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BLOT: (20 Nov 2014 - 08:48:42 AM)

An interesting writing prompt from the second paragraph of Robert E. Howard's "The Black Stone": the final tragic night of Alexis Ladeau

Even though I have reached the point where I should probably be focusing on other authors—I have at least a Haruki Murakami book to finish—I still find myself traipsing through weird lit. In this case, I've been enjoying going back to some of the seminal works of mythos-lit, the kind found in the James Turner edited Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. It is always interesting to see what constitutes the literature of the mythos in a post-Cambell, post-Ligotti world as contrasted to a world where writers like Frank Belknap Long and Clark Ashton Smith corresponded directly with Lovecraft, himself.

You also get little prompts to inspire some thought and debate, of which I want to talk about one here. Early in "The Black Stone", Robert E. Howard's 1931 mythos tale which is the second appearance Friedrich von Junzt's Nameless Cults1, now most often translated into the German as Unaussprechlichen Kulten, you have this passage:

Von Junzt spent his entire life (1795-1840) delving into forbidden subjects; he traveled in all parts of the world, gained entrance into innumerable secret societies, and read countless little-known and esoteric books and manuscripts in the original; and in the chapters of the Black Book, which range from startling clarity of exposition to murky ambiguity, there are statements and hints to freeze the blood of a thinking man. Reading what Von Junzt dared put in print arouses uneasy speculations as to what it was that he dared not tell. What dark matters, for instance, were contained in those closely written pages that formed the unpublished manuscript on which he worked unceasingly for months before his death, and which lay torn and scattered all over the floor of the locked and bolted chamber in which Von Junzt was found dead with the marks of taloned fingers on his throat? It will never be known, for the author's closest friend, the Frenchman Alexis Ladeau, after having spent a whole night piecing the fragments together and reading what was written, burnt them to ashes and cut his own throat with a razor.

Von Junzt's journey into depravity nets us a single core manuscript, written about in Howard's stories as a literal listing of cults around the world and their beliefs, not seemingly worthy the 2d8 Sanity loss that the 7th edition The Call of Cthulhu RPG gives it (nor the up-to double digits of mythos knowledge). However, the quote above hints that there are hints, and that someone who reads close enough will see something between the lines, behind the words.2 This is then spiced up a bit by having von Junzt, at his death [via taloned fingers], working on a second, even darker, manuscript: the pages torn and scattered about his room. His good friend, Alexis Ladeau, tries to piece together the new book but after a single night slices his own throat open.

What I like about this bit is how it ties into the real life story of William S. Burroughs. After shooting his wife—in something like an unintentional homicide that was nevertheless totally his fault, as he was playing William Tell with live ammunition—he sparked into becoming a writer. Fleeing Mexico before his trial was finished, he went to South America and then came back to the States. He tried mind altering drugs. He hit on Alan Ginsberg, and was rejected. Eventually, he went to Rome and then to Tangier. There, he got really high and wrote what would become Naked Lunch, but only after Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac came to Tangier and helped him type and edit it into...well, you know, not cohesiveness, but a book.4

Combining those two, you could come up with an interesting story. Ladeau tries a couple of times to reach his friend, who has long toiled under the darkness of his writings5, and is saddened to find that his friend has died. Maybe the cops are calling it suicide, death by razor, though Ladeau knows the truth. Even with the official stance, the word gets out and copies of Nameless Cults are burned by those who have them in fear of some unspoken retaliation for ownership. Ladeau tries to maintain his friend's literary and academic name and reputation, but is failing.

Finally, Ladeau figures that he can assemble the unfinished, fragmented book. He gets it into a rough order over a night or two, and cleans up the pages after another night. He sits down to read it, and...

...eventually slits his own throat.

Just seems like you could have a lot of fun in the midst of those ellipses.

1: The initial appearance was earlier that year in "The Children of the Night" and would show up again the next year in "The Thing on the Roof". Lovecraft's fiction is the first place that it showed up with its German title, Unaussprechlichen Kulten, with stories such as 1932's "The Dreams in the Witch House". Interestingly, in the Hazel Heald coauthored "Out of the Aeons", the book is referred to by its English title, Nameless Cults.

2: It stands to be said that Howard was a practical man in his prose, and had perhaps a better grasp of pulse-pounding than spine-tingling. Later in "The Black Stone", we get a naked cult baby-smashing ritual with whipping and gyrations, only to have the horror be confirmation that yes, Virginia, giant toad-like things do live down in caves.

