Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hejdå, Ingmar

We watched the Dick Cavett interview with Ingmar Bergman last night to remember (Thanks Jane for letting us borrow the tapes!). It was very interesting, of course, not least because Cavett sat back for the most part and let him speak about everything from his restless legs to his brief foray into psychoanalysis. Bibi Andersson, who joined them for the second half of the interview, had a very different memory about what had occurred. Bergman said the psychiatrist declared him "too healthy" to need therapy; Andersson said that the shrink had feared that removing any one of the myriad neuroses might affect his filmmaking.

There's a Bergman film in a nutshell: one reality, very different experiences of it, and halting attempts to bridge the gulf between those perceptions.

There's a nice remembrance at Slate (thanks, Gene!) and elsewhere, but the best remembrance is of course any of his films. I recall knowing about The Seventh Seal long before I saw it, rather as it was with Casablanca. The surprise with both those films was the warmth and humor they contain, which did not fit my naive view of "important" films. They are both a joy to see.

I received a clarifying question regarding my essay on Bergman and Craven from the editor of the film and folklore collection. She says it's in final proofs now, so it will be coming out soon (well, soon in publishing terms). Bergman's art continues to be very much a living tradition.


I finished a story last night. It's weird to think how long it's been since I felt that particular mixture of "hurry up!" and "don't let it end." It's a story I actually started last year, in fact I read its first few pages at Trinoc*con last year, assuming I would finish it shortly thereafter. Nope. A combination of things -- mostly due to starting my first year at Saint Rose. I finally dug the story out this spring, but the other big projects kind of overtook my time (yeah, and travel).

So there I was last night -- while Gene, too, was typing furiously for his deadline (how much happier he is without Flake-Wilkerson) -- getting near the end, impatient for it to get there, but wanting to get it right. After all, I'm going to read the complete version at Trinoc*con this weekend, so it gets immediate input. As always, there are bits that I hadn't quite figured out, so I had to wait until the characters figure out what makes sense. Stories don't always go exactly where you think they will. And there could be more to this one -- of course it's got two other things in front of it, fiction-wise, as I'm still finishing Unikirja and am four chapters into another novel.

Here's the other thing: It's going to take the whole hour to read it!

The story I thought would be a few pages longer turned out to be about 10K words, or 30 pages. Yikes! The major issue immediately is that most mags don't want stories above 5-7K tops. Although webzines (some of which do indeed pay) have relaxed those limits somewhat.

The topic isn't entirely niche either -- a zombie western. I think the title is good though (ask me if you want to know it, I'd rather not post it).

There's the hideous noise at my office on campus because they're rolling and digging the driveway. There's some kind of drilling or grinding going on at the school across the road here, so noise seems inescapable today. I just want to work! Argh.

It was really weird to find out that my pal Mildred has been keeping a writing blog since March and told no one. Of course, I immediately devoured it -- it's such a singular experience to get an unguarded glimpse into a friend's thoughts (and a thing done at one's own peril). I'm not linking to it, as she doesn't want it to be especially public yet (yes, a thing can be on the net and not public; there are thousands of blogs out there, so even looking for it, I couldn't find it until she gave me the URL).

Pearl, whom some of you know, has also been blogging in earnest, and not just as part of the group she's in, Short Punks in Love. She went to the BlogHer conference in Chicago, a gathering for women bloggers and wound up a sound bite on NPR.

You never know where stories will go...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Going Flat

I got a new bike helmet and set off on my daily bike ride with a renewed sense of safety (even though it made my head sweat). I went further up into Colonie, past Hot Dog Charlie's before going south back into the 'vliet. About six blocks from home I didn't miss a pothole and suddenly -- I had a flat. Urgh. Had to walk the bike back home -- need a new tube.

Just now I got off the phone with the editor of Saint Rose's alumni magazine. She's doing a story on travel abroad, so I guess she will be using some information from my group's trip to England. Oddly enough, she had been on the quad the day the students were performing Mankind and The Second Shepherds' Play. She was intrigued, to say the least.

Looking forward to Trinoc*con! Only a few days away.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ghost of Necon Recap: The Pictures

Phil shades Anya, as required by law, while she encourages her ball to make a hole-in-one.

Gahan Wilson enjoys the Valuable Prizes(tm) won in the arcade.

