Wednesday, August 31, 2011
I expect there will be very little in the way of communication today -- perhaps the occasional burst of annoyance or alarm on Twitter or Facebook, but not much more. It all must be dealt with today. So I've got my kick-ass on and I'm ready for disaster-solving.
Of course I'm writing this from the relative luxury of yesterday because I am a Time Lord (or else I just know how to set posts to appear at a later time), where I can take a moment to say thanks to everyone (because I ache all over and it feels good to sit down for a moment). Thanks to everyone who helped (hopefully today that means Bertie is up here), who had brilliant suggestions or calming words as the need may have arisen, who listened to my endless whinging on Twitter (>_<') and everyone who took things! Grateful, grateful, especially grateful to Barb and Catherine for duty above and beyond with the precious things.
By the end of the day Kipper should be adjusting to his new foster home; he's a tough guy despite his pampered lifestyle. After all, he was tossed over a backyard fence as a baby, so it's all good since then. I should be down in Hudson with my two bags, computer and kantele, quite likely getting a nice meal from my brother and solace from Connor who will probably be licking my face as I fall asleep (I am so tired) perhaps even in my dinner. But all this will be done (oh yes, yes, it must).
I will miss all my friends in the area so much! Sad to be leaving you for a time, but so very happy that I have such wonderful friends to miss. And you know I'll be back -- all my stuff is here!
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
ARTS SOCIETY OF KINGSTON
Kingston NY 12401
Arja lives with one foot in this world and the other in the mythic world of ancient Finland. Her family has moved to the new world, but the old world’s magic clings to their lives — and deaths.
Yes, it is utter madness to schedule it now; it was originally scheduled for the end of May when I decided I was much too busy with teaching and getting ready to go to England to do a reading as well (as I have to be director/producer).
Well, you know; if my life weren't utter madness, how would I know it was my life? With luck I've got Kipper sorted, the flood waters have receded enough for me to get to the storage facility (yes, really) and I can enjoy the performance for what it is (a chance to hear what the play sounds like outside my head) without being consumed by anxiety and madness.
With further luck, news on an ebook version of Unikirja soon, too!
Come to Kingston, mon, if you can and if not, wish me luck or more boxes or a safe passage. Or just buy one of my books (and while you're at it, leave me a review! That's even more essential whether it's Amazon, B&N, Goodreads or Library Thing).
Monday, August 29, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
Looking forward to tonight at the Point! See you there.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
On a more positive note: my play Lumottu ("Enchanted") from Unikirja gets a reading next Tuesday in Kingston at the Arts Society, 6:30 pm. If you can show up, do! It will be fun to hear what it sounds like outside my head. Finnish immigrants in the early 20th century find the magic of the old country follows them.
Yes, made my bed and I'm lying in it (although not much: keep waking up too early). Resisting the urge to set things on fire and run away. I don't know how, but it will get done. I can't wait to be in the pleasant green paradise of Galway with music all around me.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
So what can I say to whet your appetite?
The first line: "It was in the fourteenth year of the war that Simon woke up." Main character quotes a lot and gets every single quote wrong. There's a road trip! I pull off the impossible task of making Worcester glamorous and exciting. There's a dead cat whose ashes need to be taken to Mount Auburn Cemetery, aliens and a 300 year old magpie.
I started writing it when Kurt Vonnegut died and I was thinking how dispiriting it was to realise there would be no new sad but funny novels from him. How I've been describing the book: it's an alternative history/science fiction/urban fantasy/shamanistic retelling of the Descent of Inanna/great American road trip that takes in Albany, the Berkshires, Kripalu and Boston. What could be better? Um, yeah.
It's not really as mad as it sounds -- and it works!
Don't take my word for it! As my pal Liz Hand says, "Laity is a remarkable sorceress." Trust her. She's a terrific writer.
Oh, and happy birthday, Mr. Borges!
Monday, August 22, 2011
You know how you get a song stuck in your head? Usually some annoying bit of fluff that you wouldn't really choose to hear, but maybe heard from some passing car or in a store while shopping, but it worms its way into your ear and persists. I get that with phrases, too, and it can be just as maddening. I recall the relief I experienced when I realised this happened to other folks, too -- writers especially; I was reading a Henry Miller novel and his doppelgänger had an idiotic advertising phrase stuck in his head while he was trying to occupy himself otherwise (if you know Miller, you can guess how he was occupying himself).
