Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Gift from Lapland

A little present I got for myself; I have always loved these drums, but I never imagined I could get one. Ain't the internet great? Thanks to Michelle (the seller) and Irene (the Sámi artisan) I have a beautiful drum with designs I had a hand in choosing. Very exciting!

If you don't know much about shaman's drums, please see this page for more information about the history of the instrument.

Friday, November 24, 2006

T-Day Dial-Up Horror!

Well, Robert still has a dial-up modem, so I'll be brief: much turkey, stuffing, badadas (po-ta-toes), pie and cake. Mmmmm. Gene, Brenda, Robert, Jordan and I having a good time and eating far too much. We went out to catch the new Bond film (more about that later, I suspect) and will no doubt consume more food soon. Robert sure does know how to lay a spread.

Who wants cake?!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I had an introduction to this unpleasant procedure today. The nearest thing to it that I had experienced was when they checked my vocal chords before the the thyroidectomy. Hmmm, I thought -- will they make me sing? No, they stuck a thin filament down my throat to take a look, but I choked too much and so, lucky me, they went through my nose.

Well, things have changed a bit in the ensuing years. Now they numb your throat and give you a mild sedative via IV and then they stick a filament down your throat. Less choking -- though not as comfortable as, oh say, anything that doesn't involve things going down your throat. But fairly quick. And they can take samples, too, which they did. At this point the vague diagnosis of gastritis is all they have. By Monday the doctor will know better having had a chance to get out the microscope. It may well be a common bacteria that can be addressed with antibiotics. On the other hand, it may call for more permanent changes in diet (like loss of chocolate and caffeine!), so in the mean time I just have to keep taking the Prevacid.

I'm home recovering while Gene's at work. Slept for a couple hours and probably should rest more. Kipper is all in favor of that.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mash-ups Go Mainstream

Yeah, yeah, yeah -- I had to go out and get the new Beatles album. It is fun. More fun than a week of rejections (just got one more, yay).


Yesterday I attended the Diwali celebration here on campus. It was a lovely ceremony with lights and music (although it's a pity the Interfaith Sanctuary only seems to open up to non-Abrahamic religions when they have a colorful festival to offer). The priest began speaking haltingly, seemingly less than confident with his English, but when he began to chant the prayers, first to Ganesha, then to Lakshmi, his tone changed to be ringing and confident through the 108 names of Lakshmi. We all lit our candles from the ceremonial lamp (representing the enlightenment of knowledge) and afterward we had beautiful music from Veena Chandra who played sitar while her son played tabla. Some volunteers applied mehndi (henna designs) to eager participants (yes, I got some decoration).

And of course, Saturday night was the big Markofest at Aloha Alcohula. Much fun catching up with the CT crowd -- even the elusive Bilokur. We arrived early and got to spend a pleasant afternoon with Miss Wendy. We showered the birthday boy with a bunch of Peter Cook dvds and a cd (copies of the massive treasure trove courtesy of Our Man in Britain), so we have one more member for the World Domination League.

Thursday of course is Giant Turkey Day (as celebrated in Japan) and we'll be off to Robert's, where we'll no doubt be asked, "Who wants cake?"

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Belatedly, I offer a few reviews of recent indulgences:

Slade in Flame: We borrowed this from the Boojums after Halloween mostly because we read the back of the DVD and were intrigued. I will admit up front that my primary image of Slade comes from the "Slade in Residence" vignettes on The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, which mostly involve sitcom-like misunderstandings and a lot of Cup-o-Soup. The packaging of the DVD makes the point that while they might have been expected to make a sort of Beatles-esque romp, Slade chose to make a gritty film that shows the darker side of the music biz. And it works -- this was an impressive effort, which captured both the fun and the grind of the climb to the top. Tom Conti, in perhaps his first major film role, plays the slick artist rep who milks the group for all it's worth while the fad lasts. From small town thugs to the modestly talented folks dropped along the way, the film offers a snapshot of the old story with a few new notes. We were really impressed, and even watched the long interview with Noddy that comesas an extra. It hasn't quite put Vic & Bob out of my head, but it was good.

