Respect The Zombie; or, On Mourning The Death Of George Romero

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My stories are about humans and how they react, or fail to react, or react stupidly. I’m pointing the finger at us, not at the zombies. I try to respect and sympathize with the zombies as much as possible. –George Romero

With the news of George Romero’s death, there’s a peculiar hole in my heart that I am not certain will ever be filled. Romero’s films had a profound impact on me at young age, and have been a part of my life, in some form or another, ever since that time. I felt I knew him intimately, and yet I never met the man–and if given the chance, I probably wouldn’t have (I’m not really big on meeting celebrities. Or people in general, I guess.)

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Where were you when you saw your first zombie? I think I was ten years old, in 1986, and it was Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, whilst seated upon an ugly floral sofa in the living room of my family’s small house on Viking Drive, the empty, troubled house that I still dream about to this day. From the opening scenes of Barbara and Johnny’s ghoulish encounter in the cemetery where they trekked to place a wreath on their father’s grave, to the expository radio and television updates on the zombie phenomenon, presented with such deadpan expression: “…the wave of murders…in the Eastern third of the nation is being committed by creatures who feast upon the flesh of their victims,” and those unforgettable scenes of the bloody aftermath of the gas-station pump explosion and little Karen Cooper (the OG Ghoul Next Door) hacking her mother to death in the basement of that abandoned farmhouse…these are scenes I have watched so many times that their shadowy afterimages are burned indelibly behind my eyelids, and I can replay them in an instant.

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When I was eleven or twelve years old, a book suddenly appeared on my mother’s bookshelf. I suspect it was a gift from her boyfriend at the time, whom I believe was really quite fond of my sisters and I, and delighted in introducing us to all manner of gruesome, gory movies. I’m not sure my mother really appreciated the gift of this book–in retrospect, it just doesn’t seem like her cup of tea. It was very much my cup of tea, however, and captivated by its lurid cover, I would steal into her bedroom time and time again, sneaking The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh from her shelf, secreting myself away in my bedroom and devouring the story of George Romero and his fascinating filmography. For a period of several months, I thought of nothing but this man and his zombies, but far from working myself into a state of terror, I just grew more and more fond of this visionary and his shambling undead creations.

Already a fan of horror, and of ghosts and monsters, (thanks Scooby Doo in my formative years!), the concept of the zombie was relatively new to me at that time, but my interest in it grew to influence my every decision regarding reading, viewing, and even listening, for years to come. I believe that’s what got me into Iron Maiden; after all, their iconic mascot sort of looks like some crazed, skeletal, undead flesh-eater, you know?

I think it was easier to fixate on these ghastly monsters and fantastical stories of the macabre instead of focusing on my own life, which was becoming increasingly chaotic. In the grips of addiction, my mother had grown quite monstrous, her frightening rages unpredictable and inconsistent–I never knew what might set her off, how to deal with it, or how to prevent it from happening, again. I became paralyzed with fear anticipating the fury of her next explosion, numb with guilt and shame and recriminations: why is our mother like this? What did we do to make her angry? How close are we to becoming that family on the street, the ones that the neighbors call the police on once a week? (We were somewhat lucky, there was already another family that had us beat in that regard.) In the face of my mother’s alcoholism, I found myself shutting down, shutting people out, becoming a zombie myself. These many years and mommy-issues later, monsters, and zombies in particular, are still a safe haven for me. How funny is that?

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But, although I’m very familiar with Romero’s oeuvre, I’ve still only seen Night of the Living Dead! Well, and maybe snippets of Creepshow. I suppose after having read about these films so often, I almost feel as if I have already seen them? I did see the Dawn of The Dead remake, and I saw The Crazies remake, and well, I guess I suppose I have seen most of Land of the Dead, but I barely remember it, so I am not certain that counts.

At any rate, I was terribly saddened to hear of George Romero’s passing. Thinking about his life and his body of work dredged up a lot of issues for me–old bones I thought I’d buried deep, as well as the good stuff, too, the lifeblood that sustained me in troubled times, and the passion it sparked in me for the themes he touched on in his work and all my related interests that grew from that. Without him, I’d be a very different ghoul today.

I shall miss George Romero–the “Godfather of the Dead”,  “father of the modern movie zombie”–tremendously. To celebrate his life, I have commenced watching all of the films I’ve come know and love from reading about them so very long ago, and which influenced me in ways I am still discovering today. To start with, one that Romero called his “most realized film”, Martinwhich is actually not a zombie film at all! A story about a confused, misunderstood youth committing a series of vampiric murders, Martin has long since intrigued me. I also think that since I so closely associate Romero and his zombies, it might be easier on my heart to watch a film that would seem to be so distanced from that.

