Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It's Walpurgisnacht! Now We Are Six!

Happy Walpurgisnacht!

And Dust & Corruption is six years old today and still going! I refuse to give up!

Monday, April 28, 2014

April Miscellany

Some smaller bits and bobs...

  • I've lately been seduced by Phryne Fisher. For whatever reason I never picked up the books, and I'd heard of the Aussie TV series, "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" but it wasn't showing anywhere I could get to easily, but recently it's turned up on US cable TV and after watching a few episodes, I'm in love. I bought the first season of the show (there was a sale on Amazon) and read the first book, Cocaine Blues. Naturally, the show condenses the book terribly, but it's still a load of fun, especially with Essie Davis as Phryne, the penniless Australian lass turned British noble. I am a bit curious to see if they incorporate aborigines or other uniquely Australian elements, as so far, while the series is entertaining as hell, there's not a lot to differentiate it from a British show. We'll see.
  • Yesterday, I got out to see a movie for the first time in months. 'Twas the new Hammer film, "The Quiet Ones" which I found entertaining but not as good as "The Woman in Black." Set in 1974, it concerns an experiment by a psychologist and his students, trying to "cure" a woman of psychological problems and poltergeist phenomena...only to have things quickly get out of hand. It's got some good chills, but there's an abrupt shift partway through that needed a bit more buildup than it got. Still, it's not as bad as all that, and is a decent gothic thriller, which we need more of. And for pity's sake, it's Hammer! And any new Hammer project gets my support! 
  • I came across a 1945 edition of Emily Post's Etiquette and am enjoying reading it. There's so much that's out of date, like how to write invitiations on your visiting cards or where to put the musicians when you have a tea with dancing. But there's also some practical stuff, like how the secret of popularity is being unselfconscious, interested in everything, generous in spirit, and above all, polite. She's also disarmingly modern, even for 1945. While she does discuss debutante balls, she also makes it clear she views them as archaic. She also hails the growing equality between men and women, and derides the notion of "the Victorian lady dependent for her safety in public upon the protection of a chivalrous gentleman." Quite refreshing.
  • I bought a car last month, a 2003 Toyota Camry, and so far it's functioning beautifully and I'm getting around Baltimore easily. I've spent a few days just driving around when the weather's good and going places I haven't been yet. I've decided when there's more leaves on the trees I'm going to go mad photographing some of these places, and maybe doing some sketching. I'm taken with the idea of learning watercolors. Anyway, brace yourselves for reports of future adventures. I've already spotted the obscure former mill town of Oella, an intensely picturesque and architecturally interesting place.
  • I hope to have an official Facebook page for this blog set up soon; friends have said they're waiting for it. So watch out...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April's Night Out at the Movies!

It's an unexpectedly chilly night in April, and we're all lamenting and wondering if this winter will ever end. Warmed by our meal in the familiar old restaurant, we walk down the street to our usual movie theater...

First up is a seasonable short from 1907, directed by Segundo de Chomon. Appropriately, it's "The Easter Eggs."

And then, the main feature....a twisted thriller from 1932, "Midnight Warning"!

The show over, we wander up the street to our favorite cafe for a drink and further conversation before parting ways yet again....

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Hugh Lamb was a great anthologist and literary historian, and he dug up quite a few previously unknown stories that have now become standards in anthologies and are studied by scholars and students. His many anthologies of Victorian ghost stories are almost required reading among fans of supernatural fiction.

So, let's run through the contents...

"The Haunted Station" is a great story of a haunted hut in the Australian outback, written by Hume Nisbet. It's a gloriously evocative and eerie tale, where the scenery of the outback is as menacing and ghostly as the hauntings themselves. Although the haunting is fairly standard, it's well-written enough to be worth reading on its own.

"The Hour and the Man" is a conte cruel by Robert Barr, reminiscent of "The Torture by Hope" by Villiers de L'Isle Adam. "Nut Bush Farm" by Mrs. Riddell is an OK haunted-house story, centering on a theft and unsolved disappearance. J. H. Pearce's "The Man Who Coined His Blood into Gold" is an interesting folk tale/dark fantasy/adult fairy tale that is unusual for the period; unfortunately, its avant-garde nature probably cost Pearce any fame. Not much is known of him today and his work remains obscure.

Next up is two short-shorts by Lady Dilke, who was involved in a scandal that rocked the Victorian age, and of course is almost forgotten now. "The Shrine of Death" and "The Black Veil" are very Gothic, and seem almost old-fashioned compared to the other stories here. Ambrose Bierce's "The Ways of Ghosts" is a collection of brief essays about ghostly phenomena, in his typical style, always dry and mordantly witty.

"The Fever Queen" by K. and H. Prichard is more of dark irony than ghosts; the same with W. C. Morrow's "The Permanent Stiletto." The former is of an artist who vanishes after his greatest work is a flop...but later it's acclaimed as a masterpiece. The latter is of a man seeking treatment after a murder attempt...and of the fear that leads to his eventual fate.

Richard Marsh's "The Houseboat" is a straightforward tale of a haunted craft and an investigation that leads to its resolution. It's good fun, vividly told. "Dame Inowslad" by R. Murray Gilchrist, one of the Decadents, is a good cruel tale of supernatural vengeance...or is it otherworldly fulfillment? It's a masterful work, and Lamb was responsible for Gilchrist being revived and studied again.

Two fictionalized Spanish legends, "The Mountain of Spirits" and "The Golden Bracelet," are by Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, and are a pleasant dash of dark folkloric fantasy. "The Tyburn Ghost" by The Countess of Munster is a very nicely grisly short piece that prefigures some of Elliott O'Donnell's "true" ghost stories.

"Remorseless Vengeance" by Guy Boothby is a cruel little tale from another specialist in Victorian Australia. And the volume is ended with two tales from Bernard Capes. First is "The Green Bottle" which is a pleasantly vivid story of a soul trapped in a bottle. And finally is the now anthologized-almost-to-death "An Eddy on the Floor," which is hardly worth going into as everyone's read it.

There really isn't a bad story in the bunch; every one is worth reading in one way or another. I really liked "The Haunted Station", "The Houseboat," "Dame Inowslad," and "The Tyburn Ghost," and I will keep this handy to refer to them from time to time. This is still in print, both in physical editions and as an ebook. Go get it now.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Skipping the calendar this month

Sorry, I've had a crazy week; getting rid of my old car, getting the new car all set up with the insurance company, doing my taxes (had to pay; ow), and having a stress test at the cardiologist today, so the calendar has been far from my mind.

I've been wondering about discontinuing it; not sure how useful it is to anybody. If readers have opinions, please chime in.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Phantom Ballad for April

Finally, spring is arriving and slowly warming the air. We're spending an evening at a nice little cafe near the waterfront, having some shrimp and beer and listening to a fellow on a guitar on the little stage.

At one point, he sings this eerie song...

Apparently of Canadian origin, this ballad has several versions (of course), but all revolve around a young woman mourning the loss of her drowned love...and most include his macabre visit. A few watered-down versions don't have him showing up; they just leave her mourning by the waterside.

Out on the water...what's the ripple?'s nothing...