Friday, 30 April 2010

Daily Quota

"I do not have to forgive my enemies. I have had them all shot."

19th century Spanish general Roman Maria Narvaez

Read all about it

Paranormal Magazine issue 48, on sale now.

The cover story's particularly good. It's written by Dr George Stuart, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at St John University, York - but it's not by any means biased towards psychological explanations for 'What is a Ghost?' On the contrary, Dr Stuart looks at many angles, including an intriguing idea of his own that apparitions are composed of light waves with unusual properties. I also asked half a dozen of my regular writers, like Nick Redfern, Mark Greener and parasycholgist Dr Matt Smith (no, not THAT Matt Smith Doctor), for their opinions.

The 'Doing Deals with Demons' article is another good one, a down-to-earth and entirely convincing illustration by a practising occultist on what can happen when you start dabbling with magical texts. Never mind whether demons are objectively real, the writer argues - weird and scary shit happens nonetheless.

Found Friday

After I moved house a couple of years ago, several odd little books that had slipped behind others on the shelves, or got stuffed into odd corners, revealed themselves, and needless to say, they're still lying about my new house 'unputaway' now.

From somewhere or other I picked up three Will O' The Wisp books by Nicholas Spargo. They're dated 1981 but I'm sure I bought them at least a decade after that. As well as one of the covers, I thought you might enjoy the picture of the Moog transforming into a werewolf after accidentally drinking one of Evil Edna's potions.

The Moog was my favourite. "I think that I am a doggie..."

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Daily Quota

"All men are better than this disguise that grows about and stifles them."

Robert Louis Stevenson, in Markheim.

Wordy Thursday - How Pleasant...

Leafing through an old notebook I found jotted down this famous nonsense poem. It made me smile again so I thought I'd put it up here. 'How Pleasant to Know Mr Lear!' and I'm sure it must have been, daft old bastard that he was.

How pleasant to know Mr Lear!

Who has written such volumes of stuff!

Some think him ill-tempered and queer,

But a few think him pleasant enough.

His mind is concrete and fastidious,

His nose is remarkably big;

His visage is more or less hideous,

His beard it resembles a wig.

He has ears, and two eyes, and ten fingers,

Leastways if you reckon two thumbs;

Long ago he was one of the singers,

But now he is one of the dumbs.

He sits in a beautiful parlour,

With hundreds of books on the wall;

He drinks a great deal of Marsala

But never gets tipsy at all.

He has many friends, laymen and clerical;

Old Foss is the name of his cat;

His body is perfectly spherical,

He weareth a runcible hat.

When he walks in a waterproof white,

The children run after him so!

Calling out, "He's come out in his night-

Gown, that crazy old Englishman, oh!"

He weeps by the side of the ocean,

He weeps on the top of the hill;

He purchases pancakes and lotion,

And chocolate shrimps from the mill.

He reads but he cannot speak Spanish,

He cannot abide ginger-beer:

Ere the days of his pilgrimage vanish,

How pleasant to know Mr Lear!

(Edward Lear, 1895 - he suffered from frequent depression, which he called 'The Morbids', hence the 'he weeps' lines. I sympathise. I think I might by some Marsala - it can only help.)

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Daily Quota

"Test of a true hunter. Do you fuck your catch?"

Jamie O'Neill, in At Swim, Two Boys

Weird Wednesday

Just two examples, both from the 1950s, of work by my other favourite fantasy artist of the later 20th century, the great Virgil Finlay. With all that detail, subtle shading and fine pointilism, it's sobering to think that most of Finlay's work was printed less than A4 on rough-grained pulp paper in mags like Weird Tales. Despite the detail, most of his drawings were also less than A4 in size. These two illustrations both date from 1952. (I say 'later 20th century' to distinguish from artists like Sime and Rackham who began to publish in the 1900s or earlier; Finlay was getting known in the 1930s).

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Daily Quota

"Was it not his Self, his small, fearful and proud Self, with which he had wrestled for so many years, but which had always conquered him again, which appeared every time again and again, which robbed him of happiness and filled him with fear?"

Hermann Hesse, in Siddhartha

Monday, 26 April 2010

Daily Quota

"The clocks are baring their teeth."
Vivian Stanshall

Mother knows best

Something tells me this little girl would never have got the chance to grow up to be an engineer, or a surgeon or a... well, anything really. In 1925 Rinso knew just how little girls should grow up. They should grow up just like her Mummy: a Mummy who, according to the ad, would do anything to ensure nothing would 'dim the bright eyes or bow the straight back' of her daughter. Although a lifetime of washing up and kitchen slavery was OK, apparently.

Monstrous Monday

Volcano, originally uploaded by Mr. Chompins.

I guess volcanos are still 'in' - or are they now firmly out because of all the hassle one particular troublemaker has caused? Anyway, here is just one of the many hugely likeable monsters created by Chris Leavens, otherwise known as Mr Chompins, whose work I happened upon on Flickr. It was impossible to choose a favourite, so I just went for this 'topical' one. It looks like Mr Chompins now has prints and a T-shirt available, too, so check him out - you will find yourself smiling a lot, I guarantee.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Daily Quota

"There are few things more worthwhile doing in life than nothing."
Michael Davidson

The Land of Mist

Cover of the July 1925 edition of The Strand Magazine - the first instalment of Arthur Conan Doyle's novella The Land of Mist, 'starring' Professor Challenger. The magazine still tended to use a uniform template for its covers at this point, so departures like this really stand out. The girl's outfit is so much of its time - her scarf's design looks like its been inspired by Clarice Cliff pottery.

Spooky Sunday

I got to know Cate Ludlow, an author and freelance editor with the History Press through Paranormal Magazine. Cate is an enthusiastic collector of old journals like me - but of even older ones. She's managed to track down quite a few of the so-called Penny Dreadfuls or Penny Bloods of the late 18th and early 19th century, including an extensive collection of one of the best known, the Terrific Register.

