Monday, February 28, 2011

New Facebook page

If you're on Facebook, I hope you'll check out something I created for all the fans of FRANKENSTEINIA who have voted, or will be voting, for Pierre Fournier's magnificent, monstrous blog in the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards:

Fans of Frankensteinia Rondo Award Project

Feel free use this image at your own blog, or page:

This project was created without the input of Pierre Fournier, but I hope the support for him will be strong and I'm happy to say so! Hope he doesn't mind my fanboy admiration and appreciation. All the nominated blogs have merit, but this year I'm giving my vote and support to the blog that has best brought attention to the king of classic monsters, Mary Shelley's Monster.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

4TH Birthday of TDSH!

Today's the fourth birthday of this blog. As cake is the "official" dessert of birthdays, I went window shopping on the web to find you all some cakes of the weird kind. Here, try some.

First some cognac cake:

(Cake made by Russian artist Zhanna Zubova)

Or some "Severed head and Lilliputian zombies" cake:

Image source here. (Flickr account of The Bleeding Heart Bakery)

(Perhaps it's a"Brobdingnagian severed head and regular-size zombies" cake.)

I need more head! I mean, we need more heads! Of the monstrous variety:

Image source here. (Via Flickr account of The Ladygloom)

What? You say a cake with a severed head needs a headless body with it? Okay...

Image source here. (Via Flickr account of lynndy-lou)

A cake just maid for the likes of me! (Groan all you want. It's my party and I'll pun if I want to!)

Perhaps you'd rather have some breakfast. Here's some egg for you:

Image source here. (Via Flickr account of auroracakes/Dawn Leckie)

A cake worth taking out A lien for!

Finished your cognac and need something else to wash away the taste? Here's some Old Crow you'll be ravin' about:

Here's a cake that says "Bone appetit!":

Image source here. (Via Flickr account of Karen Portaleo/Highland Bakery)

Many zombie fans read this blog. Here are two cakes just for you:

Image source here. (Via Flickr account of Karen Portaleo/Highland Bakery)

For WTF whimsicality, nothing beats a "Tranformer-wearing-Groucho-glasses cake":

We need music for this party. Here's an organ:

Tired of birthday cake? Here's a "Mutilated shark" wedding cake for more delicious "hunh?" flavor:

Image source here. (Via Flickr account of The Ladygloom)

You must be tired of cake by now, so here's a "butt cake" to look at to kill your appetite:

Image source here. (Via Flickr account of Kreationaces Kity)

My thanks to all my readers, with a special thanks to my followers, commentators, guest posters, interviewees, supporters, and critics. All of you kept me posting.

All uncredited photos were ones I was unable to trace to their source.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nightmarish neoteny

"What Do Cute Versions of Monsters Tell Us About Horror?"

That's the question a number of LOTTD (League of Tana Tea Drinkers) bloggers are considering this week. (The other talkers 'round the round table this time are TheoFantastique, The Groovy Age of Horror, Cinema Suicide, The Vault of Horror, Dr. Gangrene's Tales From the Lab, Monster Magazine World, Strange Kids Club and the estimable site Classic Horror. All great horror bloggers.)

The answer is...nothing. Nothing at all. But they do tell us something about ourselves.

Horror as a multi-media genre outgrows its icons like a snake that sheds its skin multiple times over the course of its life. And so, as Curt Purcell observes at his Groovy Age of Horror blog, "Cute, funny monsters are the endpoint of an instinctive and damn-near inexorable progression that begins the moment we're exposed to something frightening."

Curt sees this as an instinctive function of the most primitive part of ourselves. He (via quotes by zoologist Konrad Lorenz) likens it to the process by which a raven, exposed to a new object, instinctively avoids it, then observes it for some time, then examines and attacks it, and finally winds up by hiding the object, if small enough to be carried away. This is not unusual. A compelling but careful curiosity about strange (and potentially dangerous) items or creatures, leading to eventual disinterest when nothing harmful happens, is seen in many species.

