Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Weird New England

Perilous Cheryl tells us that at last Joe Citro's Weird New England is out and features a bunch of her pictures and well known male model, the Joey Zone. Buy it today! And don't forget to visit The New England Anomaly.

Running Up That Hill (Again)

The Guardian reports that Kate Bush will finally be releasing her new single, the first in twelve years, next month, then a double album the first week in November (in the UK anyway).

We've seen some old clips of Kate recently due to, I suppose, the very small world of British showbiz. A while back we got the box set of the Secret Policeman's Balls (Amnesty Int'l benefits) and there she was, singing "Running Up that Hill" with her mentor Dave Gilmour. The oddest thing was a short clip of her (thanks Jeff) on Peter Cook's Revolver singing "Them Heavy People" where her performance was edited with clips of the ball from The Prisoner (the refrain of the song is "rolling the ball..."). And I swear I saw a young, pre-punk Billy Idol in the audience. Have to watch it again -- not entirely unlikely after all, given the small world of British showbiz.

It can be a good thing -- think of all the collaborations owed to it, not least of which would be Monty Python. All of them worked on various shows and projects and at just the right moment, together. Unlike the US, where people are instantly pigeonholed by their first success, it is possible in the UK to go from pop star to novelist to chat show host. But here -- well, maybe Fitzgerald was right, except when it comes to movies.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Saturday Morning

We got up a bit later than expected because it's not only overcast, but with all the windows covered, it's a bit dark. But we're fine and even have power and cable (and cable modem). There are some good gusts of wind, but not very much rain. We hear there's big rain outside of town to the north and west, but not so much here. So far, so good.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday Afternoon

Well, the winds are picking up, but Rita is now only a category 3 and the eye is losing cohesion. We have found all the folks we thought were evacuating still in town. Fortunately, that means we could take the Honda over to Jim and Angela's. The bottom of our driveway is not much higher than the drainage ditches, so the car closest to the road would likely get wet, and the Honda sits so low. With just one car parked by the garage door, we should be all right.

The windows are covered as much as possible (which makes it rather dark in here, despite the sun still shining outside). Just checked in on Peter who also offered us a port in the storm -- if our power goes out, we will probably think about taking him up on that. Of course, we would bring movies with us ;-)

Fingers Crossed

It appears now that the eye will pass to the east of us -- the second best outcome for us (the best, of course, being that it dissipates off the coast, which seems a rather remote possibility at this point). This will put us on the better side of the storm, though there will still be significant problems with flooding and winds. We're still expecting to be without power at some point for an undetermined length of time, but we filled the freezer with 2 litre bottles full of drinking water, there are plenty of bottles in the fridge too. We'll do the final preparations this morning and then, just wait and see.

I have to take the bird feeder down soon, but it's very busy right now with a bunch of sparrows filling up before the storm arrives. Kipper is sitting on the window seat, eyes glued to their fluttering wings. Even Maggie is prowling around when she would usually be asleep. They can no doubt feel the difference -- air pressure? or just the quiet? It's not silent, but quiet enough that every sound magnifies. A car driving down Main Street reverberates here. A dog barks, and the echoes resound across the streets as the next dog picks up the cry.

No paper this morning -- it's amazing how much of my morning routine depends on poring through the paper. I guess I can read it online, but it's not the same. But the radio is on, "bringing us news of fresh disasters," to steal a line from Beyond the Fringe (must write up that review, absolutely brillant DVD!). Perhaps it's time to turn off the radio -- obsessively retelling the tragic story of that bus does not add anything new.

Thanks for all the kind wishes, folks. It's always wonderful (and humbling) to know how many people care about us.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hurricane Updates

Hey folks, just to let you know we will be staying in our house in the Heights, which is expected to be well out of the flood surges. We do have to worry about winds, though, and are doing our best to prepare for them. Lots of water, movables inside. Yes, we're going to fill the bathtub.

Cell networks are already overloaded, so calls may not go through. We'll plan to update you all via the blogs because that will be the simplest thing. We will probably lose electricity, so we may not be able to email as constantly as usual, but we'll do our best to update Fri and Sat when the worst of it will be.

Wish us luck -- hope for the storm to reduce or at least track further east. We'll try to keep warm and dry.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rita's Blowing Into Town!

And campus is closed as of noon today. Officially, they're evacuating the city. Unofficially, many people wonder if it isn't policial nervousness motivating the rather stringent measures. I'm trying to finish up work and water my plants because no one but emergency personnel will be able to get on campus after five today. And no, the hurricane is not expected before Friday. We'll see -- I'm hoping that it either dissipates or tracks further south, but we won't know for a couple days. A few stolen hours of freedom, however, are always welcome -- maybe now I can catch up on my work (assuming light and power of course!). Do students guess how much their professors relish the unexpected day off too?


