I recently got around to doing my free Windows 7 upgrade. I backed up everything important to my external drive, but before I did, I had to remove everything that really wasn't important. As a result, I found some old family pictures I had scanned a few computers ago. Please, if you have the urge to use these, ask my permission. These pictures are subject to copyrights.
This is a picture of my dad with his dad, around 1936 or so. You can see that he grew up in Europe. I think it comes through in the picture, but maybe not.
This was taken in Venice, around 1934, I think. That's my Grandmother in the middle, the one who turned 100 years old last July. My father is holding her hand, and of course, that's my grandfather on the other side.
This is the Mexican side of the family. Left to right, my aunt, my grandfather, my mom, and my grandmother.
This is my grandmother when she was a young woman. Below, she's much older, holding my brother. Strange that I never met her until she'd been dead for thirty-five or forty years. That was interesting.
It all started last Halloween, at my party. Fellow potter Gary brought a book for me to read as a guest-gift, called "Hands in Clay." I was excited, but since we whisked off to Hawaii two days later-and the book is a bit big to be schlepping in a carry-on, I left it on my night stand. And it stayed there for a while. I recently picked it up and am working my way through it.
Since then, it seems that "Hands in Clay" has spawned other books to be read, preferably all instantaneously and at once, if that sentence makes any sense at all. Here's the list of "must read for knowledge books":
Of course there are a few Halloween and prop-making books I'd like to get to as well, primarily "The Prop Builder's Molding and Casting Handbook," but they'll have to wait for a bit. I just know I'll regret putting those off come build time.
I mentioned to Mr. ShellHawk that I was thinking of absorbing all the knowledge in these books by sleeping on them for a night or two, but he told me it doesn't work that way, if you can imagine! I guess I'll have to read them and make notes like everyone else!
Seriously, though, it's the work anyone would have to put in to become good at anything, and if one wants to master anything, reading is absolutely part of it. I'm just impatient to know all of it right now!
One of my guilty pleasures is the movie, Hocus Pocus. When I first saw it had Bette Midler in it, I wondered when she would start singing, because you really can't have her in a film and not have her sing. She didn't disappoint. Man, does this gal have an amazing stage presence! I really love the costumes in this film, and keep thinking that maybe one day, I'll talk neighbors V and M into dressing up as the Sanderson Sisters with me for a group costume.
Perhaps you have never run across this little gem of a horror story. I ran across it when I was a member of one of those numerous book clubs floating around out there- Book of the Month or some such, and was immediately grabbed by it.
Written in 1978 by Anne Rivers Siddons, "The House Next Door" was her one trip into the horror genre. It's the story of Colquitt and Walter Kennedy, who live in the 'burbs of Atlanta, Georgia. They live normal, peaceful lives until someone begins to build a house on the pretty, wooded lot next door to them, but that's just due to the typical bangings and crashings of construction work, right? Perhaps it's something less obvious...
Colquitt's forced acceptance of the march of progress in her little neighborhood is disturbed by the persistent feeling that something is wrong with the house. She feels almost as the house stares back at her through her windows, and then of course, there are the animals that go missing and are later found horrifyingly mauled, adding to her growing sense that the house itself may have a hidden agenda. Walter, ever the practical male, scoffs at her feelings at first, then becomes convinced that the house is, indeed, evil, turning each family who moves into it into its playthings and destroying their lives, one by one.
While in places the book may seem a little dated to modern readers, this is a solid horror story with the added twist of the haunted house being brand new and quite modern. I don't know that this story is very well-known, but what I do know is that Stephen King was so impressed by it that he included it in his special releases of his "Horror Library" series, and that was good enough for me. This book was one of those I just couldn't put down, and I really wonder why it seems it was never made into a movie. I'd certainly pay to see it!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the original story, "The Haunting of Hill House," the first thing to remember is that is has nothing to do with "The Legend of Hell House," although both stories are of the classic gothic haunted house variety.
Written by Shirley Jackson, the book is narrated by Eleanor Vance, a still-young but bitter and unstable woman recently freed of eleven years of the high demands of her dying mother. As she has spent nearly every waking hour with her mother until her death, Eleanor has no confidence and few social skills to draw on to help her in her new life and her new freedom. Eleanor also seems to have a strange talent, one that draws the attention of Dr. John Montague, a paranormal researcher. He issues her an invitation to-dum, dum DUUUUUM!- Hill House, the iconic house on the hill that no one has been able to spend the night in.
