Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Night at the Movies!

It's a cold, rainy night; some of us have had hard weeks and are happy to gather in our usual spot to unwind and let off steam. Drinks are quaffed, conversations sparkle, advice and reassurances are exchanged. There are times when we truly need the presence of our friends, and this is one of them.

After dinner, we walk to the old movie house that's waiting for us to show up. A special program tonight!

First up is a relic from 1897, The X-Rays.

And then the main feature, 1932's thriller Murder At Dawn!

Show's over, and with some laughs and chat, we retire, as always, to the cafe down the block for a drink...

Monday, February 18, 2013


Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914) was one of the three Benson brothers who wrote ghost stories. The others were Edward Frederic Benson (or E.F.), of Mapp & Lucia fame, and Arthur Christopher, or A.C., Benson. It's also interesting as Edward and Arthur were both very likely gay (not with each other!), and Robert probably was as well, having an intense "bromance" or "romantic friendship" with another man and never marrying. Their father was an Archbishop of Canterbury and their mother was undoubtedly bisexual, known as "Ben" and setting up housekeeping with another woman after her husband's death.

R. H. Benson was a priest in the Anglican church but had a crisis of faith and ended up converting to Catholicism in 1903. He became a priest and also a noted author of the time, although aside from his ghost stories he's largely forgotten today.

A Mirror of Shallott is very, very obviously written by a fervent Catholic, which makes sense as it was published in 1904, a year after his conversion. There's a sort of "born-again Catholic" intensity in this book which is occasionally off-putting. The title is a reference to a Tennyson poem, in which a woman under a curse cannot actually look at the world, but only view it through a mirror. One wonders what sort of reference Benson was making with this a mirror that shows the weird part of the world? Or is it a reference to Catholic priesthood being apart from the world?

The framing device of this collection of short stories is a conference of Catholic clergy, each recounting their adventures with the unknown. And they're not really always ghosts. This is often closer to be a collection of miracle stories rather than actual ghosts, and some are brief and not well resolved.

Monsignor Maxwell tells a tale of a pious man who fears for his brother who is deserting the faith, and eventually dies faithless himself, and possibly possessed. Father Meuron tells of an exorcism where a plate of food turns to worms before his eyes. Father Brent has an encounter with a young boy who may be having prophetic dreams, or visions of the past.

The Father Rector recounts a meeting with an artists whose salvation comes at the expense of his inspiration and talent. (Hardly inspiring!) Father Girdlestone's lengthy tale is of meeting evil spirits in the moors. Father Bianchi's was interesting to me, in which an elderly woman thinks she's having visions of a church's patron saint, but it's really a pagan god over whose temple the church was built. (The story is unresolved, a rather interesting take for such intense faith.) Father Jenks...well, his story rambles and didn't have any impact. Something about a possible ghost and a woman who might be turning her house over to the church.

I could recount more, but you get the idea. Every story has to do with a Catholic priests' work, and all have spiritual implications and sometimes are very moralistic. The final story is of a house haunted by an inexplicable emptiness..."Like a Catholic cathedral in Protestant hands," it's described, which sums up this book's prejudices rather succinctly.

There are print editions out there, but also cheap electronic versions for your Kindle or other e-reader. This isn't very highly recommended, unless you're intensely Catholic, or a Benson Brothers completist, or perhaps simply fascinated by issues of faith in supernatural fiction. The general public might get bogged down by the religiosity so be warned.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A quick personal note

Sorry I've been quiet. The job has been a beast lately; we have a major deadline coming up and I've put in overtime on weekends because of it. And I had a truly horrible Valentine's Day...yes, I'm still single, but that wasn't it. My Aunt Edie passed away that day, and even though she'd been ill for a number of years (Alzheimer's), I was always very fond of her. She worked in the local library system and one tween summer when I was bored talked me into doing volunteer work there. I loved it; simply being around the books was great, but it also taught me the value of volunteering. She and I always had a connection; for years we had our private jokes and I think she got me better than most of my other relatives.

The last time I saw her was several years ago; she was in a nice retirement home and while the Alzheimer's was getting to be a problem, she was having a good day and knew and recognized me. We had a nice chat about old times, and a couple times just sat there smiling at each other in that way that people who understand each other do. I got a feeling that she was happy herself for that good day, to have a few lucid moments to spend with a favorite nephew.

The funeral will be a small affair on Monday, a hell of a way to spend President's Day, but that's the way it goes. I have a review to get up and the monthly movie, and I'll try to get that up tomorrow as I'm pinching pennies this weekend. I did drive up to Baltimore to look at a few neighborhoods...I'm going to focus on Mount Vernon and Charles Village, maybe Catonsville, and I may go back to check out Hampden. I need to make a phone call about some money, then start the search in earnest, and hopefully shortly after spring arrives I'll have a new apartment in Charm City.

