Another Excerpt from "The Jungle", Chapter 13

His labor took him about one minute to learn. Before him was one of the vents of the mill in which the fertilizer was being ground-- rushing forth in a great brown river, with a spray of the finest dust flung forth in clouds. Jurgis was given a shovel, and along with half a dozen others it was his task to shovel this fertilizer into carts. That others were at work he knew by the sound, and by the fact that he sometimes collided with them; otherwise they might as well not have been there, for in the blinding dust storm a man could not see six feet in front of his face. When he had filled one cart he had to grope around him until another came, and if there was none on hand he continued to grope till one arrived. In five minutes he was, of course, a mass of fertilizer from head to feet; they gave him a sponge to tie over his mouth, so that he could breathe, but the sponge did not prevent his lips and eyelids from caking up with it and his ears from filling solid. He looked like a brown ghost at twilight--from hair to shoes he became the color of the building and of everything in it, and for that matter a hundred yards outside it. The building had to be left open, and when the wind blew Durham and Company lost a great deal of fertilizer.  
Working in his shirt sleeves, and with the thermometer at over a hundred, the phosphates soaked in through every pore of Jurgis' skin, and in five minutes he had a headache, and in fifteen was almost dazed. The blood was pounding in his brain like an engine's throbbing; there was a frightful pain in the top of his skull, and he could hardly control his hands. Still, with the memory of his four months' siege behind him, he fought on, in a frenzy of determination; and half an hour later he began to vomit--he vomited until it seemed as if his inwards must be torn into shreds. A man could get used to the fertilizer mill, the boss had said, if he would make up his mind to it; but Jurgis now began to see that it was a question of making up his stomach.  

At the end of that day of horror, he could scarcely stand. He had to catch himself now and then, and lean against a building and get his bearings. Most of the men, when they came out, made straight for a saloon--they seemed to place fertilizer and rattlesnake poison in one class. But Jurgis was too ill to think of drinking--he could only make his way to the street and stagger on to a car. He had a sense of humor, and later on, when he became an old hand, he used to think it fun to board a streetcar and see what happened. Now, however, he was too ill to notice it--how the people in the car began to gasp and sputter, to put their handkerchiefs to their noses, and transfix him with furious glances. Jurgis only knew that a man in front of him immediately got up and gave him a seat; and that half a minute later the two people on each side of him got up; and that in a full minute the crowded car was nearly empty--those passengers who could not get room on the platform having gotten out to walk.  

Of course Jurgis had made his home a miniature fertilizer mill a minute after entering. The stuff was half an inch deep in his skin-- his whole system was full of it, and it would have taken a week not merely of scrubbing, but of vigorous exercise, to get it out of him. As it was, he could be compared with nothing known to men, save that newest discovery of the savants, a substance which emits energy for an unlimited time, without being itself in the least diminished in power. He smelled so that he made all the food at the table taste, and set the whole family to vomiting; for himself it was three days before he could keep anything upon his stomach--he might wash his hands, and use a knife and fork, but were not his mouth and throat filled with the poison?  



Look, Mutations (aka "Freakmaker") has showed up on the youtube movies page. Already highly recommended in a previous post, this update of Freaks starring Tom Baker and Donald Pleasance is a can't-miss.

Movie is not embeddable. Start HERE instead.

By the way, youtube movies suddenly has hundreds of choices. Check it out here.


The Jungle

I'm visiting Chicago and preoccupied, therefore unable to keep up with the blistering one-post-per-day rate this blog has maintained so faithfully for so long. But I'm taking the opportunity to finally read The Jungle, which is fitting, because even though the stockyards are gone, few things have changed in Chicago over the last 100 years. An excerpt from chapter 3:

Entering one of the Durham buildings, they found a number of other visitors waiting; and before long there came a guide, to escort them through the place. They make a great feature of showing strangers through the packing plants, for it is a good advertisement. But the visitors did not see any more than the packers wanted them to. They climbed a long series of stairways outside of the building, to the top of its five or six stories. Here was the chute, with its river of hogs, all patiently toiling upward; there was a place for them to rest to cool off, and then through another passageway they went into a room from which there is no returning for hogs.

