Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

A gloriously spooky day to you all! I know I have been remiss in my Halloween cards for the last couple years; I have as an excuse the general madness of my life lately -- this year in particular. I suspect next year will either be incredibly dull and boring, or else more mad than ever.

I will not be taking bets on that. Let's not tempt fate, eh?

My sympathies for all my east coast friends who got a lot of snow dumped on them this weekend. I won't regale you with what a surprisingly warm day it was in Galway, how I walked out along the Claddagh and out the causeway to Mutton Island... oh, wait. I am doing that. Sorry! A freak October snowstorm. I'm sure it will be smooth sailing for the rest of the season...

All right, no more teasing. I remember well the painful jaws of the Great Grey Beast of February. Let this be the most snow you see until the thaws begin!

In lieu of an actual card, here's an old chestnut that I hope you're not tired of yet:

Devil's Night

It was called Devil's Night in the town where I lived
That veiled night before Halloween,
When goblins came out and devils ran wild
And some said that witches were seen.
We kids stayed inside, safe in our beds
And whispered of what there might be—
But one year we intended to see for ourselves,
My sister, my black cat and me.

The sun had long set and the darkness had come
To wrap all the houses in black,
When we crawled out the window and crept ‘cross the lawn
And none of us even looked back.
Though the wind tapped our shoulders and played with our hair
And ran through the leaves with mad glee,
We were stalwart and true like the heroes we knew,
My sister, my black cat and me.

We had never quite said, but each knew in our heads
The goal of our late night foray;
There was only one house whose black shutters and spires
Cast long inky shadows by day.
The house of nightmares was the subject of dares
For children much older than we,
But we knew we must try to sneak in and spy,
My sister, my black cat and me.

As we walked on our own down the mist-shrouded lane
The goblin cries rang through the night.
My sister told me, with an air of disdain,
That I should not take any fright.
'It's only some kids wrapped in sheets that they hid,
That they took from their mothers laundry.'
And we continued along with much knocking of knees
By my sister, my black cat and me.

The house loomed ahead with its turrets like spikes
Aimed at a portentous sky
The old shutters rattled and the chimney howled doom
But the wind smelled like pumpkin pie.
'An old witch lives here and she eats little kids,'
My sister heard from Katie Lee
And we were likely to die if we drew too near by
My sister, my black cat and me.

'I'll go up on the porch and ring her doorbell
then run—like the wind—quick away.
You go ‘round the back and give a sharp rat-a-tat,
Before she can come out this way.'
Her plans carefully laid, my sister then stayed
As I walked toward the back door slowly,
I'll admit I was scared and I felt ill- prepared,
No sister, just black cat and me.

As I prowled through the gloom I saw a bright room
And an old woman dressed all in black.
'It must be the witch,' I said to my cat
And shivered and shook in my tracks.
I wanted to run but I heard the doorbell
And I knew that my sister's safety
Was all in my hands, so we gathered our breaths,
Poor little black cat and me.

I made a small fist and raised up my arm
To deliver the thunderous tap
But I froze to the spot when I saw a dark shape
That opened the door with a snap.
'I know what you want!' I heard the witch say
But my feet would not move to flee
And she swept us inside the warm kitchen's light,
Poor little black cat and me.

My tears trickled down and I begged for my life
And the life of my little kitty.
The old witch just smiled and patted my head
And said to me, 'Don't be silly.
I've got oodles of pie and candy and fudge
And a gingerbread house so pretty,
And I wish you would share all the food I've prepared—
It's too much for my big cat and me!'

I looked all around and my fear dissipated
The kitchen was cheerful and clean
And the huge oaken table was filled ‘til it groaned
With more treats than I'd ever seen—
Pies of all kinds and cookies with chips
And a big steaming pot of green tea,
And in front of the fire a great big cat yawned
At my ravenous black cat and me.

I said, 'Thank you ma'am!' and plopped down in a chair
And she set a blue plate before me
And I piled it up high with some warm pumpkin pie
And a big taste of each sweet dainty.
I was feeding my face and telling the witch of our chase
When my sister's gaze fell upon me.
But it took little time before we brought her inside
To eat with my black cat and me.

So when you see a witch and your knees start to shake
And you're tempted to run to the hills,
Just remember the night that we wandered quite late
Seeking out Devil's Night thrills.
Some witches are good, and some witches are bad
But they all make amazing candy!
If you're sweet and not rude, they might share their food
With your sister, your black cat and thee.

