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.

Return of the Night Stalker

I wanted to watch Kolchak The Night Stalker in 1974 when it came on.

I'd read the paperback novel on which the first TV movie was based, enjoyed The Norliss Tapes, also from Dan Curtis Productions, and talked about it endlessly with my friend who was also interested in scary movies.

But reception was fuzzy on the ABC channel from Lafayette, LA, the only ABC affiliate we could get in Central Louisiana. In those days of rabbit ears, Kolchak looked like it was set in Norway or Finland on my TV.

Managed to catch "The Spanish Moss Murders" but it was really more like listening than watching.

It wasn't until the rebroadcast on the CBS Late Movie in the early eighties that I saw the whole series.

It was destination TV on Friday nights, cool, scary, campy and watched by just about everybody I knew. I discovered that when at a church lock-in the subject of zombie killing came up. "Fill his mouth with salt," everyone answered in unison.

The New Stalker
Someone on one board or another that I was browsing noted the new Night Stalker lacks the original's humor.

I like it, but it's true, it just doesn't have that Kolchak zing. The new Carl has been injected with Fox Mulder's DNA, even as Fox was the offspring of Darrin McGavin's Carl.

The quirky fun is lost in the reimaging. I'm not sure what would have been the right way to do it. In his Night Stalker diary published in Entertainment Weekly, producer Frank Spotnitz notes he considered a modernized version of McGavin's Carl with someone like John C. McGinley or a few others. Might have been fun, but it might not have worked.

In spite of...
In spite of all that, the thing the new show does manage is to overcome the "monster of the week" formula that plagued the original.

It overcomes it with X-Files scripts, but it overcomes. I hope it achieves well enough against CSI to make it to full season. I want to know more about the neo werewolves that got Carl's wife and the mark on his wrist and all that.

At least I get good reception thanks to Dish Network, and I can watch on DVR even though Christine prefers Gil Grissom

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What's On the Pod Week of Oct. 17

I'm not into self-help books. I don't believe they really help much, but that said, I'm finding Dark Nights of the Soul--by the interestingly named Thomas Moore--fascinating. Apparently it's a followup to another work, Care of the Soul.

I ran across it in the Eliot Bay Book Company while we were in Seattle, but I decided to get an audio version rather than pick up a hard copy.

Moore on Metaphor
Moore's approach to dark nights of the soul--or those periods of trial that drop into our lives--is mythic. He urges the discovery of metaphors as a way of coping and expressing the deep recesses of the soul in truth beyond words.

It's a concept that deservers more than that paragraph can express.

I was interested in it mostly because I was experiencing an illness a few months back , but it's explorations of meaning span much broader aspects of experience.

It's an enriching book to exprience.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A new guest

We have another new resident at our house. Currently he's known as Gray Kitty. We hesitated in naming him because we spent a good bit of time trying to find his original owner.

He showed up after some bad weather, so we thought maybe he was just lost, thrown off course during the wind and rain. He'd been neutered, which we originally interpreted as female, but, at any rate there was a human willing to pay vet bills involved at some point.

Early thoughts
At first, I saw him at the edge of the yard and thought he was just passing through, but the next morning he turned up on the patio, sharing Oliver's food bowl.

And he proved to be very affectionate, a lap sitter, an ankle circler. Christine granted him a temporary patio visa and I fixed up some towels in a box.

Soon he was keeping Fred the Racoon at bay and giving Oliver orders.

So we have to go through the name thing again. Christine was toying with British authors or Greek gods earlier, but nothing's been resolved.

We're now a four cat family.

More on Ashley (Gray Kitty)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

At the keyboard

I'm reworking a portion of a novel that I've been writing for a while. At last the spark seems to be striking.

If you write, you know what I'm talking about. It's that energy that fuels effort and it comes when somewhere in your psyche you know or at least believe things are going well with a story.

It happens far to infrequently.

Friday, October 14, 2005

New iPod

I got excited about the new iPods, with the revelation of their long-rumored video capabilities. I'm just worried that convincing Christine that I need to upgrade roughly every Christmas is going to be a tough sell.

Guess the fact that you can now buy episodes of Lost through iTunes is good news all around, though. I have more enthusiasm about Lost than just about any other show in a while.

Now I don't have to worry about rainstorms affecting my dish reception on Wednesday nights. I can always pay a buck and change later.

