Monday, December 31, 2007

On the borderlands

According to the Gregorian calendar, we stand on the edge of a new year. Since most people in this part of the world share that calendar, the belief is ubiquitous. It's fascinating how much our conception of time guides our lives. The arbitrary markings in opposition to natural markers (sunrise, sunset, warming and cooling seasons) try to impose an artificial sense of control over the natural world -- and we imagine we have some control.

We have returned from our visit to Connecticut (and filling up on cheap Massachusetts gas: at $2.97 it's a difference of thirty-some cents over local prices). We had a good time at Miss Wendy's where we finally watched the rest of The Simpsons Movie and the first couple of episodes of Paranoia Agent (yes, the song is still stuck in my head). A nice surprise to have Alex on hand, too, so we had a chance to catch up on her life in grad school and some exciting new comics news.

After some fine chili, it was over to the Aloha Alcohula where drinks and snacks were in plentiful supply with the QoE and Johnny 10X the always gracious hosts. Marko was in black-n-white and the Boojums in mostly black (black is the always black). Much conversation, silliness and laughter ensued as always. It was great fun to see Bernie play with Fang using the laser level, aka the most expensive cat toy. We managed to sit up a while longer with Miss Wendy after the party and slept rather late the next day before having a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, salmon and cream cheese.

Yet after that nosh we headed over to the Vampire Bed & Breakfast where Elena immediately began plying us with food, including some tasty pizza that Rod ran out to get from the notoriously cranky Angelina's. Sufficiently carbed up, we headed for home to collapse with a very happy Kipper.

Tonight we're scheduled to hit a party at a colleague's house; it's a tribute to her winning personality that we're willing to go out on "amateur night" especially when we're both feeling rather tired. I'm not sure we'll last long, but I'd feel bad about not turning up when we had already responded positively. So Gene's out shoveling away the few inches of snow we got last night so I can run to the laundromat. Hope it's not a nightmare. Too many of those lately.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Taking the Mountain to Mohammed

[Thanks to for the picture, where the lead story right now is the new Hello Kitty line for young males.]

We're off to Connecticut to see friends today, staying with Miss Wendy (who's also got A Hunt visiting), dropping by the Aloha Alcohula [CT's best tiki bar] to hobnob with the QoE and Johnny 10X and the Boojums. On the way back, we'll drop by the Vampire Bed & Breakfast to see the crazy mama herself and her handsome spouse. It should be fun (if I can get "Ironman" out of my head).

Yesterday we had a great (delayed birthday) lunch with the Crispinus clan at DeFazio's (mmmm!). Long-suffering uxor Krista was in good spirits and Kaitlin did not torment her papa too much. They loaded us up with a plethora of cookies through which we have already been making our way (mmmm again!). Thanks, you guys!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kantele Power

After looking at Gerry's video, I was curious to see what new kantele-themed clips might have been added lately and found this great video of some Finnish school kids playing Lordi's "Hard Rock Hallelujah" on kanteles. Wonderful! You can see the original Eurovision winning songsters' video here or (live at the contest here).

Signs and Omens

Taking off a couple days to relax often seems a bit of a mixed blessing -- there's always that much more to do when you get home. But who wouldn't want a couple of days idleness with Robert who always feeds us as if he's expecting to harvest pâté from our overstuffed bodies? I actually even read, too, while Robert bustled around cooking prime rib the first night and goose the second (not to mention the various other tasty tidbits, all washed down with copious wine). Miss Wendy joined us for the second day and much merriment, calling family members from all three families and watching movies. She was even kind enough to give in to my wheedling when she got the pirate tattoo from her Xmas cracker and I wanted to trade the horn I got for it -- yay! Sign of a good friend -- now I owe her. You can see how I have carefully maintained it. How long can it last?

If only all the news were good: I feel the same chill of foreboding at the assassination of Bhutto that I did when the buddhas were destroyed by the Taliban. If the outcry in March 2001 had been louder, would we all be in the same situation we are now?

My friend Gerry, the craftsman who made my first kantele, sent along this video of a piece of music with the wish that we all find peace in ourselves as a place from which to start to bring peace in the world. A lovely peformance -- and a nice reminder of the power of music to heal.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Publication: Up Against the Wall 10

Hurrah! After some unfortunate delays, the latest issue of Up Against the Wall is live. It includes our gift giving recommendations, as well as my reviews of the documentary The Mindscape of Alan Moore and the comedy The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer starring the ever-fabulous Peter Cook. As always the issue is chock full of heartfelt recommendations and opinionated reviews, not least of which is the editorial from fearless leader Phil about the film that took over his life this year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

How to get to Carnegie Hall

Yes, yes, you can practice, practice, practice -- or you can just go see Flamenco Duo (pictured to the right in a photo by Heikki Jokiniemi). Flamenco Duo is Carlos Revollar and the lovely Ulla Suokko, a wonderful and multi-talented performer (and friend of the Wombats). As winners of the Artists International's Special Presentation Award, they'll be playing at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on Sunday February 10, 2008 at 5.30pm. You can buy tickets at their website where you can also see the program of music. It promises to be an evening of exhilarating music. I haven't yet had a chance to see the two perform together, but Ulla has spoken so rapturously about their musical partnership, I am thrilled there will be this opportunity. It's kind of funny to think that Ulla may look familiar to most people because of her appearance with Conan O'Brien, but the real treat is to hear her perform. She's an extraordinary musician!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Review: Sweeney Todd

Hear that?

It's the sound of goths around the world emptying their closets. Now I thought it was so they could buy new clothes in the guise of the new icons of gothdom in this film, the consumptively pale Mr. Depp and Ms. Bonham-Carter; Gene, however, figured that it was in disgust that goth has gone mainstream with Burton's new film. I can see the Halloween costumes next year already churning out of Chinese factories and I can feel a pang of disappointment that the grey streak in my hair is not more prominent.

Okay, yes; I am a sucker for Johnny Depp, which Gene can attest to after sitting through Arizona Dream, but even the NYTimes thought he was terrific in this. He's not got a great voice, but it is an evocative one. Who knew Helena B-C had some pipes on her?

The cartoony opening credits are less effective than the setting throughout. This is Hogarth's London, a pestilential prison on Gin Lane. When Todd sings of his London it's easy to understand his scorn against this back drop:

There's a hole in the world
Like a great black pit
And the vermin of the world
Inhabit it
And its morals aren't worth
What a pig could spit
And it goes by the name of London.

The tragic tale spins out in gloom and shadow that signal the devotion to horror that suits Sondheim's dark vision. Sondheim has realized the power of song to uplift even the most morbid topics (think Assassins) and Burton makes the most of this. While the dark humor remains, make no mistake -- this is a tale of revenge and blood. While the blood is a technicolor spray, the violence is very palpably real -- I winced a lot, especially when "customers" went down the chute. It's not a film for everyone, but if you like it dark and don't mind blood, it's a wonderfully surreal trip.

