Monday, 15 October 2018

6x6

mystery machine: a 1999 Scooby-Doo parody of “The Blair Witch Project” from Cartoon Network

the history league: jerseys for fantasy sports teams centred on momentous events, via Shadow Manor’s Art of Darkness

popular science: though presently mostly relegated to children’s literature, pop-up books were once the stuff of serious textbooks

feng shui: the opening of Kyoto’s first dispersed hotel promises visitors an authentic, immersive experience in the old capital

public service announcement: contemporary artists offers updates on the iconic vintage series from the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal organisation

siren song: the micronation of Uลพpis, an enclave in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius

Saturday, 28 October 2017

sexy sexy dombie sexy cat

For those still undecided on a Halloween costume, one can always repair to a neural network, we discover via Fancy Notions, for last-minute consultation.
Naturally robots were not prepared for this highly idiosyncratic task but soon became more authoritarian. Ranging from Sexy DVORAK keyboard to suggesting in later iterations that one aspire to be a Starfleet Shark or Mario Lander or the Statue of Pizza or the Twin Spider Mermaid the sub-routine seems to be learning. Check out more recommendations at the links above and see if you find your inspiration.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

trick or treat

For those out there still harboring doubts that Dear Dotard’s regime was about anything other than personal enrichment and propelling a self-styled billionaire from his true status as a heavily leveraged economically and moral bankrupt individual, we present a festive Halloween baseball cap on offer as official presidential memorabilia whose hue compliments that monster’s hair and complexion. It’s becoming a serious challenge to imagine anything more terrifying than the banality of merchandising that betrays a blissful ignorance of the missives and message that it is sending.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

aka manto or things that go dump in the night

As part of its annual celebration of the spooky and ghoulish leading up to Halloween, Atlas Obscura gives us a brief but intimate—to let one’s imagination get the better of oneself—primer on the Japanese yลkai (previously here, here and here) that tend to haunt private bathrooms and public, communal facilities.
The bathroom horror trope, predictably, since one is by all rights alone (or within maybe uncomfortable earshot) can be terrifying and could easily become more than one cares to indulge (even the idea of looking in a mirror can be hijacked into a horrific prospect with the right milieu) so consider oneself forwarded, but most seem to be just mischievous, muttering just out of range, making untoward noises or swiping toilet paper and other pranks, if not pitiable spectres and there’s a very specific ritual to summon up, sort of like scrying Bloody Mary (or if you’d rather, Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter), these tortured ghosts that inhabit certain stalls (the third one or the last one) and people are supposedly due for an encounter with these ghosts within a month after learning of their sad fates. Others still seem more sent to clean-shame those who might not keep theirs in the most hygienic of conditions, with a nasty little water sprite that’s said to lick the mildew off of one’s sink and bathtub. Visit, if you dare, the links above to learn more.

Friday, 7 October 2016

amphigorey

In the lead up to Halloween (all the more fraught with terrors should we consider the state it’s in without help from the infernal), TYWKIWDBI serves us a ghastly collection of black-humoured wit from Edward Gorey (more on the writer and illustrator here, here and here). Most—if not all of the panels, are highly unsettling: one, an abecedarium, documents (going through the alphabet in order) precocious children meeting their fates in twisted and atrocious ways, and two an appreciation of Gorey’s equally dark limericks. Visit the blog for more unfortunate mayhem, if you dare.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

cabin in the woods

Apparently just in time for Halloween, a developers are hoping to release an augmented reality game to bring monsters into one’s own homes—for those among who aren’t already enough challenged by playing life on hard-mode.
The platform will take full advantage of the surveillance powers of our smart phones to accurately plot the layout of one’s home (assuming that many of us reside in places that must be mapped out, like the Overlook Hotel) and will monitor players’ heart rates and galvanic responses to gauge how frightened they are as they are running for their lives. What do you think about that? It won’t be like those whodunnit dinner theatres I suspect and I don’t imagine well catch a reprieve. Who is needing to invite more ghouls and demons into their lives?  Announcing it so early, is this holiday-creep as well as holiday-spillage?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