What are some of your favorite George Romero films? How are you holding up since the passing of our beloved storyteller? Disembodied hugs for you all can be found here.

Stitch Fix: The Final Reckoning

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So, I think my relationship with Stitch Fix has now come to a close. I’ve shared with you the ups and downs since our rosy beginning, the teeth gritting through our rocky, troubled middle, and our feeble, fumbling ending, so it seems fitting then, to document our last hurrah together.

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After my last box, I sent in some pointed feedback, not exactly “wtf is this foolishness”, but…well, it was actually pretty close to that.  I received a response that they would wave the $25 per box fee on my next one, if I wanted to give it another go.

I didn’t think they’d send me anything really worth looking twice at, but it wasn’t going to cost me anything to look at it, so why not? Within a week, I had received a package containing the above items. Sally, my stylist, sent me four tops, and a dress, with some styling suggestions, per usual. A denim jacket, Sally? What am I, 10 years old in 1986? No denim jackets for me, thanks.

 

top1The Market & Spruce Bexley embroidered bib halter knit top, $48.  This is pretty cute, right? I’m not big on sleeveless tops–especially those of the variety that require a non-standard bra–but there was something about it that tricked me into thinking I could make it work. Maybe with a long gauzy black skirt? I liked the idea of that, but the reality of these sleeveless tops is that I am not comfortable in them unless I am wearing a cardigan with them. And it’s just too hot for that right now, and it doesn’t really look good with anything I own. Any suggestions for me? How might you wear this?

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As I remarked on Instagram, what the hell is this picnic basket bullshit? It’s the Skies Are Blue Dory embroidery detail top for $54, is what it is and I hate it with every fiber of my being. It really does look like the lining of a picnic basket to me…or I don’t know…macaroni art, or something. Also, while it’s a halter, like the previous top, somehow the neckline is infinitely more hateful to me. Back in the box.

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The 41Hawthorne Tova dress for $64 is probably a very pretty dress for someone with the right shape, however, it looks like a lumpy potato sack on me. Unflattering, if you’re not an actual lumpy potato. Aside from that, red+white+blue is not my favorite color combination. Returned.

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Upon first gazing this Papermoon Paulette lace detail blouse, my instinct was to cringe but I can’t quite pinpoint why. I like the black lace, I don’t mind the colors, the black and that pink… but there’s something about daisies and polka dots that all that white space that makes me really twitchy. I feel like I need to pick up my kid from an extracurricular and meet up with the squad for a pottery painting + wine class, and then demand to see someone’s manager. Ack! None of those things sound good to me, shirt, so you’re outta here.

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After two years (or however long, I lost count) on and off with Stitch Fix, I finally received the moody floral of my dreams. And so of course the Adelene top from Velvet by Graham and Spencer is the most expensive of the lot, at $128. Of course. I could wear this with black jeans or that long black gauzy skirt, and I don’t have to wear a ridiculous bra, and it’s almost like a Dutch vanitas painting, so that makes it perfect. This is the best that Stitch Fix can ever possibly do for me, so it is definitely time to call it quits, and I mean it this time!

RE: subscription boxes…what are you guys receiving? I am still getting periodic shipments of wine from Bright Cellars and that’s it! Well, except for a new one that I started, which is kind of fun, and I will fill you in on that one soon (hint: it’s horror-related, but not with a focus on cheap, tacky tchotchkes!)

Puddles: When Coulrophobia Is Not The Issue

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A disclaimer: the following is not a review. It’s not even a complaint. More like …a warning? I guess? Sigh. If you read on, please know that I am probably going to come across as a weird, stick-in-the mud killjoy who really needs to get a grip.

This past Saturday night I accompanied my beau, my sister, and my brother-in-law to see Puddles Pity Party at The Plaza in Orlando. I was super excited about this because one, The Plaza is undoubtedly Orlando’s easiest venue for attending live shows. It’s not in the downtown area, it’s got plentiful, non-complicated parking, and it’s just very…low-production. Two, I had seen some youtube videos of Puddles The Clown and loved both his beautiful, booming voice, as well as the concept of his one man show. Except…I didn’t know exactly what his show entailed. Oh, if only I’d watched a few of his live performances, instead of bunch of overly-produced videos. If only I’d known what was in store.

See…I have this thing with audience participation. Not only do I nearly go catatonic with fright at the mere idea of enforced participation from a personal standpoint, I can’t even watch it happening to other people in front of me, while I watch. Heck, I can’t even watch it in television or the movies. The very thought of it fills me with unspeakable dread. And Puddles the Clown is a master of walking that line between delighting his audience and making them suffer through these uncomfortable feelings . “He doesn’t just break the fourth wall,” writes one reviewer; “he invades people’s personal space.” Time and again throughout his show, Puddles would prowl through the seated, sold-out crowd for volunteers and victims.

