Thursday Feb 22: Kevin Geeks Out Goes Punk at Nitehawk Cinema

Grab your huffing glue and sharpen up your liberty spikes, because Kevin Geeks Out is going PUNK this coming Thursday February 22 at Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn! I’m excited to be part of a stellar line-up of presenters who will be looking at punks in pop culture. What will I be covering? Well, let’s just say you’ll have to take a drink every time someone combs their hair.

Get your tickets today.

Bad Books for Bad People: Podcast and Additional Reading

Sometimes I sit here and reflect on how extremely fortunate I am to know smart people who agree to work on projects with me. It’s through some wonder of fate that I’ve managed to convince Jack Guignol to continue participating in Bad Books for Bad People, our two-person, twice-a-month book club disguised as a podcast. We had a blast with our two most recent episodes and if you enjoy the very bizarre side of vintage fiction, you should probably check these out.

Ray Russell’s Incubus is one of those books that comes up a lot in horror fiction circles. My pal Unkle Lancifer at Kindertrauma has discussed it, I endured the horrifying film adaptation of the book, and after Will Errickson recommended giving it a shot during our conversation with him, I took the plunge. Some time after the folksy doctor writes a “witty” editorial disparaging the use of the term “Ms.” and well before the magical properties of the hymeneal blood of nuns comes into play, I realized this book was something that Jack and I would need to discuss together. So we did, and it was the most fun (if perhaps a little scarring). Listen here.

I had another such “we have to cover this” experience when reading through the massive Big Book of Rogues and Villains, edited by Otto Penzler. It takes a very particular set of personality traits to chuckle at an anti-suffragette comedy involving phrenology and jewel theft, but I possess exactly those personality traits and felt the need to inflict the tale on Jack. We traded short stories in this mini episode, and I feel a little guilty that he sent me something sophisticated and intellectual when I presented him so proudly with my silly dustbin treasure. It’s the nature of our friendship, I guess. Listen here.

A little more about The Big Book of Rogues and Villains: I’m having the same experience reading this as when I read the Megapacks available for the Kindle. It’s terrific that anthologists are unearthing a lot of overlooked or “lost” pulp authors and I find myself tearing through these compilations when I get my hands on a new one. Every time, though, I experience the “too much of a good thing” moment where I begin to anticipate the shape of the stories within the first couple of paragraphs. At that point, I need to take a break and acknowledge that these stories are best consumed one at a time, interspersed between lengthier reads.  Essentially, I’m the dog that will eat itself sick on garbage, except the garbage is made up of trashy short stories.

During our recent Best of 2017 episode, Jack reminded me I should read Becky Cloonan’s By Chance or Providence, a compilation of three short stories in comics form that are not at all of the trashy variety. I sure am glad I remembered to read this, because each section packs an emotional wallop in remarkably few pages. I adore Cloonan’s artwork and got to meet her briefly at Roadburn last year where I was able to tell her how very much I love her work. It’s a wonderful experience to get a chance to tell artists that they’re making the world a more excellent place by putting their work out into it. But seriously–check out her work for a second and see how much atmosphere she captures in just one page:

Speaking of historical gothickry, Jack’s much-anticipated new role-playing book, Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera has just been released. Jack is a gifted writer and fantasist, and the book features beautiful art by Becky Munich and Michael Gibbons.  You can purchase your copy via Drive Thru RPG. Just check out that cover:

Escaping the Social Media Morass and Rediscovering Delight

It’s been a running joke between myself and a few of my close friends that I pray for a day when algorithms finally render social media platforms completely useless to me. Bittersweet as this may sound, I think it’s coming very close to that point. The recent opinion piece in The Quietus, provocatively titled Slaves To The Algorithm: How Facebook Is Throttling Underground Culture, captured several of my own anxieties as a creative person who struggles with ideas around “engagement” and “community” as they’re understood today. Two relevant excerpts:

[Techno artist] Rrose laments the loss of quirky or innovative modes of communicating, but their issue always comes back to marketing: “When you log in to an artist’s page, Facebook gives you suggestions on how to ‘improve’ your ‘performance’. They give you tools and tips which make it look like they’re trying to help, but it’s just pushing you into this marketing mindset. I find myself caring about the response to a post, when I don’t want to. I want to focus on my music – that’s how I make a connection to the audience, first and foremost.”

