Since we've been
away for a few months, we're avoiding a list theme and just present
13 things that have gotten us through the winter doldrums. They
aren't recent things, necessarily, but we hope at least a few
will be new to you.
1- Best New Show: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles- Based on the movie series starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a (sometimes killer) cyborg from the future sent to alter the destinies of Sarah Connor and her son, John, who will become a leader of humanity and ultimately destroy the cyborg race. Arnold doesn't appear in the series, nor any of the other actors from the films, but the recasting takes nothing away from the story, which involves the Connor family trying to survive long enough to change the future and John growing from sullen child to leader of humanity. The series is on break now, but you can download episodes at the Fox website:
2- Most Useful Website: Wikipedia- Yes, this site has been around for awhile now, but this past year it came to dominance as the go-to site for anything you could possibly want to know. Who directed Deliverance? How many episodes did they make of Danger Mouse? What legislation has Barack Obama sponsored in Congress? What is a cravat, exactly, and what does it look like? All of these questions have been answered in the past week here at the Patient Creatures crypt by checking Wikipedia. Of course, Wikipedia has taken criticism on its reliability, but they address that [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikipedia ]
3- Favorite Film Nominated for Best Picture: Juno- We admit, this film charmed us. The story of Juno, a pregnant high-schooler who decides to place her child for adoption sounds like an after-school special, but this film, like life, is more complicated than that. Newcomer Ellen Page is terrific as Juno, but also the supporting cast, mostly television veterans including J.K. Simmons (Oz), Allison Janney (The West Wing), Jason Bateman and Michael Cera (both of Arrested Development), and especially Jennifer Garner (Alias), who gave a nuanced and touching performance as adoptive mom Vanessa. The film comes out on DVD April 15th.
4- Favorite Cult Show (current): Dexter- The second season of this Showtime (cable) series just ended in December, and fans are clambering for its release to iTunes and DVD. It stars Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under) as Dexter Morgan, a psychopathic serial killer who only kills other serial killers while hiding his double life from his sister, who works the homicide division of the police force, and his girlfriend, a domestic-abuse victim. It sounds a little crazy, and it is, but Hall makes it work in an unblinking performance that never makes excuses. Recently CBS has been running truncated versions of the first season to fill programming left vacant by the writers' strike, so if you aren't sure it's for you, this isn't a bad place to start.
5- Favorite Cult Show (future): Breaking Bad- Mark our words, when this show comes out on DVD, everyone will start mobbing the IMDB.com boards demanding to know when new episodes will be available. Created by X-Files co-producer Vince Gilligan, this black comedy-drama stars Bryan Cranston (the dad from Malcolm in the Middle) in a darkly dramatic turn as a high-school chemistry teacher who turns to producing high grade meth after he is diagnosed with lung cancer. Did we say it was black comedy? Readers, it's practically ultraviolet. It's been compared to the Coen Brothers (Fargo; No Country for Old Men) and we agree. And our Mad Scientist buddy Julio Gordito tells us the chemistry is dead on, too. Catch it now and be ahead of the trend.
6- Favorite Public Appearance: Blobfest- We were at the very first one in 2001, which consisted of a screening of the film at the Colonial Theater, and it's since grown to weekend-long event with live music, a short film contest, and hundreds of attendees. It may not be the biggest, it may not have the best stars, but it's a great family day out, which is why we love it the best.
7- Best Shopping Site: Etsy.com- This site was started as a way for people who sew, paint, concoct, or otherwise create handmade items to sell their goods online. If you're looking to outfit your home (or yourself) with truly unique items at surprisingly affordable prices, check this site out. Or, if you're a crafter yourself, get inspired by some of the thousands of items.
8- Best Documentary of 2007: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters- An unassuming little film about the little-known world of competitive video gaming, this ends up being a fascinating profile of two of the top competitors in the 80s video game classic, Donkey Kong. Even if you know nothing about the subject, the film is eminently watchable, mostly due to the compelling personalities of its two subjects. Rumor has it there's a fictional version of the story in the works, but the documentary is amazing on its own. Rent it now and be convinced.
9- Best Show to Catch on DVD: Doctor Who (2005-present series)- Okay, imagine this: You have a show you loved as a kid. Watched every episode you could find, loved everything about it. It ran a long time, but was eventually cancelled. Videos slowly become available, but as you get older, the show isn't holding up as well for you. You realize it really was a kids' show, and though it still has the power to charm, it's more of a nostalgia trip. Then, the show is revived. As a series for adults. With cool special effects and faster-paced storylines. And suddenly it's totally awesome all over again. That's the experience of Doctor Who fans, who have seen their beloved Doctor launch his TARDIS into time and space once again. The show does run sporadically on BBC America and the Sci-Fi Channel, but DVD is the best way to catch every episode. Even if you weren't a fan back in the day, it's easy to get back to speed.
10- Favorite Podcast: The Greatest Movie Ever- Hosted by Paul Chapman (aka The Almighty Gooberzilla) who is joined by a rotating roster of co-hosts which include long-time friends, other podcasters, and occasionally his mother, features a different movie each week and tries to make the case for why it is the "Greatest." Of course, he means that ironically most of the time, but that's the fun of it. This podcast reminds us of our own conversations with geek-minded friends about movies we love and love to hate, and why even utter dreck has the occasional redeeming scene. The episodes range over several decade, from new classics (The Karate Kid) to recent cult films (D-War) but presented in such a chatty way that even if you aren't familiar with the film, the podcast is still fun. Also available free at iTunes.
11- Best Comic Book: Fables- Here's the basic story: Fairy tales are real, and the characters in them live in magical lands not far from our own. A few hundred years ago, one of their own began to conquer these lands, forcing hundreds of these "fables" to flee their homelands and become refugees in our world. Now they live in a New York City neighborhood called Fabletown, where Old King Cole is mayor, Snow White is deputy mayor, and the Big Bad Wolf (who can take human form) is the sheriff. Currently running 75 issues, the first 59 of which are compiled into graphic novels, the story has become a rich and complex commentary on modern politics and society.
12- Best Advice: Thou Shalt Always Kill by Dan le Sac vs. Scroobious Pip- "Kill" in this song refers to killing on stage, or performing amazingly well. But the single also offers other valuable tips, such as "thou shalt not stop liking a band just because they've become popular" and "thou shalt not wish your girlfriend was a freak like me." And most importantly, "thou shalt think for yourselves." See the video on YouTube.
13- Charity You Need to Support Right Now: RIF- President Bush wants to eliminate funding to this organization, which gives away books to at-risk youth. Read Sparks to find out more and how you can write to your congressman and show your support.
Christmas is a wonderful time to get together with friends and family and share a meal. Here at the crypt, we start baking days beforehand, and end up feasting right through the New Year. It's also the time of year when the European contingent of our little band finds themselves craving the food they were raised on, and bringing out the traditional recipes.
So, with that in
mind, we present 13 dishes for the season, however you celebrate:
1- Traditional Irish Breakfast
thick slices bacon
butter or margarine
soda bread and scones
honey and preserves
freshly made tea
Lay the bacon slices in a single layer in a large skillet. Fry over medium heat until it begins to get tinged with brown. Fry on both sides. Remove from pan, but save grease.
Melt butter in skillet. Crack eggs into pan, being careful not to break yolks. Place tomato slices, mushrooms, and bread in pan. Fry gently, stirring mushrooms and tomatoes occasionally. Spoon the hot fat over the eggs to set them. Keep everything separate. Turn bread over to brown on both sides.
When eggs are set, dish everything onto warmed plates, and serve immediately with a nice pot of tea.
Tips for Making a Perfect Pot of Tea
To make a good pot of tea, bring freshly-drawn water to a brisk boil. Pour a little boiling water into a 2 pt/ 1 ltr/ 4 cup earthenware teapot to warm it, then empty the water out. Using good quality tea, put 3-5 teaspoons, according to taste, into the warmed pot. Bring the water back to the boil and pour on immediately. Cover the pot with a tea-cosy and allow to brew for 5 minutes - any shorter and the flavour will not have developed, any longer and the tannin will start to come out, making the tea taste stewed. For the same reason, boiling water should be used to make the tea but the brew should not subsequently be boiled.
2- Moira's Irish Soda Bread
· 3 cups all-purpose
· 1 Tablespoon baking powder
· 1/3 cup white sugar
· 1 tsp. salt
· 1 tsp. baking soda
· 1 egg, slightly beaten
· 2 cups buttermilk
· 1/4 cup margarine, melted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan.
Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Blend egg and buttermilk together, and add all at once to flour mixture. Mix until just moistened and add butter. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the bread comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Wrap in foil for several hours, or overnight for best flavor.
3- Grim's Wassail
· 1 cup water
· pinch of nutmeg
· pinch of mace
· 3 cloves
· ½ tsp. ground allspice
· 1 tsp. powdered ginger
· 1 stick cinnamon
· 4 bottles good red wine
· 1 dozen eggs, separated
· 1 dozen apples
First, bake the apples in a 325 degree oven until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Boil water while adding spices. Remove from heat, cool, and boil again. Place wine in large pan over low heat, and add spiced water.
Beat the egg yolks and whites separately, then mix them together. Place this mixture in the punch bowl, and pour in the heated wine, beating constantly. Don't pour in the hot wine too fast, or the frothy consistency will be lost.
Cut the hot apples in half, add them to the punch bowl, and 'Wassail' to you all.
4- Kuzibah's Party Eggnog
· 1 pint brandy
· ½ pint rye whiskey
· 4 oz. sherry
· 4 oz. rum
· 1 dozen eggs, separated
· ¾ cup sugar
· 1 qt. Milk
· 1 qt. Cream
Combine liquors. Beat egg yolks in a large bowl until thick, then beat in sugar, Gradually add liquor, then milk and cream while continuing to beat. Beat egg whites to stiff, not dry, peaks; fold into liquid mixture. Threaten the kitchen staff if they start to complain about all this egg beating. Cover and refrigerate at least five days before serving.
5- Mrs. Grim's Secret Hot Cocoa Recipe
· 2 to 3 oz.
milk chocolate (12-18 kisses)
· 1 tsp. butter
· ¼ tsp. vanilla
· 1 cup half-and-half or cream
In a double boiler combine chocolate, butter, and vanilla. Stir together until completely melted and smooth. Add cream slowly, incorporating gradually as it heats, but do not boil. Serve with those little marshmallows Grim likes, if desired, and garnish with a dash of nutmeg.
6- Moira's Irish Coffee
· 1 Tbsp. sugar
· 1 Tbsp. Lemon juice
· ¼ cup Whiskey (a good Irish one)
· 2 Tbsp. Coffee liqueur (Kahlua)
· 1 ½ cups strong coffee (don't skimp here and get cheap coffee. Get a good, freshly ground brand.)
· ¼ cup whipped cream
Sprinkle sugar onto a plate; pour lemon juice into a small, shallow dish. Dip rims of four 4-oz. flameproof goblets or narrow coffee cups into lemon juice and then into sugar so that sugar adheres to rims of goblets; set goblets aside.
In a small saucepan combine whiskey and liqueur and cook over medium heat until mixture is heated through (do not boil). Pour ¼ of each mixture into each prepared goblet; add ¼ of the coffee to each portion and top with 1 Tbsp. Whipped cream.
Serve immediately. Serves 4.
7- Honey Roasted Chicken with Fruit Stuffing
· 1 Tbs. olive
· 2 cloves garlic; minced
· ½ tsp. paprika
· ½ tsp. salt
· ¼ tsp. pepper
· 1 grated zest of 1 orange
· 1 grated zest of 1 lemon
· 1 broiler-fryer; 4 1/2 to 5-lb. (*you* can get one at the supermarket)
· 4 oz dried prunes
· 4 oz dried apricots
· 1 c fruity white wine
· 1 tart apple; peeled, thinly-sliced
· 1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary
· ¼ cup honey
Combine oil, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper,, orange and lemon zest. Rub over chicken, inside and out. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning once or twice.