After we began chatting, via email, she very kindly sent me as a gift a few pages of the Terrific Register, featuring a ghost story: 'The Apparition of the Duchess of Mazarine'. This tale is one of what I call the Friends Reunited class: two good friends make a pact that should one die, he or she should return in spirit form and visit the other. Such were the Duchess of Mazarine, mistress to Charles II, and Madam de Beauclair, mistress to James II. The Duchess died young but did not appear as a ghost, so Madam de Beauclair decided there was no afterlife and became a bitter atheist. Many years later her dead friend did appear to her, but only to warn her that she was soon to join her in the great beyond.

Such, at least, is the story. The picture above is a scan of the accompanying woodcut showing the Duchess appearing to her friend in a cloud of ectoplasm. The extract Cate was good enough to send me features a few other stories, with titles like: 'The Self Convicted Murderer', 'Escape and Sufferings of Three Officers from the Cannibals of Tate Island' and (I love this) 'Sarcastic Cruelty'. There's no date on it but I'm guessing it was printed not long after 1794, the date of the cannibals report.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Daily Quota

"One should always go towards the place for which there is no sign."

Henry Miller, in Black Spring

Important notice

At the end of the articles in the June 1925 edition of The Strand is this full-page 'teaser' announcing the commencement the following month of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Land of Mist, the third of his Professor Challenger novels after The Lost World and The Poison Belt. Doyle had fully established his spiritualist credentials by this time - the infamous 'Coming of the Fairies' article about the to-modern-eyes obvious fakes The Cottingley Fairies - had appeared five years earlier in The Strand's December 1920 issue, for example. The Land of Mist saw Doyle further his campaign for credibility of his beliefs by introducing them into a work of fiction using established and popular characters. It's not an entirely successful story but I'm hoping the illustrations will be good. I shall save beginning the next volume till tomorrow - and then I'll find out.

Saturday Matinee

Hammer's production of One Million Years BC - the US poster and below it an Eastern European version. Who needs Racquel Welch in her fur bikini and Ray Harryhausen monsters to sell a movie when you can have witty graphics (ask the Poles or Czechs or whoever precisely designed this)? Nothing could be more distant from the cookie-cutter, must-have-star's-face-huge poster graphics we get to yawn at today.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Daily Quota

"He, too, had been an author, and he understood. It is not the being paid money that jars the sensitive author: it is the having to work."

P G Wodehouse, in Best Seller

A scientific genius

Sitting in the sunshine in my back garden at last, I flicked open the June 1925 edition of the Strand Magazine to find this opening spread, for an adventure story called The Island Under Sea. I've found out very little about the extraordianrily named author, other than that he wrote a biography of Paul Verlaine (quite interesting) and appears to have been an anuthority on, or at least a translator of, Russian literature.

Anyway, Island Under Sea turns out to be quite a good wheeze belonging to the Atlantean fantasy sub-genre. Needless to say the exotic girl preserved in the block of crystal is from fabled Atlantis. The 'star' of the piece is a British scientific genius called 'A B C' Hawkes, who is busy plying the ocean in a souped up ship of his own design (naturally). He knows everything about everything, as they always do, and has an endearing habit of exclaiming phrases like: 'Shades of Darwin!'

But what I particular loved was the editor's note below the byline: 'The story is written in collaboration with a well-known Professor of Science, so the reader may rest assured that nothing is related that could not actually have happened.'

Yeah, right. Like maidens perfectly preserved for millennia in a block of something unidentifiable and islands floating up from the sea bed for a bit then descending again, just for the fun of it. Were the readers as naive and trusting as the editor hoped?

At the conclusion of the yarn, there is a note stating: 'Another story of A.B.C Hawkes: Scientist will appear in an early number. Sounds like a series on the way. Hope there are monsters in it!

Found Friday

I really do keep some crap. This is my Dr Who Appreciation Society membership card from 1984/5, in lovely goldie looking cardboard and signed by David Saunders. This is I guess the last one I owned; I joined in 1978 and don't imagine I stayed a member beyond 1985 (although that would have been the year I went to the Interface 2 Patrick Troughton-period convention, so maybe I did).

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Daily Quota

"Life in society offers ordinary mortals the meagre advantage of being destroyed by man rather than by the harshness of the environment."

Tony Duvert

Wordy Thursday - The Heelots speech

What follows is a monologue I patiently took down while watching Frank Capra's 1941 film Meet John Doe on DVD. It's made by a character called The Colonel (played by Walter Brennan), a committed 'gentleman of the road', after his fellow tramp (played by Gary Cooper) finds himself with an unexpected $50 and says this is may be his chance to start building a life. A lot of what The Colonel says here rings true for me.

When you become a guy with a bank account, they got yer, yessir, they gotcha.

You're walking along, not a nickel in yer jeans, and you're free as the wind; nobody bothers you, hundreds of people pass you by in every line of business - shoes, hats, automobiles, radios, furniture - everything, and they're all nice, lovable people and they let you alone. Then you get hold of some dough and what happens? All those nice, sweet, lovable people become Heelots! A lot of heels.

They begin creeping up on yer, trying to sell you something; they get long claws and they get a stranglehold on yer, and you squirm and you duck and you holler and you try and push 'em away, but you haven't got a chance - they gotcha!

The first thing you know, you own things - a car, for instance. Now your whole life is messed up with a lot more stuff, like licence fees and number plates and gas and oil and taxes and insurance and identification cards and letters and bills and flat tyres and dents and traffic tickets and motorcycyle cops and courtrooms and lawyers and fines and a million and one other things!

And what happens? You're not the free and happy guy you used to be. You've got to have money to pay for all those things, so you go after what the other fellow's got - and there you are, you're a Heelot yourself!

The screenplay is by Robert Riskin. The picture shows Gary being pulled one way by Barbara Stanwyck and the other by Walter Brennan.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Daily Quota

"The justice of Hell is purely realistic, and concerned only with results. Bring us back food or be food yourself."

