radar to have any marketing value, but it was one of the better stories I ever had to read for an English class.

It's definitely iPod Notes worthy. And that's how I'm tying this whole rambling post together.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Some gifts just shouldn't exist

You know, some gifts should not exist. They're just out there as presents for those people for whom you don't know what to buy. They're destined to be re-gifted or bound someday for a landfill.

It's not an oasis, it's a mirage
Just about all chotzkies from the corporate world qualify, but department stores are filled with items as well. You know that table that looks like a gift oasis in the men's department amid all the sweaters and neck ties with the Three Wise Men on them?

Sum of the parts
Get a sweater or a nice tie. Trust me, no one has ever accomplished a successful repair with a tool found in a flashlight handle. I have a flashlight and I have a screwdriver that I bought for myself, and both are better than any combination of the two.

I also don't need a singing or talking (fill in the animal, fish or reptile here).

No monopurpose cooking either
And I have a kitchen. I have a means to prepare a hotdog. Ditto a hamburger, popcorn and anything else. Any grill or cooker sold to prepare only one food item is pretty much headed to Good Will.

If I don't take it myself, it'll be delivered, still in its original packaging, by whoever cleans out my stuff after my demise.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

10 Signs You're in Serious "Lost" Withdrawal

(Some of these might be considered spoilers if you aren't up to date on Season 2.)

10. You look at your friend's new baby and note: "She's wrapped up exactly the way Locke swaddled Claire's baby."

9. You check your family Bible for hidden clips of Dr. Marvin Candle.

8. On your lunch hour you drive around looking for the Mr. Cluck franchise in your area.

7. You keep checking iTunes for a Charlie Pace Celebrity Playlist.

6. You ask at the quick stop why they don't stock Apollo candy bars.

5. You think your goldfish may have a Dharma Initiative logo on its tail.

4. You call your friends in the carpool Han and Chewy. (This symptom may lead to a false positive. It may only indicate that you're a nerd and not actually suffering "Lost" withdrawal.)

3. At the office, every 108 minutes you open a DOS prompt and type in 4-8-15-16-23-42, even though it does nothing but annoy your boss.

2. Tops on your Christmas list: An Apple II.

1. "Dude, you've got some Arzt on you."

What's on the iPod? - Week of 12-4-2005 - Christmas playlist

Christmas music in years gone past came from an uncle on my mother's side. He'd show up every year with Firestone albums featuring classics from an impressive range of artists of the day, or the day before in many instances.

My Christmas collection is an eclectic mixture that includes a couple of holiday albums I've purchased over the years including Mannheim Steamroller and a disk of Celtic tunes from Windham Hill as well as my favorite Christmas album I'll discuss next week.

As part of creating one of my own holiday traditions, I also have mixture of songs from iTunes or Amazon's free downloads that make up my personal holiday playlist. My requirements for Christmas songs are simple.

1. They have to help put me in the spirit of the season in some way.

2. No Micahel Bolton.

This year's list

"Jingle Bells" - Wilson' Pickett's version

"All I Want for Christmas Is You" - Mariah Carey - I said no Michael Bolton, otherwise I'm flexible.

"The Christmas Song" - Roomful of Blues - that's the "chestnuts roasting" song and this is the only version you'll ever need.

"The Little Drummer Boy" - Johnny Cash - one year in junior high we all brought Christmas albums from home and someone played Cash's pure, earnest rendition and it's stuck with me forever.

"O Holy Night" and "Silent Night" - Allison Crowe, from her "Tidings" album, great interpretations in her powerful, distinctive voice.

"I Believe in Father Christmas" - an oldie from Emerson, Lake & Palmer, for my cynical side, an irreverent, unique song with an incredible sound.

"Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls, an easy choice since it's everywhere right now, but a perfect hopeful way to round out my playlist.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Cat Postcards - Stocking Stuffers

Friends have enjoyed this photo that Christine took of our cats so much I decided to make it a postcard at, just in time to serve as stocking stuffers for holiday giving. :-)

Kitties on paper
This card is just sort of an experiment. Since Patrick Freden and I did the poster for the movie poster competition, I've thought we ought to try some things in a web storefront.

Currently Monty and Daisy in the window are the only item available at:

Maybe we'll make more pictures.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hills Have Rs

I was reading on via Empire about the efforts to earn an R rating for the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. One long and brutal scene has so far garnered an NC-17.

I was prompted to check out the Internet Movie Database entry on the film, due in 2006, and I discovered a message board entry -- no more lightweight PG-13 horror movies, someone celebrated. Here's a back to basics terrorfest.

360 degrees
The world's done another 360 again. Back in the '80s people were singing laments about the feeling that horror films had to be R-rated and spiced with gore. The economics of general audiences changed that more than a desire to create atmospheric art.

Some horror films need to be R or NC-17 . I'm all for a new "Hills" being as gory as it wants to be.

But I do love quiet scares too, and sometimes those are the best.

The Others with its eerie twists.

The Village with its lurking fears.

The Haunting with its unseen ghosts and loud noises.

The Univited with its ghostly seaside mansion.

Hey, it's all good.

Green stamps

Trading stamps and who can remember them became the focus of conversation the other night when my boss and I were having dinner with some business associates.

Green fades
We realized they are one of those things that sort of fade away without your realizing it.

But those of us of a certain age recalled the little telephone dial dispensers the clerks used to crank out your green or yellow stamps, depending on where you shopped.

We were mainly an S&H Green stamp family. (It's sort of a testament to their resiliancy, I guess, that they're still around in a virtual format: S&H Greenpoints.) I think we probably pasted in a few Top Value stamps as well.

I don't remember getting anything but crap with them. The thing that stands out most is a hair dryer my mother picked out.

