Monday, December 23, 2013

In Defense of: Questionable Christmas Songs: Part III

For some reason, Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" is reviled by many, even those who otherwise like Sir Paul and that Beatles group he was part of. We've never understood the hate.

If we were to level any criticism at "Wonderful ..." it would be that it's a two-minute idea stretched out to a more radio friendly four minutes. So it repeats itself for the back half, but that's a complaint easily leveled at many pop standards that get much more love.

Surely the Cute One tossed off this charming, inoffensive ditty while plinking around with his fancy new synthesizer. [It was a Prophet 5 -- ed.] Even his futzing around is radio-worthy. Is the distaste born of anger and frustration?

Musically, it's has that kind of "hey, did I mention I can play the piano?" feel -- with McCartney as the cool, maybe tipsy, uncle who has traveled the globe but set down tonight at your parents house to say hi and tell stories that you may or may not believe and dang it he's so much fun.

The lyrics are inconsequential to say the least, and that's for the best. No nonsense about trees, holly or presents, just a "hey, we're here, let's drink and sing." Aside from the chorus, it could easily be a summoning to the local for a pint and a few jokes.
And this is where the real defense comes in. It's nearly impossible to talk about Paul McCartney without talking about John Lennon. And what did Lennon give us for Christmas? "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)."

There's nothing wrong with Lennon's solemn, introspective tune. Arguably, he's more in line with the tone of classic English Christmas music. And yes, Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote and recorded the song in 1971, when Vietnam was still in full swing and the collective hangover from the '60s was just setting in, while McCartney recorded "Wonderful ..." in 1979 on the cusp of the go-go '80s.

But these two songs best illustrate the differences between McCartney and Lennon. The former is pure happiness and love, to the point of tooth-ache sweetness. The latter is a somber inventory that puts all the work on the listener: "What have you done?" "War is over, if you want it." John, if we wanted a lecture we'd go to church.

Need more proof? Watch the official video released for "Happy Xmas" and then try to swallow another mug of nog. It's the Christmas song equivalent of reminding everyone at the table about how poorly cranberry bog workers are treated.

It's not that Lennon's song is bad, it's just a bummer. And any sensible person has plenty of winter weltschmerz stocked up by the time Santa comes sliding down the drainpipe. Baby Jesus, that's why we all just want to drink and sing:


[courtesy of Holiday Favorites]

If we have not convinced you, nothing will. But we dare you to listen -- really listen -- to "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" and then tell us how much you dislike "Wonderful Christmastime." Or, if all else fails, you can just listen to this.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Solstice Time Is Here

The Earth has tilted just so, throwing the northern hemisphere into winter. And on December 21, that tilt will reach it's furthest point before leaning back for a long, slow journey toward spring.

Since it's unlikely that anyone at The Typing Monkey's Seattle office will be awake and/or sober when the true solstice occurs at 9:11 a.m. on the 21st, we are here now to acknowledge the event.

Cultures around the globe have various ways of celebrating the shortest day of winter, raging and kicking against the dark, eating and drinking as if they might not survive the cold, because for centuries, surviving the winter wasn't guaranteed.

You know what? Let's just look at this supernatural winter scene by Jason Bennett:


Check out more of Mr. Bennett's work via his generous online portfolio. And if that's not enough, here's a (probably late 19th century) illustration of Father Christmas riding a Yule goat. Oh yeah!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

In Defense of: Questionable Christmas Songs: Part II

Or next defense is a little shakier, but stay with us for the teen dreamboat of the hairy 1970s, Bobby Sherman.

His “Love’s What You Get for Christmas” was a b-side from the dawn of the decade and the rare attempt at writing a new Christmas song that actually succeeded.

Okay, succeeding may be a little strong, but our reasoning is twofold:

1. "Love's What You Get ..." doesn’t really sound like Christmas music. It’s a peppy pop number that leans on the sherbet-hued horns inspired by the previous decade’s pop masters, Burt Bacharach and Herb Alpert. If there’s a jingle bell anywhere in this recording, we can’t hear it. It even recalls the work of Jack Jones.

2. The message seems to be “Love is the best gift of all.” While that’s something every Christmas television special has crammed down our throats for decades, it’s not a bad message.

However, the more cynical listener might think of this tune as sung by a lunkhead boyfriend who was too stoned to remember that Christmas morning has arrived, and upon realizing he has nothing to give to his lady, feeds her this bullshit line about how you can’t gift wrap love. Ugh, yes, but also genius. It’s like a rehearsal for “Dick in a Box.”

No matter. Punch play on this one and the world of snow, holly and chestnut roasting gives way to a faded Polaroid of sunny California where there’s a dessert table featuring Jell-O with fruit cocktail suspended in it.


[courtesy of Tom Smith]

Lord have mercy, perhaps before the big day arrives we'll manage to post another "In Defense of Questionable Christmas Songs." And if you are somehow incapable of scrolling down, here's the previous entry.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In Defense of: Questionable Christmas Songs

Christmas music destroys all in its path. It sounds the distant thrum of an approaching toy army sometimes as early as Labor Day. By Halloween the jingling of bells and the faint whiff of canned snow makes the jack-o’-lantern’s mouth shrink with fear. Thanksgiving falls like a tissue-paper turkey into the green and red combine of CHRISTMAS! – the machine with engines parum-pah-pum-pumming and blades chopping: We! Wish! You! We! Wish! You!

We’re talking about “CHRISTMAS!” as opposed to “Christmas” just in case that wasn’t clear. The former is like mega-church Jesus (JESUS!), the latter is bible verse Jesus. The music of all-caps Christmas can even be identical, melodically and lyrically, to the music of actual Christmas. But the saccharine joyishness of CHRISTMAS! music clobbers the ears if we are not careful to find ways to tune it out.

One easy way to drown the terrible carols is to find the holiday songs that don’t offend. Or better yet, those that actually (gasp) please the ears. But we’re not here to pit the noble, mostly unsullied beauty of say, Vince Guaraldi’s seasonal arrangements against the sentimental hogwash of some pop star cashing in with another pointless rendition of “The Christmas Song.”

No, gentle reader, we offer to you a gift of debate, of justification. We come to defend the oddball splashes in the syrupy ocean of Christmas music, hoping to vindicate them in your mind and bring them to your attention again.

So gaze into the not-too-distant past and look upon these works with a new sense of wonder. Should they anger you rather than please, know that if you hunt us down and kill us, our medic alert bracelet is also a silent alarm that will wake the Krampus we keep locked in the custodian’s closet.

The first track on Barbra Streisand’s 1967 LP, A Christmas Album is the elementary-school music program classic “Jingle Bells.” Yes, Barbra Streisand is Jewish. But, to paraphrase Marvin Hamlisch, she’s Jewish, not stupid. So she joined the ranks of many non-Christians who’ve recorded Christmas tunes and chuckled all the way to the bank come January.

