Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
We've had a Christmas Eve tradition at my 'rents for years, now. They live in the North Hollywood area of the San Fernando Valley. We congregate, invite a few people over for a buffet dinner (it usually includes fresh tamales and some really good cold cuts), and wait for the Christmas Truck. The crew that bring us the experience reserve the right to cancel due to bad weather, but I think the weather wouldn't dare be anything but clear on that one night. (I say this as I look out the window at the pouring rain and hear the forecast that says it may rain on the 24th. I hope my weatherwitching powers are working!) Mr. ShellHawk and I love this part of the Season, and were so thrilled when his dad decided to come to see it with us one year. He hasn't missed it since.
Someone, usually me, opens the patio door almost every 6 minutes starting around 7:30 p.m., and listens carefully for the sound of caroling on the street directly behind us. Really loud caroling. As the sound draws nearer and louder, we judge about how long it will take until the truck rounds the corner on the south end of our street. We bundle my 99-year-old grandma up in her coat and wheel her wheelchair into position at the end of the driveway; a perfect curbside view. The rest of us put on our coats and Christmas hats and turn eager, shining eyes up the street. And then it's there, all bright lights and singing, snow and Santa, and rollerskating reindeer and snowmen.
Mr. and Mrs. Shellhawk and his dad and our friends bundle up in our jackets and follow the truck for a few blocks, waving to neighbors we only see this one night of the year (it's an L.A. thing) and singing our heads off. The streets are crowded with grown-ups and children and dogs wearing antlers, and sometimes the truck just barely makes a turn around a tight corner on our narrow streets. Moms hold their infant children up above the crowd and point, laughing, at the spectacle. Seeing the joy and wonder on all faces, young and old, brings tears to my eyes every time. We follow the truck all the way to my childhood friend's house and wish him a Merry Christmas. We might go inside for a drink before we head on back to the house for more food.
Happy, and brimming with Christmas Cheer.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
And so they sail forth on the Jolly Old Saint Nick, Captain and first (and second) mate, searching for cursed treasure. In a small, two-man boat. The head of a Barbie doll is their figurehead. Need I say more?
No, I won't tell you the storyline. I'll just tell you it's a funny movie, and worth an hour and a half of your time. It's not the greatest movie in the world. It is lovely, fluffy, escapism, and entertaining for those of us who live our whole lives, misunderstood, in Dorkistan, when we know that at heart, we're Pirates. Cubes cannot hold us, for the sea pounds in our blood and demands we heed its siren call. Or maybe that was the cell phone. I'm not sure.
I will sign off for a time, as I am heading off on my own journey to the family bosom. I hope to have some interesting Halloween-like tales to tell when I return, probably around the first of the year. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, and a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
For instance, this iPod skin by artist Colin Thompson allows you to see a steampunk version of the inner workings of your favorite toy.
A well-written steampunk how-to blog and website can be found here at The Steampunk Workshop. Run by Jake Von Slatt (not his real name), this site is filled with clear pictures and directions. It looks like a great website for ideas for your next Mad Scientist's Laboratory.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I don't do New Year's resolutions any more, because I'm not that resolute. I have all the best intentions in the world of sticking to them, but I get easily distracted by shiny things (must be the corbae in me) and am off and running full tilt at my latest obsession.
It's not my greatest feature. I know this. I've tried to trick myself into changing it, sweet-talked that famous "inner child," but the kid is A.D.H.D., and how easy is it to fix that? Not easy at all, let me tell you. My thoughts on kids run to a sort of, "Fill 'em full of sugar and send them home," philosophy. When it comes to my inner child, I'm at a loss. I mean, I wouldn't want to see my inner child on a can of Jolt cola, you know?
Last year, I ran across an article in O (Oprah) magazine. Yes, I know it totally ruins my image as a badass haunter and prop-builder, but ShellHawk really wants to improve herself and O has some great insights.
