Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Bunch of Scary Little Treats

Today is Hallowe'en, a day on which I invariably work (therefore, I am a 'designated noncombatant' in the Halloween Culture Wars). Not being around, I haven't dealt with trick-and/or-treaters in over a decade... call me an Old Man Grumpus, but I prefer to describe myself as 'not a type two diabetes vector'. I figure, though, that I can pass out some scary little treats to my readers, in the form of a link to author Gail Simone's Six Word Horror Story Challenge:

Some of the entries are hilarious, some creepy. I just came up with one myself:

"This meat isn't on the menu."

This challenge gives me a real Fredric Brown vibe- Brown was the master of the short short story, many of them both creepy and funny.

Now, aren't these six word treats better than any candy? Happy Halloween, folks!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

And the Pills You Now Are Taking Are Mainly Geritol

I heard on the radi-adi-o that today is Grace Slick's 80th birthday. In my post-title, I may seem to be ragging on the lady while riffing on my favorite song of hers, but I have nothing but love for the chanteuse who sang White Rabbit:

I like psychedelic rock and I like Lewis Carroll, so White Rabbit hits me on a couple of levels... not to mention Ms Slick's rich alto.

Sure, her later career produced some silly songs, but her legacy as a charismatic front for a band is sound, and at the height of her career, she provided vocals for Sesame Street when it started out as a public television staple:

It's nice to know that she's still a force to be reckoned with as a senior citizen.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Early Voting Is a Relief

New York state has finally adopted early voting. This is a particular relief to me, because I typically work a long day on Election Day, my workplace being a polling site- I typically arrive at 5AM to open up the building for the poll workers, and spend the first hour of the day helping them to set up and troubleshooting any problems that arrive. One year, for instance, one of them brought a space heater and turned it on, tripping the circuit breaker that the voting machines were also on. I sternly told them, "Light, heat, voting: pick two!"

I typically work until 5PM, then have to rush home to Yonkers in order to vote before heading off to bar trivia for the night, which necessitates partially retracing the route I took home. If I can vote early, I can save myself a trip.

I have to say, though, that early voting is biased toward drivers (most things are in the 'States). My physical polling site is three blocks from my home, while my early voting site is 4.4 miles away. I have a car, so it's not a hassle to get here, but a bus trip would involve a transfer from the '25' bus to the '20' bus, with all of the delay that a transfer entails. For individuals who are dependent on public transportation, the process should be refined, and a closer site located.

For a first time effort, things look pretty good, but improvements could be made. At least, it's a start, and the whole voting process will be much more user friendly.

Monday, October 28, 2019

A Day for Brightness

Diwali, the festival of lights which originally commemorated Rama and Sita's return to the city of Ayodhya, started yesterday. It's a holiday symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil. I decided to hit a local Indian restaurant for lunch... their lunch buffet is one of the best meal values in the area, with impeccable service and a wide variety of dishes (today, a dish attributed to the divine hero Bhima was one of the featured selections). After a weekend of quick meals wolfed down before work, a lavish meal with a variety of vegetable dishes was just what the gastroenterologist ordered.

In these dark days, one finds flashes of brightness where one can... and I have to admit to an almost unseemly glee at Vulgarmort getting booed while attending last night's World Series game. It was nice to see him learn how he is regarded outside of his self-imposed bubble, in front of a crowd not composed of hand-picked sycophants. My favorite part of this imposition of reality is the change of expressions on the faces of Vulgarmort and the First Concubine as realization sets in:

I have to confess that I have listened to a variety of videos taken of the event, and basking in the delightful Schadenfreude has certainly brightened my day. I hope this presages a victory of light over darkness, of good over evil.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Too Wet to be Festive

It’s been raining all day here in the NYC metro area. The rain has stopped, but it’s still cloudy and muggy. It just doesn’t feel like a day for hot apple cider or ogling foliage.

I just arrived at work, and I feel like a slacker- there are usually outdoor props for kid-friendly activities scattered around the site, but they weren’t trundled out today. I’m here for the evening fundraiser, but my first order of business on a typical day is to move the day/night transition along. I don’t even think I will have to expend any effort to get the daytime visitors to leave in an expeditious manner on a day like this.

I’m cool with that.

UPDATE: I told one of my co-workers that I felt a bit like I’m slacking because I’m working a low-key evening event rather than a hectic one.

“Are you feeling Catholic school guilt?”
“Sister Annunciata told us to offer up the stress for the souls in Purgatory.”
“You had a Sister Annunciata too?”
“We ALL had a Sister Annunciata.”