Streisand blusters through James Pierpont’s winter song (note there is no mention of any winter holiday in the lyrics) as if it were “Salt Peanuts” and the band had a little too much coffee. That’s probably the precise reason some listeners despise this version. Streisand also includes one of the lesser known verses of “Jingle Bells.” The arrangement plays with our expectations of the tune and fills its lungs with brisk December air. Nice one, Babs:


[courtesy of krisk, no relation to TMI’s janitor and sometime contributor]

Stay tuned for another entry or two in our mercifully brief series “In Defense of: Questionable Christmas Songs”

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Apple Is the New Pumpkin

Hard cider is everywhere and with it, apple-flavored malt beverages that are to cider what Pat Boone was to Little Richard.

Yet Shock Top beer, a craft-y arm of the Anheuser-Busch behemoth, did something that no other cider pretender has done. At least not that we've encountered.

Their Honeycrisp Apple Wheat brew combines a Belgian-style wheat beer with cider-ish flavor. A daring drinker could probably get the same effect, and maybe better results, by pouring specific amounts of a favorite wheat beer and a tasty hard cider into a mug without letting anyone else dictate the taste.

But Shock Top's effort does the work for you and the result is refreshing and not nearly as sweet as we anticipated. The wheat beer isn't as prominent, it's more like a cracker with a big slice of Granny Smith apple on it. And in a pleasant divergence from the typical big-brewery attack, the fruit isn't sticky with sugar.

It's worth a try for something different. The light, almost sour taste -- for the apple element is much closer to Granny Smiths than Honeycrisp -- made for a good contrast to the heavy, dark beers that stock shelves during the winter.

And ignore that ridiculous label too.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Holidays With the Devil

Hammer Films produced a lot of inventive, effective horror movies during the 1960s and early ‘70s. They put out a lot of dreck too, but that’s to be expected and in no way dampens the positively English stamp they put all over classic and new horror stories during their run as a go-to brand for movie-night scares. Even their duds are still fun in the right setting.

Just because Halloween has passed doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some occult spookiness. We recommend a double feature of two Hammer titles: The Devil Rides Out (1968) and The Witches aka The Devil’s Own (1966). If anyone questions why you’re watching movies about the occult instead of some Christmas nonsense, tell them you’re following the European tradition of sharing ghost stories during the holidays. Then press play before they can protest.

The Devil’s Own
Hitchcock vet Joan Fontaine (Rebecca, Suspicion) stars as Gwen Mayfield, an English school teacher working in Africa. After a jarring encounter with a tribal shaman, and the local ancient pagan practices, she heads back to England. But soon after Mayfield settles in the village of Heddaby, she starts to notice strange behavior in the locals and outright claims of witchcraft.

Fontaine’s a joy to watch, hitting a very Hitchcock-esque tone of the everywoman in over her head. Mayfield tries to keep her wits and logic about her despite the mounting evidence that occult skullduggery is happening right before her eyes.

The pagan ritual at the climax of Devil’s Own may put off some viewers, as it seems a little like a community theater idea, but if those actors can commit to it, just give yourself over to the diet Walpurgisnacht and enjoy the ride. Besides, based on Pentecostal congregations, this performance probably isn’t too far off from the real thing.

One of the big charms of The Devil’s Own is the pacing of the story. There are pauses and diversions built into the story, including a surprising chapter in which Fontaine’s character is institutionalized. It makes the loaded front-end of the movie novel-like.

Based on Ebert’s Law of Economy of Characters viewers shouldn’t have too much trouble sorting the mystery of the village, and the ending reeks of MPAA style fiddling. But everything leading up to that is a good fun and a nice choice for viewers who generally avoid horror movies.

***

The Devil Rides Out
Christopher Lee gets to branch out from his regular Hammer jobs as Dracula, the Mummy, and Frankenstein’s monster in this chilling tale of Satanism.

Lee plays Nicholas Duc le Richleau (!), a scholar of the dark arts who calls on an old friend, Van Ryn, for help. Richleau is worried about a young acquaintance of his, Simon Aron. A visit to Aron’s estate confirms Richleau’s fear. There are 12 guests at Aron’s “party” and the guest called Mocata (the wonderful Charles Gray) has a certain air about him.

Spoiler: Mocata leads a Satanic cult and plans on baptizing Aron and his lady friend Tanith. Richleau is not about to let that happen, and the chase is on.

Rides Out is based on the Dennis Wheatly novel of the same name. We’ve never read it, but the film leads us to believe that Wheatly must have devoured the works of M.R. James, as the film unfolds with the casually mounting terror of James’ work, with real-world scares (a car chase on narrow country roads) gradually giving way to other worldly horror.

He sees you when you're sleeping
When Mocata actually summons Old Scratch (perhaps it’s Baphomet?) viewers may wonder where the filmmakers could go from there. Giant spider aside – which isn’t bad, but suffers from the effects budget – how do you top a middle act appearance from the Devil? Oh, but they do top it.

Richleau and his cohorts fumble on the way to toppling Mocata, ending in a showdown that turns out to be a demonstration for why you don’t come between a mother and her child. We repeat: Don’t mess with mom.

Like Devil’s Own, Rides Out leans on a denouement that must have been at the bidding of various decency groups in Britain. And that’s fine. We don’t mind the happy ending, even if it does seem to be the cinematic equivalent of handing out a tiny bible as we exit the theater.

Everything else in Rides Out reads like source material for the wave of heavy metal bands that were beginning to fire up their amps, sparking up doobs, and incanting the names of demons for shock effect in the decade that followed. Surely Angel Witch has a DVD of this movie on their tour bus.


Reference material: Occult/Satanism horror tends toward the ridiculous or gore-filled. But somewhere along an alternate scale of films such as The Believers, The 39 Steps, and House of the Devil is the right tone for these two Hammer films. And we didn't link to The Witches/Devil's Own on IMDB for this piece, because the stupid DVD art gives away the big twist.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

TL;DR -- More Typing, Less Monkey

In scouring the unpaved service roads, blind alleys and drainage ditches of the information superhighway to put together this year's Halloween Frenzy, we accumulated a few items that, while strange or even a little scary, didn't fit within the tasteful orange and black boundaries we try to maintain.

That doesn't mean we don't want to share them. So welcome to our clearance sale.

First up is an ultimately sad tale all the way back from January of this year, so if it's a rerun to you, we apologize. But this tale of vorarephilia is fascinating. Canada's National Post reports of a man who sought help at a Toronto psychiatric hospital in 2012.

The man expressed a desire to be consumed by a "large, dominant woman." He wanted to be eaten. Most cases of vorarephilia involve the diagnosed party as wanting to eat others. So this man's case proved unusual and worth further study. There's so much more to this story, including a puzzling end.