Soak prunes and apricots in wine until plump. Drain, reserving wine. Mix dried fruit with apples and rosemary. Stuff chicken with fruit mixture and truss. Brush skin all over with honey.
Place chicken breast up in roasting pan just large enough to hold bird. Roast at 425 degrees for l5 minutes. Turn over, brush with honey, and roast l5 minutes longer. Remove from pan and pour off drippings. Place any leftover fruit and reserved wine in pan; top with chicken, breast up.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast for 1 1/4 hours, or until brown and crisp, basting occasionally. Cover with foil if browning too fast. Remove chicken to a platter; let stand l0 minutes. Slice and serve with fruit and gravy.
8- Corn Bread Stuffing
· 1 (16 oz.)
pkg. Dry corn bread mix
· 2 Tbsp. Butter
· ½ cup chopped celery
· 1 small onion
· 2 eggs, beaten
· 2 cups chicken stock
· 2 Tbsp. Dried sage
· salt and pepper to taste
1- Prepare the dry
corn bread mix according to package directions. Cool and crumble.
2- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 9x13 inch baking dish.
3- In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the celery and onion until soft.
4- In a large bowl, combine the celery, onions, 3 cups crumbled corn bread, eggs, chicken stock, sage and salt and pepper to taste; mix well.
5- Place into prepared dish and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.
9- Spike's Risotto
· 4 tbsp. unsalted
· 2 tbsp. olive oil
· 2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
· 3 portabella mushrooms, sliced
· 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
· 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
· 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
· 5 to 6 cups chicken stock, simmering on stove
· 1/2 cup dry white wine
· 1/2 cup chopped shallots
· 1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
Heat 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil in skillet over moderate heat; add sliced portabellas and cook for approximately 10 minutes, until they are soft. Salt and pepper to taste. Chop portabellas and the rehydrated porcinis into fine pieces. Set aside.
Heat remaining butter and oil in large skillet over moderate heat. Add shallots and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add rice to the shallots and stir for 1 minute, making sure all rice gets coated. Add wine and stir until it is completely absorbed.
Begin adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, but stirring frequently; wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup. Reserve 1/4 cup to add at the end. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. After approximately 20 minutes, when the rice is tender but firm, add reserved stock and chopped mushrooms, mascarpone, Parmesan and parsley. Stir until the cheeses are melted and combined with the rice. Serve immediately.
10- Beggars in Rum
· 1 ½
cups (12 oz.) pitted prunes
· 1 cup golden raisins
· 1 ½ cups (8 oz.) dried figs
· 1 cup (6 oz.) dried apricots
· 1 cup dark raisins
· 1 1/3 cups Rum
· 1 1/3 cups water
· 1 cup sugar
In each of 3 wide-mouth, 1-pint jars, layer 1/3 of the prunes, golden raisins, figs, apricots, and dark raisins. Should make a nice stripy pattern. Add 1/3 cup of rum to each. In a saucepan, mix water and sugar; bring to a boil over high heat. Pour hot syrup into each jar; fill to within ½-inch of the top. Cover; let stand until fruits are plump, at least 1 week. Check after two days; if fruit is dry on top, add rum to cover. Serve, or store in a dark, cool place up to 2 months. A jar or two of this makes a good homemade gift.
11- Leftover Turkey Divan
4 t butter
2 t flour
1 c cream
2 c diced turkey
4 spears broccoli, sliced lengthwise
1/2 t mixed vegetable seasoning
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated
In a sauce pan, melt butter and gradually stir in flour to make a smooth paste. Slowly add cream and whisk until smooth. Place turkey in baking dish, alternating with layers of broccoli spears. Pour sauce over all and sprinkle on vegetable seasoning. Top with Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes; cheese will be bubbling and slightly browned.
12- Baked Winter Pears
6 fresh bartlett pears
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon orange zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Core pears and remove skin halfway down. Combine brown sugar, walnuts and butter. Fill center of each pear with mixture. Place pears in a square baking pan. Pour juice over pears and sprinkle with lemon and orange zest. Bake 1 hour. Baste occassionally.
13- Irish Christmas Cake
· ¾ cup
· ½ cup sugar
· 3 large eggs
· 2 cups flour
· ¾ tsp. Baking powder
· ½ cup Whiskey (Old Bushmills, Jameson's, or similar)
· 1 bottle or can Guinness Stout
· ½ cup honey
· 2 ½ cups raisins
· ½ cup chopped pecans
· ½ cup chopped walnuts
· ½ cup chopped dried fruit (good ones are pears, apricots, pineapple, apples, but not bananas, definitely not coconut, and absolutely none of those sticky green cherries)
· ½ tsp. nutmeg
· 1 tsp. cinnamon
· ½ tsp. ground cloves
Set oven to 275 degrees. Cut a circle of waxed paper and put it in the bottom of a 7 ½ greased cake tin (Danish butter cookie tins work very well). Put the raisins and dried fruit in a bowl, and pour whiskey and stout over them.
In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together, and then add the eggs, one at a time, beating briskly. Blend flour and baking powder and sift over creamed butter and sugar. Mix well. Strain the fruit with a slotted spoon and stir it into the mixture.
Add the nuts, spices, and honey and blend well.
Pour the batter into the greased cake-tin, smooth the top with a spatula. Set the tin in the oven and bake for about two hours or until the cake is nicely browned on top.
used to stick a knitting needle into the cake to see if it was
done, but you can use a knife or a metal skewer. If the needle
comes out clean, then the cake is ready. Let it cool before taking
it out of the tin. Pour some more whiskey over it, wrap it tightly
in foil, and refrigerate until it's ready to be served. At that
time, pour a little more whiskey over it, if you desire, let it
soak in, then slice and serve. (If you don't drink, you can skip
the added whiskey- it's still delicious without.) A little whipped
cream won't hurt the taste any, and a glass of Irish coffee is
the perfect accompaniment.
Happy Halloween! This month we direct you to thirteen places, festivals, and attractions that will haunt you pleasantly this season. Enjoy!
Happenings, Entire month of October,
Salem, Mass.- The site of the infamous witch trials of the late-17th
century has embraced its dark heritage in a big way, hosting a
month's worth of performances, contests, and costumed balls. A
number of the events require advance registration, so be sure
to check out the website:
2- Knotts "Scary Farm," Entire month of October, Buena Park, Calif.- Now in its 35th year, he original haunted theme park is open most nights during the month. The entire park is transformed for this event, turning the normally gentle attractions into high-intensity gauntlets of terror.
3- Terror Behind the Walls, Entire month of October, Eastern State Penitentiary, Phila. Penn.- Staged in a real former prison, we're told this event is absolutely terrifying, as much for the rumors of real hauntings within as for the excellent performers.
4- New Orleans Cemetery Tours, All year, New Orleans, Louisiana- NOLa's famous "Cities of the Dead" are one of the country's great tourist attractions, and at Halloween walking tours of the unique above-ground sarcophagi are more popular than ever. Hit Google to compare the dozens of tour companies offering them.
5- Keene Pumpkin Festival, Oct. 20th, Keene, New Hampshire- This celebration is all about the jolly Jack-O-Lanterns. Almost 25,000 of them at last year's event, in fact, all of them carved and illuminated. An impressive sight to say the least. The festival also features a costume parade and fireworks.
6- Fright Dome at Circus Circus, Las Vegas, Nev.- Sin City's trippiest hotel-casino turns its already bizarre midway image up to eleven with creepy clowns, a weird wax museum, and a frightening freak show. And the entry fee also includes the rides and other attractions.
7- The Queen Mary Shipwreck, Weekends in October, Long Beach, Calif.- The historic cruise ship opens its (supposedly) haunted decks to make way for its annual Halloween event. Part haunted attraction, part all-night dance party, they even have packages available to let you spend the night on board in a luxury stateroom.
8- Balloon Manor, Oct. 19-28, Rochester, NY- Not so much scary as totally adorable, this haunted attraction is made entirely of balloon animals... er, monsters. And if you're thinking birthday clowns with limp balloon poodles, think again. Most impressive artistry.
9- Circleville Pumpkin Festival, Oct. 17-20, Circleville, Ohio- This small town hosts a four-day event with carnival rides, live entertainment, and the crowning of "Miss Pumpkin." If you can't make it this year, the organizers have set up a number of webcams that run throughout the event. Visit the website to see more.
10- Winchester Mystery House, All year, San Jose, Calif.- We've mentioned the enormous home with the strange, paranormal history (look it up on Wikipedia if you aren't familiar) but on a few select days a year they open the doors after dark for flashlight tours. Naturally, one of them is Halloween, so now is the perfect time to see a different perspective of the famous haunted home.
11- Netherworld, Entire month of October, Atlanta, Georgia- One of the first "multi-house" attractions in the country, and still considered one of the best. This event has created a lot of innovative effects over the years, so catch their latest creations first.
12- Nightmare: Ghost Stories, Entire month of October, New York City (five locations)- Founded by two theater producers and based around interviews with New Yorkers about what frightens them, this production has the distinction of being the only haunted attraction reviewed in "The New Yorker" magazine (last year, when the theme was phobias.) This year, they polled people about their real-life paranormal experiences to create the haunt.
13- Hauntworld (website)- Okay, so not everyone is able to travel around the country to visit these events, but chances are, there's a great event (or 3 or 7 or more) near you, too. Check out Hauntworld to find haunted attractions by state, with helpful reviews and ratings.
13.5- Extreme Pumpkins (website)- Not an event or an attraction, but if you love Halloween, check out the site for great Jack-O-Lantern inspiration.
As we move towards autumn, and the Patient Creatures' "busy season," our friend Moira, the screaming banshee, has been busier than most. In fact, her extensive travels have prevented her from appearing as often as she would like. But she has been quite good about sending us snapshots of her trips, so we'd like present them as part of our very first contest for our readers! Contest is now complete-- Do not send entries!
See the correct answers below:
Thanks to everyone
1- For our very youngest friends, the
ones who still have to be read to, Kuzibah would like to recommend
the series of picture books by Leslie Patricelli featuring a nameless
baby and his (or her?) adventures with opposites (Yummy Yucky,
Quiet Loud) and Binky and Blankie. The stories
are simple enough for toddlers, and the pictures are witty enough
to keep adults entertained.
2- Bill (of The West Coast Review) suggests A Boy of Good Breeding by Miriam Toews. "Not a biography of me, just to clarify," he says. It is about the people and goings-on in the smallest town in Canada, focusing on its mayor, Hosea Funk, who may (or may not) be the illegitimate son of the Prime Minister. An excellent sense of place presented in a perfect balance of whimsy and sadness, with the author not getting pushy about either.
3- Appropriately enough, Bill is also working through a multi-volume history of California and its place in the American popular imagination by Kevin Starr. Americans and the California Dream is the first volume. He says it has "excellent use of defining historical anecdotes and great empathy for all the players, large and small."
4- Mo in the Boston area recommends I Am The Messenger, by Markus Zusak. It's about Ed, a teenage cabdriver who foils a bank robbery and finds himself caught up in a much larger mystery, saving people from harm after receiving cryptic messages on playing cards.
5- The Planets, by Dava Sobel. This is a series of essays, each inspired by a planet or other body in our solar system, wtriteen from many points-of-view and in differing tones. Recommended by Stephanie in the Boston area.
6- Guislaine in Montreal recommends The Education of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter. This modern classic is the story of a young boy who is raised by his full Cherokee grandmother and his half Cherokee grandfather in their small mountain home during the depression.
7- Guislaine also recommends Seventh Son, by Orson Scott Card. The story of the seventh son of a seventh son, it is set in an alternate early 19th century America, where folk magic really exists.