When I witnessed the third person pulled from the crowd to join Puddles onstage for some unexpected humiliation, I realized “oh, so this is how it’s going to go,” and literally felt my lower lip tremble and tears threaten to spill. I was seated in the balcony, and there was no way Puddles was making his way up there to grab me. Or…was he? “Please dear god no,” I prayed desperately under my breath as I slunk lower and lower in my seat.

I glanced to my companions on either side of me–both of whom were enjoying themselves, and the show, immensely.  Their laughter sounded faint to my ears, as, unaware of my distress, they joined in the crowd’s merriment of Puddle’s fidgets* and quirks and shenanigans. What is wrong with me? I thought miserably, wishing to be swallowed up entirely by the worn upholstery of the fold-up seats.

NYMag recently posted a fascinating article about why audience participation is so terrifying; they compare it, somewhat, to public speaking, but note that “…the spontaneity of an audience-participation situation, on the other hand, can be stressful because it eliminates that preparation time and adds a layer of spontaneity. It also subverts expectations for the role you’re expected to play. Generally, audiences are supposed to be passive. Performers who single out audience members for an active role have ‘flipped the script,’ , turning a relaxing activity into anything but.”

And of course this can be especially distressing for “shy people or people with social anxiety disorder, who often rely on a predictable and limited set of scripts for social interaction and have a lower tolerance for uncertainty.”

And yet…that rich, extraordinary voice! Was it worth the torment and torture to have heard his gorgeously sorrowful rendition of Space Oddity?  Now that a few days have passed and I have the luxury of the experience as a memory, I can *almost* say yes. Almost. I have to ask myself though…if I had known that was the sort of evening I was in for, would have done in the first place?

I…am thinking no.

*Puddles The Clown was chomping on an obscenely enormous wad of gum throughout the entirety of the show. If you don’t know this about me, you should: I cannot stand gum. There is nothing–nothing!– that disgusts me more. I have to walk away when someone is chewing it in the same room with me, and I’m starting to dry heave just a little right now, even as I type this out, about that imaginary offender.

Ennui & Old Friends

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It is rare that I re-read a book. I used to do it frequently, in my childhood and early teens {Heidi, Harriet The Spy, Rebecca, and Dracula were among those beloved favorites} but nowadays I almost feel it’s a waste of time. I’m a little ashamed to admit feeling like that, because there are so many special stories worth spending time with, again and again, but…as I get older I feel there is less and less time to read all of the things I want to read, and so the cherished tales often stay tucked away on the shelf.

Last night I was experiencing a bit of a funk; I’m almost tempted to use the word “bored” (except I hate that word and I try to never feel that way*) so let’s say, instead, that I’m in the grips of a vague ennui. I blame the relentless summer heat and the fact that we had just had a small sun shower. It’s like, why even bother to rain? Rain and sunshine don’t belong in the same space together. If the skies aren’t dark and the clouds aren’t ponderous and you don’t feel either a little bit scared or sad when it’s happening, then the rain is doing a crappy job. Also: fuck rainbows.

When I get like this, I don’t want to read anything, look at anything, do anything. And it occurred to me that in the grips of a bit of ennui is the perfect time to re-acquaint myself with a book I’d read many years ago. Summer vacation of my 11th year, as a matter of fact. And I’d never been so scared in my life…

About fifty or one hundred pages into Cujo, I’m realizing how differently it is affecting me than it did thirty years ago. The closet-spectre of Frank Dodd is still scary as hell, but the tragic horror of Cujo himself…I mean…it’s just…he was such a good dog! This is so damn sad now. Why did I think I wanted to re-read a story about a poor, rapid pupper?

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I think when I finish this up I’ll re-visit Dracula and Rebecca and Harriet the Spy (and Heidi, if anyone wants to give me with old beat up copy! I lost mine ages ago.) I wonder if they’ll still thrill and amuse and inspire and impact me the same way? What will have changed for me, or in me, that affects my perception of the characters and the story? What details will I notice that escaped me before? What will it recall for me that has since been forgotten? I wonder.

What are your beloved favorites that you return to time and time again, for comfort, or in times of boredom? Are there some that no longer affect you the same way, or perhaps affect you on an entirely different level, now that you are an adult?

*And on the subject of boredom… are we even allowed to be bored? Louis CK says that we are not (at least I think that was him.) But maybe it is good to experience a little bit of boredom every now and then. I mean is it healthy to always be busy, busy, go – go – go? Maybe it is good to say fuck it! Everything is stupid! I don’t want to do any of the shit in this moment right now! It’s dumb and pointless and BORING! What do you think?

Solstice Scents Spring 2017 Collection

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Today at Haute Macabre I’m pleased to review Solstice Scents’ Spring 2017 collection, whose refreshing vernal fragrances were a lovely change of pace during the hellscape that is July in Florida.

