Thursday, June 28, 2007

Art in the Streets

Great new program from the National Gallery that puts art in the streets:

Over the next twelve weeks we're turning the West End into a giant gallery by lining the streets of Soho, Piccadilly, and Covent Garden with some of the world's most famous paintings.

Imagine, the Triumph of Pan (above) on Shelton Street -- what would Cardinal Richelieu think (he was the original owner, although what the Card was doing with "a wild pagan celebration in full swing" is anybody's guess). Whistlejacket is over on Mercer Street -- I always like to see him at the far end of the Gallery as you walk through the doors opposite the shop, so it would be weird to see him like he's out shopping for trinkets in Covent Garden. My only question: Où est Les Grandes Baigneuses?

Ah, London.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What's in Your Shed?

Here's what was on the floor of ours, which I found once I finally got to it after removing boxes, furniture and more boxes. Lesson: what parts of the squirrel are not good to eat? Tail (the first part I saw, thinking, "Is there a kitty in here?"), ribcage (which was next and first made me think, "uh oh") and of course, feet. Undoubtedly work of the cat colony next door.

Good thing there's a shovel right there in the shed. No, I did not put it on the newspaper just to get a better photograph (although it did help) but to move it toward the trash, plus putting more paper down on the tarp that lines the bottom of the shed. Probably superfluous -- it's already pretty dessicated -- but it felt a bit oogie to be stepping on its remains (the shovel is not a perfect instrument).

I had gone to the shed to do what should have been done months ago -- get framed pictures out of the shed. Argh; assessing damage now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Which Tarot Card Are You?

Passed along by the Boojums:

You are The Magician

Skill, wisdom, adaptation. Craft, cunning, depending on dignity.

Eleoquent and charismatic both verbally and in writing,
you are clever, witty, inventive and persuasive.

The Magician is the male power of creation, creation by willpower and desire. In that ancient sense, it is the ability to make things so just by speaking them aloud. Reflecting this is the fact that the Magician is represented by Mercury. He represents the gift of tongues, a smooth talker, a salesman. Also clever with the slight of hand and a medicine man - either a real doctor or someone trying to sell you snake oil.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Tove Jansson Rediscovered

That's the new title of the forthcoming collection from Cambridge Scholars Press on the lovely Finnish artist/author. Co-editor Kate McLoughlin says that with the latest round of corrections made, the book is on track for the September 1, 2007 publication date. Hurrah!

This is the book for which I wrote on the beautiful Drawn & Quarterly collection of Moomin Comics -- and, yes, the same one I spoke about at the Tove Jansson Conference in Oxford last March. There was a wide variety fo lively papers at the conference, so it will be great fun to read them with a little more leisure.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Good buys and good news

Just found out over the weekend that my paper on the Grendel opera has been accepted for the 22nd Annual Conference on Medievalism. I was hoping to go anyway, but funding is more likely when giving a paper, so this helps. Of course, now there's the whole writing of the paper that has to happen.

I'm also going to be writing a paper on Terry Gilliam's Tideland (which I recently reviewed for Phil's Up Against the Wall magazine) for Steffen Hantke's collection American Horror Film Today. You may recall that name from the collection Horror Film: Creating and Marketing Fear, for which I wrote on the Horror in Film and Literature internet group that I've been part of for -- eek! -- about twelve years. Of course we'll have to see if Steffen still buys my argument about Tideland being horror when I finish writing the essay...

Yesterday we went up to the antique sale/flea market in Round Lake. There were a whole lot of vendors there, with everything from the horrid to the sublime (and the expensive to the affordable). If we had deep pockets and room for furniture, what a place to shop. Gene found some useful things for the book project he's working on and we found a few gifts for friends. I even found one or two things for me -- including a very cool sterling silver turtle ring. Unique -- the head, legs and tail all move!