It was a long, narrow room, with a gallery along it for visitors. At the head there was a great iron wheel, about twenty feet in circumference, with rings here and there along its edge. Upon both sides of this wheel there was a narrow space, into which came the hogs at the end of their journey; in the midst of them stood a great burly Negro, bare-armed and bare-chested. He was resting for the moment, for the wheel had stopped while men were cleaning up. In a minute or two, however, it began slowly to revolve, and then the men upon each side of it sprang to work. They had chains which they fastened about the leg of the nearest hog, and the other end of the chain they hooked into one of the rings upon the wheel. So, as the wheel turned, a hog was suddenly jerked off his feet and borne aloft.

At the same instant the car was assailed by a most terrifying shriek; the visitors started in alarm, the women turned pale and shrank back. The shriek was followed by another, louder and yet more agonizing-- for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back; at the top of the wheel he was shunted off upon a trolley, and went sailing down the room. And meantime another was swung up, and then another, and another, until there was a double line of them, each dangling by a foot and kicking in frenzy--and squealing. The uproar was appalling, perilous to the eardrums; one feared there was too much sound for the room to hold--that the walls must give way or the ceiling crack. There were high squeals and low squeals, grunts, and wails of agony; there would come a momentary lull, and then a fresh outburst, louder than ever, surging up to a deafening climax. It was too much for some of the visitors--the men would look at each other, laughing nervously, and the women would stand with hands clenched, and the blood rushing to their faces, and the tears starting in their eyes.

Meantime, heedless of all these things, the men upon the floor were going about their work. Neither squeals of hogs nor tears of visitors made any difference to them; one by one they hooked up the hogs, and one by one with a swift stroke they slit their throats. There was a long line of hogs, with squeals and lifeblood ebbing away together; until at last each started again, and vanished with a splash into a huge vat of boiling water.

It was all so very businesslike that one watched it fascinated. It was porkmaking by machinery, porkmaking by applied mathematics. And yet somehow the most matter-of-fact person could not help thinking of the hogs; they were so innocent, they came so very trustingly; and they were so very human in their protests--and so perfectly within their rights! They had done nothing to deserve it; and it was adding insult to injury, as the thing was done here, swinging them up in this cold-blooded, impersonal way, without a pretense of apology, without the homage of a tear. Now and then a visitor wept, to be sure; but this slaughtering machine ran on, visitors or no visitors. It was like some horrible crime committed in a dungeon, all unseen and unheeded, buried out of sight and of memory.

One could not stand and watch very long without becoming philosophical, without beginning to deal in symbols and similes, and to hear the hog squeal of the universe. Was it permitted to believe that there was nowhere upon the earth, or above the earth, a heaven for hogs, where they were requited for all this suffering? Each one of these hogs was a separate creature. Some were white hogs, some were black; some were brown, some were spotted; some were old, some young; some were long and lean, some were monstrous. And each of them had an individuality of his own, a will of his own, a hope and a heart's desire; each was full of self- confidence, of self-importance, and a sense of dignity. And trusting and strong in faith he had gone about his business, the while a black shadow hung over him and a horrid Fate waited in his pathway. Now suddenly it had swooped upon him, and had seized him by the leg. Relentless, remorseless, it was; all his protests, his screams, were nothing to it-- it did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out his life. And now was one to believe that there was nowhere a god of hogs, to whom this hog personality was precious, to whom these hog squeals and agonies had a meaning? Who would take this hog into his arms and comfort him, reward him for his work well done, and show him the meaning of his sacrifice?


LDS: Live and Lo-Fi

LDS did a session a couple weeks ago, and made the mistake of recording from the room monitor mics rather than directly from the soundboard. So the fidelity is thin, and it's integrated with the sounds of us shuffling around and throwing switches. It has its moments, although the lack of recording quality will probably restrict it from appearing anywhere other than here on futurechimp.com, where standards are low.

station 1: powerbook running synth software, chimera bc16, ribbon synth, circuit-bent speak and math.

station 2: nintendo ds running synth software, kaosillator pad, circuit-bent tibetan prayer box, contact mic.


The Children

If you're going to see only one Killer Zombie Children Movie this holiday season with your family, make it The Children.

You know how lucky you are to have the opportunity to see this in the comfort of your own home? According to imdb.com, when this movie had its opening weekend at a drive-in near Tucson, Arizona in 1980, there was a line of cars that stretched for six miles.