So let me follow one of these little obsessive moments from the weekend and see what became of it. You know my obsession with Mark E. Smith and the Fall (yes, yes, I can see your eyes roll)? Okay, so I spend most of my time lately on Twitter (why? because last night while Tripoli was falling to rebel forces CNN was covering some celebrity's car accident or something, but folks on Twitter forwarded real time coverage). A friend posted a link to a blogpost on MES which I read and clicked on a related post which quoted the lyrics from "Tempo House" which resonated oddly in my head just then.
A serious man
In need of a definitive job
He had drunk too much
Of course, the latter phrase started ringing in my head like a well-struck bell. I posted the lyrics on Twitter, which provoked some comments, including a reminder from Zouch Magazine (soon to feature a poem[!] by me) that their 140 word story contest was still going on and wasn't I going to enter? This got me thinking. While it's fun to write the things that just spring out of your head with no restrictions of any kind (which reminds me, I ought to have good news to share later this week about Owl Stretching, my alternative history/science fiction/urban fantasy/shamanic retelling of the Descent of Inanna/Great American road trip novel ;-) it's actually fun to have restrictions to force your mind in new directions. Just as rules in sport -- keep within the markers, aim for the goal, don't touch the ball with your hands -- make you focus on specific skills, a narrow focus for writing can do the same. I'm currently working on a story set in someone else's universe and finding that a fun sort of puzzle to play with as well (more on that soon).
So, yeah, "Mandrake Anthrax" became a 140 word story (hey, I wrote a 50 word story, so that's luxury) that I sent off to Zouch for the contest and may well become a longer story, too. The lyrics also made it as a comment on a friend's status on Facebook (entirely fittingly, I should add and not at all gratuitously... mostly) and as my own status, provoking further responses that fed my idea stream even more. So, one magnetic MES phrase results in a story, lots of tweets and a couple of Facebook conversations and may not be done yet. I sure can get a lot of mileage out of two words! What will I be able to do with Joy Division Oven Gloves?! (thanks, Terry).
All of which gets me no closer to being packed and ready to go (sigh!). All this folderol was in place of actual packing, discarding and organising of course. Back to the mantra: somehow it will all get done, somehow...
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Writers vs Content Providers
"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." -- Red Smith
At a writer's conference this past weekend, my astute pal Nancy Holzner (author of Deadtown and Hellforged) said she reckoned everything had changed once writing became "content" and writers became "content providers."
She's both a novelist and tech writer, so she's seen these changes from a lot of angles. I immediately remembered a student a few years back saying that the allure had gone out of the term "writer" because blogging had made everyone a writer. The magic—if it was ever there—has gone.
The big publishing news like the explosion of ebooks and the implosion of bookstores gets most of the headlines; less visible is the slow erosion of writers' pay. As Nancy said, we got used to the dismissal of people calling writers "a dime a dozen" but we never actually thought it might become the pay scale...
Don't ask me about the packing: it's a nightmare. I can't go to sleep and then I wake up at ungodly early hours and yet seem to be making little progress. Somehow, somehow...
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
But they did enjoy learning a lot of new curses (eg. "profligate strumpet"). It's a Faustian tale -- although it predates the "original" Faust -- in which a young woman sells her soul to the devil in a moment of weakness and confusion. He doesn't tempt her with life everlasting, love or riches, but with learning.
The Devil: If you would give your love to me, I would teach you the arts as no one else could: the seven liberal arts, rhetoric, music, logic, grammar, geometry, arithmetic and alchemy [<--substitutes a false one here, it should be astronomy], all of which are most important arts. There is no woman upon earth so proficient in them as I shall make you.The seven disciplines were the backbone of the original university as founded in the Middle Ages. I like to remind my female students that they would not have been welcome there. Fascinating that this is the temptation for her, though wealth and riches come eventually. She finally repents when she sees a play (how po-mo) but it's a delight to see the joy and frustration of the writer (believed to be Anna Bijns) come through in the scene in which drunken revelers demand a demonstration of Mary's rhetorical skill:
O rhetoric, o true and lovely art, I who have always esteemed thee above all, I lament with grief that there are those who hate you and despise you. This is a grief to those who love you. Fie upon those who count you merely folly. Fie upon them who do so, for I wholly despise them. But for those who support you, life is full of hurt and sorrow. Ignorant men are the destruction of art.
They say in the proverb that through art grows the heart, but I say that it is a lying fable, for should some great artist appear, those who are unskilled and know not the first thing about art will make their opinion prevail everywhere, and artists will be reduced to beggary. Always it is the flatterer who is preferred, and always artists suffer such harm, and ignorant men are the destruction of art.
