Ghost Story Reading Party
I had been saving up this idea for over a year: a Halloween get-together with friends where we read ghost stories to each other. Very perfectly nineteenth century. Like when people didn’t rely on strangers to entertain them with TV shows or pre-recorded music, instead amusing themselves with their own talents.*
My dream was a Martha Stewart Halloween. The woman does Halloween properly, eh. Someone to emulate.
One day, Matt surprised me with a stack of Halloween-themed magazines, including that one of our creepy holiday doyenne. By the end of the evening, Matt and I jotted down our favourite ideas, whittled our menu to something more realistic, and made an agenda for the party preparations. On the morning of our ghost story night, we set out a few hours before our friends came to buy up supplies, only dillydallying long enough to buy more book darts.**
Of course, I always count on Matt’s chef skills to make my dreams a reality. Besides a stew in a pumpkin (we forgot to photograph it), Matt used Martha’s suggestions to create a nuclear waste green artichoke spinach dip and white chocolate-covered pear ghosts:
Matt anthropomorphized the cheese dip, while I cheated and decorated the table with cookies and rodents:
Lest you think I did nothing, I did decorate the place with inflatable toys:
Note: You can see our fireplace in the above photo.Â I eventually flipped a switch and turned on the fireplace. It set the atmosphere.
Ivan also got into the act with the headpiece part of a Yoda costume:
When the guests arrived, we did succumb to pre-chewed entertainment with the latest episode of Supernatural, a clip from [REC] and Jan Svankmajer’s version of the Fall of the House of Usher (which only I watched).***
Then we remembered the reason we gathered: to read ghost stories by flashlight in the dark.
Ryan read “The Snail-Watcher” by Patricia Highsmith; Matt read “Incarnations of Burned Children” by David Foster Wallace; Rob read the story of a New Westminster ghost; and I read “The Furry Collar” from JB Stamper’s 1977 bookÂ Tales for the Midnight Hour.
*Karaoke still sucks. Since today’s people rarely sing, when they make the mistake of getting on stage with a karaoke machine to back them up, they sound like farting giant clams.
**The subject of a future blog post.
***The subject of another future blog post. The link, alas, takes you to Youtube, my archnemesis. Svankmajer should be enjoyed on the big screen or on, at the very least, a very large television.
Friday October 17th 2008, 1:48 pm
Filed under: Art
This is a poster by a finalist in the Chicago International Poster Biennial, by by Tomasz Boguslawski from Poland:
Squelchy steak subject matter for a juvenile play.
Pavlovian Guinea Pigs
This is Paco after a good meal of cilantro. Lips dyed green, belly taut, a well-fed guinea pig is a quiet guinea pig. Getting the guinea pig to the well-fed stage is tricky, however. Guinea pigs have a bottomless pit for a stomach and they maintain a strict diet to fill this pit. As pets, they rely on human slaves for all their needs. A human enters the room and off go the guinea pig sirens, alerting the slave that the masters are hungry.
Surely it was the high-pitched squeaks of hungry guinea pigs that finally sent the Inca off the deep end and turned the hapless ur-guinea pigs into cuy, that South American delicacy.
We were warned, before we adopted our guinea pigs, that they would drive us crazy. Indeed, there were times when I consulted Andean cookbooks for a solution to the squeak problem.
Then, a few days ago, I began to notice how quiet our house was. No high-pitched whistling. No bedlam when I rustled a plastic bag. None of the cacophony associated with the opening of a fridge – the guinea pigs certainly knew where food came from.
Days went by and no sound. I began to wonder if they were ok. Since when were the guinea pigs not hungry? Were Paco and Chuy sick?
I shared my concerns with Matt. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I trained them.”
He then explained. “Whenever they squeak, I run to the cage, pick up the squeaker and cuddle him. They hate that. Now they don’t squeak.”
“So, we now have two guinea pigs that equate us with terror.”
“Yes,” said Matt. “I have conditioned them to think of us as harbingers of cuddling, not food.”
Disgusting & Horrifying Cat Story
Tuesday October 14th 2008, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Ivan
This evening I was talking to my friend Rachael, with Ivan the cat draped across my lap. Ivan was quiet, as if he was about to go to sleep.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Ivan grabbed my hand with his teeth and bit down hard. The puncture wound is rather tiny, the bite drew a pinpoint of blood.
“Good god, Ivan just attacked me!” I interrupted Rachael.
“Maybe he’s jealous. Cats sometimes want to be the centre of attention and you’re not lavishing him with attention while you’re on the phone.”
I agreed and made a mental note to keep my hands well away from the cat.
A few minutes of conversation later, Ivan once more lunges for my hand. This time those little cat jaws act with tiger-strong tenacity. I waved my hand around, startled, Ivan’s teeth still clenched to my hand and sliding off.
“This cat is rabid,” I said. “I am sorry but I may need to call animal control. Can I call you back later?”
A few hours later, I showed Matt my cat-inflicted wounds.
“It could be the start of a zombie plague,” I suggested. I reminded Matt that, in [REC], the Spanish horror movie we saw last week, cats may or may not have been a vector.
Matt shook his head. “No, I think Ivan was horny.”
Apparently cats occasionally get the hots for their human crushes. Particularly if said cat rarely gets out and fails to meet girls his own species.
“One of my friends was rubbing a roommate’s cat on the belly,” said Matt. “The cat discharged a wad of semen all over her hand. It does happen.”
