Whoops! I thought I posted a clever Wonder Woman-themed gif to let you know we’re off to spend some quality time doing as little as possible on Siesta Key.

Alas, Florida had to suffer without our presence, because I broke my foot the day of our scheduled departure. That’s probably also why I forgot to post. It’s been a challenging time.

To be fair, our week hasn’t been nearly as challenging as the one had by this family in Cape Coral, Florida. They discovered a 4 foot monitor lizard living in their attic. I figure not having a giant carnivorous lizard living in the attic is a big win and I should stop complaining.

Story courtesy of Craig Pittman, aka @craigtimes on Twitter.

But back to me, because this is all about me, damnit.

Husband named my cast Boba Foot. Admittedly, it was funnier when I was still taking painkillers, but it still makes me laugh.

We almost immediately started referring to it exclusively by name. I go back to see the surgeon next week and you know it’s going to blurt out of my mouth, so that could be fun.

On a Star Wars-related tangent, we started listening to Carrie Fisher’s audiobook of The Princess Diarist. I read it the day it came out, but since Husband hasn’t, it was in our road-trip entertainment stash.

I enjoyed the book when I first read it, but now that Fisher is dead it’s a bit sad, especially since I keep picturing her reading selections aloud to Gary.

Last night while we were listening, Husband suddenly sat bolt upright on the couch and snatched up his laptop. I paused the book and asked the most obvious question: “Are you looking for pictures of Gary?”

Husband didn’t actually think this was the most obvious question. I don’t know what’s wrong with him sometimes.

Happy Wednesday everyone, I'm back ??? #garyloveshisfans #garyloveshismom #garyfisher #garymisseshismom

A post shared by Gary Fisher (@garyfisher) on

If you’re looking for a fun read for the Halloween season, Sam & Dean & I Colin Dickey’s brand new book, Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places.

Husband and I were lucky enough to hear Dickey talk about this work in progress last year at Death Salon Mutter in Philadelphia. I’ve been waiting impatiently to finally get to read the book not just because it sounds cool, but because I’ve been working on revisions to an article on the socio-cultural and social justice implications of ghost tourism and historical ghost narratives. (One of the many reasons I’ve been neglecting you, my devoted readers).

Now I’m going to neglect you further so I can go finish reading this book!

Recently, my favorite contrarian, Casey Rae, mentioned that he was running out of jokebooks with bad puns and corny riddles suitable for precocious little girls. Being raised by such eclectically gothy parents, and being whip-smart, I knew exactly the book their kid needed, because I adored it myself: Normal Bridwell’s Monster Jokes and Riddles.

It was probably my very first book fair purchase with my very own money. If, by “my very own money” you mean: “money my parents gave me for the book fair.” Which I probably do – the details are hazy.

I hadn’t thought about this book in YEARS, but I remembered how much fun the illustrations were and how funny I thought the jokes were. It was fun to re-connect with the source of a great deal of childhood joy.


Norman Bridwell's Monsters Jokes and Riddles (1972)
Front Cover: Norman Bridwell’s Monsters Jokes and Riddles (1972)

monsterback

Back Cover: Norman Bridwell’s Monsters Jokes and Riddles (1972)

My parents probably found this book to be less of a source of joy, because the jokes? The jokes are terrible.

And I loved them.

How terrible?

werewolfjoke

I’m pretty sure my mom used to hide the book under my bed in hopes I’d forget about it and quit telling her these jokes over and over and over.

Author Norman Bridwell is perhaps best known as the creator of Clifford of the Big Red Dog.

By the time I got my hands on this book, I’d heard vampire stories from my grandmother, who wasn’t as skilled in the art of the bedtime story as maybe she could have been. And I was terrified by Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein the first time I saw it. I think I understood it was a comedy, but…monsters!

I realize now that I was participating in a larger cultural shift that transformed classic cinematic and literary monsters into humorous commodities on which children could spend their allowances. David Skal’s The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror is an excellent place to read up on that subject. I didn’t understand that at the time, of course, but forty years later it’s my professional life, so I figured I should provide you with at least one reading assignment.

Abbott and Costello aside, Brother and I certainly weren’t allowed to watch horror movies. The closest thing I got to horror was the Gothic lunacy of Disneyworld’s Haunted Mansion, which I still adore.

I’d never thought about what my first exposure to mummies was, but this silly joke book was probably it.

What did the Pharoah say when he saw a lot of boll weevil bugs from the cotton fields stealing a mummy? “Mummy is the loot of all weevils.”

