Saturday, August 30, 2008

Eleven...


...geocaches found between 0600 and 0900 this morning. Pretty good haul; I waded through bogs, briers, poison plants, and giant spiders to reach them. Now, and for the next 72 hours or so, it's feverish work on the outline for my upcoming project—the identity of which some of you have no doubt guessed.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Deadline Time Again...

So it'll be a working holiday weekend. Not that I mind. It's another goooood project.

For completely different reasons, I have to get up at 0500 in the morning, and by 0600, I'll be hard at some geocaching before settling down to work. So I'm hyped.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Occult Detective Tackles OTHER GODS...

...with devastating consequences.

Occult Detective Reviews Other Gods

I've been trashed, and I've been trashed, but this time, I've been really trashed.

Oh, wait, that's only because I've got me a big ol' habanero martini.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Matt Cardin's Daemonyx


A couple of months back at Mo*Con, I picked up from Matt Cardin a five-track CD sampler from his Daemonyx: Curse of the Daimon album. I've listened to it quite a few times since then, but alas, I'm only now getting around to commenting on it.

Bottom line is...the sampler just isn't enough. I gotta have more. (And not just more cowbell!)

This is electronica at its best. It's melodic with a distinctly dark edge; never just noisy but laden with pounding percussion, background sound effects, and voices speaking in ominous, hushed tones ("Is there someone inside you?" "Demons are taking over the world!"). The second track, "Daimonica," is probably my favorite, running about four and half minutes long, with a chiming melody somewhat reminiscent of the theme to Phantasm, and a layer of the aforementioned voices running behind the music through the entire track. Most of the lines are muted and difficult to understand, but certain key words occasionally come through—such as "the exalted flow of the time-space continuum"—and they draw your attention deep into the composition.

Track three, "The Face of the Deep," is a little harder edged, with what sounds like a genuine Hammond organ overlaying the repetitive rhythm about two-thirds of the way through the piece. Track four, "The Streets of Vastarien" (if you've read Thomas Ligotti, you'll recognize the title) has some of the distinctive, ethereal qualities of Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks score, with deep, pulsing percussion in the background that's a bit unsettling.

There are a couple of free new tracks available at Matt's MySpace page; you can check them out here: www.myspace.com/daemonyx. If you're the least bit keen on mellow but dark electronica, this ought to delight you as much as it does me.

Yes, I want the whole thing. I gotta have it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fairystone Rocks!


One of the neatest things about geocaching is that it takes Mrs Death and me to all kinds of places that we would otherwise never visit. In the last four months, I've seen more of Greensboro than I've seen in twenty-plus years, and I'm getting out frequently into the surrounding environs, which has given me a whole new appreciation for the picturesque quality of much of the local country.

Today, Mrs Death and our goodest friends, the Albaneses, made a nice day trip up to Fairystone Park, Virginia. In my younger days, I spent a fair amount of time at Fairystone, as there's a lake for swimming, a decent campground, and an impressive number of hiking trails. And nowadays, a bunch of geocaches. Of course, it was the caches that brought us back to the park.

Fairystones are crystals of staurolite, which often form the shape of a cross (see the photo above, which is from the Stone Cross Museum). They're absolutely everywhere around the park. While on the trail to one of the caches, we found what looked like a fairystone fountain—a mass of the stones deposited along the trail by recent rains. Legend has it that this area was once home to a gaggle of wood nymphs, and when they heard of Christ's crucifixion, they wept, their tears crystallizing into stone crosses. Yes, it's an odd one, but back in the olden days, it was among the locale's most prominent stories.

While we were on the trail (one of many we discovered), we came upon a couple of iron mines, which I had no idea existed. They're tucked back in the woods, dug into walls of slate, their entrances now blocked by iron trellises. Looking into them, you can see where the ceilings have caved in, and being out here among them gave me a lonely, almost creepy feeling. Back in the early 20th century, the area was a thriving town called Fayerdale, and mining was the primary industry. We, of course, were there mining for caches, which took some dedicated hunting, but we finally made the finds.

Discovering this little remnant of history, so close to where I grew up, is just one of those things in life I consider downright cool. As always, it gets the mind working toward some new, scary tale. And, of course, I added a few numbers to the tally of caches found.

