Monday, October 24, 2016

A Two-Necronomicon Day

Yeah, my blog is called October, and I've almost let the whole Halloween season pass without an update. Here's a few of the things the October family has been watching to get us in the spirit.

Ash vs. Evil Dead, Season 1: Returning to the world of the three Evil Dead movies, Bruce Campbell re-inhabits the character of Ash Williams so effortlessly, you'd think he'd been him every day since 1992's Army of Darkness. With evil loosed upon the world, the still gloriously idiotic Ash picks up his chainsaw and gets back to work, joined by two young co-workers from his job at an S Mart knock-off. Soft-spoken Pedro hero-worships Ash as the prophesied "El Jefe" destined to defeat the forces of darkness; Kelly, who could easily have been a one-note Jersey Girl stereotype, is forged by tragedy into a toughened warrior who can keep Ash in line. After a season under his mentorship (with advice ranging from "Chicks are like that" to "Shoot first, think never)," both kids seem perfectly capable of taking over someday as Deadite hunters supreme -- and both of them more responsibly than their teacher. This show is super-gory, very funny, has a kick-ass soundtrack, and its mostly half-hour episodes fly by in a delightful blink.

H.P. Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom: This feature-length animated film from 2016, based on a graphic novel, blends facts about the writer's childhood with a fanciful story about a journal opening a portal to another dimension. There, he meets a friendly Cthulhu and helps a race of fish-people break a dark spell. It's cute enough, and I appreciated the somewhat darker themes that reflect Lovecraft's life experience. Imaginative little Howard's father is locked up in a frightening mental institution, his doting mother is anxious and highly-strung, and his classmates think he's a weirdo. It's a nice (and not heavy-handed) message, that his life isn't perfect, and coping with situations is sometimes hard, but one can still be a decent person, and in helping others,  better one's own life. Unfortunately, overall it tends to be a bit long and talky -- hardly a fair criticism of something based on Lovecraft, I know, but I did groan a little when they started traveling to yet another location on another snowy path.

Bates Motel: Not the current series starring Vera Farmigia, but a full-length 1987 pilot for a never-made TV show. Bud Cort plays a young man who grew up in a mental hospital after killing his abusive stepfather. There, he and Norman Bates were inseparable friends (and the more Dr. Exposition expounds on how healthy this relationship was, the less it sounds), and when released, with a lack of preparation I found infuriating, he takes possession of the creepy old house and rundown motel Normal left him in his will. He befriends squatter Lori Petty -- speaking of Jersey Girl stereotypes -- and they work to reopen the motel as a place that will bring joy to the lives of weary travelers. In the first of what were probably going to be weekly Love Boat-style guests, their first customer is checking in to commit suicide, but she's saved by a roving band of 50s-era teen ghosts, including a depressed but flirtatious young Jason Bateman. It's nice that they all got together to save her life, but I don't know who was going to pay for all the punch and finger sandwiches they had at their sock hop. While this has all the marks of the TV movie it was, with its loose logic and obvious low budget, I found it an enjoyable time capsule. For example: OMG those shoulder pads!
Also, the sleazy banker who takes advantage of Cort's naivete is played by Starlord's grandpa.Which reminds me: apparently the fight against luxury condo development just never freaking ends, since that's a major in this plot from almost 30 years ago.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

In a Time of Ancient Gods ...

Mohenjo Daro (2016)

An ancient city, a hub for trade and multicultural crossroad, with quasi-historic but shamelessly anachronistic mishmashes of music, clothes, and general attitudes, toils under the oppression of a despot who usurped the rightful leader a generation ago. It is, verily, a land in turmoil crying out for a hero. Along comes a stranger, who immediately makes allies (in this case, a city guard who apparently has nothing else to do than help them out) and enemies (said tyrant, and his cartoonishly despicable son), and will inspire and lead them to rise up against tyranny and restore democracy to the land.

Yes, the storyline of Mohenjo Daro is basically a big budget episode of Xena, Warrior Princess, only instead of the wry and powerful Lucy Lawless saving the day, we have Hrithik Roshan in harem pants. But the plot elements could easily have been tossed off, and maybe abandoned, in the writer's room of the Tapert-Raimi epics. There are ridiculous feats of engineering (an impromptu "boat bridge" strung across a raging, flooded river, to usher refugees to safety in the nick of time) and action sequences like the gladiatorial match which Hrithik's Sarman wins through his seemingly infinite ability to take the punches of much larger men, along with the power of --yes! -- parkour!

