Daily Archives: December 20, 2011

Plans for the new year

Time to change perspectives ever-so-slightly. I know that you’re currently caught in the horrible Mad Max/Dawn of the Dead mashup known as “the shopping season.” Most friends in the Northern Hemisphere already want to shiv me for mentioning that we Texans have only three more months to wait before we can plant tomatoes and peppers outside without fear of frost. Friends in the Southern Hemisphere are too busy screaming about the air they breathe bursting into flame to care. Either way, we need to talk about plans for next year.

I know, I know. It’s not even the winter solstice yet, and already that lunatic at the Triffid Ranch is talking about plans for 2012. Be thankful for this, kids, because I could do something really bloggy and pathetic, such as put up multiple pictures of my cats. Go ahead and ask “How many times did I knock up your little brother to make you do that?”, because you’ll be crying it before I’m done. If you’re really obnoxious, I’ll make you read through the archives first.

To start, January in Texas isn’t as mindnumbingly awful as it could be. We rarely get snow, and we even rarely go below freezing for most of the month. The one absolute of the month is that everything goes brown. Brown trees, brown grass, brown skies, brown note. Actually, things are so brown that you pray for a good sustained brown note, just to keep from boring yourself to death. Combine that with weekend entertainment options that usually circle Dallas Cowboys games…yeah, a lot of particularly earthy (and therefore brown to brownish) words get used to describe January out here.

That’s why you need a good dose of color. Thankfully for us all, that hits the weekend of January 27, when ZestFest 2012 starts up at the Irving Convention Center. When I first moved to North Texas in the tail-end of the Seventies, the only two tourist attractions in Irving were Texas Stadium and the Frito-Lay plant on the southeast side of the city, but That Changed with one of the largest conglomerations of spicy foods in the US. Prefer real flavor over heat? Not an issue. Want spicy combinations that shouldn’t exist on this planet? Yep. Enjoy the spectacle of grown adults eating items that peel the enamel off their teeth in big floppy strips? ZestFest is even better than the State Fair of Texas. The Triffid Ranch won’t have a booth out there, but we will be there to stock up, especially on DefCon Sauces‘s next atrocities.

Three weeks later, it’s time for the reptile and amphibian enthusiasts to have their fun. The North American Reptile Breeders Conference swings around to Arlington on the weekend of February 11, with its seemingly infinite range of animals, habitats, and food items. Again, the Triffid Ranch won’t have a presence this year (although that will probably change in 2013), but don’t use that as an excuse not to attend. The best part? This year’s show is just before Valentine’s Day, and considering how I do my best to treat the Czarina with orchids, maybe she might reciprocate with a true display of her love.

A week after this, the show season starts, and this year it’s starting with ConDFW XI in Dallas. The flytraps and Sarracenia should still be in proper winter dormancy for another month, so it’s time to focus on tropical pitcher plants, sundews, and triggerplants and arrangements containing same. This is a new show for the Czarina and myself, and another opportunity to prove that February isn’t anywhere near as brown as January.

Starting March 16, the theme is “End of the World”. You could see firsthand what happens when you give MBAs and coke spoons to chimpanzees, or you could hit up All-Con 2012. After all, it’s not a real end-of-the-world celebration without triffids, and All-Con should have a much lower quotient of fratboy vomit.

Finally, spring should be a celebration of renewal and rebirth. Ladybugs devouring aphids on rose bushes. Tomato hornworms infested with exoparasitic wasps, or dragged off and buried in underground warrens by other wasps. Robin and mockingbird hatchlings demonstrating their dinosaurian heritage. That’s why I’m passing on word now that the original 750 rooms for this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend at DFW Airport are already booked, and the hotel just opened up another 750. Considering the crowd and the venue, is it bad form to state “We have such sights to show you,” or is that just an appropriate promise for those seeking exotic flora?

Finally, you’d think I’d learn after last spring’s fiasco, but the gardening writing bug implanted eggs in my viscera, and they’re currently trying to burrow out to pupate. I make no promises as to final outcome, but I’ve already volunteered my services at the new online magazine Carpe Nocturne. We shall see. Considering how badly I miss the long-dead goth magazine Carpe Noctem, I have hopes for additional bits of fun involving Texas Frightmare Weekend this year.

Disturbing parallels involving “The Blair Witch Project”

Back in the early Nineties, back during the beginnings of my science fiction essay writing days (which made about as much of an impression as Jeffrey Dahmer’s track record with managing vegan restaurants), I was a regular guest at a series of now-long-defunct Dallas-based comic conventions. While the main emphasis of the shows was on packing as many people into the dealer’s hall as possible, the promotion of these shows usually emphasized at least one child or cult actor from the Sixties, signing autographs and otherwise comporting themselves in interesting fashions. (I can, for instance, relate without shame that I was very nearly responsible for causing one such former child actor to jump out a 20th-story window in a Fort Worth hotel nearly 20 years ago. That story involved a friend’s phone prank, two of the scariest strippers in the Southwest, and an abandoned copy of the second issue of Evan Dorkin’s Milk & Cheese comic, and will only be related in person. During the book tour, and only after the publisher delivers the baby crocodile monitor that’s a deal-breaker for the contract in lieu of an advance.)

The organizer of said convention was, in some ways, savvier than any of us realized, as I realized when I asked him why the shows kept featuring Sixties-era TV actors as headliner guests instead of, I don’t know, inviting various literary science fiction stars. In fact, that was the argument I was giving him at the time. He just guffawed and told me that those actors were absolute gold for his shows. Nobody in the general public would give a flip about Gil Kane or Harlan Ellison as a guest star, but radio morning show hosts and “Weekend Guide” editors would go bonkers for the opportunity to relate “Hey, Bill Mumy of Lost In Space is going to be out at the show this weekend, so don’t miss out!” As much as it ground my jaws at the time, he was right, and a lot of attendees who’d sooner gnaw their own legs off than go to a comics convention raced out to the shows because of that connection.

And now the horticulture connection. Many of us GenXers may remember Heather Donahue, mostly for her starring role in the 1999 movie The Blair Witch Project. Judging by a recent interview, I suspect that she’d appreciate a quote from former Butthole Surfers lead singer Gibby Haynes: “The worst thing in the world is to be famous with no money.” She apparently moved from acting into medical marijuana, and she’s currently on a tour to promote her upcoming book Growgirl: How My Life After The Blair Witch Project Went to Pot.

Reading the interview, I was struck by how much her life paralleled mine. In 1999, she was starring in The Blair Witch Project. In 1999, I was working for SCI Fi magazine, a publication that passed up on covering the original Blair Witch Project but made up for it with sycophantic coverage of Blair Witch 2. She dumped all of her acting memorabilia in the desert and moved into medical marijuana. I dumped all of my science fiction writing memorabilia on eBay and moved into carnivorous plants. She started taking medical marijuana to treat PMS. I was born just weeks before LSD became illegal in the US. She had concerns with writing about her experiences after a friend was busted by the Feds. I had concerns with writing about my experiences after confirming I had an FBI record for allegedly selling government secrets to the Daleks. She has fans in the millions, and will probably do very well with her book tour. I have fans in the dozens, and couldn’t give away my books with free beer. The similarities are just uncanny.