Saturday, October 26, 2019

This Story's Going to the Dogs

Got another busy day at work today, so busy that I took a day off from my volunteer coaching gig so I would be well-rested for the vigors of the afternoon and evening. This being Hallowe'en season, I figured I'd post about another creepy story. New York City native Frank Belknap Long was a member of the 'Lovecraft Circle', but unlike many of Lovecraft's friends, Long actually met Lovecraft in 'meatspace', rather than conducting a mere correspondence friendship.

Long's 1929 story, The Hounds of Tindalos, first published in Weird Tales Volume 13, Issue 3, is the first 'Cthulhu Mythos' story written by someone other than Lovecraft. It shares a premise similar to those of most of Lovecraft's stories: a researcher into unknown phenomena encounters incomprehensible entities which view humans as just another link in the food chain... and not an apex predator. The protagonist is a devotee of what Danny Elfman would term 'Weird Science':

"Einstein and John Dee are strange bedfellows," I said as my gaze wandered from his mathematical charts to the sixty or seventy quaint books that comprised his strange little library. Plotinus and Emanuel Moscopulus, St. Thomas Aquinas and Frenicle de Bessy stood elbow to elbow in the somber ebony bookcase, and chairs, table and desk were littered with pamphlets about mediæval sorcery and witchcraft and black magic, and all of the valiant glamorous things that the modern world has repudiated.

Chalmers smiled engagingly, and passed me a Russian cigarette on a curiously carved tray. "We are just discovering now," he said, "that the old alchemists and sorcerers were two–thirds right, and that your modern biologist and materialist is nine–tenths wrong."

"You have always scoffed at modern science." I said, a little impatiently.

"Only at scientific dogmatism," he replied. "I have always been a rebel, a champion of originality and lost causes; that is why I have chosen to repudiate the conclusions of contemporary biologists."

"And Einstein?" I asked.

"A priest of transcendental mathematics" he murmured reverently. "A profound mystic and explorer of the great suspected."

"Then you do not entirely despise science."

"Of course not." he affirmed. "I merely distrust the scientific positivism of the past fifty years, the positivism of Haeckel and Darwin and of Mr. Bertrand Russell. I believe that biology has failed pitifully to explain the mystery of man's origin and destiny."

"Give them time." I retorted.

Chalmers' eyes glowed. "My friend." he murmured, "your pun is sublime. Give them time. That is precisely what I would do. But your modern biologist scoffs at time. He has the key but he refuses to use it. What do we know of time, really? Einstein believes that it is relative, that it can be interpreted in terms of space, of curved space. But must we stop there? When mathematics fails us can we not advance by—insight?"

"You are treading on dangerous ground," I replied. "That is a pitfall that your true investigator avoids That is why modern science has advanced so slowly. It accepts nothing that it cannot demonstrate. But you—"

"I would take hashish, opium, all manner of drugs I would emulate the sages of the East. And then perhaps I would apprehend—"


"The fourth dimension."

"Theosophical rubbish!"

It incorporates a fair bit of 'orientalism', as this seeker of knowledge employs a drug formulated by ancient Chinese alchemists to send his consciousness back in time (Clark Ashton Smith's story Ubbo-Sathla has an identical theme, with a sorcerous crystal standing in for the drug).

As is typical of a Lovecraftian story, the seeker of knowledge draws the attention of some ultramundane horrors, in this case, ones which are 'lean and athirst'. The ending is appropriately gruesome. It's a fun read for someone looking for a little shuddersome entertainment, which is a pretty good achievement for a story which places a lot of emphasis on geometry.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Terror Trio Does Comedy

It's the runup to Halloween, my busy season at work... I think it's time to post about another classic 'horror' movie. Cheap movie maestro Roger Corman produced a bunch of movies purported to be inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's body of work. One of the oddest of these 'adaptations' was 1963's The Raven, an off-the-wall comedy masquerading as a horror movie. While the movie was ostensibly inspired by Poe's poem, it was written by modern horror great Richard Matheson, and centered around three very naughty warlocks who Dumbledore should have put in detention for their entire Hogwarts careers.

The cast of the film was impeccable, with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre playing the three squabbling wizards. Hazel Court added a certain campy sex appeal to the proceedings, and a newcomer named Jack Nicolson played the son of Peter Lorre's hapless character, who spends much of the film transformed into the titular bird. The main plot involves the rivalry between Price's and Karloff's characters, and the climax of the film is a magical duel between the two... hilarity ensues:

The entire movie is a goofy classic, full of bad puns and cheesy visual gags, but everyone seems to be having a blast in it. It's a fun flick, not too scary for kids... Poe might not have been too happy with it, though.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

In the Runup to Halloween, a CAS Classic

It's the busy season for me at work, so it's the time of year when I post a lot of links to Hallowe'en-appropriate content. Longtime readers will know that I am a huge fan of Clark Ashton Smith, considered (along with H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard) to be one of the 'big three' authors featured in the classic pulp magazine Weird Tales. CAS wrote 'weird fiction' that was typically characterized by gloriously purple prose and a sly, sardonic sense of humor. Many of his short stories involved antiheroes who go through their paces in bizarre sword-and-sorcery settings, only to meet ridiculous demises in the course of their arduous quests.