You know the main cast are going to be great -- Alan Rickman almost makes you pity the Judge, but not for long. Timothy Spall just about oozes oily malevolence. The real bonus is the mostly new younger cast: Jamie Campbell Bower makes for a powerfully hopeful Anthony and Jayne Wisener looks like Christina Ricci's lost sister from Sleepy Hollow and lends Joanna a wistfulness that her tortured childhood predicts. Most amazing is Ed Sanders as the boy Toby who has a range of emotions to present and a great singing voice. There are a couple of cameos (one almost too quick to catch) that add a little extra fun.

While most of the film is Depp and Bonham-Carter, the supporting cast keep the film from devolving into just a star vehicle. The wonderful ambiance throughout really throws you into another world. Some of the set pieces really stun -- the brief party scene is just glorious and the whole meat pie system is perfectly gruesome and plausible. While I still quail at the thought of Burton tackling Alice (as Gene says, how will Johnny look in the blonde wig?), this goes a long way toward resurrecting the reputation of the man responsible for the remake of Planet of the Apes.

If you've got a taste for the macabre with catchy tunes, you'll love it. Just be sure to bring some gin and a meat pie for sustenance.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Strange (Solstice) Sensations

Happy Solstice everyone -- the sun begins its return! May hope return as well.

Having finished my review of Deleuze and Horror Film and caught a cold, I justified retiring to bed for a little video splurge yesterday which included finally watching the last half hour of Monte Carlo or Bust AKA Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies. Not a great film (hence the delay in finishing it) but part of the Peter Cook oeuvre, so necessary to have accomplished. I did loot one of the character names for a work of my own, so there's that. After it, I decided to watch another episode of the Marty Feldman show (thanks, James!) and found myself in a madeleine in the tea moment.

Lightning Tours!

That's the clip above. It was one of those family things -- we always remembered it and used the "toot-toot, everyone back on the bus" whenever we got out of the car for a long time after (we can really run a thing into the ground). I can't be sure if they simply showed the Marty Feldman show in the States in the late sixties/early seventies, or if it was that comedy clip show that was maybe called "Comedy Tonight" (taking its name, of course, from the song in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). Either the clip show looted liberally from Feldman's show or they did just show whole episodes, because I recognized the next sketch, too about a "pet" in a giant wicker basket at the vets, although I probably didn't recognize at the time a young "Goodie" Tim Brooke-Taylor. The following stuntman sketch was written by show regulars Michael Palin and Terry Jones.

That clip show also provided us with another long-standing bit that was, of course, repeated ad infinitum. "Nuff, nuff": it came from a bit told with all the sound effects by a comedian I cannot quite bring to visual memory. The story is about a kangaroo and an elephant who are robbing a store (or a bank?). The sounds included the elephant chucking a brick through the window, the kangaroo stuffing things into its pouch, and so on. In the midst of the first run through, the elephant says "nuff, nuff" and the kangaroo says, "what's that?" and the elephant answers, "I got my trunk stuck in the door" (or window -- how memory fails us). It gets repeated without explanation in the "real" robbery and of course the audience laughs. For ages afterward, we'd all do the "nuff, nuff" and roll the window up and down, and laugh. I'm sure my folks got tired of it faster than we kids did, but they did it, too.

If anyone recognizes this bit or can tell me which comedian it is, I'll give you a cookie.

The other strange sensation was watching a film (thanks, Robert) starring someone I've only met as an adult, who in the film is playing a 15 year old (and is somewhere near that age). He looks recognizably similar, but he sounds almost exactly the same, which struck me as bizarre. I hope I don't sound like my fifteen year old self!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Prose at the Rose: Fulwiler

On line now: the latest interview and reading from Prose at the Rose, my podcast on local writers and writing at the College of Saint Rose radio. My guest this episode is colleague Megan Fulwiler who reads a wonderful essay on the challenges of buying a house as a single woman. We have fun talking about writing and teaching writing and her essay will make you laugh even as you share her anxiety in the face of intimidating paperwork and byzantine processes.

Anglo-Saxon Yuletide (Redux)

A slightly different (and Latin-free) version of the piece I read on the radio can be found at the winter edition of the The Oracle at Global Goddess.

On the shelves: "Raising Lempi"

In your local big chain bookstore, you'll find my story "Raising Lempi" in the pages of Circle Magazine. It tells the story of a group of friends discovering the restorative power of the sauna. It's accompanied by Elena's lovely illustration (much more attractive than the cover illustration, I have to admit; in the past they have had such good covers). It's a slight ego boost much needed at the moment, the current despondency cheered by the publication accepted ages ago. But that's the lagging nature of publication.

Another lovely present came in the mail: the Fantod Pack! Cheers to the Boojums -- a great combination of Edward Gorey art and tarot-esque form. Tarot cards have been used for years to tell the future or to convey the subconscious desires lurking in one's mind (depending on your beliefs). The Fantod Pack is also gorgeously illustrated and mordantly funny. The pack has been interpreted by Madame "Groeda Weyrd" (unscramble those letters) who is, of course, "of mixed Finnish and Egyptian extraction." Cards bear Gorey's singular artwork, like The Child, a picture of wee smiling skeleton pulling a toy bull standing against a typically ferny wallpaper. Madame tells us the card signifies "September, denigration, sexual inadequacy, sties, hallucinations, breakage, loss of youth, rust, crawling sickness, an obstacle, forced restraint, aberrations and catarrh."

Who wants a reading?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Eddie gets Medieval

Eddie Izzard tries out some of that Anglo-Saxon era English on an unsuspecting Frisian farmer (tip of the blog hat to Scott at Unlocked Wordhoard for the medieval viral vid):

You want fries with that MFA?

I'm not much on the same page with the Atlantic (or anybody else; what can I say? I'm cranky), but I have to say I was nodding my head through this piece by B. R. Myers about yet another inexplicably celebrated MFA-style writer. To be fair, I've not read anything by him, but I'm not going to rush to do so after digesting the excerpts in this article.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Quiet Birthday

Groovy! Elena's got the next few pages of the Jane Quiet story up over at the Goth Scouts blog, as well as a giggly Goth Strip riffing on the Beowulf movie.

Thanks to all who've called and emailed -- it's much appreciated. Though of course it would be great to actually see people, the weather hasn't co-operated. I think we have five layers (snow, ice, snow, ice, snow) to dig through this morning.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


The positive aspect of snow is that it can force you into slowing down. I must admit it's hard to find the good in the freezing rain that's supposed to come this afternoon, but an excuse to be stationary is probably enough. Friday I had my last two finals back to back, ending with the presentations from the Creative writing class. It was a pleasure to see how far the students had come (for the most part) and I told them to be very pleased with themselves and appreciate just how much they had accomplished. It came in the tangible form of their very large portfolios, which were a bit of a struggle to get back to my office through the snowy paths.

The freshman-level medieval class (non-majors) seemed to appreciate the opportunity for extra credit points, including "what kind of tea does your instructor drink?" because I always have my thermos of Twinings English Breakfast and usually burn my mouth on the first cup, making them chuckle. I also gave them up to three points for listing medieval films -- considering how much we talked about it and how much advertising there was for it, I was surprised that they didn't all name Beowulf.