But human beings take this further. We don't simply toss into history the monstrous characters that most frighten us, we make parody versions and juvenile versions--in that order--when the power of these characters lose their hold of the popular imagination. The "endpoint" is the juvenilization of the characters until they are forgotten, at which point a "rebirth" of that character is possible.
From this... this:

(Top image found here, above original image here.)

The flat-headed Frankenstein Monster with neck electrodes, so astonishing a film image in 1931, was being lampooned and made safe for family audiences and kids' matinees by the 1940s. The regression and weakening proceeded apace each decade. From Frankenstein in '31 to Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in '48 to I Was a Teenage Frankenstein in '57 to lovable Shrimpenstein in 1966.

This juvenilization is not unlike what happens to human beings, where individuals may live long enough to become weakened, and as dependent and powerless as children.

My favorite monsters--the classic Universal film versions of Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, and the Wolf Man-- are in such a state now.

How does society sell things that have been around a while, whether those things are tangible goods or ideas? By "reinventing" or "re-imagining" them. By saying "This ain't your father's [fill in the blank]." With horror, it also seems a sort of cultural Oedipal complex--men wanting to symbolically kill their forefathers in fright. Interest in horror, though appealing to more and more females (thank the dark gods!), is still a genre that involves men-- both as artists and audience-- more than women. Perhaps it is a sort of cultural Oedipal complex.

Each generation wanting to have its own cultural style and interests, its own myths and monsters, has been a fact of social life for eons. But in the past, a more deeply ingrained interest in the "classics" and the lore and iconography one's heritage was the norm. Now, with instant communication allowing what is "new" to be redefined every day, and with so very many "new" media artifacts to inform, entertain or distract us available, who has time for "old" things except the old? In modern cultural chronology,, a "generation" is no more than a few years. Nightmares of the past are merely food for the worms of nostalgia today.

But it's not just limited to horror icons from as far back as the 1930s and '40s of course. A Nightmare on Elm Street was remade last year, and while it had the power to create shock and suspense, it had no power to create a splash in the pool of popular opinion. Came and went and left little buzz behind it.

A form of entertainment neoteny is evident as well. Neoteny, just in case you aren't a scientist or a person with perfect recall of your high school biology lectures, is a process in developmental biology where the adults of a species retains traits seen before only in juveniles of the species. In evolution, the neotenous form can become the norm; an example is the continuance of gills throughout life in some salamanders. With monsters (and other characters in pop culture) new "baby" versions of old characters appear, with heads and eyes disproportionately larger in size. Such infant proportions and smoother, simpler faces (read blander) are the hallmarks of a "cute" monster. You see it every Halloween in toys and decor for the season.

But I thank Cthulhu everyday I can still sense the uncanny even in monsters no longer widely feared. I joyful that I am still susceptible to the now-subtle otherworldly vibe from monsters, mutants, and mutilated madmen in old films, old books, and comics. I celebrate the occasional well-crafted contemporary attempts to squeeze a few more scares from the ancient goblins.

They live until their fans are all gone...and then they wait, like King Tut's cursed tomb, to be re-discovered in all their weird power by people (and who knows--perhaps androids?) yet to live.

Winter reveals

Here in Pittsburgh, the ten inches of snow we got on Monday started to melt yesterday. As the day warms up above freezing again today, more of the snow cover will disappear. I wonder if we'll see anything like this:

Original image found here.

Image found here.

Image found here.

Wouldn't that be a fun surprise, kids? The last image is a detail of a larger painting by a talented young artist named Matt Ellis; the full image can be found here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

No, it isn't Nov. 2012...

But I'm going to ask you to vote today!

Do you read Pierre Fournier's FRANKENSTEINIA blog? If not, you should. It covers all things related to Frankenstein in pop culture, literature, film and history around the globe. It's popular and penetrating, enthusiastic but not shallow, smart but not cerebral. It's a fantastic trip for all lovers of Western-style horror narratives and imagery.

It's nominated for a Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award again this year, and I'm asking YOU to vote for it! It has not won yet, but did come in second last year, surprising many--including me!

I'm passionate in my belief that Pierre Fournier deserves it-- and every vote counts because the winner may win with only a plurality of the vote. That's why I'm endorsing it.

