Monday, May 28, 2007

What was I thinking?

You know, the last time I got moules frites, I got very very sick. So you'd think I'd avoid them, but no -- they just sounded so good. Well, they went down well, along with some Leffe Brune. They came back up less well a few hours later. Ugh. Plus, knowing somehow with their finely attuned student sense that I had written complimentarily about them, the students decided to indulge in some freestylin' in the hallway about 1am. Not appreciated by me, nor I suppose, most of the people up and down the hallway. They were properly contrite this morning but that will mean nothing if it happens again. With luck, it won't.

It's raining again today -- of course, it's a holiday in Britain. That's the kind of luck that meant, too, that when I got to Liverpool Street to take the train up to see friends, that I found all the trains delayed indefinitely because of something on the tracks. It was irritating to me, putting my plans out, but I felt sorry for the people on their way to Stansted to catch a plane. I just Googled and found it is "overhead wire problems." Well, there you go.

Tomorrow's another day, as Scarlett would say. With luck there will be less rain, as we're off to the Globe which goes on rain or shine, just like the old days. Let's hope for more shine than rain. But I'm wearing a hat just in case...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Alice in Sunderland

Forgot -- I did go the Comics Art Museum and see the exhibit on Talbot's book which was quite nice and a companion exhibit on caricature which was a lot of fun.

The Story So Far

It's £1 per hour, so this will be brief (can't access blogger from the British Library, nor earthlink mail, sigh!). While today it is pouring, it has been sunny and warm most of the time, much to the students' delight. They survived the grueling first day where I kept them rolling until night -- some even recovered enough to go out that night. Fingers crossed, they have been mostly great and entirely responsible. Kudos to them for making the trip (so far!) a relatively low stress event.

Apart from leading them around to various places (see I have seen Equus and Lord of the Rings. Can't write full reviews in such a short timte, but here's some sketchy comments:

EQUUS -- the crowd was full of young American gals waiting to see the full Potter. At the end of the first act I heard many grumbling because they thought he was going to get nekkid in the first act and they felt he had chickened out. HA HA -- I know the play, so I knew better. Stunned silence and giggles later. It's such a wonderful play, and the giggly gals missed the most amazing part -- Richard Griffiths as Dysart. He brings to the role both humor and pathos; I've only read the play and seen the film version with Burton, but I thought he was quite amazing (and I love Burton in the role). But Griffiths brings out the pain and the passion of the part much more. And yes, we did get to see naked Harry Potter/Danieal Radcliffe and there was no doubt as he leapt about the stage near the end of the play -- I do mean leapt. In fact, I think he was limping when he came back out for the curtain so I think he may have pulled something (cue Sam Pickering voice).

LOTR -- well. hmmm. Okay, a misguided idea -- not that it wasn't without some great things. The music was terrific -- the songs were atrocious, by which I mean the score music by Varttina and Rahman was beautiful and evocative; the songs were atrocious, suffering from terrible Broadwayitis. They do all sound like Spamalot's "There's always a song like this." Arwen sings three songs and that's her part; Galadriel more or less the same as she was with one song (cool costume though). No Eowyn, no Sauron. Few orcs -- although they do come out in the second interval (yes, second -- three hour running time) and menace the audience and got some good screams from surprised folks. Shelob and the Balrog looked quite good and the stage was AMAZING. Glad I saw it, but it will not be for the ages -- well, who knows. I think the Mousetrap is still running (except in Pakistan -- obscure joke) and people do love Cats and such. Really apart from the hobbits being too twee by half (Merry and Pippin seemed to have stepped out of a panto), there's the problem of constant expositio which does not make for good drama. I wonder how it seemed to anyone who did not already know the story -- is there anyone now who doesn't?

Tuesday, Othello at the Globe with Tim McInnerny (let's hope the rain has evaporated by then) and perhaps Midsummer Night's Dream at the Open Air Theatre Wednesday -- just like my first trip to London :-D Now that would be cool. I have spent a little time at the British Library so it hasn't all been play time -- and I do have other responsibilities, so I just cover the fun stuff here. More when I can write. Hope everyone is well!

Monday, May 21, 2007

London with the Rose

Finishing packing, trying to dry the shirt I forgot to wash until yesterday by wearing it, have to get to campus, send off bills and then -- of course -- drive to Boston with a couple of the Saint Rose students.

Yes, we have a blog. Not sure how often the students will be updating it, but I will try to do so at least occasionally. Less PR-oriented posts will go here, as always.