Saturday started early with a trip to campus to be on time for the bus to graduation at the Empire Center. I make sure to be at mid-year graduation because Kalamazoo always conflicts with spring graduation. Unlike last year, I knew at least a dozen students who were graduating, which was nice. I got a little distracted by the president's speech, because he began by quoting Nicolas de Chamfort's advice, "Swallow a toad in the morning and you will encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day," but ended with a reference to one of the founding sisters of the college, who advised starting each day with an expression of joy. Would that be before or after the toad?

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get through as much grading as possible (I had no intention of taking all those portfolios home) before running to the post office (oh my, what a line) then rushing home to bake cookies, cut Gene's hair and get ready for the first of two parties. The hair came out okay, but the cookies less so. Fortunately Gene had made his special aromatic rice dish, so we were a hit anyway. Such good food! I'm grateful we have so many friends in the area already, but I'm even more grateful that they all cook so well.

This dark time of the year seems to exacerbate doubts and despair. I feel like a root of the poison tree of late. Two publications I have written for ceased publication this year, and a third seems to be tottering on the brink. I got a paid commission just last month, only to receive an email from the editor saying that the owners were halting publication. Unfortunate news for me, but I felt worse for the editor who was now out of job -- happy holidays. It feels like I cannot open an email without finding a rejection inside it. How did Blake maintain his confidence in the face of relentless adversity? Surely he doubted at times -- did it make him more certain the next moment?

If the Sun & Moon should doubt,
They'd immediately Go out.

My mind springs randomly to the Victorian protagonists of Dracula, like Mina Murray and Jack Seward. Stoker has the latter record in his diary, "I have a sort of empty feeling; nothing in the world seems of sufficient importance to be worth the doing... I knew that the only cure for this sort of thing was work..." So, to work; I have grading to do.

Happy Birthday Jane Austen -- and Philip K. Dick, two writers whose legacies live on. Sometimes you have to trust that your vision is right; just try not to think about the all too common fate of such writers to end up impoverished and unknown.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Radio, Radio

My essay on the Roundtable program of WAMC is officially scheduled for Monday morning about quarter after ten. It's me talking for a couple of minutes about medieval Yule celebrations. I start out with the Anglo-Saxon world, but because so little is known for sure about that time, I have to move forward, finally ending with the (late medieval) boar's head carol. It's an opportunity to read a little Old English, a little Latin, and a chance to get medieval on the WAMC audience.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How Congress Wastes its Time

H. Res. 847: Mr. McNulty has already received a complaint from me. Sure, it's just words with no legal effect, but rhetoric matters when it reinforces one narrowly intolerant point of view.

Lucia Day & Snow

Lucia day dawns with a heavy snowfall in upstate New York; when I saw "dawns" well, I wouldn't know about that because I didn't get up until 11. Longest I've slept in I don't know how long. You'd think the candles alone would have woken me up, but we went out last night to see The Golden Compass (review to follow) with our friend Lou and then watched Order of the Phoenix when we got home, so we were up rather late. Kipper did his part, crawling up between us to make us fall asleep, snoozing between my feet most of the night and sitting by my head when I started to wake up, as if he were trying to will me back to slumberland. Gene says he's been doing the Snoopy vulture pose over my head after I fall asleep. Is he plotting?

My colleagues publish in academic journals; Chuckie's friendly faculty find buried treasure! Who's cooler? Is there any doubt? Maybe we need a different patron saint for the college, although as saints go, one who lives and meditates in a garden and makes handicrafts to support her family and the local poor ain't so bad.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Black Sheep

Everybody's been talking about this on the Horror list. I may just have to break down and get it. I love the tagline about the "violence of the lambs."


I find it a tad ironic that last night I made nut brittle and this morning everything was coated with a thick shiny layer of ice -- at least I felt a strange sense of déjà vu as I chipped off the shards of ice glazing the car. I had woken up at the usual time, but went back to bed until I heard the snowplow go by. I figured that after rush hour the roads would be clear. As expected, the worst parts were at each end of the journey to campus, our driveway at home being a sheet of ice and the lot at my office barely punctured by the sprinkle of salt chucked on it. The crossing gates were stuck down at the railroad tracks, but the cops were there to wave us through (which nonetheless made me a tad uncomfortable).

I just don't have the adventures Miss Wendy has, but her story did remind me of a favorite song by Neil Innes that was part of the Rutland Weekend Television (with Eric Idle), where he performs as the Marx Brothers.

Friday with Jordan went okay. After worrying so much, the shot went fine. He never even flinched. Plus, Robert left us yummy enchiladas and fresh guacamole. Not to mention the fabulous breakfast, too -- he always spoils us. On the way home, not quite as many raptors as the last trip, but 17 or 18. Mostly they were red-tails, but there was one that I think was a Broad-winged Hawk, enjoying a meal up on a branch. We saw one in the process of catching her lunch as well. One raven sat way off in the distance on a lone tree.

The season heats up: finals to give this week (tomorrow and Friday), graduation and two parties Saturday, and of course, next Monday is my birthday -- where I already find that most of my local friends have to attend a meeting, while one of my colleagues is giving a holiday party that everyone here will probably attend. Grumble, grumble; nothing like a birthday the week before Xmas.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Grüß von Krampus?

Did the Krampus visit you last night? If so, you're reading this from a warm location, eh? Perhaps you were good and Saint Nikolaus filled your shoes with goodies (check before putting them on). Our pal Joey (illustrator, designer and inspiration for my chapbook When Little Joe the Krampus Met) sent along this link to some Krampus stylin' by Mister Reusch. We spent the evening with some friends near campus at Mahar's adding to our passports and doing the usual moaning about students before moving on to interesting topics like British comedy (who's obsessed?). Then we headed home just in time to meet Robert for some DeFazio's pizza (mmmm). He came up to show us how to give Jordan his insulin shot, because that's what we'll be doing tonight while he's down in the city for a Bard event. Eeek! I practiced on a satsuma. Let's hope it's enough.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Gene K Superstar!

Well, UConn Alumni Magazine recognizes it! Jim H. Smith's profile concludes:

Author of dozens of papers about comics, former chair of the International Comic Arts Festival, a lecturer in frequent demand and host of a scholarly Web site,, he is currently writing a guide to “essential graphic novels.” Kannenberg is, by general consensus, one of the world’s leading comics scholars, but he describes himself as “a guy who knows a lot about comics in general, and comics from around the world.”

For the shopping list

The folks at Knock Knock Books have just what you need!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


My students in the medieval film class watched The Virgin Spring today; they nominated it for "the feel good film of the year." I forgot to talk about Odin ahead of time, so they had no idea what the squawking raven presaged (or, for that matter, the guy with one eye and a cloak standing on the river bank, or the carved seat that Ingeri sits down on). But they were quiet as the proverbial mice all the way through which is unusual for them (and no, not sleeping). After the downbeat BBC version of the Pardoner's Tale last week and now this, they say I'm depressing them. "I usually feel happy after this class," one student complained.

My work is done.

Walking back to my office afterward, it was time as usual for the roosting of the crows. It's that time of year. Dozens fill the trees surrounding our building, calling to one another, catching up on the latest gossip, complaining about the weather, I'm sure.

Monday, December 03, 2007

"Learn from a professional, kid!"

