Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween, y'all

My favorite Halloween picture ever (until this year, of course). Last year's costume for GrandBoy: Unhappy Monkey. Oh, the humiliation! Have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Halloween Carol

A Halloween Carol
(to the tune of White Christmas)

I'm living through a white Halloween,
Unlike the ones I've ever known.
Where the ghouls and goblins
Go apple bobblin'
Amidst snowballs being thrown.
(mwah-ha, mwah-ha, mwah-ha-ha)

I'm living through a white Halloween,
With every Boris Karloff flick.
May your treats out-number
Your tricks.
But let's save the snow for St. Nick.

Yes, the Winter Storms Began

Well, the gates to the Conservatory Garden were locked, but I think it's safe to say that it doesn't look much like it did last weekend. What an odd storm.

E're the Winter Storms Begin

A Nor'easter's due to blow through sometime this evening. Before we're lashed with wind, rain, and snow, I thought I'd show you what Central Park's Conservatory Garden looked like last weekend. The flowers were gorgeous. Not sure they'll make it through this weekend's weather, though.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Horror Hits: Week of October 23

Double your pleasure, double your fun. For this week leading up to October 31, let me suggest a few seasonal pairings (plus one tripling) to help you ward off the evil spirits well into the night. Pull your chair a little closer to the warm glow of your computer screen or 60" plasma TV and stock up on popcorn and "fun size" Snicker bars. Here we go.

The Shining (1980) and The Shinning (1994). One stars Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall, the other stars Bart and Homer Simpson. Nicholson's a nutcase and Shelly needs to wash her hair. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Shivery stuff. Until you watch the Simpsons' version. Memorable line: "Usually the blood gets off at the second floor." My suggestion is to watch the scary one first, then enjoy the parody. Bart and Homer really take the edge off Nicholson.

Halloween (1978) and Carrie (1976). Jamie Lee Curtis in one, Sissy Spacek in the other, P.J. Soles in both. Do not mess with high school girls. Trouble seems to follows these little darlin's wherever they go. The teenage boys don't stand a chance - they are all doomed from the start. Pumpkins, predators, periods, and proms - terrifying stuff. Totally.

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Gods and Monsters (1998). And if you want a real film-fest, toss in Young Frankenstein (1974). If you can only watch one James Whale Frankenstein movie, go for Bride. It's got everything you need to get the gist of Gods and Monsters, Young Frankenstein, and any good Carol Burnett sketch. Elsa Lanchester's coif alone is worthy of timeless honor and praise, but Bride is loaded with iconic images and quotes that ripple through the other two films. "To a new world of gods and monsters!"

Now go make friends - or do I mean, "fiends"? - with crazy cabin-fevered writers, knife-wielding teenage girls, and monsters with fabulous hair.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Bind

I'm fresh out of reading material - actual books, virtual books, audio books - and so I turn again to you, dear blog-buddies, for suggestions.

Here's what I don't want:  I'm not in the mood for non-fiction, unless it's a rip-roaring read (like, oh, say, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), and I don't need anything that's going to tax my brain at this particular time of year, so no existentialistic, uber-cerebral junk. Oh, and no romance crapola, either. In short, I'm looking for a plain, ol' good story.

So, I put it to you, friends: What's the last good book you read, the one that you didn't want to put down?

I'll even contribute to the conversation. A few weeks ago I read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, a book I'd put off reading for a while. Well, little Shorties, I couldn't read the thing fast enough! I highly recommend it if you've been putting off reading it, too.

Don't feel compelled to write a book review; a title and author are sufficient. Raves and book reviews are always welcome, however.

Please, please send me something that will make me read late, late into the night.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Klutz Day

Ever have one of those days where you run into things, trip over invisible objects, and drop everything you pick up? Sure you have. And so have I. Today.

I dropped everything from brushes to pens to a bowl of spinach (which I managed to catch just before it hit the floor - whew)!. Stuff just slid through my fingers all day long. But that's not the worst of it.

The worst of it was running full-speed-ahead into a whacking great iron air-conditioner cage on my way to work. These may just be New York head-bangers. No one in my 'hood wants their street-level a/c stolen from the window, so they encase them in thick iron-barred cages that protrude a couple of feet from the side of buildings. At least, that's how it works in Spanish Harlem.

