Real Vampires: The Houston Subculture That Drinks Blood and Chases Psychic Energy

"Generally we use single-use sterilized razor blades, the individually wrapped ones. It's usually not as much blood or as big a cut as most people think of it being."

Blut Katzchen has a softly lilting voice and sounds as comfortable speaking on the subject of bloodletting as some people do about the latest episodeof their favorite reality shows. She is a Black Swan, a person who allows herself to be cut and have her blood drunk by another individual. It's a very personal exchange for her, one she shares with a friendly but intense man who goes by the name of Reverend Michael Vachmiel.

Vachmiel has the demeanor of a man who has seen and experienced many things over the years, with an inner intensity forged from decades of watching his community grow and change. There are many subcultures living and prospering in Houston, but what sets Vachmiel apart from other community leaders in Houston is the nature of his group. They call themselves "real vampires" and live lives that draw inspiration from the supernatural monsters of folk legends and horror films.

More »

It's About to Get Weird: Welcome to Night Vale Returns to Houston

Photo (cropped) via Kevan
Welcome to Night Vale live, circa 2014
It starts with a dog park. Not the one you're picturing in your brain as you read this, all green grass and frolicking puppies and smiling pet owners, but a dog park that no one is allowed to enter, other than the hooded figures that are already inside. There's an electric fence to prevent people from getting too close. In fact, maybe just go ahead and forget about the dog park.

This is the first bit of weirdness you encounter listening to Welcome to Night Vale. If you can accept this, you'll eventually meet a five-headed dragon that really wants to be mayor, a glowing cloud that rains down dead animals that is the head of the Night Vale school board, and a miniature city located underneath the pin retrieval area of lane five of the local bowling alley.

You'll picture all of these things in your mind and you'll laugh, because this doesn't happen in a TV show or a movie but in a podcast. Until, that is, you're picturing all of this in your mind and laughing in a room full of strangers.

Things are about to get weird. Night Vale is coming to Houston.

More »

Clash of the '80s Action Icons: Martin Riggs vs. John McClane

Or maybe lung cancer gets them both.

Last weekend, for the umpteenth time, I found myself watching Die Hard again. Perhaps it's a function of my advancing age, but even with the embarrassment of occasional riches available to me on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and On Demand, I still take comfort in watching Bruce Willis shoot Marco in the groin.

That rewatch came on the heels (well, a few weeks or so) of my checking out Lethal Weapon 2 again for the first time in years. And as John McClane worked his way through Nakatomi Plaza, eventually dropping Severus Snape out a window, I found myself wondering how he'd stack up, action hero wise, vs. Martin Riggs, the detective sergeant played by Mel Gibson in the LW series.

For purposes of this comparison, we'll be looking at the first three films in each series (Lethal Weapon 1-3, and Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Die Hard with a Vengeance), because the later entries in each franchise are unbearable shitshows.

And honestly, Lethal Weapon 3 kind of is, too.

More »

RIDE Indoor Cycling Will Put a New Spin on Your Workout Routine

Categories: Dance, Pop Culture

Photo courtesy RIDE Indoor Cycling
Any new workout has a high intimidation factor, but a dance-based workout can be especially scary -- particularly when your feet are clipped into bike pedals and you're expected to keep a beat for 45 minutes. RIDE Indoor Cycling on West 19th Street in the Heights keeps that intimidation factor low with a highly trained hands-on staff, low-lit classes and an unbeatable introductory class offer -- your first visit, including shoe rental, is completely free.

"It's really hard trying anything new, because you're putting yourself out there, taking a risk," said RIDE founder Kimberly Dowling. "Just have fun and don't be too hard on yourself. Like a dance class, it's choreographed, and so it's a skill you'll develop with practice."

More »

Why I'm Not Upset David Lynch Is Leaving Twin Peaks

Categories: Pop Culture

It was announced via Twitter last night that David Lynch would not be returning to direct the heavily anticipated and long-awaited third season of Twin Peaks. The show, which is scheduled to premiere in 2016 after having been cancelled in 1991, remains one of the most beloved and influential television series in history, and Lynch's bizarre, sinister yet quirky style is one of the main reasons.

That said, I'm not all that sad he won't be in the director's chair.

No. 1, Showtime already has the nine scripts written by Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost (who for some reason people seem to pretend wasn't as important to the original vision as Lynch was). We're getting the story regardless of whether or not it's executed. That's worth getting excited about.

What's not really worth being all that excited about was having Lynch direct in the first place. I know that sounds like blasphemy, but you really have to think about it.

Lynch's last truly great stint in the director's chair of an original full-length movie was The Straight Story 16 years ago. After that he attempted to create the next Twin Peaks but ended up with Mulholland Drive instead when he clashed with ABC and ended up turning the pilot into a film.

