The Living Magick Tarot Challenge: February 2011

Images Courtesy of Living Magick

Yikes! Is it the end of February already? Where the heck did this month go? I’ve had a busy February working on The Magical Buffet, dealing with my assorted health dramas, and trying to learn Spanish, but more importantly, I’ve also had some time to work with Living Magick’s “self study flash cards”!

I’m afraid the rest of this article is going to seem anticlimactic, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a success. This month I worked on retaining what I’ve learned so far, which is the Major Arcana (but not their reversals), and I added the Page, Knight, Queen, and King of Cups into the mix. At first I thought I would add in the entirety of the Cups suit, but quickly realized that I was biting off more than I could chew. I opted for slower, but hopefully more meaningful progress.

As you can see here, the art for the Minor Arcana is still minimal. I think these days who knows what the art for any given tarot card will look like. For me, I feel it’s better to try and associate with names in case you decide to change decks or haven’t yet committed to a particular deck, which makes these cards perfect.

Living Magick's Page of Cups

Looking at the back you can see why I opted for the less is more approach. You’re given what Pages represent, what Cups represent, their association with water and the astrological correspondences, along with keywords. That’s a lot of totally new information for each card! However, by learning these I can now already be steps ahead on other cards.

Living Magick's Page of Cups

My routine of 10-15 minutes of practice most days seems to have me slowly but steadily progressing. My next challenge will be adding in the rest of the Cups while still working on retaining all the information I’ve already learned. This will be a pretty big jump, I’ll let you know how it goes next month!

Curious as to what the heck this is all about? See how the Living Magick Tarot Challenge began here.

Taking On Destiny: The Septrionic Order and the Naipes Cards

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading the copy of “Fate Fortune, and Mysticism in the Peruvian Amazon: The Septrionic Order and the Naipes Cards” by Marlene Dobkin de Rios that Park Street Press mailed to me. I had no idea what naipes cards were and I had never heard of the Septrionic Order, as I’m guessing many of you have not either. Well, this lean, mean text explains it all in amazing detail as well as offering loads of other information!

The book follows the journey of Marlene Dobkin de Rios: her start as an anthropologist studying the folk healing tradition in Peru, which in turn led her to become a fortune teller that uses the naipes cards in a shantytown in Peru called Belen, and the end where she has become an initiated member of the Sacred Mystical Order of Septrionism. It’s a journey that began in 1968 that Dobkin de Rios effectively relates in an engaging manner that’s presented with historical, social, anthropological, and religious context.

The first part of the book focuses on her time as a fortune teller and the history and use of the naipes cards. Dobkin de Rios also looks at the bigger picture. Why do the poor of Belen spend money that they can’t spare on fortune tellers? Why do her readings seem alarmingly effective? What do you learn from readings that cannot be learned from traditional testing such as the Rorschach and the Thematic Apperception Test? Dobkin de Rios offers excellent insight not only in the role of the naipes cards and the people who read them, but also into fortune telling in general.

In her time living with and studying the people of Belen, Dobkins de Rios began reflecting on destiny and how the people of Belen felt it affected their day to day lives. All the while, she was learning about the Sacred Mystical Order of Septrionism and their take on the role destiny plays in the lives of the people of Peru.

In 1968 Claudio Cedeno Araujo, also referred to as Shirky Gama, founded the Sacred Mystical Order of Septrionism. Dobkins de Rios describes Septrionism as “a contemporary mystical approach to self-knowledge and self-development, with emphasis on change. Personal knowledge of the spiritual world is primary. The goal is to control our instincts and passions. It sees as its role to provide a new view of the world and to delineate universal laws of causality. The doctrine questions the mission of human beings in society and their relationship to eternal forces. The primary focus of the doctrine is helping humankind to achieve spiritual peace and to overcome afflictions and tribulations.”

Dobkins de Rios carefully outlines the history, philosophies, and practices of the Septroinic Order and compares and contrasts both sides views on the role of destiny. I love learning about new religious movements, if you view Septrionism as a religion and not just a philosophy, and so this second part of the book was just fascinating. In attempting to learn more I found no listing in Wikipedia, a Google search just showed listings for this book, and the website Dobkins de Rios mentions (www.septrionismo.com) is in Spanish with no translate to English option. What I’m saying is, this stuff is fresh! At the end of the book you learn the author has started the first, and as far as I know of only, center for Septrionism in the United States (in California).

“Fate, Fortune, and Mysticism in the Peruvian Amazon” is a fantastic book. In this 122 page text you’ll learn about naipes cards, divination and fortune telling, the social and economic make up of Peru, the Septrionic Order, and more! I can’t recommend this book enough.

Flogging Molly Live!

On February 20, 2011 I was one of the lucky folks who got to see Flogging Molly live when they came to Northern Lights in Clifton Park, NY. This was my first time attending a sold out show at the venue, and holy crap can they pack a lot of people into that place!

My normal strategy when going to a show at Northern Lights is to show up when the doors open and plant my butt on a bar stool and claim it as my own for the night. However, I was going by myself this time and the idea of sitting alone at the bar for the hour or two before the show actually started seemed unappealing. Since these shows always seem to start late, I decided to show up at 7:30pm, when in theory the first opening act would be taking the stage.

