Thursday, October 23, 2014

There's a Circus in Your Pocket


Whether you're on the fence about ordering the physical pack,
or just want to have the Zircus available to you wherever you go,
The Fool's Dog app version of Tarot of the Zircus Mägi is for you! 

Packed with features, including an expanded version of the "Little White Book"
included with the physical deck and the original novel that inspired the deck,
this bargain-priced package puts the Zircus on your device
-- with beautiful Retina graphics -- in all its gaudy glory!

Available for both Android and iOS (universal iPhone/iPad app) devices,
this is your budget ticket into the Big Top ... but be warned,

Android users click here to view and order:

iOS users click here to view and order: 

THIS IS
The Great Circus of Life:
in the PALM of your
HAND!

-- Freder.
www.duscksoup.me

Monday, October 20, 2014

We Were The Last


I had a dream about the old house last week. My mother and her brother (my Uncle John) drove me out there in the dead of night, and I broke in through the back way. It turned out that I had left things there, and I needed to collect them and save them. There were things from my mother’s collection that the auctioneers had somehow passed over, and that I hadn’t had the time to take. I went through the whole house in the dark, grabbing up loads of my mother’s past and mine as well. I made trip after trip out to the car, filling up the back seat. My mother and Uncle John just sat in the car beside each other while I worked. I didn’t like the way that they looked at me. 

Before he moved out West, shortly after the funeral gathering for my brother-in-law that I did not attend, my father passed on the news that the new owners of the family house out in Albion were going to tear it down.

He said that the big barn was already gone. This is the main reason why I could not bring myself to attend my sister’s husband’s service: their house is just a quarter mile or so and around a corner from the Old House, and I can’t bear to ever go out to Albion again, not for anyone, not for any reason. It’s done, it’s done. It’s done. 

But still the news made me so sad, just made me shake my head. Sure, the old place needed work, but it was basically sound; and more than that it was a grand rambling house with so much potential, so much that could have been revived. It needed a new roof, mainly… replacing this with the original cedar shakes would have been unimaginably expensive, but a metal roof could have been put on the place quite economically, and I’m no longer as opposed to metal roofs as I used to be. For one thing, the snow slides off!

Once that was done, there were a handful of interior walls that needed repair, but I see this done all the time on the plethora of home remodeling shows that are all over TV these days. Take the opportunity while you’re doing it to re-insulate with modern materials, it could have been the grandest house once again.

But they waited too long. The roof needed to be done ASAP, and in the four years that they’ve owned the place they did nothing. And when, in a strange mood, I looked at the most recent satellite pictures of the house from above, I saw that the roof had fallen in over the bedroom right next to mine… there it was, a big, gaping hole in the roof. 

I feel now more than ever that somehow, some way, my mother was the glue holding the old place together. As soon as she died, so did the house begin to die. I wrote about all this four years ago here on the blog, so I won’t rehash it here. 

The house needed the new owners to be saviors. Instead, they spent all their efforts cutting down every single tree and bush around the place so that it looked like it was sitting in the middle of the Sahara. And now it’s too late for them. For it. For the place.

All of this has been on my mind lately, not because I’m unhappy in my current place (which is the opposite of true: every single day I thank my lucky stars for my current home, and especially for the way it has embraced all of the past history that I brought to it; I am so very lucky) but because I do believe that houses have spirits; and the news that my Dad gave me felt like another Death Knell in the family. The Old House was my home for more than thirty-five years. Now it’s going — perhaps it has already gone as I type this. 

The Google Earth pictures were bad enough: looking at them I felt the way people in wars must feel when their homes get bombed into rubble. I didn’t dwell on them long. I know that I could never go back out there again. It’s why I couldn’t go to my brother-in-law’s service.

And yet there is a perverse part of me that is a little bit glad that no one will ever live in that house again. We were the last. It served us well, just exactly as long as it needed to. 

— Freder
www.ducksoup.me

Monday, October 13, 2014

Where's Count Floyd When You Need Him?


I have to confess, my Halloween viewing has been pretty danged dreary so far this year; and it’s been full of reversals. Well, a guy can change his mind, right?
I started with a few Universal programmers from the ‘forties, of which the ones I liked best were the ones I remembered liking the least. It just goes to show, I suppose, that low expectations can go a long way. I particularly enjoyed a B horror/comedy called Horror Island, with Dick Foran starring and Leo Carillo in a colorful role as an ex-pirate. Carillo was one of those steady supporting players who was really, really good at doing what he was good at: providing the color, much of the charm, and the comedy relief. The picture is a complete toss off intended as filler for a double bill… not even remotely scary and only a little bit funny, but I did find it enjoyable this time, strangely.

Of course King Kong is still the monster of all monsters; still a great picture with hardly a frame of wasted footage, and a picture that in no way needed to be remade by anyone… much less turned into the ponderous, overbearing sap-fest that is Peter Jackson’s version. But Mystery of The Wax Museum, made that same year and starring Kong’s leading lady, Fay Wray? I had fond memories of this… only to fall asleep on it last night. It’s good bits are still very, very good indeed (and the final revelation of the villain remains the best and most effective unveiling of any criminal mastermind, bar none, as Fay pounds Lionel Atwill’s face in self-defense) … but the good bits are so far between: after an arresting opening the thing descends into a very ordinary procedural headed by a very uninteresting Gal Reporter. Fay isn’t introduced until almost halfway through, and then the director doesn’t know how to photograph her to best advantage. Atwill is marvelous when we see him, but we don’t see enough of him. When this was remade as House of Wax nearly three decades later, the procedural was dumped and the filmmakers wisely did not fall into the trap that Mystery does of revealing the monster’s face early and often. I can’t say House of Wax is a better movie but — in all but that one single scene, that one single shot of Atwill’s face cracking and breaking under Miss Wray’s blows — it is smarter.

