So, the TV in the Geek Husband What Rules’s and my bedroom was dying a slow death. It had been my dad’s bedroom TV before we got it from my folks 6 years ago. They had been moving to Houston and the decision to leave it behind was last minute, and the remote had already been packed. So, we’ve spent the last six years squinting at the bottom of the TV to turn it on and off, since we keep the bedroom relatively dim because migraines. And we kept forgetting to buy a universal remote.
Yeah, if you guys are sick of hearing about the migraines, imagine how tired I am of them.
Anyway, it was starting to die, so we decided to pick up a new TV.
Now, I’ve already been watching more TV than usual because the GHWR requested that we do more things together, even if it was just watching TV together. And I do periodically get in moods where I will watch a lot of TV and media, and then go stretches where I never turn it on.
We got the new (slightly bigger, our space is pretty limited up there) TV and got it set up. Then the GHWR decided he needed to have a cigarette, so I turned on something I was pretty sure I wouldn’t mind turning off in the middle when he got back in and we decided what to watch.
Now, I frequently lament reality television. I’m not a fan, in spite of my periodic obsession with So You Think You Can Dance. But there is one facet of “reality” television I love, and that is documentaries (also “documentaries”), in particular, documentaries about myths, legends, the paranormal, cryptozoology and conspiracy theories. I love the shit out of River Monsters and shows like it.
So when I saw a show called “Beast Legends,” I knew this was going to be catnip to me. I figured we’d have something like the Bigfoot hunting shows with a lot of shaky cam of people running through trees and interviewing rednecks (or that country’s equivalent).
And there is some of the shaky cam stuff.
But, what I mostly got was a show with a veterinarian, a comic artist, a folklorist, a computer animator, and a biologist, where they focused on a cryptid or legend, went and interviewed experts or credible witnesses, went to look at where this thing reputedly lived, what it ate according to legend and what was in that location, then looked at real life animals that may have been the inspiration for said legend to construct an animated construct. At the end, they screen a short monster movie about said legend.
Even the GHWR, who usually HATES these shows, was gripped. Especially when they did the show about the Griffin, and went to Mongolia where they met with Mongolian Eagle Hunters, and found a herd of Przewalski’s Horses, which are the oldest species of horse on the planet. The idea was that Griffins were big enough to carry off a horse, and that the legend started in Mongolia near as anyone could tell, so Mongolian ponies and Przewalski’s Horses were likely the prey of said legend. They went into a cave in Germany to see the bones of an extinct cave lion, which was reputedly what the body of the Griffin was based on, modeled the head and wings after the Golden Eagles used by the Mongolian hunters, and then did a little tweaking and some math to figure out how big and strong this thing would need to be to carry off a man and horse.
Some of the best parts of this show are when Francis, the comic artist, and Matt, the computer animation guy, get carried away with making the creatures look badass, and the vet and biologist try to rein them in. No, Krakens do not need armor. And also when they make Francis go out in the field with Steve, the vet, who is obviously an Outdoor Guy ™. Francis is so very much a city kid, and it adds a fish out of water element to the thing which can be pretty hilarious, as when they put him on a horse on the Navajo reservation to find out about the Monster Bird of the Navajo, and as the GHWR said, “What’s the line from Blackadder? ‘He rides a horse slightly less well than another horse.'”
This show is way better than I expected.
Let’s face it, my bar for these shows is not high. Do not demonize the existing animals things are based off of (they do fail at this a little with sharks, but everyone does). Do not make shit up out of whole cloth, stick to the legends that exist already. And do not make me throw things at the screen by getting said legends horribly wrong.
Rarely do I find a show that actually teaches me things, like the fact that griffins originated in Mongolia when you look at the earliest roots of the legend. Nor did I know that in Fiji there are still populations who worship Dakawaqa, the shark god.
The second show we binge watched a bit of was The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell.
This show is what it would look like if Auntie Jilli from Gothic Charm School (she has a Patreon now if you were unaware!) were actually into baking. Brian Henson (Jim Henson’s son) is involved. And it is pretty twee. On the Twee-o-meter it exceeds Neil Gaiman.
It is a show about how to do some really cool baking (and apparently sewing, but we haven’t gotten there yet), and includes things like white chocolate-peanut butter-pretzel bones, which are pretty basic, to a sculptural cake of a victorian mansion with monster eyes, fangs and a ridiculous amount of scrollwork. And she’s pretty up front about the fact that making cakes like that is hours of tedious work. The characters we’ve met so far are Rankle the resurrected Egyptian cat mummy, Rose the zombie trash panda, and Edgar, a werewolf.
The puppets are every bit as fantastic as you’d expect from Brian Henson, and the jokes get pretty adult. This is definitely a show for adults.
The GHWR had heard mixed reviews on it, and I get it. It is super twee. And the recipes do range from “Ok, I can see myself doing this, maybe not that well, but I could see doing that,” to “First, be a professional cake sculptor…”
The cool part about the cake segment is that she doesn’t dwell on it, but gives a quick overview of how to construct sculptural cakes using cake board and dowels, and then teaches you some techniques that are quick, and will likely take some practice, but that you can purpose to do things of your own skill level. Like, I’m pretty sure I could make those scary eyeballs that she had on the victorian house. And they would look pretty killer on a much simpler cake. Maybe make a square cake decorated like a chest, and have them peering out of the darkness. And the scroll-work. She gives a pretty quick tutorial including drawing out the designs and practicing them on a flat surface before you try doing them on a cake. But you could do them on ANY cake to make it look fancy.
It also has a meta-narrative about how Christine gives homes to odd creatures who need them, and that this causes conflicts with the neighbors.
I’m looking forward to watching more of this show, and the GHWR and I are already planning spooky Rice Krispy treat critters.
We are unlikely to invest in a… we already have an airbrush… I keep forgetting that. Granted, we’d need another one, but the cheap ones that run on canned air are not that expensive and I could see keeping one of those dedicated to food use.
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Also, if you’d like to see what sort of fiction I write when left to my own devices, please feel free to check out my fiction Patreon, Nothing Nice Comes Out of My Head.