Anya poses on the carousel to take advantage of dramatic lighting.

Hank Wagner and Elena do not want any Rolling Rock, but it's all I have.

Gene is the King of Necon. This position allows him to control the weather.

Hal the Bookie, Elena and Rod await the terror that is That Darned Game Show.

A Saugy -- and Gene wonders why I have no desire to eat one.

Quiet on the set, Gene and Jason! The director needs to drink his fancy mineral water. Drink, Phil, drink. Good thing the crew isn't union.

A still from Trail of the Screaming Forehead -- can't wait to see it!

CT pal Jason Harris and me during the seemingly endless farewells at the picnic.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Return to Necon Recap

[Back from the Simpsons which was enjoyed]

I forgot to mention the first volume of biographies for the hall of famers which included Charlie Grant, Bob Booth and Craig Shaw Gardner. All campers got a copy. I started with Gardner's which I'm enjoying -- not too surprisingly, it's got a good bit of self-deprecating humor. Since Grant was unable to write one, they've assembled a variety of his personal writings which form a sort of life story.

By going to the Lobster Pot, it's true -- we missed the Hawaiian shirt competition. Well, we weren't anywhere in the running. We saw some amazing sartorial flair. It gets more competitive every year.

Saturday we slept a bit later, poked around the dealer's room, then went to the panel in honor of Charlie Grant. Everybody had such wonderful things to say about the author, the editor, the advocate of horror -- but most of all about the man. Such generosity lay behind the sometimes irascible exterior. I remember reading the compilations he put together especially, back when there didn't seem to be much horror beyond King, Straub and Tryon. They were a good introduction to other voices and started the impetus toward the horror boom of the 80s. I remember him as the voice of the Sandman during the roast when the Heathers sang "Mister Sandman" back at Necon '99 (I think?). Not in the spotlight, but essential.

We went out to lunch afterward and were a bit late getting back, but caught some of the GOH panel, but we were ready to heckle Phil during the Film Biz panel. Phil of course was excited about The Girl Next Door, for which he had co-written the script. Dallas AKA Jack Ketchum was also excited -- in addition to The Girl Next Door, his novels Red and The Lost are also so to be released feature films (so is Offseason, but he's not too happy about that one). Fans will be glad to hear the name Lucky McKee is attached to both of those, so a good sign.

Paul Wilson talked about the ups and downs of his books' translations to film, from the big budget Michael Mann fiasco of The Keep, to Dario Argento's singular adaptation of Pelts ("he added those strippers") and a near escape for the Repairman Jack film:

Ashton Kutcher is Repairman Jack, the avuncular neighborhood helpful guy. A bit different, eh?

Next up: croquet! we were medal-winners in previous years, but we didn't do so well this year. I got to the finals, but didn't finish in the running. Ah well. A little nibble and then it was time for That Darned Game Show -- the annual event in which Doug and Craig try to sap every one's will to live by explaining arcanely Byzantine rules in detail for an hour or so before the game begins (and sometimes an hour after it ends). Why does everyone sit through it? Because the annual roast starts right after it. So once Chet had won the Cthulhu backpack, the roast began -- for lucky Jim Moore. It was a pretty gentle roast as almost no one had a bad thing to say about him, but they did tease him plenty. Afterward, I got my tarot card reading from Sèphera, then we headed back over to the quad for more of the usual.

Well, we got that but a whole lot of unusual, too. Phil had announced his plan to shoot, edit and show a film by midnight. He'd told us the night before that we might be called on for film duty. Sure enough, Gene ended up filming in a scene with our new pal (and fellow UATW writer) Jason. Of course that was about 2am, so the plan wasn't quite working out, but Phil's enthusiasm never flagged. We did, and finally headed back to the hotel, vowing to stay on campus for sure next time.

Sunday morning we caught the short film of Dead @ 17, with a script by Rick Hautala, before Cortney's presentation on Trail of the Screaming Forehead. That's going to be a separate post, so suffice to say now that it was wonderful and funny. After the town meeting there was only the farewell picnic -- which seems to last a long time because it's always so hard to say good-bye to everyone. At least I finally got a chance to chat with my pal John Douglas and meet their new puppy Kayley.

It was a long drive back, but at least it wasn't raining. We have our bag of freebies to go through and the hall of fame bios to read, and well, as usual, tons of work. So I should be getting to that right about now.

