Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

It's the big day, folks, and I hope you have something going! If not, find something, or else just curl up with a good book or movie. Whatever makes you feel good.

I'll be reporting soon on all that I've done lately...I've either been too busy or too exhausted to write much.

But in the meantime, here's some fun:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Putting the Die in DIY

My friends at CampBlood put together this charming video of assorted Halloween projects. I'd do the Lady's Fingers if my oven could be counted on to actually work...but the makeup hints may come in handy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Assorted October Stuff

The month's nearly over. I hope everyone's having a good one.

I neglected to mention that I was again invited to the dress rehearsal for Goatman Hollow. It's a new story this year, with some new effects, and my friend Steve and I had a hell of a good time. It's on for two more weekends, folks, so go see it if you can. I'm not sure I'll be able to go for the full production (in between other October stuff), but at least I got my usual wonderful behind-the-scenes peek.

I recently read Anthony Eglin's THE WATER LILY CROSS. For all the praise I heaped on him before...oh my lord, folks, he really dropped the ball on this one. He seemed to be trying for more intrigue this time, but it never comes together. There's an interesting concept (a chase after a hybridized water lily that's capable of desalinating sea water naturally), but the hero blunders into some very obvious traps and makes a bunch of basic mistakes, and in the final summation, the author makes a MAJOR timeline error, forgetting the order that things took place earlier in the book. That's just unpardonable.

And, aside from the usual, I've finished up the first phase of some dental work (I had a crown done) and with all the bills I've had to be careful with my expenses. I sometimes wonder if I should put up a "Donate" button for my book/DVD/movie ticket budget. We'll see.

So get out there, folks, do some fun Halloween stuff, and report back. Really. I mean it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Poe Funeral

This past Sunday I dressed all in black and drove up to Baltimore, to be an onlooker at this year's big Poe event, the Poe Funeral.

When Edgar Allan Poe died back in 1849, there were only seven mourners and a scant mention in the local press. The first major obit to hit the media was Rufus Griswold's hatchet job that sadly endured, and many people thought it was the truth about Edgar A.

So since this is the Poe Bicentennial, it was decided to give Edgar A. the send-off he deserved. It was a lovely cool October afternoon, a good day for a funeral, and I was sure to bring my camera (especially since they made it known that non-flash photography was allowed during the ceremony).

So, here's a bunch of images, and memories...

I was lucky to get there when I the time I had parked the car, I heard the bagpipes coming down the street.

The hearse. The guy in modern dress is Jeff Jerome, director of Baltimore's Poe Museum.

Assorted mourners, following the hearse. The guy in the short hat and overcoat is my friend John Spitzer, who was playing the part of Rufus Griswold.

Two of the mourners who were actually there as themselves...editor/anthologist Ellen Datlow, and illustrator/author Gris Grimly.

"H. P. Lovecraft" and "Charles Baudelaire."

The crowd at the entrance to Westminster Hall, which used to be a church, and is where Poe is buried. It was quite a madhouse, and probably about half the folks there did not have tickets for the funeral, but were there to just get some photos. There were also assorted news crews; CNN, NPR, and the BBC, among other groups, covered the funeral.

The pallbearers carrying the coffin into Westminster Hall.

The photo-mania when the coffin was brought into the venue.

The assemblage of mourners at the funeral. From left to right: Actors portraying H. B. Latrobe, Rufus Griswold, Sarah Helen Whitman, Nathaniel P. Willis, George Lippard, Marie Louise Shew, Dr. John Moran, Walt Whitman, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Conan Doyle, H. P. Lovecraft, and Alfred Hitchcock. Then there's Ellen Datlow and Gris Grimly.

Soprano Paula McCabe opened by singing "O God Our Help in Ages Past." Violinist Ivan Stefanovic performed some lovely pieces, but unfortunately I didn't recognize them and they weren't listed in the program.

Master of ceremonies John Astin.

First speaker was H. B. Labrobe, who was the editor who first brought Poe's poetry to public notice. Next up was Rufus Griswold...and seldom have I seen an actor do such a complete character assassination on the person he was playing. Spitzer read portions of Griswold's obituary, and played up Griswold's pretentiousness and disdain for anything southern. John and I hung out after the show for a while, and he told me that when Griswold died (not too long after Poe) there were only three decorations in his room: a portrait of himself, a portrait of Frances Osgood (a poet that Poe may have had an affair with, according to John Evangelist Walsh), and a portrait of Poe. Spitzer calls it an "asexual love/hate relationship" which is something I've always speculated about. I've always had my suspicions about Poe, despite his love life, and Griswold's venom just makes me wonder. Or am I reading too much into it?

Next up was Sarah Helen Whitman (if memory serves, this was a park ranger from Philadelphia's Poe House, who does Whitman as part of her interpretation). Whitman had been briefly engaged to Poe, not long before he died, and she definitely had balls; she was the only writer of the period to stand up to Griswold's libelous treatment of Poe (everyone else was afraid of what Griswold could do to their careers). I've seen this lady several times and I've always enjoyed her performances. Whitman was a gutsy gal who still loved Poe and defended him to the end, no matter what it did to her reputation. To make a stand like that, for someone you cared for, takes nerve, and she had it, in spades. Following her was Nathaniel Willis, editor of "The Evening Mirror," which first published "The Raven."