This was all part of the celebration of our 22nd wedding anniversary, which was today. Matter of fact, our daughter very thoughtfully called to wish us happy anniversary. Mrs Death said to her, "Just think, I've had to put up with your father for the past 22 years," to which she responded, "No, Mom, he's had to put up with you."

She is a good and acceptable daughter. I owe her a dollar.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Island of Terror


Busy weekend here; mostly domestic chores, vehicle maintenance, a spot of creative work. I tell you, though, tonight I found myself seized by an insatiable craving to watch a drive-in movie. Alas, as the drive-in was kind of out of reach, I settled for putting on my old VHS copy of Island of Terror, one of my favorite 1960s-vintage SF/horror flicks. Now, in my younger days, I never actually saw it at the drive-in; in fact, I don't think I managed to see it at all until I was well on my way to becoming an old fart. It showed up in TV Guide fairly frequently when I was a kid, but for whatever reasons, I never managed to catch it. I recollect turning a magnificent shade of green when good ol' Robert Cox (he was pretty much Linus to my Charlie Brown) saw it on Shock Theater and described it to me in very gory detail: "The professor, like, gets his arm chopped off and everything and, like, blood spews everywhere, you know?"

It really is the perfect drive-in movie, starring Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Carole Gray, and Niall MacGinnis (of Curse of the Demon fame). A team of scientists, hoping to find a cure for cancer, go to a remote island off the coast of Ireland to conduct experiments using radiation. Needless to say, it goes wrong. The scientists are all mysteriously killed, and people (and animals) suddenly begin turning up with all their bones missing. The local doctor, baffled, calls in renowned physician Peter Cushing, who, also baffled, calls in renowned researcher Edward Judd, who finds himself—perhaps not unpredictably—baffled by the deadly goings-on. Turns out that the experiments have created these huge, mutated, cell-like critters that snag you with a proboscis, liquify your bones, and then suck them out through said proboscis. Mayhem ensues, lots of people die, and the professor, like, gets his arm chopped off and everything and, like, blood spews everywhere, you know?

Great, great little flick. The island setting, both picturesque and gloomy, creates the perfect spooky atmosphere. The sound effect that precedes the creatures' appearance is an eerie, warbling, electronic whistle (created by Barry Gray, composer of the score to Stingray, UFO, Space: 1999, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun,et. al.), and it's used to unnerving effect, much like the scary sound effects in Fiend Without a Face, another of my favorite oldies. The critters themselves—described in the old TV guide listings as "turtle-like"—tread the line between silly and horrifying, though they're more like knobby starfish with long, tentacular appendages than turtles. They reproduce by fission, and there's a wonderful scene where the process is shown in grotesque detail. The occasional bits of gore may be primitive by today's standards, but they punch just the right buttons to accentuate the horror in the film.

A few slow moments impede forward progress now and again, such as the apparently suspense-building scene, filmed in real time, of Cushing and Judd putting on radiation suits, from top to bottom, including gloves and air hoses. (This is the time to make popcorn.)

Despite these little hitches, Island of Terror stands out as a superb example of 1960s British SF/horror. I recorded it many years ago from American Movie Classics, when they still aired movies with no commercials. It's hard to find gems like this on TV anymore, though; so many of the oldies but goodies are no longer broadcast, those slots having been given away to the latest crop of rancid CGI monstrosities of Sci Fi channel caliber. Fortunately, it's easier than it ever has been to find a lot of these marvelous flicks on DVD, oftentimes cheap, sometimes with extra features aplenty. Unfortunately, I don't believe Island of Terror is one of them. It's available on Region 2-encoded PAL DVDs, the standard in the UK, but unplayable on most US systems.

Alas.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

KEEPERS OF THE DEAD


Bob Freeman's Keepers of the Dead continues the saga of Cairnwood Manor and its resident population of werewolves, vampires, zombies, gargoyles, and sorcerers, introduced in his first novel, Shadows Over Somerset. Though some prior knowledge doesn't hurt, Keepers qualifies as much as a standalone novel as it does a sequel.

Cairnwood Manor, an ancient seat of magical power, and the Cairnwood family, who are charged with preventing that power falling into darker hands than theirs, are under seige by a rival clan—not to mention those insidious others who would play both sides against the other for their own purposes. Michael Cairnwood, the new lord of the manor, has made a painful return from brink of death and found that circumstances on the homefront are anything but what he might desire, particularly since he and his enemies happen to share a common ancestry.