Needless to say, the joke book was an instant hit in Casey’s house. I bet he’s heard the one about what happened when the Frankenstein Monster asked for the girl’s hand in marriage (that was all he got) about a thousand times by now. I guess they’re still really busy enjoying it, because Casey hasn’t returned any of my texts!

Only kidding.

Casey’s probably avoiding me because of that other thing…

Grady Hendrix: Horrorstör

Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstör is clever in all the right ways, but it’s also quite creepy. You can’t ask for much more from a high-concept horror novel.

It’s a little too creepy and clever, honestly.

I used to love our IKEA clothes drying rack. It folds flat and stores neatly in a nook in the laundry room, but it’s quick and easy to set it up and it holds several loads of laundry at once.

“Love” might be over-stating my relationship to any of our household accoutrements, but it’s safe to say I liked this thing a lot. Liked. Past tense.

Horrorstör ruined my laundry rack for me.

IKEA Mulig drying rack

Ever since I finished the book I’ve been utterly and completely creeped out by the laundry rack. I’m not kidding. I have such a visceral reaction to the thing that I avoid doing laundry until Husband can set the rack up for me.

This is ridiculous, not least of which because there isn’t a drying rack in the book.

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the TV series, particularly since it’s being developed by Gail Berman, who was responsible for developing both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel for television.

Berman did, however, Executive Produce a couple episodes of Dig, which was truly abysmal in ways that even the narcotics and other assorted drugs I was on while recovering from a long and serious illness couldn’t improve. Seriously, even for television, that was some seriously ridiculous pop culture archaeology. Let’s just hope she learned her lesson from that debacle, because damn. Just…damn.

I haven’t had time to read any reviews for the new Friday night TV show, Dracula, so I kept forgetting to look forward to its debut. I haven’t noticed much publicity for the show and Husband doesn’t think he’d have been aware of it at all if I hadn’t Tivo’d it.

In this respect, and so many more, this show has lived down to our every expectation.

There aren’t any spoilers here, because nothing happened in the pilot episode.

Nothing.

This show makes Dr. Who seem like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

(Husband just pointed out to me that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is actually known as the Wind in the Willows to people who were not raised by wolves and/or Disney. And also that I must be thinking of the ride, because the movie Wind in the Willows is rather slow moving).

Not the point.

There is no point – not to my story, not to this show.

As soon as you accept that, you will enjoy Dracula. It’ll be on for at least 5 more weeks while they burn off the investment, so go ahead, don’t be afraid to commit to at least a fling.

With its elaborate sets and drawn-out scenes of minimalistic yet overwrought dialogue, punctuated by lengthy, action-less sequences where the actors may actually just be reading a dictionary to one another, Dracula is like a 1960s House of Hammer summer-stock performance of Dark Shadows.

Sample scene:

“Insatiable. I-N-S-A-T-I-A-B-L-E.”

“Unquenchable. U-N-Q-U-E-N-C-H-A-B-L-E.”

Okay. They weren’t really spelling the words after they said them, but it would have livened things up just a scosche if they had.

The original Dark Shadows was a terrible high-camp show that ran from 1966-1971. Each revival since has been met with teeth-gnashing and displays of nostalgia and expressions of a woefully misguided belief that the show was even remotely “good.”

Who knows, perhaps Dracula will be able to leverage its flagrant disdain for quality into an equally long run!

The characters all look alike, which is a problem because we can’t figure out who anyone is or which side they’re on. Maybe there aren’t any sides.

I have no idea.

I’m pretty sure that Dracula, now calling himself Grayson, has been resurrected in 1896 and is pretending to be a rich American inventor.

And he’s out for revenge. Or he’s passionate about patent law. Or his pants are too tight.

I really have no idea.

Husband says Dracula/Grayson is definitely out for revenge. He hopes Dracula/Grayson will attend Revenge Academy, like Emily Thorne apparently did before taking revenge on characters named Grayson on the show Revenge.

Maybe there’ll be a cross-over story arc! Revenge has gotten incredibly tedious, so that would be pretty great.

Dracula and a major character who looks just like many of the other characters who may or may not be main characters are having a dramatic conversation. We can’t remember who this guy is or what his name is, so Husband is referring to him as “Beardy” because he has a beard. We missed most of the scene because we were debating whether he was the character who’d had his throat ripped out in an earlier scene or if he just looked like him.

