German Counting Fun for Gothtober DAY 12

Pumpkin #12 on the Gothtober calendar is a beautifully illustrated German counting lesson by Christy Stout Chambers! You see, as it is the 10th year of Gothtober, I asked contributors to either follow the basic “Halloween Theme” like the very first Gothtober, or do something with the theme of “10.” This is the first piece so far that addresses the power of 10! This is also the very first international submission this year, Christy and her family moved to Frankfurt, Germany, and in the middle of it all, Christy was still able to get her piece out to us here in California! Hooray computers!

With the help of my German friend Annika the whole family is learning German…. Which is hard. We all just thought it would be fun to have our piece be about what is going on right now for us. We have all mastered counting to ten so it seemed appropriate. We are living in Frankfurt Germany, which is very close to Hanau where the brothers Grimm lived when they were little. They grew up playing in the forests here and the traditional folk stories told by the locals are what eventually became the fairy tales we all know today.

At one point, Christy even used an airplane window as a light box to help her transfer sketches from her sketchbook!

The pictures were drawn by hand and painted with watercolor, old school style. Since we were literally moving while I was working on them, I had no fancy materials. The only art supplies I could locate were a pencil, ink pen and my trusty box of watercolors which I had taken on the plane.

I concur, as an illustrator myself, I think old school supplies pack a whollop that computers still can’t touch, and the style of the artwork is full of such loose and exuberant watercolor-y wonder, it is, dare I say, quite Grimm-like in its execution. The line work is contagious, making me itch to go find my own pens to make some fun drawings!

I asked Christy what’s going on in Germany right now, and what kinds of exciting snacks are in the spotlight right now:

They have pretzels and sausages. Right now everything is fall/ octoberfest themed. There is beer EVERYWHERE and in Frankfurt there is a ton of apple wine which is a regional bitter cider. It is sometimes served with haxen a crispy grilled pork shank. The Germans make over 300 kinds of bread so there is usually a bakery….and chocolates. There are a TON of Turkish immigrants so there is also “doner kebab” which is turkeys version of schwarma.

If going to Germany right now isn’t practical for your schedule or finances,  just find Christy’s Gothtober window and you can have a small immersion language countdown! Better than Rosetta! Don’t forget the apple wine…

These are the Undead People in Your Neighborhood! Gothtober DAY 11

Look over there… wandering… slowly walking… bloodthirsty… ZOMBIES!!! Click on Gothtober Pumpkin #11 and experience the thrilling dismay and scintillating misgivings of Pinkee Lee Estrange and Lenore Colina’s “Trick or Treat” an old timey movie starring some very hungry corpses in need of BRAINS!!! What would normally be a pretty standard errand for a pair of zombies, however, turns out to be more arduous than expected, as you will see from watching the film.
A Gothtober merit award goes out to the actors (Aubrie Davis and Brian Grover) who played the zombies because they consented to ACTUALLY BEING BURIED IN THE GROUND for the opening scene. This puts them in league with many fine method actors, but especially Sissy Spacek who insisted on being stuck in a box and buried in the ground in order to film the super creepy end scene for “Carrie.” Brian DePalma refused to bury her himself, and got her husband to do it.

I had her husband bury her because I certainly didn’t want to bury her. I used to walk around and set up the shot and every once in a while we’d hear Sissy: ‘Are we ready yet?’ ‘Yeah, Sissy, we’re going to be ready real soon.”

Pinkee said that she dug the first grave in the front yard where the zombies live and she accidentally ran into some REMAINS! The previously existing plot held the skeleton of a family pet long buried quite awhile ago from the look of it. Pinkee apologized profusely, put the remains back and dug in a different spot! Gothtober would like to thank the ghosty dog for being an inordinate part of the artistic endeavors of our Gothtober contributors. The film involved two days of shooting, and every scene was shot in Silverlake or Echo Park in beautiful Los Angeles, CA.
I asked Pinkee if there any hazards associated with directing the undead and the response was surprising:

Mostly I was just really worried about fingers getting slammed in the door!

I’m sure the zombies would just think it was finger-eatin’ good.



Chowdah in Yo FACE on Gothtober the 10th!

Innocent looking Cans of Harbor Chowder sitting in the cupboard.