Are you a fan of bracing cocktails, lemony gourmands, Appalachian meadow Bambis,  or watercolor florals & haunted breezes? Or perhaps the idea of the eerie olfactory equivalent of this image below piques your interest? In that case, you may want to avail yourself of some of these lovely spring scents before they are sold out!

Film still from Jean Rollin's Les Démoniaques

Film still from Jean Rollin’s Les Démoniaques

 

Oh, Instagram (& tumblr & pinterest). Sigh.

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Last night I was laying in bed and checked my phone “one last time” (you know how it is) and damn, Instagram notifies me that I’ve got, like 100 new followers, with a new one popping up every two seconds.  Wow, I thought. They like me, they really like me!

But I can’t be content with the fact that I’ve got them, these likes and follows, these ultimately meaningless indicators of validation. I have to know why they are there, you know? So, I dig a little. In searching further back through the notifications, I see that I have been tagged in a post by a somewhat popular gothic home decor account. It’s an account that I got a little salty (albeit passive aggressively) with a few Friday nights ago, when I’d had a second, then a third glass of wine and saw all the uncredited imagery they post. And as soon as I looked at the post they had tagged me in last night, (an image similar to the above, but minus the user information in the top left) I knew what had happened.

There are several iterations of the username “ghoulnextdoor” on Instagram, and heck, all over the internet. I originally opened my ghoulnextdoor tumblr account in 2009 and thought I was the cleverest person in the world for coming up with it…so clever, in fact, that I was going to lock down the url ghoulnextdoor.com. Only to find out that it was already taken by the OG Ghoul Next Door–Kyra Schon! Kyra is the cellar dwelling, trowel wielding, mother stabbing, father’s arm eating little zombie girl Karen Cooper in the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead, if you recall. Anyway, my point is–apparently I’m not all that clever.

Back to Instagram. As I mentioned, as soon as I saw the bedroom photo I was tagged in, the mystery of the influx of followers solved itself. It was a popular account, people saw the photo, saw that it linked to me, and as a result, started following me. The only thing is, the photo was not mine! I knew right away that it must belong to another version of “ghoulnextdoor” and either the popular gothic home decor account didn’t remember where they saw it or mistyped the name, or whatever. Because I am nuts and this could not wait until morning, a reverse image search was in order, so I fumbled on my nightstand for my glasses, stumbled out of bed, and shuffled over to the computer.

After about ten minutes of squinting at uncredited imagery on pinterest and tumblr, I finally found an image that linked back to the instagram account! The only problem was, it linked back to the main page of the account–not the specific image above. That’s not enough for me. Just because someone links to something, are you going to believe that? That’s what got me all of these new followers in the first place–an incorrect link! I scrolled through the users account for a minute or two, et voilà, here is the original image!

So this photo that got me all of this attention actually belongs to ghoulnxtdoor, who, might I add, though I do not know her personally, looks as stylish and ghoulish and awesome as you might expect.

I guess the moral of the story is that just because someone on the internet gives you a piece of information, that doesn’t make it true. And…that no one actually likes me.
Oh well, at least I know the truth!

P.S. My bedroom looks nothing like this.
P.P.S. Aside from uncredited imagery, my biggest pet peeve is when someone pronounces voilà “wah-lah!”
P.P.P.S. I’m not naming name regarding this popular gothic home decor account on instagram, because I really don’t want to give them any more followers, but here’s an amusing anecdote. I was scrolling through their posts and found one that was uncredited. In searching out the creator of the item they featured, I was lead to a blog posting…about how to do a reverse image search to properly source and credit images. HA.

Do I Contradict Myself?

Do I contradict myself? from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
art credit: Anders Røkkum

Track list: SAMARITAN by Jonna Lee | Ocean by Goldfrap | Thirst by Louise Lemón | Coyotes by Wild Belle | Blood and Tears by Hannah Lurati | White Sun by JFDR | 16 Psyche by CHELSEA WOLFE | Manna by King Woman | Strega by Kabukimono | Måneblôt by Myrkur | She Goat by Dool | Mother Kiev by Ides Of Gemini | Despair Is A Siren by SUBROSA

An Interview With Ashley Rose Of Ashley Rose Couture

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Truth be told, I’ve been dying to get an interview with this incredible, avant-garde designer since around this time last year, so I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to share that I recently had the genuine pleasure of catching up on the splendid creations and extraordinary adventures of the eternally hustling & bustling Ashley Rose for a feature today at Haute Macabre!

And, as a special peek for Haute Macabre readers, Ashley Rose has shared a generous glimpse of imagery from the forthcoming show, “My Dearest Dust”(which I will be attending! Eeeeek!)

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