Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Just Because

This morning I got up, fed the kitties, then sat down here at the computer and made a painting of my Little Hunny pussyquat. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. Well -- that, and, I want to learn painting in Photoshop so that I can make painted tarot designs maybe eventually one day. I have comics and book projects that I want to work on too, and this all relies on learning to work with Photoshop in a completely new way. I have some fantastic tools for the creation of digital art, it's time that I started becoming more comfortable with them.

I liked my painting of Hunny well enough that this afternoon I decided to make it into a kind of vintage fruit can label. Here it is:

... and I liked that well enough that I decided to put it on a tee shirt. Well, why not? You can get one here:

As I noted in an earlier post, it's never been easier to publish things or produce goods and put them Out There. The problem is publishng things and producing goods that people actually want. Whether or not anyone out there would actually want a crudely painted picture of my cat turned into a fruit label on a tee shirt (or anything else you can get it on) is what they call, Another Question Entirely. 

-- Thorn.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Paperback Reader

Over the month of October I actually read a couple of old paperbacks from out of the piles of unread books floating around my house. The titles aren’t so much important as the simple fact that I’m reading again, and that they were mass-market paperbacks.

I guess the “mass-market paperback” isn’t exactly, completely dead… but it’s dead enough and it’s been that way long enough that the books actually felt small and strange in my hands, and looked small and strange to my eye. Over the past twenty-odd years we’ve grown so used to the “trade” -sized paperback that it’s become the new standard, and made the Old Standard feel odd to us.

The books themselves… well, they were fun and light October reading. The best was an early-70s survey of horror movies made up to that time, Horror in The Cinema, by Ivan Butler — an ex-actor who himself played in the British stage production of Dracula in the 1920s and ‘30s. 

This was a book that I’d read before, many years ago, when it was first published. I made the mistake of lending it to a high school chum (he wasn’t even that good of a friend) and never saw it again. Thanks to ABEBooks, I was able to replace it just last month, and reading and seeing it again was a particular delight. It came as somewhat of a surprise that I remembered whole swaths of it by heart. With this book, Butler didn’t just encourage my interest in the genre, but actually shaped my moral viewpoint of the cinema as a whole. Unlike many other volumes written later about Horror Movies, this one approaches the genre with a high level of standards and a contempt for unnecessary gore, violence and depravity that is today refreshing. 

Butler has been criticized for getting certain details wrong in his descriptions of the specific movies — but it’s important to note that when the book was written there was no such thing as video on demand, Blu-Ray or DVD disks, and even VHS was just a gleam in some inventor’s eye. In 1972, movies still had a very brief shelf life. When they left the theater, many disappeared seemingly forever. You waited patiently (or not) for a TV or museum showing, and considered yourself lucky if you go it. Repeat viewings are a luxury of the modern age, folks. In 1972 and earlier, you had maybe one change to see a film, and if you wrote about it later, you wrote strictly from memory. To criticize someone of that era for getting a few minor details wrong is nothing short of churlish, especially considering the deliberate tricks that films oftentimes play on us. 

(On a side note: fourteen-year-old boys of the modern era are now just a few clicks away from pornographic images of the most extreme sort. In 1972, when I was 14, the very chaste images of Fay Wray and other starlets appearing in Butler’s book were enough to inspire all sorts of lascivious thoughts and activity… again chaste by today’s standards!)

The other Octoberish title I read last month was The Frankenstein Wheel, by a “Paul Freeman” — probably a pseudonym for a better-known writer. This, too, had ties to my youth. It appeared at the local drugstore at approximately the same time as the Butler book, and was part of Popular Library’s “Frankenstein Horror Series” of the time.

The mass-market paperback was the actual descendant of and replacement for what were called Pulp Magazines back in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s; and in 1972 there were still paperback houses that took the association seriously! Popular Library’s Frankenstein Horror Series was as delightfully pulpish as paperbacks ever got, I think, and I was fortunate enough to actually be there when it was happening. The novels are frothy and written in purple prose and are full of monsters. In literary terms, they are very, very close to the kind of Monster Horror Thriller movie that Universal produced so well from the ‘30s to the ‘50s. The Frankenstein Wheel was the only only book in the series that actually had anything to do with Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, and one of four in the series that eluded me at the time. I finally got a copy a couple of years ago, from an online source.