This is a deeply silly movie, but the "ancient" dancers performing with Isis wings cracked me up, and anything that starts with an attack by an "Air Gator" is okay with me. (Well, I think it was really a crocodile, and the credits reassure us that it was a CGI creation, lest we think Hrithik really speared one).

Not to pick on him, but the film's backstory events supposedly took place fifteen years ago, which made me wonder how old Sarman, with his wide-eyed village innocence, was supposed to be. When he's going on about his vague memories, and the "aha! I was here before, as a child!" penny drops, I was like, yeah, you'd have been in your twenties when you went into exile? I know, it's a common problem as time catches up with movie stars, but if they're committed to it, maybe they should vague it up enough that people like me aren't momentarily distracted by reality. Nobody should have to go through the kind of painful awkward stage that Rishi Kapoor did during his transition from young adult awesome to elder statesman awesome.

Also, according to the Wikipedia, the film's director, Ashutosh Gowariker, worked with archeologists to develop the story, and "painstaking effort was made to ensure precise accuracy of the city's film set construction, matching its proportions and architecture to the actual archaeological ruins." But either nobody told him that the river Ganga is nowhere near the Mohenjo Daro site, or he didn't listen. If someone has information that I'm wrong in my geography, please let me know.

Because I'm looking for accuracy in a film like this! At 2:20 in the trailer, you'll believe a crocodile can fly.



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Urban Renewal

This is a story I wrote for a collection a few years ago (rejected). Might as well throw it up here!

