Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings

I’m just going to say it, I love Varla Ventura. At this point I’m pretty much down for whatever she’s got going on. You may remember that I loved her previous books “Among the Mermaids: Facts, Myths, and Enchantments from the Sirens of the Sea” and “Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires and Other Creatures of the Night: Facts, Fictions, and First-Hand Accounts”, and I’m happy to say she has added another one to her series of creature collections.

“Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings: A Complete Guide to the Wild and Wicked Enchanted Realm” is Ventura’s latest. This book is fantastic. The author’s enthusiasm for the subject matter is obvious as she relates assorted tales from folklore. I always love how she unearths the more obscure creatures for these books. In this one you’ll find fairies, pookas, and changelings (of course). You’ll also read about bonga, trolls, coblyns, brownies, and even Rumpelstiltskin! There’s even a section on methods for entering the fairy realm, an action the author does not advice taking lightly.

As always Ventura pulls no punches, letting the darkness around the edges of the fay be on full display. There will be no Disney fairies found in this book. However if you’re looking for an interesting guide to all the creatures the Wild has to offer, “Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings” is the book for you.

You can learn more here.

Creature Double Feature

Now that October, and Halloween, are behind us we can dig in and talk horror movies. Sure, you thought that because Hollywood’s traditional month of terror has passed that with it they took all the scary movies. Well I’m here to tell you that I’m not a fan of horror movies but two have been brought to my attention that look really cool and both of them are releasing in November. So take THAT October!


First up is “Late Phases”, written by Eric Stolze and directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano.

Crescent Bay is not the ideal place to spend one’s golden years, especially since the once-idyllic retirement community has been beset by a series of deadly animal attacks from the ominous forest surrounding it. When grizzled war veteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) is forced into moving there by his yuppie son Will (Ethan Embry), the residents immediately take offense to Ambrose’s abrasive personality. But that take-no-prisoners attitude may be just what Ambrose needs to survive as it becomes clear that the attacks are being caused by creatures that are neither animal nor man, and that the tight-knit community of Crescent Bay is hiding something truly sinister in its midst…

“Late Phases” opens in New York on November 21, 2014 with national expansion to follow.

The other is “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”, written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour.

Strange things are afoot in Bad City. The Iranian ghost town, home to prostitutes, junkies, pimps and other sordid souls, is a bastion of depravity and hopelessness where a lonely vampire stalks its most unsavory inhabitants.

Cinema’s first Iranian vampire western, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature basks in the sheer pleasure of pulp. A joyful mash-up of genre, archetype, and iconography, its prolific influences span spaghetti westerns, graphic novels, horror films, and the Iranian New Wave. Amped by a mix of Iranian rock, techno, and Morricone-inspired riffs, its airy, anamorphic, black-and-white aesthetic and artfully drawn-out scenes combine the simmering tension of Sergio Leone with the weird surrealism of David Lynch.

“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” opens in New York and Los Angeles on November 21, 2014 with national expansion to follow.

Geek Month in Review: May 2014

By J.B. Sanders

May flowers!

Robo-snakes
Nothing else to add: robot snakes. With video and explanations. Creep factor 5!

How to Flood-proof Manhattan
Anyone else remember when this kind of thing seemed like science fiction? Yeah, me too. This time, especially after Hurricane Sandy, people are seriously talking about it.

Shipping Container Houses
Normally, when you hear that phrase, you picture stuff that is one step up from “shack” and many steps away from cool homes. Not so with the ones in this article. They look like something you see in Architectural Digest.

Concrete-Eating Robot
I know, it sounds like a bad scifi movie, or the name of a pulp novel from the ‘60s. Nope! It’s a robot, still in the design phase, which will disassemble a concrete building, breaking up the concrete into cement, sand and aggregate. All this is done right on the construction site, and it leaves the rebar naked and ready for re-use (or recycling). Pretty nifty!

