Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ten Years!

Cue the wedding march (in our case, Shonen Knife's "Top of the World")!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween Hi-jinks

Saturday morning dawned dark and dreary but we didn't care because we were headed for fun. Well, we cared a little as it was a bit miserable across the Berkshires, but the savings of $.25 per gallon of gas helped ease the pain. We arrived at Miss Wendy's to enjoy a sweet white chocolate martini (mmmm) and some chili (mmm) as we chatted, brainstormed her costume and watched horror films.

Once our costumes were assembled, we headed over to the Boojumhaus to start the evening rolling. the costumes, of course, were amazing. Everyone knows the Boojums' party is all about the friendly competition. It is friendly, but oh so competitive! The standards are high. I have to admit I wasn't really feeling up to it -- too much busyness. My elaborate idea will have to wait until next year. I went with comfortable and easy, although I think it was nonetheless creative: Baron Samedi, the voudoun loa. I had his vévé drawn on my back (see picture above) and it gave me an excuse to die my hair purple. Gene, however, finally went with an idea he had had for a long time and it paid off: he came home with the top trophy! His costume:

Raggedy Andy Warhol

Miss Wendy was the last survivor of the Donner Party. The three of us walked away with most of the prizes, too. Wendy won the bats in the belfry toss and pin the bone on the skeleton, while I triumphed in the modified apple bobbing (it's all about the bite radius). The Boojums themselves were in fine style, Rod and Elena hilarious, and the Queen and Bernie -- well, you just have to cruise through the pictures and see the rest of the folks because I'm tired of making links. It was great. Nobody Halloweens like the Boojums!

Sunday when we got up we headed over to Nita's for a fine breakfast, then it was on the road to Robert's where we had a fine feast with little nibblies and some faboo roast beast. We got home and watched one of the films we borrowed from Robert and then it was sleepy time.

Monday was a long day -- grading that had been neglected over the weekend, meetings and paperwork, but in the evening, we had the Devil's Night reading hosted by the Saint Rose chapter of Sigma Tau Delta honor society. Great fun in part because Gene was the emcee and I got to quiz the students on famous lines from horror films, then read Joe R. Lansdale's "Dog, Cat and Baby" to howls of horror and delight. Then it was run home, prepare for class and get up early again today to teach all day and try to finish catching up.

Now I have to go see what everybody else blogged!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Boojum (and Miss Wendy) Bound

We're heading off on our journey to Connecticut and the annual Boojum Blast. Can't wait to see all the costumes tonight. Ours are more or less ready (some assembly required). I went for comfort this year, so I'm already wearing most of mine. Pictures will be forthcoming, of course -- with luck, from better photographers than me. We're staying over with Miss Wendy and stopping by to see Robert on the swing back. Ah, the circuit! With beautiful foliage along the way, it will be lovely (despite the rain).

Prose at the Rose: Ringler

My interview with Robyn Ringler is on-line now at Saint Rose Radio. Robyn has been an attorney, a nurse and a lobbyist for gun control as well as a freelance writer. She had a number of stories to tell, including being a key nurse on duty at GWU Hospital on March 30, 1981.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Whoo hoo! Got tickets to Tom Stoppard's Rock-n-Roll which is opening on Broadway at the Jacobs with the original West End cast: Brian Cox, Sinead Cusack and Rufus Sewell. I can't wait -- we never did get around to catching one of the marathon sessions of Coast of Utopia, so I'm glad to be able to catch this (assuming those e-tickets come to me soon! Gaah -- $2.50 service charge to print them out myself. Someone's getting rich...). We haven't been down to the city for a while, so it's a good excuse to go. Do I hear the Strand beckoning...? Or is it just that special shop in Times Square?


You've thought about it: now do it! Sign up now for National Novel Writing Month and do it with thousands of people all over the world. Haven't you wondered whether you have a novel in you? Give it a try!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Consolation of Philosophy

It's funny how many parallels you can find if you look for them. Among the things I was teaching today (which is to say, the things I blathered on about and hoped the students were taking in) was the Knight's Tale from Chaucer. In it he makes reference to the mutability of Fortune, personified as a woman in the Middle Ages whose favors are given then withdrawn, something Boethius used as a starting point in his "Consolation of Philosophy." A work that Chaucer found quite influential, the Consolation counsels keeping an even keel against the vagaries of fortune by cleaving to Christian philosophy. Fortunately, his essential ideas work with other beliefs as well.

I was thinking of that as I came away from an unpleasant interview with a student who was quite hostile and full of anger. I knew it had nothing to do with me really (this is common for the student who seems to have wide swings in emotion daily), but it affected me anyway. I knew that it had, so I pursued my usual techniques of shaking off the bad day (moaning to friends, thinking of words of wisdom, and visiting Cute Overload, taking a moment of quiet meditation).

