One of the things I look forward to about a convention weekend is the bar chat. Basically, the bar chat you get at a convention is the conversational equivalent of taking a bunch of regularly exercised, but well trained, puppies to the park and letting them off the lead. After feeding them amphetamines. For four days. With so many intelligent afficionados of the strange in one place, con bar chat, at its best, is a wide-ranging tour of the esoteric, the weird and the very, very silly.
So I’ve been getting in training this week by seeking out some odd pieces of entertainment. For example, last weekend we visited the venerable Britannia Panopticon (world’s oldest music hall theatre, don’t you know?) to see a variety of short silent films with live music performed by the very excellent Gladstone’s Bag. The films were all pretty good, but the one that stood out was a Larry Semon effort (featuring an early Oliver Hardy appearance as the baddie) called The Show. It’s basically 25mins of great gags followed by an archetypal train chase (seriously, how much stuff did people leave on train tracks in the 20s?), but there’s a really surreal segment where a stage magician produces a chicken that projectile vomits in the face of a heckler. And then, not content with that, it eats from a handy open tub of nitroglycerine and projectile vomits again but this time with explosions. Up until that point the surreality meter had peaked at the large pot of jam (it was the size of a bread bin and said JAM on the side) perched on the edge of the theatre box and just waiting to be knocked off onto the head of the sap below, but suddenly: exploding chicken vomit. Brilliant!
And I was given the opportunity to push the weird a little further when I heard that one of Lavie Tidhar’s Gorel stories had been released as a podcast, so that was my soundtrack sorted for this afternoon. I loved Gorel And The Pot Bellied God which came out from PS Publishing this time last year, and this story, Buried Eyes, was equally steeped in pulpy Howardian Weird, except with even more drugs, sex, bizarre alien shit and six guns.
Great way to get properly in the mood.