Saturday, January 24, 2009

Terror for the iPod - Two Tales of Frankenstein

Occasionally things turn up that are almost like discovering one more chapter(s) in the Universal Horror series. 

Some are better than others of course, but I'm always happy to gain access to those missing pieces that utilize talents from the Universal heyday, especially when it's what Forry Ackerman might term the Frankenstein Lonster, Lon Cheney Jr.

Tales of Frankenstein
I never knew of the Tales of Frankenstein pilot from Hammer Films in 1958 until QuasarDragon mentioned recently that is was available on the site, where cool things seem to materialize regularly.  It's directed by Curt Siodmak who penned Universal horror classics such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman as well as the classic science fiction novel Donovan's Brain.

The lead-in suggests the resultant series would have been a horror anthology since the opening narration notes "any story that chills the soul and freezes the blood is truly a tale of Frankenstein."

The opener features Dr. Frankenstein (Anton Diffring), somewhat like the Peter Cushing incarnation from Hammer theatrical releases, though it's in a silvery Universal black-and-white instead of the trademark Hammer color--inevitably modified by the adjective lurid.

He's called on to help a young but dying man in the pilot, but instead he uses the man's body to reanimate a VERY Universal looking monster. 

It doesn't rise to the level of the best of the Universal films, but it's an interesting piece to watch either online or on an iPod.

Tales of Tomorrow #16 - Frankenstein
This perhaps more infamous live television adaptation of Frankenstein is a bit more engaging and not to be missed by the Universal fan. It stars Lon Chaney Jr.--best known as The Wolf Man but also a memorable mummy and Dracula in Universal flicks--as the creature in a contemporary re-telling that features One Step Beyond host John Newland as Victor Frankenstein. 

I believe this version's been around on DVD, but I've never picked up a copy. 

It's the adaptation that features the allegedly inebriated Chaney being less destructive on his rampages than planned because he believed he was still in a rehearsal and not performing in a live broadcast. That's actually not as distracting as you'd expect. You kind of have to be looking for it. Sorry. Spoiler warning? 

The creature makeup is interesting in its own way and the gloomy castle sets make for a moody backdrop for the fairly fast-moving story of monster making and destruction. 

I was exciting to find these available, preserved for a new visit and a new experience. If you've any love for the roots of contemporary horror, have a look.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Nobody reads anymore, so...Podcasting!

Addendum (1/19/09). We're now in iTunes. (Link will open the iTunes application.)

That's kind of a "made ya look" headline. I don't really believe that nobody reads anymore. It will take a while--even though we're in a midst of some cultural shifts--for things to change that drastically.

Certainly new things are happening all the time, though. New or newish delivery methods are becoming ubiquitous faster than the generations before us accepted radio or TV.

Podcasting's been around a while now, and I've enjoyed the true play-on-demand opportunities it has provided me. I can listen to NPR at the gym now, audiobooks on the treadmill, tech news in the a.m. and talk shows devoted to topics I'm interested in such as Doctor Who and Battlestar.

I've wanted to try something for a while. For some reason it hit me around Jan. 1 that rather than trying to tackle a discussion show, I could put together a podcast of short horror and suspense fiction. I have a few pieces of my own work that were recorded a while back for an audiobook collection, and I have access to those as potential installments.

There is also a tradition, I percieve, in the podcast community, of podcasters lending their voices to other 'casts, so I decided to dive into what I'm calling the beta version of Fear on Demand to see if I could pull it off at least for a respectable number of episodes and a respectable publishing schedule even when I'm back in school. The goal is for it not to be devoted just to my work but to present a true collection of works of many.

I think, think mind you, I can manage something monthly. I know I can for a few months anyway. After that we'll see.

I'm calling it the beta because it's hosted in the simplest way I can imagine right now, and I'm working on the little details like RSS feeds, getting it into iTunes and available for podcatchers and that sort of thing. As I write this it's pending iTunes approval.

I'm running into some of the usual headaches that I'm sure all novice podcasters have experienced at start up--puh sounds, normalizing, decent Flash players for the blog version. etc. I'm sure I'll have other headaches along the way, but it's an interesting process, and learning is always exciting.

