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Marlon had never liked Jasu Shan, but now he was happy beyond words to see her. Ms Shan was abrasive and talked over him and would change the topic of conversation right in the middle of one of his sentences, and there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it because she was the General Manager and he was just the Duty Manager.

When Ms Shan taken ill, Marlon had been quietly pleased. He'd expected corporate to put someone else in charge for a while, preferably some quiet little pen-pusher who would take care of the big picture stuff and leave Marlon to the rest. In fact, head office had made Marlon acting manager. He'd been doing double duty as General Manager and Duty Manager in exchange for a nominal--and temporary—raise in salary.

Even that he might have coped with, had sales not started tanking when the DIY Barn had opened. That had put him in the awkward position of being both the good-guy boss he liked to believe himself to be--champion of his staff against the penny-pinchers at head office--while simultaneously acting as a penny-pincher from head office. It was vexing. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 12: Tea and Scandal"

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The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember. – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein.

The human species is very weak, compared with the superior vertebrates. That's why I tried with a gorilla. Now see you the pathetic results! – Freda Frankenstein, El Santo vs Frankenstein's Daughter.

I don't even know where to begin.
I don't even know where to begin.

This one is a weird one, even by Frankenstein movie standards. ...continue reading "Santo vs Frankenstein’s Daughter – 1972"

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Seamus awoke to the full moon shining down on the Handy Pavilion garden centre. He yawned and stretched, though even at full extension his arms didn't go very far. He smacked his lips and put his pipe in between his teeth, though he did not, could not light it.

Standing, he began his inspection. All the neat rows of plants, all the trees and seedlings, all the ferns and that little corner full of bonsais. Walking slowly on his little legs, he began his methodical rounds, examining the leaves, testing the dampness of the soil, squinting in the moonlight for any sign of aphids or thrips.

He had one night to do it. He had to make it count. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 11: Silver Men in Moonlight"

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You were hereafter to be hailed as the benefactors of your species, your names adored as belonging to brave men who encountered death for honour and the benefit of mankind. – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

He'll find no friends here. Nothing but locked doors and darkened windows. Locked hearts and bitter hatred. Let that too be part of the Frankenstein heritage – Village Councillor, Son of Frankenstein.

Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff, Son of Frankenstein
Whoa, that ain't good.

I hadn't really wanted to do this one just yet. But my scheme of skipping around through has meant that I haven't gone into a lot of detail on two important issues of the Frankenstein mythology: the Frankenstein family and Ygor. Both of these elements are introduced in Son of Frankenstein, so I'd probably better get on with it. ...continue reading "Son of Frankenstein – 1939"

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Wellsey watched Fiona  with horrified interest. Here was a woman who not that long ago could barely tell one end of a plunger from another. Hell, a fortnight ago he'd seen her reduced to mumbling incoherence by a simple question about bath plugs. Now she was selling like Arthur Daley on steroids.

"Sure, this one's top of the line," she said. "But you've got to ask yourself, 'do I need top of the line', yeah? You're doing one of those dream home sort of projects, you've got money to burn, then yeah, get this one. But for a place the size you're talking about, I'd suggest this baby. Looks good, solidly built, nine year guarantee, half the price of the one you were looking at." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 10: A Dilemma for Wellsey"

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Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. - Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Don't fuck with the forces of Nature. You've got to respect her, because Nature doesn't forgive. – Carl, The Frankenstein Theory

Obsession. That always ends well.

I'm saying that Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein, is a work of non-fiction. I'm saying it's a work of non-fiction disguised as fiction, or more accurately it's a fictionalisation of one of the most incredible true events in human history. - Jonathan Venkenheim, The Frankenstein Theory. ...continue reading "The Frankenstein Theory – 2013"

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A man was looking at melamine boards. He checked their lengths for defects, then raised them it to eye height and held it straight ahead to see if it was straight. He was doing a terrible job of it, taking too long about it and picking a bunch of boards that even from five metres away, Gwen could see were sub-par.

The customer had probably never had to check boards before. He'd probably learned the technique out of a book or a YouTube video. Men who were just starting in on woodwork tended to be like that. There seemed to be a weird belief amongst men that woodworking is in the blood, and so asking for help was admitting something was wrong with them.

They seemed perfectly okay with asking about paint, though. Colours. Women's stuff. A bloke could be forgiven for not knowing. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 9: The Phial"

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Did you know I knew how to play this? From which part of me did this knowledge reside? From this mind? From these hands? From this heart? And reading and speaking. Not so much things learned as things remembered. – The Monster, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 1994

Begone! I do break my promise; never will I create another like yourself, equal in deformity and wickedness. – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Kenneth Branagh: Better at looking visionary than being visionary.
Kenneth Branagh: Better at looking visionary than being visionary.

Now I've been a little harsh on some of these movies. I'm about to get much harsher. A lot of horror movies are low budget jobs, and it shows, so if I'm being harsh about Teenage Frankenstein or Blackenstein it's in the knowledge that these were quickly made cheapies, put together by third-string creative people. They're not great films, but to be fair they do the best they can with what they have.

