October Sun

The days of October tumble down and swirl away on the breeze, just like the leaves all around. I park my car under some trees that have been dropping bushels of leaves for a good month now, and they still have quite a few more to lose. I don’t mind at all that my car is always covered with the red, green, orange, and yellow foliage every time I go out to it. I clean the leaves off the windows and leave the rest (heh, heh, heh!) — they make a festive, autumnal decoration for my vehicle. On wet days, the leaves are pasted to the hood, trunk, and roof; on balmy dry days, they’ve mostly fluttered off by the time I turn the first corner.

I greatly appreciate the weather we’ve been having, with the warmth hanging on. I love not being cold. I love seeing the sun, though I noticed today how low it hangs in the sky in October, even at high noon. I’ve watched it slowly changing its mind on where to set. In summer, it went down behind the giant cross at St. Mary’s Cemetery; these evenings it’s falling into the woods.

On gray days, mist hovers and floats.

A dark day in October

I have new neighbors who moved in downstairs, and they’re very nice people! I’m glad the lower floors are occupied now. I feel less like a ghost haunting a vacant building.

Anyway, here’s another book that’s good for October:

A Night in the Lonesome October, by Roger Zelazny

A Night in the Lonesome October, by Roger Zelazny (Avon, 1993), comes to us courtesy of my friend Nick, who remembered loving the book years ago. It’s a little hard to acquire these days; but Nick, like another well-known adventurer/scholar, is — how shall one put it? — an “obtainer of rare antiquities.” He relocated a copy for himself and even an extra one for me, which he most kindly sent! The idea is that several of us are reading the book together (though we’re in far-flung places) during the month of October, after which we’ll compare notes.

The book lends itself well to that, because it’s divided into 31 chapters, named “October 1,” “October 2,” “October 3,” etc. Most are just a couple pages long, so it’s something even I stand a good chance of getting through (though not quite on time — I’m already well behind schedule). I’m reading a few pages just before bed each night.

Zelazny dedicated the book this way: “To — Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Albert Payson Terhune, and the makers of a lot of old movies — Thanks.” Pretty cool, huh? Isn’t that dedication quite an endorsement? The work also includes delightfully strange illustrations by Gahan Wilson.

Anyway, like some other October books we know, this one is a loving tribute to the Hallowe’en season: in particular, to the iconic characters of horror, mystery, and spookiness. In this tale you will find Jack the Ripper, a terrifying Count, a Good Doctor who harnesses lightning for his questionable experiments, Mr. Larry Talbot who keeps a close eye on the moon, a Great Detective who smokes a pipe, and even some betentacled Great Old Ones. Some of these characters are “Openers,” bent upon letting horrors out of mirrors and closets when the time is right, which will unleash devastation on the world; some are “Closers,” dedicated to keeping the evils locked away and the world safe for humankind. It’s fascinating to find out which are which — the book is full of surprises.

What caught my attention right from the start was the skillful rendering of the tale’s narrator, a watchdog named Snuff. This faithful and formidable canine deserves a place among the ranks of the all-time great non-human protagonists such as Hazel-rah and Chaunticleer.

I understand that it’s pretty expensive to buy nowadays, but there are perhaps library copies to be found.

Anyway, let’s head back on out into October (foggy nights and days of the lowering sun) with a few photos and random flotsam:

One of my jack-o'-lanterns this year, 2011

 From my story “The Bone Man”:

“John is a skeleton,

John is dead,

All bony fingers,

Bony head;

No life in him,

Not a breath.

Lazy in life,

He’s restless in death.

All bony fingers,

Bony head –

Hope he’s not standing

By your bed!”

The other of my jack-o'-lanterns, 2011 (If I'm carving two, I usually try to make a friendly, happy one and a darker, less charitable one; Good Cop, Bad Cop . . . a Closer and an Opener, if you will.)

From “The Bone Man”:

“The skull’s eyes and triangular nose were simply the orange of the paper showing through, but they suggested a glowing, infernal light inside, like a jack-o’-lantern’s flame. The mouth was an exaggerated comb-like grid of orange lines. The image triggered a memory . . .”

"Sometimes I would rest my chin on the warm lid of a jack-o'-lantern and gaze out over the waving millet, searching the blue crystal stars . . ." -- from DRAGONFLY

From “The Bone Man”:

“The skeleton was just standing there, close enough to touch, but not reaching out, not bending forward, not really even seeming to look down at the kid. Just standing, standing. No skin, no rags of clothing — just two or three wisps of hair stuck to the skull, wiggly black lines . . .”

"We gave them scary faces, happy, sad, laughing, scowling, crescent-eyed, zigzag, mouths fanged, toothless, froggish. Then, with the falling of the dark, we set them aglow . . ." -- from DRAGONFLY

From “The Bone Man”:

“It was dark ahead of him, though fire still hung in the vanished sun’s wake.”

"We definitely had a problem. There were unearthly noises almost every night, increasing in volume and frenzy as the lightless bottom of the month drew nearer . . ." -- from DRAGONFLY

From “The Bone Man”:

“All around him, it was as if veils dropped away, and Conlin was walking back into the streets of his childhood. Here, under the breeze-shivery maples and oaks slouching toward cold, it was no longer the age of the Internet and little phones in your pocket . . .”

Illinois oaks, 2006

“Besides the autumn poets sing,

A few prosaic days

A little this side of the snow

And that side of the haze.”

– Emily Dickinson

We’re still in the market for Hallowe’en thoughts, stories, eerie tales, descriptions, autumnal musings, howls, sepulchral mutterings . . . and to that we’ll add an invitation to quote us a passage from a well-loved autumn book (scary, beautiful, or otherwise [or both]) . . . a favorite Octoberish poem . . . or just to tell us about a time when a storyteller gave you a chill for which you were grateful!

Happy Hallowe’en!

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83 Responses to “October Sun”

  1. Marquee Movies Says:

    Very nice posting, Fred! I like your jack o’lanterns, and the picture with the light flickering out of them makes them look as though they are on fire! You might want to stop reading this and go over and check them, just to be sure. This month, I’m in the middle of doing many of my Classic Monster Mash film presentations, showing scenes from Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula, and Bride of Frankenstein. (In a 90 minute presentation, I also show scenes from 1925′s The Phantom of the Opera, and also the swimming pool scene from Cat People.) In my regular presentation, I also show the final 10 minutes of the wonderful (and sometimes scary!) Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, as well as the Halloween scene from that American masterpiece, Meet Me In St. Louis. Parents and teachers, that scene is a time machine’s glimpse at the (now strange) way that children celebrated Halloween in the midwest a century ago. The bonfire is quite dangerous, but throwing flour into the faces of grownups seems (to quote Scout) deadly. The point has been made before on this blog, but Meet Me in St. Louis is considered one of the first major films to let children actually act and sound like children. (Tootie has buried about 20 of her dolls in the backyard because they each died of a different disfiguring disease.) When they celebrate Halloween, it’s SUPPOSED to be scary, and the flour-throwing is them “killing” the grownups, allowing them to indulge in that fantasy that all children have at some point that all the grownups will just go away, and they’ll be left alone to do whatever their heart desires. (Kind of like when Gilda Radner would be Judy Miller in her girl scout uniform, pretending she was every human in the world in her bedroom.) It’s a great, great film, and I love sharing it with people. One important point I make at the beginning of this presentation is that it’s designed to help us tap into that lovely Halloween experience we had as children, when it was fun to be scared, when movie monsters were scary and eerie, but also quite beautiful, in their grownup way. I had models in my room of Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s creature – they had features that would glow in the dark. Someone (Mom!) threw them out. But there they are again, on the screen, glowing. Happy Halloween!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      I remember those models, too, with the wonderful glow-in-the-dark parts!

