Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Utter Madness

What was I thinking? That I could somehow manage to do all the last minute things I need to do before getting on that airplane tomorrow and go down to Kingston for a reading of my play Lumottu?


So, yes, the play reading has been re-scheduled for August 30th. Yes, right before I head off to Ireland, but things will have to be sorted long before that. Um, I hope.

I must be mad; yes, it's the only explanation. I am up early to pack, finish things that need to be done, run errands and then actually teach today, too! My mantra continues to be, "Somehow it will all get done, somehow..."

Not sure exactly how that will happen, but things are bound to get done if you stare at them long enough, right? What? It takes more than staring? I'm doing this all wrong then. Thank goodness I have help: thank you, Catherine, and thank you, Peg! I think there was something else I meant to mention in this post, but for the life of me I can't recall what.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Poetry in Motion

Well, I don't generally consider myself to be a poet, so it may be a bit surprising to hear me announce that I have not one but two poems coming out soon, both inspired by a bizarre headline I reposted here. "Moths" will be coming out in Zouch Magazine, which has also offered poems by talented pals of mine, Alessandra and John (see, all the cool kids are doing it!). I love their visual aesthetics. "Lullaby" will be in the June issue of Chronogram, which is available in upstate NY and probably western MA as well. I think they eventually put things online, too.

I suppose Shelley might be spinning in his grave at the thought of this, but hey, if they idea comes to me, I write it. And more often than not, someone somewhere seems willing to publish it.

I have a couple of humour pieces to come out as well. "Soap Opera Digest" will be in the next issue of Dragnet Magazine (another beautifully designed site). And coming soon, although I'm not sure when, from Defenstration Magazine (love that name!) will be "Review: Dracula X" which some fellow Horror listers may recognize as the expanded edition of a rather silly April Fool's joke.

Hope everyone who's got a holiday today is appreciating it. I'd appreciate it more if it were less warm. Bleh. Hope it's cooler in England this year than it has been the last few years. Where's my rain and fog?!

Friday, May 27, 2011

BitchBuzz: How to Pack Like a Pro

Does this count as at least thinking about packing for England? I have got as far as realising I need to do some laundry before packing. Today will be for catching up on all grading. I've canceled the play reading for Tuesday: what was I thinking anyway?! It would have been insane. I forgot Monday was a holiday, too. I need minions.

How To Pack Like a Pro
By K. A. Laity

You don't need that and you will regret having to carry it: trust me.

I long for the days when a fleet of servants not only packed your traveling trunks but carted them around for you (sometimes literally). At that time (and in that class) you might have your leather martini case with beaker and matching glasses to ease the pain of waiting for them to unload your luggage and then unpack all the clothes they had so lovingly packed in the first place.

Most of us, however, have to tote our own baggage. Sure, it's a lot easier now with all the wheels and roller bags (oh my, how much easier) but that's also made us lazy about making decisions. People generally pack far too much. Then they regret it when they find they've bought too much stuff and now their case won't close. You should have room in your case when you leave so the inevitable additions can go somewhere without busting your seams...

Read the rest at BBHQ: less than a week before I vault off across the pond. Yikes! Much to do; at least all the medical folderol has been completed and the form giving me medical clearance should have been sent. Despite the look of it, my TB test was negative -- just bruised (and a lump for the first day).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Publication: Finnish Charms

I had nearly forgotten about this: the Mythic Journeys folks have been going through some interesting transitions (which seems entirely appropriate) but the journal is back at last. I gave this paper at the Forging Folklore Conference at Harvard University in May 3-5 2007. Great conference! Peg and Hannah put together a terrific bunch of presenters including Ron Hutton (whom I teased about Kyrie whose voice always accompanied him on Historyonics), my mentors Steve Mitchell and Joe Harris, and the fabulous Byron, whom I met for the first time there. Before I gave the paper, I played the kantele and sang. Yes, me -- singing. I wasn't sure I'd do it until I opened my mouth. Good to do things that terrify you now and then. Love the image they chose.