Joining us this week in a thoroughly good-natured gothic way are artist animator beer maker musician superstar necromancer warlock magician wizard kitty cat dragon dark force bearded sorcerer pals Ben and Federico! Federico is making a drawing a day for the entire month of October, in case you need more than one countdown in your life, check it out.
Having just suffered through a mighty mighty bout of food poisoning, dear reader, I can attest that this Gothtober piece has been the most difficult one for me to post yet. Normally chowder doesn’t really sway my countenance, but this week was a whole other matter. Beware of what you eat, it can really change your day, or your week, or… oh just go click on PUMPKIN #10 of Gothtober and don’t say I didn’t warn you!

A French Canadian Ghost Tale for Gothtober DAY 9

The voyageur hears or sees something, it seems…

Click on Gothtober’s Pumpkin #9 and you’ll run into a whole mess of French Canadian spooky story with The Larks!

The most famous version of the perilous tale of The Chasse-galerie appeared in literary periodical The Century Magazine in August of 1892. The story involves three voyageurs and the choices they make in alternative modes of travel after a drunken night of revelry. I am most certain that this story was told on riverbanks, and one should know that many versions of this story were transformed into song, but not just any song: a canoe-paddling song, of which there are MANY in the lexicon of great French Canadian musical ditties.

You will at first hear the recorded voices of Le Rêve du Diable singing the song “Voyageurs de la Gatineau” and then you will hear original piano plinking and saw singing, songs Scary Alouette and  Birds and Flowers by The Larks! And yes, it’s a real saw you can hear being played in the background, just lovely, and also a real upright piano made of wood and wires and everything!

Here is an english translation of some of the singing:


We left for a voyage by canoe on the Gatineau river.

Travelling mostly with our feet on the ground and our load on our backs.
As we went, we thought of our misspent childhoods,
running to the inns, our money already squandered there.

Once we get to the lakeshore, travelling from lake to lake to camp,

It’s there that we will build, my dear children,
Build a cabin that we’ll call our home, A home made of spruce trunks that are round, not square.

Suffice it to say, if you’re going to travel the Gatineau River, don’t just borrow anyone’s canoe… and you might want to lay off the drink.

La Chasse-galerie de Henri Julien (1852-1908)

Witches Give Columbus the BIRD and that’s not all for Gothtober DAY 8

Which Witch tells Columbus Day to go fly a kite? ALL OF THEM!

Hold onto your falsies, Gothtober Pumpkin DAY 8 (courtesy of Ian MacKinnon of is about to OPEN YOUR MIND with a fierce and immersive bitchy witchy (PG-13, parents, pay attention please!) ritual aimed at saving the world by helping it “get more gay” while also chasing away the false pageantry surrounding Columbus Day!

Join Witches Lady Guya Magique Oshaughnessy, Lady Mary Juana and Lady Ass Majick in a comprehensive drag-magical anti-columbus observance! As spiritual muses of visibility and bravery, drag queens know a thing or two about the stinkers in high places trying to rewrite history, attempting to shut many of us into obscurity with the purpose of keeping our unequal power structure in favor of existing dominant forces. WELL SCREW THAT! There are no better experts than these three gorgeous glittery enchantresses to lead us away from the curse of complicity and toward getting off our asses to learn the truth about the world and our nation and ourselves, claiming our power and flipping Columbus Day THE BIRD.

Instead, celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, which is, coincidentally: October 8th, 2012!

Ian McKinnon as your Gay Historgy Leather Daddy Professor – Photograph by Don Tinling

George Orwell wrote:

“Who controls the past controls the future. And who controls the present controls the past.”

“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” This is pretty much what generations of school children, including myself, were told about Christopher Columbus. We were never told anything else about it, and we tucked it away in the back of our minds as one of those “nothing holidays” where we get to stay home from school or work.

(This ad is from Columbus Day in 2010, but it might as well be for EVERY Columbus Day)

If you haven’t already… It’s time to rethink Columbus Day. If you don’t know much about it, or never bothered to really delve into what really happened, take some time today and take a look at these resources:

A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolomé de las Casas has a very detailed eye witness account of what the Spaniards did to the Indians. Of the Arawaks, he wrote:

…of all the infinite universe of humanity, these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity…yet into this sheepfold…there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening beasts…Their reason for killing and destroying…is that the Christians have an ultimate aim which is to acquire gold…

The Banning of “Rethinking Columbus” by schools in Tuscon, Arizona – Article by Bill Bigelow – January 2012

“Rethinking Columbus was never just about Columbus. It was part of a broader movement to surface other stories that have been silenced or distorted in the mainstream curriculum: grassroots activism against slavery and racism, struggles of workers against owners, peace movements, the long road toward women’s liberation—everything that Howard Zinn dubbed “a people’s history of the United States.”

Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years – Edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson

We need to listen to a wider range of voices. We need to hear from those whose lands and rights were taken away by those who “discovered” them. Their stories, too often suppressed, tell of of 500 years of courageous struggle, and the lasting wisdom of native peoples. Understanding what really happened to them in 1492 is key to understanding why people suffer the same injustices today.

And last but not least: Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States 

In a letter he wrote to one of his Spanish patrons, (about the Arawaks, or Tainos as they were also known) Columbus said: “They are very simple and honest and exceedingly liberal with all they have, none of them refusing anything he may possess when he is asked for it. They exhibit great love toward all others in preference to themselves.” But then, in the midst of all this, in his journal, Columbus writes: “They would make fine servants. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

“In his quest for gold, Columbus, seeing bits of gold among the Indians, concluded there were huge amounts of it. He ordered the natives to find a certain amount of gold within a certain period of time. And if they did not meet their quota, their arms were hacked off. The others were to learn from this and deliver the gold.”

And that’s just the beginning, if you read Zinn’s book you’ll be rethinking all kinds of stuff, but one thing’s for sure: you will enter into a consciousness that is no longer one of “sleepwalking.” And you probably will think that Christopher Columbus was a Grade A dirtbag and tell his holiday to go suck an egg.






Surfer Girl Meets Little Mermaid for Gothtober DAY 7

A brightly colored school of yellow fish swimming in the deep blue sea in Stephanie Abler’s version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”

“This is just the kind of stuff my mind makes up when I’m listening to the Beach Boys” said Steph, Illustrator and Animator of a romantic seaside adventure you can watch by clicking on Pumpkin #7 of Gothtober. Hans Christian Anderson’s original The Little Mermaid involves a young mermaid who gives up her tail and life in the sea to become human and live happily ever after with a human prince. Stephanie Abler’s version of the story is that this mermaid has a huge crush on a surfer girl and wishes the surfer girl would become a mermaid and give up her human surfer life and come live with her in the sea. It’s like The Little Mermaid in reverse, with lesbians. You can see Steph’s home made animation apparatus and find out what it was like to spend 4 months making this wonderful piece by visiting her website.

We had a phone conversation about the piece, how this story has always felt like such a naive and vulnerable interpretation of love and relationships, that it’s a crush-fantasy story of the most unrealistic kind, and how weird that it has resonated so loudly with so many for so long.

I thought Steph’s version of this classic fairy tale was a big fat departure from the creepy aggressively heterosexual subtext of a woman giving up her life for her “man” the usual stereotypical interpretation of the story, the strange and naive perception that marriage is supposed to solve everything, staying in abusive relationships for “love”, suffering pain and loss to enter another world, fairy tale crap, blah blah blahhhhh…

And then I found out, from not digging terribly deep, that the story of “The Little Mermaid” is a really really really GAY STORY.

This is a sketch of Edvard Collin. Hans Christian Andersen’s unrequited love for Edvard Collin sparked the fairy tale of “The Little Mermaid.”

The Little Mermaid’s inception came from a love letter containing Hans Christian Andersen’s metaphor for his deep and abiding love of his close friend, Edvard, who didn’t love Hans romantically and took pains to remain removed and distant. It was 1836 in Copenhagen, not a good era for any bisexual or gay stuff, in fact, official government discrimination of gays and bisexuals began in Copenhagen in 1830. Hans Christian Andersen was strange and eccentric for the time, a failed singer, dancer and actor, he was huge and gangly and awkward, he had a flair for the dramatic, and was often in a state of heartbreak. When the love of his life, Edvard, was married, it sent Hans into a tailspin of devastation and angst and The Little Mermaid was born.

Andersen came from poverty, he never actually learned to spell or write in Danish, which set his stories apart from others in that they read in the cadence of the spoken language, which still resonates today in it’s “freshness” unlike other written pieces of that time. The success he gained from his writing eventually had him co-mingling with the “upper crust” so to speak. He was sensitive and ashamed of his background, and was constantly proving his nobility and virtuosity in a society that was obsessed with such things. He was never quite accepted within the aristocracy, despite his worldwide fame, and he resented it. He was also annoyed with himself for giving a crap about the upper classes in the first place, and developed a detachment and disdain for the rich. He was a shrewd observer of high society in 19th century Denmark, and was aware of the motivations, limitations and cruelties of human nature.