      And yes, Gilda Radner’s Judy Miller character is one of the truest classics in the history of SNL. I remember the Judy Miller sketch in which she’s hurling herself against her closet door to simulate traveling to other countries one by one. During the dress rehearsal before the live show, Gilda cracked a rib in her impact with the door. But she did the show that night, anyway, and did it wonderfully. I recently saw her in Haunted Honeymoon. A more amazing comedic actress there never was!

  2. morwenna Says:

    A Night in the Lonesome October looks intriguing. Long ago, I read Nine Princes in Amber.

    What a fun book dedication! The mention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was perfect for me because I’m rereading The Hound of the Baskervilles. It’s a great book for October. The book jacket (Aladdin Classics) sums things up nicely: “Is there truly a ghostly beast lurking on the dark, eerie moors?”

  3. Gabe Dybing Says:

    Great pumpkins, Fred! I passed along to a friend a link to your blog as inspiration for carving. I usually wait until at least the week before Halloween before carving my own.

    And my reading: I polished off _A Night in the Lonesome October_. Now I’ve been reading a Doctor Who novel with the Tenant Doctor called _Forever Autumn_. I would have probably enjoyed it anyway because it’s “Doctor Who doing Halloween,” but the story’s actually been a lot of fun. I may even hunt down and read another Mark Morris “Who” novel.

    I’m also re-reading Gaiman’s _Graveyard Book_. I doubt that I need to expand on this. I will say, however, that I am constantly impressed with how Gaiman can seem so simple and yet, on closer inspection, so sophisticated. And he’s such a stylist. Each of his words strike me as perfectly chosen, round and polished like pebbles for a fishbowl.

    And I’ve been re-reading and discovering new stories and poems from Poe. Fitting for the season…

    AND I was reading some Plato and came across something else fitting for the season. Evidently Plato’s Socrates had an explanation for ghosts and why they frequent graveyards. Here’s the passage:

    And this corporeal element, my friend, is heavy and weighty and earthy, and is that element of sight by which a soul is depressed and dragged down again into the visible world, because she is afraid of the invisible and of the world below – prowling about tombs and sepulchres, near which, as they tell us, are seen certain ghostly apparitions of souls which have not departed pure, but are cloyed with sight and therefore visible.

    My volume of Plato points out how Milton followed this cue in “Comus:”

    … But when lust,
    By unchaste looks, loose gestures, and foul talk,
    But most by lewd and lavish act of sin,
    Lets in defilement to the inward parts,
    The soul grows clotted by contagion,
    Imbodies, and imbrutes, till she quite lose,
    The divine property of her first being.
    Such are those thick and gloomy shadows damp
    Oft seen in charnel vaults and sepulchres,
    Lingering, and sitting by a new made grave,
    As loath to leave the body that it lov’d,
    And linked itself by carnal sensualty
    To a degenerate and degraded state.

    These things in graveyards, Fred, remind me of the tale about the daughter of your friend that you recently told here.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you, Gabe! That’s fascinating! The burden of sight makes ghosts visible . . . So maybe very young children ARE onto something, when they think they can hide by covering their eyes. (Ostriches, too, with their heads in the sand!)

      Sigh. Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is another one on my shelves, waiting to be read . . .

  4. Daylily Says:

    Great post, Fred! Yes, do keep an eye on those jack-o’-lanterns. I note in the background twin signs stating “We Deliver,” one for each jack-o’-lantern. Naturally, I am wondering what it is that they deliver. Maybe I’m glad I won’t be at your place on Halloween to find out!

    • Daylily Says:

      Oh, almost forgot to sign up for follow-up comments! I wouldn’t want to miss all those stories we hope people will be sharing . . .

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Actually, that’s not my porch! I carved those jack-o’-lanterns for some friends to have on their porch. It’s children, I figure, who need the wonderful terrifying wonder of jack-o’-lanterns in their Octobers.

  5. John Says:

    I’m currently in the middle of rereading Dragonfly. I’m still amazed how you were able to distill the month of October into the first chapter, Fred.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you, dear friend! I’m so happy to hear that! I thought of you when I was copying in that poem about John the Skeleton from “The Bone Man.” It’s not meant to be you! But I remember you saying once that you hoped I’d write a sequel to Dragonfly and include you as a ghoul! You’ve still got dibs on the lead ghoul character!

  6. Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

    [i] Dragonfly [/i] is an October tradition of mine…since I discovered it in a bargain bin (for shame, booksellers) and did not have any reading material on me that day. However, it is impossible for me not to long for Poe and Bradbury and Shakespeare’s play-that-must-not-be-named in the most primal month of the year, when all the world is a stage and all its people players in reality. Even, at times, A mask is the often the truest expression of self, after all…

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Hello, and thank you for your comment! And I’m honored beyond words that Dragonfly is an October tradition for you! That was exactly what I hoped the book would be!

      What is Shakespeare’s play-that-must-not-be-named? Can you give us a hint?

      This is a very obscure leap of association, but the superstition element reminds me of this . . .

      True story: once, many years ago, I was in a tiny motorboat on a vast lake in a very remote part of northern Ontario. My sole companion was a Cree (Native American) named George S. We’d been out for a couple hours. He was hunting, and I was watching. We’d just circled an island that he’d informed me was, according to the traditions of his people, The Island That You Can’t Point At. (Pointing at it would mean very bad luck.)

      I realized at about that time that I really, really had to urinate. I asked George what I should do. I fully expected him to tell me to stand up carefully in the front of the boat and aim well over the gunwale. But he said, “I’ll go ashore.” He promptly piloted the boat to the rocky beach. I glanced at him quizzically and asked, “Isn’t this The Island You Can’t Point At?” He nodded and said that it was. I asked, “Is it okay what I’m going to do to it?” He had a good laugh. Yes, what I was going to do to it was fine.

      So what’s Shakespeare’s unnameable play?

      • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

        It is….Macbeth. (Goes outside, turns in a circle three times, spits on the ground, curses, knocks on the door, and asks permission to return to indoors…as per the theater tradition.) That anecdote brings to mind a bit of a shenanigan that my uncles played on my father, regarding the call of nature and a very well-hidden electric fence. Actually, I took Dragonfly with me (drat to programs that disobey standard formatting notation) to some parent teacher conferences where I was acting as a translator last night, albeit a very amateur translator. Every teacher that passed me asked the title, despite the ragged appearance of my well-worn copy…or perhaps because of it.

    • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

      Now I see the replies below…blasted university wi-fi… Though I wish I had the ocarina theme that I had composed for Harvest Moon still, it was on the external hard drive that crashed on me a month ago…as well as the dramatization of Dragonfly I had been working on for the heck of it. Beyond this, I must recommend Terry Pratchett for the moondrunk month, especially the Death and Witch arcs.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Buurenaar, these are some fascinating comments you’re making! Thank you so much for your input into this blog! You composed an ocarina theme for Harvest Moon?! Wow! Would I ever love to hear THAT! A high-school friend of mine (now a professor of music) once composed a violin solo for the music that Avim plays in the City of Echoes.

        And you were working on a dramatization of DRAGONFLY? Do you mean like a script? Wow, again!

        And you’re carrying around a copy of DRAGONFLY to parent-teacher conferences? Here’s my third Wow! :-) Thank you so much for liking the book that much!

        May I ask a few questions? We’ve never met, have we? Certain things in your comments make it sound as if you live in Japan. Are you connected in any way with any of the blog regulars, or did you just find it on your own? (You don’t have to answer any of my interrogation, of course — but you’ve sure got me curious!) Anyway, I’m delighted that you’re here! Welcome! And I hope you’ll stick around!

      • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

        Unfortunately, we haven’t met. I am from backwoods South Carolina where convoys of worn pick-up trucks, covered in mud–obviously, bearing shirtless teens giving rebel yells are the norm. Southern stereotypes are no hyperbole there, and sadly, most of those that prove true are completely negative.

        Though I haven’t traveled, I have studied Japanese culture and other eclectic subjects since I was old enough to watch History Channel and A&E without falling asleep.

        I actually found this blog when I was searching for additional works you had written…as well as hoping beyond hope that there was an illustrated deluxe copy of Dragonfly somewhere on the market. By the way, I am waiting for The Star Shard rather anxiously…and am agitated with the lack of a Dragonfly e-book. I think Barnes and Noble might be tired of me spamming them with that particular request.

        According to a copy of a draft from a chat with one of my best friends, I was up to at least page forty-nine on the script of Dragonfly. I can remember the first scene was Older Dragonfly’s description of the happenings in the basement (offstage) while Bridget Anne danced with her shadow onstage and happened upon Noyes’ minions and their surveying equipment…and agonizing over which particular vampire was which for a few hours. The melody for the Harvest Moon set was the ocarina piece. It was simple and slow, but it would pick up at random at the places where I wanted to express the effects of the River Abandon, which had a bit of a different feel. (I get bored easily.) I’m afraid that your novel has the dubious honor of being my all-time favorite and so gets this kind of treatment.

        In the South, it is unspoken tradition to ask more than you are willing to tell. The more innocuous the one asking…the juicier the gossip they have to impart, mostly because people are more likely to answer them. (In other words, beware small children and little old ladies….) Fortunately, it is fun to baffle people by being, for the most part, completely open.

      • morwenna Says:

        Buurenaar, about prior posts popping up later, the same thing happened to me. Fred’s post about the comedy and tragedy masks came up on my screen later — or I wouldn’t have said the same thing! Maybe it’s a Hallowe’en computer gremlin.

        Thank you for sharing the fascinating theater traditions that center on the Scottish play!

        Open, locks,
        Whoever knocks!

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Buurenaar, this is all wonderful to hear, and curiouser & curiouser! The more you tell us about yourself, the less we know — I suppose that’s the Southern upbringing? :-) At first, for some reason, I assumed you were a teenage girl. Then I thought, “No; a guy in university.” Then I thought, “No, perhaps a grown-up lady . . . or guy . . .” Heh, heh! I mean no offense with my speculation. You’re as enigmatic as this month we’re celebrating!

        I had thought “Japan” because of your mention of the ocarina. I’d never heard of it until I went to Japan, but apparently people in the States play, it, too, if you do.

        So you did find, I hope, the illustrated Dragonfly that you were looking for! Jason Van Hollander’s cover and interior illustrations for the original edition are absolutely fantastic. He won a World Fantasy Award for Best Artist right after Dragonfly came out. Although he had done tons of other remarkable work for many fantasy and horror publications, the art for this book must certainly have been a big part of what the judges considered. In creating the art, Jason was quite sensitive to the text, and he talked a lot with me beforehand, asking my opinions and even for a sketch of the Jolly Jack as he planned out how to make it look like a balloon with a jack-o’-lantern face, and not like a big jack-o’-lantern in the air.

        The description of your Dragonfly script (although now lost) sounds amazing and is quite an honor to hear about!

      • Chris Says:

        Buurenaar, I cannot recommend enough the website : http://www.soundcloud.com. I stash a lot of my “compositions” (I actually refer to them as “weaponized music” since most of it was composed to torment my wife and dogs), but has a free level where you can upload a LOT of your personal compositions and it is a somewhat “social network”. It also allows you a good place to post links to the music so others can hear it without having to download the music (you can opt in or out of making your songs “downloadable” as well….ironically no one has downloaded my song “The Truly Annoying Song” yet!)

      • Daylily Says:

        Chris, I took the Journey to Neptune by way of your music and found it an interesting and thought-provoking trip! And “The Truly Annoying Song” made me smile. It is quite cheerfully annoying!

      • Chris Says:

        Daylilly, you are too kind. No really, too kind. Pretty much everyone around here who’s heard “The Truly Annoying Song” has agreed it is truly annoying. Even my ultra-mellow brother-in-law expressed this point.

        The Neptune thing is actually an extension of a now nearly 30 year running joke. The fellow I wrote the songs for (Rob S.) was the “muse” that a friend (Bill) and I often credited for the inspiration for much of our music we wrote back in high school. I’ve just never really outgrown writing weird music and then blaming Rob who is wholly blameless in all these things.

      • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

        Thanks! Hmmmm….”The Truly Annoying Song” sounds rather fun. I could have a use for that… Also, to answer don Durbin’s question, I am a university girl who has just passed the legal US drinking age…though I don’t drink. Also, I am loving the people on this blog. Good taste in reading seems to breed good taste in everything. Also, I’m pretty sure that my Facebook is directly linked in, since I’m posting from it.

  7. Swordlily Says:

    I am not much for creepy crawly stories. But October does lend itself to those feelings of things stirring that have no name or face. Things that are always there in the shadows. Things that can only exist fully in that hour between midnight and dawn and on those chilly orange afternoons of autumn when summer life is seeping out of the world leaving open spaces to be filled by one’s imagination.
    As for books: in the spirit of the season I have been reading Mira Grant’s Newsflesh books. Zombies are Halloween right? If you had asked me if I wanted to read books about zombies a month ago I would are stared art you and your stupidity. Zombies are lame. . .were lame, past tense, excuse me. Feed and Deadline aren’t just any zombie books, about crazy people blowing off their neighbor’s heads, neighbors who are dripping corroded flesh and moaning “Brains!!”. No no, Feed is about human relationships and human nature in a world where any minute your mother, father, sister, uncle, or best friend could turn into a flesh eating monster. Mira Grant weaves a story that doesn’t stop and start from book to book, Feed and Deadline, the first two installments in this trilogy build upon on another throwing twist after twist at you till you don’t know which way is right anymore. Anyway, they’re really good books, if you want an edge of your seat thriller or just a book that will get you thinking.