The article was called, "The Year of Saying Yes" by Patricia Volk. My inner smarty-pants said immediately upon seeing the title, "What? Like, "Yes" to a social disease? Um, how about no?" But then I read the article.
The bottom line, the point of the whole thing, is this: "No" ends possibilities. "Yes" opens them up. I know why I say no, sometimes. Sometimes it's fear, or thinking that I know nothing about whatever it is I'm being asked to participate in. (It goes back to being picked last for kickball, every single time.) Sometimes it's just ordinary selfishness. But mostly, it's just fear.
I've been thinking about this for a few days, now. Just a random thought (and I have many) that floated up to the top of the pool. I thought, "You know, if House Bloodthorn had said no, the Miss Rose yard haunt might be dead." I mean, he might have easily said, "I live in Oregon, and the haunt is in San Luis Obispo, California. That's 900 miles! That's a huge amount of gas! And truck rental! In this economy, how can I justify it? That's nuts! Pass on that." But by saying yes, he opened the door and things fell into place. Miss Rose now has new life to be breathed into her.
My lovely neighbor, V, mentioned that her dad knows how to weld and is really good at it. I caught up with him at her Christmas party on Friday night, and he actually brought the subject up. "V tells me you want to learn to weld?" I told him I'd love to. He mentioned that V had him read my blog when he and his wife were here for Thanksgiving, and he said to himself, "I like her!" He told me he even has a portable welding unit and he can bring it here to my house and he'll teach me in my garage. "Yes" has already started to open doors.
The flesh and bones of the practice of magic (or Magick, if you will) is to train yourself to the habit of focusing your will. Produce in your mind a clear picture of what you want as if you have it already. You've already done this in your life, if you think about it. The Universe perks up and always answers, "Yes." Whatever it is you say. "I don't have money." The Universe agrees. "I am always late." The Universe agrees. And you are, if fact, always late. But if we pay attention and focus our energies (be specific, folks!) and our thoughts, we can harness the "Yes-ness" of the Universe. No, you probably won't instantly become Brad Pitt. What you can do, is create the life you want, a little piece at a time. Don't be surprised when you start noticing a certain synchronicity at work in your life. That's what they call magic, friend. And even though it sounds hokey, it still works that way. (You don't have to believe in gravity for it to work.) That is the power of Yes.
I can't promise or resolve to say yes to everything for a year (re-read paragraph two for the reason). What I can do, is plan to say, "Yes," more often. I'll think of it as training wheels for my inner child. She needs the exercise, anyway.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Pinup girl icon, Bettie Page, passed away on December 11 at the age of 85. Page had suffered a heart attack nine days earlier, and had been in the hospital being treated for pneumonia for three weeks previous to that. Her family had agreed to take her off life support.
Goodbye, Bettie. We'll miss you.
Friday, December 12, 2008
The Brian Setzer Orchestra will blow the doors off anything you may listen to this Holiday Season. (with the possible exception of the wonderful song, St. Stephen's Day Murders, written by Elvis Costello. Deals with "all the relatives you've neglected to bury." Great stuff.) It has enough power to blow the dust off Uncle Edgar's nasty, dead-rat-looking toupe. Thank God, 'cause, man, that thing is scary!
When I lived in L.A., Mr. ShellHawk and I would pile into the car sometime in the beginning of December, and head over to the Gibson Ampitheatre to watch one of the best shows, ever. The Christmas Extravaganza was our way of bringing in the Season. The show was different every year, and would include a set with the original Stray Cats, as well.
Here's a sample.
Brian Setzer still rocks, hard. He still has the pompadour that increases his height by at least four inches, and with the shoes he wears, he's got a lot of lift! His orchestra looks like they're old friends having a blast doing what they love to do. It's a joy to watch top-quality musicians play together, and when they do, it's magic. I am always amazed that these folks can play the same songs over and over and still make it sound fresh and like they're just having a jam session they've invited you to.