C S Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Who restart

Following on from my wild speculation re Amy's crack (ahem!), I suddenly had a sort of revelation re the mysterious ID tag on Amy's boyfriend's uniform in The 11th Hour. We saw an unnecessary close-up of it and for reasons that have had many of us pondering, it was dated 1990.

Can't help wondering whether this is another coded reference to the 'restart' hypothesis I posited. Steven Moffat likes to refer to this season as Season 1, not 5 or 35 or whatever it actually is (I forget). So suddenly, while I was doing the washing up (yes, actually doing the washing up - a surprise in itself), the image of that ID tag popped in my head and I thought, hang on, what year was Dr Who taken off the air? It was 1989, wasn't it? Final season, ending with Survival?

So, is Moffatt hinting here that this series is set immediately after, with no break - no hopeless special starring Paul McGann, no Russell T Davies revival with all the muddles he's brought to it. Is Matt Smith the EIGHTH Doctor in his mind - even if he can't be in actuality? A curious thought, but 1990 does have significance - it was the first year without Who on the air since 1963.

I feel at this point that I should point out that I find the word 'geek' really offensive. (And I really should stop writing about Dr Who!)

Weird Wednesday

I'll probably get booted off Blogspot for this one: The Sacrifice by another of my favourite artists, Felicien Rops. It's a soft-ground etching (?) dating from around 1900. Rops was a Flemish artist, celebrated among other artists but rarely exhibited, for obvious reasons. He was producing erotic or Satanic, or both, works of art from the 1880s and was hugely influential on the likes of Munch, Rodin and Ensor (I'll have to post some Ensor soon), as well as very many fantasy artists since.

He was greatly admired by the French Decadents and the Symbolists and there is evidence to suggest he may have been a genuine Black Magician, rather than just a poseur. Certainly, much of his work is inarguably blasphemous (phalluses worshipped on crucifixes and the like).

Rops once stated: "I cherish my obscurity. I don't know if I will produce something which pleases me; as for pleasing others, I give no more of a damn for that than for my last year's gloves."

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Daily Quota

"When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men, and a discharge for loving one."

Headstone of a gay Vietnam veteran who died of an AIDs-related illness in 1991.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Daily Quota

"Keeping a civil tongue up the rectum of a society that keeps you paid is an art, which I was devoid of."

The Sixties fashion photographer Duffy on a recent BBC4 documentary

Monstrous Monday

As promised, two monstrous images by the great Charles Keeping.

Above we have Grendel from Gods and Men, an Oxford University book on mythology published in 1981, and, below, Grendel's terrifying mother from Kevin Crossley-Holland's version of Beowulf, published a year later. Surprisingly different styles but both stunning, in my opinion.
Click on the pix for enlargements.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Daily Quota

"There is something in all superstitions: they are often the foundation of science.

"Superstition having made the discovery, science composes a lecture on the reason why, and claims the credit."

Richard Jeffries, in The Open Air, 1885.

Awful Gladness

Isn't this lovely? It's an opening spread for a P G Wodehouse story in the May, 1925, edition of The Strand Magazine.

There's something evocative about seeing these Wodehouse stories in their contemporary setting, presented to readers who would have lived in - or would at least have been familiar with - the world these stories portray; of country houses, and butlers and chaps about town for whom finding he has the wrong suitcase and will be unable to dress for dinner in his fiance's parent's home is a serious embarrassment. In other words, this is the real thing - not a TV adaptation made by people doing their best to get the period feel right.

Wodehouse made many appearances in The Strand. It's surprising to find Jeeves introduced way back in the 'teens. He and Wooster weren't products of the 20s/30s at all.

I'm slowly making my way through The Strands of the 1920s and 30s (and indeed 40s). I'll post any other gems - or at least things I think are gems - as I find them.

Spooky Sunday

This rather splendid picture illustrates the story of 'The Miser's Ghost of Rosewarne Hall', which is an ancient old pile near Cambourne in Cornwall. The yarn concerns an old skinflint of ages past called Roger Rosewarne. It's a common motif in ghost stories that if a person dies before disposing of valuables, their spirit becomes 'tied to the earth'. So it was with Roger: but some years after his death his ghost succeeded in accosting someone who for once didn't run away screaming. This was a young lawyer, Ezekiel Gosse, who by fair means or foul had managed to acquire the hall and had recently moved in.
Roger's spirit told Gosse where he had hidden all his hoarded gold, much to his delight. Roger gave Gosse strict instructions as to how the money should be shared out to various relatives etc but the unscruplous rogue kept it all for himself (typical lawyer!). Gosse used the wealth to live in fine style at Rosewarne. At one particualrly glittering party one Christmas Eve, however, the assembled revellers were horrified when, on the stroke of midnight, the furious spirit of the wronged Roger Rosewarne manifested on the staircase and pointed his finger accusingly at their host. Because Gosse had failed to dispose of the money properly, the miser's spirit was still bound to the earth.

Eventually, so the rather tongue-in-cheek story goes, Gosse arranged it so a visiting clergyman was put up in the bedroom haunted by the angry spook. When the ghost appeared, the unruffled clergyman started up a conversation with him. He asked Roger's spirit how long he'd been resident in Rosewarne Hall. Three hundred years, he was told.

'Dear me! You don't say so?' exclaimed the cleric. 'And in that time subscribed, naturally, to many charities?'

'Devil-a-bit! Devil-a-bit, sir!' responded the old miser.

'Well then, don't you think it's about time you did?' And with this the clergyman presented the ghost with a subscription list for the renovation of the parish church. 'You will see I already have the names of some of the most influential...'

But he got no further. The miserly ghost had vanished - never to be seen again.

(The story and illustration, by the way, are from an article written and illustrated by one Irving Montagu and appeared in The Strand Magazine in December 1891).

More ghost stories at my website:

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Daily Quota

"I do not think, from the point of view of human culture and happiness, there have been more significant inventions in the history of mankind ... than the inventions of smoking, drinking and tea."