Perhaps I can pique your interest with a couple of clips:

This is currently out-of-print on DVD, but is available online. If you have Netflix, you can watch it using their streaming feature HERE. If not, youtube has a high-rez feature-length video HERE.


Festival of Rot

Seeing Through Commercials

Our fifth grade class saw this on 16mm in 1980. It made a big impression on me at the time, and still does. I hope schoolkids are continuing to be taught the fundamentals of critical thinking, a healthy suspicion towards propaganda, and the importance of keeping realistic expectations.


Little Red Riding Hood and The Monsters

This is from the same Mexican studio that made the Santa Claus movie, and was dubbed by American distributor K. Gordon Murray. Circa mid-to-late 60's, it actually screened in the USA's matinee circuit. Imagine that.

I won't lie, this movie hurts. But the trauma quotient makes it rewarding. The songs and costumes are sickening, and the shrill voices and bad dubbing make it even more surreal than it may have been in its original language. It doesn't help that the girl who plays Red Riding Hood gives the "kid" from Burial Ground a run for his money in sheer creep-factor. (that link is slightly NSFW)

Everything I've posted on "Movie of the Week" is highly recommended, but inevitably as time passes, the volume of films might diminish the vehemence of my recommendations. That said, you owe it to yourself to at least try the first few minutes of this week's offering. Don't just take my word for it, listen to these testimonials pulled from the imdb.com comment board:

"I saw this movie with my dad when I was 4 years old. I'm 48 now, and I can honestly say that this is the most freaked out I have ever been by a movie."

"Some of the animal costumes are so molting and gross, it actually looks as if the fur has fleas or scabies."

"I love Eraserhead, Shinya Tsukamoto, David Cronenberg, Peter Haneke, all the notorious Italian cannibal films, mondo cinema, Jess Franco, Joe D'Amato. I've seen it all! But I am proud (ashamed?) to say that this is one of the first movies I have ever turned off because it freaked me out."

"Its odd how this Studio Azteca kiddie flick is probably more horrifying and nightmare inducing than any of their actual horror films."

"This is the holy grail of weirdo kiddie movies, the ultimate wicked fairy tale, a morbid, bizarre case of Grand Guignol for kids in the most odd permutation of genres ever concocted."

Part one (sorry, it's ten minute segments) is linked below. You can also get it on DVD-R from this guy, along with many other K. Gordon Murray Mexican imports. Or buy it in Spanish at amazon.

Enter The Videodrome


The Art of Etsy

I haven't been selling things on Etsy.com for very long, but so far it has treated me well. I was featured on one of their "editor's picks" mailers, and have done almost $200 in sales in the last few weeks. Not bad, considering that it's the only way I've sold anything through the internet, which includes this stupid blog of mine.

So in the spirit of free enterprise, I thought I'd highlight the work of other Etsy sellers. These are all two-dimensional paintings and drawings that have already been featured on Regretsy.com, a "worst of Etsy" blog that you're probably familiar with already, but is new to me since I'm always late to the party. Out of respect for that blog, I'm only including quotes from the artists themselves on their original Etsy pages. Click the images to go to the sellers' stores:

"Original Acrylic Bird Man Painting"
"In my paintings I love depicting people and animals. Well, this one has a little of both... It has to do with setting your appropriate boundaries."

"The Belly Button Witch"
"I dreamed of this one night and woke up in a dead sweat. I dont know what it means but felt compelled to put it to canvas. This woman like creature just walked up told a man to lift his shirt grabbed his belly button in her teeth and ripped it from his abdomen. While blood was spilling out of him she just sat there holding it in her teeth. This comes as a 16x20 inch acrylic that has been glazed for durablity."

"Nazi Killer 2"
"Acrylic paint on broken skateboard. I HATE NAZI SKINHEADS!"

"She's Got Big Tits"
"signed limited edition Epson Print (out of 50), 8 1/2" by 11" on matte Epson paper"

"Kitten Head on Amputee"
"The series of cat heads is a superimposition of a soft, cute image on top of images of violence, removing any visual expression of violence from the face of the subject. The few times people have seen these they usually completely focus on the soft aspect. The usual reaction is "Oh, how cute!", even in an over-serious academic environment. The series is meant to depict the inability to perceive or understand the violence of a society because of previous and mostly visual association with visual aspects of benevolence."


