Wednesday, November 6, 2019

November books and movies

So you can all know what a crazy person I am:

November 1: The Lighthouse. Yeah. Huh.
November 2: Satanic Panic, the Claymation Comedy of Horrors
November 3: The original Godzilla, from the new Criterion Collection set. Also, finished Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, Robert E. Howard's autobiographical first novel.
November 4: Home with a bad cold, so: Sh the Octopus, The Mystery of the Wax Museum, part of House of the Gorgon, then the Rifftrax version of Atlantic Rim. Whew! Finished The Works of Gwerful Mechain, a medieval Welsh poet, for the Classics Club.
November 5: Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween. Fun and harmless Halloween cool-down fun.
November 9: Saw Madama Butterfly at the simulcast "Live from the Met."
November 10: Binged the new Hulu season of Veronica Mars in the afternoon, then the recent season of The Good Place in the evening.
November 11: Ghost of New Orleans. No surprise: it was not good. Then, much better: Godzilla Raids Again. Plus some of the new Lost in Space.
November 12: The launch of Disney +, or as I call it, "the Star Wars streaming service." Episode one of The Mandalorian!
November 13: Booksmart came in on hold. I think I had higher hopes, but it was a perfectly serviceable teenage comedy.
November 14: Finally, the first few episodes of Star Wars:  Resistance.
November 15: Episode 2 of The Mandalorian. Making a good dent in Dickens' Hard Times.
November 16: Jojo Rabbit at the theater. Started Resistance Reborn, by Rebecca Roanhorse.
November 17: In the Star Wars-y mood, re-watched Solo. So good!
November 18: Finally started Bojack Horseman.
November 19: Book Club: Space Between, by Nico Torterella.
November 20: Watched the Bela Lugosi movie Night Monster.
November 21: Sick: vertigo. Yay! Finished Hard Times, started The Two Emilys, by Sophia Lee. 
November 22: Still sickish, hoping the meds work. Watched King Kong Vs. Godzilla, also this week's Mandalorian, and a few more episodes of Resistance.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Halloween Countdown Begins

Image result for michael's halloween cat countdown decoration

We got one of these Halloween countdown clocks this year from Michaels. My honey added some numbers to the blank spaces, so we can count down longer. I'm going to keep track of our seasonal doings, as best as I can.

September 20: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Never seen before. I liked it! Told my honey, "I think this is the movie Rob Zombie always thinks he's making." It's way over the top, but I think Tobe Hooper can pull it off.

September 21: Some shopping at Party City. Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). Third viewing. Almost finished reading The Graveyard School: An Anthology, edited by Jack G. Voller, from Valancourt Books. Also, bought pumpkin bread!

September 22: This is our Downton Abbey movie day, so limited Halloweening. Only, uhh, working on my upcoming essays for The Haunted Cinema, and listening to some soundtracks -- House of the Gorgon, Halloween (2018), The VVitch, and The Dead Don't Die -- plus old-timey music from The Little Box of Halloween.

-- Had some everyday-life kind of days, but we've still gotten some activity in.

September 23: Our local Caribou Coffee debuted a new Pumpkin Latte, advertised as being made with real sugar, pumpkin puree, and "traces" of nutmeg and cinnamon. It was, surprisingly, what I got my hopes up for: more pumpkiny, and not really pumpkin-pie-y. So I had two during the week.

September 27:  Watched Happy Death Day again. I'd seen it, but my honey hadn't, and he needed to catch up to see the sequel. In some ways a throwback to the classic '80s slasher style, but with an updated sensibility and style. Doesn't take itself too seriously, but also not like it's all a big joke. Really fun. Also, we just watched Russian Doll (not Halloween, but OMG excellent), so not only is the time loop trope really big right now, but there are two very different versions in which it's happening on the heroine's birthday. Something weird is happening with the zeitgeist.

September 28: Worked on a little project. Hit the Spirit Halloween store. I didn't buy any of the larger items featuring Sam from Trick 'r Treat, but happy to see him becoming a real icon of the season, and did get a plastic broken lollipop.

Then it was off to the Haunted Corn Maze! It rained on the way out to the country, but cleared up when we got there, so it was a perfect night for it. Even the roving packs of teenagers were mostly okay (and it's always fun to hear their screaming), apart from when some boys ran from a chainsaw and knocked two of my friends into the corn.

September 29: Re-watched The Craft in the afternoon. Watched  Happy Death Day 2U in the evening. Have finished the great The Graveyard Poets book; have started Park Barnitz's book (from Hippocampus Press), The Book of Jade (lots of poems about death, the grave, and ennui!), and Stephen D. Sullivan's novelization of White Zombie.

