New Podcast: Bad Books for Bad People

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It’s alive! The first episode of  Bad Books for Bad People, my podcast with my long-time friend and collaborator, Jack Guignol, is available for your listening pleasure. We discuss a truly bonkers book, Alistair Rennie’s BleakWarrior, which was was dubbed by one reviewer as “black metal new weird.” Jack thinks it’s more like a SoulCalibur porno directed by Jodorowsky. Who’s right? What other unlikely comparisons will we come up with? Will guest reader Degtyarov of the ultra-esoteric blog and zine Black Ivory Tower be able to hold it together through a passage from the book that involves a whole lot of grotesque violence? Tune in and find out!

Click here to listen to Episode 1 of Bad Books for Bad People.

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Around the Web: Chick Comics, American Mysticism, So Much Doom, and More

It’s been entirely too long since I updated here, but y’all will hopefully forgive me when you see everything I’m up to.

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The big news (such as anything can be termed “big news” in my world of esoteric nonsense) is that I’m launching a podcast with my trusted Heretical Sexts lieutenant J. Guignol. It’s called Bad Books for Bad People, and it will feature the most outrageous, shocking, shamefully fun books that we’ve enjoyed. Expect a variety of titles from a variety of time periods. Our first book is BleakWarrior, and Jack describes it as “”if SoulCalibur were a porno directed by Jodorowsky.”

Elsewhere, I’ve done bunches of stuff…

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I’m continuing my Great Moments in Historical Sluttery column with two amazing women:

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Semiramis, the Assyrian empress who has alternately been known as a warrior heroine, a vengeful lover, and a mother goddess

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Marchesa Luisa Casati, the celebrated Italian heiress who dedicated her life to her eccentricities, becoming a living work of art

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I reviewed Violence Girl, punk pioneer Alice Bag’s captivating and wonderfully honest memoir of her childhood and youth in L.A.’s burgeoning punk scene.

The reiussue of Master of Mysteries: New Revelations on the Life of Manly Palmer Hall is fantastic, as is the book’s author, Louis Sahagun.

Nine Circles

Album Review: Cardinals Folly – Holocaust of Ecstasy and Freedom (one for the trad doom crowd)

Black Church, a metal-inspired comic I’d talked about on here a while back. Still waiting on that volume two…!

My favorite albums from the first half of 2016 (it’s been a good year)

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The dangers of rock music in Spellbound?, a Chick Publications comic informed by the work of the same dude who assisted with Dark Dungeons.

I got to chat with Anders Manga of Bloody Hammers, my former editor over at Occult Rock Magazine. The new Bloody Hammers is a delightful occult/doom/goth-flavored offering that should be listened to posthaste.

Weird fiction scholar S.T. Joshi reading Clark Ashton Smith on limited edition vinyl? Sure, I’ll take that.

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I liked the Myrkur live album, Mausoleum, that just came out.

Around the Web: DIJ Fanfic, Boyd Rice Bio, Mae West, Celtic Frost Comics and More

Has it been almost two months since I posted an update? YIKES. Let me atone for that by letting you know everything I’ve been up to…

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In what’s probably my greatest personal achievement to date, the Death In June/Boyd Rice fanfic authored by the mysterious J. Guignol and illustrated by me is being sold as officially endorsed DIJ merch at Soleilmoon. The beautiful hardbound copies got snapped up right quick, but softbound copies are still available. According to coverage on Dangerous Minds, it’s “frankly explicit” and I’ve also been told it’s “funny” and “surprisingly sad,” so go grab a copy and find out for yourself. Oh, and if you want me to do a fic about your band in erotic situations, please get in touch.

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April’s Great Moment in Historical Sluttery is dedicated to Vali Myers, the 60s counterculture icon and artist who was so much more than a muse. Read about her here.

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I enjoy puns, so for May I covered Mae West, who was one of the most excellent humans to walk the earth. The story about the trained parrots might be my favorite anecdote from this piece. Read about Mae West here.

