Monday, March 26, 2018

Adventures in Wine Country

Close followers of my life may be aware that I earn extra fact money by working as a driver for a concierge delivery service catering to assorted eccentric tinkerers, demimondes louches, and offbeat fraternal organizations. The Bay Area is awash in such folks, so it's a pretty secure line of work. Plus, when you're a giant rat, customers can be confident that it's definitely not a cop disguised as a deliveryman standing on their porch, doorstep, threshold or liminal space. In fact, that's why I'll be spending a week up in the "around Napa in general" Area. There's a big mad scientist shindig or something going on, and as one of the company's elite VV couriers (visually verifiable), I'll be scurrying around, catering to their deliverable whims. Fun Fact: The madder they are, the bigger they tip.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Facebook Still Sucks

I'd like to provide more content for the adventurous few humans who dare to embrace factuality in these dark days, where a malign fantasy shabbily woven in stark black-and-white by vicious, xenophobic boneheads is waved before an audience eager to pretend it's the World. Bleah, fuck those guys. But be careful not to let your loathing for the ignorant brutes burning America down even as they dismantle it to sell the parts distract you from the fact that fuck Facebook, too. I'd like to put more stuff up, but anything over there is only seen by a fraction of the kind folks who have asked to see it unless I fork over money, while businesses give money to Facebook to show crap to people who didn't ask to see it. Plus I have to hide behind a fake human identity, which is just annoying, philosophically speaking.
   Thus, future factual musings will go here, while of course everything relating to the FROSCHL will be on its page. Plus I'll share to Facebook to try to lure people over here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Proposed: Hell's Kitchen Bitchin'

Would there be an audience for a podcast in which I watch "Hell's Kitchen" while cursing out everybody until I get fed up and change channels? Because if I'm gonna do that anyway, I might as well make other people listen to it. I'm reconsidering calling it "Hell's Kitchen Bitchin'," though. I'm worried people will think I'm saying "Hell's Kitchen, bitchin'!" like I'm a surfer who approves of it, which is like the exact opposite of the point. So maybe it should be "Bitchin' out Hell's Kitchen," and maybe it's just me, but that leaves me expecting a final syllable that rhmyes with 'out' which never comes, and that is unacceptable. Steampunk is still a thing, right? I could go with "Hell's Kitchen Grinds my Gears!" and... wait, that's not a sex reference for steampunks is it? Like it means you're horny for something, for example?
Is there a Twitter NASCAR? That would be a great ad, right? A NASCAR comes racing up and screeches to halt in a cloud of tire smoke and a NASCAR guy jumps out and Tweets something, zap! I think I would probably make a terrible ad man. I lack the instinct.
But anyway, back to the naming of this hypothetical venture.  Maybe just speak it plain, like, "A Mutant Rat Screams Imprecations at Idiots on TV, Hell's Kitchen edition." Ooh, that kinda rhymes a bit at the end. There's kind of already a lot of podcasts about angry people yelling, but none of them are mutant rats, so I've got a niche. 
Fun Fact: Over a third of all business ventures involving more than one person dissolve in a fight over the business name. Bonus fun fact: Over a fourth of all arguments over the name-to-be of a business end in violence.
This part of the podcast would be really boring because I'm not paying any attention to the show while I write up this description of my hypothetical podcast that will somehow take advantange of "kitchen" rhyming with "bitchin'." Ramsay is yelling about something, but I can't see anyone I personally care to yell at right now. Not yelling equals boring podcast, that's a rule.
When did they start adding goofy sound effects to "Hell's Kitchen"? Is the Cartoon Dimension starting to leak into ours again? The casting of pod will have to wait until I get to the bottom of this.
So, in conclusion, kids, don't lick railroad tracks in a rainstorm and never trust a squirrel with a secret you wouldn't tell your mom.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Fresca Cuckoo

And what to your wondering eyes does appear but the beginning of another exciting Tale from Balrok's Cave! Read on and be astounded!