In closing, this is a bland show. It’s like low-sodium saltines. But with the application of just a tiny bit of emoting and Acting, it could be like low-sodium saltines with Nutella on top.

Maybe. I don’t know. Much like the pilot of Dracula, this post has run out of steam and is just staring longingly into the camera, sighing at irregular intervals.

Hey, here’s a funny video Husband showed me. Pumpkin Spice: Official Movie Trailer.




I’ll have to add that to the round-up of links mocking the consumerist compulsion for everything to be pumpkin or pumpkin-adjacent from September to December.

Which reminds me that I still haven’t read Cindy Ott’s Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon.

“It’s a vegetable that represents this idyllic farm life, and the best sort of moral virtue. And Americans have become attached to that,” [Ott] says.

And though pumpkin beers and pumpkin breads have been produced since colonial times, Ott says that they weren’t always the specialty foods that they are today. “Pumpkin beer was used when there was no barley. [If] there was no wheat for bread, they used pumpkin [for] bread,” she says. “Pumpkin was considered food of desperate [times].”

The rehab of pumpkin’s popularity began when 19th century Americans began to move away from rural life and into the city, Ott says. “People became stressed about… moving into the office and off the farms, and [the pumpkin] starts to appear in poems and in paintings,” she says. “We’re celebrating the nostalgia for this old fashioned, rural way of life, that no one ever really wanted to stay on, but everyone’s always been romantic about.”

The rest of that NPR story from 2012 about pumpkin-nostalgia gone wild is here.

As a child, I ran a bit hot and cold on the whole Curious George issue. I loved him when I was 5 and devoured all the books in short order (I was a precocious reader). In the first grade, much to the chagrin of our school librarian, I found the situation of a monkey in an urban environment problematic. Which was odd considering I lived in a weird place that – in addition to the wide-range of eccentrics, roadside attractions, and sanctuaries, was the winter home of the circus – and didn’t give much thought to the variety of exotic animals all over town.

In the present, discussions erupt now and again in the MeanLouise Lair about whether George is a monkey or an ape. Sometimes other people are involved in these debates, other times I’m just talking to myself.

I think we can retire the subject once and for all because bioanthropology blogging heart-throb Kristina Killgrove has written a truly fab post on her blog, Powered by Osteons, that explores the question, “Is Curious George a Monkey or an Ape?” in fascinating detail.

I bet the Fabulous Miss P. and Heather will both find the post interesting, if not for the science than for the cultural context of those books.

precious. precocious. one of those. my proofreader failed me today ;-)

John Carter isn’t nearly as terrible as everyone made it sound. I was pretty disappointed about that.

There might be spoilers in this review/coping mechanism to get me through the movie. You’ll only feel that they spoil the movie if a) you ever plan to see it and b) you’ve never seen a movie and c) you enjoy unexpected and fairly pointless scenes of alien baby-creatures covered in viscous mucous but prefer being pleasantly surprised by their inclusion in the movie.

If you were going to choose answer “c” I guess I already ruined it for you, so you might as well keep reading.

The movie just suffers from lack of a clear audience and characters you don’t care much about because of their flat affectation. But not that Wes Anderson-esque lack of affectation that’s minty-hipster-fresh, just…a dullness that suggests they’re all depressed to have to be in this movie but had no choice because their agents are doing a significant amount of gambling in riverboat casinos and can stop at any time, but so far, have chosen not to.

When I wrote the 1st draft, I had no idea that Wes Anderson is the great-grandson of John Carter’s creator. I read it on wikipedia so it must be true.

A Civil War vet named John Carter dies, leaving his nephew a journal that details the weekend he spent drinking slivovitz, a 100 proof damson plum brandy that he probably shouldn’t have been alternating with absinthe. In his defense, he just needed to take the edge off all that opium.

None of that is true, except the nephew and the journal, but it’s a slightly better movie if you believe that.

Carter kills an alien dude in a cave. The dude looks humanoid for whatever reason. Then we’re on Mars.

The lack of a clear intended audience leads to confusingly conflicting elements. John Carter has a gleeful and wacky leaping session in the weak gravity, and that scene really ought to be accompanied by a nose harp soundtrack and a couple of juvenile jokes, perhaps about nose-picking or how girls are icky or whatever else entertains 8 year olds. Then there’s a scene of a teenage girl being branded for misbehaving. A green, alien, teenage daughter, so it’s okay, I guess, but rationalizing the violence as being against a non-human Other doesn’t make it less incongruous when juxtaposed with the low-G frolicking.