Happy Halloween! Samhain maith! Wear iron and don't talk to pookahs. Let us remember those who have gone and whom we miss and share the bright memories with those near us now. Be well.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: The Best of Myles

After the harrowing process of moving and desperately trying to unload many of my books, I have sworn to buy no more books and to adapt wholeheartedly to my gypsy life. Of course that lasted until I visited Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, a Galway institution. I was there for a reading, but I couldn't quite resist this book. So far, it's the only one I bought there. Let's hope I can keep to that.

Most people will know Flann O'Brien [true name Brian O'Nolan] from At Swim-Two-Birds or The Third Policeman, acknowledged comic classics. The Best of Myles collects the "Cruiskeen Lawn" columns he wrote as Myles na gCopaleen in the Irish Times. Yes, a lot of pseudonyms, eh? No wonder I love him.

I was reading this on the bus to Shannon airport last week and giggling in my seat, doubtless disturbing the poor woman next to me who thought I was some kind of lunatic. Ahem.

O'Brien maintains a tone of daft reasonableness whether he's plotting to take over the Irish Writers, Actors, Artists and Musicians Association (rebuffed in his offer to take charge, he first finds fault with all they do, then decides to form a rival splinter group), suggesting dialogue at the Abbey Theatre be printed as banners and hung above the stage so audience members can read ahead to catch their buses on time, or developing get-rich-quick schemes like his Beard Food (accompanied with appropriate sketches of the wonders it will provoke). He relates many adventures of "the brother" -- a schemer of the first order who nonetheless seems to garner a grudging respect from many despite his high-handed ways.

He addresses "the Plain People of Ireland" often -- and offers their suspicious views of his meanderings. No surprise as he invents business schemes of dubious execution: artisans who will give wealthy stupid people's books the impression of having been read, with increasing fees depending on the amount of wear and the addition of pithy ripostes or citations annotated on the pages, or ventriloquist dates to accompany the not very bright and provide their half of the sparkling conversations. The Plain people are inclined to interrupt with corrections of his spelling or signs of impatience when his self-glorifying goes on too long.

Among his vaunted skills are the accompanying drawings illustrating various points. The drawings are wonderful as well, offering valuable visual advice such as how to carry your drunken friend who has collapsed or how to cross a river without getting your top hat wet. Valuable advice indeed.

See the full list of books over at Patti Abbott's blog.

I did go to the reading last night and read my new poem because Kevin was soft-hearted enough to squeeze me in at the end. It seemed to go over well. I tagged along to the pub afterward and it was great to have a chance to get to know people a little more. Quite a community of writers here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

BitchBuzz and Over the Edge

I'm fighting off a cold that seemed to ride my coattails from London but if I'm feeling not too bad, I plan to head off to Over the Edge's reading tonight at the library (where I am now mayor :-) and perhaps try out a new piece at the open mic if there's room. A rather silly piece, but one I'm already fond of and having run it by a couple of people, I'd love to hear how it goes over with a crowd.

My column nearly didn't happen this week: I tried a couple of different things and nothing jelled (maybe it was coming down with this cold -- can't remember the last time I was sick!). So I emailed my editor to admit defeat and voilá! She had something for me to write up. Looks like a fun event:

Put the Kink in Your Ink at Eroticon 2012

By K. A. Laity

One of the undeniable effects of the ebook revolution is the explosion of erotica and erotic romance particularly for female readers. Freed from the dead giveaway of the saucy cover, women now fill up their Kindles and mobile devices with a glorious variety of fun smut and sexy takes. It's about time someone got some of the practitioners of this writing genre together.

Eroticon 2012 will be the UK’s first sex bloggers and erotica writers conference and will take place on March 3rd next year. Over 100 sex bloggers and erotica writers will meet in Bristol for a unique conference.  Eroticon is the UK’s first conference aimed exclusively at sex bloggers and erotica writers and has a schedule crammed full of great sessions and speakers.

The conference is the brainchild of erotic author Ruby Kiddell, who says:
"The idea for Eroticon came about having attended the Cybermummy conference where I was sponsored through my erotic writing site.  There were other sex bloggers there and I knew that we held back in discussing the content of our blogs in such a general atmosphere and so I conceived Eroticon, a blogging conference exclusively for those writing about sex online..."