Monday, October 10, 2005

What's on the Pod?

When the air turns crisp and cool, that's when my mood really shifts to horror fiction. It dates back to junior high when I was introduced to the likes of H.P. Lovecraft and the scary stories of Ray Bradbury.

That's because we always got those teen age book club circulars where you could order books for cheap, and in the fall they always offered collections of horror stories from the pulps, Gooseflesh, The Weird Shadow Over Innsmouth and Other Stories and Horror Times Ten.

In all of those there were some great stories including Bradbury's "The October Game," about a man's horrifying revenge against his wife with a slam dunk of a last line; August Derleth's "The Lonely Place," spiritual cousin to Stephen King's It; and of course Lovecraft's wonderfully chilling Innesmouth about a man slowly discovering the dark secrets of a small New England town.

Modern Horror
I selected a more modern tale for this October for my iPod, a story from John Saul, who's an occasional read for me. I've enjoyed many of his tales, starting after I read an interview with him in the old "Twilight Zone" magazine which was appropriately featured in an orange-colored October issue way back when.

Midnight Voices, so far at least, is a great autumn tale, set in an eerie New York apartment building that recalls Rosemary's Baby and The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz.

It's read wonderfully by ex-Catwoman Lee Meriwether and offers enough suspense to make me look forward to going to the gym again. That's the goal of my iPod, to keep exercise from getting too tedious.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Staying Lost

Take the quiz: "Which LOST character are you?"

You are Locke You are the Ambassador of the island. You can be a wierdo at times, but you know more than anyone else.

OK, the world really needs one more post on "Lost," since about a bazillion people watch every week, and about 99% of those spend time online dissecting every nuance of names, numbers and background images. Happily those folks save me the trouble of viewing each episode frame by frame.

But, it is one of the coolest and most tantalizing mysteries in prime time ever. One of the biggest mysteries may take a while to figure out - is it fantasy or science fiction? It's looking like SF, but we'll wait and see.

The quiz
Of course there is a "which one are you quiz?" I love those. Poke back through the archives here and you'll find my Star Trek entry.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find out I'm Locke. In the queen mother of personality tests, Myers-Briggs (questioned by the Skeptic's Dictionary but eerily accurate as far as I can tell), I'm an INFJ, which many who know me would say: "Explains so much."

I don't know that Locke's an INFJ but he spends a lot of time in his own head, as many introverts do.

And welcome to my world. Some people triumph over introversion, summon up outgoing traits and fool everyone.

I don't often manage that. Guess it makes me seem distant at best. Oh, well.

I suppose there are worse things to be than Locke.

Monday, October 03, 2005

What's On the Pod?

I watched On the Beach on cable not long ago. It's a profound and cautionary Cold War-era film about the aftermath of a nuclear war. Gregory Peck plays a sub commander serving in Australia where the end of the world is a little slower to arrive because the holocaust occurred in the Northern Hemisphere. I'd wanted to see it for some time but had just never encountered it nor read the Neville Shute novel on which it's based, though I will soon.

The Land Down Under
Because of the down under setting, the musical score is permeated by elements of Waltzing Matilda as well as a jolly rendition of the lyrics late in the story. I mentioned that here in passing a few weeks back.

In the course of searching for a nice version of "Waltzing" I ran across another tune, "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda," a folksy Australian tune. Something about it struck me so I grabbed it too.

I've spent a little more time learning it's origins now. It's tied to remembrances of the Gallipoli experiences of Australians of World War I.

Liner notes from the tune's author Eric Bogle explain his motivation. It was penned after he watched a march on Anzac Day ( Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) to commemorate the soldiers who fought at Gallipoli.

The tune is reminiscent of and is as haunting as the original Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, told from the point of view of young Australian drifter who is coaxed into service and barely survives battle.

He speaks of watching Anzac Day parades and his former comrades marching even though he cannot.

It's a tune that when listened to today resonates for me with new meaning. Perhaps it should too have been cautionary for all of us.

Also on the Pod
Speaking of songs from shows, probably my favorite free tune from iTunes is "Every Ship Must Sail Away" from Blue Merle. I noticed the other night it was used to round out an episode of "Bones" on Fox.

Interesting placement. Bet it was on one of the writer or producer's iPods as well.

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