Urban Renewal
by Karen Joan Kohoutek

Minneapolis, Minnesota

You know how it’s like the city can’t wait to tear things down? Like they’re not going to be happy until it’s all demolished. Well, there’s actually a reason for that. I don’t normally talk about it, because people think I’m crazy, but you’re cool.
It started when me and my friend Rosie were hanging out at this dive bar on Hennepin Avenue. It was on the stretch between the oldest strip club on the street, and the biggest gay bar. We got downtown early because our friend’s band was opening at this old speakeasy-turned-punk club, but of course everything was running behind. So we went down the block for a drink.
Downtown really lighted up early in those days. There was a mix of clean shiny chain restaurants for people who came from the suburbs for a night out, and some great record stores for all the kids who came to see bands, and tons of rundown brownstones with street-level bars that looked a hundred years old. Plus porn shops, and pizza by the slice. So there were people everywhere. We’d passed a couple of middle-aged men in dressy ladies’ pantsuits, wearing necklaces with huge baubles like my Grandma used to wear, stumbling down the street, already completely drunk, trying to help each other walk. Not to mention some girls, and guys, in miniskirts and sequined tops, strutting in front of packs of college boys.
We were at the Sportsman’s, which had this really distinctive smell. Something leaked every time you flushed the toilet, so there were always pools on the bathroom floor, and sometimes streaks going down the wall, so the whole place always smelled moist. As the night wore on, it would stink more of heavy cigarette smoke, and the reek of beer and puke. We loved it, though, and drank cheap gin and tonics that were almost entirely made of gin, and played crazy-ass songs like Johnny Horton on the jukebox.
Most of the walls were black, and the color would rub off slightly, leaving a faintly glittery trace -- like asbestos paint. The wall by the narrow stage was a dirty red, and it was covered in graffiti, mostly written in black felt-tips: identity scrawls, names of bands, and a lot of stuff about fucking the police, the state, and the President.
There was a gap of barstool between us and this old guy, and before long, we’d gotten deep in conversation.
 “You know the City Council wants to tear this all down,” he said, gesturing slightly.
“This bar?”
“The whole neighborhood.”
“What the fuck?” I asked.
“You know, to protect the children.”
“What, from sin?”
We all laughed. At every corner, packs of wanna-be gang-bangers, teenagers and younger, hung around and hollered when you walked by, offering you drugs. The city didn’t give a shit about them.
“That would be terrible,” Rosie said. “I moved here because of this street!”
That was true; it was Moby’s Whale of a Drink, down the way, that had convinced her she could live in the Midwest. She went on, “A town without a Skid Row isn’t worth living in.”
The old guy chortled. “Skid Row, my ass. This is nothing. This town used to have a real Skid Row, down by where the library is.”
“Really?”
“Yeah. There were blocks of businesses -- bars, cafes, old hotels. There were a few places where transients stayed, they were cut into partitions, with chicken wire over the top.”
“By the library,” I clarified.
“Yeah, between there and the Post Office. It’s all offices now.”
It was just a couple of blocks away. And it was weird, because that patch of downtown had always seemed really creepy to me. The buildings were huge Stalinist bunkers of dark concrete, deserted after five o’clock, but whenever I cut through there I always felt like I was being watched.
“So what happened to it?” Rosie asked, twirling her straw.
“Well, you know, officially it was the same thing. Urban renewal. But I worked maintenance for City Hall, and I heard all kinds of things. I don’t really like to talk about it.”
“Come on,” we coaxed, and finally he gave in.
“You kids know about evolution, right?”
That kind of surprised us, but yeah, we did.
“Originally we were animals. Apes. Eventually, the apes got self-consciousness -- but from where? The truth is, self-awareness is a parasite. Or a demon. Depends on how you define it. It’s a being actually separate from the host that carries it.”
He’d seemed normal enough for the kind of old guy you meet at a dive bar, but Rosie and I gave each other a look, like, shit, he was a Hennepin Avenue crazy.
“They figured it out with confession,” he went on. “All those centuries ago. That’s just one method to cast it out, mentally, but it works. Like therapy. There’s all kinds of ways.”
“Huh,” I said. I usually humored these guys, and I hadn’t gotten mugged or raped yet, so I stuck with my dumb luck.
He went on. “As they turned into human beings, with this self-consciousness, they poured their sins and guilts and shame into pockets in the earth. For a while, that would work like compost. But over time, all that badness would fester, and swell, until it poisoned the whole society built over it. People began to move over the earth, fleeing from the miserable parts of their own thoughts that they’d buried. They came to America, right? Where there was endless land, and not enough people for their sins to bother anybody.
“But just like a brand-new landfill, before long, it started piling up and building and building until it burst.”
He downed his beer.
“That’s what happened here. By the time this century rolled around, it was a mess. That shit had gotten into everything. The buildings were soaked in misery.”
“This place oughta be soaked in misery, if anywhere is,” the bartender put in.
“Booze is an antiseptic,” I said. “Everybody knows that.”
We all laughed, except the old guy, who looked grim.
“Another beer?” the bartender asked.
The old guy nodded.
“Eventually, badness was erupting all over. It came through the sewers, up out of the electrical outlets. Finally the city tore it all down, ripped out the brick and wood and rotting flesh, and poured new concrete over it. Stamped it down, to hold it off, for a little while, anyway.”
“So the potholes?” Rosie asked.
“Don’t ask!”
The bartender started to hand over a new bottle of beer, and I noticed this groaning sound coming from somewhere. Then there was a smell. Like I said, the room was already pretty bad, but this was a horrible, unholy smell leaking in, seemingly straight up from the floor. I instinctively put my hand in front of my mouth, tried not to breathe in, and suddenly there was a dull shaking underneath us.
“What the hell?” I said. “Are we having an earthquake?”
“That’s the stupidest fucking -- “
Before Rosie could finish thinking, a huge splintering sound torn through the room, floor first. A mass of burnt-looking, oily flesh seemed to ooze up from behind the bar, only super-fast, and it sucked the bartender up into itself, with a squealing cry of pain and anguish.
I caught a glimpse of Rosie’s face, turned white and contorted, and we grabbed each other’s hands and ran, half pushing the old guy in front of us. The surface of the bar buckled and jumped, and glass flew everywhere, from smashed drinks and exploding bottles.
We burst through the fire doors. A crowd was already starting to gather outside, to see what was going on, and we stumbled away, gasping, feeling protected by the weight of other people who could be eaten instead of us. The walls shook and the roof started to cave in, and we watched, frozen, until the Sportsman’s as a pile of charred rubble. Fire trucks shrieked around us, and we backed further away, and then me and Rosie looked at each other.
“Well,” she said. “I guess the City Council is going to hear about this.”

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Nothing New Under the Sun

I've been doing research on the black press in Civil War-era New Orleans. From a Belgian newspaper writer:

"I understood the situation of colored men in New Orleans; I easily identified myself with them, for even though the individuals were different, the cause was nothing new or strange to me: on one hand I found an unjust and privileged ruling class, and on the other an oppressed class that had been trampled underfoot and had no role in society."

 -- Jean-Charles Houzeau, My Passage at the New Orleans Tribune, written 1870

Seriously, people, it's been over a hundred years. Can't we work on this?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Fandom Menacing

"You wouldn't understand."

