Archive for ‘oddities’

February 17, 2011

So… I fell in love with a sea creature.

by karolinawaclawiak

I want to thank Sara and Megan for letting me into their world. I think you’ll find our brains think alike.

Valentine’s Day got me thinking about the greatest love story ever told. Well, in my opinion, that is. I’ve always needed some darkness to my love stories and this one’s got it. This story has all the hallmarks of a Noir: a perpetually morose wife on the verge, a philandering husband, post-war suburban streets lined with palm trees… and a dashing crocodilian sea creature on the loose.

Can’t imagine it? Rachel Ingalls has envisioned it for you in Mrs. Caliban. Dorothy simmers with the slow burn usually found in a marriage with the gaping holes of selfish husbands and dead children. Ingalls has the prim front lawn, but infuses the standard conventions with the fantastic when she introduces Larry, a sea creature that is more caring and thinking than any of the other characters running through these pages. I knew I had a problem when I started thinking, God, Larry is just amazing. He’s so honest and secure. She’s so lucky. *Swoon*

Let me set you straight. Mrs. Caliban is not a dabble your toe in sea creature/human female relations kind of book. This is sea creature sex by page 33 kind of fearless writing. Ingalls ratchets the tension in early pages, dropping hints of what’s to come and does it effortlessly, so when Larry finally arrives I’m begging him to save Dorothy from herself.

Let me just add… he loves smelling night flowers. Amazing.

But back to the sex. Right before taking off Dorothy’s bathrobe, Larry utters words to Dorothy that create havoc on my brain receptors –

“Before…There was nothing. Now there’s everything. I could do things. Couldn’t I? You wouldn’t prevent me?”

He’s talking about many things, including his escape from captivity, but the feeling belongs as much to the newly restored Dorothy as it does to Larry. I can’t help feeling it belongs to all of us. What an exciting feeling to be awoken after a long sleep with the possibility of… possibilities! Escape! No boundaries. How refreshing. How rare. How fleeting.

I won’t give away the rest of the book, because I want you to feel that sense of awe that I felt when entering Mrs. Caliban’s world.

Instead, let Larry lead you to salvation and for God’s sake cover your eyes! You know what happens in Noir.

February 17, 2011

fancy panties and wolves: meet Karolina!

by Megan Abbott

Today, we welcome a special guest, novelist and screenwriter Karolina Waclawiak. I first discovered Karolina through “Safe As Houses: An Ode to Britain’s History in 1:12 Scale,” a fascinating piece she wrote for The Believer, where she serves as assistant editor.

The essay tells the story of the elaborate special dollhouse created by famed architect the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens for Queen Mary in the 1920s. The greatest craftsmen and artists of the day participated in the effort, contributing everything from a working lift and a 1923 Silver Ghost limousine to a fully stocked wine cellar complete with 1,200 thimblefuls of champagnes.

Best of all, the house includes a 171-volume library of rarely-seen, original short works written exclusively for the dollhouse by world- famous writers, from Arthur Conan Doyle to Thomas Hardy (Virginia Woolf declined to participate). The piece was haunting, lovely, like peering through the glowing windows of the dollhouse itself.  And we’re lucky enough to have Karolina herself here today….

When Sara and I started the blog, we conjured the idea of having guests, when they arrive, answer a questionnaire, and Karolina kindly complied:

  1. what is your greatest fear? Wasting time.
  2. what is your favorite way of spending time? Being outside and taking everything in. I like to observe locations and I use that in my writing. I’m a very visual person and writer.
  3. what is your most treasured possession? My lime tree and blood orange tree. I live in Brooklyn now after a long stint in Los Angeles so it’s necessary for me to be able to have some memory of it in my house at all times.
  4. when and where were you happiest? Yikes. I’ll let you know when it happens.
  5. what is your greatest indulgence? Fancy panties
  6. where would you like to live? Somewhere where the temperature never dips below 65 degrees and never hits above 75 degrees. Let me know if you’ve heard of such a place and I’ll be there tomorrow.
  7. what is the quality you are most drawn to a person? Curiosity.
  8. how would you like to die? I’m not sure exactly but it should warrant a Dateline episode.
  9. what is your secret superstition? I’m afraid of cats crossing my path. My Polish father taught me to make a scissor cutting motion after one does and spit three times. I’ve done it in front of many people so I’m not sure how secret it is.
  10. what was the best dream and worst nightmare you ever had? I used to have two recurring dreams as kid. One was awesome. One was terrible. The awesome one was based on the movie Fortress. I frequently have dreams based on movies I’ve seen. Anyway, it involved me swimming in caves. I know it’s supposed to be “best dream” and it’s from a movie about a kidnapping but trust me, constantly revisiting cave pools is pretty awesome. Worst, same dream era – I’d say age 12 – I’m wandering through a burning city where packs of wolves were being deployed to find all the children and kill them. I was alone in the city and trying to find my way out, everything was grey or on fire. Somehow I would always stumble out the other side of this place and onto my neighborhood street where it was fall and all the bright foliage was so beautiful and formed perfect lollipops of colors but they always started melting. It was the basis for the first short story I ever wrote and after I wrote it I never had the dream again. I would like to know what they both mean.
  11. what song do you most hear in your head? Upside Down by Diana Ross
  12. what do you read/watch/listen to when you are feeling badly? Oh man, Morrissey for sure. And the Magnetic Fields. I like to wallow.
  13. what do you consider to be the greatest elixir/restorative? Walking. Being in nature. Sun on your face. Everything my mother always says works. It works. Oh and sex, but she told me that too.
  14. what’s something you never told anyone? I live in an unhealthy haze of nostalgia.

Follow Karolina at @believekarolina on Twitter.

January 25, 2011

Alchemy & Ormus

by Sara Gran
Nicolas Flamel had these mysterious alchemical...

Image via Wikipedia

Ormus is…well, I don’t know exactly what ormus is. It’s some kind of alchemical potion I started taking a few months ago. It’s a magical substance that may or may not be the Elixer Vitae. It’s a liquid that theoretically has the power to increase your vibration and increase instances of synchronicity in your life. But what IS it? I’ll let these guys explain:

During the 1970’s and 1980’s David Hudson, an Arizona agriculturist, discovered ORME (orbitally rearranged molecular elements) and found these materials shared characteristics of that “essential salt” sought by alchemists. The knowledge of ORME is a wondrous bridge between the ancient work of the masters and the world of new possibilities. ORME material displays amazing effects on plants, animals and humans.

Others were inspired by David Hudson’s results and merged “philosophical processes” with his methods. The offspring of this work also displayed astonishing characteristics and beneficial traits to plants, animals and humans. This is Ormus. It is considered to contain the same material that David Hudson found and the same material that alchemists described as the “spirit of the source.”

Although known by only a few, the presence of Ormus in our body appears to benefit life: the physical “body” carries more vibrancy and a stronger constitution, the physical “mind,” greater communication with the “quantum field of energy. Imagine experiencing fantastic “insights” and enjoying that greater “wisdom.”

Despite the “quotation marks,” that’s a “pretty good description.” I think. There’s naturally-occurring Ormus, and then there’s alchemically made/extracted Ormus. In nature, Ormus is found in cool, structured water, in gemstones and minerals, in potent plants like Aloe Vera and other herbs. It’s qualities are cool, moisturizing, calming, enlightening. Not being so on top of my alchemical studies, (which one is the red lion again? who exactly was married at the alchemical wedding?), I’m pretty hazy on the details of extracted Ormus. But basically, it’s a whole new substance. According to fans, it will change the world. According to skeptics–well, we all know what they say, right? And they may be right.

I first heard about Ormus in David Wolfe’s books (you can watch some interesting videos of him talking about it here) and I’ve been curious ever since. When my friend met the folks from Ormus Miraculous at an event, I felt like the stars were aligned and I finally bought my own Ormus. And I am totally digging it. A few drops a day really seems to make the planets align. Synchronicity is definitely increased. Things seem to be flowing more flow-ish-ly. And I have an enormous bottle of it because I only bought the cheap little bottle, but they sent me a really big bottle by mistake, and they wouldn’t let me send it back. It’s about eight or ten ounces and you take one dropper-full a day, which will last me approximately forever. So I like them.

Anyone else tried it?

