Monday, January 31, 2011

Twice as Fast

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

I shall now attempt to run twice as fast...

Sorry for being so quiet lately: I am a victim of my own fabulousness. I'm hoping that by the end of the week I shall have a couple of things sent off and will be able to relax a little more.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

BitchBuzz: Made (Over) in Dagenham & News

Good news: "High Plains Lazarus" finished 9th in the Predators & Editors poll for Best Horror Short of 2010. I seem to be the only woman in the top ten. Thanks to everyone for their support and voting. It's always awkward asking people to vote for you, but I'm learning to be a little more shameless.

If you need a chuckle, stop by and read my piece for Polite Company Magazine, "Deleted Scenes from the State of the Union." I'm particularly proud of the birthers joke.

I'm still buried under the madness of the semester's start. Ay yi yi -- why re-entry has been so difficult, I don't know, but it has. I have to find some way to get minions. It's the only answer. But of course, the main event: my column for this week incorporates (obliquely) my review of Made in Dagenham, grumbles about the inflated praise for The King's Speech and the Oscars' preference for women who are mad, drunk or dying. Bleh:

Made (Over) in Dagenham

 We don’t really need to see the true grit of history, do we?

The road to Oscar success for women can be easily codified, as Film Site does for us:

"Biographies of remarkable, real-life individuals (showbiz figures and entertainers) and portrayals of the mentally ill are heavily represented among Oscar winners (and nominees), particularly in the acting awards. It helps an actress's chances of winning (or being nominated for) an Oscar if the character dies during the movie, or is alcoholic (or drug-addicted), or is a murderess."

It seems that Natalie Portman will most likely prove the winner this year, despite the incredible performance turned in by Jennifer Lawrence in the finest film of the year, Winter's Bone, for her turn as a prima ballerina falling apart, given that True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld received a nomination as a supporting actress, despite being the star of the film.

It's ironic that a saccharine "biography of a remarkable, real-life" man, The King's Speech, has scooped so many nominations when somewhat less saccharine "biography of a remarkable, real-life" woman, Made in Dagenham, was overlooked completely (right down to the Billy Bragg-penned theme song sung by real former Dagenham worker, Sandie Shaw)...

Read the rest at BBHQ:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Today in the New Media class, we're talking about blogging. I, however, have nothing to blog. Instead I already have a bunch of grading to do, teaching to prepare, schedules to finish working out for the rest of the semester (now incorporating visits by prospective new faculty -- hurrah!), a proposal to get sent off (also hurrah!), a website to update, a meeting to schedule, and a mind to recover in the process (ha!).

And though I thought it was over, there are a few more hours to vote for my voodoo zombie western "High Plains Lazarus" in the P&E poll. Short stories are not the most lucrative market, so this may be the most I 'earn' from this one until I can turn it into a novel (it's in the queue, but the queue gets ever longer).

So I leave you with a link to a story in The Saint Rose Chronicle by one of my students from last spring's version of the New Media course. Good to see she continues to pursue her interests. I take credit for nothing.

The word "ironic" still makes me think of that song. You know the one -- the one that's not actually ironic.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Knack...and How to Get It

Before I get to the main event, some links to share: I am the Tuesday Talking Teaser over at JoJo's Book Corner, answering questions and reading from Pelzmantel, and Kit Marlowe is the featured blogger today over at the Noble Romance authors' blog, writing about her inspiration, P. G. Wodehouse.

See all of Tuesday's Overlooked Films at Todd's blog.

Fresh from the success of helming the Beatles' films Hard Day's Night and Help!, Richard Lester chose to adapt the play The Knack by Ann Jellicoe. I plan to pick up the original play (and Jellicoe's essay, "Some Unconscious Influences in the Theatre") to see how her work compares to the film, as I suspect there will be some significant differences.

There are all kinds of Lester-ish touches -- I particularly love the OAPs as Greek chorus. The art direction is marvelous; from the opening frames onward there's a marvelous look to the film, often taken to be a signal example of the British New Wave cinema. The black and white palette offers a chance to explore shadings and shapes, glossy blacks and dazzling whites. From the start we have Lester's playful surreality as Michael Redgrave Crawford's neurotic schoolmaster Colin imagines the endless line of women, all dressed identically in their white tops and swinging medallions, waiting for the door to his housemate Tolen's (Ray Brooks) room to open and admit the next one.

