Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Found this image that pretty much sums up how I felt last week with my swollen jaw...even if it was barely noticeable, as some said, I still felt like I should put a bag over my head before doing out in public.

This is from an 1847 issue of the British humor magazine Punch, and is brutally spoofing 19th century tastes for freak shows and for ogling the monstrous.

The British Library has a gallery of images from Victorian freak shows on their site; check 'em out here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

D&C's DC: The House of the Temple

The House of the Temple is a huge Masonic temple in DC that is the headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction. Completed in 1915, the building apes the appearance of that Wonder of the Ancient World, the Tomb of Mausolus, and is full of berserk and beautiful Egyptian-influenced architecture. This building is one of those great lesser-known tourist spots, and they welcome visitors and encourage cameras. I've visited it twice and both times found a great relaxed chummy welcome there, a contrast to the baroque and very formal atmosphere there.

A sphinx in front of the building.

From the rear.
And now a bunch of photos of the interior...just feast your eyes on that sumptuousness.

The Temple will be featured in the upcoming film version of The Lost Symbol; my guide seemed pleasantly surprised when I dismissed Dan Brown's books as poorly written (my honest feeling) and expressed my skepticism of conspiracy theories. We did have a fun tour and my guide had an irreverent sense of humor that was most appealing. It's gorgeous but also unreal, like you stumbled on the set of an old movie set in Atlantis, and you keep expecting to see Lionel Atwill or Boris Karloff to come around the corner and demand you as a sacrifice.

The House of the Temple is open for tours Monday thru Thursday; it's closed Fridays and weekends. A small admission is charged, unless you're a Mason and then admission is free. It's an architectural marvel and worth checking out when you visit the nation's capitol.

Monday, September 24, 2012

September's Personal Note

I've been slow in posting, partly because I haven't been reading anything notable. I'm working on either some pulp sci-fi that's not really in the purview of this blog, or stuff I'm to review for other sources.

Also, right now, I'm coping with the aftermath of an abscessed tooth. Around the 13th/14th of September I had a bad toothache that lingered over the weekend. Finally, on Monday I called my dentist, who could see me on Tuesday, and who recommended it get a root canal. Thankfully, the endodontist had a spot open that Friday, but in the meantime my jaw got swollen and I was put on antibiotics. Thankfully, the root canal procedure, while certainly not comfortable, was a huge relief from the pain, and they drained most of the infection from my jaw. Abscessed teeth are no picnic; if neglected long enough, they can be life-threatening, and they are certainly painful. Root canals have a terrible reputation for being ordeals but really, I found it nowhere near the pain that I'd had in the tooth for a week.

I'm a lot better but the antibiotics make me groggy. I'll try to get some stuff up this week; if nothing else, sharing some photos from my ramblings and explorations this summer. I've also thought of a "Phantom Gallery" series with photos or videos of works by an interesting artist. I'll have to look into that.

I'm also seriously thinking of opening this up for other contributors. I may put out an official call but if anyone feels like they want to do something regular for this site, I'd enjoy talking to you.

Anyway, I'll be back soon...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday Night at the Cinema!

It's a cool night; autumn is waiting in the wings, and we're enjoying our monthly engagement of dinner and a movie. The restaurant has some new dishes on the menu, and the chef comes out to say hello and ask our opinion. After our usual haggling over the bill, and generously tipping the Portuguese waiter, we drift down the street to catch the show...

The usher takes our tickets, and we gather in our usual row, ready for the fun...

First up, a 1908 short from one of my favorites, Segundo de Chomon, "The Electric Hotel".

And here's a bit from the following year, from George Melies, "Le papillon fantastique."

And finally, here's a 1905 work from America, "The Mystery of the Missing Jewel Casket."

And the evening winds to a close, as we retire to the cafe down the street to share conversation over drinks...