Fingers crossed that all will be well. I wish Gene could come with me! (So does he).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Boojum Blast

We headed out in time to arrive to help set up the hall for the circus. Perilous Cheryl had a vision and we carried it out (as best we could with our limited skills). Fortunately, the Queen and Johnny 10X arrived with a batch of scary clown pictures which dressed up the venue immensely. John Schwenk arrived for sound check and Gene got to reminisce about those Appendix days, playing roadie. Before we knew it, the peeps began to arrive. It wasn't a garden party, but everyone was there (well, anyone worth knowing). Yes, Elena was there in fine Pirateer form and Rod with his ironic (I hope!) Beetle Bailey hat. Ringmaster Cheryl kept everyone in line with her big black whip, and Joey of course looked smashing in his white tie, tails and fez (Gene's going to link to the Flikr photos, right?)

Miss Wendy arrived right on time, just about when Marko was ducking out -- too many commitments on one night but oh, choose wisely! You know we're going to talk about you when you're gone. We saw folks we hadn't seen in ages, some seen recently but not enough. 9th Wave started things off with groovin' surf tunes and the Gamma Rays rocked the joint hard with rockabilly tunes (including a ripping rendition of "Ring of Fire"). We were sweat-soaked and beer-fueled ($1.25 Longtrails!). In between, I gave in to my taste for doggerel and presented my birthday poem for The joey Zone, a Carrollian pastiche that went like this:

The Birthday of the Boojum:
A Celebration in Five Decades

“Just the time for a clown,” the wombat cried,
as she swallowed some amber brew;
The pair had arrived from a two hour ride
And knew what they all had to do.

“Just the time for a clown; I have said it twice,
That alone should enliven our crew.
Just the time for a clown, now I’ve said it thrice!
What I tell you three times must be true.

“’Tis a most special day, and all in this place
have come here to honor this Snark:
With thimbles and forks and presents and more,
We gather at this veteran’s park.

“The Butcher, the Baker, the Beaver, the Bellman
All have arrived here together;
And rumors abound of the various clowns
Who will join us (depending on weather).

“For the Boojum’s a creature who simply cannot
Be praised in a commonplace way.
So please all raise your jugs for this lovable mug,
Not a chance must be wasted to-day!”

Much was eaten, much spoken, shouted and hoarsely called, gifts given (and yes, opened the next day over the ensuing hours which made Gene ask, "are you sure there's a zero after the five in his age?"). Clean up of the hall was a breeze, many hands making light work, and we collapsed at chez Boojum, exhausted but happy, to awake under the eye of the Zuni fetish doll (to say nothing of the two Munchkins!).

Argh -- back this afternoon, a million and one things to do. Not quite packed, but getting up early. Hard to believe I'm off to England once more tomorrow, with a bunch of students to boot. Ay yi yi; how do I convince myself to do these things? As Ollie sez, "You get so weak from eating pears that you fall down, and then they come and take you away on a stretcher." Here's to eating pears!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Boojum Bound

We're running away to join the circus! Well, The joey Zone's circus birthday party, that is. Whoo hooo! This will be fun. After the stress of the last few days, it will be welcome fun to see everyone.

As verse 621 of the Tirukural reminds us, "Laugh when troubles come your way. Nothing conquers calamity better than that." Of course, if you want laughs you can always check out Elena's Goth Scout strip. Collect your merit badges and amaze your friends! Always fun -- and with luck, we'll see Elena and Rod today along with all the other of our gaggle of pals in Connecticut (yes, Miss Wendy, I'm bringing my checkbook!)

Funny hats, check! Sense of humor, check! Gifts for Joey, check! Not quite awake yet, but soon we'll be on our way to the dark carnival.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Banks: Evil or the Most Evil?

As frustrating as it has been dealig with various administrative problems at the College (thanks to Melanie in the Dean's Office, things improved after the previous low piont), it all pales next to the evilness of banks and Visa. I opened an account to manage all the funds for this trip; surely it would help not to muddy the waters between my money and the college's, I thought.

But an account with large amounts of money that also exit the account in large amounts "raises flags" as they say. So now that I tried to do one of the last things -- pay for the tickets at the Globe, I can't because their machine declines to accept my card. While it sounds like a polite Austenian phrase, it means that I can't get the tickets. The students are already looking forward to Othello (with Tim McInnerny!), so it is important to get the tickets, but neither my bank nor Visa will help.