***
From strange consumption to mass consumption: On October 10, Truth Dig reported on a horrible prediction from this year's Chocolate Industry Network Conference in London. The forecast for chocolate does not look good friends. Evidence mounts.


One day, future generations will only know of the confection through a few perverted tales and perhaps a candy wrapper on display in a temple somewhere. We try to make light of this situation because as the adage goes, sometimes laughing is the only alternative to tears.

***
All mythologies have end-of-days stories. Norse mythology tells of Ragnarok, the ultimate battle of the gods against the giants that will result in the death of Odin, the all-father, and the plunging of Midgard [that's Earth, y'all -- ed.] into endless dark, cold winter.

As it turns out, some Norse scholars in England think Ragnarok is about to commence, and they blew a symbolic horn to mark the beginning of the end, which should arrive 100 days from Nov 15. Thanks, guys!

Read all about it on the Daily Mail site, which features a ton of video ads, so adjust your volume accordingly. [And a tip of the antlered helmet to the supremely wonderful Walt Simonson for the late-breaking news lead.]

***
We end this three-course feast of strange with a chewy dessert called The Bus. It's been making the rounds at comics, writing and art blogs for the past couple months, and with good reason. It's a series of short comic strips by Paul Kirchner. We know nothing more about it or him. We could look him up and find out, but frankly, the mystery just adds to the charm of The Bus.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Look Behind You!

If you followed our headline and actually saw something scary, that's pretty cool. But you probably saw curtains, or the back of the couch ... maybe a coworker. Either way, we've made it to the end of the 2013 Halloween Frenzy. Whew!

We hope it was good for you. Have fun today and be safe tonight. Remember to check under the bed.

Here's a Silly Symphony from 1929 called Hells Bells. Based on slightly foggy memories of a couple biographies we read more than a decade ago, the whole 'toon was likely designed and plotted by Ub Iwerks, the nearly invisible hand that guided Disney's formative years as an animation studio.


[courtesy of Pat Hawkins]

And at no extra charge, have a laugh at Hark! A Vagrant's newest, a Halloween themed set of one-strip gags based on antique postcards. "Bewitching Halloween" is a riot.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Does a Ghost Dig the One Drop?

Way back in October 2009 we suggested you navigate over to the blog Distinctly Jamaican Sounds for the annual Halloween Spooktacular.

Kids, we're here to remind you that it's going on again. Blogger John, aka Reggaexx, pulls from his collection a couple dozen of the most choice reggae, dub, dancehall, ska, rocksteady, and even lovers rock singles that have even a gossamer connection to Halloween and horror.

Throughout the month, he puts the songs up for download. But it's not just the songs, he cuts in a some sound effects and bits of dialogue and trailer narration from horror movies to crank the Spooktacular aspect of his efforts as high as the can go.

Plus he makes killer artwork to accompany each tune. And if you're a lazy bum, he strings them all together into one massive download at the end of the month. Having a party? Press play on these cuts and you've got the music taken care of.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

So Much to See

Sometimes we see blogs, Tumblrs and other stops on the web and wonder why we even bother. Then we remember, we bother because if we weren't here to pass the links on to you, who would?

At least that's what we tell ourselves at night before drinking enough cough syrup to fall asleep while listening to old radio dramas.

Imagine some sort of brass fanfare here. Now look!


Can you even stand it?! Yeah, exclamation points. Journalism-degree-be-damned. If ever there was a still from a Disney cartoon that merited a freak-out, this certainly makes the grade.

This is just a smoked pepper corn amongst the bounty of spicy offerings at the Graves and Ghouls Tumblr.

It's run by a woman named Cat who has another Tumblr worth your time, Vintage Gal.

There are GIFs on both, which tend to bug our wonky eyes, but that's one broken match in the factory full of joy. And please know there are ladies in various states of undress on both blogs, so don't get fired on our watch, okay?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Monsters All the Time

Need near-daily doses of hideous horrors, creeping corpses and fantastic phantasms? [Who wrote this, Stan Lee? -- ed]

Get thee to Monster Crazy and Monster Brains.

Yeah, we talk about both blogs a lot, and link to them in the Monkey Love section. But that's because they are excellent portals to art both high and low, and all of it geared toward monsters. What are you even still doing here reading this?

Oh fine, here's a sample of one of many great things you'll see at Monster Crazy:


Now get going.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dip Your Bowl Into the Cosmic Cauldron

We don't know a whole lot about the blog The Ghost of the Weed Garden, and we like it that way.

The person or people behind it go by an owlish tag that looks like this: {{{{o\/o}}}}

As you might imagine, that anonymity delights us.

On the site are music mixes  you can stream or download, scanned artwork from the covers of horror, fantasy and science fiction paperbacks, as well as covers from cryptic, sometimes self-published looking books on magick, philosophy and other occult oddities.

Honestly, it's the sort of stuff that would have made a much younger Typing Monkey freak out and think about church.

The most recent music mix posted on Weed Garden is titled "Cosmic Cauldron." And as the site itself says, it's packed top to bottom with "Psychedelic, Acid Folk, Kosmische, Electronic, Occult, [and] Haunted VHS."

We spun it today and it fit the sunny autumn afternoon just right. As the evening brought chilling fog, "Cosmic Cauldron" swirled with creepy acid folk, devilish weirdness and a few good dabs of resin-smeared psych.

Have fun.

A Note To Our Reader

We have heard you. You'd like to get some sort of alert when new content is posted on The Typing Monkey. And while we don't and won't have a Facebook or Twitter presence, TMI is now offering an e-mail alert system.

Want us to send you a message to let you know there's fresh stuff to see here? Send an e-mail to typingmonkeyATlive.com with the subject line: Touched by a monkey.

After we laugh at you for actually doing that, we'll add you to the distribution list and you'll start receiving alerts for as long as you like. If the alerts bother you, simply reply to the alerts with the subject line "Unsubscribe."

And yes, "AT" in that e-mail address indicates the @ sign, but keeping TMI's e-mail address out of the text helps us avoid spam via bots and crawlers.

Now, for your troubles, please enjoy this fake album cover. If we could track down the original source of this, we'd give that person credit because it still makes us laugh.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Naked Came the Sasquatch

Bigfoot's about as scary as Bela Lugosi's bunion cream, but as lasting bit of folklore and the poster beast of cryptozoology, the hairy bastard's charm is irresistible.

Therefore, it's entirely possible that the news of an "explanation" for the Yeti, aka the Abominable Snowman, has already made it's way to you.

The diet version of the tale is that a bit of fur, thought to be sloughed off from the Snowsquatch, is probably that of a rare polar bear that once wandered the Himalayas, the mountainous region of Asia that gave rise to the legend of the Yeti. Read all about that here.