Fie upon all crude, coarse common minds, trying to measure art by your standards: everyone should pay honour to pure art, art which is the ruler of many a pleasant land. Honour be to all who are the promoters of art, fie upon the ignorant who reject art, for this is why I proclaim the rule that ignorant men are the destruction of art.
Prince, I will devote myself to art, and do everything in my power to acquire it. But it is to all lovers of art a sorrow that ignorant men pay so little honour to art.
Clearly it will always be so, but it's comforting to know that despite the efforts of ignorant men, art continues to thrive even in the midst of our suffering. Translation by Eric Colledge in this excellent collection.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Tip o' the captain's hat for the Pirate Pub Propper of the Bar and Pirate Therapist @MrTumshie's playlist and for my introduction to the band I clearly have been needing to meet for years, Half Man Half Biscuit.
Friday, August 12, 2011
When you look at the aggressively happy face of so much of American children's books (in contrast to the gritty, dark nature of so much YA reading) I suppose the Moomin tales stand out. Loosely based on Jansson's own upbringing in a bohemian family of artists, all the characters are eccentric and allowed to remain so. They range from the Moomins themselves to the nervous Sniff, the anarchic rebel Little My (after whom I named one of my five-string kanteles) and of course, my favourite, Snufkin -- to say nothing of Hattifatteners, Hemulens and of course, Fillyjonks. The books are about doing and making and finding your own interests and being curious about the world and the people in it.
Tales from Moomin Valley collects short tales that happen around the longer books. One of the underlying themes is that people who worry too much generally find they're wasting their time. Peace and a mutual respect are the only real requirements. In "The Invisible Child" (who's become invisible because she's too timid) there's a wonderful moment where Jansson writes of the family, "They continued their work in peaceful silence." People seldom know what they would really enjoy: the "Hemulen Who Loved Silence" finds out that maybe it would be more fun in his park if people could laugh and "possibly even hum."
The first story is a Snufkin one: he's my role model -- especially now. When Moomin and Sniff meet Snufkin for the first time in Comet in Moominland he tells them, "I'm a tramp and I live all over the place...I wander about and when I find a place that I like I put up my tent and play my mouth organ." When asked if he might be a painter or a poet, Snufkin says, "I am everything!" He finds the memory of things far superior to having the things themselves (hence my role model) and hates all kinds of authority, especially those who wield power for its own sake. Thus he hates the Park Keeper who continually puts up signs forbidding things: "All his life, Snufkin had longed to pull down notices that asked him not to do things he liked to do."
In "The Spring Tune" Snufkin wanders along, a tune just about ready to be born from his head. I love the way Jansson talks about the process of creation, finding that just-right moment to make something manifest, too soon and it gets stuck, too late and it escapes all together. When he thinks of how Moomintroll will like the song, he suddenly starts to feel annoyed with the idea that his friend is waiting for his return. Nothing a traveler likes less than being expected. When a strange little creature treats him with something like hero-worship, Snufkin warns, "You can't ever be really free if you admire somebody too much."
These stories are just wonderful: get all of Jansson's books, including the fantastic and fun comics collections from D&Q.
As always, check with Patti Abbott's blog for the full list of overlooked treasures [oops, or this week over at Todd's].
Thursday, August 11, 2011
The Butterfly World Project
When the latest round of cynical politicians trying to capitalise on tragedy for gains in the polls or just to sabotage their rivals gets you down, you need something to restore the will to live.
Just outside London in the rolling green of Hertfordshire you will find the Butterfly World Project, an oasis of beauty and peace that will provide the antidote to fire, police sirens and screams of horror. This £27 million project was conceived by Clive Farrell, a butterfly fanatic and lepidopterist whose dream was to create a tribute to the butterfly and a dedicated centre of learning for the preservation of this fragile and beautiful species. The project is now in Phase III and by the winter of 2012, should be the biggest butterfly experience in the world...
Read the rest at BBHQ!
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Edith Potter: Weren't you going to Africa to shoot, Nancy?
Nancy Blake: As soon as my book's out.
Sylvia Fowler: I don't blame you. I'd rather face a tiger any day than the sort of things the critics said about your last book.
Peggy Day: Oh, I wish I could make a little money writing the way you do!
Nancy Blake: If you wrote the way I do, that's just what you'd make.
Sylvia Fowler: You're not a very popular author, are you, dear?
Nancy Blake: Not with you.
Feeling like a very unpopular writer, I am heading off to Authors After Dark tomorrow morning in an attempt to ameliorate that -- at least for my alter ego, as Kit Marlowe will be flogging The Mangrove Legacy there. On Twitter Marc Nash just sent me a tweet saying how his flash fiction averages about 300 hits a day, while his post on the riots received over 3600 visits. Newsworthy topics help. Bloggers who make a habit of posting incendiary opinions likewise tend to get more hits.