It's a technicality that leaves me in a grey area. There's no hold on my account, they bank hastened to tell me, but it's been flagged because of the level of transactions. So, the Globe declines to accept a charge from that card, because they can. I guess the simplest thing is to charge it to my own account and transfer the money later. Of course, by the time I decided to do that (after many long conversations with the bank) the box office closed for the day.

So I'm having my soup, listening to Patti Smith's newest, and muttering dark utterings about banks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

News and Updates

While Elena suggests naughty habits of wombats, The Harvard University Gazette covers the folklore and witchcraft conference I attended, and Neil's got pictures of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's wedding. Oh, the craziness of me! Somehow, I will get everything done that I need to do before Monday, right? Oh, yes -- somehow. Then there's that circus on Saturday...

[Image thanks to]

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pseudo Society, Film Stars and Too Much Work

We got back from Bradley Airport about 6pm last night, at which I sat down to finish the grading I had left behind. Yeah, I should have taken it with me, but jeez. That would have been heavy and no fun. I finished the last few this morning before beginning the summer class (ay yi yi -- not done with one term and another beginning). Not too surprisingly, the first class today (11.40-3.45pm yikes!) ended up dealing with a lot of the practical questions regarding the trip, including a visit from the study abroad coordinator who gave them a bunch of forms to fill out to release Saint Rose (and me) from any legal responsibility for them. Then we covered Beowulf. HA HA HA -- yes, in one class we covered the greatest of all Anglo-Saxon works. Ah well, that's what summer cram courses are all about. Tomorrow, Gawain.

At least I can remember Kalamazoo this year with a feeling of accomplishment and memories of fun. Of course, it helped that I was rooming with gal pal extraordinaire, Miss Wendy, the Patsy to my Edina. We also traveled to Kazoo with Faye Ringel, NE goth scholar of all things weird (no, that's not why she was traveling with us!) which made for a pleasant drive across mid-Michigan despite the rain.

We made the drop by at Waldo's to check on the UConn crowd, but already knew Thursday was going to be a busy day, so we didn't stay late. I had a lunch appointment and more changes to make to my papers -- even attended a few panels. The best was the panel on theory and medieval scholarship now although a bit crowded and getting a bit warm. The rain gave way to heat and humidity, always a bad thing at K'zoo. My first time attending I walked up to registration only to make way for a woman being carried out on a stretcher. Wow, that's some conference, I thought! Didn't know then about the cinderblock walls of the Valleys and their lethal retention of heat and humidity. Friday was even worse, but I braved the horror of Stinson Lounge to hear the Feminist and Queer Studies panel which was good. Of course, it's the wine hour where you can always be sure to find people. I caught up with pals like Carolyn Coulson. If you stand in one place at the wine hour, you'll see just about everybody sooner or later. I even had lunch with my pal Sandi (AKA the friend who gave us a little kitten named Kipper!) and caught up on things in Houston.

Saturday was looming ahead: the big day! There were some Societas Magica panels to attend and the business meeting, where my pal Scott and I handed over the nearly complete manuscript of a collection on Old English charms that we had received a positive indication on from the previous editor at Penn, so fingers crossed they still like the idea. If not, it's on to the next publisher.

Saturday afternoon was my first paper. The panel on American Popular Culture and the Middle Ages was put together by Ilan Mitchell-Smith and featured my paper on Black Knight, a paper by Kathleen Kelley on Shrek, and one by Stanley Lombardo on the parallels between King Arthur and Dances with Wolves. It was surprisingly well attended (a lot more people than at the last Old Norse paper I gave in K'zoo) and the audience was full of questions. We went out to dinner afterward to continue our conversations, which was great fun.