Antigone: We attended a one man performance of Antigone at the Steamer No. 10 Theater right on the edge of the Saint Rose campus. Bertrand Fay plays all the parts with the aid of wooden masks on poles. He modulates his voice for the different parts, so when two characters are conversing you can easily tell them apart. There was a great sense of ritual to the whole performance (turning the masks forward and back as they spoke or departed) which seemed ideal for the material. Unfortunately, Gene and I were both lulled into occasional somnambulance by the sing-song delivery and the tiring week. Worse, the house lights were not low enough, so it probably apprent to the performer that we snoozed. Oh well.

Literally Speaking: Last Saturday we did a lot better at the short story reading sponsored by Lterally Speaking at the Chapel and Cultural Center at Rensselaer. It's a great idea -- short stories read by actors which circumvents the problem of authors who are not the best readers of their own materials. While I like to think I'm one writer who is a pretty good reader (teacher training helps there) it would be wonderful to hear what a talented actor could do with any one of my stories. The two actors were excellent -- one of them had just been called that morning, so he was really working cold. Unfortuntately, there won't be another reading until spring. Waah!

The series is supported by two groups, Theater Voices (who provide the actors) and the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. We went to the biannual meeting of HVWG on Wednesday at Professor Java's Coffee Sanctuary (hmm, that's the second 'sanctuary' I know of in the capital region -- which suggests a kind of hunkered down mentality...). The coffee house is terrific -- Gene was really impressed by the fine coffee aromas. The group seems useful and friendly and I think we'll both be joining. Yay.

All right, that's a lot for now -- off to the Aloha Alcohula tonight, so it's time to pack our jimjams and get on the road soon.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Overwhelmed by Stress on a Friday Afternoon

The best medicine: a little whimsy from the divine Edward Lear.

There was a Young Lady whose bonnet
Came untied when the birds sat upon it;
But she said, "I don't care!
All the birds in the air
Are welcome to sit on my bonnet!"

There was an Old Man of Whitehaven,
Who danced a quadrille with a raven;
But they said, "It's absurd
To encourage this bird!"
So they smashed that Old Man of Whitehaven.

There was a Professor of English,
Whose cat had a long-standing fond wish;
To pen its life story,
And win lasting glory,
And never again eat from a dish.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rejoicing in Insects

I think I have finally come to an understanding of my students that somewhat fits (appropriately enough) with our reading this semester: Alice in Wonderland. Like Alice, they resist the chaos and madness I try to impose upon them. Like Wonderland, I keep throwing them off balance. They feel like the rules they have learned are not working the way they ought to do, but they persist in looking for the "right" answers. While I continue to insist that the texts are multivalent, slippery and full of problems, and that answers are only the beginning of new questions.

The students in the Early Women and Writing class (AKA the class that started out disastrous and has steadily improved) had a wonderful set of responses to writing their own "pilgrimages" based on format of the perambulations of Margery Kempe. They were moving, thoughtful and creative. In fact, I've expanded the topic to be one of their choices for a more formal paper.

They may not be rejoicing in insects yet, but maybe they have begun to look more carefully at their assumptions and dig a little bit deeper. Or perhaps, like the Mad Hatter, I'm just a little loopy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ooooooh, Moomins!

It was wonderful to come home today to a nice surprise -- the hardcover edition of Drawn and Quarterly's first volume of Moomin Comics. I had the prepublication galley, which is a softcover, but this is really gorgeous! And I'm not just saying that because they quote me in the press release (as the voice of Finlandia Weekly) saying nice things about the book.

I love it -- in fact, I not only wrote a handful of reviews for it, I will also be writing an essay for a collection on Tove Jansson and a conference that will be held at Oxford in March. The hardcover edition has lovely cream color pages and a nubbly feel to the cover. The beauty of the drawings is enhanced by D&Q's attention to detail. They really think about the book as an entire work of art. I can't imagine anyone doing a better job with these terrific stories and Jansson's singular style.