The tower of empty pizza boxes that reached awkwardly toward the kitchen ceiling was twenty-two high (or possibly twenty-three—the strata were confusing). Balrok, demonic owner of the network of caves in which our story takes place, was contemplating it in silence, trying to penetrate the fog that shrouded his memory of the previous night. He had made no particular progress when No Name shambled into the kitchen. The bleary-eyed zombie, one of the Cave's several and various tenants, directed a lazy wave his way and rasped, “Yo, dude, what’s up?”
Balrok tipped his head in acknowledgment. “Not a whole lot. Trying to remember if I ate all this pizza myself last night. If I did it unassisted, it's a new personal best. Things are a little... hazy, though.” Webberly, the Cave's resident fact rat (currently in disguise as the omniscient narrator of this tale—don't tell!) had screened his DVD copy of the five-hour director’s cut of Apocalypse Now in the TV room, and a hardcore pizza binge had been the least of the indulgences that had seemed absolutely imperative afterward.
No Name, who spent most of his time enveloped in one mental haze or another, was little help. “Think I passed out right around the time the pizzas got here. I wish you guys woulda given me a little help when those cartoon scorpions started coming out of the XBox, by the way. Fightin' off all those fuckers by myself wore me right the fuck out, man.”
The demon nodded. “Ah, so that’s what you were seeing. Figured it was either that or lobsters, the way you were yelling about ripping their claws off.”
No Name grunted. “You can't let those fuckers intimidate you, man. You gotta talk tough and you gotta follow through. It's about respect.”
Another nod. “OK, well, I guess in that light, all the shouting about destroying their eggs seems a tad less crazy. We’re just lucky Webberly managed to hide all the remote controls before you found that hammer.”
No Name shook his head at Balrok’s naïveté. “Dude, you have to destroy the eggs first. You're wastin' your fuckin' time, you don't destroy the eggs. Totally demoralizes the adults, knocks the wind right outta their fuckin’ sails. Or maybe that’s spiders, I forget. One of those things with the legs and the sails.” He scratched his head, pondering the mysteries of Nature.
Balrok drummed his fingers on the table, also pondering. Bad enough that he might never know whether he'd bested his pizza-devouring record, but to have eaten so many pizzas without any memory of enjoying it? He was starting the feel the grip of the pizza blues when No Name stumbled over something, almost falling.
“Hey, didn’t we get rid of this crap?” With an undead creak, he hoisted a 24-can case of soda onto the counter, thumping it down next to the Cave's brand-new microwave (still factory-fresh except for a happy face drawn on the Popcorn button). The box was an eye-punishing mish-mash of colors and clip-art fruit; in the middle of a exuberant burst of splashing fluids, a bold font proclaimed it to contain Jalapeño Watermelon Fresca MAXX++ Turbo (Now With Elevated Durian!). Smaller bursts declared that it was Optimized For Energy Maximale, not to mention Guaranteed* Non-Corrosive.
Balrok put down the pizza box he’d been inspecting. “We tried. You probably shouldn’t touch that stuff. With the issues we've been having, I'm taking a wait-and-see approach.” And oh, what issues. First of all, nobody would admit to having bought it. It had just been there in the kitchen one party night, mingled with the rest of the refreshments. For the Cave, though, that was a pretty trivial mystery, hardly worth worrying about. More importantly, they couldn’t get rid of it, and not just because nobody would touch the stuff. Quickly growing tired of tripping over it where it sat smugly on the kitchen floor, Balrok had put it in the pantry, only to trip over it again a few hours later in its old spot. Somewhat peeved, he’d shoved it all the way to the back of the pantry; this time it was back on the kitchen floor within an hour. He’d tried stashing it in various places in the Cave, even down past the Dark Tunnels, and it always made its way back to the kitchen floor.
Increasingly frustrated, Balrok had asked Webberly to try disposing of the case. He had done so, only to report its reappearance in its familiar spot a few hours later. No matter where in the Cave the box was hidden or who concealed it, it would show up in the kitchen within a few hours afterward. It never happened when anyone was looking, conveniently enough. A brief attempt to provide permanent observers in the form of video cameras had ended with the box appearing at the precise moment everyone was distracted by the three cameras bursting into flame simultaneously.
Having had enough, Balrok finally hauled the case up to street level and tossed it overhand into a passing dump truck, where it landed with a satisfying clang. That night, as Balrok was deep in slumber, he was awakened by a sensation much like an inexplicable 24-can case of soda being dropped on his head from a moderate height. Turning on the light, he discovered that his first impression had been right—the case was lying on the floor next to his bed, quietly exuding menace and the promise of durian.
With a roar of demonic disgruntlement that echoed through the Cave and sent Webberly scurrying under the bed in a tangle of sheets and panic (his own bed, I hasten to clarify), Balrok leapt up and dealt the case a mighty kick, causing it serious trauma. He dove immediately back into sleep, but in the morning, the case was back in the kitchen, unmarred. Since then, they had left it alone, quickly adapting to its presence with only occasional stumble-inducing lapses. Webberly had been researching the phenomenon on Tobin's Spirit Wiki, but so far had had little luck finding reports of anything similar.
His interest in the soda rapidly fading, No Name shrugged and grabbed a large bag of Nitro-Devil Hot Ranch Blasted Doritos before slouching back out of the kitchen, leaving Balrok to resume his melancholy study of the tower of pizza boxes. The bug-eyed chili pepper on the wrapper had set Balrok to wondering whether he should have poured some Sriracha on the pizzas last night. Not only would that have kicked his (admittedly still theoretical) personal best up a few notches, but he'd have been a lot less likely to forget the whole thing in a blur of alcohol, napalm, and indulgence. Could this epic pizza binge truly be lost in the debauched mists of memory? His ruminations were interrupted by a shrill buzz from the intercom. Someone was upstairs in the elevator lobby, asking to be let down.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Review: Peter Rawlik's "Reanimators"