    • Swordlily Says:

      yay!
      I wanted to find a good October quote, so I was looking on goodreads.com quotes like the little cheater I am and I found a really good one from one of my favorite books in the world:

      “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
      ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        As soon as Marquee Movies sees this Anne quote, he’s going to reach through cyberspace and shake your hand! He is always thrilled to find another person who appreciates those books — as am I! They are wonderful, and that’s a perfect quote for this season!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      “Summer life is seeping out of the world, leaving open spaces to be filled by one’s imagination.” Swordlily, I love that quote! Beautifully put!

  8. Patrick Doud Says:

    Fantastick jack-o’-lanterns, Fred! I told my five-year-old about your custom of one Good and one Bad, he thought about it a moment, and then suggested we carve ours Happy and Sad–unaware though he was of the quote from Dragonfly. Thanks for the great post; I too will be rereading the opening of Dragonfly in honor of October. (And oh yes, here’s a hint about which Shakespeare title actors are superstitious about saying out loud: they also refer to the play sometimes as “the Scottish play.”

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you, Patrick! I’m honored that you’ll be re-reading the opening of Dragonfly this month! That’s great about Happy and Sad jack-o’-lanterns — it evokes the Comedy and Tragedy masks. And thank you for that hint about “the Scottish play” — now I know which one you mean. I am really puzzled as to why I’ve never heard of that superstition before!

      “So fair and foul a day I have not seen . . .”

      I’ve read that Tolkien was thinking of that very play when he had the Ents and Huorns march on Isengard. He was disappointed that the woods didn’t really come to Dunsinane, so in his book, he fixed that! :-)

  9. morwenna Says:

    Thanks, Patrick! I’ve heard an actor introduce (title of work) as “the Scottish play.” At the time, I didn’t know he wanted to avoid saying the powerful word (title of work). That’s a bit like Vol — I won’t say it.

    Speaking of theater, the mention of happy and sad pumpkins made me think of the traditional masks of comedy and tragedy.

    And Fred, I love the idea of characters being Openers or Closers!

  10. I am Mr Brown Snowflake Says:

    Allow me to chime in here with a nugget or two from Fred’s childhood (and Chris, you can back me up or fill in the cracks …)

    NO ONE, I mean NO ONE had better Hallowe’en costumes than Fred. Year after year he had the best get-ups, the most unusual takes, the coolest interpretations … and his jack-o’-lanterns were, well, you can see for yourself!

    For someone who swears by the heats and humidity of August-Hell, it was in late October that I always thought my friend’s imagination blazed forth for all to see

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you, Mr. Brown Snowflake! I am deeply touched by your reminiscence! (And it’s so good to see the blog hopping with activity these days! It’s like a great on-line Hallowe’en party! Thanks to everyone who’s commenting!)

      But, Mr. Brown — remember how our gradeschool used to have those Hallowe’en parades? On The Big Day, we’d bring our costumes to school hidden in brown paper bags, which we’d shove into those lower compartments of our desks. We’d squirm through the morning’s lessons, able to think about nothing but the upcoming festivities. At the appointed time, we’d get to put our costumes on. (Did we all go to the restrooms to do that, or did we do it in the classroom? I can’t remember.)

      Then we’d go outdoors and parade around the perimeter of the school grounds, a skipping, shambling, rag-tag herd of pirates, vampires, animals, witches, fiends, Gypsies, ghosts, monsters . . . The funny thing about it was, NO ONE could see us doing that! Maybe an occasional passing motorist, but there was no audience. It was just a PARADE! Yet it was almost as exciting to us as Christmas morning itself! I forget this, too: inside the school, did we parade into the classrooms of the younger students when we were older? It seems like maybe we did, but I’m not sure.

      But anyway — thank you for your kind words about my jack-o’-lanterns. I love them, but in all seriousness (this is NOT false humility), mine are about C-plus, B-minus level. I’ve seen people do some AMAZING jobs of pumpkin-carving! One example is Lizzie, who very occasionally comments on this blog. She showed me a photo of one of her jack-o’-lanterns a couple years ago, and it blew mine a-WAY. (Both the jack-o’-lantern and the photo of it!)

      In all fairness, the two I did this year were a real rush job. I had about an hour to clean out both pumpkins, carve the faces, separate the pulp from the seeds, and load everything up for taking to some friends’ house. And all I had were two big, clumsy kitchen knives. If I have time, I want to swing by Giant Eagle (which Tandemcat and I like to call “Giant Nazgul”) and get an actual pumpkin-carving kit, which features a very narrow, serrated knife. I make jack-o’-lanterns every year — why not invest $1.99 in the right tools? I’m planning to carve one more time before the holiday — probably tomorrow night. I may just do the cleaning-out and encourage some friends to do the faces.

      As for costumes: I had the advantage of growing up in a veritable museum — wardrobes and closets full of ancient garb handed down through the generations. (Chris will recall wearing ski gloves, a gorilla mask, and my great-grandmother’s dress to portray “Governor Darkstormer” in a STAR WARS-derivative 8mm extravaganza we made in about 1977/8.) We also had the Goodwill store in town. Whatever couldn’t be found at home could be found there — and if you bought stuff for a quarter from the Goodwill, it could be cut up as needed.

      I think I’ve told this story on the blog before, but it’s worth telling again. When we were about 5 and 6 years old, my Cousin Phil and I were enamored of those tawdry, cheap costumes sold in front of stores back in the day. You know the ones I mean — a plastic face mask held in place by an elastic cord, and a shiny shirt with the logo of the licensed character emblazoned across the chest. For example, the Frankenstein’s monster would have, on his chest (on, say, a shiny yellow shirt) a two- or three-color print of the monster, full-body, with arms extended and lightning forking overhead, and big, “scary,” blood-dripping letters proclaiming “FRANKENSTEIN!”

      Well, one day Phil and I were pestering my mom to buy us such costumes from in front of the dime store. Mom rolled her eyes and said, “You don’t want one of those sleazy Hallowe’en costumes!”

      Phil and I thought that “sleazy” was the style or the brand name of them, so we followed my mom down the street screaming “YES, I DO! I WANT A SLEAZY HALLOWE’EN COSTUME! I WANT A SLEAZY HALLOWE’EN COSTUME!” The stolid citizens of our hometown regarded us with quizzical, perhaps pitying looks.

      Mom took us to the Goodwill, the clothes closet, and the sewing machine, and she showed us what kind of costumes we REALLY wanted!

  11. I am Mr Brown Snowflake Says:

    To this day I still remember your C-3PO! If you have a photo of you in it you need to post it … Shieldmaiden and Jedibabe will go ape if you do!