Buy it! You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

For the Discriminating Bee Enthusiast

At last the highly prized periodical (once available only to a select few who knew the secret handshake and where the bodies were buried) has become available to the general public through the grace and largesse of St. Ephesus and of its proprietor, Stanley Ribble. Yes, the Bubwith and Rawcliffe Submariner now lies exposed to the baleful eye of a jaded populace for their edification and general sobriety. All who cheer the restoration and preservation of safe, clean water may now rejoice. Those opposed, say neigh.

Lovely ladies of the roses, you have been vindicated.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Prize Winning!

Whoo hoo -- thanks to alert Horror list member Todd Mason, I just found out that the Joshi/Dziemianowicz collection I'm in just won the International Horror Guild award for Non-Fiction! Hurrah! Read the whole story at Ansible. I would say buy the book, but perhaps the better exhortation would be to get your library to order it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Little Lifts on a Rainy Day

It's amazing the big effect of a small good thing (about the size of a hazelnut, if you asked Julian of Norwich). As the days get darker and my students get more tired, it's harder to find energizing moments. So it was nice to see the new webpages of my friend Diane Saarinen and find that she credits me with inspiring her to write about her Finnish heritage. Thanks, Diane!

And then I got a note out of the blue from a colleague who happens to have been one of the judges for a recent competition where she read (unbeknownst to her at the time) one of my stories. When she found out, she wrote me a very kind and complimentary email. Yay -- gives you that warm snuggly feeling that Cute Overload does.

I'm certainly not complaining about rainy days. Bring on the cool weather! But drizzly times are best for hot chocolate and quiet contemplation. Yet there's so much work to be done. The long mad dash toward the end of the semester only gets shorter and shorter (and faster and faster). I'm still trying to find my feet at St. Rose -- my students are so quiet! I know I'm not alone -- everyone seems to have the same story. But it only makes me more determined to get them talking somehow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote Today!

As the Joey Zone is fond of saying, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." If you don't work for change, you have no right to disparage the way things are. Vote!

Then complain all you want.

I'll just be glad not to hear the names Gillibrand and Sweeney on a daily basis. But New York does not have a corner on the market for vitriol. If we had Comedy Central, we'd be watching the Daily Show/Colbert Report live tonight, but alas, we have scaled back to bare bones cable+modem. Instead, I'll be preparing for teaching Wednesday (as usual).

Off to vote in a few minutes --

Sunday, November 05, 2006

More Fun in the New World

Thanks to our reliance on treeware (specifically the Times-Union) we found out about a couple of exciting groups in the Capital region:

Right in Albany is the Federation of Ideas, a loose collective that defines itself as "a 'neighborhood' community and arts group" who run various events like the University of Ideas, "a non-boring lecture and presentation series that varies monthly between surrealist parlor game club to presentations on urban permaculture to missing women of Mexico. Speakers get to hold an audience captive for 20 minutes and lead them through participatory thought-sharing. "

Across the river in Troy is The Sanctuary for Independent Media, a group with a more overtly political agenda, actively engaging people in the construction of non-corporate media. This community center "provides screening, production and performance facilities, training in media production and a meeting space for artists, activists and independent media makers of all kinds." There's even an election night comedy party sponsored by The Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center. Their focus is on involving everyone in the media, and they offer workshops to build skills -- everything from using digital cameras to building your own website.