3: Steven Marc Harris, in his somewhat difficult to track down "Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten: A Preliminary History", gives the book the title of Unbeschreibliche Gotter or, in English, Indescribable Gods.

4: Another odd intersection is that one of Lovecraft's friends, R.H. Barlow, was the professor who taught Burroughs about Mayan culture. Barlow went on to commit suicide shortly after.

5: Again, see Harris's work for some excellent flavor on this.

Weird Lit


BLOT: (14 Nov 2014 - 09:42:51 AM)

My vows-turned-poetry, Et Cetera, as piped through the Gizoogle engine...

At work, the question of "Do you know Gizoogle.net?" came up. It is a search engine that has an extra feature: "Gizoogle lets you translate pretty much anything on the internet into gangsta slang." It is a silly concept, and mostly for a one-off gag. However, it is capable of moments of semi-brilliance, such as when I pipe the poem posted from my wedding vows into it. It sort of outright fails by the end, but lines like "I breathe moments, n' I drop a rhyme eternity," have their own innermost light. Here you go, then, the whole thing. Warning, languge. And if you want to read the rest of the ceremony Gizoogled, feel free.

Dougz Vows, tha poem, "Et Cetera" (as rendered by Gizoogle.net)

I be tha bonez of stars, born dying.

I be tha grandchild of bacteria, clingin ta tha thin scab coverin a scaldin wound hustlin at 7 point 0 times ten ta tha fifth milez per minute round a middle-aged star glorious all up in unimpressive on a galactic scale.

I peep space, n' I conceive infinity.

I breathe moments, n' I drop a rhyme eternity.

I be thrust all up in nuff muthafuckin points, a unwittin travela up in time, mah own microcosm incomplete.

I stand atop a mountain, a trazillion light muthafuckin years tall.

I swim all up in tha bottom of a sea, a trazillion light muthafuckin years deep.

Just another of tha Million-Bizzleion Dougs, mah nuff Feynman cousins, legion n' disparate, adrift.

Adrift, solidly awake aloud up in tha Universe,

Brightly asleep like MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI, unable ta hold mah eyes open up in a thugged-out dawn of a gangbangin' finger-lickin' distizzle inconceivable even though it is constantly painted across all tha windowz of dis myriad dream.

All dem Million-Bizzleion:

Some have took a dirt nap n' some have thrived,

And there but fo' tha grace of god go I.

Because fo' all mah wonder, kickin it n' aware of all dem indefinite, unique, dope moments, witnizz ta tha splendor,


am not.

I be nothing,

Made not a god damn thang by bein a We.

I done been kickin it, ta date, thirteen-thousand, six-hundred n' sixty-three days yo, but I done been ME fo' ten years. Three-thousand, six-hundred, n' fifty-two days, props ta tha miracle of two leap-years.

Ten years. In ten muthafuckin years I have gained

myself my color my direction mah hoe

MY WIFE! Let me introduce mah hoe. Da warmth I gladly hold, tha real deal I gladly face, tha laughta I gladly play all up in jokes, tha tears I embrace even when I be unsure of em.

Bitch is solid. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Biatch is dope naaahhmean, biatch? Biatch is kind. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka!

Bitch is silly. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Biatch is cute. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Biatch is crazy. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Biatch is mine.

Faith, hope, n' ludd fo' realz. As they say, these three remain. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. So let our asses tend ta these three.

Sarah Lindsey Bolden, I vow ta have FAITH up in you, n' up in what tha fuck you can do, fo' ten muthafuckin years more, n' twenty muthafuckin years afta that, n' thirty muthafuckin years afta that, n' et cetera.

Sarah Lindsey Bolden, I vow ta always HOPE fo' tha dopest up in our marriage n' ta expect only even mo' impossible thangs up in our next decade, n' up in tha decade afta that, n' up in tha decade afta that, et cetera.

Da top billin is LOVE, they also say, n' wit dat I can agree, so letz end, here, a funky-ass bazillion year trip a mazillion milez up in tha making, wit this, simply...

Sarah Lindsey Bolden, I vow ta LOVE you mo' than books. Et cetera.


BLOT: (10 Nov 2014 - 09:31:47 PM)

Mercy: a recent adaptation of Stephen King's mythos-sprinkled short story, Gramma

"Gramma", from the Stephen King collection, Skeleton Crew, is a mythos-sprinkled short story in a similar vein as Robert Bloch's "Notebook Found in a Deserted House": an examination of an innocent brushing up against the chaos of the outer dark. In King's original, the pieces are few and lean: George is left alone with his very ill, and very scary, grandmother after his older brother is injured, and he is faced with all the scary stories he has heard about her as things turn from merely worrisome to downright bad-news. The mom is mostly a cipher. The brother is a prick. The grandmother is obese, bed-ridden vessel of bad-stuff. You end up knowing more about two loud-mouthed neighbors than anyone else but George himself. It sets up a few dominoes so it can easily knock them down. Works nicely, though.