Colin seems about ready to burst from sexual frustration and looks unfavourably on Tolen's suggestion that his mate Rory McBride -- similarly blessed with "the knack" -- should move into the vacant room, but Tolen tries to convince him that he'll pick up tips galore. Unbeknownst to both, however, the clever if often non-sequitor-spouting Tom (Donal Donnelly) has already moved into the room and begun painting everything white ("I can't bear brown"). He also moves all the furniture into the hallway, leaving the room looking rather like a John and Yoko space.

Meanwhile, girl from the North, Nancy Jones (played by the 60's zeitgeist Rita Tushingham) wanders through London trying to make her way to the YWCA and being led astray by everyone she meets. Having experienced at first hand the reluctance Londoners have to admit they don't know where something is, I was amused. Tushingham's Nancy seems content to keep looking, entertaining herself with the people she finds, but doggedly keeping on until she runs into Tom and Colin as they've located the bed the schoolmaster thinks will be key to his finding "the knack" -- a huge metal Edwardian affair. The voyage of the three and the bed through London is a delight of silliness and surreality (likewise the farcical doors scene a bit later).

If you're wondering why this film has been overlooked by many, I can tell you in one word: rape. This is why I really want to read Jellicoe's play. The attitude toward rape in the film is, well, strange. It's not simply some loathsome male rape fantasy like Straw Dogs, but it is partly that kind of outlook. When Tolen makes a move on Nancy, to her obvious discomfort, he tells her "No one's going to rape you. Girls don't get raped unless they want it." Yes, loathsome. But it doesn't end there. There's a real reluctance to let things go quite in one direction. At first Nancy seems to change her mind, mostly out of curiosity, but when Colin and Tom balk at Tolen taking her up to his room, Tolen takes her out to a park and tries to persuade her to more intimate contact which she refuses and then faints away. Discovering her senseless body, Colin and Tom accuse Tolen of murder, but when Nancy comes round, she accuses him of rape.

The succeeding scenes are quite strange: Nancy goes around shouting "rape" to people, who react in very different ways, but she can't get the word out when she comes up to a constable, though there's a pregnant pause as she opens her mouth. Returning to the house, the camera angles give all the power to Nancy the accuser, who retreats to Tolen's room and strips. The last part of the film shifts the power to Nancy and to Colin, making clear that their real connection between the two virgins becomes more important than the "fake" Tolen who gets exposed as ineffective -- and humiliated by Rory McBride who fills the Albert Hall with his women. Eventually he joins the chorus as Nancy moves into the house, flagrantly embracing a sexual life with Colin -- if we believe the fireworks in the sky as they walk chastely hand in hand. I can't help seeing the last part of the film as embodying both the male fear of rape accusations (look how quick the media are to cover false accusations, while the numerous daily rape go unreported) but also a rather idealistic belief in a less manipulative kind of love.

Tolen's smug arrogance ("All women want to be dominated") does get shot down by the end and the hapless Colin wins the girl, but it's such a bizarre little time capsule, I really don't know how to think about it. Have you seen it?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Slipping into the Ether

Good-bye, Jack. If there were to be a heaven, would that it were full of books and nothing but time to read.

Farewell to Thee! But not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of Thee;
Within my heart they still shall dwell
And they shall cheer and comfort me.

Life seems more sweet that Thou didst live
And men more true Thou wert one;
Nothing is lost that Thou didst give,
Nothing destroyed that Thou hast done.

Anne Brontë

Picking up the Chalk Again

I have to be on campus early to teach today and I'm still playing catch up, so here's a "golden oldie" and a couple of bits of news:

There's still two more days to vote for my voodoo zombie western "High Plains Lazarus" as best horror short of 2010 in the Predators & Editors poll.

Keep your fingers crossed: I may soon have some good news to announce regarding a non-fiction project that has been in the works for a while.

Kit Marlowe and I are both doing guest blogs tomorrow! More later on that. I have a Tuesday's Overlooked Film, too.

And the certificate in Women's and Gender Studies received state approval! Hurrah, it's official.

