Friday, November 14, 2014

Things I Learned While Watching Forensic Files

Melissa and I have enjoyed the show Forensic Files for many years. It's sort of a guilty pleasure, and when there's a Forensic Files marathon on (which seems to happen a lot) we'll leave it on late at night and fall asleep to the awesome narrator Peter Thomas's voice. His delivery and tone is a perfect match for the show.

After watching so many episodes of the show, I've learned a number of things not to do while trying to get away with murder.

1. Don't plan out a murder on your personal computer and then label that file "The Plan."

2. Don't claim innocence while sitting in jail and planning a hit on the case's prosecutor.

3. Don't pull up a lawn chair and sit with a cooler of beer while watching the forensic team comb through your house containing your recently murdered wife.

"Just try and prove it, coppers!"

4. Don't misspell words in a ransom note and then give police a writing sample with those same words misspelled.

5. Don't immediately sanitize your house right after the police take the body away and claim that the place was simply due a cleaning.

6. Similar to #5, getting your car detailed immediately after reporting your spouse/significant other missing is not recommended.

Bleed, rinse, repeat.

7. Don't use the victim's bank or credit card at an ATM machine while grinning evilly at that same machine's security camera.

8. When your spouse or significant other or other victim washes up on shore, don't offer up an alibi of being out on that same lake fishing.

And last, but not least:

9. Probably just don't murder anyone.

"Not even the cat?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Weepy Old Man Syndrome

Over the last decade or so, I've been experiencing what my wife likes to call 'weepy old man syndrome.' I get teary eyed at the simplest of things, whether they're inspirational videos, sad movies, happy movies, sappy stuff...even some (ack!) commercials. I never thought I'd be one of those people, but I guess I am.

There's a particular song that gets me going a lot lately, and it's this Sesame Street song:

The reason is because I sometimes catch my 12-yr old son Zachary singing it. Zach has autism, and I often wonder if he's lonely. When he sings this song, perhaps he just likes the tune; he doesn't seem sad or melancholy while singing it. But still - to me it feels like a punch to the gut.

Zach's pretty non-communicative, so it's hard to tell what's going on in his mind. Sure, you can tell when he's angry (he screams and/or hits) or excited (he practically bounces from one end of the room to the other) but the reasons are often unclear. And overall, he's a sweet kid.

But this song. Geez. It's so melancholy - someone just wanting friends to play with, the longing, the loneliness...I wonder if Zach feels that. Maybe he's perfectly fine without friends, or without others his age who get him. I don't really know how much peer interaction he gets at school other than that it's pretty limited.

And so when I hear this song, no matter who sings it, I get a bit teary and wish so badly that Zach was able to have friends, just regular friends like so many of us had growing up.

And damn, there I go again...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Toyol

My short story, The Toyol, which originally appeared in Black Static, is now available in ebook format. It's currently only available through Amazon, but will expand to other platforms in a couple of months. Meanwhile, you can get it here. (Plus, it's currently free for Amazon Prime users.)

It's one of my darker stories, and is based on a creature of Malaysian folk lore.

Sometimes your only hope is to embrace the darkness.

"It’s pretty much a guarantee that every issue of Black Static is going to house at least one powerhouse story, and this one is no different with the inclusion of Joel Arnold’s ‘The Toyol’." - Dread Central

After cyclone Nargis destroys Zeya’s home and family in Myanmar, she accepts an offer to work housekeeping in a hotel in Kuala Lampur. After arriving, she realizes she’s been tricked, and has instead been sold to a sex trafficking ring. Bars caver her windows and cruel guards keep watch. But when she learns of a mystical creature known as a 'toyol' she wonders if it may be her ticket out of this hell on earth.

"This incredible Toyol vision is only for those readers both soft-hearted and hard-hearted enough to be able safely to absorb the intense pain as well as appreciate the deep wide-spread poignancy of such a storm-visit of a vision. This is a helluva work." - D.F. Lewis

"It is a skin-crawling little story, well written and managing to use the alien elements to emphasize the desperation." - A Mad Man with a Blog

Originally appearing in Black Static magazine, this short story contains graphic violence and is not for the faint of heart.

It was a hard story to write, but one I'm rather proud of. Give it a read, and if you're so inclined, consider leaving a review!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

At the Anthills of Madness - a drabble

A drabble is a 100-word story, no more or less (though the title and byline don't count). They're a fun exercise to get the creative juices flowing. So here's one I did with my neighbor H.P. Lovecrabbe.

At the Anthills of Madness
By H.P. Lovecrabbe (with Joel Arnold)

Every day, small mounds of sand appear on my driveway.


The ants clutch grains in their ochre mandibles, depositing one atop the other in an eldritch precision.

I sweep the hills away, only to see them return the next day.

I crush the ants with gore-caked sneakers, poison them, set them aflame with a magnifying glass.

But always, the hills return, bigger than before.

Alas, I can no longer take it. I lay on my stomach. Talk.

We reach an agreement, the ants and I; a human sacrifice of a former virgin.

I invite a neighbor over for tea.