The idiosyncratic ramblings including jokes only three people will get? Not so much.
I recently read an Anita Blake novel that was in my gift bag at Alt.Fiction. I read mostly non-fiction, so it's helpful to remind myself what popular fiction that actually sells looks like. I realise once again that all my writing habits undermine any chance to write popular fiction. Nuance, allusions (literary or mythic), drolleries: these have no place in the lean beast that is a page-turner. Of course I want to write what I want to write -- and I always will -- but I also would like to write books that sell more. Not necessarily a bestseller, just a better seller. It's an interesting problem to grapple with, although at present I really need to be doing other things. Like packing, discarding and yes, if all else fails, setting fire to things.
Metaphorically, of course. It's not a riot.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
As always, see Sweet Freedom for a round-up of other overlooked A/V.
Monday, August 08, 2011
Extricate (Extra Kate?). Then we headed off to the Willi Pub and had burgers and beer and more giggles.
Godmonster of Indian Flats and a little bit of Swamp Girl (which had one amazing theme song O_o).
Jane Quiet, our comic, while -- as I noticed much later -- mosquitoes made a meal of my feet. I headed back to Albany in time to run into the fierce rain, which of course let up once I arrived. Had a nice dinner with Debi (congratulations on finishing that first draft of your novel!) and then it was back to facing the huge pile of things that must be done. Sigh.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
Your Tweets are Under Surveillance
Look for the new follower @janejones or @samsmith in your tweetstream.
This new initiative, Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC), which will cost around $42 million will attempt to follow memes and trends, apparently mostly on Twitter. The DoD wants to keep tabs on your passing whims in case they might reveal a threat to security. Their fourfold plan includes:
1. Detect, classify, measure and track the (a) formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes), and (b) purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation.
Will they follow the latest fake celebrity-has-died rumour in case it has more sinister implications? Will they be able to stop a meme from happening or a trend from sprouting? Will they be able to put an end to Owling?!...
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
It was a lively session and we had a lot of fun and the audience seemed really engaged, too. Thanks again to Adele for thrusting me into the conference -- I really enjoyed myself.
Just got back from Robert's. Last night he made me crab cakes and roasted potatoes, then this fabulous tomato-watermelon salad with local goat cheese. Oooh. And to top it all off: freshly made peach ice cream right from the orchard and a helping of strawberry ice cream right from his porch! Mmm. Best of all: leftovers!
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Dreyer's film -- like all his work -- is richly imagined and visually stunning. The Criterion DVD features the evocative "Voices of Light," a choral and orchestral work composed by Richard Einhorn and performed by the wonderful Anonymous 4 and the Radio Netherlands Philharmonic and Choir. This edition of the long-thought-to-be-lost film came when a complete version was located in a Norwegian mental institute in 1981.
Dreyer's vision is always arresting. For a film awash in white, it often seems so dark. Renée Falconetti's Joan offers a compelling vision of a suffering young woman who nonetheless stubbornly fights for her beliefs against harsh treatment. We examined how the internal space of the trial (ecclesiastic, confined and male) suddenly explodes into the public space (cacophonous, open and mostly female). Good to see a young Antonin Artaud as a sympathetic priest; practising for that theatre of cruelty, eh?
See all the recommendations for overlooked media at Sweet Freedom.
Monday, August 01, 2011
I am dividing everything I own into three categories: things I must take to Galway, things I want to hold onto but won't take to Galway (and must be loaned or stored) -- and everything else, which must go. And must go now. I have given stuff away and donated stuff and still there is way too much.
Somehow it will all get done in the shockingly short amount of time left -- despite starting to teach a three-week long course today, yeah. How will this happen? I don't know, it's a mystery.
I got a nice email from the US Embassy in Dublin on Thursday. Apparently Sept 8th is International Literacy Day and they want to feature my project in Digital Humanities, "Writers in Motion," in a news clip on their website. So there'll be a picture of me and an abbreviated description of my project for the first day of my Fulbright orientation in Dublin. By the by, I'll be leaving from JFK on Sept 4 and flying to Shannon, then probably taking a bus to my new home in Eyre Square.
The new issue of Pagan Friends features an excerpt from Pelzmantel. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, and think you might enjoy a story of medieval magic, here's a fine opportunity.
Oh, and um -- print editions of The Mangrove Legacy! Did I mention that already? :-)