Flashback Friday

Me, sometime in the early 90s, standing outside at the high school dance that me & some other of the metalhead kids crashed, I was wearing my favorite Slayer "Root of All Evil" tee that I got from a poster-and-memoribilia shop in York, ME (which is sadly no longer there), much to the disappointment of my parents (who later made me get rid of the shirt, worrying that heavy metal music would corrupt my soul.**

**[Spoiler alert: it did.]

The photo was damaged in a flooded basement a long time ago, but if anything, the weird water marks enhanced it.

I still miss that shirt.


Film aesthetic appreciation post: Mill of the Stone Women

If you liked House of Wax (1953) and Giallo horror films, see Mill of the Stone Women (1960), famed for being the first Italian movie that was filmed in color. 

And boy, did they know how to use color in this one, with rich, painting-like image composition, beautiful costume design, luxuriant textures, and dramatic lighting. Aesthetic is king.

(image spoilers ahead)

The pacing on this one is a bit slow at times, but its imagery is so moodily evocative that you won't care. See this.

My rating: 6/10 jackos [ 🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃_ _ _ _ ]

Holiday Communi-tea

I love tea. I have more tea than I could probably ever drink in my cabinet, but somehow keep acquiring more. So I was pleasantly surprised to find this freebie in a recent order I placed to Adagio Tea. It's a week's worth of single-serving samples of holiday themed teas. I tried 'em all and here's what I got.

(*This is not a sponsored post of any kind, I just love tea a lot.)


Gingerbread (black tea)
"Blended with black tea, natural gingerbread flavor, cinnamon, orange & ginger."

Sweet Rococoa (rooibos)
"An embellished, cocoa-inspired blend of creamy honeybush chocolate, toasted honeybush hazelnut, and sweet wild strawberry, curled up with accent-scoops of cinnamon, chocolate chips, and strawberry pieces."

Cocomint (green tea)
"Fresh and cool, with a smooth, sweet minty flavor and whisps of chocolate."

Raja Oolong Chai (oolong tea)
"The rich complexity of oolong tea lays a smooth foundation for a majestic cup, packed with savory spice notes and hypnotic aroma. Elements of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, chicory and cocoa nibs harmoniously blend together."

A Festivus for the Rest of Us (black tea)
"Black tea, orange, natural chocolate flavor, dark chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, natural orange flavor & natural creme flavor."

Yuletide Toddy (herbal blend)
"This herbal blend is a lovely duet of classic holiday flavors (cranberry and orange) with the added sparkle of cinnamon spice."

Christmas (black tea)
"This blend of bright, tangy Ceylon black tea flavored with warm cinnamon, pungent cloves, and orange peels is a Christmas delight."
Summary: The Adagio site has a "communi-tea" page for customers to upload pics, share their reviews, and participate in a chatroom discussion, which is sort of a fun idea. The tea-a-day sample experience is available as a month-by-month subscription box, a good way to sample a wide range of their offerings (and there are a LOT). I enjoyed all the teas for the most part, but I would have liked them to be a bit stronger. I would have used more tea leaves per cup than I was given in the sample -- I like a bold cup. All were pleasant, though. I added cream & sweetener to Gingerbread, Sweet Rococoa, Raja Chai, Festivus, and Christmas. Added only sweetener to Yuletide. Didn't add anything to Cocomint & drank it straight up (this particular blend was good for a couple of steepings). I had tried Cocomint in the past, and initially didn't care for it much but liked it more this time around. In general, I prefer teas that don't require cream & sweetener, but most of these were dessert-type teas. 
Overall, I'd give the sampler pack a 7/10 for the experience & the tea variety.   
[ 🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃_ _ _ ]

Gather 'round the ol' Virtual Fireplace

On Boxing Day, I got to wondering about where and when the modern custom of watching a pre-recorded fireplace came from. Before there were a million versions of this available on YouTube, I used to have a DVD version of a similar video that I got sometime in the early 2000s or so - both with and without "festive" holiday music (I preferred without).

But the history of fireplace films is actually a lot older than I thought it was. Thankfully, Wikipedia has some interesting info on the subject.