I was a teenager and trying to wear my wavy hair long without a lot of success. A blow dryer seemed like a requirement.

My mom didn't get the memo on blow dryers.

She came home from the Green Stamp store with a plastic bag that had a tube sticking out of it and a heat generator of some sort, though I don't recall that part.

Some of the younger people in our office, whom we polled the day after dinner, had no knowledge of trading stamps.

They don't know what they missed.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

What's on the iPod? - Week of 11-27

Once we're past Thanksgiving, I usually like to play Christmas tunes, especially in the office. It makes the corporate world seem a little festive.

Yet, as I've written on this blog in previous posts, I was deeply saddened by the death of Glenn Mitchell of KERA in Dallas, so I bumped a non-holiday album to the top of my iPod playlist because its an anthology I might not have discovered had it not been discussed on "The Glenn Mitchell Show."

The Rose and the Briar
If you're interested in the roots of contemporary music or music history in general, The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad and its companion book edited by Sean Willentz and Greil Marcus are essentials. The volume includes a collection of essays on each of the CD's tunes--story songs ranging from one of the oldest folk songs, Barbara Allen, to Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska." From what I can tell its chilling POV account of Charles Starkweather's killing spree and execution is as historically accurate as "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgeral" which I mentioned in an earlier post.

This collection is not for all tastes. Some of the tunes are so twangy and, well, earthy that music snobs will make you change tracks if you're not listening on ear buds, and I speak from experience.

But the songs are spirtiual meditations from artists both familiar and lost in the crumbled pages of history and they're worth a few spins of the disc or drive, to put you in touch with a rich legacy. I asked Christine to get it for me last Christmas after hearing that talk show sometime in the fall and it's still a great gift.

Songs include

1. Barbary Allen, Jean Ritchie

2. Pretty Polly, The Coon Creek Girls

3. Ommie Wise, G. B. Grayson

4. Little Maggie, Snakefarm

5. Frankie, Mississippi John Hurt

6. Deliah's Gone , Koerner, Ray & Glover

7. Wreck Of The Old 97, John Mellencamp

8. Dead Man's Curve, Jan & Dean

9. Buddy Bolden's Blues (I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say), Jelly Roll Morton

10. The Coo Coo Bird, Clarence Ashley

11. Volver, Volver , Vincente Fernandez

12. The Foggy Foggy Dew, Burl Ives

13. Black, Brown And Beige, Part IV (COME SUNDAY), Duke Ellington & His Orchestra, Mahalia Jackson

14. El Paso, Marty Robbins

15. Trial Of Mary Maguire, Bobby Patterson

16. Down From Dover, Dolly Parton

17. Sail Away, Randy Newman

18. Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts, Bob Dylan

19. Nebraska, Bruce Springsteen

20. Blackwatertown, The Handsome Family

Friday, November 25, 2005

Walk in the Woods

Walk in the Woods
Walk in the Woods,
Click for a larger view.
Took the PowerShot into the forest behind my house this morning. Photos never look in the viewfinder like they do once you get them downloaded and into Photoshop, but this one looked almost like I was hoping.

Oliver followed me out and reverted to the wild for a while, scratching trees instead of my sofa and diving into piles of leaves.

We're not getting a lot of color change this year, just green to brown.

Kind of wish we had a little more transitional coloring, but the brown can be interesting.

Found I was a little disoriented after focusing on a lot of closeups. Had to pick my way back to the house with care, but it enhanced some story ideas.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Night Stalker on iTunes

It's not a milestone exactly, but it may be an iTunes first and a significant step in on-demand downloading. You know, legal on-demand downloading

As those who were watching know, The Night Stalker, with all of its floating words and X-Files style, was pulled from the ABC schedule in the middle of a two-part episode that focused on the show's neo-werewolf backstory.

This morning I'm downloading The Sea, the conclusion of the story that started in Episode 6, The Source. I'm paying a buck 99, so somebody's recouping a little of their investment on the series.

It's definitely the first time I've finished off a two-parter that way. It won't be the last, I'm sure, so regardless of how popular the show is in download it's a new step. Sure people were sharing unaired shows long ago--that ep of Buffy that was bumped in Canada or watever is one example. But this is for sale by the original owner.

It confirms the long tail theory espoused in the October 2004 issue of Wired--the Internet offers a mass audience for the least popular entertainment choices.

Let the fans see how the story ends.

Related reading
How `Arrested' can cash in

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Glenn Mitchell again

NPR is offering several streaming files of news feature stories that Glenn Mitchell filed from KERA in Dallas.

They're a sample of his on-air style for those who never got a chance to enjoy his show. They don't give you the full flavor of what he offered as a talk show host, but the are a reflection of his personality and flare. Visit here to listen.

Blog links to the KERA Glenn Mitchell memorial pushed it onto the blogdex roll, a testament to how well loved and respected he was.

My lunch hours are never going to be the same.

Ghosts Hamper School Work

This would have led to a great excuse when I was in school - Students Fail Because of Ghost. (Found via Fortean Times.)

"Sorry, mom, I got a C because a demonic spirit with a rope tried to tie me up."

Actually the situation sounds sad and unfortunate. It's a reminder of how powerful superstition can be.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Tree in Winter

When I was in college, one of my classmates was a returning student. Married and with children, she sought to finish her degree as a matter of personal growth even as she fought a serious illness.

This photo on Flickr reminded me of a poem she wrote one year for the school's literary magazine. She described a tree in winter, dormant, unchallenged, waiting. "How safe" she noted.

She chose not to be safe, not to settle, not to give up. Even though she was fighting illness, she traveled, finished her degree and generally raged against the dying of the light. She was anything but a tree in winter.

We lost touch after school. Years later, I was manning a booth at some function or other and bumped into her daughter, who told me she'd died a couple of years before.