Read the rest over at BBHQ!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More Moore but Not Ruthlessly So

Saturday kicked off another trip to the Big Smoke with the aim of seeing Mr Moore and his compatriots re-imagine a journey through the English. Apropos, non? We took the train into Liverpool Street station and then stopped at Hamilton Hall for a pint and lunch with Ruth. I love burgers with slabs of real bacon on top! Even better to enjoy them in the opulence of an old hotel ballroom. Mr Murphy headed off for the finer establishments of Whitechapel, while Ruth and I headed toward the Tate Mod.

We stopped at St. Paul's on the way, to see how the Occupy London folks were doing. Wonderful to see so many exhortations to social justice and reminders that this was a peaceful protest (regardless of what the Oakland police might think). Glad to see the scaffolding around the church gone, but somehow wonderful to see all the tents and the people speaking from the steps with power and conviction. St. Paul's was built upon a temple of Diana, so no surprise the hunter goddess inspires the urge to fight back.

We had fun watching the Tacita Dean film piece in the turbine hall at the Tate Modern, even more so watching the people watch it. One kid tried to leap over the waves, another tried to capture the falling bubbles. We headed up to the Rothkos -- my weakness! Fortunately, Ruth is also fond of them. We sat for quite a time in that quiet place chatting. Ruth is a fascinating woman who's lived in France for some years though now based in London for a time. She repairs vintage fans -- what a rare skill! She's also designing scarves and does botanical painting. I'm always in awe of people who can do tangible things (like the rest of my family). I'm all thumbs.

We headed up to the Barbican in a cool clear London eve. I was really lucky with weather, bringing the sunshine with me, of course! Disappointing to find that there was a pre-concert talk we missed and that Shirley Collins was ill and wouldn't be performing, but the show made up for those minor sighs. Front row seats! How to describe it all? JB Priestly's English Journey mashed up with "Northamptonshire Peasant Poet" John Clare's own journey from the asylum in Essex to his home, thinking he was going to meet his dead first love, and the paintings of Turner and Martin. Sinclair looking like a librarian (to me anyway :-) reading from his own works of travel and place, Alan -- in his peacock blue long coat with sparkly paisleys and those spotted shoes, looking elegant -- reading from Voice of the Fire as well as Clare's own works with his usual arresting delivery. The video pieces set the scene, from London to Newcastle, where poet Tom Pickard brought the audience in the second half. The music -- both live and recorded -- featured Susan Stenger on flute and samples, Steve Tyler on hurdy-gurdy, Andy May on border pipes (which looked like Uilleann pipes) and the amazing FM Einheit on percussion.

You know what a sucker I am for percussion (Evelyn Glennie rocks!) but Einheit was a madman! Tapping and pounding on a big sheet of steel, later hammering and drilling on it too as well as throwing buckets of pebbles (I got hit by one :-) and then breaking cement blocks on it, too, with the hammer and then with the bits of block. Wonderful! He also played upon a huge steel coil. I loved it.  He also had great hair and an amazing profile. Magnificent show. Very pleased.

Sunday was more leisurely: up early to watch the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup. Love the Haka! Watched the Bukowski doco, Born into This, then I was allowed to visit Murphy's local where Americans were rare. They seemed to think I was all right for a Yank. Later we watched The Guard which many people have recommended to me which was fun. The Monday morning flight was a bit too early, but that's the jet-setter life, eh?

Hard to believe it's nearly Halloween...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked A/V: Keeping it Peel

I am showing great restraint by not simply posting a bunch of clips of John Peel introducing The Fall. Are you proud of me? You should be. Here's a nice four part interview with Peel talking about the reality of punk music and its development in his usual straightforward way (further parts on this other site). Even if you've never heard of John Peel, if you like good music, you owe him a lot. Today's his remembrance day, a good reason for Keeping it Peel.

Be sure to drop by Sweet Freedom to read the rest of the overlooked recommendations.

Monday, October 24, 2011

London with Four Essex Lads, Alan Moore, and Ruth

Because no one would want to travel ruthlessly, surely: I zipped off to London this weekend because I could. Is there any better reason? Well, I suppose fun and a couple of Alan Moore performances were also a good reason. I got in rather late, so Friday also got a late start but my pal Murphy and I kicked things off with a good English breakfast in Essex before meeting up with his mates in the pub, three of whom came to London with us to see the performance at the Horse Hospital.