Seriously, check out this cover. You'd
have to be some kind of moron not
to want to read it immediately.
Reanimators (2013) [Amazon]
Peter Rawlik

Why did I buy it?
Just look at that pulpy cover. Art Deco out the wazoo, two guys with syringes full of glowing fluid in an old-timey cityscape, postures clearly suggesting action and pursuit! Plus it promises to tell—even expand upon!—Herbert West's story through the perspective of an apparently rather determined nemesis! While David Gale's flying severed head has left any purported rival to Dr. West with some pretty big shoes to fill, I'm a total sucker for this "new side of an old story" approach (Philip José Farmer, who once wrote a Tarzan story as if it had been written by William S. Burroughs instead of Edgar Rice Burroughs, was the all-time grandmaster), and have almost zero sales resistance. So I grabbed it off the shelf while hunting for candidates for the Fact Desk and vowed to read it.

How is it?
It starts off in the grand pulp tradition, with an agitated narrator promising to explain where all those bodies came from. We soon find ourselves caught up in the first few chapters of Lovecraft's original 6-part serial "Herbert West, Reanimator" (check it out here), except this time we find out that zombie Dean Halsey's rampage left Dr. West with a pretty pissed-off nemesis in the form of the freshly-orphaned Dr. Stuart Hartwell. Our bereaved protagonist decides to dedicate his life to Revenge, and determines to beat West at the reanimation game while he's at it. It's not long before the novel's scope has expanded from the original events of HWR to include appearances by a number of prominent characters and events on the Lovecraftian timeline, from both the Old Man's own works and those of a few of his contemporaries. Sometimes the overlap is a local character whose own encounter with the unnameable lies in their future; sometimes we're treated to behind-the-scenes details that flesh out a familiar story, most notably "The Shadow out of Time" and "The Dunwich Horror." The danger of an approach like this is that readers who aren't familiar with Lovecraft's universe might end up feeling like they're sitting at a table with a bunch of horror geeks trading impenetrable in-jokes. While I can't speak from the perspective of those appallingly ignorant creatures, everything seems to be smoothly woven together into a tale that is enhanced by a knowledge of the classic works of the Cthulhu Mythos but stands alone just fine without it. No matter how well-versed you are, though, you're bound to find yourself occasionally turning to Wikipedia to see why a character's name sounds familiar, or whether Summerisle is where you think it is.
   One problem I had early on was the portrayal of Herbert West as a clueless bungler, constantly two or three steps behind his hidden nemesis. But wait! We all think of the amazing Jeffrey Combs when the name of that cursed Herbert West comes up, but that's the movie. If you go back to the source, you'll find that the original Dr. Herbert West wasn't exactly a sharply-defined character. Each chapter of the serialized story was intended to be a quick jab of horror, a slow burn build-up that drags out the revelation of a final shocking twist, like cramming five paragraphs between "hanging from the door handle..." and "...was a stainless steel hook!" West was just a nebulous blur, blond and bloody, without any particular character at all beyond "Mad Scientist." Once I got my fanboy outrage under control, his hapless fumbling was easier to take. Even better, the novel's focus soon relegates Dr. West to the sidelines, offering all manner of ichorous delights as Dr. Hartwell finds that he just can't get away from the weird shit. From zombie outbreaks to the bloody trenches of World War I, even if you just can't get over your beloved Herbert West being slandered as a dunce, there should be more than enough else in the book to keep you happy.

