Archive for October, 2008

My current manga and anime interests have brought me in touch with a show that stirred up the vampire issue for me again.  I’m talking about Karin, also known as Chibi Vampire.

In the show, Karin is a half-vampire in a family of vampires who live in Japan.  She has an older brother, a younger sister named Anju, and a set of parents who are all vampires themselves.  Karin goes to school and has a part time job, just like any teenager.

In the Karin world, vampires drink from specific people who have certain traits.  For example, Karin’s brother drinks from stressed out people, her father drinks from prideful people, and her mother from liars.  When vampires drink from people, they perform a service to humanity by sucking out the “bad qualities” of people, therefore making them “better people”.

Things like crosses, running water, and garlic don’t affect vampires – that’s all just human legend.  Sunlight is bad for “true vampires” – but they can go out as long as they use an umbrella or something.  I haven’t figured out what the distinction is between Karin and her family exactly – she’s some kind of “mutant” and a source of “shame” for the family.

The big thing that makes Karin different is that she is a “blood producer” vampire.  Instead of needing to suck blood, she makes blood.  So when she bites a victim, she injects her blood into the person.  Since she is drawn to “unhappy” people, she injects blood into them and makes them happy!

She meets a classmate, a normal boy, who causes her to make blood until she explodes in dramatic nosebleeds.  He encourages her to try to make him happy so he won’t cause her to make so much blood and be unable to blend in with a normal life.

So, in a sense, we’ve come full circle in terms of vampire lore.  From disgusting evil bloodsucker to natural function for the greater good creature who must remain unrecognized while doing good deeds.  How’s that for a turnaround?

I like it.

Earlier I was ranting on about how vampires must not lose their edge, that to be meaningful they have to have some connection to their dark past.  I still hold to that position.  But I think a show like Karin (Chibi Vampire) shows us a new way to look at the vampire.

To understand the darkness we must take some of it within ourselves.  Good can only remain good with the creation and fighting of evil.  I’m trying to look at the larger picture and see evil as a natural function of a healthy, operating system of life.  I like how the boy in Karin must come in contact with “evil” and remain grounded in the real world.  And I also like how the protagonist is an “evil” character trying to be normal.

The show focuses on the female character and her quest to resolve her troubles.  But I also like how the unspoken focus is on the guy in a certain sense.  You can identify with him because he is a normal guy in a weird situation, and the action is not about you, but how you can make your own issues part of the greater picture to be resolved.

In other words, rather than the “girl” being the catalyst and the mystery to be solved, it’s the guy in the position.  Karin is the protagonist, and what she does changes the stakes.  You can get involved in the fantasy of her self-discovery or you can follow along the secondary, implied path of the guy’s development as Karin forces him to confront himself.  I’m totally down with that, on both levels.

The show is fundamentally a comedy, played for the laughs of the embarrassment of characters in situation (every episode is titled “the embarrassment of…”).  The shadow of any comedy is the reality of absurdity, and the fact is that Karin is a “dark” character going through rough times (aren’t we all).  The light world of daylight illusion is a minefield to be negotiated.

The vampire is a version of ourselves.  As we understand the vampire more, our own image of our light selves becomes a little more dark.  And the dark vampire acquires a little more light.  His/her details show up more under scrutiny and we can acquire if not understanding, than a stalemate where exchanges can be made.  A treaty, if you like.

The manga Vampire Knight explores this a little.  The idea of an interchange between light and dark.  Jung talks about how the two sides of any conflict can only build a bridge between their differences by being themselves.  The vampire must be what they are, just as people must be what they are.  But what are they, either of them?  In the light, in the darkness, what is revealed about either?

If the vampires are getting “gooder” or more understandable, what are people becoming?

I’ve finished the third set of revisions, and am going down the line of my list of weaknesses to double-check if I’ve missed anything.  Maybe another two weeks, and I’ll have a finished draft.