January 20, 2011

Yes, Bob Hope is violently insane

by Sara Gran

One recurring theme of this blog seems likely to be people who have an unwholesome relationship with Bob Hope.  As we’ve touched on before, there’s Brice Taylor, who in her book ‘Thanks for the Memories!” maintains that she was a mind-controlled slave of Bob Hope (and others!) for years, thanks to the CIA and their Mk-Ultra program (or so I think–the book is expensive, and therefore I’ve never read it). David Icke, too, I think, is on the Bob Hope bandwagon. And there’s also the infamous Sally Fox letters, which thanks to an Abbot Gran Medicine Show tipster (yes, we have tipsters!), I now have in possession (you can read them here). Sally Fox was a lucid New Orleans woman who was certain that Bob Hope was implanting unpleasant thoughts in her head. She wrote the FBI, the CIA, and her representative, Lindy Boggs, about this. Surprisingly, only Ms. Boggs agreed to investigate Ms. Fox’s case, but she came up empty handed. From Fox’s first letter to the press:

I am involved in a phenomenal situation which I believe merits investigation.

The whole thing started about seven years ago when I began to “see” Bob Hope (the comedian) when I would close my eyes and concentrate. Through study, I learned that the reason I could “see” Bob Hope was because he is violently insane and uses abnormal thinking processes which introject and project others’ egos.

When this problem began, besides worrying about my mental health, I also felt that my civil rights were being violated by an other person’s insanity, so I began to write letters to the FBI. At first, the FBI thought I was crazy, but a year or so later, the FBI told me that they had been getting 800 to 900 complaints a day from people all around the country saying the same thing I was: Bob Hope is crazy and interferes with their normal thinking. The FBI told me they were investigating.

The really strange twist here is that in Harper’s (they ran them in that little front-of-the-book section of of odds & ends), these letters are followed by a reply to Sally Fox, from an anonymous woman who believes that she, as well, is being mentally violated by Bob Hope:

I was recently visiting a local college and I was describing to a friend the rather odd things (all involving Bob Hope) which seem to be happening to me. Amazingly, someone nearby overheard our conversation and recommended that I contact you.

I understand that you too have experienced these thought disturbances…Yes, Bob Hope is violently insane.

How Harper’s would have gotten these last letters–the response–is a question I don’t have an answer for. A mystery indeed.

It’s easy to make fun of these people, and hey, go ahead. What fascinates me about this, though, is the same thing that fascinates me about the (at least!) three people who have written books claiming their father was the Black Dahlia killer. That is, how public figures fill holes in our psyches that we can’t fill through ordinary means. My father wasn’t just a shithead, he was the Black Dahlia Killer! I wasn’t just screwed by the CIA (heck, tons of people believe that–and some of them are undeniably right), I was screwed by Bob Hope working for the CIA! But I don’t understand exactly what role Bob Hope fills in people’s psyche’s. He fills no holes in mine, I’m sorry to say.

This also ties into one of my other obsessions; otherwise-sane people who think they’re the victim of mind-control programs. This Washington Post article is one of the better pieces of writing ever done on the topic (and check out the fascinating follow-up discussion). The other day I think I mentioned Gloria Naylor’s book 1996, which is also a must-read for anyone interested in the topic. It’s easy to call some poor soul who posts on the internet a nutjob, but Naylor is an accomplished, highly successful, entirely lucid writer. We don’t know much about Sally Fox, but we know she was, repeatedly, able to type a letter, get a stamp, get to the post office, etc. And her letters are pretty lucid. The issue isn’t “mental illness,” not in the sense of someone of someone who can’t function or be trusted to take care of themselves (again, see: Gloria Naylor). So what is the issue?

Bob Hope gets plaque on Hill.

Image via Wikipedia

But Megan, I think you have a contrary opinion on this vital topic…

January 10, 2011


by Megan Abbott

Saturday night, I went to an event at the New York Public Library in honor of the centennial of Gypsy Rose Lee’s birthday. A woman did pop out of a cake at the end, but you knew that already.

Along the way, we saw some great old burlesque and vaudeville footage, including a gem of snippet of a very, very young Gypsy (circa 1931), looking softer and more lovely than the streamlined, ironic version of her latter heyday.