Probably the biggest reversal of all was the movie version of Todd MacFarlaine’s comic series Spawn. The first time I saw this a couple of years ago, I thought it was harmless, goofy fun, with lots of well-designed demons filling the screen and lots of action. 

What the hell was I thinking? Was I drunk? Ehhhh, could be. This is one of the worst funnybook movies I’ve ever seen, and I have seen some stinkers! Poor John Leguzamo mugs underneath literally piles of make-up; meanwhile, Martin Sheen gives hands-down the worst performance of his career (actually embarrassing to watch), Nicol Williamson phones it in and collects his check, and the hero never ever seems to put the mask on to cover his ugly face. Mix it up with an old, old revenge motivation, a really cringingly painful script and direction from poverty row… and I feel asleep on this load of crap, too.

Honestly, for this and other reasons, this Halloween viewing season has been mostly disappointing. Who in hell is the damn programming director? Oh, wait… that would be me.

— Freder
www.ducksoup.me

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Shake, Shiver, Rattle, Roll III: The Annual Halloween Music Playlist for 12014


I thought that I had my annual Halloween playlist carved in stone a couple of weeks ago… but instead I have been tinkering with it to no end. I like the songs to have variety and to contrast with each other in both tone and style, and I like the transitions to be as seamless as possible, and the list this year just wasn’t gelling for me. I have been distracted most all of the year, and the last month has been especially, ehm, “diverting.”

But at last, with a little more work just this morning, I think I have the coffin lid nailed down on this puppy. At last — at last — I am able to present my annual Halloween playlist for 2014.

This year I’m going to make you an offer. Some folks have wondered where to find these cuts, and you know, the thing is you find them everywhere and I’ve been kicking around a fairly long while now. A handful of my closest friends will get copies of this list on CD, but I obviously can’t include every Bela, Boris and Morticia on the distribution list. However — if you want to send me a blank CD and a self-addressed return envelope with sufficient return postage already affixed, I’ll be happy to burn you a copy of this year’s list. Include three CDs if you want the lists for all three years that I’ve been doing this. Click on the “Contact the Duckmeister” link in the sidebar and shoot me an email if you’re interested.

And without further ado, let’s draw back the moth-eaten curtain on this year’s sampling of music for the only worthwhile Holiday Season!

1) Emilie Autumn is a recent discovery for me… but instead of her music, I open the playlist with an evokative spoken-word piece of hers called “Words From The Asylum.” It makes for an arresting opening… the more so because this girl really is crazy (I mean that in the Nicest Possible Way… she’s one of My People) and the piece is only slightly fictional.

2) So far, I haven’t been able to resist using a cut from The Birthday Massacre somewhere on the list. They add a purple bite. This year’s entry is “Falling Down,” from their album Walking With Strangers

3) Heaven help me, I actually love a group called Adrian H and The Wounds. I’ve got both of their albums. Adrian himself has a voice like sandpaper and the group takes advantage of it. “Murder In the Forest” from their self-titled second album is one of their absolute best: a clunky, noisy, broken-down truck of a song.

4) Arch Obler, the great Horror Impresario of Old-Time Radio, creator of Lights Out, is up next with a cut from his LP Drop Dead. It’s a remarkably efficient (and also very funny) example of gross-out horror called “I’m Hungry”… and I don’t know who the actor is, but he gives the best bang-on impression of Peter Lorre ever, bar none.

 5) The Hi-De-Ho Man, Cab Calloway is back on the list this year with an early version of “The Saint James Infirmary Blues,” one of his signature songs and kind of an obvious choice, really…

6) How I managed to leave that crazy Screamin’ Jay Hawkins off of last year’s list is beyond me… but he’s back this year with “Frenzy,” — a song that I first heard when it was used in the X-Files episode, “Humbug.” It is Pure Crazy and wonderful.

7) I always try to include a classical piece and this year’s selection is more whimsical and evocative than scary: “Aquarium,” from Saint-Seans “Carnival of the Animals.”

8) From Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows I needed something short that also was representative of his/hers/its inherent gruesome weirdness. “The Dog Burial” certainly fits the bill. 

9) Making her debut appearance (but not her last) on these playlists, Blues Diva Besse Smith serves up her “Graveyard Dream Blues,” from the two-record set, Any Woman's Blues, that I inherited from my buddy Bruce Canwell (he of the great Library of American Comics) when he made vinyl a thing of the past in his music collection. 

10 and 11) Next up are two cuts from a long-defunct jazz ensemble known as The West Coast Workshop. They’re from The Wizard of Oz, an album from the late ‘60s that uses Harold Arlen tunes as a jumping off point for the most amazing modern jazz riffs. “The Dowser and the Thaumaturgist” is both eerie and wistful (two good qualities for All Hallow’s Eve), while “Ozwind” starts out almost painfully nostalgic before going full-out mystical and spooky. I’ve written about this album elsewhere on the blog. Great stuff!

12) After a one-year absence from the list, Bobby “Boris” Picket and the Crypt Kickers are back — not, as you might expect, with their hit “The Monster Mash,” but with an even funnier piece that led off side two of their only album, “Me and My Mummy.”

13) … which is the perfect lead-in to a selection from Tales of The Frightened, a spoken-word story of love from the other side, told by the genuine Boris Karloff!

14) The only problem I have with “Flood II” as a blood-pumping mood piece is that it runs six minutes, which is about two minutes too long. Still, it makes for a good contrast to the last few cuts. It’s by The Sisters of Mercy (who are all men) from their album Floodland.

