Trash Cinema, Weird Travel And Freaky People: Bizarre Book Club Non-Fiction Special

Merry morning my little chimpanzees in the planning stages of taking over the world. I’ve been reading lots of weird things and here they are:

Death Confetti: Pickers, Punks and Transit Ghosts in Portland, Oregan, by Jennifer Robin death-confetti-510x801

This is, no exaggeration, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. I follow the author on facebook as well and, seriously, her status updates are miniature masterpieces.

Jennifer charts her non-linear journey from reclusive childhood to Portland artist with description as biting as William Burroughs and prose as rich as Anais Nin, but also completely unique. Sometimes she just remembers a character from her past, sometimes a full anecdote, sometimes she’s just looking at people on the bus, but all are beautiful. How can you not be fascinated by an intro like this:

“My directives, as established at seventeen—to experience real emotion, real contact with other people, all of the things you only learn by sucking cock, smoking rock, climbing cliffs, sleeping in catacombs, getting pregnant, and making a lot of mistakes—were fully enforced at this time. Within a year of my arrival I was playing in an electronic noise band. On and off-stage, we made—or perhaps “were”—performance art.”

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero ohm

I have genuinely never laughed so loudly and consistently at a book. If you’re unfamiliar with Tommy Wiseau’s complete mess of a film The Room, first of all where have you been, and second please watch it right now. Our fascination with it is hard to explain to people who don’t love terrible films. Example conversation with a friend:

Friend: Are you coming to Ian’s later?

Me: Yep. I’m bringing The Room

Friend: What? Not again. I’ve got Lolita at home, I’ll bring that

Me: Noooo, I can watch a good film anytime. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND MEEE!!!

And so on. Greg is the guy who played Mark (Oh, hi Mark) and he recounts the complete debacle from beginning to end including the first time he met Tommy and the events that led to his making the film. What elevates this above merely poking fun at an eccentric is the genuine level of affection – though sometimes tested – and desire to understand Tommy. He’s not a monster, he has real feelings and a desperate need to be an actor, and perhaps another reason we enjoy The Room is his sheer determination to make that happen. As Greg says, “The Room is a drama that is also a comedy that is also an existential cry for help that is finally a testament to human endurance.”

There is a film coming out, called The Masterpiece, based on this book. I, for one, will be watching it.

Everything Wrong With The Room In 8 Minutes Or Less:

Dandy in the Underworld by Sebastian Horsley dandy

“Please allow me to introduce myself. I am a peacock without a cause, I am a piece of transcendent trash – a futile blast of colour in a futile colourless world.”

If Sebastian had been born in the 1800s he would be one of those sons paid by their wealthy family to stay away. He crashes through life like a mixture of Byron and Withnail, rarely likeable but always interesting, an artist who’s biggest art piece was himself.

On a whim he goes diving with sharks, has a fling with gangster Jimmy Boyle, bets on the stock exchange and becomes horribly addicted to heroin and crack. When he has money he doesn’t respect it, when he doesn’t he’s desperate. He makes no excuses for shoplifting and generally being a louche, entitled rich boy and if he did I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed reading him as much. He died aged 47 of a suspected overdose.

(Be warned, I suspect he says things because he likes to be ‘shocking’):

A Curious Guide To London by Simon Leyland curious

Yes, yes, there’s the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square blah blah. Where are the corpses? A common cry, and one this book would like to answer.

Beneath the respectable layer of London’s past is a hidden world of information, such as the peculiar shrub in Chelsea Physic Garden that gave John Wyndham the idea for Day of the Triffids, St. Sepulchre’s watch house in Holborn (built to keep an eye out for grave diggers), the Haymarket cat opera (exactly how it sounds) or the leftover ‘snob screens’ in The Lamb pub which protected delicate wealthy eyes from the sight of the common man.

It’s separated into districts so you can have a flick through next time you go to London and see what’s about. If you’d like to see a bit more of weird London via a guide have a look at this spooky tour we embarked upon for Halloween.

Midnight Movie Madness by Ian Watson midnight-movie

A cavalcade of truly terrible films, this collection takes you from Maniac ‘director’ Dwain Esper‘s exploitation efforts, through fifties B movies to nonsensical modern day fare. Some of the descriptions made me chuckle out loud, particularly in the WTF section.

If monster movies are your thing, or perhaps overseas oddities, each film has been separated into categories ( I like categories, don’t I? I never realised that before), making it easier to dip in according to mood. Enjoy!

The Creepy and Beautiful 18th Century Anatomical Models of La Specola, Florence

Greetings! As everyone around me knows, I went to Florence in Italy in September. I have one more thing to share with you though, the spectacularly macabre La Specola, the oldest science museum in Europe. There’s taxidermy, fossils and general oogly booglies, but the best bit by far are the wax anatomical models.

Have a look at the film made by me and edited by Youtube channel Haunting TV, then glance over the photos by Bill Purnell.

DSC_0073 DSC_0074 DSC_0083 DSC_0089 DSC_0094 DSC_0095

New Story: Live Performance At The Grand Guignol

Among other things I like to write erotica, and it just so happens I have another tale out with Forbidden Fiction. I’m working on getting a collection together, so if you like that side of my writing there’s more to come.

This new story features a Victorian actress determined to be taken seriously. When she lands a part in The Grand Guignol she decides not to get involved with any of her co-stars, but that all changes on the opening night.

Enjoy!

An Occult, Macabre Delight – Talliston House and Gardens

All pictures courtesy of the website.