The re-run is my essay "Picking Up the Chalk Again" which was written when I was teaching in Houston. Although it's written about returning to teaching after the summer, in some ways the return for the spring semester is even harder (and that's without the subzero temperatures predicted for tonight). The break is just too short and usually full of events that don't help with getting work done. By the end of it I'd been feeling so exhausted that I just wasn't being effective any way. I have to remind myself that my brain needs rest and refilling, too. So as I type this Sunday night, feeling dissatisfied with my work this weekend, I remind myself of Emerson's wise words:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Let it be so; let today be a day of high spirit and some satisfaction.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jane Quiet 2.0

Welcome to the relaunch of Jane Quiet, the continuing adventures of the occult investigator Elena Steier and I created. We're happy to be relaunching the comic after some delays. We have all kinds of exciting things in store for you, beginning with a wild trip to Egypt that will include a certain cat-headed goddess as well as some wild demonic mayhem.

We're starting out with a blast from the past for Jane: one of her friends from grad school in Edinburgh has phoned her up, reminding her of one of their adventures there (see the prologue!) before asking for Jane's help with some strange phenomena that are happening in her hometown. A clash between the past and the present, mysterious murders, and ancient Egyptian gods will all come together in this arc.

We'll be making use of our trip to the John Hay Library and its occult collection in the near future, and we hope to have the adventures up on a comics distribution site soon (details to follow). We hope you're as excited about this as we are -- it's been a lot of fun getting up to speed once more. It certainly looks like webcomics are the way to go, so we hope Jane finds a lot of readers.

If you're on Facebook, be sure to "like" our fan page! We'll be giving away a unique prize there.

I don't know if JQ qualifies as a "Forgotten Book" but if you're looking for other reading suggestions, you'll find the list at Evan Lewis' blog (Patti's off celebrating her anniversary: congratulations!).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

BitchBuzz: Technology and Temperance + Jane Quiet

My column today springs from my annoyance with paternalistic colleagues who keep giving people the impression that academics are stuffy know-it-alls who pontificate from their position of privilege. I realise I can also be a bit unreasonable about it: on President's Day a colleague in the midst of his "technology: bad" talk (thank goodness there was also a "technology: good" talk by the fabulous Kim Middleton) made several references to The Matrix which made me want to break something.

The Matrix?! This is your idea of technology: a twelve year old film? Made when almost NONE of the tech things we're talking about existed as more than an idea? Academics who would never have the chutzpah to offer public opinions on other disciplines have no trouble at all pontificating about things in popular culture that they have at most heard of--they've certainly never participated. It irritates me. But enough bile--I have things to do:

Does Tech Actually Distract from Real Life?

By K.A. Laity
We could all use a little time away from technology, right?

Colleagues of mine forwarded a link on Facebook today to a piece by William Major at the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled "Thoreau's Cellphone Experiment." In it Major tells of offering an extra credit project to his students: giving up their cell phones to him for five whole days, the better to reach a more "real" experience of life, unencumbered by the "distractions" of their palm-sized technology.

Setting aside the privileged and paternalistic tone of the piece for a moment and setting aside the dubiousness of Thoreau's withdrawal to the "wilderness" of Walden Pond (which did not keep him from frequent, almost daily visits to the village of Concord, or from getting female family members to feed him and do his laundry), the whole aim of this article misunderstands the role of technology in our lives...

Read the rest at BBHQ:

In more pleasant news JANE QUIET! Have you been reading the prologue? Do you like Elena's new style? What amazing color, eh? Tomorrow the big re-launch: Jane Quiet 2.0 -- yes, there will be prizes!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It Begins

FORGOT! Happy 20th Anniversary, Boojums and happy birthday, Mr. Poe!

The semester, that is. Actually it began yesterday, but I teach Mondays and Wednesdays so I all I had to do was, well -- get ready to teach today. And deal with all the administrative things I had ignored over the break.


I'm teaching the freshman medieval course, Writing for New Media and Masculinities & Medieval Film (probably for the last time for a while). I always know when it's starting, yet every time the term creeps upon me without me feeling prepared. So, no time to be witty today (assuming that is possible on other days) and before you even ask, Bertie -- no, I will not make my students stand on their desks.

If you need something to do, please consider voting for my novelette "High Plains Lazarus" in the Predators & Editors Best of 2010 poll over at Critters.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Straight to Hell

I blame Todd. Well, I often blame Todd -- he is uniquely blame-worthy for any number of things -- but this time I blame him for getting me to participate in a new (regular) meme. But it's better than doing the work I really need to be doing (then again, after a snowy and slushy and now icy start, they've cancelled classes for the afternoon, so there it is).

So my first offering for Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Alex Cox's Straight to Hell. Yes, it's true: some films are overlooked for a reason. It's not really a good film, to be honest. But it's a fascinating one. I know it looks like a bunch of mates went to Spain for their holidays to drink, make music and play cowboys --- well, it kind of is.