CAS wrote several 'series' of stories sharing a common setting. One of his better-known settings for a story-cycle is a fictional French province named Averoigne, a heavily forested, monster-and-sorceror-infested landscape. While most of the stories in the 'Averoigne Cycle' are tales of struggles against necromancers and sorcerous monsters, CAS snuck a pretty straightforward sci-fi/horror story (though it DOES feature a somewhat 'magical' McGuffin) into the mix... The Beast of Averoigne is an epistolary short-story about a community of medieval monks facing an alien invasion, a visitation from a monster which wouldn't be out of place in a Ridley Scott movie. The story starts out with the deposition of a friar who is certain that the threat facing his abbey is not of this Earth:

I, a poor scrivener and the humblest monk of the Benedictine Abbey of Perigon, have been asked by our abbot Theophile to write down this record of a strange evil that is still rampant, still unquelled. And, ere I have done writing, it may be that the evil shall come forth again from its lurking-place, and again be manifest.

We, the friars of Perigon, and all others who have knowledge of this thing, agree that its advent was coeval with the first rising of the red comet which still burns nightly, a flying balefire, above the moonless hills. Like Satan's rutilant hair, trailing on the wind of Gehenna as he hastens worldward, it rose below the Lion in early summer; and now it follows the Scorpion toward the western woods. Some say that the horror came from the comet, flying without wings to earth across the stars. And truly, before this summer of 1369, and the lifting of that red, disastrous scourge upon the heavens, there was no rumor or legend of such a thing in all Averoigne.

As for me, I must deem that the beast is a spawn of the seventh hell, a foulness born of the bubbling, flame-blent ooze; for it has no likeness to the beasts of earth, to the creatures of air and water. And the comet may well have been the fiery vehicle of its coming.

This original, unabridged version of the story was rejected by the editor of Weird Tales, but an abridged version, omitting the first two chapters of the epistolary story, was published in the May 1933 issue. CAS also changed the method of 'exorcism' of the monster, the original method being overly similar to the climax of The Colossus of Ylourgne.

The story, while one of Clark Ashton Smith's best, tones down both the trademark purple prose and mordant humor, it's Smith playing it as straight as he ever does... for this reason, it's one of his more accessible tales. Be warned, though, Smith's body of work is in the public domain, so reading one of his tales might send you down a glorious, eldritch rabbit hole.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Violating not Just Norms, but Laws

It's long been known that the GOP has been violating governmental norms, but today's stunt, in which a bunch of dimwitted GOP reps barged into a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility in order to disrupt a deposition related to impeachment hearings, is actual lawbreaking. To compound matters, these idiots brought their phones into the facility. Poking around the t00bz, I found a series of posts by a national security expert detailing just how bad this assholery was:

Who the hell knows how this stunt compromised national security? Now I find myself looking up the role of the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives, and the possible actions that the Capitol Police could take against these scrotes. It's a bizarre state of affairs, a worrisome state of affairs, and my civics education, obtained when I lived in a functional society, isn't quite up to the new complexities of this lawless era. What is Nancy Pelosi's scope for punishing these malfeasors? Can their security clearances be yanked? Can the Capitol Police put them in the hoosegow? Can Matt Gaetz get a mace to the face? It's a strange feeling, that of being in uncharted waters, a feeling that the country is on the brink of some Really Bad Mojo. The fact that I'm stuck in a particularly busy time at work, with more parochial concerns at the fore, is a bit maddening... I know that things are not normal, but I don't have that much time to contemplate just how not normal they can get.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Big Local Story, or Not so Proud Now

Today, the last two 'Proud Boys' who were charged with gang assault for a brawl on Manhattan's Upper East Side were sentenced to four years in prison. New Yorkers really don't have any tolerance for cartoon fascists.

The funniest thing about this whole sordid episode is that 'Proud Boys' founder Gavin McInnes, who lives in a multimillion dollar house in tony Larchmont has been blaming members of the media for the sentencing, even though he himself arranged the surrender of his ten violent followers. Right-wing rank and file commenters are also trying, and failing, to 'guilt' liberals about the sentencing of one of these assholes because his wife is African-American... nice try, she and the kids are better off without this violent asshole around. Maybe McInnes can support the guy's kids, or the 'Proud Boys' can run a bake sale to pay for their living expenses.

