Thursday, June 30, 2005

Women & the Divine

The first day was a long day, beginning with a 6am train up to Liverpool from London after a fun night out (more about that soon) and ending with an evening reception. The nice thing was that I was bumped up to first class on the trip, so like any good peasant, I had endless refills of tea and a free breakfast. I love train travel, especially across the beautiful English countryside. I saw fields of cows (and not just Holsteins!) and of sheep (black-faced with tiny lambs) and horses, ponies, a murder of crows, eruptions of daisies all along the tracks, swans sailing along tiny brooks, three hares, outside Tamworth the sudden appearance of orange poppies, a goat, a geodesic dome, a brace of trainspotters, a fluffy white cat in the middle of a deep green field. Here and there were gnarled trees, leafless, as if writhing in some secret pain. I noticed that from the back the Virgin staff's uniforms looked like Starfleet uniforms. We passed a pub called the Grazier's Arms and I wondered what a grazier was.

The cabby had no idea where the mystically titled Carnatic Halls were despite my handing him a map; he was equally amazed that I liked London which he thought a horrible (Southern) place. Nevertheless, we found ourselves eventually in the right place in time for me to drop my bag in my room and get a cup of tea before the first plenary session by Morny Joy. The hard part after that was choosing which panel to attend in the parallel sessions. I started out with the Indian Philosophies and Hindu Traditions, which was a delight if far too short (a problem throughout--but then any one of several panels could have been a whole day in itself). There was a fun pop culture panel after lunch (although I was disappointed the woman who had a paper on Kate Bush did not turn up), followed by a plenary by Regina Schwartz (author of Curse of Cain and more), who was a real energetic speaker. For the last session, I chose a panel on ecofeminism and environmentalism and ended up chatting with two of the speakers a great deal over the rest of the conference. After dinner there was a poetry reading, but I was too tired to stay up much later, and I did want to go over my presentation which I would give at 8.30 the next morning (eek).

Well, the presentation went okay, although the 30 minute slot really ended up compressing things a bit too much. We even went outside to hold it because the hot streak was in place even up north in Liverpool and oddly enough, the buildings were not equipped to cope with this kind of weather. The pagan/goddess panel followed immediately and turned out to be excellent and I distributed my card to all on the panel in hopes of getting their papers for my write up for the Beltane Papers.

Saturday was also the first day of Luce Irigaray, who was the inspiration for the conference and, quite often, its topic too, as many participants utilized, responded to, or critiqued her theory. I had a picture in my mind -- a Francophone literary and cultural theorist -- that did not match reality. Irigaray was no slinky, thin, cigarette-puffing icon of chic, but as a Finnish woman characteristically noted, rather like Moomin Mama. She was a delight, thoughtful but down to earth and everyone seemed to enjoy her immensely (with the exception of one guy who seemed to have come to the conference just to disagree with anything anyone said in a voice dripping with scorn). One of the few negative notes -- the other was the snooty reception poet Deborah Rasa got for (gasp!) reading her own poetry at a literature panel (a truly bizarre reaction from the panel chair).

There was a terrfic woman from Iceland who gave a presentation of a small part of a much larger project that I hope to get a copy of; I learned about wonderful medieval Indian mystic Lalla from a Pakistani woman who now lives in Atlanta, and about amazing speculative fiction by women (like Katharine Burdekin) in the late 19th and early 20th century from a Portuguese woman who teaches English literature. It was a wonderful time for conversations, the mix of women from around the world was really the best part. All too soon it was time to leave, but many of us exchanged cards and emails and hoped to keep in touch. There are plans for publications and projects and many were already talking about "next time"; may it come to pass!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Rosetta Stone

Thanks to my brother, Robert, I just got hold of a long lost lynchpin of my childhood: Shrieks at Midnight: Macabre Poems, Eerie and Humorous, as selected by Sara and John E. Brewton and illustrated by Ellen Raskin.

He and I each had this book checked out from the Elmwood Elementary School library for ages. Unwrapping the package this morning I recognized the cover immediately and started flipping through it. It's great to have that sense of finding a long lost friend; better yet that it is still fun to read.

Algy saw a bear;
The bear saw Algy.
The bear had a bulge;
The bulge was Algy.

I first read Dorothy Parker between its orange covers (her classic suicide lament "Résumé"), and it was probably also my first exposure to Edward Lear. Who can say the profound effects it had on my developing subconscious?

