Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Consummatum est

The tenure package has been submitted. Hallelujah. Now the five month or so wait...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I dislike being assessed. Being judged and evaluated, measured against some abstract scale, always makes me resentful. I have my own measures of success and have no interest in conforming to anyone else's opinions of what is valuable.

Of course, when you choose to become part of academia, it's a non-stop parade of evaluation. As a student you're graded on what you write, what you say and what you do. When you become a faculty member, you're graded on your grading and general teaching, on your writing, as well as the publishing and presenting of that writing and its attendant research, as well as how many committees you sit on, organisations you join and contributions you bring. Bleh.

Everyone gets evaluated on their job; I should just get over myself. But I have a lot of material to gather together. I'll try to remember to take a picture of the tenure package before I deliver it. Nearly there. The letter is out to friends for scrutiny. Meanwhile, holes to punch. It may prove soothing after straining to pull meaningful but not too clever prose from my brain.

UPDATE: It also didn't help that I discovered that all of last year's course evaluations were missing. It turns out our departmental secretary has them (after assuring me this morning she did not); I would have gone to get them by now, but she's apparently left for the day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


So, my day started by waking up to this disturbing sight:

because I had stayed at Jenise's after celebrating her birthday with Cary Grant movies and some wine -- and then a little Hennessey. Yum! Of course it was more relaxing to know I didn't have to drive home that night and her guest room is quite comfortable and, as you can see, guests are carefully watched over.

Nonetheless I was up early to join friends for a day's retreat to relax and recharge at Universal Pathways. The lovely Mary Browne has created a gorgeous sanctuary in Berne, NY with acres and acres of countryside and forests, streams and a cave. We all wandered about in various locations then met up at the main building for lunch, then wandered off again, though many of us gravitated toward the cave for a little music.

While wandering through the woods I came across this tree that had been uprooted probably by high winds. There are ravens, turkeys, elk and more in the woods around Mary's. Pheasants too, I guess, though the only one we saw had been hit by a car on the road!

After wandering through the woods I came out into a wide field, still green, though the leaves have begun to change. I could see where the elk or deer had lain in the field, so with the midday sun shining bright I decided to do the same. There was hardly a cloud in the sky anywhere as I gazed up, and though the wind was cold, the sun was quite warm. It was like being ten again. Big smiles. Good day.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fancy Meeting You

Yesterday on my morning walk I ran into this snapper at the edge of Buckingham Lake. It may be a bit difficult to gauge size, so I should mention her shell was about a foot long. Clearly not in a hurry: on my first lap around the lake, she had just got out of the water. On the second go-round, she was sitting on the path. Maybe she was just posing!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

BitchBuzz: It Makes You Gay!

My column this week chuckles a bit at a Republican senator's Chief of staff, who told an audience that "pornography makes you gay" and was not kidding. Whatever your thoughts about pornography, surely you'll agree that it's a kind of goofy thing to suggest. But it's just one more strange piece of the puzzle that is Americans' attitudes toward sex in general. Sorting out the Puritan heritage of shame from the capitalist efforts to commodify the body can be difficult for anyone (even a highly placed Republican staffer, I suppose):

Derisive news outlets jumped with relish onto the statements of Sen. Tom Coburn's chief of staff Michael Schwartz who, taking his lead from the sexual insecurity of ten-year old boys, declared that, "All pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards" and the best way to scare boys away from it was to tell them that porn makes you gay: "if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he’s going to want to get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants!"

You have to admire a man so focused on time management that he wants to instill homophobia and body shame all in the same moment [you can watch his earnest declaration on YouTube].

Read the rest over at BitchBuzz.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Joan Jett

Yes, LOL -- thin on content yet again: tenure package is coming together, but I forgot that the reassigned time and professional grant requests are due Friday and must be signed by my department chair and dean before being submitted. Soon, soon, I will be able to breathe again. Two other non-fiction projects due this week as well, and as they are paid gigs, so they can't be set aside. Somehow it will all get done, right?

Some good news: a short story inspired by a chance remark from a pal has already been accepted for an anthology. The story is "A Case of Dead Faces" and is a mash-up of jazz, argot, tarot and the Buddha.

And I wonder why it's so hard to place my stories...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

BitchBuzz: National Cupcake Week

My editor, whose Twitter handle is CupCate, of course made much of the fact that it's National Cup Cake Week (at least in the UK) and asked us all to do what we could in that theme. Of course, I got a bit silly as I'm not much of a chef (okay, it's true I can actually bake, but I am incredibly lazy, too). So I wrote my "recipe" for Brandy Alexander cup cakes:

For a complicated recipe like this, it is always best to start with the essentials. Of course for these cupcakes, brandy is absolutely required – and not just any brandy, either.

I would recommend the Paulet Lallique or Pierre Ferrand Memoire Vintage Edition, (although the Pierre Ferrand Grande Champagne 1972 Vintage will do in a pinch). While tastes vary greatly, of course, it is advisable to secure the very best brandy in order to achieve the fine results this recipe ought to have.