Also endorsing FRANKENSTEINIA is Tim Lucas of VIDEO WATCHBLOG (via Facebook) Stacie Ponder of FINAL GIRL,. and Greg of CINEMA STYLES. They are all nominated, as is this blog, and all 3 are excellent reads. (Mine...meh.) Tim's blog won two years ago, I won last year, and Stacie's has yet to win, though it too deserves a Rondo--and I'm sure it will win one of its own in the near future. But this year, we're all voting for Pierre's superb work at FRANKENSTEINIA. (To the right you can see a "custom" Rondo award suitable for Pierre at the Rondo Awards ceremony in May, which is held at the Wonderfest convention in Louisville, KY.)

I'd like to share some of the best of FRANKENSTEINIA . Here's a dozen instances of the best of the blog, with links. (Click here for the Rondo ballot itself.)

1. One of the very best from 2010 was THE BRIDES OF FRANKENSTEIN, about the actresses considered for The Bride. Every one of 'em well researched, including Arletta Duncan, who appears as a Bridesmaid in FRANKENSTEIN, and illustrated with photos. The layout, with all the women shown in profile, was especially nice.

2. THE CEMETERY SKELETON. Pierre's paean to a memorable movie prop.

3. AFTER FRANKENSTEIN, which traced the careers of the principals from Edison’s Frankenstein in its centennial year.

4. SHE IS REAL! SHE IS ALIVE! FRANKENSTEIN OF THE FAIRGROUND. A post inspired by pics of freak show tents from British fairgrounds.

5. SCRAPBOOK FRANKENSTEIN. The cartoonist from a newspaper page saved by Jack Pierce gets tracked down and discovered to be involved in getting Boris and Bela to sing together on a radio show.

6. THE FUNERAL OF SHELLEY: THE ART AND THE REALITY. Pierre analyzes a famous painting.

7. MY TRIFLING EXPERIMENTS. Tracked the actors who played the homunculi in BRIDE.

8. THE AUSTRALIAN FRANKENSTEIN, about some BRIDE ballyhoo from down under.

9. THE BRIDE OF THE BRONX, about an unusual playbill.

10. FRANKENSTEIN IN PARIS, about a French postcard from 1908 which shows a theater advertising a Frankenstein stage play!

11. THRILLS AND CHILLS! THE SUPER-SHOCKER REVEALED. One of several posts about BRIDE ballyhoo and contemporary reviews of the film.

12. THE FIRST FRANKENSTEIN OF THE MOVIES, celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Edison film.

Finally, I think Pierre made a real discovery, spotting an unidentified (and perhaps unidentifiable) flying object in the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN, in his post A FRANKENSTEIN MYSTERY. A lot of fun.

Also, io9, the Gawker Media site about science fiction and fantasy, was impressed enough to re-post his piece FAIRGROUND FRANKENSTEIN, and THE FIRST FRANKENSTEIN OF THE MOVIES, celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Edison film.

Pierre also created some pretty special "special" posts. At the end of his year-long celebration of BOF's 75th Anniversary, FRANKENSTEINIA ran a special ART OF THE BRIDE series, posting art every day from December 16 to the 31st. It turned into an event of sorts, and was covered by popular and respected sites like Neatorama, Nerdcore and io9.

Another notable "special event" was the FRANKENSTEIN BOOK MONTH in October, reviewing Frankenstein-related books and showcasing book designs and illustration.

Well, if you've checked out the links and then read this far, you are no doubtby now a FRANKENSTEINIA fan par excellence. (In Pierre's honor, I have to throw in some French somewhere!) So vote for it, s'il vous plaƮt?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Links for anthropophobics

Links to make you say "Oh, the HORROR!!" or "Eccchh!" or "How sad!" or even "How remarkable!" at what other people look like, do, say, make, and wear.

Tip steak? (It's pickle chicle!)

Vegan vulva cake (Not safe for work! Or lunchtime!)

A living man with half a head (This mans deserves to be pardoned for any non-violent crime.)

Smart phone outsmarts dumb guy (Verizon exemplifies a P. T. Barnum quote.)