It's a fascinating venue with an interesting history and provided a great space for an unusual performance. After a visit to the pub next door, The Friend at Hand, the guys were just happy there was a bar (although the ringing sound of empty bottles on concrete punctuated a few moments awkwardly). The opening act was the Scots singer MacGillivray. I'm not sure I'd envy anyone who had to share a bill with Moore, but it was a challenge to get into the mannered performance of overly earnest aggressively retro sensibilities. She announced after the first song it was for a wee child who died in 1842; while the Essex men may have led the giggles, they were not alone. It's the kind of thing that Dame Darcy and Rasputina do quite successfully with humour as well as a sense of the macabre. It probably didn't help that there were a number of rolling beer bottles as she sang about stoning mermaids, "wolf waters" and "steaming the eyes of hope."

Alan came out with his usual aplomb and fancy black & white spotted shoes. He introduced the reading by saying we seemed too nice a group to hear it cold, so he spoke a little about Jerusalem and its unbridled growth, now "bigger than the bible and, I hope, better" before turning to the chapter he would be reading from which had to do with angels, or as they were known in the novel, "builders" (a more neutral term). In part his depiction of the archangel Michael came from the image of the archangel atop the Northampton church bearing his name, which Moore says carries a snooker cue. He introduced his ideas about the afterlife, dismissing the typical depiction of heaven. "All that marble," Moore said, cocking an eyebrow at the audience, "It's a bit middle class." Instead he posited the idea that our lives repeat without our knowledge, taking us back to our happinesses over and over, "So, hello again."

The reading held the audience spellbound, rushing from onomatopoeic whoomphs to the builders' ambivalence about their charges and the nature of the all-encompassing holy perspective. Good stuff: I can't wait to read the novel -- well, when he finally decides it's done. The audience responded with laughter and close attention and sent him off with enthusiastic applause. While coming out of the loo afterward, I heard my name and turned to find Ruth, a fellow member of the Kraken, the Russell Hoban gang. She had seen my post on Facebook about the event and decided it sounded fun. She recognised me from my picture :-) I asked her to join us, then peeked around the corner to see if I could chat with Alan. Fortunately he was still there, so we had a chat and I mentioned finally meeting Pádraig last weekend as well as the Marvelman-like curse on his Marvelman book: Alan joked that maybe he should write a book about Pádraig's book and create a kind of infinite repeating loop. I mentioned I'd be seeing him the next night at the Barbican. Yes, got a hug and a kiss, too.

Ruth joined us and we all headed out for a tasty Indian meal then dropped by the Bree Louise for a pint before they closed. Then we hopped the last train back to Harlow, another late night. I'll have to write up the second day a bit later as this has grown long: more Moore, Occupy London at St. Paul's (the photo above from the old UK phone so poor quality), Rothko and Ruth. Anon!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

BitchBuzz: Björk's Biophilia

I suppose it comes as no surprise that I love the new Björk album, but wow! What a wonderful little package. The vision of it amazes me: the mash-up of science and myth that makes both magical. I will not rest until I've seen one of the shows. Currently she's playing in Iceland, but I will keep a weather eye out for news that she's heading my way.

Music Review: Björk's 'Biophilia'

By K.A. Laity

"Best way to start a-new is to fail miserably…" - Björk, "Moon"

A new Björk album (can we still use that word, album? Does it still convey the idea of a release even if it comes in digital form as well as tangible?) always offers a chance to see what the unpredictable Icelandic artist has in her brain pan lately. Her music delights and her ambitions grow.

Biophilia, however, isn't just an album. As her press releases explained, it's "a studio album, apps, a new website, custom-made musical instruments, live shows and educational workshops" as well as a documentary film about the whole process. The apps will give each song its own game, lyrics, animation and even academic essays on the science behind each of them, too.

She debuted Biophilia at the Manchester International Festival, stunning audiences with her wild costumes and fascinatingly complex instruments like the pendulum harps and a musical Tesla coil as well as a large Icelandic women's choir. Björk intends to spend three years touring with an elaborate stage show as well as an accompanying educational program, bringing music training to local schools. Doubtless this will be a welcome gift to schools who've made cuts in those essential programs...