The House finds a sympathetic soul mate in Eleanor, whose narcissism and twisted need to be needed instilled by long years of caring for her mother make her the logical target for both Hill House's terror and its seduction.
This is truly my kind of story, whether it's in its original written form or seen on t.v. late at night and alone in the dark. I love how the story is told from the point of view of an unstable narcissist, one who you nevertheless feel empathy with. It's a triumph for Jackson, in my opinion, to be able to write such a character with such believability. The interior shots of the house are simply stunning, and the slow ratcheting up of tension by director Robert Wise is masterfully done. I'm a big fan of the "show less if you can get away with it" school of haunted house movies, and this 1963 version doesn't disappoint. In my opinion, this version far outshines the 1999 update starring Liam Neeson, though I suppose that version is o.k. if you hadn't read the book or seen the original film.
I won't post the entire movie here, as there are thirteen different parts on YouTube, but I will tell you it's available on Netflix.
Watch it with someone you trust to have your back...
This semester should be a productive one. I'm re-taking the clay class I took last Spring (you can take it twice for credit), and discovered that there are about ten or fifteen other second-semester and special study students in the class, too. What that means, is that there is now a group of experienced clay artists who will all be pushing themselves and the others to the next level. I've never had the opportunity to work in a collective before, and I am way beyond stoked- I'm coming out of my skin excited! I hope to be able to share some of their work with you from time to time.
When I walked in, I got a big cheer from a bunch of the girls I knew from working on my brother-in-law's gnome and last Spring's class. I couldn't help it-I turned around to see who came in behind me. Then I had to giggle. I've never had a fan club before, let alone a standing ovation when I walk in a room, so what an unexpected treat! I exchanged hugs all around and generally felt good about myself, it spite of the high winds and lashing rain I'd had to get through to get to the classroom.
Additionally, I'm taking a beginning clay class through the Parks and Rec Department with Mr. ShellHawk. I'm really happy that he's going to be with me and learning something completely new; I think it's important for all of us to keep challenging ourselves with learning new things because it keeps the mind sharp and open. Hardening of the attitude seems to come most often to people who don't let anything new into their lives, or allow other people's opinions to expand their world view. (There's another blog post in there, somewhere!) As we get older, we get more aware of our "dignity," and are less likely to learn new things in front of others for fear of looking bad. We expect to be perfect at everything the first time out, which is totally stupid, when you think about it. If we're not perfect, we quit, which is also dumb. I mean, where would we all be if, when we were just learning to walk, we had said "Forget it! This hurts! I'm never trying this again!" the first time we fell. Ridiculous, right? But we do it all the time with other challenges, now that we're adults. I'm guilty of it, myself.
Anyhow, back to the clay class thing...
I've been looking for some inspiration to stretch my work into new territory. While Gnorman will rise again, and I will be doing a lot more throwing, I've been thinking of doing a series of sculptural pieces. Which brings me to the picture at the top of this post.
When looking for inspiration, one of my go-to authors is Charles De Lint. De Lint is, in my opinion, the wellspring of Urban Fantasy. Reading his work takes me back to being a child, before special effects and video games did our imagining for us (Back in my day, t.v. was called, "books!"). His stories are sometimes joyous, sometimes sad, and always imaginative. His characters make us think about worlds beyond our own in an uncontrived way, and make us wonder at what exactly it is that lives alongside us. Is the frog only a frog? Or is it a tiny goblin spying on us? Perhaps that shivering leaf hides a Manitou, or tiny spirit of the wood, and not just a finch.
I've gone back to reading one of my favorite collections of short stories by De Lint: "Moonlight and Vines." My ideas are flowing now, and shortly, I'll have to start sketching them out. I like to let things simmer in my subconscious for awhile, making them jump up and down and wave at me when they're ready to come out. I've found, though, that while this works for me, the other side of the coin is that there's a chance(sometimes a pretty good one) that I'll forget all about it if I don't at least write it down. I had the perfect idea for a pithy t-shirt last year sometime. I have completely forgotten it, to my dismay. Oh, well. Maybe it'll come floating to the surface sometime soon. I hope.