Imagine my surprise when I walked up to the doors and heard a band already playing! I can’t remember a single time prior when the show actually started on time! My shock was even greater when I realized that Northern Lights was packed. After some careful weaving I was able to carve out a spot to stand near the sound guys, which is when I realized, damn, the band playing is good, really good.

Again, I’ve been to a fair number of shows at Northern Lights and generally, and I say this with the utmost respect to those artists brave and bold enough to put themselves out there, the opening acts stink. At most I’ve been able to say, that opening band was okay. One exception was Public Enemy, but they had so damn many acts in front of them that odds were a couple of them had to be decent. Also, the Reel Big Fish show, because technically English Beat was an opener and they kicked so much ass as to not be believed.

But back to the subject at hand, the band on stage did not suck, and in fact, I would call them good. Very good. They were The Drowning Men from San Diego, CA. They were like an awesome version of the Killers. I couldn’t help but dance around a bit while they were on stage. You can visit their page on My Space to check them out, which I recommend you do. If I had thought I could have made my way through the throngs of humanity I would have tried to see if I could buy their album at the show, but alas, that was not meant to be. Hello iTunes!

After The Drowning Men were Moneybrother, who are from Sweden. And by the way, promptly took the stage after The Drowning Men were done with their set. I cannot stress enough how rare this is based on past experiences. Moneybrother were a bit more on the pop side of rock and also good. I preferred The Drowning Men, who came down more on the 80’s new wave side of rock, but Moneybrother had a great sound and a lot of energy. And then…..it was Flogging Molly time!

I’m pretty sure it was the comedian Elayne Boosler who did a bit about going to see Diana Ross in concert. Diana Ross kept saying, “You sing!” to the crowd. Boosler’s response was something to the effect of, “No Diana, you sing. I paid a lot of money for these tickets and it wasn’t to listen to the guy next to me sing.” (By the way stand up comedy fans, if you know for sure if it was Elayne Boosler, and better still, can find me a video of it, please share it in the comments!) And generally, I feel that way too. It’s like, I get it, you’re a fan, you know all the words, now shut up so I can enjoy the actual musical artist. Yet this show was different.

Flogging Molly does high energy music that has choruses meant to be sung by a crowd. Not once did lead singer Dave King need to instruct the audience as to when or how to sing, everyone knew. To see, and hear, the crammed together, diverse crowd of attendees, all hold up their beers and shout out the choruses was a unique and pleasurable experience. It was obvious that the folks handling the sound for the show were used to this phenomenon because no matter how loud the crowd sang, you could still always hear King’s voice cutting through the fray.

The band sounded great, the crowd was rowdy up in front (complete with crowd surfing) and as respectful to space as they could be towards the back. King talked a little between songs, but never enough to slow down the pace of the show, and of course, everything sounds funnier and more interesting coming from a person with an Irish accent. I’m pretty certain that’s a scientific fact. Also, the band took time to talk a little bit about the two opening acts. During this King told the audience that Moneybrother were from Sweden, “There’s a health care system that really works,” he stated. And in the crowd there could be heard one lone woman letting out a cheer, oh crap, that was me.

To sum up, this was a fantastic show. If you have the opportunity to catch the current Green 17 Tour I’d highly recommend it. You can see upcoming dates here.

Here’s a taste of Flogging Molly from 2010

(Which by the way, you notice how he makes a liar out of me by telling the crowd, “Everybody!” at the choruses? Thanks Dave.)

Immortal Blues: Part Three

By Greg Bullard

Welcome to part three of the nine part fiction series “Immortal Blues” by Greg Bullard. Returning to the scene of the crime offers few new insights aside from the fact that our killer means business. Did you miss parts one and two? You can catch up here, and then here.

Clear liquid, with a shimmering, silvery quality on its surface, danced unnaturally in the crystal goblet before me, lit only by the dim twilight of morning. I let my eyes trail down to the hand that held that goblet. I could just make out the vague outline of my fingers. The sky behind them was distorted only slightly by my otherwise looking-glass clear skin. Beyond the window, the stars, as seen through my hand and the goblet it held, gave shape to a road which led to a great stairway and in the far distance beyond a forest of stars twinkled in the light before dawn.

My focus returned to the crystal goblet as the first rays of morning sun peeked above the tall buildings of 5th Avenue to my east, across Central Park. The light passed through my windows and struck the contents of my goblet, which instantly changed to a fine, ruby wine. The light shattered into a thousand shards that flared and played amidst the fine crystal of the goblet and beyond, casting a Kaleidoscope-pattern of deep red splashes across the room. My hand holding that goblet was opaque once more with long, thin, strong fingers of unmarred alabaster skin. Had I human hands, they would be scarred and rough from use, calloused from countless hours spent with a sword, but I don’t have human hands.

Sighing wistfully as the road disappeared with the dawn, a road I may not take again for many years, I drank deeply of the wine. I took nourishment and strength from the care and love with which it was made. Each sip was a feast compared to the best of food made by even the most caring hands of man, a whole plate of which was merely a nibble of the sustenance I truly required. No amount of love and care invested into food or drink made in this den of banality and despair could match a tenth of the care my people take in crafting a simple table wine.