It was too early, of course, but she made good use of her years.

And she made it possible for me to look at a quiescent, leafless tree on a cold gray landscape and think of life.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Dallas Radio Show Host Glenn Mitchell Dies

Glenn Mitchell who hosted one of the best talk radio shows I've ever heard has passed away. It's truly sad. Read more here.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What's on the iPod - Week of 11-20 - Johnny Cash Of Course

On the morning I heard Johnny Cash had died, I was driving through a cold September rain, headed to sit at the bedside of my father, who was also dying. He would live less than a month past that Sept. 12.

Cash was one of three celebrity passings we chatted about as Dad’s health slowly declined. John Ritter and Warren Zevon were the others.

But it was Cash's music that had been in the background of more of our lives together, even though Cash was not a favorite of my father early on. A little ironic since he grew up in Ferriday, LA, which produced Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley (my father always pronounced it with a J sound the way he said the family always did) and Jimmy Swaggart.

My dad's musical tastes were more oriented toward Herb Alpert and Pete Fountain as well as an eclectic assortment of others, at least in my lifetime. Family legend had it that when he and my mother went on dates in the fifties he always played Hank Williams on road house juke boxes.

Cash was more a favorite of mine even in my pure Top 40 days; my tastes are eclectic as well. By default my dad heard a lot of him too.

That talking singer
My first awareness of Cash came in 1969 on The Johnny Cash Show. We watched, but Cash was perceived in our household as a performer for my generation or at least teens of those days; I was still pretty young in 1969.

I guess on the strength of A Boy Named Sue and a few other songs with Shel Silverstine lyrics, my dad always thought of Cash as "that talking singer." And he turned up here and there on our pop culture radar:

We went to see A Gunfight on a double bill with True Grit when the former came out in 1971. My dad was rooting for co-star Kirk Douglass in the showdown. (Some magazine of the time, that I read on one my mom’s beauty salon visits, reported that Cash demanded that saloon girl Karen Black be clothed in scenes with his character and that he went on strike until producers worked that out. Jane Alexander, Douglass' on screen wife did the bare-bottomed or "wrapped only in sheets" duty that still earned a GP raiting. It was GP in those days.)

I Walk the Line, starring Gregory Peck and featuring Cash's soundtrack tunes, aired frequently on network TV.

I had a greatest hits album in the '70s that seemed to support that "talking" notion with an inclusion of "Sue" and a few others, though I never owned "Johnny Cash The Singing Story Teller" which would have cemented it if "Ragged Old Flag" hadn't come along to finish the impression.

Cash's frequent appearances on Billy Graham Crusades probably earned him the most respect from my father.

Hurt as background
As my father died, Hurt became a significant background track with the video playing frequently on television during those days. As he sang the Nine Inch Nails lament of a heroine addict, the wizened Cash, ravaged by multiple diseases, seemed to embody all physical suffering as well as introspection and reminiscence.

I got American IV that Christmas along with Zevon's The Wind, both ironically suitable for mourning, retrospection and celebration of life.

What's on the Pod this week?
With Walk the Line in theaters and Cash on television, my playlist needed Cash tunes for this week. Songs from American IV are there and also "Ring of Fire" with those exuberant Mexican trumpets.

25 Minutes
But I added perhaps the first song of Cash's that ever stuck with me - 25 Minutes. I heard him sing it on his show in 1969 and it lodged in my brain even though it was not repeated nearly as often as other tunes.

It's a sad song, the Silverstein lyrics often spoken instead of sung, recounting a prisoner's final "25 minutes" before the gallows.

Yet it takes me back to my childhood home and to sitting in the den with my family and to an uncle who postulated I could understand lyrics the adults could not because it was music of my era.

I added the Pearl Jam rendition of the tune as well because my tastes are still eclectic. It’s a little rawer and sprinkled with more profanity, but it emphasizes the universality of an ARTIST’S music.

A hoist of the mug to THE MAN.

Just found out Cash's "Ring of Fire" was featured on the 9/19/03 episode of This American Life. I'll be listening to that online when I get a chance. Found out about it on the Swaprocks blog.

Crap Around My Office Vol 1. - Atom Ant Finger Puppet

Atom Ant Finger Puppet

Bought for me by my dad in the mid '60s. I had one of these of Fred Flintstone also.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

3D Horror Posters - Dracula et al

The guys over at Pablo's Wisdom have picutres of 3D horror posters. Ash in the "Army of Darkness" poster is wielding his chainsaw, the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" features the creature carrying off Julie Adams in her white bathing suit and Dracula is the best of all.

A great gift idea for the horror fan.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Some essential "Lost" reading

We may never know the meaning of the numbers - from The New York Post via "My Way."

THE Canadian (CTV) preview for next week's episode - visit The Tail Section.

Extra lost episodes for cell phone - OK will it work on a video iPod? I need to step up my lobbying efforts for Christmas. If not I need to upgrade my cell. Right now its best feature is wallpaper of my cats.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hugh Laurie as "House" - Why a British Actor is a Great Choice for the Role

Christine, my wife, loves House, M.D. and Hugh Laurie, so I've DVR'd a lot of his recent appearances on talk shows. On most, he was queried about being a British actor playing an American character. Leno did a little more than that, but it was the heart of many other interviews.

Exactly what House needs
As I watched those interviews, it struck me that a British actor is exactly the person to bring a negative character like Greg House to life. Laurie's considerable talents and comedy background are important elements, but he also brings a sensibility to the character that I bet would not have worked nearly as well with an American actor.

American television audiences don't usually respond well to darker characters. Years ago Buffalo Bill with Dabney Coleman was a great show but never captured ratings.