Little Katy wandered where
She espied a grizzly bear;
Noticing his savage wrath,
Katy kicked him from her path.

Little Katy, darling child,
Met a leopard, fierce and wild;
Ere the ugly creature sped off,
Little Katy bit his head off.

So many of the poems (like the above) lack an attribution. But there are also many well known authors who turn, at least occasionally, to the macabre:


Tell all my mourners
To mourn in red --
Cause there ain't no sense
In my bein' dead.

-- Langston Hughes

Thank you, Robert!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bells, Books and Candles -- and Sigils, Bears and Rakes

Wednesday of last week we met up with Roger Sabin and Libbie McQuillan for an image-intensive day out (doesn't that sound much more dynamic than we looked at art and museums and then drank Belgian beer?). We started at the cafe in Foyle's, which has become much more like its neighbor across the street. I don't think we'd seen one another since the BD conference in Leuven/Louvain (ah, Belgium!) which was such a delightful time.

After consuming our beverages, we headed down the street to a student exhibit at Roger's college which was quite entertaining despite beginning on the top floor (did I mention how nigh-on-Texas-hot London was last week?). The works varied from the imitative to the inspired -- a big favorite was the guy who took photos of himself squeezed into tiny places (between phone booths, under benches, inside rubbish bins) then captioned them with his feelings about being squeezed into the spot. Quite amusing and had the effect of making us wonder what it would be like to worm ourselves into small openings we passed later in the day, so mission accomplished I think. Art ought to change the way you see the world.

We went off in search of the Cartoon Art Trust, only to discover that it was once again in the process of relocating, so not ready for visitors (as was Skoob one of our favorite bookstores in London). But our motto of the day was "Nil desperandum" and Roger, thinking quickly, suggested a visit to the Soane Museum where we could see some Hogarth paintings and a lot of Empire plunder. The museum was a short walk away and turned out to be a delightful oddity, chock full of the bric-a-brac the wealthy architect accumulated by the mere compulsion of interest. It was fascinating to see the Rake's Progress up close. There are so many details impossible to guess from reproductions.

Our next stop on our impromptu tour of the less-well-known museums of London took us to the Freemason's Hall on Great Queen Street to see the museum/library and even better! the gift shop. What amazing items -- wonderful silverwork, peculiar items like the horse's hoof turned into a snuff box, lots of flashy spangled ribbons and medals. We even saw some actual masons on the fire escape in full regalia, chatting on cell phones and offering a lovely contrast of the ancient and modern. But I suspect Roger is right; this openness is a concerted effort to dispel the notion that there is anything even remotely unusual about the Masons.

"People might think that to become a Freemason is quite difficult. It's actually straightforward."

"Q Why are you a secret society?
A We are not, but lodge meetings, like those of many other groups, are private and open only to members. The rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to the public. Meeting places are known and in many areas are used by the local community for activities other than Freemasonry. Members are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry."

"Q Why do your 'obligations' contain hideous penalties?
A They no longer do. When Masonic ritual was developing in the late 1600s and 1700s it was quite common for legal and civil oaths to include physical penalties and Freemasonry simply followed the practice of the times. In Freemasonry, however, the physical penalties were always symbolic and were never carried out. After long discussion, they were removed from the promises in 1986."

Nothing to see, move along, we're just ordinary business men in aprons. Of course -- but we bought things in the gift shop anyway. Gene is very proud of his masonic teddy bear. Seeing as we had worked up a mysterious thirst by then, we headed off to Belgo to find alchemical solutions to this problem. Some Leffe did the trick for me, Hoegaarden for others. What thirst cannot be appeased by the application of Belgian beer? So we chatted away the evening over some moules frites and more beer, and had a great time.

And yes, there is more to say about the London trip: TO BE CONTINUED

Monday, June 27, 2005

There and Back Again

I think I'll work backwards to cover the trip. It might be easier and anyway, it will be great to end at the beginning. We were lucky enough to stay with our friends Brad and Liz Brooks in their Ealing home, entertained by little Sophie. It seemed a bit much, bringing our additional anarchy into their busy home -- they run a business, Sequential Design, are beginning renovations to the house, and have an active 2 year old -- add two houseguests and well, many would draw the line there. We tried to be helpful rather than another burden, but of course, we all know about houseguests and fish!

