Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Happy Halloween or Happy Samhain

In honor of All Hallows' Eve, Phil and I have brewed up a little something special.  Consider it a Halloween treat.  Inspired by the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, by Clement Clarke Moore and the illustrations of William Wallace Denslow (check out this fantastic resource for some of his work) we present a Samhain (pronounced sow-wain) story to get you in the appropriate mood for this wonderfully ghastly holiday.  We hope you enjoy!

(A full text version of the poem can be found after the illustrated pages)

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Russell's Curio Corner #7


Current logo for the Mount Agou
Devil Twins, the oldest and second oldest
team in Numb Skull's history.
As we’re rapidly approaching Halloween, I thought I’d keep this week’s Curio Corner in a monstrous vein.  It’s been a great year for sports what with a landmark Tour de France, a thrilling run-up to the World Series (better luck next year, Cardinals), and a truly celebrational Olympics-Paralympics.  But, yet again one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious sporting tournaments has been passed over by the sporting press.  Yes of course, I’m talking about Numb Skull

Now before you click the back button or navigate away to your Facebook Petition for another series of Charles in Charge, hear me out.  Yes, I know the rule changes instated this season are a bit confusing and yes the familiar buckets of blood are more like Dixie cups, but it’s still the same beautiful game that your great-great granddads once spent countless moonlit hours nightmaring about.  So, let me try and clarify a few of the new rules for you and engage in the process of reconciliation. 

1.        No clubs with nails/spikes/sharps longer than six inches.  This one’s pretty self-explanatory.  The issue of course, came to a head (or rather came off a head) when Mowngrun Brundle ( SLG .321, HEX .011, NMB 5.22, CUR .129) of the Kent Ogres impaled Yu Yi (SLG .264, HEX .640, NMB 3.12, CUR .871) of the Chungking Quilins from the Kent bench before play had even begun.  The Chungking team swarmed the stands at Hig Gumgrun Field and took early “trophies.” 
Logo for the 1997 European Champions,
the Genoa Giants.

2.       Salary caps set at 1.5 million bullion per player.  Another of the less unpopular rules.  The only protest to this rule came from the hundred-and-thirty-fifth defending world champions, The New York Alchemists (who are looking pretty flaky this year).

3.       No running without a head (unless naturally headless).  No one will forget Chindar Modi’s (SLG.625, HEX .022, NMB 4.39, CUR .482) tear-away goal of last season in which the back-eightsman ran for 223 without his head.  The contention behind this rule change is largely due to the question of possession.  Although, on the roster for the Maharashtra Vadakilla’s, the Estes Park Ghasts claimed that after decapitation he was technically on their team ((who after winning the argument became the first team to score points without playing a game) subsequently, it was later discovered that Modi was actually a transmogrified chicken and the points were later discounted; see rule #841:No Free Range Chickens).

Carcross's last logo (1963) before
becoming the Yukon Wendigos.
4.        No luring visiting supporters to their collective doom.  This rule was proposed by the European League chancellor after visiting supporters for the Shetland Fachens, Beaucaire Dracs, Cyprus Scyllas, Gdansk Poleviks, etc., disappeared after matches versus the Dusseldorf Erlkings (on a positive note, the Chancellor would like to welcome the new expansion team, the Rhineland Ghouls to the European League.  Good luck in your inaugural season.)  It has not been very popular with most players (although there has been overwhelming fan support).

5.        Abolition of the wicked-off-infield-leg-before -fly-side rule.  This change was meant to attract fans to the sport that have otherwise stayed away due to confusing and elaborate rules (it must be said, however, that this rule has never actually been enforced in the history of the game).  Only traditionalists have been remotely upset by this change, but traditionalists tend to be upset anyway, so...
The first logo of the São Paulo Invisibles.

6.       No unnecessary bloodletting rule.  Easily the most contentious of this year’s changes.  Teams most affected by this change include the Bucharest Wampirs, Amsterdam Physiks, Wisconsin Leeches, and the Kingston Loogaroos.  This rule’s staunchest opponents are stadium vendors specializing in retail sales of garlic, crosses, holy water and waterproof waders and in Amsterdam, malpractice lawyers.