Sitting cross-legged on the thick rugs covering the floor, I closed my eyes and cast my thoughts back to the attempt on my life. I lived within the details, savoring each one. By the time I woke from my reverie, I had come to two conclusions. The blues man played with unnatural skill, and the person trying to kill me had left one other thing behind – a bullet.

Later, walking back to the scene as it were, the sun was high in the sky as I turned east and south in NoLita towards the Lower East Side. I stopped to get a loaf of fresh, hot Italian bread from a bakery I favored and tore off pieces it as I walked, chewed and thought. I had believed I was just wandering aimlessly last night, but had something drawn me down to the Lower East Side? Or had someone divined that I would be there? Normally those tricks don’t work on me, but clearly I wasn’t the only factor, there was the blues man to consider.

Stopping outside the alleyway where my assailant had been crouched and waiting; I let my senses really drink in the place. What I perceived made me feel queasy and oily as if I was soiled just by proximity, but that’s normal for this part of town.

Strangers walked by in a steady stream – disheveled, dark, forlorn masses brightened only periodically by the rare person with a hopeful smile or the odd child with a magical laugh.

At closer to 7 feet tall than 6, wearing my long, black coat, broad-brimmed, black hat, black clothes and knee-length black, soft-leather boots, I should have stood out. I should have collected stares, but no one paid me any undue attention. I had that quality about me. Even in the brightest of days and under the scrutiny of the brightest of human minds, there are shadows within which I could disappear or at least be unnoticed.

Extracting a small pouch from the pocket opposite my watch, I undid the leather thong and sprinkled the tiniest bit of silvery, metallic shavings into the palm of my hand. Pulling the string tightly closed with my teeth, I tucked the pouch away. Bending over my hand I whispered words in a language not regularly spoken in this world. I could feel the True Silver shavings squirm and align in my palm.

Opening my hand, I saw an arrow formed, pointing to the opposite side of the street, the back drop of where I’d been standing when the shot was fired. At a break in the vehicle and foot traffic, I crossed the road and followed the arrow. As my orientation changed, so did that of the arrow, aiming steadily towards a single point. In a matter of minutes I found the hole in the brick left by the bullet which had been fired at me.

With my thumb I held the base of the arrow in my palm and whispered again over my hand. Instantly I felt a tugging sensation. Sending my thoughts along that feeling, I held my arrow under my thumb and pulled back slightly. Bits of brick and mortar grated and dribbled out of the hole before me, tiny grains of reddish brown sand falling into the garbage at my feet. Then, with a sudden shift and a breaking sensation, the bullet or rather the bullet fragments, broke free of the wall and landed in the palm of my hand.

Black and gnarled, with jagged edges, the bullet was fragmented into five large pieces that gave off a sharp, familiar, repulsive odor. Quickly opening a second leather pouch, this one empty, I tilted my palm and dropped the bullet fragments and the tainted shavings of True Silver within. Inspecting my palm carefully I saw the livid, angry red marks where the metal had touched my skin. The wounds were minor; the cold wrought iron had not burned me too badly.

I was certain of one thing now; someone was definitely serious about killing me.

About Greg Bullard:
Greg currently resides in Austin, TX, trying to do his part to Keep Austin Weird. While his wife, Julia, and daughter, Emily, both work hard to keep him on his toes, it is Julia’s red editing pen that does the most work. When he is not muddling his way through some fiction, he usually writes about What Greg Eats.

Steamed Sponge Cake Pudding with Raisins and Further Adventures in Food

In an attempt to not get flagged by every spam filter known to man I decided to call this post “Steamed Sponge Cake Pudding with Raisins” when there is really a better, more accurate, and funnier title out there on the horizon. Let’s just say, that this British sponge cake pudding is now called Spotted Richard by those who don’t wish to offend. That’s right, a chance encounter at a grocery store led me to have in my possession Spotted, cough, cough, “Richard” in a can! Better still, microwaveable! Oh, the wrongness doesn’t end there my friends…..

When visiting Rochester, NY my husband and I stopped in at one of the many Wegmans grocery stores in the area. I loved their international food section! After recently complaining of my inability to find hominy (dried or canned) I quickly snatched up a bag of dried hominy from their Latin section. Oh hominy, how I’ve missed you! Well as we wandered further down the aisle we came across a British/English section. And there is was…..Heinz’s Spotted Dick….in a can. Just in case that didn’t seem wrong enough, there was a proud oval on the can, proclaiming it….microwaveable! I had to have it!

Spotted Dick....in a can.

Now, as the owner of a canned Spotted Dick I set about preparing it. Let me first explain that I have never had Spotted Dick. Honestly, until seeing the can on the shelf I wasn’t even sure what Spotted Dick was! I’m going to guess that there is a proud Spotted Dick tradition in Britain, but this is America baby, so I bought my Spotted Dick in a can thanks to Heinz, and decided that the only appropriate preparation technique for this oddity would be the microwave. To the microwave!

Spotted Dick, under glass. How classy.

Preparing it was super easy. Open up the top with a can opener, turn it out onto a microwave safe plate, cover with a microwave safe bowl, cook on high for two minutes, then let it sit for two minutes.

And the big reveal!

A microwaved Spotted Dick.