Shell Grotto — Made by Who?
There’s a grotto in Kent, England, that is decorated with millions of seashells, 4.6 million to be precise. It was discovered in 1835 by some explorers, and when I say “discovered”, I mean it. No one knows who created the grotto, why the decorated it that way, or really much of anything else. It’s pretty snazzy, though.

Billion-User MMO Using VR? Yes, please!
So VR reviving tech company Oculus was recently purchased by Facebook. What are they going to do with all that money and computing power? Build an MMO that a billion simultaneous users can play, and since it’s Oculus, it’s going to be in VR. Sound like a scifi book you’ve read?

Self-Healing Plastic
Yup, it’s another step towards androids dreaming of electric sheep. Scientists have developed a polymer that has cappilaries, much like our own tissue, so that healing plastic will flow into and fill cracks.

Robot Hand and Arm Prosthetic Approved for Use
Cyber-enthusiasts rejoice! The FDA has approved the prosthetic for general use, after it was developed by DARPA. It’s capable of doing very fine manipulation, such as picking up an egg or zipping up a jacket.

Solar Roads
Sounds like a scifi novel, does’t it? This little company has devised hexagonal tiles that could be used instead of pavement, and the suckers are solar panels, generating power. They also have heating elements, so they can keep roads clear of snow and ice. And they have lights, so they can be used to create lines of light on the road, instead of paint. Going “holy crap!” yet? How about the designers estimate that if all 31,000 square miles of currently paved road was instead paved with their tiles, it would produce three times the electricity the entire country uses.

Better, much better video:

Largest Dinosaur Ever
Imagine something as big as 14 elephants. Or larger than several buses. HUGE.

Hover Bikes!
For real, even. There’s a company taking pre-orders for them. Not quite the flying cars of the 1950’s future, but close. So close!

The Sand Chart
In case you need a reference showing the approximate size of all the different kinds of grains of sand, here you are.

Oldest Living Things on Earth
It’s a photo book, travelogue, and text book, all in one. Photographer Rachel Sussman explores organisms, such as trees, lichen, fungi, and others, that surpass 2,000 years old. In fact, one of the organisms, a tree-root structure in Idaho, is over 80,000 years old.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

The Inner World of The Sacred World Oracle

I’m so happy! Why? Because I get to talk about “The Sacred World Oracle” which was created by Kris Waldherr. That name may sound familiar to long time Buffet readers because back in 2010 I reviewed Waldherr’s fantastic “Doomed Queens” playing cards deck and the “Ask the Queens Advice Deck”. Both were so beautiful, intelligent, and whimsical that when I saw “The Sacred World Oracle” I was eager to dive in.

Butterfly

Most of the art was adapted from Waldherr’s various books, particularly “Sacred Animals” and the accompanying calendar. The art of “The Sacred World Oracle” is beautiful and creates a magical landscape. This is definitely an oracle deck for those who feel an affinity with nature.

Dragon

The deck is comprised of 44 cards that are divided into 4 types: earth, air, fire, and water. Within each quadrant you’ll find animals (real, mythological, and folkloric). The included book provides you with meanings for these creatures. The book also includes a few spreads to try out. Of course my favorite thing is to draw a single card each morning and then see if the day lines up with the intentions set forth by the card.

Elephant

However you decide to use them, you should get “The Sacred World Oracle” and give them a try.

Salmon

Update I apparently misunderstood the about the art and text section of the booklet provided with the deck. There was a line that credited artists incorrectly that has now been deleted. ALL OF THE ART WAS DONE KRIS WALDHERR.

Creature Book Double Feature

When we interviewed Varla Ventura for the website, it was primarily in regards to her role as the curator for a line of ebooks for Red Wheel/Weiser Publishing. After reading her two latest books, “Among the Mermaids: Facts, Myths, and Enchantments from the Sirens of the Sea” and “Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires and Other Creatures of the Night: Facts, Fictions, and First-Hand Accounts”, I can safely say is curating is what Ventura does best.

