Last Thursday, my good friend, vintage movie expert, bomb writer, and teratologist Orrin Grey inducted me into the wiles of the Hammer Frankenstein films. I’ve never seen them, and so what a better way to celebrate #Frankenstein200 than live-tweeting the experience. It was loads of fun, and we storified the experience here.
In addition to celebrating the Villa Diodati bicentennial, we were also marking a few other related events:
The release of Orrin’s first non-fiction collection, MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT, which collects over five years worth of his regular vintage horror flick column, VAULT OF SECRETS, that runs over at INNSMOUTH FREE PRESS. And speaking of, his latest column there delves into more territory with a look at IT! (1967). Check it out here.
Word Horde did a cover reveal of its Frankenstein tribute anthology, ETERNAL FRANKENSTEIN, out in October, and boy, it is a beauty!
And, of course, my own little chapbook from Tallhat Press, WANDERING SPIRITS, which has been doing really well since its release last week. In the past few days, it premiered as #1 New Release in its category, even hit #5 at one point, has been spotted in the wild via book pics, become the focus of a really fun giveaway at the Frankenstein200 Facebook page, and has garnered five stars in its first review! I am really excited about the response it has been getting, and I know it wouldn’t have been done without the help of friends and colleagues who have helped spread the information, and to the readers who shelled out to buy this book. To each and every one of you: Thank you!
Rather than blog, I thought I’d vlog about a few reflections on Steampunk and Travel, in honor of Airship Ambassador’s Steampunk Hands Around the World, an international initiative that is celebrating the present and future of Steampunk.
After ten years of keeping the fringe and avant-garde alive and well, Mungbeing magazine has launched its final year with Issue 54: New Directions. Editor Mark Givens has launched Pelekinesis, a small press that is specializing on promoting independent artists and writers across the myriad publishing platforms, and will be hanging the Mungbeing hat up to focus more on that. But, Mungebeing has had an incredible history tackling many topical themes, and helping to bring to light underground and unclassifiable work under one roof.
I actually discovered Mungbeing through Stuckism, when the magazine ran a Stuckist and Outsider Art Issue. Throughout college, I was obsessed with movements like Stuckism and Kitsch, and even tried to start a Florida Stuckist group with a one-time issue online zine. Alas, it didn’t stick. However, I believe my interest in Stuckism and Remodernism shaped much of my sensibilities that have allowed me to appreciate, enjoy, and participate in retro movements like Steampunk.
Stuckism is now 15 years old, and this issue has an impressive amount of material covering the movement including exclusive art, interviews, and footage from people who have championed and observed the movement.
This issue also happens to have the first of my new series Vintage Scenes that involve pairings of a specific bottle of wine with a happening. Some of the stories are fictional memoir, others not so much, but one thing you can count on, the centerpiece of these stories have been or will be enjoyed by yours truly. This story focuses on the changing wine industry, and the best damn wine I’ve ever had, a 2002 Bandol which I actually drunk with my husband in a Genevan hotel after visiting Mont Blanc. God, memories in a bottle! You can read them here.
Last fall, my husband and I went to the Northwest for a month. That sounds like a long time, but when you spontaneously decide to turn it into a road trip, it is, in fact, a short trip of awesome.
We started in Vancouver, and stayed with our good friends Lesli and Bill, who took a week out of their busy school and work schedules to show us the sights–and I mean THE SIGHTS. They moved to BC from Florida about three or four years ago, and have done an inspiring job of exploring everything Vancouver has to offer–best restaurants, best bookstores, and most importantly, the best nature. They really have become experts of their locale, and Lesli has a beautiful blog called New North Country Girl that explores the environmental differences and similarities experienced as a tropical-born expatriate.
The way I describe Vancouver to people is that it is maybe one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been too. I don’t know whether it is just feats of urban designing, Asian and First Nation influence, or a fluke of geography, but Vancouver’s beauty seems to directly respond to its terrible weather. The darker, colder, and more wet the city grew, the more intense the color in the trees became, and their contrast to the neutral, light-colored architecture punctuated by random views of the surrounding mountains and blue sky glimpses made the city a delightful distraction to damp chills and overcast skies. It was a metropolis integrated and surrounded by nature, rather than trying to ignore it or designate it for certain spaces like say New York City.
They had beautiful beers, too, which may be a fact related or unrelated to weather coping mechanisms. Parallel 49 seems to make nothing but home-run brews, their Lost Souls Chocolate Pumpkin Porter and Schadenfreude Pumpkin Oktoberfest were especially memorable. All the beers in the Vancouver Island Brewery’s Pod Pack, especially the Storm Watcher, were all lip-smackers.
The Storm Watcher is the most delicious beer I’ve ever tasted. It tastes like someone put freshly pulled Carmel in your mouth and somehow flambéed it on your tongue. However, it wasn’t too sweet. It just implied sweet. Also, when a 12-pack has a pod of frolicking orcas on it, you know you are buying the right thing.
Speaking of frolicking orcas, thar be whales! Bill and Lesli took us out to Victoria Island for the weekend, and we went on a whale tour where we saw a shy humpback, harbour porpoises, and a pod of Orcas including a baby. I’ve only seen whales either post-mortem at natural museums or as faded monsters in antiquated lithographs, so finally getting up close to them was just—.
There needs to be a word that specifically describes the unique form of sublimity you experience when whales rush up too close to your boat and suddenly there they are, and there you are, and the fragile space in-between and all the emotions and thoughts that flash towards your cortex would be the word.
Yeah, that word.
I consulted Dan Beachy-Quick’s The Whaler’s Dictionary to see if he had a word for the experience, and the closest I can find is “Aelph.”
“Aleph carries breath, inspires–a livingness that comes to life without the consonant obstructing breath’s freedom. Aleph’s power can come to no use in the world, for it remains too close to the infinity that inspires it.” (Pg.11)
He expands upon the definition later on in his “Reading (Water)” entry:
“Whalers who sight a whale lower boats and row after it. The whale sounds down when it senses their approach. A whale breathes as men breathe–with lungs. A whale rises to the surface to gather breath. The whaler’s look over the boat’s edge for a sign. The ocean does not bear words as text open upon it; water dissolves ink; water mocks legibility. The whalers do not look for a word, but for breath rising faster than the whale who exhaled it. Breath bears vowels. The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet–aleph–is silent; it takes the sound of whatever letter it is next to. A breath is silent but all words are borne on breath. A whaler watches for the breath that pronounces the whale. It appears as a bubble that bursts as it meets its own element. On the page it would appear as lightning–not a word but the light by which a word is seen.” (Pg. 232).
His focus on breath is very interesting, as I distinctly remember when the whales were spotted how suddenly they disappeared. Our guide cut the engine, because by law we are supposed to keep something like 100 yards away from the whales, and everyone held their breath while looking over the distance to catch a glimpse of them again. For some reason, I decided to look over the left side, where I was sitting, and suddenly the entire pod breached right by us. “Thar she blows” came out more as “Holy shit!” and everyone erupted into exhales and gasps and murmurs.
Seeing the Aleph. It was like seeing the Aleph writ in water.
Thanks to Bill and Lesli for helping us read the water.