He was a little light in the loafers…

Hans Christian Andersen’s outsider working-class background combined with his entire litany of unrequited relationships with both men and women inspired many famous fairytales involving stoic characters who are tortured by desperation, longing, evil, scorn, hardship or tragedy, and who are challenged to overcome these adversities through a relentless and optimistic stoicism. He didn’t believe in happy endings either, the original ending to The Little Mermaid is completely wrought with wildly bizarre anxiety-inducing drama that would keep anyone up at night. Andersen believed that fairy tales were the poetic form of the future, containing both comic and tragic aspects of life.

The “mermaid” was Hans, you see…

Stories like The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Match Girl, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Little Mermaid, are tales that “Stick it to the MAN” and are quite subversive once you understand how hard it was to be someone like Hans Christian Andersen near the turn of the century. There weren’t a whole lot of outlets for “drummers of a different beat” back then, yet Andersen found storytelling and fantasy as a way to deal with his pain and anger by making incredibly complex anecdotes created for both adults and children. Knowing what you now know of Hans Christian Andersen’s experiences, read some of his stories today, and you’ll find that his fairy tales are more than meets the eye, each is packed with powerful and intricate layers of meaning. You’ll find that his unabridged, unedited stories contain careful and adept implementation of satire, philosophy and social critique. The highest award that is bestowed on children’s books today is the Hans Christian Andersen Medal.

The statue of The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen was placed in the bay in 1913, the mermaid’s original face was that of Ellen Price, a prima ballerina who danced in a ballet version of The Little Mermaid.  The body of the little mermaid is that of Eline Erikson, as the ballerina refused to pose nude, and ironically, the sculptor’s first name was Edvard. The statue is a major tourist attraction, it’s small and unimposing, and gets vandalized so often that Denmark is considering moving her further out in the bay to prevent subsequent antics by locals and tourists alike. She’s had her head sawed off a few times, been blown off her rock with dynamite, had her hand sawed off, been covered in pink paint, draped in burqas and other outfits, and a dildo was affixed to her hand on International Womens Day in 2006.

Imagine Hans Christian Andersen’s passionate yearning for Edvard Collins who didn’t share the same feelings!

Thus, Hans is still taking part in subversive activities even today, inspiring all sorts of wild opinions and behavior he could never express in an outward “in-your-face” way during the immensely vigorous oppression of his time.

For me, I like to think that Steph’s version of The Little Mermaid finally allows Hans to be with Edvard (or anyone, for that matter he was a solitary figure all his life) they are reunited in a very loving and romantic way that I think Mr. Andersen would’ve liked. And I think that the choice of earnestly singing Brian Wilson’s tunes and lyrics (another genius outsider of his time) and pairing it with the animation contributes to this sweet and  thoughtful piece that could serve as homage to a remarkable author who, were he alive today, would’ve made an excellent punk rock radical fairy.


Spooky Postage Stamps for Gothtober DAY 6

Bill Parr surrounded by nature in either the late 60s or early 70s.

Visit Gothtober’s Pumpkin #6 for a special symposium on true tales of mystery and intrigue!

“Dad, do you have any spooky stamps?” I said.
“Hmmm… I don’t think so, I tend to only collect pre-1945…”
Me – “Oh but that’s PERFECT! I bet you have stamps commemorating weird buildings, or mysterious historical figures, unsolved mysteries, stories, authors…”
Dad – “Well… now that you think of it…”
Thus, a Father/Daughter collaborative Gothtober project began, where my Dad went through his extensive pre-1945 collection of stamps, and then went online to sleuth out even more excitingly spooky stamp story possibilities. He found everything, he found all manner of fascinating subjects, he is nothing if not thorough.
My Dad is a philatelist.
Since the age of 16 he’s been studying and collecting postage stamps.
He also worked for Sonoma County as a Senior Systems Analyst for about 34 years, which means he appreciates a good flow chart and believes in inventing creative solutions that process assorted types of information in a practical and workable order.
When I was a little kid, computers were louder and larger than our refrigerator, and I spent a lot of time drawing on the leftover punch cards filled with holes that Dad would sometimes bring home for me when he came home from work.
Fast forward to this day and age where my Step Mom, Ma Peg, watches Dad prepare to go to stamp conventions, and she says “I’m not goin’ to that, it’s a big ol’ NERD FEST!” And she heads for the antique exhibits, and I don’t blame her one bit. Stamp conventions (from what I remember from visiting a couple with Dad when I was a kid) aren’t exactly a rousing hootenanny of extreme excitement, involving chiefly a lot of hushed voices, hunching over tiny engraved and gummed pieces of paper with magnifying glasses and glassine paper and special dorky binders that hold ever more collections of… stamps. Stamp collecting isn’t just nerdy, it’s the outer limits of nerdy, it’s “original nerd” classification.
But you see… the apple doesn’t fall from the tree, and I myself love POSTCARDS and did a show of over 1,200 hand painted postcards in 2008 called TimeStamp. We seem to have an appreciation for various types of paper ephemera in my family which cannot be explained. But if you can’t explain it, give it a whirl, right?
Here then is the best of Bill Parr’s stamp library in regards to Halloween-themed concepts, the unsolved mysteries, the freaky miracles, the gothic, horrific and strange tales that can be told through amazingly small squares of interesting prized postage stamps! Enjoy!