Moomintroll & the Top-Secret Sex Pasture
Sunday October 12th 2008, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Books
Oh god, this book sucked. Almost entirely irredeemable, the story and art belong to the fingerpainting with cum school of manga. Tezuka Osamu, of Astro Boy fame, whips up a tale of some misogynist little loser who ends up with some brainless bimbos through a whim of the gods. A Jewish girl escapes from a train loaded for the death camps only to face lusty Nazis. A robot woman without genitalia tries to learn about love by throwing herself at the protagonist. A boyfriend leaves his bleeding girlfriend, justifying himself by saying: “She was cute, but a blind woman…no thanks!!” The book sparkles with this kind of dialogue. Then there’s the cheesy sex ed.
Really, there is almost no point in reading it, unless you’re on some Tezuka reading binge.
Yet, by almost, I mean, there might be a point in picking it up to marvel at the appearance of a Moomin – a Moomin amid a horde of murderous, vengeful animals who’ve ripped off one of the heroines’ clothes and mauled her.
Moomins are the inventions of the Swedish-Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jansson. Her children’s stories are what wussy North American parents deem as “dark” and her stories celebrate loners, recluses and eccentrics. In Japan, however, it has not gone unnoticed that Moomins are really cute if you ignore their adventures falling into Scandinavian ice-covered waters, electric beings of unspecified wicked nature, and the warmth-desiring Groke who kills with her frozen touch as she wanders through northern forests. Japan is the place to buy cute Moomin paraphernalia. The books have been adapted into a saccharine cartoon that is virtually unwatchable. Snufkin, one of the books’ many counterculture minor characters, has become a guitar-toting pop star, like our own appropriated Che. The Hattifatteners, those electric gypsies, have shed their frightening and undefined evil to likewise become cute characters adorning merchandise.
But who do you see among the murderous animals in Tezuka’s book?
Yes, little Moomintroll has joined the lynch mob.
Once one knows that all the animals on this idyllic island are in opposite sex pairs – they even have what one blogger called a “top-secret sex pasture” – one rather feels sorry for Moomintroll. He’s the only one without a partner on the island, no Snork Maiden to this “holy place,” as Tezuka’s hero calls it.
Thursday October 09th 2008, 12:45 am
Filed under: Film
When a zombie movie has little kid zombies, you know the movie means business.
I just returned from seeing the Spanish infection movie [REC] and my last film at this year’s Vancouver Film Festival (VIFF).
(This is why I haven’t had much of a chance to blog. Besides work, I have been spending all my free time watching movies or else researching movies.)
This year’s VIFF had about five films in the horror genre, only two of which my schedule allowed me to catch. Both movies were superb: I’ll write about Let the Right One In once I am less busy next week.
[REC] follows a Barcelona TV reporter and a cameraman who’s short on words as they accompany the local fire department on a call to a residential apartment block. A reclusive old woman has woken up her neighbours with her screams. The police are already on the scene and the two firefighters must now batter down the door.
The 2007 film [REC] has already had a Hollywood remake. So far all remakes – of Ring, of A Tale of Two Sisters, of Dark Water – seem lacking in that at which the original excelled and abundant in the pretty but bland female face that Hollywood prefers. Leaving the usual annoying cultural theft aside, there is a sequel to the original Spanish version already in the making. You can bet that I will be seeing it.
Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre
With a name like that, this is a movie I can’t wait to see!
Here’s what the press materials say:
An epic tale about a group of whale watchers, whose ship breaks down and they get picked up by a whale fisher vessel. The Fishbillies on the vessel have just gone bust, and everything goes out of control.Itâ€™s a cross between the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Blairwitch Project, combined with the dark and bloody humor of Evil Dead.
Fishbillies? Wow. Deliverance in Icelandic waters.
(I nearly forgot. It has Gunnar Hansen, or Leatherface from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.)
Brilliant Idea #2
“Someone should make allergy potato chips,” said Matt as we spied a bag of rosemary and basil chips.
We brainstormed on some flavours:
- Peanut and cat
- Shellfish and milk
- Dust mite and egg
- Cedar and ragweed
- Latex and pollen
“Wait,” I said.Â “What sort of target market are we looking at?”
“People who want to live on the edge but are not into the whole bungee jumping thing.”
On Poorly-Worded Historical Writing
Wednesday October 01st 2008, 2:31 pm
Filed under: Books
As part of my job, for the last few days I have been researching undergarments, focusing mainly on women’s corsets (men sometimes wore them too, for their own reasons). One of the ways I usually begin research is to take out five or six books from the library. If the subject is new to me, I make the books a mixture of scholarly tracts and pop history books, perhaps with a couple children’s books on the subject. The children’s books, which I read first, help me see the main strands of history and the major discussions at a glance. Often with such a broad topic as underwear, even if it focuses on a mere two hundred years or on only one item within the pantheon of women’s apparel, one has to pick a theme and stick to it.
Yet even with a theme that threads everything together in a survey, I find I need markers from the social history of the time to make points stick in my mind. So it especially annoys me, whether in pop histories or purportedly academic children’s books, when an author is vague: “In the late 1700s…,” “In the mid-nineteenth century…,” and most cringeworthy: “By Victorian [sic] standards, the 1818 corset…”
The late 1700s were a flipping broad time period with all manner of clusterfuck happening. Ah yes, a spot of French Revolution in your tea, anyone? And the mid-nineteenth century? Is that 1850s, or 1840s-1860s, or what? Hell, with women’s clothes and magazines becoming more prevalent in the your so-called mid-nineteenth century, changes happened everywhere pretty darn fast. It wasn’t like, to whip up a fictional example, 1550 Venetian fashion finally reaching the Scottish outposts by 1590.
As for Victorians in 1818, sure the queen was conceived that year; yet could she, as a fledging embryo, have had any influence on fashion and manners?
Mind your eras, authors.