Son of Necon Recap

[Before we head off to see the Simpsons Movie, let me try to cover a little more]

Let's see -- when we got back to campus, I caught the end of the "So Funny I Could Scream" panel, where I heard Gahan Wilson express his contempt for those wacky video clip programs that simply show people getting hurt or embarrassed. It was lazy and worse, mean-spirited, he said.

I started to sit through the "Horror in the Family" panel about juggling two creative people in the same household, but the siren call of the dealer's room was too strong. Lots of things I could not possibly afford, but a few cheap and useful things, too. Michael Borden was there as usual, tempting us with rarities. He even kissed my hand and gave me the friend discount even though I only bought a few paperbacks. he had many cool things to show, including an early nineteenth century book of Hogarth engravings and a heretofore unknown early photograph of Lovecraft, looking youthful and doe-eyed. We took a first look at the art show too, featuring the breath-taking work of Artist GOH Tom Kidd, wacky pseudo-artifacts from Cortney and some cute Skeery items from Beth Massie.

At the artists reception, we caught up with Elena and Rod again, as well as Marianne Plumridge and Bob Eggleton, whom we had met at Rod & Elena's anniversary party. We all scarfed up the tasty desserts, then headed upstairs to hear the special announcement: The Necon Hall of Fame! Prompted in part by Charlie Grant's death, the Necon regulars (including the Booths and Craig Shaw Gardner) decided the history of horror needed to be honored in a special way. It was fitting that most of the inductees were there -- and surprised. Many turned their thanks to reminiscences of Charlie (which would continue more officially on Saturday), some tearful, all heartfelt.

For dinner we headed over to the Lobster Pot with Elena, Rod, Bob and Marianne. Later we were joined by Tom and Andrea, too. It was a beautiful night to sit on the harbor and enjoy our meal and conversation. Afterward we took Elena back to the quad and stayed up late again with the usual rambling conversations.

Movie time -- gotta go!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Necon Recap

All right, a week late, but let's get to it while I still have some fleeting memories: We set off last Thursday hoping the weather would hold, which it did until we got to Connecticut. Within sight of our first goal -- Rod and Elena's -- we were suddenly deluged by rain. Our way was further impeded by construction around Hartford. Argh. We got there at last, but after seeing the traffic backed up going the other way (the way we'd be heading to Rhode Island), we decided to have Rod's birthday dinner in West Hartford.

I don't remember there being so many great looking restaurants in West Hartford! Admittedly, we seldom went there but to visit the West Hartford Bookstore (alas, like so many indy bookstores, only a memory now), so it was a treat to go to Luna's and have some fantastic pizza. We had leftovers for a midnight snack. Then it was on the road and, unfortunately, another deluge. By the time we got the Bristol Harbor Inn, we were feeling a bit exhausted, so we debated whether to go over to the quad or not.

Thursday night of Necon means ghost stories and saugys ("Is your grill worthy?"). But when it rains, there's not so much fun because you can't stand out on the quad yacking. We decided to go anyway, even though -- as usual -- we got to talking rather than listening to the ghost stories. One of the people we ended up chatting with for a while was the ever-entertaining Cortney Skinner. Elena was wearing her CSI:Miami shirt with a description of every death on the back of it (she spent the evening pirouetting) and Cortney shared his obsession with David Caruso's ticks (acting ticks, not the bugs). He also mentioned how he and Beth and her sister Barb (the latter sadly absent form Necon this year) all got to be in Evan Almighty because it was filmed in the small town where they live. Apparently Beth's car gets a brief cameo (she has a vanity plate that says "I write good" [spelling may vary]). We told Cortney we were looking forward to his presentation Sunday on Larry Blamire's latest film Trail of the Screaming Forehead, the follow-up to the amazing Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. But then the rain came and we decided to head back as everybody else headed inside. While the birthday boy napped, we three went out to the pub on the harbor and sat yacking until about 1 (have to get our Necon hours set).