Of course our idea of 'useful' was generally things like helping to teach Sophie -- who was recently introduced to Dr. Who via the latest series -- to say "Exterminate!" in her best dalek voice. By the end of the week, even her baby dolls could say "Exterminate!" We disavow any ties, however, to the recent dalek disappearance.

Of course we would not impose on friends without bribing our way with some gifts; our currency of choice was the breakfast cereals and snacks far too unhealthy to be sold in Britain: Froot Loops (no longer Marshmallow Blasted), Lucky Charms and Doublestuff Oreos -- and the reasonably healthy Craisins. We are so very grateful to Brad and Liz for putting us up (putting up with us) -- hotels in London are outrageously expensive. Liz was kind enough to pick us up and deliver us back to Gatwick, as well as drop us off at railways before we got our Oyster cards, too.

The best thing was sitting around most nights just chatting and catching up. It's been a few years since we've been together, so there was a lot to talk about. It's great when you have the kind of friends who, even if you don't see them face to face for a while, can pick up with where you left off with ease. It was so relaxing and fun -- lots of laughs and silliness. We got a belated introduction to The Day Today, yet another terrific British comedy show. That ended up being the theme of the trip for me. I had planned to look for Sunshine on Putty and luckily enough, found it for 1/3 the cover price (yay!) at the Book and Comics Exchange at Notting Hill Gate. I also managed to get copies of recent books on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, including Tragically I Was An Only Twin and Goodbye Again which includes many of their scripts together (Americans who only know Moore from his few films here are missing a lot, from Beyond the Fringe to the Pete and Dud dialogues). On top of that are several CDs of British comedy courtesy of Brad (thanks!) so I may keep laughing for months.

Much more to write, but I need to actually do a little work now. Good news - the Clive essay may be included in an anthology provided I can find the time to make a few alterations. But for now -- TO BE CONTINUED!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Extra! Extra!

Gene quoted in the Hartford Courant! Of course, do they get the details right? Nah! It's only journalism...

Eye Candy

Here's Elena's first illustration for my story "Raising Lempi" -- such lovely inspiration from which to work. I can't wait to see what else she draws.

And for contrast, here's a more bizarre picture from the Arkansas Northwest Airport.

For only $4.99 you can read about proven methods for doubling your church's attendance. Talk about targeting your markets. It was on a rack with other booklets on Ozark folk tales and music.

Oh, and continuing an ongoing trend: yesterday's Writer's Almanac featured the poem "Turtle" by Kay Ryan. I don't know that I would agree with her opening line: "Who would be a turtle who could help it?"

Packed (nearly); soon we'll be away from the ozone alerts and into the smog of London. I'm looking forward to seeing the Chihuly exhibit at Kew Gardens -- a nice way to greet midsummer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Off to England Tomorrow

I am disappointed to find that my British Library Card expired in the fall. I will have to take it along and see if I can renew it -- at least this time, perhaps, I can get a better picture! We do need to some point. Doing one load of laundry right now.

The first paragraph of my recent paper on Clive Barker is online at the best site on Clive, Phil & Sarah Stokes' Revelations. It's down at the bottom of the page with other commentaries, so I'm chummed with Ramsey Campbell, Christopher Fowler, and Doug Winter. Not bad company, eh? The paper is supposed to be under consideration for an anthology, but I have heard nothing from the editor, so who knows.

I received a rejection on a story (second one for that particular story, sigh), but an acceptance for an essay. It was the one I was hastily finishing at Kalamazoo, so I guess it was worth taking that afternoon off. It's a terrific idea that ties together several interests: medieval literature, film and horror. It's about a medieval Scandinavian ballad and two films it inspired, Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring and Wes Craven's Last House on the Left (couldn't be much more different, could they?).

I'm very disappointed, too, that the Maine Kantele Institute has been canceled this year. With luck, it will be back next August. We are thinking of coming to New England anyway because we need to see our friends and reacquaint ourselves with the color green (yes, I got a lot of green for the past few weeks, but what about poor Gene?).

And the really terrific news: we'll be seeing Patti Smith and Alan Moore Thursday night in London. WOW! Many thanks to Liz for picking up the tickets! She and husband Brad are the geniuses behind Sequential Design and longtime pals. They arranged our first trip to Angouleme and are allowing us to once again bunk at their house in London. We're very lucky!