Good news this week: I'll be going to Kalamazoo, the big annual gathering of medievalists in that most unlikely of spots, Kalamazoo MI. I'll be giving a paper on a panel about using modern texts to teach medieval ones. I'll be giving a paper on the two films Anchoress and Sorceress and how they can be used to give students a better picture of life in the middle ages for women. I'll also be part of a roundtable put together by Rebecca Roundhouse on "Writing the Middle Ages for Young Readers" with some other fiction writers, including Tracy Barrett who was at Dairy Hollow before me.

Monday, September 19, 2005

National Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Arrrr, mateys -- check out the main site for the celebration and tips on how to spew the nautical jargon.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


In between trying to get actual work done, we slipped off to check out the 20% off sale at Half Price Books, as all good bibliophiles must. As usual we found a few things too good to pass up -- especially at that price. As some of you know, I've been on a British comedy kick for some months now -- or should I say a more pronounced kick. I suppose I have been on a British comedy kick since I first saw Monty Python in my early teens (or did hearing the Goon show come first? I cannot remember anymore; maybe Robert does). Anyhow, this summer I have been immersed in reading things like Sunshine on Putty and A Great Silly Grin as well as the scripts in Peter Cook's Tragically I was an Only Twin. Thanks to a certain online auction service, I have also found some terrific (and cheap!) DVDs as well.

On Friday, we watched a recent Ebay purchase, Not Only But Always, the film based on one of the biographies of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. It was pretty good as these things go (condensing anyone's life into 100 minutes is going to leave out a lot). But what a surprise to be looking through the drama section at Half Price the next day, and find a UK edition of Dud and Pete: The Dagenham Dialogues. I just stared at it for a minute -- it just seemed a little too much like a thought made manifest, but it's real enough. How odd, though, that it should make its way to a suburban Texas bookstore at just this time.

I think one the funniest things I heard recently was when Alan Moore was interviewing Brian Eno for Chain Reaction, a Radio 4 show, that Eno said when he and Bowie get together they slip almost unconsciously into Pete and Dud voices. I've found my own inspiration from all this by writing a very silly play. I'll be sure to pass it around when it's done.

"I've got a viper in this box. It's not an asp..."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Two in One Day

My copies of two different publications arrived today! First up is my short story "On Buffalo Bayou," dedicated to Ray Bradbury, which appears in the latest edition of the literary journal New Texas. It is my only story set in Texas, but I guess my attraction to water was just too strong -- after all the UHD campus is at the confluence of the Buffalo and White Oak Bayous. All kinds of things dwell on the bayou...

My other piece is the account of the Conference on Women and the Divine this June in Liverpool. It appears as "Coming Together from Many Nations" in the new issue (36) of The Beltane Papers. As usual it has a gorgeous cover, this one by Maria Snedecor. And I'm right "next door" to my pal, intrepid Finnish-American reporter Diane Saarinen. Of course, TPB is full of great essays and lots of reviews, too.

Gene got an amazing publication in the mail, too; perhaps he'll write about it on his blog.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Publication: Circle

I have a short piece in the latest issue of Circle magazine, pp 19-20. It's an account of the presentation I made at the conference on Women and the Divine in Liverpool this summer. A longer account of the conference itself will be coming out in the latest issue of The Beltane Papers, but this short piece allowed me to talk about my "ritual about ritual."

My first priority right now is my medieval academic work, but I don't want to let my work on ritual studies get too far behind. It's hard to have so many interests sometimes. There simply aren't enough hours in the day...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Beowulf Bouncing Back At You!

All of the sudden, Beowulf is once more in the news and in the imaginations of folks around the world. Up today, the musical in Ireland. Coming soon, the Icelandic film which seems to have only the most tangential relation to the poem. And going into productiom (perhaps)is Neil Gaiman's take on the story which has been attached to rumors like Angelina Jolie playing the "Queen of Darkness" (FYI: there is no such character in the poem).