Faces of Death

Oh, don't be so offended. It isn't a "snuff" film. It's a badly faked mondo film, and a funny one at that.

Granted, there are a few scenes of actual human death (the political assassination, the bouncing skydiver, the movie stunt gone wrong) but those are bloodless and benign, and the rest of the movie is clearly, obviously fake. There is plenty of animal death depicted (a staple of mondo movies), but it doesn't constitute "animal cruelty" in the conventional sense, due to the fact that it's footage of slaughterhouses. Meat-eaters should have no problem with it. I would argue that footage to be of value, actually. But for laughs, it doesn't compare to the monkey brain dinner, about 20 minutes in (which is fake).

These days, you can go online and watch a video of Saddam Hussein being executed, Steve Irwin getting a Stingray tail in his heart, or that poor girl in Tehran bleeding to death. I've seen none of those, and don't plan to in the future. It's hard to imagine why anyone would. But I have no problem with phony huckster movies like this one.

For more about this ridiculous series, and info about the new Blu-Ray release, get your death on at - where else - facesofdeath.com, yo.

Mazes and Monsters

This commercial was on the air around the time I was playing Dungeons and Dragons, between the sixth and eighth grades. And I know I mentioned it in yesterday's post, but that isn't what inspired me to post about it. This morning, Boingboing.net happened to showcase this Canadian news magazine piece, also from the 80's:

(part two)

It's very much a part of the Reagan zeitgeist: parents were told to be afraid of the things their children were imagining they were doing. Kids have no business indulging their creativity. No good can come of it.

After all, remember what happened to little Tommy Hanks in Mazes and Monsters:


Berwyn: Art Mecca

I grew up a block away from Berwyn, a lower-middle class, blue-collar suburb bordering the West side of Chicago which was populated largely by Eastern European immigrants. Not the sort of place where you'd find much of an art community. The nearest shopping center was Cermak Plaza, which contained no-frills practical stores like Sears, Woolworth's and Service Merchandise. The most esoteric retailer was the hobby shop where I'd go to buy model rocket kits and Dungeons and Dragons modules.

So it was quite a shock to see this ugly heap of concrete and trash erected in 1980:

This atrocious Nazi hate-crime tainted my childhood. It's so hideous, I couldn't even find a color photo on the internet. Sitting right alongside Harlem avenue (a major thoroughfare), but just inside the parking lot, the sculpture was named "Big Bil-Bored", making the title just as stupid and arbitrary as the object itself.

Right away, Berwyn residents started complaining. But there was little they could do; Cermak Plaza was privately owned by David Bermant, who paid $25,000 for the unsightly behemoth. Its creator, Nancy Rubins (she's gone on to do some okay work; she has a piece permanently installed in the courtyard of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art) specifically said it could never be moved.

Bermant felt he had a winner on his hands, and ignored all the protests. Even ten years later, local politicians were trying to get it torn down. In 1990, a referendum was held to check on public opinion. 6,379 over 1,662 were in favor of trashing the trash-heap. But Bermant said that only 20% of Berwyn was represented. And besides, non-Berwyn residents visited the shopping center as well.

Finally, mercifully, Big Bil-Bored was torn down in 1993 for safety reasons. There were concerns that the metal in the sculpture (consumer items like fans and bicycles) would rust away and compromise the structural integrity.

But I always appreciated Cermak Plaza, because Bermant followed up "Big Bil-Bored" with loads of other sculptures, scattered throughout the parking lot. Just outside the Woolworth's was a clock by George Rhodes similar to this one:

Then there was this Burning Man-ish interactive sculpture that you could play with included mallets:

And of course, "Spindle" by by Dustin Shuler (we just called it the "Car-Kebab"):

If you do a Google image search of just the word "Berwyn", most of your results will be pictures of this thing. Therefore, the Car-Kebab IS Berwyn.

Or I should say "was". It was torn down a couple years ago to make way for a Walgreen's:

I don't respect the decision, but I'm very thankful for Cermak Plaza. They took a parking lot in a rundown neighborhood, and used it to give something back to the community, albeit in an eccentric, impractical way. And it's privately funded, as all art should be.

Thanks to this site for some of the pictures and info.