Fan (2016) is a dark psychological thriller, a visceral action picture, and a thoughtful meditation on the way modern celebrity culture messes people up. But most importantly, it gives us a throwback to Shah Rukh Khan in his glory days as the crying, giggling psychopaths of yore. In movies like Darr, Baazigar, and Ram Jaane – ahh, the pleasures of Ram Jaane, which I can’t begin to justify, so thank heavens I don’t have to – he was surprisingly sympathetic as creeps and stalkers, sometimes going so far as murder, while remaining recognizably human.

(Spoilers to come, yaar).
It deals with some of the same themes SRK has been interested in films like the underrated Billu, which similarly used existing promotional material for his real-life blockbusters, but wrapping them up in genre conventions probably makes them feel less heavy-handed than they can seem in a slice-of-life. 

For the majority of Fan, he plays Gaurav, a Delhi underdog whose devotion to superstar Aryan Khanna is at first understandable, given the physical resemblance that Gaurav has used to create his own mini-stardom mimicking the actor at a local annual talent competition, until his attempt to make dreams reality by meeting his hero go awry. He also plays Aryan, who becomes more prominent as a character as the story develops. The effects used to make the two look different enough, and also to make Gaurav much younger than the actor is, were sometimes distracting, since I'd find myself wondering "How did they do that? Is that motion capture?" But the familiar SRK voice and mannerisms, as well as the film's echoes with his actual biography, add to the uncanniness.

Since I could be accused of sometimes reading too much into Khan and his films -- for example, all the words I've poured onto Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (which also dealt with identity and doubling!) here and here --  I will continue on in the same vein. In addition to exploring the fraught, mutually dependent but utterly dysfunctional relationship between stars and their publics, Fan also works as a subtle critique of religious fanaticism. The nobody openly talks about the movie star being a god to him, almost literally an idol. This focus has given his life meaning and purpose, and even though it’s pointed out to him that it’s a trivial purpose, he doesn’t care. His devotion is such that his first real steps into mental instability and violence come when this idol is insulted, and the reason is because he over-identifies with the object of his worship.

In turn, Gaurav is explicitly described as a monster, which in Hindi is some version of the word Rakshasha. Sorry, I couldn't take notes in the theater. But it's not that he’s either a monster, a hurt human being, or a good guy gone astray (as his parents and pretty neighbor Neha realistically insist). He can be all those things. As can Aryan: when told that his fan is mad, he muses, “What am I?” The film starts from Gaurav’s point of view, and we can empathize with his need for connection, for something to believe in, and for a time, it seems harmless and even touching. But the two men can't understand each other. The star wants to be reminded of the connection he has to normal people, and keeps trying to reach Gaurav on that basis. But the normal people reject that connection: they want all the things they DON'T have in common with their heroes.

But enough theme and meaning -- let's get to the important stuff. The action sequences were fantastic – I was literally flinching – and perhaps most thrilling: once the early establishing part of the movie were done, and Gaurav was en route to Mumbai to track down his idol, I literally had no idea, from moment to moment and scene to scene, what was going to happen next. That sense that anything was possible carried all the way to the very end, which could have gone in any direction whatsoever.

A few implausibilities are introduced for the sake of drama. Like seriously, at that wedding, this mega-star wouldn’t have a bigger security retinue, and would have to run himself from one end of the mansion to apprehend the bad guy? Or at his house? 

But that's forgivable. The only downside to Fan is something that might be an upside for some people, especially in American audiences: there are no musical numbers! Just incidental music, as we see snippets of performance, and a dance rehearsal. It did get me home from an evening movie by my bedtime, which wouldn’t have happened with a normal-length Hindi film, but still, that was a disappointment. 
 
The trailer attached at our local theater was for an upcoming movie called Sultan. Finally, what you’ve all been waiting for: Salman Khan, as Naked as He Can Get!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Looking Through the Window

Because I don't have nearly enough to do, between prepping cemetery research and recording an audiobook ... I've signed up for a few online classes from Oxford's Hindu Studies Online. They aren't worth college credit or anything, but are just for general interest. Still, I'm looking forward to it.