The first known filming of a holiday hearth goes all the way back to 1966! The OG was a television program called The Yule Log that aired on WPIX, a TV station in New York City, set to holiday music. That one film spawned a whole host of imitations over the years, and has become a popular subject on YouTube as well, with countless variations and themes. 

It got me thinking about the allure of fire, how humans have been so drawn to it for their entire existence, so much so that even the image of an animated GIF fireplace, as shown above, is calming and hypnotic to watch; how people seem to never get tired of campfires, scented candles and even virtual fireplaces. Even though fire is inherently dangerous - it can so easily become destructive - we find a sense of safety and comfort in it. 

Click on the fire above for the full Wiki article about The Yule Log film!

Winter Solstice ponderings & wanderings

Long-ish naval-gaze-y post ahead.

I'm momentarily interrupting the Bad-vent Calendar posts for some thoughts on the Winter Solstice, darkness, and the beauty of the light. 

There's no debating that the past couple of years have been tough on literally everyone on this planet. To varying degrees, we've all been impacted by the stress of the pandemic. I'm not going to really get into that, but I wanted to acknowledge it, even if just for myself for this moment. 

It has been a dark time, and I've been struggling. The Bad-vent Calendar posts are meant to bring a bit of levity and humor to help me (and hopefully others) cope with the winter holidays, which are stressful enough even without a pandemic. 

I have a love-hate relationship with Xmas. I adore aspects of it - the lights, the cozy vibes, the get-togethers with loved ones. I despise the commercialism, phony sentimentality, forced participation, and stressful expectations. I always want to be in the holiday spirit, but it's an uphill battle that I kinda don't want to have to deal with in the first place. For most of my life, I've worked in industries that get crazy for holiday sales, and it can be really exhausting. That, combined with the lack of daylight hours and gloomy weather are hard on the brain.

Yet, there is an undeniable feeling of magic this time of year. Our ancestors from all over the world (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) knew this, too. The ancient Irish peoples knew that the Winter Solstice meant that the daylight hours would start to get longer again - the light of the sun was returning, slowly, to spread its warmth and energy to the land and its inhabitants. It was a time of hope and renewal. 

And it still is. We are all products of our ancestors, and even though some of the details and practices have changed, many of us still honor these winter celebrations in the second half of December, perhaps without even realizing the link to these ancient times. The prospect of the light emerging from a long period of darkness is deeply meaningful to us. 

I dunno about you, but I tend to get extra introspective during the darker months of the year, and reflect upon everything, question my life choices, realize with some dread that another year has flown by, etc. It's heavy. Herman Melville hit the nail on the head when he described the feeling of the "damp, drizzly November in my soul" in the classic novel Moby-Dick. After the excitement of the Halloween/Samhain season quiets down, all we're left with is the darkness that grows longer and longer every day.

And yet - the light endures.

I think that half the excuse for all the Xmas decorations is that we are light-starved, we crave it. We take the opportunities to drape lights everywhere, to bask in its glow. There's something about strings of Xmas lights/fairy lights that I've always found comforting, ever since I was a tiny child. 

I'm a "let's drive around and look at Christmas lights" person. Every year, no matter how cynical I feel about the winter holiday season, my heart always has room to love all the decorating with lights, from the most tasteful and stylish, to the most gaudy and tacky. If it shimmers, blinks, twinkles, glows, and/or shines, I'm hypnotized. I love it all. 

I might be at odds with some of the winter holidays, but Winter Solstice is something I truly appreciate, with its combination of both mystical and scientific aspects, both of which are relevant to my interests. I find various ways to observe the occasion, and this year I was able to attend a very special event centered around something else I love very much: trees. I'm about as obsessed with trees as I am with light.

This past Saturday, the Pacific Bonsai Museum (an outdoor gallery of bonsai trees) in Federal Way, WA, hosted its annual Winter Solstice event, which is the only time they are open to visitors in the evening. I've been to this space many times, and it's one of my favorite places on Earth; there's always something new to see there, with its rotating exhibits and the seasonal changes in the trees. I hadn't been often since the pandemic hit, but made it a point to attend this year's Solstice celebration. Although rain and wind were in the forecast, it stayed dry and calm while we visited.