Read the whole review over at BBHQ: I swoon quite shamelessly. Seems to be a thing with me lately. Bumping into things as well. Wonder what it could be. The lyrics for this  album are full of wonderfully quotable bon mots. I like the pull quote above because it reminds me of Beckett's "Fail again. Fail better," which is the sense of the song, too.

I'm off to London tonight. If I can manage it, I will try out the Android app for Blogger and sent a post or two while I'm on the road. Two Alan Moore performances! Don't curse me too much, Pádraig! Leaving behind picturesque Galway for the Big Smoke: it will be a change.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fiction Slamming and Finally Meeting Pádraig

I ambled off to Octocon on Saturday after a good night out on Friday, where I had attended the 3rd Annual Fiction Slam put on by the local lit organisation, Over the Edge. I had no idea quite how it would go, but it was more or less like a poetry slam: that is, a short time to read with a focus on performance, and of course, competition. Among the judges was the multi-talented Emer Martin, who read a bit from her latest novel between the two rounds; a really engaging performer herself.

After hemming and hawing a bit, I decided to try to sign up to read and took "Rothko Red" and "Wixey" with me. There was a good crowd at the museum; Galway really is a writers' mecca. I got chatting with Rachel Coventry, a local writer who read from her short story about a man who finds himself disappearing. All the stories were good: this is significant, as I've seldom been to a reading that did not have at least a few clunkers. I read "Wixey" first and was gratified to get some laughs; in fact I made it into the final three, much to my surprise. Rather good for my first time reading in Galway. The bottle of wine went to the young woman who read from her "memoir by a rabbit" which was a real hoot, and who will also be performing at the Galway Comedy Festival (sob! both Dylan Moran and Tim Minchin's performances are long sold out).

I had an early train to Dublin, but as I live across the square from the station, I didn't have to get up too early and once on the train, I fell asleep not long after seeing a deer running across a field (deer? yes!) and woke up at Heuston. I caught a cab to the hotel, checked in and then went  down to registration. Gareth at reg immediately led me to Pádraig. Great to finally meet after knowing each other on line for so long. We had a chance to chat and to introduce me to Deirdre, his wife, before the panel he was on about meeting your heroes. Deirdre and I sat in the back and murmured various comments, including discussing whether it was worth laying money on the odds of any female names coming up in their adulations. Of course not: I did ask the question at the end, and I was struck by how the conversation immediately moved to crushes and fancying, including how attractive Tanith Lee is 'despite her age' you know.


This discussion led rather neatly into the women in genre/is it necessary? panel later, which drafted James Bacon at the last minute so that it wasn't an all-female panel. The discussion went very well for the most part, keeping a focus on practical solutions and dispassionate identification of the mechanisms that keep labeling women as "other" rather than simply as people. There were a number of encouraging comments aimed at organisers to move beyond the default position of simply relying on the same old (usually male) friends and to actively encourage women to participate, as well as for women to overcome that reluctance and self-effacing behaviour that dooms them to non-representation. It takes a concerted effort on many parts to overcome these structural problems. And then of course, the last question to the panel came from a guy who said, "But it's true that women mostly write about relationships and I just like action stories." Sigh. Enough to make you want to strangle someone.

 The rest of the time I spent mostly chatting with Pádraig and Deirdre and the other folks they introduced me to; I don't usually go to cons unless I have something to do or know lots of people, so it was a relief that I had someone to hang out with. I met lots of terrific folks and I look forward to seeing many at P-Con in March (where I get to play "The Professor").

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked A/V: Do Not Adjust Your Set

I'm looking forward to Holy Flying Circus tomorrow night, the documentary on the fight against the Python's Life of Brian. I know I've likely seen a lot of the footage already, but I'm sure it will be enjoyable nonetheless. Good example of how bonkers people can get over something they assume will offend them. At heart, Brian is a very moral film, which focuses on the all-too familiar foibles of human behaviour. Ah, but if you're reading this you likely already know that.