I walked through the ice and snow over to WAMC studios to tape my mini-essay on Anglo-Saxon yuletide today. We're not that far from the station, but with all the ice on the sidewalks I took my time (it was particularly bad by SUNY not just because of the frozen surface but because the surface was so uneven and ill-kept!). I got there and idled a few minutes, looking up at all the awards lining two walls of the studio as people buzzed busily around and the Roundtable crackled through the room. I met the producer, Andy, and we went into one of the little cubicle studios to record. He explained their procedure and I asked how close to be to the mic (at Saint Rose we tend to be right on top of them). I only had two pages so there wasn't much paper shuffling. I read a few sentences to set the levels and then he pushed play and we were recording.

When it was through he looked kind of surprised. "That was great. It usually takes more than that." I was tempted to say, "call me one-take Laity!" -- instead I told him I do a podcast at Saint Rose (not to mention being a practiced performer of my own stories). Of course it was nice to be complimented, and I walked back to campus and my grading feeling cheered.

The piece is scheduled at present to appear on December 17 at 10.20 am (yes, you can listen on line). Nice birthday present, eh?

Today's post takes its name from a piece of dialogue by Krusty the Clown in The Simpsons episode 1F12, "Lisa v. Malibu Stacy" [written by Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein] where the family's precocious middle child tries to fight the corrupting power of an insipid fashion doll:

The next step is for Lisa to record what her doll will say. She stands in the recording studio in front of a microphone.

Techie: Talking doll, take eight.

Lisa: "When I get married, I'm keeping my own name." Oh, no, that should probably be "If I choose to get married."

Techie: Uh, look, little girl, we got other talking dollies to record today.

Krusty: [barging in with cue cards] All right, you poindexters, let's get this right! One: "Hey, hey, kids, I'm Talking Krusty." Two: "Hey, hey, here comes Slideshow Mel" -- again -- "Here comes Sideshow Mel". "Sideshow Mel". Three: [does a Krusty laugh] Budda-bing, budda-boom, I'm done. Learn from a professional, kid.
[walks out, squeals his tires away]

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hangin' out with The Girl Next Door

Check out today's episode of Movie Geeks United! On board will be pal Phil Nutman, who will be sharing the mic with his co-scripter Daniel Farrands and director Gregory Wilson as they talk about their film Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door. The story is based on Ketchum's novel of the same name which is loosely based on the Sylvia Likens murder. Phil says the interview will happen live today: Sunday 12/2 at 3:30 PM Pacific/6:30 PM Eastern/11:30 PM GMT.

This is part of the media blitz to ramp up interest for the DVD release Tuesday. The film received only limited distribution, mostly at festivals, so this will be the chance for most folks to finally see it. It has been highly praised for its intense and involving narrative. But don't take my word for it:

"The first authentically shocking American film I've seen since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer over 20 years ago. If you are easily disturbed, you should not watch this movie. If, on the other hand, you are prepared for a long look into hell, suburban style, The Girl Next Door will not disappoint. This is the dark-side-of-the-moon version of Stand By Me." - Stephen King

Friday, November 30, 2007

Into the Quagmire

No, not that one: Facebook.

My pal and colleague, Kim Middleton, blogged on the topic and I thought well, I ought to try it. It is (or was) an academic networking site, so perhaps it would be useful in that way.


Blogging seems to some folks a kind of time suck, but it's not a patch on Facebook. The latter seems all about the constant connection, because the default is not only to record everything you do, but everything your friends do, too. Yes, of course you can ignore them, which I do for the most part (sorry to everyone who invited me to become a slayer, partake of movie trivia, or share what I'm reading).

At least it's not as unremittingly ugly as MySpace.

It's simple enough that anyone can figure it out; in fact it's probably easier for someone who knows very little about how the web works. The content doesn't have to be self-generated like a blog. Blogging is great for people like me who never run out of things to write; it's less useful for people who prefer interacting with others more.

However, that's also one of the things that gives me pause: that interaction. Do I want my professional and personal lives overlapping that much? I have a professional website and a personal one. I originally envisioned Facebook as a part of my professional life, but as friends link up and interact that boundary gets more and more porous. Not sure how I feel about that. I have chosen to make my profile available but to hide certain parts from casual viewers (i.e. non-friends in the Facebook universe). Do I really want all my students to know me 'personally'? Not really. But is it avoidable in the interconnected world of the intarwub? Probably not.

Not that this connectivity is a bad thing; I treasure the multitude of friends that I have gained from the web, some of whom are very close to me now and all of whom add so much to my life. Besides, I like being able to have a conversation about canned laughter with Graham Linehan or watching an old video I have longed to see for years. That wouldn't be possible without the 'net.

But I am still wrestling with the issues involved and probably will for a while. We all will be, I suspect. The weight of information is the best protection -- you have to go out and find information for the most part and this will only increase as we approach full steam.

My experience has been that the web is wonderful on the whole: without it I wouldn't be heading to WAMC Monday morning to tape a piece on yuletide celebrations in Anglo-Saxon England.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Happy Natal Day, Mr. Blake

I still have my WWWBD? page with the red dragon pinned to my bulletin board. It's good to remember how filled with pain and rejection his life was, yet he soldiered on, confident in his vision. My co-editor and I have finally received a thumbs down on our Old English charms volume from the publisher who has been reviewing it since May, so we begin the slow process of submitting it to a new academic publisher and then once again waiting, waiting. So it goes.

...A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for Joy and Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go...

Every Night and every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight.
Some are Born to sweet delight,
Some are Born to Endless Night...

(from Auguries of Innocence)

Just in Time for Holiday Shopping!

It's Endless Halloween, the latest rip-roaring collection of those wild 'n crazy Goth Scouts! The "Crazy Mama" herself, Elena Steier, will tickle your funny bone with this all ages book. Flying monkeys! Surfing Cthulhu! Merit badges! There's something for everyone.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Catch Up

Mmmm -- cake! Yes, not one but two cheesecakes figured in our T-Day celebrations. I made the chocolate chip one on the right, Robert made the one on the left. Both were declared delicious. So was the turkey Robert grilled (yum!) and the real mashed potatoes. Mimosas and bounteous red wine meant we were extremely logy the rest of the day. And the following day, which was all right with Jordan (he doesn't get around as much anymore). His appetite, however, is as good as ever and he was eager to have some of that tasty turkey. The weather was so nice that we could wander around the gardens and see the koi gobble up their food, too, and see what was left of the late blooming flowers. The tide was in when we got there. We were comatose the rest of the time after all that food, but we finally stirred ourselves to get up again on Friday to see the Coen Bros. new film, No Country for Old Men in Woodstock (which strikes me as a tad ironic, that being the home of good vibes and this film being all about the bad). There were a lot of folks in attendance, so I guess the irony didn't bother anyone. If I can find the time this week, I'll write up a proper review, but suffice to say "highly recommended" as long as you're not squeamish (although much is implied rather than seen, an awful lot is seen), allergic to laconic men, or too freaked out by Javier Bardem's haircut. He was amazingly creepy -- and who'd ha' thunk James Brolin's son would be so good? Of course, you do expect the best of Kelly Macdonald (AKA the only sizeable female role in the film) but it was also nice to see the always dependable Tess Harper, too.