In a paranormal landscape where it may feel like you’ve read every bit of trivia and tale about vampires and werewolves, Ventura manages to find fresh new takes on the subject matter. And let’s face it, how often does anyone talk about banshees? She even discusses a few other rarely touched upon creatures like Pookas and Changelings. The back of “Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires and Other Creatures of the Night” has a huge list of resources such as books, movies, and websites where you can learn more.

For as cool as that was, “Among the Mermaids” is, for me, a million times cooler. I have always been fascinated by mermaids and sirens. Other than a passage here or there in a paranormal or creature encyclopedia I had never found much reading about them. Then Varla Ventura comes along with “Among the Mermaids”, a whole book devoted to merrows, mermaids, and sirens. Again, Ventura finds legends and factoids that you’ll never find anywhere else! At the end, you not only find resources such as movies and books, but also shopping. Looking for mermaid art or jewelry? There are links for that! Looking for your very own, custom made mermaid tale? There are links for those too!

As I said at the start, curating is what Varla Ventura does best and the wonderful work she did with these two books proves it. Both books are filled with unique myths and facts that make these must haves for lovers of legend.

Geek Month in Review: April 2013

By JB Sanders

Spring!

Hagfish Slime — the New Silk?
Seriously, the hagfish (which is neither hag nor fish) is a bottom-feeding vertebrate that exudes a nasty slime when threatened. Scientists are exploring ways to duplicate the fibers that are part of this slime to create a pseudo-silk with more in common with spider silk than traditional silk. Such as being super-strong.

The Anti-Drone Hoodie
I see this thing and can only think: The Latest Fashion in Cult Robes. Every drone-avoiding cultist should have one.

How Far is it to Mars?
Handy website that graphically displays how far it is from Earth to Mars, although no information about whether they use an average distance or whether they’re savvy enough to calculate Mars’ position and update their info.

Decoding Our Dreams — Using Science!
Scientists have developed a program that helps decode images of brains taken while the subject is asleep. It isn’t exactly reading our minds via machines, but it’s interesting.

3D Camera with Range
Oh sure, 3D cameras — nothing new. Only this one uses lasers and has a range of 1km. Oh, and it’s not so good at human skin, so don’t worry that people are snapping your 3D picture from a thousand yards away.

Attack of the Magnetic Putty!
Take iron filings, silly putty and a rare-earth magnetic. Mix. Then film it using a time-lapse camera. Result: cool but kinda creepy.

The Cavern Underneath Manhattan
Ok, so really there are lots of caves under Manhattan, but here’s some photos of one under construction anyway.

Sugar Water Modeling Yellowstone
Scientists wanted to model the tectonic behavior of the vulcanism and other geologic movements of the area around Yellowstone and the Western US in general. So they got a huge tank and filled it with sugar water.

Actual Headline: “1913: When Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin all lived in the same place”
The freaky juxtaposition of history and some of the men who made it. And no, this isn’t some weird alternate history novel. This really was the case. They all lived in Vienna that year, right before WW1 kicked off. Oh, and add to that list the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Yup.

The Time Capsule Apartment
Wealthy woman leaves her Paris apartment just as the first rumblings of WWII break out. She went to the South of France, and continued to pay rent on the sealed apartment for the next 70 years, until she died at the age of 91. Her heirs discovered it, opened it and these pictures are of what they found there.

Anti-Gravity
Anti-matter, anti-gravity, CERN — this article has it all! You know it’s real science when no one says “we’ll have flying cars in 10 years!”.

Secret Tunnels of the Mafia
No, not a Weekly World News article — the Mafia in Sicily (and other parts of Italy) really do have secret tunnels, bunkers and various bolt-holes.

The Future of Roads is Special Paint
How about a road where the lines are painted in glow-in-the-dark paint? Or what if roads in the northern climes were painted with temperature-sensitive paint that glowed when covered in ice? (Black ice no more!) That’s the possible future of roads.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: http://glenandtyler.blogspot.com

The $1,000,000 Hunt is On!