Finnish Charms:
Appropriating Folk Magic from
the Kalevala and Kanteletar

By K.A. Laity

Kylä vuotti uutta kuuta,
miero päivän nousendoa.
Miepä vuotin minjoavani,
miepä vuotin minjovani.

The village waited for the new moon.
They said my brother would return
empty handed when he was off hunting.
They were wrong. The eagle caught the duck.

Värttinä, “Kylä vuotti uutta kuuta”
Truly they lie, they
Talk utter nonsense
Who say that music
Reckon that the kantele
was carved by Väinämöinen…
out of  a great pike’s shoulders…
no, music was made from grief
molded from sorrow…
so my kantele will not
play, will not rejoice at all…
for it was fashioned from cares
moulded from sorrow.                        

My Kantele, Kanteletar 1:1

One of the least well known of modern reconstructions of folk magic must certainly be the realm of Baltic magic found in the ancient texts of Finland, but it has found a perhaps surprising popular resurgence in  recent years. The reprinting of Kati Koppana’s Snakefat and Knotted Threads has brought a handbook of folk magic to a new generation of reconstructionists, but the nineteenth-century collections The Kalevala and The Kanteletar continue to provide a rich supply of magical practices.  While originally the outgrowth of a rising sense of nationalism in nineteenth-century Finland, the two collections of myth and folklore also record a number of magical charms that give some insight into the ancient practices of the Finns, since lost in the (relatively) late conversion to Christianity and the long-practiced denigration of the indigenous tongues particularly by Swedish and then Russian political control...[read the rest and check out Anya's essay on Egypt, too]

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Connecticut Adventures + Publication

Well, I ran off on Friday early enough to get to the Punk Rock Jukebox and have a good time aggravating Marko during his show, including decorating him and annotating the walls. Mostly I just giggled in the background while he was trying to talk. Then we ran off to the pub to have some lunch and yak. Marko terrified me with an introduction to the amazing phenomenon of the Shake Weight (O_o). Guess it's a good thing I don't watch much TV.

I had a lovely dinner with Sue Crowley and her husband in their home which I managed to find despite the Connecticut habit of not putting street signs at corners. When I first moved to the state it was one of the first things to get used to -- that and getting directions using landmarks that no longer exist: "Turn right where the old Beaumont farm's barn was before it burned down..." Ah, New England. A world unto itself.

Then it was off to Elena's. She and Rod were busy meeting with Desmond Tutu (yes, really!) so I let myself in and greeted the happy puppies. We all went outside and sat on the back porch for a bit until they got home. In the morning I was a visitor at Elena's cartooning class. She does an amazing job with these young kids.

She has an early class with young kids, but I came for the later class (pre-teens) and I told them the story of "Another Metamorphosis," my swipe of Kafka plus dinosaurs and with more than a little silliness. Now I should be clear: I am not a storyteller, I am a storywriter. I was a bit nervous about trying to tell the story, but I interpolated parts and cut others and it seemed to go okay. I figured dinosaurs at least would be appealing to the audience.
It seemed to do the trick; boy, they sure worked hard on the drawings! It was cool to see how much they were captivated by the ideas, although each on different aspects. There were a couple who really wanted to focus on the car accident, others who wanted to show the transformation and others who wanted to draw the theme park. All of the illustrations were wildly different.
Elena scanned in all the pictures and I've added them to the story and uploaded it to Scribd. I love the internet! Idea to execution in no time. I didn't so much love inserting the pictures and captions in Word. Can anyone explain why each caption came up in a different format?! Some had boxes around the words, some didn't -- one even had a partial box. WHY?! I don't know. Very irritating -- and that's exactly the kind of thing that drives me mad. Maybe I should have been a model instead...