8- The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy, follows a tribe of elephants and the struggle to live in a dangerous world. Rinna Delenn compares this novel toWatership Down and says if you liked that book and/or like elephants, this is a book you'll love.
9- Shannon in Utah and El Jefe in Western PA recommend Anything by Terry Pratchett! Specifically The Wee Free Men and its series (Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith.) And you can never go wrong with Good Omens.
10- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. Erin in the Washington, D.C. area says, "the narrator is blind to some of his own (major) shortcomings, but on the whole it is a sensitive meditation on a life thoughtfully lived."
11- Pretty much anything by Jennifer Weiner (Good In Bed, In Her Shoes, etc.). Although they may be for a slightly more mature audience, because they have a lot of sexual subtext. I love the way she writes and the fact that they are set in Philadelphia. (Recommended by Sharon in the Philadelphia area.)
12- Our friend, author Robert Dunbar (The Pines) submitted a whole list of books he's enjoyed recently: To Walk the Night by William Sloane; Songmaster by
Orson Scott Card; Suspicious River
by Laura Kasichke; Milk by Darcey Steinke; The Secret
History by Donna Tart; The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich;
and Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald.
13- And our own Grim Reaper suggests I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov. Ever wonder where today's robots (real and fictional) got their personalities? Right here. The Hollywood version touched on many of the ideas and themes, but it couldn't touch the heart of this short story collection. One of the best ever. See also: The Rest of the Robots, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn.
Hey there, 13-List-fans! Spike here
(of Sparks, way off in the Conclave ghetto.) As those of you who
read my column know, I'm a fan of anime (Japanese animation),
as well as animation in general, so I was asked to
together compile a "beginner's list" for those
of you out there who think the art of animation begins and ends
with the latest Disney extravaganza.
Now, I should warn you, most of these selections are NOT for small children. Some are very violent, or contain mature themes, or are just plain bizarre. But if you're over 15 and miss the days of chilling in front of the TV watching cartoons, you may want to check these out.
Incidentally, this is probably not
my definititive list, but I wanted to stick to stuff that's (fairly)
easy to find, either on video, or, in some cases, on Cartoon Network.
1- Cowboy Bebop: If you think cartoons=unsophisticated kids' stuff, then introduce yourself to the seminal anime series "Cowboy Bebop." A space-age epic following the misadventures of two bounty hunters, Jet Black and Spike Spiegel, and a supporting cast that includes con-woman Faye Valentine, crazy kid-genius Edward, and Welsh Corgi, Ein. The animation is excellent, the stories are adult, and the eclectic soundtrack (which plays heavily into the storylines) is by the fabulous Yoko Kanno. (Series available on DVD, and it often turns up on Cartoon Network's adult swim block.)
2- Akira: Probably the most influential anime of the last 25 years, this ultra-violent dystopia set in a near-future version of Tokyo may be the definitive cyberpunk document. Definitely NOT for the kids, but worth watching for the eye-popping animation and the brain-twisting plot. (Available on DVD.)
3- My Neighbor Totoro: Although this story about two sisters who move to a rural town with their father while their mother recovers from a mysterious illness, and where they discover mysterious and magical creatures that only they can see, IS alright for kids, there are charms for open-minded older folk, as well. An early feature by anime master Hiyao Miyazaki, this was HUGELY popular in Japan, and Totoro merchandise is widely available there today. (Available on DVD.)
4- Grave of the Fireflies: When this grimly realistic and, frankly, depressing film premiered in Japan, it was part of a double feature with "My Neighbor Totoro." But two more dissimilar films are hard to imagine. Grave of the Fireflies tells the story of orphaned siblings in post-WWII Japan, and it is as beautiful and heartbreaking as any live-action on the subject. Maybe more so. (Available on DVD.)
5- Castle of Cagliostro: Part of the popular TV and movie series "Lupin the 3rd," about a charming international master thief and his cohorts, this entry from director Hiyao Miyazaki (see above) stands very well on its own. Lushly animated, with clever sight gags and thrilling action scenes, it's a nice introduction to the series. (Available on DVD.)
6- Batman: The Animated Series: Not strictly anime, but definitely made with that sensibility, this series ran on Fox and The WB for awhile in the '90s, then on Cartoon Network. It's dark, gritty, and makes the most of its limited-animation budget. The half-dozen follow-up movies are better written (and acted, in some cases) than the live-action features, and a follow-up series, "Batman: Beyond" is also pretty awesome. (Available on DVD.)
7- Samurai Champloo: Owing as much to the culture of hip-hop as the culture of the Edo period, this limited series from the creators of Cowboy Bebop (see above) follows the misadventures of the ditzy Fuu and her two Samurai companions, hot-headed Mugan and strong, silent Jin. With dizzyingly animated fight sequences, and increasingly complex characterizations, this may be the first salvo in the future of anime. We can hope, anyway. (Available on DVD and also shown frequently on adult swim.)
8- Paranoia Agent: A bizarre, hallucinatory series about a string of attacks by a mysterious assailant nicknamed "Lil' Slugger" and the people affected by them. Who is Lil' Slugger? What links his seemingly random victims? How many times will you have to watch this series until you start to figure it out? (Answer: At least twice.) (Available on DVD and also shown frequently on adult swim.)
9- Ghost in the Shell: The next big cyberpunk anime after Akira, this film focuses on a special police unit in the future, where cybernetic bodies are commonplace, and specifically a female officer who is almost entirely cyber. As much a meditation on the nature of identity and humanity as an action film, it spawned a sequel and a TV series of the same name. (Available on DVD and the series shows up on adult swim.)
10- The Iron Giant: After working on "The Simpsons" but before writing and directing the award-winning Pixar film, The Incredibles, Brad Bird directed this traditionally-animated film about the friendship between a Cold-War-Era boy and a giant killer robot from outer space. This film never got the attention it deserved, in my opinion, but definitely check it out. (Available on DVD, often at very low prices. I saw it at Wal-Mart recently for about 9 bucks.)
11- Spirited Away: I could probably make a whole list with nothing but Hiyao Miyazaki projects (see above,) but this is his masterpiece. A fairy-tale of a young girl pulled into a dangerous and magical world, where she must use her bravery and wits to restore her parents to human form and return home. This is probably okay for kids over about eight, but lots of fun for adults, too. (Available on DVD and shows up occasionally on Cartoon Network. But seriously, get the DVD.)
12- Full Metal Alchemist: The story of brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric, in a world where alchemy supplanted science. An early mishap has left Ed disabled and Al's psyche secured inside a suit of armor, so now they wander their world, searching for the mythical Philosopher's Stone, which will restore their bodies. It sounds complicated, and it is, and sometimes I was amazed that a show so horrifying and heartbreaking could run on basic cable, but do check it out. Incidentally, this is varsity-level anime: catch it from episode 1, and don't miss any episodes, or you'll be totally lost. (Available on DVD and also shown frequently on adult swim.)
13- Samurai Jack: From the startingly
original animator Genndy Tartakovsky, it's the story of the epic
battle between the master Samurai and the evil demon Aku. This
show references everything from Walt Disney to Frank Miller, and
draws graphic inspiration from not just anime, but from French
and Russian influences. It is, without qualification, the greatest
show ever produced by Cartoon Network. Naturally, it was doomed.
(Available on DVD or you can download samples for free at Toonami Jetstream.)
As a celebration of April Fool's Day, and in conjuction with Kuzibah's examination of cons in True Ghost Stories, we here at the 13 List would like to present the 13 greatest hoaxes, knowing tricks designed to fool a gullible public:
1- The Switzerland Spaghetti Harvest: The British media has a long and colorful tradition of April Fool's reports every April first, but the 1957 TV feature on the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest, which showed families gathering the "crop" from trees, fooled more than usual. Since pasta was still uncommon in England at the time, most people didn't know it was made, not grown, and the BBC received hundreds of phone calls inquiring about the cultivation. See the video below:
2- War of the Worlds: On Halloween night, 1938, Orsen Welles's Mercury Theater of the Air presented an adaptation of H.G. Welles's War of the Worlds. The broadcast was written to resemble a radio news bulletin, even including a music show to be "interrupted" by the reports of explosions visible on the surface of Mars and of a flying saucer landing in New Jersey. The program fooled listeners across the nation into believing we were under attack by Martians. Although Orsen Welles always denied any intention of a hoax, other members of his theater company have confessed that he did have that idea in mind.
3- The Cottingly Fairies: A series of five photographs, taken between 1917 and 1920 by two cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, which purport to show actual fairies interacting with the girls. The photos even fooled Sir Authur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, who had them published in the eminent magazine The Strand, and later wrote a book about his belief on fairies. The photos were examined by several photography experts at the time, and were widely regarded as genuine. In 1981, the cousins admitted in an interview that at least some of the photos were faked with paper cut-outs, although Frances always insisted one was genuine, and that they did see fairies as children. http://www.cottingleyconnect.org.uk/fairies.htm
4- Life on the Moon (NY Sun): In August of 1835, the newspaper the N.Y. Sun ran a series of articles describing life on the moon that had recently been discovered and observed through a powerful new telescope by Sir John Herschel, a leading astronomer at the time. The articles described, in detail, the fantastic creatures living there, accompanied by drawings. The paper's editor later admitted to the hoax. Read more here, and find links to the original articles.
5- Cardiff Giant: A ten-foot tall "pertrified man" that was allegedly found in Cardiff, NY, during a well-digging. The discovery became a sensation, and P.T. Barnum tried to buy or rent it for display. Failing this, he had a copy made, and then displayed this copy as the genuine thing, claiming the original owner was in possession of the "fake." The entire affair ended up in court, the original hoaxer confessed, and both giants were declared fake. Both versions remain on display at museums.
6- Alien Autopsy: In the 1990s, a video surfaced that purported to show "secret footage" of the medical examination of a small, gray-skinned homonid with small black eyes, no nose, and a tiny mouth. The promoter of the film claimed it had been taken at Roswell shortly after the 1947 UFO sightings there. The footage was widely screened, and the subject of several documentaries. In 2006, the producers admitted the footage was staged, but claimed it was based on authentic footage they had viewed in the early 90s.
7- Loch Ness Monster Photo: Legends of a strange creature that inhabits the murky depths of Loch Ness date back to medieval times, but in 1934, a London surgeon sold a photo to the Daily Mail newspaper that looked like a long-necked beast rising out of the lake. Since the photographer was such a reliable witness, the photo was regarded as the best evidence for the monster for several decades, but in the mid-90s a friend of the photographer confessed he and several other men had concocted it as an elaborate hoax.
8- Why Cats Paint: This absolutely deadpan best-selling book purports to explore the "feline aesthetics" that compel cats to paint with their paws. The copious illustrations, along with convincing commentary and bibliography have led many people over the years to accept the book as true. A recent follow-up, "Why Paint Cats," which examines the supposed custom of dyeing felines in unusual patterns, has found its way into a frequently forwarded email.
9- Richard Bachman: A pseudonym of best-selling author Stephen King, originally conceived as a way for the prolific writer to produce twice as many books per year as was customary at the time. The ruse was fairly elaborate, including an author bio and photographs, and probably would have continued for years had a determined bookstore clerk not pursued his suspicion that King and Bachman were one and the same all the way to the Library of Congress. Once Bachman's true identity was revealed, his death from "cancer of the pseudonym, a rare form of schizonomia" was announced, although another novel, "The Regulators," was released in 1996, "post-mortem." Interestingly, Stephen King's son, Joe Hill King, has recently revealed that he has been publishing under a pseudonym for a decade to avoid being identified as a member of the King family.
10- Feejee Mermaid: A common "gaffe" featured in sideshows, starting with P.T. Barnum, the "mermaid" is actually made by grafting the tail of a fish to the upper body of a monkey, producing a grotesque mummy. Although it is now known that the mermaid is a fake, early examples of them are considered collectors items.