And while the name Hastur surfaces, along with Yog-Soth-oth [as it is spelled in the story] and hints of certain...books...it could be a Satanic story as much as a mythos one, or, like Ramsey Campbell's meatier The Influence, a story about a relative with a particular hold on the rest of the family. It works as a mythos story mostly due to stories like "The Thing on the Doorstep" and The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward, where things can be brought up that can't be put back down and sometimes the human exterior is just a facade for darker things underneath, but I'll avoid going into many more details.

In the Harlan Ellison's adaptation for The New Twilight Zone, also called "Gramma", Ellison tried at strengthening the mythos elements by name-dropping Cthulhu—which George describes as a silly name—several times, along with the Necronomicon, and having the dark book come from under the floorboard where some sort of hellish light is burning coldly. Overall, though, Ellison's "Gramma" is weaker than King's since everything is even more a cipher, except that which is overblown.

Which brings us to the 2014 Matthew Greenberg adapted Mercy, directed by Peter Cornwell. It stretches out the simple pieces and tries to add in some flavor. It is somewhat faithful to the original, with the events of the short story being roughly the events from the last 25 or so minutes of the film. It tries to explain just who Gramma is, and why she did what she did, and mostly does something ok with itself, even if it straps a couple of unnecessary refrains to its chest.

This is the first version where you give a crap about Gramma (the eponymous Mercy). She is shown to be sweet to George, though whether this is ultimately for good or bad reasons can be up for some debate. The brother has been dialed back from a bullying older brother into sports to something a bit more unique: a slightly more effete, supportive older brother into cooking. The drunken, dickish uncle is given a brilliant, if unlikable, performance. And, perhaps most importantly for a horror movie, when stuff starts going bad, the sense of inevitability of the short story is set aside for moments of hope.

As a note, there are a lot of subplots here. Mom has an old flame. There is an extended bit with the grandmother's dealings with the church. There's a legend of a death wolf. There's mention of things in the hills. George has an imaginary girlfriend. A specific sort of grimoire is referenced. A complicated family history. It never quite detracts, but it seems a little insane at times how much is added in to fill the movie out when it is under an hour and twenty minutes. Especially when the original story's best humanizing elements—the loud mouthed neighbors and the constant refrain of George's "laying chilly"—are completely stripped.

Then, somewhere in between the best and the bothersomes of the movie, is the handling of the mythos elements. Hastur gets mentioned, a lot. Drinking game quantities. And then Hastur is blended in with something like Dunwich's Yog and maybe something like King's He Who Walks Behind the Rows—a physically present entity watching from nearby [a very brief shout out to Randall Flagg, one of Nyarlathotep's incarnations, adds a cameo-sized glance into the mythos as well]. This element I enjoyed, the binding of the mythos to a location, but I realize it would have been better had a sense of location been stronger [the story is set near Castle Rock, I believe, but this movie feels like just about anywhere]. The grimoire of the tale has a neat catch, though its presentation is just a bit too flash, and at least it's not the well-overused Necronomicon.

In the end, I think the ending will be the clincher. Absolutely no spoilers, but I think the acting and the writing and the setting and the pacing are all well enough, while never great, that it will be a 4-star movie or a 2-star movie based on how well you roll with the ending. I enjoyed it, therefore I enjoyed the movie. Others will be perturbed, but that is always the case.

As a note, at least for right now, Mercy is available on Netflix.

Horror Movies, Lovecraft


BLOT: (02 Nov 2014 - 07:25:51 PM)

The script, vows, and poem from The Stars Are Right

There came a point relatively late in the planning stages for The Stars Are Right where Sarah and I were unsure of what the script might be. In a traditional wedding, an officiant—most likely a priest or pastor—reads a very standard spiel about man and woman and how God made them separate so they long to come together and then has some notes about how the woman is subservient to the man, at least on paper, and et cetera. Sarah and I wanted none of that, generally, and instead wanted one that focused on a theme I had in mind, that in the cosmic scheme of things there is a billions to one chance that two people could ever meet much less meet in such a way as to fall in love, and yet it happens all the time and we celebrate it, even if it does nothing to impact a distant star or a planet whose surface is coated in dust piles of solid oxygen. There is a disjunct between us and our ideals, and that is beautiful. That was the theme I stuck with in writing the script and Sarah and I stuck with while writing our vows.