There has been a mini-Gypsy renaissance in recent years, both within the burlesque revival and in books. Last year there was Rachel Shteir’s captivating and whip-smart Gypsy: The Art of the Tease.  And now there is Karen Abbott’s new American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare–The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee, which I’m eager to read, especially after hearing Abbott share at the Centennial event some tantalizing tidbits from her interviews with June Havoc, Gypsy’s sister and child star (“Dainty June”), who has always fascinated me (her memoirs were childhood favorite of mine, for the marathon dancing sections alone).

But a special and unexpected treat Saturday night was some footage introduced by Abbott that featured one Hadji Ali, a popular vaudevillian known as, well, the Great Regurgitator (or, alternately,  The Egyptian Enigma, The Human Aquarium and The 9th Wonder of the Scientific World — what was the tenth, I ask you?).

This is a long clip but, for the intensely curious and not easily dismayed among you, it’s well worth a look. (And yes, that’s Oliver Hardy, dubbed in Spanish!)

December 23, 2010

secret hobbies

by Megan Abbott

In the holiday spirit, I share a few photos from my only “successful” Christmas crafts project, from lo many years ago.

At one time, both the deer (yes, that’s a deer) and the tree stood proudly but have palsied over time and with too many adjustments.

I still have four nearly-full packets of green, red and white pipe cleaners from this effort.

My favorite Christmas craft, however, I always associate with my dad, who excels at it. Ladies and gents, I present…..

…the clove-orange dusted with cinnamon. It tears up your thumb pad (thumping all those cloves) and is in many ways not very attractive (this one definitely lacks in the number of cloves).

But the scent, as the days go by, is worth it. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

November 26, 2010

spectacle, mystery

by Megan Abbott

A topic over Thanksgiving dinner was the new PBS documentary, Circus, which I’d not heard of, but which was highly recommended.

It made me remember seeing the Shrine Circus as a kid, and the sense that I wasn’t precisely enjoying myself but that I was transfixed that so much could be going on all at once and if you settled your eyes for a second, you’d miss ten, twelve things, both beautiful and frightening, strange and oddly flat (because aren’t you always, somehow, expecting something to go very wrong, and it rarely, rarely does).

I remember more, though, the pre-kitsch-revival version of the sideshow, at the annual St. Joan of Arc’s Carnival every year. It seems telling I can’t even remember what the promise was inside, but I remember my dad warning me of seeing an alligator woman at a carnival as a kid, and he never forgot it.

When I still too young to go inside (and in fact, I think by the time I was old enough, the sideshow no longer arrived with the Scrambler, the Pirate Ship, the Cyclone and shoot-the-clown booths), I remember standing in front of the stage, which seemed 50 feet high, hearing the barker (in my memory he is not leery, nor tantalizing but filled with true, stern, nearly desperate warning), haunted by what I imagined lie behind the brightly painted shaggy wood-planked dividers that seemed to separate me from the mysteries of life.

November 21, 2010

Arrow maker, plant man, manipulator of bones

by Megan Abbott

A week ago or therebouts, I went to the American Folk Art Museum, one of my favorite places in the city (a whisker of a building nudged ‘longside the monstrous MOMA). Attending with writer and man-about-town Mr. Scott Phillips, I visited an exhibit of focused on the work of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, which you, Sara, would have loved. It was filled with surprises and delights and oddities, including glorious gilded towers made of chicken and turkey bones. He’s one of those artists “they” call “outsider artists.”

The exhibit was wonderful, but my favorites were the photos he took of his wife, Marie–pinup-style tableaux in front of that kind of floral wallpaper that I forever associate with the 1940s and noir, and thus which has a kind of menacing beauty to me. What I love most are here expressions, which I can’t even rightly describe. She seems both shy, hesitant and yet utterly open to all the beauties of the world.

For ten years, he took photographs of her.

During this time, Bruencheinhein was a baker.

(He even used baker’s tools for some of his paintings, along with quills).

I love the idea of he and Marie, after the bakery had closed, assembling their elaborate shoots, draping the pearls and feathers together. Maybe they played music, and danced.

Final note: According to the august Wikipedia, Bruencheinhein owned a Nash Rambler, and once told a friend he only filled the gas tank twice a year.