Thursday, May 28, 2015

Florida Death Metal

What is it about this peaceful place that inspires so many lugubrious young-uns (and maybe not so young-uns) to form angry little bands that wail, scream, growl, bitch and moan about the darkest, doomiest things they can think of? Is it the Hydrogen Sulfide? The insidious unseen influence of the Hand of Death cult? For reasons unguessed at by this author, Florida has more than its share of major metal bands - and particularly so-called "death metal" - just the sort of cheerful music that people like Rod Ferrell's vampire clan loved to listen to.

Morbid Angel, singers of such catchy tunes as "World of Shit", "God of Emptiness", and "Where the Slime Live", are from Tampa. Don't forget to send Tampa a thank-you card.

Atheist is a great name for a band, I guess, if you think atheism is cool, and I did too, for about a week when I was thirteen years old. They're from Sarasota. They actually employ some jazz fusion with thrash-death metal, which is no doubt a combination the world has been longing to hear.

Cynic is from Miami, and they dabble with jazz fusion as well, and are highly regarded as "progressive" death metal. I actually find some of it listenable, albeit puzzling.

Deicide (whose singer famously admitted to killing small animals for fun and vowed he would kill himself when he reached the age of 33 but then quietly changed his mind) is also from Tampa.

And then there's Death, who broke up when their lead singer, well, died. But we still have their records, like "Bite the Pain", "Scavenger of Human Sorrow" and "Spirit Crusher", to treasure their legacy. (They were from Orlando, so I can't fault them for being very very depressed.)

Hate Eternal, fronted by Erik Rutan, formerly of Ripping Corpse, is from St. Petersburg.

Assück is another of St. Pete's fine contributions to popular culture, and with a name like Assück, you know you've got to be in for a pleasant evening, right? Wikipedia describes their act as a "low-calibre battery of brooding, malicious, doom-ridden grind pitched somewhere between early Napalm Death and even earlier Bolt Thrower". Well then, there you go.

I actually kinda like Tampa's Nocturnus, though, mainly because they've got a science fiction vibe goin' on, and were an early pioneer of using keyboards in death metal. Still, one feels rather foolish sitting amongst palm trees sipping a blue thing while listening to songs called "Apostle of Evil", "Standing in Blood", and "Subterranean Infiltrator".

Monstrosity! Who remembers Monstrosity? They're still around, actually, but some say they're just not the same since their founding vocalist, George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, went off to join Cannibal Corpse. Monstrosity was formed in Fort Lauderdale, where I'm sure tourists and beachgoers swooned over their snappy songs like "Immense Malignancy", "Vicious Mental Thirst" and "Final Cremation". Woo!

Fort Lauderdale, I'm afraid, is also responsible for unleashing upon an unsuspecting world the impenetrably named Kult Ov Azazel. You know, those nice boys who croon that hep pop classic "Bloodstained Path to Victory". And also other exciting numbers like "An Eternity With Satan" and "Trampling the Cross". The band members all have names like "Azagkur", "Hag", "Hammer", "Hellspawn", and "Archangel Sin Scythe". I dunno.

I've never heard of Acheron but they're somehow simultaneously from Pittsburgh and Tampa at the same time. Says on Wikipedia that their lead singer, who calls himself Vincent Crowley (clever, no?) "was appointed a priest in the Church of Satan and began spending a lot of his time debating local televangelists, limiting Acheron's output for a time." Sounds like a real fun guy. Don't these dopes realize Anton LaVey thought "satanic" metal was the stupidest thing ever to come out of the 20th century, and that he frequently stated with absolute seriousness that Rudy Vallee was the real sound of Satanism?

Tampa also gifted us with those little charmers called Obituary. You know, those happy-go-lucky guys with hummable albums like "Cause of Death", "World's Demise", and "Slowly We Rot". I bet these guys are real fun at cocktail parties, especially after they start throwing away the olives and eating the glasses.

Savatage is from Tarpon Springs, and they were a serious MTV-level force to be reckoned with in the 80s and 90s. I'm not sure what they're up to lately. While not as overtly negative and silly as most of the bands listed here, they're still not quite my cup of tea these days. Hall of the Mountain King was a pretty classic album though. (I grew up with all this music same as you probably did, dear reader, so don't flame me for outgrowing it. Why, some nights, when the moon is just right, I even put a little Candlemass on the hi-fi.)

And lastly, those Limp Biskit boys, a band I don't particularly like, come from Jacksonville, a city I don't particularly like. Whew.

Maybe I should do a post on Florida's contribution to the world of Dixieland Jazz next, just to cleanse the palate, eh?

Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman is an author, born in Oklahoma but presently residing in Gainesville, Florida. He may not be a household name, but he's very well known to science fiction fans around the world. He's a recipient of the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, a SFWA Grand Master, and a member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

He was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving as a combat engineer in the Vietnam war. He was wounded in combat, and received the Purple Heart. These experiences inspired his first novel, War Year, in 1972, and also influenced later books such as Old Twentieth and Vietnam and Other Alien Worlds.

In 1975, he received an MFA degree in Creative Writing. Somewhere along the way, he drifted down to Florida, and why he chose Gainesville as his home, I'm not sure. His brother, the late Jack C. Haldeman II, also lived in Gainesville, and both brothers authored Star Trek novels - Jack wrote Perry's Planet and Joe wrote Planet of Judgment and World Without End.

His greatest claim to fame, some say, is his 1974 opus The Forever War, but for my money you can't beat his novella The Hemingway Hoax.

In 1921, Ernest Hemingway's wife lost a bag containing the manuscript of his first novel on a train. Since that time, people have wondered what the book contained, and whether it could still be floating around out there. Haldeman's story tells of a man named Baird who, along with a Key West grifter named Castle, propose to create a fake manuscript of Hemingway's lost novel and pass it off as a historic discovery.

Baird later finds, however, that there are cosmic time-traveling entities who monitor life in our universe and in parallel universes, and for complicated reasons, anything that affects the cultural influence of Hemingway is a matter of grave concern to them. If Baird publishes the fake Hemingway novel, it will alter the future in ways that will lead to nuclear war, Baird is told, and will create reverberations that will be catastrophic all through the omniverse as well.

Hemingway himself time-travels to 1996 to personally confront Baird on a train from Boston to Florida, and warns him to give up on the idea. What happens then? Well, read the book.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bradenton in the Past

Westgate Shopping Center (pictured above) still exists, by the way (see below.) But sadly, the great 50s-style signage is long gone.

The Colonel

My previous attempts to dig up some dirt on my enigmatic obsessions with obscure Florida musicians of the past haven't panned out too well. Take Norbert, for example, or Mitzi Joyce, or Joe Peppy the Singing Bartender. But this one, I think I've got a lead.

The late-70s newspaper ads for the Aztec focus on, of course, the big local star - comedian Don Sebastian (who I should probably get around to blogging about one of the days). But in tiny letters, the ads also mention in passing the Aztec's "Mardi Gras Piano Bar" hosted by someone called simply... The Colonel. The imagination reels.

As with the other aforementioned lounge acts, search engines haven't provided much edification on the subject. But I did find, lo and behold, a post made to by a user named "Canefan", who says:

Oooooooh, that's a BINGO! Now all we have to do is find this "Canefan" and let him spill all he knows about the good old days. Clicking on his username brings also his introductory post to the forum:

Any man calling himself "The Colonel" and running a piano-bar-lounge in a seedy Miami Beach motel in the 60s and 70s qualifies for canonization as far as we're concerned here. Got more info on him? Speak up!

Monday, May 25, 2015


The giant fiberglass Muffler Men of the 1960s were so popular at their peak, that other companies wanted to get in on the act. Uniroyal Tire Co. enlisted International Fiberglass to manufacture a series of giant bikini women to grace their storefronts, and this is one of the few remaining examples left. "Tootsie", as she is locally known as, can be found in Bradenton, Florida, specifically at 6111 15th St. East. There was another in Ocoee, but as far as I can tell, it's now gone.

If you're too lazy to go out there, you can glimpse her on Google Maps (above) and Google Maps Street View (below).

Read more about the "Uniroyal Gals" here.

Fumigation Tents of Florida

I suppose they do this everywhere, but I honestly have never seen these things until I landed in Interzone. In order to fumigate your home, pest control companies as a last resort try to de-bug a hopelessly infested building by covering it in an enormous rubber tent that looks like a circus Big Top.

When you encounter one for the first time, especially if it's a really huge one, it's quite the mind-blower. For me, it was a chilling experience something akin to the moment the teens discovered the alien clowns' giant spaceship-tent in the middle of the woods in Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

I don't really understand the concept. The people have to go live in a hotel or something while the poison gas fills the house for a few days, then somehow the pest control guys just come out and take the tarp off and declare it "all clear" and you just go back home again? Isn't everything inside still covered with poisonous residue? And where does the poison gas go? When they take the giant tarp off, doesn't a giant cloud of the poison come wafting out? And can you really tell me one of these rubber house-sized tarps has never ever leaked? What must the neighbors be thinking when they look out the window and see this shit? And don't some poisoned insects ever manage to crawl out of the house and out into the environment before they die? Wouldn't there be vast underground networks of ant colonies under entire neighborhoods carrying these toxins all over the place?