Last weekend my friends and I decided to go look at a house. “Why?” You ask, “there’s houses everywhere. Look, I can see one now.” Well, yes, but this one “there’s one with a red door, and a green door, and…” Shush! As I was saying, this one is really special.

The 1929 Occult Study
The 1929 Occult Study

Talliston House and Gardens in Dunmow, Essex, has been a project of the owner, John Trevillion, for 25 years. It started as a regular ex council house and has become an art piece where every room exists in a different era, from a New Orleans voodoo kitchen to a late Victorian front room.

1960s Cambodia in the attic
1960s Cambodia in the attic

My favourites, however, were upstairs: a study from 1929 New York filled with occult books and props, a ‘haunted bedroom’ and 1960s Cambodia in the attic.

A Victorian front room
A Victorian front room

They’ve still not quite finished but there’s lots of things upcoming. They hold murder mystery nights, people can stay over on special occasions, plus there’s viewings, poetry and music nights (you can watch the videos on their youtube channel) and an event in October with actors occupying the rooms. Honestly, we thought it was wonderful. Visit if you can, and finally here’s a video showing how it was made (note: they had help completing it so don’t worry, they’re almost done):

Weird true stories of the Witchfinder General

A mini documentary by me on a piece of local history. Yup, the Witchfinder General happened in my town and the surrounding areas. Amongst the usual stories of accusations and hangings are scary and strange tales told by frightened people of the time, including Betty Potter whose body ‘disappeared.’

19th century Parisian death entertainment

heaven-and-hell-paris-madeleine-swannLa Belle Epoch (or golden era, roughly 1871 to 1914) of Paris certainly enjoyed life on the dark side. Not only were gory horror plays performed for those looking for late night thrills, a person could chat about philosophy and the meaning of death over a coffin table.

The Grand Guignol was a style of theatre steeped in gore and fear that continued right up until 1962. Rich and poor alike would go to a performance and prepare to be terrified. Read more here.

The Heaven and Hell nightclubs were fantastically intricate drinking spots. The heaven-and-hell-paris2-madeleine-swannCabaret of the Inferno was described thusly:

“Enter and be damned, the Evil One awaits you!” growled a chorus of rough voices as we hesitated before the scene confronting us. Near us was suspended a caldron over a fire, and hopping within it were half a dozen devil musicians, male and female, playing a selection from “Faust” on stringed instruments, while red imps stood by, prodding with red-hot irons those who lagged in their performance.”

After this spectacle patrons would visit the Cabaret of the Sky, a much more divine affair.

The club I find most intriguing, however, is the Cabaret of Nothingness:

“Large, heavy, wooden coffins, resting on biers, were ranged about the room in an order suggesting the recent happening of a frightful catastrophe. The walls were decorated with skulls and bones, skeletons in grotesque attitudes, battle-pictures, and guillotines in action. Death, carnage, assassination were the dominant note, set in black hangings and illuminated with mottoes on death.”

To read more about these fascinating clubs visit here.

Well, there we have it, much more interesting than Euro Disney don’t you think?

Prostitutes and progress: the Victorians

The Victorian era is a continuing source of fascination for writers and artists alike whether it be a steampunk science fiction angle, high class manners and repressed pennyroyal-pillaffections or the out and out seediness lurking underneath. Why don’t we have a look at the various elements that draw us to them?

1. Repression. Certain things could not be discussed, even going to the toilet (what did women do around town? I’ve read a few articles which suggest they ducked down an alley but I don’t know how reliable that is). Unlike today where you can call a friend to go down the clinic and collect the morning after pill, such things back then were treated with the utmost discretion.

However there is always a way round things as this genuine advert from the era on victorianlondon.org suggests (Pennyroyal has abortive qualities). Have a look at the others; hair removal was a concern back then too.

Women’s bodies were a thing to be feared as their own wombs could cause hysteria. This led to some … interesting inventions, advertised with the usual subtlety. Or if you prefer a more direct approach have a look at this!

The invention of the camera led to uses other than miserable family photos. If you knew where to go (ie. Holywell street in London) you could find images of those accodomating ladies of the night and maybe one or two of those well-known filthy types, actresses.

2. Bizarre cures. With marijuana, cocaine and opium (or Laudenum) all legal in the laudanum-side-apharmacies it’s a wonder anyone got anything done. Laudanum was also known as ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ and certainly kept a few babies quiet.

As well as this there were a number of ‘quack medicine’ products ie. stuff that didn’t work, flooding the market, including the relatively new and exciting idea that ‘electricity was life’.

Another intriguing cure idea was mesmerism.

3. Science vs superstition. It’s interesting that, in a time of great scientific ectoplasmprogress, much of the average public were turning to Spiritualism (and trickery). Gothic fiction became increasingly popular (as well as penny dreadfuls for the lower classes) and seances became the cool new thing to do, leading to some spooky photos if nothing else, as well as these posters.

4. Sideshows. Though these still occur in some parts of the world it’s difficult for us to comprehend that not only were people displayed in such a way, but they were exhalted as celebrities. After visiting perhaps a menagerie or pleasure garden, people would go along to a show. Joseph Merrick was possibly the One Direction of his day. OK, nobody deserves that, but you see what I’m saying. The posters are a colourful testament to a very peculiar point in history.

Well, there we have it, the weird and wonderful world of the Victorians. There’s so much more to say about them but it’s a start, and certainly their legacy will amuse and confuse us for decades to come. Visit blog ‘Diary of a Victorian Surgeon‘ for a glimpse into the daily life of a man who must have seen it all. Byee!