The blog of author Dennis Cooper

25 experimental horror films

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Nico B PIG (1998)
PIG, a film depicting the relationship between a killer (Rozz Williams) and his victim (James Hollan), where all lines are crossed, blending fantasy and reality, in a transformation of the subconscious mind of a killer, graphically showing the manifestation of itself into abstract forms and material, all deriving from his suffering and desperation. PIG was the last project of Rozz Williams (who died 4.1.1998), formerly known from the rock group Christian Death among others. R.W. spoke of the film as a form of exorcism & transition of his personal demons. Directed by Nico B.’

 

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Leila Jarman A Dream of Paper Flowers (2016)
‘A “giant lactating tit slug” serves as the star of the short film A Dream of Paper Flowers. The slug and the film are the creations of filmmaker Leila Jarman and puppet artist and poet Chelsea Bayouth. Jarman and Bayouth have teamed up with artist and producer Luka Fisher, artist MRK, digital artist Mike Leisz, cinematographer Spencer Rollins, and electronic musician and head of Proximal Records Sahy Uhns to create a work that combines puppetry and poetry, black-and-white filmmaking, and electronic sound design, into a surreal portrait of the female experience. The film is utterly abject. Close-ups of the film’s “star” pan across leaking conic growths, patches of rough hair (human hair?), and hills and valleys of uneven, alien skin. And yet, these images are also clandestinely beautiful: filmed in black-and-white, their harshness becomes softened and the precise detailing of their designs comes to the fore. As the film progresses, Bayouth’s beast begins to pulsate with greater intensity and, with a final, natal push, MRK emerges, naked like a newborn and covered in a tangling of material that harkens strongly of the organic gore of childbirth.’

 

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Takashi Ito Ghost (1984)
‘I made this work because I wanted to try out the idea of floating images in midair that had come to me when making Thunder. The entire work was shot frame-by-frame with long exposures. I filmed this in the company dorm I was living in in the middle of the night after I had come home from work, and thought I might die from what had become my daily pattern of sleeping for two hours in the morning then going off to work.’ -– Takashi Ito

 

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J.X. Williams The Virgin Sacrifice (1969)
‘Before ‘Virgin’, I never put much stock in the idea of a ‘cursed’ production. Take a film like ‘Incubus’. Just cause the director’s nephew died, the production company went belly up, and Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate attended the premiere…Those could all just be coincidences. Shit happens. But with ‘Virgin’, you could just smell the vapor of evil clouding the set. It didn’t help that our chief investor was a ranking member of the Church of Satan. In the end, we tallied three OD’s, a maimed-for-life set designer, bankruptcy, and a car bombing (sort of). Even the film itself disappeared. Not just the prints. The film lab burnt down and we lost the negative. All I’ve got left is the nine minute opening to the main feature and the sound-sync is fucked.’ — JXW


Excerpt

 

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Anthony Spadaccini Post-Mortem (2010)
‘A suicidal teenage boy is befriended by a sadistic serial killer, who vows to set him free of his drug-addicted family. From award-winning filmmaker Anthony Spadaccini comes the third and most horrifying chapter in the Head Case series, an experimental horror film that depicts a journey into an adolescent’s surrealistic nightmare.’


Trailer

 

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David Sherman Tuning the sleeping machine (1996)
‘A suggestion of a psycho-physical cinema, an emul­sive journey of hypnotic illusion. Fragments of unidentified and yet strangely familiar films, full of allusions and implications, drift towards each other, veiled by re-filming, electricity and the residues of alchemical formulas, renowned for time and memory.’ impakt.nl

 

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Tzuan Wu Disease of Manifestation (2010)
‘The act of manifestation is to rupture with the present world and the compulsion to change it. Here comes the paradox between outward-looking and inward-looking perspectives of the notion of revolution, which is the initiation of this project, manifestations as the infectious psychosis. This work was composed in a pseudo-automatic writing manner, collaged with the fragments of various forms and contents, of images and words. I trim them with juxtaposition, bad translation, and misreading the different visual, audio or textual references in a machinery speaking… forming the work with heterogeneous qualities with in. The work builds itself towards the anarchistic conditions of the inner scenes, can also be seem as a wrong-manifesto.’ TW

