Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Some minor things, and stuff I've read that doesn't warrant a full entry...

  • In 1852, classic horror author Fitz-James O'Brien proposed a horror/weird-fiction magazine to be entitled "The Pyramid of Horrors." That would have been a blast; too bad he died in the Civil War. P.S. He was gay.
  • Recently read the second Spider pulp novel, The Wheel of Death. Mostly takes place in a lavish private casino, and revolves around a power broker who is bumping off various officials so he can stuff city council with his puppets. An OK read but not spectacular, and found it a bit of a slog here and there. It lacked focus.
  • Another recent pulp read was a lot of fun. The Land of Terror is the second Doc Savage novel, and has Doc and his pals battling a villain (referred to as "Kar") who possesses a macabre new weapon, a disintegration gas. Its effects are interestingly described, including little flashes resulting from the atomic bonds being discharged, a neat little detail. They end up tailing the villain to a remote island in the South Seas, the only source for a unknown element required in making the gas. Thunder Island is a vast volcanic cone...and inside the dormant crater is a steamy jungle populated by dinosaurs. This really ups the game from the first novel, which had a lost tribe of Maya, and goes full-throttle Lost World on you. It's vastly entertaining and a lot of fun.
  • I saw Pacific Rim the other day, and had a blast with it. Yes, it's nearly plotless, but that's OK. Guillermo del Toro is obviously a big fan of the kaiju and mecha genres, and recognizes that part of their appeal is the mindless destruction. He also doesn't make the mistake of having the monsters being sympathetic or cuddly; they're vile creatures who have to be destroyed. It's got humor that's actually FUNNY instead of eye-rollingly lame. And there's nice human drama that doesn't get in the way of the action and isn't mawkish or overdone. Most of all, it's got some sexy men. Charlie Hunnam doffs his shirt and displays an impressive body, but there's also Max Martini and Robert Kazinski as an Aussie father-and-son team of mecha pilots and Robert Maillet (aka pro wrestler Kurrgan) as a Russian mecha pilot. There's also Idris Elba, who I know a lot of people lust for, but he doesn't do anything for me. (Sorry, folks.) Anyway, a good afternoon's entertainment, and it's too damn bad it's not doing better. I want to catch Byzantium and The Conjuring, and hopefully I'm So Excited!, so here's hoping.
  • Have your shirts, or even your sheets, acquired sweat stains in this godawful heat wave? The men's style blog Put This On has a great system for getting stains out of whites; I've used myself several times and it does work.
  • I found out today that an absinthe bar, "Libertine", opened earlier this month in DC. Why the hell did it take so long for me to find out? Anyway, I hope to sample it this weekend.
  • Summer TV is so lame I've been watching old MST3K episodes on YouTube, and laughing myself silly.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Hot Night at the Movies!

It's blazing hot tonight, and it seems a good night for our monthly movie date. Dinner at the usual restaurant is light, and conversation may be lagging a bit; we're all worn and tired from the heat.

At least the sun is down by the time we leave, and the movie house's air conditioning is going full blast. Our favorite seats are waiting for us; what will the show be tonight?

First off, here's a bit from 1899, George Melies' "Summoning the Spirits.

And a bit more from Melies, 1905's "Le dirigeable fantastique."

And now the main feature...the 1932 Bela Lugosi classic, "White Zombie"!

This little film was dismissed when it came out as a terrible film, but I think it's held up remarkably well and now boasts quite a bit of naive charm.

Show's over, time for a scramble in the heat to the cafe down the way, where something cold awaits!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Few More Thoughts on Adventuring

A scene on the Patuxent River.
I initially focused on adventuring in the summer. There's a good reason for that; it's when the kids are off from school and naturally vacation time. Lots of places are open only in summer. Summer is that time when living in the city can get you down and you want, NEED to get out in the country and breathe in fresh air.

But it's good for other seasons as well. Spring adventuring can be a chance to dispel cabin fever, to see earth reawakening and springing back to life. Winter adventuring gives you a chance to take in snowy scenery, and especially to see some sights and attractions when they're not choked with tourists.

At Sugar Loaf Mountain in Maryland.

Autumn adventuring can be glorious. Taking advantage of one of those golden days when the sun is bright and the colors are blazing can lead to a memorable day's outing. Stuff's still open, farmstands have apples and pears, and the roads beckon. If your plans include wildlife areas, though, be sure to check on hunting season.

Autumn and winter can also be good for overnight trips, as it's the off-season for most places and hotels and motels are often cheaper. The reverse is usually true in ski areas, though, so a weekend away in the mountains during summer can be surprisingly affordable.

