Category Archives: Learn Something

Learn something about…Les Edwards

Les Edwards is an illustrator, working in the horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres.  He’s done graphic novels, advertising campaigns, and book jacket illustrations. 

I admit, I didn’t know much about Les Edwards going into this post.  I stumbled across him while doing some other research and thought this post would be fun.  So I recognize very little of his body of work, with a few exceptions.  He did illustrations for the Conan book series, publicity posters for the movie The Thing, and one of his pieces was used for the cover art on an early Metallica single.  Some of his work, in his self-described “red period,” are quite gory, but other times he focused on portrait elements and landscapes. 

He’s been doing illustrations for over 35 years, and also does work under the name Edward Miller.  You can check out his work here (for Les Edwards) and here (for Edward Miller).  He has numerous pieces of his work available for viewing and downloadable for desktop background, and some notes that go along with them.

I looked for a piece that depicted a heart being cut out, but couldn’t find one.

Learn something about…KDGE

KDGE, The Edge, is, hands down, the best radio station, ever. 

No, really.

When I was in high school, you could find KDGE on 94.1 in Dallas.  I remember, driving up from college on I-35, you couldn’t get KDGE until you were about ten miles south of town.  That was one of my “You know you’re home when” signs, when I could get KDGE on the radio, even with lots of static. 

KDGE is where I first heard of Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Bowling for Soup, Deep Blue Something, The Toadies (I’ve actually been to Possum Kingdom Lake), and other somewhat-local bands far before they were ever popular nation-wide.  It’s also where I first heard, courtesy of fabulous DJ Jessie in the afternoon, the remix version of Poe’s “Hey, Pretty” with Mark Danieleski reading from his book House of Leaves.

So, yeah, KDGE has had a huge impact on my life.

KDGE moved to 102.1 in 2000, and you can still find it there today, or, ONLINE!  Oh, that makes me so happy.  I still listen live, and I still think it’s the best radio station in the world.  Check out Jessie in the afternoon – I still think she’s the best!

Learn something about…Joss Whedon

(Getting back to my “Learn something” series…)

Joss Whedon is an Entertainment God.

No, really, ask anyone who knows his contributions to the entertainment industry.  He’s smart, and funny, and feminist, and inventive, and talented, and can recognize great talent in others, and did I mention he’s smart?

Joss Whedon is perhaps best well known as the creator of the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (not to be confused with the movie BtVS – don’t hold that against him).  Many people will also know that he created the TV show Angel, which was a spinoff of Buffy.  Less well known TV shows include Firefly (absolutely genius) and Dollhouse.  He also wrote for Roseanne, and directed two episodes of The Office and an episode of Glee.  He created Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, has written a slew of comic books, songs, and, oh yeah, he’s done a couple of movie scripts.

He is highly respected by the people he works with (with the notable exception of Fox – wankers).  He will tell people he has a role he thinks they might be good in, and they are in before they even know what it is.  He uses a lot of the same actors again and again, and his eye for talent is remarkable.

He spawned a new lexicon of slangCollege courses are devoted to the sociology, psychology, and philosophy of Buffy.  He has a huge “cult” following, people who will watch anything he does, simply because it’s HIM.  What he has done has created an entire culture and form of communication, and deepened interpersonal communications.

As a Whedon fan (I could say Buffy fan, but it goes far beyond that), when I meet other people who are also fans, we instantly share a bond.  The same thing happened with shows like Friends, The Brady Bunch, Seinfeld, and Cheers.  “Do you remember the episode where…”  It often goes far beyond that, when you don’t even have to mention the series (example:  “No soup for you!”).

I could try to come up with some classic Whedon-verse lines, but there are too many to count.  Besides, most of them were probably actually written by someone else, some equally talented writer that he will again work with over and over again:  Marti Noxon, David Fury, David Greenwalt, Jane Espenson, Doug Petrie, and others.

He seeks out and surrounds himself with talent, which only underscores his own abilities.

He’s all about strong female characters, and he’s not afraid to kill off some of his most beloved characters.  His TV shows repeatedly show that a group of friends, friends willing to do anything for each other, will save the day.  Oh, and anyone who smokes is evil, or will soon die.

I got into Buffy a little late, around season 3, but I was instantly hooked by the humor of the show, and the internal struggle that people go through, represented by vampires and demons and the trials of school.  See, that’s what a lot of people don’t get.  It wasn’t a show about vampires, it was a show about life.