Why does it take so long to find out about the exciting things going on in the area? As if there were a shortage of things to keep us occupied...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Gene's Bad Poetry

By popular acclaim, Wombat's World is pleased to present the very bad poetry of the beret-wearin' Dr. K (AKA Gene):

Dutch Mastery

The flint lighters of our souls
illuminate the stygian darkness
in the Prestige Spanish Cedar Walk-In Humidor of this worldly existence

Our souls ignite the toasted, creamy tobacco of our love
having first prepared ourselves
with the Rubber Coated Double Blade Cutter of our courtship

Nothing can clear the Romeo y Julieta Belicoso-scented haze of our love
not even the petty Prometheus Habana Crystal Ashtrays of occasional arguments
or the Ionic Zone IZ-270 electrostatic air purifier of jealousy

Nothing, that is, until the Sav-A-Cigar snuffer of death itself readies us
for a perfect 65-to-70% humidity of everlasting bliss


Composed Upon an Overcast Autumn Morn, When I am Filled with Ideas, Hope, and Zest, And All the World's Possibilities are Laid Before Me, Awaiting the Transforming Touch of My Lyric Lexicon

The only...
When I am unsure...
I think I'll just

Review: The Mystery of Irma Vep

We dropped by the Curtain Call Theater to see their presentation of The Mystery of Irma Vep by the late Charles Ludlam. As expected, it was a good chuckle with a few guffaws. All the parts are played by the two actors, Aaron Holbritter and Kris Anderson -- which becomes part of the humor, with characters alluding to the necessary absence of other characters. It's a wild tale of vampires, werewolves, mummies and other gothic trappings, like a mix of Rebecca, Laura, and a little Wuthering Heights. The script is full of bad puns, salacious hints and wild turns. The two actors made the most of their widely disparate body types, Holbritter in particular showing great zeal for the transformation between the rough Nicodemus and the delicate flower, Lady Enid. The appreciative audience really fueled the energy -- the first row in particular howling with laughter, so much so that Jane the Housekeeper (Anderson) threw a sprig of "wolfsbane" to the woman who was laughing so hard in the first row. Before this, the shrieks of laughter had their effect on bringing on a fit of corpsing that never quite left the second half of the play. Which was all right -- the second half being where the script turned more Martin & Lewis than gothic, despite its setting in an Egyptian crypt.

During the interval we went downstairs to the cafe. While we were able to resist the decadent looking desserts (oh that cake looked good!) we did indulge in coffee and hot chocolate while looking through the art exhibit. For a small place, the Curtain Call Theater has a lot packed inside. We'll be back.

The program also had an ad for the Saratoga Springs theater company, Home Made Theater which will be doing a version of Alice in Wonderland, which I need to mention to my students, as well as Wit and I Hate Hamlet. More fun coming in regional theater!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bad Poetry & Good Pictures

Last night the College held its Frighteningly Bad Poetry Reading. Gene got into it big time, not only producing a couple of minor masterpieces of crap poetry, but dressing as the quintessential beatnik/Frenchie poet, with stripey shirt and my Canterbury beret. The students (a few faculty members!) got into the spirit of things with bad costumes, bad poetry (some reaching back into juvenalia, others composing doggerel during dull meetings) and spectacularly bad performances. topics ranged from necrophilia (a prize winner) to toast (the latter perhaps the best performance, but that wasn't up for awards this time). A good time was had by all, much guffaws and titters.

I'm sure, if you ask nicely, Gene will share his odes with the world. In fact, I'll offer to print them here.

Which reminds me that Gene got our Halloween pictures up and I forgot to link to them here. You've probably seen the other pictures already, but if you're not tired of the same costumes yet, here's ours.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Feliz Dia de los Muertos

Get out your sugar skulls and marigolds -- it's that time again! I don't know where our sugar skull mold is, so I guess we won't have any today. It's good to have a day to remember those we miss. My folks sent a number of articles from their local paper that explained the holiday for folks new to it. Not surprisingly, there are big celebrations in Las Cruces.

I think I was first introduced to the celebration in a Ray Bradbury short story, "The Next in Line," from The October Country, one of those linchpins of my life (along with Alice in Wonderland, Shrieks at Midnight and the Mary Poppins books). Living in Tejas for the last few years, we were more easily steeped in the celebrations. There seems much to value in this attitude toward death. No one really wants to think about its inevitability, but the silence more common in our culture seems to fuel our grief rather than relieve it.

Tonight our college will feature a bad poetry reading to celebrate the day -- what could be more appropriate?