Monday, June 13, 2005


I recall (dimly, I must admit) the end of Anita Brookner's Hotel du Lac where the protagonist writes out a telegram to send which says "Coming home," then she changes her mind, crosses it out and writes "Returning."

I have returned to Houston, and it is quite jarring after my month of solitude. It is good to be with my sweetie and my kitties (and all my stuff -- I've barely had time to play my new harp!), but the jangling irritations of this ugly city are no more welcoming than they were four weeks ago. We had errands to run that took us out on the west side where the endless construction complicates the always horrendous traffic and I could feel my warm fuzzy feelings evaporate.

Well, we are off to England on Wednesday, so there won't really be a chance to adjust. When we return from that trip, I will have to make some changes to my life to preserve the new habits I have developed in Eureka Springs. At least it won't be difficult to keep up the walking in London. Best of all, Gene and I will be together running down the streets of London having adventures. Hey, for us picking through all the used book stores on Charing Cross Road is an adventure!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Before I Leave

Let me recount the things I have learned from the other writers here, who have been so generous with their own knowledge and experiences. I learned that:

[Rebecca] gullible is in the dictionary;

[Terri] even talking about Cajun cooking makes me hungry;

[Agymah] turtles love to lie on their backs with their feet kicking in the air;

[Mary] despite the best efforts of MFA programs everywhere, stories do still need a beginning, middle, and end;

[Michele] deer bite really hard.

I had a wonderful time at Dairy Hollow: wrote much, walked lots, chatted with all kinds of folks. It's very hard to leave. But Fuzzy should be here in an hour and I will be on my way to the airport. Guess I better finish packing (including this computer).

Big Night Out

Well, I got back too late to chat with Gene, so I decided to upload some pictures and videos. We went to the Caribe for some good food and sillyness. Then we headed up to the Crescent Hotel, where there was -- as usual -- a wedding going on, and also as usual, Jesus of the Ozarks off in the distance. We found our own way of dealing with the ideas. Michele and I chatted about a million things. The roads were dark on the way back, but all downhill. Tomorrow afternoon I'll back in Houston -- it will seem so strange.

FYI: It took thirty minutes to upload the video on a phone modem. I miss my cable modem! 7M -- I have been so spoiled!

If you're ever in Eureka Springs (and why not? it's a lovely vacation spot!) stop by the Caribe for some fine food, then sit out on the Dr. Baker 's Lounge (go out on the patio!) at the Crescent Hotel and see the giant Jesus ("I love you THIS much!") of the Ozarks.

Trying not to be bitter that I have not yet seen Howl's Moving Castle...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Last Looks

I finally remembered to take along my pda/sampo so I could take a picture of my little schnauzer buddy and he (just barely) stood still long enough for me to take a snap:

I tried to take another but there was a bit too much sun on the lens for it to turn out well. The old guy who owns him was teasing me again, apologizing for his scary guard dog (as the dog rolls on his side for me to rub his belly). I will miss my little pal.

It was that melancholy wistfulness which brought to mind "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," no doubt. That and perhaps the fact that I've listened to Blood on the Tracks repeatedly while I've been here (have yet to get tired of that album in -- wow! -- thirty years). Considering I started out with "God Save the Queen" in my head (the Sex Pistols version, not the traditional one) this morning, it was a bit of change. The alteration in music was most likely inspired by the landscape. "Dragon clouds so high above" and "Purple clover, Queen Anne's lace" surround me on my walks -- along with the other flora and fauna -- but also the desire to extend my magical time here:

Flowers on the hillside, bloomin' crazy,
Crickets talkin' back and forth in rhyme,
Blue river runnin' slow and lazy,
I could stay with you forever
And never realize the time.

But I leave tomorrow. We have a plan to go up to the Crescent tonight to have a drink at the hilltop bar and see the giant Jesus of the Ozarks across the valley, then go to dinner. The other writers, Mary, Agymah and Michele, will be staying on after I am gone. Other writers will come -- and go. This precious time slips away too quickly. I have to find a way to take this quiet with me.

Of course, my last walk wouldn't have been complete without one more turtle:

Friday, June 10, 2005

Make That Three!

My dad emailed me this picture of the turtle he carved for his wood carving class:

He writes from Las Cruces: "Here's a picture of the turtle on top a pot of flowers. Notice the ripe tomatoes in the back ground. We got our first tomatoe on June 2. They grow good here, not so many bugs and insects as in Texas."