Anyway, I was walking - which, if you know me, means a marathoner's running speed - head down, so I wouldn't trip over something on the sidewalk, when - bam! One of these a/c iron-barred cages slapped me upside the head. My first thought was "Who hit me with a shovel?" The corner of the thing bit me right at my forehead and hairline. Bit is not strong enough, unless the bite is coming from a Great White Shark.

Color me one stunned klutz. A single trickle of blood made its way down my forehead, but I had no idea how bad it was. I was close enough to my apartment to stagger back to survey the damage. Fortunately, the cut was minor, but I do have a lump the size of, oh, somewhere between a golf ball and tennis ball. Yeah, big. And, yeah, I put ice on it immediately.

Even knowing that it was my Klutz Day, I went on to work. I needed folks to keep an eye on me, in case I went to sleep and didn't wake up. Ibuprofen helped. A lot. And it was a fairly productive day, despite all the time spent picking up stuff I'd dropped.

Here's hoping tomorrow is my Graceful Day. I can't afford another lump on my head. I'm fuzzy-brained enough, as it is.

Halloween Horror Hits, Week of October 16

Another October week has passed, and though I spent four of the last seven days at a conference in Colorado, I managed to view some pretty good scary movies via my trusty netbook. I'm dying to see PT's suggestion of "Dead of Night," but it's not offered on Netflix or Hulu. I'm on the look-out and will find it before Halloween. It's obviously a classic I've missed along the way.

Here are this week's suggestions:

The Fog (1980) - A John Carpenter film with Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, John Houseman. Better than I thought it would be (why am I suspicious of Adrienne Barbeau movies?), in fact it was darn good. Not John Carpenter/Jamie Lee Curtis/Halloween good, but scary just the same. Weird revengeful-zombie-filled fog takes over a Northern California fishing town. Choose this one, not the 2005 remake. I mean, wouldn't you rather watch Adrienne Barbeau and Jamie Lee Curtis?

Knife Edge (2009) - Standard busy-professionals-move-to-big-creepy-county-house thing, but I kinda like standard busy-professionals-move-to-big-creepy-county-house things, so it held my interest. Took me a while to figure out who the baddie was (I thought it was the Joan Plowright character for a while), so it held my interest. If you like standard busy-professionals-move-to-big-creepy-county-house things, too, you might like it.

Burn, Witch, Burn (1962) - Lousy title for a pretty good little movie. Professor who teaches about psychological effects superstitions finds his wife engaging in various forms of voodoo and witchcraft, claiming to do it to protect her husband from jealous colleagues. A few twists and turns, plus a giant stone eagle comes to life. A nice cozy little black-and-white movie, perfect for the season of Halloween.

Move that bowl of candy corn a little closer, and be prepared to be . . . mwah-ha-ha . . .spooked!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Halloween Horror Hits, Week of October 9

You know how much I love my Halloween movies. Only scary stuff radiates from my television, DVD player, and computer screen during the month of October. I mean, if you can't dig down into the depths of your twisted psyche during the season of ghosties and ghoulies, when can you, eh?

I stand by my list of Halloween film fare criteria and my favorite Halloween movies posted in 2005. Do your homework, and check it out here. But every year I find new classics (oxymoron?) to add to my annual Film Fear Fest. So each week for the rest of the month,  I'll post three movies worthy to add to my Halloween list that I've discovered/re-discovered, thanks to streaming video on the web.

Here are the Halloween Horror Hits, week of October 9

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965): Here's a British offering, starring the UK's equivalent of Boris Karloff/Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The token American is a young Donald Sutherland. Six strangers on a train, tarot card readings, bizarre glimpses into the future, and a Twilight Zone-y kind of ending. What's not to love? 

The Bat (1959): This one surprised me, in a good way. I was expecting the standard Vincent Price thing, but Agnes Moorehead rules this one. She's a mystery writer staying in an old spooky mansion where the owner has hidden cash he stole from his own bank. Agnes is fearless. No squealing, frightened woman is she! Bonus: a grown up Darla Hood puts in an appearance. It's a good little thriller. And, yes, bats - the flying kind - are involved.

Ghost Story (1981): Hadn't seen this film in years, and I'm so glad I watched it again. Four old guys (Fred Astaire, John Houseman, Melvin Douglas, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr) must pay for a great sin they committed as young men. Lots of creepy, scary stuff, perfect New England setting. Good stuff!

