Archive for August, 2012

Memories of Horrorfind

Posted: August 31, 2012 in Videos

Alright! This weekend, my plan is to hit Horrorfind weekend in Pa. and shoot a video. I did that on a whim a year ago. And I had such a good time, I got the idea of starting this blog so I could do more stuff like that. So stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s a look back at the moment that started it all. Just think … someday you can tell your grandkids that you were here to witness this.

A couple times a year, somebody forwards me the text of this e-mail and it always irritates the living crap out of me. Since I’ve got a blog, I might as well address it.

Ordinarily, I find it particularly annoying when viral e-mails convey some kind of sanctimonious message, wrapped up in a story that’s obviously bullshit. This one, however, annoys me because it happens to be TRUE. This is based on an actual column by Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post that ran in 2007 and won him a Pulitzer Prize.

Let me say upfront that I like Gene Weingarten’s “Below the Beltway” column. He’s a fine writer. I don’t begrudge him his Pulitzer.

I just wish he’d won it for a different story. And I wish people would quit forwarding this condensed version with its ultimate message about how we’re too wrapped up in our petty concerns to appreciate some of the most beautiful music ever composed, as performed by one of the world’s greatest musicians. Because I find that conclusion specious. And, frankly, more than a little condescending.

Here’s the text of the e-mail:

“A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. (more…)

My friend Carlette found my previous blog entry about the book “The Vampire Slayers’ Field Guide to the Undead” intriguing, so she decided to make it the subject of one of her blog talk radio broadcasts. And she graciously (foolishly?) asked me to sit in. Give it a listen if you want:–all-about-vampires

Did you know that Count Dracula walked around during the day? He wasn’t at the height of his powers. But that whole “daylight-kills-vampires-on-contact” thing was never in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, “Dracula.” For that matter, it was never part of the Eastern European vampire folklore that inspired Stoker’s story, either.

So where does that particular element of vampire mythology come from? According to the book “The Vampire Slayers’ Field Guide to the Undead” by Shane MacDougall, it actually comes from Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s 1922 silent film “Nosferatu.” (Which was a classic in its own right, but totally ripped off Stoker’s novel. Stoker’s widow sued.)

Murnau needed a way to kill off Count Orlock, the Dracula surrogate. He basically pulled the “sunlight kills him” plot device out of his ass. And now it’s as intrinsic to vampire lore as crucifixes and stakes.

I recently got a copy of MacDougall’s book. By the way, that name’s a pseudonym for horror author Jonathan Maberry. If you’re a horror fan, do yourself a favor and pick up his Pine Deep trilogy. It’s awesome.

I’ve got a feeling I’ll end up devoting more than one blog entry to this book. Hell, it could be the subject of a blog in and of itself. (more…)

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a Star Trek “red shirt?” You know — one of those people in the original Star Trek who’s introduced for the sole purpose of going down with the main characters in a landing party and getting killed? If so, you might be interested in this interview with Beverly Washburn, who played one of those people in the Star Trek episode “The Deadly Years.”

But that’s far from Ms. Washburn’s only role. She got her start as a kid on Jack Benny’s radio show. As you’ll see in the interview, just a few of the famous people she’s worked with include Lou Costello, Kirk Douglas and the great director Frank Capra.

Probably her most iconic role was as “Lisbeth” in “Old Yeller.” She was in “Shane,” for cryin’ out loud!

I hope you enjoy the interview (despite my repeated flubs). If she doesn’t charm the socks off you … I’m sorry, but you just aren’t human.

Recently, I went to visit a friend of mine, and he’d rented the DVD of “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies.” We ended up shooting the shit, and I wasn’t really paying attention to it. But I kind of wish I had, because I find the concept of DVDs like that oddly fascinating.

Keep in mind, that movie title isn’t a misprint on my part. The title’s similarity to the mainstream Hollywood release “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is purely intentional.

See, it was put out by a production company called “The Asylum,” whose entire business model consists of putting out straight-to-DVD “mockbusters” that are blatantly similar to more well-funded, mainstream productions. And their titles are often deliberately confusing. A few examples: “Sunday School Musical,” “Transmorphers” and “Snakes on a Train.”