Turtles everywhere!

A Two Turtle Day

We've been talking, off and on, here at the colony about the deleterious effects of MFA programs on writing, a conversation that has continued for me with other folks on-line. Mary, a resident, has been groanning over the pile of submissions to her university's literary magazine. Can't anyone tell a story, she said the other day, exasperated. Her words were echoed by another colleague who also edits a literary magazine in the midwest. All these careful little slice-of-life vignettes, about disfunctional families, that peter away without resolution -- that is the prototypical submission. I'm not too surprised. I recall when I was at UConn, the creative writing folk there sneered at the very idea of narrative (similar to how my current colleagues feel about anything that might be considered "genre"). If it wasn't poetry, it wasn't worth anything. So I treasured the night when I read a story (gasp!) at one of the readings and afterward poet Marilyn Nelson came up to me and told me I had inspired her to try to write narrative again.

It's a pity whenever writing gets too formulaic. I saw a great example of the nadir of that concept: a Chick tract (Scream). It's lying by the side of the road near the school, run over a few times and splayed like an asterisk now. I wonder if anyone's ever been converted by reading a Chick tract -- of course, already formulating in my mind is a story about someone who is. I'll have to make sure it also has something about a coldness of emotions in a suburban family if I want to get it into an MFA-type literary magazine.

I saw the first turtle when I took the forest path than runs parallel to the road, coming back down the hill. It was heading down the path as I was heading up to meet the road again. I laughed, but as it was forest-bound, I let it alone, mindful of everyone teasing me over dinner about the poor turtles. Agymah insists that they like to lay on the backs with their feet kicking in the air, enjoying the freedom. But I couldn't resist moving the second one. He was on the edge of the road by Harmon Park, stepping onto the tarmac. I just helped him continue his journey. He had a big scar across his back. Maybe I am pointlessly prolonging the course of natural selection, but I don't want to see him flattened today. So, I guess that makes my motives inherently selfish!

A colleague at UHD tells me her local book club has chosen my novel as their July book and she wants me to come talk to them. Wow! It's a funny feeling. I still feel amazed when someone I don't know asks me to sign their copy of my book. It's wonderful (I'm starting to realize just how much I use that word, but I am often full of wonder).

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Winding Down

Only a few days left here at the colony; hard to believe it has slipped away so fast. Hard to believe, too, that a week from today I'll be back in England. It takes the sting out of ending this glorious month to know I'll be poking through the bookshops on Charing Cross Road soon. Foyle's here we come! We probably won't have time for it on this short visit, but let me at least whisper the name: Hay-on-Wye.

This is the problem -- no, no, not buying books, though many of you think so -- thinking ahead instead of being in the present moment. It was the habit I had to break when I started this wonderful sojourn. I'm already thinking ahead to Sunday and leaving, to next Wednesday and leaving for the UK. I need to get back to now, this morning, the writing I am going to do now, today. It's easier on the walks, actually noticing things around me. Got another crow feather, a big one about nine inches long. There was a storm last night (woke up around 4 and unplugged the computer) and so everyone seemed to be out this morning, drying off. I saw more types of birds this morning than I have over the whole month, including a couple I have to look up. There were the crows, blue jays, cardinals, sparrows, vultures, house finches, robins, starlings and more. One turtle, too, but far enough from the road to not be in any immediate danger.

I'm going to listen to Punk Rock Jukebox (if it's coming through steadily enough on my phone modem) and write and try to be here now.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Another Story Complete!

Well, I'm not exactly churning them out, but hey -- another one, started last year and never completed, is at last done (first draft, anyway). Amazing what a little concentrated writing time can reanimate. This particular Frankensteinian creation is a relief to have completed because it will be illustrated by my pal Elena Steier who has already produced one beautiful illustration for it.

It's another one of the Unikirja stories and is influenced by sauna culture and Laura Stark-Arola's Magic, Body and Social Order. If you want to know a little more about sauna history, here's a good link.

I'm already beginning to pine for this place and I haven't even left yet. And there's so much more to write --

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Outside My Window Right Now

I even took a video as another one ran by (should show in Windows Media Player unless you have a Mac).


I received the schedule for the Conference on Women and the Divine and, of course, looked swiftly through the listings to find out what panel I was on. I'm not on a panel. My solo presentation will open programming on Saturday morning, the second day of the conference. What an honor, but -- eek! -- how terrifying! So I realized I had to rethink my approach a little. It's quite different to be responsible for holding the entire audience enthralled rather than simply being one of three or four people who have to do so.