It's nice to see that New York's prosecutors are playing a major role in the pushback against the right, both against the big fish and the random dumbasses like these two.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Perfect Response to a Racist Gamerboy

Ah, 'gamers'... I don't write about the scumbags who pushed Gamergate very often, but I must note that these angry nerdy boys pretty much ushered in the 'alt-right' that vexes the 'normies' so. I have been known to play computer games, but these assholes have forever caused me to eschew the title of 'gamer'. The new kerfuffle among these chuds is anger that actress Zoë Kravitz has been cast as 'Catwoman' in an upcoming 'Batman' movie. One particular manchild calling himself 'One Angry Gamer' is enraged that an African-American woman has been cast in this role.

The asshole is getting it in the neck in the responses, mainly from people who note that Eartha Kitt was an iconic Catwoman in the greatest iteration of the whole franchise. Ms Kitt perfectly combined the playful sex appeal and over-the-top camp that best serves the source material:

To me, the worst sin of 'One Angry Gamer' isn't his (you know he's gotta be a d00d) racism or sexism, but his complete lack of humor... 'Batman' is supposed to be sorta ridiculous, just look at the debut of Catwoman in the comic books. He's also a crashing bore, he keeps repeating the mantra that 'Eartha Kitt's Catwoman isn't the Selina Kyle of the movie', as if this Selina Kyle character (invented in the 80s by the execrable Frank Miller, who made the character a former sex worker because of course he did) even existed when the West 'Batman', the best 'Batman', was broadcast 'in color'. He also complains that Frank Miller's Selina Kyle shouldn't be played by a black woman because she was described as Irish and Cuban, as if Phil Lynott and Celia Cruz didn't exist.

The angry manchild gives the game away when he complains that SJWs have 'stolen' his entertainment from him, entertainment that he has had no hand in producing. This sets up the best response I've ever seen to one of these anti-feminist whiners:

I believe that gamers have a term for the beating this asshole received.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Pining for Brooklyn

Tragically, I will have to miss tonight's Secret Science Club lecture because I was just not able to provide for coverage on the job. It'll be the first regular Brooklyn lecture that I've missed in just about ten years, when I missed a lecture on the night of my father's death. I am bummed about this, but duty cannot be put aside, and weekends have always been my crunch time, weekends in October especially so.

Before I head off to work, rather than Brooklyn, I figure I'll post a video of atmospheric researcher Dr Sonali McDermid, this month's speaker. I figure that I can't write up this lecture, so I will provide some link to the good doctor's knowledge:

I firmly believe that my Secret Science Club recaps are my most important posts. They are the posts which require the most time, and the most research, to write... the posts which force me to bring my 'A game' to this whole business of writing. The write-ups also reinforce the knowledge conveyed to my own mind, by writing them I have better recall, am actually made smarter. I guess October isn't a month for getting smarter, being a mad dash to get the job done on the job.

Next month, I should have no schedule conflicts, so I anticipate heading down to the beautiful Bell House. Tonight, though, I will be casting my eyes, forlornly, to the Southeast, and dreaming of 'SCIENCE!'

ADDENDUM: I just want to thank SSC regular Chris A., Margaret, and Dorian. They are the ones I always text if I’m running late, because my absence from a lecture would mean that something happened to me. They are good, devoted friends, truly devoted to SCIENCE!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Month Is a Slog but the Hours Are Nice

October is a slog for me, a month of long hours and an occasional seven-day work week. With my volunteer gig, there’s very little free time. While the month is an endurance tour, the individual hours are lovely- it’s a time when I reunite with regular visitors, and catch up with the scuttlebutt. Last weekend, we had a quartet of Pittsburgh residents who come to see us every Fall. A couple of days ago, an author who wrote a book we sell in our gift shop.

The contractors are a lovely bunch. Our cleaners have regular jobs in a Chilean bakery, and brought a box of pastries last Thursday. I have become fast friends with other contractors working the event. Generally, I’m getting my ass kicked, but I’m having fun.

Friday, October 18, 2019

This Horror Business Is Funny Business

One of the blogs that I periodically check out is Too Much Horror Fiction, which reviews paperback horror novels, mainly from the 70s and 80s. The blog takes its title from the Misfits song Too Much Horror Business. To me, the Misfits are a silly band, they tried to be shocking, but their cartoon horror show manages to be simultaneously more offensive and less genuinely transgressive that their role models, the Ramones. Too Much Horror Business aims to be creepy, but it's just too damn corny... while it's supposed to evoke Psycho, the chorus more effectively evokes gastric distress on the part of lead singer Glen Danzig: "You, you don't go in the bathroom with me."