Forgot to Mention: Raptorama! On the way back from Robert's we must have seen about twenty hawks and falcons right near the Thruway. We saw half a dozen before we got to the Saugerties exit. Wow!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

To Kingston

Away we go to feast on the usual banquet with Robert, watch movies and relax (if we can remember how...) If you need entertainment, why not watch this?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Publication: Raising Lempi

This is a two-fer! Not just a story of mine, but with a gorgeous Elena Steier drawing as well. The Winter issue of Circle Magazine will feature my story "Raising Lempi" and Elena's drawing of the four characters in a sauna. I have had the picture hanging on my bulletin board since she sent it to me. Originally this joint venture had been planned for another magazine, but fell through, so it's nice to know it's finally coming out in this fine venue (Circle is carried by large chains like Borders).

Yes, this is one of the Unikirja stories and since you're all probably tired of hearing about this project, I'm glad to say that the collection is finally just about done. I'm taking a week off during the break to have my own mini-writer's retreat to try to finish the last part (a play) as well as a couple of other things. It will feel good to send off the manuscript.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oxford Bound!

My paper on Moira Buffini's Silence has been accepted for the conference "Bone Dreams: Anglo-Saxon Culture and the Modern Imagination" next April at the University of Oxford. Do I hear the QI bar calling?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Prose at the Rose: Tramontano

The latest episode is now on the air. Check out my interview with Jan Tramontano. Her work has appeared in Poet's Canvas, Chronogram, Mom's Literary Magazine, American Intercultural Magazine, Knock, The Culture Star Reader and Women's Synergy to name a few. She is currently working on her first novel and is a member of the advisory board for the Hudson Valley Writers Guild and is a member of the International Women's Writing Guild. Jan reads her story "The Landlady."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happy B-Day, Mr. Moore

(Look at lucky bugger James with Mr. Moore at the London Lip event). What better way to spend your birthday than with a guest shot on the Simpsons? It worked for Moore, who appeared tonight along side fellow cartoonists Art Spiegelman and Dan Clowes. It was great to see the Lost Girls poster behind him and to see him seethe over the Watchman Babies: V is for Vacation book that Millhouse wanted him to sign. As he raved about the corporate leeches, Spiegelman leaned over and said something like, "lighten up, teacup!"

That's when Moore took out a Little Lulu comic and began to croon, "Little Lulu, I love you, Lu, just the same" and I just about had organ failure from laughing. Of course when the three of them stood together saying, "Oh no -- the store is in trouble!" then ripped off their shirts to become the League of Extraordinary Freelancers and promptly flew into action (yes, flew) I was helpless with giggles. I think I risked another organ when Spiegelman put a Maus mask on and said "Maus in the haus!" Oh my god, too funny.

Thanks to Gene for the screen captures and MP3!

(Yes, I will get around to the Springsteen review -- too many deadlines this weekend.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Review: Beowulf

Two word review:

utter pants

Why have a movie about heroics where there is not a single person who embodies the supposed ideal? It may have been meant as a critique of the concept, but if so it failed miserably. The script was a mishmash of half-articulated ideas. A barely developed theme of the effects of storytelling on the truth ought to have been heeded. The poem has kept its resonance over the years because it deals with timeless topics like heroism, mentoring, honor and ambition. This one has Beowulf roar the ultimately meaningless words, "!" What does that name mean? By the end it seems that his life's supposed to be a legend, but we know it's all lies, so what can we have but contempt for those who believe it?

What was the point of all the pneumatic breasts other than adolescent wank? In case we had any doubt, we know now for sure that modern Hollywood film makers have even less regard for women than Anglo-Saxon monks, because at least the latter actually thought women had a purpose beyond sexual titillation. Not so this team. Women are only of interest as sexual prizes. We even have the suggestion that wives and mistresses would get along if they just had a chance to chat heart-to-heart (naturally with the suggestion that perhaps this will lead to a guilt-free three-way for the husband). Wealtheow in the poem sets standards of behavior, commands the men and reins Hrothgar in when he steps beyond propriety, deftly balancing both his honor and Beowulf's. With all the digital breasts on display, it is likewise ironic that the other subtext is all about impotence. This script robs the father figure Hrothgar of most of his offspring and all of his glory. He's a buffoon from start to finish. Jolie as Grendel's mother (as designed by John Bolton) is an adolescent dream of sexless Barbie doll sexuality: smooth, hairless, flawless and dipped in gold with stiletto heels actually part of her body (heel spurs gone wild?). Robin Wright-Penn's lovely face is turned into a bland approximation of Hollywood "beauty" and loses any sense of attractiveness.

The effects: yawn. They worked on the eyes, but motion capture still looks like a video game. While playing a video game at least you actively insert yourself into the action, but it's harder to do with the passive movie viewing experience. Sure, the dragon episode looked cool enough (about like the dragon sequence in Goblet of Fire), but the people look like pudgy wax work balloons bouncing along, hands never quite touching what they pick up. The ridiculousness of the naked fight scene (mistakenly believed to be "in the text") required exposing Grendel's lack of genitalia (which they tried to "explain") and, as Variety's review put it, resorting to Austin-Powers-esque techniques to hide Beowulf's alleged genitalia. He probably has none -- the movie was rated PG-13 despite outlandish violence. It's the American way: violence good, sex bad (although endless teasing of a sexual nature is okay, thus endless balloony bosoms on parade).

Minor quibble of interest to few but me: really, they couldn't make the harp look like a Saxon harp?

Anachronistically they inserted Christianity into the narrative (in the poem, the narrator is a Christian looking back on his ancestors) only to identify it as the killer of the age of heroes. Far be it from me to defend Christianity, but that's pointless as well as reductively simplistic. But really, the less said about the violence to the source story or the era the better (a ginormous stone the 6th century? not a wooden mead hall?). You'd have thought they would at least replace the original with another story -- not just 3D arrows and swords. Ironic then that the whole exercise seemed entirely pointless. I thought it would at least be fun. Nope.

I'm curious to see what my students think: they're probably going to the big mall tonight. Maybe they will find it more fun -- they have said that their friends seem to think it looks like a kick ass movie. We shall see. The film is clearly meant to capitalize on the popularity of 300, a trifle I did enjoy because 1) it had a much smaller amount of adolescent male-oriented sexual titillation [and a great deal more adult female sexual titillation!] and 2) it gave us characters who were real actors if digitally enhanced (e.g. David Wenham's six pack abs) and had character! It wasn't all bombast and cool fight scenes.

The nadir of Beowulf adaptations still remains Lambert's Beowulf, only because it lacks even technical competence. This one nearly challenges it on most other points.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Publication: Eating the Dream

My short story "Eating the Dream," a mash-up of Blake, urban fantasy and the great seedy American on-the-road story, will be coming out in the journal Femspec, specifically issue 8.1 which seems to be scheduled for later this year. Somehow that has led to my becoming their web manager, too (payment? punishment? you be the judge). I'll let you know when it's available. Check out the current issue: is that a great cover or what? It supposed to be Ceres, but I love how it also looks like a big eyeball. A really striking image!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Review: Rock 'n' Roll

No more mid-week matinées.

You know how we're always hearing about "kids these days" -- they have no respect, they're far too familiar, casual, thoughtless, etc.?