Naturally, I woke up at 4.30 this morning with a plan. I stumbled across the room and picked up my yellow pad and scribbled away, shaping a somewhat different approach, trying to balance information and participation. The amazing thing is that I can actually read it this morning! All too often when I scribble in my journal late at night it seems nothing but gibberish in the harsh light of day. Sometimes visions refuse to be caught -- how fortunate this is not one of those times.

I saw yet another turtle on my walk this morning (oh, the humidity!) and finally decided to look up what the turtle traditionally means as a totem animal. I found this:

Turtle: nurturer, protector, mother energy

"Many Natives refer to North America as Turtle Island, because their legends say that when the earth was covered with water, Turtle dove to the bottom of the oceans bringing up earth on its back so that the people could have a safe and dry home. Turtle is at home anywhere because it carries its home on its back. It does not become attached to places, for it is free to search for new opportunities wherever they may be found. When they sense danger, or are in uncomfortable and insecure settings, they withdraw into their shell, and are protected. If you have Turtle medicine, you value both the power of the earth, the waters of the earth, and the magic of the heavens, for Turtle symbolizes both the grounding quality of earth energy, and the magic of the mystical. Using Turtle energy can help you achieve real balance in your life and your spirit so that you don't get "stuck in the mud". Turtle's medicine includes a connection with the center, navigation skills, patience, self-boundaries, associated with the feminine, power to heal female diseases, respecting the boundaries of others, developing new ideas, psychically protecting oneself, self-reliance, tenacity, non-violent defense."

Seems a very appropriate symbol for this journey. It's funny -- there are spiders everywhere here at the colony. They're apparently also a symbol of creativity, so that seems likewise fitting. And of course, there are the springs everywhere! Inspiration around every bend in Eureka Springs.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Fresh Ink!

I went on down to Tattoos Eureka Style and got a new tattoo of a hannunvaakuna:

Not a very good picture, but it is hard to get a photo with a PDA of your own leg (right leg, for those of you keeping score). I had an amazing artist, Carrie Bell. I had checked out her gallery on-line, so I knew the quality of her work. I was delighted to find that in person she was wonderful too.

She was finishing up on another customer when I arrived, but we started chatting away like old friends. Turns out she was also born in Michigan and has lived in Texas. Over the course of the next 2 and 1/2 hours we shared a lot of stories and experiences, as well as book reccomendations. Carrie told me a little more about the life of this little town and I told her about how fortunate I feel to be here for this month to write. She said that a lot of the time she finds herself doing cute little tattoos for tourists, so she enjoyed the chance to do custom work with personal meaning. When we were finished (after checking and re-checking carefully; she's quite scrupulous in her work), Carrie shared with me a couple of her tattoos, commemorating the important experiences of her life, the things she had survived. Some amazing and detailed work -- I had to smile when I saw the familiar face of Ganesha who dances on her left arm, honoring two women who removed obstacles for her. It was just one more indication that I had chosen wisely.

Thank you, Carrie! I just love meeting new phenomenal women.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Wonderful Storm

Last night there was another wonderful storm, lighting flashes, thunder crashes, wild winds and rain pelting down. I could close my eyes and imagine myself on the deck of the Jolly Roger, tempest-tossed by the sea. And it quickly quieted the after-hours crowd from the Blues Fest where I hear there was vomiting in the streets and much rejoicing. I, however, was in my little studio completing another story (yay!), this one only a year in the making (sigh!). Work goes slowly on the play, but I do have the beginning and the end, ha ha. And another new story begun here slowly creeping along, and an old one reinvigorated (I hope anyway). Plus, thanks to Gerry Henkel, it looks like I have another acceptance from New World Finn.

My muses were busy overnight and I rethought the ending lines of the story, as well as waking up with a terrific idea for a paper on the latest film version of Peter Pan. A quick search at the Call for Papers List yielded a perfect place to submit an abstract while the idea is fresh (and it's a collection not a conference, so I will not be adding to the already busy slate of conferences--yes, the schedule I said I was going to cut back on).