October 1: Our 20th wedding anniversary! Worked on costumery, then met friends at the opening reception for the exhibit "America's Monsters, Superheroes, and Villains: Our Culture at Play," put on by SuperMonster市City! We dressed as Joyce and Hopper, from Stranger Things.

October 2: Watched Haunters: The Art of the Scare. Had a lot of potential, and talked to some interesting people, but marred by its focus on a sociopathic asshole who runs an "extreme" backyard site. Alas.

October 4: The Thing from Another World!

October 5: Worked on a project. Spur of the moment decision: the Riffrax Zombie Nightmare. Finished the White Zombie novel.

October 6: Finished The Book of Jade, and started Hilda Lewis' The Witch and the Priest (from my friends at Valancourt Books). Then it was off to see the original Ghostbusters in the theater.

October 7: Wanted to do something in the classic vein, so we went with Dracula's Daughter, which I've wanted to re-watch for a while. It predates Cat People, which interested me, since I thought it had some similar dynamics: a no-nonsense American girl secretly jealous and a little worried about her boss's interest in an exotic European woman with a tragic occult background.

October 8: Absorbed in The Witch and the Priest; it's super-compelling! My CD of the Stranger Things Season 3 score came in the mail, which I really like for its weird discordant elements.

October 9: Watched Part One of Mark Gatiss' History of Horror. Also received my Beistle Box in the mail from Creepy Co.

- Took a break and went on a whirlwind tour of New Orleans. Did a Save Our Cemeteries Tombs by Twilight tour, which also went to the historic Hermann-Grima House, which was decorated for mourning, and then went to the Evening with Sid Noel (aka Morgus the Magnificent). The night that I was exhausted and turned into my hotel room early, the original Halloween was on TV! I'll be writing something about Morgus, and will post a link eventually.

October 16: Saw Alien on the big screen. So many things I'd never noticed before in my previous viewings, and the outer space element was so much more impressive than even a big-screen TV.

October 17: Our spooky karaoke night.

October 18: The local Spooky Ballet at the historic downtown theater. I dressed as "the Picketty Witch" (the rhyme seems to have been made up for Sleepy Hollow: there was a famous Picketty Witch in the U.K., but it's from "wich," as in Greenwich or Dunwich). I had a long autumn gold skirt, a satiny black top, and a witch's hat. My honey wore a vintage-style devil mask, with a matching red and maroon outfit.

October 19: Went to Boo at the Zoo: a fundraising event for, yes, the local zoo. Lots of decos up, and tons of little kids in costume, which was good to see. I always like to visit my friends, the ravens. In the evening, watched the second and third parts of Mark Gatiss' History of Horror.

October 20-21:  Took the nights off from watching anything, and finished The Witch and the Priest. Then I started wolfing down J.B. Priestley's Bright Day, which is not seasonal at all, except for its overriding melancholy about the passing of time, which is suitably autumnal.

October 22: The crazy animated 1978 Witch's Night Out, featuring the voice of Gilda Radner. Have had the catchy theme music ("Halloween! Witch magic, Halloween!") in my head ever since.

October 23: Historic theater had an impromptu free showing of House of Frankenstein! We wore our Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein t-shirts.

October 25: We were talking about Love at First Bite, the other night, so impulsively watched that. I'd actually never seen it in its entirety, and I was very surprised that George Hamilton made a decent Dracula! I frankly think he was better than John Carradine's, since that was fresh in my memory.
October 26: Mostly busy with  other obligations, but did sneak in a listening of the amazing new Something Weird CD compilation, Spook Show Spectacular A-Go-Go.

October 27: Worked on projects, so no details yet. In the evening, read David Acord's fun little book,Graveyard Groove: The Haunted History of Monster Music from "Monster Mash" to Horror Punk. Then re-watched the 2018 Halloween. I think on the small screen, its resemblance in story line to some of the lesser Halloween sequels showed up a little bit more. In the end, I still prefer the H20 Laurie Strode better, and I certainly like the kids better. But on the other hand, I could totally watch a whole movie with Judy Greer as a badass, and who knew that would happen? So someone give Judy Greer a smart, funny action movie, or maybe a contemporary take on Van Helsing, with her in the lead! I do still really love John Carpenter's new version of the score, and I still find it superior to some of the big-splash horror films, like Hereditary and the Suspiria remake, that I was underwhelmed by.