The next morning was the first Olympic event, mini-golf, which we got to once we figured out that Rod and Elena had not locked us in our half of the suite (d'oh! but they thought we'd locked them out of the bathroom). As usual we made up a foursome with Phil and Anya. Of course as we pulled up at White Cap we ran into lots of people we hadn't seen the night before, including Dan Foley (former student, now author and Necon regular). Then it was off to Fantasyland (the name of the amusement center). I played a personal best, but it was no match for the true pros (like Dan and John Douglas). We had our usual fun -- Gene's got the pictures to show it (and he'll put them up once he finishes Harry Potter, which I already finished, hee hee). After the round we got our slice o' pie and our tokens, so we could play the shark equivalent of Whack-a-Mole and then watch Phil and Anya ride the merry-go-round. As usual, we made a stop by the grocery store and 1776 , Necon's favorite off campus shop. Chris Golden even suggested that they have a booth at the con next year, but Dan Booth thought that would make things a little too convenient.

I've only got to Friday lunch! But it's so hot by this computer that I'm going to take a break. More anon. I'm at home as construction continues at the office. Argh.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Best Quote

From an interview with Life on Mars creator, Tony Jordan:

"The collective noun for a group of writers should be an insecurity."


The driveway next to my office is being torn up today. Did they warn us about the noise? No. Did they tell us we'll need to find somewhere else to park? No. Do they care that we have deadlines? No. Argh.

Drove down to Poughkeepsie to drop Gene off at Metro North. He's gone down to the city to meet up with Tim, the editor of the book he's working on at present. Tim's stopping in NYC to see his pal Garth before he heads to San Diego and Comi-Con. Oddly enough, I just saw Tim on his birthday last month in Brighton.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

(Re)Publication: Vipunen

My short story "Vipunen" has been reprinted in Mythic Passages: The Magazine of Imagination, published by the Mythic Imagination Institute. This is the second of the Unikirja stories that they have reprinted. It's wonderful to be in the same (virtual) pages as people like the fabulous Terri Windling and Delia Sherman. As with everything they do, it is beautifully presented with some lovely pictures, like this one.

Yes, we're back from Necon, exhausted and overwhelmed. A recap will appear as soon as I get the energy. A preview: on the harbor at the Lobster Pot with Rod, Elena and some talented friends; too much rain Thursday, too little sleep the rest of the time; temptations from Michael Borden; mini-golf with Phil and Anya; friends new and old; the endless game show; the crazy roast and Phil's Mad Movie Project (featuring a fetching young comics scholar in a key role!)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Every Writer's Worst Fear Confirmed

Thanks to Susan for passing along this story from Reuters:

LONDON (Reuters) - Even Jane Austen would have trouble finding a publisher today, a struggling author revealed Thursday.

David Lassman sent off to 18 publishers assorted chapters from Austen novels in which he changed just the titles and the names of the characters.

He called himself Alison Laydee after Austen's early pseudonym "A Lady."

Seventeen publishers rejected or ignored his bid for literary glory. Only one spotted the ruse and told him not to mimic "Pride and Prejudice" so closely.

Lassman, who decided on the experiment when struggling to get his own novel published, told British media: "Getting a novel accepted is very difficult today unless you have an agent first. But I had no idea of the scale of rejection poor old Jane suffered."

Off to Necon to forget such depressing news!

Idleness on the Road

Off to Necon this afternoon, by way of West Hartford where we make a quick stop at the Vampire Bed & Breakfast, since we'll be heading over with Rod, The Birthday Boy, and Elena.

Knowing those pesky Goth Scouts, they'll be tagging along, too. They'll have the whole con schunkeling by Friday night, I'm sure.

Last night we headed up to Saratoga Springs to meet Crispinus et his long-suffering uxor, Krista, for a tasty dinner at Sushi Thai Garden. Of course there was some difficulty immediately -- how to choose? Ha ha, -- choose? That's for suckers! We had some shumai to start with (mmm, tasty!) and I had to have at least a little sushi (unagi) before my thai entree, Macadamia Beef. Mmmm! Never had macadamia nuts in meat dish -- nice complex sauce with wonderful flavors (although I'm not sure it rated one chili hotness -- still have to remember we're on a Northeast spice meter now). I tried a little of Gene's Basil and Chili with shrimp which had terrific flavor, too. We'll definitely be back (superb service, too).

We demurred from ordering dessert there, however, so we could go to Humpty Dumpty's for the very finest chocolate/vanilla swirl with a dip top (well, that's what I had, some people turned down the dip top opportunity -- hmmph!) and argue about whether that was a cravate or a belt that he was wearing. It's always a race to finish the cones before the melting overwhelms you or the mosquitos do. A perfect way to end a visit to the Springs.