OK. Go forth and stream a good scary flick. I'll see if I can find three more good 'uns by next week. Now, pass the candy corn.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Spooklie Awards 2011

The Spooklie Awards are back! I created them in 2006 with the idea of turning them into an annual awards - much like those Nobel thingys - but, hey, things happen, and here it is five years later. Perhaps these awards are so special that they only come around every five years. Gives us a chance to get perspective on what's really scaring us. Anyway, that's my rationalization, so deal with it.

The purpose of the Spooklies, according to my brilliantly written 2006 post:
Scary things are all around us - not just in October - so I am hereby instituting awards that hold aloft the everyday creepy, spooky, and downright blood-curdling stuff of life - past and present, personal and collective, specific and general.
I'll have to shake the categories up a bit, since some of them will forever be won by the 2006 winners. For example, algebra is still the scariest school subject and always will be, so I'll retire that one. Now, drumroll - er, piercing scream - please, for this year's Spooklie Award winners:

Childhood Spooklies
Scariest Toddler Experience:
Life without Yo Gabba Gabba!. The world is just too scary without DJ Lance.

Scariest Words a Child Can Hear:
We're on our way to the doctor. And, yes, there'll be shots.

Scariest School Experience:
Throwing up in class. Disrupting class, disgusting your classmates, and pissing off the school custodian does wonders - in a scary way - for your formerly cool reputation.

"In The News" Scary
Scariest Current Events Tale:
9.1% unemployment. Unemployment means no money for rent and food, no benefits like health care, and constant self-doubt. Terrifying stuff.

Scariest US Politician (ensemble award):

Everyone currently in office and/or running for office, all parties, all political persuasions. You're scaring us to death, all y'all!

Scariest World Leader/Politician:
The Duchess of Alba. Not sure how much world-leading she does, I only know that I've had nightmares ever since I saw her wedding pictures. From extreme plastic surgery, good Lord, deliver us.

Scariest Weapon of Mass Destruction:
Reality television. We're doomed.

In the Privacy of Your Own Home Weirdities
Scariest Thing in the Refrigerator:
That two-month old sack of basil, now liquefied and sending off toxic fumes.

Scariest Bathroom Event:
A rat in the toilet, discovered during a middle-of-the-night trip to the loo. (Don't sit down!)

Scariest Television Show:
The last hour of the Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda. (see Duchess of Alba nightmares) The frightening thing about Kathie Lee is, well, Kathie Lee. The scary thing about Hoda is that she sticks around.

Scariest Room in the House:
3-way tie: Attic. Basement. My closet. {Shiver}

Scariest Public Transportation Experience:
Entering a taxi filled with driver-farts, with farts continuing from LaGuardia to Midtown. And you have to travel the entire way with your head out of the window. I smell a remake of "The Fog."

Scariest Restaurant Experience:
Finishing up an excellent meal and discovering that the restaurant only takes cash (not unusual in NYC, BTW) and you have only $2.16 on you.

Scariest Work Experience:
Being constantly interrupted while trying to lunch at desk and play a scratch-off lottery game. Oh, the heartburn!

Scariest Vacation Experience:
A week at a spa run by Dr. Conrad Murray. Ah, those Propofol massages!

Do you have a few nominees of your own? You're welcome to add them to the list. Happy October!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Autumn Crush

I have not deserted you, dear readers. It's just that the past few weeks have required travel, energy, money, and a sparkling (well, at least, half-fizzy) personality, leaving me little time to collect pithy Shorty PJs thoughts.

Since my 9/11 post I've traveled to Florida for nephew Mike's wedding, spent a week telecommuting from Atlanta, attended the All Saints' Atlanta parish retreat to Kanuga in the mountains of North Carolina, and shuttled back and forth from New York to Atlanta and back.
All that stuff just used up any creative spirit or sheer physical will to tap out a blogpost.

Things always speed up when September rolls around, even after busy summers. I'm not complaining, though. Autumn is my favorite season. I love the cooler temperatures, the gradual color change of the trees, and the smell of dried leaves. I love pumpkins, jack o' lanterns, and roasted pumpkin seeds. Black and orange. Orange, yellow, and brown. Red and green. But try as I might to slow things down in order to savor this time of year, it's just impossible to do.

But I'm not complaining. I've loved everything packed into the past month and look forward to all the other things that will be crammed into the next three months. Hangin' on for dear life! Next week: Estes Park, Colorado. I'll try to do better.

I don't know about you, but I think I'll settle in with a hot cider and a good book.

Happy Autumn!