Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dark Visions

I was link hopping and ran across a great online gallery of horror art. is a showcase of horror cover art and other visions from a host of artists.

Plenty of scary, ghostly, chilling and disturbing work including paintings, digital photography and more.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

New on the iPod - an exploration of Poe

Thanks to Slate's pulp fiction emphasis, I discovered The Poe Shadow in an excellent essay by Christopher Benfey.

It's an attempt to unravel the mystery of Edgar Allen Poe's final and never explained days, and I was quick to get the audiobook version. I have a longtime fascination with Poe.

The imagry I didn't quite understand when my father first read me The Raven was chilling and may have been my earliest exposure to what words could do in the nightmares department. He read me The Gold Bug also from the same Whitman collection. While it's not a true tale of terror, the late night scenes of its depicted treasure quest also invoked scares.

My dad probably didn't know what he was imprinting on my brain way back then.

A sadder side
In high school, coping with adolesence and feelings of alienation at the same time, I came to feel a saddness for Poe's troubled life. We studied him in English classes and I had a teacher, rest her soul, who encouraged some of my short fiction which she said captured some of the same tones as Poe.

I tried writing some poems about his existence but never came up with anything worthwhile, but I've always snatched up Poe fiction.

Marc Olden wrote a novel in which Poe starred as a detective. Poe Must Die was a perfect paperback autum read for me in its day. It paired the purple prose writer with an ex-boxer and pitted them against murder and the supernatural.

Matthew Pearl's Poe fiction is a more realistic effort to solve the writer's missing days. It's "my next listen" as might put it.

Now if someone would just come up with a tale that explains that guy who sneaks out to the Poe grave every year...

Nah, for that it's more fun not knowing.

Friday, May 26, 2006

10 Signs You're Too Into The Lost Experience

10. You've ordered a fleet of Jeep Compasses from your local dealership.
9. You've put on 15 pounds drinking Sprites.
8. You've applied to be Thomas Mittelwerk's personal assistant.
7. You've changed your pet's name to Joop.
6. You're convinced that that short in your vacuum cleaner is an electromagnetic pulse.
5. You ask the convenience store clerk if they have any Williamsburg Tobacco products.
4. You settle for a can of Copenhagen.
3. Your summer vacation destination: Vik.
2. You're hoping to stop over briefly for a stay in the Love Suite at La Dolce Vita.
1. You're in love with Persephone.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Lost Viral Experience

I'm really starting to enjoy The Lost Experience game. The flurry of clues and new online content this week really served to expand the connect-the-dots narrative. It's an incredible online experience, and one of the most interesting advertising/marketing experiences in some time--since sponsor messages are buried amid the clues.

I don't have time to plug numbers into ASCII translators or run my mouse across every corner of The Hanso Foundation site to pick up the tiny hints, so I've been relying on the clues blogs. (Was Ms. Clue in this week's episode a tip of the hat to the online game?)

The best clue blog
The best, in my opinion, is The Lost Experience Clues, interestingly an online project from Watermark Community Church, though nothing overtly geared toward outreach is included. (They have a separate blog, Stories of the Lost, which explores the television show's spiritual themes and links to their church home page. Watermark certainly seems to be an appropriate name for their low-key approach. And it mirrors the core sponsor messages in the game.)

Anyway I digress worse than a Lost flashback. I like to pick up a few clues from the blogs and make my way along the online path from there.

And as I was saying, the subtlety of the advertising is what's most impressive. Surprisingly advertisers are trusting that rabid Lost fans will glean sponsor messages as well as Hanso revelations from the web strands that spread everywhere.

"I smell a lymon," I e-mailed my friend, Wayne, this week as I jumped from the Lost-Clues-provided coordinates on the Hanso Foundation electromagnatism subsite to

Hugh McIntyre's inbox
By the time the fake Hanso ad flashed on the show with it's tiny "sponsored by Jeep" footnote, I and many many other fans had already been through Hanso Foundation PR Man Hugh McIntyre's inbox.

"This week's spot is sponsored by Jeep," I told Wayne in that e-mail before the show. The way Sprite sneakily sponsored last week's clues with

And yes, I wound up looking at Jeep's site for their Compass, as I was supposed to, even though Hugh had only stored a cryptic print ad and an '80s ear Jeep commercial on You Tube. (Addendum: Apparently Hanso is ordering some Jeep Compasses, I stand corrected.)

