Thursday, August 31, 2006

Odd Music

Gene forwarded this link to me: Odd Music. Those of you who love the output of the folks at Experimental Music who made Gravichords, Whirlies and Pyrophones, you'll love this site which has a wonderful gallery of fantastic instruments as beautiful as they are strange.

The Perils of Research

I read with some amusement the story on the great Betjeman scandal of late. The New York Times has better pictures, but the Guardian actually spells out the offending phrase from the fake letter. I suppose the advantage of being a medievalist is that the authors are long dead and often anonymous, but the other scholars aren't!

I have to go turn off the radio now because NPR is talking to Pat Buchanan as if he were 'somebody' and not just a racist hate-monger. Yesterday, as I was driving home from campus, the NPR business show had a story on Wikia and the commentator referred to "chin rubbing academics" which annoyed me to no end. I still marvel at the anti-intellectualism of this country. We're supposed to be so concerned about education in this nation, but the truth is that there's a common tendency to disparage people with "too much" education.

And I do not rub my chin!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I Know Movie Stars

And chances are, if you're reading this blog, you do too: check out the New London Day's story on the film about the Reducers, "America's Best Unsigned Band."

Why? Well, the Reducers rock. And better yet, the absolutely fabulous Queen of Everything and Marko "Punk Rock" Fontaine are both in the film. Whoo hoo. Go see stars!

Monday, August 28, 2006

And if you enjoyed Beowulf...

...why not read the "sequel"?

Listening to Mission of Burma sing "Nancy Reagan's Head" (thanks, Michael) and reading a review of Dylan interviews (thanks, Gene) before I get out of here and go home. Day one done without too much horror -- and a good bit of fun.

First Day of Classes

Argh -- first day, many worries, lots of nerves. It helps that they're working on the roof of the house where my office is. But my photocopies are made and my Powerpoint lecture for the medieval class is ready. I still worry, though Gene is right, it will no doubt be fine. Robert, of course, has advised that I have the students stand on their desks and rip pages out of their books. Har har.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Jade Warrior

Alert film-making pal, David Schmidt, noticed something odd about the film Jade Warrior. Sure, it looks like another stylish martial arts film, but look closer --

it's Finnish?!

Yep! According to the website it combines kung fu with the Kalevala, ancient China and modern Finland. Wow! I will definitely have to keep an eye out for this film.

Orienting Myself

Actually, I suppose, not so much orienting myself as allowing other people to orient me to my new campus at The College of St. Rose. I have an ID now (which I know is genuine because the watermark on the ID says "genuine") and a parking pass, as well as an office which I have begun to unpack -- but certainly have not finished, in large part because (yes, everyone, all together now) there are not enough bookshelves.

The offices are neat because they're in houses that have been converted to office space, leading to unusual factors like having two closets in my office. They would serve better in our house (which has only one closet!) but, oh well. They will shortly become book storage spaces. I have windows that look out onto our verandah and Western Avenue. I'll have to take the PDA tomorrow and take a couple of pictures.

Writing across the curriculum tomorrow and dinner with some old UConn friends who also live here now; Thursday is President's day, then an Arts & Humanties reception and then out for drinks with some of the other junior faculty in our department. Somehow I will finish my syllabuses and another writing project due this week...

Although I hate to have this long vacation end, I'm kind of eager to start the semester and see what my students will be like. It's nerve-wracking (I can't find one of the texts I planned to start the semester teaching) but it's also a new adventure I expect will be a lot of fun. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

No Common Snarks

The Boojums visited us yesterday, and far from "softly and suddenly vanishing away," we had a very lovely visit, despite the rain which put the kibosh on our planned croquet game. They were laden with lovely stuff as usual, including an offering of brats which much pleased the gods of gastronomie.


It's great being back in the Northeast again, close to folks we missed a lot while we were living on the third coast (not that we don't miss our friends down there now -- and hope we can persuade them to visit us!). It's wonderful being in weather we can live with -- I think our windows have been open since we got here. Even rain is welcome -- although not without problems. A box of books in the shed got wet and several books damaged. Argh. But I got to move a few things into my office, despite the fact that we found on Thursday that my key did not work. Bit by bit. New faculty orientation and various other meetings this week, including a chance to finally meet some students. Nervous, but excited -- it will be an action-packed week!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pierrot Lunaire et les DVDs Fennique

I turned on the tv briefly to see what the Arts channel was playing -- in our tiny portion allotted, it is possible to find silent film productions of the Ring cycle or Howard Keel singing on old kinescope telecasts. I saw a couple of minutes of a fascinating video of a work I did not know.