Lin Yutang, in The Importance of Living

Amy's crack

OK, now I get it. The whole crack in space/time theme in the latest Dr Who series means that Moffatt will be able to effectively restart the storylines - sidestepping the nonsense of Dalek and Cyberman invasions etc supposedly happening in contemporary Britain - ie to us. Amy's forgotten the 'Stolen Earth' stuff, just as you and I never saw it happen either.

I wonder if the ridiculous sight of a Cyberman 'Iron Giant' stomping on Dickensian London was the final straw for Moffatt. It was for me. Notice how in Victory of the Daleks nothing happened the could have been witnessed as alien activity by the populace.

Mark Gattis did really real with his 40-odd minutes (I thought it was going to be a preposterous yarn but it wasn't). Loved all the Power of the Daleks bits, particularly carrying the box file and the sinister, grated out 'WOULD YOU LIKE SOME TEA?' Great fun. And Matt Smith continues to impress.

However, as my BBC chum Alan pointed out - and this is important, right - that wasn't an actual, legit Jammy Dodger he was holding up there because it had a circular instead of a heart-shaped centre (see above). That makes it a cheap 'Jam Ring' imposter, apparently, which Alan thinks may have allowed the Beeb to get round advertising bans. Or maybe they just didn't know the difference. Or indeed didn't care. Tch!

Exterminating for Jesus

Check out Darryl's latest Dalek toon at: !

Saturday Matinee

After last week's tacky entry I thought we ought to have a bit of class: this stylish art deco poster is for a Boris Karloff vehicle, released by Warner Bros in 1936.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Daily Quota

"Sloth in writers is always a symptom of acute inner conflict, especially the laziness which renders them incapable of doing the thing which they are most looking forward to. The conflict may or may not end in disaster. Perfectionists are notoriously lazy and all true artistic indolence is deeply neurotic; a pain not a pleasure."

Cyril Connolly

Found Friday

Well, this was an amusing (and vaguely embarrassing) find. Having a rummage I unearthed a 'Scribbling Diary' from 1980 - and look, I scribbled in it. Friday the 13th of June right in the middle of my O levels, less than a month after my 16th birthday (Christ, I'm old). I obviously decided it was time to take out some adolescent spleen on my teachers at the time. I'm not going to name them - in fact I can't remember the names of some of them (all from the Alun School in Mold, of course). Click on the pic to make it bigger if you think you might recognise any.
Ah, innocent days. Did a quick Googlythang and discovered this was the same month Love Will Tear Us Apart was in the top 20. And Echo Beach. And Twopintsoflagerandapacketofcrispsplease by Splodgenessabounds!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Daily Quota

"Neither look forward, where there is doubt, nor backwards, where there is regret. Look inward and ask not if there is anything outside that you want but whether there is anything inside that you have not yet unpacked."

Quentin Crisp

Wordy Thursday - 'A Monstrous Organ of Generation'

Following on from DuMaurier's lengthy outburst last week re the fear-filled tenets of traditional Christian teaching, here is Guy De Maupassant's almost contemporary and astonishing vision of the nature of God, which closes with a pithy and cynical observation on the human condition. It comes from his Useless Beauty, written in 1890 (the translation is by Gerald Hopkins).

Do you know what I think God is like? I see him in the form of a monstrous organ of generation concealed from us, sowing innumerable worlds in space, as a single fish lays innumerable eggs in the sea. He creates because it is His raison d'etre. But He has no idea what He is doing. He is just stupidly prolific, perfectly unaware of the combinations which his scattered seed will produce.

Human thought is but one happy accident of His fecundity, a local, a casual accident, not intended, and fated to vanish with the disappearance of this earth, and to begin again, perhaps here or elsewhere, similar or different, in the new combinations produced by new beginnings. To that little accident of intelligence we owe our unhappiness...

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Daily Quota

"There is a word for it all: Funt."
J P Donleavy, in The Ginger Man

Weird Wednesday

Well. Has-this-ever-happened-to-you? You find yourself an interesting book full of striking illustrations by a celebrated artist, in this case Charles Keeping. It's an ex-library copy and well-thumbed but what the hell. So you take it home. You flick through the book, enjoying the many illustrations you've not previously seen. And then you come to the last illo in the book.

And you find some kid's drawn a big cock on it. In red felt tip pen. And he's added the word 'Wanker' just to finish it off. Bloody hell.

Oh well, it was only 50p. It's a book from 1973 called Weirdies, a collection of macabre tales (and a few H P Lovecraft poems) selected by one Helen Hoke as being suitable for young readers. Charles Keeping is in my opinion one of the very best book illustrators of the second half of the 20th century, and since I have presented him here defaced (or becocked), I think I'll put up another of his pictures on Monstrous Monday. Incidentally, the illustration with added nob was for Theodore Sturgeon's classic tale of the reanimated dead, 'It'.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Daily Quota

"My ambition is handicapped by laziness."

Charles Bukowski

Tuneful Tuesday

Having enjoyed the Jethro Tull pirate DVD I bought at the weekend, the band struck me as an obvious choice for today. Here is a rare - and ropey - appearance by them on French TV back in 1969. They perform Bouree, their take on Bach, from the Stand Up album: Ian Anderson in the infamous tramp's coat and perching on one leg in classic Tull pose.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Daily Quota

"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."
e. e. cummings

Monstrous Monday

Two works by the astonishing 'neo-fabulist' Heiko Muller, 'Lost in Switzerland' and 'Winged Doom'.
I fell in love with Heiko's work when I stumbled upon it on Flickr and even had the temerity to ask if he'd consider doing something for Paranormal Magazine, but alas he said he didn't take commissions. Revisiting his profile, I see he now has a book out and is selling posters, so I've got to investigate that further. Most of his paintings are the size you see them here: a few inches across. Check out the rest of his work at:
Images are copyright Heiko Muller.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Daily Quota

"If we find nothing pleasant, at least we shall find something new."

Voltaire in Candide

Snake on a Plain

I've just got an attractive copy of volume 20 of The Strand (Jul-Dec 1900) to plug one of the gaps in my collection. It's notable for including the first two instalments of H G Wells's classic The First Men in the Moon. I thought, though, that you might enjoy the frontispiece to the December edition.