Some may be cynical, but it's a brilliant business decision by all of the parties, and I think it's paying for great fun.

Namaste, and obey your thirst.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dirty Blond on the iPod

I have really been enjoying the audiobook version of Lisa Scottoline's Dirty Blond. It's a page-turner for the ear, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. I zipped through almost the entire first half while painting my living room.

I guess painting and audio books are a good combination. I find it easy to hit a balance between a narrative and the focus on edging and rolling.

Centering on a newly robed Philadelphia judge, Cate Fante, the story begins with an interesting courtroom drama surrounding the rights to a successful television series then spins quickly to murder and much more.

Judge Fante has a self-destructive streak that leads her into casual and dangerous encounters with men, which soon puts both her professional and private life in turmoil.

I've never read Scottoline before, but I'm certainly interested in discovering more of her courtroom thrillers.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Pod Ads

I realized over the last few days I've now been influenced by podcast ads.

That's not a major life milestone, but it is sort of an interesting epiphany. Where were you when you heard the Berlin Wall went down? What was the first movie you saw? What was the first podcast ad that influenced you?

For me it was for The Travel Channel. I heard mention of a show on a couple of different 'casts and while I was flipping channels, it occurred to me to find the Travel Channel. (What that involved was getting my channel card out to check the number. I never seem to surf past The Travel Channel, probably because I worry a little about inadverdently ordering an expensive WWE event if I hit one of those "Click here to order" channels.) I wound up watching a segment about the Ginza. It may have even been on Anthony Bourdain's show, which is what they were hawking in the pod ad.

Other pod ads
As I check through the file cards in the cluttered cabinet of my brain, I notice other references to podcast ads.

I didn't go to Chili's for their special Cinco de Maya menu, available for a limited time only, but I know they had one.

And I know Slate has a writer who goes and tries out different occupations like being a nude model.

That all sunk in, even though I've clicked past everything on my DVR but the commercial with Robby the Robot in it. That I watched, but my real influences are piped directly into my head these days.

That should work until the buds rob me of my hearing.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A good day for pod folks

Yesterday was a big news day for iPod video users. Several Fox series rolled out on iTunes including 24 and Prison Break, as well as Firefly and Lost in Space.

I resisted the urge to impulse buy, but the expansion of available content is exciting.

I picked up the word at The Lost Remote TV Blog. In reporting, they asked: "Has anybody else noticed that you don't use your iPod for video as much as you thought you would when you bought it?"

Guilty as charged
I have to say it's true. I have watched quite a bit, but for some reason I haven't found myself trapped in as many mundane waiting situations since I got the video version at Christmas.

I watched quite a few shows while bicycling at the gym initially, but lately I've gravitated to G4 vodcasts.

I have an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode I got halfway through waiting on a video crew at my day job, but I haven't had a long wait since then to finish it.

I also have a couple of Night Stalkers I haven't watched.

I guess it's because I'm a little superstitious. I don't want to waste purchased content on routine boredom. I have this sense I should save dramas for extreme boredom.

Maybe I will loosen up now that I have options for Jack Bauer, Dr. Smith and the crew of Serenity, and presumably Warner Brothers' upcoming paid content on Bit Torrents won't have the limitations of current online movies. Time will tell on that one.

Apparently ABC's streaming has been so successful it will continue, according to Lost Remote. And they'll also be offering Bit Torrent content it appears.

The flood gates are open. I'm sure more companies will be following suit and looking for a business model that works better than selling content that's not portable for the same price as a DVD.

Monday, May 08, 2006


I'm a little sorry to see headlines mourning Tom Cruise's diminished box office for Mission: Impossible 3.

Despite his extracurricular activities, Cruise is still a likeable screen presence , and M:I-3 , as directed by J.J. Abrams , is like a long, exciting Alias episode.

It's definitely better-plotted than the previous two. Things generally seem to happen for a reason and not just to string stunts together, although there are some nice set-pieces.

It's really worth tearing yourself away from the living room TV to see it on the big screen.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Lost" online

(Apparently I wasn't the only one watching online. was overloaded yesterday.'s streaming of its shows this month certainly came in handy.

My DVR froze at the thirty minute mark on "Lost" last night. It locked up right in the middle of a commercial with some girls looking over flowers, and even though the record light stayed on - it didn't record even though I waited a half-hour to reboot.