 

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Eric Stanze ICE FROM THE SUN (1999)
‘Shot entirely on Super 8 film, this award-winning experimental horror movie was director Eric Stanze’s second feature film. Released in 1999, it remains one of the most logistically complex films ever made at its budget level. ICE FROM THE SUN was among the first independent films to be released on the newly-introduced DVD format – and it was the very first film shot on Super 8 to be DVD-released. Even though the cutting pace of ICE FROM THE SUN is incredibly fast, it was one of the last feature films to be arduously edited on a linear system. Everything (Hollywood feature films, commercials, music videos, amateur shorts, etc.) is edited on non-linear computer editing systems today.’

 

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Romain Perrot & Andy Bolus Free as Dead (2016)
‘In the analog tradition of DIY underground cinema, Lighten Up Sounds proudly presents this VHS edition of FREE AS DEAD, a new experimental short horror film from the twisted minds of Andy Bolus (Evil Moisture) and Romain Perrot (Vomir). The film is a collaborative work, a shadowy nightmare of evil excess, demented sorcery and lurid ritual. Our story concerns a man bound to death and a young girl, following a path of ritualistic transfiguration to ultimately become FREE AS DEAD.


Trailer

 

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Adam Lehmeier The Bunny Game (2011)
‘It’s taken The Bunny Game four years to receive a proper American release, and we can see why. As the British Board of Film Classification’s decision to ban it from UK cinemas makes clear, director Adam Rehmeier’s black-and-white, near-snuff film isn’t for the faint of heart; frankly, we don’t know who in the hell it’s for exactly. The Human Centipede II, another recent piece of B&W exploitation, at least has the self-awareness and grasp on gallows humor to make us laugh at its insanity; The Bunny Game, with its repulsive presentation of a prostitute named Bunny (Rodleen Getsic) being endlessly and sickeningly savaged by a mad trucker, is torture porn without a funny bone in its celluloid body. Play this game at your own risk.’

 

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Dietmar Brehm Hallo Mabuse (2016)
Hallo Mabuse captivates through its reduction, in which a conspiratorial narrative takes place, but even more so, the images themselves appear ambiguous, obscure, untrustworthy. A nod of the head, which seems treacherous in its mechanical repetition, meets the profile of a bearded man who does not appear to react at all in a suggested counter shot. The slight flickering of the image further intensifies the impression of an illicit agreement, of witnessing a crooked handshake. The ringing of the unseen telephone and the constant ticking of a clock lend the events a limited temporality. Something is running out, and in doing so, is also already reaching its end, a ghostly final act, which is anticipated by an explosion and breaks off with the sound of a falling guillotine.’ — Dominik Kamalzadeh


Watch an excerpt here

 

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Quentin Dupieux Rubber (2011)
RUBBER is the story of Robert, an inanimate tire that has been abandoned in the desert, and suddenly and inexplicably comes to life. As Robert roams the bleak landscape, he discovers that he possesses terrifying telepathic powers that give him the ability to destroy anything he wishes without having to move. At first content to prey on small desert creatures and various discarded objects, his attention soon turns to humans, especially a beautiful and mysterious woman who crosses his path. Leaving a swath of destruction across the desert landscape, Robert becomes a chaotic force to be reckoned with, and truly a movie villain for the ages. Directed by legendary electro musician Quentin Dupieux (Steak, Nonfilm), aka Mr. Oizo, RUBBER is a wholly original tribute to the cinematic concept of “no reason.’