Don't you just love the internet? In seconds I had found out (from the lines "moonbeam for a rudder, waterlily for a boat" that the work was Schoenburg's "Pierrot Lunaire" which one can hear in its entirety on-line, and that the video with Christine Schaefer is available for purchase. Wow.

Last night we watched the rather impressionistic video I bought in Finland that has beautiful natural shots of the countryside accompanied by cello and kantele. It's quite lovely, if a little soporific in th evening. But it also has two short documentaries on the kantele, so it was well worth the price (after all, it was a markdown at Sokos!). The night before we watched all the Aki Kaurismaki shorts on Total Balalaika Show which I bought in the duty free shop.

Ever the bargain hunter!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Finland Recap

Far too much to cover in a single post, so I'll just offer some highlights here in no particular order. Suffice to say that the airline issues were needlessly draconian (sealed duty free purchases not allowed!?), the expenses considerable -- and worth it all.

Laura led me to the Gallen-Kallela Museum that had once upon a time been his house -- and what a house! and a lovely walk to get there through a park in the northern part of Helsinki. I made the most of my 48 hour Helsinki card by visiting as many museums as I could. In addition to Gallen-Kallela's house, I visited the Atheneum, where many more of his paintings were on display, including the Aino triptych; the National Museum where there is a wonderful wing all about the pre-history of Finland and a great gift shop; the Cygnaeus Gallery, high on a hill near the southern tip of the city where you can see Suomenlinna, the island fortress in the gulf as well as many ships on their way to ports far and near; the Botanical Gardens where (yes) I saw the ivy among other wonderful plants and trees; and of course, Kiasma the museum of contemporary art, featured in the lovely Times story just before I left.

Of course my Helsinki card gave me free rides on all the public transportation too, so I could roam the city in search of these places and general sightseeing as well. Laura was my intrepid guide to much -- I would never have found my way to the Gallen-Kallela house without her, and we had so much fun shopping and walking around the city. And what lovely meals too, at the Strindberg cafe or that lovely Italian restaurant where we had a late lunch with Arla.

Friday night's dinner was amazing, out on an island in the gulf with Laura, Arla, Risto, Jyri and Anna -- I had this delicious reindeer and mushroom soup and then a tasty entree of salmon with more mushrooms. We strolled back through the city where the streets were bustling because the days are still long. We decided to have a drink on the terrace at the top of the Sokos builing (ten floors up, one of the higher buildings in Helsinki) as the sun was setting and the red moon was rising. Perfect!

Saturday was my shopping day, to buy the things I had to bring back (in addition to the books and cards that I had already bought). I went to UFF and to the Academic Bookstore and naturally, to the tori, where I bought the reindeer skin Robert wanted (and lugged it around all day!). I went back to the Moomin store, but reined in my spending after stopping by Digelius. By the end of the day I was tired but feeling like I had wrung every bit of fun out of my trip.

Yes, Lordi was everywhere!

And the nice surprise -- flew back on one of the Moomin airplanes!

When I stop being so lazy, I'll get my 260+ photos uploaded to share. But tomorrow I'm supposed to be able to move into my new office at St. Rose, so we'll see when I can get to it. Gene has already burned them onto a CD for me, so I should just upload them, but it would be helpful to give them meaningful labels first...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hyvää Paivää!

Terve from Helsinki!

There is just too much to tell you and show you all, but I can't get the pictures from my camera online yet, so you'll just have to wait. In short: the boat trip to the rock paintings was WONDERFUL! and the sights of Helsinki are many -- there was even a native American band in the Esplande yesterday, there are Lordi fans and goths everywhere. Anya's cousin Laura has already been a great tour guide -- we're off to the Gallen-Kallela museum this afternoon with her daughter Arla, too. Wow! I haven't spent all my money at the Moomin shop or the Academic Bookstore, but I will feel the bite by the time this trip is done. And we thought UK prices were high! But what great public transportation and what a clean city, and bustling with tourists from just about everywhere. I have heard and seen Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, English, Americans...Helsinki is a top tourist destination it seems, despite the costs. And there are ways to live cheaply (i.e. fill up on the great hotel breakfast which includes everything from cereal and eggs to meatballs, smörgåsor (sandwiches), yummy fruit flavored yoghurt, and Lipton tea that actually tastes like real tea!