If you can possibly swing it, get to a live show and bring someone you love to dance with.
His last blog entry for Thursday was wonderful to watch, and I learned something about an artist whose work I grew up with and admired.
Thanks, Dave. I'm a little more edge-u-muh-kated than I was before!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
When I was a kid growing up in L.A., there was a show on KTLA Channel 5, hosted by Tom Hatten. Mr. Hatten introduced us kids to the world of black and white cartoons with Popeye and His Friends. I simply loved these cartoons, and still have a soft spot in my heart for those late-twenties, through 1930's characters, the music, and the innocence implied in these cartoons. I asked my sister-in-law what my nephew thought of these, and she said he thinks they're boring. He's going to be five years old on the 24th of this month. Am I the only one who thinks kids are overstimulated these days? No wonder they're all on Ritalin!
But I digress...
I feel sad for kids who miss the 30's era of cartoons, the forerunners of Spongebob and all the other marketing icons, I mean, characters of today.
Here's Mickey Mouse in Haunted House (1929). Before the term "Mouseschwitz" was coined, there was the real Mickey. He was cute!
Here's another classic: The Skeleton Dance.
A 1934 version of The Headless Horseman.
And a couple decades later (1958), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, starring Bing Crosby.
Although my favorite version of the song is sung by Tony the Tiger himself, Thurl Ravenscroft. I don't like the video on this one, I include it for the song only.
I think it's fun to go back to some of these old things for inspiration for "new" props. I think the reason we react to certain elements of horror is because of these images left over from childhood. Visceral is good!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
It was colder than it looked outside. We do have a thermometer outside, but on days like this, I try not to look. I'm native to Southern California; thirty-two degrees to us is really cold. If I'd seen the thermometer, I probably would have gone back to bed and snuggled with the dogs.
As it is, I'm glad I got out of the house.
My fingers were getting stiff with cold, as I'd forgotten my gloves. I saw the glittering of frost on the little wooden bridge that would take me to the trails, so I stepped carefully. I could see my breath and unsuccessfully tried to blow some smoke rings.
A few hardy souls were out already, walking their dogs or jogging. I admired their ambition, since my only purpose was a short ramble to take some pictures. I could hear the honking of the geese and the quacking of mallards as they started their day.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Fido (2006) is a Lionsgate film. It's witty, it's funny, and if you haven't seen it, you're really missing out. It is rated "R," for "zombie-related violence," but the movie isn't about gore. It's been billed as a "boy and his dog" film, and it is that (see the "Fido! Has something happened to Timmy?" scene), but it's also a movie about prejudice and how people change their minds about deeply ingrained ideas.
Here's the trailer.
My husband is not a horror- or zombie-film fan. He indulges me because he's just that great a guy. He loved this movie and said he wants to buy it. He even took the rental with him to work to loan to a friend.
Fido takes place in a 1950's period that never was. Mysterious radiation re-animates corpses, resulting in "The Zombie Wars," and the creation of the corporation, "Zomcon." Though Zomcon is unable to eradicate the threat of zombie attack due to lingering radiation, they have managed to contain the threat by building giant fences, controlling old people before they die, and creating a collar which eliminates a zombie's flesh-eating desires. This turns the zombie into a productive member of society (read, "slave")as long as the collar functions properly. (Those of you with teenagers would probably like this invention for your very own.)
Here's the opening. I love the 50s propaganda film style on this.
Helen Robinson (Carrie Ann Moss) decides to keep up with the Joneses by purchasing a zombie for the purpose of taking care of the household work. Her husband, Bill (Dylan Baker), is a zombie-phobe and protests vehemently at the idea of having a zombie in the house. His son, Timmy (K'sun Ray), grows attached to the zombie (Billy Connolly) and names him Fido. Fido's collar fails for a brief and disastrous moment, and he eats the next-door neighbor. (It's o.k. She was awful, anyway.) The plot thickens...
