Art: The Creepy Grin Of Yue Minjun

The other day I went to use the computer only to be shocked by a terrifying, eternal grin repeated many times over. Bill had discovered Yue Minjun and saved his picture to the desktop. I thought immediately of Aphex Twin or Being John Malkovich.

Minjun is an artist from Beijing who uses his own face, frozen in a grin, in all his paintings and sculptures, which often replicate iconic imagery such as the Terracotta Army. There’s a kind of mischief and joy to his work, which has been shown in China, London, France, and Switzerland among others.

Send Me Your Not Scary Scary Stories

Hello! I had a thought. This October I’m going to make a weekly video on my YouTube channel and share them here, including gothic books I’ve read and a spooky cake DIY. However I wanted to end it on something everyone can get involved in.

I’d like to read a few flash fiction stories, under 500 words, written by you. However I don’t want scary. It’s too obvious. Write me the silliest, poorly written horror tale (think only on purpose) filled with plot holes and bad dialogue, and I’ll try to read it in my most serious voice.

Send them to me at evilpixie (dot) madeleine (at) gmail (dot) com by the 28th of September.

Good luck and God speed.

Bizarre Book Club: Caitlin Doughty From Ask A Mortician

I read this book in a single day, which should tell you something. No, the book wasn’t two pages long.

I chanced upon a YouTube channel called Ask A Mortician and found her not only informative on all things death related, but also funny and charming. Caitlin Doughty seemed like someone I’d want to hang around with.

This in turn led me to her book Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (And Other Lessons From The Crematory). I expected and enjoyed the anecdotes of working with corpses and the awkwardness of experiencing another culture’s grieving rituals for the first time (the segment on the Chinese family is fascinating).

The horror from outsiders, too, wasn’t a surprise, such as a hospital security guard’s distaste at her picking up ex-babies, that “it didn’t matter how many times I smiled at her, expressed my new-on-the-job status with bumbling Hugh Grant– esque apologies. This woman had decided that I was dirty and deviant. Handmaiden to the underworld.”

I also anticipated moments that made me laugh out loud, such as when “the family had placed a Häagen-Dazs coffee-and-almond ice-cream bar between her hands like a Viking warrior’s weapon. Those are my favourite. So I yelled, involuntarily, “Those are my favourite!””

What I didn’t expect were the many literary quotes and philosophical thoughts. Not that I didn’t think mortuary workers were capable of them, but I didn’t expect to be thinking about them so much afterwards. Caitlin believes the West’s relationship with death has gone astray, that “death might appear to destroy the meaning in our lives, but in fact it is the very source of our creativity. As Kafka said , “The meaning of life is that it ends.” Death is the engine that keeps us running, giving us the motivation to achieve, learn, love, and create.”

She feels that hiding death away and pretending it doesn’t happen is creating greater fear of the  inevitable end. She advocates for a more natural, eco-friendly approach, and for not allowing funeral homes to dictate to the family how the final proceedings should go. I’ll let her explain it in this Ted Talk:

She also believes (more in America, not so much here) that embalming is often sold to people as the only way and is expensive and often unnecessary:

At first I thought, well, is it really so important to be more involved with a body before a funeral? How much can that really change things? Then I thought hard on her point that we also hide old age, stashing the elderly and infirm in sometimes substandard homes, while other cultures move ageing relatives in with them to deal with the consequences of the years together. I wonder if maybe she’s right. What do all of you think?

Caitlin also began The Order of the Good Death, where “funeral industry professionals, academics, and artists explor(e) ways to prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality.” I’d like to go to one of their talks one day. I’ve also pre-ordered her book From Here To Eternity, in which she travelled far and wide gathering information on the death practices of various civilisations.

As an added bonus, here are a few fun videos from her Ask A Mortician series:

Crematory Scandal That Changed The Death Industry

Victorian STANDING Corpse Photography?

The Punished Suicide

The Self Mummified Monks

Medieval Zombies?!

La Pascualita: Mannequin or Corpse Bride?

Lead Based Make Up Tutorial For Spring

The Sinead O’Connor Video And Why I’m Furious

This morning I read an article which made me unreasonably angry. I didn’t disagree with anything in it and it contained nothing but the truth, so what was my issue?

Sinead O’Connor’s video shows a woman crying out for help, a lost soul begging for assistance with her mental health issues. At times like this, when a person most needs others around them, that’s often when they disappear or, as the article says, “We don’t care for people with mental illness very well. We distance ourselves, we minimize their sickness, we condemn their symptoms. We wash our hands when they become too difficult to handle, when their care becomes too messy. We ghost them.” 