They're not a patch on their grandparents.

I have never experienced a more rude theater audience in my life than the elderly folks in the Jacobs Theatre last Wednesday. I am including high school and junior high theater performances. They wouldn't sit down, shut up or turn off their cell phones. There were two warning tones for the curtain and still they blabbed on, standing in the aisles. The music started and still they bickered about which seat to sit in. The actors began to speak -- in that all important scene that sets up the theme of the entire play -- and still they talked, although they were nearly drowned out by the well-meaning, but endless and loud shushing.

And it was all repeated at the interval. Fortunately the grumbly people right in front of us stalked out then, never to return -- why? Who knows! They were offended by something. The language? The music? Hey, it's called Rock 'n' Roll!

So I'm sure the actors were likewise peeved by this terrible audience. Theater is a symbiosis. The audience, the actors, the crew all work together with the magic of the script to bring something to life for a short time (three hours in this case). When any of them fail, they all suffer. So if the performance fell short of magic, I know where to point the finger.

The cast were excellent. Brian Cox inhabited the gruff Cambridge professor with a mixture of dogged stubbornness and whimsical romance. Sinead Cusack played both Eleanor -- the classics professor with quick wit, slowly defeated by cancer -- and her daughter Esme later in life. While Eleanor is full of authority and confidence (appearing with a tea cosy on her head at one point, but still looking magisterial), Esme wanders uncertain and somewhat wounded -- and with completely different body language. Rufus Sewell takes a break from playing thunderous villains in film to embody Jan, the Czech student in love with rock-n-roll, who can't get interested in politics until his favorite band gets imprisoned. It was uncanny how he reminded me (physically) of Rik Mayall especially as time went on; he became more and more abject as he was beaten down by the increasing political crack-downs.

The story -- like most Stoppard plays -- weaves together a number of themes. Chief of course is the rock-n-roll music, set up in that crucial first scene as the voice of Pan in the modern world. Jan's refusal to engage with the political maelstrom around him rests in his tacit confidence that the music will prove more lasting, that it's more important than the political posturing (a hint perhaps at Stoppard's own apparent political disengagement?). Esme's slow disintegration into despair connects directly to the fate of her personal Pan, the late Syd Barrett. I didn't really know much of Barrett's music, so I was pleasantly surprised (I don't much like Pink Floyd, so I assumed I wouldn't like his solo stuff -- I've been wrong before).

It's hard to convey all the complexities of the play: arguments about whether communism's ideals could ever be realized in the world, whether we are more than the material from which we are made, and when to make a stand against oppressive political forces (and whether the opposition creates the dialectic necessary to keep those forces in power). There was even an extra insert in the Playbill with a précis of Czechoslovakian history, a page on the Plastic People of the Universe and a list of all the music that played between scenes.

Did it work? Well, not entirely. The first act in particular was so episodic that it was impossible to feel close to the characters. The music, which ought to have infused the performance with jangling energy, instead seemed to make the quieter moments feel flat. The second half worked better with fewer breaks and more continuous interaction. Perhaps if the music had been integrated into the action it would have become more of a character itself, embodying that rebellious spirit. But when it comes in at the end for a final moment of triumph, instead the climax feels like a sudden ending without resolution.

Yet less-than-top-notch Stoppard is still head and shoulders above so much else on stage at present. The cast was superb -- I should also mention in particular Alice Eve who played the young Esme and her daughter Alice, moving from sixteen to about thirty in the second act. I enjoyed the performance, even if I would have changed the script and pacing if I could.

At least I kept myself from doing violence to elderly people -- just barely.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jane Quiet rocks the world!

Elena Steier is ink queen of the world! Stop by the Goth Scouts pages and check out the latest inks of our joint project Jane Quiet. Is that a fabulous monster or what?!

Beowulf: PG-13

Money talks! Violence is okay after all, but no sex! That would be bad. Prehensile hair, computer enhanced breasts and stiletto heels: the lure of sex without the actual act, apparently. They paid a lot of money for Jolie: gotta get their dollar's worth!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Old Git

Here's what none of the glowing encomia seem to mention about the plagiarist, Mr. Mailer. If you're famous enough, your crimes will be forgotten -- especially if they're against women.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Magister Class

At the invitation of Crispinus, I came to his class to speak to the students about my novel Pelzmantel. It was my first experience of the kind; I've spoken about my writing on panels at conferences, but never in front of students (except incidentally in my creative writing classes). So it was a nice ego-boost, as well as a paying gig (thanks!). I have been so busy that I didn't really have time to think about it, so I didn't bother getting nervous until fairly close to class time.

Beforehand we discussed the aim of the session and the fact that the students were supposed to be running the show (yay!) which took the pressure off me. I would only jump in if they seemed to run out of things to say. It was strange to be in a classroom without some plan, but I knew the topics they had been running with -- myth and fiction -- so I had touchstones that I knew would be familiar.

The odd thing is that it all seems so long ago: I wrote the novel while working on my dissertation. It came out four years ago, so I was glad they didn't ask anything too specific. I tried to get at the balance of inspiration and planning that is part of most writing projects; there are always things you intend to do and things that surprise you, the happy accidents. One of the students asked if I would sign his book (of course!) while others were interested in the publishing process itself, including whether the author has input on the cover art (not usually) and how much editors change a manuscript once it has been accepted (it varies).

Afterward we went out to Sushi Thai with the Crispinus clan and Dan's peer mentor for the course, Julia. Great food and highly entertaining conversation made for a terrific evening. We even stopped off at Ben & Jerry's at Kaitlin's suggestion (or was that begging?). Much fun -- and next week Gene will talk to the same class about comics, although I'll miss it because I'll be teaching. Pity. It would be fun!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Opening: LitGraphic

[I'm working backward from today which is the first day I've had any time to write.]

We headed out bright and early (well, for a Friday, i.e. my non-teaching day) to hit the road for Massachusetts and the LitGraphic exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum. We had our press credentials in hand and a wide open freeway before us. No bats, though; and our only stimulant was Gene's travel mug of unleaded coffee. But the passes got us into the unopened exhibit for a free preview and press schmooze.

It's quite a good collection -- a real nice mix with a few classics (Ditko, Eisner, Masereel and Ward) as well as a variety of newer artists like Marc Hempel, Sue Coe and Lauren Weinstein, as well as the guest artists in attendance that day: Peter Kuper, Howard Cruse and Dave Sim. (The freebies were nice, too including the book of the new traveling exhibit for Rockwell's art).

We were welcomed and told us a bit about the exhibit, then Peter Kuper gave a little talk discussing his own work and World War 3, as well as life in Oaxaca at present. Howard Cruse spoke about his work in Stuck Rubber Baby and his drawing techniques. I would tell you what Dave Sim had to say, but I don't want to be accused of devouring his light.

The museum also provided a very nice lunch and we happened to sit with both Kuper and Cruse, which gave us a chance to chat a little with them and some of the other journalists there. In fact, we ended up talking with Howard for some time. I'm hatching a scheme to get him to campus for a grad class I'll be teaching in about a year.