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Speaking of Slutist, I got a chance to chat with founder Kristen Korvette about the  second installment of the Legacy of the Witch Festival. She’s great, you’ll want to learn more about her in this interview for Heathen Harvest.

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Mike Hunchback, man of indomitable charm & energy and co-editor of Pulp Macabre: the Art of Lee Brown Coye chatted with me about weird fiction, underground art, and the controversy surrounding H.P. Lovecraft. Read the article on Heathen Harvest.

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I like Boyd Rice. I like Brian M. Clark’s biography of Boyd Rice, which I reviewed on Heathen Harvest.

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I am already moooost of the way to liking anything with a title as clever as Entartete Kunts, a book on underground metal and punk art that I talked about for Heathen Harvest. That cover is really dope, isn’t it?

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The Humans is a superb, over-the-top, psychedelic collision of great things featuring art by Tom Neely, one of my favorite comics artists working right now. The pitch is simple: Planet of the Apes meets vintage 70s biker film. I ranted quite a bit about how you need to read this comic over at Nine Circles.
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Yes, you do want to know more about a comics tribute to Celtic Frost, because those are an insane series of words in combination with one another. Read my review of Morbid Tales! A Tribute to Celtic Frost on Nine Circles.

Walpurgisnacht Pregame with Kevin Geeks Out About the Devil 4/28

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April’s installment of Kevin Geeks Out is delving into the many faces of Old Nick, the Adversary, the Lord of this World: THE DEVIL! On Thursday April 28 at 9:30pm at Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Cinema, I’ll be joining comedian Kevin Maher and filmmaker Paul Murphy for a look at the Satanic Panic, feminist witches, on-screen devils, and the beliefs and rituals of modern-day Satanists.

Trailers: KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT THE DEVIL (Kevin Geeks Out) from Nitehawk Cinema on Vimeo.

I’m thrilled and honored to have the participation of The Satanic Temple in this program, and will have the opportunity to interview TST co-founder Lucien Greaves live on stage.

Don’t miss out–purchase tickets here!

Around the Web: Feral House’s Finest, a Poetic Lady Spy, and Cradle of Filth Madness

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In “bucket list” news, I spoke to two of my favorite intellects of the American underground in February. Feral House founder Adam Parfrey chatted with me about his history in publishing, his instincts about what makes a compelling book, and how the current social climate might be creating the most frightening atmosphere yet for advocates of free speech. Read the interview on Heathen Harvest here.

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One of the most important books in the development of my personal aesthetic is Mel Gordon’s Voluptuous Panic, an exploration of sex culture in Weimar Berlin. It’s a book I love so much that I’ve gifted copies to friends and have even had to replace my own much-loved, dog-eared copy. Imagine my delight when Mel agreed to sit down over drinks with me and talk about his incredibly colorful life and scholarship over the course of four dishy hours. Read the interview on Heathen Harvest here.

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March’s Great Moment in Historical Sluttery concerns the career of Aphra Behn, Restoration Era author and spy.  When widowhood left her facing debtor’s prison, Aphra was able to find employment as a playwright for the two leading theaters in England, becoming one of the first women to financially support herself through her writing. Read about Aphra Behn on Slutist.

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So there’s a Cradle of Filth comic book in which Oscar Wilde gets into a street fight. This should be enough to interest you in reading my latest piece on heavy metal comics for Nine Circles. Read March’s entry in my Stygian Imagery column here.

Around the Web: Mystical Art, Sappho in Weimar and Hollywood, and Black Metal

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One of the beautiful things about working with Heathen Harvest is the fact that incredibly talented artists agree to speak to me about their work. I had the opportunity to chat with photographer Krist Mort about her stunning analog photography. Read the interview here: Craft and Meditation: The Photography of Krist Mort

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Bryan Proteau, aka Cloven Hoov, is another artist I’ve admired from afar for quite some time. His stunning linework and mystical imagery consistently blow me away. Read more about the work of this talented, thoughtful individual here: Alchemical Linework: The Art of Bryan Proteau.