I’m considering the possibility of doing a short comic book series and posting it here.  Got all the materials and the know-how, I’m only waiting for the right signs to take place and I’ll do some work on what it’ll be.  For now, I’m reading and researching.  Must make stuff for people or Hulk smash!

My folks have a bunch of tapes of a quirky truck-driving friend of theirs that might make for amusing listening.  I may turn them into a podcast at some point, or heck, make my own weird audio show for a limited time.  Must make stuff!

As Guy Caballero from SCTV said, “We need programming!”

The garden had gone weird on us.  The weeds won the battle, and we have mice living in the garden now.  Peppers are all a bust, and the tomatoes have gone whacko – either dying out if they are the big tomato variety, or growing all over the place and producing a handful of tomatoes if they are the small version.

The leeks are ready and good to go – they are huge!  The onions have made an unexpected comeback, while the horseradish is looking not so good.  One of the wildflowers went nuts and grew huge, with wonderful blossoms.  Crumbs, the marigolds are doing amazing, and we were surrounded by bumble and honey bees getting busy.  It was a shock.

We planted some autumn lettuce, but we’ll see how that turns out.  Oh yeah, the corn turned out nice, we got about five half ears with maybe three or four to come.  K and I cut up the corn and cooked it, then had it with the small cherry tomatoes.  The bounty was good as a side for our dinner, but it tasted so very good.

I don’t know what to make of the garden this year, it defies my puny knowledge to the +1.  I can’t explain how we got some of one thing, and nothing of most everything else.  Meanwhile, the folks have tons of lettuce growing like mad, along with garlic.  Pump up the jam for them!

My cool dude artistic friend Xtine has a new astrology website, so here’s the plug.  I don’t actually go there as a watering hole, or it’d be in the blogroll.  But I’ml placing her in the classic links section, as that may be of interest to my esoterically minded guests.  I can’t wait to see what she starts putting into her studio website when it goes to the max.

I stumbled upon some interesting explorations of the Minotaur phenomenon by arctangent at this link.  I especially like how she draws the distinction between a maze (a place to mess you up and keep you lost) and a labyrinth (you always meet the center and it’s occupant, because the route is inevitable).

I’ve been fascinated by the premise of the book House of Leaves, a rabbit hole beyond human comprehension, even though I haven’t been particularly interested in reading the book itself.  Puzzle mystery books don’t do it for me, mostly because I’m no good at puzzles and get hung up on them trying to figure out what’s happening.

However, the idea of getting drawn into an exploration of a supernatural house to try and experience its mystery intrigues me.  I’ve always been very fond of the Minotaur myth, and find the background behind it really cool.  Arctangent’s analysis got me thinking about it again, and I can sense more clues to come from out there.

gvd_master.jpgBack in the late seventies, when my folks and I arrived in the Northern Virginia-DC area, I started watching a lot of WDCA Channel 20. There was this oddball character named “Captain 20”, who presided over the afternoon-to-evening cartoons and shows of the day.

He was a vulcan kind of character in a starship uniform who did contests, displayed viewer artwork, and did various announcements in between shows. I thought he was the coolest, most offbeat character I’d seen hosting television shows yet. I could hardly imagine a neater thing than a local channel with it’s own futuristic character binding your show-watching experience together with imagination.

I got to see the King Kong cartoon, Marine Boy, Ultraman, Starblazers, weird B movies and a whole host of other shows you’d never see on television today. If the guy had been nothing more than a face for the magical, hope filled studies I performed as a young creature, he would have been a worthy soul I would fight to make a place for in my vision of the Valhalla-afterlife warm up.

My folks started watching a late night horror show on Saturday nights called Creature Feature. I joined in, because the show was playing movies that had the sort of dreams I wanted to experience. Okay, so Attack of the Mushroom People was a horrible movie, but hidden within the crumminess of such movies are realms of experience accessible only through the small budget seriousness that fails.

The sacrifice of the artist creates a void inside of which the sacrament of horror is transformed into miracles.

Back in the day, before the rulers of corporate television got the insane idea that they could make more money by having a monopoly on bad programming, local channels could get pretty inventive and interesting.