[DJ and producer  Hunni’d Jaws] finds FB and Instagram useful for sharing flyers, mixes and compilations but she also describes the pressure of being on so many platforms simultaneously as “overwhelming” and annoying: “I just changed my profile in Instagram to make it more business-y and to see what’s reaching people. I don’t want to be posting lots of selfies, but those get the most likes. I’d rather not get attention through that. I wish that my ‘followers’ would hear the music I’m producing, but of course it doesn’t work like that.”

“Engagement” is frequently negative and “community” is often a fig leaf on blandness and orthodoxy of ideas. On a more personal note, author Sonya Vatomsky touched on the downsides of the current social media climate in a recent Haute Macabre article and their words resonated with me. Sonya sums it up when she writes:

I spent much of 2017 as a freelance writer, with no separation between professional and private life and a constant need to be filled up with information as if it were nourishment; it was draining and exhaustion and bitterness and anxiety started to seep into every moment, every visit to Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.

It’s ironic, of course, that I encountered Sonya and her work via these selfsame platforms we’re chafing against, aptly demonstrating their double-edged nature. If I’m grappling with this as someone who views these platforms as a “nice to have” to promote my part-time work, I shudder to think about the psychological impact to a person in the freelance or full-time creative fields. Is the never-ending psychic tinnitus of social media worth suffering through in the ever-dwindling hope that you’ll be exposed to something enriching, thanks to algorithms that favor paid advertising and “growth hacking?” The answer–for me, at least–is increasingly no.

I’m a big believer in context, so the above is offered as an explanation that I’m working to realign my own priorities and will be concentrating on sharing on this blog once again. Feel free to add this to your blogroll (remember those? Those were good). If you’ll accept a recommendation, Feedly has been very helpful as I wean myself off of social media. So in this spirit, here are several things that have been bringing me delight recently.

“The Strange and Twisted Life of Frankenstein” by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker. How terrific is a long read? VERY terrific, when done well, and this exploration about the possible interpretations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is extraordinarily thought-provoking. The typical reading of the story as being about “not tampering in God’s domain”  has always felt a bit reductive to me, so it’s a welcome change to hear about interpretations of the novel that factor in ideas around birth, social equality, and the emerging philosophies of the time. I also greatly enjoy the accompanying illustration by Henning Wagenbreth.

You should probably subscribe to the RE/Search newsletter. For those of us who remember a 90s-era internet, it hearkens back to that earlier aesthetic and contains a refreshing mixture of editorials, event listings, and stuff to look at/read/listen to around the web. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but one of the things I find appealing about RE/Search and editor V. Vale is the perennial attitude of wanting to introduce fellow weirdos to exciting avenues of culture. Reading RE/Search is like hanging out with the coolest person you could meet, back in 1995. Find the subscription box by scrolling down the right column of the RE/Search website.

I’m honestly spoiled for choice when it comes to music, but if I were to select one recent release to share, I’d like to recommend Pvrvsha by Mystagos, just released by BlackSeed Productions. This is exactly the kind of complex, occult-intellectual flavor of black metal I enjoy most. I’ll try to write more words specifically discussing the album, but suffice to say you get all manner of atmospheres here, from ambient to surprisingly melody-driven to gnarly aggressiveness. Listen here:

Podcasts! You ever hear of those things? I’ve got one, and as a person who relies heavily on public transit, I appreciate finding shows that insulate me from having to listen to the general badness of  the other human beings in close proximity to me. Two of my favorites are the weird-dad catnip of Hardcore History (why yes, I would like to listen to four-plus hours on the history of public executions) and the lesser-known but also terrific Folklore Podcast. What makes The Folklore Podcast so great is that, unlike a certain wildly popular podcast covering similar themes that I strongly do not enjoy, TFP features interviews with historians and folklorists sharing aspects of their work. It’s like attending a really good academic conference on the most interesting topics possible, from legendary ghosts to Gef (the extra-special talking mongoose). You are guaranteed to learn something that you can then use to disturb and annoy others at social gatherings! Everyone wins.