But a far more interesting bit of Sasquatch news broke this past week as well, and didn't stir up nearly the attention that it should have.

A naked 20-year-old man attacked a 58-year-old man with a rock in the backwoods of Oregon and it took police 90 minutes to find the victim and his attacker. All the while, the victim held the dude in the nude at bay with his hunting rifle.

The cherry on this sundae? The clothing-optional assailant claimed he was descended from Sasquatch. Despite his self-proclaimed lineage, he was still arrested like any other human who strips and assaults people in the forest.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sebastian's Voodoo

Joaquin Baldwin made this animated short in 2009, and it's presented here by the National Film Board of Canada. The Paraguay native now works for Disney. Let's hope the mouse doesn't squeeze the creativity from him.

Now, for our feature presentation:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Look Out, Kids! (Ohio Edition)

This sounds like the start of a solid neighborhood legend. Allegedly, a van full of people dressed as zombies are terrorizing teens Gahanna and Worthington, two communities in Ohio.

None of these "zombie attacks" have been corroborated by authorities, but we're guessing the retelling of any possible encounters are already attaining folklore status on playgrounds and in living rooms all over central Ohio.

Thing is, we can't decide if the zombie gag is mean or really fun(ny).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ain't Got No Head

Two very different takes on the Headless Horseman of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

First, Frank Frazetta:


That man could draw horses like few others. For real. You know why Maurice Sendak decided to use monsters in Where the Wild Things Are instead of his original plan for horses? Because he realized how hard it is to draw horses.

Second is Kate Beaton's knee-slapping script-flip of Ichabod on the run:


Read the short strip here.



[A doff of the Jack O'Lantern to Weird Tales for the Frazetta art.]

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Challenge

First, we remind you of the annual Countdown to Halloween, an aggregation of blogs that go bug-nuts with Halloween-related content all October long. You could lose your job, grow a beard, and get fat with ramen and cheap beer all because you spent your days exploring what the Countdown has to offer. Crucial. Stuff.

Second, our search continues for Ghost Dots. Any size will do, but especially the bag of fun-size boxes. The past two years have resulted in zero Ghost Dots at TMI HQ. Zero.

Reader, that is unacceptable. So if you find a store that stocks them in the Seattle area, drop us a message: typingmonkey AT live.com and let us know where you found them. Perhaps we'll send you a CD or .zip file of fun Halloween music as a thank you.

An office without Ghost Dots is no office at all.

What're We Having?

Everybody's in a lather about pumpkin-spice/pumpkin-flavored things. We like actual pumpkin quite a lot, both savory and sweet. And we'll even entertain a pumpkin-infused coffee beverage now and then because, why not? We got nothing to prove.

However, there's more than one "flavor of autumn" and tasty fresh apples are part of that array. Fall is also a time for bourbon. So if pumpkin can be attached to all manner of food and drink in the name of seasonal spirit, why not apple?

Thus, we created a new cocktail that everyone at The Typing Monkey office has been enjoying. We're calling it Betty's Little Helper, in reference to and reverence for both Ms. Crocker and apple brown betty. Here's the recipe so you can mix one up for yourself:

Betty's Little Helper
1.5 oz bourbon
1.5 oz spiced apple cider, chilled
Club soda, chilled

In a 6 to 8 ounce tumbler, pour the bourbon and cider in together, then top it off with club soda. Don't bother with a top-shelf whisky. Buffalo Trace was what we had, and it's good for blending. Any mid-level sipper does the trick.

You'll want to go nuts with the cider though and get something quality. R.W. Knudsen Cider & Spice* is our favorite, as it's 100 percent juice and isn't overly sweet. The spice levels in Knudsen's brew are well balanced too -- a glass of the juice on its own tastes like a slice of homemade apple pie.

We put the bourbon in the freezer for an hour to make sure it was corpse-cold, but that's a personal preference. The club soda dials down the bourbon's bite and relaxes the cider's sweetness. Plus, the bubbles tickle our nose.

If fancy is your goal, add a cinnamon stick for garnish. And though we haven't tried it, a splash of Tuaca would make a Betty's Little Helper a la Mode. Scumps!



*Knudsen's label says their cider is "Prepared in the New England Tradition." We don't know what that entails so we'll just imagine it involves barrel presses and John Forsythe standing around in a sweater-vest, flirting with Shirley MacLaine.

Friday, October 4, 2013

French-Goth-Surf-Pop

The French band La Femme has a decidedly surf- and noir-influenced sound, with just the right shades of psychedelia, ye-ye, and first-generation goth (Banshees, Bauhaus, Specimen).

And lucky for us, they made a long-form video for their song "Hypsoline." A long form video. That's so ... Duran Duran.

The film creeps around as if a loose adaptation of an M.R. James or J. Sheridan Le Fanu story, finally wrapping around to a nightmare party that we'd still happily attend. (French girls!)

It's lightly spooky and a great exercise in matching song to visuals. Here, drink this ...


Halloween on the Street: Learning Shapes

We'll start with something light and kid friendly:


Nice, eh? It was done by Jack Davis for Sesame Street Magazine. Davis did cartoon art and illustrations for many print advertisements as well as magazine illustrations, most notably for EC and Mad. He also did a fair amount of movie posters and contributed character design work for the Rankin and Bass animation team.

Thank Mr. Davis for the excellent look of the creeps and heroes in the forever excellent Mad Monster Party.

And if you like fun, and really, who doesn't? Visit Sam Henderson's Magic Whistle Tumblr for more great finds and absurd humor.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

O is for October

O is also for "oh."

As in: "Mom, do you think the United States will crumble under the weight of its own stupidity?"
"Oh, probably."

Things are getting scary. Also, Halloween will soon be upon us and as our regular reader knows, that means the arrival of this, our 6th annual Typing Monkey Halloween Frenzy.

We'll do our best during the next four weeks to show you cool pictures, videos, links to good reads and other fun stuff. ("Uh, how is different from what you normally do?") Because it will all be Halloween themed stuff, that's how. Geez!

Get yourself a cup of something, grab a donut, and enjoy this mash-up from Go Home Productions, still the best mash-up DJ around. He made a video for this one, and it's gone from his YouTube channel, but some enterprising young person called kliz9 posted it again.


Hurry! You'll miss your bus!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Nyuk Nyuk

Do a little time travelling with us via the United States Library of Congress.

It's easy to fall down any number of information rabbit-holes there, so allow us to point you in the direction of "The American Variety Stage, 1870 - 1920" collection , then creep a little further into the audio archives and enjoy wax cylinder recordings of some vaudeville routines and songs from the era.

Given these were recorded both for posterity and mass consumption, we can't help but wonder how many blue routines were deemed unfit for preservation. That's our loss.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What's Inside a Quas?


Mass Appeal just published an interview with Jeff Jank, the art director for music label Stones Throw.