For Creature Feature, Captain 20 put on a cape and scary makeup to play Count Gore de Vol, the host of the show. In between the commercials and the movie segments he would crack bad jokes, read letters from fans and respond, talk back to the cameramen telling him to get a life, and have guest stars like Penthouse Playmates or local fans.

One such guest star I saw on the tube was a person I didn’t know at the time, but would later in life. By day she is honeysuckle, but by night she’s the Incorrigible Witch. We met each other at our mutual employer, and in a twist of fate that can only be called Twilight Zone meets Funky Town, discovered we both loved the Count.

As I stared at her photo album of her visit to the Count, I discovered I’d seen her on TV. I mean, it’s one of the more vivid memories I have of those days – her getting into the Count’s Coffin to gag jokes from the studio staff while her friend looks on in shock. Life is weird.

We both look up Count Gore, and find out he has a website. Then we find out he’d moved back to Northern Virginia! She manages to get a “date” with him and catch up on old times, since she finds out they live in the same area. This is freaking me out. I got to hand it to the Incorrigible Witch, she’s got some real brass and isn’t afraid to get into the thick of strange adventures!

The Count, as his daytime alter-ego, drops by our office and gives me a genuine autographed picture. Can you dig it? We both miss him, because he’s a ramblin’ man who strikes like a fiend in the night, but the fact that he stopped by means a whole lot to me. If as a kid, I’d known that one day I’d meet that girl on TV, and get an autographed photo from the Count, it would have made me levitate for days. Not that my folks would have minded.

All of us have the potential to be horror hosts of our own monster theater. Some of us, like the Count, are naturals who show us the way to our own individual formula for happiness. Exposure to such rare minerals at an early age leads to a healthy, productive life of beneficial insanity!

This development has my Mirage’s fungus prints all over it. Horror and scary stuff really isn’t my thing, but in the spirit of Halloween and Celtic New Year I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense. I can only guess what my Mirage is cooking up, with his strange ways of doing things. Yikes, Scoob!

In the meantime, I raise a glass of cold draft cider and toast to your good health, Count! Such as it is, being undead or something. There is no other horror host like you in my pond of memories. Wolfman Jack and Ghoulardi get props from me for the ground they broke in my psyche. But it’s your weird, wonderful imagination that stands the test of time in my dark soul!

Back at the Honeycomb Hideout, Blink and Frankie were able to fend off The Invaders and keep the Krell Furnaces running on time.  We brought a shell-shocked Michael back from the kennel services.

It appears the combination of an orderly routine and over exposure to multiple ani-mani-mals cured him of his intruder-torpedo hit of neurotic behavior.  He was back in full operating condition and ready to surround the Hideout with peace love and Meow-Bombs.

While we unpacked and recovered from our vacation, I got to thinking.  Those bees probably won’t be lasting long, what six weeks?  And I would be a real jerk if I let them run down into the ground, much as I need their aggression to keep the beat down at bay while I repair and recharge my battered starship of the imagination.

What that new breed of bees needs is a home.  A place to make a nest and grow into a healthy hive of killer bees!  Okay, so they bite and sting and rip and tear.  But they work twice as hard and make twice as much honey.  They’re hardier and more dedicated than your ordinary honeybee.  I say I should give them a chance.

And the best place for a hive of killer bees is a nice secluded nook or cranny in the brain stem of the imagination, or a real world location that evokes that confluence between worlds.  I’m sure that little side room in the basement would be a perfect place for the bees.  They can get out through the ventilation system.  Isn’t that what all monsters do?

Yeah, what am I doing caring for dangerous imaginary insects right?  Well, if you ever saw that scary movie Willard (the original), about a guy who takes care of rats and trains them to kill people he doesn’t like.  Or you saw the sequel, Ben, about a boy who bonds with the rats post-Willard and gives them his help.  That’s why.  I have a soft spot for “vermin” and “pests”, because they are tough and mean.  I relate to them.