October 28: Read a short novella from 1880, After Ninety Years: the Story of Serbian Vampire Sava Savanovic, by Milovan Glisic. I heard about it on Monster Kid Radio, as the source for an obscure 1973 vampire film called Leptirica, which I also need to watch. It's a very slight tale, but interesting as a fictional account of real-life folklore. For example, as found in Paul Barber's classic book Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality, the vampire's face is bright red.

October 29: Went to the first Monster Ball at the local historical society. Very fun, but probably not as well-attended as they hoped (much like the party we went to last year). I was Medusa, my honey was the vintage devil, and our friends went as David S. Pumpkins and one of the dancing skeletons (who looked eerily like the ones in the skit!)

October 30: Finally watched The Autopsy of Jane Doe -- very creepy and well-made -- followed by the classic Star Trek episode, "Catspaw."

October 31: Got to dress up at work, so I reprised the Joyce, as the most comfortable to wear in the office all day. Later, we walked down the block to where the trick-or-treaters are thick, where the Spooky Ballet folks did a performance of "Thriller" on a lawn. Loads of people: I think it's becoming their new Nutcracker! Then off to the Sons of Norway Halloween party. My honey and I were dressed as a '70s horror double feature: he was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I was The Fog, in the most ridiculous costume I may have ever worn: my KAB t-shirt, with clumps of white spider webbing pinned all over me to simulate an attack from the fog. Inspired by the amazing and ridiculous action figure from Death by Toys.

And that wraps me up! I'm really enjoying keeping track of my reading and movie-watching, and often regret that I haven't done that in life. Maybe I'll keep further logs.

It's been a pretty busy and amazing Halloween season! And, like true October People, we're already discussing our plans to next year.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "Ancient"

Ahh, this is a fun word!

One of my new favorites for writing music (or, more accurately, editing music -- something that requires a fair amount of heroism):

The Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures soundtrack

This was mentioned on a gaming panel at the 2018 Howard Days, by Jason Ray Carney (Howard scholar, Dark Man editor, and sword and sorcery writer).

All I really know about the Age of Conan is what I learned from The Big Bang Theory, but even I can't listen to the Basil Poledouris soundtrack ALL the time.

News of the Weird

I dreamed last night that I met someone and, at the last minute, remembered to give them my business card. Maybe that's a sign. So here's a quick update on my recent doings.

My essay, "The Mumbo Jumbo Kathedral: HooDoo and Voodoo in the 'Work' of Ishmael Reed," is in the recently published collection Voodoo, Hoodoo and Conjure in African American Literature.The book contains essays by two writers who I cited, who are big names in the field, so that's pretty cool. Reed's Mumbo Jumbo and The Last Days of Louisiana Red are two of my favorite novels, and it was really fun to dig into their roots in conjure.

I've been on a roll with the amazing Hippocampus Press. The essay "Meditations on the Agnostic Gothic" appears in Dead Reckonings No. 25, and "Red Hand, Red Hook: Machen, Lovecraft, and the Urban Uncanny" in Lovecraftian Proceedings No. 3. I also have an essay, "A Fit Symbol for His Meaning: Arthur Machen and the Inexpressible," in the upcoming The Secret Ceremonies: Critical Essays on Arthur Machen, which will debut at NecronomiCon Providence 2019, in -- yikes -- three weeks?

The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Fiction Studies has new editors, and issue 10.1 contains my Robert E. Howard essay "No Refuge in Idealism: Illusion Meets Reality in 'Xuthal of the Dusk.'"

I've also been blogging regularly about classic horror movies at the Haunted Cinema. My latest was on this obscure Bela Lugosi film:

Well, that's a fair bit of activity. I'm also in three book clubs right now, so I don't know how I have time to watch so many TV shows. If you end up at NecronomiCon Providence this year,look me up: I'll be at the Armitage Symposium on Friday morning!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "Space"

I've been visiting all my usual places of distraction, and there is no escaping the awfulness that is currently going on in the world. The local newspaper has a highly-paid commentator using two horrible massacres in one day to attack Democrats. On social media, nice ladies I met in bellydance classes are reminding everyone that it isn't about guns. JFC. I need some SPACE, and I can't find it.

But that's been part of the problem that led us to this moment: so many people willfully putting their heads in the sand. How to strike that balance, between paying attention and going crazy, or becoming apathetic?