I finally got around to watching Ninja III: The Domination, a joyful Canon Films romp about a Solid Gold dancer possessed by the spirit of a cop-killing ninja. As if that wasn’t enough, the movie features a credit for “vocal realization” by Diamanda Galas. I’m saddened Ninja III is not listed in her official IMDb page because I feel her involvement in this movie makes her even more of a creative treasure.

Oh, and I have a GoodReads profile now. I’m not really sure how I’m going to use it, but if you’d like to get a voyeuristic thrill from seeing what I’m currently reading, you can add me on there.

Shop Update: Salome T-Shirts, Man’s Ruin Panties, and Original Art

I just got back from a wonderful time at Jersey City Oddities Market this weekend, and I’ve updated my online shop with a bunch of new stuff. In addition to the recently-released enamel pin and sticker packs, I now have t-shirts available with my Salome design as well as thong panties with a fin de siecle-inspired riff on the classic Man’s Ruin theme. All sizes are currently available.

I’ve also added a few original art pieces, which are sold framed and ship with freebies.

Visit my shop today!

Jersey City Oddities Market – Saturday Feb. 10

Next Saturday February 10, I’ll be vending at Jersey City Oddities Market’s Til Death Do Us Part II event at Cathedral Hall at 380 Montgomery Street in Downtown Jersey City. I’m excited to be joining 40 artists, jewelers, vintage mavens, and other creators of spooky delights in the beautiful converted church venue from noon to 6pm. Stay for musical performances later in the evening! Best of all, the event is FREE to attend.

Here’s a peek at some of the goodies I’ll have, including brand new t-shirts, panties, and original art pieces:

View the Facebook event here.

Not able to make it to the Market? You can get zines, pins, and stickers in my online store now. Remaining shirts and panties will hit the shop following February 10. Special thanks to Forest Passage Printing for the beautiful screenprinting that captured the fussy details of my artwork!

New Swag: Witch King Enamel Pins and Decadent Art Sticker Packs

Witch King Enamel Pin

Friends, I have leapt into the world of designing enamel pins! My first pin release is available now through the Heretical Sexts storefront and features my tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Witch-King of Angmar. Measuring a (dare I say it) tasteful 1.5″ h by .75″ w and cast in black nickel with hard enamel finishing, this creepy ring wraith features glow-in-the-dark white details. I’m releasing a limited quantity through the online sale, and will have more available at my table at the upcoming Jersey City Oddities “Til Death Do Us Part 2” Market on Saturday February 10th , 2018 (definitely plan to attend–it takes place in a converted church space and so many great creators and oddities vendors will be there!).  Buy your pin online now! Free US shipping on all orders, all the time. Salome and Gilles de Rais stickers

I’ve also added a two-sticker pack featuring my brand new illustrations of decadent-era icons Salome and Gilles de Rais. A perfect choice for those who want to show the world that you’re literate and historically-minded while ALSO macabre and sensual, and really–doesn’t that describe you? Buy stickers online now! Free US shipping, every day.

A few pieces of original art remain in the online store, and I’m hard at work on new, original mini illustrations that will be for sale at Jersey City Oddities Market on February 10th at beautiful Cathedral Hall at 380 Montgomery Street in Downtown Jersey City. I’m planning on honoring the Valentines Day theme of the event with some artwork featuring appropriately romantic imagery. Of course there will be plentiful witches, vampires, and other assorted creeps, too, since I know you guys love this stuff as much as I do. Attendees will have first  crack at bringing their favorites home, so don’t miss the market!

Keep an eye on my Instagram for previews of upcoming swag and art for purchase.

Bad Books Around the Web

Happy 2018, the year that marks the ten-year anniversary of this particular blog! I’m still alive and doing the weird lord’s work at various spots around the web. Do check it out, won’t you?

Bad Books for Bad People is going strong, returning from a winter break of a few weeks to continue bringing our thoughts on strange lit to you in podcast form. Jack and I just issued our Best of 2017 mini-episode and are preparing ourselves to discuss Ray Russell’s Incubus in our next long-read installment. Visit BadBooksBadPeople.com or subscribe on iTunes (or your podcast app of choice).

Heathen Harvest gave me the opportunity to discuss one of the ultimate “bad books” of all time, Adam Parfrey’s incendiary Apocalypse Culture. I wrote a piece marking the thirty year anniversary of the book and the myriad ways in which underground culture has transformed since then. Turns out I have a lot to say about this topic–who would have figured such a thing!