    Does anyone remember going ‘corning?’ for Hallowee’en? It may very well be just a Central Illinois tradition. I have met people from a radius of around 150-200 miles of Springfield, Il (the REAL Springfield) and all of them had heard of, or participated in, a ‘corning.’ If you live outside that area I bet you have not. NO ONE in Iowa (which is sinking in corn) has!

    Here is the jist: You take a paper sack and fill it (up to you) with raw corn. (Sneaking out to a field and taking the corn by hand for yourself makes it an ‘official’ corning).

    Joined by a handful of nefarious friends, you run up to a house with a handful of corn and fire it against the house! POW POW POW POW POW POW can be heard all over the neighborhood as the hard kernels ping off siding, windows, doors, pets, etc.

    The corn is, of course, not heavy enough to do any damage, but it does scare the kaka out of anyone at home … “Honey, had me the remote, would you? I think it is almost time for POW POW POW POW POW! heh heh heh

    The nice mess of corn on the porch is then collected by the homeowner the next day, with most folks making a nice little pile under a nearby tree for the squirrels to raid. A GREAT tradition and one I have tried (unsuccessfully) for years to transplant.

  12. Chris Says:

    My wife loves Hallowe’en (we recently bought some fridge magnets in Salem, MA that actually had the apostrophe in e’en! I thought of you!)

    Since I am less social beast I tend not to enjoy handing out the candy on the e’en itself. So last year using my wonderful new toy the MicroKorg Vocoder we put a speaker in the window while Rita sat outside handing out candy, I, inside was busy wiring various audio inputs into the Vocoder and making creepy, demonic sounds using it. But I was limited in my options, so I basically, no joke, tuned in NPR on the radio, took the “audio out” cable, plugged it into the back of the Vocoder and played horribly distorted and monstrous NPR sounds.

    (For those of you not familiar with a vocoder, you can look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocoder, For folks like Mr. Brown snowflake, he will no doubt be familiar with its use in various ELO songs like “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Believe me Now”)

    If you would like to hear some of my own scary vocoder creations you can hear them here:

    FDR Speech (http://soundcloud.com/hagiograph/alt-fdr)
    Reagan Speech (http://soundcloud.com/hagiograph/healthscare)

    But be warned, both are quite scary! Listen with all the lights on! Especially the Reagan rant! I added some scary music in behind that one so it would be even more scary! (Mr. Brownsnowflake will like the conservative bent no doubt! For us Libruls it’s doubly scary!)

    OooooOOOOooooOOOOOOoooo

  13. I am Mr Brown Snowflake Says:

    Oh Chris, thank you for the journey! The Reagan was, of course, incredible (though Jedibabe and Marquee will be made ill by it .. ha ha)

    And, of course, I knew beforehand what to expect, thanks to the tip-off re: ELO.

    I would love to have a sample of any of MSNBCGBLTKGB’s fanatical prime time hosts (daily audience, roughly 900) during one of their hysterical, hate-filled harangues, most especially one from former host and all-time weasel Keith Olbermann! Talk about scaring the kids!

    • Chris Says:

      Thank you Brownsnowflake.

      (Of course for those new to the board, please remember that I am a raging librul so the Reagan thing was close to my heart because at the time I made that I had just finished volunteering for a grassroots program to get “single payer healthcare reform” in California. What Mr. Brownsnowflake might characterize as “socialized medicine” but is a bit different in scope.)

      I can’t afford “autotune” technology but I actually like the vocoder effects better. I’ve even been able to fashion a type of “singing” myself (and believe me when I say I sing much, much, much worse than I play any instrument) using the vocoder, basically by simply singing in monotone and playing the chords. I have constructed a “space opera” for a friend (Rob S.) using the synth and vocoder. Of course when one is forced to use the vocoder to do the vocals you are pretty much stuck with the “space opera” genre (http://soundcloud.com/hagiograph/sets/women-of-neptune-a-space-opera/)

      It has a backstory not worth putting out here mainly because it was cobbled together after the fact. The Vocoder being the more important aspect.

  14. fsdthreshold Says:

    I’m departing now for this year’s World Fantasy Convention, so you all are unsupervised for four days. Be sure to blow out the jack-o’-lanterns before you retire for the night. If you don’t, they tend to become animate and get into . . . mischief.

    • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

      Anyone notice that don Durbin is going to return on Hallowe’en? I guess that means that he doesn’t trust us not to try to do something silly like attempt to saddle a werewolf, set loose the Untowards, try to overthrow Sam Hain, give Quillum a wedgie, skinnydip in the River Abandon…. (hides a list titled “Plans for Hallowe’en in Harvest Moon” with its various attached schematics) Of course, you all know he can trust us not to do something silly like jump through the laundry chute. Heheheheheh.

  15. morwenna Says:

    Maybe the jack-o’-lanterns will start humming “The Truly Annoying Song” . . .

  16. I am Mr Brown Snowflake Says:

    Now is our chance, Chris … Fred is gone all weekend!

    • Chris Says:

      Correct. Let me start off by saying Barrack Obama is the greatest president we’ve ever had in the history of this grand Republic (Jimmy Carter being a close second). I am hopeful that his glorious second term will result in a complete decimation of the current healthcare system to be replaced by a “Single Payer” plan. In addition sweeping legislation should be enacted to ensure our reliance on the burning of fossil fuels is severely curtailed to forestall manmade global climate change.

      After 2016 our next president should be mandated to be a lesbian atheist who will sweep aside our conceptions of Puritanical morality and usher in a new era of free-thought bereft of moral absolutes and outmoded concepts of sexual identity.

      Religion in general will fade away as even a “need” in the human mind in this glorious future and scientific advancement will propel us into ever greater heights of achievement, now that we are loosed from the coils of superstition and magical thinking!

      Of course since none of this is in any way “controversial” it is relatively “moot” that you will have any riposte to my statements, but if you feel you simply “must” play the role of antagonist, by all means “gin something up”.

  17. I am Mr Brown Snowflake Says:

    I concur wholeheartedly that B. Hussein Obama (no, he is not Muslim, he is a dedicated 20-yr member of a racist anti-white Black supremicist cult while his wife is a white-hater to the core of her being) and Jimmy “Jew-hater” Carter (whose failure to issue a ‘free them in 72 hours or we systematically destroy you from the air’ order in 1978 led to the massive proliferation of Isamo-facist-terrorism) should be paired together. Toss in virilently anti-Catholic (read his papers) Woodrow Wilson and you would have an improved Three Stooges.

    Naturally I hope the new president (can you, in all honesty, name two people who did not vote B. Hussein Obama in 2008 who now will in 2012? I thought not) will follow the Supreme Court’s any-day-now ruling that the legislative shenanigans that led the Obamacare (re: Belgium, we want to be just like you) and uproot the whole filthy entitlement system, from extended unemployment benefits to medicare, medicaid and social security, where gradma is raking in, in adjusted funds, four times what she paid in and is sitting at the casino with buckets of nickels bitching about her reduced-price 26 medications.

    I hope the new president is an unapologetic capitalist, intent on destroying wealth-reducing over-regulation, busting every stinking communistic public-service union and will outlaw one of America’s greatest internal enemies, the NEA.

