Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Few Words on the New Podcast List

I'm a big podcast listener, and I initially had a few podcasts mixed in with the links off to the right, but I decided the other day to make a separate list for them, as I've found a bunch of new ones that were fitting.

So, there's various sub-categories...


I'm a sucker for old time audio drama, and there's some good sources out there. Old Time Radio Suspense and Old Time Radio Thrillers are pretty self-explanatory. Relic Radio Thrillers, Strange Tales, and The Horror! are all from the same fellow, and he does a bang-up job.


The Celtic Myth Podshow hasn't been active lately (one of the hosts has been battling health problems), but they hope to be back up and at it soon, so check out their back catalog of mythic tales. Dale Gilbert Jarvis also hasn't updated his feed in a while, but his telling of various folktales is great fun. Hometown Tales is a very popular show chronicling modern folklore. The Moonlit Road is very irregular but does well-produced versions of eerie Southern tales.


The Cthulhu Podcast is a great show. They usually do a bit about history of the 1920s, some 20s music, and then a reading of a Lovecraft tale...or a tales from related authors, or original tales that are Lovecraft-related. CraftLit may seem odd; it's meant for knitters and other crafters who want something to listen to while their hands are busy. But while you may have to deal with some nattering about knitting or weaving or the like, host Heather Ordover does good intros to the books they do in installments (taken from Librivox) and they've done some good classics in our genre, including THE TURN OF THE SCREW, FRANKENSTEIN, and DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. And she got me to stick with A TALE OF TWO CITIES, quite a feat when I dislike Dickens as much as I do. Forgotten Classics is a related podcast; host Julie doesn't talk about crafting and isn't as academic, just enjoying a good story. She does all the reading herself and has done two books in the D&C vein, Agatha Christie's THE SECRET ADVERSARY and Dorothy Macardle's THE UNINVITED, as well as excerpts from Shirley Jackson, but check 'em all out. I started from the beginning and am surprised at how much I'm enjoying Georgette Heyer's THE BLACK MOTH. Ghost & Horror Stories also draws from Librivox but does a good selection; right now they're serializing THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Pulp Daily is along the same lines; they started with a serialization of Haggard's KING SOLOMON'S MINES and are currently in the middle of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. Pseudopod and The Dark Verse both feature original modern horror fiction. The Mystery Man appears to be defunct (the host promised to "be back soon" back in July), but the two stories available on iTunes are well done and I can only hope he'll return. Finally, The Pinkwater Podcast kinda stands out, the accent being more on humor and absurdism. It features readings of works by children's author Daniel Pinkwater, or commentaries, and lots of humor. And if you haven't read THE SNARKOUT BOYS AND THE AVOCADO OF DEATH, you need to. Now.


Classic Mysteries does brief reviews of classic mystery novels, from Victorian times to the 60s, and the main site is worth a look. The H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast analyzes one Lovecraft story a week, with generous doses of humor. Read It and Weep is a bit of a push; it's more humor, but fun. These guys read recent bad bestsellers (well, listen to audio versions) and give them the mocking they deserve. And listening to them tear into Stephanie Meyer and Dan Brown is simply hilarious.


And there's an assortment of others. Sasha's Den of Iniquity is all about cocktails, so you can go mix yourself some good ones. Ballycast reflects my fondness for sideshow culture, and it's featured interviews with friends of mine. And The Clockwork Cabaret is a great music show, an internet version of a radio show from NC that features steampunk music. I may put in a few more music shows, mostly classical; people expect me to be into goth music, but aside from dark cabaret stuff like Jill Tracy, I'm really not.

So that just about covers it. I'll probably put in a few others as time goes on. And one of the regular links, Zittaw Press, had a podcast for a while but is defunct (I think it's still in iTunes, look for "Reading the Gothic.") While they had good information, the hosts never seemed truly comfortable doing it, which was unfortunate.

And hopefully, before too long, I'll start a Dust & Corruption stay tuned.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

D&C's DC, Part 3: Around the Tidal Basin

(I've changed the name of this series, from "Mysterious, Decadent, Spooky or Hidden DC," to something a bit less clumsy and more to the point.)