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Feral House’s sister imprint, Process Media, continues to delight with their eclectic catalog that includes historical reprints, how-to books, music overviews. There was pretty much a zero percent chance I wasn’t going to be thrilled with their most recent title, Priestess of Morphine: The Lost Writings of Marie-Madeleine in the Time of Nazis, which covers the poetry and prose of the forgotten bisexual star of Wilhelminian and Weimar Germany. It’s like they plumbed my subconscious to come up with that title, for God’s sake! Read my full review on Heathen Harvest.

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In other articles relating to notable queer women of history, I wrote about Golden Age Hollywood screen goddess Alla Nazimova for February’s Great Moment in Historical Sluttery at Slutist. More than just extravagant and beautiful, Nazimova was an accomplished talent who helped elevate other notable women. Oh, and he probably slept with both of Rudolph Valentino’s wives, if you want to get into the salacious stuff (which we all know you do). Read the article here: Alla Nazimova, Silver Screen Sappho.

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I continue my exploration of heavy metal comics in my Stygian Imagery column at Nine Circles. This month, I highly recommend that readers check out Black Metal written by Rick Spears and Chuck BB. Don’t be a knucklehead like me and avoid it just because it’s about teens–it’s really great. Read my full review, in which I quote Venom lyrics to try to make some kind of point, somehow: Stygian Imagery: Black Metal by Rick Spears and Chuck BB.

Esotericism and Metal in the Black Ivory Tower

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I’m a voracious reader. In addition to the scores of blogs I follow in my personal and professional lives, I’m juggling four or five books at any given time. I’d estimate that over the course of a month, I read the writing of around a hundred authors. As a person who believes that language can be evocative as well as informative, I find myself sifting through articles, eager for an elegant turn of phrase or a taste of dry wit. There are go-to film writers who deliver confident, textured writing that entertains beyond the scope of its subject matter,* but I find myself looking for music writers with the same panache. The difficulty of writing about music is summed up in an old chestnut of dubious origin, but as I read more underground music criticism on a regular basis, I can’t help but pine for strong, personal voices. To my obsessive reader’s eye, a troubling majority of writers on the kinds of music I enjoy** (various forms of metal, neofolk, industrial, and so on) are concerned with the niceties of genre classification and the relative production values between records to the exclusion of honing their craft as authors. This kind of writing is undeniably helpful when it comes to making purchasing decisions, but it’s often a joyless thing to read–more on a par with Consumer Reports than anything one would pick up for pleasure. I believe that sophisticated language takes on additional importance when an author chooses to write about underground and extreme forms of music, since the reasonable assumption should be that the piece of writing in question will be most readers’ first exposure to the music being reviewed.

*If you don’t read House of Self-Indulgence (Yum-Yum), Mondo Heather (Heather Drain), and Acidemic (Erich Kuersten), you are missing out on truly unique perspectives from people who are masters of their craft.

**The #NotAllWriters rule applies, guys. I’m not being shady towards people I know.

One of the luxuries afforded to independent publishers who don’t make their livings from their writing is the fact that they can develop aggressively non-commercial voices and perspectives. I’m keenly aware that my blogging and zine pursuits don’t have to line up with popular opinions or trends, and it’s creatively freeing for me. I find myself struck with delight in those all too rare moments when I find a kindred spirit in some far-flung corner of the world, madly writing away about some arcane topic and feeding his or her soul in the process.

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Through the vagaries of fate,*** I recently came across writing so absolutely unique within the metal world that I was fascinated at first read. Black Ivory Tower, published in blog and zine form, is dedicated to the most obscure forms of metal and underground music imaginable. To put this in perspective: perhaps the most well-known band reviewed in BIT is Peste Noire, the French “National Satanist Black Metal” outfit.**** One will not find a gentle guide through the wilderness of these recordings in BIT. Instead, the reader is overwhelmed by a wall of elaborately structured, deeply intellectual, and frequently caustic prose. This is writing that meets the arcane and aggressive music it discusses head-on, without apologies.