I felt so unaccountably energetic this morning, I was halfway up the hill before I realized it. Yet I did not really slow down. In fact, I headed further down Pivot Rock to see what I could see -- but it curves so much, all I could ever see was the next bend. It must have been the freshness of the air, the amazing clarity that a storm leaves behind. In most places, anyhow; in Houston a storm brings no relief, "but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -- it gives a lovely light."

I finally remembered one of those Rosetta Stones of my childhood (wish I could remember the name of that orange-covered collection of macabre verses that both Robert and I checked out of the library repeatedly) that probably influenced me in subtle ways: Fog Magic. I don't recall the details of it anymore, but I remember it being one of those books that opened a hole in my head (that's a good thing), like Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and the Mary Poppins series. I suppose it has always been the case that, to borrow from Marlowe, "t'is magic, magic that hath ravished me." I will have to find a copy of Fog Magic and see what delight it offers now.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Hot 'n Humid

It felt nigh on Houston-like as I went out for my walk this morning. Ugh. At least there's a little breeze. I found the burrow of the other groundhog, down at the bottom of the gravel road the farmhouse is on. She was poking her nose out when I passed by. My little schnauzer pal was so busy basking in the sun, I had to whistle to get his attention. "You're falling down on the job," I scolded him.

Just goes to show, there is no idea so good that it cannot be turned into stupid reality programming. Sigh.

And thanks to Gene, I found that there is a new Stonehenge, but thousands of years only assure that it is more accurate, yet less charming. Speaking of less than charming, I was glad to see Women's E-News expose another in the seemingly endless line of hypocritical 'moralists' appointed by the current administration, as they reveal in an article today that:

"The Nation magazine in its May 30th issue uncovered allegations that Dr. W. David Hager, a religious conservative obstetrician and gynecologist who sits on the Food and Drug Administration's advisory panel on reproductive health drugs, sexually abused his former wife."

He's resigning -- a little difficult to maintain that sanctimonious tone when your own moral shortcomings have been exposed.

Well, aren't I cranky today? It's the weather. But now that I've come back from my chat with Gene at the Colony headquarters, I have a dinner in the fridge and need not go back outside until tomorrow -- unless it cools down, then I'll go out on the hill and play my kantele like I did yesterday. Nothing like playing along with all the bird songs, letting the ringing sound roll down the hill. It's what Väinämöinen would have wanted.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Shakespeare Stout

We went down to the tavern last night to send off Rebecca who is leaving the colony today (sounds more serious, vaguely SF, Logan's Run-like when you put it that way) and to have one final chance to take advantage of her earnestness -- I mean, enjoy her company. Although we did manage to make her believe for just a few seconds the other night that gullible was not in the dictionary (really!).

We were a little concerned because the "pub" looked a bit more swank than we had thought, but we went straight to the bar and it was small and quiet. The bartender said they had "just about everything" which turned out to be a gross exaggeration. Not only did they not have Bass (even!), but they had nothing at all on draft. A quick look at the beer list showed an awful lot of run-of-the-mill lowbrow brews (many--horrors!--ending in "lite"). But they did feature a couple of Rogue brews, although not the special Chef Morimoto brews. I started with a Dead Man, but after tasting Rebecca's stout, I too ordered a Shakespeare Stout. The bartender said he drank it because he was a writer -- I think the story tends to work better when the entire table doesn't eagerly answer "We're writers, too!" He did not stay to discuss writerly things.

The TV was on but not blaring (and only playing a Cirque du Soleil video anyway, colorful distraction) and the music was a succession of quietly played standards. Just right for talking -- and picking on Rebecca. Perhaps I was just a little too ebullient but I was under the impression that it was not just geeks who know that action figures are highly articulated; guess I was wrong.

We did actually talk about writing -- and teaching. Rebecca, a poet, was worried about teaching a fiction class, so Agymah and I talked about our experiences. I must say I envy Agymah's courses, capped at 15. I don't think I'd be happy teaching only creative writing, but I would not be averse to trying it for a while. We tried in vain to get Agymah to share his driver's license, suspecting (apparently correctly) that it had his given name, so to punish him we made him walk back just as fast as we had set out (when he first complained about the pace). The fireflies were out last night, lending a touch of fairy-like beauty to the evening. I remember sitting on the porch back in Connecticut, watching all the lightning bugs sparkle at the edge of the wood:

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

"Fireflies in the Garden"
Robert Frost

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Review: Sword of Hearts

Sword of Hearts
Writer/Dir: David Schmidt

I never got over my first eyeful of Errol Flynn in those green tights. So what if I first saw him in a Bugs Bunny cartoon? It was still love at first sight. Nothing much has changed since then: give me a good sword fight and I’m a pushover (add Johnny Depp and I’ll never leave).*

SOH has just that –- not to mention an eager cast, a hearty story and bucketloads of fun. Any one who’s seen my recent film reviews knows that I’m of the opinion that indy films are the only hope in the bloated industry today. Here’s a good example why: passion, fun, heart –- and here’s a novelty, a script. No fooling! An actual story with -- get this -- characters! Who’d have thunk it -- or that that and a shoestring budget will actually produce a movie not only worth watching, but enjoyable.