Picnics are good for spring, summer, and autumn adventures. Maybe not so much for winter, although I remember a winter picnic with the family in my early teens, in a park pavilion covered with snow. Still, probably best to figure out a place to nosh at, or to keep your eye open for a friendly, cozy cafe. Spring picnics are glorious celebrations of renewing life, but watch out for wet ground or unexpectedly chilly parks. Autumn picnics can be an opportunity to experiment with the picnic formula; perhaps a thermos of hot soup? Or find a place where you can build a fire or even set up a hibachi, and warm up some precooked items? I once saw a recipe for apples, halved and filled with an apple/bread cube/sausage stuffing, baked, then wrapped in foil, taken on a picnic and reheated. Looks reasonable to me.

Adventurers with a scientific bent can go to SciStarter to find out about citizen science projects they can take part in. You can participate in bird counts or insect-spotting or any number of projects that can spice up your hike in the park.
Lighthouse on St. Clement's Island, MD.
 Adventures can be keys to future trips. Always look for signs that grab your interest, and pick up brochures and information when you can for future reference.

Wear clothes that bring out your inner adventurer. Don't be schlubby, but don't go on a hike in high heels, either. Nothing like being a put-together adventurer; in summers I love an outfit of olive cargo shorts and a short-sleeved white linen shirt, with hiking boots and a straw hat that leaves me feeling rather dashing. Scour your closets and hit the thrift shops until you get some season-appropriate outfits that can function for both a museum visit and a walk in the woods.

Music can add to your experience, too. I took a ramble along the lower Chesapeake shores and downloaded a couple albums of historic sea chanties and songs from the Revolution and Colonial era. There's something about driving along the seaside and humming along to an old sea song.

Take your binoculars, camera, iPod, phone, pocket knife, compass, flashlight, and enough cash to keep you going. Pack a cooler, your picnic basket (I got a nice one cheap on Ebay a while ago), a blanket, and an emergency kit (nicely priced ones at Target). Gas up the car and get the oil changed if it's close to being due. Grab your maps, brochures, and guidebooks. Leave room for souvenirs and discoveries.

And that's all for now...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dust & Corruption Calendar for July 2013!

Sorry to be dragging this month, folks. I was up at my parents' for a few days and it wasn't until after I got up there that they remembered to tell me their computer was on the fritz and there was no internet access. ACK. My hometown's Independence Day celebration featured a tedious country band (sorry, not my musical genre) but at least had a good fireworks display, a surprisingly impressive one for such a small town. Their celebration is always the evening of the third, partly to avoid competition with other local events but mostly because getting fireworks for July 3rd is shockingly cheap.

Anyway, July promises to be hot and steamy, so here's some fun to keep you distracted.

As always, the Observatory in Brooklyn, NY, has a schedule of fascinating talks and workshops.

And Atlas Obscura always lists interesting things in different cities.

In Frederick, MD, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine has a series of free lectures every Thursday evening during the summer; if you're into history or medicine or both, look into it.

Saturdays: Speakeasy Saturdays continue at The Big Hunt; shows start at 9:00, and every Saturday is something different.

7/1-28 - Edvard Munch 150th Anniversary Tribute at the National Gallery in DC. The National Gallery of Art, 4th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC. Free.

7/3 - 9/18 - Scandinavian Crime Cinema film series at the AFI Silver. Too many to list here; check out the schedule here. AFI Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD. (They also have an upcoming series of 80s films, including some horror and thriller films, and a series called "Ozploitation," or Australian genre film.)

7/11-28 - The Capital Fringe Festival. Not sure how much I'll be doing, but there promises to be some interesting stuff. If you're in the area, check it out.

7/12  - Pretty in Pasties: A Burlesque Tribute to Movies of the 80s. My dear friends at Black Tassel Boolesque present this show, the title of which pretty much sums it up. With Cherie Sweetbottom, the DDP Drill Team, Mourna Handful, Maria Bella, Missy Aggravation, Mab Just Mab, and hosted by Hot Todd Lincoln. The State Theater, 230 N Washington St, Falls Church, VA. Doors 8:00, show at 9:00. Tix $12 advance, $15 at the door.

7/12 - Queer Burlesque Dance Performance Art Party! Queer-themed event with punk music, folk music, drag, and burlesque, featuring Lucrezia Blowzia, Marla Meringue, Shortstaxx, and Victoria Vixen. The Bier Baron, 1523 22nd St NW, Washington, DC. I don't have any info about tickets, and I have a listing of 8:30 but don't know if that's the doors or the showtime.