***OK, actually Twitter.

****Note to my regular readers: as an added encouragement to seek out Peste Noire’s music, be aware that band leader Famine describes their output as “fantastique, grotesque, archaeofuturist black metal,” which makes me a little swoony even just typing those words.

The person with this startlingly refreshing voice is Degtyarov, a writer who embodies the unrepentantly esoteric nature of the true underground. While his writing on the topic of National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) bands like Russia’s Moloth has rubbed some the wrong way, there’s more than mere provocation to his work. The current resurgence of political correctness has made it all too easy for even the most amateur authors to hammer on hot buttons, but Degtyarov’s best work captures the bleak outlook of the frustrated Romantic.

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Glimpses of his skill as a writer and editor***** are available in the blog, but Black Ivory Tower is best experienced in print form. I find reading print media to be far more relaxing and immersive than reading online: distractions are fewer, the physical experience is more comfortable, and it’s an altogether more natural way to absorb the written word. The traditionalist views and extreme erudition of BIT are inherently better suited to the printed page than to the virtual one, and as an editor, Degtyarov takes full advantage of the magazine medium to create a deliberate flow from article to article. Physically, the zine feels substantial–thoughtfully illustrated and printed in full color, it’s clearly a labor of love for its creator. There’s a sophistication and density to the second volume of BIT that’s unlike any metal zine I’ve ever read. Contributors to BIT 2, aptly subtitled “Time of Heroes,” take an intense, scholarly look at topics including Current 93 and Christianity, the Alpine mythology of Sturmpercht, and Colombian folk music. Articles in the zine are united by themes of cultural heritage and a yearning for a heroic past that perhaps never existed. This is a canny choice by Degtyarov in his role as editor, as it allows him to contextualize his own writing on the ultra-esoteric world of Siberian folk and metal music. In the hands of a lesser writer, this material would be no more than a novelty–trivia about a Western, urban form of music adapted by people from an “exotic” land. What Degtyarov does here is more than merely define the world of Siberian metal–he brings it and its creators to life for his readers. Take, for example, these passages from Taigafolk (available to read in full on the BIT blog):

The clouds press heavily on the trees, cloaking them in a sultry fog that permeates even the loneliest thickets of the immense boreal forest. The spruces that safeguard nature’s last remaining secrets reach into cold, unwelcoming soil, yet it is the only home that they have ever known, and ever will know. Set in motion only by an occasional breeze, these green giants stand side by side as the pillars of an immovable forest wall, unscathed by man. Their only fate is eternity; they shall remain loyal to the earth that nurtured them, until the end of time.

In art, and music in particular, one can already witness the casting off of falseness and Babylonian platitudes. Though commonly seen as a force of desecration, the black metal genre is ugly only in form, as its hideousness merely serves to hold up a mirror to the nauseating excesses of the era against which it revolts. Folk music, too, spearheads its own insurrection by attempting to purify itself of the grotesque musical mutations that together constitute the soundtrack of the 21st century.

Flutes, bells and additional guitars allow the melody come to fruition. They dance in harmony, paving the way for the drums and electric strings, which finally push the composition into a black metal orbit. These instruments, too, remain loyal to the leitmotif, with the solemn humming in the background persisting until the very end. Together, they establish the scene of Mother Earth, who can only stand idly by as a great evil pierces through her crust.

The structure of this article is such that, by the time Degtyarov gets around to describing the music, the reader is so completely captivated by atmosphere that they ache to know what the recording sounds like. His style of writing goes beyond music criticism for the sake of information and becomes an extraordinarily pleasurable and–yes–poetic reading experience. In the author’s deft hands, an LP produced in a small city on the Asian continent takes on a jewel-like significance: rare, beautiful, and representing so much more than its modest scale would suggest.