So anyway, Episode 1 is ready for a listen at, or you can subscribe to the basic feed manually with iTunes or your favorite podcatcher or get the Feedburner feed plugged in to just about anything you like. The show will play in a Google Reader, for example.

Episode 1
Episode 1 features a tale from Charles Gramlich called "Thief of Eyes." It originally appeared in a collection edited by Del Stone, Jr. called The Parasitorium, and it's read by Glen Hallstrom, aka Smokestack Jones, who hasrecorded many Lovecraft stories at Glen's blog is Too Much Johnson, and he's available for voice work. Charles tells me the story grew out of an anthology that never breathed life that Thomas Fortenberry and I tried to put together a few years ago. That was sort of a shared-world horror anthology, and that reminded me that concept might also be ripe for a podcast. Who knows? Baby steps. I'm learning the ropes here.

For the moment, Fear on Demand is by invitation. I'm not quite ready to open the door to a flood of unsolicited submissions by listing on market news sites, though eventually I'd love to discover someone just starting out.

In the meantime, I'm guardedly moving along quietly. Certainly anyone in our little blog circle here is welcome to e-mail me. One thing I can kind of envision is maybe a Halloween celebration episode collecting some of the flash fiction people did in October.

Payment at the moment is the promotional or promo opportunity it provides only.

Authors retain all rights to the story except the podcast audio rights, and I'm including a Creative Commons, no-derivative works license tag on each episode and on the Fear on Demand blog. People can listen, pass an episode along but they can't, you know, make it into a movie, without striking a deal with the author.

If I can get the Paypal donate button working, apparently that's one of those common headaches, I'll be accepting donations to help with the domain mapping and hosting costs, and perhaps at some point it might become a paying market. Time will tell.

If there are any bands out there who want to play, I'm also open for some intro music or a tune to include.

And anyone with a mic who's interested in reading is welcome to check in.

In the meantime, drop by and have a listen of Charles' excellent story just past my stammering, Southern-accented intro, and listen after dark at your own risk.

WARNING: Fear on Demand contains explicit content such as mature themes, language and subject matter. If you feel you would be better entertained by more gentle stories, hey Google's ready when you are.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What's on the iPod? - Montego Bay

As I drove through another rainy morning cloaked with a grey, wet blanket, Bobby Bloom's Montego Bay popped up as my iPod shuffled songs. I've never been there, and I'm not sure exactly what a BOAC is, but the tune transported me to other places and made me remember people I've passed on the journey.

I've found, sometimes you encounter people randomly but more than once. It may not be anything but serendipity if you're a reporter in a small city, or maybe there's a little more magic to it.

I ran into a man named Glen about three times. He was a small business owner out to live life to the fullest from what I could tell. He spent his vacations travelling, seeing sites, SCUBA diving and more.

The first time I met him, he was just back from Jamaica. It had started as a vacation trip and turned into an adventure.

A hurricane hit the island shortly after he arrived, and he and other vacationers spent about a week trying to survive and get back out of paradise. It was a time with little water and much uncertainty.

When civilization gradually took hold again, he was able to get a flight out. He recalled looking around at fellow travellers, recognizing people from the flight in and wondering what became of those who were missing.

That experience didn't seem to slow him down or dissuade him. I heard tale of other trips he took afterward, hopping here and there.

I encountered him next at the opening of a chest pain center at a local hospital. I don't know how old he was. I was young and everyone looked old, but he was probably around the age I am now. He was there as a spokesman, representing the need for a chest pain center.

He explained how he'd felt a tingling in his left arm as he took a shower one morning. Initially he denied it could be anything serious, but eventually he sought help.

It was a heart attack and they caught it in time to avert major damage. He felt he'd been given a second chance and wanted to encourage others to act quickly and hang onto life.

The last time I ran into him, I was afraid I had a flat tire. I pulled off the freeway and into his auto service center. One of his employees came out to help me check my tire. Glen popped over for a second and, seeing the employee was handling things, went on to wait on other customers. I didn't have a flat, just a low tire. With it re-inflated, I pulled back into traffic and never looked back.