I am being more productive of late, but there's still a little residual vacation-head that makes me off in another world at times (like that's unusual).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Review: Rickie Lee Jones

The weather seemed iffy all day, with bits of rain off and on, but we were determined to have our picnic at Bard, so I made some potato salad (yes, me -- cooking! Good thing it only requires the skill of boiling water) and we picked up a nice bottle of champagne and headed down to meet Robert. It was just getting late enough that we saw a lot of deer, some bunnies and a groundhog or two coming out for their own picnics by the road side (fortunately for the most part staying away from the road itself, although one got a little close).

Bard sure has a pretty campus -- amazing what a lot of money can do! Fortunately, there was a set up for a wedding the next day by Ward Manor, so we used one of the nice tables under the festive tent, festooned with paper lanterns. We ate yummy foccacio samiches (the only way to spell it) and my potato salad and sipped champagne, then wandered over to see if we could get our eyes poked out by the decorative sculpture. We ate our chocolate torte (mmmm) in the gazebo, and then it was time to head over to the giant rabbit, AKA the Gehry-designed Fisher Center (you have to see it from the right angle) to take our places in the Sosnoff Theater. We had been to Theater Two for the Beckett series last year, but we hadn't been in the big theater yet.

It's very nice. Surprise.

Some local DJ introduced Jones and then we waited, because they weren't actually ready yet. But then she came out with her band behind her. Good band -- especially her drummer/percussionist, who was constantly busy changing sticks and shakers of various kinds, usually with at least one held in his mouth because he lacked enough hands to do all he needed to do. The bass player (what did he have in his hair though -- I think it looked like a tiny blue dolphin hairclip) was even bowing his strings at one point, which led to Rickie Lee doing the same with her guitar. I think everybody picked up some percussion instrument at one point or another during the concert, so that was a lot of fun.

She still has some pipes on her, wow. Her voice goes up and around and back down again with ease, although I wished she handed out lyrics sheets for the show because with her delivery it's often hard to pull the words apart in her phrasing (kind of like Tori in that respect). They opened with "Scary Chinese Movie" which set the tone for the nigh: experimental, loose and full of surprises. The long sequence from the current CD -- which the DJ described as taking back spirituality from those who had stolen it from the rest of us -- was fascinating in all the musical avenues and really allowed all the musicians to shine. This wasn't just a back-up band for a star -- they worked together easily and well.

Despite all the technical difficulties that got things off to a bumpy start (Ace, she's looking in your direction) Jones stayed affable and loose. After letting the band go, she turned to the piano to play some solo songs at the piano, something a number of folks in the audience really seemed to have been looking forward to. While Gene had threatened to yell out "Chuck E.!" after every song, a group of women really did yell out a request for "The Albatross" and Jones instantly granted their cries with the song.

Here, here's where we live
Here is a sea, my family
We'll always be young as we've ever been
Death will not part us again nearer to heaven than
10,000 ancestors who dream of me
Well I hear you dreaming of me
Yeah sometimes, dream of me!

Great show -- thanks, Robert!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

UK Pix -- Part 5: Weird and Wonderful

Match the caption to the picture below:

A: Hands of a Renaissance Man
B: Suitable for any occasion
C: Keeping innovative theater at bay for 55 years
D: I love my kitty this much!
E: Every day, I awoke to this -- amazingly, vomiting only occurred once...
F: King Brad
G: From Brazil with Toffee Apples
H: Impending disaster -- good thing the author's dead already
I: Come back, little Arthur!

Summer Solstice

Around the world people celebrate the beginning of Summer and the longest day. Finns will be celebrating Juhannuspäivä, which they take a bit more seriously than Americans take their holidays. Helsingin Sanomat, for example, closes down for a month as most Finns will be heading off to their tupas for the summer and there won't be much news to report, other than all the accidents that inevitably happen on Juhannuspäivä, because they'll hold big bonfires and eat and drink merrily.

