Friday, February 25, 2011

Son of The Ghoul Goes West, part v4.10.

Don't get up, folks, this will be brief.

Please stay in your comfy chairs and couches and barstools.

It's just your humble pubkeep making more noise about that silly Raven...

Now if you recall the Raven's voice in the videos from Hallowe'en 2011, you'll note that I gave him a bit of an Orson Welles flair.

I think he will have that voice every Hallowe'en.

But for Monsterpalooza, I am bowing to the request of Eliot Brodsky (the guy who owns and runs the whole shebang) and letting Nevermore ape (parrot? RAVEN!) the words and dripping tones of one of horror's finest thespians...

Yes, folks, Nevermore the Raven will be channeling Vincent Price at this year's convention, spouting some works of Edgar Allan Poe and famous dialogue from Price's films and stage work. 

You see, May 27th of this year marks the ONE HUNDREDTH BIRTHDAY of the late Mr. Price, and I felt only too happy to oblige Eliot's request -- it means I'll be able to display something in 2011's roster of monster conventions to tribute the great actor during his centennial year.

Now, if I could do a really good Price impression (and don't think I haven't tried!) I'd do it all myself, but until that fine day comes, I'll be sticking with whatever I can find in my audio library and of course online. I am compiling audio and editing it into usable tracks, and then will begin the arduous process of programming Nevermore to come to life via Price's remarkable, recognizably resonant voice.

I'm looking forward to it immensely.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Son of The Ghoul Goes West, part 4

I know what you're thinking.

"Wha--?! MORE of that damned bird? Dear God in Heaven, will it never end?"

Yep. And nope.

Got the claws painted up this evening...

It's easier to see the detail of wrinkles and so on.

Of course, such detail isn't really going to show up in dim candlelight and washed colors. But it looks so pretty it doesn't really matter, does it?

My beloved Vonnetta, a professional lighting director for many many years, helped me play around with different configurations of light and color.

And man! am I loving that skull candle... had to get a few different shots:

And just so you could get a quick look at how that candle flickers, here's some terrible video (but it's right side up this time!):

I think this is going to be a lovely display.

Of course, it needs a different voice. Monsterpalooza creator Eliot Brodsky requested a very neat voice, one that will please everyone, I think.

More on that next time.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Son of The Ghoul Goes West, part 3

Hello again, loyal S&P-brains!

I'm excited to show you this set of pictures; it's just an update of our dear Nevermore's progress but I am happy about each step forward!

I thought a few pictures in front of a plain background would make it easier for you to see his form.

I decided to make his 'improved' wings just as feathery-shaggy and non-descript as the rest of his feathery-shaggy-non-descript body. He looks like he just got run through the rinse cycle and left in the tumbler for a day or two.

I love it.

And as you can see, over the wiring and copper tubing that affixes him to his perch, I've sculpted some legs and talons from a little 'earthtone' Model Magic.

When they dry, I'll paint and wash them to look like they oughta. In case anyone was wondering, good close up images of raven legs and claws are hard to locate (yet it is very easy to find all kinds of images relating to Ravenclaw... go figure). I just thought about chicken legs and went for it. It's not like this is supposed to be a hyper-realistic piece.

It's easiest to see how it moves and looks so far with a little sideways video. The sound is low, but the audio isn't important here. Neither is the video, apparently, because it's sideways and I cannot fix it for some reason. At any rate if you tilt your head to your left you'll have a good ol' time.

I think it's coming along beautifully.

Cartoony, pretty, perched and perfect!

Next step is painting up those talons. Then we move on to assembling audio and then programming.

More to come.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Son of The Ghoul Goes West, part 2

Welcome, welcome.

I trust everyone's been enjoying their mid-Winter.

I think maybe Punxsutawney Phil's shadowless sojourn from a few weeks ago might be behind the recent (and truly beautiful) warm spell most of the country has been enjoying after endless weeks of snow and ice and bitterly cold temperatures.

I know it has brought us back to life here in the Ozarks; suddenly we slugs have become animated, stirred to activity and enthusiasm. Windows are open during the day, the sun has come out to play... and most importantly, some fine projects are under way.

Foremost, of course, is the 2011 Monsterpalooza Museum's animatronic avian, our own  
Nevermore the Raven.

He's getting a bit of a makeover (decent talons and finally some tail feathers!), and a brand new perch. 

Just a few days ago, my cousin Goober (you'll recall him from this post) helped me tremendously cutting the piping, drilling holes to hide the wiring trunk for all the innards and welding things together for me. He's the one whose birthday IS Hallowe'en, so maybe he just felt obliged?

Innards? Oh you bet there are. Here's a shot from an angle as you've never seen Nevermore before...

Oh boy, robotic bird guts. The chassis from an old R/C truck, a servo controller, and wires galore. Most of the servos are in his head and in front of him (on the other side of the chassis), but the one you see at the bottom controls his wing/shrug. Hidden just below it is the servo that controls his leaning. Just above that little green controller board is where I'll stick the 9v battery to power his green LED eyes.

Yes he's wingless for the moment, because I need to make somewhat better-looking wings. If this guy's going to be presented among the works of Brent Armstrong, Mike Hill, and dozens of other luminaries, his wings gots'ta have a bit more umph to 'em. Call it an artist's insecurity.

Even so, he's looking good, like he's going to really enjoy hanging out on that little perch.

Also, I figure since you're seeing so much of my messy Hallowe'en laboratory in these shots, you might wish to see an angle of it I've never really shown anyone here at the S&P before. 

Here's the other side of my workstation...

The computer is my old but very capable multitasking darling. She plays music and internet radio while I'm working, helps me record, compile and edit all of the audio I need for my figures (and all my music and numerous other sound-related projects) and of course is the programming and editing brain for all of my animatronics. Uncle Forry, to the right, has been in love with her for a few years now -- if I move him too far from that spot he grows petulant and uncooperative.

To the left of the monitor there's my longtime workhorse Sony MiniDISC recorder/player, which helped me put together the audio for my first Hallowe'en displays years ago and provided servo and audio playback for the Great Pumpkin for many years.

You'll also see, at lower left, the core of my sound system -- a truly minty Kenwood KR4600 FM/AM Stereo Receiver from 1977. Everything audio I play in the lab goes in, out and through that beautiful beast.

FM only sounds good when it looks like this. 

What I really love is that it has the old flywheel tuning that you spinnnnnnnnnn and the speakers go  phthpthpppthhhtttpthtphtttphtptphttt! and the needles bob around and the warmest, richest sound comes floating out. 

There is nothing like hearing Boris Karloff telling ghost stories through this baby -- I swear to God you feel the voice in your feet.

In love.

By the way, just now while I was looking for another picture of this receiver on the web, the very first image I saw was on a blog about vintage '70s stereo gear -- the picture of the blogger's own KR4600 was posted on October 31st, 2009! How much do I adore that coincidental bit of Hallowe'en love?

But enough about vintage audio. I could go on about that all night long. Vonnetta will attest to that.

So, Nevermore is on his way to becoming what I need him to be come Monsterpalooza. He'll get new wings, myriad accessories for his little parlor table, and a new (but very familiar) voice. More on that in future updates. I think you'll appreciate it.

Ah, Raven of mine...

I think we're going to have some fine times.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Romance, romonsters.

 Happy St. Valentine's Day.
 You little monsters.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Somebody to love.

Welcome, welcome.

So glad to see you all decided to head here after your various romantical meals for a drop of warmth and mid-February lovelight by the fire.

We certainly have your favorite libation. This time around, I'm going to say Dragonmamma's buying the first round for everyone, then you're all on your own.

While you're relaxing, I thought you'd like to see something perfectly monstery, Hallowe'eny and romantic all at once.

Way back in 1997, your humble pubkeep and his truly remarkable love Vonnetta created this video as a bit of a Valentine's Day joke to show at a friend's Anti-Valentine's Day party.

EDIT: There is one very brief but nevertheless very bloody clip at 3:58 herein; little kids and sensitive adults view at their risk. Ain't Horror Love the best?

Long before affordable PCs could do it more easily (we didn't own one yet anyway), and using our modest home video editing bay, we created this ode to ghoulish desire, this prayer for companionship in a world so cruelly dismissive of monster love.

From over 65 different films (mostly horror... mostly) and the fantastic music of Freddie Mercury and Queen, the Skull & Pumpkin is delighted to present 



It's even more fun when you know the full lyrics!

Troublingly, it got quite a bit dimmer and a lot fuzzier in transferring it to DVD then my computer then to the 'blog. It kinda makes me sad.

But I guarantee you'll only see it here at the Skull & Pumpkin.

Once again -- excellent work, V.

A toast to Valentine's Eve, Day and Night, and to letting your beloved know you love them every day.


Son of The Ghoul Goes West.

Well, preliminary round, perhaps.

Very soon, I will be boring you with my preparations for this year's Monsterpalooza.

I know I do not need to explain what Monsterpalooza is, right?

Click the little poster on the left if you don't know already.

But before I get into what I will be putting together to take along to the Museum, I wanted to at least show you one prop I've just made that will be a neat little part of the display.

Yes, his electronic/PVC/hot glue/red paint candle actually flickers beautifully (though you cannot quite tell in these images; video will come along next month).

He works very nicely, weighs next to nothing (the 9V battery is the heaviest element), and I think he'll make a fabulous addition to the display I'm taking to the Museum.

For me, though, the most prideful part of making this little fella is that right at this very moment, I kid you not, he is serving as a nightlight for my granddaughter Kiara She "just loves this" and thinks it's "just so cute" and is deciding on a name for him when she wakes; her initial 'One Eye Candle Skull', while perfectly descriptive, didn't really make anyone call the ad execs.

I mean, seriously, S&Pers -- as I type, she's blissfully asleep while this little guy glows and flickers a foot away from her. This after she fell asleep reading a pop up book about Dracula visiting the dentist.

SUCH a proud Pa!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

And now a word from our sponsor.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Old tubes, part eleven

Oh it's cold out there tonight.

Last night was even colder. In these parts, some are saying it was the coldest night we've felt in a decade. Eight to ten below. With wind... brrrr!

As I was listening to the howling wind beyond the old shuttered windows, trying my best to not think about the Grither (dear God I said his name!), I began to hear a sputtering, humming racket from the old Hallowe'enith radio. And lo! New programs for our vintage listening pleasure!

First, the legendary CBS Mercury Theatre on the Air brings us their retelling of Dracula, first broadcast in July of 1938 (mere months before their infamous, historic War of the Worlds drama). Why Dracula? Well, the most famous film version, the 1931 Bela Lugosi original, was released as a Valentine's treat, billed as 'the strangest love story ever told' -- and with the young, beautiful Agnes Moorehead as Mina swooning under the spell of Welles as The Count, I think it still charms as much as horrifies. Fine for Feb-BOO-ary.

Then, a weird little scribble from the pen of the twisted Arch Oboler. Originally broadcast in late February of 1943, Lights Out - The Ball (Paris Macabre) tells the odd tale of two young American men on the prowl in romantic Paris, looking for love at a masquerade ball, and a rather unexpected turn of horrific events.

Yes, in Paris as much as anywhere, romance can lead to utter horror; and from Transylvania to Whitby, some horrors can seem quite romantic.

It might be ironic , or just poetic.

In any case, I hope you can find the hour and a half  to enjoy them both at your leisure. You're not really going anywhere soon anyway, are you? I mean, the wind and biting cold will be waiting for you no matter when you depart.

Have another round, stoke the fire, and just listen.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"You were not put upon this Earth to 'get it'!"

A message from David Lo Pan himself.

And a contest?

And you're not going because...?

Monsterpalooza '11. We'll be posting all about The Raven and the next 'Ghoul Goes West' adventure very soon... cannot wait!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feb-BOO-ary is Runtmonth.

I know.

"What the #$% is Runtmonth?"

Not long ago my niece Livy was bemoaning the seeming endlessness of January, and I made mention of February's kindness in being so brief, nearly making up for Month Number One wearing out its welcome.

I also mentioned that being the shortest month, February is the runt of months. Hence, Runtmonth.

Today being Runtmonth the First, or simply Runtmonth's Day (or, if you want to use the medieval vulgarity, 'Runtmas'), I thought I should celebrate and put some new music on the ol' S&P jukebox.

Famously, Runtmonth is the month of that insidiously stupid/fun Valentine's thing -- seriously, the red, white and pink in all the stores is killing me, plus we should all be telling our romantic loves that we love them 'that way' far more often than on V-Day (and their birthdays and/or New Year's Eve). 

Still, love is in the air on lustrous, blanketed nights in deep Winter, and here at the Skull & Pumpkin we take no exception... we just tilt it ever so slightly in the direction of Autumn.

(source: the incredible Laurie Lipton)

As is S&P tradition, I have added Vince Guaraldi's charming Heartburn Waltz just after his Great Pumpkin Waltz. Two Guaraldi waltzes never hurt anyone.

Next up, another Feb-BOO-ary S&P tradition -- the main theme from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Franz Waxman's score is riddled with repeated motifs, and each is presented in this piece. You'll hear the music of the Monster, his Mate, and his Makers all in a handful of musical minutes. Ah, unrequited monster love.

Then, because it's pretty and I like it and it's my pub, I offer Trevor Jones' beautiful love theme from The Dark Crystal (1982). One of the most influential and inspirational films of my life, Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal abounds with monstrously beautiful beings. Heroes Jen and Kira are the least monstrous but still retain an alien, almost nightmarish beauty. 

And now for something completely different.

From their Feb-boo-ary 1965 debut album, folk duo Mitch & Mickey's wondrous When You're Next To Me makes me smile from the very first note, and is the kind of love song I wish more artists made -- lighthearted without losing depth, sincere without being gushy, moving without being morose. Theirs was a fiery marriage and career, full of conflict and passion, but they made beautiful music. Also, you may choose to think it's really Eugene Levy and Katherine O'Hara from the 2005 mockumentary classic A Mighty Wind, but that's totally not true.

Finally, a love song hailing from my own heritage -- the classic American standard Somebody Loves Me off of the soundtrack LP from the 1955 film Pete Kelly's Blues.

You'll hear Jack Webb's brief introduction, then Pete Kelly's Big 7 Band, led by my dad Dick Cathcart on trumpet.

I've kept the two ghostly folk songs from the previous post because they still deserve a listen for a while. They have merely been moved to positions 7 and 8.

Love, love, love.

It's at the core of Runtmonth.

Oh! that we could see Runtmonth spirit all the year 'round...