But I was real nervous about the Pseudo Society! When we headed over to Fetzer Auditorium after dinner, it was already chock full of people (45 minutes before the beginning of the panel!). I suppose the good thing was that many of them had a beer bottle or two in front of them; a woman who had given two previous presentations assured me how welcoming the crowds were. The three of us (all women, Phyllis Diller would be proud) were all a bit nervous but reassuring each other. Host Richard Ring was reassuring as well. The crowd was boisterous -- they started a new thing that has to have come from A Knight's Tale, the clapping to the beat of Queen's "We Will Rock You" when it was time for the show. The hooting, hissing (at bad puns, and Richard's opening remarks were chock full of them) and table pounding, however, was normal. Suddenly it was time (so glad I was going first). I was nervous at the start, and I corpsed like mad as soon as they all laughed at the first visual joke (start with the easy laugh: a reference to an otherwise unknown Anglo-Saxon comic strip about "a field-dwelling cat who does not relish the end of the Sabbath" then showing the slide of the Bayeux Tapestry with Garfield, er, Gar-feld photoshopped in). In a few minutes I had begun to relax, waited for the laughs to slow down before continuing and felt that it had gone okay. Everyone said as much. The woman after me had the best artifacts, including the bunny reliquary and the bunny around her neck. The photographer was trying hard to get a picture of her brandishing the bunny -- that would be the photographer from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Oh my -- he was taking pictures at the dance, too (oh my!). I'll have to see what shows up in their august pages. The final speaker presented a convincing argument that Chaucer had not died, but had been reincarnating in each generation and in fact now lives on as Bruce Springsteen (I'm not doing justice to her piece, trust me it was a real hoot).

After that, the dance was pure celebration. All the nervousness of the day slipped away and Miss Wendy and I both danced away until about 2 am (can you believe it) and had a blast. It was hard to get up and pack in the morning, but we consoled ourselves with a nice breakfast along the way back to Detroit. Ah, Kalamazoo.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Today: Pseudo Society

Today's the big day -- eek! Wouldn't you know I would have Phyllis Diller hair today. Oh well, maybe it will make people laugh. I'm in the computer lab printing out yet another version of the paper because I keep fussing with it. I should just leave it alone, but somehow I can't quite do so. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Off to Kazoo

Tomorrow I hit the road for Kalamazoo fairly early, so I thought it best to write now in case I don't get a chance to do so then (and to give myself a break from the last minute edits et. al. that have been bedeviling me today). Extra stressful this time because 1) I have done too much travel this semester (and it ain't over yet) and 2) I am giving a paper in the Pseudo Panel.

For those of you who have never heard of it (that's most of you, I suppose), this is a traditional panel at the big Medieval Congress in which people give fake papers in the hopes of being funny. Saturday night, standing room only crowds, high expectations -- I never thought I would get on the panel, so I'm more than a bit terrified that my paper will fail to be funny and I get more and more nervous as I think about it. Somehow, I will survive.

Oddly enough, there seems to be a good deal of humor associated with Kazoo and medievalists, some of it from unexpected places, some from the usual suspects. I just hope it goes all right. Meanwhile, I have two finals today!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Forging Folklore

I knew things were looking good when I found a parking spot right in front of Raven Books in Harvard Square Thursday (especially since it's right next door to Planet Records). There was even 24 minutes left on the meter and only an hour left to cover (meter time ends at 6, so I was set for the night). I had a little time to browse before the reception to open the conference, so I made the most of it, but only bought one book (!) that day (let's not talk about McIntyre and Moore).

I was surprised to walk into the reception and immediately run into Joe Harris, whose course on Eddic Poetry at Harvard was an important formative experience for me (especially being then still an employee and not a "real" student); plus he's a great guy, creative and thoughtful. He was eager to know what I was up to and we had a good time chatting. I hunted up Peg Aloi, whom I had found to be an Albany neighbor as well as co-organizer of the conference. She was talking to keynote speaker Ronald Hutton, who also proved to be charming and approachable. I did kid him about Kylie and he was a good sport about it though it clearly was not what he had hoped to have happen in the program. We chatted quite a while, although many other people also wished to speak. I must say Hutton was quite generous with his time and attention -- sometimes keynote speakers come in for their piece and then leave, but he attended panels right up to the time he had to be spirited off to Logan. Good form!

Alas, Cheryl, I did not think of bringing books for him to sign! Ah, well. Another time perhaps.

Peg and Hannah Johnston put together a comprehensive conference with intellectual rigor and a wide variety of viewpoints that often led to spirited debate. They are to be congratulated for their hard work and thoughtful leadership. Thanks, too, go to Stephen Mitchell and Holly Hutchison from the Folklore and Mythology program at Harvard who sponsored and supported the conference (and Holly took care of the innumerable problems that always crop up in the midst of things -- kudos to her!). Stephen is, of course, the reason I became a medievalist. When I read Beowulf and Njal's Saga in his course on Northern Germanic Heroic Traditions everything changed. I've not been the same since!