So, when mid-November rolls around and the season is heating/hotting up (mainly due to the Baghdad Demon Salamanders), fish out your dusty Tallahassee Gator-Men jerseys, air out your Lithuanian Lycanthropes ballcaps and untangle your Cairo Mummies rally-towels and sit yourself down with a tasty trick-or-treat ‘cause the boys of midnight are back. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Gardener

As this glorious Autumn unfolds, and winter approaches, an old poem of mine for you, written at the season's turn, and inspired by my green-fingered friend Isabel.  And by the Faeries too of course.
The beautiful illustrations are by Christina Denyer.

The Gardener

A gardener she, a worker with soil.
In the beds and the bowers each day she would toil.
She lived by the stream at the garden's extent:
A shovel, a hole and a small canvas tent.
The stream was her confidant, friend and confessor.
It never spoke falsehoods or tried to impress her.
Through the garden it snaked, with a skin of bright jewels,
And lingered and swirled in meanders and pools.
 Each morning she swam there, and spoke with its deva;
A lily-green naiad, the Waterweed-Weaver.
Some morns she would bid that the gardener follow,
To the rainbow-spray cave of her waterfall hollow,
And bestow there upon her some spell-word or charm,
That perhaps might protect her from nettle-sting harm.
Or else imbue her with the fineness of vision,
To grant on a leaf with a green-thumbed precision.
She would thank the green nymph with her belly and heart,
Then swim back to the camp for the day's early start.
 Then, after a breakfast of wind-fallen plums,
She would stand facing North, hook her belt with her thumbs,
And call out her song to the beds and the borders,
To request of the gnomes the day's gardening orders.
 She would turn to the East, with the breeze in her hair,
And cry out her praise to the sylphs of the air,
To give thanks for the leaf devil, zephyr and squall,
That tugs at dead branches, and laughs as they fall.
 Then turn South, so facing her ash-mantled pyre,
And petition the flame-footed imps of the fire,
To kindle the clippings, the logs and the leaves,
And waft their sweet smoke to her clearings green eaves.
 And at last to the West, to the nymphs of the water,
And ask them that she, their grime-nailed daughter,
Might quench of her thirst, and join them at play,
In the stream by her tent at the set of the day.
 So to work. To the forking and turning.
To the pruning and tending and grass-cutting burning.
With the gnomes gentle prompting judiciously weeding,
And a song for the deadheads, absorbed in their seeding.

At times she would pause with her knees in the loam,
And laugh at the jests of the tiny brown gnome,
Who always was with her throughout the day's toil,
And at dusk would dissolve back down into the soil.
 With her fists to her spine, and the day's work all done,
She would stretch back and smile at the westering sun.
On her way back to camp she would stop by the Mound,
That hot-bellied heap on the patch of rough ground.
She would pause and be still, and her ear would just catch
The sounds of digestion within its dark thatch.
 'Neath starlight,at fireside cooking her food,
She would lie back and drift in a mystical mood,
Contemplating the Oneness, the Isness, the Now,
With the cool evening dew forming beads on her brow.
She would lie, if a cool night, up close to her pyre,
And drift off to dreams that were warmed by the fire.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Varou: Vargr

A text version of the poem can be found below the illustrated pages.


The Sun, she fled the sky when I was born.
Ill-begat, by Fenrir 'pon his dam.
I left a stinking stain across the morn.
'Tis true, the very worst of wolves I am.
'Mongst my litter-mates I was the runt.
Bit and bullied, ever last to feed.
Left to stumble on behind the hunt.
First to cringe and cower, and to bleed.