It was so humid after the downpour yesterday that a mist hung over the city as we drove away. It's humid today, too; maybe it will be cooler in Rhode Island. But, yes, it's still less humid than Houston!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sexy Guy on NPR Alert!

Well, maybe -- Gene was interviewed by "All Things Considered" for a sequence on Tintin au Congo. Fingers crossed!

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

We went out with a bunch of friends Friday night to see the latest Harry Potter film (thanks, Lou, for getting there early to buy tickets!) at the Spectrum, Albany's finest cinema. Movies like this are best with a group of like-minded friends, and we all had been anticipating its release with excitement.

While no film ever quite matches up to the source book, there's the notorious difficulty with Rowling's books of having to chop down some 800 or so pages to a two hour or so film. A lot has to go. But the latest film is no exception, but with one or two quibbles, it does so with some success. Like the books, each film has been darker than its predecessor. The last film ended with Harry face to face with death, and he begins here with no one believing the horror he had to face. I recall that in the book that the teen-age angst and hormones added a lot to the tension (the usual life in peril, evil adversaries and emotional upheavals) and there's a bit of it here, but it's not as developed as the book (of course). The primary actors continue to mature, which a handful of flashbacks bring sharply to mind (they look so tiny!). If there's a major problem, it's that we have so many characters (and brilliant actors playing them) that we don't get enough time with any one of them (more Maggie Smith!). Cho and Hagrid especially should have had a wrap-up by the end.

Yet we also have new characters: Evanna Lynch is absolutely delightful as Luna (AKA "Looney") Lovegood, capturing the dreamy otherness of Harry's new friend. Of course the real triumph is the always wonderful Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge who makes pink the new fascism. Or as the magazine Political Affairs writes,

Most of the latter [i.e. wit] springs from Umbridge's quintessential portrayal by the diminutive pink-clad Imelda Staunton,successfully combining shades of Mary Whitehouse, Margaret Thatcher and the shark from Jaws. Staunton packs more threat into her tight-lipped smile than all the roars of Hellraiser as she justifies the torture of students to achieve precious order.

It's worth it for that alone, but also the big "shoot out" in the Ministry of Magic at the end. Another worthy entry in the Potter series -- and the last book out this week! What will Rowling do next? Probably just roll around on a big pile of money (mmmm).

Afterward, in what is quickly becoming a habit, we went to the Fountain for some cheesy pizza and for Gene to try to make beer come out of our noses from laughing. There was even a little dixieland band there which was quite good. If only movie nights were always that satisfying (Fantastic Four, I'm looking in your direction).

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Review: Stoppard's Rough Crossing

We headed off to Massachusetts once more this week, this time to see theater in the Berkshires. Shakespeare & Co provide a lovely location for players just a short drive from here (well, short in born-in-a-car terms -- about an hour door to door), just around the corner from Kripalu, Tanglewood and Edith Wharton's old home. We were there to see Stoppard's Rough Crossing, a light-hearted farce on board a ship. We timed it so we could also catch a pre-show lecture on Stoppard's humor and have time to enjoy a picnic as well.

The set captured the nautical ambiance with a minimum of gestures. I have a prejudice for the bare stage, so I thought it just right. I don't know the source materials at all, the Hungarian play by Molnar, nor the version adapted by Wodehouse, so it was fun to hear from the lecturer that Stoppard turned the original setting, an Italian castle, into the name of the ship. I imagine that was only the beginning of the changes. The plot, which centers on mismatched lovers and playwrights without an end to their new musical romance (opening in four days!), sounds a lot more like Wodehouse than Stoppard, but he has a lot of fun with the conventions. The songs, written with André Previn, sound authentic. The inept inebriate steward, Dvornicheck, (played by LeRoy McClain) quickly proved a crowd favorite. Jonathan Croy kept the center of the action grounded as the playwright Turai, lending the role a canny and calculated nature, but one who was not above tooting his own horn loudly. Jason Asprey gave his partner Gal the somewhat befuddled air of a man more interested in his stomach than art. As the hapless composer Adam Adam, Bill Barclay managed to give an air of innocent romanticism while carrying out some of the silliest bits of the dialogue. Elizabeth Aspenlieder and Malcolm Ingram give buoyancy to the usual egoistic stars of the plays, always quick to sell art up the river for commerce if it means a better role. Kevin Coleman's direction captures the deft speed and lightness the materials requires to keep from being too self-conscious.

