Thursday, June 10, 2021

Talking Dark Shadows on the Lovecraft eZine Patreon Podcast

Lovecraft eZine proprietor Mike Davis asked me the other day if I’d like to join him and author/Dark Shadows expert Rick Lai on the eZine’s regular Patreon podcast to talk guessed it...Dark Shadows. You don’t think for a minute I would say no, do you?

It’s tonight at 9:00 p.m. EDT. To access the Patreon podcasts, you need to join up to support the eZine. It starts at only $5 per month, so you’ll probably not go broke getting the goods. Anyway, come round tonight to join the fun. It’s Dark Shadows, fer cryin outloud.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Walt Disney Comics Digest

When I was a young ’un, circa 1968–1969, I owned a bunch of issues of Walt Disney Comics Digest, some examples of which you see pictured here. Although a remarkable number of publications — books, magazines, and comics — have survived the decades, mostly in the attic of Pleasant Hill, apparently none of these did. For me, the October 1968 issue, pictured at left, is easily the most memorable, no doubt because of its Halloween theme. I was most taken with its Captain Nemo comic episode, as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a favorite novel at the time, and I believe had already seen the Disney movie at the theater.

I recently found a few copies of the Walt Disney Comics Digest online, so I decided to purchase them. Happily, the October 1968 issue was among them. I remembered these things being jam-packed with comic stories, ranging from zany to educational, as well as puzzles, mazes, jokes... just about anything an adventurous, inquisitive youngster would find engaging. And sure enough. At 192 pages each, these things are dense, with as much educational material as goofy Disney character escapades. And even the goofy Disney character escapades were generally well-written — entertaining as well as a tad challenging to the young mind. I remember spending hours with these things, and it’s really no wonder. Lord knows, I may end up spending hours with them at age 62.

I don’t know if there are comparable products these days; if so, I’m sure they’re digital. For all the virtues of digital products, I don’t know that they can engage youngsters on the same level these jam-packed adventure comics did back in the day. Maybe so. Kids may find all kinds of benefits in the digital world that I don’t see, simply because that’s not my world anymore. But I am sure enjoying revisiting these remnants of days gone by. And no way am I going to let these particular issues go the ways — whatever those ways might have been — of my old, original copies.

The trio of Walt Disney Comics Digest issues to which I availed myself
A spread from “The Adventures of Captain Nemo: Doom Island

Sunday, June 6, 2021


I’ve not drunk a Manhattan since sometime in the Cretaceous period, but while I was in Martinsville on Friday evening, on a whim, I decided to pick up the fixins and make one. Damn, it was good! And it made for excellent company while I went digging through some entertaining memorabilia in the attic and elsewhere at Pleasant Hill. I dunno that it will become a new staple, but something tells me it won’t be nearly so long until I make the next such cocktail. It sure helped sand the edges of what had been a fairly rough week.

I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with the Manhattan — more the need to get the stagnant blood moving — but there is a good-size dogwood tree in the front yard I have never climbed, and I decided it was as good a time as any. Yep. I climbed the tree and spent an enjoyable while up there taking in the view at sunset. It seemed the place to be at the time.

Bright and early Saturday morning, I rode up Fairy Stone State Park to hunt a new geocache (“A Bench with a View #2GC9BMGC), which I managed to find readily. At that hour, there wasn’t much activity going on, although the beach was open for swimming. A few folks were already wet. As a youngster, I made many trips to the beach at Fairy Stone, but I don’t think I’ve been there for swimming (or paddle boating) for almost a decade, when Ms. B. and I spent a pleasant day on the lake. But for geocaching, Fairy Stone is a favorite and relatively frequent destination. Despite mounting heat and a brutal mosquito attack, I quite enjoyed the brief excursion. As I was going back to my car, I heard what I at first thought was a kid hollering “Uh-oh!” somewhere nearby. But then I realized it wasn’t a kid but a bird. My best information is that it’s a fishing crow, a critter I am fairly certain I’ve never heard before. Play the video below to give the amusing little fellow a listen.
After that, it was back home to get to work on the home renovation — this time, removing, cleaning, and sanding the kitchen cabinets (at least a few of them this time around) in preparation to paint them. We had the new countertops installed last week, and they look quite lovely. Next step is the new flooring, which we ordered yesterday afternoon. What a job this is turning out to be, not that I ever had any illusions it would be anything else.