So, you’ve never watched Buffy, and you refuse to, but you’re intrigued.  Watch Firefly.  It’s 15 hours of your life.  My favorite episodes is “Our Mrs. Reynolds” – infinitely quotable (“Whoa.  Good book.”  “It’s my very favorite gun.”).  After you finish Firefly, watch the feature film Serenity.  Possibly my favorite line:  “Goin’ on a year now I ain’t had nothin’ twixt my nethers weren’t run on batteries.”

Because, really, it’s the language I love the most about Whedon’s work.

Grr.  Argh.

Back to School

I’ve been seriously considering taking a class at the local community college next semester.  Not for credit, not to go towards a degree, just for fun.  A class that I find interesting, and fun, and enlightening.  Now I just have to decide which class to take, because I have a list of about 10 that I think would be interesting.

I found this post:  100 Totally Fun and Weird College Courses you can take online for free.  Offerings include:

  • Magic, Witchcraft and the Spirit World, offered by MIT. 
  • Creole Language and Culture, from Notre Dame.
  • Physics of Rock Climbing, MIT.
  • Kitchen Chemistry, MIT.  (I listed that one specifically for the two Jen’s!)
  • Nine Lessons Learned About Creativity at Google, offered by Stanford.
  • Eat Well for Less, Oregon State.
  • The Dark Age, UMass Boston.  (I might have to take this one – I love studying The Middle Ages.)

There are some well-known and prestigious universities – just think, you could tell people you were taking classes at MIT or UC Berkley.  How much fun would that be?

I love classes that make learning fun.  If it’s fun, if you enjoy it, then you’re more likely to care about learning.  That’s one of the problems with the public school system in general, I think.  Learning isn’t fun, so kids don’t want to learn.  They study the basics, enough to pass the all-important tests, but it’s not retained for future use.

My favorite college professor was Dr. Hodges.  She was so enthusiastic about her subject, and she was always having so much fun when she lectured, that you couldn’t help but be drawn in.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she also had a theatre background, because she knew how to hold your attention, even in an auditorium with 100+ students.  I will never forget one lecture in particular, when she was talking about the “bathrooms” in medieval castles.  She drew it out on a transparency, told us how it worked, and said, “Isn’t that the coolest thing ever?”  And it kind of was, because she thought it was so cool.

Learn something about…isabella v.

“My name is isabella v., but it’s not. I’m twentysomething and I am in international fugitive.”

So starts the story that had the internet buzzing for a while, several years ago. A blogger calling herself isabella v. began her online memoir on March 2, 2003, when she disappeared. She was on the run not from the law, but from her wealthy, mob-like family. In July 2003 she moved her blog, but it’s no longer available, and all of the archives on her old blog are gone. I discovered her blog sometime between July 2003 and April 2004, although I can’t say how. I went back and devoured her archives, completely fascinated. Many expressed disbeleif of her existance. Whether that’s true or not, it does nothing to reduce the loveliness of her writing.

Esquire did an in depth article in October 2003, and the author swears he actually met her, in a hotel in San Francisco after being frisked by a guy with a Bushmaster AR-15.

Now, there has been talk about isabella v, the movie.  I would definitely go see it.

I wish I could properly introduce you to her blog, because her writing truly was spectacular.  Maybe some day the archives will be available somewhere.  True or not, it’s a good read.

An additional article here.

I *heart*…

In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, I LOVE the internet!!! I know, I’ve said it before, and you know what? I’ll say it again. Any question I have, no matter how random, all I have to do it pull up google and type in key words. Often, the hardest part is figuring out which words will pull up what I want.

It just goes to show, you really are never the only one with the problem. I wonder if it’s helped kids of today? I know that when I was a teenager, sometimes I seriously thought that I was the only one experiencing something. All I knew was my own little world, and no one else seemed to know what I was talking about. But now, I go online, and I am assured that I am not the only one. There may only be one or two others, in Bangladesh or Peru, but I am not alone.

In the same vein, I like looking at the stats on my blog every once in a while, to see what people are finding interesting:

Top posts of all time:
Learn Something about…Estes Park – 996 views
More scary statistics about online dating – 526 views
What do you get when you play a country song backwards? -369 views

Top search engine terms:
estes park – 702
delightful eccentric – 152
estes park colorado – 75

I wish I could say I had some funny search terms, but the best I’ve got is “wide condoms”.