11- Princess Caraboo: In 1817, a young woman wearing exotic clothing and speaking an unknown language was found wandering disoriented in Gloucestershire, England. Her habits and diet were also unusual. Over the next several weeks, she identified herself as Princess Caraboo of the island of Javasu, kidnapped by pirates and transported to England, where she at last managed to escape. She enjoyed the hospitality and noteriety accorded to visiting royalty for some time, until at last her picture in the newspaper was recognized and she was revealed as Mary Baker, an imposter.
12- "The Turk": First presented in 1770, this was an automaton that resembled the torso, arms, and head of a bearded man in oriental dress atop a table with a chessboard. Underneath was a cabinet housing elaborate machinery and clockwork. The machine was nicknamed "The Turk" and toured Europe challenging noted people to games of chess, which it won, more often than not. In was only a century later, after the device had been lost to fire, that the secret was revealed: the machine actually concealed a person inside who played the games.
13- The Northwest Tree Octopus: A good example of a modern internet hoax, this website asks readers to join efforts to save the endangered "tree octopus," a supposedly amphibious species found in the Pacific Northwest, where it lives among tree branches. Although the idea is outlandish, the polished website and clever photo composites have convinced at least a few other sites, although it's possible they're in on the joke as well. Learn more about this majestic species here: Save the Tree Octopus
So far, it looks like 2007 is going to be a big year for genre fans, including the highly anticipated releases of the final Harry Potter book AND the next Harry Potter movie, Spider-Man 3, 28 Weeks Later, Pirates 3, Shrek 3, the Silver Surfer movie, a big-screen treatments of Nancy Drew, The Simpsons, and Transformers, and a film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Stardust.
But what about those highly-anticipated projects stuck in creative limbo. The movies that just can't work out a screenplay, or find the right director or cast. The ones where the fans have been hearing all sorts of rumors, sometimes for years, but which somehow never get off the ground. Or the shows that SHOULD have a DVD boxed set available, but just can't seem to work things out.
This month, we present the 13 projects we'd most like to see the light of day, and the latest internet rumors on their status.
1- The Justice League Movie- It's the ultimate comic-book film: Superman AND Batman, along with as many other superheroes as can be managed. In fact, it was planned that a Superman/Batman movie called World's Finest would be shot concurrently with Superman Returns and Batman Begins, and marketed as a trilogy, but while the World's Finest script languished, the other two were developed and filmed seperately. Now Wonder Woman and Flash movies are in development, and interest in bringing Justice League to the big screen is reportedly on the rise.
2- Indiana Jones 4- Lucas and Spielberg have said they always planned at least one more installment of the series starring Harrison Ford, and over the years scriptwriters Frank Darabont ("Shawshank Redeption,") Tom Stoppard ("Rosencrantz & Gildenstern Are Dead,") and M. Night Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense") have all been attached at one point or another. Now it appears David Koepp ("Jurassic Park") has delivered a workable script, and the project is scheduled to begin filming this Summer for a 2008 release.
3- Buffy TV Movies- Even after seven seasons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's cancellation in 2003, and the cancellation of spinoff Angel in 2004 left many fans wanting more. The show's creator, Joss Whedon, talked for awhile about doing a series of made-for-TV movies, each focusing on a different character's fate, and a number of the actors expressed interest in returning for the project, including Nicholas Brendan ("Xander") and James Marsters ("Spike.") Recently, Whedon declared the project dead, although he and several of the show's writers are involved in a comic series that continues the show's storyline, known informally as "Buffy: Season Eight."
4- The Hobbit- The prequel to the incredibly successful Lord of the Rings trilogy, this project stalled over a financial conflict between the films' director, Peter Jackson, and the production studio, New Line. Although New Line insists it plans to go forward with a different director at the helm, there has been no reported progress on who that might be or any other pre-production announcements. At this point, popular wisdom says all bets are off, and it is just as likely that Jackson will be re-attached to the project at some point.
5- Starfleet Academy- A prequel to the Original Star Trek series, this movie and/or series would focus on the early careers of James T. (later Captain) Kirk and his first officer and best friend, Spock. Rumored casting possibilities include Ethan Hawke or Matt Damon as Kirk and John Cusack as Spock, but right now the project is highly speculative.
6- Hellboy II- Guillermo del Toro, director of the first Hellboy (based on the comic book of the same name) has expressed strong interest in doing this sequel, but the original studio, Sony, felt it wasn't profitable enough, and sold the sequel rights to Universal. Now with del Toro coming off the critically-acclaimed Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy 2 is on the fast track and scheduled to begin shooting this spring.
7- Sandman movie- A big-screen treatment of Neil Gaiman's comic book (published 1988-1996) has languished, appropriately perhaps, in limbo for years. Various names and treatments have been attached to the property, including Michael Jackson and Joel Schumacher, and a version that would have the supernatural characters played by puppets. The general concensus among fans now is that the project is unfilmable, and will have to exist only on the printed page.
8- The Watchmen- Another comic book project long considered unfilmable is Alan Moore's superhero epic, The Watchmen, although director Terry Gilliam ("Brazil") reported worked on it for years. In recent years, Darren Aronofsky ("Pi") and James McTeigue ("V for Vendetta," also based on a Moore graphic novel) have reportedly expressed interest, and the latest director supposedly attached is Zack Snyder, whose film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic-novel 300 hits screens this month.
9- Muppet Show DVDs- The first season of the international hit "The Muppet Show" was released as a special box set in Summer 2005. The set included lots of special features, and rare and early material. As of this date, however, there has been no announcement of plans to release any of the subsequent seasons.
10- Max Headroom DVDs- The cult favorite and critically-acclaimed TV series seems more ahead of its time every year, as episodes involving reality shows, economic terrorism, and "blipverts" creep ever closer to real life. But as yet, there are no plans to release this series on DVD.
11- Princess Bride musical- Although this film (based on William Goldman's novel) did moderately well in theaters, it was on home video that this film attained classic status as it was rediscovered by families through the 90s. Then, when a number of films began to transition to the Broadway stage, it was announced that Goldman was teaming with Composer Adam Guettel to create a musical version. Since that announcement, however, there has been no further word, although internet fans have kept the hope alive.
12- "The Black Dossier"- Conceived as a companion piece to his comic series "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" Alan Moore, this original graphic novel is (supposedly) an elaborately-designed affair with supplemental maps and other material, as well as a section in 3-D. Though it was originally announced with great fanfare for release in May 2006, the release date has been pushed back three times. As of this writing, it is scheduled for October 2007, but time will tell.
13- Star Wars Holiday Special on DVD-
In November 1978 a two-hour "Holiday Special" featuring
several members of the original cast of Star Wars was aired. The
show is generally considered a low point of the Star Wars phenomenom,
or even the history of television, so it isn't surprising it has
never been released on home video, or even repeated on TV. But
widely available bootlegs let us fantasize about George Lucas
possibly lightening up and releasing a special-edition DVD, complete
with his commentary. But it probably will never happen.
Welcome to February, the month of St. Valentine's Day. A time set aside for hearts, flowers, and l'amour. And a time for the classic date: dinner and movie. But what is the average fan of fantasy and horror to do? Surely the season calls for a movie with romance, but the average rom-com generally has a noted lack of spaceships, monsters, and other things vital to sitting still for two hours, and often has entirely too much Julia Roberts. So, as a service to all the genre fans out there in the dating pool, we offer thirteen suggestions for date movies - movies where the romance is integral, not an afterthought, and the fantasy, sci-fi, and fantasy elements are strong. A word of warning, though: be sure to gauge your significant other's tolerance for these latter elements carefully. You might love one or more of these films, but he or she may hate them. In which case, you might want to reconsider the long-term prospects of the relationship as well
1- Creature from the Black Lagoon: A classic monster movie of the 50s, the romance comes in when the titular gillman, after escaping from the scientists who have captured him, returns to make off with the female research assistant, with whom he has become smitten.
2- Groundhog Day: Mysterious cosmic forces cause a cynical TV weatherman to relive the same day over and over until he figures out how to get the girl. What could have been merely another gimmicky romantic comedy is elevated by Bill Murray's wonderful performance as the man caught in the time loop, and a script that cuts the corn with a nice cynical edge.
3- Shaun of the Dead: Described by its creators as a Rom-Zom-Com(Romantic zombie comedy) this film follows the travails of Shaun as he tries to balance a dead end job, a slobby best pal, and a girlfriend who wants to take their relationship to the next level. Oh, and a plague of zombies. To be sure, this film earns its R rating with some quite graphic gore, but ramp up your tolerance for that sort of thing, and enjoy the charmingly witty performances and clever, quotable script.
4- A Knight's Tale: Not a fantasy, per se, but sure to appeal to the same crowd that goes for wizards and dragons. The hunky Heath Ledger plays a commoner masquerading as royalty so he can compete on the jousting circuit, and ends up wooing a beautiful princess. Put the part of your brain that insists on historical accuracy in "park" (the soundtrack includes rock songs by Queen and David Bowie) and enjoy the humorous script and performances, including Paul Bettany ("The Da Vinci Code") and Alan Tudyk ("Serenity.")
5- Bride of Frankenstein: The original monster romance has Dr. Frankenstein returning to his lab to create the mate his original creature demands. The great director James Whale has done what many consider his best work on this lush expressionistic film, and Elsa Lanchester, in a dual role as the Bride and author Mary Shelley, is luminous. "We belong dead," the creature declares, and romantic hearts break.
6- The Princess Bride: Written by William Goldman ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid") from his novel, this movie found its largest audience on home video and has become a modern classic. The story of the beautiful Buttercup and her beloved Wesley, this adventure tale has swordfights, pirates, an evil prince, chases and traps, all in the pursuit of true love. Tongues are set firmly in cheeks for this one, but it's a charm and delight from beginning to end.
7- King Kong (1933): Apparently too many mysterious creatures out there have a fatal weakness for beautiful girls, as the giant ape Kong succumbs to the charms of the lovely Fay Wray. An object lesson for doomed love, as the closing line notes: "It was beauty killed the beast."
8- Splash: Once, a long time ago in a time we called the 80s, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks teamed up to make, not a plodding quasi-religious thriller, but a romantic fantasy about a sweet schlub (Hanks) who falls in love with a mermaid, played by the gorgeously daffy Daryl Hannah. The sweetness is leavened by a supporting cast that includes John Candy and Eugene Levy, along with a couple dozen NYC "characters."
9- Terminator: Yes, peel away the killer robots and Arnold's monotone acting (is he the perfect android, or what?) and you have the tragic story of a man (Michael Biehn) who travelled from the future to protect the woman (Linda Hamilton) he has come to love from seeing a photograph of her. This screen couple also has a smouldering chemistry, and their scenes together when they're NOT being pursued by the killer machine are touching and poignant.
10- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Director Ang Lee's take on the Hong Kong-style of action film, this film has amazing martial arts sequences, including many where the characters take on superhuman abilities- flying through the air, leaping across rooftops, or balancing on a slender bamboo branch. But the plot also involves two love stories: one between the middle-aged masters who have spent a lifetime deferring their passion, and one between a young noblewoman and a daring highwayman.
11- Spiderman: When student Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes the superhero of the title, he finds that his new secret life may also derail his budding romance with his life-long crush M.J.(Kirsten Dunst.) And his rival for M.J.'s affection just happens to be the son of his arch-enemy, the Green Goblin! The movie also features one of the most memorable kissing scenes in movie history, as M.J. steals a moment with Spiderman as he hangs upside down. In the rain. *Swoon*
12- Ghost: Patrick Swayze returns from the dead to protect his wife, Demi Moore, from the men who murdered him and confess the love he couldn't in life. He is assisted by Whoopi Goldberg, a fake psychic who finds, to her horror, that she can now hear the dead for real. Though the love story is the emphasis here (especially with the famous, and famously imitated "pottery wheel" scene) there is also much to reward the fan of dark fantasy, including a horrific pack of demons animated by cult favorite Mike Jittlov.
13- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless
Mind: Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet star as a couple that undergo
a radical procedure to remove their painful memories of a doomed
love affair. But it is only when their past starts to disappear
that they realize how important it is. This overlooked gem has
found a new life on video, where its dreamlike art direction rewards
The year 2006 is drawing to close, and what an exciting year it was. We launched this very website, which has been a great deal of fun for us, and we hope for you, as well. We made many appearances, and met many more of you than ever before. And we're looking forward to all the exciting things to come in 2007, but for now we'd like to mention some things we'll particularly remember about this year, and things you might want to look out for yourself:
1- Little Miss Sunshine: Probably the most satisfying movie was Little Miss Sunshine, a funny, insightful, and compassionate look at a typically atypical family. (Anyone who's heard Steven Carrell pronounce "Nee-chaw!" when referring to the famous philosopher of the abyss has forever stored away a little aural pleasure bomb.) (From several contributors, but the review written by Bill Wolfe, of The West Coast Review)
2- The Descent: The claustrophobic horror hit from England. The Grim Reaper (of Raves from the Grave) recommends you watch it a dark room with the temperature just a few degrees cooler than normal and wait for the scares to set in.
3- The Prestige: One of two films about the world of stage magic to be released this year (the other, The Illusionist, is also recommended) the twists and turns almost demand a second viewing, yet the story always plays fair. This one had us thinking for days afterward.
4- Battlestar Galactica: I know, I know, we've been hyping this one to death, but seriously, to say it ISN'T the best show on television right now would mean we'd be struck down as liars. This show just gets better and better. We can recommend the associated podcasts at scifi.com, too.
5- Heroes: That said, this is the best NEW show (that's still on the air as of this writing, anyway.) There are a lot of shows out there following the Lost playbook, with intertwined stories that reveal themselves over time. This show does it right. (Suggested by several contributors)
6- Deadwood: The acclaimed HBO series has likely had its final season this year (although there are rumors of planned movies to wrap up the various storylines) but it can't be said it didn't go out at the top of its game. It will be missed. (Suggested by several contributors)
7- Eureka: Unassuming, understated, with a charmingly droll sense of humor, it still managed to create likable characters, interesting familial, work, and community relationships, and conclude its first season with a surprisingly poignant episode. Hope the DVD is out soon. (From Bill Wolfe, The West Coast Review)
8- The Wreckers- Stand Still, Look Pretty (CD) (From Guislaine in Quebec, Canada) The duo of Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp, both singer-songwriters with critically-acclaimed solo work, this pop-country album is a well-crafted collection of songs that seem like you've known them for years.
9- Ryan Adams, The Hardest Part (song): The latest from the singer who gave us the uplifting post-9/11 anthem New York, New York. You can listen to this song at Ryan's myspace page, here: http://www.myspace.com/ryanadams (From Shannon, in Utah, USA, who has been listening to a lot of Ryan Adams lately)
10- World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks (book): from the author of "The Zombie Survival Guide" this ambitious work documents the "Zombie War" which almost resulted in the annihilation of the human race. See the website here: World War Z (From DJ Dave Ghoul in Pennsylvania, USA)
11- YouTube (website): This site was so ubiquitous, so influential in pop culture and politics that it's hard to believe it's only been online since April. It changed the fortunes of its creators, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, but also those of lonelygirl15, OK Go, and the "history of dance" guy. 2006 may be remembered as the year of YouTube. Waste some time here: http://www.youtube.com/
12- Pandora.com (website): At a time when it's harder than ever to hear decent new music in the traditional outlets (at least in the opinion of The 13 List,) this website lets you input a favored song and listen to suggested related songs. (From Pouncer in Virginia, USA)
13- And finally, 2006 was an important year personally for many of our friends: Crystal (of Crystal's Crypt) got engaged, Michelle got married, Andrew graduated from high school, Bill got a big promotion, Joe turned 40, and Sharon and Marty welcomed their first child, Hope. Happy New Year Everyone, and we'll see you in January!
The Holiday season is nearly upon us, and though conspicuous consumption is the order of the day, it is also a time when we turn our thoughts to others in need. And while well-known organizations like the Salvation Army and the Red Cross are making the most of this time of year, we here at The 13 List would like to tell you about some lesser-known organizations. Some help people who might be left behind by other charities. Some are near to our hearts for personal reasons. And some promote what we like to think of as "The Patient Creature Lifestyle." Some you might find worthy, some not, but we hope that you will consider setting aside some of your Christmas budget this year to help others, and encourage your family to do the same. After all, how many Chia-pets do you really need?
1- RIF: If the Patient Creatures had an "official charity," this would be it. For 40 years, RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) has distributed books and promoted literacy for children. As someone once said, "when you learn to love books, you'll never be alone again." Bring a book to a child who may never have had one.
2- Habitat for Humanity: By building low-cost houses and involving people who need homes, this group addresses the problem of homelessness in a very basic way. In addition to money, you can get involved by joining a work crew and helping build.
3- Free Wheelchair Mission: This organization distributes very low-cost wheelchairs (based on plastic patio chairs and costing only $44.40 each) to the world's disabled poor. Help them reach their goal of 100,000,000 wheelchairs distributed by 2010.
4- Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption: Created by the founder of Wendy's restaurants, himself an adoptee, this organization wants to help find families for the 140,000 children in foster care in America who are eligible for adoption.
5- Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation: These are the "Pink Ribbon" people, dedicated to raising awareness and raising money for research for Breast Cancer. Over 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. This organization also sponsors a lot of events to help them with their goals. Run. Walk. Get Inspired. Get Involved.
6- The USO: A private, non-profit organization that seeks to provide recreation and raise morale for the troops. Remember all those Bob Hope specials? That was the work of the USO, and you can be part of it, too, either through donation or as a volunteer.
7- Big Brothers/Big Sisters: A mentoring program for youth at risk, this group owes its success to its one-on-one relationship building. They also sponsor lots of fundraising events, like bowling nights.
8- Pearl S. Buck International: Founded by the author to promote humanitarian efforts and adoption in Asia, this group strives to serve as a cultural bridge between East and West. Sixty percent of the world's population is Asian, and countries like China, Korea, and Vietnam are becoming ever-larger players on the world stage. Help children in those countries be healthy and educated, so there can be a brighter future for us all.
9- TerraPass: Cars produce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. But what can you do? We have to drive. Well, with TerraPass you can pay to have the CO2 your vehicle produces removed from the atmosphere, helping clean up the pollution you produce. Buy one for everyone in your family.
10- Books for Soldiers: Kind of a cross between RIF and the USO, this group lets you send the gift of a book to a member of the armed forces serving overseas. They call it a "Care package for the mind."
11- The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: In the U.S. writers and artists are protected by the first amendment, but this protection is often challenged in expensive court cases. Often the cost is so high that even if the comic books win, they can't afford to stay in business. You can help protect them, and by extension, all writers and artists, through your contributions to this fund.
12- Children of the Night: This charity first came to our attention in an article by Ed McMahon about the late entertainer Johnny Carson, who said it was an organization Johnny contributed to. The name, naturally, caught our attention, and we found it was dedicated to helping teenagers who were forced, through desperate circumstance, to turn to prostitution. Even small donations are welcome, and if you live in the Los Angeles area, contributions of clothes, hygiene products, and other items are needed.
13- The Colonial Theatre: Given this theatre's proximity to the East Coast crypt, it's become a favorite place to catch indie, foreign, and classic movies, but it's also dedicated to bringing shows and other cultural events to the community. If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by. Or find the place like it in your community, and donate your time and skills.
And if that's not enough for you, here are a few more we just couldn't fit on the list:
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric
AIDS Foundation: Seeking treatments
and a cure for children living with AIDS.
World Wildlife Fund: Protecting endanged species and the world's delicate environments.
Electronic Frontier Foundation: Keeping the internet and other communications media open and unbiased to all.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society: Dedicated to fighting blood cancers, this organization sponsors many fund-raising athletic events, including triathlons.
The Sea Shepherd Society: Seeking to protect whales, dolphins, and other sea mammals from hunting and threats to the environment.
Of course, if you want to contribute
to the Salvation Army or the Red Cross, you can find their websites
Hello, everyone! We here at the 13 list are so excited that Halloween is almost here, and we are very pleased to present our list of the top 13 websites for celebrating our favorite holiday all year long.
Martha Stewart: Looking to decorate
your home or crypt but find the usual DIY manuals a little too
perky? Gothic Martha Stewart is here to help, with advice on Victorian
motifs, velvet slipcovers, and where to buy gargoyles, and even
help for your Gothic wedding! Lots of helpful practical information,
too. And while you're at it, take a look at the real Martha Stewart,
too. The Domestic Diva loves Halloween, and always has a number
of spooky decorating ideas and delicious recipes for the holiday.
2- Haunted Attraction Magazine Online: The industry journal for "Haunted House" attractions, this website has lots of articles, vendors and directories, and a forum where you can get advise for YOUR haunted house.
3- Groovy Candies: I know. Some of us are showing our age when we talk about the candy we used to eat as kids, but if you ARE of a certain age, and have a yen for Walnettos, Moon Pies, or Atomic Fireballs, this is where they can still be found. It's even fun just to page around for the nostalgia. Remember Candy Buttons? Skybars? Pixie Stix?
4- The Moonlit Road: One of the earliest and best online anthologies of regional ghost stories and folktales, in this case those of the American South.
5- Count Gore: Our friend, long time horror-host and spooky personality Count Gore DeVol has continued his hosting duties with a weekly web program. Packed full of reviews, films, games, interviews, and lots of other fun stuff (plus a catchy musical score) it is an unmissable site for fans of horror.
6- Weird U.S.: A companion website to the books and TV series, Weird U.S. gives you a guided tour of the offbeat, the bizarre, the paranormal, and the just plain strange people and locations around the country. Check out your own neighborhood, or plan for your next vacation. Or post your own story on the message boards.
7- TAPS- The Atlantic Paranormal Society: The U.S.'s most famous Ghost Hunters, thanks to the Sci-Fi Channel series, the TAPS website documents the group's investigations, including some chilling video clips. You can also talk to the members on the chat board.
8- Halloween Parades: A lot of towns have Halloween parades of one kind or another, everything from youngsters in costume marching around their school to hours-long affairs with thousands of participants. Read about three of the biggest here: The Greenwich Village Parade in NYC, The West Hollywood parade, and "Fantasy Fest" in Key West, a ten-day event,
9- Ghost Gallery: A huge collection of photos sent in by readers of the site. A lot of them look like smudges on the lens to us, and some are almost certainly hoaxes, but some are really spooky.
10- Internet Radio- Haunt your house with free streaming audio with a Halloween theme. Multiple stations can be found on Live365, including: Radio Bones (old-time radio), Dug Graves (Horror-movie soundtracks), Web Slingin Girl (Goth, punk, and other alternative music with horror themes), Krokodyle (Music and audio from the Disney theme park ride "The Haunted Mansion"), and ZMP-Radio (Programmed by our friend DJ Dave Ghoul.)
11- Our friends behind the wonderful classic monster movie convention Monsterbash also have day jobs, at the one-stop video shop for monster fans: Creepy Classics! Owner Ron Adams has some wonderful stuff, a lot of it difficult to find. He's also very helpful in finding that old movie that you can't quite remember the title of... There are also fun picture galleries, including one with pictures of customers as kids in their Halloween costumes!
12- And of course you are going to need a costume! We've found a huge selection at Halloween Adventure, including lots of accessories. And there's probably a location near you.