It's an illustration (by the Holmes artist Sidney Paget) for a bizarre story called simply Followed, in which a well-to-do young lady finds herself pursued across Salisbury Plain by nothing less than a huge cobra - a trained assassin set upon her by a sinister foreign gent (devious foreigners feature strongly in these magazines). The showdown, as you can see, is in Stonehenge.

The story is by L T Meade and Robert Eustace. Meade had been a prolific writer of stories for girls but branched out with great success into sensation and detective fiction with the advent of The Strand and its rivals. Eustace was a medical man whom Meade teamed up with to write two series of equally bizarre adventures under the name The Diary of a Doctor: macabre and/or crime-fighting yarns with a medical theme. Later Meade joined force with a scientist Clifford Halifax to write the equally sensational The Adventures of a Man of Science.

Preposterous yarns like this are the main reason I spend my moolah on these magazines.

Spooky Sunday

The latest addition to my ghost book collection is this rather sumptuous first edition of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang, published in 1897. Lang was one of the founders of the Folklore Society and although his book contains a lot of familiar stories I thought it was worth buying (even if only for the stylish art nouveau binding!).
I did find a few accounts which, though old, were previously unknown to me. The final story in the book is one of them, even though it comes from Notes and Queries, an often quoted source of strange information. It features a young woman woken up by a 'crisis apparition' in the early hours of the morning and who then has a very peculiar physical interaction with the ghost.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Daily Quota

"My occupation is being in love with the universe."

Rupert Brooke

Time Lords came first

OK, Who geek alert here: so move on please, nothing to see here unless you too have Whophile tendencies.

Interesting line in tonight's 'Beast Below' episode. When Amy points out the Doctor looks human, he says something like: 'No you look like me. Time Lords came first.'

Now I had this idea yonks ago that the reason the Time Lords are so adamant about non-involvement is that when Rassilon first opened the time vortex and saw all-creation-at-once he went a bit mad (as we know) and in a fit of unparalelled egomania decided to make all creation in his own, ie the Gallifreyan, image. In other words he seeded every life-supporting planet so that it would evolve Gallifreyans, or near as dammit. The other Gallifreyans stopped him but he'd already managed to interfere with the evolution of life on many, many worlds.

And that is why there are so many humanoid (or Gallifreyan-type) races in the universe: Thals, Movellans, Peladonians etc etc. And in addition loads more that are broadly humanoid: two legs, two arms, a head etc etc. A great way to excuse cheap science fiction, of course, but also the reason why the Gallifreyans set themselves up as Time Lords and made themselves guardians of this appalling technology they'd created: they'd already fucked up big style once and they weren't going to let it happen again.

God didn't make us in His own image: bloody Rassilon did.
Has Steven Moffat had the same idea? How exciting that would be (for me, I mean, not for anyone else). Of course, it's also possible this is an old idea and I'm just remembering it from somewhere, in which case I shall do the honourable thing and blush.

But enough of that. Here is a cute picture of the 11th Doctor by Alejandra Gamgeek, whose thoroughly enjoyable blog I've just discovered. Have a good scroll down and find adorable versions of previous Doctors, the Brigadier, Sam Tyler & Gene Hunt and loads of others at: (or follow link top right).

Punk vids

Dragged down to the record fair in Mold today by Robin, rather against my will because the last time I went - the first record fair I'd been to in years - I went a bit nuts. I bought Julian Cope's first two singles for £15 each (later discovering I could have got them for about £4 on eBay) and managed to buy the wrong DVD compilation I was after. I vowed never to go again!

Oh well. This time I bought nowt but DVDs - dodgy ones, of course. There's a Jethro Tull gig from 1976, bits of which the seller played and it does look very good indeed. The others are double packs of punk stuff taken off the telly, mainly Top of the Pops. I recorded loads of material like this off UK Gold some years ago but God knows when I'd get round to transferring it, so I thought - for what worked out at £2.50 a disc - what the hell.

I was a bit suspicious of volume 3 of the set because it featured fairly unusual Stranglers tracks which, if taken off TV appearances, I certainly wanted to see. I even checked with the bloke - but alas I was right. Most of this disc turns out to be promo videos, including the Stranglers'. Oh well, it didn't cost much and there's a fair amount of material I've not seen, including 'Why She's A Girl From The Chainstore' by the Buzzcocks, the suitably silly video to the preposterous 'Hersham Boys' by Sham 69 and the Ramones doing 'I Don't Wanna Grow Up' on Top of the Pops (the only 'off the telly' item of the lot).

But the highlight has been the Ramones' cover of the old Spiderman theme, together with a matching cartoony video. I've always loved that theme (and indeed the series) but had no idea this version existed. So here it is.

Saturday Matinee

Something tasteful and mellow for a Saturday afternoon. I know nothing about it (and probably don't want to!) but something tells me it's probably Italian. Great title, you have to admit.

Friday, 9 April 2010


I've just discovered this fab Dalek-oriented blog managed by Darryl Cunningham. Lots of Darryl's Dalek-inspired work is up there, plus contributions from many other artists. Although there are lots of funny pix up there I fell in love with this Big Brother-inspired image by a San Francisco graphic designer, Chris Kisler. Wouldn't you just love to have this on a T-shirt?

It looks like the blog hasn't been updated for a few months but I notice that a tiny-wee Dalek has just been added to Darryl's general blog - so hopefully the new Who series will inspire some more contributions.

Links to Exdrawminate and Darryl's blogs can be found top right.

Daily Quota

"You dump it. We pump it."

Slogan of an Australian sewage contractor on a South Seas island (spotted on the side of a truck in the background of some Channel 4 documentary I was watching years ago.)

Found Friday

Here is another page out of that notebook which had doodles by Darryl Cunningham and Rich Holden dating from 1994. This one was doodled on the same night by Jonathan Edwards and features the suave Dominique Antrobus, who clearly shares some pen-and-ink DNA with a certain Mr Gainsbourg.