Author George Lippard, a friend of Poe, but a rather controversial character himself (I hope to review his THE QUAKER CITY in the not-too-distant-future; I actually held a first edition in my hands over the summer). I believe this was actor Tony Tsendeas, and he was fiery in his defense of Poe and his condemnation of Griswold (ending by throwing a cup of water in Griswold's face, which was ad-libbed). After him was Marie Louise Shew, a nurse who saw Poe's wife through her final illness, and reportedly helped inspire Poe's poem "The Bells." Then there was Dr. John Moran, who treated Poe after he was found in the gutter and was the last person to see Poe alive.

Then we moved on to people inspired by Poe...which included Walt Whitman, who actually met Poe, briefly. (Again, I wonder about Poe. Nobody wonders about Whitman.) He was followed by Charles Baudelaire, who first translated Poe into French, and helped generate a European cult of Poe. Then there was Arthur Conan Doyle, who gave homage to Poe as a progenitor of the detective short story.

H. P. Lovecraft gave a reading from "The Necronomicon" and talked about Poe's contribution to horror fiction. Then Alfred Hitchcock talked about the debt he owed to Poe.

Then the "real" guests showed up. Ellen Datlow discussed editing her recent anthology, POE. (Which I will review soon, I promise.)

And Gris Grimly talked about his illustrated adaptation of Poe for children.

Another friend, actor John Redfield (director of THE DEATH OF POE) gave his personal tribute.

I had brought along a copy of Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, with a cover illustration by Edward Gorey, and got shots of it on Poe's original grave, then the new grave.

I had a great time, honoring one of my literary idols. There were two funerals, and I found out the next day that a total of 700 people showed up to pay their respects. And it was fun seeing the wide variety of people who were there, from goth teens to senior citizens. A big thanks to Mark Redfield, John Spitzer, and Jeff Jerome (especially Jeff, who got me a good seat); it was a lovely afternoon. This is a special year, and the funeral was a great way to honor one of THE most influential American writers. I don't care if you're a horror fan or not...this was a celebration of American letters, and of someone who was a major influence worldwide and whose influence is still felt today. Poe deserves honor and respect.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blood Sweat & Fears II: Guilty Pleasures

Molotov does it again!

Last night was the opening of Molotov's latest show, "Blood Sweat & Fears II: Guilty Pleasures," a delicious cabaret of three short plays, all introduced with zest by hostess Katie Molinaro.

First up was "Jack," an adaptation of an 1897 play (by Oscar Metenier) from the original Grand Guignol theater. The focus here is on suspense and terror, as a prostitute begins to realize that her current john, Jack, is really a serial killer. Second was a modern smut farce, "Thank You," by Carro Marren and Jon Lane. It opens with former mental patient Jacob, who's kidnapped Kevin. Turns out Kevin unknowingly did Jacob a good turn, and Jacob has brought him over for a happy few days. However, things take a very perversely hilarious turn (and I won't say how). Last up was Tara Garwood's "Is the Coffee Still Warm?" (freely adapted from the play "Coals of Fire" by Frederick Witney), which was a serious shocker. A wealthy blind woman is being read to by her servant, and in the course of the action, confesses that she's having an affair with her boss' husband. Naturally, blind fury arises with a gruesome revenge.

It's is about 10,000 different kinds of wrong, and in all the right ways. Lucas Maloney's direction is top-notch; he understand the material and lets the macabre humor run at full throttle. The cast has a great time with the material. Katie Molinaro is the quintessential vamp in her hostess role. Jenny Donovan is most effective in two fear-struck roles, the prostitute in the first play and the timid servant in the third. Newcomer Misia Certe is great fun, as the Madame in the first and the vengeful blind woman in the third. Kevin Finklestein is great fun as Jacob, a genuine comic talent. And Alex Zavistovich's burly presence is vital to this show; he's the perfect Jack in the first part and few actors have the balls to pull off what Kevin does in the second part. He's gifted with comedy but when he's the menace, he's almost a Tod Slaughter for the 21st century. All the gory parts come together in a gloriously hideous evening of fun.

Be warned, folks: stuff gets splattered on the audience. They provide plastic to protect one's self, but substances go out into the audience, including simulacra of blood and another bodily fluid. I wasn't quick enough on the draw and my favorite embroidered t-shirt got splattered...although since it's a horror-themed shirt, it's appropriate. (The program above was on the seat next to me. The bloodstains are not part of the design.) I'm told it'll wash off. But it did put me in a certain mood; I strutted out of the place, confident that nobody would fuck with me on the Metro ride home. And nobody did.

"Blood Sweat & Fears II: Guilty Pleasures" plays through 10/31, Wednesday through Sunday at 8:00pm, with a second show on Saturdays at 11:00. It's playing at 1409 Playbill Cafe, 1409 14th St NW, Washington DC. See it, folks, this is Dust & Corruption bliss.