So I've been thinking about the difference between "escapism" in a specifically defined way (as avoidance of reality) and creativity, imaginatively exploring ideas that can expand our options, something I think can only make the world healthier. I'm sure I've used books and movies and things in an escapist way, turning into myself and avoiding the external world. But a lot of these creative works serve to connect us to the larger world, to explore moral problems, to think about the way things could be different and better. I don't think it's helped the world, that options are so limited, that the color palette is so dimmed, that people feel squashed into cookie cutters. Yeah, I'm strawpersoning, but you know what I mean.

One of the things that I have envied gamers is in having another way to bring this aspect of individual expression into their lives, to color their realities. Of course sometimes it doesn't work to make those realities better. But even for the squalid stereotypes of overweight isolated introverts in their parents' basements -- would removing gaming automatically give them social skills, jobs, a meaningful place in a world where the best many can hope for is a bullshit job? (Go read David Graber's Bullshit Jobs.)

Even the mass media blockbusters can bring us hope, make us think, and again, stimulate our minds and our imaginations, the best part of our species.

We've been talking about dusting off an early Star Wars RPG that I might be able to get the hand of, so this might be a good time!
Image result for rogue one

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "Share"

I was recently looking up simple single-player RPGs, and research led me to the Pamphlet Dungeon Jam. Even though, of course, they are not all single-player, and not all simple in rules or content, but the trifold pamphlet format makes for a more compact game. A lot of them are really impressive just as physical objects, and the amount of creativity in one place gives me hope for the future. Something has to!

The willingness of all these creators to take part in this kind of project, and then make their work available for a minimal cost, many of them for free, and of Nate Treme to organize and host the Dungeon Jam, is also one of those things that reminds me of what the Internet can be for: the willingness to share and to support each other. I read this interview before getting to the actual Pamphlet Jam site, so I had read this part: "I thought about doing a ranked jam but decided a low-pressure creative jam was a better way to get more people involved." 

My kind of thought process. 

So I did download some of the games, and again, we'll see if they get played. But at least as creative works, they're worth having.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "Engage"

Today's word is going to throw me right into the present day. Recently, I backed the Kickstarter for An Inner Darkness, a series of Call of Cthulhu adventures by Golden Goblin Press, set in the 1920s and focused on social justice issues, so in other words made for me! I discovered them at the last NecronomiCon, where I saw their Heroes of Red Hook book. Somehow, I accidentally backed it at the level that included an online gaming session over Discord, led by Oscar Rios, the writer and publisher. When I started getting the emails about scheduling, I thought I'd gotten on the wrong email thread. Oops.

Despite some wacky technical difficulties on my end, what with my random combination of semi-Luddite technologies, I was set up as an "investigator" with a set of "sanity points" (and what a great and useful metaphor that is!) and explored supernatural evil with some complete strangers. In the end, after two sessions, I have to say I had fun. The Discord thing wasn't entirely intuitive, but without it, I'd never had tried it at all.

Even though I kind of wanted to back out, not having any idea what I was doing or how the gameplay worked, I decided to -- geez, I don't want to say something about my comfort zone, because cliche! But I'm glad I took the opportunity to engage with people I'd never have met otherwise, to get out of the abstraction of the interesting art and stories and thoughts behind gaming and actually take part, despite my sense of awkwardness.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "Unique"

Day two = "Unique."

This may be a cop-out -- no, it IS a cop-out -- but I kinda feel like being a 54-year-old woman taking part in this at all is unique. I'd like to think I'm wrong. In fact, I almost always do want to be wrong. But a lot of those times, turns out I'm not.

But while you're here, this is the journal I couldn't find an image of yesterday. Published in 1979.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "First"

Always a weirdo.

I am meaning to get this blog up-to-date, especially if I want to use it to promote some cool stuff I have coming up. Not sure why I've gotten out of the swing. But I've been thinking a lot about my fascination with games I don't really want to play: what attracts me to them, and what are the barriers that keep me from actually playing. Partly because I keep Kickstarting cool games (probably more on that soon), and then I get them and enjoy the art and the maps, but I don't play them.

Since this has been on my mind -- and I have literally come thisclose to buying the Art and Arcana book every trip to Barnes and Noble for two months, which again makes no real sense -- I'm jumping on the #RPGaDaY2019 bandwagon.

My first experience with RPGs was in the early 1980s. There are certainly some problematic memories involved with this time of my life, and I can't really say how much that has influenced my feelings about gaming in general, and D & D in particular, or the effects of gender socialization on this experience. Apart from all that, it took about two years before we actually tried to play, and it wasn't very fun, but for a while there were happy Sunday afternoons, sitting around listening to records while reading Dragon magazine and puzzling over the books. I don't remember the specific volumes that the aspiring DM had, but it must have been in this era:


I think there were two sessions, at least that I was involved in, and I don't remember a thing about any character -- was I a halfling? What on earth would have been my alignment? Did I pick it, or was it randomly assigned? As I recall, by the time we played, we hadn't really talked about it in ages, but apparently some maps were made in the intervening period, and we gave it a whirl.

