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!