Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Happy Halloween, my little Internet pumpkins! I did not make my beloved severed-finger cookies (not beloved-severed-finger cookies) this year, which was a shame because Art Boy was out of town and would not have had to be horrified by them. However, I am visiting my parents and get to go trick-or-treating tonight with the niece and nephew. The last time I trick-or-treated was in high school when several of us tried to collect money for Unicef. It was not a success. Somehow having high school students show up at your door asking for money and candy does not inspire generosity in most suburban dwellers...

Anyway, enjoy your Halloweens! And if you need a movie to watch, try one of the "31 Flicks that Give You the Willies," popularly elected at Shoot the Projectionist. I did my best but was not able to get "Cabin Fever" on the list... oh well.

Update: Maggie made severed-finger cookies! They look fab. I was ridiculously excited to see her photos and might have to make some myself for Christmas. Elf fingers?

Monday, October 22, 2007


Well, we appear to be in the midst of a natural disaster. Fun fun! First Malibu was on fire, just up the coast from us; we walked to the beach yesterday and admired the smoke in the distance. Now Ardenstone is surrounded by flames and thinking about whether he & Christy might need to evacuate. And new fires keep springing up around L.A. I am monitoring the situation with the help of my friendly neighborhood newspaper, which has some really amazing photos up - check them out - and local blogger Veronique de Turenne at Here in Malibu, who is also posting amazing photos.

Small disasters are lost every day in a city this size. This is a big disaster. Heck, we're even the main art on tomorrow's Washington Post. Thanks, guys.
Photo above by Don Kelsen, LAT

Friday, October 19, 2007

Professor Dumbledore is a great man

So J.K. Rowling is evidently doing a fancy U.S. tour and reading to huge groups of children, which she really seems to be enjoying now that they can no longer try to squeeze her for spoilers. Instead, they can receive refreshingly direct answers to their questions, as happened to some kid from Colorado who asked about Professor Dumbledore's love life. According to Bloomberg News, Rowling replied that "she always thought of Dumbledore 'as gay.' ... But things didn't turn out with Grindelwald, his mental equal, who died in 1945." What a nice validation for the fanfiction community! Although that community is young and hip and has completely moved on from Harry Potter by now.

(In an earlier chat on the Leaky Cauldron, she was asked if Dumbledore and McGonagall were in love, and she replied with an exasperated, "No. Really, everyone isn't in love with everyone else." Apparently she has mellowed.)

She is also dismissive of Draco fans: "No! No! Please don't pass for Draco. I've given you an array of pleasant characters.'' If you ask me, this reveals the woman's fundamental cluelessness about books. Pleasant characters do not make great fiction. People don't want to read books with titles like "The Pony Party!" Harry Potter is all well and good, but the resolution of the series bothered me immensely because it revealed its fundamental toothlessness. The books are nice yarns but are designed to be as inoffensive as possible (except to a few fundamentalist Christians, and most people enjoy offending those guys). Anyway, I haven't got time to rant about this right now, so will simply conclude that Draco is the best character in the series & his creator hasn't got the sense to see it. Still, it's nice that children are reading books instead of playing those awful video games.

Update: Slate, reminded of Tinky Winky by the whole affair, dredges up its favorite essay from those days "on the outing of fictional characters." I popped online here in order to look up and share my own favorite Tinky Winky essay, but cannot find it just now. Sorry!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Corn rigs are bonny!

Art Boy and I had a discussion long ago about the 1973 horror classic "The Wicker Man." He was interested in watching it. I had never heard of it, but protested, "Is it about someone getting burned to death in a giant basket? Why on earth would you want to watch that?" He was then annoyed with me for guessing the "surprise" ending. To my mind, this is not particularly surprising; why else would you build a wicker man, if not to put someone in it and light them on fire? I mean, honestly. Anyway, the very idea just chilled my blood, especially knowing that's the end of the movie. I disliked the notion of sitting there waiting and dreading, and then it happens, and you go home feeling sort of nasty. (This is why I also refuse to watch "Open Water," and why I was disappointed by "The Blair Witch Project.")

But that conversation was something like four years ago, and he's had plenty of time to wear me down, so this weekend into the DVD player it went. And much to my surprise, I absolutely loved it. It would probably achieve the original intended effect if you did not know what a wicker man was and did not know the ending (I can't imagine I've wrecked it for anyone this many years later; and anyway, the DVD cover and tacky animated menu give it away). But still, watching it unfold makes for a nice and weird little mystery. Devout Sgt. Howie (Ed Woodward) arrives at a remote Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. The locals are both unhelpful and extremely unsettling to him, with their bawdy pub songs and pagan practices and pickled rabbits (sorry, hares) in jars on counters. They're led by Christopher Lee, who brushes off Howie's concerns about the local children leaping naked over bonfires with "Well, naturally. It's much too dangerous to jump through fire with their clothes on." I was already in love with the movie by this point, but Lee's serene dementia just nailed it for me. He's charming, deranged and utterly placid about it -- sort of like a pagan Willy Wonka.

The atmosphere piles up with a series of unsettling images: a sweet-faced woman slicing a baby-shaped cake; a man in a fish mask; a coffin containing a dead rabbit; a second coffin sliding from a baker's oven with a man-sized pastry inside. And then, of course, you have Britt Ekland's famous naked dance, which is actually remarkably seductive, even to a heterosexual lady viewer. Plus there are songs, some pretty and some bawdy. This movie really has everything. The ending is profoundly unsettling, no matter how many times you have clicked through the tacky animated DVD menu. But it gives you that October chill really nicely.

We enjoyed the accompanying documentary, "The Wicker Man Enigma," quite a bit. Christopher Lee describes having been approached for the project and told what the title was. "Does it have anything to do with Druids and human sacrifice?" he recalls asking. The producer replied, "I hate you." For this reason, I am adding Mr. Lee to the list of gentlemen who may come to the house and carry me off if they wish. (Although I do not want to either injure Mr. Lee or discomfit Mrs. Lee, so I understand if he must regretfully decline.)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Braaains. No, wait, bloood. Oh, whichever

We watched 1964's "The Last Man on Earth," starring Vincent Price, this week. Vincent plays Robert Morgan, a brilliant scientist who also happens to be the only survivor of a plague that has turned everyone else in the world into zomb-- er, vampires. Every night a crowd of them staggers to his house and moans his name, calling him to come out, pounding on his boarded-up windows. Supposedly they inspired George A. Romero's treatment of his ghouls in "Night of the Living Dead," and they are certainly much more zombie than traditional vampire. They haven't got much intelligence, they have no visible fangs, and they seem more interested in sort of leaping on Morgan or pounding his windows than going for his jugular. Still, they are repelled by garlic, mirrors, crosses and sunlight, so vampires they are. I was surprised at how creepy this movie was. I'm adding it to my Willies List (which is not dirty) -- useful because mean Ed isn't letting me include "It" on account of "It"s being a TV movie.

At Borders the other week I got ahold of one of their last copies of "I Am Legend," on which this film is based, without the Will Smith movie cover. It's a spiffy short novel. I was inclined to agree with Dean Koontz's blurb on the back cover that it's the best vampire book since "Dracula," but then I thought of "'Salem's Lot." Still, pretty good, particularly if you're looking for something Halloweeny but don't have much time.