In an effort to highlight the proud histories of both Bigfoot and Olympia Beer in the Northwest, Olympia Beer has partnered with world-renowned Bigfoot experts at The Falcon Project to sponsor what may be one of the most comprehensive searches for Bigfoot ever conducted in North America. A grand prize of $1,000,000 will be paid to any person who finds “irrefutable evidence” of Bigfoot’s existence in compliance with the contest’s official rules. The yearlong contest launched April 9, 2013.

According to the contest rules, there is no set type or amount of “irrefutable evidence” required to establish proof of Bigfoot. All evidence presented must satisfy the three member judging panel convened by Olympia Beer and The Falcon Project. Evidence must include conclusive DNA evidence and visual proof of a live physical body. Visual proof of footprints, bone fragments, inconclusive skeletal remains or any other non-definitive evidence of Bigfoot will not suffice as “irrefutable evidence.” Any photo or video taken of Bigfoot is not sufficient to qualify as evidence in and of itself, but may be considered as supporting evidence. The awarding of any prize is subject to the official contest rules.

If Bigfoot’s existence is indeed proven through the contest, the grand prize winner will be paid in 40 yearly installments of $25,000. The annuity is being underwritten by SCA Promotions.

The Falcon Project is an organization that was convened to conduct the most in-depth search for Bigfoot ever conducted in North America. According to The Falcon Project, science tells us that a great North American Ape did exist at some point in the past, so the relevant question now is: “Does it still exist?” The Falcon Project is in the process of building a quiet, remote-controlled airship that will use thermal imaging technology to search Northwestern forests for evidence of Bigfoot. In support of its research, Olympia Beer has provided a $5,000 grant to The Falcon Project.

Similar to countless migratory and endangered species research programs, Olympia Beer and The Falcon project hope to conduct scientific observations of Bigfoot and then use the information collected to protect the species and preserve its way of life. Neither Olympia Beer nor The Falcon Project encourages or condones the attempted capture or containment of Bigfoot or any other form of wildlife. Any contest participant that demonstrates intent to harm Bigfoot or any other species will be disqualified from the contest, publicly shamed and referred to law enforcement officials.

More information about the contest can be found at www.olympiabigfoot.com, including news of participants’ progress, a map of recent Bigfoot sightings, live social media feeds and official contest rules. Participants can join the conversation by using the hashtag #Olympiabigfoot on Twitter and Tumblr, by following Olympia Beer’s Facebook page and by posing search-related questions to bigfootevidence@olympiabeer.com.

This article created from press release.

Blimpin’ for Bigfoot

Readers interested in cryptozoology, specifically Bigfoot, are probably familiar with Dr. Jeff Meldrum. However, for those of you who are not, let me give you a bit of a Wikipedia run down, “Jeffery Meldrum is an Associate Professor of Anatomy and Anthropology and Adjunct Associate Professor of the Department of Anthropology at Idaho State University. Meldrum is also Adjunct Professor of Occupational and Physical Therapy and Affiliate Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Idaho Museum of Natural History.” He also happens to investigate evidence and claims of Bigfoot sightings, much to the derision of many of his peers. Meldrum is the author of “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science”, which I’ve never read but now that I know exists I totally want to read.

Next spring Meldrum is hoping to kick it up a notch by using a remote controlled blimp with thermal imaging to scour the Pacific Northwest, as well as the Northern tiers of California and Utah. The small hitch in this plan is the need to raise $300,000 or more from private funding. The news stories I read mentioned donations and/or crowdsourcing, but I haven’t been able to find a place where the average person can go to donate to the Bigfoot search cause. I did find a Facebook page for Dr. Jeff Meldrum – Project Sasquatch. It says, “We are developing an on-line show with CyberStationUSA called ‘Project Sasquatch’ where I will be sharing some of my research and investigations into this most intriguing natural history mystery.” Perhaps this online show is footing the bill?