Saturday Morning Krautoons

Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany is a recent BBC four documentary on German Prog. An hour long, it's a third the length of Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution and better produced. Highly recommended.


Animatronic Cylons

I visited Universal Studios in Hollywood with my family in June of 1980, around my 11th birthday. The two big attractions at the time were "Battle for Galactica" and "Castle Dracula", both of which made a big impression on me, in a "this is thematically crappy but technically impressive" sort of way.

So this demo reel for the animatronics shop that created the robots for the park is quite a treat. They have a creep-tastic skinned cyborg as their logo, and the early 80's video effects are pretty charming.

Here's a more complete video of the thrilling 2-minute ride-through for "Battle of Galactica", which only employed a single live actor:

"it's not everyday you need to be rescued from alien invaders firing laser guns".
Actually, yes it is. Everyday. For you, at least.

More than you'd ever want to know about this can be found here.



Check out the new LDS page.


Devo: The Men Who Make The Music was due to be released on home video in 1979 (making it one of the first music-related tapes, alongside Gary Numan's excellent Touring Principle), but Warner Brothers didn't like all the anti-corporate sentiment so they shelved it. Two years later "Whip It" was a hit, so they put it on the market. Containing homemade music videos, 1978 concert footage, and lots of oddball interludes (like this), it's their finest work, and for some reason or another it's never been re-released.

They had two albums out at the time, and as far as I'm concerned, they're the only two albums worth hearing. They weren't yet a synth-pop band, but some kind of undefinable surrealist mutant-rock collective. Some of my favorite moments:

(psst... it's hard to find due to licensing issues, but a 70's performance on a popular late-night show can be seen here)


Monsters Crash The Pajama Party

"Not 3-D but real flesh and blood monsters!" was the tagline for this astonishingly stupid film, and back in the day it delivered the goods; wherever this movie screened, actors in monster costumes identical to the ones onscreen would rush into the theater, grab a girl from the audience (a "plant") and bring her back into the movie! Amazing!

A tactic similar to this was used in The Incredibly Strange Creatures who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies. Other than that, I can't think of any other example of live performance worked into a film.

Movie-wise, this is the closest we'll get to a real, actual Spook Show, the popular 1960's live-action phantasmagoria that would play in cinemas at midnight every Halloween season. For that, it's something very special. Otherwise, the pacing is sluggish. Thankfully, the video here is a ten-minute edit of a 45-minute film, so it doesn't outstay its welcome.

At 9:44 is the big shocking moment when the live actors rush the audience (in this truncated youtube video you see the stock-footage lightening for a few seconds, but it lasts for a couple minutes in the unedited version, allowing lots of time for the players to run around the theater, grab the girl and provoke general mayhem). I love the moment at 10:03, where the mad scientist returns onto the screen acknowledging the camera with his arms outstretched, as if to say, "I was just in the theater! The fourth wall has been broken forever!"

If you want to see the whole thing, buy the DVD. It's down to five bucks on amazon. It includes the full version of this film, but the real treasure is 45 minutes of spook show previews, which are indescribably wonderful. There are also lots of horror-themed vintage home movies, and a 3D short film. You even get two pairs of 3D glasses, which you can also use on this blog! Over 3.5 hours of wholesome fun! What are you waiting for, you big jerk?!?

very related: get over here to download your free spook show wallpaper.

Somewhat related: I must direct you to today's stupendous pizzateen.com post.


Dinner with Drac

Zacherly The Cool Ghoul started as a TV horror host in 1957. By 1958 he already had recorded "Dinner with Drac", a hit top ten single with a bullet. I bought this on 45 at a record fair, way back in the pre-internet days without having heard it, but based solely on my knowledge that the Cramps played it before their annual Halloween concerts.

The single had the original version on its A-side, and a tamed-down version with less gory lyrics on its B-side for airing on TV and Radio (which is the one heard here).

Zacherly is now 91 years old and still a Cryptkicker. You can see him this weekend at the Chiller Theater Expo in Jersey. Keep up with him at his website.

Very related: I just realized that American Scary, a feature-length documentary on horror hosts which includes lot of info on Zacherly, Vampira, Svengoolie et al, is available on Netflix for rental and instant viewing.