To view (rather more finished) examples of Jonathan's work, visit: Also take a look at Jonathan's side project:

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Daily Quota

"The mind is in its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n."

John Milton, Paradise Lost

Wordy Thursday

George du Maurier was a French-born English illustrator and author, grandfather of Daphne. His biggest hit was his 1894 novel 'Trilby'. Although best remembered today for the character of Svengali - the Simon Cowell-cum-Shylock impressario - his sinister appearance is very much secondary to the main theme, which is one of jolly romps had by three well-heeled Englishmen trying to make it as artists in Paris. I ws expecting some sort of Gothic novel but overall it's a light-hearted book. It was also an enormous bestseller - which makes the following passage all the more susprising. It has no part in the narrative, effectively shoe-horned in, which makes it apparent that this strongly negative view of establishment Christianity and its teachings was one firmly held by the author himself and a message he was keen to impart to his readers. It must have proved quite unsettling for some of its cosy Victorian readers.

'It is very wicked and most immoral to believe, or affect to believe, and tell others to believe, that the unseen, unspeakable, unthinkable Immensity we're all part and parcel of, source of eternal, infinite, indestructible life and light and might, is a kind of wrathful, glorified and self-glorifying ogre in human shape, with human passions, and most inhuman hates - who suddenly made us out of nothing one fine day - just for a freak - and made us so badly that we fell the next - and turned us adrift the day after - damned us from the very beginning and ever since! Never gave us a chance!

'All merciful Father, indeed! Why, the Prince of Darkness was an angel in comparison (and a gentleman into the bargain).

'Just think of it - a finger in every little paltry pie - an eye and an ear at every keyhole, even that of the larder, to catch us tripping, and find out if we're praising loud enough, or grovelling low enough, or fasting hard enough - poor God-forsaken worms!

'And if we're naughty and disobedient, everlasting torment for us; torture of so hideous a kind that we wouldn't inflict it on the basest criminal, not for one single moment!

'Or else, if we're good and do as we are bid, an eternity of bliss so futile, so idle, and so tame that we couldn't stand it for a week, but for thinking of its horrible alternative, and of our poor brother for ever and ever roasting away, and howling for the drop of water he never gets.

'Everlasting flame, or everlasting dishonour - nothing in between!

'Isn't it ludicrous as well as pitiful - a thing to make one snigger through one's tears? Isn't it a grievous sin to believe in such things as these, and go about teaching or preaching them, and being paid for it - a sin to be heavily chastised, and a shame? What a legacy!'

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Daily Quota

"I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds."

Robert Oppenheimer (quoting the Bhagavad Gita) after the first atomic bomb was dropped.

Vapid Thoughts, Vacuous Opinions

Why do people write diaries? I suppose I write mine because I don't write anything else.

I enjoy reading other people's diaries (so don't invite me round your house) and have just finished Volume 4 of the Diaries of Donald Friend, an Australian artist who spent years living in exotic places, painting things, collecting ancient indigenous works of art, drinking too much and grumbling a lot. I didn't know anything about him really before I started reading but discovered that not only did he have a great turn of phrase (very irritating since he was already overblessed with talent in other directions) but also knew loads of entertainingly crazy OTT personalities, not least of which was himself. I found myself hooked.

Anyway, this is the bookplate to his last ever diary (he died before he filled in the final date). Aside from the nude exotic islander watching him at work, I just love the bald honesty of the words round the portrait. Doubly ironic because so many people did end up reading and enjoying them, hwoever vapid or vacuous they might be.

Weird Wednesday

This is a drawing by an artist called Alfred Kubin. I've seen bits and pieces of Kubin's work scattered through various books but didn't know much about him. I've just Wikipedia-ed him (oh the shame!) and discover that he was a genuine Bohemian (ie born there) and spent most of his life living a secluded life in a 12th century castle. Most of his ouvre (matron!) seems to consist of weird and scary shit.

This image comes from a little booklet recently acquired by my friend Anne (or rather by her boyfriend on one of his many trips to Brussels to visit his son). It is printed on rough yellowing paper and is undated but it must be pre-Great War - judging by the costumes, anyway. There are a dozen drawings in the book. This one is called 'Circe', whom you'll remember was the witch in Homer's Odyssey who turned Odysseus's men into pigs.

You'll have to click on the pic to examine it properly. Circe, of course, is the rather tarty girl sitting on a dungheap, with a tell-tale pig snuffling by her. She is attempting to inveigle an old soldier and appears to have a small pistol in her right hand (or am I mistaken?). Note the odd details in the background. There appear to be two doors into the cliffs behind the figures - entrances to subterranean fairy kingdoms? There is a Grecian temple on the hill behind. A bloke in a night-cap is being chased by an ostritch - and what the hell is that thing emerging from the well?

All very weird. Many of the other drawings in the book are just as weird, so no doubt I'll post another in the near future.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Daily Quota

"Literature only has one excuse for existing: it saves the person who makes it from the disgustingness of life."

J K Huysmans, in La Bas

Me and Nick Pope

On March 25 a fundraising event was held in my home town of Mold for a little boy called Harley Noble who has a rare and severe form of cerebral palsy. Fundraiser Gill Henry invited UFO expert Nick Pope to give a talk in Mold to help find the money to make necessary improvements to Harley's parent's house. Nick came all the way up from London to do so and gave a fascinating talk on how ufology is at last gaining some acceptability with mainstream science, despite the recent closure of the MoD's UFO desk (which of course Nick used to run).

I was kindly asked along, too, and was given the honour of introducing the speaker. It's the first time I've met Nick Pope and a very pleasant and unassuming fellow he turned out to be, although one with an undeniably shrewd intelligence. He's promised to write for Paranormal Magazine soon. Considering how busy Nick is - he was off to conferences in the USA and Mexico, and elsewhere if I remember correctly the day after his appearance in Mold - his helping out with the Harley Noble campaign was a really generous use of his time.

To read more about Nick Pope visit To learn more about the Harley Noble campaign email

Tuneful Tuesday

Like many people, it would seem, I was rather dismayed by the strangely lacklustre new version of the Dr Who theme - although considering how fab everything else was, it seems churlish to complain. Now I've watched the episoide again (ahem!) I find I don't dislike it as much as I did on first listen but my friend Alan Daulby discovered the attached version on YouTube in which the missing dum-de-dums have been subtly reinstated.

Much better in my opinion (but hey, I'm the kind of guy who still writes 'Dr' Who), although I note that the chap who has done the mix, JamesPotter76, is perfectly happy with the new theme. I rather like the fact that he's rendered the title sequence in black-and-white, too. I'd still rather have a scary theme, though. There was something unnerving about the grinding bass lines and the spooky whoo-hoos over the top of it. Imagine watching the first episode of Web of Fear or an episode of Seeds of Doom with one of the new themes. Pah!

Still, at least it's an improvement on the previous closing titles version with its 'Hello Dolly' strings and fills, or the tinny Davison period theme.

This is very sad, isn't it? I'm in danger of becoming a Whocumudgeon, or as Russell T Davies offensively described fans who didn't like him - a 'ming-mong'.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Daily Quota

"Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse inacted desires."

William Blake

Monstrous Monday

Here are two chums enjoying their bank holiday weekend. On the left is a particularly funky example of a Kaiju made for me by Felt Mistress ( and on the right a leprechaun (at least I think he's a leprechaun) made by a company called Scrushkins which I bought at a car boot sale. The leprechaun's quite horrible really and you can stick your hand in the back like a glove puppet and waggle his tongue and make his eyes bulge out. I think the pair of them make a lovely couple.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Daily Quota

"Genius and regularity are utter enemies, and must be to the end of time."

Thomas Gainsborough

Tweed sensation

Hah! Who does this Matt Smith think he is? Here I am - ever the trend-setter - in tweed jacket in 1993. I owned two tweed jackets at the time: the other was a genuine Harris tweed of a chestnut colour and with a length similar to the new Doctor's but not as crisply cut as his. I used to refer to the one I'm wearing here as my 'primary school teacher's jacket'. I guess I'd ditched the floral psychedelic stuff by about the end of 91 and had decided to go all Jethro Tully instead. Granddad shirts and waistcoats - it's been a long time since I've been able to find a waistcoat in a second-hand shop that will fit my ever-expanding belly, alas.

Spooky Sunday

Fans of the works of J R R Tolkien will be familiar with the Barrow-wights, mysterious, malevolent beings that inhabited ancient burial mounds, guarding the treasures interred within.
Tolkien’s Barrow-wights may have been inspired by traditions once prevalent in parts of South West England. Professor Leslie Grinsell collected an astonishing corpus of tales associated with Britain’s ancient monuments and in Dorset he learnt of the ‘Gabbygammies’, beings very similar to Tolkien’s. Referring to a Bronze Age round barrow at Ashmore (now destroyed), Grinsell writes:

‘It was formerly haunted by Gabbygammies or Gappergennies who made strange noises which ceased after the barrow was opened and human bones found in it removed to the churchyard and reburied there.’

In my home county of Flintshire, there is a story about a tumulus at Axton haunted by similar creatures. The barrow, near a house called Ty Gwyn, formerly had a 7-ft high stone standing on its summit. Due to the presence of a hole drilled through its upper part, this bore the name of Carreg-y-doll (the Holed Stone). The stone was given a wide berth in daylight and avoided altogether after dark, for it was believed the barrow on which it stood was the home of evil goblins – bwbachod – who guarded fiercely a valuable treasure hidden there. Their mindless gibbering could often be heard emanating from within.

One evening, according to tradition, a stranger passed by Carreg-y-doll and perceived its silhouette faintly illuminated by a ruddy glow, apparently given out by the stone itself. He decided to investigate, and as he got close he could hear an eerie sound, as of the pained whimpering of some animal coming from beneath it. He stepped up on to the barrow.
Immediately, he was gripped by a powerful force. It felt as if two enormous hands had grabbed him by the shoulders. He was lifted off his feet and thrown against the side of the mound. He struggled wildly, but the invisible force held him fast. His ears were filled with the fearful sound of an insane gibbering and his eyes were blinded by a red light. The earth seemed to open up around him, and he felt himself being dragged beneath, down and down to some black place…
The next morning, the stranger was discovered, wandering around and around near the stone in a delirium. He muttered over and over again something about a terrifying place full of evil-faced goblins and weird cackling, and sights which had obviously petrified him, but which he was never able to fully describe. As he recovered, he seemed to have forgotten his experience and never spoke of it again...
That at least is the story, which comes from a Welsh language book of folklore published in 1938, Coelion Cymru (pp 109-10). The stories in it were collected by Evan Isaac, who lived in Holywell. The stone has long gone and it's hard to work out which of the many tumuli near Axton is the one referred to - but either one of the two photographed here would be a good guess. Northern Flintshire, incidentally, represents one of the most extensive Bronze Age burial grounds in Britain - there are scores of barrows in the Gorsedd/Llanasa region.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Daily Quota

"Trust me. I'm the Doctor."

Matt Smith

Saturday Matinee

It's 1968 and Hammer start to take the piss out of their own products (the follow-up, Taste the Blood of Dracula was advertised with the slogan 'Drinka Pinta Blood a Day', mimicking the same year's Milk Marketing Board's ad campaign). I have to say though, there is genuine wit and a certain amount of charm about this visual pun.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Daily Quota

"He who shits in the road will meet flies on his return."

South African proverb

'Killer Mist Panic - Londoners Flee!'

Spent a jolly afternoon gassing on about nothing in particular (except our gassy bowels) round Robin's house. Watched the surviving episode (1) and remaining clips of The Web of Fear, not only one of the best ever Who adventures but also one of the best Target novelisations. Here is my own battered copy bought on publication in 1976 when I was 12. Terrance Dicks was still making an effort with the novelisations in those days and he succeeds in crafting quite an effective Whodunnit (pardon the pun) from the 'Who is being controlled by the Great Intelligence' sub-plot.