Now, why wouldn't you want to go into the bathroom with Glen Danzig? Rumors of his poor eating habits have been greatly exaggerated:

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Windy Day Terror Tale

The New York metro area has been in the grip of a nor'easter these past two days. Yesterday was marked by torrential rains, today is marked by gusty winds, approaching gale force. I had to send an email to my boss and our events team, detailing the wind damage that was inflicted onsite, namely downed branches and toppled tents. It's an appropriate day to write a post about August Derleth's The Thing that Walked on the Wind. Derleth has a spotty reputation among fans of 'weird tales', having been an early champion of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, albeit one who tried to maintain an iron grip on the 'old gent's' literary oeuvre to an unseemly degree. His 'Lovecraftian' fiction is often derided for a Manichean worldview at odds with Lovecraft's conception of an utterly uncaring universe. He also tried to hammer Lovecraft's ultramundane monster-gods into a silly 'classical elemental' model. One of his worst literary sins, though, was his addiction to pastiche- his 'Lovecraftian' tales often devolve into a catalogue of referents, with entire passages consisting of name-dropping of Lovecraft's evil entities.

The Thing that Walked on the Wind, originally published in the January 1933 issue of Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror (which also featured the better story Murgunstrumm by Hugh B. Cave), refers back to Algernon Blackwood's The Wendigo. Derleth's 'wind walker', patterned on Derleth's Wendigo, is a classical air elemental, worshiped by rural Canadians near the Arctic Circle. It's not a bad tale, an early Derleth effort before the man devolved into a pasticheur. Here's an audio recording of the tale:

On a day like this, a story about a malevolent airy being isn't doesn't seem all that far-fetched.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Deplorables? More Like Gullibles!

The fact that the right-wing media industrial complex is one big scam has been obvious since Rick Perlstein wrote 'The Long Con' for The Baffler in 2012. Right-wingers seem especially vulnerable to grifters because they are told not to trust the 'lamestream media', by which they mean any media sources not run by righties.

The latest mass grift to be exposed is a 'subscription trap' scam fueled by Facebook ads. Naturally, this scam was started by a young Republican booster. Like many right-wing scam artists, from Alex Jones to Dana Loesch to Ben Shapiro, much of the products hawked in this scam are bogus 'supplements':

As for the products, a current employee described the diet and male enhancement offerings as “the worst of the worst … China-made sawdust in a capsule.”

The Buzzfeed article, like 'The Long Con', is required reading... it points out how non-social media savvy individuals can get sucked into these scams, which come across as a blend of multilevel marketing and social media trolling. The real lesson, though, is that the only way to win the Facebook game is not to play at all.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

This Is Going to Upset the Fandom

Here's just a quick post before I head off to bar trivia on a rare night off... this post about the 21 best science fiction and fantasy series is bound to get the fans upset. A perusal of the comments reveals that many of the readers are upset about how 'PC' the selections are, and there are plenty of commenters who don't seem to have read the prerequisites for selection, and name standalone books or unfinished series.

My one personal beef is that there are no Jack Vance titles in the list. I'm also amazed that genre pioneer Edgar Rice Burroughs didn't get a nod, and I would have included works by Fritz Leiber and C.J. Cherryh. I'm surprised that Frank Herbert's 'Dune' series and Asimov's 'Foundation' series didn't make the cut. The one genuine shocker is that Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun and it's related 'Long Sun' and 'Short Sun' books didn't make the list- Wolfe was perhaps the most 'literary' of Science Fiction and Fantasy writers, writing books which are intricate puzzles for readers. Oh, and J.K. Rowling's 'wizard kids' series didn't make the cut.

The list skews toward newer books, and does mention more women and people of color than the 'Sad/Rabid Puppies' could tolerate. For that reason, it's a useful list, one to use as a guide when hitting the library or bookstore.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Annual Columbus Day Post

It's an annual tradition here, when I, a Ligurian-American on my dad's dad's side, contemplate Columbus Day, and the implications of honoring a man who was a horrible person. Why hold a slave-taker who's actions precipitated a genocide which engulfed an entire hemisphere, as the best representative of your culture? There are plenty of other worthy candidates for the honor. Hell, why not celebrate this character, known for peering down Tura Satana's blouse?

Thankfully, there's a lot of traction for celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day, when the cultures of the autochthonous inhabitants of the Americas are celebrated. Discrimination and violence against Native American women remain a national disgrace, but these issues are finally receiving attention in the broader culture. The current administration's hostility toward Native American rights is a worrisome trend, though.

Speaking of thankfulness, here's also wishing that my Canadian readers had a joyous Canadian Thanksgiving, which I am pretty sure celebrates the adoption of the metric system by the Canadian government. As is my custom, on Canadian Thanksgiving, I blast the Canadian national anthem, which I am pretty sure is Aldo Nova's Fantasy:

Come to think of it, Aldo Nova is a paisan', so why not rename Columbus Day to Aldo Nova day?