But what friends! There's the Pogues first off; the reason I went to see it and got the tape and soundtrack and eventually the DVD despite that criminally ugly cover. Shane MacGowan with most of his teeth and that insane laugh, the fabulous Spider, the lovely Jimmy Fearnley, Phil being sweet and the rest playing bad guys with all their hearts.

Then there's Elvis, too, playing a butler and the incomparable Joe Strummer repeating my second-favourite line in the film. Eddie Tudorpole! Cameos by Jim Jarmusch, Dennis Hopper and Grace Jones. All the usual stalwarts of Cox's films like Xander Berkeley, Zander Schloss and the poor man's Samuel L. Jackson, Sy Richardson. Dick Rude! Catchy songs!

Kathy Burke as a psychotic caretaker. Genius.

Although it was her first starring role, for some reason Courtney Love never lists this on her resumé. Huh. It's got the ambling humour of Repo Man and the punk sensibilities of Sid & Nancy, but it's totally loopy and silly and a loving (if dissolute) tribute to the spaghetti westerns they all love.

Well, I recommend watching it with lots of beer and friends -- in Spain if you can swing it. You can just watch it on YouTube, but what's the fun in that? Prove to me I'm not the only fan of this film, folks!

See all the overlooked films over at Todd's blog.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How I Came to Write this Book

I'm hosted over at Patti Abbott's blog where I reveal:

"How I Came To Write This Book"

How I Came to Write this Book, K. A. Laity
Kit Marlowe, Tease Publishing, Dec 2010, ISBN 9781607671275, $5.99

In 2002, I moved to Houston, Texas with my husband. I hadn't quite got around to finishing my dissertation, but I had finished a novel, which came out the following year months prior to my dissertation defence. Nonetheless I had managed to get that pearl of academic ambitions, a tenure-track job in my field, as had my husband. Reason to celebrate, surely. People told us, "You can never leave these jobs. Lightning will not strike twice."

My apologies to those who love Texas, but we hated it with a passion. First there was the humidity. I thought 100% humidity meant it was raining, but it just means you wish you would die. The whole of Houston seems to be paved from one end to the other, the better to facilitate the flooding that happens every time it rains, let alone in hurricanes. Enron, far from being an anomaly, is just "the way we do things here" I was told. In no time I had my fill of Texas chauvinism: apparently they invented everything first, then made it bigger and better than everyone else. I've never seen anyone with a Connecticut tattoo.

In all fairness, I must admit the food was good, so was the theatre and opera. We made some terrific friends, too.

But we were miserable.... [read the rest]

I'm in my office today, working on syllabuses. The price of my neglect. Truthfully, I've been daydreaming that there's some way for me to look more like Tilda Swinton...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: Bend Sinister

It's a bit cheeky suggesting that a Nabokov book could be "forgotten" but I think I can make a case here. After all, Amazon lists the most recent edition as the one from 1990. But first let me mention this fabulous design by Carol Carson for the Nabokov Specimen Box Project, a fantastic design project: check out the slides.

I chose this of course because of the overlap with another obsession, The Fall, who have an album also called Bend Sinister. I haven't seen much to suggest any lyrical overlap with the novel, but since MES reads both Gogol and Dostoevsky, it's not much of a stretch to think he'd find Nabokov appealing -- though it may just be the heraldry term.

I was actually reading Pale Fire when I decided to switch to Bend Sinister, mostly because I decided I would probably have to buy my own copy of Pale Fire because I was making too many notes and it would be easier to just put them in the book and that wouldn't be good to do with the library's copy.

I learn all my new words from Nabokov.

I had already written down tons of new words from Pale Fire, but I found myself writing quotes from Bend Sinister instead. I alluded in my Hamlet review to Ember's theory about the play: fascinating and fun. The playfulness is what makes Nabokov's work attractive. Krug's observation of Ember's engravings sets the scene visually but also working toward the revelations. The legend on one: "Ink, a Drug." Followed by pencil marks which "numbered the letters so as to spell Grudinka which means 'bacon' in several Slavic languages." Ham-let, as he points out.

Mmmm, bacon.

Bend Sinister focuses on the dislocation of grief; initially it's Krug's grief for his wife, observed by the self-conscious "I" of the author who soon disappears, though reappearing in time for the end. Nabokov uses structure and authorial voice to explore the limits of empathy: "The square root of I is I" (7). All writers know the observer within us: "In every mask I tried on, there were slits for his eyes."