    I hope for ARCH conservative, STRICT constructionist federal judges to the political right on my hero Antonin Scalia.

    Let us protect our culture with a 1,500 mile, 50-ft cement fence, resplendent with razor wire and random land mines. The police will be mandated to check the citizenship status of all non-whites which they encounter during their regular duties and ANY illegal alien will be automatically sent, via boxcar, to the border.

    Finally, let us all public, on the courthouse lawn, pray for the end to infanticide, which has resulted in the bloody murder of over 58,000,000 babies in the U.S. alone since 1973, in the greatest possible offense to Our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.

    I would like to thank you, Chris, for giving me the opportunity to respond to your non-threatening, non-offensive, non-contriversial statements with one of my own! And, like you, I consider such posts to be an essential element in empowering this blog.

    • Tim in Germany Says:

      Last Saturday my daughter’s friend Monika and her parents stopped by for lunch. During mealtime conversation, they asked if my wife and I thought Obama would be re-elected. When I said it would be close, they were surprised.
      They expressed several reasons they felt certain he would be re-elected, including a belief that four years is too little to undo Bush’s errors and that he has accomplished many good things since taking office. I tried to explain that many Americans are amazingly hostile toward Obama, giving him no credit for accomplishing anything. They were shocked at this idea.
      I share their thoughts as a way of saying that different news outlets have a pretty profound effect on peoples’ understanding of the same events. The German media our lunch guests frequent have a take on Obama that differs dramatically from both Mr. Snowflake’s Fox-inflected view and the “mainstream” American media.
      And much as I hate to rain on the witch-hunt, the whole anti-teacher pogrom at work in both American political parties is a red herring. The actual scientific research suggests that Teachers (good or bad) have far less power to affect educational outcomes than the folks in need of easy answers are suggesting.

      • Chris Says:

        This past year I’ve been to Europe and Australia sum total about 6 or 7 separate times for work. I am actually always amazed watching the European coverage of American politics. And just hearing coworkers in Europe talk about this sort of thing it always sounds to me like they understand the American political system far better than we know anything about their various political systems.

        I’m not saying they are flawlessly insightful on the American process but the fact that they often pay closer attention to us than we do them is an interesting side-note.

        For all our greatness on the world stage we are still an insular culture and sadly that turns us into a nation contemplating it’s own belly button without looking up to see an external frame of reference.

        I feel greatly enriched by my travels to realize that just because we do things one way in the U.S. doesn’t mean ipso facto we got it right.

        I know my crazed travel schedule will end sooner or later but until then I’m trying to drink from the firehose and try to get an external reference frame to help me understand what I’m seeing at home.

      • I am Mr Brown Snowflake Says:

        I would strongly encourage Tim and Chris to read Nile Gardiner’s piece in the Sat. Nov. 12 Telegraph (UK). The link can be found on realclearpolitics.com, the clearinghouse for BOTH sides of the fence. They can then share that information with their non-American friends.

        As for Europe (economic collapse coming this spring/summer): you have it coming. During the Cold War you lived under the expensive umbrella of U.S. might while spending less than 2% of your respective budgets on your own darn defense!

        Those savings allowed you, after the U.S. rebuilt you with the Marshall Plan (“The most magnanimous act ever of one people to another” — Churchill), to install a socialist system with enormous domestic costs and impossible economic promises to your coddled populations. THose bills are about to come due, and who will you blame? The U.S., right?

        So do not give me any pious preaching from the Euro-Left about how to run things here…they have wrecked themselves despite having little, if any, military expense and even less guts.

      • jhagman Says:

        Mr. Snowflake, if we have so much military guts, why don’t we have mandatory military service? The French do! My Cousin Stefan spent a year in the Chasseurs (Armour), my other Cousin David (who does not like the military) got to spend two years in Africa teaching. Remember, after the WWII we were the only modern industrial economy not severely damaged, it was in our best interest to help rebuild Europe so that it did not become part of a Communist Empire, but filled with lots of prosperous customers! We grew very rich selling weapons, and we wielded tremendous influence from all of our military bases. Western Europeans had a right to any kind of Economy they wanted- they had suffered millions of dead, and while things were never perfect there, they seemed to do fine until they bought a securities from American Banks, but as the French say “c’est la vie”

      • Tim in Germany Says:

        Perhaps a little recap will help return some civility…

        I expressed surprise that my German guests had ideas about Obama so different from anything that one might hear on an American media outlet.

        Chris expressed admiration that Europeans understand American politics so well and concern that we do not take the time to return the favor.

        Mr. Snowflake sarcastically misrepresented both our posts and displayed shameful glee about the economic disaster causing very real pain for my friends and neighbors.

        Perhaps we should stick closer to Fred’s original post. To that end I will share my favorite fall memory of youth…

        A certain banana-sponsored hobbit and I used to kick piles of burning leaves high into the air at twilight. We called the resulting cloud of flame and autumn-scented smoke a balrog.

      • jhagman Says:

        I like the Snowflake as he is! And politically I find myself agreeing with him most of the time. I just wanted to show that things are not so simply cut and dry in Europe, Right vs. Left etc, but as with all European things very complex.

      • Chris Says:

        I am flying to Belgium on Monday. Often listed as the most boring city in Europe, but essentially the capital of the Eurozone. I will be there working with a company we cooperate with. I can tell you from my dealings with European companies that often they are far more “forward looking” and will invest longer term than the U.S.

        U.S. CEO’s make several hundred times the salary of the average employees, that isn’t really done in Europe. In Norway (a place near and dear to my heart having been there a couple times) it is considered strange if you want to show off your wealth, so people tend to be less obsessed with all this “gain” we take as a hallmark for greatness in the U.S.

        Speaking of Norway remember, that until the 1960′s or 70′s Norway was a poor backwater country. Then they discovered oil in the North Sea. The Norwegians made a conscious effort to ensure that money was used for the general betterment of the society as a whole. This is clearly quite different from the U.S. approach where whomever gets the cash “wins”.

        In my years I’ve worked with a couple Norwegian grad students who’s degree is being paid for by the state. Oh, and that isn’t unearned money. You know why Norway is so ridiculously wealthy these days?

        Because the U.S. BUYS THEIR OIL. It’s the perfect free market system.

        Only in Norway the people get benefit, not just a few executroids.

        Yes, Norway even has its own ARMED FORCES. So they aren’t just relying on the U.S. to protect them. Norway spends 1.5% of its GDP on defense. It’s a founding member of NATO.

        The reason I bring these things up is because Europe is hardly riding the U.S. largesse coat tails. As Tim pointed out they suffered far more in WWI and WWII than the U.S. can even imagine.

        The current Eurozone crisis is in no small way due to the universality of “greed”.

        Interestingly enough it was the U.S. traders and corps that came up with the interesting “instruments” to play with and mangle normal investment procedures and the Europeans are just as human and bought into it when shown these great possibilities of enrichment.

        We gave them the gun and the bullets and they shot themselves just as we have. The only real difference is that the Europeans actually seem to have a bit of worry of how their social welfare system will fare (and its impact on the majority) as opposed to the U.S. where we seem focused only on the interests and protection of the top 1% richest people the earth has ever seen.

