Sandy, the impending Frankenstorm, is bad for all kinds of reasons. It’s also annoying, in that I couldn’t’t hang the ghosts I made last year out on the porch. I’ve realized I can hang them in my office window and light them up so they look super-creepy from outside. Bonus: the only window I could hang them up in is the window where Ghost Cat makes his appearances.

It’s only a matter of time before I forget that they’re in there and scare myself witless.

If it’s the worst thing that happens during the storm, I’ll be fine with that.
We’ve stashed the stuff in the yard, filled the water containers, tested the emergency radio, checked on the strategic bourbon reserve, charged the kindles, and all that other stuff that Native Floridians are born knowing how to do.

I suspect at the very least we’re in for a lengthy power outage. The most fun part of any power outage is this:

We have two bathrooms. The one downstairs is below the level of the city sewer connection so it has an electric pump. When the power goes out, the 1st thing I do is grab a flashlight and go downstairs and pull that door shut so that I don’t forget and use that toilet.

Later, I forget I did this and go downstairs for candles or one thing or another, see the shut door and scare myself witless wondering what sort of ghost or serial killer snuck in and pulled the door shut. It’s a pocket door, it can’t just blow shut.

I’ve usually just scared myself witless happening upon the lifesize sarcophagus at the bottom of the basement stairs. The one that’s always there.

Then I remember why the door is shut.

Then I laugh at myself.

Then I do it again 2 or 3 more times over the course of the evening.

I do this every time. Every. Time.

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]

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….

I recently made the acquaintance of the TV show Grimm (now in it’s 2nd season). Last year, it was on against Fringe and Supernatural. Having only a dual-tuner Tivo and already loving Fringe & Supernatural, I decided I’d watch Grimm online because I was intrigued by the premise. That didn’t really work out. I caught the first few episodes, then I fell behind. My low tolerance for Hulu’s ad-model further conspired against me & Grimm hooking up, but I finally netflixed the discs at the end of the summer and now we’re all caught up on the new season.

Both witches and werewolfish creatures figure into this modern-day fairytale show, so it’s perfect for this month’s theme.

When I woke up this morning, I decided to dump this month’s theme and go with “I want my mummy” but after my 1st cup of coffee I decided to save that one. Mid-way through my second cup I wavered after noticing Overlord II recorded Abbott and Costello meet the Mummy for me. Later I again decided to save mummies for another time and forge ahead as planned.

Back to Grimm.

David Greenwalt is one of the creators of Grimm. As he was an executive producer for Buffy and Angel, I doubt it’s coincidence that the revamped title sequence for season 2 seems to be a blatant parody of the hokey Buffy opener. I think it’s a hilarious homage.

In a nutshell, Grimm is about a detective in Portland, Oregon who discovers it’s his destiny to stand against the forces of darkness. Actually, it’s not clear yet what he’s supposed to do or why or what his powers are yet, which is (so far) part of the show’s charm. Detective Nick Burkhardt is living a somewhat charmed life with his adorable veterinarian girlfriend. He has a racially diverse wisecracking partner and his Captain, who is of course secretly part of some sort of sinister cabal, supports his unorthodox methods. Then, one day, out of the blue, he starts seeing people for the otherworldly creatures they actually are. Said creatures all have hilarious made-up Germanic species names.

I really like the show, although it’s sometimes so viscerally gross it makes even me squeamish. (The guy force-feeding the bird lady with a tube? Yikes).

It’s set in Portland, Oregon, so it makes a great companion show to Portlandia. If a Portlandia skit starts to show it’s SNL roots by lagging, or worse, lapping it’s own punchline, you can distract yourself by contemplating what kind of mysterious Old World fairy tale beast the characters actually are.

Well, I can, anyway. I think some of you are suffering from a failure of imagination.

Just try it.

This Portlandia skit in the coffee shop stopped being funny 6 minutes ago. Wait, what’s that? They can’t stop obsessing over their failed lives because they’re all secretly Hexen Beasts? That’s hilarious!

Yes, fine, you’re right. Not hilarious.

Back to Grimm….

Armed with an inherited trailer full ancestral Grimm journals, Nick battles the forces of evil or whatever it is Grimms do while angsting about destiny and his dead parents. His sidekick is a reformed Blutbad (a Big Bag Wolf) who helps him in his secret mission to battle the forces of evil or whatever it is that Grimms do.

Okay. Look. I was going to write a silly review making reference to ancestral journals (Charmed, Buffy, Supernatural) and mentor-moms who aren’t really dead but are actually super-powerful underworld figures (Alias, Chuck) and conspiracies (X-Files et al) reformed monsters with hearts of gold (Angel, Vampire Diaries) perfectly multi-racial police departments (every cop show since the 80s) and Portlandia and, well, you get the idea. But the fact is, I like the show and I think it’s silly and it’s fun and it doesn’t take it’s self too seriously. And I’m lazy. That’s good enough for me.

Plus, witches and werewolves.