It looks just awful, doesn’t it? I mean, unappealing in every way. Truth told, it wasn’t too bad. It tasted like a very moist, odd sponge cake variant of gingerbread with raisins. Also, crazy sweet. For about 5 minutes of effort, and weeks of Spotted Dick in a can jokes, it was a fantastic purchase. I’m not sure if I would pick up another one or not. Guess we’ll find out the next time I make it to a Wegmans in Rochester.

As long as we’re on the subject of British food, indulge me in a moment of BBC science fiction geekiness. I’m a big fan of the show “Red Dwarf”. While in college, I watched it every week with friends. I always tell my sci-fi inclined friends that I would suck up having to sit through “Doctor Who” so that I could watch “Red Dwarf”. And despite that my husband still married me, it must be love. Even more evidence of my husband’s love was that he bought me the whole series on DVD, which he watched with me.

One of his favorite characters, as well as mine, is Ace Rimmer, the heroic alternate universe version of Arnold Rimmer, the whiny, annoying regular character in the series. Ace Rimmer’s catchphrase is “Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast!” Like the geeks we are, my husband and I now frequently tell each other, “Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast!” So while on our cruise last year, when my husband saw on the breakfast menu “Smoked Kipper” he felt obligated to try it. Holy crap was it good!

So, inspired by my British food acquisition he decided to buy the things he needed to recreate his Smoked Kipper breakfast. It was tough, capers had to be bought, tomatoes had to be sliced and fried, potatoes cooked, and hardest of all was getting the smoked kipper. (In case the sarcasm wasn’t apparent, it was pretty simple.) In the end, our smoked kippers came to us from the exotic locale of Jersey City. Glad we hit the international food aisle!

Brought to you by Jersey City, NJ.

Anyway, here are the fruits of his labor. I know, it looks like the least desirable breakfast ever, but it tasted fantastic! Amazingly good! Give it a try sometime!

Sure, it looks like hell, but it tastes great!

10 Questions with Joseph Zarzynski

1. I’ve been given to understand that back in the day you researched “Champy”. For my readers who may be unfamiliar, can you tell them a little bit about “Champy”?

I always preferred the term “Champ.” In fact, the word “Champ” was the preferred designation used in Vermont and “Champy” was used on the New York side, generally the lands north of Westport.

Anyhow, “Champ, the mystery creature or monster of Lake Champlain,” is “America’s Loch Ness monster.” For decades, some people at Lake Champlain have reported seeing an unidentified animal in the lake, a USO (unidentified swimming object), you might say. It has been described as serpentine or horse-like head, long neck, large body, a tail and possibly four flippers or appendages. Length, 15-20 ft. long. There are probably several in the breeding colony. They are probably closer to 15 ft. long, maybe even a bit less in length. Unfortunately, no definitive evidence has been uncovered like that unique video footage or a carcass washed up on shore. Still, we can only hope…one day.

2. Was it the search for “Champy” that led to your study of underwater archeology?

I conducted archival research and fieldwork for “Nessie” and “Champ” from 1974 into the early 1990s, about seventeen years. Several things gradually led me to move from cryptozoology to underwater archaeology. First, in 1985, several things happened, hallmark events in underwater archaeology. The TITANIC was found, the Spanish treasure shipwreck the ATOCHA was found, a rare WW2 Wellington bomber was raised from Loch Ness, and Vermont opened an underwater park for divers on their side of Lake Champlain. From those seeds I decided to get into underwater archaeology. Finally, in 1990, I led the team that found the 1758 LAND TORTOISE radeau shipwreck in Lake George, New York. That 1990 discovery was the knife that cut my tie to cryptozoology. In 2001, I got my second Masters degree (University of Leicester in UK), that in archaeology and heritage, so I could become a practicing underwater archaeologist.

3. Although many of my readers may know you from your cryptozoological past, the truly exciting discovery you were a part of wasn’t a creature, it was a vessel, the LAND TORTOISE. What is the LAND TORTOISE?

The 1758 LAND TORTOISE radeau was a British floating gun battery of the French & Indian War (1755-1763). The radeau, French for “raft,” was a strange seven-sided vessel, 52 ft. long x 18 ft. wide. We found it at Lake George on June 26, 1990 during a Klein side scan sonar survey by our team that became known as Bateaux Below. The LAND TORTOISE is today known as “North America’s Oldest Intact Warship.” That term was coined by my colleague, Dr. Russell P. Bellico.

4. How on earth did this giant, essentially a sunken fort of a ship manage to go unnoticed for 232 years?

Well, it rested on the lake bottom, 107 ft. down, in deep water. It was in the middle of the lake in deep water. Advanced technology, a Klein 595 side scan sonar, helped us find the shipwreck. That same technology and other kinds of remote sensing could be applied to “monster hunting.” One day, a well-financed operation at Loch Ness, Scotland may answer the question, is there a Loch Ness “monster.” It will take money, time, and a good team.

5. Once you discovered the LAND TORTOISE the work was done right? You just contacted some state office and went, “We found this awesome, historically important thing. You’ll take it from here, right?”