15) Nox Arcana’s albums are all largely of a piece, and any one of them will do for the season. From their Poe-inspired album Shadows of the Raven, I selected “Melancholia.” The music certainly captures the spirit of the title, and I imagine Morticia Addams’s melancholic sister Ophelia sitting beside an old gramophone, cuddling her lilies, with this piece playing.

16) 2014 was the year I officially “discovered” the musical sub-sub-genre Gothabilly… here, from a group called The Spectres, I offer “Blooduckin’ Cowboy.” It’s from a Skull Records “sampler” album called Gothabilly Razin’ Hell.

17) Johnny Cash joins the list this year with a song I can’t listen to without tears: “Wayfaring Stranger.” 

18) And again for a change of mood (because we need one after the seriousness of Cash’s cut) here’s the head-banging, pulse-pounding metal group Halestorm with a little number from their album The Strange Case Of… called “Love Bites — And So Do I.” 

19) While your head is still pounding from that baby, you’ll appreciate the much more soulful Loreena McKinnett with her soft, melancholy, seasonal ballad “Samhain Night.”

20) Almost there: Just for fun, Inkubus Sukkubus is back with one of their more whimsical cuts, “Goblin Jig.”

21) And I wind it all up by going all serious on you again, as Folk legend Ola Belle Reed regales us with her unique Southern Gothic style in “My Epitaph.” Don’t bring me flowers after I’m dead!

And we’re out of here! I’m tired of typing and my head is ringing. See you in the graveyard!

— Freder
www.ducksoup.me

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Briefly Noted...


Because I wanted to focus on my TAROT OF THE ZIRKUS MÄGI (and it's worth focusing on... you can check it out here if you haven't already), I let a couple of milestones go by quietly, just adding links over there in the sidebar to the right. But they are worth noting here in plain sight...

First, the new mini-site devoted to my next novel is up and running. It's a strange little number called Baxter Bunny Escapes, and among other things to come you can now read the first two chapters complete online. Chapter Three is coming soon. Although my work on this project has been slowed by one thing and another (oh my goodness, just scroll on down to the older posts if you're wondering what the delay could possibly be...) I'm still hoping to have this ready for print early next year.


But that's not the only project on my to-do list, by a long shot, and I've just launched another mini-site that will allow you to follow the creation of The Marvelous Oracle of Oz from the very beginning right up to the moment that it goes to print. Only six cards have been designed so far... but even that small amount ought to give you a good feel for what the deck is going to look like. I'm really hoping to have this project done by Christmastime. Yeah -- wish me luck with that...

So -- go explore! These are two fun projects that are on my front burner... and any and all input / feedback / thoughts would be welcome.

Onward!

-- Freder.
www.ducksoup.me

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bring On The Monsters


I’ve written about the TV series Supernatural before and don’t want to overdo it, but it’s worth noting that just as I was falling out of love with the thing it gobsmacked me with two smashing episodes back to back.

If I hadn’t ordered up Season Four before I watched the last three episodes of Season Three, I might not have ordered it up at all. The show has always skirted pretty close to the very edge of what was acceptable to me, blood-and-gore-wise, and at the end of season three they didn’t just cross the line, they leaped over it. In two otherwise interesting episodes, sequences of explicit Saw-style torture porn horror were included, in one case including the graphic cutting out of a man’s heart while he was still alive — making the show (for me) pretty much unwatchable. It was with that bad taste in my mouth that I began Season Four… and discovered that the whole series had gone South in a different way, and for different reasons.

Without warning, Supernatural goes all Holy and Christian on us, with Angels and even Mister God His-sef becoming Main Characters. Suddenly, Dean is morphed into a bible-toting crusader for the Christian faith. Even if I was a bible-thumper myself, which I emphatically am not, I’d have to say that God has no place on a show like this. Besides which — in a world where the supernatural can encompass all the mythologies of the world, it seems downright stupid of the show’s producers to marry the series so completely to The Bible. How to Limit Your Options in One Easy Step. 

So I deeply suspect that Season Four will be my last… I just can’t buy into all this Angel crap. But before I go, it was danged good to get two powerfully fun and successful episodes back-to-back in the last couple of days. Both fall into the category of “Tragical Comedies or Comical Tragedies,” but that’s where the similarities end. 

In “Monster Movie,” which was filmed in black-and-white in a manner that strongly evokes the great Universal Monster Movies of the thirties and especially the forties, Sam and Dean go up against no less than the vintage film incarnations of Dracula, The Wolfman and The Mummy… and the script cannily ties it all into Supernatural’s own distinct canon. It is immensely enjoyable, with some laugh-out-loud moments, some good creepy chills, and a great Ultimate Monster. How close is the detail? One scene even mimics the distinctive “shock” close-ups of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula by highlighting the vampire with spotlights that actually miss his eyes by inches! Fans of the 1931 picture know what I’m talking about.

The next episode, “Yellow Fever,” opens with a scary-suspenseful sequence that abruptly turns into what is undoubtedly the biggest out-loud belly-laugh of the entire series, bar none. So again it’s a comedy episode, with Dean literally in danger of dying of fright, but the monster at the core of the story is tragic enough to lend a little weight — and a couple of genuinely chilling moments — to an episode that shows off Jensen Ackles’s comic timing to the maximum.

So — even though I’ll probably be parting ways with the Winchester boys after I finish this season somewhere around Halloween — I’m happy to know that despite some really dumb over-all planning, the show still has some genuine juice left in it. I felt the same way about The X-Files in Season Two: the over-arcing story of UFOs and government conspiracies was already becoming tedious to say the least — but then like a shot in the dark came the wonderful episode set in a circus sideshow, “Humbug” — probably my favorite show of that entire series. 