The focus is on the creation of Quasimoto, the alter-ego of dj/producer/rapper Madlib. It won't change your life, but it's fun to hear Jank talk about how much the music influenced the design.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Art From a Film That Never Was

Hans Bacher and Andreas Deja are artists and animators who have worked for Disney as well as other studios. Some time ago (2004 per one source) they were put to work doing character and design work for a proposed animated feature for Disney called Fraidy Cat.

As is usually the case, the project was shelved and will likely never come back. And as is sometimes the case, giving up on the project is a big loss. The film was "a charming crime story taking place in London of the sixties, a bit of HITCHCOCK’S ‘REAR WINDOW’ with animals," said Bacher. [caps and emphasis his]

Alas, Fraidy Cat will never be. But Deja and Bacher have posted some of their early concept art and oh boy, does it look like it would have been fun.

Deja worked on character design for Oscar and Corrina, a cat and a bird who were to be the film's protagonists. He also did a sizeable gallery of the various supporting cast:


Bacher worked on background and style designs that show off the script's proposed settings:



And is it just us, or does that cat look a little like Cary Grant?

See everything they posted here and here. And read Bleeding Cool's post about the abandoned project, because that's where we read about it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Getting Out

Typing Monkey publisher S.L. Kreighton insists that his parents went out of their way every Halloween to scare him and his siblings. "Really, any time of the year," he said. "It didn't matter. One time, I was so scared I kicked my mom in the face."

Whatever. We humored him because he brought the "room escape" trend in China and Japan to our attention. "Just like mom used to do," Kreighton said, with a  far-off look in his eye, after repeatedly jabbing his finger at the screen as if it were newsprint.

Room escape games sound like genuine fun. Sadly, budget cuts at Typing Monkey Int'l have put the kibosh on any "unnecessary travel." So we're crossing our fingers that the trend hits the United States.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Switchblades at Dawn

The Typing Monkey has never watched more than a few seconds of the animated Fox sitcom Bob's Burgers. We don't know why, it just never happened. Maybe someday.

Neither have we seen anything beyond a teaser clip for the Nickelodeon cartoon Sanjay and Craig.

Why are we giving an inventory of animated shows we've never seen? Because artist Jay Howell has a hand in both of those shows and we've just discovered his art blog.

One of the most creative and sly things Howell shares via his site, are the "book paintings" in which he paints a sort of illustration on the title page of a paperback. Most of the books are Harlequin romance novels:

When Howell interprets the title literally, as in the example above, it changes what we can assume the book is actually about. Try hard enough, and you can probably imagine what the real book cover looked like. You're probably not far off if you've seen a romance novel or two.

Howell makes them funny, absurd and creepy-cute. His site is full of these, and he even sells them. (We didn't check to see how much he charges.) But just getting to see them online makes his blog worth a look.

Yes, it's the sun covered in naked people. Somehow, Howell has tapped into the 9-year-old boy part of his brain that giggled when Huck Finn shouted "hump yourself" at Jim as the teacher read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn out loud in class.

The Naked Sun joke is so simple and Howell's depiction so elegant and profane that the viewer isn't so much angry that we didn't do it first, but rather overjoyed that somebody made this happen.

Not that Howell's art is all bewbs and knife fights. Go see  for yourself what happened when he took his brushes and pens to the title page of a paperback called Cast a Tender Shadow.


[Yet another enthusiastic nod to Monster Brains for turning us on to Howell's work.]

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Smallest of All Living Crocodilians


Curvier's dwarf caiman, aka the musky caiman, only reach about 4.5 feet in length on average. All caimans are known as alligatorid crocodylians, which is really fun to say out loud.
Cuvier's dwarf caiman, (Paleosuchus palpebrosus) in Prague sea aquarium “Sea world”, Czech Republic
Photo: Karel Jakubec




[Dept. of corrections: The correct unit of measure has been added to the figure "4.5" after initially being published without any indication of how long the Curvier's caiman grows beyond a meaningless figure. We deeply regret this error and will send both the writer and editor on a shopping trip to Costco on a Satruday afternoon as punishment.]

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sampling Ouroboros

The Typing Monkey un-ironically, well, and sometime fully ironically, grouses about the Web/internet all the time. But as a communication medium, it does many wonderful things.

Case in point: We listened to the song "Loose Booty" by Sly & the Family Stone this morning. Not because we're awesome, but because it was the subject of the most recent Hear This column at the AV Club.

Hear This can be a real treat when it does something like it did with the entry concerning "Loose Booty" -- that being, make the reader aware of a lesser-known song from an otherwise well-known artist. And in this case, it was in service of showing off something else that modern technology has enabled: Finding great music by sample-sourcing.

"Loose Booty" was used as the basis for The Beastie Boys' tune "Shadrach" from their sophomore album, Paul's Boutique, a real piƱata of an album for sample-geeks. One read of the liner notes to that could start an expensive crate-digging habit.

We've always called that game "Spot the Sample" but the point is the same: You hear hip-hop music with samples, and you see if you can figure out what the source material for the sample is. Alternately you read the liner notes (or cheat via Who Sampled Who) and go find that music.

The result is, you pride yourself on your vast knowledge, and equally vast music collection, or you discover something new, and enjoy that new find. So shake your cane at those damn kids all you want, a portion of the hip-hop audience will always care enough to seek out the music that inspired or contributed to what they're listening to.

Which brings us to this:


If you haven't already seen this, or haven't already pressed play, it's a terrific and infectiously fun breakdown of another Paul's Boutique cut, "Shake Your Rump." One song, many samples, all of them neatly pointed out for you by a man who took the time to make this because he wants to turn you on to more good music.

And we wouldn't have seen this without a quick scan of the comments on the Hear This column, where a link to this video was posted by both Quirinus and D_Boons_Ghost, two people we'll likely never meet.

Let's crowd-source world peace, man.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cider When Cider Wasn't Cool

According to various tastemakers, hard cider is the cool drink right now. Which means it's not at all the cool drink right now. We say, drink what you like and stop thinking about what it says about you.

Unless you're drinking turpentine, in which case, please, seek help.

We are enthusiastic fans of hard apple cider, especially those craftier brews that skip the sticky sweetness of some of the big-batch manufacturers. But let's not get weird about it. The following video has put Wilkins Farmhouse Cider on our radar. Let's all take a field trip to Somerset.


Thirsty Work - Memories of a Somerset Cider Farm from Thom Huxtable on Vimeo.

We're in love, f'reals.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers

Ciudad Juarez in Mexico City may have a costumed vigilante, and she means business. The story, if it's true -- and this news report give it a squinty eye -- concerns direct and violent retribution against bus drivers in the city.

What did transit workers do to bring down the hammer of old-world justice on themselves? For years, it's believed that some drivers have been raping and killing female passengers, leaving their bodies in the desert.