Taste tests are the best way to determine this. Line up several snifters of various brands, so that the light catches the light of the globes. Candlelight is best, so light a candle and position it so that the light both warms the glass and illuminates the colour of the liqueur.

Here is where Alexander comes in handy. Your Alexander, like your brandy, will probably vary according to individual tastes, but for this recipe it is best if he is reasonably strong and particularly good at tasks like lighting small candles and pouring brandy...

Read the rest @BitchBuzz. Be sure to share the link!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I'm midway through the most stressful month of my academic career, so this is why I have been a little neglectful of the blog (though I've been on Facebook and Twitter plenty). I wish I could be as relaxed as Kipper, but in between teaching my classes (including a grad class and a team-taught course) I'm reorganizing the Women's Studies program with a new name, new certificate and some events to get us back in the public eye.

Then there's the whole tenure package: due October 1st, this includes all my evaluations from both faculty and students for my time at Saint Rose, my CV and a letter which explains why they should give me tenure and (in my case) promotion to Associate Professor. While much of the package is assembling things that I (hopefully) already have, that letter is a very difficult piece of writing that has to boil my twelve page CV down to the essentials for a committee of scholars who know nothing about the kind of work that I do and explain succinctly why it's important and what I've accomplished and why they should value my work -- without putting them to sleep with excessive length.

Easy, right? And if I fail -- well, I'll be looking for a new job.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Weekend Wanderings

I know, I know -- I keep falling behind in recapping my travels and activities (which is why you should be on Facebook ;-). It's the most stressful month of my academic career, so you're going to have to cut me a little slack until Oct 1. Today I'm off to the Medieval Festival at Sterup Square to talk about Medieval Magic and Harry Potter. Hope it's fun.

Rumor has it my folks may be arriving in NY tonight...

Last weekend, I headed off to Shakespeare and Co. I got there early for the behind-the-scenes tour, which was fascinating. They have a new theatre this year. In addition to the Founders Theatre and the Rose Footprint Theatre, there's now the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, built inside what was once a sports complex. It was great going behind the stage at Founders, seeing the cheat sheets, green room and what not.

Even more fun was the visit through the bustling props, costumes and weapons rooms in the Bernstein complex. In what had been the ice arena is now storage where they can have all the furniture grouped by type and visible. The prop building room, where there was a body under construction for Hound of the Baskervilles, was great fun to see and hear about; ditto the costume room. But I really adored seeing all the stored costumes; there was something delightful about seeing a big box labeled "Wings" and seeing a wall of crowns. In the shoe and hat room, I took this blurry photo of the "Good boaters" and there was vast array of shoes and hats that I just wanted to explore, but we had to keep moving along. The weapons room, too, had much to see -- we only got to hold one sword, but there were all kinds of wonderful pieces. There's a giant workshop for set building that has its own exhaust system to cut down on noise, and new rehearsal rooms for their education programs.

Shakespeare & Co is always looking for support: consider adding to the Kresge Foundation Challenge Grant!

The tour finished just in time for the matinee of Measure for Measure, one of the Bard's plays I have not seen in production. The cast came from the Summer Training Institute and were a great advertisement for the program. Some of the folks relegated to smaller roles made the most of the humour of the play and the principles were all confident and assured for the most part. Emily Hagburg made an appealing Isabella, Tom O'Keefe gave a measured air to the mostly diguised Duke (though he reminded me a little too much of Richard Branson in appearance); Gabriel Portuondo sometimes seemed a bit too stiff physically as the cruel Angelo, but loosened up when he played Mistress Overdone as a kind of vampy flapper. I would have liked to have seen more of Michael Dix Thomas who played Escalus -- very much a kind of Tom Wilkinson kind of assurance and manner. It was all thoroughly enjoyable -- as was the frosty Berkshire Ale available at the snack counter. The pizza for one, on the other hand, is better left alone.

It's great to have so many good theatres in the region!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

BitchBuzz: Obsolete

My latest column for BitchBuzz takes on the latest wave of Beatlemania which has left me profoundly ambivalent. You know I love the Beatles, but I'm distressed a bit by the seemingly endless hype to repackage and resell them. I'm sure there's a lot to love in this latest version, but I just can't afford to keep shelling out for new improved versions that will only be of interest to real audiophiles. I loved the Anthology sets: new music! and significantly different versions of familiar songs. They were a gift. This feels like a gimmick.

Everybody on the net seemed to have jumped on board: everywhere you looked, 9/9/09 was Fab Four day, all day! Whether it was iTunes or Musician's Friend, Amazon or the New York Times, it was the day in which, as the NYTimes put it, "Everybody Reviews the Beatles" and their latest re-release (well, the Guardian got it out of the way earlier in the week so they could avoid looking like part of the pack, but the Times had a whole special section on the band).