*****It should be noted that though the focus here is on BIT’s creator, the site and zine features multiple contributors

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There are those who will dub the approach to music writing in BIT elitist, and that’s not an incorrect observation. I’d argue that a populist approach to esoteric art is by its nature inappropriate–if you’re turned off by the concept of high-minded writing about high-minded ideas, this isn’t a publication for you. The most unique artists in any medium know that they alienate vast portions of the world by honing the characteristics that define them. An egalitarian approach to reviewing music by a band that only releases thirty physical copies of their album would be beyond dissonant–it would be laughable.

I’ll confess that I read Degtyarov’s writing with a sense of envy on a number of levels. He’s an absolutely fearless writer, confronting topics I struggle to discuss in polite New York City 2016 society, but beyond that, he’s not a native English speaker. Hailing from the Netherlands, his writing process in the early days of BIT was to write an entire review in Dutch and translate it into English only after it was complete. One can witness the evolution of his writing over the four short years that BIT has been published; the work in volume 2 of the print zine is demonstrably more powerful than the angrier, more venomous content of volume 1. There’s an advancement to a higher plane of thought happening here that’s fascinating to witness.

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It seems only fitting that this story ends with a bittersweet yearning for what could have been. The unfortunate truth is that Black Ivory Tower is not, at the time of this writing, an active publication. Degtyarov contributes to Nine Circles (my metal blog of choice and now home to my writing) and is the co-host of Heathen Harvest’s excellent podcast, A Forest Passage (HH is another site I’m privileged to write for). In my heart of hearts, though, I hope Degtyarov makes a triumphant return to the fortress of dark ideals he built with the Black Ivory Tower.

Around the Web: Imperial Decadence, Predictable Violence, Metal Comics & Occult Fun

2016 has certainly started with a bang, and February holds some really exciting developments that I’m looking forward to sharing. For those of you looking for a handy run-down of what I’ve been up to, you’re in luck!

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January’s installment of Great Moments in Historical Sluttery, my monthly column at Slutist, is probably one of my favorites so far. Roman Empress Messalina is a fascinating figure whose scandalous reputation continues to titillate audiences looking for tales of sexy intrigue. Short of the whole “getting executed for treason” thing, it’s pretty amazing to think that one’s insatiable sexual appetites would continue to be a topic of conversation two thousand years after one’s death. May we all be lucky enough to be the namesake of a German strip club. Read the article here.

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On a completely different but also-controversial note, I reviewed Feral House’s spicy new release, The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement: UK & USA 1979-1993 for Heathen Harvest. SPOILER: Many people are punched; little is ultimately accomplished. This was a challenging read from a very different perspective than the majority of writing on the subject, though its 600-plus-page run length makes it a book geared towards the VERY curious. Of all of the exhaustive details, I think my favorite anecdote was the fact that Ian Stewart of Skrewdriver was used as a bogeyman to convince his friends’ kids to behave themselves.

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Because I have friends who humor me perhaps a bit too much, I have a new monthly column at Nine Circles where I discuss heavy metal comics. My first installment of Stygian Imagery talks about Glenn Danzig’s Satanika. It’s exactly the sort of comic book that you’d imagine Glenn Danzig would write, in that it is full of tits and gore.

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Lastly, but absolutely not leastly, my Art Coven sisters Becky Munich and S. Elizabeth brought together amazing artists and authors for their just-released Occult Activity Book and invited me to participate. If you’ve ever wanted Elizabeth Bathory paper dolls and Suspiria color-in pages, then boy howdy it is your lucky day! I’ve got my filthy hands on a copy of this and it is a creepy, cheeky good time. Purchase your copy here!