13- Safety Information: One of the big dangers to children on Halloween is traffic accidents, and that's no fun at all. Make sure children can see clearly and move easily in their costumes, and that there is an adult along when trick-or-treating. See the website above for more tips.
It's September, time for the Fall Preview! So check out the movies, TV shows, books, and DVD releases that we're most looking forward to in the next few months.
1- Gojira/Godzilla Special Edition:
This two-disc set of DVDs features both the original 1954
Japanese version (Gojira) and the 1956 American version,
dubbed and re-edited with footage featuring actor Raymond Burr.
A quintessential monster movie that is also an allegory about
the dropping of the atomic bomb in Japan, this package includes
featurettes and commentaries. (Sept. 5)
2- Heroes: The advance reviews on this TV series, about ordinary people developing super powers, is very positive. Comparisons to the X-Men films are inevitable, of course, but this series has wisely made the decision not to mess with the comic book formula. After all, who hasn't dreamed of waking up with the ability to fly, read minds, or time travel. The title is Heroes, after all. (Debuts Sept. 25, 9 pm on NBC)
3- A Series of Unfortunate Events- The End: The 13th and final book in Lemony Snicket's blackly comic series about the ill-fated Baudelaire children and their search to find out the truth about their late parents. (Oct. 13)
4- Forbidden Planet- 50th Anniversary Special Edition: Based on Shakespeare's play The Tempest, this 1956 science fiction classic stars Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis and Walter Pidgeon. Our friend Ron at creepyclassics.com tells us this edition has over 4 hours of additional features, including lost footage, missing scenes, and other appearances by Robby the Robot, including an episode of "The Thin Man" TV show. (Nov. 14)
5- Mommy? by Maurice Sendak: In the latest from the beloved author of Where the Wild Things Are a young boy searches for his mother in a haunted house, but he turns the tables on the various frightening denizens in a series of clever pop-up pages. (Sept. 26)
6- Flushed Away: The newest film from Aardman Animations (creators of the Wallace and Gromit films) introduces us to a new character, Roddy, a pet mouse who finds himself in "Ratropolis," a rodent society in the London sewers. He makes new friends (and enemies) as he struggles to return to his posh life above. (Nov. 3)
7- Battlestar Galactica: We've mentioned this Sci-Fi channel series before, and with good reason. It's tightly scripted, well acted, and sports feature-film level effects. As last season ended, the human refugees were struggling to rebuild their society on a new planet, when their enemies, the Cylons, reappeared. This year, we hear Lucy Lawless (Xena) will see her guest role of last year expanded. (Debuts Oct. 6, 10 pm, Sci-Fi Channel)
8- Lisey's Story- by Stephen King: I know, we've all heard (and sometimes made) jokes about Mr. King enjoying the shortest retirement on record, but I thought that this summer's best-seller Cell was a page-turner and I'm looking forward to the newest novel from the Master of Horror. Apparently it concerns the widow of a writer who discovers that her late husband's demons may have been quite literal. (Oct. 24)
9- Star Trek (new & improved): To celebrate the classic series' 40th Anniversary, parent studio Paramount has updated the special effects, re-recorded Alexander Courage's score with full orchestration, and given the whole thing a high-definition makeover. Several years ago I saw an episode with updated effects, and really enjoyed it, to my surprise, so I'm looking forward to seeing this edition. No word on when a home video version will be made available (although it's inevitable) but the remastered episodes will begin showing in syndication on Sept. 16. (Check local listings.)
10- Children of Men: Based on the dystopian novel by P.D. James, this film is directed by Alfonso Cuarón ("Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban") and envisions a not-too-distant future where a world-wide plague of infertility creates a society facing possible extinction. A chilling idea, and Cuarón is an exciting filmmaker, so hopes are high. (Dec. 25)
11- Doctor Who: Last spring the Sci-Fi Channel aired the first season of the "new" Doctor Who, already a hit on the BBC, and they've decided not to wait on the second season. David Tennant (Barty Crouch Junior in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) takes the lead as the latest incarnation of the Doctor, but Billie Piper returns as Rose, along with past favorites Sarah-Jane Smith, the Cybermen, and robotic dog K-9! (Debuts Sept. 29, 9 pm, Sci-Fi Channel)
12- Peter Pan in Scarlet- by Geraldine McCaughrean: As you may know, J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, gave the rights to his story to the Great Ormand Street Children's Hospital. In 2004, to mark the book's 100th anniversary, they launched a search for an author to write an official sequel, and Geraldine McCaughrean was chosen from a field of over 200 applicants. The plot, of course, is a closely-guarded secret, but excitement is high, and the book will have a release party at Kensington Palace. (Oct. 5)
13- Legion of Super Heroes: Following up the successful animated series Justice League Unlimited and based on the comic book of the same name, this series jumps 1000 years into the future with all-new superheroes Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Timber Wolf, and others traveling back in time to recruit Superman in their fight against the forces of evil. But they go too far, retrieving a younger and more inexperienced version of the Man of Steel. (Debuts Sept. 23, 11 am, The CW Network)
Already it is August, and the days of Summer begin to grow short. The perfect time to pack a wicker basket and travel into the wilderness (or a nearby park) for a picnic with family or friends. Many of these recipes are also nice packed in a hamper for a meal outside the home; surprise someone at work or school, or take some to a friend's house. Below you will find 13 recipes for picnic goodies- tasty, able to travel well, and taking full advantage of the season's bounty.
1- Iced Tea- Of course, everyone knows iced tea is just regular tea that's been chilled (and sometimes sweetened.) But try these additions: Ginger (steep a slice of fresh ginger with the tea,) Fruit (add juice or concentrate to the chilled tea. Orange, lemon, and cranberry are suggested,) or mint (steep fresh mint leaves with the tea.)
2- Lemonade- Again, a simple recipe: lemon juice, sugar, water, but here's a variation for perfect lemonade every time. In a saucepan, mix 1 ¾ cups white sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring it to a boil, and stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool, and refrigerate until chilled. Mix with 1 ½ cups of lemon juice (if fresh squeezed, leave the pulp,) and 7 cups of cold water.
3- Macaroni Salad- Combine the following ingredients well: 8 oz. small-size pasta, cooked (elbow macaroni is traditional, but spirals, shells, and bow ties also work well); ½ cup mayonnaise; 1 med tomato, chopped; ½ cup celery, finely chopped; 1/3 cup onion, finely chopped; ¼ tsp. salt; ½ tsp. sugar. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to blend flavors.
4- Potato Salad- In a large pot, boil 5 lbs. red potatoes for 15-20 minutes, until tender but firm. Drain, cool, and cut into cubes. Combine well with the following ingredients: 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped; 2 cups mayonnaise; 1 yellow onion, diced; 2 green onions, sliced thin; 1 small green bell pepper, diced; 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced; 2 tsp. salt; 1 tsp. pepper. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to blend flavors.
5- Pear and Walnut Salad- Core and slice 2 fresh Bartlett pears. Combine them with ½ cup walnut pieces, ¼ cup dried cranberries, and ½ cup crumbled blue cheese. Arrange over 8 cups of the salad greens of your choice. Drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette salad dressing (we like raspberry.)
6- Vegetable and Couscous Salad- This
is very nice, with a mild, nutty flavor.
In a large bowl mix well: 2 cups cooked couscous; 1 cup yellow squash, finely diced; ½ cup zucchini, finely diced; 1 red bell pepper, chopped; 1/3 cup red onion, chopped (optional); 15 can garbanzo beans, rinsed.
In a small bowl combine: ¾ cup plain yogurt; ½ tsp. salt; ¼ cup mayonnaise; 1 tsp. curry powder. Stir into the couscous mixture. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to blend flavors.
7- Deviled Eggs- This is a traditional
picnic or party dish. In fact, you only ever see deviled eggs
at gatherings. Why is that?
Hard-boil 6 eggs, peel them, slice them in half lengthwise, and remove the yolks to a bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork, and combine them with: 3 Tbsps. mayonnaise; 1 tsp. mustard (fancy mustard with honey or wine is very good for this); 1 tsp. vinegar; salt and pepper to taste. Carefully put a spoonful of the mixture back into each egg. Garnish with paprika or dried dill or a slice of olive or pickle.
8- Ham Salad- This is good in sandwiches
or on crackers.
Finely chop leftover cooked ham (or mince it in a meat grinder or food processor.) For each cup and a half of ham, mix in ½ cup finely chopped celery, a diced hard-boiled egg, 4 Tbsps. sweet pickle relish, and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Gradually add ½ cup mayonnaise, more or less to taste.
9- Fried Chicken- In the American
South, cold fried chicken is often served at picnics. Here is
a good flavorful recipe.
Take about 3 lbs. of chicken, in parts. Place the chicken in a shallow pan, and sprinkle with 2 Tbsps. dry sherry. Let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a plastic bag, combine ½ cup flour, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. pepper, ¼ tsp. rubbed sage, ¼ tsp. thyme leaves, and ¼ tsp. dried basil.
Take a large frying pan with a lid, and fill it with vegetable oil to about ½ inch. Without drying chicken, place it one piece at a time, into the bag with the flour mixture and shake to coat. Arrange the chicken in the frying pan, skin side down, in unheated oil. Cover the pan and put it on medium-high heat. Listen for when the chicken begins sizzling loudly, and cook 15 minutes more, then remove cover, turn pieces over with tongs, and continue cooking, uncovered, until done through (about 10 more minutes.) Remove and drain on paper towels.
10- Scotch Eggs- Hard-boil, peel, and
dry six eggs. Divide 1 pound of spicy sausage into six equal portions
and set aside. Mix 1 cup of breadcrumbs with 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp.
pepper, 1 tsp. of paprika, and ½ tsp. each of dried thyme
and dried basil in a bowl and set aside. Beat 2 more eggs in another
bowl, and set that aside.
Roll each egg lightly in flour to coat, then take a portion of sausage and shape it around the egg, enclosing it completely. Roll in flour again, then dip in beaten egg, then roll in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat with all hard-boiled eggs.
Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a large skillet. Fry the eggs, turning frequently, until golden brown on all sides, then drain on paper towels. To serve, cut in half and serve with some good mustard.
11- Pork and Vegetable Buns- A favorite
Chinese treat. This recipe is a little complicated, but very tasty.
Mix 1 cup warm milk, 1 egg, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 cup flour, 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil and 4 tsp. dried yeast together to form a soft dough. Knead well for ten minutes then place in a bowl, cover, and leave to rise for an hour in a warm place. Remove, knead again on a floured surface and then roll into a long sausage shape. Cut this into tennis ball-sized pieces and roll each into a flat circle about 1 cm thick.
In another bowl, mix together ½ pound minced pork, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 red onion (chopped), 1 small white cabbage (chopped), 3 Tbsp. sesame oil, and 4 Tbsp. soy sauce. Fry this mixture in a hot pan until the meat is browned and the vegetables are soft. Allow to cool. Take a dough circle in your hand, add 1 heaped Tbsp of the filling, bring the edges of the circle in slowly, twisting and fluting them to form a spiral. Place on a greased baking tray, brush with a little milk and bake at 400° F. for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
12- Cheese and Tomato Tart- Start with
a package of fresh, ready-rolled, puff pastry (375 grams, or thereabouts.)
Unwrap the pastry and place it on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Then, using a sharp knife, carefully score a line on the pastry,
about ½ in (1 cm) in from the edge, all the way around,
but be careful not to cut it all the way through.
Next, take about 5 oz. soft goats' cheese and put it in a bowl, add 2 cloves crushed garlic, 4 tsp. chopped thyme, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix well, then using a round-bladed knife, carefully spread the cheese mixture evenly all over the surface of the pastry, right up to the line.
Next, thinly slice enough ripe plum tomatoes to cover the cheese, overlapping the edges of the slices slightly. Salt and pepper the tomatoes to taste, then drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil and scatter sprigs of fresh thyme over them. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375°F for 55 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown, and the tomatoes are roasted and slightly charred at the edges. Cool, and cut into squares.