I'll see 'em all if I can. After all, I survived Lambert's Beowulf, so I am hardy enough for any of these -- however silly they may end up. Yet I await most eagerly Benjamin Bagby's full-length production slated for the Met next year. I have seen him twice perform the first portion of the poem. He performs much like an Anglo-Saxon scop in Old English with a reconstruction of a Saxon lyre. It's quite amazing.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Review: Meet the Beatles

No, not the album, but Steven Stark's new book about the cultural influence of the group. He argues that they helped create a feminising influence on culture in both their music and lives. I would write at greater length, but I sent off a query to the Journal of Popular Culture and they may be able to use my review (completed tonight). I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in reading about the group's influence as well as what they said and did. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but I did learn a couple of things I did not know about the Beatles (really!) including tour manager Neil Aspinall's affair with Mona Best (!) which resulted in, among other things, a son. Stark loses steam by the end, but it was a fun and interesting read throughout. A little too Paul-reliant for my tastes, particularly considering how Mr. McCartney has tried to ret-con the past now that there are fewer folks to disagree with his "memory" of what happened, but on the whole Stark's narrative proves entertaining.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Tori in Houston

We made the long journey downtown (5 minutes!) to catch Tori's show at the Hobby Center, AKA the ripoff joint that adds a $9.50 service charge to each ticket. Nonetheless, it was worth it all, even if the Hobby Center staff seemed a bit nonplussed by the young tattooed and hair-challenged crowd. Like the couple sitting behind us, they had no idea what they were in for. The Chronicle had made jokes about the "Tori's Piano Bar" section of the concert (where she plays audience requests sent over the internet), saying she wouldn't be playing "Freebird." "So, what's this Freebird she won't be playing?" asked the annoyingly loud clueless woman of her neighbor. The kids explained it was a song by Lynyrd Skynyrd, who no doubt was similarly unknown to her. She not-so-surreptitiously complained about not being able to see over my hair, as if I had Texas hair. Hey, at least she wasn't sitting behind Gene! Being at the front of a section, we also had voluminous leg room -- hurrah!

The opening acts were both good. Gone were the whiny boys of the past couple tours. First up was The Like, a trio from SoCal who play stripped down rock. The bassist looked about 14 and the drummer like Cousin Itt, but they played straighforward music despite the vocalist being a bit muffled. After that the Ditty Bops came on. They were fun and playful, a sort of jazzy bluegrass style like a stripped down Squirrel Nut Zippers meets Dame Darcy.

Tori came out in a pink chiffon dress and played "Original Sinsuality" against a backdrop of a big apple tree with a snake curled around it. As usual, the audience was screaming for her. She segued into a rather long journey through "Beauty Queen" and "Horses." So it was a surprise when she dipped further back and produced "Caught a Lite Sneeze" which sounds quite different with only her own accompaniment; although, as usual she was doing a lot of the dual keyboard playing -- one hand on a piano, the other on an organ, and her swaying between. Also as usual, it was a treat to see her intereact with fans, complementing them on being "such great comrades" and happily complying with shouted demands to "show your shoes!" (she's well known for her shoe fetish).

A note on the merchandise table (where Gene bought me the cool pirate bag and an iron-on patch!) said some of the money would be going to the Red Cross for victims of Katrina. Thoughts of New Orleans seemed to guide her choice for the piano bar section. After a long intro about "her survival" she segued into a cover of the Animal's "House of the Rising Sun," although most of audience didn't seem to realize it was a song about New Orleans and that's who "she" was talking about. Tori then tried to figure out a song her make-up assistant requested, which she had never played, but then finally decided it wasn't going to happen and sang her way out of it, "maybe in the encore..." Instead she did Elton John's "Daniel."

There's not so much story telling as in the past -- one of the things I particularly loved -- but she does tend to do longer intros to songs, sometimes incorporating stories, or explaining the genesis of songs, such as the sung introduction to "Taxi Ride," the tribute to her friend, the late Kevyn Aucoin. There was a mood of wistfulness throughout the show, broken by a rare appearance of the sprightly "Happy Phantom." I don't think I have had a chance to hear her play it live before, and the easy joy of its bouncy melody and positive lyrics provided a respite before diving into the depths of "The Beekeeper," a song about the pain of loss and dealing with death.

She came back for two encores, finally ending with a slow rendition of "Baker Baker" before giving her last waves to the adoring crowd. We all trailed out to the parking garage. Since we were on the fifth floor, Gene and I enjoyed the not-completely sweltering night (a rarity!) by leaning over the edge of the wall gazing at downtown (well, you can't see the stars with allt he light pollution). The bayou was an oily black and the gaudy ferris wheel drew the eye. There's not much to see in Houston at night. I remember Ulla saying it looked more like an Eastern European nation. But traffic wasn't moving for a bit, so we spent the time thinking about other concerts -- like running down to NYC from UConn to see Cibo Matto at the Bowery Ballroom when they debuted Stereotype A. A long night, but worth it.

See the whole set list from The Dent.