My presentation seemed to go well; I was so nervous! I'm used to giving papers, but this was a little different. I've played my kantele in front of groups, but never in front of scholars. And I sang -- yes, me. It wasn't terrible (or so they told me) and it fit with what I was saying about Finnish magic traditions and the music of Värttinä. The audience really responded to the curses in particular, but the love charms got a good laugh as well. I will perhaps put the paper up here for folks to read if they have any interest (though of course it will lack the sound aspects). I may be writing up an account of the conference elsewhere, so I'll let you all know.

Travel within New England usually provides a chance to see friends and this trip was no exception. Thanks to Minna, Steve and Bowen for giving me a refuge in the expensive ambience of Boston. Too bad we didn't have more time for kantele duets! Much to my surprise, Bilokur did actually show and I got to see his latest project which looks like it has a lot of potential. The set up may sound more like a joke (okay, so there's a rabbi with a surfboard...) but it has a serious aim even if it makes you laugh, too (as all truly serious things ought to do). On the way back, I made the detour to CT to meet up with the Boojums and Miss Wendy for Cinco de Mayo celebrations at Cinco de Mayo, where we regaled neighboring tables with chat about turn of the century New Britain orphan deaths, cemetery tours and any number of charming topics. Then it was off to Aloha Alcohula, the world's best and most exclusive tiki bar to see the QOE, Johnny 10X and Marko (fez-less but destructive -- we told you it was going to break). Conversation ricocheted from waxing nostalgic about D.O.T.'s pantsless performances and the transformations of the El and Gee, to picking on Marko and viewing the Queen's latest crafty print (wicked cool). Then Miss Wendy and I stayed up late watching Enchanted April and gabbing as we do. A lazy Sunday morning, then back on the road to home, to see how much email had piled up in my absence and to be fawned over by Kipper and my sweetie. I slept like a rock last night and came in to my office this morning to face a stack of work. Argh.

Wednesday, I'm off again -- this time to Kalamazoo for the annual pilgrimage. Whew! Starting June 8, I'm going to be more stationary -- no, really.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cambridge Bound

Hey, what's on Cute Overload today? Baby turtle?!

Off to Beantown this afternoon for the conference at Harvard with my kantele by my side, and a bunch of cds. We shall see how it goes -- if nothing else, it will be fun! I get to see Ronald Hutton (but will Kylie be singing in the background as she is during his interviews on Historyonics?).

Of course, the nice thing about a trip to the East is that I get to see friends in the Boston area, then in Connecticut on the swing back.

Better yet, it's the last day of classes --- whooohooo! Well, there's still finals, but that's less stress for me, and only revisions to grade for the most part.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Not surprisingly, Helsingin Sanomat had some photos and a story on Vappu (May Day celebrations) in Helsinki yesterday. Although most people seemed to have fun, it appears that, "Portable toilet facilities were vandalised in Kaivopuisto on Monday night." Somehow I imagine teens spray-painting Lordi logos all over (although the band itself is notoriously well regarded). It's spring -- what can you do?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day with Jodorowsky

Today is the big day!

After thirty years or more of wrangling, ABKCO films releases the big box set of Alejandro Jodorowsky's films including El Topo and Holy Mountain. Once touted by people like John and Yoko, Jodorowsky's films have been more talked about than seen since the brouhaha with rights began, so this package brings these stories once more to a wide audience.

How to describe them? Or even Jodorowsky himself? One of the later surrealists, he dedicated himself to using art for both psychological and spiritual means as well as artistic. His films explore the ways we encounter the disruptions of life on a grand scale. His obsessions with mystic visions and physical deformity bring a strange ambience to his surreal cinematic works, like a strange melding of Todd Browning and Maya Deren. El Topo explores mysticism through the spaghetti western (and along the way critiques the construction of masculinity in Western culture) while Holy Mountain dives even deeper into the mystic to confront the horrors of modern life with a surrealistic spin that anticipates the complaisant acceptance of post-modernism (and this in the mid-1970s!).

The box also includes the seldom seen Fando y Lis as well as the soundtracks for both of the better known films. The images are crisp and clear and will be a revelation to those who have only seen the films via third generation bootlegs or much-worn 35mm. The films still pack a whallop* even all these years later. Vision is such a rare quality.

*Gentle viewers may want to be warned that films from this time period did not have the same RSPCA/ASPCA requirements. Much of the animal carnage is not simulated, which can be rather gruesome.


On an unrelated note, Elena continues her Wombat spoofing at Humorous Maxiumus. Go check out her comics for a good chuckle (any day!).