Trailer


Ending

 

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Reece and Ryan O’Connell Disturbed (2009)
‘We are a 16 year-old filmmaking duo, which make low budget short films. Our films are usually dark, mysterious, and sometimes experimental, and we also work on various other projects such as music video’s, live performances etc…’

 

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Martin Arnold Don’t – Der Österreichfilm (1996)
”Don’t – Der Osterreichfilm’ is the most terrifying Martin Arnold film I have ever seen, thoroughly connecting the way in which kitsch wends its way to terror. Make no mistake, this is a horror movie about cult mind control, mass violence, eugenics and industrialized atrocity. It is about how the seemingly slight or ridiculous mythologies a culture tells itself become the unseen ideological supports for the normalization of evil. Really an incredible film. It made the hair on the back of my neck and on my arms stand up.’ — nathaxnne [hiatus]

 

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Lois Patiño Mountain in Shadow (2013)
MOUNTAIN IN SHADOW offers a poetic view on the relationship between the immensity of the landscape and the insignificance of the human being, through a hypnotic ballet of night-time skiers on a snowy slope. Starting from the white of the snow, the image turns increasingly darker and more stylized, almost black-and-white, as LOIS PATIÑO gradually shifts from mere representation of the mountain to a fascinating display of spectral, dreamlike spaces, transporting the viewer from the physical level to a metaphysical one.’


Excerpt

 

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Kurt Dirt Driller Queen (2017)
‘Ida Skinner is a young down and out morgue attendant / drag queen with personality disorders that would make Jeffrey Dahmer blush. He is constantly ridiculed for not being able to afford nice wigs or clothes but one day this all changes when a dead lady with fantastic hair is brought in. Unable to resist Temptation Ida scalps the body and finds himself the toast of the local drag scene. Soon he is inundated with requests for his fabulous human hair wigs and as the morgue begins to dry up he realises he must turn to murder to find the perfect material for his weaves… The film stars Violet Blonde as Ida Skinner. This is Violet’s first acting role but she’s no stranger to performance, and Violet caught the directors attention with her wild and outrageous home made looks, veering from immaculate drag to twisted club kid akin to something from a Cronenberg movie. Violet was originally penned to play “Bubbles” in Life is Cheap but had to pull out at the last minute. The rest of the cast, so far, includes Life is Cheap stars Joe Spencer, Ben Atomgrinder, Lou Woodcock, and a few more exciting new names to be confirmed. As with Kurt’s previous film the directing, editing, special effects etc. will be handled by himself with help from his wife Lisa. US based writer Heidi Moore is set to assist with the script. The film is to be scored by 70s/80s Lucio Fulci / William Lustig inspired composer Polypores, AKA Stephen James Buckley.’


Trailer

 

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Michael Higgins Funnel Web Family Refrigerated (2016)
Funnel Web Family Refrigerated is a refrigerated version of the 13 minute Funnel Web Family i.e. it lasts longer. Similar to the defrosted version it is a prying look at the creatures that inhabit a home. Shot using an early form of wireless CCTV camera technology it places the viewer in an intense voyeuristic position which at times generates a sense of unease and atmospheric disturbance.’


Trailer

 

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Naoki Yoshimoto Sanguivorous (2011)
‘Naoki Yoshimoto’s Sanguivorous is an experimental vampire film about a woman descended from a line of vampires, and starring veteran butoh dancer Ko Murobushi. A butoh-inspired vampire film isn’t enough of a reason to get you out to the theatre?’


Trailer

 

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Eddie Alcazar FUCKKKYOUUU (2015)
‘Shot on black-and-white film with a foreboding drone and static-filled score by Flying Lotus that gets very abrasive, it’s as gorgeous as it is unnerving. “With the ability to travel in time, a lonely girl finds love and comfort by connecting with her past self,” the film’s synopsis reads. “Eventually faced with rejection she struggles with her identity and gender, and as time folds onto itself only one of them can remain.” Rather straightforward as far as synopses go. So much so, in fact, that it almost seems like a joke, because FUCKKKYOUUU is anything but straightforward. The exploration of the girl’s identity, both with her gender and state of mind, is full of body horror and dark dreamscapes. It’s Rubber Johnny shot through both silent and modern era filmmaking techniques.’