I'll be writing this up in more detail for publication, so more soon. The exhibit runs through May with a lot of events planned. See the schedule and check it out. Like you need an excuse to go to the beautiful Berkshires?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Plug: House of Black Wings

Cool Chicago filmmaker David Schmidt gives a scoop to, the Lovecraftian horror film site. Scroll down this page to see exclusive photos from his latest production, the eerily creepy House of Black Wings. Because I had a peek at the script prior to filming, I can let slip that it's a fantastically suspenseful story with great characters (there's a novelty!) and all kinds of spooky happenings.

Inadvertant Amusement

Mrs. Malaprop strikes again: a student in one class wrote on a quiz that Julian of Norwich desired to experience the "wombs of Christ," while another student described a happily married couple living in a house that was "white with blue shudders."

I'll be writing up our NYC experiences (including a review) later, but it's all teaching today, then being a literary guest at Skidmore tonight, so it will be a while yet.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Some how the ninth issue of Up Against the Wall went up without much fanfare. It may have to do with "Hollywood" Phil being incredibly busy. I just have a wee list of Halloween faves in the issue, but cruise on by for some terrific reads from other regulars.

Beowulf: Now it's Educational!

In my continuing efforts to flog the Beowulf film as an official webmaster, I think it important to keep up with the latest goings-on. That includes a new handout for teachers to use the film as a kind of educational tie-in. This handy guide helps students look at how heroism has been identified in Beowulf's time and our own, presumably leading to lively discussions of gender, ethics and the importance of movie tie-ins. No doubt the "Monsters: A Case Study" assignment will allow students to identify other favorite movie monsters and to think about renting those favorite DVDs again. There are also two tie-in books: a script book and a mass market paperback novelization. I faxed Harper Collins to see whether I might get promo copies. Fingers crossed!

While this seems at times to be pointless silliness, let me remind you that anything that popularizes the Middle Ages is good for medievalists (even if it requires endless patient explanation of why it wasn't like that) and I am writing a book on masculinities and medievalisms, so this fits perfectly. And don't forget: it's educational!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Award Winning

Silly me: I missed the International Horror Guild Award ceremony Thursday night at WFC, and thus, missed that a book I'm in received one of the awards. Icons of Horror and the Supernatural, edited by S. T. Joshi, received the accolade for best non-fiction work. Whoo hoo! It's a bit expensive for individuals, but shouldn't your library own it?

This week will be even busier than the last, so I'm slowly adding links to the WFC post when I have a minute or so. Grading today, advising tomorrow, Rock-n-Roll Wednesday, Skidmore Thursday, and the Norman Rockwell Museum Friday. Yikes!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

World Fantasy


We started the night with geeky wonder at the two-pronged badge holders we received at registration. Swanky -- they even have a pocket for business cards. The program has a wonderful Moebius illustration on the front and selection of images on color plates inside. We ran into a few people we knew right off. The first panel of the night featured artists Donato Giancola, Shaun Tan and Bob Eggleton (although Bob was running late -- he and Marianne arrived straight from dinner). They drew. It was wonderful. It’s fascinating to see a picture take shape with three completely different styles. Donato was drawing from a photo of a woman, but turning it into a fantasy image with her in an elaborate dress with white birds flying by. Shaun started with some lines from the photo, but turned them into a large-eyed creature clutching its large eyed child. It was equal parts creepy and cute. Bob drew an elaborate dragon, red and scaly. They also answered questions about technique, habits, training and working with editors on book covers. Interesting that both Bob and Donato talked about comics as their first influence, including artists like Steve Bissette.

After that came the one and only comics panel. Fortunately the panelists dispensed with the lame topic (can comics be as “serious” as novels?) efficiently (or in the words of Doselle Young, “Fuck yeah!”) and got onto interesting questions about collaboration and the particular strengths of the word/image combinations. Featured were Mike Dringenberg (who seriously needs a mute button, or at least a reminder that there were other people on the panel who might also have something to say), the fabulous Charles Vess (who didn’t talk nearly enough), chair Andrew Wheeler, editor/writer Alisa Kwitney Sheckley, Doselle and Matthew Smith. Yes, they should have had Gene on the panel—he would have clarified a lot of the issues quickly. The panel was great fun. Alisa and Doselle had the audience in stitches a good bit of the time. With luck Gene will blog about the panel in greater depth.

It was a long day, so we headed to the domus Crispinu and shared a bottle of wine and some chat with the magister himself. We tried to refrain from abusing his hospitality too much, but it can be a struggle (easy target and one who reads this blog, so he should expect to get teased mercilessly). This morning as I write this first entry, his long-suffering uxor, Krista, is laboring over breakfast; to be fair, Dan did boil water for my tea, so that’s something (for the whitest man in the world). He’s now trying to figure out the password for their wireless network so I can log on. Otherwise, I’ll just save this post for later [which is what happened, as you can see].


Another busy day: after our delicious breakfast of home fries, bacon and eggs (thanks, Krista!) we headed in and I caught most of the Terrible Women panel while Gene checked out the Art room and the Dealer’s room. I hadn’t known about Persephone ( so I was glad to hear about the group even if I was already familiar with the writers they were trying to bring back to attention, terrific writers like E. Nesbit, Vernon Lee, Carson McCullers, Charlotte Perkins Gillman, Octavia Butler and Shirley Jackson.

GOH Kim (no waistcoat?!) Newman talked about his early publishing career, including sessions brainstorming with Neil Gaiman and Stefan Jaworzyn about ideas for low-budget films after a young reporter named Phil Nutman alerted them to a producer planning to make B-movies. While the films never materialized, one of the film ideas became Newman’s “B-novel” Orgy of the Blood Parasites. We learned about all kinds of obscure works in the prolific Newman’s past. There was also a porn film script he had written: “How sad a person are you if you fast forward through the sex scenes to get to the characterization?” We also heard about the musical, written as a parody of Rock, Rock, Rock and called Rock, Rock, Rock, Rock, (+ 27 or so repetitions of the word) which sounded like a hoot. He’s recently sold a radio play to the BBC and working with Christopher Wicker(?) on film scripts, so there are exciting things ahead. It’s a pity the interviewer a) didn’t speak audibly b) wasn’t very lively, and c) paid no attention to the time, so the panel not only ran over the time allotted, but did not give the audience any opportunity for questions.

M.R. James panel: Within minutes of panelists recalling their first time reading James, Ramsey Campbell mentions the Four Yorkshiremen, adding, “I was only six years old when I first read…” Christopher Roden countered with “Well, I wasn’t even born when I first read James.” The James gang -- a great way to refer to the folks inspired by James. He became a sort of guiding spirit for the con, mentioned in one way or another at most of the panels I attended. Makes me wonder if anyone has looked into the effect of medieval texts on James’ stories… hmmm. Not that I need another project.

Moebius: At the end of the panel, someone behind us said, “Wow, he talks just like he draws.” So true! It was terrific to see a lot of his art projected large. I got to ask him what it was like to work with Jodorowsky. He said, “Do you know Castaneda? He was my Don Juan.” Even though they are both so busy that they only talk via phone of late, he said the influence was and is huge. A teacher, a gentle man, a friend—and “dangerous,” he said with a smile. He used Jodorowsky’s analogy of the artist as alchemist, too, finding a great deal of resonance in that image. He even said that shamanism is the original religion of everybody (naturally, I agree).