When one of my ex-coworkers was a child, her family lived next door to Edgar Rice Burroughs. Storytime after tea was pretty cool. But not William S. Burroughs, because that would not be cool if you were a little girl.

I had some Gungan jokes about the aliens, but this movie wasn’t nerdtastic enough to deserve them. Even Michael Chabon as screenwriter wasn’t enough to salvage this thing from a vista of mediocrity so far and wide that, if you stare at it too hard, you’ll feel like you’re looking out a plane window while flying across west Texas. How did this happen?

The main problem with this movie is that it’s not bad enough to be funny, not good enough to be Bad. What it needs is Liam Neesen. We all know how well that turns out.

Conference going (and organizing) and such haven’t slowed down my movie-watching much but they’ve slowed down my blogging. While I get caught up, and while my Grimm post is still hanging around on the front page, I thought I’d bring two related items to your attention.

First up, Neely Tucker has an intriguing review of The Annotated Brothers Grimm, which is edited by Harvard scholar Maria Tatar:

Once upon a time, fairy tales were not as nice as they are now.

Mother and Daddy dear — not an evil stepmom — take Hansel and Gretel out in the woods and leave them to starve. Little Red Riding Hood does a striptease for the Big Bad Wolf. Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to force the mangled stumps into the glass slipper.

Ah, childhood. Ah, the Brothers Grimm.

It has been 200 years since the German siblings and folklorists published their landmark first volume of “Children’s Stories and Household Tales,” and it becomes clear in scholar Maria Tatar’s “The Annotated Brothers Grimm,” published this week for the bicentennial, that the modern tellings of fairy tales have gone soft.

[read the rest of the review at WashingtonPost.com]

If you’re in the Philadelphia area, the fantastic Mutter Museum has a new exhibit, “Grimms’ Anatomy: Magic and Medicine: 1812-2012”.

Which reminds me that I never got around to seeing Terry Gilliam’s The Brother’s Grimm. I put it in the Netflix queue. I think it has witches and wolves in it, so that should put things back on track here….


[embedded video: coughs & sneezes]

I can’t recall ever being sneezed on. Not by another human being, anyway. Horses, dogs and cats? Yes. Another person? No.

Not until Friday night. I was minding my own business, sitting in the front row of a packed concert hall, listening to Neil Gaiman speak at George Mason University’s Fall for the Book Festival, when the gentleman seated behind me suddenly blasted the back of my head with a great honking snootful of mucous.

These things happen. Sure. Yes. Absolutely. No malicious intent. Just a sneeze.

His wife made a half-hearted attempt to discretely wipe some of the snot from my hair. Or maybe she was just trying to rub it in, thinking I wouldn’t notice. I’m not entirely certain, as I was trying to ignore them and pay attention to the person speaking at the podium a few feet in front of me.

Here is a dramatic re-enactment of the aftermath of this event, as I now remember it.


[embedded video: ghostbusters]

Then it happened again on Sunday night while Michael Chabon was talking.

Then it happened again while I was listening to David Byrne and Dave Lowery speak at a Smithsonian event Monday night.

Oddly, this doesn’t outrages because of the yuck factor or the amount of time I’ve spent washing my hair this weekend. Accidents happen. This annoys me because I’m once again on a very high dose of a very unpleasant drug designed to cut my immune system off at the knees and at each of the 3 public events I chose as calculated risks there was a single solitary sneezing guy – and each time, that guy was seated right behind me? How is that possible? What are the odds?

I guess it would be weirder if it had been the same guy each time.

I’ve upended my life to minimize the amount of interaction I have with germyness for the next few weeks. I’ve stocked up on hand sanitizer. I’ve rearranged my life to avoid Metro and small children and teeming crowds as much as humanly possible. And yet? Old dudes with weaponized nasal passages seem to be homing in on me like Jack Ryan after the Red October.

To be fair, avoiding Metro and small children and teeming crowds is pretty much my avocation, but I’m too tired to work up a funny line of persecution and inconvenience and indignation, so let’s just pretend that in the day-to-day, my favorite activity is taking small children to big events via Metro, where we lick the handrails and seatbacks to pass the time along the way.

I’m lacking a punchline today. Here, have a sneezy baby panda, instead:


[embedded video: sneezing panda]

update: comments are being harshly moderated to eliminate any links to sneeze fetish sites because, although my moderation criteria is pretty liberal, some of the stuff that’s been left in the comments crosses some serious lines. Also: yuck.