I spent the afternoon with the fabulous Queen of Everything plotting and planning, as well as getting a sneak peak at the Jezebel lounge. Then it was back to Elena's for some more relaxing. A great weekend. I miss all my CT friends and all the peculiarities of the Quiet Corner.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Joey!

If I had remembered in time, I would have sent a card :-( Without my computer to remind me I remember nothing. Shall I just get you this? Hope your day is wonderful.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Waiting for the End of the World

Feel free to sing along as we perish -- or not. On the plus side, it would save a lot of paperwork; on the other hand, I know I have a lot of things to do yet.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Publishing News & Connecticut Bound

Over at Night and Day, The Spectator's Arts blog, I have an introduction to erotic fiction that will give you some  steamy reading for this rainy day. Simon always gives me such interesting assignments; I find it amusing that the newspaper is so conservative and its Arts blog so liberal. Of necessity, this is only a taste of the genre. As I write in the preamble,

A beginner’s guide to erotic fiction cannot help but be incomplete. One cannot do justice to such a broad body of literature, so I have selected a bouquet of offerings that will provide novices with a sampling of the breadth of the field, from which they can explore further...

I've neglected to mention also having a story accepted for publication, "The Wyandotte Haunting" which includes...

ghostly chickens?

Could it be true? Yes, perhaps. That's a couple of Wyandottes in the photo, whom I snapped at the Altamont Fair last year, or was it the year before? There's a little nod to one of my inspirations, Ramsey Campbell. More info as it becomes available: a collection from Pill Hill Press (home of my zombie Western "High Plains Lazarus" too). The essay on Gilliam's Tideland has finally settled into place (ay yi yi, there's a story), but the main thing I'm hastily working on at present is The Triumph of the Carpet Beetle, my non-fiction collection. More as that gets closer to release (soon, soon -- we all know how pleased I am with tedious and painstaking tasks 9_9).

I'm off to Connecticut today, lunch with M. Marko, dinner with Sue Crowley, then evening at Elena's (assuming they get safely home from their travels). In the morning Elena's cartooning class, then a visit with the QoE before returning to Elena's. I wanted to be sure to have a chance to see everyone before I headed off to England. Life is a bit of a whirlwind lately (only lately?!). So little time, so much to do!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

BitchBuzz: Sarah Angliss/Spacedog

Looking forward to catching some of these performances in London: I find her work absolutely fascinating.

Sarah Angliss and "Spacedog"

By K.A. Laity

Musician, engineer, writer Sarah Angliss has embarked on a round of performances under the aegis of Spacedog. Her unique combination of nerdy science knowledge, inspired music and automata brings together technology, history and the spirits of the dead, including the titular dog, Laika the canine cosmonaut.

I think I first came across her work while researching puppetry. Her essay on the "Uncanny Valley" led me to exploring the fascinating compositions and videos she has created. Angliss characterises her work as a heady mix of unexpected elements:
Trained in electroacoustics, music and robotics, I specialise in creating original sound installations, exhibits and live performances that mix cutting-edge technology with curious or vintage sound equipment and little known stories from the history of science. I’m particularly interested in creating sonic art that enables people to generate or manipulate sound using novel physical elements (e.g. robots; motion sensors). Whenever possible, I try to avoid compositions that generate music entirely through software – I find algorithmic music is richer and more delightful when it’s coupled to the real world in some meaningful way...

Read the rest: http://culture.bitchbuzz.com/sarah-angliss-and-spacedog.html#ixzz1Mo7LSS3a

Today's film in the horror class: the original Night of the Living Dead, which means I need to explain the 60s -- mostly that it wasn't all hippies and the Grateful Dead which seems to be the association my students usually make with the time period.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Today's Film: The Haunting (1963)

Here's an interesting combination of trailer and music video (because yes, I can find a connection to The Fall who covered this song, too). I'm looking forward to seeing this fine film with a bunch of students who have never seen it. It's such an effectively spooky movie!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Cat People

Simone Simon stars in the Tourneur/Lewton frightfest Cat People from 1942. I'm teaching this today along with a first toe-dipping into Freudian theory. Old Siggy had a lot of hang-ups from his time and misapprehensions about human nature (as opposed to its particular manifestation during his particular and odd time) but there were enough astute observations in his work to keep its currency high even now.