That's all for now, boys and girls. I hope that your own creative endeavors are going well, too!
Just wanted to give you folks in the Sacramento area a heads up that I'm selling my kick-wheel on Craig's List to make room for the new electric wheel I purchased this week. If you or someone you know wants one, please pass this along! This is a great wheel for beginners. Thanks, Everyone!
So we can get medical aid to Haiti in three to four days, and people in American prisons can get titanium knee replacements on our tax dollars, but the rest of us poor slobs can't get affordable health care because Congress (who also have great health care on our tax dollars) has made it about politics, not what's best for the American people.
Last week, a good friend of ours turned 30 (wench!). She decided that she wanted to celebrate with a masquerade party, so everyone had to show up in masks. Of course, I couldn't just buy one. I had to make it.
I started out with a wig head and celluclay, roughing out the shape of the features. I had it in mind to do a plague mask, but I thought better of it because I wanted to be able to have cocktails with everyone that night. Plague masks just don't allow for any dignified way of drinking martinis. I have priorities, you know.
When it dried enough, I hollowed out the nose to reduce the weight drag. After that, I covered it with a layer of paperclay. It's been really cold and rainy here, so both layers were refusing to dry. I set the mask in front of the fireplace for a few hours to get it to dry properly, rotating it a few times to get it somewhat even. Sorry, I was too rushed to take a pic of the paperclay result!
Since I have boatloads of spraypaint lying around the house, I decided to use some for the mask. I took a can of black Rust-oleum hammered metal spray paint and laid down my base. After that dried for a day, I got a can of copper hammered metal spray paint and shot it through a stencil I had lying around. The effect wasn't as clean as it could have been, bit it still turned out o.k. After that dried, I added a couple of more details with the stencil and pewter hammered metal paint. I tried it on a few times, and took a dremel sander attatchment to grind down the sharp bits inside.
I added a chain and clasps I bought from Michael's, and ta-da! Masque extraordinnaire!
I showed these pics to friends the other day. It was all going so well until someone said, "Oh! You went as a dicknose!"
If you live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, take some time to trot over to the Milwaukee Public Museum and take a peek at one of the rarest-and the largest-flowers on Earth: the Corpse Flower. The titan arum is a plant that's endangered in the wild, so the only chance most of us will have to see one in bloom is to head for a museum, arboretum, or botanical garden that has one in bloom. The plant spends so much energy on growing so large, that the bloom only stays open for two days, stinking like a corpse the whole time.
Here's a better picture, taken at Kew Gardens in London in 2005. The flower tops seven feet tall, and its scent can be smelled by our human noses from half a mile away.
Play hooky today and go see this rare thing while it's still blooming!
I'm sure that by now, most of you have seen this video. I saw it again this morning when I showed it to Mr. ShellHawk as a follow-up to a similar idea done in Italy with opera singers. When I saw this video again, I thought it could have a wonderful Halloween application, if you could find the actors.
It would be particularly effective if you get lots of TOTs.
One of the things on my wish list for Christmas this year was the original soundtrack for the 1980 version of John Carpenter's The Fog. It takes me back to being the teenager who loved slasher films and everything John Carpenter, even though I really was only peripherally aware of his name at the time.
Brand new copies of this soundtrack are hard to find, and horribly overpriced, and even used copies are a bit spendy. Even so, armed with Christmas money, I found a good copy at a good price, and treated myself to a needful thing.
The soundtrack, of course, is pure 80s horror with lots of synthesizer. I still love it, especially since this copy includes the opening monologue by the fantastic John Houseman, and an interview with Jamie Lee Curtis.
It also goes along nicely with my 20th anniversary edition of Halloween, which also qualified as a Merry-Christmas-to-me-gift. This soundtrack features extra tracks, many with dialogue between Donald Pleasence and other characters. If you like sound clips with clear, original dialogue, then this might be a good buy for you.
A friend of Mr. ShellHawk's and mine is a herpetologist-meaning that he's a snake/amphibian expert. We were over at his place for dinner a little while back, and he asked me if I could throw some water dishes and maybe a few snake hides for him. (A snake hide is a hidey-hole for the snake to crawl into.) He couldn't find his favorite water dishes anymore, and he'd been using broken pots for his hides, so I said I'd do it for him.