 

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Pat Tremblay Atmo HorroX (2016)
‘The movie is a VERY weird one, it’s kind of a psychedelic horror b-movie inside an experimental satire and then wrapped into a cryptic mystery thriller… And because of that, I’ve decided to actually release the OFFICIAL TRAILER first, and only later put out the TEASER TRAILER. I want to make sure you will learn even less by the time the second one arrives, especially since the movie has some rather slow burn gags… The film gives lots of trippy visuals but it’s also a detective job for the spectator to decipher this Mind Puzzle. So be prepared for this reverse and very unspoilery promotion angle!’


Trailer

 

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Janie Geiser Ghost Algebra (2009)
‘What do we see in this film? Holes. Lots of them. Holes for looking through. There’s a little plastic doll who looks very 1940s, some birds, numerals, trees, and lots of grass. Blades of grass. When I see a little plastic girl doll looking into holes I see a filmmaker looking into a camera to investigate the world, or rather the mind, or perhaps the unconscious. This doll approaches an odd stone bunker on a hill and she peers into a small opening into darkness. It looks a bit like an old Nazi gun bunker. Carl Jung would approve! All experimental films should dig into the unconscious mind, I think. People throw ‘dreamlike’ around quite often these days when talking about films. There are very few dreamlike films. What most people mean by dreamlike is simply blurry. Anyway, our plastic doll sees things in storybook fashion that suggest nature and Nazis. There’s warfare going on. The precision of battle maps. The doll’s vision puts conflicting images of tamed nature description together with extreme violence. Nothing is attached properly to anything. Ideas do not lead to logical conclusions. Instead, they lead to odd constructions.’

 

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William F. Claxton Night of the Lepus (1972)
‘Before its release, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) renamed the film from its original name of Rabbits and avoided including rabbits in most promotional materials to try to keep the featured mutant creatures a secret. However, the studio itself broke the secret by issuing rabbit’s foot-themed promotional materials before the release. Widely panned by critics for its premise, bad directing, stilted acting and laughable special effects, the film’s biggest failure was considered to be the inability to make the rabbits seem scary. Night of the Lepus has gained cult status for its inadvertent avant-garde quality.’


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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Takeshi Murata Silver (2006)
‘In Silver, Murata subjects a snippet of footage from a vintage horror movie (Mario Bava’s 1960 film ‘Mask of Satan’, featuring Barbara Steele) — to his exacting yet almost violent digital manipulations. The seething black and white imagery constantly decomposes and reconstitutes itself, slipping seductively between abstraction and recognition.’ — Letterboxd

 

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James Batley Kneel Through the Dark (2013)
‘Less a film, more a form of ceremonial magic. An audio / visual grimoire. A rite drawing on the teachings of the occult master Crowley to usurp the physical, mental and astral consciousness that smother and chain the uninitiated to this burning world. An incantation that reconnects and invokes occult rhythms and codas of nature that drill through the subconscious and draw your whiskers fully to the ether.’


Trailer

 

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Lloyd Michael Williams Ursula (1961)
‘A Child’s decay into total insanity caused by the tortures of an unloving mother. Not to be seen before bedtime.’ — The Filmmakers Coop

 

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Damon Packard Dawn of an Evil Millennium (1988)
‘The story consists of a demon named “Rottergom” who is summoned to earth from an alien planet and goes on a rampage with a beefed up 1970 Oldsmobile. (a quad turbo multi-phase 2100 horsepower engine) During his materialization he splits into two beings, one a goofy and harmless wandering demon named “Flookie”, the other pure evil. Special squad detective Frank Bift (Paul Trainor) is assigned the task of tracking him down, along with his angry, reluctant partner Miles O Keeffe.’