We contacted the State of New York shortly after our find. Then began the process of acquiring a state permit to study the shipwreck. However, we had no funds whatsoever. So, we found a wonderful underwater archaeologist, Dr. Kathy Abbass from Newport, Rhode Island, that volunteered her services. We then supplemented our six-person team, Bateaux Below, with several skilled divers. From 1991-1993 we studied the one-of-a-kind, deepwater shipwreck. We estimate we put $1 million of volunteer services into that study. In 1995, we got the shipwreck listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1998, we got the shipwreck designated a National Historic Landmark, only the 6th shipwreck in American waters that are NHLs. And in August 1994, we opened the radeau as a shipwreck preserve or underwater state park for sport divers. The underwater park is called “Submerged Heritage Preserves,” and the radeau site preserve is known as “LAND TORTOISE: A 1758 Floating Gun Battery.”

6. There is actually a documentary, “The Lost Radeau: North America’s Oldest Intact Warship” that chronicles all of this. At what point did you, and the others who work with you, decide that this process needed to be filmed and shared?

Right after our 1990 discovery, we thought a documentary was possible. Like fine wine, however, we had to wait until John Whitesel and Peter Pepe (Pepe Productions) approached us to collaborate on the project. In late 2005, the award-winning documentary was released. This year, we released a follow up to that documentary called “Wooden Bones: The Sunken Fleet of 1758” (Pepe Productions & Bateaux Below, Inc., 2010, 58 minutes). See www.woodenbones.com.

7. What’s next? You’ve searched for giant lake monsters, discovered North America’s oldest intact warship, where do you go from here?

Like most researchers it is time to write all this up, to publish more reports and new books, and work on more documentary projects. Get the results of the research out. That is what scientists do.

8. Many of my readers are interested in lake monsters, any advice for any of my readers who want to go out looking for “Champy” or “Nessie”?

Yes. Be enthusiastic. Conduct background research first. Enjoy yourself. The search is fun. It will probably be that “Jane” or “John Doe” with a camera in hand that will finally solve the mystery. Thus, getting the word out by organizations like your blog, are important. I can’t wait and I applaud folks who dare to get involved in the search.

9. At this point you must be very familiar with Lake George, New York. Where would you recommend I go for dinner next time I’m in the area?

Ah, there is a great bakery in Lake George, the Lake George Baking Company. It is not dinner, but they sure have wonderful pastries to fortify you as you check out the area’s history and the lake’s beauty. I am a jogging fanatic so I can visit it only once a month or so. It has great coffee, too.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Not a question, but a thank you. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to talk lake monsters and shipwrecks. Great stuff. Good luck and best wishes.

You can learn more about Joseph Zarzynski, Bateaux Below, Inc., and the LAND TORTOISE here and here.

Here is the trailer for “The Lost Radeau: North America’s Oldest Intact Warship”.

You can view more and higher quality trailers here.

Here is the trailer for “Wooden Bones: The Sunken Fleet of 1758”.

I Love You to Death

By Alice Kina Diehl

Hey there Boys & Ghouls!!! Your favorite scream queen on wheels is back with another delicious holiday horror countdown. Let me paint a paint a lovely Valentine‘s Day picture for you.

Your amazing boyfriend/girlfriend spends all day setting up a special romantic dinner complete with mood music, rose pedals and scented candles to boot. As you arrive, much to your surprise, you get a beautiful bouquet of your favorite kind of roses, undertaker roses; very gothic of you. You notice safely nestled in your roses a beautifully hand written note that reads: “Roses are red, violets are blue I’m going to kill you and put you in our romantic fondue!” Well, now that you’ve got that chunky cannibalistic fondue in your head, I give you my top five Valentine’s Day flicks!

#5 My Bloody Valentine 3D
I know what you are thinking, “Alice have you lost it?” “My Bloody Valentine 3D?” I know it’s not the best film ever made but it is on my list for bias reasons. I took my then new girlfriend to see it for our second date. Knowing full well that she was not a horror fan whatsoever! She went with me anyways and sat though the whole thing. I was impressed to say the least. She has been my valentine for the past two years and still going strong. Cue the awwwwwwwww’s. This is a Valentine’s post after all.

Aside from my sappy story, “My Bloody Valentine 3D” has one awesome scene that made me happy. The deranged miner killer uses a mine pick to kill the desk clerk who happens to be a “little person”. Now, most people would say that offing a person with disability is a low blow in the script and offensive. Well, as a person with disability myself it made me laugh and smile. We can be killed in horror movies too!!

#4 Bride of Frankenstein
First off—DUH! This 1931 Karloff gem will always remain a classic. I think we all can agree that Frankenstein and his Bride, played by Elsa Lanchester will always be an essential romantic image in the history of cinema. Lastly, I dare you and your mate not to shed a tear or sport a quivering lip at the end when Karloff delivers his last line….“You stay. We belong dead.” Good Stuff!

#3 Shaun of Dead
I personally feel that this film should be put in every film list possible! Not only is it one of the best zombie films made in the last ten years, it also introduced us to a new kind of cinema romanticism—The Bro-mance! The chemistry between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost cannot be denied. I personally feel that your best pals make the best valentines, screw the significant others!

#2 Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Just a few reasons why this film was a shoe-in. 1.) Coppla . 2.) Wynona Ryder. 3.) Gary Oldman 4.) Lastly, they try to kill Keanu Reeves!

