Monday, November 30, 2009

New stuff lurking...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankfulness XIII


Without friendship, we'd all be me. I mean, we would be I.

And that would be pretty pathetic.

I know what you're wanting to ask me; is there any way to show pictures of all your friends?

And my answer would be No, of course not you fool, what a stupid question. Who would ask such a thing?

Good lordy on Facebook alone I have 156 friends...


Random pics of people most of you won't know.

But that hardly matters, because in their nameless smiles you will recognize backstory, humor and warmth you have shared with your own dear friends.

I love them all very, very much.


I could keep going, and it wouldn't matter.

Friendship is the key.

Be glad for your friends, and thankful for their love and support.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankfulness XII


... amen.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thankfulness XI

EDIT: I thought I'd posted this much earlier in the day. Perhaps its Blogger's doing, or my own ineptitude. Oh well!

Music has always been present in my life. From both sides of my lineage, music and performing have passed down for many generations, and my generation has been no different in that regard.

Now I am not about to simply do a 'thanks, Music!' post. That would be kinda silly, even though I am quite thankful for the presence of music of all kinds.

Today I wish to express my thankfulness for a certain kind of American magic known as

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, 1917

Much discussion and a certain ambiguity reign about the subject of jazz; there is a lot of debate about its precise origins, what actually constitutes or defines it, and myriad other points that are far too numerous (and in some cases too controversial and incendiary) to note with any depth here.

This is not a History of Jazz post.

The Duke Ellington Band, 1929

But I must at least express my thankfulness for the music I call jazz.

My father was born in 1924 in Michigan City, Indiana; just the right place and time to become one of that Great Jazz State's geniuses of the form.

His love of jazz, swing and what some called Dixieland (a term he never really liked or willfully used for his own music, even if he had to let band leaders, album producers, record labels and movie makers categorize it as such) was passed on to all of his children, and in my case I think it struck deeply and very early.

My father Dick Cathcart on television in the early 60's.

As mentioned in Thankfulness II, I started playing guitar at an early age; one of the main reasons was the incredible jazz and swing guitar work of the men my dad knew, the greats with whom he worked, and to whom he often listened.

Jazz, of many different styles, became an overriding and influencing force on all of my music, and it's still that way.

The pioneering, troubled genius Bix Beiderbecke, 1924

I do not pretend to play it on any instrument as well as I'd like, but I think a lot of very good musicians think that their whole lives, so I suppose I'm in good company.

But I know my exposure to some of the greatest players and works so early and consistently has given me a very clear understanding of certain styles and schools of playing, and it has surely made me a real nutcase for jazz!

Guitar god Charlie Christian, in the late 30's.

I can lose myself in it when the tune, instrument, tempo and sound are just right. Actually, the heck with that; it can be kinda close to decent and I can still fly off into the Cool Zone.

When I am playing, jazz can alter the way I look at my surroundings, and the people with whom I am playing. In that zone, that ecstasy of feel, I can look to the other instrumentalists and rather than seeing their faces I am seeing their light, their colors, as they express themselves on their given instruments.

We can share music without boundaries, without prejudice, and when it's in the right groove, we all become the same beautiful colors.

It's no wonder that some of the first and best examples of the breaking of the color barrier come from the realm of jazz and swing.

Benny Goodman with Christian, Auld and Cootie in 1941.

Like baseball, jazz is purely and uniquely American but played all over the world.

Unlike baseball, jazz is interesting, moving and expressive all year long.

Plus no one who ever played it well ever had a 5-year, $250 million contract. You don't get rich playing jazz. Well... not financially.

I loves me some fine swingin' jazz.

Grateful almost doesn't cover it.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thankfulness X

How to begin...

Although I have been very sincere (are you noticing, Great Pumpkin?) throughout this series, I have yet to get really raw and ultra-personal.

In fact, since opening this little pub in June, I don't think I've ever gotten too terribly personal or intimate with any of my posts. I think that's as it should be. You don't need (or care!) to know everything, and I don't wish to get all introspective and lay bare all my personal foibles and fears and so on.