Quick quote: "Some Hindus will say that all deities are aspects of an impersonal absolute and that deities of mythology and the icons in temples are windows into this ultimate reality" (Gavin Flood, An Introduction to Hinduism, p. 14). That phrase, "windows into this ultimate reality," seems like it might be helpful to me to explain how I feel about some things. I don't know what that ultimate reality is, but maybe we can peek into it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

We Aren't Family

“Where your biological family has failed you, you always have me, your surrogate family … If it’s any consolation, I’m not happy about it either.”
-- Sheldon Cooper, Big Bang Theory

One of the most heartbreaking things to ever happen on Mad Men took place in the series finale. Don Draper shows up on the doorstep of his surrogate niece, Stephanie, supposedly to return the engagement ring her aunt Anna, his closest friend (and one-time legal wife; it’s a long story) had given him. Realizing he’s in bad shape, she takes him along to a California spiritual retreat, and then, stripped emotionally bare in a therapy session, she lashes out at him: “You’re not my family.”

It’s so painful because it’s nothing but the literal truth. Whatever she is in his mind, he isn’t her family. It’s not just (entirely) a rejection of the screwed-up Don, who has no family of his own, and barely ever did. It’s a slap to the whole romantic notion that we can create our own families apart from the pre-existing structure of spouses, children, and nuclear families of origin. Of course, we've all seen cases where it works, sometimes, for some people. But, as in this case, it can happen that the severing of one tie can reveal the whole idea as illusory.

Even if your relationships are strained, for example, your sister's children will still be your nieces or nephews. Your mother's siblings are still your aunts or uncles. Even if you're not close, even if you've barely met, the bond is still recognized as one that exists. But even the closest relations of your closest friends are connected to you only through the voluntary relationship that exists between you and those specific people. It may, if you're lucky, end up extending. But voluntary relationships are still not seen in the same light as as involuntary ones. As the saying goes, you can pick your friends, but not your relatives, and the fact that you can choose to pick them or not means the connections aren't seen as objective and unchangeable -- just something that's there, whether you want it or not.

Despite all the changes in society, blood is still, often, blood.

So I wanted to yell at Stephanie: "You are too family!" Where there's been a bond of love and friendship, it shouldn't just unravel. Of course, we'd seen this character be an idealist and a hippie, so maybe she'd just seen how, so often, it doesn't work. Me, though: I still believe in the possibilities of the surrogate family. We live in a fractured time, and most of us need all the support we can get.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Ran to the Street, Looking for Information

Like everyone else who was blithely celebrating Mr. Bowie's birthday one minute, and mourning his death practically the next, I have my opinions about which of his songs are the best -- especially once you get past the less obvious choices. James Gunn had a great list (which is no surprise), but enough of the similar retrospectives have made me go "oh, please" that I've written my own.

"Fill Your Heart." Hunky Dory, like The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars right after it, is an almost perfect album. I mean, "Queen Bitch"! "The Bewley Brothers"! But I have always been unaccountably, uncontrollably in love with this song. It took all these years before I realized it was written by Biff Rose and Paul Williams (king of '70s easy listening and star of the kitschfest Phantom of the Paradise). Which makes sense, since it's catchy and poppy and full of goofy, hippy-dippy lyrics. But it seems perfect for Mr. Bowie! Despite being someone with a reputation for calculating artifice, he delivers a performance bursting with naive sincerity. When he sings "Love heals the mind and makes it FREEEE!" I want to fling out my arms like Shah Rukh Khan, and hug the whole universe.

"Five Years." As true today as it was in 1983 -- this is my favorite Mr. Bowie song, hands down. This pre-apocalyptic tune introduces the premise of Ziggy Stardust, but works equally well as a stand-alone. Both despairing and inspirational, it tells of a world in which the Earth is doomed to an unspecified destruction, which will take place in, you guessed it, five years, itemizing the transcendent joy of perfectly ordinary, mundane human life: exactly what something like Ziggy was designed to help his fans escape from. Weird, right? But it's beautiful. I have often related to the line when, dazzled by everything that's going to be lost, he sings "My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to space/I had to cram so many things to store everything in there." Then follows that up wistfully with "I never thought I'd need so many people." I could cry just thinking about it. It's perfectly book-ended with the also-amazing and more-often-played "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide," which closes the album. 

"Hang Onto Yourself." Bonus Ziggy track. If anyone wants to know what glam rock sounds like, this is it. You can just hear the crazy outfits and outrageous makeup in it! I don't even know what you call what those guitars are doing at the end: distorting? But combined with the heavy breathing and the "come on"'s, this is fun and a little bit campy, and there is no reason that can't be as artistic as something more serious.

"Watch That Man." "He talks like a jerk, but he could eat you with a fork and spoon." Aladdin Sane tends to get lost in the shuffle because it's just great, not perfect, but it has some of my favorites, mainly this one. I like its scenario - a party that, typically, devolves into a dystopian vision -- and the clever lyrics, with references to Benny Goodman and the "Tiger Rag." Said by some to be a hasty Rolling Stones knock-off, but if this is someone's substandard throw-away, they're operating at a way higher level than most of us!