And in the end, what caused the strife in the first place was what offered me a salve: another class, more students. How glad I am that the Medieval Texts on Film class ends my day. The students are mostly motivated, not captive. They have some tolerance for my eccentricities (i.e. getting off topic, talking about obscure films and comics) and are genuinely looking forward to the Beowulf film if only to have a go at it.

So I got to talk about Chaucer -- who's always amusing (what a great dinner guest he would have been) -- and the Knight's tale and a little Boethius. Using the term "hoisted by his own petard" and finding them unfamiliar with the phrase, we went off on a tangent to explain that and running off on another tangent, explaining both schadenfreude and, consequently, Jeffrey Archer's prison term. I love talking about words, so I was in my element. Besides, our film for the day (the BBC version of the Knight's Tale) gave me a chance at the end to say that I particularly enjoyed it because I had so many times used the line, "You're only saying that because you're covered in petrol."

A lie, of course -- but that's what humor's about. Stories (little lies, big lies) that make you laugh. That's writing in a nutshell: telling convincing lies. Do I tell my students that? Sometimes, sometimes; on a good day -- like today ended up being -- I just might.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beowulf Rated: PG-13

The teevee spots have started. My students were suitably scornful of the look of it (and the sound of it -- right, Mildred?). But flog it, I do! Hee hee -- it will be fun.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Blast from the Past

Last night we joined our friends Maryann and Dee for a jaunt to The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Palace theater (and first stopped by the Pump Station -- yum!). I don't know how many years it has been since I last saw it -- hate to count 'em. It may have been back at the NuArt in L.A. (which would make it a very long time indeed -- watching it on video in CT doesn't count [I still love that John Waters "No Smoking"reel!]).

It's still a hoot. They played a contemporary trailer, a trailer for the Star Trek arcade game (wow), another for 2001 (an upcoming film in the Certified Angus Beef movie series) and even a Warner Bros. cartoon! And I only saw one of my students (who said, "Hello, Dr. Laity" as she ducked away).

It all comes back -- the lines to shout, the things to throw (though we hadn't armed ourselves), and admittedly the timing was a bit off once in a while. Gene knew more fill-in lines than I did and I heard a lot of people guffawing as he shouted them out.

Not everyone enjoyed the film: about fifteen minutes in, a group of half a dozen rather elderly folks got up and left. At first we thought it was going to be a performance, but no. They were just leaving. What did they think it was? Just a scary film?

It's really quite an amazing phenomenon. I still remember the elation I felt after Emfinger took me to my first viewing. When I went to England on my first visit after freshman year, I made sure that one of the plays I saw was The Rocky Horror Picture Show, even though it was not quite the same thing on stage. Last night all I could think of was a little Eddie Izzard watching the film and saying, "yes, I can."

Don't dream it, be it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wombat Day!

Per Wombania: 'In the Autumn of 2005, the Grand Wombat Council, under the wise leadership of President Wombat, realized that the world needed a special day to commemorate the wonderful wombat. October 22nd was chosen, and the very first Wombat Day was observed on October 22, 2005. Wombat Day is alternatively known as "Hug a Wombie Day" and "Wombats of the World Unite Day."'

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Fine Day Out

I went on a retreat yesterday with a bunch of friends to nearby sanctuary called Universal Pathways, run by a fabulous woman named Mary Browne. Mary and her husband had lived on a sheep farm for over forty years; but in recent years they have sold the sheep and converted the land (and a few surrounding parcels, too) into a restful place to wander the meadows and forests, walk the labyrinth or peace garden, or settle down by the river and listen to the water's laughter.

The house that serves as the center for the retreat space (or, as Mary calls it "my office") is filled with books, statues and art from every possible spiritual tradition (even Yoda!). Each room is a new place to explore and we made the most of it as we waited for everyone to arrive. One of the upstairs rooms has been turned into a beautiful temple with trompe l'oeil stone walls and marvelous decorations. I sat on one of the meditation cushions and looked out the window at the colorful leaves -- autumn is truly here at last! -- and watched a hawk spiral in the sky. It was lovely to have a quiet moment before the rest of the gang got there.

Once we got a tour of the grounds and set a time to meet for lunch, off we went. I went off through the woods then climbed toward the highest point I could find. All around the valley was a riot of color. I found a spot between the meadows where the trees separated them and a pile of rocks and sat down to play my drum for a while (the Remo doumbek as it had looked like rain might be possible). I was hoping I was far enough away that I wouldn't disturb the peace of others and later folks told me that they had enjoyed the drumming. There was a squirrel who seemed not to share that opinion, chattering at me for a while. I wandered around the fields looking at plants (I don't think I've seen milkweed for years; I forgot how silky it feels) and enjoying what turned out to be a beautiful day.