The Lewton/Tourneur film makes much of its atmosphere. The oddly iconoclast Simon portrays the Serbian woman Irena who piques the interest of architect Oliver Reed (?!) despite her odd obsession with the panther in the zoo and her faith in the effects of an old Serbian curse which dictated that -- should she show the least interest in sex -- she will immediately turn into a ravening beast herself. The gorgeous cinematography and effective moodiness of the film make this a real pleasure to watch and the deft nature of it will keep you guessing up until the end about whether Simon's fears are real or not.

The remake with Malcolm McDowall and Nastasia Kinski is also fun. For the round up of Tuesday's Overlooked A/V, see Todd's blog.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ms. Russ & Horror

Lesson: this is what happens when you complain about something to generally nice people -- you get asked to share your opinion, too. I commented on Ms. Magazine's initial post on Joanna Russ' passing by expressing my disappointment that the piece was so cursory and written by someone who said she didn't really read the genre (always distressing). So here's my piece:

When Joanna Russ Changed Us

May 15, 2011 by K. A. Laity · Leave a Comment

Michele Kort’s vivid remembrance of Joanna Russ (who died April 29) based on a single encounter with Russ’s short story “When it Changed” is a testament to just how far this woman’s influence continues to spread. Few have come away from reading Russ without a strong opinion. Ideas she posed as many as 30 years ago—a world without men, kick-ass action heroines, feminist romance—continue to vex and inspire us.
The Russ’s unflaggingly popular novel The Female Man and its development of the world known as Whileaway—a place devoid of men for centuries—will long be part of her fame. This imagined future is an agrarian reverie filled with hard work but little advanced technology beyond the ability to merge ova to make babies. People tend to refer to Whileaway as “utopian” but I doubt that Russ would agree. Simple answers never suited her....

Read the rest at Ms.

Today I begin the summer intensive,  Three Weeks of Terror -- or a sort of abbreviated history of the horror film. It's always a bit of a breathless run which tantalises more than it teaches, I fear. As a boot camp in the genre, at the very least it usually introduces the students to films they've not seen and a way of looking at familiar films that makes them completely new. It also funds my travels in England for June, so whoo hoo! Doubtless I will have much to say about the class in the coming days.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Con-Eire: Now Available as an Ebook

Con-Eire: a comedy for voices

Download: $1.83

"RADIO PLAY" SCRIPT is ideal for live performances at cons!

It’s three days before the start of CON-EIRE, the best Irish-themed science fiction and fantasy con in the tri-state area, when a phone call sets the entire Convention Committee into panic mode. Is Big Name Writer going to pull out at the last minute? What does Very Famous Artist have to do with that decision? And what do the Fairies have to say about all this? Follow the hilarious mishaps as the committee members work desperately to salvage months of planning and hard work, all of which are about to be undone by a well-known prima donna.

You can also "like" the page to share with friends on Facebook or pass it along on Twitter, Reddit, Digg or even (gasp!) MySpace. It's great for reading impromptu at cons: we had so much fun doing it at Trinoc*coN! Yes, just another plank in my plan for World Domination.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's Official

My department has approved my release for Galway: college approval on its way. A million and one things to do (like grading, revising, planning, teaching next week, and more) but a moment to celebrate properly with a little Vic.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Spirit of the Beehive

A film of incredible beauty, sadness and love for the monster: Victor Erice's magical 1973 film, Spirit of the Beehive. Think of this as the prelude to Guillermo del Toro's films, especially The Devil's Backbone. How the unimaginable horror of war seems to the unfathoming innocence of a child. There aren't enough movies that awe on a visual level that aren't simply candy-colored assaultive spectacles. This understated tale of a young girl's fascination with Karloff's iconic creature will amaze you.