So why do I find it interesting?

Well, obviously the production company has already accomplished its goal when people mistakenly rent “Transmorphers” in the mistaken belief that they’re bringing home “Transformers.” But I guess they’d face fraud charges if the movie consisted of nothing more than a caption that reads: “HA! GOTCHA, ASSHOLE!” They actually need to furnish a movie. (more…)

Sometimes it disturbs me when I check out the search terms that lead readers to this blog, because they seem to reflect an intent that’s the polar opposite of what I’m trying to get across.

For example, I wrote a piece about the underlying misogyny in the movie “Revenge of the Nerds.” And some people apparently found that while doing a search involving the terms “cheerleaders” and “topless.”

Actually, that doesn’t bother me too much. I’m not one of these people who believes there’s something inherently misogynistic about porn. If there was, pretty much every guy on the planet could be termed a misogynist. And cynical as I can be about human nature, I’m not yet ready to jump off that precipice. (I imagine the people who stumbled across this blog in a search for topless cheerleaders were pretty annoyed, though. Sorry guys. I could be wrong, but I have an inkling that sort of thing is available elsewhere on the Web.)

I’m more concerned by the fact that one of my most enduringly popular blog posts, in terms of people reading it after finding it via Google searches on related terms, is this one dealing with secret FEMA codes on the back of traffic signs. As you can see, my purpose was to make fun of how batshit loopy that particular conspiracy theory is. I figured the guy who posted that video was the one guy who subscribes to it. Even by conspiracy theory standards, that one’s just too bugf**k insane to have a significant following, right?

But it’s had many hits in the months since I posted it from people apparently seeking more information on this plot to convey information about sinister hidden government bases via secret codes on the backs of road signs.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m not a big believer in conspiracy theories. I’m more of an Occam’s razor guy — absent compelling evidence to the contrary, go with the most basic and obvious explanation.

Yes, conspiracies happen. Yes, they can be widespread and insidious. The reason I generally don’t subscribe to them is because they tend to be based on a presumption of widespread organizational efficiency that’s rare under any circumstances, but especially for government operations. (I used to cover government as a newspaper reporter. Trust me on this one.)

And subscribers to these theories seem to prize them for their comic book theatricality to a point where they’ll pointedly overlook far more likely explanations because, hey, they’re kinda boring.

Prime example. I have a friend who’s very active in his Catholic church. He was convinced that he’d found evidence of a Satanic cult.

Apparently his church hosted a funeral Mass for a young woman who died of a heroin overdose. Her acquaintances — a heavily tattooed and multiply pierced crowd — had been in attendance. Afterward, a number of items such as candle holders had gone missing.

My friend was convinced that the young woman’s friends had stolen them for use in a Black Mass, where they would worship Satan.

My reaction? Yeah. That’s why junkies typically steal shit. To use them as props in Black Masses. Come on. If a bunch of junkies could summon up Satan, they’d probably steal his wallet and go score some smack.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a soft spot for Halloween masks. I just think they’re cool. The good masks are works of art – ones that allow the wearer to be a kind of walking sculpture.

So I took notice when I was at a haunted attraction in Central Pennsylvania in October, and passed a stand that was selling some REALLY cool-looking masks.

Obviously, some real skill had gone into designing and making the masks. But it wasn’t just that they were well-made. The things were genuinely spooky-looking.

The guy who’d made them was at the next booth over, wearing an awesome costume that consisted of a gory pig mask, a bloody butcher’s apron and a cleaver clutched in his hand. People were paying to get their picture taken with him.

I guessed – correctly, as it turned out – that he must be a pretty interesting guy.

His name is Steve Steele, and he runs his business called Lot 27 FX in his spare time. I’ve wanted to profile the business for a while, and Steve graciously agreed to answer some questions for me.

I’ll post some photos. I wish I could post a picture of every one of his masks, because every one of them is SO freakin cool!  Do yourself a favor and check out his Facebook page here:

On with the Q&A: