Buy #beautifulbooks: “Witches and Witchcraft”

So much content, so little time. And so little storage space.

This is a recurring theme in my life — everywhere I look, I’m surrounded by a bounty of great content — podcasts, streaming services, cable TV, Spotify music, vinyl records and CDs, digital and print magazines, blogs, movies, comics, e-books, tree books and more.

I can’t own a physical copy of everything. There simply isn’t enough space in my 3-bedroom, ranch-style home. So where do I draw the line when it comes to books?

A few years back, I decided that I would only purchase “beautiful books.” Of course, this is a subjective term. To me, it means that I only buy physical copies of books that have beautiful images, typography and artwork. In other words, books that cannot be fully appreciated in a digital format.

Today’s #beautifulbook is “Witches and Witchcraft.”

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When I was a kid growing up in the small town of Barberton, Ohio, I lived at the local public library. On those dusty shelves, I discovered so many books, including Time-Life’s “Mysteries of the Unknown” series.

I had not thought of these books in years, but they re-entered my orbit last week when I listened to an episode of “My Favorite Murder” in which the ladies described the books (gifted to them by the mysterious sound-man, Steven).

A wave of nostalgia hit me during their discussion. There are 33 books in the series and they have black hardcovers with ornate cover art. The cover of “Witches and Witchcraft” has a sword-wielding witch worthy of a doom metal album, and for me it will always be the most memorable.

The first part of the book focuses on the history and persecution of witches. There is beautiful typography throughout (like this little goat on the letter V), and silver spot color on the pages.

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The silver spot color is especially lovely on the images of woodcuts.

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The writing is clear and concise, which makes this a fun book to pick up for a short sitting or to leave on your coffee table for guests.

There’s also a cool section on the witch’s garden, which intrigued me as a child. I used to imagine that I could gather the plants and perhaps work some magic of my own.

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The last part of the book focuses on modern witchcraft — new age practitioners, wiccans and other heathens. Again, the images are great.

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If you’re looking for a #beautifulbook to add to your collection, I highly recommend the series. They are all available on Amazon and don’t cost too much.

In the bag: Cinema Wasteland Edition

Our wallets may have been empty, but our shopping bag was bursting at the seams when we left Cinema Wasteland on Sunday. Here’s what we picked up (read on for the details).

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  • Delirium Magazine #9 and #10: Presented by Full Moon, the cult/horror/sci-fi/exploitation magazine is a 50/50 mix of Full Moon features and other relevant content, such as the feature on Psycho II or interview with Gene Simmons.
  • Autographed photos from “Street Trash” panelists: actor Mike Lackey (who played Fred), writer/producer Roy Frumkes, and make-up artist Jennifer Aspinall.
  • Autographed “Street Trash” comic book by artist/actor Mike Lackey.
  • “Tourist Trap” vinyl soundtrack – A beautifully remastered version of the 1979 cult film soundtrack, released on Waxwork Records.
  • Franken-Heart tote bag from Pallbearer Press (a real steal at $5!)
  • Suspiria patch – I was lucky enough to snag a T-shirt from the Goblin show in Cleveland a couple years back with the same art, and I can’t tell you enough how much I love it. It’s got a simple, iconic design, and it’s going to look amazing on the back of my denim vest. FYI – Pallbearer Press also has a lovely enamel pin with the same design.
  • Silver Shamrock (“Halloween III” patch) – Also from Pallbearer Press, it has me wondering, “How many days ’til Halloween?”
  • “Escape from New York” mug – What can I say? I like to drink my morning coffee under the watchful eye of Snake Plisskin (literally, I would like that).  
  • “Friday the 13th Part V, Cinema Wasteland commentary edition” DVD – We were in the audience when the guest panel did commentary over Part V a few years back. You can probably hear us laughing in the audience during the classic song, “Ooh, Baby.” So we had to pick up this gem for just $5.
  • “The Thing” zipper hoodie: I love this movie so much, and this hoodie is beautiful — stylized art on the front, back and both sleeves. Bonus — it’s safe for wearing to pick up the kids at preschool (not true of the equally awesome “They Live” hoodie that the same vendor was selling, which featured Roddy Piper’s classic quote, “I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I’m all out of bubble gum.”).IMG_4299

Weekend flashback: Cinema Wasteland

I’m still basking in the post-Cinema-Wasteland afterglow (that’s me, below, basking in my new “The Thing” hoodie). What a show!As I mentioned in my preview, we were only able to attend on Saturday and Sunday, but what a whirlwind, jam-packed couple of days they were (check out my Storify to see all the tweets using #cinemawasteland, including my own from @andrearogers).  We picked up our passes (super-cool, by the way, see the front and back below) and began our Wasteland journey.

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The fun started in typical fashion — with The Three Stooges on film. My husband, Dave, and his brother belly-laughed so hard they almost had to leave the movie room. A quick lunch and peak in the dealer room, and we were on to the first big event — the main event, really — the “Street Trash” screening and guest panel. We’re long-time fans of the low-brow, low-budget horror comedy. It’s one of those great gems of the ’80s that could never be made today because it is extremely politically incorrect and a total splatter fest. The promo art for the reunion really sums it up.

street_trash_reunionIn between the movie and the panel, I snapped a quick selfie with Dave. As you can see, we were all smiles, partially because we had some much-needed time away from our little ones, but mostly because we have attended every convention since it started except one (for the birth of our daughter) and it’s the highlight of our Spring and Fall.   The panel discussion was perfect — a few wisecracks from Tony Darrow (who starred in “Goodfellas” shortly after he wrapped on “Street Trash”), some great stories from the trenches, and insightful commentary on the special effects from make-up artist Jennifer Aspinall, who is still in the biz today.

Writer and producer Roy Frumkes shared a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story about finding a long-lost, trunk-full of film many years later that is re-told in the making-of documentary, “The Meltdown Memoirs.” I have yet to see that, but definitely need to, so hopefully I remember it right — apparently some of the film was stored in the trunk of a car at the junkyard, which was later raided by the FBI, who then sold the cars at auction, and after many years, someone contacted Frumkes because his name was on the containers in the trunk. And voila! Lost footage found, 2-hour documentary produced.
 After the panel, we used the time before our next guest event to get our autographs from the “Street Trash” folks. It was tough to pare it down, but we settled on actor Mike Lackey (who played Fred), writer/producer Roy Frumkes, and make-up artist Jennifer Aspinall.

After starring in “Street Trash,” Lackey went on to a career at Marvel as an artist, and he recently inked a comic adaptation of “Street Trash” that hearkens back to the sleazy indie comics of the ’70s and ’80s.
IMG_3094He not only signed a copy for us, he took the time to draw an original sketch in the back, and snapped a photo with us. Like all the guests at Cinema Wasteland, the “Street Trash” panel members were kind and took the time to share memories and laughs with us. It’s really all about the films and guests at Cinema Wasteland — that’s what makes this a great show that is truly for fans. IMG_3096Up next was “King Kong Escapes,” introduced by actress Linda Miller. Our 4-year-old daughter is a huge Toho fan, and we have been watching “King Kong vs. Godzilla” on repeat since the Easter Bunny left it in her basket (with a Jet Jaguar bank, no less), so we were primed for this one.

What we weren’t prepared for was the heartfelt introduction Miller gave. Although her filmography is short, she has many sweet and funny stories about filming this wacky, action-packed, rubber-suit-monster filled classic in Japan. She expressed genuine gratitude for the warmth and outpouring of love from fans of the film. Here she is with us, posing for a quick photo after we nabbed her autograph. IMG_3097After the movie, we met up with our BFFs for a long, relaxed dinner (burgers, beers and great discussion about movies and music), and we closed the night watching “Green Slime.”

Jump ahead to Sunday morning — we popped into the Christian short, “The Sunshine Factory,” then took a few minutes to peruse the merchandise in the dealer room before watching the made-for-TV movie, “Covenant” on 16 mm. Ken, the show’s organizer, told us that he collects made-for-TV movies on film, and we always enjoy his Sunday morning offerings. I must say, this was a terrible movie — too much hairspray and shoulder pads and hardly any action, plot or character development. Not to mention there was really no ending — it was as if the filmmakers ran out of budget and just rolled the credits. No worries, though — this is part of the charm of Cinema Wasteland. We had a ball making snarky comments under our breath. Our last viewing was The Little Rascals’ “Kid from Borneo,” a short film with those lovable cuties.  Good, clean fun — Wasteland style.

Before we headed home to be parental, we shopped for about an hour in the dealer room, and walked away with an impressive haul. I’ll do a more detailed post on our finds later, but here’s a snapshot of everything we took home.

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Curated: Week of Jan. 25

  • “‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’: An Original, Effective and Highly Influential Pillar of Horror Cinema”: This article from Cinephelia & Beyond is a primer on TCM. It includes the history behind the film, behind-the-scenes photos, interviews with Tobe Hooper and Gunnar Hanson, a link to the PDF of the script, and an embedded documentary from Blue Underground called “The Shocking Truth.” It’s a virtual museum exhibit, a fan’s delight.
  • “Who Knows Best”: The author, Lisa Miller, asks the provocative question, “How smart do you have to be to raise a child?” and examines the answer through the case of Sara Gordon, a young woman with an IQ of 70, whose child was taken from her shortly after she gave birth. As a parent, reading this, you can’t help but wonder, “How would I perform as a parent if my daily habits were examined under a microscope?”