Happy October 1st! It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I’m kicking off the first day of the Official Halloween Season with a post about a movie that is about neither witches nor werewolves, the erstwhile theme of this year’s horror-consumption plan.

Don’t tell me you’re surprised.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil stars Tyler Labine (co-star of the sadly short-lived Reaper) and Alan Tudyk (co-star of the sadly short-lived Firefly and Arrested Development and the less-sadly short-lived Dollhouse).

Tucker and Dale is stupid and gross and hilarious. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it to kick off the Halloween season.

Tudyk and Labine play a pair of hillbillies, possibly my cousins, who are mistaken for a pay of deranged killers. Wackiness ensues as the pack of stupid sacrificial teenagers die bloody in the woods. The (alleged) teenagers are all played perfectly and with great scenery-chewing joy by a half-dozen actors you absolutely know when you see them. Many of them appear in other movies that I have queued up for this month that are actually thematically correct, so I’d like points for that, please.

[embedded: Tucker & Dale vs Evil trailer]

There’s so much annoying stuff like life and school that’s always threatening to interfere with the highlight of the year: Halloween. I mean, really.

I will not be deterred. I’ve been contemplating a theme for months, although I haven’t had an easy time making a definitive choice.

I don’t know if I can be as ambitious as I was with 2010’s 31 Ghosts, but still, October 2012 needs a theme and Halloween is too generic.

I was thinking witches or werewolves, probably because my Tivo, Overlord II, keeps recording The Craft and Ginger Snaps every single time they’re on. A witch-themed October runs the risk of aggravating me because most movies about witches are filled with misogynistic bullshit or superfuckingannoying new agers, and that will distract from the fun. Drunken ranting mixed with critical theory? Never ends well.

I thought I’d covered Werewolves, but I was mistaken. I considered it in 2009, but clearly didn’t get very far.

Then I thought, what the hell? why not Witchcraft and Werewolves?

Just for the record, I don’t think this is a binary topic, Witchcraft OR Werewolves. I think there’s an interesting intersection of the werewolf and witchcraft genres in movies (or TV shows or books or graphic novels) where people transform into non-lupine creatures. Come on, you know there are going to be tangents and random selections made by Overlord II and things like that, anyway, so let’s just build in a little flexibility into the system and be done with it. There are loads of great examples, if you don’t believe me:

Wolverine? Maybe.

Maybe not. Probably not, because that was a terrible movie.

Cat People? Yes!

Plus other movie examples I’ve forgotten in the time it took me to type the last sentence and look up the links to both the 1942 and 1982 versions of Cat People and then spend a few minutes contemplating that Ronin Tunney is the girl in The Craft, which I looked up on IMDB a few minutes ago when I linked my earlier reference to it, and Robin Tunney looks familiar because she’s the boss on The Mentalist, which is a deeply stupid show I can’t stop watching even though I find Patrick Jane incredibly unsympathetic and the entire premise of the show a farce and the repetitive incidental music annoys the hell out of me and why the fuck has that show been on for FIVE seasons? This is the SIXTH season? Does the devil own Bruno Heller’s soul? Apparently not, since he was one of the producers of the failed Bionic Woman reboot. Not even, he was only the producer of the unaired pilot of the doomed series. But still, what the hell?

Are you here looking for information about DC’s Demon Cat, who was alleged to prowl around the grounds of the White House and U.S. Capitol? You’re in the wrong place, but you might as well stick around because every day is Halloween around here and I have a ghost story for you all the same!

One day, while I was making some afternoon coffee, I looked out our kitchen window and saw the neighbor’s kids giggling and intently watching one of our upstairs windows. One of them waved up at the window. My office window. Since it wasn’t the window I was looking out, and I’m the only one home, I went outside to see what was up.

I looked up at the window and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
That’s when the little girl told me they’d been watching our kitty sun itself in the window.

We don’t have a cat.

GhostCat Reenactment

I asked her if she could still see the kitty. Nope. I asked her where the kitty went. She said the big orange cat got up, stretched, and left the window sill and now she couldn’t see it.

Creepy? Yes. Surprising? Not really.

GhostCat apparently took up residence here in our house last year around Halloween. As one of the few houses in Alexandria, Virginia not claiming a ghost, I guess we were due.

I haven’t seen GhostCat myself and we’ve never owned an orange cat. Husband’s grandmother had a big orange cat, maybe it just took a while for him to find us? If cats can have ghosts and ghosts can sneak in to your house, we figure that’s how GhostCat got here.

You can’t prove it didn’t happen that way!

Our Official Ghost Cat Sightings began when JunglePete visited last Halloween. On the first morning, he mentioned that our cat walked over him a lot before finally settling in to sleep by his pillow.

We laughed at him, chalking it up to lack of sleep.

Since then, 3 little girls and one allegedly sober adult claim to have seen the big orange cat sitting in the window.

There are few things as creepy as watching someone wave and greet someone only they see in a window, especially when you know there’s no one there. And it’s always the same window – the window I have my back to when I work at my desk.