Cinematic Wanderings: the Sinful Dwarf, Naughty Nuns, and Varied Pulp Smut

I realize that the TRVER members of the cult film community will get the vapors upon reading this, but I’ve become a convert to the world of streaming cinema. HEAR ME OUT, friends–I retain enough firing neurons from back in the day to tell you that your local mom & pop video store wasn’t exactly the Library of Alexandria, so you can leave your belly aching about “selection” at the door. Unless the specific thrill of the DVD hunt moistens your undercarriage, I defy you to have a better movie-watching experience than the one provided by the archives at Fandor (a site that I pay for and that in no way compensates me for saying nice things). Below are just a handful of titles I’ve watched over the past few months on this thoroughly wonderful site.

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The Sinful Dwarf: OK, so a lot of you have told me to watch this, and I ignored you. Joke’s on me, because this was exploitation bliss. For the uninitiated, this is the tale of Olaf, a little person who traps unsuspecting young women into lives of drugged-up sex slavery in a bordello run by his mother, a fading former cabaret star. It doesn’t sound appetizing, and it is indeed a thoroughly unsavory viewing experience. The Sinful Dwarf is elevated past similar fare by its details: close-ups on wind-up toys, lengthy song and dance performances, and an underlying moral about the dangers of a career as a screenwriter combine to make this an unforgettable trash cinema classic. Thanks, Denmark!

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Cloistered Nun: Runa’s Confession: The Japanese have weird ideas about both consent and Christianity, so proceed with caution. Should you be able to deal with that, then boyfriend-stealing, double-crossing, sexed-up melodrama awaits you!

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The Secret of Dorian Gray: Look, I already wrote about this one five years ago. It’s got Helmut Berger in all states of sexy dress and undress, plus it’s a Harry Alan Towers “literary” adaptation. I love those things. You should love those things, too.

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The Sin of Nora Moran: This is THE most melodramatic title on the list. A pre-Hayes Code doozie, this tale of a young woman wronged by the men around her is much more than the sum of its story. The frequently clunky acting combined with numerous montages and utterly absurd plot details (ALERT: vintage circus nonsense) make this a wonderful artifact of its time and place. I hesitate to use the word “underrated” since the relative buzz about a work shouldn’t impact the degree to which one appreciates it, but this movie might qualify as an “underrated” gem.

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Christina: I feel like this is the real DISCOVERY from my Fandor wanderings. This 1984 sex adventure is the second Harry Alan Towers pulp adaptation on this list. I don’t even seek these out–they seem to find me! Based on an expansive series of pulp novels written under the female pseudonym Blakely St. James (a psuedonym that was shared by multiple authors, including noted science fiction author, journalist, and computer programmer Charles Platt), Christina was intended to be a star-making vehicle for Jewel Shepard. The director of this slice of 80s culture is Paco Lara, whose version of The Monk I found so baffling at one point. Recounting the adventures of the world’s richest heiress, Christina screws her way across the Iberian peninsula while attempting to evade lesbian terrorists, pirates, and other assorted ne’er do wells. The plot hardly matters; what’s of importance here is that this is the sort of movie that thinks black leather gloved hands rolling toy cars across a woman’s abdomen is a reasonable representation of lesbian sex. Pure stupidity, pure joy.

Nine Circles of Pet Cinematary: Profile and Podcast

I just can’t quit the world of weird movies! My good friend Wendy Mays has started a podcast about animals on film, so I jumped at the chance to discuss two of my favorite animal movies with her (I got to pick two movies for a single show because I am greedy and spoiled). Check out our conversation about “Unmasking the Idol” and “Order of the Black Eagle,” which feature a karate-chopping, tank-driving baboon, over at the Pet Cinematary website. Topics discussed include baboon boners, cake Hitler, and how ninjas are a lot like pimps.

Should you wish for even MORE Boon the Baboon related content, you can read my review of “Unmasking the Idol” here and my thoughts on “Order of the Black Eagle” here.

Photo by SylivieTheCamera.com
Photo by SylivieTheCamera.com

I was recently given the honor of an artist profile over at my heavy metal blog of choice, Nine Circles. I talk about how much I love the people I collaborate with, list some of my favorite music, and reveal how low I’ll sink to get to work with especially exciting new folks. You can read the article here.