No matter what, Project Falcon (which is what this is being called) would be a big, bold step in the Bigfoot search. The pressure is on because it seems to me if this $300,000 search yields nothing, it’s unlikely anyone would invest that kind of money in the search for Bigfoot again. Unless it makes for good television of course.

A few news stories, MSNBC and Huffington Post.

Ghosts & Spirits Tarot

Since I just got done reviewing “The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses: From Pagan Folklore to Modern Manifestations” by Claude Lecouteux I thought now would be the perfect time to take a look at “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” by Lisa Hunt. I know I seem to be near pants wetting excited over every tarot deck I review, but seriously you guys, “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” is incredibly impressive. How impressive? Incredibly.

I have to say, I think the masterful Mr. Claude Lecouteux himself would be impressed with the amount of work Lisa Hunt put into “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” because what you have here is a tarot deck where each card depicts a different spirit, ghost, or liaison between the earthly and spiritual realms from folklore and legend. So yes Lecouteux fans, all the subjects of his books that have been reviewed here on The Buffet are represented in this deck: The Wild Hunt (The Chariot), Vampire (The Hanged Man), Revenants (Six of Cups), and yes party people, even the Poltergeists from the last review (Ace of Swords).

Ace of Swords - Poltergeist

I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I tell you that I would gasp with surprise and glee with each page turn of the booklet as a treasure trove of creatures and characters were revealed. La Llorona! The Flying Dutchman! Headless Horseman! White Ladies! Each entry has a brief description and bit of context along with a divinatory meaning.

The artwork is perfectly suited to the subject matter and despite the obvious darkness implied, Hunt brings beauty to most of the cards despite the specter of death the hangs around ghosts and spirits. I’m a fan of the Day of the Dead and I became quite smitten with Hunt’s rendering of it for the Ten of Cups.

Ten of Cups - Day of the Dead

And I was swept up by The High Priestess, who in the “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” is an Enchantress/Sibyl. Hunt’s text brings perfect understanding to what we see in the card.

The most famous oracle of Greek/Roman legend, the Sibyl of Cumae (Italy) guided Aeneus through the land of the dead and enabled him to return to the living. The Sibyl interweaves the energies of past lives and future events. She illuminates the scene where dream-like specters mingle with relics of the past. A pathway provides a passage to clarity and higher understanding. The sparkles indicate a divine presence.

The High Priestess - Enchantress/Sibyl

What else can I say to convince you that “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” by Lisa Hunt is 100% amazing? How about even though I received a free copy to review I went ahead and bought a second copy so I could get it signed by the artist? Did I mention I found this deck incredibly impressive?

10 Questions with Varla Ventura

1. So Weiser Books just launched two lines of ebooks, Paranormal Parlor and Magical Creatures. Can you tell my readers a little bit about those two lines?
Magical Creatures is a collection of stories from out-of-print and public domain books and includes such delightful beings as mermaids; goblins, pookas, and other members of the fairy kingdom; vampires; werewolves; and even mummies! Most of these are “fiction” or folkloric. Paranormal Parlor covers the wonderful world of psychic and supernatural—from old Victorian séances to classic ghost stories.

2. You’re the official curator of these two lines of books. What does that job entail?
I comb through volumes of stories, folktales, and true accounts to find hidden gems with secrets of their own. Sometimes the story is more in the author or the creation of the story. Once I have picked out the pieces I write a little about each book and author into an introduction, trying to put it in modern context. Not all the books are outstanding literary works—sometimes they are just quirky enough to be collectible, which is really what this project is all about. Being a lover of the strange and the forgotten, it is truly a labor of love.

3. What are a couple of your favorite books from the two collections?
From the Magical Creatures collection one of my absolute favorites is Polidori’s “Vampyre, A Tale”. One could argue it isn’t the finest vampire story ever written, but it has tons of cultural and pop-cultural significance. Polidori was Lord Byron’s personal physician and was there the fated night that Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary (Wollstonecraft) Shelley were gathered round the fire, conspiring to write their own ghost stories. This story was born that night. In addition, this was the first vampire novel written and published in English, which pre-dates Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” by seventy years.