But someone calling herself Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers, alleges she's responsible for the recent shooting deaths of two drivers in the area. Each driver got two shots to the head, and police are investigating.

Read the story and cross your fingers that Diana has her targets straight. Her press release is chilling and righteous. And as has been pointed out elsewhere, if the police there put as much effort into stopping the rapes and murders of women as they are in attempting to find Diana, there'd be no need for Diana.

[Hat tip to The Stranger for the lead.]

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dirty Deeds & the Men Who Investigate Them

Two book reviews that make us want both books in our possession:

Matthew Walther enjoyed Wretched Writing: A Compendium of Crimes Against the English Language by Ross and Kathryn Petras. The volume collects examples of head-scratching sentences from famous, and sometimes even reputable, authors. See what Walther's on about here via The Spectator.

The other comes from Josephine Livingstone, who we've tagged before, so I guess that makes us fans of her work. In her review of Bran Nicol’s The Private Eye: Detectives in the Movies, Livingstone is genuinely pleased that Nicol touches on a pet theory of hers: That the Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo is a retelling of the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

And you know what? She's right. But it's Nicol's book she's discussing, and Livingstone gives it a scholarly scrubbing -- the kind of gimlet-eyed critical writing that doesn't happen often enough in the usual crap we read. Either way, The Private Eye sounds like catnip to us.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Send Me a Postcard

The unofficial end to summer approaches, a time reserved for listening to Nat King Cole on AM radio, eating fruit you picked right off that tree in the alley near the end of the block, and wondering how quickly your tan will fade.

Here's a music video that constructs a fantasy "wish you were here" greeting from a vacation to a magazine advertisement in the mid 1970s. Good job, Royksopp.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Goodbye Aubra, Goodbye Eleanor

Stage and film actress Julie Harris died on Aug 24. She was 87. Harris was the kind of actor who just does the damn work, and as a result, turned in many great performances.

She wasn't a movie star, but one peep at her IMDB resume shows how much she worked during a six-decade career. That's right: six decades.

Chances are you've seen her in something and maybe didn't know who she was. Two excellent places to start watching Harris and paying attention to how quietly she slides into roles and really soars with the material are two of her most well-known:

East of Eden - James Dean's screen debut and the little mumbler couldn't have asked for a better female lead. Harris plays Aubra, a thoughtful farm girl who can't decide if she loves Dean's tortured youth or his brother, played by Richard Davalos, who is dad's favorite. The film isn't about Aubra, it's about the brothers. But Harris delivers as an almost mythical love interest, too kind and too in love to hurt either boy, which only complicates the familial battle.

The Haunting - Hands down, this movie is one of the best horror films ever made, anywhere, and every single member of The Typing Monkey staff will fight any jerk in the bar who says otherwise. And what's key to this terrifying, theatrical masterpiece? Julie Harris. She doubts everything, mostly herself. She's wound up and may be psychic, and holy balls, the walls just took a breath.

Like we said, these two are probably her most famous film roles, and there's a reason for that. She takes good material and elevates it with her performance, making them better, greater. If you've not seen them, they're easy to come by and seeing them will make you more interesting at parties.

Thank you Ms. Harris.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Cartoon Space Bumpkin

The Disney Channel doesn't need our help in promoting anything they do.

However, we're big fans of Craig McCracken and his wife, Lauren Faust. He of The Powerpuff Girls, and the underseen, underrated Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. And if you want to go really deep, McCracken also did storyboards for Dexter's Laboratory, and got his start with the No Neck Joe shorts.

Faust is behind the My Little Pony revival, which we've never seen, but we love her Super Best Friends Forever shorts for DC Nation.

And on Aug 16, McCracken's new show, Wander Over Yonder, debuts on The Disney Channel. So we will watch with enthusiasm and encourage you to do the same.

From what little we know, the show follows Wander, a naif that looks a bit like Goofy Grape, as he makes his way around the universe. This will, of course, result in foiling various evil schemes and meeting weird characters that allow McCracken to indulge his talent for mixing up comic books, Hanna Barbera cartoons and a penchant for making the world look like a greeting card from the late 1960s.

Here's a scene called "The Picnic" so you know what you're in for:



And if that's not enough to loop you in, we dare you to try the title sequence and theme song, designed for maximum parent annoyance, despite the fact that McCracken goes out of his way to add jokes to his work that only adults will get.

Here's to hoping it lives up to McCracken's past work. And yes, that's 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer voicing the title character.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Too Soon

Our new intern, Kim (a boy ... named Kim!) returned two weeks ago from a trip to buy office supplies [hard cider, potato chips and chocolate-covered almonds are going in the office supply budget now? -- ed.] and returned to TMI headquarters visibly upset.

Initially we were unwilling to take the bait from this millennial kid who knows what a Tumblr is and has feelings and stuff. But his blue mood started to infect the rest of us.

It turns out, Kim was a great addition to The Typing Monkey because the source of his melancholy was the fact that two of the stores he visited already had Halloween decorations available for purchase. The date was Aug 3.

"It was a small display but it was there -- orange candles, plastic autumn leaves and Jack-o-lantern decorations," Kim sighed.

Our regular reader knows how deeply The Typing Monkey loves Halloween. It is the best holiday Western Civilization has ever devised. FACT.

But it's still summer. At the time of this posting, Labor Day is more than two weeks away. Back to school sales are still going strong, and if retail giants are willing to start displaying Halloween items in mid-August, then the dreaded Christmas onslaught will come even sooner.

Sorry, Thanksgiving, you've become the Jan Brady of major holidays.

To paraphrase The Byrds and the bible, there's a time to carve pumpkins and a time to do many other things that aren't carving pumpkins.

But commerce cannot be stopped. This is how we live now.

Photo by 1966 United Feature Syndicate  – © 1966 United Feature Syndicate Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Show Folk

Lovers of art and art history who don't have a lot of money are probably familiar with Taschen publishing. The mostly photo, but also fine art and design books put out by Taschen can class up your library and give your eyeballs a little vacation when you want to look at pretty pictures.

Thanks to Flavorwire, we discovered a Taschen book that will soon join the Typing Monkey library:  The Circus Book: 1870-1950. Flavorwire republished some of the photos a couple years ago, so in honor of National Clown Week (Aug 3, 2013 is officially National Clown Day), we link to those galleries.

One is "Rare Color Photos of Circus Showgirls of the ’40s and ’50s" the other is "Incredible Vintage Circus Photos of the '40s and '50s."

They're brief, fun looks at the romance and greasy glamor of human circus performers. Here's a sneak preview to entice you:

Circus people, 1955; courtesy Taschen; via Flavorwire

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Sasquatch Phonetic Alphabet

Last week, you may have heard about the Greek-tragedy level death of two women, friends who got lost hiking in Roque Bluffs State Park in Maine. They were rescued, and got back into the minivan belonging to one of the two women, and promptly drove off a boat launch, into Englishman's Bay.