        If that isn’t a sign of whose priorities are superior I don’t know what would be.

        Oh and one last thing: you will note that not all social democracies in Europe are currently in the same crisis as others. So the current Eurozone crisis is not indicative of the failure of social democracies.

      • jhagman Says:

        Again,, things are not as simple as Chris sees them,,,European Companies (with their long-range planning) like Dassault selling munitions to countries like Saddam’s Iraq, the beauty that was Belgium’s Congo,, and Chris it is true that the European’s suffered horribly in both World Wars, but both of those Wars were of their own making.And,,, of course the beauty of Social Welfare. My Grandmother is French so I see how even the most educated live. I have French Engineers in my Family whose apartments are the size of my livingroom and diningroom- and i am only a bookseller. I have Cousins who are Engineers that don’t have near the toys that we American’s on this blog describe, they live in what i would describe as shoeboxes- but things are not perfect here, it is always a trade-off, and all of us have to ask ourselves, would we like to live with the consequences of being taxed no less than 70%? Chris you describe a very excellent, well earned lifestyle, but believe me when I say that without the sheer dynamism of of American capitalism, it would not exist!

      • I am Mr Brown Snowflake Says:

        Oh the joy I receive from rankling this blog … I greatly resent the implication that I need a history lesson. I am well aware of the devastation and suffering caused by the two world wars and that the U.S., shielded by Providence, did not suffer economic ruin.

        And of course our post-war policies were self-centered … duh.

        So French engineers make little money. Is that supposed to bother me? Ask the Swedes how their low-birth rate is affecting their social state. Ditto immigrant-riddled Germany.

        Oh it is so fun yanking the chain! hee hee!
        (and Tim: as for halfling governors beholden to international mega-conglomerate fruit companies and their ranger pals playing with fire, I liked your recollection!)

      • jhagman Says:

        But Herr Snowflake you did need a history lesson, and your blog comrades Tim, Chris and myself are here to oblige! As to French Engineers (and French Doctors as well), when people don’t have enough, one way or another, this Reagan Conservative knows; it effects us all.

  18. jhagman Says:

    Wow! Chris & Herr Brown are scaring the HELL out of me this Halloween! I hope everyone has a most excellent holiday, and beware giant silver scissors!

  19. fsdthreshold Says:

    Daylily has been working extremely hard, overcoming the challenges of technology, to deliver an amazing present to us all, just in time for All Saints Day! If you’ll follow this link, you can hear the performance of “Summerdark” by the Sounds of Stow Festival Chorus, as described in the interview with Daylily a few entries back. (I’ll be adding the link directly into that interview, too.) This is a musical setting of my poem, composed and arranged by Dorothy VanAndel Frisch:

    http://soundcloud.com/dorothy-vanandel-frisch/summerdark

  20. I am Mr Brown Snowflake Says:

    OUTSTANDING! Congratulations Daylily or a brilliant piece of music and thanks to you and Fred for sharing it with all of us! WOW!

  21. morwenna Says:

    Happy Halloween to the Fellowship! I saw all kinds of fun costumes that ranged from a tube of toothpaste to a wonton.

    Daylily and Fred, “Summerdark” is fantastic!

    Brown, have a good Holy Day tomorrow.

    • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

      I admit to running around through a neighborhood in full costume with an oversized Star Wars Super Soaker, dressed as a Corellian smuggler and grinning as my friends scared the beejezus out of little children. One was a steampunk girl, another a classic witch, and the third a werewolf gentleman (her leash was held by the steampunk girl…because she had a tendency to chase cars.) I also admit smiling from ear to ear when I smelled the burning smell of October. Remind anyone of something? I hope everyone had a safe, happy Hallowe’en and that nobody got pulled into Harvest Moon that did not want to be there.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        This is a fantastic Hallowe’en comment! It reads almost like the “My Favorite Hallowe’en Memory” interludes in that monarch of anthologies, October Dreams. A Corellian, a steampunk girl, and a werewolf — I wish I could have seen that!

        By the way, not long ago I saw a T-shirt that I absolutely would have bought for a steampunk-loving friend if it hadn’t been so expensive. It was a brown T-shirt with the words: “Steampunk: When Goths Discover Brown.”

        At the same stall, there was a T-shirt that showed the well-loved Dr. Seussian elephant, except instead of legs he had tentacles, and the shirt said: “Horton Hears Cthulhu.”

        Finally, at Mysterious Galaxy Books on Sunday, I saw a T-shirt that said: “Read Irresponsibly.” Isn’t that great?

        When I tunnel out from under my mountain of catch-up work, I am going to tell you all about this year’s World Fantasy Convention!

      • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

        I can’t wait! In the meantime, I think I’ll dive back into “Good Omens”…it’s a rather fun work. It’s by Neil G-somethingmabob and Terry Pratchett. Sir Terry Pratchett, excuse me. It involves an angel named Aziraphale and a demon named Crowley working together…

  22. Daylily Says:

    Thanks, everyone! I am glad you could finally hear “Summerdark” instead of just reading about it. Thanks to Chris for drawing my attention to SoundCloud! As for scary Halloween stories, I have been without power since Sunday night, and no end in sight. 69% of my town is still without power; many towns in Connecticut are far worse off. It was 50 degrees in my house this morning. We have no running water; the well pump requires electricity. I rejoice that the sun is shining, because that is at least heating my house a little. And a library computer is a great convenience, plus it’s actually warm in here. :-) Ah, well, it could always be worse. And this may be the little push we needed to get ourselves a generator for the next time. Living in a place with so many trees near power lines, there is bound to be a next time . . .

    • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

      Let me suggest that you build one. It’s much more inexpensive and easier to repair. Also, “Summerdark” was incredible.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Maybe your steampunk friend could build one — a steam-powered generator . . . with a werewolf tied to it by a leash . . . and the Corellian could smuggle it into Daylily’s garage.

      • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

        Actually… (chuckles) I’m the electrical whiz on the team. Daddy’s an old, grizzled jack-of-all-trades, though his primary specialties are electronics and art. Remind me to show you my hovercraft schematics one day…. Apparently, I get my sense of extreme random knowledge from the paternal side of the family. If I remember correctly, you need a car’s alternator, some batteries, and a random assortment of other things that are easily obtainable. However, if it were me, I’d have to deck it out with solar cells and capacitors in place of the batteries. Free power ftw.

  23. fsdthreshold Says:

    Chris, did you ever dream that our old soybean mill would inspire a choral composition, and that hundreds of voices would be united in singing its praises? If that can happen, literally ANYTHING is possible!

    It reminds me of the time a friend of mine in Japan (Japanese) was randomly spewing out English words and grammar he’d learned, connecting them in nonsensical ways. He came out with the sentence “I have not been human.” We laughed ourselves silly over that, reckoning it a sentence that would never, ever, ever be actually used.

    Well . . . not long after that, we watched Interview with the Vampire and just about fell out of our chairs when Brad Pitt’s character Louis delivers the line, “I have not been human for [number] years.”