I’ve also been working on some illustrations. Gilles de Rais and Salome are available as stickers that should go up in my online store shortly, and Salome t-shirts are in production. I also have enamel pins coming soon based on my Nazgûl illustrations–follow me on Twitter and Instagram to be notified when everything goes live.

Bad Books for Bad People: Armageddon Rag and Gilded Needles

I’ve been remarkably bad at reminding you all that I cohost a podcast, so here’s a post sharing the two latest episodes. Want to subscribe and not have to rely on reminders from me? Great! Do so on iTunes or by visiting our webpage at BadBooksBadPeople.com

For the first mini episode, Kate and Jack tackle the book that is the origin story of the podcast. Sure, a George RR Martin novel about the dark and violent side of the 60s focusing on ritual murder and a band called the Nazgûl sounds amazing, but is it? No. No it is not. Armageddon Rag has taken on borderline symbolic value to your hosts as the quintessential work of wasted potential.

How sad is it when middle aged people worry about “sell outs?” Are all young people doing counterculture wrong, or are hippies just the worst? How many uncomfortable sexual elements are incorporated into the plot? Why would anyone name their magazine The Hedgehog? Find out all this and more in the first mini episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Listen to the episode here.

Michael McDowell’s Gilded Needles is a captivating tale of two families from dramatically different circumstances, engaged in a bitter feud set against the backdrop of late 19th Century New York City. This grimy vision of the metropolis, populated by opium addicts, thieves, and lesbian brawlers, could easily have earned the moniker Fear City long before the first stag reels flickered onto the screen of a Times Square grindhouse. Get to know the Stallworths, a family with wealth and political ambitions, and the Shanks, a clan of criminal women who have found their place in lower Manhattan’s Black Triangle. How do these families’ lives overlap, why do they loathe each other, and what are the consequences of their battle?

Jack and Kate have kept this episode spoiler-free in an effort to encourage others to seek out McDowell’s under-appreciated thriller.

Listen to the episode here.

Streaming Options: A Dazzling Kaleidoscope of Bad Taste

Upon seeing my name mentioned recently in the context of film writing by the exceedingly talented Heather Drain, it struck me that I haven’t actually written about film in a long time. I’m not sure how much the following list counts as breaking that streak, but I will take a minute to talk about some of the more memorable titles I’ve watched recently.

I’m consistently shocked at the excellence of the selection at Shudder.com. We live in a beautiful world where $50 a year gets you access to titles like The Devils, Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and His Women. Selling me on a “horror streaming service” is a dicey proposition, since I’m more incidentally interested in horror. It’s not so much the horror-ness of a movie that attracts me, as it is that stories classed as “horror” are reliable sources of the kind of bizarre and thrilling things that I enjoy. As such, here are a few Shudder titles I can recommend.

The real horror is that she’s drinking a martini with a drink stirrer

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion [1970]: DELICIOUS fashion, bad behavior, duplicitous women, and really awful personal decisions combine to make this Italo-thriller sizzle. So long as you’re not at 101-level gore-seeker status (and if you are, why are you reading anything I write?), this is a keeper.

Play Motel [1979]: OH MY GOD there’s a bouncy, soft-rock theme song that references the title of the movie and this was made for a dollar ninety-nine and I feel like I’m coated in a thin sheen of something slimy and disquietingly organic after accidentally stumbling into a sex party and then staying because dude, it’s a sex party–what am I going to do, LEAVE? Perfect, perfect, perfect. You, too, will be havin’ fun at the Play Motel, but you’ll feel super-gross about it afterwards.

“No, really, I hated acting in this movie.”

Lust for a Vampire [1971]: Ralph Bates has gone on record saying this is “one of the worst films ever made,” which makes me sad. That the actor who is Hammer Films’ answer to Crispin Glover failed to see the beauty of this ode to lesbonic passion in a continental girls’ school where the heavy-bosomed students traipse about performing pseudo-Grecian dances while giggling is one of the great mysteries of cinema.