One thing the book can't convey though is the extraordinarily scary early sequence in which collector of rare objects Julius Silverstein snuffs out candles in a dark corridor crammed with stuffed animals, Egyptian sarcophagi etc as Bartok's Concerto For Orchestra builds and the Yeti comes back to horrible, glowing-eyed life unobserved behind him. Eek-a-roo! Will Steven Moffat succeed in crafting a scene so splendid in the upcoming season? Well, if anyone can, he can.

New Sherlock Holmes Serial!

Just thought I'd shove this up. It's one of the Strand Magazines I bought for more-than-was-sensible last year, one of the 'loose' copies that hasn't been bound up into volumes like the majority. This is such a corker I leave lying on top of one of the piles to help convince me it was money well spent. It's the September, 1914, edition featuring the opening instalments of the last of the long Holmes stories, The Valley of Fear. Lovely to see Holmes, in colour, on the front.

Alas I can't reproduce the full-page colour illustration from which it's taken without squashing the mag on the scanner, but it's one of the iconic Holmes images and helps make this particular copy one of the most sought-after Strands. It's not in perfect nick - it's missing its back cover and is a bit scuffed round the edges, but it's not bad. Individual issues from this period don't survive well.

Found Friday

An inveterate hoarder, I've been rummaging through my great piles of stuff in search of artifacts to display - like a really crap museum - on Fridays. I rediscovered this old notebook which I took along with me on one of the cartoonist get-togethers at Jones's Winebar in Chester which used to be held many moons ago. On the first page are these two swift doodles made by, top, Richard Holden (now Starbuck) and Darryl Cunningham. Richard has helpfully dated it, which is handy. Over the page there's a quick sketch by Jonathan, so I'll put that up next week.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Daily Quota

"I am too old, too tired and too talented to care..."

Kenneth Williams, from his diaries (April 2, 1964).

Poltergeist rough

My friend Anne Elizabeth Robinson is illustrating an up-coming article on a poltergeist case in Connecticut for the next issue of Paranormal Magazine. Here is the rather nifty rough she's just sent me for the opening image. Anne's roughs are never that rough - but she'll probably be cross with me for posting it, anyway.

Wordy Thursday - Joe Orton meets The Beatles

Thursday will be the day for longer extracts of stuff - maybe even bits of my own writings, such as they are. Firstly, inspired by Richard E Grant's not particularly inspiring BBC4 programme about diary writing, which began with Joe Orton's, here is an extact from January 24, 1967, in which Orton met the Beatles (well, Paul McCartney, anyway). The Beatles had asked Orton to write a screenplay for their next film, hence his visit to Brian Epstein's house recounted here (in the event it was considered far too risque and the project was abandoned - Orton was paid handsomely nonetheless).

I range the bell and an old man opened the door. He seemed surprised to see me. 'Is this Brian Epstein's house?' I said. 'Yes, sir,' he said, and led the way into the hall. I suddenly realised that the man was the butler. I've never seen one before. He took my coat and I went to the lavatory. When I came out he'd gone. There was nobody about. I wandered around a large dining-room which was laid for dinner. And then I got to feel strange. The house appeared to be empty. So I went upstairs to the first floor. I heard music only I couldn't decide where it came from. So i went further upstairs and found myself ina bedroom. I came down again and found the butler. He took me into a room and said in a loud voice, 'Mr Orton.'

Everybody looked up and stood to their feet. I was introduced to one or two people. And Paul McCartney. He was just as the photographs. Only he'd grown a moustache. His hair was shorter too. He was playing the latest Beatles recording, 'Penny Lane'. I liked it very much. Then he played the other side - Strawberry something. I didn't like this as much. We talked intermittently. Before we went out to dinner we'd agreed to throw out the idea of setting the film in the thirties. We went down to dinner. The crusted old retainer - looking too much like a butler to be good casting - busied himself in the corner.

'The only thing I get from the theatre,' Paul M. said, 'is a sore arse.' He said Loot was the only play he hadn't wanted to leave before the end. 'I'd've liked a bit more,' he said. We talked of the theatre. I said that compared to the pop scene the theatre was square. 'The theatre started going downhill when Queen Vitoria knighted Henry Irving,' I said. 'Too fucking respectable.'

We talked of drugs, of mushrooms which give hallucinations - like LSD. 'The drug, not the money,' I said. We talked of tattoos. And, after one or two veiled references, marijuana. I said I'd smoked it in Morocco. The atmosphere relaxed a little. Dinner ended and we went upstairs again. We watched a programme on TV. It had phrases in it like 'the in-crowd' and 'swinging London'.

There was a scratching at the door. I thought it was the old retainer, but someone got up to open the door and about five very young and pretty boys trooped in. I rather hoped this was the evening's entertainments. It wasn't, though. It was a pop group called The Easybeats. I'd seen them on TV. I liked them very much then. In a way they were better (or prettier) offstage than on.

After a while Paul McCartney said, 'Let's go upstairs'. So he and I and Peter Brown went upstairs to a room also fitted with a TV ... A French photographer arrived with two beautiful youths and a girl. He'd taken a set of new photographs of The Beatles. They wanted one to use on the record sleeve. Excellent photograph. And the four Beatles look different with their moustaches. Like anarchists in the early years of the century.

After a while we went downstairs. The Easybeats still there. The girl went away. I talked to the leading Easybeat. Feeling slightly like an Edwardian masher with a Gaeity Girl. And then I came over tired and decided to go home. I had a last word with Paul M. 'Well,' I said, 'I'd like to do the film. There's only one thing we've got to fix up.' 'You mean the bread.' 'Yes.' We smiled and parted. I got a cab home. It was pissing down.

From The Orton Diaries, ed. by John Lahr, Methuen, 1986.

ADDENDUM: I've just remembered my old university friend Paul's mum found a copy of The Orton Diaries on a train back in 1986 or 7. She decided to flick through it. 'It were a right mucky book,' she told him, approvingly.