The window I have my back to right now.

Hang on a second, I need to nervously glance over my shoulder a few times.

Okay. I’m back.

I’ve spent a lot of time standing in my yard at all times of the day trying to figure out what they could be seeing but there’s nothing there and nothing reflecting that looks either orange or feline. We just tell little kids our kitty is very shy. My neighbors would kill me if I filled their kids heads with ideas about ghostly pet hauntings.

In light of the fact that one family turned their house into a haunted sanitarium for halloween and another had a guy in a clown costume chasing people with a chainsaw, I don’t know why I’m concerned about inflicting psychological damage on the little ones.

Maybe I should tell them we have a Cheshire Cat.

Recently, a friend and her adorable hound were visiting for the afternoon. Carolyn and I were knitting and watching a movie when the dog hopped up, ran across the room wagging her tail, and started behaving like she was trying to befriend a smaller creature. She then trotted around the house with her new friend for about an hour. We both found the dog’s behavior terribly peculiar. The hound now runs around our house looking for her friend whenever she comes over.

I don’t know why it only just occurred to me that we should make a video of this behavior. I’ll keep you posted on that. I think we should also bring in another dog, one that hasn’t “met” GhostCat.

I’ll work on that.

Now that I think about it, ghostly pet eminences aren’t completely unknown in my family.

My uncle is apparently being haunted by my grandmother’s dog, a mastiff/great dane cross who, I suspect, could do some serious spectral damage. Do you think it’s possible to drown in ectoplasmic drool?

Yesterday’s Science Times had a cool article about cobras, “How the King Cobra Maintains Its Reign.” (Don’t click that link if you don’t like pictures of snakes).

I wanted to post a link to that article because I thought it was interesting. It popped up because I have a google alert set for cobras, not because of Halloween.

Still, snakes are pretty spooky, so they make good Halloween post fodder. Yesterday’s Washington Post contained an article, “Evolutionary psychology explores ancient and newer roots of instinctual fears,” that was pretty interesting.

Cars kill a lot more people than spiders, bats, snakes and wolves, but why don’t we fear them in the same visceral way? When’s the last time you saw a jack-o’-lantern carved in the shape of a BMW?

The drugstore Halloween images of dark and hairy critters touch off sensations deep inside us, pointing bony fingers at instincts that go back millions of years, evolutionary psychologists say.

On a related note – I don’t know about your house, but mine has become the Kingdom of the Spiders lately and I’m not enjoying it. I know we’re not alone in our neighborhood, the local hardware store is doing a brisk business in glue traps. Yuck.

p.s. if you read these posts via email, I apologize for the last post you received. The email you received was of an early draft and it was a mess. The correct post is on the site.

Our Tivo, OverLord II, recorded Legend of Hell House for us. We thought we’d seen it, but when we started it we realized we were quite mistaken. To be honest, we haven’t finished it. Although it’s not dull, I was finding it slightly ponderous compared to the other viewing options for the evening so we set it aside. I looked it up and read how it ends and I might still finish it at some point.

It’s got everything: rather good good acting, excellent sets and atmosphere that practically drips off the screen, respectable writing, the occasional episode of over-wrought acting, a good cast, a possessed cat, an interesting score, an old dark house, and Roddy McDowell in enormous 70s glasses.

The film is based on the novel Hell House, and both book and movie were written by Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend and other spooky stories.

I recommend the movie, although I don’t have much else to say because we haven’t seen the end yet. I can tell you that the ghost is played by an uncredited Michael Gough, who went on to play Alfred in 4 Batman movies (starting with Tim Burton’s 1989 version) and most recently was the voice of the Dodo in Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Is it a Christmas movie? Is it a Halloween movie? Do I care? No.

I watched Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas this week for 3 reasons:

1) It’s really clever.
2) It’s got ghosts.
3) It rounds out the inadvertent 2010 subtheme, “a year(ish) of Tim Burton”
4) We’re off to Disney for Halloween adventures so it seemed appropriate.

That was more than 3 reasons.

I suppose I could keep going…

5) It’s my favorite Tim Burton movie, with Alice in Wonderland probably running a close second.
6) Alice might be first. It does have Alan Rickman, after all.
7) The Blu-ray release of Nightmare is really beautiful.
8) Zero is one of my favorite movie ghosts.
9) I always liked Nightmare, but I fell in love with it when they re-released it into the theaters in 3D in 2007.
10) The Blu-ray of Nightmare has cool bonus features, including Vincent and Frankenweenie.
11) Alan Rickman was in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, but I wasn’t crazy about that one.
12) Alan Rickman.
13) What?
14) Where was I?
15) Is it warm in here?

Oh, nevermind.

(I just want to note that I originally embedded the official Disney trailer for the Blu-ray of Nightmare, but it was a promo for the special edition disk and, while it looked really cool and the image quality was better than what I found on youtube, I liked the original trailer better to kick off this post).