    Anything is possible.

    • Chris Says:

      Since the soybean mill was an inspiration for so many things it is not surprising.

      Speaking of interesting cross-connections; last night Rita and I had to drop off one of my guitars for someone who needed an extra guitar for an accoustic conference at the Town and Country Convention Center! I just found out that was where this year’s 2011 World Fantasy Convention was held it sounds like!

      So how did you like San Diego? It’s a pretty cool little city, but there at Hotel Circle one isn’t really close enough to the downtown to actually get out and see much. But it is right around the corner from one of our favorite haunts: the spookily addictive Container Store at Fashion Valley Mall! OooooOOOoooooooooo

  24. jhagman Says:

    Hey Fred, if/when you get to Philly, you should check out the Mutter Museum! I first heard about it through The Museum of Jurassic Technology here in LA. What did everyone read for Halloween? Mine was various books of Sax Rohmer. For Thanksgiving/Christmas it is E.R Eddison and Alberto Manguel. Next year is Fred’s new book and Tim Powers has something new. These two shall be salted away for next year’s holiday readings.

    • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

      Terry Pratchett (Tiffany Aching saga and Good Omens), Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (assigned and a book that I dislike in its entirety but for one character), The River Between by an author whose name I will not attempt (assigned but good), Dragonfly, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

    • Chris Says:

      I have heard of the Mutter and want to go see it!

      I am hanging in Brussels this week with my Dutch and Belgian co-workers. Before I left I started reading Bram Stokers Dracula. I normally avoid “the classics” and I almost always avoid “vampire” novels (so 6 years ago, and don’t get me started on zombies!)

      Dracula started off strong with Harker’s journal entries about being in Castle Draclar (I say “Draclar” in deference to one of my musical heroes: Unknown Hinson). But as soon as the treacly Van Helsing shows up on the scene the book decays into non-stop repetition of people lauding each others virtues. I mean it’s literally NON_STOP. They can’t even say “hi” to each other without pointing out what a good person the other person is or how “Madame Mina is pearl of woman virtue” (Van Helsing’s “broken english” makes me wonder if Stoker ever actually met a person from The Netherlands….the Dutch and Belgian Flems I work with don’t sound at all like Van Helsing when they speak to me in English).

      For heaven’s sake people, FIGHT DRACLAR, and STOP LAUDING EACH OTHER! Or get a room! One or the other!

      Speaking of creepy: if you want to see something disturbing (and you can’t make it to the Mutter Museum!) today I saw the work of a 16th century flemish painter named Gerard David at a museum in Brugge. It was a diptych called “The Judgement of Cambyses”.

      http://mydailyartdisplay.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/gerarddavid_thejudgmentofcambyses.jpg

      It was a huge painting, so you could see the gruesomeness of Cambyses clenched teeth during the “punishment” phase of the Judgement.

    • morwenna Says:

      Jhag, thanks for asking about books.

      Right now, I’m housebound in a claim shanty as a blizzard roars across the prairie. The book that swept me to this spot is an old favorite: The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

      • Marquee Movies Says:

        Morwenna, I think The Long Winter is one of the most exciting and riveting books I’ve ever read. Ms. Wilder’s matter-of-fact, she was THERE descriptions make this book the most gripping of this great, great series. Actually, I listened to each of the books on my ipod, read aloud by a wonderful actor, Cherry Jones. A great way to make housework far less of a drudgery – listening to books! Right now I am listening to a special edition of The Diary of Anne Frank. It is special because the editors have gone to the actual source material, and put about 30% of Anne’s details or entire entries back in. It is riveting and heart-breaking. She was a very, very good writer – and the smart aleck of the family, which just makes me love her all the more. Even minor, throwaway details (Anne has to polish the beans before they eat, to get the mold off of them) makes me all the more aware of how incredibly blessed I am, and how rarely I acknowledge that. Before she went into hiding, Anne got in trouble often with her teachers for talking. One entry tells of how her teacher punished her for talking by having her write an essay on some related topic. A bit daringly, Anne wrote a funny and historically accurate essay, one so fun and clever that the teacher happily read it out loud to his students! She was something else, that Anne Frank! This book is read aloud by another talented actor, Selma Blair. My heart aches with love and sadness for this young girl, who keeps talking about when “this is all over,” a girl whose very words will be read by millions forever (the annex where she and her family his is visited by a million people every year), a girl who will forever remind us of the horrors of war, and the effects of hatred unleashed on the world. We wish she had survived, of course – but the secret is this – there are billions of Anne Franks, boy and girls all over the world with their hopes and dreams of peace and happiness. It’s up to us to be kind-hearted problem solvers. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And Swordlily? Fred was right – I LOVED your Anne of Green Gables quote!

      • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

        I cannot read Anne Frank without flying into an unholy fury over all the wrongs of the world. There are things I avoid to keep from being incredibly ticked off at the entire globe…the majority of news stations, for example. I prefer to do something at least somewhat constructive other than rage impotently. For example, I inform people of one of the causes I champion, normally the most obscure so I don’t bore anyone.

        Right now, I am telling anyone who will listen about a couple of my friends’ daughter. She has an unknown motion disorder and a slew of other health problems. A few months back, their hospital bills were well over a million dollars. The worst part? The child is only nine months old and has been in the hospital for the greater majority of her life. They told Frani and Zev that she would only live three weeks…but she’s still here. Her parents are some of the best and most caring I have ever met and deserve all the good fortune in the world.

        If you want to find out more, you should check out their blog: http://princessleahdiaries.blogspot.com/ However, I warn you…it’s not an easy read. This baby has been through more in less than a year than most of us will have to endure during our entire lifetimes.

  25. I am Mr Brown Snowflake Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  26. I am Mr Brown Snowflake Says:

    Well, Tuesday (11-29) will mark six weeks (6!) since the last post from our host. Apparently there is much more to do in America than in Japan …

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Old friend, you don’t know how truly you speak! The job I have now is the busiest of my life. I even had to work like a maniac over the Thanksgiving weekend.

      But I must say, it’s like old times–me thinking every night, “Do I have the energy to post a blog entry tonight?” . . . you prodding me to get it done . . . Thanks for caring!

      To say thanks, maybe I’ll try getting a new post written tonight. If I don’t make my weekly deadline for my job this time around, I’ll send you to talk to my boss, okay?

      • Buurenaar B'Enceri Says:

        Okay. I’ll bring…persuasion. ;) **packs my blaster, some insulated wire, and a roll of nickels** Just remember, though, if you ever come through SC, you are not without friends–friends who know where all the good food is. Just try to hold down the fort and keep out the varmints. :P

  27. I am Mr Brown Snowflake Says:

    I know a thing or two about writing for deadline … the Associated Press is not exactly known for abundant patience!

    Just firing a shot across the bow to make sure someone in the wheelhouse was on watch … :)

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      I am grateful to you! The new post is written, and I think you’ll like it! Unfortunately, it’s now 4:36 a.m., and I have a 9:30 a.m. meeting. So I’m going to wait till tomorrow (well, later today) to proofread it and check some facts. The post is coming!

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