As always, drop by Todd's blog for a round-up of all the overlooked A/V.

Monday, May 09, 2011


Paperwork for the Fulbright to prepare; details to work out; pictures for the work permit; appointments to schedule; belongings to jettison; prep for the reading of "Lumottu"; revisions of essays to finish; grading grading grading. So, um -- here's something from the Fall!

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Galway Project

Yes, I've dug out my Learning Irish book and tapes (yes, tapes O_o) and will endeavour to master what I can.

I probably should have thought of it before, but thanks to Karen Hayes for asking on Facebook if I would share a description of the project I'll be working on in Galway (assuming all the massive paperwork and permissions and whatnot go through :-). Here's a little snippet, but if you want to read the whole thing, it's on Google Docs. The proposal begins with the pitch for the undergrad seminar for the fall:

Writers in Motion: Romanticism and Reality in Lives of 21st Century Writers

The "Writers in Motion" project aims to bring together popular portrayals of writers on film with the realities of being a writer in the 21st century. Films offer us a romantic view of writers' lives. Forget hard graft: according to movies, writers live, love and drink to excess, then occasionally transcribe their adventures in a brief montage. Success, naturally, ensues. We will spend some of our time interrogating romanticized representations of writers in a variety of modern films, while contrasting those portrayals with the realities of writers' lives both in the past and in the present. We will explore the benefits inherent in the complicated gap between reality and representation: why is Hollywood selling us this vision of the writer? Just as historians seek to recover past writers in the context of the social conditions of their time, de-mystifying the distorted perceptions fostered by Hollywood's commoditization of a romanticized past that obscures social realities, we will try to glimpse the realities beneath the representations modern writers confront.

Technology is changing the writer's life with the new surge in publication of ebooks and the instant access to writers and books provided by the internet. Writing was once a solitary profession, but now writers can collaborate and communicate with each other and with their readers. How are instantaneous communication and elastic textual formats changing the ways we write and read? What does it mean to be a writer in the 21st century? Will the traditional print hierarchy and genre structure dissolve or will new categories develop? Are traditional publishers still necessary? The recent end-run around publishers by the Wylie Agency, when super agent Andrew Wylie sold his clients' ebook rights directly to Amazon's Kindle store, has inflamed already tense relations between traditional print publishers and ebook sellers—not to mention authors, agents and readers.

What new categories are emerging that may supersede the traditional forms of publishing? How should writers approach these new opportunities? With greater access afforded to publication by the web, does this model, made possible by new and revolutionary technologies, lead to more democratic forms of producing and disseminating ideas and knowledge? Or does it reinforce and exacerbate existing hierarchies among writers and the value of what they produce? Does equal access to publication in digital media enhance the range of alternative ideas and democratize knowledge by expanding access to readers hitherto excluded? Or does it further reduce its value by flooding cyberspace with reams of otherwise unpublishable dreck? [continued...]

And the job description: Teach one undergraduate seminar to a maximum of fifteen students in digital humanities in the fall semester, for two hours per week for eleven weeks. Advise fifteen to twenty graduate students and liaise and cooperate with faculty in related fields for a maximum of 15 hours. Collaborate with the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies and its key academic staff on the following key research activities: 1) Texts, Contexts, Cultures 2) TEXTE: Transfer of Expertise in Technologies of Editing, 3) Thomas Moore Hypermedia Archive.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

BitchBuzz: Judy Judy Judy

My column today seems to be snagging the zeitgeist, as Publishers Weekly picked up on the same story. If you don't know the saga of Pennsylvania English teacher Judy Buranich, read on:

The Problem with Literary Slut Shaming

By K. A. Laity

Because women don't write anything important, right?