5x5: halloween edition

monster parade: ghoulish GIFs for thirty-one days of horror

tidings: collection of vintage Hallowe’en postcards

psychopomp: high-fidelity hardware that aided mediums during sรฉances

a costume, not a culture: just because one can append the word sexy does not mean it’s a good idea for dress-up

revue: from Atlas Obscura’s crypt, an archived celebration of the season

Thursday, 8 October 2015

humbug or the great pumpkin

Although the annual, apparent retrograde motion of seasonal marketing campaigns (though by now I suppose that we have entered that time-frame for which it might be appropriate to begin thinking about one’s costume—at least in those places where Halloween emerged organically—if these items hadn’t been on display and promoted since weeks now) might be off-putting and fatiguing enough any traditionalist who enjoyed the anticipation, no matter what transpired in the end. I always had a spare bag of chocolates in case we ever got a visitor. SuรŸes oder Saueres! I want keep the spirit of the season, however exported and commercialised (that’s a tortured old saw), always.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

axis mundi or you got to pick up every stitch

I won’t say that May Day (der Tag der Arbeit) is a subdued affair beyond the land of the Franks by any means (there are quite a lot of protest rallies and demonstrations happening—which I was curious to see but I don’t think I should go looking for trouble today), but I did not appreciate the clear demarcations of customs and traditions and the holiday rather snuck up on me, without the Maypoles (Maibรคume) being set up.
It makes some sense, however, jenseits (this side) of the Limes—the limits of the Roman Empire and thus the civilised world, that conquests would have tamped out some heathen celebrations. The follow-on missions of Christianity did not attempt to totally quash but rather integrate and co-opt such behaviour. No one really knows the origin of the beams, temporary totem-poles, regaled and danced around, but some theorise that the tree represents the axis on which the world turns or the cosmological Yggdrasil that connects the nine worlds of Norse mythology. The bit about the ruckus of the night before, Walpurgis, might be a religious conceit, saying that witches gather to dance with their gods or commune with the devil—although it must have always been observed in some manner and with meaning (though now lost) as a cross-quarter day, exactly half a year on towards the harvest festival of Samhain (Halloween). Superstition holds that one will meet a witch on May Day, which old witch and probably why it is a good idea not to go looking for trouble since it knows where to find you.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

in season: butternut-salmon lasagna

There was a bit of confusion, mincing terms, when it came to identifying a Butternut squash (Birnenkรผrbis, “pear-squash”) distinct from a pumpkin (Kรผrbis) and the gourds (Winterkรผrbis) and the weirder varieties of bumpy and pie-faced squashes used to decorate stoops and storefronts for Autumn. Kรผrbisse are more generic (and diverse) than I thought, referring to any member of the Cucurbita family, native to Central America and separate from their European analogues of beets and turnips, including zucchinis and cucumbers, but once that was cleared up, we were ready to try something new.
For this dish to serve 3 to 4, one will need:

  • A medium casserole dish
  • A large Butternut squash, enough to get 1½ pounds from (600 – 750 grams), minus the skin and seeds (a slender squash, as compared to a dumpy one with wider squash hips tends to have less seeds) 
  • A bit of butter, flour (about 4 tablespoons each) and salt and pepper and fresh dill (chopped) and nutmeg (Muskat) for seasoning
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of cream
  • 2 cups (500 ml) of vegetable stock or bullion 
  • A 9 oz (250 g) package of smoked salmon (fresh or from the refrigerated section)
  • About 7 oz (200 g) of grated cheese (gouda or mozzarella) 
  • A 4 oz (about 100 g) package of lasagna pasta 
  • A large onion

Begin by shelling the squash and removing the seeds, and then slice the squash into small cubes and set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200°C). Peel and dice up the onion, frying it in a large pan until glassy in some butter over medium heat. Add a few pinches of flour to the pan (about a tablespoon in all) then pour in the broth and the cream, reducing the heat, and add the graded cheese, seasonings and garnish with the bundle of dill. Mix and leave on low heat for around five minutes. Take the uncooked lasagna noodles and arrange in layers in a casserole dish (grease with a bit of butter) apportioning slices of the salmon, squash and a dousing of the sauce, three layers deep. Pour the remaining sauce over the top, spinkling a bit more cheese over it, and allow to bake for about 45 minutes. Enjoy with a fine Moscato white wine.

trick or treat, money or eats


Thursday, 25 October 2012

bunnicula, count duckula

Lore and superstition regarding vampirism, even preceding the imaginations of the writers they’ve inspired, sanction standard horror and a well-developed, though flexible, codex of rules governing the undead, but can also be keenly abstract in their beliefs.
Folklore of some populations in the Balkans, but surely anchored to a place, a patch of land as much as a particular people, created the overall apparition of the traditional vampire but also held the nightmare that inanimate objects, left out in the pall of the full moon, could become vampires. Certain fruits and vegetables were especially prone to being turned, especially melons, squashes and pumpkins still on the vine during this witching phase of the Moon. It is not clear if the vampire produce took on a changed appearance—nor caused much of a bother, other than rolling about and maybe lurching and bumping into things, but they were no longer fit to eat and needed to be ritually destroyed. The notion that gourds could harbour a malevolent, though paralyzed, force is pretty spooky, and there have been some creative and slightly goofy modern retellings. The idea of possession, a curse settling into a plant also made me think of that troupe of evangelizing vegetables from that children’s Christian television show. The practice of making a jack-o’-lantern out of a pumpkin comes from a completely separate string of traditions and folklore from the British Isles—originally, probably from a hollowed out turnip with the practical objective of making a torch whose flame was protected from the winds.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