P.S. Proving that every TV series misfires at some point, this year’s new batch of Doctor Who has been a decidedly mixed bag. Is it a creative friction between Peter Capaldi (who is wonderful as The Doctor, don’t get me wrong) or has Moffat just gone off his rocker? For almost all of the first five episodes Moffat has been trying to turn it into The Clara Show… which pisses me off to no end. The Companion is important, but The Companion is not the star of the show. Last week’s entry, “Time Heist,” finally nudged the thing back in the right direction. We’ll see where it goes from here. I can’t just give up on it yet — Capaldi is too good, and one hopes that he will finally be allowed to star in the show that bear’s his character’s name…

Onward…

— Freder.
www.ducksoup.me

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Now Available: TAROT OF THE ZIRKUS MÄGI



The TAROT OF THE ZIRKUS MÄGI
is now available for immediate shipping.

Only 500 copies were printed for the First Edition,
and I can't promise that there will be a second.

*
A truly Magical deck.

The Circus Arts provide a perfect milieu for the Tarot.

There are stars and roustabouts, successes and failures, dreams and nightmares. The clowns, acrobats, equestrian acts and entrepreneurs, each with their fond expectations or dashed hopes, all comfortably express the truths and secrets underlying the realm of the Tarot. The two worlds merge as seamlessly as if they were meant for one another.

It’s been an eighteen-month journey for me, combining two of my lifelong interests: the performing arts and mysticism. Far from being just an "art deck" or a "gimmick" deck, every effort has been made to create a genuine working deck aimed at practitioner and novice alike.

Here's some of what people are saying:

"I received my deck and it's GORGEOUS!!!
The pictures, the gloss, the stock, just GORGEOUS!!!"

"Thank you for a beautiful deck. I love it."

"Wonderful, the art is beautiful and the concept inspired."

"Breathtaking"

"The stuff of dreams"

"... will awaken some very deep realities in people."

"I love the atmosphere this deck invokes."

"Amazing...  I am looking forward to both using
and showing off my deck whenever I can. "

"Wonderful! Thank you. I can't wait to conjure
up the circus with this fabulous deck."

But don't take their word for it:

Every card in the deck can be viewed at www.circustarot.blogspot.com .

-TAROT OF THE ZIRKUS MÄGI-

"The attraction of the virtuoso for the public
is very like that of the circus for the crowd.
There is always the hope that something dangerous will happen."
- Claude Debussy.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Haunted Bookshop

\

Last night, for the first time in months, my dreams were not confused and dark. Last night, for the first time in years, I visited a couple of Magic Bookshops. 

Other than to (very occasionally) visit my friend Ellen at her shop, The Children’s Book Cellar, I haven’t set foot in any bookstore since I more or less deliberately got myself fired from the last one I worked at, The Colby College Bookstore. And that was a horrible experience. I was hired to be in charge of the Trade Books department, but for the first year and a half I was not allowed to do the job I was hired for. When at long last I was finally let off the leash and allowed to actually order books and manage the department, I was undermined at every step by the Insane, uber-micro-managing cow who called herself my boss.

I tried very hard to make the place into A Really Good Bookstore. I figured that I had a license to do this because our clientele, our “community,” was made up of students, professors, and other academia workers — that is, people with brains in their heads. My boss had been blindly stocking (and well over-stocking) every best-seller, every thriller, every piece of crap by writers like Lee Child, Tom Clancy (or rather his ghost-writers), James Patterson (or rather his ghost-writers)… crap that she had been told by the publishing industry that she should stock — none of which actually sold for us. 

I put an end to that as quickly as I could, and instead set about transforming the store into something that I could be proud of. Not “literary” fiction per se, but eclectic fiction that would interest a young audience. Lots of pop culture titles. Games. Art books with an emphasis on the creative process. Eclectic books from smaller publishers. Books on stuff like Haka Dancing that my boss would never have stocked, but which I knew would interest the students. Gaming stuff. “Geeky” stuff. The more esoteric, the better. Over the course of a couple of years, I made that place into the kind of bookstore I used to love to visit, and which has sadly gone the way of the dodo. 

Where my boss would order 20 copies of the latest unsellable thriller (18 of which would then go into returns and make more work for everyone), I rarely ordered more than one copy of anything: on the theory that this allowed me to stock a broader range of titles in less depth.

And all I got from the pencil-pushers, every year, was “Trade Book sales are down, Trade Book sales are down!”

— Like it was my fault that the book industry is killing itself. Like it was my fault that a student would discover a great book right there in our store — and then go back to their dorm and order it from Amazon.

Trade Book sales were going down everywhere. Not my problem. My only goal was in making an interesting bookstore that would draw people in, and you know what? Maybe sales were up in other areas of the store because I was drawing people in with a broader, more interesting, eclectic book selection.

They never could understand that this “Bestseller Mentality” of throwing all your resources into the Lowest Common Denominator basket has killed bookstore after bookstore after bookstore. It’s what killed Borders and it’s what’s killing B&N, because instead of bing the kind of stores that they were in their expansionist phase (when you could go into a new B&N or Borders and find all kinds of wonderful things that the local booksellers could not afford to stock), they regressed and contracted into Big Machines Pushing the Same Old Crap That Everyone Else Was Pushing. 

… which in turn opened the doors for the smaller Independent Booksellers to finally regain some ground and start Kicking Back. Which they have done.

There’s a B&N store not far away from me, but I haven’t gone there in nearly a decade, because I know that it will be the same old crap, nothing unusual, nothing but bestsellers and standards and book-lights. Not at all, not even remotely like the original Barnes & Noble I visited in New York City for the first time back in the mid-‘70s. 

Which was quite close, in a way, to the second bookstore I visited in my dreams last night. I think it had everything. I think it stocked every book that was in print from every publisher in the nation — plus imports. You could go in there and spend an afternoon just browsing, and find an armful of books that you wanted — although of course you couldn’t afford them all. Your brain could not even encompass everything that they stocked. Now that was a bookstore.