We also wanted to avoid needless affirmation of traditional gender roles. We kept in a bit where Sarah's dad walked her down the aisle, but we wanted to avoid the phrase, "Giving her away".

Credit where credit is due, first, I'm not sure if I would have been able to do anything had Sarah not sent me this link: NonReligiousWeddings.com's vow renewal script. While we used very little of the actual wording of that—the paragraph beginning "We are not..." contains an obvious paraphrase from it—it helped to give me ideas and to give me an anchor. It might be a resource of which you can take advantage, too. In a similar light, if this helps any of you in any way, take it freely. Forging a new ceremony can be hard, as I've learned.

Start of Ceremony, after music ceases

Carl Wilson Ridout, will you present Sarah Lindsey Bolden to William Doug Bolden?

[Carl presents Sarah to Doug]

Sarah and Doug, will you remove your masks? [note, we wore masks during the march]

[Doug and Sarah remove their mask and hand them off]

Friends, family, loved ones...

We are not gathered today to wed Sarah and Doug, because no one here has the power to do that more than they have done themselves through ten years of dedication and love and care. Instead, we are here to celebrate their love, to honor and respect and share in their love, because ten years is this amazingly long time, and just the blink of an eye.

It is significant that they chose to have it here, in the planetarium, for two reasons. First, many of their first memories together were spent watching the stars, together, and talking about their wonder and their significance. They met in a class because they shared a love of space and a love of science. One tiny coincidence, practically an accident of paperwork and school requirements, and yet here we are today.

Secondly, we are here in a place where stars and the cosmos are celebrated and studied and discussed to take a moment and to put ourselves in the scheme of things. In the vastness of space, the great shining beige Universe, there is little as small as two people in love for a mere decade. And yet, here before you, we all celebrate this shout into the void, this bright light shining out.

Up there, in the sky, are more stars than a human has hours, and down here, we are happy, because the great machine in the starry dynamo of the night turns and this is how it should be.

Before they exchange their vows and sentiments, they have asked me to read a paragraph from Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot:

Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there— on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Now Sarah and Doug will share their own sentiments.

Sarah's Vows

My wonderful, beautiful husband,

When we first met, you were just the quiet guy in class that laughed at jokes no one seemed to be making. Now after eleven years together, ten in marriage, I still don't understand half the things you laugh at, but your laughter always makes me happy. I love you. I love you as a best friend. I love you as a lover. I love you as a husband. I've loved you since our first accidental kiss in the park. And, as impossible as it is sometimes for me to believe, this enormous love I have for you has continued to grow and blossom as the years go by. A true infinity. I look forward to our love and life together progressing and changing as we continue to experience this infinity in our short, finite lives.

As we rededicate our love for one another, this time in front of our dear friends and family, I'd like to make these vows to you...

I vow to put in the hard work necessary to nurture our love for the present and the future because all relationships require hard work as well as chemistry to be successful, and I will gladly work hard for our happiness together.

I also vow to live in the present and to fully enjoy our relationship as it is now. While maintaining that present-mindedness, I also vow to help us plan for a good future together...one that does so without sacrificing our present happiness "for the future is no place to put [our] better days."

As I think everyone here today knows, one of the reasons I am promising to live more in the present is that at heart I am a planner and a worrywart. These are traits that can be tiring for me to deal with at times, so I know they are trying for you. Thank you for being patient with me and helping me to refocus on what is important these past ten years. I vow to learn to be more patient in return. To do what is right for us. To do things at our own pace. To not worry about what society expects or wants from us. Because if nothing else is obvious today, it is that we are wonderfully weird, and everyone is happiest when we can express ourselves authentically. So, let us forget the societal expectations everyone says will make us happy, for it is too early to analyze the data to see if we are part of the statistical norm or an outlier. Personally, I hope we are an outlier.

You've done such a great job being there for me especially when I was unwell, and there is nothing I can do to thank you enough for your love and dedication during those times. I'm sorry that I put you through all of that, and I promise to always try and take care of myself as well as us so that I don't put you through those trials again. If, despite my best efforts, I do become sick again I rest easy in the knowledge that you will be there to help me. I know I have not always done as well taking care of you in return, but I vow to continue to improve until I can be a good nurse to you when you are ill. Because in every marriage there are good days as well as bad days, and while it is easy to be there for the good days, I also vow to continue to be there during the bad days. To be with you when things are tough. Hopefully, the patience that I vowed to work on will help with that. I do not, however, promise to nag you less because that is one thing I found I am naturally good at, and it seems to be the only way to get you to go to the doctor to make sure you stay healthy. I am perfectly comfortable in this role, and will continue as long as it is productive in helping you take care of yourself.