Don't get me wrong: I'm a huge Beatles fan and will doubtless break down at some point and buy this latest extravaganza, but I'm a little put off by the endless reiterations of stuff we must have. While the 'net seems to be poised to wean us away from the need for ownership and possessions (want it? You can Google it and have it – and then let it go), it also seems to have become the place to spread the desperate zeal to BUY IT NOW! OMG YOU MUST HAVE IT!

[read the rest @ BB]

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

BitchBuzz: Social Media Disenchantment

My latest column for BitchBuzz, about the disenchantment toward social media by some people who had hoped it would make them rich. I'm particularly pleased that Cate used the picture from All About Eve, that I suggested. Love that film!

There's a great passage in Marilyn French's The Women's Room where her character Val captures the rhapsodic joy of falling in love, then just as devastatingly describes the discovery of your beloved's clay feet—and the sinking feeling that accompanies that discovery. It seems like a lot of people are experiencing that crushing loss of rhapsodic love for social media.

Or at least that's what people keep forwarding to me. The other day a friend tweeted a forwarded link for Svetlana Gladkova's post, "Blog Day Today: What Real Bloggers Never Tell the World Truth about". Gladkova has something she wants to get off her chest: "And since I am not really a professional full-time blogger but still happen to know the industry after working in it for 3 years, I wanted to share with you some things that no real blogger will ever tell you the truth about."

Read the rest at BitchBuzz!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

In the midst of the swirl of the first week of classes, I was very charmed to be told by Jane Kennedy Sutton that she had selected me as one of the recipients of the Honest Scrap Award. You are so kind, Jane!

“The award rules are simple - pass the award to seven worthy bloggers who post from the heart, and list ten honest things about yourself.”

Well, here's the ten honest things about me:

1. I have a very ambiguous relationship with academia.
2. I do think Old English is the most beautiful language to speak.
3. I would generally rather be in London.
4. I don't think there is a greater pleasure than writing when it's going well.
5. There is no more disconcerting feeling than not being able to write.
6. At present I am inordinately irritated by not being able to get into Facebook.
7. Becoming a medievalist taught me there is nothing original: very freeing.
8. Now, Voyager always makes me blub.
9. Peter Cook is the genius I would most like to be, but I'm not funny enough.
10. Sometimes I fantasize about getting in my car and just disappearing, drifting from town to town, working jobs that pay in cash and just writing, writing, writing. But I don't think Kipper would like to live in my car (and where would I put the catbox?).

Now here are the seven bloggers I've chosen to pass this award to.

Elena Steier

The Raven's Ecritoire

Marja Leena Rathje

The New England Anomaly

Kim Clune

Dana Fredsti

Shades of Purple

Please stop by and visit these blogs. Consider leaving comments so they know you have shared their words. Thanks for stopping by here -- it's always appreciated.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Next Big Thing

Perhaps -- it's big in Japan, anyway and may well be big here soon: text novels. Yep, that's right: a novel that's sent bit by bit to your phone or mobile device.

Charles Dickens, eat your heart out!

My pal, Saranna DeWylde, has a couple of novels begun there, and told me I really need to get on board with this. She's right, so I have started putting my serial The Mangrove Legacy up there. Even better, Dorchester Publishing is holding a contest between now and November so if you drop by, you can vote for my novel in the competition. I've listed it as Romance: Historical, but I added enough information to make sure people knew it had my surreal sense of humour, too. If they're expecting a serious gothic, I don't want them to be led astray.

Today I'm off to Shakespeare & Co for a behind the scenes tour and a matinee of Measure for Measure. Then it's off to Robert's to relax a little before I come back and yes, work some more.

Friday, September 04, 2009


I thought my BitchBuzz column would be up by now, but it's not, and I have been furiously busy this first week of classes -- and paying for my summer of idleness -- so here's the lovely video for Robyn Hitchcock's beautiful song, "I'm Falling" from the forthcoming film about Brian Epstein. Sigh -- he's appearing in London tonight.

More actual content soon!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Good Stuff

Thanks to Lisa and Lori, I had my first visit to Capital Q Smokehouse, home of great BBQ in the capital region after the usual Tuesday at Mahar's (the best bar in the world). Wow -- some very tasty brisket, cornbread, coleslaw and home fries. Good sauce, too. Huge portions, of course, so there's a lot left over for tonight, too. Lori is returning to North Carolina the end of the week, so she will be missed -- although we will probably have months of continuing to chuckle over Lisa's "rack" remark...

And ages ago I meant to put up this picture of the lovely finger puppet The joey Zone sent me of the fabulous Oliver Reed from the Hammer film The Curse of the Werewolf. Gorgeous, ain't it?

Second day of teaching: the bookstore did not get my texts in for the sophmore medieval course and now I find there's a new edition of the Broadview anthology due to come out the middle of this month. Argh! Meanwhile deadlines continue to nag at me -- just grateful Monday is a holiday. I know the semester's just started, but I need it!