It's pretty cold in the Garage of Doom right now, so playing with clay has been challenging. Warm water used to soften up the clay gets cold quickly, and I'm trying to use clay I'm not too familiar with. Pots absolutely refuse to dry, so I've been setting them beside the fireplace for a few hours a night so I can get them to dry enough to cut them in half for the snake hide.
I made several different shapes to show him before I went ahead and fired them, and what you see above is one of them. This has actually been a good exercise for me. Since I'm slicing the pots vertically, I'm able to see the thickness and consistency of the walls and bottom of the pots I throw. This picture tells me that if I were to use this for a pot, the floor of the pot is a bit thin to support the weight of the pot. The lower part of the walls look pretty good to me, though, because the larger and taller the pot is, the more you must consider the thickness of the lower walls. I could have pulled the clay up a bit more if I were planning to use it as a pot, making the walls a bit thinner, but it's a passable pot. I just wasn't worrying about it too much, as it was going to be cut in half, anyway.
God, I need an electric wheel! The kick wheel is killing me!
"Promise me," she said, and stopped. "Promise you what?" he asked, after a long pause. "Promise me," she said, and couldn't go on. She lay there. He said nothing. She heard the watch and her heart pounding together. A lantern creaked on the hotel exterior. "Promise me if anything-happens," she heard herself say, muffled and paralyzed, as if she were on one of the surrounding hills talking at him from the distance, "-if anything happens to me, you won't let me be buried here in the graveyard over those terrible catacombs!" - Ray Bradbury, from The Next in Line.
I got an e-mail from a friend this morning about this blog: Sleep Talkin' Man. Apparently this guy, polite by day, is a trash-talking comedian in his sleep. I couldn't stop laughing at his comments, and admiring his wife for being industrious enough to type them out, rather than punching him in the arm and telling him to shut the hell up so she could get some sleep!
Be warned: While hilarious, this blog uses f-bombs, so don't read this at work.
During my Holiday sweep of Los Angeles, some dear friends invited me up to their place for dinner and to do some catching up. Since they're neighbors of Mike Vosburg (of Tales from the Crypt fame), who is also a friend, I asked if they would mind having him and his wife by, too. When I arrived, the guys told me what had started as just the five of us had evolved into an artist's dinner party.
The artists of the group were all asked to bring some examples of their work. Portfolios, small sculpture, poetry, whatever. What an amazing treasure trove of creativity. I was so glad to be part of it!
I even managed to get some video on my digital camera of Mike talking about his work. I hope you enjoy it!
Thursday nights are usually cocktail nights at the Nest. Sometimes it's at the Nest, sometimes it's across the street or up the block a couple of houses away. Sometimes, there are happy hour appetizers, sometimes not. It is always fun, regardless of who shows up.
Last night was no exception. Cocktails started around 4:30. Folks had intended to split around 6:00, but two more showed up at the door, and the extra company proved to be the key to overwhelming any desire to leave.
We were laughing and taking pictures of Christmas Ape (below) tying one on with the rest of us (he is such the party animal), when suddenly, the lights went out.
Since the fireplace was working on turning our old redwood tree to ash, and I had a bunch of candles lit already, everyone just laughed it off and kept talking. My husband commented that the kids would be over from across the street any second, and almost before the words were out of his mouth, the kids came in the front door with their dog, and chaos ensued. My shepherd loves to chase their mini-daschund, so now she had something to do, and my other dog stood in the middle of the living room and barked at them. I started to pull out a few more candles and get them lit and set by the front door and around the house so people wouldn't kill themselves.
The front door opened again. It was the other kids from up the street, knowing that I would have candles lit and ready to go. I think one of them borrowed a flashlight, too. I think it's funny that they just knew the Halloween Lady would have plenty of candles.
All in all, we killed half a bottle of vodka and four bottles of wine. Cocktail hour ended around 10:00 or 10:30. I slept in this morning, and can't believe I committed to going to the gym today. What was I thinking?
Born in the wilds of Los Angeles, The Mistress of Mayhem/ShellHawk was later educated at Miskatonic University, where she double-majored in Home Economics and Spell-Casting/Potions. She is currently enjoying a quiet life with her vulture, Ralph, and her third husband, who seems to have a strong resistance to iocaine powder, unlike the last two. She is thought by many to be nearly human.
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