13- Brownies- The perfect chocolate
Combine 4 eggs (beaten), 2 cups of sugar, 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, and 1 tsp. vanilla in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, melt one cup of margarine (this can be done in the microwave) and stir in 1/3 cup of powdered cocoa. Add to the egg mixture and beat well. At this point, you can stir in chopped nuts, if desired, about 1 ½ cups. (Walnuts and pecans are both good.)
Pour batter into a 9x13-inch pan and bake at 350° F. for 25-30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.
During the summer, the Patient Creatures travel all around the northeast, attending performances, visiting friends, or just sightseeing. And we spend a good deal of time traveling in the car. While we spend the time talking, or playing the alphabet game, or counting out-of-state license plates, there is a box of CDs that always comes along on long car trips.
So here we present Kuzibah and Grim's
list of road trip albums that are usually to be found in an Edward
Gorey lunchbox, tucked under the hearse's passenger seat. Just
one caveat- Kuzibah's tastes run to the "alternative"
and Grim's to the sentimental, but we hope this list gives you
some ideas for your next driving vacation.
1. Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer- Tanglewood Tree
This folk-rock album features the late Dave Carter's complex lyrics, strange and beautiful imagery that rewards repeated listening, and its changing tempos and styles contrast with the monotony of the highway. The beautiful harmonies and the unusual instrumentalization have made it one of our favorites, and it's also easy to sing along to.
2. Fountains of Wayne- Welcome Interstate Managers
The break-out album for the group that features the huge hit of a few years ago, "Stacy's Mom," it might be easy to dismiss this group as insubstantial. But the entire album is worthwhile, with surprisingly poignant and tender reflections on modern life. Other favorite tracks are the wistful "Hackensack," the Paul Simon-esque "Valley Winter Song," and the tale of love among the cubicle set, "Hey Julie."
3. Dido- I'm No Angel
Pop music is full of beautiful, mysterious women who sing of love, but Dido has bones of steel beneath the flower petals. She loves, but she won't allow that love to change her. Favorite tracks are "Hunter," "Thank You," and the title track.
4. October Project- untitled
The first of only two albums from the too short-lived alt-pop group, Mary Fahl's unusual vocal style matches perfectly with composers' Emil Adler's and Julie Flanders's songs. Full of literary allusions and dreamy imagery, starting with the hypnotic "Bury My Lovely" and all the way through to the triumphant final track, "Be My Hero."
5. The Ditty-Bops- untitled
This female duo, with it's old-fashioned sound and charming demeanor, is infectiously giddy. The lyrics (for example: "why can't little kids tie their shoes, and why can't white people sing the blues?") can tend to be a bit daft, but they're sung so earnestly, they win you over. And the Ditty-Bops are embarking on a road trip/music tour of their own this summer--- on bicycles!
6. Nick Drake- Pink Moon
Drake found a new audience a few years ago when the title song of this album was used in a car commercial (you probably remember it; a group of young people drive in their convertible under a full moon.) Always a singer with simple, almost spare arrangements, this album (his last and left unfinished by his withdrawal from the music industry) is just Drake and his guitar. On some tracks, Drake hums to suggest other instruments that might have been added later had he had the inclination. Very short (only 28 minutes,) it almost seems to play as one long, evocative, hypnotic composition.
7. Death Cab for Cutie- Plans
Another long-standing band that only recently found a mass audience, this album sneaks up on you, revealing an unexpected frankness and touching vulnerability. A favorite track is "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," an expression of a love that even death can't conquer.
8. The Essential Johnny Cash
A two-disc set that lives up to its title, this is wonderful traveling music, with Cash's distinctive voice telling the story of America. Every track is like an old friend. Only one quibble: Quintessential road tune "I've Been Everywhere" is conspicuous by its absence.
9. Rob Zombie- Hellbilly Deluxe
Rob Zombie's affection for the spook show aesthetic is no more evident than in this, his debut solo album. His voice a gravelly rumble, like something not quite human, Zombie snarls and howls, inviting the listener to surrender to humanity's baser instincts. Plus, when the road gets tedious, you can play this good and loud.
10. Counting Crows- This Desert Life
Each of the tracks on this album has a rolling quality to the rhythm, suggestive of travel, and perhaps more than the other albums mentioned here, matches the tempo of the road. It doesn't hurt that the imagery sparks your mind, and many of the tracks are eminently singable. The definite standout is the epic "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby."
11. Matthew Sweet- Girlfriend
Geek-rocker Sweet sings mostly of loving the woman who doesn't, or can't, love him back. He also sings of the fear that it's something in himself that makes him unloveable. And yet, the music is so optimistic, almost jubilant, that it never gets weighed down. The title song and "Evangeline," are faves.
12. Moby- Play
Moby's innovation is in production, so he wisely uses classic gospel riffs or excises the hooks to stand alone while layering and shaping sound around them. The cuts on this album move from throbbing dance music to dreamy instrumental pieces. A bit of trivia: This album is notable in that Moby sold all 18 tracks for use in other media, so chances are you've heard this music in movies, TV, and commercials.
13. Poe- Haunted
A conceptual album inspired by recordings of her late father, Poe explores childhood mysteries, and her half-understood knowledge of her own family's story. Wistful, defiant, and ultimately a portrait of love unblurred by romanticism. Another album that rewards repeated listening, be sure to wait for the "bonus track," the "Hey Pretty" remix, with Poe's brother, Mark Z. Danielewski, reading from his novel "House of Blue Leaves," also a response to their father's death.
I don't know about you, but I look forward to summer as a time to catch up on my reading, a time when work and school slow down, and I can get engrossed in a good book. This month, I asked some friends of mine, some of whow you know from the site, some of whom are writers themselves, and some of whom are just real book-lovers, to recommend their favorite reads. You'll find their suggestions below:
1- The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson
The classic "haunted house" novel, in which three strangers come together to monitor the strange goings-on in the titular abode. Good for giving you the shivers on even the balmiest summer day. This book was recommended by award-winning horror-writer P.D. Cacek, who also has a new release from Diplodocus Press, Eros Inturruptus (which is for our fans over 21 only, please.)
2- Time and Again by Jack Finney
A science fiction-romance in which a man travels back in time and finds himself falling in love with a woman in the past. This haunting and beautiful love story is recommended by Bill Wolfe, of The West Coast Review
3- Sight Hound by Pam Houson
The story of a three-legged Irish wolfhound, Dante, and his playwright owner, Rae, who loves him. When Dante becomes ill, Rae goes to extraordinary measures to prolong his life, and learns a lot along the way in this heartwarming novel. Recommended by Jessica in the Philadelphia area.
4- Philadelphia-area journalist Dan Walsh
recommends several favorites: Game of Thrones by George
R. R. Martin (book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire; best series
I've ever read); The Monkeywrench Gang by Edward Abbey;
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer )nonfiction); Ball Four
by Jim Bouton (for baseball fans, also nonfiction); The Lord
of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (if they haven't read it);
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein; The
Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum (I read this 7 times; the
movie and the book are COMPLETELY different); The Fountainhead
by Ayn Rand (a tough read, but the only tough read I ever had
that was worth it); Treasure by Clive Cussler
5- Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
The offbeat humorist and NPR contributor visits historical sights associated with three assassinated Presidents: Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Our friend Erin in the Washington, D.C. area, found this book "intriguing and amusing."
6- Watership Down by Richard Adams
The classic novel about a group of rabbits on an epic quest to find a safe haven in a world of danger, this story ultimately reveals much about ourselves and our world. Recommended by Mike in the Boston area.
7- I got the following recomendations from noted writer Robert Dunbar: "I'm savoring (for like the third time) William Sloane's The Edge of Running Water, if only because it gives me the most delicious nightmares. And desperately trying to find David Case's The Cell, but copies at Alibris start at $135 for some reason." Robert's novel The Pines, about the Jersey Devil, was recently reissued by Delirium Books, and the sequel, The Shore, will be coming soon.
8- Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Meggie, the heroine of this novel, discovers her father possesses a great and terrible power: he is able to read book characters into life. Even worse, when reading characters from the book "Inkheart" out, he reads Meggie's mother in. Now Meggie is part of an evil character's plot. Followed by the sequel Inkspell. Recommended by Stephanie in the Boston area.
9- On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
David, a writer and game-designer in the Philadelphia area, says this about a novel of "pirates, voodoo, and the fountain of youth.": "As usual, Powers managed to seamlessly blend history and fiction... Also present was Powers' unique take on magic, with all its strangeness and precise rules and rituals and alien-ness."
10- That Night by Alice McDermott
The events of one night and the events set in motion by a pair of adolescent lovers in a suburban community in the 1960s are traced and retraced in painstaking detail. Our friend Angharad in the Chicago area calls this "short, sad-but-not-heavy, wonderfully nostalgic."
11-Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
The story of two orphaned sisters from a family of witches, who vow never to become like the victims of love who steal to their aunts' door for potions and spells. Of course, life has other plans. Recommended by Sharon in the Philadelphia area.
12- A Complicated Kindness by
A coming of age novel set in a strict Mennonite community in Manitoba, where a young girl struggles with a family that has come apart under religious pressures. Guislaine in the Montreal area says "it's a fast and easy read, but here I am, almost a year later, still thinking about it."
13- Ender's Game by Orson Scott
A science-fiction novel about a boy whose military genius may save the earth from alien invasion before he reaches his teens. Highly recommended by our very own Grim Reaper.
"April Showers Bring May Flowers"
the old rhyme goes, and it is indeed the time to get into the
garden and plant. We here at the crypt have a very lovely garden,
and it is very pleasant to sit under the trees and enjoy the flowers.
Of course, our garden has plants that aren't just pretty: some
are known to the storytellers in literature and legend. Some are
reminiscent of some of the denizens that dwell here. And some,
it is said, have mystical properties.
Join us now for a stroll around the grounds, and learn about thirteen plants and flowers that might just haunt your dreams... and nightmares.
1- So says Oberon, the fairy king, in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and he sends Puck to bring it back so he may use it to bewitch Titania, the fairy queen. But "love-in-idleness" was a real flower, and today it is called the Pansy. These flowers are actually quite easy to grow, can be found in most garden centers, resist weeds, and can be eaten if not treated with chemicals.
2- Wolfsbane: This plant is often mentioned in werewolf movies, but this is one of the common names of the plant Aconitum, which is also called monkshood. They are tall stalky plants with feathery, spiked leaves, and topped with a row of small flowers. These flowers can be shades of purple, pink, white, or yellow (generally it is the yellow variety called wolfsbane.) They do best in shade, and unlike pansies are extremely poisonous, so be careful if you have outdoor pets or small children.
3- Mandrake: This plant was widely regarded as having various magical properties, mainly as a love-potion, because its roots are shaped like a man. But medieval herbologists (and Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter books) also warned that great care must be taken when pulling it up, because otherwise the plant will give off a scream that kills everyone within earshot.
4- Willow: This tree grows very readily from cuttings, sometimes even from broken branches lying on the ground. But legend has it that at night, the willow tree will uproot itself and follow careless travelers caught out after dark.
5- Rose: This flower is well-known as a token of love, but in the east, some believe that the first rose grew from a tear shed by the prophet Mohammed, or that one of the wives of the Hindu god Vishnu was found within a rose. Many cultures also ascribe wild roses the power to resist evil spirits, spells, and the undead.
6- Daisy: Because daisies look like small suns, they are considered powerful charms against all sorts of dark entities, such as witches, ghosts, and dark fairies. Modern pagans feature them in midsummer rituals. And everyone knows the daisy divination "She loves me, she loves me not."