We all squeezed around the dining room table for a big potluck lunch and shared the things we had seen or done. As always the varieties of food and conversation left us with a great feeling of satisfaction and plenty. The day was proving a rare gift in our over-booked, stressful lives, and everyone was making the most of it.

No one had found the cave, but I had made sure to ask directions from Mary, as she appeared from their house with steaming mugs of freshly made grape juice (oh, was that good!). I followed the river as she had advised and soon found myself before the imposing rocks from which issued forth the stream. After exploring a little (I didn't actually go inside the cave as the opening would require crawling and I would have needed waterproof shoes) I sat down to check out the acoustics, drumming softly. A few people came by, drawn by the rhythms and joined the gurgle of the river with some friendly conversation.

I remember walking in the woods in Connecticut and always being worried about hunters -- for a time it seemed like someone was accidentally shot every other week. While we could hear the guns from the rifle range down the valley from time to time, on Mary's land we had no fear of that happening. Perhaps the strangest thing was hearing the loud call of the donkey over on the next farm. There's a voice that carries! Mary had mentioned there being ravens nearby, but I was not lucky enough to catch sight of them.

The rain held off until we were chatting with Mary at the end of the day, telling her about our favorite places and our eagerness to return. The sudden shower had stopped before we went out to our cars, vowing that we would take some of the peace and tranquility of the day back to our busy lives. I can't wait to go back!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Corvid Sightings

Last night at my pal Barb's new house, we were greeted by her new door mat with a raven and a line from Poe's immortal poem, images of crows and ravens everywhere, and better yet by some Legendary Magpie Mead! Quite tasty -- and local, too. We're going to have to get some for ourselves.

I had an email from friend and former UHD colleague (now in Colorado) Jim, who among his many talented forays was recently photographed for a new project by the Corvo Brothers. "You'll like their work," he said -- and he was right. Can't wait to see what they do with his photo. His wife Angela Beloian is an amazing artist as well, and their son Nelson has apparently become an adept musical composer already (as well as model: follow the Corvo Bros link above to Oddities, then Orphans. He's l'enfant terrible).

Time to get back to work on the Halloween cards -- and then revising my essay on Terry Gilliam's Tideland. Although looking at the department newsletter yesterday, where my list of publications filled most of a half-page column, perhaps I should slack off a little (as I imagine hearing muttered comments of "over-achiever" from my colleagues).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tangible Accomplishments

After I finished grading the medieval lit exams (exam grading goes soooo much faster than paper grading), I took some time to begin the Halloween cards. I'm taking a slightly different approach this year, and more work is involved, but I found the "assembly line" process kind of soothing (I guess that's my heritage after all). It's pleasant to see tangible results pile up on a table; so often what I do remains ephemeral, or the tangible part is long delayed (i.e. most publications). I also spent some time yesterday updating the website for Femspec, a journal -- as the name suggests -- for feminist approaches to speculative fiction. I offered to do some work on website maintenance because it hadn't been updated in a while.

I also recorded the first episode of Prose at the Rose for the fall with Robyn Ringler, a woman who has been an RN and a lawyer as well as a freelance writer (and a member of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild like me). She has had some really interesting experiences and we had a great time talking. I'll let you know when it's on-line.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Yurt of One's Own

I said to Gene the other day that we should just buy some land and get a yurt and live the simple life. Yes, of course, we'd have to rent office space for our books, but it would still be cheaper than our current rent. There's an appeal to this idea that goes back to Thoreau's injunction, "Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplify, simplify, simplify!" Although it is good to remember that he had someone else do his laundry, which I suppose means even he took simplifying only so far. It's an outgrowth of stress, surely, but the virtual tour at Pacific Yurts makes the yurt life look so warm and friendly.When I think of buying a house -- which we hope to do in the spring -- I always think of being in Albany, near campus and near all the city amenities. Perched on the border between two small towns right now, we have the closeness of other people without the convenience of city streets. We can at least walk to the corner store, but it's a good number of corners away. The thought of quiet country acres and a peaceful oasis sounds great. Of course, I imagine a yurt like this golden one above and not the one to the right. There's something to be said for bricks (as the little pigs knew).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Flogging Beowulf Again

I have been remiss in my duties as webmaster, so it behooves me to link to my friend Scott's medieval blog where he points us to close-ups of the Beowulf action figures. Well -- hmmmm.

They are indeed interesting in the fullest possible sense of the word. We looked at them in the Medieval Texts on Film class and discussed how they provided context for the film makers' decisions about the text. They have made quite a few decisions: centurion Beo, zombie Grendel, snaky/dragon Mom. It looks to be a very free translation. November will be magic.