jolly roger or goonies r good enough

For another spooky Halloween tale (and perhaps less theologically challenged than the last, or perhaps not) is the curious story of Hanseatic privateer turned pirate, Klaus Stรถrtebeker, is circulating the internet (first appearing to me via the fantastic and phantasmagorical Atlas Obscura), and having never heard of this episode before, I did some research and discovered that it is not just a scary, friend-of-a-friend urban legend ghost story, the beheaded pirate most remembered for the not unremarkable feet of lurching some twelve paces through the gallows after he had been decapitated, but a fascinating history and a tale of a man elevated to folk-hero.
Stรถrtebeker, almost certainly not his real name but probably a pirate nom de guerre since it means something like to drink down the cup in one gulp, originally helped keep supplies flowing safely between ports of the Hanseatic League during conflicts with Sweden and Denmark, but once his services were no longer needed, and attributably out of a sense of justice to distribute the wealth among his band of conspirators and the common land-lubbers who suffered under the monopoly of the guilds, he turned pirate himself. After some years of conquests, Stรถrtebeker and his crew were eventually captured and condemned to death around the year 1400, after failing to commute their sentences with fantastic offers of plunder, by the senate in Hamburg. Stรถrtebeker’s ghoulish theatrics in the gallows, walking without his head, was more than just sheer resistance (I had never heard of this story and it reminded me of that often repeated episode of a maiden, after being accused of witchcraft and about to be burned at the stake, eating as much gun-power as she could stomach to take the whole audience and inquisition with her) but he plead for a deal with the jury: first to be executed, Stรถrtebeker pledged that he would walk away afterwards and that all the members of his crew that he passed ought to be spared. He passed a line-up of eleven or twelve of the men and might have gone on to save them all, if he had not been tripped, as some say. When this amazing feat came to pass, the judges decided not to uphold their end of the bargain and had all seventy or so of his men executed anyway. I imagine that that cursed Hamburg for all time, eventually leading to the League’s dissolution. Incidentally, the judge asked the executioner afterwards if he wasn’t tired from all that work. The executioner boasted that he was not worn out at all and could still take on the entire senate, if need be, and for that, the executioner was put to death too.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

ghost run

Not only does Atlas Obscura deliver postcards from the world's curious and esoteric locales, they also have a pretty nifty blog, which is celebrating thirty-one days of Halloween by featuring its creepiest and most haunting places. It is ghoulish--especially the tales of catacombs that ring of urban legend and highlighting the other consecrated sites that have a reciprocal relationship, a ceded and imparted spell-binding, with their visitors--and certainly worth investigating for raising holiday spirits.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

jinkies

With Halloween and trick-or-treating fast approaching, I thought it high time for a little holiday roundup.  I thought that this costume idea, from the opening credits of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?--the scary witch-doctor, was very clever and instantly recognizable.  Myself, when I was very little, I can remember, however, wanting to be Velma "Liz" Dinkley.
For those of you still looking for a costume idea, with the democratization of shiny colour-printing and papercraftiness, I defer to the excellent website Superpunch and this collection of downloadable and printable masks (or come up with your own design) for holiday cheer.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

great pumpkin


Halloween is a strange sort of holiday, and I bet this one will be the scariest yet with the slow, creeping spread of Swine Flu. It is sort of rather a bump in the road towards the long processing of the holiday season to come, and in Europe at least, transitional since we had the time change and the dark days that make for a zombified sort of week, miserable and staving off everyone else's contagions. I got candy to ward off the reprisal of the neighbourhood kids, but I doubt we'll have many visitors, unless parents can convince their children the hottest costumes are doctors and nurses and Asian tourists (with surgical masks--who's laughing now?), like the cast of Outbreak, Twelve Moneys, the Thaw, etc.

Friday, 31 October 2008

All Hallows' Eve


Halloween causes reflection of the nature of terror, the nature of fear--though they all this ghoulish mimicry is to either appease or confuse what terrorizes us. Considering all the different lenses on what's scary, I doubt anyone wants to emulate the frightening things out there. It's time to play the Pyramid: stubborn stains, having a wash that's not whiter than white, not having the appropriate tool for DiY projects, not having superior supplemental homeowners' insurance, not having the perfect partner, paying too much for anything whatsoever, not having a perfectly-toned body, hay-fever and seasonal allergies, dated ringtones and Handys and PCs! Oh my! And guess what? That's just European tv. Apparently my mother purchased a giant plasma televison to experience larger-than-life pharmaceutical passion-plays in the States. Instead maybe we dress up like those consumers we see in the commercials everyday to appeal or confuse.