Some of my pals will be doing the same out west of here, but we'll be in town in part because we have work to do (how tediously American!) but also because Robert got us all tickets to see Rickie Lee Jones tomorrow night. We're going to picnic before the show, so we get a little bit of that midsummer feeling.

The internet keeps cutting out here on campus. I'm guessing the big upgrade they did last week -- shutting down the system for four days -- hasn't really helped. So it goes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Groovin' with Gramps

Bright and early this morning the sound of thumping music poured across the neighborhood: the Beach Boys? and then some Lovin' Spoonful. No, it wasn't the crazy Jesus guy next door, but the elementary school across the street. Hurrah! Let's hope it's only a noe day thing. Yes, we were already up, but it's still annoying to be bombarded by someone else's loud music.

And weird -- as Gene said, "Wow, rocking to their grandparents' music." I'm sure the kids relate.

I got to campus and the house next door was rockin' out to the Four Seasons -- oh, what a day. At least it's in the back of the house and I'm in the front of ours. That air conditioner may come in handy for white noise.

So in a grumpy mood (hey, they just tried to take my printer away!) here are some inspiring words of wisdom from the great Vonnegut (or if you prefer, you can get the word from Kilgore Trout).

Monday, June 18, 2007

Twain Quote

A moment of synchronicity from the pen of the mighty man:

"Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates."

-- Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

Saturday, June 16, 2007

UK Pix -- Part 4: Into the Green

This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea...

Sometimes in the midst of the pullulating streets of London, it's hard to see what Shakespeare was getting at -- and then you step into one of the beautiful parks, and it all comes back. There is a love of gardens in England that few countries share (Japan springs to mind). The protection of public greenery is something we have not been treasuring in this country.

Even in the midst of winter, green can be found in the gardens of London. How glorious it is, though, to be back in summer when -- yes -- the calla lillies in Regents Park are in bloom in the Secret Garden and for a moment, anyway, one can feel the noise of the city drop away and the calls of myriad birds fill the air.

Look under the bridge and you'll find a nest of coots, the adults pampering their single chick. Egrets, ducks, geese and swans crowd the banks, eager for a handout from the passing tourists and bird fans. The banks were covered with pollen thick as snow.

On this trip I finally got to Kew Gardens with Liz and Sophie. We made a stop at M&S to pick up a picnic lunch, then settled on a bench to enjoy it. Far away we could see a duck walking with purpose (what duck would not walk with a purpose when it can?), making a bee line (duck line?) right for us. Clearly she had a plan. It paid off as we were quickly persuaded to share some of our lunch with her. She demanded no less.

Less demanding were the magpies, who seemed to think waiting was best, certain that we'd leave enough behind for them to snack on. One of them couldn't resist posing just so she was framed by the branches. We also saw guinea fowl, peacocks (who chased the tour tram), larks, a robin in the palm house and many more.

Of course you can't visit Kew without an iconic picture of the Palm House and the pond before it. In the Palm House itself we saw bamboo and bananas and in the basement all the fish -- sea horses and crabs, clown fish and mime fish (well, they looked like clown fish but they were black and white) and all manner of strange little fishies. In the Princess of Wales Conservatory there were additional climates from the alpine to the tropical. And in the Waterlily House there were giGANtic lilies, the size of small boats (Victoria cruziana).

There's even Kew Beach -- where this jaunty pirate ship can be found (see Sophie in her Hello Kitty t-shirt -- gee, wonder where she got that?) along with lots of white sand and plenty of beach toys. The kids have a great time playing in the sand and the adults get to rest a minute from walking the 300 acres of Kew.

Ahhh, green.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

UK Pix -- Part 3

Gog and Magog, the guardians of London, currently posted in the lobby of the Royal National. Pity they weren't watching over the students' belongings a little more closely.

The Punch Tavern on Fleet Street in The City, glimpsed through the window of the Hop-on Hop-off Coach. Unlike the students who got bad sunburns, I stayed on the lower level -- on the boat tour, too, where everyone fell asleep. No Cutty Sark to see anyway. I'll have to find this pub again and have a drink there. Cheers, Mr. Punch.