Amazon Prime Video is a reliable source for weirdness dredged up from god knows where, often with dubious-quality prints. All of this makes their pristine streaming copies of vintage Shaw Brothers movies even more of a treasure. It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but Human Lanterns can’t be rivaled for sheer Grand Guignol monstrosity. You’re gonna have a bad day after watching this martial arts revenge film whose “surprise” is right in the title. That is either a recommendation or a warning depending on your personality. Also: if you’re not watching movies starring the Venom Mob, then I just don’t know what you’re doing with your life. These martial arts masters make it all look so damn easy, capable of doling out serious ass whippings even when wearing bespangled, chest-baring satin outfits. Check out Flag of Iron, Five Elements Ninjasand of course Five Venoms and prepare to be amazed.

I finally watched Fatal Attraction which is a wry comedy from the point of view of a middle-aged office worker who imagines himself to be an object of unbearable sexual desire, like some darkest timeline Walter Mitty (unless I’m reading this movie incorrectly…?). Following closely on the heels of this absurdist romp, I figured it was high time that I checked out Basic Instinct. The latter title was, if anything, even more bananas than I’d been led to believe. Sure, at one point in my life Basic Instinct was just a cultural artifact that brought me great pleasure when denying its rental to teen boys during my stint as a video store manager. I used to dismiss these 1990s erotic thrillers as aesthetically weak-sauce knockoffs of giallo, and while younger me was not entirely wrong in that assessment, I was very mistaken to think that this particular brand of bad taste was meritless as a result. Twenty-five years after its release, Basic Instinct has aged into a surprisingly heady brand of grotesque charm.

Speaking of grotesque charm, I blind-watched The Devil’s Mistress, a 2016 Czech docu-drama about actress Lída Baarová’s affair with Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and walked away satisfied. Have you ever wanted to see a telenovela-style love scene featuring a close-up on Goebbels’ leg brace set to Wagner’s Tannhäuser? Well, if you do now, you can head to Netflix and sate your curiosity.

Around the Web: Roadburn, Black Metal Design Sorcery, and Tackling Extremism

I went to the Roadburn music festival in the Netherlands for the first time this April, and it was an absolutely stunning experience. Degtyarov wrote about his experiences at Black Ivory Tower, and I provided color commentary as well as some sketches. As someone who’s found music festivals to be a mixed bag in the past, I’m a convert to the Roadburn experience and will be making a return trip at some point in the future.

I’ve been a fan of extreme music aesthetic powerhouse Valnoir of the design studio Metastazis for some time now. I spoke to Valnoir for Heathen Harvest about his artistic inspirations, the use of unusual materials in art, and his time in North Korea with Laibach:

The artist edition of the book is limited to fifty copies and they are all signed with the palm of my whole hand. For this, you need more than a few drops of blood, so I went to see a nurse. She took a pint of my blood at her place. The device she was using was not set correctly and at one point it just blew up. The syringe popped out because she was forcing it too much and the blood started going all over the place. Her dog was there and it started jumping around and licking up the blood. She started pushing the dog away and at this point I almost fainted because it was too much information. So now I have this pint of blood and I didn’t use all of it, so I put it in the freezer just in case it can be useful.

Feral House specializes in publishing works by writers with brash voices who express big ideas. Howard Bloom is no exception to this rule, and his profoundly disturbing book During a stroll around Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, I spoke to BloomThe Muhammad Code takes an apocalyptic view of the impact of Islamic extremism. about the development of his philosophy and how it explains the violent potential of mass human behavior.

When I was twelve, I realized I was an atheist. I had a bar mitzvah coming up, and I knew that meant there were going to be presents, so to admit to myself I was an atheist at that time was very bad. I held out until I had finished with my thank you notes and then fully admitted I was an atheist. The High Holidays came around in September and when my parents dragged me to synagogue, I refused to go inside. There they were, trying to pull me by my ankles out of the car, and I had a realization. There were no gods up there and no gods down there, but where were the gods? They were right there in my parents who were busy pulling on my shoes and shredding my socks to get me into temple! I had read enough anthropology at that time to know this is true of people all over the world, that they have a link to the gods through the ancestors. I knew about science, too. Galileo’s trick was taking an existing piece of technology, the lens, and turning it in a new direction by looking up. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek turned that lens in an entirely different direction: down, to look at pond water and see the microorganisms living there. My job was to take the lens and turn it inwards to look at the gods inside of us.