The first thing I discovered is that Keepers, much like its predecessor, is loaded with characters—almost too many to keep track of—and they just keep coming over the course of the book. To his credit, Mr. Freeman devotes enough space to the primary players to define and hone their personalities; also to his credit, he renders none of them in pure black and white. It's often difficult to delineate protagonists and antagonists, since all have their unique motivations and none fall easily into the cliched role of hero/villain. It's refreshing to find that the ostensible protagonists are hardly creatures of goodness and light and the antagonists aren't simply wicked because being wicked is just so much damned fun.

The downside of all this is that, particularly in the opening chapters, there's a lot more telling than showing, with characters' personalities and purposes simply described rather than developed naturally. For a time, it's difficult to distinguish who belongs to which clan and whether he or she is going to be important to the plot. Characters come and go, oftentimes killed off before their relevance seems firmly established.

Conversely, once the main characters begin to become real and have evoked some reader sympathy, Freeman pulls no punches and establishes a sense of tragedy when their fates are less than happy. I admire the fact that not everyone who meets a bad end does so because they're just too nasty to live, and a few of these fateful moments prove to be rather poignant.

Make no mistake, there are unhappy ends aplenty. The novel's pace is oftentimes breakneck, and vicious fighting between supernatural beasties abounds. Some of it manages to be exciting, yet it tends to overshadow the plot's more subtle intrigue, which is really what holds this book together. Freeman has a capable hand for suspense, and I would like to have seen a tad more of it, rather than another knock-down-drag-out altercation.

The edition I read was an uncorrected proof copy, and I hope some of the rough edges will be ironed out in the regular edition. A lot of the errors consist of subject-verb tense disagreement, various grammar usage issues, and other such problems, which are at best distracting and at worst exasperating. Writers do need good editors (yours truly, without question); I trust Black Death Books has one on hand...?

There's no question that Keepers is a better novel than Shadows Over Somerset. Knowing that Mr. Freeman is more than a little dedicated to his craft, I foresee bigger and better things on the horizon for him. I'll be curious to see where he goes from here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

OTHER GODS Scares BQueen Out of Her Bonnet


HorrorWatch's BQueen has just given Other Gods the royal review treatment. The HorrorWatch review site isn't working properly at the moment, so she's put the review on her blog until it can be posted at its regular home.

I'm rather fond of this line: "I wouldn't recommend you read Other Gods before bedtime unless your significant other actually likes being woken up by you telling them you just read a scary story and can't sleep and did they hear that noise and why are they looking at you like that?."

I concur.

I'm not sure whether it's available to the public at large or just MySpace members, but it's worth checking out the whole thing here:

BQueen Reviews Other Gods

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sometimes Geocaching Yields Unexpected Horrors


When I’m out geocaching, I’m very careful about where I put my hands. I’ve encountered all kinds of nasties out in the wild, black widow spiders being among the most common. Found a half dozen of them, just last week.

Yesterday, I happened upon something a little different. I lifted a stone and unearthed both a geocache and some kind of prehistoric-looking arthropod of considerable size, the likes of which I have never seen. All legs, pincers, and feelers, and fast-moving as hell. Thankfully, it vacated the premises quickly, knocking over a few trees and smashing a car in the process, clearing the way for me to claim the cache unmolested.

Don’t know what it was, but I hope to never see such a thing ever again.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sometimes Geocaching Yields Unexpected Fruits


Today, on my way back to Greensboro from Virginia, I stopped off at a few geocaches, and—lo and behold—out from one of them popped one of the worst movies since Plan 9 From Outer Space. Needless to say, this gave me a rare thrill of ecstasy.

I saw Santy Claus at the theater when I was four or five years old. I have vague recollections of a big snowfall and being certain that there were Martians lurking in the snow-covered woods. (There probably were, you know.)

Something tells me that, this Christmas season, the Martians will be coming back.

Tom Piccirilli, eat your heart out.

Otherwise, it was a very fine weekend, mostly hanging out with my friends, the Albaneses; eating way too much food; and hollering, "I gotta have more cowbell!" just because it seemed the thing to do at the time. Today, I think I pretty much worked off the extra goodies, by going after a few caches that took some significant exertion...to put it mildly.

Oh my aching body.