A grim face from Southwark Cathedral. This is where Shakespeare worshipped and a monument to him can be found inside, including stained glass depictions of many famous scenes from his plays. Gower is buried inside as well, claimed as "England's first poet" -- I think contemporary Chaucer might dispute that (not to mention Cynewulf, the Rood poet and of course the Beowulf poet...)

The gates of Crossbones Graveyard, recently rediscovered. Some of the bodies buried here can now be found in the Museum of London.

The students mug at the Globe. Despite the three hours of standing, they really seemed to enjoy the experience -- why not? Tim McInnerny played Iago!

The students are smiling: the trip is almost over and I am buying a round at the Museum Tavern to celebrate the end of the presentations.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

PC Woes

Well, the computer failed to turn on this morning. After a call to ITS and ten more tries, I finally got it on at least long enough to print out a) the document I needed for the meeting with my department chair and b) a notice for my lost gnome (sob).

So I ought to be blogging on zombies, but I don't much feel like it at the moment. I'm up at the top of the English Department where the English adjuncts normally roost, and a dark, sombre and poorly lit loft it is. As if being an adjunct didn't already suck. There aren't even any speakers so I cannot listen to the lovely blues CD by Joan Armatrading that my thoughtful brother bought me at her concert (and had signed!).

Instead, I'm thinking of Yeats and wonder to myself, WWYD? I think he would do thusly:

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

Sounds like a plan.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

UK Pix -- Part 2 [the uncanny]

Tourists are to be feared, not fed
A tiara has strange effects
His name is Pete!
Caroline, apparently, needed telling
The site of the miracle: a blind man, collecting for charity suddenly had his sight restored by the power of Venus, whose temple all London phone booths appear to be (else why the pornographic postcards?); unfortunately, he immediately forgot his charity chores, dropping the collection box here in the bottom of the phone booth, presumably hot in the pursuit of amour...
Peter Parker (and alter ego) apparently summer in Brighton with other local luminaries


My office PC just died a sudden and horrible death. Well, so much for getting work done today, grumble grumble. I'm typing this in one of the classrooms where I have to stand behind the media podium. It's this or a student lab. Sigh. Maybe I should just go back and wade through some research -- with no music?! Oh, the agony. Good thing I don't have to deal with some real serious problems -- think how whiny I would get then.

UK Pix -- Part 1

The Brookses go to Brighton
Sophie wears my hat with panache
Pop Art playground at the Tate Mod
Harry Potter lets it all hang out
"The calla lillies are in bloom again..."
The students jet-lagged but jazzed on their very first tube ride

More later!

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Yes, home again home again, jiggety jig and a publication besides: Up Against the Wall is online with a spankin' new issue featuring all kinds of things you will want to read, watch and buy. I have a review of Bryan Talbot's Alice in Sunderland (more on that when I recap the trip), but you'll find all kinds of recommendations for your summer reading, so get those shopping lists out.

More news tomorrow -- I'm wiped out from three weeks in England (sigh!), a B&B Friday night, Elena's party Saturday and a stop by Robert's on the drive back home. Sleepy! But much to tell and I will get to it very soon.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Yes, of course. So what have I been doing? Well, still in London, so busy would be the optimum word -- in short, let's see students on their way with a few last minute hiccoughs Friday, but mostly happy and rather sweet saying goodbye; out to Hanwell and welcoming friends the Brookses, Brighton Saturday with plenty of sun and no rumbles; a lovely day out Sunday and today, a bit of shopping, good food and a chance to relax. Tomorrow off to the City again, a few things to do -- time will tell how much. Returning Friday and the whirlwind will be over, although there's a night at the B&B to look forward to and Elena's party on Saturday.

Still haven't found a mug with Harry's mug on it yet, Robert...

Reviews and more when I get back home, but I don't plan to spend my holidays typing!