How I spent my winter vacation, part 2: reading “The Strain”

strainEver since the show debuted a couple years ago, I’ve been wanting to read “The Strain” trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. If there’s one upside to having stomach flu, it’s having the time to read. Followed by a week off for Christmas vacation, I sailed through the first book.

“The Strain” is a fun, fast, at times intense, read. A mashup between the vampire/zombie/apocalyptic genres, the book starts with a frightening, ominous scene, a “dead” plane stuck on the runway, filled with lifeless passengers. I actually had trouble sleeping (and that says something for a horror junkie like me) after reading the beginning of this book.

Del Toro and Hogan start with this classically frightening scenario (for what is scarier than the unknown threat?), and very quickly build on it to craft a fast-moving, new take on vampire lore.

The main character, Ephraim Goodweather, is as flawed as he is likable. At once a failed family man and devoted father, he is quickly converted from rational scientist to a warrior driven to partial madness by an enemy he is only beginning to understand.

As I take a bite out of the second book, I have a lot of questions about the fate of these characters, and about the backstory of the Ancients. Unfortunately, now that I’m back to the daily grind, I don’t have as much time to read (and I certainly don’t want to get the flu again). I’m only about 5% in to “The Fall,” according to my 1st generation Kindle, but it seems to be equally engaging. I’ll follow up when I’m finished, so stay tuned.

Curated: Week of Nov. 30

  • How Did This Get Made: Hackers (An Oral History): This long read is a deep dive into the ’90s classic “Hackers.” if you’re anything like me, you’ll read this, immediately queue up the flick on Netflix, and revel in the exquisite glory of Rollerblades, Playstation, and Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie and Matthew Lillard before they were stars. Crash and Burn forever, baby.
  • The Gossamer Pleasures of Faerie Magazine: Thanks to the New York Times Magazine, I have another title to add to my reading list. This is a beautifully written piece about a lifestyle magazine for people who believe (or suspend disbelief) in fairies. Enough said.
  • Björk’s astonishing new video was shot from inside her mouth: I’m a big fan of the Icelandic artist, and I love this new video. It is strange, slightly off-putting, and just like Björk, truly original.

Curated: Week of Nov. 23

  • Skeletons in the closet: An interview with Glenn Danzig – I have to hand it to interviewer Jonathan Dick, this is a great, no-nonsense piece that focuses on the music. Having just seen Danzig play The Agora in Cleveland, I can tell you firsthand that he still has one of the best voices in metal, and oh, that swagger. I like that Dick takes a minute to set up the interview by setting aside all the nonsense. The two talk about Danzig’s musical influences, who he has influenced (the list is long), and his upcoming covers album, Skeletons.
  • Beauty mantras from old-school Hollywood stars – “Be yourself. The world worships the original.” – Ingrid Bergman
  • Tremors series reboot starring Kevin Bacon in the works – Hands down, the best news I’ve read all week. The VHS-era classic, USA Up All Night staple, is one of those movies that really sticks out in my childhood memory bank. Side note: While fact-checking my Up All Night reference, I found this amazing list of all the movies that aired on the show. If I had the time, I’d make a movie marathon out of it, although I suspect some titles might be tough to find.

Curated: Week of Nov. 9

  • Caged: What drives Ronda Rousey to wake up and fight: 2015 has been the year of Ronda Rousey. And if you ask me, all that attention is well deserved. This profile in Esquire explores Rousey’s rise, motivations and rage. I love that she owns her anger, and challenges the definition of femininity. There’s a lot to take away from this piece. My favorite quote from Rousey?
    “This person disrespected you and your family and could go beat you up and take everything that you cared and worked for and you’ll just be the biggest loser ever. Or, they can disrespect you and your family and you can beat them in such a devastating way that no one would ever dare to mention your family again.” 
  • It’s going to be OK: If your week has been crazy, stressful or sad, I recommend you head over to The Oatmeal and read the newest comic.  The creator, Matthew Inman, was the first to admit it’s not his typical irreverent style, but it’s well worth a look. Through the story of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, he reminds us that life is short and we have to jump on the chance to make it meaningful, in spite of all the crazy stuff that happens.
  • Does the Parental Advisory Label still matter? Newsweek is doing a series on the iconic black and white warning label, emblazoned into the collective memory of my generation. In this second installment, we get a brief history of the label, brought about by Tipper Gore’s ridiculous crusade against artists in the late ’80s and early ’90s. My takeaway? The Internet is a beautiful thing for artists, even if they are still struggling to wrap their minds around how to make money in the digital age. As an aside, if you want to be inspired, check out Dee Snider (of Twisted Sister) in this video, testifying before congress on the rights of artists and censorship.