I'm not into the pesticide scene at all, so if I ever had a house that got this infested with termites, roaches, bedbugs, whatever, I'd probably just burn the place down and start over.

The Titusville Orb

Oh, no. If there's one thing I hate more than "paranormal orb" reports, it's.... well..... okay, no, there isn't anything I hate more.

People desperately see any roundish object in photos and videos as "orbs" and ascribe paranormal circumstances to their existence, despite that you see such things in normal photography and videography daily. Lens flares, insects, raindrops, dust, you name it, once it's been rendered blurry and round by light reflection, it's fair game for the freaks.

What makes this one so cool is that it takes place at the U.S. Space Walk Of Fame Museum in Titusville, Florida, and this has caused some - even people who work there - to speculate it could be the ghost of an astronaut. Weary, weary, yes very weary, sigh.

You can see the video here if you have three minutes of your life to spare frivolously.

Jacksonville's Giant Soda Can

This mammoth-sized 7up is actually a water tower, cleverly designed to mimic a soda can. It was originally a Canada Dry Ginger Ale can but got rebranded, as they say. You can find it in Jacksonville, alongside I-95 between University Blvd. and Bowden Road.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

ABC Liquors

Of course there's no shortage of liquor stores around these parts, and some of them are truly great - Total Wine comes to mind. But examples of that chain are few and far between, and mom-n-pop stores are sketchy and unpredictable, same as everywhere else.

Fortunately, Florida has a network of ABC stores that are damn nearly as ubiquitous as Starbucks. In Florida, at least along the coasts, you are never far from an ABC. As with Starbucks, some may find that disquieting and homogenous; me, I find it glorious. ABC's like an old friend who's with you everywhere you go in your Sunshine State safari, your alligator-infested Interzone vision quest, your sojourn amongst the Floridian philistines.

They're huge, they're well stocked, they're clean (well, there is one in Gainesville that's kinda dumpy) and best of all, they feature deluxe walk-in cigar humidors with a fine selection of sticks. I can't tell you how many times ABC has saved my ass when I've found myself out of cigars some mornings, what with tobacconists in Florida generally opening appallingly late and/or closed on Sundays.

Nature's Food Patch

Whenever I'm in Clearwater - which is often - I'm compelled to stop into Nature's Food Patch, the absolute best independent organic grocery in Interzone. But not only are they a fantastic place to get good healthy food, they're also a celebrity-watcher's wet dream. I ran into Hulk Hogan and his wife buying bananas (they operate a surf shop on nearby Clearwater Beach) and just missed seeing Kirstie Alley here more than once. I'm told that 60's pop stars Gary Puckett and Melanie have also been spotted here getting their grub.

(And of course, there have been Jeffrey Scott Holland sightings here as well!)

Skunk Ape Research Headquarters

Whereas traditional Bigfoot sightings are relatively rare and spread across the entire North American continent, the casefiles of the Skunk Ape are numerous and distinctly centered in the state of Florida. Does this lend credence to the idea that maybe, just maybe, the creature is real? Maybe. Does it mean we need a Skunk Ape Research Headquarters to handle the matter? Probably not, but just in case, these good fellows are fighting the good fight.

The Skunk Ape Research Headquarters is based in beautiful downtown Ochopee, and is assiduously monitoring the Skunk Ape situation so you don't have to. The truth is out there, and they're gonna find it. Meanwhile, of course, you can peruse their gift shop.

The Skunk Ape Research Headquarters also offers Skunk Ape hunt excursions. According to their website:

Skunk Ape Research Headquarters has a special announcement to make. Dave Shealy is making arrangements to allow for 5 people to go on a Skunk Ape expedition with him sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2014. It’s a once in a life time excursion in which Dave will invite you to his house to try his home cook meal of frog legs, fish, etc. and go out in the field to track Skunk Apes in The Everglades! Dave has recently appeared on the Weather Channels Tornado Alley and a write up in the Smithsonian magazine on behalf the Skunk Ape. Dave is considered the leading expert on Floridas elusive Skunk Ape with over 40 years of in-field experience in the Florida Everglades. This excursion is priced at $500 per person for an exciting 2 day adventure that may include airboats, swamp buggys, swamp walks and possible Skunk Ape sightings. Single day hunts are available by request.

Ochopee is just down the road a piece - Tamiami Trail, to be precise - from Naples, so when in town, go on down.

(And don't forget Florida's other semi-Bigfoot semi-legend, The Bardin Booger.)