Look, I don't have time to read all this crap. Sum it up!
Overall, Reanimators is a terrific throwback to the glory days of pulp horror, and if you're not familiar with H.P. Lovecraft and the cosmic horrors he introduced to the world, it'll definitely whet your appetite for the classic works that started it all. Why not start with two of the finest collections of Cthulhu Mythos tales on the market today, Ross E. Lockhart's The Book of Cthulhu and The Book of Cthulhu II? I swear, I'm going to do a proper review of those soon!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: Michael McDowell's "The Elementals"

Scary face!
Book review time! People don't read enough books. Why? Probably for the same reason that underlies most human behavior: appalling ignorance. Luckily for you squishy-brained apelings, I'm here to chip away at the horrible granite block of Ignorance and point you toward some classic works of literary horror. Today, thanks to a vote from the reading public, I'll be taking a look at Michael McDowell's The Elementals.
Fans of Tim Burton and obscure trivia might recognize Michael McDowell as the writer of the first and much darker draft of Beetlejuice, but clever rats like me and honorary rat Stephen King1 know him as the creator of some of the finest Southern horror ever to see print. His work is often labeled Southern Gothic, but since I've never been able to find two people who can agree on exactly what Gothic horror is, I'm just going to avoid talking about that. His main works3 are all well grounded in the South, though, whether the beasts of a particular nightmare are supernatural forces (as in The Elementals or The Amulet) or just your fellow primates behaving in that uniquely horrible, uniquely human way that you all comfort yourselves by calling "inhuman" (Gilded Needles or Toplin).
The Elementals begins with two very different families, united by friendship and eventually by marriage, coming together for a funeral. The Savages are proper old-school Southern quasi-aristocrats, steeped in tradition and secrets; the McCrays are bold and brash, none more so than matriarch Big Barbara, happily drinking her way through life. Dauphin Savage and Leigh McCray, who united the bloodlines in marriage, are there; even Barbara's son Luker and his precocious daughter India, refugees who fled Alabama for the Manhattan nightlife years ago, have come back to the Gulf Coast to bid their farewells to the late and unlamented Marian Savage.
After the creepy funeral and some horrific talk of Savage family history, the two families retire for a lengthy getaway at Beldame, three ornate Victorian houses built on a little spit of land that sticks out into the Gulf of Mexico. Far from any sign of civilization, its isolation is increased twice a day when high tide swamps the only road and turns Beldame into an island. The Savages and McCrays each traditionally occupy one of the houses on their yearly outings, while the third house... well, no one goes into the third house anymore. It's slowly disappearing under the dunes, the gleaming white sand of the Gulf drifting relentlessly over it. And if there's something in that house, something living in the sand that's poured in through the broken windows? Probably nothing to really worry about. The Savages and McCrays have been coming to Beldame for years, and nothing horrible has ever happened, give or take. Sure, there's been the occasional death or disappearance, but nobody could ever prove the third house had anything to do with it. You don't stay out of the ocean just because there might be a shark or two swimming around somewhere out there, do you? Just use your common sense and everything will be fine.
This is why The Elementals is one of the scariest books I've ever read. You see, all monsters have rules. They may seem invincible at first, but no matter how much of a bad-ass the beastie of the week might be, sooner or later the survivors-so-far are going to huddle around a professor or grimoire or crotchety old-timer and ask, How do we kill it? Learning the monster's rules changes the narrative from human smorgasbord to heroic battle. It turns an unstoppable supernatural killing machine into a problem to be solved, one more trophy over humanity's fireplace. Find the monster's rules, and you're halfway to victory and a sweet freeze-frame high-five.
What happens, though, when you meet a monster who knows you're looking for its rules, a monster that's perfectly happy to let you outrun it, knowing you'll be back some day with a smug spring in your step and no clue just how fast it really is? A ravenous fiend that wants to eat your face is one thing, but a patient fiend that wants to fuck with you? That is no fun, and that's what's waiting in the third house.
One thing McDowell does very well indeed is evoke a strong sense of place. The placid Gulf, the blank white expanses of sand, and above all the third house always looming in the background are vivid and real, a well-lit stage for the horrors to come that nevertheless feels haunted by shadows and the things that hide in them. Draped over it all is the crushing heat of the Gulf Coast summer, a constant presence that practically steams right off the page, affecting anything that anyone does during the day, and even much of the night. The dread that steadily escalates under this suffocating blanket of humid air gives everything a nightmarish quality, like a sneak preview of the knee-deep molasses you're going to have to wade through when the monsters finally run out of patience.
Now that I've convinced you that you need to read this book, how can you get one? Find a copy here! Then read it, and get ready for the next review, because you've got a lot of catching up to do.