(Content notice: some animated gifs of blinking lights ahead, for those sensitive to flashing lights)

The museum is set a bit away from the hustle & bustle of the city, on a beautiful campus lush with trees resembling a park, although much of it is private property. From the parking lot, a path lined with paper luminaries led us through the darkness to the entrance to the exhibit, which is enclosed with tall hedges around the perimeter.  


The trees designated as bonsai weren't directly adorned with lights for the event, but several were illuminated with soft spot lighting, casting dramatic shadows. Other trees and shrubs around the grounds were draped with strings of warm white lights. Visitors were encouraged to bring flashlights for navigating among the displays.

Each bonsai is enclosed in a plexiglass shelter during the colder months for extra protection from the rainy, windy Pacific Northwest winter weather. The texture of the enclosures gave an added aesthetic dimension, with some beautiful effects, as the light traveled through or bounced off the plexiglass. In the spring, these structures are removed, so the bonsai can be free in the open air and sunshine (contrary to popular belief, it doesn't rain constantly here).

The gallery's famous Domoto Maple, shown below, with a curtain of lights illuminating it from behind, made for a breathtaking display. This particular bonsai has a very colorful back story as well, which can be read about in the link above.

The other resident trees on the grounds of the museum may not be the focus of the exhibit, but on this night they had very important jobs as keepers of the light. Other trees on the outskirts, towering Douglas fir and others, felt like massive, shadowy sentinels, watching over all. To me, every tree is special and beautiful, no matter the size, age, history, or intricacy of its form, all important and necessary.

Each bonsai in the museum has a placard near its base, displaying several facts about it, including its species, age, the artist(s) who have a relationship with it, and facts about its origin.

And each tree has a distinct personality all its own. Some of the ones on display that night were new to me, some I'd seen many times before, and felt like visiting old friends.

I can't think of a better way to have begun Winter Solstice weekend. It was exactly what I needed - a stroll in the cool, fresh air, moving from shadow to shadow among living works of art, twinkling lights all around.  Although there were lots of other people in attendance, their presence wasn't very distracting; the overall vibe was calm, quiet, and respectful.
I carried that mood into the following days, spending some time bringing extra light into our home. And yes, we put up a Christmas tree. It's a really painfully cheap and beat-up artificial one, but with lights and some baubles added, it's beautiful and brings a peaceful glow to our living room. Even fake plastic trees are dear to me.

Plus, we have Krampus watching out for us, so that's a plus.

And of course, I am sharing some light with dear loved ones who have passed on, remembering holidays we had shared together.

I've spent the past three evenings tuning in to the livestream video broadcast from Newgrange (in Ireland), a significant, ancient, magnificent neolithic passage tomb aligned to the rising sun at Winter Solstice. They've had overcast weather, so alas, the inner chambers of this sacred space stayed quiet and dim this year. However, the three videos, now available to watch on Youtube (here, here, and here), were absolutely worth waiting up for and watching in their entirety. The hosts of the livestream gave fascinating presentations on the history, culture, and archeology of Newgrange and of similar monuments in Ireland and other parts of Europe. 

 (screenshot from the third livestream, one of the famous triple-spiral motifs carved into rock in the inner chamber at Newgrange)

If you're still reading up til this point -- thank you. I wish you happiness, health, and prosperity as we enter into the new year. I'll leave you with this - a photo I took of the full moon breaking through the clouds and rising over the bonsai museum the night I was there. 

(Click the pic for a piece of haunting winter music.)

 Bright days ahead. Happy Solstice to all.

Bad-vent Calendar - Day 24

 You done decorating your house with festive shit yet? Christmas isn't very far away - 

Click the pic below for a handy reminder.

Bad-vent Calendar - Day 22

 Attention, K-Mart shoppers!

It's Day 22 of Bad-vent, less than a week to go before Xmas, and at this point every trip to any store probably feels like you're trapped in there for eternity.
Click the pic below for some appropriate music.

(While you're on the website, please consider making a donation! Internet Archive helps to preserve free and open access to culture, including movies, books, and audio files.)

Bad-vent Calendar - Day 21

 Today's post might be a bit late, but it IS pretty cool. And you don't have to take my word for it.

Click below -- 

Bad-vent Calendar - Day 20

He is the Reason for the Solstice Season 🐙🎅
Click the jolly Cthulhu for an inspiring Holiday tune.