More »

(Trevor) Noah And The Flood (Of Twitter Backlash)

Photo courtesy of Comedy Central
Welcome to America.
Well, that had to be the shortest honeymoon in history:

Within hours of the announcement that he had been named the new host of "The Daily Show," the comedian Trevor Noah was subjected to the full scrutiny of the Internet. As potential audience members scoured his past work and his social media for more clues about the South African comedian, they uncovered many posts on his Twitter account that they deemed to be offensive to women or Jews.

While I've enjoyed Noah's appearances on TDS, there's a crippling lack of self-awareness on display here. The *nanosecond* he entered negotiations for the job he should have gone back over his social media accounts and nuked anything like this from orbit. It's not like there haven't been canaries in that particular coal mine for years.

Defenders argue these were throwaway tweets Noah made years ago. In one respect, they may be right. One of the central arguments against getting a Twitter account is because some of us have a tendency to fire off half-baked thoughts (and some of us are just dumb). On the other hand, there's a tremendous amount of personal growth that takes place between the ages of 27 and 31, Noah's age when he posted these tweets. *cough*

More »

Anime Matsuri Returns to Houston and It's Bigger Than Ever

Photo courtesy of Anime Matsuri Convention
Anime Matsuri features one of the biggest Lolita fashion shows in the United States.
Anime Maturi, the convention that anime fans of all ages love, returns from Friday April 3 through Sunday, April 5. It's now in its ninth year and there are several new features for 2015. The show has grown so large it will take up all of the first floor of the George R. Brown convention center and two-thirds of the third floor.

Deneice Leigh, who co-founded Anime Matsuri along with her husband, John, is excited about the additions. "This year, we have so many exciting new things for the convention!" she says. "For one, we've lined up one of the biggest Japanese names in rock music, Anna Tsuchiya, who will be our headliner for the live concert on Saturday. There are also several artists, voice actors and actresses from studio TRIGGER, one of the biggest Japanese animation studios."

More »

The Perils and Promises of Revolving Doors

Photo courtesy of AMC.
Vaya con Dios, Noah.
I've watched The Walking Dead since it debuted, because a) I have been an unabashed zombie fan since the first time I snuck out of my bedroom to watch Dawn of the Dead on cable while my parents slept, and b) I am a glutton for punishment.

AMC's most famous show not about chain smoking advertising execs gets slagged for many things: Lori, long stretches where not much happens, Carl, any member of the Grimes family not named Rick or Little Ass Kicker, really. But one thing you haven't been able to complain about this season is the lack of zombie action. Last Sunday, Noah -- who'd recently joined the group after leaving Atlanta -- suffered arguably the most horrifying death we've seen on the show to date. Trapped in a revolving door with Glenn, he's dragged to his doom by walkers when Nicholas panics and forces the door open.

Noah's death can also be seen as another example of one the most persistent criticisms of the show, i.e. its habit of killing off black characters (or, at least, the weird racial equilibrium that the survivors' group maintains: introduce Gabriel, kill Bob, introduce Noah, kill Tyreese). Hell, even the horse that died this season was black.

Whatever. All I want to do is talk about other revolving door scenes.

More »

Gotham Cast Members on Their Way to Comicpalooza

Categories: Pop Culture

Cemeron Monaghan on Gotham
Our annual mega-celebration of all things geek just snagged a rare and wonderful opportunity for DC fans. Five stars from Gotham will be attending the convention to meet fans and host panels.

Included on the guest list are Sean Pertwee (Alfred Pennyworth), Camren Bicondova (Selina Kyle, later Catwoman), Donal Logue (Detective Harvey Bullock) and Cory Michael Smith (Edward Nygma, later The Riddler). The man who is presumably going to get the most questions at Comicpalooza is Cameron Monaghan, who plays Jerome Valeska, the man heavily implied to become Batman's greatest enemy, The Joker.

"Only three cons in the U.S. will have Gotham lineups in 2015," says Comicpalooza head John Simons. They are San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con and Comicpalooza."

More »

Police and Thieves: Assessing the Cultural Impact of 26 Years of COPS

Photo courtesy of Spike TV
Never a dull moment with the men and women of law enforcement.
You may not have been aware of it at the time, but on this very day 26 years ago, a historic event that would shake the foundation of Western civilization took place. On March 11, 1989, the very first episode of COPS aired on FOX.

I was in college when the show debuted, and from the beginning, I developed something of an unhealthy fascination with it (I wasn't alone in that regard, but more on that later). It aired early enough on Saturday evenings I could watch it while eating dinner and getting ready to meet friends for social interaction. And by "meet friends" I mean "drink beer on my couch." And by "social interaction" I mean "until I passed out."

COPS has filmed in some 140 U.S. cities, plus a handful of international locations like the UK and Russia, because of course. It ran for 25 years on Fox, and then was picked up in 2013 by Spike TV. They're 27 seasons in, and the good news is, as long as wages remain stagnant relevant to cost of living increases, there'll be no shortage of poor people for the police to oppress for our amusement.

More »