I also vow to continue our practice of individual togetherness. I thank you for encouraging me to pursue my own interests and cultivate friendships outside of us because our marriage gets stronger as we independently become strong. Your support amazes and inspires me to be a better person. So I also vow to always be there to support you and help you grow as a person, so together our love can shine ever more brightly as we shout into the void until our voices give out. Perhaps one day the universe will reply.

Finally, I am happy that we are able to express our love and sentiments to each other in witness to our dear friends and family. The universe would be a cold and lonely place without them. This universe that is massive and beautiful and uncaring of our wants and needs...we are so tiny and so insignificant in comparison. What we do today and in our lifetimes will mean so little to the universe at the end. But we are all here, and we all love each other and care for each other anyway. It is the fact we are insignificant that makes you, our love, and our friends and families even more important. Choosing to invest and care and love despite the meaninglessness of it all the more precious. You are my infinitesimal infinity inside this cosmos' infinity. I love you. Thank you for our very own infinity.

Doug's Vows, the poem, "Et Cetera"

I am the bones of stars, born dying.

I am the grandchild of bacteria, clinging to the thin scab covering a scalding wound running at 7 point 0 times ten to the fifth miles per hour around a middle-aged star glorious through unimpressive on a galactic scale.

I see space, and I conceive infinity.

I breathe moments, and I speak eternity.

I am thrust through several points, an unwitting traveler in time, my own microcosm incomplete.

I stand atop a mountain, a trillion light years tall.

I swim at the bottom of a sea, a trillion light years deep.

Just another of the Million-Billion Dougs, my many Feynman cousins, legion and disparate, adrift.

Adrift, brilliantly awake aloud in the Universe,

Brightly asleep like MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI, unable to hold my eyes open in a dawn of a distance inconceivable even though it is constantly painted across all the windows of this myriad dream.

All those Million-Billion:

Some have died and some have thrived,

And there but for the grace of god go I.

Because for all my wonder, alive and aware of all those indefinite, unique, beautiful moments, witness to the splendor,


am not.

I am nothing,

Made nothing by being a We.

I have been alive, to date, thirteen-thousand, six-hundred and sixty-three days, but I have been ME for ten years. Three-thousand, six-hundred, and fifty-two days, thanks to the miracle of two leap-years.

Ten years. In ten years I have gained

myself my color my direction my wife

MY WIFE! Let me introduce my wife. The warmth I gladly hold, the truth I gladly face, the laughter I gladly play through jokes, the tears I embrace even when I am unsure of them.

She is brilliant. She is beautiful. She is kind.

She is silly. She is cute. She is crazy. She is mine.

Faith, hope, and love. As they say, these three remain. So let us tend to these three.

Sarah Lindsey Bolden, I vow to have FAITH in you, and in what you can do, for ten years more, and twenty years after that, and thirty years after that, and et cetera.

Sarah Lindsey Bolden, I vow to always HOPE for the best in our marriage and to expect only even more impossible things in our next decade, and in the decade after that, and in the decade after that, et cetera.

The greatest is LOVE, they also say, and with that I can agree, so let's end, here, a billion year journey a million miles in the making, with this, simply...

Sarah Lindsey Bolden, I vow to LOVE you more than books. Et cetera.

"Officiant" Conclusion

Sarah and Doug, you have already said "I do", but let us again exchange the rings, and by doing so re-affirm the strength of those words you shared those many years ago.

[rings are exchanged]

Doug and Sarah, it is my pleasure to affirm that you are husband and wife, and to wish you many more decades before you. For the rest, there is one last quote they have asked me to share [from Vonnegut], and it is this:

Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—"[God damn it], you've got to be kind." [Note, due to children in the audience, the "God damn it" was left unspoken"]

Good day. Good night. Good luck. And Good life.

May we have the lights back up and all who wish may come forward in celebration. [END]


BLOT: (01 Nov 2014 - 02:12:46 PM)

The Stars Are [Finally] Right: Sarah and Doug's 10th Anniversary Celebration, Explanation and Write-Up

The Prologue

Way-back machine time: October 24, 2004. About 3:30pm or so, give or take an hour, Sarah and I were wed at the Huntsville courthouse for the price of a license along with some tack-on fees—including a fair amount to a domestic disturbance fee, apparently to offset any future costs of us having one of those. I would guess the whole shebang was about $65, but my memory is crap around such numbers. Becca and Jonathan (my nephew) were with us as witnesses. It was quick and sweet. Afterward, we went and ate at Dragon Garden, now defunct and relocated to China House, with a few friends.