William Goldman in Adventures in the Screen Trade, if memory serves, talked a lot about the demand for likeable characters.

British audiences on the other hand have made lots of nasty sorts top viewing choices:

I suspect somewhere in the subtext "House" is enhanced by the differences between British and American humor, and it certainly makes viewing better on this side of the pond.

I'm a Martini

But of course-

You Are a Martini

There's no other way to say it: you're a total lush.
You hold your liquor well, and you hold a lot of it!

Found the test doing the blog hopping thing, you know hitting the "Next Blog" button. It was on this blog.

Grey Goose is always a nice gift.

Quests of Simon Ark

I picked up the new issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine primarily because it has a story by Edward D. Hoch featuring one of his early detectives you don't see as much these days, Simon Ark. Ark is a magical, mythical sort of guy rumored to be hundreds of years old. He anticipates an ultimate confrontation with evil, but the mysteries he solves are very real world involving variations on locked rooms i.e. a revolving door, mysterious gadgets and more clever twists. There are apparently three Simon Ark collections that I don't own.

My favorite characters
I read Ark stories in EQMM and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine mainly in the '70s and '80s. My favorite Hoch characters include thief-of-obscure objects Nick Velvet and solver-of- -impossible-crimes Dr. Sam Hawthorne, but Ark with his mysterious past is always the one I look for first when I scan EQMM's contents. They stand out with their extra hint of spookiness.

I wrote Mr. Hoch a couple of years ago, sometime after my father died. I told him how much my father had enjoyed his stories and mentioned my own appreciation for Ark. He was kind enough to write back and mentioned Ark would appear in Murder on the Ropes, boxing mysteries by various authors. I keep meaning to seek that out.

One day we'll get a big collection of all the Simon Ark tales. In the meantime, seek out Mr. Ark where you can find him.

Read an interview with Mr. Hoch here. It includes a mention of another Simon Ark tale I missed in a 2004 EQMM issue.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Lost Podcast II

Now that the second one is out, I've decided the Lost Podcasts are not the "official TV show" podcasts I enjoy most. That would have to go to the "Battlestar Gallactica" 'casts which are complete episode commentaries from producer Ron Moore. They even include beeps to signal that you should hit pause on your iPod for the commercial breaks. It's like a weekly DVD extra when the show is airing.

But the Lost podcasts offer interesting tidbits, especially on the show's writing. I found it intriguing to hear Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse discuss the character development you've probably observed if you're a fan like me.

Character shifts
They bring in a character who's seemingly negative i.e. Sawyer, Shannon and now Ana-Lucia, let you hate 'em for a while then shed light on what made 'em so nasty.

It's a good example to study for anyone interested in creating compelling fictional characters. It certainly makes for richer, more complex characters and everyone knows bad guys are usually more interesting than good guys.

Addendum includes a report today with more information about Ana-Lucia.

I'd like to see Desmond's (from Lost) movie - Half Light

Henry Ian Cusik from down the hatch in "Lost" is starring in an Irish ghost story with Demi Moore called Half Light. His official website has a ton o' links about it.

Demi plays a mystery writer who retreats to a secluded fishing village to mourn the loss of her 5-year-old child but becomes embroiled in a "supernatural murder mystery" instead of getting the rest she deserves.

Looks like it will be on DVD only in the U.S. Coming in January.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Night Stalker's Gone Again

Well, everyone admitted it was sort of an X-Files do-over, but I had a soft spot for it, so I hated to discover the new Night Stalker is no more.

I noticed it first on author Lee Goldberg's blog, and he makes valid points about the show's shortcomings.

Still, it was a well-intentioned stab--OK maybe attempt is a better word--at a quality horror series on a major network.

Maybe Carl Kolchak will still stalk again some day. In the meantime at least there's Moonstone Comics.

What's on the iPod Week of 11-14

Last week was the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior. CNN and NPR had reports, with NPR interviewing the author of a new book on the tragedy, The Mighty Fitz.

It would have been impossible not to discuss the Gordon Lightfoot song on the anniversary. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald makes the incident real, a chronicle of the mysterious sinking that is more factually accurate than most ballads. CNN called it haunting and that too is accurate.

On the heels of a string of Lightfoot hits, the tune was released roughly a year after the incident in 1976. For me, then, it was a catchy hum-along enriched by Lightfoot's distinctive voice, the same voice that had stuck in my head with "Sundown" and "Carefree Highway." Both of those have lyrics that are easily universal, not the least Sundown's "feels like I'm winnin' when I'm losin' again." Who hasn't felt that way at some point?

"Edmund Fitzgerald" takes something less universal and transports us into the experience. It was a while after the tune was on the charts that I realized it was based on a true incident that cost 29 crewmen their lives. I was a kid, and the original report didn't make it into current events hour. When the book The Great Lakes Triangle by Jay Gourley came along, I got the whole account. Touted heavily in radio ads the book was an attempt to link crashes and shipwrecks in the way the Bermuda Triangle had captured everyone's imagination. As I recall the book sought to link Otis Redding's death near Lake Monona to the Great Lakes Triangle as well.

At any rate, over time, I've come to appreciate how much detail "Wreck" includes from the timeline to the suspected distance from safe harbor.

Today, looking back it's impossible not to feel a tear come to the eye as the tune plays in testament to the lost 29, memorialized, again as the lyrics note, with the pealing of a bell in the Maritime Sailor's Cathedral.

A few of those men were in their twenties. Most others were, as the song notes, "well seasoned"-- in their 40s, 50s or 60s, working men who had toiled no doubt many years on ships. They came from hometowns as far away as Florida but most were from towns in Wisconsin or Ohio. I read their names on the anniversary and listened to Gord's gold.