Learn Something About…House of Leaves

 Years (and years) ago when I was living in Dallas, I listened to The Best Radio Station Ever – KDGE The Edge.  One of my favorite DJ’s ever, Jessie, was on in the afternoon, and she played Poe’s Latest song, “Hey, Pretty.”  (More on Poe later, when I get to P.)  In the song, a man was reading off what I thought was a poem.  I wanted to find out what it was and who had written it, because it provoked one of those “mouth dry” reactions in me.  I was captivated, listening to this man read this poem.  At the end of the song, Jessie came back on and said that the man was actually Poe’s brother, Mark Danielewski, and he was reading from his book, House of Leaves.

I went looking for the book, but the bookstores weren’t really stocking it, so I ended up ordering off of Amazon.  (Later, the bookstores couldn’t keep the book in stock – a shipment would come in and be gone in a day.)

House of Leaves is…different.  It’s essentially a thesis paper, found by a tattoo artist, about a documentary film made by a video journalist about the strange happenings in his house.  It starts out very dry, neatly written as a research paper, interspersed with extensive footnotes (including footnotes the tattoo artist interjects), and then it devolves into a strange gathering of scraps of paper as the author, Zampano, writes on anything handy – a cocktail napkin, a torn ticket stub, the back of a postage stamp…

House of Leaves uses a movie trick to create tenseness in the reader at opportune times.  In a movie, the scenes will often switch at a faster rate as the director tries to build tension.  This can be difficult to do in a book, when you can’t force the reader to read any quicker.  The author instead puts single words or sentences on a page, forcing the reader to turn the page quickly in order to take it all in.  The author (and the tattoo artist, later, as he reads it) slowly descends into a mentally unstable state, full of fear and paranoia.  You can feel the insanity gripping you, too, as you read it, sections of which must be read in a mirror.

When I read the book, I had no prior knowledge of it, other than it was written by one of my favorite singer’s brother and he read a part of it in a remix of one of her songs.  In other words, I went in blind, with no knowledge of what it was about, or how it was put together, or really even what genre it was in.  Horror?  Paranormal?  Literary?  I went back later and investigated it, and found a wealth of information on the internet.  Seems the book had cultivated quite a cult following, and I devoured pages upon pages of forum discussion.

A quick rundown from Wikipedia:  It’s classified as ergodic literature (you have to do more than simply read left to right, top to bottom).  It was released in March 2000, but had already acquired a cult following from gradual release over the internet.  It has multiple narrators, “who interact with each other throughout the story in disorienting and elaborate ways.”  Some editions have the word “House” in blue throughout the book.  There are many spelling and grammar mistakes in the book, put there on purpose.

The editorial review from Amazon says, “Had The Blair Witch Project been a book instead of a film, and had it been written by, say, Nabokov at his most playful, revised by Stephen King at his most cerebral, and typeset by the futurist editors of Blastat their most avant-garde, the result might have been something like House of Leaves. Mark Z. Danielewski’s first novel has a lot going on: notably the discovery of a pseudoacademic monograph called The Navidson Record, written by a blind man named Zampanò, about a nonexistent documentary film–which itself is about a photojournalist who finds a house that has supernatural, surreal qualities. (The inner dimensions, for example, are measurably larger than the outer ones.) In addition to this Russian-doll layering of narrators, Danielewski packs in poems, scientific lists, collages, Polaroids, appendices of fake correspondence and “various quotes,” single lines of prose placed any which way on the page, crossed-out passages, and so on.

Reviewers on Amazon who gave it 5 stars say, “Fun and disturbing ride through several psyches”;  “Creepy and thought-provoking”;  “A unique reading experience”;  “Great fun – it’ll make you go mad”;  and, my favorite, “Double Dog Dare is alive and well and literary in the 00’s.”

Reviewers who gave it 1 star say, “Incredibly Dull Pseudoeintellectual Gimmickery”;  “One seriously lame novel”;  “House of Pretentious”;  “House of Self-Congratulation”; and “House of [expletive deleted].”

Bookslut had an interview with Mark Danielewski in 2006.

And here’s the video – when the man talks, that’s Mark Danielewski, and he’s reading from House of Leaves.  (And, yes, you’ll probably recognize the song from a car commercial – it made me SO happy to hear Poe on TV.  Not enough people know her, and she’s amazing.  But as I said earlier – you’ll have to wait until I get to P.)