We often talked about having a real wedding for our 10th anniversary. Then we kind of dropped it. Last year, though, while on our New Orleans trip, the idea came to me, quite strongly: next year (being this year), we would do something for our 10th. And I eventually brought it up to Sarah, and she agreed. And, well, here we are. Let us get into the planning stages.

The Planning

To give an idea about how hard it is to plan such a thing neatly, I figured I'd share some of the process. At first, the idea was simple: pick a place (technically a success), have everything happen there (got changed), invite 20-30 family members and a couple of friends (essentially got changed), have some food and dancing (happened), try to have it nearish Montgomery or Birmingham so that my family had a better chance at making it (big time change), and keep it under $1000 (we failed fairly hard, but not as hard as we could have1). We would have vow renewals blended in with a 10th anniversary wedding party. Something simple, kind of normal, and largely for the family and for Sarah to have some pomp thrown her way (changed changed and changed...).

The first bit of weird crept in when, earlier this year, I made an offhanded comment about how the groom's party should wear Plague Doctor outfits and the bride's party should make reference to kitsunes or fox demons, and we could have the whole thing at Sloss Furnace. To my surprise, Sarah was somewhat receptive (she later rescinded the Plague Doctor outfit at the ceremony). While none of those turned out as expected—for instance, Sloss was out because Halloween is a big time of the year for them—that comment did end up impacting our day in one particular way: we were paying for it, so why not pay for something that was as much about us as about our wedding?

We eventually contacted the Von Braun Astronomical Society and asked them for use of their planetarium space. Neither of us wanted to have a religious ceremony, and so I started to work out the basic script for one based on science and something like "cosmic humanism". Based on the realization that the handful of our family that was going to be coming up wouldn't really be into drinking/partying, I came up with the idea to split our day into two: a cozy sort of vow renewal ceremony followed by a longer, less cozy anniversary party. The VBAS solved the former, the latter ended up being at Straight to Ale Brewery. Rather than an officiant, we asked Jason to read from the script I wrote, and he agreed. And then we went through a few months of DIY wedding, with Sarah's dress being altered by a friend, her costume being made largely by hand, my mask being largely made by hand, with me making the invites, and so forth. And since this is going on long, suffice it to say that there were ups and downs and fights over the silliest things and budgets were shattered and people had to cancel on us and now let us jump to the day of...2

The Stars Are Right, The Vow Renewal Ceremony

Man, now that I am getting to it, it feels kind of like a blur to try and sum up. It was a long day. I was awake by 6am, and by awake I mean that I was done pretending to sleep. I managed only something like 15-minute bursts of sleep the night before. I was running on adrenaline that I did not have, but having a goal and a focus was enough to keep me going, even as a few delays clicked in and I had to get a bit grouchy. Heh.

We had planned on about 30-people, originally, and then with some extras added on and some cancellations—unfortunately most of my family was not able to make it—I think we hit that number precisely. Which is crazy. My one regret about the day is that I wasn't quite able to find room for a few more friends.3

Enough with worries and woes. On to the joy. The ceremony, as a I said, had elements of cosmicism, humanism, and nihilism. Sarah's bride's party were Alicia, Allison, Becca, and Katie. My groom's party were Jason, Niko, and Raymond. In a way, Jonathan, my nephew who was there at the original ceremony, was a there-in-spirit sort. The plan was to get everyone in, turn out the lights, bring up the stars—yep, our ceremony was in very low light with the planetarium star display rotating overhead—, and to let Schubert's second movement from Death and the Maiden play for a quarter of an hour as everyone's eyes adjusted and to enjoy a quiet contemplation of space. I was afraid that it was too long, but really, it worked out perfectly and allowed everyone to get into the mood. A brief bit of "The Flower Duet" from Lakme was followed by the party-march of Debussy's "Claire de Lune". Finally, Sarah marched to the amazing Camille Saint-Saëns' "Danse Macabre". I had worked the sound design on these four pieces myself, working to blend them together and to match a particular tone. And while I doubt we were the first to use "Danse Macabre" as a wedding march, I found it amazing that more don't. It is very perfect little march bit.