Moral: reboot early and cut your losses and don't believe your DVR's record light.

I went straight to this a.m. when I got up to watch, and I'm glad I did. I think if I'd even waited for iTunes I would have found out what happened in the last five minutes.

If you were conscious today, you couldn't miss the fact that You Know Who bought it. wasn't offering the trailer for next week, so I went to after watching the episode, thinking I might find it there and was hit with an annoucement headline. Um hum hum died on "Lost."

My friend who didn't get to watch last night she told me she had the episode spoiled by Good Morning America with no warning.

Moral of that story? Whatever network your favorite show is on, watch the other guy's news because they won't be giving the dead chracter or deleted contestant a sendoff on their morning show.

I warned Christine, my wife, to avoid any site that might be risky today. I should have said: "Just stay the hell away from a computer or a TV." She learned more than she wanted to on CNN just checking the news. "They said shots rang out," she said.

"Trust me," I responded. "Shots rang out is not a spoiler." It's who they rang out at. And rang out at.

We watched on this evening so Christine could see what we missed last night.

I've also watched a little of Desperate Housewives and Commander in Chief, not because I really care, but dang it's convenient having those streamed episodes. I'd like this to catch on, because I could have some kind of incident during an episode of 24. Ye gods!

And you don't even have to sit through the whole mandetory commercial with ABC's streaming. You get a prompt when ABC deems you've watched enough of a message about Cingular or Tylenol.

That's a bit of all right.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hours of "Lost" fun

A press release on reveals that the official Hanso Foundation site is back online.

It's souped up quite a bit and as alluded to in one of the official Lost podcasts, it should provide hours of fun.

More about Joop, the 100+ year old orangutan and strange things if you try to sign up for the newsletter.

I'm hoping Wayne, my buddy and a Lost lore expert will crack some of the mysteries and save me a little time. (Some great helps are now available here.)

The most interactive TV show ever
I'm hopelessly addicted to Lost's plot and characters, but I'm also fascinated by it pop culture impact and the viral marketing it has touched off, fueling the fascination with secrets and clues better than anything since So The Dark the Con of man was scrawled in the Louvre.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dangling Conversations

I used to get phone calls from an elderly man in a nursing home. They came to my desk when I was reporter, though someone had told him I wrote novels as well. He wanted me to write a book for him, or with him. The first time he called, I told him to take a number.

I know you've probably heard this. Every writer, even obscure, minor American authors like me, gets endless queries: "I have this great idea, do you want to write a book with me? I'm sure it would be a bestseller."

Yeah, right.

Usually those ideas run along the lines of: "It's like The Firm except it's set in a (fill in the blank industry.)" Or it's the person's life story, which he's convinced is so interesting everyone will want to read it. (I used to get calls from a guy who thought the Russians were controlling the weather, but he never asked me to write his life story. His I might have been interested in.)

When I wrote young adult novels under the Michael August pseudonym, Michael got letters from adults saying they'd read his book and felt he was perfect to write his/her biography. I'm not sure what part of Mike's YA horror novels qualified him to chronicle lives from suburbia which featured "something for everyone."

Bear in mind all this was before blogs which I assume takes care of a lot of the need for personal biography.

My elderly caller wouldn't have wanted to use a blog. He was convinced his knowledge was so valuable he couldn't reveal it for fear of losing the vast sums of money it would net if only it could be put into narrative form.

What he said he knew
He knew, he said, who the Green River Killer was. Look that up now and you can't help but find Gary Ridgway, but this was before he was caught.

I don't know if Gare was the guy my caller had in mind. He was living a long way from Washington state.

He always spoke of "This individual."

I suggested he contact the authorities.

He just kept contacting other writers. He'd call me back periodically to tell him who'd turned him down. I don't know if he found Ann Rule, but I remember him reading me a letter from Robert B. Parker who politely told him: "I prefer to work alone on my books."

A time or two he called to chide me. "I guess you're sorry you passed up writing about this."

Annoyed, I told him no, but he either didn't notice or didn't care when he heard annoyance in my voice.

Eventually he stopped calling or I moved on and he lost track of me. By now, I'm sure he's passed on.

Looking back, I wonder how badly he wanted someone to write a book. Maybe he just wanted someone to talk to.

And I have to note him as one of the people I wasn't particularly nice to.
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