Archive for October, 2012

I really wanted to do more with the Halloween season for this blog, but I just didn’t get the chance. I’ve been busy with volunteering for a political campaign, and some other (mostly good) stuff has been going on in my personal life. Finally, Hurricane Sandy pretty much put the kibosh on a lot of last-minute festivities. (Made it through OK. No worries here. Others weren’t so lucky, so please make a donation to the Red Cross for them.)

Still, since I love Halloween so much, I’d like to post something about it. So here’s a video from Halloween 2009, when I hosted a party at my apartment. One of the best Halloweens ever. My friends Pat and Molly came dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and April O’Neil. We made this video in the street outside. I’m the thug. And yes, those are a pair of foam rubber practice nunchukus that Pat hits me with. No people or animals were harmed in the making of this video. Enjoy.

Jonathan Burns is a professional magician and contortionist. When I found that out, I formed a picture in my mind. Something mysterious and exotic.

Perhaps he’d journeyed to some remote spot in Nepal, where he’d spent years in a cave learning esoteric meditation and yogic techniques from some wizened guru before traveling back to the West so he could stun audiences with his otherworldly powers.

When I spoke to him after his performance at the Magicians Alliance of Eastern States 2012 convention, he disabused me of that notion.

How did he become a professional contortionist? Well, he was that weird kid in school who could twist his body in disturbing ways, and liked to freak out the girls with it. To his credit, he never grew out of that. And he managed to turn it into a highly entertaining act.

Seriously. At the convention, he had pretty much the entire room doubled over in laughter as he did stuff like working his entire body through a toilet seat.

Words wouldn’t do it justice, so I won’t even attempt to describe his act, other than to say it was eye-popping, endearingly child-like, and very funny. Here’s the interview and a link to his site, which includes some videos so you can see for yourself.

How long have you been performing?

I was always a bit of a ham. I was the kid who would put his leg over his head to gross out girls in gym class or perform arm pit farts at the family reunion. My parents decided to channel that energy and took me to a local magic shop when I was about 12. I picked up a bunch of tricks and would perform them for anyone who’d watch. Eventually, someone noticed and asked me to perform at their daughter’s birthday party. I gathered up all my tricks, put on a sparkly vest, and made about $20. From there I was hooked! (more…)

Has the existential terror of an unknowable universe that’s fundamentally inimical to the interests of humanity got YOU down this Halloween? Then reanimate your party with these Shadow Over Innsmouth-watering H.P. Lovecraft-inspired snacks! Old Ones and Young Ones alike will love ’em!

Spud Niggurath
– One Russet potato sliced paper thin
– Salt (optional)
– Parchment paper
Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit a plate. Lay discs of potato on top in a flat layer, none touching. Sprinkle layer with salt, if desired. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper. Microwave for 5-6 minutes. Discs will have become lightly browned potato chips.

The Black Goat With a Thousand Young has plenty of little mouths to feed! She knows this one will keep ‘em smiling!

-3 tablespoons butter or margarine
– 1 package (10 oz., about 40) regular marshmallows
– 6 cups Froot Loops cereal
1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
2. Add Froot Loops cereal. Stir until well coated.
3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” – that means “Yummy!”

Fetid ichor
– ½ cup vanilla pudding (homemade or store bought)
– 3 Oreo cookies
– Gummy worms
In a parfait glass or clear cup, fill the bottom with half of the vanilla pudding. Crumble the Oreo cookies into small pieces and place about half of the cookie crumbs over the pudding and add a few gummy worms. Repeat using the rest of your ingredients.

The Arab Abdul Alhazred is just MAD about these tasty treats! Try them with some chocolate Yog So-sauce!

I should be doing more of this — spotlighting blogs I enjoy reading.

If you like “Chamber of the Bizarre,” I assume you like Halloween. I mean — it’s cool if you don’t. I just assume that nobody visits a blog called “Chamber of the Bizarre” in search of tasteful home decoration tips.

Anyway, if you ARE a fan of Halloween, do yourself a favor and check out “The Year of Halloween,” brought to you by haunted hostess Eva Halloween. The subtitle “All the Halloween You Can Handle” pretty much sums it up. Enjoy.

Yikes! Been a long time since I posted here. My apologies. I’ve been volunteering for a local political campaign, and things have been kind of crazy lately.

Anyway, I’ve got something on deck that I believe was worth the wait. You may have seen my review of Damien Walters Grintalis’ horror novel Ink. If not, you can read it here. Or you know what? Don’t bother reading the review. Just go ahead and order the book, because it’s really good. It’s a wonderfully original and unsettling story about a guy who gets a haunted tattoo.

Damien Walter Grintalis graciously agreed to an interview. So here goes:

Q: How long has Ink been in the works?

A: The first draft was written in early 2009. I tucked it away for a few months, then worked on edits for several months and started querying agents at the end of the year. I signed with an agent in April or May of 2010, and then he and I worked on edits before the manuscript went out on submission to editors.

Q: Where did you get the idea for the central premise?

A: I was leaving a tattoo shop in Fells Point (in Baltimore) and had a what-if moment. I thought it was going to be a short story because I’d just finished another novel a few weeks before. I was wrong.

Q: How did you get started as a writer? (more…)

One of my all-time favorite types of speculative fiction is the story that mixes gritty crime drama with fantastic elements. When the writer gets it right, that is.

Fortunately, Robert Ford gets it right with “Samson and Denial,” from Thunderstorm Books.

It’s a delicate balancing act. Few things are more out-and-out sad than a science fiction, fantasy or horror author’s failed attempts to be edgy.

You want to call up the writer and tell him: “For the record, the answer is ‘no.’ Your copious use of the word ‘fuck’ did not imbue your organized-crime-meets-Lovecraft pastiche with any semblance of credibility. Go back to impressing your World of Warcraft buddies with your dubious street smarts, Scarface.”

But when the writer nails it? The results are analogous to peach salsa.

See, a friend turned me on to peach salsa a few years back. I thought it sounded gross. Peaches are sweet. Salsa’s spicy. They aren’t meant to be combined.

But it’s actually great stuff, simply because the dissimilar flavors complement each other. The sweet flavor of the peaches heightens the spiciness of the salsa, and vice-versa.

So it is with speculative/crime fiction. Crime fiction tends to be hard-headed by nature, populated by pragmatic characters concerned with making a buck and surviving. When they’re thrown into a story with some fantastical element, it’s a matter of two great tastes that taste great together.

“Samson and Denial” concerns Samson Gallows, a South Philly pawnshop owner and small-time drug dealer who’s having a rough night. (more…)

You know what sucks about hearing writer Scott Pruden read a chapter from his novel in progress? Knowing you’ll have to wait for the rest of it. Oh well. From this sneak preview, it sounds like it will be worth the wait. In the meantime — if you haven’t yet — check out his science fiction novel “Immaculate Deception.” It’s REALLY good. Enjoy.