I’ve had to really pick apart what made me so angry and it’s not the article at all, which is intended only to help people understand instead of make fun of her. No, I’m angry at our current mental health care system. You see (trust me, I debated long and hard before putting this out there), I don’t really speak to my father anymore and that’s something I carry in a huge, father shaped sack of guilt everyday.

It started when I was 19 and at college. I got a call from him where he literally screamed at me for stealing his shampoo. I was left in such shock and confusion that I stared at the phone for a good long time afterwards sobbing. I had fallen through some Twilight Zone hole and didn’t know how to get back out. Luckily I knew a friend who was training to be a councillor and she explained that it wasn’t really him, it was something making him do it. This is what began the 15 year battle to get someone to DO SOMETHING to help. Spoiler alert: no-one did. They still haven’t.

First I saw my own doctor, suffering from depression and anxiety from the shock. I was still too ashamed to come right out and say what the deep problem was so I just mumbled something about ‘feeling down.’ He took one look at my blue hair and piercings and dismissed me as a silly teen. My sisters tried calling dad’s brother only to be told we were being hysterical.

A few years later I started receiving six, sometimes more, letters a day from him, all complete nonsense. My boyfriend at the time thought it was hilarious and, when I told him to stop laughing, he laughed more. I saved the letters up, taking some to my own doctor and sending some to my sisters. They posted them as proof to his mum and brother, while my doctor was genuinely concerned and advised me to speak to dad’s doctor. My Nan read the letters and phoned dad immediately, saying “they’re worried about you, they’ve sent me all these letters.” So, that was the end of that plan.

I visited dad, as I often did in the holidays, and pretended to be ill. I still feel like a huge, duplicitous harpy when I remember his concern as he took me to the doctor. When I got there and explained everything, the doctor told me he’d make a note and, when dad would next go in, it would come up. The funny thing about paranoia, though, is that you tend not to trust people, including doctors. So, no, dad didn’t go despite all my pleading (and there was a lot), so that was the end of that plan.

Whereas previously I would always challenge him or reason with him over his delusions and paranoias, the only thing I could do from then on was let it wash over me. I was banging my head against a brick wall in every sense and, most recently, a call to Mind reassured me that unless he was a danger to himself or anyone else, there wasn’t a lot I could do. While it didn’t make hearing how the person upstairs was monitoring his movements or how the village was talking in code against him any easier, Mind took a lot of pressure off me. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of how nice the person I spoke to was. Thanks, I really mean it.

I haven’t cut him out of my life completely. If he needs me I’m always there. The thing is, his relationship with the rest of my family (I was young when the divorce happened) was fractious to say the least and our relationship had it’s own, very difficult, problems, so I doubt we would have been like a sitcom even without this. But it’s added an extra layer of pain to the times I do see him and, for that, I blame an almost nonexistent safety net both for me and my family. People have to get to the point where they’re literally begging for help. If my dad had torn off all his clothes and run down the street threatening to kill the president you can bet your life someone would do something. Instead we live a kind of Purgatory, knowing it’s happening but feeling completely complicit in pretending it isn’t and it’s not good enough. There has to be another way, and we need to figure that out before it’s too late.

Ghost Cars, Paedophiles And Hitler: The Weirdest American Sitcoms

Sitcoms can be quite odd. Often a vacuum of humour, they’re mostly born of a Network’s desire to keep things inoffensive and entertain the whole family, dulling any creativity on the way (Big Bang Theory and Citizen Kahn, I’m looking at you). Sometimes they break free and become something great, for example Nathan Barley, Silicon Valley, Spaced, The League of Gentlemen, Fleabag, The Mighty Boosh and Atlanta (technically a comedy drama but I highly recommend it, particularly the BET episode. My stomach hurt during that).

Most of the time, though, sitcoms are just the same old thing in different settings, cobbling ideas together from already successful shows during a very desperate board meeting. Sometimes they have an original idea, but it’s so outlandish that you can’t quite believe was pitched let alone accepted.

Bosom Buddies

Tom Hanks’ first screen appearance seems to be inspired by Some Like It Hot only more stupid and less funny. Some Like It Hot had to be in black and white for audiences to accept Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon as women, but the Bosom Buddies creators thought nah, it’ll be fine.

Tom and his chum find a cheap apartment to rent but oh, curses, it’s a hotel for women. Did…did those exist in the 1980s?