For dinner, friends Joe & Suzy came over, and we ordered pizza from Marco’s, which is, in my considered opinion, the best pizza in town. Needless to say, there was a wine aplenty, all good, both white and red. We took advantage of a reasonably comfortable evening to eat dinner and hang out on the front porch for a while before the mosquitos finally drove us indoors.
The lighting from our phones provided a weird, somewhat intriguing image of the gang
Hallo, how are you, nice day

Naturally, this morning saw the No-Dead-Weight Irregulars — Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), Old Rob (a.k.a. Old Rob), and Old Rodan (a.k.a. me) — getting together for a geocaching outing in Cary, over near Raleigh. We hiked the Hatcher Creek Greenway for several miles, picked up a few caches in other random, nearby areas, and had a dynamite Mexican lunch at Mi Cancun restaurant — literally, some of the best Mexican food I’ve had in ages (street tacos with very hot & spicy chicken for me). There are plenty of caches left in the area to bring us back, so I suspect we will venture to Cary again in the near future for, hopefully, an equally enjoyable encore.

I anticipate the usual work week coming up, but potential stumbling blocks with Mom’s estate loom large, all the more frustrating because they’re neither of my making nor under my control. But if the worst happens, it’s going to add yet more complications to this endlessly complicated ordeal. It is altogether frustrating and unpleasant. I really, truly, cannot wait for this mess to end. To add insult to injury, I have been summoned for jury duty next month. What a fooking treat.

Otherwise, life is.
The No-Dead-Weight Irregulars meet an angel in a graveyard in Cary
Long, elevated boardwalk on the Hatcher Creek Greenway in Cary

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Bill Vickers — Unforgettable

The relentless parade of death marches on, this week taking my favorite and most memorable teacher from my school days. William (Bill) D. Vickers was my tenth grade biology teacher at Martinsville High School (1974–1975), and I consider him among the most positive influences on my life — maybe the most, outside of my immediate family. Mr. V. was, first and foremost, a likable, well-spoken gentleman who showed respect to everyone — even when some of us scarcely deserved it. He didn’t tolerate any guff, but his personality was such that even the worst of us didn’t want to give him any guff.

In class, Mr. V. gave us all nicknames. I was Polo (you know, as in Marco). We had Sir Slab, Ms. Red Nose, Jaypee, Bonneville, and all kinds of other colorful names. In later years, he called my brother “Mark” — not after me, but after comedian Mark Russell, whom he said Phred favored.

Now, I can’t say as I remember shit about Gregor Mendel or the phylogenetic tree of life or the finer points of natural selection. But I clearly remember the labs where we evaluated the merits of evolution vs. scientific creationism (because in those days you could do this without setting off a holy war); debated whether marijuana should be legalized (and to what degree, be it medicinal or in general); and analyzed current social issues (such as whether we favored busing students to distant schools to fulfill integration quotas). Of course, we did actually study the more traditional aspects of biology, and to reinforce our learning, we regularly played games, such as Chalk Talks, which made the subject fun and, above all, memorable.

Later, when Mr. V. became interim principal at the high school, I would on occasion drop in to say hi, and he’d take time out of his busy day just to shoot the shit for a while. One day in the late 1980s, when I was living in Chicago but visiting Martinsville, I saw him coming out of church as I drove past. I stopped the car, we started talking, and that went on and on for some ungodly spell. Again, I’m sure he had other things to do, places to be, and people to see, but he never short-changed anyone his time.

I believe the last time I saw him was in the early 2000s, when his daughter was babysitting for friends Joe and Suzy. When he came to pick her up, once again, we ended up deep in conversation for a ridiculously long spell.

Martinsville Bulletin writer Holly Kozelsky interviewed me earlier today about Mr. V., and she did a bang-up job getting a lovely profile written and on the site in just a few hours. Here’s the link:

Peacemaker Bill Vickers: What He Did Was He Listened

I just wish I had been able to see Mr. V. again before it was too late. At least during those encounters with him after high school, I let him how in no uncertain terms how profoundly he had influenced my life. (I’m still working on those life lessons about showing respect to people who I calculate don’t rate any.) I trust there were many, many folks within his sphere of influence who share my better sentiments.