Francis always wondered why cinema never portrayed the original story of “Vlad Dracula” a member of the “order of the dragon” in 1462. He returns from battle only to find his beloved bride dead from suicide. She took her own life after rumors of her Prince’s death. Enraged at the notion of his wife being damned for committing suicide, Dracula desecrates his chapel and renounces God, declaring that he will rise from the grave to avenge Elisabeta with all the powers of darkness. What’s more romantic than that, ladies???

Watch it, it’s awesome!

#1 King Kong
“Twas beauty that killed the beast…” Thanks to Willis O’Brien who ingeniously created the stop-motion animation for this 1933 film achievement, I really feel that Kong is the ultimate miss-understood romantic. It was also the first film that made us really re-considered who “the monster” really was—Us! Powerful stuff and it still remains relevant even after all these years.

Well, there you have it the top five horror film for Valentine’s Day! Snuggle up close and enjoy!

About the Author:
Alice has been a horror movie buff since she was a little girl. Particularly the “Halloween” series. She hopes to be the first scream queen on wheels. She’s also an advocate for LGBT as well the disability communities. Been a nerd since conception. So proud! You can catch her on www.mynerdgirl.com as well her Facebook page.

The Versatile Tongue

Illustration by Will Hobbs

Have you thought about the tongue? I’m serious, have you ever taken a moment to ponder the versatility of that thing in your mouth? I hadn’t. Which is why when I began poking around, looking for something to write about and saw tongue I thought, well that’s interesting.

All the symbolism has been right there all along. I just hadn’t thought it through. For instance, how often do you get annoyed, displeased, or pouty about something or someone and stick your tongue out? A childish display perhaps, but one that persists with most of us well into our adult years. If it didn’t, why on earth would so many of my Facebook friends respond to my smart aleck comments with :P? The most basic and earliest learned symbolic meaning for the tongue in Western culture would certainly be the tongue’s power to express displeasure or to tease.

Speaking of teasing, let’s look at what could perhaps be considered the adolescent evolution of the tongue. In many instances of tribal art the tongue symbolizes fertility or is used as a substitute image for the phallus. However, we don’t really need to take a look at primitive art to know that the tongue can be associated with fertility, do we? The act of licking one’s lips, running your tongue along your upper lip, and perhaps even making a licking gesture are all considered sexual signals in our culture. I guess what I’m saying is that in some respects, perhaps we haven’t become that much more “evolved” than our tribal brothers, eh?

Now teasing, and um, teasing aside, the tongue has a lot more symbolism tied to it than just that. I was surprised to learn that the tongue is sometimes associated with protection. Ancient Chinese tombs would occasionally feature tongues on them to frighten away evil spirits, and in the depictions of the Egyptian deity Bes the protruding tongue is used as a defensive gesture to symbolize protection.

In an odd turn the cheeky, seductive, and protective tongue is also an aggressive symbol. Images of Kali’s protruding tongue can be seen to symbolize her consuming power. The extended tongue is depicted in Maori art as an aggressive symbol, and in fact, as seen on Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations”, among dozens of other shows and movies that have featured this, when visitors to New Zealand present themselves to the Maori a Maori warrior approaches them with bulging eyes and their tongue sticking out. This is done in an aggressive manner that basically says, if you don’t come in peace, I kick your ass. We also tend to view fire as an aggressive thing, and often tongues of flame will appear. Incidentally, those tongues of flame symbolize the Holy Spirit in early Christian art work.

As you can see, that slab in your mouth has a lot of symbolic baggage associated with it. Perhaps you’ll be more aware of when you see a tongue being used symbolically, or when you yourself use it. Also, can you do that thing when you curl your tongue into a tube when you stick it out? I guess not every one can, so it’s fun to check. I totally can.

Geek Month in Review: January 2011

By JB Sanders

Some new odd links in this new odd year.

Make it Yourself
By “make it”, I mean print it and by “it”, I mean pretty much anything. Heard about those neat 3D printers that cost the moon to buy? Forget about them! This website has instructions for building a 3D printer yourself for about $2500 (less if you source the parts yourself). The website is the front porch of an organization trying to create personal fabrication technology for the masses.

Mmm, Airships
Here’s another link to another airship, this time in a MUCH larger prototype and looking to be in full-size vehicles by the summer. It’s not science fiction anymore! (And yes, it uses helium.)

Printed Dinner
Ok, yes, two 3D printer stories practically in a row. Too bad, this is different and cool. Researchers at Cornell University are building a food printer. Which they hope will one day be as ubiquitous as the microwave oven.

You Already Know What This Link is About
A hugely respected scientist has been conducting experiments on ESP. Nothing new, right? Well, it appears that he has (proof pending) repeatable experimental proof of people being effected by events that they haven’t experienced … yet. Spooooky!

Doctor Who: Master of Weird Connections
David Tennant (quite likely one of the best Doctor Who actors ever) is marrying the woman who played the Doctor’s clone-daughter in the series. Not weird enough for you? She’s the real-life daughter of Peter Davidson, who you may recall played Incarnation #5 of the good Doc. Life — stranger than fiction.

Once Forgotten Caves Laser-mapped
A series of caves, now thought to be a sand-mine, were recently laser-mapped, providing smoke-like maps of their winding, twisty corridors. It’s thought the “caves” were a working sand mine in the 1700’s and were re-discovered in 1892. Some basements in Nottingham actually open onto the caves. Be sure to watch the movies — there’s a virtual fly-through.