Something you might not know about is Do Not Adjust Your Set, one of the many training grounds for the future Pythons, like The Frost Report and At Last the 1948 Show (source of the original Four Yorkshiremen sketch). DNAYS featured Michael Palin and Terry Jones (who had also worked on The Complete and Utter History of Britain) as well as Eric Idle. This was a kids show, which is kind of stunning (although if you look at a lot of the mad kids show at the time, perhaps not quite so odd) so a lot of the humour is very nonsensical in the Goons/Spike Milligan/NOBA vein of absurdity. You can really see the connections between the Pythons and what came before them.

Of course one of the key reasons to see DNAYS is the Bonzo Dog Band. Why anyone thought they were safe for children, I don't know. The ginger geezer Vivian Stanshall and the delightfully daffy Neil Innes headed a rotating roster of musicians but those two were really the magnets. I've gone on at length about both of them, so if you don't know them yet, you should stop reading right now and just go look at the videos widely available at a certain tubish site.

A fave moment, appropriate for the season: the Bonzos sing "Monster Mash" for your delight.

As usual, find the whole roundup of overlooked a/v over at Sweet Freedom.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: Three Plays by Mae West

You think you know Mae West, don't you? The slightly risqué performer with the voluptuous curves: who asked Cary Grant to come up and see her, told Beulah to peel her a grape? What you may not know is how much she cleaned up her act for the movies. Three Plays includes Sex, The Drag and The Pleasure Man. West's plays are hilarious, full of street cant and scorching satires on the sexual and gender mores of her time. The first of the three landed her in jail for "corrupting the morals of youth" where she dined with the warden and his wife, and told reporters she only wore silk underwear. The press loved her and she got a lot of attention, but her next play which dealt frankly with homosexuality got tryouts in the provinces (Connecticut and New Jersey) but was kept off Broadway by the "Society for the Prevention of Vice" (an early morality group). Her next play The Pleasure Man, about the backstage shenanigans of vaudevillian Lothario featured an enormous cast of actors, acrobats, female impersonators and dancers -- all of whom were arrested on two of the three performances that took place. West and her cohorts were acquitted after the jury split their decision. One suspects it might have gone something like this wonderful scene from I'm No Angel:

See the full round up of overlooked books at Patti Abbott's blog.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

BitchBuzz: Jane Eyre's Everlasting Appeal

A perennial favourite of mine, for sure -- especially in the Dame Darcy illo'd version, I wax rhapsodic about the book over at BB:

Jane Eyre's Everlasting Appeal

By K.A. Laity

This month marks the 164th anniversary of the publication of Charlotte Brontë's immortal Jane Eyre. Women love Jane—well, a certain kind of women love this heroine. Women who love Jane Eyre tend to appreciate her backbone. Jane does what needs to be done, she overcomes outrageous odds and she never gives up—or gives in to what she knows is not right. Her fans also tend to like middle-child Anne Eliott in Persuasion or the poor overlooked and overworked Fanny Price of Mansfield Park.

Jane is a real plain Jane; not an ugly duckling waiting to bloom. The truly plain know they have other qualities more worthy, but also know well that most people will never notice them. Her whole early life—slipped over in most film versions—shows Jane's real strength, her utter faith in herself, her complete self-reliance. 

A lot of men I know hate Jane Eyre; not dislike, not ignore, but actively hate this book. I think the primary reason is Rochester. In my River Song voice, "Spoilers!"...

Read the rest, including those spoilers, over at BBHQ as usual. Feel free to 'like' or 'share' it too. This is how people find my stuff, you know. I rely on you all to be the Relay. You can tell how much I love Jane: the serial's main character is her daughter! Did you realise that? :-) One of the reasons I really enjoyed the recent very gothic film version is that it was totally Jane's story, not focused on the romance as the center. Of course, my fave Rochester will probably always be Toby Stephens.

I can't believe it's Thursday already. This week has been a blur for many reasons. Tomorrow is the Fiction Slam, which I will attend and maybe, just maybe, read at, too. Saturday I'm bound for Dublin. Madness!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Derek Jarman's Caravaggio

What can I say? One of my favourite painters in all the world (and I repeat unending thanks to Alessandra for taking me around to see the Caravaggios in the little churches of Rome). A glorious young Tilda Swinton plus Nigel Terry looking rough, Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gough. Jarman's eye captures it all with a brilliant palette that mimics Caravaggio's earthy voluptuousness. Get the film. Watch it.