Learn Something About…Green Grass and High Tides

“Green Grass and High Tides” is a song by the band The Outlaws, and was released in 1975.  It’s my mom’s favorite song, and the timing is right enough that I may have been conceived to its tune, which is why I think she likes it so much. 🙂   It has two loooonnnngggg guitar solos, so that the song is nearly 10 minutes in length.  That may be why it’s a more advanced song on Rock Band, because it was actually fairly easy to play (says the one who sang it and forced others who had never heard it before to play the guitar and drums).

The lyrics, for your enjoyment:

In a place you only dream of
Where your soul is always free
Silver stages, golden curtains
Filled my head, plain as can be
As a rainbow grew round the sun
All the stars I’ve love who died
Came from somewhere beyond the scene you see
These lovely people played just for me

Now if I let you see this place
Where stories all ring true
Will you let me past your face
To see what’s really you
It’s not for me I ask these questions
As though I were a king
For you have to love, believe and feel
Before the burst of tambourines take you there
Green grass and high tides forever
Castles of stone souls and glory
Lost faces say we adore you
As kings and queens bow and play for you
Those who don’t believe me
Find your souls and set them free
Those who do, believe and love
As time will be your key
Time and time again I’ve thanked them
For a piece of mind
They helped me find myself
Amongst the music and the rhyme
That enchants you there
(repeat chorus)



Learn Something About…Franz Ferdinand

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria became heir to the Austrian throne after his cousin committed suicide in 1889.  In 1895 he met Sophie Chotek, a lady in waiting (and, incidentally, a descendant of one of those defenestrated in Prague).  They kept their relationship a secret for two years, as Sophie was not eligible to marry into the royal family.  However, in 1900 they were allowed to marry, but none of their descendants could succeed to the throne.  Sophie could not appear with him in public, taking other means of transportation and sitting in a different area during events.

There was a loophole:  When Franz was acting in military duty, his wife could share his rank and they could appear together in public.  In June 1914, they were in Sarajevo en route to a town hall reception when their motorcade was bombed in an assassination attempt.  Franz and Sophie were uninjured, but 20 others were not so lucky.  After the reception, they decided to visit the wounded in the hospital, but their motorcade took a wrong turn.  In the confusion, one of the assassins, who happened to be grabbing a sandwich nearby after the earlier failed assassination attempt, saw the motorcade and approached the car, shooting and killing both Franz and Sophie.

And thus began World War I.  Austria-Hungary (of the Central Powers) declared war on Serbia (of the Triple Entente Powers), the allied countries on each side declared war on each other, and the rest of that story is better known than the catalyst.

An interesting note:  the man who threw the first bomb took a cyanide pill and jumped into the nearby river.  However, the cyanide was old, so all it did was make him throw up, and the river he jumped into was only four inches deep.  Bad planning on his part – he was severely beaten by the crowd before being taken into custody.

Learn Something About…Estes Park

Estes Park is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  The town is beautiful, well worth a day’s visit if you’re in the area.  There’s a lovely downtown shopping area, right on the Big Thompson River.  You can grab a sandwich or an ice cream and sit by the river, enjoying a gorgeous Colorado Mountain Summer Day.  Estes Park is also the home of The Stanley Hotel, a place that inspired Stephen King in The Shining, and was featured in the TV movie.  In this photo, you can see The Stanley Hotel in the background.  Stanley Hotel

It’s a very small town, with only about 6000 residents.  At the height of tourist season, they probably have more tourists than residents!  One of the largest Scottish Festivals is held in Estes Park, Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival.  This year it’s being held Sept 4-7.

Many people passing through Estes Park end up heading up Trail Ridge Road, which is “the highest paved continuous highway in the United States.”  It crosses through Rocky Mountain National Park and over the Continental Divide, reaching an elevation of over 12,000ft.  There’s a museum/gift shop along the road that (IMO) you can pretty much pass up, unless you need to go to the bathroom, but there’s a great short trail that starts there that makes for a nice little exercise break. 


When I lived in Colorado I got the chance to go up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park a couple of times.  It’s a beautiful area, with lots of activities, including rafting, camping, hiking, climbing, shopping, golfing, and even wine tours and tastings.  But I would advise not getting quite this close to the wildlife – they can turn dangerous very quickly.