One of a kind stuff made from dead things (Amazingly appalling arts and crafts! )

Chernobyl 25 years later: City of the dead (Haunting photos and stories.)

And now, a toe-tally tasteless (but funny!) tattoo:

Whoever this is above, I admire their attitude.

Finally, here's a story that's a great argument for not always following your parent's wishes, and against allowing pre-existing conditions to bar anyone from access to healthcare. It has a (mostly) happy ending:

Twelve pound tumor ruins man's face but not his spirit (Warning: graphic images)

The tumor was removed successfully.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Heart Day!

Here's a vampire I could get really exited about (I say "could" 'cause I'm a married severed head, and well, she's a painting):

More of a vampire in the "Theda Bara" sense, though I took a classic portrait by the great pin-up artist Gil Elvgren and gave it fangs.

So today is really "Fangsgiving!"

Protected as parody. Rights to the original reserved to the owner.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A friend and a frenemy

The friend is Kiki La Mer, of the blog A Rockabilly View, who recently gave me an award. She feels I'm a "versatile blogger." Ms. La Meris pretty versatile herself, having re-invented herself a few times. (She used to be a "chav," she says--will someone tell me what that is?) She is the only person I know who wants to be buried in a giant lipstick, which is a pretty cool way to take one's dirt nap. Thanks much, Kiki (a/k/a Coral)! Kiki happens to be the name of my wife's cat, although sometimes I suspect it to be my wife's familiar.

As part of this compliment from ARV, I'm supposed to share seven things about myself. Soooo...

Before I became a severed head, I once created life in a laboratory. Dr. Elsa Kast and I had been drinking, and her biological clock was ticking, and she wanted a break from her work, and, um...

My middle name is "Vargo Tienda Consuelo de Las Rumpus-Rachmaninoff."

I am allergic to stoats and weasels but not ferrets.

I once spilled Thousand Island all over myself, but a beautiful waitress came over and undressed me.

I want to change the name of air hockey to "balloon juice puckwhack."

I once met Robert De Niro before he was famous.

I have trouble thinking up seven things to share.

But I can think of eight things, like the fact that at least one thing above is true!

Oh, heck--you wanna know more, go here and here.

And now for the "frenemy." That is my blooging enemy (no , that's not a typo--she's a big ol' blooger!) Melissa Castro of the Edge of Forever blog, a vampire maniac who rambled on about something related to Pittsburgh's Super Bowl loss and zombies I could quite make out. (Either I was inebriated or she was-- I think it was her--if only I could remember!) She showed just how much pop-power zombies have right now by posting a Glee zombie dance in her post! She makes our "zombies versus vampires" blog wrestling so easy for me!

She also sent me this picture of something she says I need to use:

Guess she thinks I don't bathe, or can't handle myself in a zombie attack, or do both simultaneously. (And maybe I can't--but still...)

By the way, the soap above can be found here.

Well, Mel, I think you should use this--

I mean, you're no Buffy and will need all the help you can get. I think they sell these at Olive Garden, your favorite restaurant. Here are some other items to buy and recommend to your bloodsucker-enabling friends:

It's a box selling for $187 that contains an alleged "Vampire Immortal Transformation Spell" inside, which using will allegedly "make you stronger, faster, quicker and powerful." (A membership to a gym will do the same, and can be had for less, but I guess many of today's vampire fans are Barnum-bait.)

Hey, Mel, buy the box and then you'll have a place to store this hat (you're always talking out of one):

It's a hand-made cap with colors whose "inspiration" comes from "Edward Cullen's eyes." OOOOOOOH!

Yeah, I know--you're that rare modern vampire fan who doesn't like Twilight. So maybe these shoes are more your style:

Image found here.

How spookiwy pwecious dey are! I could just noms dem.

Or you could store this in it:

Image found here.

Dip it in hot water for vampire tea! Bleah, bleah!

Okay, THAT's enough o' that!