Not long ago on an episode of "House," Hugh Laurie's acerbic doctor charged that it's genetically impossible for human beings to feel true empathy for a distant people, but not so if there's a bridge. That's the power of story whether it is on a page or in a song.

"Wreck" is a classic ballad, recounting a story the way the tunes of the early troubadour’s did.

That's why it's in my playlist this week. For the 29.

Interesting aside
A computer model has duplicated the storm that sunk the Edmud Fitzerald. Noticed that in the Vox Noxi blog.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Cool Trailer - Underworld: Evolution

Took a little work to watch the trailer for the Underworld sequel. Had to upgrade Quicktime and access it through the iTunes music store.

It was worth the trouble. Like the the first, the stunning visuals are what most of the to do's about.
There's also:

•Lots of black leather

•Serious werewolves

•A Nosferatu-looking vampire with huge bat wings

•Moody weather shots - rain and snow

•Historic back story

•Brother Cadfael himself, Derek Jacobi

Coming in January. View the trailer here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More Movies I'm Looking Forward To

Looks like Stephen King's From a Buick 8 is on the horizon. According to Done Deal's Script Sales Report, George Romero, director of the original Night of the Living Dead and King's "The Dark Half" will direct. (Speaking of Romero - Done Deal also reports a Day of the Dead remake is planned.)

I always enjoy Stephen King event television. I didn't get to see the complete "Kingdom Hospital" until the DVD, but I usually catch the various miniseries in first run.

I think "The Shining" was my favorite though "Storm of the Century" was interesting as well.

The Rose Red stuff was not my favorite, but I found it interesting because I've always been a fan of "de-haunting-a-house" thrillers like the original The Haunting (I wrote a piece on that Shirley Jackson novel as an "indepedent scholar" for some educational volume once upon a time) and The Legend of Hell House. - (Check out this great page on Richard Matheson, author of Hell House.)

I re-watched the latter a couple of days after Halloween, having DVR'd it from a Fox Movie Channel airing. It was probably the best quality print I'd ever seen.

The last time I watched it must have been back in the aforementioned day most channels came in fuzzy at my house.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What's on the iPod? Week of Nov. 7, 2005 - The Lost Podcast

It would have been nice to have had it during the three-week hiatus, but I'm happy it's here now: the official "Lost" podcast.

I haven't listened to it yet, but it's nice to have one more supplement to the weekly fun and the endless examination of the minute following.

Choice of weapons
I use Ipodder for Podcasts because it gives me a little more control over downloads. With the iTunes Podcast subscriptions, you can fill up gigs quickly without trying because they download automatically.

I only use iTunes for the Podcasts I absolutely positively want every week like Ancestor and now "Lost."

A happy side effect
I was pleased to discover the other day that with the recent iTunes upgrade, bookmarking was added to MP3s, the file type of most Podcasts. Took me a while to figure out which checks to put in place in iTunes to change other Mp3s on my pod, but now I don't have to listen to Old Time Radio shows in one sitting. They book mark just like Audible files.

Despite my enthusiasm, I'm saving the "Lost" Podcast for tomorrow.

That will be soon enough to hear from creator/executive producer Damon Lindelof and executive producer Carlton Cuse. If I force myself to listen in the gym it'll make me work out one more day this week.

That was the whole point of getting an iPod in the first place. :cool:

Thursday, November 03, 2005

At war with MS Word Gremlins

I'm using MS Word 2003, and it's started a war. The initial strikes were silent and secretive, leading me to believe I was making typographical errors. I have a character named Barth. (Tip of the hat to John Barth? If so it's subconscious because I saw an avant-garde reader's theater production of one of his stories 20 years ago and its haunted me to this day.)

Left rebels and doesn't tell right what he's up to
Anyway, I was editing some copy and I noticed his name appeared as Berth in one instance.

Thought I'd just hit the wrong vowel even though the E's at a pretty good diagonal stretch from the A. So I changed it back and went on with mulling over Barth's inner conflicts and my desire to make them rich and meaningful.

Then I discovered another occurrence of "Berth," and another. Either my pinkie was starting to take on a mind of its own like that Clive Barker story "The Body Politic", or something strange was going on.

I started wondering if imps or gremlins had invaded my keyboard. And of course they had. Not mysterious spirits but techno gremlins out to drive me slowly over the dark edge of madness.

I've tried several ways to cast out the minions of Bill Gates, but so far nothing has worked. I have to go back and change the e to an a again.

I've had to do that at various times in the past with letters Word has insisted on capitalizing, but this is the first war over a proper name.

I think Word is winning. Barth is short for Bartholmew, but lately I've been thinking maybe my protagonist could be named Bertha. A boy named Bertha? It would certainly stand out in contemporary fiction.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Terror Trailers - Slither

When I noticed a movie on the horizon was named Slither, I thought at first of an old paperback horror thriller by John Halkin. The American edition featured green snakelike creatures making their way up through a drain. Apparently there are two sequels I didn't notice on the racks.

The film seems to be an original from James Gunn of the new Dawn of the Dead and live action Scooby Doo flicks.

Looks slimy
Gunn is great at blending humor and horror, and the trailer suggests Slither might be one of those winning mixes of gross-out horror and laughs.

It stars Nathan Fillion of Serenity and Firefly, and a cast of a lot of slugs.

View it here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Recommended Reading - Free Mystery and Horror Books for iPod

I never paid much attention to the wealth of free e-texts out there until I started using the "Notes" feature on my iPod in conjunction with the iPod Library program. Whatever your e-reader of choice , there are some great free books - pre 1923 volumes available on sites such as Project Gutenberg.

Here are some recent ones I've enjoyed:

1. The Green Mummy by Fergus Hume - The mummy of the title has South American origins. It's stolen after being purchased by a British researcher and the man he hired to deliver it is murdered. Much of the plot revolves around family and romantic relationships and the like, but I still found it engaging and fascinating.