I have a nub of an idea comparing Ekwilism (the philosophical movement of the new fascist regime in the book) and Vonnegut's world in "Harrison Bergeron" -- but that's too ambitious for here. You can read a summary anywhere. I'm going to give you some bon mots:

"Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form" (46).

"Devices which in some curious new way imitate nature are attractive to simple minds" (69) -- a key to phenomenal wealth if you know how to employ it, I suspect.

"We live in a stocking which is in the process of being turned inside out, without our ever knowing for sure to what phase of the process our moment of consciousness corresponds" (193).

"To each, or about each, of his colleagues he had said at one time or other, something... something impossible to recall in this or that case and difficult to define in general terms -- some careless bright and harsh trifle that had grazed a stretch of raw flesh" (48).

"I esteem my colleagues as I do my own self, I esteem them for two things: because they are able to find perfect felicity in specialized knowledge and because they are not apt to commit physical murder" (58).


See the round up of Friday's Forgotten Books over at Patti Abbott's blog.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

BitchBuzz: Take a Letter

Today's column owes a tip of the pen to Miss Wendy, my pen pal:

Why Not Write a Handwritten Letter?

By K.A. Laity
In the rush of post-holiday depression and intense workouts, whether required by your resolutions or the amount of snow piling up around your home, you're bound to need a bit of a break. Some sort of Zen-like activity would be perfect, wouldn't it? Even if you’re not in the midst of a country beset by madmen and flying bullets, you probably want something peaceful to take your mind off those things about now.

Write a letter.

No, not an email: a real letter. There's bound to be someone you know who would appreciate a real honest-to-goodness letter or at least a card in the mail. It doesn't take that long and it's surprisingly satisfying...

Read more:

So when's the last time you wrote a letter? Holiday cards don't count.

Oh, and as I parked the car tonight, I looked down and saw this:

Jane Quiet RETURNS!

Go to our web jam now for the news! Whoo hoo -- I can't tell you how happy this makes me :-)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: Hamlet

I am eternally grateful for the NT Live broadcasts; they bring a little bit of the London theatre experience to the (currently) frozen north, which seems so far from the city of my heart. Thank you, Spectrum 8 for hosting the broadcasts, even if Monday night's show seemed to have its share of technical difficulties, including some on-screen monkeying with the display. Hard not to call out, "No, not resolution! position!"

I'd heard great things about this production of Hamlet from the start. I'd seen Rory Kinnear in other productions at the NT and had been impressed with him, but hadn't really thought of him as a Hamlet. He fits perfectly into Hytner's vision of Denmark as police state where everyone's under constant surveillance. Hamlet, far from being a pampered prince, seems to be a confused young man mourning a father he admired and idealised. Patrick Malahide plays his uncle/stepfather as a cold and calculating bureaucrat; Clare Higgins plays his mother as a weak woman with a drink always to hand. When Hamlet speaks of how her first husband cossetted her, we see that weakness and a fear of being alone. I loved how Polonius (David Calder) is not the buffoon he's usually played to be: there's something almost chilling about him, though sometimes he pauses as if realising all at once what he's doing to his own children. His cruelty to Ophelia in particular is sharp here.

Ruth Negga, who was so lovely as Aricia in Phèdre, plays Ophelia with affecting vulnerability, goofing with her brother while their father reels off his advice, then naïvely meeting with Hamlet and guiltily giving the game away (the bible she reads has a hidden mic inside). When mad, she pushes a shopping cart across the stage like a street person though tracked yet by two of her father's staff. In an exquisitely chilling moment, Hytner has her pushed out the door by the security guys. She's become too embarrassing, so she gets bumped off.

David Calder doubles as the gravedigger, a good choice to show him as affable as Polonius was creepy. James Laurensen doubles as the Ghost and the Player King, also a nice pairing. Giles Terera's Horatio didn't seem to be quite the confidante the character normally is, though his regard for Hamlet came across clearly. The atmosphere of paranoia affects all the relationships, which gives a new reading to the dialogue -- which is everything you hope for with Shakespeare. It helped bring out the machinations of Fortinbras better as well, which is seldom done well.