So many vampire fans today seem to yearn for a better domestic partner. Maybe if they had only met and married a nice, hot zombie doctor:

My thanks to the lovely and kooky Kiki, who is really a top, and to the crazy-but-dedicated Melissa, whom I use as a mop. Now I must stop.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Check out this colorful site

Brand-new place for monster lovers to spend hours at:

Mark Thompsen's MONSTERZ

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Melting snow means food, furniture, pets for zombies

Image found here.

From the Associated Press:

"NEW YORK - The mountains of snow that have covered the Northeastern landscape for the past month and a half are finally melting, revealing oozing lumps of garbage, gaping potholes, bicycles, rat-infested sofas, discarded Christmas trees — even bodies."

Read more here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The horror of LOSING

Above: REAL Pittsburgh zombies attack after the 2009 Super Bowl win.

Well, there is "no joy in Mudville," if by Mudville you mean Pittsburgh, the town that's home to the newly-defeated Steelers football team and also to the Drunken Severed Head. (Yes, I know I'm using a line from a poem about baseball, but so what? Sue me.) Hey, the name of the Steelers might as well BE "mud" right now, in this joyless town. (And another besides: I moved here after many years of living in St. Louis--a baseball town if ever there was one-- and some things just stick to you after a while.)

Pittsburgh is a drinkin' town right now...hard, grim drinkin'. (Not "drinking" with a g--the g is used only with happy occasions.)

Two Pittsburgh guys who love horror and weirdness as much as I do are Ed "Drink 'til Yer Dead" Quillin and Rich "I'm Getting Blotto" Dalzotto. Ed is a talented caricature artist who creates zombie portraits of his customers, and Rich is an organizer of the Horror Realm convention and classic and cult horror film screenings. Both are sad that the tradition of setting ablaze one's furniture during a Super Bowl celebration in now not only illegal, but it's moot with the Steeler's loss. (It's so beloved a pastime that even our firefighters here take part in couch conflagration.)

Here's their post-Bowl Facebook conversation to click on and read. I post it here (with permission) as THE conversation that all brain-dead, walkin' dead, hard-drinkin' men in this town are having right now:

I think some zombie "little people" lesbian friends of mine may just rip Rich up and make their own Pitts-burger, but who knows? All my zombie lesbian friends have a high tolerance level for nonsense and trash talk. But on the other hand, they do like Rich food...

Related link: Burnin' Down the Couch

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The passing of the King

Today I'm remembering the King of Terror, Boris Karloff, and BLACK FRIDAY.

Not the 1940 film Karloff made with Bela Lugosi, but Friday, February 2nd, 1969. Forty-two years ago today--the day the King of Terror was taken by Prince Sirki, and all horror film fandom wept.

I know I did. I was 7 years old when my father told me my favorite actor was gone. I cried hot tears in my bedroom. I had looked forward to growing up with new Boris Karloff films! Wasn't he the man who vowed to never stop working? Hadn't Famous Monsters magazine informed monster kids everywhere of his future film plans? I couldn't imagine Forrest Ackerman no longer cheerfully reporting on Boris' busy schedule of appearances on TV and film. Karloff's workload was amazing for a man in his 80's, despite crippling, painful arthritis and debilitating emphysema. He seemed to be imbued with the immortal life force that Frankenstein's monster was given. But like the films Boris appeared in, that was only a wonderful illusion.

He was a man I wanted to be like. He was courteous, energetic, and dedicated to a profession that made others happy. Respected and loved, his life was productive, despite his ailments and in spite of his experiencing the tragedy of divorce. My young life had known a lot of illness, and my family had suffered through divorce. But Mr. Karloff had overcome these problems, so I believed life was not as scary as the films I watched Boris in.

And now he was gone, joining Bela Lugosi for a final time. My mother had died a year before, and the power of death to change life for the worse was absolute, it was clear. So I sobbed until I couldn't anymore. I lay on the bed, miserable.

My father came back with a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I said nothing. He said nothing. He just smiled an awkward smile, set it on my bed, and left.

Inside were new photos of Boris not run before. I lost myself in the pictures, imagining the stories they seemed to tell. Boris' baritone was speaking words of menace and power, and in the back of my mind was the thought that there were future issues of FM to look forward to. And no one ever died in Famous Monsters of Filmland.

I wish I still had that issue.


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