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Work/Life Balanced Diet

October is a slog, and this October has been particularly busy. I really haven't had any time to cook at home, so most of my meals for the past two weeks have been in slice form or on slices. I'm not knocking pizza, though, there are spinach and broccoli pizzas which make a good vegetable delivery system. On a day off last week, I went to the local Indian restaurant for their buffet, so I could get enough saag and aloo gobi in me to provide vegetable content for a week. Before crunch time, I bought a big jar of multivitamin gummies so at least I don't contract scurvy or rickets during this busy month.

I had a very funny conversation this weekend with one of our contractors, a droll young woman from upstate New York, about the vicissitudes of eating during crunch season and, in her case, a long stretch of long drives. I joked about forcing my self to consume vegetables: "Eat something green!" She responded in her typical fashion: "I had a can of Pringles for lunch... at least the can was green."

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Arachnaphobia Achievement Unlocked

I'm going to start this post off with a warning to all of the arachnophobes out there, as if the post title didn't tip you off already... this post is about a speedra. I'm not great at identifying spiders, but if I had to guess, I'd say that this specimen, about the size of a US dollar coin, is some variety of wolf spider:

I didn't attempt to pick up said spider in order to determine how its eyes were arranged, nor did I shine a light on its eyes to see if it had the typical wolf spider emerald eyeshine. I'm pretty much going by size and cursorial habit.

As is typical of October weekends, I tend to post Halloween-appropriate material, and this beauty certainly qualifies as such, wolf spider or not.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Feeling Punchy

It's been a week of long hours for myself and the rest of my department. Yesterday morning, when I got home, I took my keychain out of my pocket and found myself hitting the 'unlock car' button while standing outside my apartment door. Yeah, that's the sort of morning I had. I was able to catch some sleep from about 8:30AM to 2:30PM, then it was up to get ready to go back to work.

After a busy afternoon on the job, it was off to another site to relieve another overworked coworker and cover the graveyard shift. During our shift change briefing, I removed my phone out of my pocket in order to show him a couple of pictures I had taken on the job, then put my phone on the desk. He left for home and I checked out the site, as is customary soon after arrival. While wandering the property, I received a phone call... around 1AM.

"I have to tell you something."
"Is everything okay?"
"Not really, but it's not a real emergency... what kind of phone do you have?"
"Same sort that you have, same sort as we use on the job..."
"I brought your phone home, along with mine."
"Uhhhhh... I don't anticipate getting any phone calls all night, I can take the work phone home to use as an alarm, and we can exchange phones tomorrow night."
"If I feel okay, I will get it to you later this morning."

It's just not me, then... we're all a little punchy, with three weekends to go in October. At least we have good senses of humor about this sort of thing... at least for now.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

A First in Honor of a Bicentennial

Today is the opening day of the first International Sleepy Hollow Film Festival, which I will miss because I will be busy working. This is quite the big deal for this 'little valley or rather lap of land, among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world'. The village of Sleepy Hollow was North Tarrytown until 1996, when the populace voted to change the name in order to maintain property values and jumpstart a tourism industry after the main employer in the town, a GM plant, closed. Finally, the town seems to be doing something to boost its status as a destination, having sponsored its first literary festival earlier this year.

These events are celebrations of the bicentennial of the publication, in serial form, of Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., which was published in installment form from June 1819 to July 1820. The bicentennial of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which I reread every October will be next March. The 'Sketchbook' is in the public domain, and there has been a local push to read selections from the book, with a snazzy website to promote the project, and the region. My annual reread of the 'Legend' took place last week, when I was stuck at work playing keymaster for a bunch of contractors. I am always struck by Irving's keen eye for the natural world through which his characters move, his love for landscape, flora, and fauna. The various film and television adaptations are all about tall, dark, and headless, but my beloved Hudson Valley (remember, Yonkers is one of the Rivertowns) is the star of the original story.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Two Bastard Faves, United for Halloween

Being a New Yorker, is it any wonder that I grew up a fan of late, lamented local hero Lou Reed? I am also a fan of former Bronx resident Edgar Allan Poe. In an interborough collaboration appropriate for the runup to Halloween, here's Brooklyn-born Reed reciting an adaptation of Bronx-dwelling Poe's The Raven:

And the raven goes 'Neh neh neh neh neh neh nevermore.'

Tomorrow begins weekend two of a busy October, so I'll be posting mainly short, seasonal bits for the next few days. Oddly enough, the 'grotesque and gothic' Halloween fare is quite a distraction from the real horrors of everyday life lately.