Tiny Dioramas of Weirdness
So, this artist builds dioramas of movie scenes and photographs them. That’s it. And it’s … surreal.

Odd Word of the Month: Cryptoforests
Not sure what they are? I’m not entirely sure either, but I guess they’re isolated bits of forest in an urban landscape.

Doctor Who Nesting Dolls
No, really! And no, you can’t have too many Doctor Who posts and/or links.

It’s Only Sort-of Genetic
Neurologists and geneticists have been studying genius. They’re reaching the conclusion that genetics predetermines only so much, and that each of us has a potential genius talent.

Plus there’s a sidebar about how brains change depending on activity.

Make It Better
Fun little typographic animation perfectly showcasing the geek’s need to fidget with things until they’re “perfect”. Plus it’s cool.

Voxels Make It More Fun
There’s a new shoot-em-up video game coming to the Mac/PC world, and it looks like a game that escaped from 1984 and then was hit with the 3D wand. But cooler than I just made that sound.

Watch the demo video:

See Something Cool on the Internet, Cite It
Is this self-referential enough? I think so! (Plus it’s a cool info-graphic.)

The Finest Men’s Fashions — from 1892
It’s a real online store that sells real Victorian-style clothing. If you’re into SteamPunk, it’s a must-have bookmark. If you’re amused by cravats, ditto.

Avoiding data charges in 1906
Text messages are hardly new to communications — just ask anyone who remembers 1906. Back then, it was called the telegram, and this farming equipment company came up with a great way for their customers to avoid additional charges for ordering: codes.

The Zen of Entanglement*
Nice little web game that feels like a cross between zen meditation and celtic knot-making. Simple and fun. Also, totally engrossing, so be sure to have a spare hour when you click the link.

You Think of It, They Print It
These folks take custom orders for 3-dimensional objects, print them and then ship them to you. Rings, electronics cases, miniatures, chess pieces, what-have-you.

Seriously, I should be getting a commission or something with all these commercial links.

You Can’t Walk Straight
No foolin’, you can’t. Well, not without some kind of reference point, anyway. Here’s the fun part: no one knows why. It’s weird!

Nice little animated tale of the situation.

Moral of the story? Find a fixed point to walk towards when you’re setting out, otherwise, it’ll go bad for you.

Secret Ice Fortress
The army had a secret base under the Greenland ice sheet. No, this isn’t the paranoid ravings of a conspiracy nut. Not in this article, anyway. There really was a base out there. It was called Camp Century. Unfortunately, and as any modern glacier scientist can tell you, ice doesn’t just sit there: it MOVES. And that’s a problem for permanent structures in the midst of the ice. The project only lasted 10 years. But the photos are cool. Did I mention it was nuclear-powered?

Take a look at this overview article.

And more details can be found here.

How Badass is This Engineer?
So badass, he designed his own heart-valve replacement, and is using it now! Does he need any other entries on his resume?

The History of the Graphic Adventure Game
Great article going over the whole panoply of graphic-based (as opposed to text-based) adventure games. From King’s Quest to Leisure Suit Larry, and beyond. Worth a read for the nostalgia (if you’re old enough) or for a peak at a genre that almost doesn’t exist anymore.

Every Toddler’s Dream: Exterminate!
Yes, your child can ride inside this Dalek replica and fake exterminate their family, friends and random passer-by. Be the first on your block to enable your budding despot to get a death-machine’s-eye-view of the carnage. Watch the video for the full horrifying experience.

Drilling Lake Vostok
Yeah, this isn’t the plot of a movie or anything. Russian scientists are within 50m of drilling into Lake Vostok — a body of water 4000m under the ice of Antarctica. It’s theorized that the “lake” (body of water) has been isolated from the rest of Earth’s biosphere for 15 million years.

* Links marked with this * symbol are courtesy of Alex. Thanks, Alex!

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

Immortal Blues: Part Two

By Greg Bullard

Welcome to part two of the nine part fiction series “Immortal Blues” by Greg Bullard. In part two we meet The Crone, Isabella, and her granddaughter Marisela. In search of answers do we instead get more questions? Need to catch up? You can start at part one here.

An hour past midnight, I’d made good time; Isabella would still be up. With a click I flipped shut my watch and slid it back into my pocket. Tilting my head up and to the side I eyed the moon, bright and high in the clear sky, it’d be full in a few days. Sighing inwardly I turned left and stuck to the street lights, skirting the edge of Prospect Park instead of walking through it. It may be late, but I couldn’t take the chance of being seen in the moonlight, too many questions.

I covered the last few blocks warily. Already it had been a long night. Someone was trying to kill me, leaving me with two big questions. First, I wanted to know who. Second, I wanted to know how they could have a gunman waiting for me in the shadow of an alley I hadn’t even known I was going to pass by until I wandered aimlessly in that direction.

Minutes later I could see Isabella’s house in the distance. Dim light filtered through the age-stained, white lace curtains, spilling out onto the stoop of the old brownstone. I could feel the power of the wards even as I approached.

Seconds later, standing in front of the doorway, I waited. There was no need to announce my presence, they knew I was here. When the door opened a lovely girl of medium height, in her early 20s, wearing a white dress craned her neck back to watch me as I towered over her. Her full, petulant lips sat below large, dark brown eyes. The flawless olive skin of her face was framed by straight, long, black hair.