2. The Beetle by Richard Marsh - Three interconnected stories chronicle this tale of a hellish creature seeking vengance for the desecration of a tomb in Egypt. It's a great horror-gothic.

3. Three John Silence Stories and Three More John Silence Stories by Algernon Blackwood - Six great horror mystery stories featuring one of the early psychic detectives. It's a Victorian X-Files. Silence battles fire demons, survives haunted houses and investigates strange towns with mysterious histories - all great reads.

4. Dr. Who by various authors - Tales of many different Doctors from the BBC. Some are in more readily downloadable formats than others, but with a little patience there are great selections.

5. Can Such Things Be by Ambrose Bierce - A collection of great stories including "The Damned Thing."

Looks like we didn't win

Our poster's not among the finalists in the Pitch Your Picture Contest.

I told Patrick, graphic artist extraordinare, we'd try to enter earlier next year. I think the amount of display time was a factor. We entered on deadline because I didn't notice the contest until a few days from deadline.

It was fun, though, and I'm pleased with our entry. I think I'll print a version for my office.

Monday, October 31, 2005

What's on the iPod - Week of Oct. 31, 2005

Years ago - 1981 in fact, the year of the werewolf when Wolfen, The Howling and An American Werewolf in London debuted - we got one of the coolest teaser trailers ever.

The weekend before "An American Werewolf In London" opened, the preview began with "Bad Moon Rising" from Credence Clearwater Revival playing in the background.

"Next weekend," the annoucer intoned, "on the eve of the full moon..." Then the screen was filled with a werewolf's foot as it stepped into a pool of water and alerted everyone to the release of AAWIL.

I don't think John Fogarty and company were thinking of werewolves when they first recorded their dire weather forecast in 1969, but it fit perfectly with the movie's dark humor.

Perfect for today
Bad Moon Rising is a perfecct tune for today - it fits Halloween to be certain, and it ties in with contemporary anxieties as well.

Most of all today is a good day to listen to CCR tunes because CNN is reporting Fogarty has settled differences with Fantasy Records and a new 25-song collection is coming.

That ain't a bad moon rising, but good news.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Movies I'm Looking Forward To

1.Dark Corners. Apparently this one is filming in London and stars Thora Birch as a girl who wakes to discover she's someone else. That's scary enough but the "someone else" is being chased by strange creatures.

2. Full Moon Fever - So far I've only read of the script deal being signed. Based on a graphic novel, it's about workers on the dark side of the moon plagued by werewolves.

3. Whisper - Convicts take a hostage who turns out to have supernatural powers. Josh Holloway of "Lost" is in the cast. Official site

4. Next - One of the latest Philip K. Dick adaptations, this one with Nicholas Cage as the hero, a man who can see the future.

Great Halloween Horror Movie Reference

Entertainment Weekly has a great feature on zombie movies online today. It's a guide to distinguising between all of the Night of the Living Dead offshoots, remakes and divergent tributaries such as Return of the Living Dead. How'd that one get to be 20 years old so fast?

Happily they include the wonderfully wild and high-energy Shaun of the Dead, a very worthy choice for Halloween viewing.

Check out the EW article here.

Halloween Midnight Madness

We helped host a Midnight Movie Madness event last night. It's the first year and was put together pretty quickly so we had a modest turnout, but I think it was a good start.

Apparently there were no prints of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to be had, so the theater booked a couple of pretty good horror films instead.

Volunteers were basically ornamental greeters. Christine and I were pretty much suburban Goth, I think, all black clothes looking relatively harmless. Christine made me leave off some black leather biker gloves--the kind with no fingers. (She took a somewhat uninspired picture of me, so the shot accompanying is self portrait.)

We had a pretty cool Dracula, some dead geishas and a Jasonesque person and a pimp in purple velvet.

Some of the patrons dressed up and some didn't, but of those who did had some cool looks.

I was dreading it all a little bit, but in the end it wound up being fun. Next year, I think I'll go as Pinhead.

Friday, October 28, 2005

What a cool - iPod report

The iPod Mood Ring on is one of those fun and cool things to check for no good reason.

The blogger regularly reports the top 5 songs on his iPod.

Does it matter? Well in the blogosphere, yeah.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Goth types

I've been asked to dress all in black as one of the volunteers at a charity event this weekend. We're supposed to look vampirish. I Googled "male Goth" to get some ideas for accessories and nuances that don't require piercings.

I didn't know how many Goth options were out there. I ran across this listing. Hopefully with black jeans, a black leather jacket and maybe a few other accessories I can just do something basic Goth. I don't really want to be Lestat or anything.

The vampire I met once really wasn't that decadent. I think he was wearing jeans and t-shirt, not even black. That was kind of disappointing.

Dark characters
I was applying my literary knowlege and research skills at a library at the time. The vampire was one of many offbeat characters I met, although one of only three that might have inspired Aurora model kits.

He strolled it one morning. Yeah, it was daylight, but outside Hollywood vampires are just weaker during the day. The sun doesn't turn them to ashes.

"I'd like to do some research on vampires," he said. Didn't sound like Bela Lugosi at all. Had kind of a Southern accent. "I want to know more about my nature."

I helped him look up some websites and he hung around a while and then eventually drifted away. I didn't hear bat's wings. That was pretty much the extent of the encounter.

We had a witch who came by from time to time also. She wasn't a Wiccan or anything. She just threatened to put spells on people now and then.

Our other colorful visitor with a supernatural touch walked in to ask about a Civil War battle. "I died there in 1862," he said.

Should I question what these people told me? I'm not sure what drove them to drop remarks with shock value.