It is a straightforward sequel to Mary Shelley’s novel, and if its literary worth is practically nil, in story terms it is one of the worthier sequels among the many Frankenstein knock-offs churned out by lesser writers than She. From my point of view, however, the literary worth of the thing is hardly the point. The Frankenstein Wheel was something New To Me that emerged from the fog of a particular moment in my personal history. For you and others like you, it would probably mean nothing. For me — it was like being fourteen years old again.

— Thorn.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

After The Fall

-- illustration from Tinker's Damn Tarot, ™and © 2016 Duck Soup Productions.

Of course there are lots of things I could write about here on the blog; but I haven’t had the heart. Why add to the noise? In 2016, hard news is virtually nonexistent, while punditism and blogs dominate the airwaves and the interwebs. In that kind of an atmosphere, anything I type carries as much weight as anything anyone else types. It may be democratic with a small ‘d,’ but it’s more noisy than useful. 

Of the election, the only thing I’ll do here is re-iterate something that I wrote on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and that is: I can't believe that 59 million Americans are all Haters — although the Democrats in their desperation to blame anyone and everyone except themselves for their loss have chosen to brand them as such.

It’s much more likely that the Average Person who voted for Trump watches a lot of reality TV and is a big fan of The Apprentice. Trump won simply because he was the biggest Celebrity in the race.

I’m old enough to remember The Beatles taking over America. For as long as I’ve been alive, America has Completely 100 percent Enamored with Celebrity. Just look at your supermarket newsstands — I don’t even know who 99 percent of those people are who get their faces on the supermarket tabloids, but other people seem to, and someone is buying those rags. 

If Donald Trump has been successful in any business, it's been the business of self-promotion. It's my belief that most of the people who voted for him did so out of Blind Celebrity Worship, the same as what got another ridiculously under-qualified Republican elected a few decades back. “I seen him on the tee-vee!” — it’s as simple as that.

It’s how Ahnolt got to be Der Gubernator, after all. 


I’ve always liked trying New Music and more often than not feel rewarded when I do. But the music business of today is like the Wild West when compared to that time, almost forgotten now, when Record Companies actually held all the power and a handful of powerful recording business executives were the Supreme Arbiters of Taste. 

It’s a lot easier — really almost unbelievably easier — for bands and musicians to get their music out there now, out where people can hear it; the irony may be that while it’s not nearly as hard to get onto the playing field as it used to be, it’s ever so much harder than it ever was to get noticed and heard, because that playing field is more crowded and noisier than it ever was.

Maybe in coming weeks I’ll write about some of the pleasant discoveries that have found their way into my ears recently; but for now it needs to be said that not all the stuff on that level playing field actually deserves to be there.

I won’t mention the name of the band I sampled last night because I’m not feeling vengeful towards them, and after all, who died and made me the supreme arbiter of taste? Also, it was on the strength of their name that I picked them out of the crowd; and I’d hate to tarnish their namesake with the awful sounds that came out of my speakers last night. But it was one of those things … all I needed to hear was a few bars to know that this particular bit of caterwauling was Not For Me.

It’s what happened next that I want to tell you about. Having sent the offending mp3 files straight to the recycling bin, I hopped online to read about the band, and there discovered that Wikipedia referred to their music as “nostalgic.”

I thought: ’Nostalgic’? Nostalgic of what? 

I supposed, on thinking about it, that the sound was a little bit late ‘nineties, early ‘naughties. But here’s the thing: in order to feel nostalgic about something, it has to have been gone for a little while. 

Am I now so old, have I lived long enough that some strange people out there are feeling nostalgic for the late nineties? — a period which happened like a week and a half ago and which is better off forgotten anyhow? I suppose if someone was born in the very early ’90s they might actually be old enough to feel a little bit wistful for that dismal time period, but frankly if you’re that young you’ve no right to be tossing words like ’nostalgia’ around like confetti. 

If you are under the age of about thirty, you do not get to decide what’s nostalgic, period — because you’ve only been alive for about five minutes, and you were born into a Science Fiction world where words like ‘nostalgic’ must of necessity be applied to a time before you were born.

— Thorn
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