Well, it's been about a week and a half since the last blizzard, and we're STILL digging ourselves out. Tons of snow remains on the ground in my neighborhood, many sidewalks are still impassible, and street parking is still dicey. It's been sunny but only in the 40s, giving a slow melt which is good for those worried about flooding...except they're calling for rain all day tomorrow. Yipes! We'll see how much goes away.

However, springtime is just around the corner. It's the last week of February, and before we know it, it'll be cherry blossom time here in DC.

You've probably heard a lot about it, but here it is again. The famous cherry blossom trees in DC were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo to the city and people of Washington, back in 1912. Since then, many trees have been replaced as they died out or were damaged in floods, but the National Cherry Blossom Festival has established itself as a celebration of the coming of spring and a tribute to the natural beauty of the trees. (That said, while I'm linking to the festival's site, I hardly ever take part because it's often a tourist madhouse, and there's been concerns raised about the effects of all the foot traffic through the area on the roots of the trees, so if you're going down there, use some discretion.)

But, if you do go down, here's a few shots that I took this past fall that'll point you toward some things to see...

Of course, everyone knows the Jefferson Memorial, but it's one of my favorite spots, and Jefferson was always a hero of mine, so I'm including it.

If you look south across the Tidal Basin and the Potomac, you can spot Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee and the centerpiece of Arlington National Cemetery.

And there's waterfowl galore on the basin, great if you're a birdwatcher.

Thousands of people walk across the Inlet Bridge and never stop to look at the odd bronze sculptures on the sides. I noticed them once, and then did a little digging.

What they are (according to Barbara Seeber's book A City of Gardens), is a joke. When the bridge was refurbished in the 80s, Parks chief Jack Fish was retiring at the same time, so the sculptor used Fish's face as a model for the fish. It's a nice little surprise for anyone sufficiently observant. When I was taking the photos, a family walked over, and the kids were just fascinated by them, but the parents didn't notice or were too determined to get to the next stop.

This rough-hewn stone pagoda was a gift from the mayor of Yokohama in 1958. I love it.

And here's one of DC's most unknown and neglected monuments, the World War One Memorial. Technically, it's not a national memorial, but only for DC residents who fought and died in the Great War, regardless of race, class, or sex. In 2003 it was listed as a "Most Endangered Place" by the DC Preservation League but since then it appears to have been spruced up a bit.

Inside the dome.

Still, as you can see, while it may be no longer physically neglected, it's neglected by tourists, who don't know what it is or don't even know it's there. I wonder if locals know what it is. It's got the names of those who perished in the Great War carved on the sides, and it certainly dignified enough, but it's got a mysterious air about it, almost like a manufactured folly on the grounds of a great estate.

So, if you come down for the Cherry Blossoms (and if you do, let me know...maybe we can assemble and do a Lafcadio Hearn reading under the trees), and you go about to the various memorials, keep your eyes open for these little treasures.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Sorry for the long break. I've had a wild pressures, the death of an aunt, and the back-to-back blizzards that hit the DC area that caused the work pressures to get even worse. And I'm reading a lot of random stuff that doesn't quite qualify for this blog, and doing some other writing here and there.

So...anyway...getting back to Wakefield.

This collection, from Academy Chicago, is a great sampling of Wakefield, and far better than the collection I reviewed earlier. It's got a brief biographical note at the beginning, and samples work from various stages of Wakefield's career.

It opens with his first published story, "The Red House," which is reportedly based on a real-life haunting. It's basically a chronicle of a family that rents the titular house, only to slowly fall prey to the ghosts that haunt it. This story pretty much sets forth a lot of Wakefield's themes...the supernatural that is not easily categorized and understood, and that is rarely defeated. Often, in Wakefield's stories, the supernatural evils win at the end, or else the main characters are lucky to escape with their lives. The ending of "The Red Lodge" is a great, memorable thump that will linger in the reader's mind. It's no surprise this is regarded as his best work and is frequently anthologized.

