Wednesday, October 8, 2014

After a busy weekend

I was busy last weekend...

Monster-Mania was this weekend. I've attended this Philadelphia-area convention a few times in the past, but now they've started having a second show in  Baltimore so it's pretty much a given that I have to go.

There were a lot of neat people (like the couple above) but it was mostly a dealers and autographs event. I'm not much of an autograph person, and most of 'em charge of autographs anyway and that's money that I can spend on books and DVDs. There was a movie room as well, but not much real programming aside from that. The dealer's room was mostly collectibles, and that's also something I'm not big on; the manufactured "collector's item" stuff usually leaves me cold. (I'm a picky bastard.) But I did find some cool handcrafted things, like a boutonniere made from old playing cards and with a skull at the center that I'm going to wear to a picnic soon, and a comfy pillow made to look like Sam from the delightful Halloween anthology film Trick'r'Treat. I also got a dozen DVDs, including a few I've been unable to find for a while, like The Big Crimewave (a Canadian noir comedy) and The Unnamable and The Unnamable II. DVDs were surprisingly cheap; I wonder if the trend toward streaming is making them more affordable.

I did get to meet independent filmmaker James Balsamo, which was pretty cool. Yeah. that's me on the right.

Sunday was a small ceremony at Edgar Allan Poe's Grave.

It was organized by the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, a group I should look into joining at some point. Yesterday was the anniversary of his death, so every year about this time they arrange a flower-laying ceremony. It was a quiet, calm observance, and everyone in attendance was invited to lay flowers if they wanted. This was followed by everyone retreating to the Poe Room of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in downtown Baltimore, where they had arranged a lecture on Poe's precarious finances.

The Poe Room is gorgeous and there's tons of rare editions in the shelves; I could while away many hours there. But anyway, the lecture basically confirmed that Poe made some bad financial choices, but was also hampered by the difficulties of earning a living writing, and also the reality of a bad economy at the time. There was some fun discussion afterward, and I got to raise the question of whether Poe was really the first to create the detective story or if it was E. T. A. Hoffmann. (My theory? Hoffmann started to piece together the elements, but Poe synthesized them better.)

I also read this oldie, after coming across references to it as one of the great gothic mystery classics. How was it? Well, badly dated in quite a few ways, but still fairly enjoyable. In WWII-era San Francisco, Hilda Moreau (whose husband is away in the Navy) goes to visit her sisters-in-law, who inhabit a crumbling Victorian house. Eldest sister Pauline controls the purse strings of the family trust, and browbeats (and sometimes blackmails) the other sisters into following her orders. Pauline ends up murdered, and a shady servant and an even shadier lady lawyer end up dead as well before things are resolved.

It's an interesting milieu; almost all characters are women, a reflection of the wartime days when almost all the men were off fighting. But every so often I had to look up some reference that I didn't get, and other aspects of the wartime life are quite alien to 21st-century readers. The resolution also seemed rushed, as if Collins was getting close to her page limit and decided to wrap things up. The solution comes almost as a mistake, rather than as the result of deduction and reason. I guess I'm too much of a fan of the Analytical school.

In personal news, I joined a gym! Yeah, in that photo above, I've got quite the gut. I went for the first time on Tuesday and just walked on a treadmill for a bit, but watch out. In another decade I'll be svelte and sexy.

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