Spider Baby

This special Halloween Edition of Movie of the Week showcases the first feature of Jack Hill, who went on to make Switchblade Sisters (one of my all-time favorites) and four of Pam Grier's best films (including Coffy and Foxy Brown). Also stars cult favorite Sid Haig, the weird-looking Carol Ohmart (from House on Haunted Hill) and legendary drunk Lon Chaney Jr. This much-loved quirky classic was adapted into a stage musical a few years ago, and a remake is currently in pre-production.

If you haven't the time or patience to sit through the whole thing, at least watch the first couple minutes for the bizarre opening song, narrated by Lon himself.

A website dedicated to the movie is here.


Russ Meyer Double Feature

Russ Meyer movies are difficult to find; his estate still owns all the distribution and home video rights (with the exception of my single favorite movie of all time, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which is owned by 20th Century Fox) and you can't rent them from mainstream chains like Blockbuster or Netflix.

So it's nice to get two full features from his early, gritty, southern-gothic black & white period available on Google Video. Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is the better of the two, but you might have seen it too many times already. Motorpsycho is a little weak for a Meyer film, and it's probably the darkest themed of anything he's done. But Haji makes it worth seeing, and I personally believe it was the inspiration for Mad Max.

If you haven't seen the Meyer episode of The Incredibly Strange Film Show, you should. Can't find the first few minutes, but the rest of it is here.


2 Halloween Books

Two of my favorite books from when I was in the first grade, How to Care for your Monster and The Witch's Catalog, are profiled in the excellent Haunted Closet Blog. The first reads like a practical instruction manual, the second is like the best Johnson Smith catalog you could ever hope for. Both of them are unique in how they treat the occult and the unnatural as something anyone can acquire from the mail or a pet shop.

Click images below for synopses and page scans:


2 Halloween Party Recipes

It's extremely out of place for this blog to dispense any useful information. But in preparing for our fourth annual Pumpkin Carv-A-Thon, I've recently made two homemade beverages which turned out so well that I have to share them here.

Pumpkin Martini

Make this at least three days in advance; pour a standard 700ml bottle of decent vodka into a jar and add a few cubes of fresh pumpkin, along with 1 cinnamon stick, 1/2 a nutmeg, a few pieces of whole allspice, and a couple of thin slices of ginger. Seal. Taste teste every day or two, removing or retaining elements as needed. (I recommend removing the pumpkin after three days, otherwise it gets too intense). Strain when ready.

To serve, coat the rim of a martini glass with triple sec and dip in a mix of equal parts pumpkin pie spice and bar sugar. pour 1 oz. of pumpkin-infused vodka and 1/4 oz. triple sec (or cointreau) into an iced cocktail shaker for every serving. shake and strain into glasses.

Pumpkin Ale
I've made this several times since 1996, and through all the trial and error I've arrived at this seasonal beer which is very light on the malt and hops, allowing the pumpkin and spices to stay in the foreground. I started it three weeks ago and tried an advance bottle just now, which has surpassed all expectations. It's too late for you to have this ready for this year's Halloween party, but not too late to buy a pumpkin at the supermarket and start brewing:

7 lb. Light Malt Extract (liquid)
1 lb. 2-row pale malt
1 lb. cara-pils malt
7 lb. whole pumpkin
1 oz. of 5 AAU cascade hops
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup corn sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

cut pumpkin lengthwise into quarters. Scrape out seeds and stringy bits. Roast in a 350 oven until soft all the way through (@30 minutes). Cool, peel off the skin and put the rest through a food processor.

do a partial mash with the crushed 2-row and cara-pils in 1 gallon of water, maintain at 154 degrees for 45 minutes.

Bring to a boil with malt extract, all of the pumpkin and the cascade hops. Boil for 60 minutes. In the last couple minutes add the pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon.

Cool and pour through a colander to strain out larger pumpkin pieces (finer pulp will strain through). After cooling to @75 degrees, pitch the yeast (I used american ale powdered yeast in 1 quart of starter, prepared two days earlier) . Ferment for one week. Rack to a secondary carboy (expect more trub than usual, due to the pumpkin), ferment for 1-2 more weeks.

For bottling, boil the additional pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon with the corn sugar.