CORRECTION: In the comments, DVHughes informs me that the vocal on this is by guest star Willem Dafoe. Thanks for setting me straight.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Betrayal Most Foul... Again

A little more than a year ago, I worried about the US abandoning Kurdish allies in Syria, and it looks like this nightmare scenario is going to happen, with the US Army set to pull out as a Turkish army masses at the border. It's an odd scenario, with two nominal US allies being implacable foes. NATO member Turkey will most likely massacre the independent Kurds in northeastern Syria.

The United States government has betrayed the Kurds on numerous occasions, preferring to support dubious allies over the constant Kurds. Another betrayal of the Kurds would be particularly horrific- besides being instrumental in the defeat of the ISIS 'caliphate', the Kurdish territory of Rojava has been created on a model of women's equality, religious pluralism, and multiculturalism... the fact that it is anticapitalist will probably seal its doom. Feminist anarchist collectives aren't exactly in line with the rising tide of fascism-curious Western regimes. While most Americans, even some of the worst among us, seem to realize that this betrayal is a bad idea, the Trump dead-enders have already begun to spin it as a good thing. The end result just might mark the resurgence of ISIS in Syria and the fracturing of NATO... it will surely signal to America's smaller allies that the US is not to be trusted.

Monday, October 7, 2019

First October Weekend Survived

Today was the first day off that I've had in two weeks. Oddly enough, now that our Fall fundraisers are in full swing, things are easier for me than they were in the runup to the events... we have a small army of employees and contractors onsite on nights when I am ordinarily pulling a solo act, so I have some breathing space.

The weekend involved a lot of running around, but I am not complaining- I've actually been having fun. One of our events is new this year, so there is a bit of a learning curve, but we have navigated it well. I have instantly taken to the new contractors who are providing entertainment for the fundraiser- they are interesting people with values similar to mine, and we are working well together. One of our vice presidents, who is relatively new to the position (formerly, she was on our board of directors) has been running the event on several nights, and we work well together... she has solid nerd credentials, and she has rapidly become a favorite of our rank-and-file employees because of her willingness to listen to us. As an example, I had a minor freakout over the use of candles in a sensitive area, and the next day she provided two fire extinguishers within ten feet of the site. Again, we have shared values, and I found out this weekend that she, like myself, enjoys a pint of Guinness. The event requires a lot of coordinated timing, with the head honcho being occupied with a very specific, sensitive task for a total of about forty minutes, and I am the one who needs to bounce between locations in order to pretty much cover everything while she (or whoever is working as Manager on Duty) is occupied with that specific task. Basically, I have to cover a lot of ground during the event, and coordination of movements is crucial. I'm going to need to buy a new pair of sneakers before the month is over.

On Saturday, my volunteer gig went well, the hardest part being getting up at 7AM. The kids are great, for the most part, though I did have to discipline two boys for calling each other 'idiot'. There's no place for that sort of language in our dojo.... just because we beat each other up doesn't mean that we can't be nice- in fact we demand that people be nice because it's a prerequisite to beating each other up and having nobody get hurt. Most of the kids, though, got right back into the flow of classes, having retained most of what we taught them last semester. I was able to sleep in on Sunday morning.

I spent today catching up on sleep and ended up going out to eat an actual sit-down meal with metal utensils at a local Indian restaurant (I made sure to eat plenty of vegetables to 'scour the pipes'). It was a change of pace from grabbing a couple of slices before work, or a sandwich after work, or a granola bar during work. My feet were a bit achy, so I took a couple of aspirin. I took it easy on the caffeine, hoping that my tolerance doesn't get too high by month's end. It was a 'recovery day' and, unfortunately for me, a day to catch up on the news, which is terrible.

One weekend down... lessons learned, working relationships forged and/or strengthened. I'm gonna make it after all.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Whither Goest Thou, Prince?

Last Wednesday was hot and humid, drizzly with temperatures in the 80s. It was a swampy day, and the swamp denizens took it as an opportunity to go a-wandering. I found a handsome prince in our parking lot, about a hundred and fifty meters from its pond:

This is a northern green frog (Lithobates clamitans), this picture, though a little blurry due to low lighting conditions, nicely showcases the ridges along the back which distinguish green frogs from their larger bullfrog cousins. It was a nice night for a frog to wander, buggy and muggy, but the setting was perilous, with raccoons and skunks and possums abounding. The pond isn't much better, with snapping turtles and herons. I guess frog life is not so grand...