I find that kind of blogging a little off-putting, actually.

Besides, this isn't really a 'blog', it's a Hallowe'en pub. Right?

But this time around, I am going to allow just a bit of very personal expression.

God, thank you so much for
The Keek!
My 4 (and a half!) year old granddaughter Kiara is the brightest light in a life full of bright lights.

"But, good sir, granddaughter? Aren't you a bit young to have --"

Yes, and it hardly matters. She's my grandkid. Deal with it.

V and I were in the UK in June of 2005 when Kiara was born, so we didn't see her until a few days after she came into the world.

I've been 'Pa', and crazy about her, ever since.

No big slideshows or sappiness... just some favorite pics, with kind permission from Mama.

These stickers were from some toy or other, but she thought she needed
a moustache and 'beard' like Pa. What the one on her arm is for is
anyone's guess.

"This snow tastes like white."

Alphabet house!

Dancing Kiara. If they ever figure out how to make tights
that don't crinkle up at little kids' ankles, I'll die.

A decidedly demure Snow White, Hallowe'en 2008.

Tinkerbell with the Great Pumpkin, Hallowe'en 2007.

Two cats, Pa and the Keek at the end of a long, wonderful Hallowe'en night, 2007.

I don't know how to really express what I feel about her any more than you do about your own kids, and therefore I don't need to try, really.

She makes me laugh, and she melts my heart, and she drives me insane, and she is bratty, sweet, kind, naughty, and just an all-around 4 year old pink, princessy little girl.

I am so grateful, so lucky she showed up.

I am so very, very thankful to be Pa.

Fider now!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thankfulness IX

I can't imagine there is anyone who visits the Skull & Pumpkin who isn't generally obsessed, or at least in serious like, with books.

I think it is in the nature of October Folk to love books. Poetry, dark prose, fantastic tales, simple romance, from the epic to the short and subtle.

It's in our blood.

And while I could attempt a massive post on my love of and thankfulness for books, I would have no idea where to start or finish such a thing.

Gutenberg? Movable type from the Chinese? Papyrus? I mean, to thank books would be like thanking water or air. I might as well just end this whole silly exercise with 'I Thank The Universe!' and get back to the spooky stuff.

Nope, I will stick with a handful of my favorite writers, in no real order, and let it go at that.

I am so happy these people were born, and did/do what they did/do:

H.G. Wells
(yes Riddles, it's uncanny.)

Harper Lee

Richard Matheson

Tom Robbins

Stephen King

J.R.R. Tolkien
(oh! what we owe thee; I could do a dozen posts on him alone.)

J.K. Rowling

Edward Gorey
(yes, he wrote too!)

Richard Brautigan

Ray Bradbury
(and oh! what we owe thee...)

Every one of these scribblers has caused me terrible joy. And wonderful sorrow. If any of them are not familiar to you, well... I suggest you begin to familiarize yourself with them. Immediately.

The shelves of the ol' S&P are loaded with the writings of these remarkable souls.

I'm not going to get all poetic and windswept like previous entries. Just read these people, as often as you can.

I am very thankful for them and their work.

Ex Libris --

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankfulness VIII

One needs to be thankful for so much in this life.

All the good, pleasant things... all the beloved, heart-moving, wondrous things.

But that's just so easy, you know?

We don't necessarily learn or gain from the happy, easy stuff. We gain so much from our trials, and learn much about ourselves, the tougher side of life, and very often that which troubled us becomes something we grow to depend upon, seek for guidance, enjoy, and sometimes even love.

And we ought to be just as thankful for those things.

Now... as I wrote in the 'monsters' post, when I was little I was terrified of, and therefore magnetically attracted to, monsters and scary things.

They presented a series of trials from which I'd learn to fight fears and find understanding in the world, which is a valuable thing. Certainly they have long since become my loves.

And there was one 'monster', the earliest monster in my memory to really terrify and disturb my safe little world, who had as much to do with sending me down the Hallowe'en lifepath as any other person, place or thing, and was my first 'boogey man' figure.

Or in this case, boogey woman.

S&P patrons, I gratefully give you

The Wicked Witch of the West!
The Wicked Witch of the West... Margaret Hamilton's Gold Standard for witches in any media since 1939.
She was perfectly evil, perfectly hideous and totally terrifying to little me and every other kid I knew, and to millions of kids over generations.

She should have gotten an award. Just so original, unique, and so perfectly wicked!

This next image represents, to my mind, the ultimate cruelty of the Witch's dark heart. Think of being a kid, crying for home and loved ones to come get you and make everything right again... and then having this hideous woman screeching your words back at you in sarcastic, ridiculing venom.

Children are hurt most by grown ups when grown ups are sarcastic and disdainful of their feelings, especially their fears ("Why are you scared? 'Waaah-waaah'! Stop being a baby!"). Here, the Witch is being more wicked than Ms. Gulch was when taking Toto, more wicked than she was herself in burning the Scarecrow or doing anything else in the story.

Mocking a kid... eeeviiiil!

Of course, she gets her comeuppance by the hands of that very kid (unintended but just as deadly):

In the days before VCRs, every telecast of The Wizard of Oz was an event, and we would look forward to it for weeks, but there was this underlying dread of having to go through the whole 'Witch thing' all over again!

But I am very grateful that I had to go through it; the Wicked Witch 'ordeal' taught me to face fears, to be kind instead of cruel, and to never, ever get on the bad side of Kansas snake oil salesmen-turned-wizards.

As witches are a symbol of Hallowe'en, and she is the ultimate symbol of wicked witchery, she became a Hallowe'en icon for me. Any picture of Hamilton's masterpiece immediately makes me think of falling leaves and candy apples.

Years later, (on October 30, 1995!) the world was reintroduced to the Wicked Witch in Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and we found she had a past, a family, a love, heartache, a cause for bitterness and a rational reason for wanting those stupid slippers.

We also discovered she had a name.

Wicked's frontispiece art by Douglas Smith.

Using the consonant sounds from L. Frank Baum's initials (LFB), Maguire came up with Elphaba. He also added a dark, difficult and decidedly not-for-children life story for her. She became an anti-hero, a forlorn lover, a champion for creatures who had no voice of their own (or were being forced into silence)... she was flawed, odd, tired, wired, needing, bleeding, mean and very, very green.

I fell in love, of course.

In 2003, Maguire's Elphaba found a singing voice and landed on Broadway.

Wicked : The Musical has been a record-breaking show ever since; it's being performed all over the world. The original cast soundtrack album featured Idina Menzel as Elphaba --

-- and I fell in love all over. Just the voice, the songs (Stephen Schwartz), the interesting take on the story... I was more grateful for the presence of this sad, mad green thing in my life than ever!

I drew pictures.

Elphie as a student at Shiz University. Pencil, ink. (2004)

There are a few other pictures but you get the idea.

I wrote a 120k+word, rambling romance about her days at Shiz with a heretofore unknown student who looked, acted and thought suspiciously like the proprietor of a certain Hallowe'en pub...

I wrote a song too, but until I get my copyright forms back from The Man, I'm leaving that off the jukebox.

My point is, the Wicked Witch inspires me. As Elphaba, she has become one of my Muses.

And not just mine. Looky what I found the other day:

Whistler's Witch? Love it.

And the best thing is that I have two witches I love far more!

V and Kiara, Hallowe'en 2008. Kiara's feet look like they belong to V, so it looks like V's got tiny little feet.

Kiara, Hallowe'en 2008
More on each of these two witches later.

I love when a scare becomes a lesson and a blessing.

I am grateful for the inspiration and thankful for the lessons, Elphaba. You have gone from a terrifying villain to... a beloved, heart-moving, wondrous thing.

"I'm mellltiiiiiing! Whataworld, whataworld..."