"Chant of the Ever-Circling Skeletal Family." Well, this was inevitable. It's a really weird piece that concludes the 1984 section of Diamond Dogs. I kind of have to include the song "Big Brother" with it, because one song segues right into the other. And that one's pretty great too, if not quite the whackjob tour-de-force that "Chant" is.

"Always Crashing in the Same Car"/"A New Career in a New Town." The yin and yang of Low? I've always thought of them as companion pieces: one about doing the same thing over and over, the other about starting fresh; one with coolly delivered lyrics, the other an instrumental; both of them very short (just over and just under three minutes, respectively). They sum up that time in my 20s when I was in fact doing both of those things at the same time.

"Joe the Lion." From the "Heroes" album, this shares that vibes-y, Wall of Sound style with the title track, plus a bombastic vocal style that makes it larger than life. This is a Bowie song that's little remarked upon, so I have no idea who Joe is supposed to be, why he's "the Lion," or what his deal is. The Wikipedia says it was inspired by Chris Burden, the performance artist who was literally nailed to a car, but I can't help thinking that Joe's nailing is a bit more metaphorical.

"It's No Game (Part I)." This is Mr. Bowie at his punkest. The aggressive Japanese lyrics (performed by Michi Hirota), followed up by Bowie practically shrieking them in English, is amazing. The line "to be insulted by these fascists is so degrading" was practically on my coat of arms in the Reagan years -- in fact, the one Bowie button I generally wore was his face from the cover of this album, Scary Monsters.

"John, I'm Only Dancing." This single was on the Changesonebowie cassette that pretty much changed my life. There's something about his voice here, that turns up in other early (and early-ish) songs as well, where it sounds almost like it's breaking. Whenever I hear it, it twinges a chord of weirdly emotional intimacy. The about-to-crack sound moves me more than the polished croon of, for example, a "Young Americans." Which is a great song, but I just don't react to it the same way.

So that's my Mr. Bowie collection. One of these days I'll listen to Blackstar, with my broken heart.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Who Else Will Toot It?

An update on my various doings around the web, and in so-called real life. It feels very horn-tooty to talk about, but I've got to get over that if I want to survive in the modern world. And it's January 1st, so a good time for a review.

Most recently, I fulfilled a long-time ambition and did an audio recording for LibriVox, whose motto is "acoustical liberation of books in the public domain." Here's me, reading James Thomson's "The City of Dreadful Night," as part of a short poetry collection.  I'm track 3. Currently, I'm recording an audiobook of one of my favorite, lesser-known Gothic novels. More about that later!

In 2014, I had my first blog post on the awesome Robert E. Howard site Two Gun Raconteur. I ended up tweaking that post, "I Put a Spell On You: Robert E. Howard's Voodoo and Conjure Stories," and presenting it at this year's PCA/ACA Conference in New Orleans, where I got to meet some of my REHupa colleagues  in person. (That's the Robert E. Howard United Press Association). The essay was nominated for a Robert E. Howard Foundation award, and although it didn't won (I voted for the winner myself, because it deserved it), it netted me the Venarium Award as an Emerging Scholar. Which is an amazing honor, and I'm still kind of floored. I did some more work on Howard, and on the amazing Welsh weird writer Arthur Machen, about which there'll be more to know in 2016.

The TGR blog (as we shorten it) also published my essay "The Brazen Peacock," about the appearance of the Yezidis in Howard's fiction.
In the summer, also to my great surprise, my poetry book Votive: Poems and Oracle was selected by artist Marjorie Schlossman as the basis for a series of paintings, which will be part of the local Arts Partnership's Community Supported Art project. That's also still in the works. I've seen some of the series, and the style and concept fit so well with my poems, it's like they were written just for this. Which is bizarre, considering I didn't think anyone would even like them, but awesome.

I've got three different book manuscripts out: two are in the submission limbo, and one has already had some rejections, but is still sauntering forth into the world, with hope in its heart.

Also, I'm continuing with the belly dancing: notably with Shimmy Mob 2015, which was fracking FREEZING.

And I "acted" and did behind-the-scenes production assisting on a few short horror trailers for the GrindFlicks Fargo events.

Plus I got a new job.

Whew! It's no wonder it's taken me so long to update my blog!