Except the one in my dream last night had books that showed the underlying Patterns, the actual design, of the Universe itself. Oh, and — a thick book of pop-up and punch-out jewelry designed by Edward Gorey. Created by him after his death, of course. That’s what Magic Bookshops do: put the impossible into your hands.

The first bookstore that I visited in my dreams last night was a very different sort of place. Its proprietor was a man in white who swept the sidewalk out in front every day, wearing a smug smile on his face and white apron tied around his waist like an old-time shopkeeper. His shop on the corner was so small that for days and days I did not go there, thinking that it could not possibly have anything of interest in stock. 

Then one day I went up to talk to him, and he ushered me into his shop, and I saw how wrong I’d been. 

The space itself was tiny; no larger than an average bathroom, and completely square. There were four wooden walls all around, with a shelf cut into each wall, and a single book sitting on each shelf. And what books they were!

I can’t tell you now, I literally can’t, because that’s what dreams do. But they were… everything you were ever looking for, everything you ever wanted to know. They were very old, with elegant pen-and-ink illustrations. Ancient maps. Near the corner of the room was a rope extending through the ceiling above. You pulled on the rope, and all four walls sank through the floorboards, while a whole other room came down from above. Four more shelves, four more books for sale. They were large and bound in tooled leather. You could pick them up off the shelves, and just by touching them you became a Better Person.

You tugged on the rope again, and another level came down from above while you stood in place. Three levels, all told. Twelve books altogether. Everything you were looking for, Everything that you needed to Know.

— Freder.
www.ducksoup.me

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Now Accepting Pre-Orders for TAROT OF THE ZIRKUS MÄGI -- Full 78-Card Deck

Click the Image to Enlarge
I'm now accepting pre-orders for the deck, but please keep in mind that these pre-orders will not ship until all the Kickstarter backers have received their rewards -- probably late September. Thanks for understanding. 

The first edition of the deck is limited to 500 copies. Kickstarter backers cleared out approximately 150+ of those. 

Click here to order. Pre-ordering is being done through Square and PayPal, the deck won't appear in my Etsy shop until all Kickstarter and Pre-Order decks have been shipped.

For details about the deck, including every card image and lots of behind-the-scenes "extras," visit circustarot.blogspot.com .

Thank you all for your support!

-- Frederwww.ducksoup.me

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Potpourri


I have so much on my mind, and there is so much going on, that I can hardly organize it into coherent thought, let alone into a credible, unified blog post. 

GAZA: This is what Religion does to people. If you take either side in the conflict, you are part of the problem. If you look at the photographs and see “demons” in the clouds of destruction, you are part of the problem. Demons didn’t do this: humans did. Both Israel and Hamas are so far in the wrong that they need God himself to come down out of the skies and say, “You two BRATS had better knock it off right now, or I am gonna give you both a spanking that you will NEVER forget.” — Although, would they heed it, if it happened? They might crawl off into their separate corners to lick their wounds, but they would still be harboring hatred for one another. I say again, This is what Religion does to people: it creates whole populations who can never forgive, never forget, and worse — never move on.

FERGUSON: This is what Capitalism does to people. Fergusen is chilling enough if you believe that it’s an isolated incident, but I don’t believe for one nanosecond that it will be an isolated incident. Police brutality is up alarmingly nationwide. Armed military “exercises” are occurring, with little publicity, all over the nation. Local police departments are being issued with Military weapons and assault machines. The one percent have actively begun arming themselves against us. Instead of doing right by the people who work for them, instead of doing right by the nation, they are digging in their heels. At the same time I’m terrified of what will happen if it does come down to armed revolution, because think about it: the only people with guns in this country are the crazy right-wing loony-tooners, the working Republicans who have been enabling the very wealthy to get away with this crap all along. If they take up their arms it will get very bloody, and the rest of us won’t stand a chance.

Meanwhile, production of the Tarot deck is in progress, and I’m more concerned than ever about taking this gamble in our fractured, fragmented Culture. You try to do good work that will make people happy, then you throw it into the cultural well and wait to hear a splash that never comes. That’s been my experience so far, at least. With the mainstream book and music publishers now so far out of the loop and so vary far out of sync with the culture — the merger of Penguin and Random House is nothing less than an apocalyptic event in the literary world, and I’m alarmed that no one has even seemed to bat an eye over it — and more and more and more artists, musicians and writers taking things back into their own hands, the public’s attention is divided in about a million different directions… and this is a problem that goes way, way deeper than just one artist, or a bunch of them, trying to make a living off of what they do well. Our attention is so divided, we are so distracted, that we cannot effectively present ourselves as a unified body of people, as a unified culture… and this is exactly what the one percenters want, it’s something that they can take advantage of to keep us in line, to allow them to hang onto their vast wealth and amass all the more.

And with all this happening, this deepening global war of The Few vs. The Many… all I really want to think about is the new season of Doctor Who. It’s my little cultural hole that I can crawl into to hide out from the rest of the world, an oasis in a world of war. The Doctor is the last true old-style hero that we have left, an Individual who stands for the values of Intelligence, compassion and respect. 

In this truly cataclysmic world, you try to find meaning where you can… and end up just as distracted as everyone else.

— Freder.
www.ducksoup.me

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You Are What You Make


Although for much of my life I could not have put it into so many words, or for that matter could not have understood the rationale behind the feeling, I have always believed that that The Creative Life — whatever that means — comes attached with a kind of moral responsibility. So-called “creators” of irresponsible, vacuous, or degrading “art” have always outraged me all out of proportion to the value (or lack of value) in their work; to the point where I come off looking kind of kooky simply because all I could do was explain why I found a book or a film or a piece of art objectionable — not why I was so outraged by its very existence. 