My Mother, The Car

Wanting to capitalise on the success of fantasy sitcoms like Mr Ed and Bewitched, with a little oedipal complex thrown in, the reviews for the sitcom in which a man’s dead mother is reincarnated as a 1928 Porter were so bad that it wasn’t picked up for a second series. I suggest you watch The Simpsons parody Lovematic Grandpa instead.

Diff’rent Strokes – The Paedophile Episode

I had to include this. Generally a regular, unfunny situational comedy, it took a dark turn when the writers decided to highlight the dangers of paedophiles.

While I think it was well meaning and may have done some real good, the story slips down a rabbit hole of inappropriate laugh tracks and wise cracks while the action onscreen grows ever more disturbing. If you’ve ever watched the Butter’s Very Own Episode of South Park you’ll know what I mean, only this was unintentional.

The Flying Nun

“There’s this nun, see.”


“And she can fly.”

“What? Why?”

“She weighs just 90 pounds and…and…when the wind is strong it catches that funny hat they wear, and off she goes!”

“Tere, your mother and I are very worried about you.”

Mr Smith

The orangutan from Any Which Way But Loose landed a speaking role in this short-running sitcom. Apparently transformed into a genius after drinking an “experimental mixture” (pesky stuff) he becomes a political adviser (?) while his assistant and secretary try to keep his ape identity a secret. Yes, I’m sure it was hilarious.

Bonus! full episode of Heil Honey, I’m Home

Hitler and Eva Braun live in an apartment next to a Jewish couple in this British parody of American 50s sitcoms which aired for a single episode. I suggest you read this review of the shockingly unfunny programme here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

P.S. The writing at the start is fiction.

Scary Authors: The Alchemist, The Sadist, The Madman And The Cannibal

First up… guess who’s novella/connected short stories were just accepted?! No, me, I meant me.

Not so long ago I posted a couple of sites where you could read Aleister Crowley for free, and threw in a UK documentary for chuckles. It’s a little over the top and sensationalised but still interesting.

Well, it seems it was part of a series called Masters of Darkness, and I’ll share the others with you now on the equally bizarre alchemist and mathematician John Dee, sadistic Marquis De Sade and ‘mad monk’ Rasputin (not an author, you got me, but come on, he’s fascinating). There’s a book about him I’d really like to read which apparently cuts through the myth, which I’m endlessly in favour of.

I’ve also added a documentary about Issei Sagawa, the student of avant-garde literature who murdered and cannibalised his girlfriend and, due to a technicality, served only fifteen months. Yep… He now makes his living writing and talking publicly about being a cannibal.

I missed an exhibition in London of John Dee’s library a year or two ago, I’m still annoyed about it.

John Dee

The Marquis De Sade (disclaimer: Andrea Dworkin talks a lot of tripe)


Issei Sagawa

Robots And Reddit: Writing And Storytelling In The Future

First off I just heard that The Wicked Library podcast will be reading the short story on my previous post in December, so that’s exciting. It also kind of illustrates the point of today’s post.

A while ago I shared some online interactive horror stories (look through if you haven’t already, they’re very good). The evolution of storytelling is an endlessly fascinating subject for me, from folk tales passed by word of mouth to the invention of the printing press to creepypasta and reddit. Now we can upload a book immediately onto the internet for anyone in the world to read or add a piece to a collective mythos like the SCP Foundation.

In the video below Fredrik Knudsen (whose YouTube channel is a very interesting mix of weird fiction and oddball internet personalities, you should follow him) tells the story of Mother Horse Eyes, the author of strange and disturbing reddit comments which developed into something unexpected.

Look out for the moment when Mother Horse Eyes reveals themselves to be a Douglas Adams fan.

Next up is an interview with Don Coscarelli, director of the film adaptation of David Wong‘s John Dies At The End. He discusses how the book started off as a series on Wong’s website and was recommended to him by an automated Amazon robot.

In 1954 Roald Dahl’s short story The Great Automatic Grammatizator, in which a computer writes a novel, was published. In March 2016 a short novel by a Japanese AI “almost won a literary prize…” though the narrative of robots rising to overtake their human overlords falls apart under inspection. Much of the work was done by humans and the first rounds probably had fairly simple requirements. Still, pretty darn impressive.

By the way I recommend following the twitter mentioned in the article, Magic Realism Bot, it’s highly entertaining.

To finish off here’s a video I uploaded today of my adventures with online interactive horror fiction. Toodle pip!