While bereft of the philosophical and political depths of many of his other plays, Rough Crossing features a lot of intricately woven jokes relying on Stoppard's usual nimble wordplay, as well as complicated details (the composer's verbal affliction or attempts to turn lies into believable truths). The cast were well prepared for the linguistic acrobatics and seemed to make the most of the fun. Well worth the drive!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Jam Tomorrow

But writing today: Reviews tomorrow of Stoppard's Rough Crossing and (tonight's fun) Harry Potter.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Publication: Imagineer

According to McFarland's page anyway, the book is "available for immediate shipment." Amazon yesterday said it was "available special order only"; today it says "only 1 left in stock!" Who knows?

At least the table of contents is up at the publisher's site, so we can see my essay "Imagineer: Clive Barker’s Queering of the Conservative Bent of Horror Literature" is the last in the collection. That's actually a good thing -- the best place to be is first, of course, but last is traditionally the anchor position in academic publishing. Of course the page at McFarland's makes it look like Ruth wrote all the essays, which is a bit irritating. The table of contents at least should clarify who wrote what. Let's hope the actual essays indicate authors (I'm sure they do -- there's an entry for contributors in the ToC).

With luck, maybe my copy will arrive soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Something to Be Ready For

What I hope to make my next phone, the Neo 1973:

Although I'm not sure if I could go for orange. The folks at Openmoko are making progress on this terrific phone that will not be tied to evil AT&T like the iPhone and will have all kinds of adaptability for innovation. This is in keeping with the free source ideas of Open Office, the free open source version of your favorite office softwares, or Open Source Web Design, where my web templates were found.

Thanks to Gene, my Boing-Boing sifter (i.e. he looks at the site more often than I do and tells me when there's something worth checking out), for sifting this gem.

Something to Smile About

Learn more at the Guardian (where clever readers add their own captions).

Monday, July 09, 2007

Drumming with Layne Redmond

Thanks to the folks at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA, I got to spend the weekend learning from the wonderful Layne Redmond. I had not been to the center before (conveniently across the street from Tanglewood and, as I discovered, around the corner from the Berkshire Botanical Garden and the Norman Rockwell Museum). As you can tell from the image above, it's a gorgeous location. When I arrived Friday after the beautiful drive through the Berkshires, I got out of the car and just sighed. The center is a the top of a hill looking down on a valley with a lake (Kripalu has its own beach there). A year away from Houston and I still can't get enough green, but here was the perfect place to be. Trees, trees, trees -- and plants. Lots of bees! A very good sign these days. The main building still ahs the look of its former residents, the Jesuits -- their legacy remains in the Saint Francis statue outside the door. His influence still seems to be felt among the little creatures there, too. Just outside the doors where people gather on picnic tables, chatting and eating, birds, squirrels and even little bunny rabbits sit calmly eating among the flower beds with others walking by. It was wonderful to walk around the hills and forests. There's even a labyrinth. After the big storms Friday night, there was a lot of moisture in the air and Saturday morning the mists hung in the hills like something out of Miyazaki (no Totoros to be seen, so far).

Of course, the main reason I was there was for Layne's workshop. An enthusiastic group gathered to hear her play and share her skills. I have been a big fan of hers ever since I read When the Drummers Were Women, which I found out about when I took my first drumming class with Toni Kellar back at Eastern Connecticut State University's Day for Women. As many of you know, I've been drumming ever since, but this is the first opportunity I'ev had to attend one of Layne's workshops.

She's just as inspiring as her book and CDs. She's in the process of moving to Brazil, so many of the rhythms we learned came from that region. It's amazing how well the Brazilian rhythms mixed with the Middle Eastern patterns that have long been a part of her music. The participants ranged from practiced musicians to complete beginners, but there was something challenging for everyone. Layne led us through stages carefully, helped by her assistant, Shirsten Lundblad of Inanna. Usually we'd start with the basic rhythm which we would chant first, then we would learn to play on chopsticks -- yes! chopsticks: a cheap and simple rhythmic instrument. Then we'd have to play it while stepping right, cross left, then left, cross right. At least we didn't have to chew gum, too. Once we mastered that, it was time to pick up the drums. We were using the lotus tambourines that Layne designed for Remo (and yes, I bought one to bring home. I had been wanting one for a couple of years now and sold my old riq which was just too heavy). We would learn the basic rhythm, then add the frills, then do it all -- chanting, playing and moving. Ay yi yi -- it was quite complex and often it was hard to get everyone in sync. But when we were, it was just magic. Of course, we were all eager to hear Layne play -- it's amazing the range of sounds she can coax from a drum. She also brought along footage of players in Brazil and videos she has made for the new songs for the Orishas.