It was a foggy, rainy night, and they were probably quite shaken by the previous event. The story fascinates -- was death simply there to collect them, no matter what? The strange, sad details are reported in the Portland Press Herald.

We didn't come here to talk about that, but had to mention it on the off chance you missed it. For some reason, the story really sticks with us.

***

In far lighter news, linguist and writer Karen Stollznow wrote a piece for Scientific American's blog, about the language of the Sasquatch. That's right: The alleged language spoken by the crypto-zoological simian said to roam the remote mountain forests of North America.

Stollznow, being a scientist, demands extraordinary proof for the extraordinary claim. It's a gentle beat down, if such a thing can be, but still a surgically precise beat down.

The article led us to the vast sea of YouTube clips that contain portions, or the entirety, of the "Sierra Sounds recordings." Which, you may have guessed, are field recordings of the Sasquatch language in use, by a Sasquatch.

Read Stollznow's baloney-detecting exercise, 'cause it's fun. Fall down a well of Bigfoot videos on  YouTube at your own peril.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Readin' Dirty

The Typing Monkey tries to keep this blog as PG-13/SFW as possible. So understand that several of the links in this post contain pictures that might get you in trouble at work, or force you to have an uncomfortable conversation with a loved one. If your wife asks what you're doing, though, you can tell her in all honesty that you're reading The Paris Review.

***

All media are used as pornography delivery devices. And because that’s usually one of the first uses for a new medium, the history of pornographic books is the history of the book itself.

Writer Avi Steinberg looked into the library/porn connection for The Paris Review back in 2012. Thanks to J. Kingston Pierce’s blog Killer Covers of the Week, we discovered Steinberg’s essay, "Checking Out" and it’s a positively fun and enlightening read.

Steinberg, who worked as a librarian in a prison, declares midway through that "according to the pile of books I’d stacked onto my library desk, our story is nothing but the evolutionary history of the Porno sapiens."

And to that end, Steinberg arrives at a perfectly logical connection. Books can satisfy our prurient needs. Therefore, those who curate the books must have arcane knowledge of the erotic and esoteric, which lets us off at the final stop on this ride, the archetype of the “sexy librarian.”

For many, the very phrase conjures a sort of post-WWII pinup idea: A prim woman, with glasses and hair coiled into a bun. But once those glasses come off, and the hair is loosed, she’s a trick-underwear-sporting tigress in sensible heels, a variation on the Madonna/whore fantasy that’s come in and out of fashion over the decades.

As poet and librarian Stephanie Brown put it in her article “Sex in the Stacks” – “In the world of librarian porn, a sex maniac lives behind the lorgnette [and] those orthopedic shoes.”

Read her take on the books, and the idea, on The Best American Poetry blog. And notice there that she too, includes the cover of Les Tucker’s Nympho Librarian, a paperback that has also provided the two images we used for this post, primarily because it’s so funny and so neatly sums up the ideas discussed.

Books are sexy. Anybody who says otherwise probably hates reading. Stop associating with those people as your schedule allows, and go read something.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Your Dead Are Safe Until Winter

The corpse-eating fly, thought to be extinct, and possibly apocryphal, is alive ... and hungry.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Kung Fu and Other Delights

We confess we knew little of the athlete-turned-film-star Jim Kelly before he died and the obituaries began to appear.

The Typing Monkey has never seen Black Belt Jones, despite being a fan of the dub tune by Lee "Scratch" Perry. We knew the title only, and had not carved out time to watch what sounds like a crackerjack good time, combining action of the chop-sockey and Blaxploitation varieties.

It's hot out, and summer laziness has put a few writing projects on hold, so please enjoy first, this YouTube clip of the theme song from Black Belt Jones by Dennis Coffey and Luchi De Jesus:


[courtesy of funkybrezhoneg]

Then spin this playlist of nearly every cut from dub legend Lee "Scratch" Perry's 1975 LP Kung Fu Meets the Dragon, a record clearly inspired not just by Jim Kelly's black man of action, but martial arts movies in general.

Note the only cut that's been pulled from the playlist is "Black Belt Jones", possibly the best tune on the record. Despite that, this is a fun listen, so get yourself a glass of limeade or something and have a relax.


[courtesy of sqezyplus]

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Strange Romantic Airs

Back in 2003, the Detroit-based baroque-pop band Pas/Cal released an EP called The Handbag Memoirs.

Contained within that six-song goldmine is a tune that still feels like the first bike ride of summer break, when the shackles of education have been loosed and you feel truly free to spend the few precious weeks ahead of you having as much fun as possible before September creeps back and adulthood lurches ever closer.

If you've not heard "The Bronzed Beach Boys of Summer (C'mon Let's Go)" you can remedy that now. And if you enjoy it, Pas/Cal offers it free to download:



Pas/Cal is no more, but their excellent music lives on via Bandcamp. If you like what you hear, listen, purchase and enjoy.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Let's Get Weird

Black Heel Marks' debut long player Feel Free will be available for purchase on June 25. In the meantime, stream the whole thing here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Oh Honey, We're Ridiculous

As the solstice approaches and each day we eagerly rise and pad down to the TMI corporate p-patch to see if the artichoke is still alive, we try to encourage all Typing Monkey staffers to take a moment and let the amazing wonder of the natural world grab hold.

That's not difficult, since most of them are drunk and/or high most of the time, but if that makes them more suggestible to the precise beauty of those pale-green spiders that climb nimbly over the stones in the fake river-bed, so be it.

After all, it doesn't matter that you've risen later than intended and are watching fast-talking dames on Turner Classic Movies via the break room television while you eat leftovers for breakfast. What matters is that you saw a hummingbird pause by the window and be-damned if the emerald beauty didn't seem like he stopped to look back at you.

With all that in mind, take a look at this list from Wikipedia of the crop plants that bees pollinate. (Bats get a few nods too in the non-bee items.)

Bees of the honey, bumble, solitary, and stingless variety all come into play, and if we could, we'd high-five them or send them a thank-you note because we eat most of the items on that list.

Oh, and the word for what those bees are doing? Entomophily.

[Image courtesy of PD Photo]

Friday, June 14, 2013

... Y-O-U ... A-R-E ... D-R-U ... N ... K

We try not to hype consumer durables that we haven't personally tested on The Typing Monkey. But sometimes a product reaches us via advertising and just plain old PR reach, and we think decide to share it with our reader, untested.

Evil Spirits Distillery has devised a clever marketing scheme to sell their vodka, which may or may not be delicious. (It will most certainly get you drunk, but then so will Sterno.)