You never hear about the Queen of the killer bees, or her consorts.  But her story has got to be in there somewhere.  And her bees might be buffalo soldiers, stolen from Africa.  Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival.

It’s all about the caring and sharing.  A moment of surrender, which a lifetime of prudence can never retract.  Those bees will check out the night flowers and make the sweet, sweet honey while I hide them from the idiots on parade.

What’s with the name of the place I’m chilling out at, you ask?  There’s a quality to the area that is “wrecked” or “ruined”, suggestive of some mass-destructive event that occurred from which the locale has never recovered.  It’s lush, green, and isolated (for now) from the vast high blood pressure world of history and the iron rule.

It’s also a headwater, a fountain of sub-natural energy in the psychological plane of experience.  Pouring out is a grease, a resin if you like of wild energy growing out of the desolation.  Like a flower in the mud of a dung heap.  Very likely the whole mystery of it will fade as the intrusions of the clickers and droids arrive.

For now, the place is like entering an alternate world where ghosts tend the fields and the landscape swallows you up to see what you taste like.  The trees and stone barriers, star marks and rusting material give witness to a way of life removed from what we are told to think of as “inevitable progress”.  Yeah, the inevitable progress of the grave, buddy.  Go back and tell it to the Post.

It’s the off season, and the weekday, so there’s three “groups” at the campsite out of twenty-five or so spots besides us.  Spread out along the hillside, the trees absorb human speech for their own amusement.  We’re the wildernesses’ version of short-term disposable entertainment.

Even during the day, if you stay on the path, there’s a sense of life-forces of many kinds relating to one another.  Some good, some not so good.  I got to walk the paths by myself and feel again the primordial sensation of being at one with nature, and it’s unconscious dangers.  Bear poop.  Twisted ankles on rocky, root-infested slopes.  Losing your mind and being possessed by natural forces that have nothing to do with personal, conscious relationships.

Cue Lola Heatherton:  “It’s so scary!  Baaa-haha-haaa!”

The gang decides to climb a nearby mountain.  The mountain has acquired a certain reputation, as we’ve only been talking about it for the four years we’ve been running to this place to get back on an even keel.  It’s a steep, hour and a half climb to a splendid view.  It takes us three and a half hours to work out our overall adventure.

The two couples we meet are both going down the way they came up.  We go up one way, decide to try a shortcut and end up taking the long way back to a point where we can descend safely.  K gets to go on a scouting mission and sees a view only she can bear witness to.  The gang melts down over the need to get down before we run out of BLT sandwiches, water, and sanity points.

I packed us plenty of warm clothing and rain gear, plus some snacks and flashlights.  We’re prepared, but the trek ends up being a long and hard one for us all to take.  Our feet start to hurt two hours in, and thanks to the map and compass we don’t lose hope.  But I keep thinking this is how people end up on the news.  They go into the wilderness unprepared or they go too far and make a wrong turn.  We come close to the edge several times, but somehow we stick together despite the arguing and make it back to a trail that makes sense.

Then it’s the long haul back to the vehicle, down the steep slope through the horse poop and winding paths to safety.  The trek becomes a question of how long people can keep going before they stumble and injure themselves.  It must be the promise of rum punch, chimney-roasted hotdogs, and brownies & ice cream that keeps us whole through the misery.

Out on the deck with a body shock that won’t hit until the next day, we munch our food in thanks.  I toss a bowl full of cherry tomatoes out into the darkness for the Chicken Cow.  That’s all he gets this time.

While holed up in our hidden refuge, the original doom hikers got down to the business of working out the psychological stew concocted from the last year’s gatherings.  Good grief, when I think about where I was about this time a year before, I thought it was grim then.  This time, I was more wary.  The bushwhackers are out there ready to strike, but the spirits of the forest will be happy to knock you over if you volunteer.

The consensus seems to be to shrug it off with a laugh and get prepared for next year’s fun and excitement.  That’s all right with me.  I’m ready to go dancing on the ceiling.