With a wink and a nod to every adventure flick you’ve ever loved (everything from Princess Bride to Indiana Jones), the story rolls along with intrigue, quests and hidden identities. We start with the story of the recently arrested thief, Nola Fletcher (Kathrynne Ann Rosen), who proves a resourceful and believable heroine. Her quick-witted escape from the guards leads to a fortuitous meeting with the unpredictable Geoffrey Pierce (Travis Estes) who shows his ability to think on his feet. The characters are the heart of the film, and the actors welcome us right in. Rosen, especially, must wield the muted emotions hidden from other characters, but revealed to the audience, and does so with a wining vulnerability behind her tough thief’s exterior. Estes gives Geoffrey a (nigh on Dreyfuss-esque) roguishness, but lets slip the wounded heart beneath the bravado when the right moments come -- and of course they do, for this is romance as well as adventure. There’s his lost love Grace Durant (Amy Harmon) and her now husband Tristan (Zach Thomas -- who has just a touch of Rupert Everett) and a secret no one wants let out –- or do they? Alliances shift, betrayals come -- but wonder of wonders, it all makes sense (are you, too, tired of the “twist from nowhere?”).

The rest of the cast, too, is competent and attentive. They’re attractive but individuals; you can remember who’s who. Admit it; how many films have you watched lately where you can’t tell one blandly beautiful actor from another ("I thought she was dead -- oh, now she is"). When will American filmmakers get over their hatred of imperfection (exception: men over 30. Or 50. Or 70: Sean Connery is not sexy. He is old.)? One thing British tv and indy films have in common -- real people.

And the best part –- those well choreographed fights. Films with multi-million dollar budgets have not worked half so hard to do it well. And they do it well -- the direction is good throughout, sensitive to the intimate dialogues, opening up to show a grand scale of place when needed. But the fights! Timing is the hardest part and the camera-work, choreography and editing work superbly to give credible and exciting fights (with or without swords).

So buy the DVD already and feed an indy filmmaker. You owe yourself a good time.

*Does not apply to Don Juan DeMarco.

Three Tonne Wombats

Because both Gene and the Queen sent this to me this morning, I am destined to share it in turn:

Early Aussies co-existed with three tonne wombats

It turns out that the "megafauna" (e.g., giant, fantastical monstrous beasts) of Australia likely co-existed with its earliest human inhabitants, who had to dodge "three tonne wombats" and the "world's all-time biggest lizard."

Analyses of ancient fossils suggest that early Australian Aborigines did not wipe out the continent's megafauna in a frenzied hunting rampage. New research conducted by Australian and British scientists reveals that in fact humans and megafauna, such as gigantic three tonne wombat-like creatures, a ferocious marsupial "lion" and the world's all-time biggest lizard, may have co-existed for around 15 000 years.

Link to Science Daily

(NB: at least one of the links above is a lie!)

I saw the woodchuck--and discovered its burrow. No wonder it did so well at Not Being Seen -- there's a little hole right in the side of the rise. Saw a turtle hurtling toward disaster (well, okay, slowly crawling) and set it back away from the busy road, going in the opposite direction. It had disappeared by the time I walked back down the hill. I know it's an exercise in futility, but I couldn't stand to see another pancake turtle today.

From Väinämöinen to Gerry to Me!

I received a most wonderful gift today, an amazing, a mythical gift -- the pikebone kantele from my friend Gerry Henkel. Words, for once, escape me because I am brimming with gratitude and amazement. And sorrow -- despite the many stickers warning FRAGILE, it was damaged on its journey from Minnesota. I can only hope, that like the body of Lemminkainen (as Diane so wisely suggests) it can be made whole once more.

Kiitos paljon, Gerry. Kiitoksia!