Fido opens a window into our ideas of right and wrong, of homeland security, of slavery, and does it without being preachy or heavy-handed. The script is well-written, the actors are absolutely right on. Please, do yourself a favor and rent this thing!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
With the magic of YouTube, we can see a couple of these.
The Bone Tones
Love that! I never would have thought of putting "Helter Skelter" to a barbershop quartet sort of format!
Three axis skull quartet
I have no idea who did the original song. Sort of has that Debbie Reynolds, Singin' in the Rain quality, though, doesn't it?
Here's the final. It looks fabulous!
Perhaps after I become independently wealthy, I can take the time (and the cash) to do this! I guess I'd need a larger Garage of Doom!
Skygodtj has an instructional series on how he built his 3 axis skull here. Hmm, maybe I could do that for the graveyard this year...
The picture quality is a bit grainy on this one. The 2007 picture quality is much better, and has the additional satisfaction of a kid running away from the house, screaming his head off. Priceless!
Videos like this give me crazy, grandiose ideas. Quixotic, even. I saw this and thought: I'd love to do this. Then I thought, But I love to build props, and there's not much room for props in this, because it would be too cluttered. Then, Wouldn't it be cool if the neighbors across the street could do this. Then, Wouldn't it be cool to talk our whole block into really doing it up for Hallowe'en. Have everyone do a different display. Maybe get the High School drama department to dress up and roam up and down the block and scare people. Oooh! And the next year, we could have a stage at the end of the street and do a show! We could put a couple of barriers at the open end of the street (I live on a dead end street)and charge, like, $5 per person and give the money to charity. And of course, reality set in, and had to ruin everything.
But it was a beautiful vision while it lasted.
Here's another cool video of a MOBILE projection. The Headless Horseman never looked so good!
Friday, December 5, 2008
Scott is a well-rounded artist and Jr. High School art teacher (probably mild-mannered, too). He works in numerous art mediums, including pastels, oils, watercolors, and of course, pumpkins.
A friend sent me a few pictures of his works, and I found myself inspired and amazed at both the detail and the delicate hand that created it. I really hope that one day, I'll have both the time and the skill to carve like he does.
Thank you, Scott, for giving me permission to use your pics. Great work!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Some of you may not know that in addition to building props, I also knit (and paint faux finishes, and write, and raise orchids, and am learning to sculpt. But that's another bunch of blogs.). This time of year I get very knitty, although this year, I have decided not to pressure myself into knitting gifts for Yule or Christmas. I'm currently finishing three hats (two Jayne Cobb hats and a God Save The Queen hat), a guernsey sweater for my husband, and a sort of legwarmer-shaped collar for my friend's doberman, who is a delicate flower and gets cold. Oh, and an alpaca wool scarf on size 3 needles.
Knitting can be one of the biggest tests of patience you can put yourself through. Yesterday, I'd almost finished my husband's hat and discovered that I had mis-counted my stitches and I had to frog the whole thing (Frogging, for those of you who don't know, is ripping out your project down to the place where you've made your mistake.) and start over. Jen Stafford, a.k.a. the Domiknitrix, can tell you all about the sweet pain of this in her book. Love her designs! Check out the free Eyeball Pillow pattern here.
One of the places I love to go for inspiration (and a break)is Ravelry, a knitting website that was started a year ago. If you're a knitter, go to the site and request an invitation. In roughly two weeks, you'll be able to access the site. Believe me when I tell you it's worth the wait.
I ran across these projects in a woman named Adrian's (helloyarn) finished projects file. I use her pictures with her permission. You can check out her website here.
Adrian is one of these wonderful people who gets to do what they love for a living. She has her own knitting shop. She also spins and dyes her own wool. And, like us, she sometimes designs things for those of us who have a darker side. I love this Jack Skelington face mask.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Zombie Strippers (2008) is absolutely not a movie for kids under 18, so if you're under 18, stop reading now.No, really. Dude! I'm old enough to be your mother, so I'm telling you to stop reading this and go do your freakin' homework!