I’d forgotten how out of sorts and on edge being in the Haunted House had made me.  Even K is calling it that now, and is living it.  I don’t know what to make of my Mirage’s antics.  But out here in a nice, warm protected cabin away from the backwater nonsense of the ruling class who know squat about slack, I only had to deal with a spooky, otherworldly place.

Wesley Willis sings about the Chicken Cow, and that’s what we called whatever it was that was making mooing noises outside in the woods at five past one in the morning.  By day it makes noises like a chicken and is harmless, but by night it sounds like a cow and hunts for human flesh!  We kept the candles burning outside on the porch as long as we dared, then retreated to indoors and locked the doors, shutting the windows and jacking up the fire against the nameless horror of the Chicken Cow.

K really showed how much her cooking skills have improved over the last year.  She makes a hell of a loaf of bread, hamburger buns and an outstanding meatloaf.  My mom was happy to let K take the lead and do her part to keep the food supply at a good level.  K got a small loom for her birthday, and has mastered the basics.  She coughed up a wonderful little throw rug of reds and pinks during our retreat.

K also spent a lot of time helping caterpillars.  I don’t know if she was helping good ones or bad ones, but a lot of them were tomato hornworm types or white fuzzy with black antennae types.  She didn’t want to see them get squished in the road by the Chicken Cow or waste time wandering around the deck when there were juicy trees to be had.

Both my mom and K are finally free of the rat-humping doctor’s office of evil throw-up incompetence, and mindless zit-popping grease that passes for human interaction.  They’ve recovered from the abuse for the most part, and this retreat was an affirmation of that casting out of false prophets in their life.  I’m hoping they take time to build good cocoons and emerge from their fresh fly threads into beautiful Mothra awesomeness.

When it comes to K, the cats, the folks, and I the New Year comes in October.  For whatever reason, the Celtic New Year is how we wrap things up psychologically and get ready for the approach of the next randomly generated encounter.

Tangent.  As I type this, a bunch of candy just leaped off the shelf and fell to the floor.  Yes, this is the first Halloween where K and I are in a haunted house and know it.

October is when the spirits of the dead are supposed to come back and pay a visit to the living.  The ancestors are believed to communicate with you in dreams, and give sneak previews of the year to come.  Needless to say, my dream journal has been filling up.

In my last one, I was in the role of the curmudgeonly doctor House, from the TV show, and my patient was the expectant Mother Mary.  With her in tow were a bunch of prophets who never talked to anyone, but if you listened to them you might hear something worth hearing.

She was trying to trick everyone into believing there was something wrong with her, and in true House dramatic fashion I uncovered her scam.  Because I had revealed her trick, she passed on some wisdom to me about myself, then left me to listen to the prophets for a while before they all went on their way.  I won’t say what I learned, as it’s rather personal and/or probably only relevant to me.

But Mother Mary as a trickster archetype with a posse of prophets?  That’s a new one for me.

Back to the main topic.  The last year has been rough.  Culture seems at a backwater standstill, the country needs new shoes, and there’s only charlatans at the helm of a bus with no wheel.  The bees gave me some breathing room, so K and I booked the humans a stay of buy two get one free at our favorite short duration emergency retreat.

The Honeycomb Hideout would have to be staffed by the two girl cats who can’t stand each other (there’s a movie in there, I know it), while Michael cat was boarded up because he’d taken a megamouth hit to the thrusters and we couldn’t deal.  A third day reinforcement assist from the allies and friends aisle covered the gaps.

I’ve mentioned secret doors before.  Some of those secret doors reach into awesome heal-ups.  If you ever played the Zelda games, you know what I’m talking about.  Always remember to bring your bottle to stock up on healing spirits!  The big one for us is a place I call Destroyed Bourn.

We pull up with a trunk full of medicine and protein materials for fabrication, hit the wood pile for sacred flame, sacred fire right out of Doctor Who, and get right with the weird stuff that goes on here.  The trees have been waiting for us to come and tell them stories of the messed up real world where human beings do the beat down dance.