Sorry if I'm late this month, and this isn't up to par. I've had a rough week; a chunk broke off a tooth, and it's been hurting like fury. Luckily my dentist could fit in an emergency appointment and I'm going in for a root canal on Friday. I know, sounds horrible, but I'm looking forward to some relief from the pain; I'm probably ruining my liver by living on Advil and booze. And then tonight I was using a new peeler to peel some potatoes for dinner and cut a chunk off my finger; once tonight I've had to wipe blood off my keyboard while I was typing this. In other words, I'm a mess. I hope to post more when I'm not spewing blood all over the place or rolling on the floor in agonizing pain....

Saturday, September 15, 2012


In The Willow Pattern, Judge Dee is President of the Metropolitan Court, but also has been appointed emergency governor of the capitol city during a drought and plague. He's trying to maintain order and discipline in the city while it's half-deserted (the Emperor and many of the wealthy have left town), and naturally some interesting crimes rise up calling for his attention.

In "The Case of the Steep Staircase," a wealthy philanthropist is found dead after apparently falling down the stairs. But is it all that it seems? In "The Case of the Willow Pattern," a nobleman is found brutally murdered, the only clues being his sadistic, predatory habits, and a smashed vase in the now-familiar willow pattern. "The Case of the Murdered Bondmaid" is a retroactive case; a servant woman was beaten to death a generation ago; how is her death still influencing people today?

Dee is assisted by his lieutenants Ma Joong, Chiao Tai, and Tao Gan, since Hoong Liang was killed in the last book, The Chinese Nail Murders. Dee is much more The Man now; he is Imperial Authority in the city and is not to be questioned or messed with at all. And much of the action takes place in the milieu of the city's "old world," that of decadent noble families with pedigrees that predate the current dynasty...and all the sins that go with it. It's also notable for being the only Dee novel set in the oft-referenced capitol city. (Which is never named, by the way.)

It all ends well, except for one murder that Dee decides to not pursue, stating that he doesn't mind having a few unsolved cases on his record! Ma Joong falls in love and disappears from the series; we find out in the next (and last) book that he's married now. Still, it's a solid, good later work from van Gulik, and worth reading.

Coming soon: the final Dee novel, Murder in Canton.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dust & Corruption Calendar for September 2012

Well, September is finally here, although in DC right now it's still horrendously dank and humid. Summer's still getting in a few licks on us yet. Thank you, global warming.

But here's some stuff going on that should be fun....

9/6 - Rev. Valentine's Attack of the Tit-Tease! Burlesque and comedy with Rev. Valentine, Capt. Chesty, Bianca Dupree, and Swami Yomahmi. Doors 8:30, showtime 9:00, tix $10. The Red Palace, 1212 H St NE, Washington, DC.

9/6 - The Love Show: Mon Petit Chou. Dance, magic, and song, combining Weimar Berlin, gay Paris, the West End and Broadway, featuring guest host Nelson Lugo (on whom I have a mild crush, but oh well). Doors 9:30, show at 10, tix $5. Hotel Chantelle, 92 Ludlow St, New York, NY.

9/6 - "Ecstatic Raptures and Immaculate Corpses: Visions of Death Made Beautiful in Italy." Opening reception for a new exhibition. 6-8pm, free. 11 Mare St, London, E8 4RP. The exhibition itself is in London's Last Tuesday Society

9/7 - The Burlesque and Side Show Show. Pretty much what it says, hosted by my pal Hot Todd Lincoln. Two shows, doors at 8 and 10:30, tix $10. The Red Palace, Washington DC.

9/7 - First Friday Burlesque. The first of what should be a regular monthly program, and featuring my pals GiGi Holliday and Ruby Rockafella. Showtimes 6 and 8. Dreamland, 845 W 36th St, Baltimore, MD.