Dang kids. O.K. This movie stars Jenna Jameson (porn star)and Robert Englund, of Nightmare on Elm Street fame. Review from Dread Central here. Synopsis: A government-made virus gets out of the laboratory and into a sleazy strip bar. One of the strippers gets bitten by the infected man, and becomes a super-stripper. Mayhem ensues.
A Sony Pictures release, Zombie Strippers is deliberately campy, and absolutely hysterical. I'm torn between being very impressed with the zombie effects, and really impressed by the plastic surgery most of the actresses had on their boobs. Undead, decaying boobs, though, are creepy.
This movie's unrated DVD version has a TON of gore for those of you into that. And, seriously, great zombie effects. Robert Englund is wonderful as the smarmy, sell-his-own-grandma club owner who sees the moneymaking op in having not just one, but a whole stable of undead, rotting beauties dancing for the fulfillment of his pockets. If you needed another reason to rent this, there's a zombie strip-off towards the end of the film. Way too funny!And in the spirit of the thing, Design Toscano has a cast resin zombie for $89.99 here. He'll look lovely in the roses, huh?
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
At Halloween, Epicurious had a fun twist on the gingerbread cookie. You can get the recipe here. My friend had come up from L.A. and we had a blast decorating these little guys. If your friends really know how dark you are, you might be able to get away with giving these for Christmas. I mean, gingerbread is gingerbread, right? And you can't go wrong with white frosting.
Epicurious also had a mention of chocolate skulls made by Valerie Confections in L.A. They come packed in a coffin shaped box and run $20. I'm not sure if they're seasonal only, or if the store carries them year-round, but it's worth asking for them if you have a taste for these grim little sweets.
I suppose you could go with more traditional Holiday treats, to keep your family from rolling their eyes. Or getting that white coat with the really long sleeves for your Yule gift.
But can you imagine the look on your mother-in-law's face? Heh.
Monday, December 1, 2008
While the photography of the Stanley Kubrick version is characteristically stunning in its execution, the story goes from what I believe King originally intended (a slow seduction of Jack Torrance by the Overlook Hotel), to a slasher film. Shelly Duvall is, sadly, dreadful in this version of the film, and I always find myself hoping Jack (Jack Nicholson) will kill her character off so I don't have to watch her anymore. I find that one of the key elements of the original story is that you actually find Jack a decent guy who's trying to set his life straight after the damage caused by his alcoholism. In the Kubrick version, Jack is creepy from the start, and his descent into Hell is a leap into the deep end, rather than the tide inexorably washing him away. Ruins the whole darn thing.
The miniseries (1997), by contrast, is much truer to the original story.
The miniseries was filmed at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, and was the hotel that inspired King to write the book. The Stanley was built in 1909, really comes across as a character in this version, if only from the architecture and furnishings. Stephen King was an integral part of the miniseries, unlike the Kubrick version.
If only they hadn't cast Courtland Mead in the part of Danny Torrance. I find him annoying. The series, though, does take its time to build the characters and the suspense. The more leisurely pacing allows you to wonder if the Overlook Hotel is really haunted, or if maybe Jack (played brilliantly by Steven Weber) is fending off a belated case of the DTs. Bit by bit, his good intentions are stripped away, leaving him an almost perfect tool for the Overlook and its denizens. (The Room 217 scene and 217 revisited are particularly creepy, and the tension was perfectly built up to its crescendo.) I liked Rebecca DeMornay as Wendy, as well. She's a strong Wendy, and you can see that strength as she's trying to keep the family together while the Overlook is intent on taking them all for its evil purposes. I always felt that Duvall's Wendy was a born victim, and wouldn't have the strength to whack Jack when push came to shove.
You can get the book here. Don't read the last half alone, in the dark.