Then Jason read out from Sagan's reflections on the "Pale Blue Dot" and discussed galactic time versus human time—and how though a decade means nothing to the stars, we still stand in rebellion against the meaninglessness—and such. Sarah read out her vows, which brought several to tears as she talked about the downs and the ups of marriage and how she wanted to do everything she could to learn from the former to have more of the latter, and then I read out my poem "Et Cetera", about how I am a passenger in space and cannot possibly grasp all of reality nor even all of myself but that I can look to Sarah and known something of joy. Jason ended with a slightly cleaned up version of Vonnegut's "You got to be kind" quote, and that was that.

Oh, did I mention that Sarah and were wearing masks? Yes, in the dark, with the stars turning slowly over our heads...these masks:

We then made it back to the small pavilion in Monte Sano State Park, the one right near the entrance, by the wall, and had food. Chef Will catered with a mix of vegetarian southern classics and finger sandwiches and the trays got emptied. He was a hit. We hung out for couple of hours there, and then I had to go pretty much straight back home and get supplies and go on the final half, The Masque.

The Masque

There was a time, when I was tired and stressed in the planning stages of this thing, where I was convinced the Straight to Ale portion, aka "The Masque", was a mistake. It was going to add a lot of cost, make the day go on over twice as long, and we had a lot of people from the first portion who couldn't make the second portion, and I was just afraid that it would be lots of money for me to sit around and drink. Sarah stuck with it, though, and invited some friends and I invited some friends, and in the end I am glad that we kept it. It was five hours of getting to sit around and relax, and to dance some, and to listen to music, and to eat my version of sloppy joes, and to snack, and chat with people—some of whom I have not seen in a couple of years—and it was a great time had. The three hours of the more formal ceremony were nice, and beautiful, but the five hours at The Masque were soul-restoring. heh.

For real though, if we do something like this for our 15th, we are going straight to the brewery and the hula hooping and the costumes.

It would be hard for me to sum it up effectively, so let me just give a quick bullet point list of things that happened there, in no particular order:

Here are seven pictures of it...

To Conclude

I will be posting the vows and script tomorrow. [UPDATE! You can see the script here: "The script, vows, and poem from The Stars Are Right"] For now, though, it was fun, and I don't think I ever want to do that again because it literally took me three days to feel mostly human again. heh.

You are all very lovely, and we love you a bunch, and here are those lovely photos you want to flip through so much!

Me in 2014

1: One placed tried to charge us $1000 for the cleaning fee, on top of space rental. Never use the W-word when renting a space. Make something up.

2: One day I may make some posts about my tips on how to cut out some flack and do some of the stuff we did without all the mistakes we made, as well as some tips on making your own invites and such...

3: Something that could have been a regret was that we did not investigate the space until the night before. Since we were going to having a ceremony in the dark, in what is a relatively tight space, it could have gone all sorts of wrong. It turned out beautifully, though, and I think part of that was the spastic energy brought on by figuring out last minute solutions.


BLOT: (06 Oct 2014 - 07:49:05 PM)

Something new for those friends who want to play along, the Monday Writing Prompt! First up, "The 2:43am Knock"

Something I've long wanted to experiment with, both for myself and for others who are interested, is putting out some sort of writing prompts. Well, since it is October, I figured for this and for the remainder of October Mondays, I would set up a writing prompt with a general horror theme and then anyone who wanted to play, including myself, could play along. If I get, say, two responses total for the month of October, I might keep trying to put them out later on in the year. I'll also throw in some +1 Prompts that will give potential flavor that can then be ignored if the central prompt is enough to get you going.

For October, I want to deal with two specific themes that show up in horror [say, in the workds of Ramsey Campbell]: social awkwardness and innocent things leading to bad things. And I'll start with something based on a real life story that happened not too long ago. Couple of weeks back, late at night, Sarah and myself were woken up by someone knocking on our French doors. I got up, got dressed, and then there was no one there. It has not happened again. There are a number of possible answers to the questions, "Who was it and why?," but really it does not matter too much. However, it was a bit of blood-pumper thinking of all the scary possibilities. Sticking to my themes, though, let's say the prompt is this:

At 2:43am, the protagonist is woken by a knock on his or her apartment door. The person outside is knocking for some innocent or actually positive reason, but it will end up with something bad happening.

+1 Prompt: The person at the door is someone that the protagonist does not know personally, but has some strong interest in knowing.

+1 Prompt: The protagonist has not slept well for at least a week, and tonight had his or best chance of sleeping through the night. Why the trouble sleeping? And how is that tied into the bad thing?

If you play, and want to share, and don't mind me linking them, let me know and I'll share. If you want to share but not have me link them, that's cool, too. And if you don't want to share...well, there you go.