I'm writing this at the Tourist Information Centre -- there are several terminals here and not much of anybody using them (only one other person at the moment). But I didn't come to Finland to do email, so I'm going to be on my way to the National Museum where I can see more of Ancient Suomi to fulfill my quest (and justify my Finlandia Foundation grant!). This trip has already given me so many new ideas -- new inspirations!


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Suomi Bound!

Off to Poughkeepsie for leg one of the long journey that will find me in Finland by tomorrow morning. Trying to make sure I have everything -- tickets, money, passport... I packed an extra bag for all the things I hope to bring back (thanks to Cassie for tips on where to shop for cheap!).

And no, Robert, I will not be bringing back a block of soapstone.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Taxing History

The Guardian has a story today about the digitizing of the Domesday Book. This was the tax record of EVERYTHING ("not an ox or cow or swine" was missed) in Britain, so the Norman king could fill his coffers with the proper taxes. The aim, of course, was to have sufficient funds to go to war. Surprise. Plus ça la change, plus ça la même chose.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Touching Ancient Finland

Sunday I leave for Finland. Sometimes I just have to say it out loud! Actually, I frequently say it out loud because I still can't believe it. I have been working on a cycle of stories for a few years now that grew out of my readings in Finnish mythology, but I knew I had to see, smell and taste ancient Finland before I could feel they were complete. So I wrote up a grant application to that effect and -- surprise! -- The Finlandia Foundation gave me the money to make this dream real.

It will be interesting just getting there -- Metro North from Poughkeepsie, MTA to Queens, Air Train to the airport; let's hope it's not Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Particularly because when I get to Helsinki, I have to take a bus from the airport to the train station and then a train to Mikkeli. This where I'll get to see the rock paintings. I'm so excited!

After Mikkeli, I'll get to spend a few days in Helsinki where there are of course many things to do: museums to see, botanical gardens, UFF stores, the big Academic Bookstore, and of course, Moomins!

Only a week! It will go by so fast...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

NYT Review of a new book on Tiptree

Janet Maslin's review of new book on James Tiptree Jr. highights the troubled life rather than the seismic influence Sheldon/Tiptree had on perceptions of gender and writing, but is typical of "high lit" dismissal of "genre" writing. The book sounds good, if a bit humorless.

The Noughties

Hands down winner for the best title of this decade -- from a Guardian story on the 50 year anniversary of the National Youth Theatre (good piece, too). The Noughties -- an appropriate title for a time of corruption, evil and swaggering bullies.

Saratoga without the Horses

We escaped the heat a little yesterday by heading up to Saratoga to see our friends Dan, Krista and Kaitlin. In an unprecedented move, the track had shut down because of the heat, so there was less traffic in town due to the lack of (what locals call) "track trash." It seems inevitable that a town dependent upon a particular industry has an ambivalent attitude toward that industry.

Our friends live in my dream house, dammit: A big old sprawling farm house with an orchard and a paddock. They're in the process of restoring it (when Dan's not attempting to saw off his fingers) and it's looking very good. We relaxed for a while as Kaitlin proudly showed off her Nintendog, then headed over to Mamma Mia's to meet Krista who, ironically, works down here in Troy. MMMmmMamma Mia! I have left overs. And a visit to Saratoga wouldn't be compete without a stop by Humpty Dumpty's for dip tops.

Thanks, Dan, for the mentioning the Albany Eye.

Still hot today -- it supposed to cool down, but there's not much sign of it yet. I need to go do some laundry, so I will have some clean clothes to take to Finland, but it's hard to get motivated in this humidity...

[This post brought to you courtesy of "Recover post" -- argh!]

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New York: Land of Red Tape

Okay, so we can't get our insurance cleared until we produce our marriage license. Do we have one? No. We had to fill out the form and mail it to Mansfield with a copy of our driver's licenses. And driver's licenses! Can you believe all the requirements needed just to get a driver's license?! Of course, Texas driver's licenses do not show the date issued, so we had to fill out another form on-line (at least it was on-line -- imagine having to do this all through the post) and PAY to have a driver's report sent to us that will confirm the date issued (supposedly). And then bring our passports and Social Security cards and a wad of money...

I wish we had national driver's licenses; or would that get too Orwellian? In smaller countries they have national licenses.

Well, despite the prevailing "opinions" about global warming, it's uncharacteristically hot today, so I think we will go to the mall and await the arrival of our various forms and certificates.