Saturday, October 5, 2019

First Day, Fight Day

The first Saturday of October is a busy one for me. It is the opening day of the children's athletic program I coach for, and it is invariably a busy day on the job. Today, it meant coming home around 1AM, getting up at 7AM, taking the subway into Manhattan, and teaching, usually until 11:45 if we have a full 'dance card'. Basically, by 9:30, I am fighting with seven year olds. We are lucky to have one seven year old who plays judo in another dojo, so she maintains her skill set throughout the summer. She can breeze through forward rolls while her classmates need a refresher... she is a good partner for her peers, which helps us to no end.

I took the train back to the Bronx with Gently Jimmy G., all-around badass and good guy, then drove him to his building, which is uphill from the Broadway and 238th St Station, up in the Riverdale section of the Boogie-Ooogie-Oogie-Til-You-Just-Can't-Boogie-No-More Bronx, then it was back to Yonkers, a swing by a local pizzeria for a couple of slices, and back home for a brief interlude. That basically means taking the contacts out for a while, downing two aspirin, drinking a big cup of yerba mate, then taking a hot-as-I-can-stand-it shower until I feel limber enough to go to work. Tonight, I will be hopping all night, I have to cover a lot of ground during event nights, and will be the last one around to lock up, probably around midnight. It's a slog, but it's bearable- things get quiet at work after November, so I just need to power through four weeks of long Saturdays. Thankfully, Sensei prepared me for days like this.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Queen Age Kicks

I did not know that Queen Elizabeth was an Undertones fan, but I found out yesterday that Feargal Sharkey was admitted to the Order of the British Empire this year. Being an Undertones fan myself, this pleases me to no end. I can imagine the queen listening to John Peel in the late 70s and mumbling to herself how polite that nice Sharkey boy was, compared to that awful, nasty Lydon boy.

Post title taken from this classic paean to teenage sexual longing:

The only downside to this honor is that, as far as I understand, this level of OBE doesn't entitle Feargal to call himself 'Sir Sharkey'.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

This Time, It's Truly Personal

Via Tengrain, we have news of the ongoing imposition of tariffs on European imports, and I am interpreting this as an attack on my person:

Imports of single-malt Scotch, Irish whiskey, liqueurs, French wines, sweaters, coffee, pipe cutters, various tools, sweet biscuits, olives and pork will also be slapped with 25 percent duties.


The Distilled Spirits Council, whose members sell alcoholic products on both sides of the Atlantic, called the new tariffs "a devastating blow" to an industry already facing a 25 percent EU retaliatory duty on American whiskey in response to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs last year.

I am not a wealthy man, but I like to live well, and a grating of Parmiggiano-Reggiano on a plate of pasta or an after-work shot of Glenmorangie is a luxury that is more affordable than a Mercedes or a condo in Taos. The real affront here is that Vulgarmort has pedestrian tastes and is a teetotaler... he'd dismiss an imported Provolone as too funky, and would avoid a grappa like he would a textbook. He's levying tariffs against the products that working and middle class people can actually afford as an occasional treat, products that are seen as appealing to 'coastal elites' because they appeal to people who embrace their ethnicity (in my case, ethnicities). He's basically telling Salvatore to forgo his prosciutto di Parma, telling Feargal to forgo his Jameson's... I imagine this has the potential to cause unrest here in Yonkers.

The proposed tariffs are supposed to take effect on October 18, so there's time to stock up on pecorino romano. I already have a 1.75 liter bottle of Tullamore Dew in the house, so I'm not exactly freaking out. The particular cruelty of this policy is that the man is driving people to drink while he's making it more expensive to do so, at least in a civilized fashion.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

That Autumnal Feeling

It’s October, when the trees are stripped bare of what they wear, but it feels like summer, with the mercury reading 89F (32C). While the leaves are sporting Fall colors, it’s muggy enough so that I’m having a bad hair day.

We have a bunch of contractors who will be onsite until about midnight. Luckily, I filled up the ice cube trays in the staff kitchen last night. Overnight, temps are supposed to plummet about 30F, to a more seasonable temperature. It’s that time of year, when you can go from shorts to sweats in the space of a couple of hours. It’s the Northeast, that time of year is all year.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

October: The Yearly Slog

October is our big Fall fundraising month, so it's always a slog. Oddly enough, though, the worst part for me has been last week and this week, in the runup to the big month. Once October gets into full swing, I actually have fewer hours to work, but it'll be a run of six week days. At least I won't be working 5PM-7AM overnight slogs.

October typically means a month of scheduling posts, often about Gothic or horror novels/authors or films/shows. I tend to go light on politics and current events for the month, only occasionally keeping an eye on news just to avoid 'falling off the skin of the Earth'. Even my social life takes a bit of a hiatus- I preface the month by telling everyone, "I'm going to pull a Captain Nemo, I will surface in a month."

When November arrives, things get quiet again. I can't complain about the October endurance tour, though, the fundraisers are what keep my paychecks from bouncing.