Prime examples would be people George Romero, or Eli Roth, or the people behind the Saw movies. I never wasted even a minute of my life watching their movies, and still I was infuriated by their very existence,

Now I think that I understand. I’m learning, you see, that the world is made of thoughts and emotions, as much as atoms and molecules — maybe more so, because it is thought and emotion that shape the atoms and molecules.

Everything that we bring into the world, no matter how small, has consequences upon the world, and the culture that we live inside. This means nothing less than that, as a creative person, you are responsible for what you bring into the world. 

Movies are not just “movies.” Movies are real in the sense that they have an impact on the people who watch them and on the culture as a whole. Like everything else in the world, movies and books and all kinds of art give off vibrations that impact everything around them. Didn’t you feel kind of dirty while you were watching Stardust Memories or Batman Returns? Take that to the next level: a vile, inhuman and outright anti-human movie like Hostel reaches out into our culture whether we want it to or not. By the mere fact of its existence, by the energies that went into its making, it pollutes our culture and the world and turns us all down a darker path whether we are directly impacted by it or not. 

This is why I have always said and felt (not always knowing why, though usually being scoffed at by others for believing it) that someone like George Romero has an awful lot to answer for. In his case, it’s not only his own films that he is answerable for (although they are bad enough), but also the scores of imitators more or less consciously ripping him off with their legions of movies about ghouls (and let’s start using the right word for these creatures, please: a zombie is something entirely different. What Romero made movies about, in his own words, are ghouls) splashing the screen not just in blood and gore but with feelings and vibrations of supreme ugliness.

No culture can endure, for long, the ugliness that these kinds of movies bring into the world. 

It’s not “just a movie.” When you watch a movie like that, your thoughts and emotions are being directly affected, directly infected. Your entire being is being abused, and altered by that abuse.

I’m not saying that artists should only do “nice” work. But when depicting the dark side of our nature, you need to be responsible about it. In my novel See Them Dance I created a whole host of monstrous creatures and let them, for a couple of chapters, run riot. But I never created a monster without creating a competing force for nobility capable of putting them down. 

This is the purpose of Evil in art: to show that we have the capacity to rise above it. The “art” that I’m speaking of creates Evil for it’s own end: as a goal in itself.

What I am learning now is that every thought that we have — Every. Single. Thought. — comes with consequences attached, affects our reality in either beneficial or harmful ways. 

People have reacted to me with scorn when I try to point this out. I actually had one person say to me, emphasis his, “It’s only entertainment!” — As if the whole concept of someone finding entertainment or pleasure in images of other people being tortured to death was not appalling all by itself. 

Free speech doesn’t allow you to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater, and it doesn’t allow to you to be irresponsible. We accept this as a fact in our physical lives — why can’t we accept it in our emotional lives, in our art? The act of making these movies brings negative power into the world, and the people who watch them as entertainment are allowing themselves to become magnifiers of that power. We are seeing the impact of it in our culture.

You are responsible for what you bring into the world: and for what you consume. Just as poison kills the body, the art of poison will kill the mind and soul. 

Maybe this is why The Addams Family have always been my favorite people: they are creepy, they are kooky, they are altogether ooky — but they bring love and family devotion into the world, not hatred and hostility and death. In the words of the transvestite “mother” in the rock musical Hair: “Be whatever you are, do whatever you want to do — just so long as you don’t hurt anybody.”

Depravity hurts, even when it’s “just” in a movie. Depictions of Depravity are the same thing as Depravity itself. It’s not a victimless crime. The whole culture is damaged. And while we can’t license or govern these people out of existence, we can do one positive thing to begin cleansing our culture right now: we can stop giving them our money, our time, our attention, and our bodies as amplifiers of the degeneracy that they are pumping into world. 

— Freder.
www.ducksoup.me

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Mellissae Lucia, Artist, Adventurer, Creator of the Oracle of Initiation, and all-around nice person, recently talked with me about the Kickstarter process for her series on fundraising campaigns. The result is here! While you're there, check out her visionary Oracle of Initiation.


-- Freder.
www.ducksoup.me

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Magical Thinking


I am one of those confused persons who doesn’t know what he believes, but knows what he doesn’t believe. As an example, I don’t believe in Fairy Stories about a bearded old man who sits up in the clouds, and who takes a personal interest in the affairs of each and every one of us, whilst he is being serenaded by angels. 

On the other hand, there are things not to be believed in, but known. And I know as surely as if it was established scientific fact that there is more to the world, more to the known universe, more to life than meets the eye: and much more than we the living can ever hope to comprehend. This is exactly why the minds of man come up with mythologies, to explain the unexplainable. And while I’m interested in mythology as a subject, I can’t be brought to believing in the gods of the established modern religions any more than I believe in Thor, Zeus or Cthulhu.

Nestled in the realm of the unexplainable is the mystery of our own minds, and the still-unscientifically-defined power that our minds wield in so many different aspects of our lives. 

My mental landscape was, for a year and a half or thereabouts, in the best condition that it ever had been, but by the early part of this year it had begun to teeter. Then came the devastating (not too strong a word) blow that I took at the personally disastrous Maine Comics Arts Festival in early Spring, surrounded on both sides by a flood of death, death and more death in the family, and the increasingly emotionally taxing business of life; by last week, in the wake of my Pandy Bear’s death, I had fallen so low that… I won’t say that I hit rock bottom, but you don’t want to get any lower than where I was. 