From the Paranormal Parlor collection I think the stand-out is this novel, “Jap-Herron”, which was written entirely via the Ouija board. Sounds interesting enough on its own, but it turns out the author and her medium were channeling the ghost of Mark Twain and they claimed this was a novel he had been waiting to write since he died seven years before. The author, Emily Grant Hutchings, claimed that Twain identified her as “the one” to be his scribe. It went to press but was pulled immediately from the stands because Twain’s publisher and daughter sued Hutchings and her publisher.

4. Not only are you the curator for these lines of ebooks, you’re also an author. You wrote “Beyond Bizarre: Frightening Facts and Blood-Curdling True Tales” and “Book of the Bizarre: Freaky Facts & Strange Stories”. What are these books like?
These are collections themselves, probably why Weiser’s publisher thought of me for the first of these e-book collections. They are books of supernatural stories, hauntings, ghost encounters, UFO sightings, strange laws still on the books, bizarre news stories, weird medical conditions, and all manner of sea shanties, rock and roll horror stories and basically truth-is-stranger-than fiction kind of stuff. The kind of thing you read or hear about and then think it isn’t true, and then you investigate further and discover not only is it true, but it is way weirder than you first thought.

5. How did you get interested in, for lack of a better phrase, “the bizarre”?
I was kind of raised in a freaky household. We played a lot with Ouija boards and Tarot cards, celebrated Halloween like most families celebrate Christmas. Seriously, one year my mom kept us out of school until after Halloween so we could fully participate in the costume making and pumpkin sculpting. So I kind of always had an unusual outlook on things. I love freaking people out and I was at a party spouting some weird story and my friend said, “Hey, why don’t you put all your crazy stories together into a book?”

6. Care to entertain my readers with a favorite “freaky fact”?
In 1971 a man in Pennsylvania sued Satan—sighting The Devil himself as cause for all of the man’s ill luck. It was thrown out of court on the grounds that it could not be proved that Satan lived in Pennsylvania at the time.

7. Will these two lines of books from Weiser only ever be released as ebooks? Where can my readers go to buy and download them?
As far as I know there are no immediate plans to make them print books, though I would guess that if one in particular were enormously popular it might be considered. The idea is for someone to be able to collect these inexpensively and amass a collection at their fingertips. They are currently available on Amazon for Kindle, B&N’s Nook and in the Apple store for the any of their reading devices. You can search by the names of the collections, individual title, or by my name.

8. Are there going to be more books added to these collections? Any that you can tell us about now?
Oh yes! Many, many more. We haven’t even scratched the surface of what there is to come. Most of these first ones are personal favorites, but I have begun now to start exploring for new books through a variety of channels—references from the backs of my favorite old volumes of books, recommendations from friends and readers, and online searches. Among the next round, which will be released in early December, we have a ghost story by Charles Dickens, a holiday kidnapping story by L. Frank Baum, a collection of Pooka tales, and a fabulous publication circa 1900 all about a series of séances that took place in San Francisco.

9. And what about you? Will there be more books from you for my readers to look forward to?
I am pretty immersed in unearthing and resurrecting these volumes of forgotten lore, but when I surface I am sure to be half-way through my next manuscript. I have a ton of ideas, and am constantly gathering stories.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Have you ever seen a ghost?

Nope, but it isn’t for a lack of trying.

About Varla Ventura:
Varla Ventura is the author of “The Book of the Bizarre” and “Beyond Bizarre” and is a lover of all things odd and unusual and truly freaky. Her favorite holiday is Halloween, which she celebrates almost every day. She lives in the attic of an old Victorian in San Francisco. She can be found online at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/varla-ventura, http://varlaventura.wordpress.com/, and http://facebook.com/varla.ventura.