Regard:


Based on some of the photos posted at Who Forted? it looks like the "deluxe" bottle may come with an actual Ouija board. There's no indication how much it will cost, but we're sure it will be pricey. That's "perceived value" or some stuff. Ask your economics professor.


[Thanks to Who Forted? for bringing Evil Spirits to our attention. It's a fun blog with a regrettable name.]

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Television for Women

The Typing Monkey doesn't understand most "reality" television programming -- the shows themselves, not just the popularity of the shows.

And by reality TV, we mean the kind those shows that would have us believe that people with no discernible talent, and often with little of value to offer to the world, are somehow worth paying attention to simply because they allow a camera crew to follow them around and document the minutiae of their daily lives.

That's on us, and we're okay with not watching them because we can change the channel.

With that in mind, we urge you to read Dennis Perkins' A.V. Club review of a new show on the Lifetime network called Pretty Wicked Moms.

Here's an excerpt from his review that lets the reader know what they're in for: "Once you’re comparing the relative merits of various reality shows, you’re simply sorting piles of crap by size and color—you can do it, but you’re going to end up covered in crap."

And that's just a parenthetical aside. It's good writing and worth your time.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Somebody would come looking for the Death master tapes"

This looks like a fun ride, in the classic story arc of "band more influential than famous gets rediscovered by a world finally ready for their music."



A Band Called Death is available now via various on-demand and download services, but it's also coming to various big screens.

We'd have made plans to see this movie anyway, but thanks to the crate-digging work of Rich at The Day After the Sabbath, we knew a bit about this band and can't wait to learn more.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Solid Advice

We can't stop watching the Fake Adam West videos.



There are just four videos, but it looks like FAW is just getting started. Per Bleeding Cool, where we found this, he had only 38 followers on Twitter when they posted on Jun 2. We're guessing he's got a lot more by now.

Friday, May 31, 2013

We'll be right back after these messages.

Here she is now, the High Priestess of Soul:





Bonus drinking advice: Since the late 1990s, ordering a "Nina Simone" with breakfast in the TMI cafeteria means you get a small glass of red wine (usually cabernet franc or pinot noir) and a cup of strong black coffee. It's a real treat, and yes, we said breakfast.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Elder Moss, Pink Slugs and Cannibal Snails

A University of Alberta biologist has grown fresh moss from a 400-year-old specimen found after Arctic ice melted away. We repeat: Moss, buried under polar ice for centuries, was ground up and placed in fresh soil. Seven out of 24 samples grew green and new moss.

Yes, the polar ice is melting and that’s horrible. We are not here to diminish the wailing of the klaxons that herald the end of humanity’s “dominion” over this planet.

Having recently read H.P. Lovecraft’s excellent novella At the Mountains of Madness, and then this article from the Edmonton Journal about Catherine La Farge’s resuscitation of dormant moss, the immediate, and we feel, appropriate, question is: What else is under the ice caps?

We don’t doubt the tenacity of moss. Cockroaches and rats have nothing on moss, lichens and fungus, in terms of survival skill. No animal will ever best a plant in that department, until the skies rain ammonia. Then we’re all done for.

But if moss can creep out from beneath the thaw, it’s only a matter of time before somebody accidentally wakes up a shoggoth.

La Farge herself says: “’Now we have to think there may be populations of land plants that survived that freezing. It makes you wonder what’s under the big ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic and alpine glaciers.’”

She goes on to call glacial ice an “`Unrecognized genetic reservoir ... We really have not examined all the biological systems that exist in the world; we don’t know it all.’"

While we’re on the topic of slimy things that lurk in dark, little-explored corners of the globe, we direct your attention to New South Wales, Australia.

From the misty heights of Mount Kaputar, a rainforest peak and National Park amidst New South Wales’ generally dry landscape, comes news of new species of invertebrates once only rumored to exist.

One of the confirmed new creatures is a retina-frying pink slug that feeds on moss and mold while the world sleeps. It’s a pretty thing with the kind of coloring we’d expect to come from Laffy Taffy.

The other big discovery at Kaputar is a snail that feeds on other snails, particularly snails that follow a strict vegetarian diet. And if bumper stickers have taught us anything, it’s that vegetarians taste better. Good work, cannibal snail.


[Incantations of ancient thank-yous to Edmonton Journal, The Age, and Pahko]

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Friday on a Tuesday

Please enjoy what was to be a "holiday weekend post" to send the reader off into a holiday weekend with a good feeling.

Now it's something to help you coast through a short work week.

First is a cut from the long-gestating third full-length recording by Quasimoto:



Our thinking is that greedy heads will eat this up and share it, as we have, because if not stupendous, at least it's something. But our untainted devotion to The Unseen and The Further Adventures of Lord Quas give us hope that there's much more to Yessir Whatever. Quas's latest comes out June 18 and yet, nobody has given us a copy. Curses.

And while you listen to that, you can look at this variant cover artwork by Kevin Wada. It's for the new X-Men comic book simply titled X-Men, which is a funny title on account of the team comprises women only. Go ladies! (For non-geeks the players are, from left to right: Rachel Summers, Shadowcat, Psylocke, Storm, Rogue and Jubilee.)


Despite the Fitzgerald-ish look of the mutants, the book does not take place during the 1920s in upstate New York. Oh well.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Do Blind People See Ghosts?

Smithsonian.com attempts to answer that very question with a video, some links and anecdotes. It's funny and interesting.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Wackys Found

For a certain kind of kid, probably most kinds of kid, the phrase "Wacky Packs" triggers immediate memories of playground conclaves in which the titular cards and stickers were shown off and traded as aggressively as pork bellies at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

For those sadly left out of that Venn diagram, this is a Wacky card:


It's a simple concept. A silly, unexpected or gross-out pun on a popular consumer product is played for laughs. Children, slobbering teens and adults with severe cases of arrested development in the pop culture realm, fell under the sway of Wacky Packs.

Most of the artists responsible for Wacky Packs were of the '60s and '70s comic underground movement. We hope Topps, the baseball-card and petrified gum company that produced Wackys, paid the artists well because kids spent plenty of allowance and paper route earnings on the cards.

Seeing Wackys now gives us a better understanding of how a bunch of Mad magazine types helped shape a generation or two of consumers happy to bite the tail of the commerce beast. We may eat Doritos, but we can laugh along with Don't Eat Those.

There are two astounding archives of Wacky Packages, and probably more, on the web. Lost Wackys catalogs some of the rare specimens, while WackyPackages.org is a buyer's guide run by a fellow named Greg, who will also sell you sets.

Before we release you into the galleries of Lost Wackys, we want to share with you two examples from the '70s era sets that simply wouldn't fly today. "Hostage Cupcakes" is far too grim for modern parenting and "Commie Cleanser" requires both a knowledge of the existence of Comet cleanser and Communism. Discuss?