BLOT: (01 Oct 2014 - 08:27:08 PM)

Doug Responds to Things Spotted on the Internet: Someone maybe doesn't get banned book week and just one point about meat-substitutes

As a person who is a) a librarian and b) majorly anti-censorship, Banned Books Week is something I am entirely behind in principle. In reality, though, I am not 100% behind how it is handled. I am all for bringing awareness that some people think we still need to censor or ban books, and I all for bringing to light that most such activity is for "a good cause" ["That book has a sex scene! Kids don't need sex in their lives!"], and I am all for solidarity that comes from letting librarians know that people support their keeping books that have been complained about, but in some ways it feels like encouraging students in one state to read Harry Potter because a parent in another state complained about it misses some vital mark. I'm not sure what, because I understand that spreading the word of, "This is what someone considered offensive," is a good way to show that just because someone else does not like something, even for "a good cause", that it does not mean they are entirely correct. I don't know. In some ways I feel like it promotes the books where they are already promoted but maybe does not focus quite enough on promoting the books where they are actually banned. Maybe I'm wrong and I'd be glad for counter-examples.

With all that being said, this Banned Books Week "advice animals" response feels really wrongheaded:

I think the person might be agreeing with the major tenet of Banned Book Week, that we shouldn't stop people reading from what they want to read, but by staging it as a apathetic negative, they seem to have missed the postive, proactive aspects of the whole thing.

Bonus response! While I was getting ready to post this, I found an article for something pitched as "gluten-free seitan", which is kind of like saying "iron-free steel", seeing as wheat gluten is by far the major ingredient for seitan. I mean, you can make other hard-metal alloys, and you can make other protein-rich food blobs, but let's not muddle the terms so much they are without meaning, please. "Try our peanut-free peanut-butter!" I feel like I'm being cranky, here, but what I'm more-so responding to is a comment I saw about that article which I have seen elsewhere: "Why do veg*ns eat so many damned meat-substitutes?! Aren't they just proving they really miss meat?"

Ok, as a note, let's have some real talk here. You know what doesn't come in slices, nuggets, patties, ground-anything, on-a-stick, sausage links, stews, steaks, cooked, seasoned, or anything outside of raw hunks, strips, hocks, and bits? Meat. All of cooking is transforming the product-as-is to the product-as-delectable. Just because you consider a disk-shape of ground protein on a bun to be somehow indelibly tied to beef does not mean that it's not a ridiculous, arbitrary distinction. Crapping on someone for taking slices of plant protein and eating it on bread is not some knock-out argument just because you spent your whole life eating waste-meat in a phallic shape on a bun and have justified it because some added salt and condiments to it to make it taste like food. Much if not the vast majority of meat is consumed in false shapes designed to enhance taste, mouth feel, visual attraction, and convenience. Claiming that veg*ns shouldn't engage in similar behavior is silly, at best, ranging all the way to delusional.

libraries, food


BLOT: (29 Sep 2014 - 08:32:22 PM)

Perhaps the single best scholarly article title I have ever seen

In the midst of a half-hour reference transaction in which I tried to help a student find some answers to the question, "Why are so many iconic horror figures male?", I came across this humdinger of an article title, relevant to my interests, and maybe to yours:

For those who have access to such things, the full citation reads: HARRIS, JASON MARC. "Smiles of Oblivion: Demonic Clowns and Doomed Puppets as Fantastic Figures of Absurdity, Chaos, and Misanthropy in the Writings of Thomas Ligotti." Journal Of Popular Culture 45, no. 6 (December 2012): 1249-1265.

And, it must be said that it contains absolutely Ligottian lines like,

The clown in Ligotti is not simply a marker of reversals, disorder, and chaos in the universe but rather exemplifies the fragmenting dynamic of Ligotti's misanthropic metaphysics where entropic madness disintegrates rational identity.


Or is this question "is everything all right," a question that echoes from the empty horizons of the absurd universe to shake our minds into the maddening realization that we must ever avert our eyes from: that surely everything is not all right, much—if not all—of creation is wrong, terribly wrong.

Some interesting notions about how humor in horror is not only subversive—since it twists both the definition of "humor" AND "horror"—but how certain tropes like clowns and puppets, tied closely to children's entertainment and gentle humor, also have roots in what is much closer to horror or, at best, morality plays with their heavy-handed insistence on sin, vice, and Hell. Then it ties it to Ligotti in the way he uses puppets and clowns and gas station carnivals and sometimes silly toybox concepts—see his recent "The Plastic People"—and then tells stories about loss and despair and the death of everything loved.

Thomas Ligotti


Written by Doug Bolden

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