Around this time, I was obsessed with the sword and sorcery work of Fritz Leiber and Tanith Lee in particular, and the Conan the Barbarian movie was in the first stages of changing my life. I think I saw D & D in particular as a continuation of my junior high love for Tolkien, when I had a softcover journal with faux aged pages and elvish script that I wrote bad poetry in. At the time, I had no one to share my interest in these things with, and I was looking for something that wasn't really available at the time.

But it's never too late to have a happy whenever.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Barbi Benton, Scream Queen

Be My Valentine, Or Else...
(1982, Rated R and, apparently, banned in West Germany, but I have no idea why).

 An edited version of this movie was on Comet last night, under the title X-Ray, so I dug this 2000s-era blog out of the archives, since it's no longer on the Internet in its original form.

Also known as X-Ray, Ward 13, and, on the lurid video box that I picked up, Hospital Massacre, this film does tangentially refer to Valentine's Day, but not with as much emphasis as that more well-known seasonal slasher, My Bloody Valentine. It does, however, share the obvious something-nasty-in-a-box scene, and the fact that it's not a heart does show a teensy bit of originality. But don't get your hopes up.

We didn't have those lives-of-the-celebrities reality shows in the '80s (thank goodness), but it's almost certain that star Barbi Benton would have been offered one. I remember the days when she lived with Hugh Hefner, and he was wayyyyy too old for her. That was thirty years ago. Yes, he's been icky for a long time. (NOTE: This was originally published during the 2005-2010 run of The Girls Next Door, a reality show about the elderly Hefner’s multiple girlfriends living together in a mansion).

At any rate: Benton is largely forgotten today, but she was once so ubiquitous, she appeared eight times on Fantasy Island, as eight different characters. Her movie career (starting out in a German comedy called The Naughty Cheerleader) never really took off, but here she is, in a starring role where she is, yelling at nurses who don't believe she's witnessed a murder, and, probably most importantly to the producers, taking off her shirt.

In flashback, a little girl laughs at another kid's valentine, an act which is going to haunt her for the rest of her life, especially after he hangs her ... playmate? Brother? Whatever. Years later, divorced mom Susan (Benton) stops at the hospital to pick up the results of a routine physical, her boyfriend waiting outside with the car running. Behind the scenes, her doctor is killed and her tests altered, so she's kept at the hospital more or less against her will, because she seems so direly, and mysteriously, ill.

Between killings (which, in classic slasher style, have no M.O. whatsoever), Susan gets shuttled around between various oddly dark hospital rooms (I can testify that we did, in fact, have electricity in 1982), and meets a personable young doctor named Harry. Her psycho childhood admirer was named Harold, so this is either a dead giveaway at the 23-minute mark or a not-even-trying red herring, and it's eye-rolling either way.

Eventually it becomes clear that the masked man is killing all these people just to falsify her medical records and keep her there for unnecessary treatments. Since our protagonist, despite varying degrees of impatience, is largely left to her own devices for much of the movie, this seems like an oblique strategy even by '80s standards. The filmmakers seem to be going for a mood of low-brow Kafkaesque, and I guess there's worse things. The dream-like "death by sheet" scene, for example, is so bizarre that I don't know how the victim even knew she was being threatened, although she started screaming the moment she saw a guy down the hall billowing a sheet behind him. But overall it does drag on, watching people wait for a doctor to get back to them.

In selecting this film, I was really hoping for a dated slasher laugh riot along the lines of New Year's Evil, but really, this film mainly exists to showcase Benton's famous chest. On that note, a tip to the ladies: if a doctor makes you take off your clothes and sit topless while he checks your blood pressure and examines your FEET, you're in creepsville.

Really, my favorite part of the movie is the fact that everyone comes into the hospital from the street level, and when the desk attendant refers them to the 8th floor, they immediately turn and go down a flight of steps. Not much of a recommendation, I admit, but it did amuse me.

While this isn't available on DVD, and hence not on Netflix, don't worry: you're not missing anything. (UPDATE: Actually, you can now get this from Shout! Factory, as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo double feature with Schizoid! The world is such a mess, and we are simultaneously in a very peculiar and specialized Golden Era. I guess we should take what we can get).

Image result for hospital massacre