Shocking revelations this week—or at least that's how it was presented. WNEP in Snyder Country, Pennsylvania ran a story with the deliberately provocative headline, "Parents: English Teacher Writes Racy Novels" as a way to manufacture controversy. Like the Simpsons' Helen Lovejoy shrieking, "Won't somebody please think of the children?" the local news station began their "news" story with the following slut-shaming gasp:

A series of racy romance novels by an author named Judy Mays are a little too racy for some parents in our area, especially now that they have discovered the woman known as Judy Mays is teaching their children...

Read the rest over at BBHQ and see the comments, too, where I've added link to the PW write up and to the fantastic video made by one of her former students that will warm the heart of any teacher.

I'm still reeling from the news about Galway! So much to do -- which is why after going to bed around 1am I woke up before 6 and could not get back to sleep. Paperwork is the first order of the day (well, actually laundry was) as I have to have formal permission from my college to be released from the coming year's teaching. Given the prestige a Fulbright offers to the institution, I suspect it won't be a problem, but there are always hoops through which one must jump. I got the welcome packet already and emails of a couple of current Fulbrighters so I can ask them about their experiences. The info from the foundation had the tag line about being "A Fulbrighter for Life." As one of my former students pointed out on Twitter, "It sounds like you just joined the Jets or the Sharks." 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Big News!

Okay, so remember how I got that form letter rejection from the Fulbright Foundation? Turns out that was an error. I'M GOING TO GALWAY!

I got the phone call this morning (and yes, still nervous not to have something tangible to show but they assure me it's real :-) and wow, was it hard to teach with all that in my head but I couldn't see the dean until this afternoon. I was fairly certain that the college wouldn't have a problem with supporting a Fulbright scholar but you know, best to be sure. Now I'm going to have to run around banging on my pots shouting, "Fulbright, Fulbright, Fulbright!"

UPDATE: I've got a PDF of the offer letter which is winging its way to me now.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Frankenstein v Frankenstein

Check Todd's blog for other featured items in Tuesday's Overlooked A/V or add your own.

It was impossible to resist the urge to see both versions of the National Theatre's Frankenstein. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller rotated the central roles which was fascinating in itself, never mind the rest of the new script by Nick Dear. The new production, directed by Danny Boyle, focuses on the creature to a much greater extent, including a prolonged "birth" scene where he moves from first sentience through an accelerated childhood. It's a real showcase for the actor playing the role and where some of the differences in portrayal appear. Miller's creature was a more feral one, animalistic and somewhat more intimidating. Cumberbatch's seemed to center more on vulnerability (though they both did to a great extent) and discovery. In the pre-show interviews they both mentioned closely observing Miller's toddler Buster for inspiration. I didn't realise that the broadcast version was slightly different than what folks saw most nights on stage, but you can't have everything, eh?

The play has some great moments: the train run by people is a great visual but it gave me the expectation that more of the play would be impressionistic like that. The creature's development remains the focus, so we see his stay with the Laceys more vividly (though Felix's sister and wife have been combined O_o). Naomie Harris has a nice turn as Elizabeth, but there's not much for her to do here other than suffer the more explicit revenge of the creature. I loved how Cumberbatch in particular made Victor so arrogantly clueless. Miller's creator seemed more compassionate, although he was more awkward with Elizabeth. In both cases, it was thoroughly enjoyable and the final stark denouement in the frozen north both touching and grim. A great pair of nights out.

Check in your area for NT broadcasts: so worth it! Next up the fabulous Zoë Wanamaker in The Cherry Orchard. Of course I hope to catch a couple NT shows in London next month.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Penultimate Day of Teaching

Up until 2.30 last night finishing something that needed to be done; relieved that the end of the semester is upon me, but also stressed for the same reason (grading, grading), so something more substantial tomorrow. Something to keep you entertained today: the entire documentary "The Wonderful and Frightening World of MES" online.

A man stopped me on the way to campus, saying, "1971: this way?" "It certainly feels like it," I say. We blink at each other and then go on, uncomprehending. Sometimes life's like that.