9/9 - Takoma Park Folk Festival. OK, not exactly in the D&C mood, but I always go, and this is likely to be my last year as a regular attendee. Lots of fun music, crafters, dance, and fair food that you'll enjoy but regret later. I'll bid a wistful goodbye; by this time next year I should be settled in Baltimore. But the fun's at the Takoma Park Middle School, 7611 Piney Branch Rd, Takoma Park, MD. 10:30 to 6:30, and totally free. Check out their website for info on who's playing.

9/11 - Perverse Relics: A Grand Tour of Europe's Historical Underbelly. Illustrated lecture with author Tony Perrottet, describing his exploration of Europe's ribald history and sites unknown to modern travelers. 7:30, tix $10. Advance tix from Atlas Obscura highly recommended. The Observatory, 543 Union St, Brooklyn, NY.

9/12 - DC Variety present Open Mic! An evening of variety performances, including possibly myself making a debut as a singer. Yes, you read that right. I may be massacring some classic jazz tunes, so come and watch if you enjoy a debacle. Doors 8:30, show 9, tix $8. The Red Palace, Washington DC.

9/14 - Valentine Candy Presents: Boobs in Space! Burlesque and comedy from my dear friends Rev. Valentine and Candy Del Rio. Doors 9:30, show at 10, tix $10 adv/$12 at the door. Red Palace, Washington, DC.

9/16 - Viva! & Sticky Buns Burlesque. My pals at Sticky Buns are joined by Brooklyn-based blues trio Viva! for an evening of music, burlesque, and comedy. Doors 8, show 9, tix $10. The Metro Gallery, 1700 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD.

9/19 - Karnevil. The Karnevil troupe arrives in DC for circus, magic, sideshow, and heaven knows what else. Doors 9, show 9:30, tix $10 adv/$12 at the door. Red Palace, Washington, DC.

9/28 - The Powerful Corpse: English Executions During the 18th and 19th Centuries. Illustrated lecture with Dr. Sarah Tarlow, Prof. of Historical Archaeology at the University of Leicester. Explores the mystique of the executed criminal in England's past, ranging from healing miracles to magic to anatomists to gruesome display. 7:30, tix $12, advance tix from Atlas Obscura highly recommended. The Observatory, Brooklyn, NY.

9/30 - Tilted Torch: Modern Elegance! DC's best and most sophisticated variety show (and seriously, one of the most creative) unveils their latest project, with dance, music, burlesque, and comedy. Doors at 8, show at 9, tix $10. Bossa Bistro and Lounge, 2463 18th St NW, Washington, DC.

9/30 - Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden. Illustrated lecture by author Brook Wilensky-Lanford, looking at those who quested in vain for the legendary Garden even after Biblical literalism began to wane, even into the 21st century. 7:30, tix $12, advance tix from Atlas Obscura highly recommended. The Observatory, Brooklyn, NY. (One of these days I'll really make it up there for one of those...that place just sounds so damn interesting and right up my alley. Too bad my job isn't moving to Brooklyn instead of Baltimore...)

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Phantom Serenade: On the Rails

It's the end of summer, and taking advantage of the holiday we're going on a rail jaunt, accompanied by some music by Lumbye.

I've talked about Danish composer Lumbye before, so I won't go into much about him. But this piece delights me; the whimsical reproduction of the train sounds accompanied with an upbeat tone that illustrates the smiling faces of holiday-making passengers. The video illustrates the real train voyage from Copenhagen to Roskilde, at the time a popular destination from Copenhagen for day trips.

Nothing like a train trip to bring excitement! So many stories of mystery and adventure are on trains; I once saw a joking Onion story about a homicide on a train that was quickly solved, much to the disappointment of the passengers who expected something much more draw-out and dramatic. Movies ranging from The Lady Vanishes to Murder on the Orient Express play up the romance of rail, and there's one Victorian author whose name I forget who specialized in mystery stories set on trains. Ghost and horror stories set on trains aren't as numerous, but they are out there, like Dickens' "The Signal-Man."

So relax and imagine joining your friends on a train trip, and fill in your own adventures...