It was hard to leave Sunday afternoon -- well, she wasn't leaving. The Sacred Pulse Festival happens all this week at Kripalu, but work beckons me. Sigh. But I'm listening to the new CD as I type this (that doesn't sound much like work, does it?) and I can play along with my new drum later.

I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.
George Eliot (1819 - 1880)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Albany Joys

A couple of the things I enjoy about this area: riding along the Hudson on my bike, although I found that I have to go down to 4th street to catch the main trail toward Albany. Northward, the trail goes all the way out the Mohawk River past Schenectady.

Last night I finally got to go to Mahar's, where Gene had already been. We signed up for the beer tour, which means you record all the different beers you try. When you get to 50, you get a t-shirt; when you get to 125, you get a special mug that stays there and gives you a 20% discount on drafts. My first beer? Well, how could I resist the Middle Ages XII Porter? It was a tad sweet but with a rich flavor. Mmm.

Tonight I'm off to drum with Layne Redmond -- whoo hoo!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Strange Obsessions

Magpies have been much on my mind of late, partly due to seeing so many in England and Finland, but also because of something I'm writing right now. You can learn a lot about them at this terrific site, Raven's Aviary, including traditional stories and myths about all the corvidae. They have had their effect on many across the world and through time.

Somehow having a day off has mixed up my sense of what day it is...

UPDATE: But I do have shed envy!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Celebrate America -- with Comics!

The most remarkable woman ever known, Fantomah (above in one of her many exciting adventures, although you can't see her blue skull here as gorillas tear apart an evil scientist [yes, gentle gorillas, but they've had a dastardly serum injected]): she's just one of the characters created by Fletcher Hanks. The weird and wonderful art of Hanks (AKA Hank Fletcher, Barclay Flagg, and Hank Christy) seems to come from a seriously disturbed mind and a singular (if anatomically suspect) hand. His heroic son, Hank Fletcher Jr., gives a little insight into why that might be (see pp 21-22 of this profile).

Gene introduced me to this bizarre work with the Super Wizard Stardust comic (sent by the joey Zone, thanks :-). I am convinced that there is a Fletcher Code to deduce within these pages (it can't just be inept storytelling!), so I will have to write that bestseller soon.

Really weird stuff, indeed.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Best paragraph ever

From the Guardian's story on the media's coverage of the Princess Diana memorial concert:

Every single piece of tomorrow's chip paper has devoted a space to the Wembley stadium shindig. The Sun's Vicky Newton, who by rights should be more interested in His Majesty Cthulhu than any temporal royalty, makes a big play of being the only gossip hack to get backstage. 3am, meanwhile, put a rubbish sketch of a laminate VIP pass at the head of their column in order to make some kind of positive impression.

They fail.

God save the British press.

Check out the inestimable Hello Cthulhu for more wacky adventures of the adorable Elder God!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Kazoo in the Chronicle

This week's issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education has the story on the Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo. Perilous Cheryl tells me that there are, alas, no pictures of me or Miss Wendy, but it should be interesting to see the write up. She's also kindly offered to send me the article as we have only the (lagging a week or so behind, picture-free Lexis-Nexus) electronic version at Saint Rose.

There is, however, an audio story about the dance! And here's somebody's brief YouTube video at the dance. Medievalists rock!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Quiet Weekend

Not much exciting to post because we have both been busy writing or scanning (in Gene's case). We did hear from Miss Wendy, who has been terribly busy with her students in Los Angeles, meeting up with my pal Adrean (yay!) and getting ready to visit SF. And we're not in Manchester, so waah! Deadlines loom, so I'll leave you with some wise words which came to me courtesy of the Kripalu Center:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, U.S. poet, essayist, and lecturer