# # #

If you'd like to read the other collaboration I did with my esteemed, yet agoraphobic, neighbor, you can check out The Reeking - a short story for your ebook - at the following venues:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Frogs - the Movie

Currently available on Netflix is this early 1970s eco-horror flick. It's notable for starring an older Ray Milland and a young Sam Elliott - when his voice wasn't quite as iconic as it is today.

It's a silly film of a family on a large estate in Florida celebrating their grandfather's birthday (I think) and meanwhile, nature is getting its revenge on them. The funny thing is the way many of the people die in the film, especially when one of the women gets a foot stuck in some shallow mud, and is unable to defend herself against a slow moving snapping turtle. The frogs of the film don't ever actually kill anyone - the killing is done by snakes and tarantulas and alligators. The frogs just hop and croak menacingly.

There are also some good goofs in the film. There's a scene where a snake hangs from a chandelier, and during one of its closeups, you can easily see the hand that is holding the snake in position. There's also a scene of a flock of seagulls (not the band!) and if you watch closely, you can see little bits of bread being tossed into the air. I suppose to keep them in the shot?

Anyway, like I said, it's silly, and the best part about it is probably the tagline of "Cold, green skin against soft, warm flesh!"

Sure, it's on Netflix, but I wouldn't really recommend it, unless you're looking for a good laugh.

Here it is on Amazon, too:

3 Mario Bava Films - Bay of Blood, Black Sunday & Black Sabbath

Presently on Netflix are a bunch of Mario Bava's horror films, each with garish covers. I watched three of them, and here are my thoughts on them. I'll save my favorite for last.

Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve) - 1971:

This is considered one of the main inspirations for the slasher movie genre that became popular in the late 1970s and beyond. It really has no plot, other than a bunch of people killing each other off in order to receive an inheritance. There are a lot of inventive killings here, a few which were even copied in later films (Friday the 13th, pt II in particular) but it's a rather cheesy film. Gruesome, sure, but almost silly in its over-the-top style. And of course it has the required skinny-dipping scene.

The best part of this movie is the ending. I won't spoil it, but it's an awesome come-out-of-nowhere sorta thing that actually makes sense and serves as commentary on the rest of the movie.

Black Sunday - 1960:

Bava had worked on many films before as a cinematographer, and also filled in on the director's chair for a few earlier flicks, but Black Sunday was his first truly solo directing gig. It's shot in black and white, and is about a witch who's put to death, and then comes back for revenge a couple centuries later. There are some truly creepy moments in this one. When she's put to death, they place a mask on her face (the film is also known as Mask of Satan) that have spikes to keep it in place, and this is pounded onto her head with a sledge hammer. When she comes back to life, the spike holes are always present on her face, which adds a real ick factor (in a good way) to the make-up effects.

I thought it was a decent film. Nice atmospheric sets, good use of black and white. A little corny at times, but hey...

Black Sabbath - 1963:

Of the three Bava films, Black Sabbath was by far my favorite. It's actually a trilogy of short horror films, all worthy of watching. Each is introduced by Boris Karloff - in a similar fashion that Hitchcock did for his television series. It's fun to see Karloff sans heavy makeup, and it looks like he's enjoying himself in these introductions. 

In the first of the three, The Drop of Water, a woman steals a ring off of a corpse. She is later haunted by the ghost of the ring's original owner. Heavy creep factor in the makeup job done on the corpse.

Next is The Telephone, about a woman who receives mysterious phone calls from someone who should be dead. This one has a very Twilight Zone feel to it.

The last, and my favorite, was The Wardulak, starring Boris Karloff. A wardulak is an undead creature that attacks those whom it once loved - basically a vampire with family issues. Again, great makeup on Karloff that adds to the creepiness of the piece.

Like I said, all parts of the trilogy are very well done, and the sets, cinematography and acting are much better than in the other two Bava flicks I watched. So if you have to pick just one of Bava's movies, I'd recommend Black Sabbath. And yes, this is the movie that inspired the band Black Sabbath's name.

They're currently on Netflix, so watch 'em while you can!

If you don't have Netflix, here's a link to Black Sabbathon Amazon

Monday, August 4, 2014

Please help identify this pouch!

Does anyone know anything about this type of pouch?

This leather pouch has been in my family a long time, but we're not sure how long. It was most likely passed down from my great-great aunt Emma (Kittle) Mielke. She lived in Kenmare, North Dakota in the early 1900s and also in Paynesville, Minnesota. To me, the pouch looks Native American in design. It's about 7-3/4 inches from the top to the bottom (not counting the pom-pom type thing at the bottom). It appears to be made of 6 separate panels. It could be about 100 years old or even older. I really have no idea.

I'm hoping someone out there might now more about it. I'm just wondering what the design is called. Was it a tobacco pouch? A coin purse? Is the pattern a known motif? Was this typical of a certain Native American group or region? If you know, please let me know, too!
Both front and back have the same bead-work design.

Here's a close-up of the side panels. I'm not sure what kind of beads those are.

Here's how it opens up.

Some more detail - the rope/string is very soft. Not sure what it's made of.
Thanks for looking! I'm sure someone out there knows way more about this kind of thing than I do.