I guess costume parties and other roleplaying, the wearing of masks in varying degrees, is a method of escape.

I don't usually go for outward masks, but hey, for charity, I'll give it a try.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More Halloween Stories - New Orleans, Voodoo and More

I have great memories of New Orleans, and I continue to hope the recovery goes well. I read a great AP story about the legendary ghosts of New Orleans once upon a time and saved it for many ages.

It talked of course of Madam Lalaurie House, a torture tomb of a place in its day where the ghosts of Dephine Lalaurie are said to continue hauntings to this day.

I wrote a story for a now hard-to-find collection called Erotic New Orleans Stories. Called "Repast" it doesn't deal overtly with Madam Lalaurie's victims but I've always considered the female lead in the story to be a modern offshoot of the notorious society matron.

Voodoo Tour
I went on the voodoo tour once upon a time also. We went through Congo Square where early voodoo ceremonies were held, and I visited the graves of Dr. John and Marie Laveau, although her bones no longer rest in the above ground crypt marked with Xs in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

Her bones are considered to be powerful magic and thus had to be hidden less voodoo practioners steal them for rituals.

I hope I'll get to go back again some Halloween. There are a couple of places I haven't visited including the Sultan's Palace, site of an unsolved mass murder, where the ghosts of the victims are said to be seen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Movie Poster Contest Entry

My buddy Patrick Freden and I have won some advertising awards for movie poster parodies. We did them for slide shows that appear before movies start. He is the graphic artist (and web developer) extraordinaire who makes magic from my notes.

When I saw that one of my favorite websites, the Internet Movie Data Base, was having a movie poster contest, I knew we needed to enter for the fun of it.

The Pitch Your Picture contest's challenge is to convey a movie concept in poster form with a tag line. That's our entry to the left. My other buddy, photographer extraordinaire Robert Langham, shot the picture of me as the hapless hero of our story. That's Patrick again as the villain in the background. (He did a one-page website so there really would be something at the web address the poster teases to:

Does seem like one of those direct-to-video thrillers, doesn't it?

Wonder what would be on that killer podcast?

Monday, October 24, 2005

What's on the Pod? - Week of Oct. 24 -- Halloween Songs

What better tunes for the approach of Halloween than those of The Gothic Archies? I paid for several songs on the New Despair EP a while back with Pepsi caps. With October's gray days and crisp air, tunes like "The Abandoned Castle of My Soul" seem a perfect soundtrack. They're definitely Halloween Songs

I discovered the "group" on Lemony Snickett's celebrity playlist around the time iTunes introduced celebrity playlists. It's all twisted fun--grim tones and slightly goofy lyrics.

One dead on the money review invokes the word despondent, and I think that fits perfectly both the lyrics and the music. Ghostly white fingers, a bottomless emotional abyss -- heck, check the lyrics here.

Apparently the Gothic Archies are featured on Lemony Snickett audiobooks also and a new album will emerge from that effort. It's all in the Wikipedia article linked above.

Dark Country
In a similar vein but with a different sound, I've also added Lefty Frizzel's "Long Black Veil" to my playlist.

It's a grim if not ghostly crossover tune of death with imagery of graveyards, icy winds and an emotional if not legally wed widow in black.

Frizzel's soft, haunting rendition has stayed with me after I heard it on a radio program about story songs that I stumbled across on a long drive one Sunday afternoon.

Going dark
One other even darker Halloween-season song comes to mind though I don't have it on the Pod. It's on a collection I have only on cassette, which suggests how old it is.

If you've never heard The Buoys' "Timothy" it's a dark, tongue-in-cheek novelty hit about cannibalism, which I believe Rupert Holmes wrote with a plan toward getting banned. I seem to remember on a talk show he noted that he was listening to "Sixteen Tons" at the time he penned it. You know "muscle and blood and skin and bones."

Happy chills.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Mother Hubbard Man - Another Ghost Story?

The Halloween we did the feature on Central Louisiana ghosts, I threw in a mention of the Mother Hubbard Man, not a ghost story exactly, but strange and mysterious and almost forgotten. Googling it reveals no entries.

In Gumbo Ya Ya
I'd read a mention about the figure in Gumbo Ya Ya, a hefty compilation of Louisiana folk tales put together during the Depression by the Louisiana component of the Federal Writer's Project under the direction of Lyle Saxon.

I believe it was in the same chapter that discussed feared New Orleans needle men, believed to be agents of doctors in need of subjects for human experiments. Needle men were said to prick unsuspecting pedestrians with tranquilizing agents, then haul them away.

The Mother Hubbard Man's motives when he appeared in 1915 seemed to be less sinister but overtly racist. He got only one line in Gumbo Ya Ya, mentioned in the same literary breath with other ominous pranksters as well as the Ax Man, a New Orleans serial killer who was never officially identified.

Records check
I called the police chief of Alexandria at the time I was writing the article to see if records from 1915 were still around. They weren't, and I didn't scour nursing homes in search of residents who might recall 1915. It seemed unlikely and I was on deadline with limited indulgence from editors to live out a Kolchak fantasy.

I did pull up microfilm of the newspapers of the day, however, and I located at last what seemed to be a second article about the Mother Hubbard Man. It referenced a previous appearance of the cloaked figure in evening clothes, but I was never able to backtrack and locate an earlier article.

The Mother Hubbard Man's Appearance
In his frightening garb, he put in appearances in what the paper at the time identified as the Sonier Oil Mill Quarters, a predominantly African American part of town.

He apparently lurked around the shadows and leaped out at passers by to frighten them. If he made more than two appearances it's not known.

Police never found him, or at least it wasn't reported in the newspaper. Likewise no published reports indicate that he did any physical harm.

Who was he?