7/13 - Open Sketch Sessions. If you're in Philadelphia and want to work on your artistic skills, check this out. The Mutter Museum will allow artists and amateurs to sketch from their collection of historic anatomical etchings and illustrations. The Mutter Museum, 19 S 22nd St, Philadelphia, PA. 11am to 4pm, no admission but registration recommended. Details here

7/14 - 8/4 - The Hitchcock 9. A series of silent films, four directed by Alfred Hitchcock (Easy Virtue, Downhill, The Lodger, and The Pleasure Garden) and two written by his wife, Alma (The First Born  and The Constant Nymph), with others to be shown at the AFI Silver. All with live musical accompaniment. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Free, but get there early; check out the schedule here.

7/18 - GeekBoys Burlesque. Billing itself as an all-male nerdy-burly review, I wish I could be there. SERIOUSLY. Featuring Lucky Charming, Matt Knife, Christopher Bousquet, Hardy Corey, and Brief Sweat, hosted by that charmer Nelson Lugo. The Kraine Theater, 85 E 4th St, New York, NY. Doors at 6:30, show at 7:00, tix available here.

7/19 - International Burlesque Review. LA's Scarlett Letter, Boston's GeeGee Louise, Italy's Miss Satine, and DC's 'Stache show up in this fun show, hosted by Christopher Inlow. MOCA, 1054 31st St NW, Washington, DC.  8:00; ticket price unknown.

7/19 - Twisted Knickers Presents "La Bell Epoque"! Baltimore's burlesque scene presents its own version of a Parisian cabaret, although perhaps minus the absinthe. (bummer) With Tapitha Kix, Beaujolais Nouveau, Ruby Rockafella, Cherie Sweetbottom, Cherie Nuit, Bunny Vish'us, Maki Rolle, Kitty Bermuda, and Dainty Dandridge, hosted by Hot Todd Lincoln. The Yellow Sign Theater, 1726 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD. (Cthulhu fans: they really mark your hand with the Yellow Sign...) Doors 8:30, show 9:30. Tix $10 adv, $15 at the door, available here.

7/20 - Cartoon-a-Rama! Richmond burlesque troupe Those Freaking Weirdos puts on a fun-sounding show. With Cherrie Canary, Dante the Inferno, Dev L Ish, Ellie Quinn, Moxie LaBouche, Melody Magpie, and more. Richmond CenterStage, 600 E Grace St, Richmond, VA. Showtime 9:00pm. Tix $12, available here.

7/23 - Science Cafe: Quack Medicine. I just found out that the National Museum of Health & Medicine has a series of talks and workshops on scientific subjects for the interested layperson. This month it's a discussion of medical quackery and health fraud in the 20th century. Fenton Room, Silver Spring Civic Center, 1 Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring, MD. Admission free; starts at 6pm.

7/26 - Hot Todd Lincoln's House of Weird! Keeping up the weirdness for the month, my pal Hot Todd presents an array of talent, with Swami Yomahmi, Kiki Allure, Alyssum Pohl, Cherie Sweetbottom, and Cherokee Rose. The Bier Baron, Washington DC. Showtime 10:00, tix $10.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Phantom Ballad for July

On a summer ramble, we stop by an old cemetery to take some photos, and in the midst of all the decay and sense of abandonment, there's fresh flowers on a very old grave.

We continue on our way, curious about the who and why of the discovery, and then on the radio this song arises unexpectedly...

Feeling a sense of foreboding and of unfinished business, we swing by there again later in the day on our way to dinner. The flowers are still there, but now we can make out heavy footprints leading to the grave from the entrance, and that lead away...and suddenly stop. And the grave itself is over a century old.

We feel a cold chill and run back to the car...

"The Unquiet Grave" is an ancient ballad, thought to date back to 1400. The basic interpretation is that of a man mourning for his lost love, only to have her ghost tell him that his excessive mourning is keeping her from moving on, and that he should enjoy his life while he has it. I've seen some making a case for the singer having murdered his love (although there's scant reason to see that from my viewpoint) and some others have claimed connections to witchcraft (even more tenuous).

I settled on this video as a default; I couldn't find something that exactly matched my preference (acoustic, unenhanced audio) but this one has some nice imagery so I went for it. Long ago I heard a version, done as a duet, with harp and guitar accompaniment, but it's unavailable now.

July brings all sorts of wildness....