The Pop Ups & Friends Sends you a Swingin’ Gothtober Day 5

Who or what is an Elephant’s Gerald?!? Find Out! Visit DAY 5 on the Gothtober Countdown Calendar!

Coming to you from the heart of Brooklyn, NY are The Pop Ups and Friends! Click on Pumpkin #5 on the Gothtober Countdown Calendar to experience a catchy trick-or-treat tune!
We’re sure you might pick up on this phonetic tribute to The First Lady of Song, but there are also some other jazztastic tributes that don’t mention whats-her-name directly but um… instead through the medium of song, puppets, babies, graveyards, cardboard saxophones and yep… elephants.
The Pop Ups are Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein, and they are the composers and performers of some of the most rockin’ kids music in the world! Seriously, if you can’t make it out to NY to see one of their high-energy hilarious and danceriffic shows, do yourself a huge favor and get their albums which are available on iTunes, Amazon and at other fine locations, you can hear song samples and purchase their music here:

These tunes will make ANY road trip become instantly fun, it’ll make you want to bounce and sway and sing along, I can’t recommend it enough to kids, families or anyone who wants to have a seriously good time. Find out all about The Pop Ups from upcoming shows and albums to full biographies, photos and more here at their site: The Pop Ups. 

Jacob and Jason “The Pop Ups” holding one of their awesome outdoor concerts in NYC

The excellent spooky tone of this Fall Pop Ups piece comes not just from wondering just what this “Elephant’s Gerald” might be all about (no spoilers here, not a one) but take a good look at the scenery of this little music video. It was shot on location right outside of National History Landmark: Green-Wood Cemetery!!!

Leonard Bernstein was buried at Green-Wood, as well as Jean-Michel Basquiat, William S. Hart and Alice Roosevelt. The highest point in Brooklyn, which is 200 feet above sea level, is on cemetery grounds, it’s called “Battle Hill” and right at that spot is a statue of Minerva. It was commissioned by Irish immigrant Charles M. Higgins and sculpted by Frederick Ruckstull and unveiled  in August of 1920. Minerva, as you know, sprung from the head of Zeus and was the goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, and magic. She is considered the guardian of civilization.

But the coolest part of this statue is that she always faces The Statue of Liberty, she was built specifically for that purpose: to watch over and pay homage to Lady Liberty. In fact, a real estate developer wanting to build a structure in Brooklyn that would obscure the view between Minerva and The Statue of Liberty has been denied, which is all the more meaningful since the view between “liberty” and “medicine, wisdom and commerce” should always be shared indefinitely (guardian of civilization indeed!)

The building was going to be called “The Minerva” and if that’s not ironic, I don’t know what is! This warrior goddess statue’s official title is “Alter to Liberty: Minerva” and may Minerva never be out of a job due to commercial interests, but always be eternally seeking and searching the bigger lady that takes care of our “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Hooray for Historic Preservationists!

Goddess Minerva looking out at The Statue of Liberty in NY Harbor


The Gothtober Artists are IN!!!

After a laborious Labor Day Weekend of hemming and hawing, figurer-outering and making it all fit together for the best gosh darn 10th Anniversary Gothtober EVARRRRR… the names are IN, and here are the artists that will be participating in this year’s exceptional mixed bag of creepy crazy fun! Thank you everyone who applied, if we didn’t catch you this year, we’ll surely be creeping toward you the next year! Now then, the sluice gates are open, the cauldron’s firing up, got plenty of jars of dried newt tails and pixie dust, time to make stuff woooooooooooooooooooo!!!!