A couple of years later, I heard he had died while diving somewhere out West. I was a little sad, though I didn't know him well, not friend, just acquaintance.

The second chance had played out, I guess, or maybe the Reaper had him on a list and didn't give up on that appointment in Samarra.

I guess the important message is that he milked the days, fought for the second chance and tried to make the most of time, had some fun.

When "Montego Bay" came through the speakers this morning, I recalled Glen sitting on his sofa, posing in a straw fedora for photographs, and it was a good thought for a new year. Carpe diem and all that.

Who knows what a year will bring? Maybe the good news is that it's made up of a lot of nows that can be squeezed.

I confess two things. I'm Sid and I'm a cynic.

I confess also, I've been a little down the last few days. I will endeavor to do better, to snatch the joy of each moment, even if it's as simple as humming along with an old song with a catchy beat. I'll cope with the travails as they come, and I'll look ever forward.

I will also seek to heed my own advice.

Them's my new year's resolutions.

And to G., maybe we'll cross paths again somewhere down the line. I'll look for you in the crowd in that distant port when the BOAC lands.

Come sing me La
Come sing me Montego Bay
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Mostly Recharging

I've been getting a little bit of writing done on a couple of projects, but mostly I've been recharging the last few days, and wondering how I got a write-in-Hindi button on my blogger interface.

I thought I would get more read over the holidays and time off I've had, but I haven't managed to turn as many pages as I'd hoped.

I managed to veg a bit instead and discover a few guilty pleasures:

Legend of the Seeker
I'm guilty of never having read the Terry Goodkind books on which this new syndicated series is based. I'm told they're better than the show, but for the moment the show's what I have time for. It's on, partially in HD, and it's beautifully shot with likable actors, some swift action and a twinkle in the eye and just a slight smirk. For TV, it's Herc and Xena territory, but it's engaging me more than some feature films. I detect a trend of betrayal and redemption, but it's still captivating viewing in the sword and sorcery vein, and there's not much in that vein on the air now.

Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog
It's on just about every critic's year-end best list, so this is no revelation, but I liked it. Didn't get to see it when it was hot during the writer's strike. Happily it's also on Hulu in HD also and on DVD now as well. It's from Buffy-producer Joss Whedon, features Neil Patrick Harris of Doogie fame, plus Slither and Firefly's Nathan Fillion, who's soon to be seen in Castle, a mystery series that sounds like it might be fun.

Anyway Doogie is Dr. Horrible, aspiring super villain. I wondered how they were going to give him a suitable nemesis on a budget. Enter Fillion as The Hammer, a Captain Triumph-style good guy who's a bit of a jerk. He has the affections of the girl Dr. Horrible has a crush on, making things worse but paving the way for great songs. Really great show tunes. No kidding. Check it out.

The Big Bang Theory
So why is a show about ├╝ber-nerds on opposite Heroes, a show they'd probably watch? I missed an entire season of this fab sit-com. It's got some standard misunderstanding gags, but it's brilliantly executed and ropes in Star Trek, online gaming, comic books and more as its youthful geniuses struggle with life outside their physics experiments. I resolve to solve all quandaries and disagreements in 2009 using rock, paper scissors, Spock, lizard!

How'd I miss this great podcast for so long? It's a steampunk-themed 'cast with a stellar Christmas episode transposing late-sixties cryonics to the Victorian era, and you can backtrack to a multi-part novella and a great opening episode as well. Put it on your iPod, for sure!

QuasarDragon's Blog
Looking for free e-books, podcast recommendations and more? QuasarDragon's is a great place to stop by. It's a fantasy, SF cool-hunting blog pointing to various online e-zines, free fictionsites and more. It also occurs to me that it's a great guide to writing markets. Well worth a look. It's how I found Steampod.

Well, that's how I've been spending my free time of late. I think it has been energizing a bit as I prepare for the plunge into 2009, which promises to be challenging and busy. I had a tee-shirt in the appropriate year that read "Orwell That Ends Well, I Made it Through 1984." I'm thinking we all deserve an I Survived 2008 tee, and maybe a matching version for this year.

Let's look for fun where we can, and may everyone within the sound of my posts have a good one!
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