Secrets of The Candy Factory

This is the Harlem avenue CTA train platform in Oak Park, bordering the central West side of Chicago. A 1/4 mile away from this spot is the house I was raised in for 18 years. And here you see the Ferrara Pan Candy Factory, origination point of the World's entire supply of Lemonheads, Red Hots, Boston Baked Beans and Atomic Fireballs.

On some nights, particularly in the Summer, the smell of red hots would hang in the air of our backyards like heavy fog. My friends and I would always wonder what the inside of the factory might look like. They didn't give tours, so the closest we ever got was the factory outlet store, which was no more than a window with an ornery old hag on the other side of it, begrudgingly scooping candy into brown paper bags to sell by weight (it's still open).

But now, thanks to the interweb, the secrets are out. Ferrara Pan's website has flash animations of how their most popular items are made. Click on the candy of your choice, and all will be revealed:

Amazing bonus fact: Ferrara Pan still uses trains to get their sugar delivered, and they go through a rail car full of it every day.


Darwin IV

Several years ago a friend turned me on to Wayne Douglas Barlowe, an artist whose work falls somewhere between science fiction and biology (his parents were both natural history artists). My favorite of his books is Expedition: Being an Account in Words and Artwork of the 2358 A.D. Voyage to Darwin IV. It hasn't been reprinted since its initial run in 1990, but you can still get an affordable copy on Amazon.

None of the text (a technical account of the life discovered on a distant planet in the 24th century) can be found online, but a small selection of paintings can be viewed on the artist's website.

In 2005, a 90-minute 'documentary' of Expedition was produced for television. The results are surprisingly good, and the whole thing can be seen here:



Computer Games

from the second season of Look Around You, still criminally unavailable on region 1 dvd.


And Then It Happened

Holy smokes, 1972 was a terrible time to be a school bus driver. Dealing with smokers, porno magazines, knife fights, dogs and rats running loose, drug overdoses... all before the morning bell rings. Those kids had it coming.

This well-paced film with its trashy, authentic, early 70's "Last House on the Left"- style mise en scène is a nice compliment to the austerity of Ghost Rider, a previously posted bus safety video.


The Plant People

A blog post over at Kindertrauma.com jolted my memory like a cranial hemorrhage; The Plant People was a late-70's page-turner I must have gotten from my school book club (or from my mom, who worked for a children's book publisher). I remember the story being very creepy and bleak, but most indelible are the photographs used as illustrations, looking like stills from a cheap-but-surreal exploitation movie:

More photos at Kindertrauma. Buy the used book through Amazon.



Heroes at the Mall

I've just discovered Plaidstallions.com, an impressively exhaustive compendium of 70's pop culture. One of the many highlights is a gallery of reader-submitted photos of marvel superheroes doing promotional appearances. View it HERE.

Also, this cover of the 1980 Remco toy catalog cracked me up:


The Fabulous World of Jules Verne

Karel Zeman's gorgeous 1958 fantasy is unavailable commercially on dvd, but you can see the whole feature on youtube starting here.

A decent write-up on the film is here.

(also, I'll be traveling abroad for the next 2.5 weeks, so I'm switching Futurechimp.com over to autopilot. New posts will magically appear almost every day, but I probably won't have the opportunity to respond to comments or emails.)


Music for Monkeys

Italicized text has been excerpted from npr.org:

Music has great power to alter our emotions — making us happy or sad, agitated or calm. Psychologists have tried in vain to figure out why that happens. Now, a composer says he's has a clue. And he got it by writing music not for humans, but for monkeys.

David Teie plays cello with the National Symphony Orchestra, and has been developing a theory to explain why music plays on human emotions. His theory is that music relates to the most primitive sounds we make and respond to, like laughter, heartbeats, or a mother's cooing. "When I thought I had all the pieces put into place, I figured any good theory is testable, so one of the ways to test it would be to see if I could write music that would be affective for species other than human," he says.

He wrote to Chuck Snowdon, a psychology professor who managed a colony of monkeys called cotton-top tamarins at the University of Wisconsin. Snowdon was happy to cooperate and sent Teie recordings he'd made in the lab. One recording was of a monkey that felt threatened by a veterinarian. "He's very upset," Snowdon explains. "He's coming out to the front of the cage to attack or to show aggressiveness." He also sent a screechy sound that, believe it or not, monkeys make when they're feeling mellow.