 

 

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p.s. Hey. ** Tomk, Hi, Tom! Back to school? Where, and what’re you studying? Big up, my friend. ** _Black_Acrylic, My price range too. Out of it, I mean. Beautiful and of course deeply sad that your dad has passed into such an amazing looking place. I hope you’re doing okay. His impact is felt, even by me who only met him once. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Oh, yeah, cool, yeah, it’s a really good book. She’s quite a strong writer in general, and, yes, ahead of her time, i.e. Megan Boyle, etc. I should patent that phrase quickly, I guess. I was hoping to find the spot where disturbing and somehow plaintive and endearing met with that love proposal, and it …sounds like maybe I sideswiped the sweet spot at least? Right, first day back at school. What a horror. Although it was nice to have all or most of your friends in one place all day. Love reminding me last night through a friend that an anagram for my full name is ‘lopsided coffin corners’, G. ** RYAN ANGUSRAZE, Hey, bud! Dude, that is such great, incredible news! Awesome, and huge congrats! Like I said, in my head and many knowing peoples’ estimations, Cafe Oto is one of the creme de la ultimate creme of adventurous music venues in the world. Celebrate like crazy, not that you need the prompt. Great! The film: right now it’s a huge struggle as we try to figure out how we can make it with the limited money we have, which is going to very difficult, so a bit rough at the moment, but once we sort that, it should be fairly excited sailing from then on. Thanks for asking! Ticker-tape spilling love. ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. Cool you have the Siglio edition. I only have the original, non-illustrated release as scanned in the post. Mm, In think my favorite of hers is ‘Studying Hunger’ if I had to choose. The short fiction is dawdling along but I’m okay with that pace. No, they’re odds and ends, unfinished things I’m trying to finish, things that were to be parts of novels that I pulled, some recent things. Pretty scattered. Zac and I will head to LA in later September sometime, we’re not sure exactly when yet. There’s a bunch to figure out before we go. Our budget is too tight to be feasible, so we have to figure some way to make cuts that we can’t figure out how to make, but we will because there’s no other choice. But, yeah, in a couple or few weeks, I think. Then we’ll stay into October to do some last Halloween home haunt research and see if we can score/borrow some haunt props and decor for the film as, like I said, our money situation is tough. Great about the gig. Will you record the new material? And very nice about the residency. A solid week to work can make a huge difference, as I don’t need to tell you. Great to see you! ** Okay. Here’s a plethora of horror movies and movie-ettes to ideally keep you busy between now and Monday when I will next see you.

8 Comments

  1. TomK

    Hey Man,

    Sorry to hear about the budget travails…fingers are crossed for a solution of some kind. Oh man, I wish I was back studying but I’m teaching in a French school here and we have an inspection coming up etc

    I’m knackered. Hope you’re good

  2. Misanthrope

    Big D! I’m back in action. Man, I’ve just been totally slammed at work.

    But now I have the 3-day Labor Day weekend, so I’m a just chill.

    Things are fine. My mom’s appointment for the GI issues went well. They’re doing an MRI on the area where she got her gall bladder removed. That’s where all the pain is. It’s possible it’s simply a blocked duct. That has to be ruled out first. Frankly, I hope that’s it. Beyond that, it could be something scarier.

    Kayla’s in New Orleans with friends.

    David is…David. Eek.

    Hope you’re well.

    Oh, and it seems Timothee has been in Paris recently. If he comes back there from Venice, where he’s promoting his film in which he’s a cannibal (and it’s getting great reviews…maybe it’s good? I don’t know), tell him I said hey. 😉

  3. Bill

    Wow, this is a treasure trove for the long weekend. I’ve only seen a few of these, mostly discoveries from this blog (James Batley is an old favorite, wish he was more prolific).

    Hope the LA trip preparations are going well, Dennis. Any plans to be in the Bay Area?

    Will probably check out a few galleries this weekend. A Dinos Chapman show is opening today at a relatively small gallery, I’m curious but have low expectations.

    Bill

  4. _Black_Acrylic

    I enjoyed Ursula from the selection here which I thought was really eerie and effective. Seems to me that short experimental film is a good format for horror, rather like short stories always have been.