But Kinnear really was a wonder. The first few lines, his delivery seemed almost too clipped and arch, but it worked. In the first speech he's conveying his anger and betrayal. Throughout Kinnear presents the lines as if they were thoughts arising from his head, not "speeches" written down. It's hard: even people who've never seen a Shakespeare play know "To be, or not to be." I get impatient with actorly excesses: Kinnear gave an utterly natural performance -- especially so when Hamlet is conscious of performing as he puts that "antic disposition" on and overplays. Hamlet is trying to figure out what's real and what's not, and like so many people, sometimes it's the loss of things that makes him realise what matters most. It's a wonderful process of discovery in this production.

The only real disappointment -- it's a stellar cast, the sets wonderful, everything really moved along despite the three and a half hour length -- was Patrick Malahide. At times it looked like he might have been reading off a prompter as he stared too fixedly in the same direction. I know he can be fantastic. I saw him with Jeremy Irons in Embers, where he spends most of the play listening to Irons' character, yet he seemed every bit as present as Irons. Maybe it was an off night. I loved this. I wish I could see it again. Maybe they'll put it out on DVD. I hope so.

And yes, you can buy the t-shirt :-)

Saturday, January 08, 2011


Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., Others, Reportedly Shot And Killed

Well, Sarah Palin, I guess your target map worked. Don't fool yourself that it's just Arizona: that complacency has brought this country to the edge of a terrible abyss.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Films: What a Carve Up!

Bending the rules a bit (do you expect any less from me?), I offer not a neglected tome but an overlooked bit of celluloid. In my defence, I just learned about it last night -- thanks to the lovely Caroline Gold -- and watched it right then thanks to YouTube. The film was not only inspired by a book but also inspired a further book. I suppose that makes it sound rather more literary than it is. I had thought it was going to something like Carry On Screaming! (yes, everything has exclamation marks today) but it's more like the Abbot & Costello horror movies but not so goofy. Funny though! Besides, I'm a sucker for Sid James thanks to Tony Hancock.

AKA No Place like Homicide!
Dir. Pat Jackson
Based on Frank King's novel The Ghoul
Writers: Ray Cooney and Tony Hilton 

Sid James ... Sid Butler
Kenneth Connor ... Ernie Broughton
Shirley Eaton ... Linda Dickson
Donald Pleasence ... Everett Sloane
Dennis Price ... Guy Broughton
Michael Gough ... Fisk - the Butler
Valerie Taylor ... Janet Broughton
Esma Cannon ... Aunt Emily
George Woodbridge ... Dr. Edward Broughton
Michael Gwynn ... Malcolm Broughton
Philip O'Flynn ... Arkwright / Gabriel Broughton

Connor's Ernie, a timid copy editor (very Dudley-esque), receives a visit from creepy lawyer Sloane, played effectively without too much showboating from Pleasence. His uncle has died so he must head up to Yorkshire for the reading of the will with his much sharper pal, Sid. Cue bad Northern accents and "primitive" conditions (for those unfamiliar with it, the north of England tends to be portrayed like the southern States -- and about as accurately). Ernie's meeting his relatives for the first time and finds they're mostly all mad. Then the murders begin.

There are some good spooky moments and some good-hearted humor. Price and Gough are brilliant of course, Esma Cannon really shines as the dotty auntie who's a little unstuck in time, promising to introduce her "literary" nephew to this Shaw fellow who ought to be helpful. There are the usual old dark house elements and surely most of the plot will be predictable to a 21st century audience, but nonetheless amusing. There's even a surprise cameo at the end that will please early rock-n-roll fans.

So, if you've got some time on your hands and enjoy mild horror and classic humor, make the most of YouTube or pick up the DVD (region 2 only).

Publications: Plea, Professor and Provocateur

I thought I would have Bend Sinister read by today so I could write it up for Friday's Forgotten Books (maybe I will later today), but at present I don't and somehow I have decided that today is finally "Send out Queries for the Non-Fiction Project" Day, so there's that.

In case you missed it, my piece "A Plea on Behalf of the Small Hat League" is up in the inaugural issue of State of Imagination. Do drop by and leave a comment. Some very entertaining pieces in the collection; I really like the cover, too.

I'm happy to announce that my faux Lear "There was  a Professor of English" will appear in an upcoming issue of Asinine Poetry. And I just got word from Beth Virtanen that my story "Provocateur" will appear in the forthcoming edition of the literary journal Kippis!, so hurrah.

UPDATE: My humorous piece, "Resolutions for Better Sex in 2011" went up on Thursday at Polite Company Magazine, but they neglected to tell me. So drop by and share.

