Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Holiday Gift to You

It's that time of year, and I'm finally back in town after escaping the snow and ice that fell on my parents' place during the holiday (see above). After sorting my presents into the various categories (very useful: electric toothbrush, small crockpot to use at work to heat up lunch; well-intentioned but unnecessary: a bathmat when I have lovely bathroom rugs in place; WTF: a squeezable stress ball...what is this, 1987?), I

 decided I owed you all a small gift as well. So here it is: my special recipe for Mike's Mustard.

Mike's Mustard
1 part each dijon mustard (Grey Poupon is the classic) and deli mustard (I use Kosciusko)
1/2 part coarse-ground mustard (again, Grey Poupon is a good one)
1/4 part horseradish

Mix it up and use on sandwiches, or at the dinner table with sausages, pork roasts, chicken, steaks, roasts, whatever you feel can use a little jazzing up with a lively mustard.

This is only a template; I've taken some and mixed in minced garlic and snipped parsley and other herbs I had on hand, and smeared it on chicken breasts that I was broiling. I have some Coleman's dry mustard and have wondered how a pinch of that would be mixed in. (By the way, if you get some Coleman's and use the instructions on the box for mixing up a wet mustard, the results are very similar to the mustard used in Chinese restaurants. At least that's been my experience.)  Find your own variation and make it uniquely yours.

And buy a vintage mustard pot to park on your table and impress your guests. This vintage Noritake number can be had from but there's tons inexpensively available on Ebay.

More fun coming! Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Ghost-mas

As many of us can find the holidays taxing (as I do), let's declare our own observation of it.

Sometimes over the holidays, find time to sit alone, preferably after dark, and read a ghost story or two. I often sit up late on Christmas Eve by the fire, long after everyone else has gone to bed, and read a story or two by M. R. James (whose stories were meant to be read on Christmas Eve, actually), and maybe some of Elliott O'Donnell's "true" ghost stories. But anything can be read as long as it sends a chill up the spine.

Ghost stories and Christmas have long gone hand-in-hand. Naturally there's Scrooge's three ghosts, but Victorian magazines invariably HAD to include ghost stories in their Christmas issues for them to be complete. And they're not always cutesy heartwarming ghosts who make the miser see the error of his ways...sometimes they were vengeful and destructive, as James' ghosts were. Some were bent on dark deeds, like the beings in Lovecraft's "The Festival", set during Yuletide. And some are just creepy.

Tell you's a link to a favorite Christmas-themed ghost story. I first read this in high school and it gave me the jitters, and it still gives pleasant shudders. Fasten your seatbelts for "Smee."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December Night Out at the Cinema!

On a Sunday night in mid-December, we set aside the holiday shopping and partying for our monthly assemblage. Dinner conversation has ranged from recent news to old complaints, but eventually we leave the restaurant (after leaving a very generous tip) and make our way to the theater.

First up is a little bon-bon from 1906, Segundo de Chomon's The Magic Roses.

And then the feature presentation: the 1931 thriller The Phantom.

And all too soon the show is over, and we wander out into the night. It's mild for December, and we wonder if snow will ever come, but we also make plans for the new year...

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Poor Laura! She is kidnapped by the rapacious Lord Oakendale and taken to the titular abbey to be softened up, presumably for a future rape and/or seduction. And then...marriage? But Laura is a plucky sort, and explores Oakendale Abbey to track down the source of the mysterious goings-on that cause it to have such an evil reputation locally.

Written in 1797, The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey is a bit gruesome for its time. There's nothing supernatural going on here; part of the abbey is actually being used by a group of resurrectionists and body snatchers. Rather than having ghosts and curses, it's all about death and decay, and some of the descriptions are pretty ferocious given the more genteel times of which this was a product.

As far as I can tell, the identity of "Mrs. Carver" is open for debate. She may never have existed, and the real author may have been Sir Anthony Carlisle, a noted surgeon, making the "Carver" name a rather macabre pun. And given the body-snatching going on in the story, that theory has some plausibility.

How does it read? Well, it's still pretty readable by modern standards, but oddly it doesn't have any chapter divisions, so you have to KEEP READING until you find a decent place to stop. I also had trouble keeping track of the various characters, but that could be because my reading of it has been so fragmented, thanks to having less time to read because of my new commute. (Hopefully that will change in a few months...) The Zittaw edition has some oddly inane footnotes, either explaining the meanings of basic words like "enervated" or pointing out things that are already obvious to a halfway intelligent reader. 