  5. John Newton

    Thanks Dennis! I love horror films, horror literature, etc. as long as it does not drag on for too long. I read the news article below and thought of you . I have been making lots of Greek/Turkish coffee does Yuri ever make it for you in a briki/Cezve on the stove? I generally do not like black coffee, but I love Greek/Turkish coffee black, as well as espresso. Do you drink French brands of coffee such as Grandmere or other types? I almost typed merd instead.

    I am sorry to hear about the budgeting issues. I have been busy editing and looking for a home for a black and white male cat who I named Carmen who lives in the garden as my cat Caruso is angry that another male cat is in his territory. Caruso stays indoors, never goes outside, and when I give food and water to Carmen, I change my shoes and wash my hands.

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/archeologists-discovered-a-17th-century-polish-vampire-with-a-sickle-across-her-neck-meant-to-prevent-a-return-from-the-dead/ar-AA11r9io?ocid=mailsignout&li=BBnb7Kz#comments

  6. Dominik

    Hi!!

    Oh, yes, your love-letter-writing love definitely hit the sweet spot — not even just sideswiped it.

    I’m the kind of freaky recluse who doesn’t even like to meet their friends all that often (unless it’s Anita), but I did always have crushes in school (even if strictly aesthetic ones and always complete strangers), so for me, seeing them was the small charm of going back to school after summer vacations.

    Oh, wow, haha. That one’s pretty hard to beat. I’ll have to think about what my name has to offer. Love wondering why the towel he just took out of the wardrobe smells rotten when — seemingly — it isn’t, Od.

  7. Steve Erickson

    DON’T is great. The contrast between the images of young “Aryan” boys, the constant cuts to black, and the soundtrack’s heavy breathing and childlike tunes add up to a powerful vision of the rise of fascism. I also liked DISTURBED. I will dig further into these films today.

    Was there a reason you left out Peter Tcherkassky?

    Yesterday, most movie theaters in New York (and around the U.S.) sold tickets for $3 to encourage people to return. I saw THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LIVING, which left me with mixed feelings, but the theater was 90% full, which wouldn’t have happened on an ordinary weekend.

    I hope you’re still able to complete the film on the current reduced budget.

  8. Sypha

    Hey Dennis,

    I’m typing this on my laptop in a lakeside cabin in Maine. Yes, it’s that time of year, the annual Champagne Maine family vacation (we arrived here yesterday, on Saturday, at 3:52 PM). We’re at the same cabin we stayed at from 2012-2019: we skipped 2020 due to the pandemic, and tried another cabin in 2021 (which we found far inferior)… so, now we’re back to the old one (though one of my younger brothers, the married one, is only here for the weekend, with his wife: they’ll be leaving early Monday). But anyway, yes, Maine, that lovely land where houses come in two great styles (vinyl siding or derelict ruins one step away from being condemned), where the schools look more like prisons, where even the buildings housing Walgreens are ugly enough to make a dog abort (to steal a phrase from Leon Bloy). It’s essentially the Louisiana of New England: I’ve lost count of how many MAGA/Trump signs I’ve seen, along with giant handmade crucifixes (almost inevitably hanging outside of auto repair shops). One of my brothers joked you can always easily tell the locals from the tourists because the former tend to be overweight, have missing teeth, are poorly dressed, and kind of have that “product born of incest” look. Yes, I’m in smugly superior tourist mode here ha ha. Anyway like last year it’s very busy (what with Labor Day weekend) but we know things will die down after Monday.

    Well, the weather was nice today so the 7 of us went mini golfing, as I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear, being an aficionado yourself. This is the course run by anti-government evangelical Christian libertarian types, the irony being that they have like thousand signs up on the course listing rule after rule after rule. I had kind of a shitty game though, ended up with a total score of 63, the worst score of the 7 of us. Oh well. They were playing John Denver music and maybe that distracted me from my game!

    For reading material I brought along Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD (rereading for the 1st time since 2010), along with a book about what it was like to go to church in Medieval England.

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