"He Cometh and He Passeth By" is a kissing cousin to M. R. James' classic "Casting the Runes," both of which have a central character locked in a black-magic struggle with a Crowleyesque figure. This time, it's the oddly-named Oscar Clinton, who has a habit of using sorcery to kill anyone who gets in his way, even in minor ways. The main weakness in reading this today is that Wakefield's either too prudish or too snobbish to really hint that much at Clinton's depradations. He takes drugs, and at one point makes an offhand remark about how his practices may require him to "sleep with a Negress." The shock! The horror! Is that as far as it goes? I guess perhaps that would have been disturbing at one point, but not anymore. Of course, he's dealt with using the same principles as how M. R. James dealt with his Karswell, and it's hard not to see the inspiration.

"Professor Pownall's Oversight" is a rather average tale of ghostly revenge...until the closing pages which put an entirely different aspect on it and give it a nice ambiguity that's rather inventive. Next is a longtime favorite of mine, "The Seventeenth Hole at Duncaster." The manager of a seaside golf course deals with a series of gruesome deaths at the newly-developed seventeenth hole, that may be the result of an ancient evil that's been disturbed. A touch I really liked is how the main character has dreams that announce the deaths...he hears a tolling bell, then an evil voice announcing, "Sacred to the name of Cyril Ward, who screamed once in Blood Wood," and then is followed by "a discordant chorus of vile and bestial laughter." No reason is given for the premonitions, they just happen, which I found to be marvelously unsettling. (I first read this decades ago, in an Arkham House anthology entitled WHO KNOCKS?, and illustrated by Lee Brown Coye.)

The next two, "Look Up There" and "Blind Man's Buff," both cover haunted-house territory. Again, it's never specified what's haunting these houses, or why. They're simply haunted by something incredibly evil that you simply need to stay away from, period. "Look Up There" tells us a tale as a flashback from a traumatized survivor of a ghostly holocaust in an evil mansion. "Blind Man's Buff" is basically the arrogant citified owner of a country house being confronted by the forces that inhabit it.

"Day-Dream in Macedon" is a wartime tale of psychic visions and presentiments. "Damp Sheets" demonstrates Wakefield starting to sink into a pattern, a nasty person being the victim of ghostly revenge; in this case, a ruthless woman who murdered her husband's wealthy uncle.

"A Black Solitude" is a return to haunted-mansion territory, but is a cut above because Wakefield gives his narrator real personality. Told by a staffer for a nouveau riche businessman, managing the stately home he purchased, it's a usual tale of a haunted room, with hints of black magic practiced in ages past. And interestingly, it includes another Crowleyesque figure, although this time actually well-meaning and sympathetic. It's resolved a bit too quickly but also throws in some wartime realities that give it a bit of oomph.

"The Triumph of Death" is quite nasty, in which a malignant woman tortures her servant by forcing her to deal with the ghosts in her house...but there's no real motivation other that just hatefulness. "A Kink in Space-Time" is a variation on the doppelganger formula, and "The Gorge of the Churels" is a Wakefield rarity, an almost charming, Kiplingesque story of Brits in India who take a native servant along to mind their child while on a picnic in a haunted location. And, of course, it's the Wise Native and the Ignorant Imperialists, but ends happily. It's also rare for having a supernatural force that's clearly defined and understood.

"Immortal Bird" is more supernatural revenge, but interestingly presented as diary entries from a man who might have committed murder...or else the ghost thinks he did. Or else he's just going insane. The last story, "Death of a Bumble-Bee," is also probably the last story Wakefield ever wrote. One of the few undestroyed stories found after his death, it's really not very good. The wife of a wealthy publisher is having visions of a ticking bomb under her house. Is it the curse of a man whom she rejected? Or is she aware of an unexploded bomb from the war, forgotten under the house? Does it matter? Far too much of it is spent on mundane details of her comings and goings that it's hard to get caught up in it.

But, overall, this is a good sampling of Wakefield's work, and truly is some of his best stuff. It's out of print, but keep an eye open for it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Musical Interlude

Beethoven's "Coriolan" Overture, which was used as theme music for the recent DVD edition of Feuillade's LES VAMPIRES.

Sweeping, like Beethoven is as his best, but with undercurrents of menace and sinister doings.