While doing research for the new tarot book I discovered a fascinating periodical called New Dawn, and while I don’t believe everything I read there, I do find almost every theory that it discusses to be fascinating on its own terms, real or not. (The writing, by the way, is largely not in the category breathless and unthinking belief, but simply of asking questions and examining potentials). So many possibilities, and sometimes imagining the mere possibility of the possible in this wild uncharted place we call life is an enlightening end in itself… just reading about theory of mind is likely to change your way of thinking, whether you believe it or not.

And a few days ago, the imaginative thought occurred to me that I was under active psychic attack: which attack was having excruciating physical consequences in addition to the damage it was doing to my thinking and my moods. It would be too dramatic for me to believe that I was being attacked by an outside force, by an entity or, in the language of religion, a demon with a mind and will of its own. But it’s eminently believable that the attack was coming from a part of my own psyche.

I dreamed last night, vividly, and with continuity across disturbed periods of sleep, that I was being mentally attacked by a crazed performance artist who had the power to alter every aspect of the world. This person was neither male nor female, but took on, at times, the aspects of both. The dream began with my mother and other close friends coming under the influence of this exotic and powerful artist. There was to be an exhibition of her work: and while attending this so-called exhibition (which involved no displays of paintings or things like that), I suddenly realized that every person in attendance, including myself, was a part of the exhibition, and that everything I did was orchestrated according to her plan, even when I defiantly refused to co-operate. I walked out of the event and shucked off the costume I had forced to wear (a leather jacket, in part); but the artist came after me, and soon the entire world began to change around me, at his whim: the harder that I tried to escape his “art,” the more elaborate it became and the more it entrapped me: as an example, the field I had come into turned into a shopping mall that had no escape: it literally folded and unfolded around me as I sought for the exit. In the end, the only escape I had was to wake up.

So — since I’ve already stated that I don’t believe in demons, and since I have always believed that all of the characters and settings that appear in a person’s dreams are aspects of their own psyche, the message that I was creating my own prison, my own entrapments seems more or less obvious.

The dream came after a roughly thirty-six hour period in which I could feel myself letting go, in which I metaphorically and literally began to start taking some deep breaths, in which the excruciating physical pain that I had been experiencing for nearly a week began finally to abate. I stopped taking all the things that I had been taking, unsuccessfully, to mask the pain and allow me to walk without wanting to scream or cry. I began programming my mind with positive statements. Today I am walking normally without pain, and taking no medicines of any kind. 

I don’t believe it’s a cure-all and I do believe that it’s something that has to be consciously maintained. A cycle of depression and self-loathing seems to feed itself very well, thank you very much, but feelings and thoughts of a positive nature need to be constantly reinforced by exercises from without. When I stopped doing that — that’s when I started to teeter. And so I made myself vulnerable to Events. 

And the Events have been horrible, I must say. This really has been a god-awful year. 

It’s time I started fighting back.

To be fair, I think I come by it honestly: the psychical inheritance I get from my father’s side of the family is one of religious mania, depression, alcoholism, tragedy, austerity and possibly Asperger’s. It is almost purely Swedish and Polish, and all you have to do is watch a single Ingmar Bergman movie to know that Swedes are the product of long, dark winters. Thank Agon that I’m balanced out, at least a little bit, by mother’s creative spirit and her much more colorful and positive family history, which is included, but not limited to, Germanic, Italian, Scots, and British roots. Whereas on my father’s side I am evenly divided into two shades of black, on my mother’s I am very much a brightly colored mongrel. 

I have a boatload of tools to aid the mind in its search for the positive, including but not limited to books, mental exercises, a couple of indoor fountains, and some lovely iPad apps that are genuinely calming in their effect. I haven’t used them in some considerable while. Time I fired up the engines once again and set my mind on a different course.

— Freder.
www.ducksoup.me

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Where Do i Go?



I guess it's my curse that I can't stop thinking about the future. Worry about what should happen to my kitties if anything should happen to me has been bleeding me since the day Pandy Bear died. And then, this evening, I am haunted by the horrors of having to go back on the job interview circuit.

I have never learned how to answer the question: "Do you want this job?" -- or its incestuous cousin, "WHY do you want this job?"

When the fact is, and I do not consider myself unlike anyone else in this, I don't. The fact is, our capitalist society insists that I must be a whore and suck cocks to keep a roof over my head.

I don't even understand why employers ask this question. Do they honestly believe that anyone would find their life's fulfillment doing work that would bore a halfwit, in the service of a bunch of suited corporate bastards?

The honest answer is, "I have bills to pay and I need to keep a roof over the heads of me and my kitties."

 -- But that's not what they want to hear.

They want to hear that you aspire to nothing in life other than slapping corporate logos onto golf balls.

The real fact of life, when you get into that territory, is that I am so over-qualified for those positions that they should be getting down on their knees and BEGGING me to work for them

Hah -- like that would ever happen in anyone's lifetime.

The truth is they they want you to feel INFERIOR, they want you to feel UNWORTHY, because that's how they DOMINATE you.

And I just don't think I can do this anymore. I'm 56 years old and I have reached a stage in my life where I won't be dominated by the kind of human roaches who work in middle management. It's why I did what I did to get the fuck out of Colby College and out from under the heel of the insufferable Dominatrix who called herself my "boss."

This life is simply not working out for me. The things that I think I do well -- nobody wants those things, this has been made very clear to me now. I can't stop thinking about the future, and wondering what in fuck's name I'm going to do to keep a roof over my head.

A year and a half ago, when I was in therapy, the woman who ran those sessions, whom I adored from afar, said to me, essentially quoting Joseph Campbell, that I should follow my bliss.

And I didn't say this to her, because I knew it would fall on deaf ears -- "Yes, but...

"Yes, but, if i do that, and if I FAIL, then I will be in a worse position than I was before. I will be lost. I will be dead soon."

She wouldn't have had an answer for that. Psychologists deal in pipe dreams.