1994's Frankenstein, aka Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a different kettle of fish. A major cinema release made by some extremely talented people (and Kenneth Branagh) it could have been good. Really, it could have been. Robert de Niro as the Monster? An inspired piece of casting! Helena Bonham Carter, Ian Holme, Cherie Lunghi, Tom Hulce, Richard Briers and John Cleese (!) are all fine actors. Hell, I'm not a fan of Branagh, I think he's a huge ham. But if there's a role that you ought to be able to get away with hamming up, surely it's Victor Frankenstein?

Directed by Branagh, the cinematography is by Roger Pratt, (who also worked on 12 Monkeys, Batman, Brazil and a bunch of Harry Potter movies). There's enough more talent in this movie than the average Oscar night. I actually started trying to add up all of the Oscars, BAFTA and Golden Globe wins and nominations of people working on this film, before getting depressed and stopping. Dozens. The answer is dozens.

And yet, the movie stinks. ...continue reading "Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – 1994"

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When I was a kid in the 1980s, I used to watch a show called 'Great Mysteries of the World'. It was just a slight repackaging of an American series from the 1970s called 'In Search Of...', a show comprised of a series of short documentaries about mysterious or unusual phenomenon, hosted by Leonard Nimoy.

I used to love it. It was as cheap as hell, and the phenomena described in the episodes were ranged from the mundane to the questionable to the 'holy crap, are you kidding?' Mostly,  they were in the third category. They were all underscored by sinister electronic background music, and Nimoy's deep, serious voice to make them sound intriguing.

If Karl Kolchak had quit writing for the newspapers and gone into TV, In Search Of... basically the show he would have made. Episodes covered things like Bigfoot, ESP, UFOs Atlantis -- the usual suspects of 1970s weirdness. They were presented with minimal skepticism and maximum nonsense. The episode on the pyramids, for example, is filled with bizarre fringe theories, balanced against a ten second interview with a real archaeologist who just looks confused and says that they're just big tombs. That's a pretty slender chain to anchor a documentary series to reality, but it's better than many episodes get.

Now here's the thing: I'm really skeptical about this stuff. I don't believe in the Yeti, or flying saucers or ESP or any of that. Oh, I love these things as fictional tropes, but tell me that they're real and I will raise my right eyebrow, like, really high. So I lost interest in the series at about the age of ten, and never saw it again until well into middle age.

Looking over it again now, I can't really bring myself to condemn the show. I should, I know. It takes a bunch of things that are basically a steaming pile of bull and does its level best to make them seem plausible. This was my problem with it as a kid: it takes unsupported ideas and makes them seem respectable.

Here's the thing though: as an adult, I've come to admire the show for doing just that. I no longer think the show's adoption of the documentary mode discourages critical thinking about crazy nonsense. I think it encourages skepticism about the documentary mode. There's a lot of serious nonsense presented as well researched, fact-checked truth-telling. In this context, seeing a bunch of people in flared jeans and fitted t-shirts rambling about swamp monsters is a timely reminder that it ain't necessarily so.

When In Search Of... was repeated on the History Channel a few years back, it came with a disclaimer at the beginning, explaining that the theories presented are not the only explanation for the phenomenon they described. I've heard a lot of people scoff at this, saying that it was a fig leaf, to protect the channel from the criticisms of skeptics. Have you seen some of the crap on the History Channel? They aren't worried about the criticisms of skeptics. No, all the disclaimer did was set In Search Of... apart from the History Channel's other nonsense. This stuff is crap, the disclaimer said. The other stuff... don't think about that too hard.

The other thing I like about the show is the range of material it presented. After it ran through the usual subjects like Loch Ness and UFO abduction it started picking less usual topics -- the Lost Dutchman Mine, the Hope Diamond, Indian Astrology or Count St Germain. It's not a good definitive resource on these topics, but it does what a good documentary should do, and gives the viewer a little taste in the hope that they go on to learn more.

So for all its many, many flaws, I don't believe that I have it in me to dislike or disapprove of the show. It's silly, it's dated, it's mostly wrong. But it's also fun, mildly scary and it serves as a reminder:  'non-fiction' is not the same as 'fact'.

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From the South Hertling Super Centre Newsletter February 29th , 2016:

Robbery Nearly Strikes Super Centre

By Karl Wintergreen

Last week, an armoured car was robbed on Wellington Rd, mere moments away from the South Hertling Supercentre. Had it been a mere fifty metres south, the car would have been within the precincts of our beloved Supercentre. This, apparently, would have justified the expense of an additional issue of this newsletter, to write about the exciting crime. But, since it took place a whole fifty metres away, I was unable to write about it until now. Also, I am not allowed to devote the entire issue to the crime, since I still have to make space for that piece about how Place 'O Pets teamed up with the local high school to raise money for Guide Dogs.

Some of you are probably interested in that crap. Sheeple. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 8: The Newsletter"

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