“Marisela,” I said in a rough, whispered tone, inclining my head slightly by way of greeting, “May I speak with your grandmother?”

“It’s late, she’s asleep,” she answered in curt, clipped tones.

Tilting my head to the side, I nodded at a tiny bowl of honeyed milk and fresh baked bread sitting on the sill, visible through the window and said, “She’s expecting me. She always leaves an offering for the Wee Folk when she expects me.”

As if on cue the frayed voice of the old woman cut in from beyond the hallway, “Please show our guest to the sitting room Marisela.”

“Yes Grandmama,” she answered, stepping back to allow me into their home.

Without needing a guide, I took the first left and passed through a dark velvet drape to the dim sitting room beyond. A windowless room, there were no electric lights, and it shown with the flickering illumination of the few dozen candles burning within.

“Can I take your coat?” Marisela asked. Her words were polite, but carried the usual biting tone she used with me.

“No thank you Marisela,” she flinched at my use of her name, “I shan’t be long.”

“Good.”

Preferring to stand, I looked around at the paraphernalia around the room. Some of it was truly mystic, some just the trappings of the job – placed to set the mood for the marks, lubricant as it were, to help squeeze the extra dollar from wallets grown stiff and rusty in a bad economy.

A Tarot deck, worn with age, sat face down on the table at the side of the room, but for the single card upturned in the center, the Knight of Swords. It wasn’t there just for ambiance. Most of her patrons would never see that particular deck. She had been expecting me.

Marisela stalked into the room purposefully and handed me a fine porcelain cup of black tea, sweetened with honey and softened with milk. I raised it in salute to her, or in this case, to her back as she was already leaving, and I drank.

Shuffling out of an adjoining hallway on tired, old feet, assisted by a twisted, wooden walking stick, Isabella thumped and drug her way to a comfortable chair and sat heavily. She wheezed for a moment. I let her catch her breath.

“Death came calling for you tonight,” she pointed a long, tobacco-stained fingernail at me and laughed a throaty laugh that threatened to send her into a coughing fit she might not survive at her age.

“A pity, I wasn’t home,” I tried to sound dark and mysterious. I have a reputation to uphold.

“Ask your questions,” she spat the words more than she spoke them.

I ticked the questions off on the ends of my long, slender fingers, “Who is trying to have me killed? How did they know to have someone waiting in that alley?”

“What do you have for me?”

Pulling the sweat-stained wad of folded bills from my pocket, I peeled the outer bill from the stack and tossed it down to the table in front of her.

“We don’t want your filthy money,” Marisela hissed from where she stood in the shadows of the darkened archway beyond the sitting room.

Raising my eyebrows at her, I declined to respond. Gesturing at the bill, I told Isabella, “The killer was paid with this. It’s all I have to tie him to whoever hired him.”

With a quickness most wouldn’t consider possible from her parchment-leather, worn, arthritic fingers, Isabella pulled a small athame from the cord at her bosom and deftly sliced a thin edge off of the bill.

Pulling a pouch from the pocket of her peasant dress she removed an intricately carved pipe and began stuffing it with tobacco from the pouch. When she judged it set, she took her long pinky nail and scooped out a hollow in the center of the tobacco and deposited the strip sliced from the bill.

Lighting a taper from a black candle, she applied it to the pipe and drew a deep breath until the tobacco caught and began to burn with a sharp, sweet aroma.

Turning to the bank of candles at her right, she exhaled a slowly spreading cloud of smoke. Twisting and turning in her chair, she watched the smoke dance and play in the guttering light, swirling with the slight movement of air in the otherwise still room.

Presently she waved her hand through the smoke, dissipating it before she turned to me, took another draw on her pipe, exhaled, then leaned forward and spoke, “The man who was paid with this bill had instructions.”

Her voice changed slightly as she intoned, “A tall figure of shadows and lies will come tonight and stand at the window of the blues man. Kill him.” Standing, she waved me off and turned to hobble from the room with the thump and drag of her slow steps.

Taking this as just the opportunity she had been waiting for, Marisela said, “I’ll show you out.”

Separating four bills from the stack, I set them on the table and turned to leave. Just before I crossed the threshold of the door I spun quickly and reached a hand out to cup Marisela’s cheek. She froze beneath my touch.

I tilted her chin up as I leaned forward. Separated by less than a foot our eyes met and locked. I spoke softly but clearly without a trace of the rough whispered tones I typically used, the singsong lilt of my voice brushed aside her animosity as I said, “Thank you for the tea, Marisela.”

She trembled beneath my touch and her cheeks flushed. She cast her eyes down trying to break from my intense gaze and mumbled softly that I was welcome.

Leaving her shaken and short of breath in her doorway, I stepped outside once more. My long coat swirled about my knees as I drank in my surroundings before turning and walking quickly away. It was important that I make it home before morning twilight.

About Greg Bullard:
Greg currently resides in Austin, TX, trying to do his part to Keep Austin Weird. While his wife, Julia, and daughter, Emily, both work hard to keep him on his toes, it is Julia’s red editing pen that does the most work. When he is not muddling his way through some fiction, he usually writes about What Greg Eats.