-- Freder
www.ducksoup.me

Monday, August 4, 2014

Forward into the Past


Capote and Hollywoodland, but especially Capote, have almost renewed my faith that it’s still possible to make  good, serious, unsensational movies for grown-ups in a town that has whole-heartedly taken up the tentpole, so to speak, of the blockbuster. We used to call it the “summer blockbuster” because, in the manner of Star Wars and Jaws, the two single movies that changed Hollywood forever, it was thought these pictures would only perform in the summer when young people are out of school. In fact, they perform well year-round, as Lord of the Rings proved, if it hadn’t been proved already.

I like these big “tentpole” movies and always felt growing up that fantasy and SF were under-utilized genres by Hollywood. There was a time pre-Star Wars and pre-computer when they were simply too expensive to make, and fantasy on the order of The Wizard of Oz was essentially a dead genre. This was the heyday of the little movie and the great auteur directors, and without it people like Woody Allen would never have become the great cinematic heroes that they became. Here’s the thing about Woody Allen: he’s become such a master craftsman that even when he’s working on a completely misguided and wrong-headed piece of tripe like Anything Else (his attempt to pander to the youth audience by re-making Annie Hall in teen drag), he’s still capable of making a movie with a basic level of quality that makes it hard to ignore.

In those days Woody was turning out a classic every year, Lucas released something called American Grafitti (still his best movie, by a long shot, despite a more or less damaging re-cut that he performed on it a few years back), people like Kubrick and Frankenheimer and Altman and Ingmar Bergman and the great, I think under-rated George Roy Hill were still active. Peter Bogdanovitch made a little picture called Paper Moon that was dead-on perfect, easily belonging on any reasonable person’s top-ten list. Even Marty Scorsese took time off from his gangsters and made Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, one of the very few of his movies that I can watch (the other being the dazzling Hugo).

It was a great, great time to be a movie fan, even if you wanted the occasional fantasy now and then.

Now it’s just the opposite, the screen is positively stinking with big budget, serious-minded fantasy pictures, comic-book pictures, and don’t get me wrong, some of them are great. The first Iron Man movie is, I think, the best comic adaptation ever barring Superman I and II, the first Captain America and Thor are right up there, John Carter was a spectacular (and again under-rated) adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs that took something like fifty years to get to the screen. 

But why do we live in a world where everything, absolutely everything has to be either / or? Even the very few “little dramas” that are getting made have some kind of a High Concept behind them, a showy gimmick to draw in the rubes, as if all movies are now sideshow attractions, and the ones I’m going to talk about now are no exception. 

Still, Hollywoodland and Capote somehow made me feel like I was in the ‘seventies again… and for me, that’s a good thing. 

Just about the only thing I didn’t like about Hollywoodland was the bleached dry, parchment paper color scheme that saturates the picture. I know that the filmmakers wanted to convey a sense of the past — but I lived through part of that time period, and I know what it looked like, and it didn’t look like raked sand. 

Which forces me to admit this: although I normally can’t stomach his presence, Ben Afflek actually manages to evoke the manners and presence of George Reeves, the lightweight actor who, much to his own frustration, found success as Superman on television in the late 1950s. He seems to have worked hard to get it right. Even under a fake nose, he looks nothing at all like Reeves, and yet somehow Reeves gets through.

The story of course concerns itself with the circumstances of Reeves’s death by gunshot in the bedroom of his home, during a small party. Was it a lover’s-quarrel accident, a murder or a suicide? — the facts could support any of these; we are shown all three possibilities and allowed to draw our own conclusions (although the picture does draw conclusions of its own). Adrien Brody — who as far as I know has never given a bad performance, even in Peter Jackson’s stink-bomb remake of King Kong, here plays a fictional private detective investigating the case more or less on his own hook, more or less finding his clients as he goes. Diane Lane, always worth watching, plays the wife of a studio enforcer who “kept” Reeves for many years as he tried to find a path into Hollywood, while Bob Hoskins is dirty-down-damn brilliant (and almost unrecognizable) as her not-at-all jealous husband, whose whole approach is “if you make my wife happy, you’re OK, but if you make her cry I’m gonna have you killed.”

The details of Reeves’s later life unfold slowly in flashback form as Brody investigates the case. And the truth is, there’s nothing new or daring about any of this… it’s just a very well-made, well-played little investigative journalist movie, with real sadness at its heart, despite the crazy-goofy-but-true High Concept that it’s hung upon. 

Capote, on the other hand, is on a whole other level of quality. Yes, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman really does seem to channel Truman at times, and gives an oscar-worthy performance if there ever was one, but the entire cast is bang-on perfect here, especially including Chris Cooper, Clifton Collins as Perry, and Catherine Keener as Harper Lee. 

What we see here is Capote’s making and unmaking, both at the same time. He is revealed as a man with a genuine double nature: almost supernaturally caring and empathetic on the one hand (and it’s genuine: not something put on for show, but a real sympathetic connection with and interest in the people he meets from all walks of life) and on the other hand a rapacious snake-in-the-grass who will stop at nothing, including manipulating the events of a murder trial, to get what he wants: and who then who hates himself for having gotten it. 

The Truman Capote of his later life, the man who never finished another book, and who behaved the way he did at parties and on talk shows, who died relatively young of alcohol and drug abuse: the birthing of that man is presented in detail here, and I felt that I understood him for the first time. 

With its lovely, stark camera work and the aloof manner in which it approaches the story, Capote could almost have been directed by Woody Allen in his Interiors phase. The film is treated not as a biopic but as a drama (almost a thriller) with another drama at its heart. I found it haunting, deep and immersive; only the gimmick, the real-life High Concept behind it, differentiates it from the great films of the ‘Seventies. 

— Freder
www.ducksoup.me
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