Art Room: argh. It is to weep, as they say. We ran into Marianne who had a bunch of her Daub du Jour paintings up as well as a greenman that I immediately lusted for (if only my pocketbook matched my tastes). So many wonderful images I could not afford: Vess’s of course -- even sketches are out of my price range, and let’s not even begin to discuss the Moebius works. If I thought they looked wonderful projected large, they were amazing up close where the painstaking details were vivid. Then there was the work of Catherine Crowe, Imago Corvi. I could feel the money trying to leap out of my wallet as I gazed on her enamel work, much of it inspired by medieval designs. Not surprisingly, the raven and the crow drew my eye right away, but I was completely captivated by the owl pendant which, apart from being an amazing piece of work, also connects to one of my current projects perfectly. She had a number of larger framed images as well including an image from the Sutton Hoo burial.

We joined the Crispinus clan—including Kaitlin this time—for dinner at the Stadium Café which was far better than the banks of televisions filling it seemed to predict. I had a Black Forest sandwich and a Stoli Vanil martini that really hit the spot. Afterward we wandered down to Borders, where I read the first few pages of the new Hunter S. Thompson book put together by Rolling Stone, with an introduction from “Colonel Depp.” Add it to the list of must-gets.

Signing session: you really get a picture of the hugeness of World Fantasy when you see writers who are swamped with fans at smaller cons (e.g., a bunch of the Necon folks were sitting together) actually waiting for people to come by with books to sign. Gene was first in line for Moebius and I snapped a picture of the two of them together. He drew a nice sketch in one of the books, too. I had a chance to stop by and introduce myself to S. T. Joshi, for whom I have written a couple of essays but had never had a chance to actually speak with face to face. Little did I know that ealier in the con the International Horror Guild had given the Non-Fiction award to Joshi for Icons of Horror and the Supernatural, the most recent collection for which I wrote (the essay on “The Sorcerer”). Then I geeked all over Charles Vess, who had just barely sat down, gushing about his illustrations for Peter Pan as he signed it and lamenting as he signed (and drew a cat!) A Circle of Cats that the other Charles and his wife Maryann weren’t there to sing. I wish I’d known Ramsey Campbell was going to be here, too; I would have brought a couple of books for him to sign, but oh well. I will see him read tomorrow. We finished the night with more wine and more torturing of Crispinus (naturally).


Another great breakfast to kick the day off: mmmm, pancakes and sausage! We had a leisurely start and still got there in time for the Charles L. Grant tribute panel filled with memories of his generosity, his skillful and astute (and merciless) editing and of course the heartfelt grief at his absence. A fixture at both World Fantasy and Necon, his presence continues to be much missed.

Afterward we ended up chatting with pal John Douglas for a good bit (hadn’t seen him since Necon) then I headed off to the Ramsey Campbell reading. Always fun -- he read two stories, the first a sort of very modern ghost story called “Respects” which uses the impromptu roadside memorial sites as a starting point, and “Digging Deep” which likewise updates the premature burial theme with the added complication of a cell phone. Creepy and hilarious by turns -- I loved how the first story had a family whose kids were clearly named after celebrities (Keanu, Brad and Angelina) just like Cletus’s brood on The Simpsons.

I went to the pre-Christian ghost panel after that, which was less interesting than I’d hoped, but I did run into Michael Kabongo whom I had met at Pi-Con, so that was good. The Survey of the Field panel followed with some very strong opinions, such as Stephen Jones’ comments that there were far too many “best of” anthologies, that there were too many Anita Blake-style female investigators, that the rebranding of Weird Tales was the worst thing ever to happen to the magazine and that the Shocklines discussion board was the Al-Qaeda of horror. Paula Guran of Juno books disagreed that their sister publication Weird Tales was anything but wonderful and commented that it was good to see the fantasy and horror lines expanding, bringing in new readers with things like paranormal romance. Ellen Datlow mentioned that a lot of the year’s best horror was once again coming from magazines which had not been the case in recent years. Among the recommendations: Liz Hand’s Generation Loss and Will Elliott’s The Pilo Family Circus.

We headed back for Kaitlin’s special chili and a relaxed dinner, then returned to the hotel for evening programming. We tried to get into the dramatic presentation of M.R James’ stories, but were told the artiste was not allowing anyone to enter after the start. Well, sucks to him. Instead we headed over to see Native American storyteller Joseph Bruchac and it was the right choice. Bruchac had the audience in the palm of his hand and kept them there the whole night (despite making a lot of them jump!). In fact, when he ended, many immediately followed him out into the hallway to buy books and learn more about his work (nice flute playing, too). We were going to stick around for the New Weird panel but a) Ginjer Buchanan wasn’t there and b) there was the Art Show Reception calling (mmmm, white chocolate cookies). We ran into Catie Murphy whom I’d also met at Pi-Con and who seemed to be having a great time although suffering from a sore throat. In the art show awards had been given out and we were not at all surprised to see Bob Eggleton’s painting of Teddy Roosevelt with a Martian had won a purple ribbon. I finally got to meet the woman whose enamels I had so admired and had finally made up my mind to splurge on one, when I turned back to see someone else pointing to it and taking it out of the case to try on. Argh! Well, I left my card for the next time she casts a similar piece. Exhausted, we headed back to chez Crispinus for a relatively early night.


What better way to start the day than potato scones? Mmm! Off to the convention center again, I caught the Taboos in Fantasy panel with John Grant, Tom Doherty, Lucienne Diver, Steven Erikson and the always entertaining Sharyn November of Firebird Books. The long and short of it: taboos change and taboos get broken, but new ones always seem to form. Among the stories Sharyn told was coming across a line of Christian YA novels with pretty good covers, so she was tempted to buy the first one and read it, although, she commented, “I’m still Jewish.”

Right after that was the ghost story panel with Ramsey Campbell, Jane Yolen, Toni Kellner, James Maxey and Julianne Lee. It was a fun discussion and I can’t really reconstruct the free-floating conversation which led to Ramsey saying to Jane, “You can jump me any time,” and Jane retorting that it was the best offer she had had in a long time. Okay, so they had been talking about the differences between telling a story and reading one, and the unlikelihood of hiring someone to jump out at a reader (although the possibilities of GPS technology were discussed), but it’s funnier without that explanation. One misheard title gave me an idea for a story, so we’ll see if that develops.

I headed over to hear Esther Friesner’s short story “The Really Big Sleep,” an hilarious pastiche of Lovecraft, film noir and Vassar-bashing full of her trademark humor which had the audience chuckling right up to the final pun (d’oh!). I stopped by the dealer room to buy a copy of Scream for Jeeves, the Lovecraft/Wodehouse mash-up, but the seller ran away just as I walked up (I don’t think I looked that scary) so no go on that. One more trip to domus Crispinus, a leftover chili lunch (mmmm!), and a quick game of Boggle ("yearnette?!"), then we were on our way home once more – where I discovered that I had left the papers I needed to grade on campus. I’m sure it wasn’t a subconscious desire to avoid work, surely not. Looks like an early morning tomorrow – and a long day: there’s a meeting of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild tomorrow night.