Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bela Fleck's "Danse Macabre" now available

One of my favorite novels in recent memory is Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. I have written some criticism on the Newberry Award winning young adult novel, but have yet to write a proper review here.

Neil Gaiman writes on his blog that Bela Fleck's banjo version of "Danse Macabre" played on the audio book version of The Graveyard Book is now available on iTunes, here, for 99 cents.

I am already in love with the piece, and have no doubt that I will play it on many October nights and the many times during the year when I need to remember them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Edgar's visitor no show this year

This week, Edgar Allan Poe's mysterious birthday visitor did not show up at the beloved writer's grave.

"I'm confused, befuddled," said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum in Baltimore, according to the Associated Press.

The "Poe toaster" has been a true life literary mystery and tradition since 1949, the first time an unidentified figure entered the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore, Maryland, in the early hours of Poe's birthday to leave a half empty bottle of cognac at the writer's grave.

Throughout the years, the unidentified (and allegedly male) person has been described as dressed all in black, with a white scarf and carrying a silver tipped cane. The event, in which the figure toasts the "Annabel Lee" scribe before leaving, has drawn small crowds in recent years. The toaster has also left several notes over the years. In 1999, the noted stated that the original toaster had passed away, and that he had left the duty to "a son."

The new toaster's notes have generated some controversy in recent years. In 2001, the note appeared to favor the New York Giants over the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL's Superbowl; a puzzling development being that the Baltimore football team owes its namesake to poet and his poem. And in 2004, the toaster used anti-French sentiments in his note, likely due to French opposition to the war in Iraq, by saying that "The sacred memory of Poe and his final resting place is no place for French cognac." Two years after the anti-French note, a group of people entered the graveyard in an attempt to accost and out the toaster, as they believed the tradition tainted by the controversial notes.

Last year, The Baltimore Sun described the crowd gathered to watch the event as significantly smaller than years past, and the toaster left no note. This year, for the first time in six decades, the toaster made no appearance at all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A teller of tales...

Mason Winfield is my friendly neighborhood ghost story teller. A historian, folklorist and "paranormal generalist," Mason publishes on a range of subjects, not the least of which are ghosts and the paranormal. Mason also runs a series of ghost walks and haunted pub crawls throughout Western New York; one of which, conveniently, walks itself right through my neighborhood. What makes Mason such a a good source of ghostly tales is his focus on the story over the proving of the paranormal. In his books, lectures and walks, Mason beautifully relates the tales he has gathered, and is always open to hearing some of yours.

He has written an incredibly interesting piece on his blog about his own Christmas ghost. Without hesitation, I would recommend it for anyone who has ever been connected to and loved an animal.

For another good introduction to his work, I'd recommend reading his post on "The Children Who Came Back." I first heard him mention this phenomena on an October night ghost walk on a small town street. The group was standing in front of a house, Mason telling a story, and a street light went out. This caused him to mention the tales he had heard of the little people. Little people who came for children at night. The way he told the story sent waves of goosebumps all over me. Instantly, I remembered what I'd long forgotten: nights as a child when I could not sleep in my bedroom, because the sense of dread I felt that the little people were coming across our lawn to climb up to my window, and take me, was too much.

I have no idea where I got these ideas from, of little people coming to take me, but that did not stop me from often running down the hall and sleeping in front of my parents bedroom, curled up in a corner with a pillow and blanket, because I couldn't bring myself to tell my parents the people were coming for me over the lawn. Apparently, I found out from Mason, I was not the only one.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Look what I found...

...just last week, above the magazine aisle in my neighborhood Walgreens. This odd couple was faced away from the discounted Christmas aisle, and tucked away in the back. What a festive way to ring in 2010.