Is it worth reading? For Gothic diehards, sure. And for those intrigued by the history of resurrection men. But this might be a slog for the general reader, so be warned.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dust & Corruption Calendar for December 2012

The year's almost gone, soon the snows and ice will be here. May be a while for me; it's 70 outside where I am. Total lack of holiday spirit here. But here's a list of upcoming events that might help. Or not. Don't get your hopes up.

A sad note: The Red Palace, my favorite club in DC and the site of many events I've plugged here in the past, is closing soon after the New Year. I'll be on the floor in the fetal position when that happens.

As always, Brooklyn's Observatory Room has a thriving schedule of fascinating talks; check it out here.

12/6 - St. Nicholas Day. If you observe that, I guess. If you don't, it's kinda charming. Look it up.

12/8 - Holiday Inn! The Pontani Sisters and friends (including my pals Maria Bella, Kay Sera, Sunny Sighed, and Bal'd Lightning, and occasional lust object Albert Cadabra) host a holiday-themed burlesque show. Wish I could go, I have a previous commitment, but if you're in the area, let me know how it was. The Ottobar, 2549 N Howard St, Baltimore, MD. Doors 9pm, tix $15, available here.

12/12 - Lord of the Pasties: The Two Tassels. Yes, folks, it's a Lord of the Rings-themed burlesque show, organized by my pal Mourna Handful. The Red Palace, 1212 H St NE, Washington, DC. Doors 8:30, tix $10.

12/13 - DCVariety: December Rocks Edition. A showcase of emerging variety talent in the DC area. Always a lot of fun. The Red Palace, Washington DC. Doors 8:30, tix $8.

12/14 - End of an Era Show. DC's Cheeky Monkey Sideshow does a blowout to honor the imminent closing of the Red Palace. The Red Palace, Washington DC. Doors 9:00; tix $10 advance, $12 at the door.

12/15 - Land of Sweets, presented by Burlesque Classique. A version of "The Nutcracker," only with bumps and grinds and discarded clothing. DC Arts Center, 2438 18th St NW, Washington, DC. Two shows on 12/15 and 12/16, 7:30pm both days. Tix $15, available here

12/21 - The end of the world, if you believe that bullshit about the Mayan calendar. Also the Winter Solstice and my parents' anniversary.

12/21 - Naked Girls Reading DC: Solstice! It's naked girls, reading holiday selections. What did you think it was? Actually some good readings going on. DC Arts Center, Washington, DC. Showtime 7:30pm, tix $20 and available here.

12/24 - Christmas Eve. I'll be sitting up late, reading ghost stories by the fireside. (Seriously, that's my tradition.)

12/25 - Christmas Day. I'll eat too much, as I always do.

12/26 - Boxing Day. Whatever.

12/27 - End Daze of the Red Palace. Staxx Burly-Q pays its own tribute to the soon-to-be-shuttered DC nightspot. Red Palace, Washington DC. Doors at 8pm, tix $10.

12/31 - Ball Drop III. The Red Palace's New Year's Eve blowout, with burlesque, comedy, music and more fun than you can believe. A lot of friends performing there, and some others in the audience, probably. Join me. Be my date. Please. (OK, yes, I'm still single.) The Red Palace, Washington DC. Doors 8pm; tix $35 advance, $45 at the door, but it may sell out so advance tix are recommended. Go here for more info.

Monday, December 3, 2012

December at the Phantom Concert Hall

Our little group assembles in our best bohemian finery at the concert hall. We're a bit excited; a new pianist is performing, a vibrant talent about whom much has been written. We actually scored some good tickets, through a friend of a friend, and we have a great view.

The pianist is a bit off-putting. He's tall and lank, and even as far back as we are, we're struck by the intensity of his eyes. Even the orchestra seem intimidated by him. But his talent is unmistakable as he launches into Liszt's Totentanz....

However, as he's playing, we happen to glance around. The audience is hypnotized! And what are those shadowy figures moving up and down the aisles? James and May are startled, to be sure; Ramsey is gripping your arm, and Viola is doing breathing exercises to control herself while Laura stares at the floor to control her panic. You're gripping the arms of your seat, looking all around you, wondering if you should speak up, or shout, or something. Even get up and run. But then it's over before you realize it; the audience snaps back to normal, the gray shapes fade. But you're scared by the look the pianist gave you from the stage; he knows you know.

Liszt's Totentanz is regarded as one of the finest works of horror in music, and Liszt himself was almost a demoniacal master of the piano, almost on par with Paganini. Lots of his other works are dark and macabre. Go take a look, if you dare...