7- Dracula Orchids: A genus of the orchid with 118 species, in this case the name "Dracula" comes from the Latin for "little dragon" and refers to oddities in the plant's structure which are reminiscent of a dragon. These are tropical plants, and won't survive outside in temperate zones, but it's fun to invite guests to the greenhouse to see your Dracula Orchids and let them wonder.
8- Hollyhocks: Actually, a particular strain of Hollyhock called 'nigra' that is such a dark purple it appears black. Actually, quite a few flowers are described as black (and we grow several of them here at the crypt) but if you want an almost truly black bloom, grow these Hollyhocks. It is said that President Jefferson was the first to bring this strain to the new world. The petals can also be added to tea to produce a purple-colored brew.
9- Garlic: Well-known as repellent to vampires, garlic is also known to discourage other evil spirits and devils because these creatures dislike bad odors (although, Kuzibah does seem to eat a lot of Italian food ) Italian-Americans say the traditional way to plant garlic is to break a bulb into individual 'cloves' (once you peel a bulb, you'll see what these are) and sow them in the ground on Columbus Day (Oct. 12th.) They will rest through the winter and sprout in the spring. When the leaves turn brown and die, the garlic is ready to dig up and use. Be sure to save some cloves to plant for next year.
10- Poppy: The Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz" sent poppies to put Dorothy to sleep because the flowers are used to make morphine, a powerful sedative. They are also the traditional flower planted on the graves of soldiers who perished in war. You probably already have some seeds at home in your spice rack. Just turn the ground in your flower bed and sprinkle the seeds.
11- Narcissus: Also called daffodils, Greek myth tells us that this flower was once a young man so beautiful that he fell in love with his own reflection in a still pool and wasted to nothing because he could not bear to look away. These flowers come in many sizes and varieties, and shades of white and yellow.
12- Moonflower: A vine with large white
blooms similar to morning glories, these flowers only open at
dusk, releasing a sweet fragrance. For those who live by night,
these flowers are a lovely addition to the garden.
13- Pumpkins: Of course! Be sure to give these vines plenty of room to ramble and you'll have jack-o-lanterns galore come Halloween. Incidentally, pumpkins aren't only orange - varieties also come in red, yellow, white, and even blue!
This month we are showcasing "The Greatest Show on Earth" - The Circus:
1- Get in the mood by listening to the soundtrack music from the movie "Curious George," by laid-back Hawaiian singer-songwriter Jack Johnson, a crypt favorite. Learn more about this songer, and listen to some of his music at jackjohnsonmusic.com
2- Meet a clown, or BE a clown, at the Clowns of America International website, and learn more about the history of this ancient art- www.coai.org
3- In the center ring- see Chris Bliss and his amazing choreographed juggling, then check out Michael Moschen, and his unusual approach to the juggling arts.
4- Next, we feature the "quick change" artists David and Dania. Dania also does an amazing hula-hoop act. See a longer video, and learn more in Slate's recent article on the pair.
5- Learn more about the history of the circus at Circus Web
6- Ready for a circus snack? Make your own Candy Apples (be sure to get help form an adult):
8 red apples with stick inserted in each
2 c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. red cinnamon candies
10 drops red food coloring
In 2 quart saucepan, mix sugar, corn syrup, and water. Boil. stirring constantly, to 250 degrees or until drops of syrup form hard, yet plastic ball in cold water. Add candies and cook to 285 degrees or until drops of syrup separate into hard, but not brittle threads in cold water. Remove from heat. Dunk apples in candy mixture. Let excess drip off and twirl to spread syrup smoothly. Cool on a lightly greased baking sheet. Makes 8 candy apples.
7- While the candy is cooking, listen to some real circus music, and learn about the traditional circus instrument, the Calliope.
8- The "Winter Quarters" were almost as famous as some of the circuses themselves. Learn the history of these towns where the performers spent their months off.
Looking to find out when the circus is coming to your town? Check these official websites:
9- Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey- the biggest of the traveling shows, they play basketball arenas and similar venues. Check for radio giveaways on your local stations in the weeks before. Promos are frequent and often easy to get.
Bros.- The largest of the traveling
traditional tent shows. If this show comes to your town, try to
get to the site where they're setting up before dawn the day they
come to town, and watch the "big top" go up.
11- Circus Universoul- A black traveling circus, they are looking to bring the circus experience to urban America, where other circuses don't go much anymore.
12- Big Apple Circus- Based out of New York (not surprisingly) this circus is also trying to bring its style of entertainment to a new generation.
12.5- Coney Island Sideshow- Not a circus, exactly, but a nostalgic recreation of the old "carny" attraction.
13- Want to join up with the show? Visit
Center where you can learn about the
acts in the center ring.
March is Women's History Month, so we are showcasing women here on the 13 List:
Colony - We here at Creatures East are
BIG fans of the Sci-Fi Network series "Battlestar: Galactica,"
an update of the 70s series. If you are too, and want to discuss
the show with other fans, get thee to The 13th Colony, a livejournal
community devoted to the show, and moderated by "Pouncer,"
a female fan. Livejournal membership is free.
2- Near Dark - A very scary and unusual vampire film by female director Kathryn Bigelow. (Rated R)
3- American Psycho - Less a horror film than a dark-humored social satire, one review claimed that this story of the ultimate "lady-killer" could only have been made by a female director. (Rated R)
4- Nanny McPhee - A funny and clever family film written and directed by award-winning actress Emma Thompson.
5- "Designing Women of Horror" - Women can also work behind the scenes. Click on the link to read about film designers who worked on Harry Potter, Van Helsing, and The Haunted Mansion.
6- Mary Blair [http://www.bobstaake.com/artists/maryblair/page1.html ] - An artist whose work with Walt Disney Studios has influenced decades of animation. She also created murals for the Disney theme parks. See some here: Yesterland
7- "Wishful Thinking" - A music video by Adria Patty, featuring the music of female duo The Ditty Bops. Lots of strange animated imagery. The music is fun, too.
8- Frankenstein - The horror classic, by writer Mary Shelley. Read the entire novel online by clicking the link above.
9- Faery Cats: The Cutest Killer, by Lucy A. Snyder - A short story on the "Strange Horizons" webzine about flying cats. Very funny, and with an illustration by friend of the Patient Creatures, David Christman.
And here are a few other things to do this month.
10- Colorquiz - A "personality assessment" based
on the order you choose different colors.
11- Cthulego - Key moments in the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, reproduced in Lego.
12- Kites - March winds are blowing. Time to go fly a kite! This is a fun outdoor activity for the entire family, and you can learn more about kites and how to make them at this site. More plans for kites are found here: More Kites
13- For St. Patrick's Day (March 17th): Irish Scones - Several of the Patient Creatures have roots in Ireland. To celebrate the day of Ireland's Patron Saint, make these tasty scones for breakfast or brunch.
2-1/2 cups flour
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl. Cut in butter or margarine with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add raisins and mix slightly. Pour in milk and mix until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface; then pat into a 3/4" thickness. Using a 2" glass or biscuit cutter, dipped in flour, cut dough into circles. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot with butter or jam. Store leftovers in an airtight container. Makes 12 scones.
1- "Weird U.S." - This series
of books based on the Travel Channel series of the same name,
and written by the show's hosts, Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran,
chronicle the ghost stories, strange places, and unusual landmarks
from coast to coast. They've also written the regional volumes
"Weird New York," "Weird Texas," and "Werid
Illinois," as well as many others. These books are richly
illustrated, and chances are at least one of the entries will
cause you to say, "Hey, I've been there!" Ask at your
favorite library or bookstore.
2- "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" - Based on the classic series of books by C.S. Lewis, and with special effects by the workshop that created the world of Middle Earth for the "Lord of the Rings" movies, this film exceeded all expectations this holiday season. The child actors are wonderful, especially Georgie Henley, who plays young Lucy, and Tilda Swinton is a terrifically scary White Witch. Grim has already seen it twice! Some moments may be a bit intense for anyone under 8.
3- Chocolate Fondue - Valentine's Day is this month, and chocolate is said to be the food of lovers. Make a special treat for someone you love this month. It's very easy and made in a slow cooker:
24 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 + ¼ cup evaporated milk
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon fruit-flavored liquor (optional)
Put all ingredients together in a slow cooker (crock pot,) cover, and cook on high for 30 minutes. Stir well and cook for one more hour on low. Use forks or small tongs to dip cubes of pound cake, fresh strawberries, marshmallows, pretzels, or whatever else you think would taste good dipped in chocolate into the mixture. Eat and enjoy!
4- Library "Heebie-cam" - The Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana, has taken a "novel" approach to detecting its resident ghost, known as the Gray Lady. They've set up three web-cams linked to the internet throughout the library in places where the lady has been seen. The images refresh every 20 seconds, and visitors to the site are asked to save images of anything that might not be of this earth and send it to the library. They already have a large collection of strange images, as well as several humorous "spoofs" sent in by fans. Visit the site by clicking above.
5- "Night Prayers" - Long-time
Patient Creature associate and award-winning author P.D. Cacek
has just has a mass-market paperback release of her steamy vampire
novel. It tells the story of the reluctant bloodsucker Allison
and the slightly insane street-preacher Mica and their adventures
in the California underworld. Recommended for our friends over
18 only, please. Ask at your favorite library or bookstore.
6- Surf Film Festival - For most of the U.S., February is the dead of winter, cold and snowy and miserable. But it's also the height of the surf season in the surfing centers of Hawaii and Australia. So warm up your house with a surfing movie weekend: Start with the 1966 documentary "The Endless Summer" to get your feet wet, then move on to "Step Into Liquid" (documentary, 2003) and "Riding Giants" (documentary, 2004) to learn about the state of the sport today. Now that you know the lingo, dude, check out the totally gnarly wahinis in "Gidget" (comedy, 1959) and "Blue Crush" (drama, 2002.) For the midnight feature, plug in Troma Films' "Surf Nazis Must Die" (we can't say this is a great movie, but it does feature surf sequences by some great professional surfers, including the late Mark Foo. It was also produced by our friend Robert Tinnell!) Finally, wrap it up with funny Disney feature, "Lilo and Stitch" (animated, 2002)
7- Raul Midon - Born in New Mexico and based in New York City, this singer-composer-guitarist has produced a remarkable and wonderfully upbeat debut album, "State of Mind." Grim has been playing this one around the crypt for weeks! Check out Midon's website here and listen to some music samples. You also might hear his music when you stop in your local Starbucks for a cappuchino.
8- "Day Off the Dead" - A stop-motion film that tells the story of love's ups and downs when you're a courting skeleton. See it for free at Atom Films.
9- "Battlestar: Galactica" - An original series airing on the Sci-Fi channel Friday nights at 10 pm (eastern,) it's a "reimagining" of the 70s series. Normally, that description means trouble, but here they've created a complex and compulsively watchable show, and probably the best SF series since they cancelled "Farscape."
10- Lego Star Wars game - A video game where you play Star Wars characters from episodes 1-3 and play out situations from those films. As entertaining and playable as any of the Star Wars game titles, but here's the twist: the characters, vehicles, and buildings are all made of Lego blocks! It sounds silly, and it is, but it's also a lot of fun. Preview the game here.
11- Ben Franklin's Birthday Montage - To celebrate this American founding father's 300th birthday, the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper did a collage of over 500 images celebrating Franklin around his adopted city. Click above to view the collage, which you can zoom in on to examine more closely. Then test your knowledge of Franklin trivia here.
12- This Day in History - Part of the History Channel website, it gives you all sorts of fun trivia for any day you choose. You can also send friends a "This Day in History" e-card. Let's see, which Patient Creature shares a birthday with U.S. President William Henry Harrison and writer Alice Walker...
13- Crazyfads.com - Read about all sorts of trends from the 1920s up until today. A nostalgia trip for older folks, and a chance for younger ones to learn what exactly a pet rock was, and why everybody wanted to buy one.