With those samples and a few others as a starting point, Teie composed music for monkeys. "Basically I took those elements and patterned them the way we do normally with music," he says. "You repeat them, take them up a [musical] third — you know, using the same kind of compositional techniques we use in human music."

He played the compositions on his cello and then electronically boosted them up three octaves, to a pitch that matched the monkeys' voices. Monkeys don't respond at all to music written for humans, but they did respond when they heard this composition.

Snowdon says people may not be calmed by this relatively fast tempo of one of the pieces, but the monkeys in his lab certainly were. "This is a rhythm that approaches the resting heart rate of a tamarin and had this calming effect on them even though the pum-pum-pum in the background was maybe a bit faster than we would expect as humans for this music."

Compare that with the music Teie wrote to try and agitate the monkeys:

"Monkeys reacted to this by increasing their movement," Snowdon says. "They moved faster through their environment. And they also showed increase in a whole variety of behaviors we have associated with anxiety."

Being that there are very few commercial opportunites for monkey music, and possibly taking a cue from Raymond Scott's Soothing Sounds for Baby and all those 70's Music for Plants records, Teie has already started a website and company that makes music for cats. Listen to samples HERE.


The Fur Coat Club

Slaves to their uncontrollable urges, a pair of nine-year-old girls chase after old ladies and pimps in upper east side Manhattan to stroke their soft, sensuous fur coats. But soon their perverted lifestyle gets the better of them, and they are forced to change their sick, deviant ways. A little slow-going in the first half, but it gets spooky in the last several minutes. It's like a cross between an afterschool special, a John Waters movie, and 'Night of The Living Dead'. Also, little girls with guns.

Like the 70's classroom standard The Red Balloon, there's no dialogue, so the message can be interpreted the world over, free of language or cultural barriers. But whereas 'The Red Balloon' is all about Jesus, 'The Fur Coat Club' is all about the obsessive fetishes of a seriously disturbed filmmaker. Being a "Learning Corporation of America" production, it's clearly made for classrooms, but why? Is it supposed to impart a lesson of some kind? if so, the lesson might best remain untaught.


The Bel-Air Drive-In

The Bel-Air Drive-In Theater in Cicero, Illinois (just off the west side of Chicago) dated back to the late 40's. A feature unique to it was its double-sided screen; movies were projected on either face, and every night it was a double feature. In the early days, the two films would be swapped between the projection booths during intermission, so you could stay where you are and watch both movies. Also, when you entered the parking area you would drive through the screen itself in one of two tunnels, depending on which movie you were going to.

There used to be a playground under each side of the screen to keep the kids busy during the film. These were removed in the early 80s (for the same reason everything else fun disappeared in the 80's: lawsuits).

A third screen was added circa 1981, if I remember correctly. This made the capacity 1,000 cars, pretty big for a drive-in.

Because it was a ten-minute drive from our house, and admission was $2.50 for adults and free for kids, I'm sure I saw over 100 movies at the Bel-Air, dating back to before I could remember. Shortly before we got cable television, I saw my first R-rated movie here (The Brood) and went on to see dozens of the sleaziest, trashiest films imaginable with my dad, who'd always bring popcorn and drinks from home to save money at the snack bar and graciously brought along my friends. Without a doubt, I spent more time with my dad at the drive-in than anywhere else outside of home. It's often the first thing that comes to mind when I remember him, which may be why I'm both fond and wistful regarding drive-ins.

At some point the Bel-Air stopped being fun. When I was 16 a guy reached into my friend's car and snatched the jewelry off her neck. The last time I went, in the mid-90's, no one was sitting outside their cars in lawnchairs like when I was a kid, there was no playground, no speakers on steel posts (by this point they'd switched over to FM broadcasts). Nothing but a bunch of cars, a gravel lot and a screen with a cop car parked beneath it, facing the audience. It was a grim scene.

The Bel-Air closed in 1999. The screens stood until 2008, when they were finally torn down to make way for a home depot. Here you see the wrecking ball in the foreground.

There are still a handful of drive-ins around. Find one near you at (appropriately enough) drive-ins.com. And if you find any pictures or links about the bel-air online, let me know.

Relative to the near-demise of the drive-in and the rise of cable television, here's a PSA that used to show during intermission at drive-ins in the mid 70's, trying to put a stop to "pay tv". It didn't work.