A teen age prankster?

An adult racist?

A ghost? OK that’s a stretch.

Someone covering a darker purpose?

It's not the greatest mystery of our time, but that one tantalizing line in Gumbo Ya Ya has always made me wonder.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Second Hand Ghosts

When I was a feature writer, we decided to do an article on regional ghost stories one Halloween, and one of those Central Louisiana tales has stayed with me. Seems worth recalling here since Halloween is approaching again.

I found a gentleman near Winfield, LA, I believe, and we talked on the phone and he recounted a gentile ghost story. No rattling chains or bloody hands, yet eerie in its way.

I'm not sure of the house that was supposed to be involved, but it was a Southern mansion and a young man came to stay. He was given a room on an upper floor. It had a window that overlooked an area beneath one of those majestic trees that stand on the lawns of Southern mansions.

A moonlight gathering
Sometime during the night, he woke up and looked out to see a gathering in the moonlight. Some sort of party was going on beneath the oak, a huge gathering of people.

I think I've always imagined them in 18th century finery, I don't know that that's really part of the story, but I always picture hoop skirts and parasols.

Apparently the visitor was not terribly disturbed by the scene. He rolled over and went back to sleep.

Over breakfast
It was over breakfast the next morning that he brought it up to the host. "Why didn't you tell me there was a party last night?" he asked and described the scene.

"There wasn't," his host answered. "There were no people out there, but that's where they used to hold parties in this house's heyday."

Then, both I'm sure were suitably chilled.

Friday, October 21, 2005

What about ghosts?

As Halloween approaches, water cooler conversation inevitably turns to ghosts and spirits and more "Do you believe?" queries like I mentioned yesterday.

I failed to touch on that in my dissertation on not believing in Bigfoot any more.

Do I believe in ghosts?

Well on ghosts, I'm willing to say: "I don't know."

Publishers divide writing into categories. Fantasy and horror are built on magic and the supernatural. Science fiction and suspense and grounded more in--as the narrator on the fabulous old Tales from the Darkside series used to put it--what we "perceive to be reality."

Of course magic is only magic until someone develops a scientific explanation for it, whether it's fiction of folklore. The fairy abductions of which our ancestors whispered would get categorized as fantasy. Alien abductions, to which we more rational minded folk today might at least give a tip of the anxiety hat, would be classified as science fiction, if written as say a novel and not a personal experience, in which case it's Communion.

Back to ghosts
Anyway, back from that ramble -- ghosts. Right now, we don't know. Are they spirits of lost relatives or hallucinations, folk tales or phenomenon.

I've never seen one, but the newspaper where I wasted my young life was housed in an old J.C. Penny's department store building. The photography department was on the second floor. I'm not sure what it once had been. The executive offices were where my mother once browsed spring fashions and I pissed off sales clerks by playing hide-and-seek in the aisles.

On the way to the dark room
A long flight of steps led up to the dark room. I'd get winded in my twenties climbing them.

Reporters working late at night to fill column inches swore disembodies footsteps moved up and down the steps, perhaps looking for lost dressing rooms or bargain racks.

The offices of the library where I worked were in an old family home, probably a mansion back in the day. People working there swore the home's original owner breezed through the living room every now and then.

The restless departed? Tricks of the eye? The ex-J.C. Penny's settling?

I don't know. With Bigfoot, the absencse of a corpse, skull, legitmate footprint or, as biologists might put it, scat, it's pretty much a no.

Ghosts, well, they're not corporeal. Not leaving physical traces is pretty much their job.

But ultimately, it doesn't matter that much. If we get it figured out that's fine. We'll still tell ghost stories for the same reason, as I mentioned yesterday, I still read accounts of Bigfoot sightings even though I've pretty much let that one go.

It's about mystery and wonder and to borrow a cliche "What if..."

I can live as a pragmatist, a skeptic, but I can also suspend my disbelief to write and to be read to. It's fun, it's escape and it's Halloween time. As Ray Bradbury tagged it - The October Country.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bigfoot: But it would be really cool

A friend dropped by my desk the other day to ask about Bigfoot. "Is it true you're a fan of Bigfoot?" she asked.

"Fan's kind of a strong word," I countered. "I'm interested in Bigfoot."

"Do you think it's real?"

"Maybe once upon a time, but now, no," I answered. "But, I think it would be really cool if it were."

Then I pulled up photos of the Florida Skunk Ape on the web. They looked a little less like an orangutan in a full body wig than the last time I checked.

In the mid-'70s the U.S. had what paranormal writer John Keel called a UFO flap, tons and tons of sightings. Our local paper had an article every day, which provided great fodder for current events reports.

Bigfoot was in the news now and then also, and in some UFO magazines, and on The Six Million Dollar Man, was linked to flying saucers. Just like Mothman was.

In those days, I wasn't a skeptic. I poured over information and wondered when answers would finally emerge.

Fate today
I still read Fate Magazine from time to time and scan the Fortean Times, but I have more of an open mind not to believe. I was a newspaper reporter a long time, and then I worked in a library where I looked up things for people like the Philadelpia Experiment. Makes you cynical.

The mystery often lasts longer than the solution, but once the Internet came along and I discovered the truth behind Gray Barker, or the smear campaign against him depending on your level of paranoia, it was all sort of downhill.

Aaron Elkins novel The Dark Place includes a pretty good argument against the likelihood of Bigfoot, and The Skeptic's Dictionary pretty much states nothing cool probably ever happened.

No Cottingley Fairies.

Mothman? An owl.

Roswell? Well there's no attribution in that original press release.

Oak Island - overactive imaginations based on a few misinterpretations.

Too bad.

But all that doesn't keep me from reading new reports and perusing new material. Because like I said, it would be fun if it were real.
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