I'm going to get the queries ready and listen to the Punk Rock Jukebox, so if you need entertainment, consider watching Sir Michael Caine do his impression of Dud:

Thursday, January 06, 2011

BitchBuzz: Get Unstuffed

Endeavouring to make it so in my life, I of course advise others on how to do it.

6 Ways to Unclutter Your Home & Life

By K.A. Laity
 Every January you think about a personal make-over, sometimes one that lasts past the 31st, but isn't it about time you dealt with that other problem?
I ignore all the resolution making, diet fads and gym invitations of January. Habits taken up in the middle of winter seldom stick. There's too little distraction and too much of a temptation to sit at home, eat carbs, and blame your already too low self-esteem for making you such a failure when you should be laughing with a salad.

A much better use of your time would be un-cluttering your place and your life.

It always seems a gargantuan task: the whole of our western culture is weighted toward making you want to BUY STUFF (those words ought to be written in neon, because that's how your brain sees them anyway). Lose your job? Buy chocolate. Lose your house? Splurge on a spa. Break up with someone? Buy ice cream, chocolate and a some kind of kitchen gadget you will never use because a) it reminds you of that person and b) you pretty much live on chocolate, ice cream and brie.

Read more:

Thanks to Peg for linking to the women-laughing-with-salad meme on Facebook. Yes, I am back in Albany again, facing a lot of work that cries for prioritizing. News round-up later, I think, as I have publications and appearances to highlight.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Oxford Odyssey, Part 3

I will be traveling today, so here are some cute pictures of Pumpkin rolling around on my bed. It's been very lovely visiting Miss Wendy, Pumpkin and Boo.

And don't forget --

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Oxford Odyssey, Part 2

Our visit to Rowan Oak today, Faulkner's home -- a very comfortable and soothing home.

Then we went off to the Clear Creek Recreation Center to do a little strolling and bird watching. Anyone know what those grapefruit-sized things are? Some kind of nut?

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Oxford Odyssey, Part 1

Arrived in Memphis Friday, spoiled by getting free wifi on both legs of my journey. Despite a nervous few minutes at Albany, I did get on the overbooked flight and got to Memphis ahead of a rather nasty storm, which we could see from the plane. Miss Wendy picked me up and we headed to Oxford.

[Here's where I notice that if you upload pictures via HTML they default to a different size than if you do them through the other editor. Whatever -- I'm on holiday and have the unfortunate luck to be sick today, so I will get around to adjusting them later (or not).]

Here's the welcome center: it's still disconcerting for me to see stars and bars on state flags. But people are attached to their histories.

And their hometown heroes: here's the statue of Faulkner in the Square, home of Square Books, Off the Square Books, and Square Books Jr (a great bunch of indy bookstores).

Miss Wendy shares the local gossip with Bill.

I love this plaque: the power of imagination. People of Oxford happy to call themselves dwellers in Yoknapatawpha, Faulkner's fictional region.

They also like to give a nod to their equally famous sister city with this traditional British phone box.

Wendy's bank is the same one where Faulkner worked as a clerk.

The old courthouse forms the center of the square. It was a blisteringly bright but cold day Sunday.

We decided to see what "Faulkner Alley" was: turns out, it's just, um, an alley. But there was this one bit of graffiti that amused me.

After idling some time in the bookstore, we decided to head over to see Faulkner's grave and pay our respects.

It's a respectably swank site, with relatives along side the writer.

There were -- in addition to the more usual offerings -- two red aprons. If anyone knows there to be a significance to this, I'd be grateful. Otherwise I assume some clerks, fresh from work, decided to share a drink with the native son and then quit their jobs in a fit of inspiration, declaring they would dedicate their lives to the arts instead.

Faulkner's thirst was legendary, so fans continue to slake it to this day. May he never thirst, wherever he may be.

Quite a lovely old cemetery, still very much in use. We found it necessary to double back at one point to avoid interrupting grieving folks. Since Faulkner casts a long shadow over American literature, this shot seemed appropriate. It gives a little context, too. There was a wind chime in a tree nearby which gave a little live music to the location.

The U Miss campus is quite pretty: I love the nineteenth century observatories. This statue of James Meredith provides a beautiful reminder of how recent civil rights changes have been and offers a place for people to sit and talk and find inspiration.

Speaking of inspiration, I highly recommend the fabulous repast at Big Bad Breakfast -- another Oxford landmark. You just can't get biscuits this good in the north. And oh, the sausage! Mmmm.