See the rest of the roundup over at Todd's blog (yes, in haste today, much to do).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Talk About the Weather

Everywhere I've lived people have always said, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute." Even in Houston, which flabbergasted me because nine or ten months of the year it is relentlessly hot and humid with only the regular 3pm brief thunderstorm to break the hellfire monotony. It was slightly more true in Michigan, but you could generally get a picture of how the weather would go in the morning and plan accordingly with reasonable accuracy (contingent on your knowledge of the seasons, I should add).

In Galway, however, it is literally true. I do consult the weather oracles (i.e. I check my phone) and look out the window, but I know that what I see outside may instantly change. I have walked out into rain and arrived at my  destination in sunshine. I have generally given up on carrying an umbrella, as the bins on most days look like this one. The gales of Galway are legendary. I risked an umbrella today because there seemed to be no wind and it was that kind of pervasive misty rain that quickly soaks everything. But by the time I was crossing the Corrib on my way to campus, the wind had begun to gust again.My umbrella made it here, but I suspect that it may be a challenge on the next leg of my perambulations.

In Galway it's important to wield your brolly like a rapier, twirling it to brace against the shifting winds, dodging other umbrellas on the narrow pavement -- so far it seems to be a very gendered norm, with men raising their umbrellas and women lowering theirs, but we shall see if that has just been coincidence so far. But most of the time I either just get wet or wear a hat (shock, I know). I was walking along the Claddagh the other day, enjoying the dramatic skies (thanks for the touch up on the photo, Ayub!) and watching a jackdaw eat mussels by flying up a few feet and dropping them on the rocks. There were a few rainy clouds out to sea, but while brisk, it was quite pleasant.

And then it started to hail! The wind blew so hard that it was difficult to walk as I hightailed it back toward the centre. Yet by the time I got up to the street again, the sun was out. Sure, it was still raining. But the sun was out. It's crazy, but it always gives people something to talk about, eh?

This weekend there's the Fiction Slam on Friday and then Octocon on Saturday, so I'll be heading up to Dublin to finally meet Pádraig Ó Méalóid face to face after all these years. Next week I'm off to London for some fun including not one but TWO Alan Moore events and some idling in East London with the mad Mr Murphy. Next it will be off to Scotland, but more about that anon. For the present, let's talk about the weather...

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: Werewolf of Paris

Yeah, I seem to have wolves on the brain of late. I'm not the only one as this window display in an Eyre Square shop shows. I can't explain -- oh, wait. Yes, I can. One reason is that I've got a story coming out soon: It's a Curse which will be the seventh installment in Paul D. Brazill's Drunk on the Moon series. If you haven't checked out Mr B's series, you are in for a treat. I had a lot of fun playing in his world with PI-turned-werewolf Roman Dalton. More as the time approaches, but I promise mayhem and humour in equal parts.

But on to the Forgotten:

Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore (1933)

I think that this is one of the books I gave away while jettisoning my library for the move to Ireland, which I probably regret (but surely I can get an ebook). It was the primary source for Hammer's Curse of the Werewolf with its cursed child born out of wedlock on Christmas day, his mother violated by a priest. The young child Bertrand discovers strange hungers as he grows up, dreaming that he has changed into a wolf (oops, the dreams are real) and his uncle finds it difficult to cover up the increasingly nasty shenanigans of his nephew. After an explosion of assault, incest and murder, Bertrand runs off to Paris. He tries to find ways to manage his affliction and joins the Guard to fight in the Franco-Prussian war. He falls in love with an innocent girl. They try to cope with his hungers by letting him drink her blood. But eventually Bertrand fears he will hurt Sophie and ventures once more out into the city to satisfy his dark desires, exposing his secret and resurrecting danger for them both. The rest of the story is suitably gothic and tragic against the historic backdrop of the Paris Commune.

This is a fine gem and one that horror and Gothic fans will enjoy. For more overlooked treasures, drop by Patti Abbott's blog for a full round-up.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

BitchBuzz: The Perfect Hat

You know this was inevitable, right?

Three Easy Steps to Finding the Perfect Hat

By K. A. Laity

If you live in the west of Ireland, you discover quickly why hats are a better idea than brollies; the gales in Galway are powerful! Most blustery days the wreckage of ruined umbrellas becomes a common sight. My visitors last weekend discovered this quickly, one of whom used our lazy morning to buy a nice new hat.

The other refused, saying, "I don't look good in hats."