So, onward and upward!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dust & Corruption Calendar for February 2013

February can be a vile month; you either get the late snowstorms and blizzards (watch out, New England!), or you get early attempts at spring weather that just bring mud or rain. Plus you're pressured into being all romantic because of that certain day. But here's some things to take your mind off...

Every month, Brooklyn's Observatory Room has an impressive array of lectures and workshops; check out their schedule here.

2/9 - Speakeasy Saturdays at the Big Hunt! Since the closure of DC's main variety/burlesque venue, it's been surprising how many clubs are scrambling to host shows and pick up the slack. The Big Hunt (1345 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC) is starting a weekly "Speakeasy Saturday" of variety and burlesque. Showtime at 9pm, tix $10.

2/14. That Day. But there are quite a few events that may want to check out...

The Gibson Presents Lace and Feathers II, burlesque with my pals at Valentine Candy Burlesque. Doors at 6pm, with performances thru the night until midnight. No admission but reservations are recommended. The Gibson, 2009 14th St NW, Washington, DC.

Naked Girls Reading DC: Loves Bites! Readings from vampire classics, by a quartet of lovely naked women. (I'm not joking.) Doors at 7pm, tix available here. Little Miss Whiskey's, 1104 H St NE, Washington, DC.

Black Heart Burlesque: An Anti-Valentine's Day Show! My wonderful friends at Black Tassel Boo-lesque are hosting this delight, bashing the holiday so many of us detest. Doors at 7:30pm (dinner service), showtime at 9:00. Tix $10 adv, $12 at the door (available here). The Bier Baron Tavern, 1523 22nd St NW, Washington, DC (near the Dupont Circle Metro). Let me know if you're going, cuz I'll be there and maybe we can make up a table.

Tilted Torch: Tassels & Champagne. My lovely pals at Tilted Torch treat Baltimore to their special brand of burlesque, music, dance, and comedy with a special show. I can't make this one but these ladies always put on a great show and they're worth checking out, even if you're one of those horrible people who actually has a DATE. (phooey) Three shows: 2/14 at 8pm, 2/15 at 8pm and 10pm. Tickets available here. The Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave, Baltimore, MD.

Burlesque & Belly Laughs: Love Actually. More burlesque and fun. Tix actually free! Showtime 9pm. The Pinch, 3548 14th St NW, Washington, DC.

Romance in the Evening: Cocktails in the Conservatory. An evening of cocktails and an exhibit of antique Valentine cards. 5-7pm, tix $12/$10 members, available here.  Tudor Place, 1644 31st St NW, Washington, DC.

2/15: DC Locals Only Variety Show! Burlesque and sideshow, with friends like Mourna Handful, Charlie Artful, and Mab Just Mab. Doors at 8:45 and 11:00, tix $10 adv/$12 at the door. The Black Cat, 1811 14th St NW, Washington DC.

2/15: My Bloody Valentine! Burlesque and comedy for those fed up with it all. Doors at 8pm, showtime at 9pm. Tix $10 adv/$12 at the door, available here. Moca DC, 1054 31st St NW, Washington, DC.

2/22: Capsicum Cabaret: Too Hot To Handle! An evening of burlesque, featuring many friends of mine. (Then again, just about any local burlesque show will feature friends of mine...) Doors at 7, show at 9. Tix available here. The State Theater, 220 N Washington St, Falls Church, VA.

2/23: Taran-Tease: A Burlesque Tribute to Quentin Tarantino. Yup, you read that right. This should be interesting. Doors 8:30, showtime 9:00. Tix $15. The Windup Space, 12 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD.

And there's probably a ton of other stuff, but you know what? I'm tired. I'm putting this up now...if y'all know of something I should put up, shoot me a message.

Monday, February 4, 2013

February at the Phantom Concert Hall

We're having some fun tonight at our favorite concert hall; tonight it's a program of gypsy-inspired classics. There's even dancers on the program. And we've got fabulous seats!

But it starts off with an eerie piece, Liszt's "Csardas Macabre."

Dancers take to the stage, but something about their motions seems off. Ramsey and Laura are sure they see something swirling around; you're sitting between James and Viola and you're catching distinct discomfort from both of them. May remains silent but her face reveals a sense of horror.

The program continues in a much more standard vein, but we later discover that a man died in the concert hall during the first number...of no visible cause. And he was suspected of a hit-and-run killing a few weeks ago....and those dancers did their number and then left; they hadn't been on the original program.

Did we witness something supernatural? Who were those dancers? Should we track them down? Will they come after us?

Enjoy the music and let your imagination run riot....