So I grew. Not fast, or hard, or strong.
A weakling in a fight, and sloth at running.
Limping, scarred, and broken-fanged, and wrong,
But O! Forsooth I had my share of cunning.
My siblings, they were none too quick of thought,
Whilst I was sharp and sly and cruel and vile.
I watched them, snapping, snarling as they fought,
And learned to take my share by means of guile.
Whate'er they did, I always did the worse,
And day by savage day they came to fear me.
I learned to twist my tongue to make a curse,
Raising blisters if they dared draw near me.
'Til came the day when I did something bad.
So bad that I shall spare you, and not tell.
'Pon that day they realised I was mad,
And made their plan to cast me down to Hel.
They broke my bones, and hauled me to a cave.
Our mother wove a hex, therein to bind me,
Then wrenched the rock down, sealing up my grave,
In gravest hope that none should ever find me.
As there I lay, upon my shatter'd back,
Howling out my pain with none to hark,
An odour came a-snaking up a crack,
That brought a ruined whimper in the dark.
I heard her grating voice inside my head.
(Or was it in the cave? I could not tell.)
Cease your whines. Be glad you are not dead.”
Then all I knew was that infernal smell.
She taught me much as I lay in my tomb.
Her darkest secrets were to me laid bare.
I lay there listening, breathing in her fume.
An age passed, and my tomb became my lair.
Then light came lancing in to stab my eyes;
Miners seeking flint had broached the cave.
Finding me they shrank back in surprise,
Then gather'd in and dragged me from my grave.
Rude these men, and weak, a-feared of death,
Slow of wit, and barely more than beasts.
I bathed them in the foulness of my breath,
Until, corrupted, they became my priests.
I showed them how to carve a cursing rune,
And with it, burn and blister, and to kill.
I taught them how to snag and snare the Moon,
And drag him wrenched and swollen to their will.
Then at last I bid them bind their clan,
And twist them to knot of rage and dread.
Of how to force the wolf inside the man,
'Til all his kinder urges have been bled.
I am Lugvann, Fenrir's grimmest get.
I am Vargr, Thursr's deepest shame.
There's worse in me, fell depths I've not plumbed yet.
Shudder then, when e'er you hear my name.

Thursday, 4 October 2012


Hi all, to celebrate National Poetry Day, here's a little ode for you...


When climate change has had its way and we're facing our Dark Night,
There's only one upon this earth who can lead us to the Light.
Only one man with the power to take away our fears.
The Saviour of the Human Race,
The marvellous Ray Mears.

Ray, he don't need matches, and a tent he don't require;
In thirty seven minutes flat his home's built by his fire.
It's made of sticks and snail-shells and shining sacred things.
As Ray weaves his bower, he lifts his chins and sings...

My name's Ray Mears, the Lord of Earth.
All life cheers at my mention.
I alone possess the skills that ease survival tension.

All women crave my pleasure,
All men vie for my praise.
All hats flung high as I go by;
Sweet Saviour of your days.

I'll brew you up some birch-sap wine.
I'll whittle you a staff.
You love me and you need me.
At your helplessness I laugh.

I accept your tribute graciously,
No more than is my due.
I own the body and the soul of every one of you.

I loathe you and despise you,
You weak pathetic scum.
You will give your hearts to me.
My Kingdom Come.”

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Russell's Curio Corner #6

Well, election time is almost here.  As an American I can say with some authority that our 2,567th favorite pastime (positioned just behind the annual tradition of reading horoscopes found on the 1982 newspaper that your mom used to protect your Christmas ornaments while in storage) would most likely be voting.  And since I am currently residing across the pond I am lucky enough to get the opportunity to vote early through the medium of postal ballot.  Since sending my absentee ballot to my friendly polling locale, the election is definitely on my old crunchy peanut bar (Yank slang for "brain").  I've been looking into forecasts and portendses and estimations of voting populaces and I must say that one little nugget of statistical statistics has me, dare I say, alarmed!  The percentage of monsters registered to vote is remarkably low.  Remarkably low indeed!  So remarkable that I am forced to remark!  O!

Given this remarkable lack of figures I have been forced to adopt the position that there are a host of people out there who must not be aware that they are in fact monsters (how else could you explain the re-election of George II; or support for Todd Akin).  So, I've taken the initiative and have corralled several of the worlds leading teraspsychologists to painstakingly compile a survey that I think will help a great many of you step out of the darkness of self-unawareness and into the light of un-self-unawarenss.  So, if you would be so kind, here are the cognitive apples from my learned friends' herculean efforts.  Good luck.