1. Stephen King called Michael McDowell "the finest writer of paperback originals in America today2."
2. That particular today was in 1985.
3. He wrote under several different pseudonyms, but all his horror novels were released under his own name.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Coming Attractions!

Hey, look! It's a whole new Web-exclusive too-hot-for-TV promo for next week's episode! That episode, by the way, will be "The Manster", in case you're too lazy to watch the video. Slacker.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Ian watched from his slouch in the backyard hot tub as lights snapped on one by one in the windows of the house he was being paid to watch over for the week, the house that had been empty a few minutes ago. Behind the curtains of each room, gaunt silhouettes leaned and shifted uncertainly, moving with the sluggishness of the prematurely awakened. When he heard the latch of the patio door click open, he tried to make himself as small as he could, hunkering down in the churning water, but not too far, because there was no way he wasn't going to finish off this bowl before whatever was about to happen happened.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Got the 'Bies

OK, so I've got a parody of DEVO's "Girl U Want" trying to get out of my head, one that would tell the story of Old Yeller. So far, I've got what I believe to be the emotional core of the work:
Look at him with his mouth foamin' up!
Look at him with his eyes spinnin'!
Why don't you just admit it's all over?
Old Yeller's got the 'bies!
This obviously raises the question, What the sweet pale hell is wrong with me? I do not know. I know that I fear to continue, for were I to succeed, then there would be, extant in our world, a parody of DEVO's "Girl U Want" that tells the story of Old Yeller, and if that's possible, then you have to ask yourself what the fuck else might be possible and the next thing you know your neurons are reconfiguring into eldritch alignments and whoops! here come the Great Old Ones tearing their way back into our world through your neural net, and as the director of the porn parody of Star Wars said to the confused actor in the cantina orgy scene, FUCK THAT.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Penelope was feeling pretty good about her first few steps toward a new "under her own control" life, and it wasn't until the crescendoing shriek of the town's emergency siren, carried through the afternoon on a bed of choking black smoke laced with screams of agony, was cut off by a shuddering roar that cracked half of her carefully polished windows that the first traces of doubt creeped into her thoughts. Had she been cowardly to invoke the wrath of Zalgrath the Devourer upon the entire town just to avoid the awkwardness of quitting her job at the county records office with no notice?