I realise I'm a bit prejudiced here, but hats are good. Hats make you look good. People who claim not to look good in hats haven't tried the right hat. It's like trying on a bubble skirt then claiming "I just don't look good in skirts." Well, no one looks good in a bubble skirt (no, no one) and no one looks good in a baseball cap (which doesn't really count as a hat because it's equipment), which is probably the hat most people have tried on.
—or some kind of uniform (shudder).

I know better: as a sufferer of perpetual bad hair days, I am completely in love with hats...

Read the rest at BBHQ as always!

Good news! I've finally begun the overhaul of the website. After a disastrous move that lost most of my connectivity, I have finally just moved the website to a Wordpress blog. The URL should point there now (or very soon) and I am slowly reconstructing the info. Tell me what you think of the new design. I kind of miss Kali, but change is good. Lots of tweaking to do, but you know how I am with tedious work, so it may take a little time. And I have a lot of idling around Galway to do!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Where's Marlon?

Apparently there's a big controversy around the British Fantasy Awards this year: One of the most out-spoken and much-forwarded commentaries came from noted anthologist, Stephen Jones.

I wasn't there and can't say anything about the specifics (which look, by all accounts, particularly egregious). But I can comment on the general issues of awards presentations and perhaps more particularly, small presses in Jones' comments. Apart from the condescending equation of "small press" as necessarily the opposite of "professional publisher" (which is simply ignorant), it sounds like every other awards presentation: how often has the best film actually won the Oscar or the best music a Grammy? Even in benign situations (i.e. outside multimillion dollar industries), people vote for the names they know, not the books they haven't read (that with luck they might finally read when they are still being recommended to them ten or twenty years on). This is how the old boy network goes on and on, not necessarily through outright malice but through "friendship" of a kind. It's just that the group of insiders got even smaller this time around at these particular awards. Ridiculous: sure. But a difference of degree not kind.

An example: there is no "best of" category in the last couple of decades that a Stephen King novel deserves to have won, but if you check the records you'll find that he consistently wins. Why? People know his name. Those of us published with small presses (whose size is no indication of their professionalism)  -- and women, people of colour and queer writers -- struggle to get on ballots because we often sell fewer copies and have less name recognition. So yeah, we tend to look at awards with a skeptical eye or face the arguably ghettoising effect of starting our own awards. We don't begrudge Jones and others' their vitriol, we're simply mildly amused that they've just noticed that awards aren't always given to the best after all.

And yes, I have received awards. And yes, I always give gracious thanks. And no, I don't expect anything to change.

UPDATE: The winner of the best novel returns her award. So far no male award winners have been bullied into returning theirs.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Curse of the Werewolf

My fondness for Oliver Reed is well know, I suspect. Curse of the Werewolf is a fine Hammer offering that doesn't get the love Cushing and Lee get or the vamps and Frankies do. But as it's October already, it seems appropriate to highlight one of the less well known films of the famous British studio that brought cleavage to horror (well, maybe not single-handedly, but --) and helped boost a number of new actors into the spotlight.

Before Curse, Reed had mostly had parts with titles like "Man with Bucket on his Head" and "Teddy Boy in Cinema Fight"although he also had "Poet" and in Tony Hancock's The Rebel a rather noticeable (okay, maybe it was just me) French "Artist in Café" who help inspire Anthony.

In Curse, Ollie turns out to be the Christmas-born spawn of a mute servant girl raped by a bestial beggar, thrown together by an evil Marques. Raised by the kindly Don Corledo, the wolfish boy learns his terrible curse and gets cautioned that only love can tame the beast. When a friend takes the grown up Leon to a brothel, the beast emerges (Freud who?) and only his innocent fiancée can keep the beast at bay. But can the beast be chained?

Well, it is a Hammer film, so don't expect that all will be well. For more overlooked films, drop by Sweet Freedom for Todd's compendium. In case you missed it, I am now an officially registered alien and have my card to prove it. A long day, but at last it's done.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Cliffs of Moher

I had my first guests visit: Marie, a fellow Fulbrighter in Cork, and Jean, her NYC friend. We had a lovely dinner at Ard Bia Thursday night and we headed off to the Cliffs of Moher on Friday. We were lucky to have sun at the cliffs even though it was pouring in Galway. Here are some photos from the trip and a few from around town.