(Yes, I have finished the first part of my grading.)

Ars est celare artem

I meant to get around to talking about Eric Idle's Road to Mars before now, but I haven't had the time or idleness, I suppose. I still don't. But he uses Ovid's famous observation that the true art is to conceal art (or, I suppose, Crispinus might want me to be more direct and say "it is art to conceal art" [though shouldn't "est" be at the end? aren't the verbs always at the end? I reveal my artlessness when it comes to Latin]).

This seems the task of the writer (of course), but also of the junior faculty member, who must do many things to look impressive and make them all seem possible, even effortless. By midterm, however, the juggling becomes a strain as I wonder for the millionth time how it will all get done. One step at a time, as always -- and not lapsing into too much idleness (literally in this case).

More forthcoming on the White Face and the Red Nose... once I've finished grading.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Golden Compass

It's hard not to get excited about the movie version of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, especially with its glorious new trailer. As Gene says, let's hope that all the attention didn't go into the special effects, but rather on capturing Pullman's beautifully realized world inspired by Blake and Milton. So I went to the website and "found" my daemon. You be the judge: is it me?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Science Fiction Nobel Prize Winner!

Speculative fiction writer Doris Lessing has won the Nobel Prize -- hurrah! I first read her on my first visit to England, where we read In Pursuit of the English, about her arrival in England from South Africa (where she had lived with her family although she was born in Persia which is now Iran) and the difficulties of understanding Englishness. This the course where I also read Absolute Beginners and Lucky Jim (Amis's best, perhaps only enjoyable book).

Of course the rhetoric of the news stories is "English author" of "literature" -- we'll just pretend that she's uncomplicatedly of one nation, and definitely not a genre writer, oh no.

What does the woman herself say? "Space or science fiction has become a dialect for our time."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Review: Albany Pump Station

I forgot to mention in my write up of the concert that we first ate at the Albany Pump Station. We had been thinking of stopping by every time we got off 787 near downtown and saw it beside the ramp, but never got around to it until last night. The difficulty was finding it. While the directions seem straight forward, walking there proved confusing. We had found a parking place on the street (perfectly situated to let us drive almost immediately onto the highway) and took in the slim pickings on Pearl Street, when we decided to try the Pump Station.

Once we figured out it was behind the Albany Visitor's Center and the French bistro, we were all right. We started out with some of their micro brew and an appetizer. I got the porter and Gene got the Hefeweizen. They were both excellent. Our spinach and asparagus dip arrived in a little boulle with two bread sticks stuck into it like flags so it looked like a Tiki drink rather than an appetizer. The dip spilled over the sides in abundance and there were both crackers and crudités to scoop up the dip. It was quite good although a bit too light on spinach for us (we love spinach).

Our burgers came and were they yummy! Considering that a couple of places we've been to recently refused to cook burgers anything but well done (blech) it was a pleasant surprise to have them actually cooked to order (medium and medium rare). Gooey cheese and thick bacon went well with the chipotle barbecue sauce. The rolls were not too mushy or bland, in fact, I think they were onion flavored. The fries were the coated-with-extra-starch kind that Gene really likes. I'm less fond of that -- just let me taste the potato! -- but dipped in some mayonnaise they were fine.

We'll definitely be back to sample more beers and some more of the entrees, although I bet I won't be overhearing ladies room conversations about "How many times have you seen her?" [meaning Tori of course] Not too expensive, either -- a good experience!

Tori Tori Tori

Here's a cellphone photo of Tori live from her website. Apparently she encourages it -- there's a place for fans to upload their photos. When the crowd rushed down to the stage for the first of the encores, you could see the little lights of cellphones everywhere. "It's like Close Encounters," Gene said. She seemed genuinely happy to be at the Palace Theater, mentioning that she hadn't been in the area for some time, but that a chance to perform in this lovely theater was a plus. It was our first time inside, too, and it's a beautiful location. I don't know if she's been playing Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat" all along the tour, but it got a big cheer from the audience with the lines:

New York is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening.

The Palace, of course, is located on Clinton Street. It's a song I love and her cover is a terrific version. The whole show was wonderful and a significant production, unlike some of the earlier, simpler "girl with a piano" tours. She's making use of the American Doll Posse personas -- changing wardrobes, for example. She came out in a slinky red outfit with monster heels and a long platinum wig, then later changed to a Vegasy sparkle jumpsuit and a long red wig. It was a lot of fun, and like the album, rocked big time. Old favorites appeared in the always evolving guises ("Tear in Your Hand," "Caught a Lite Sneeze," "Sugar" and "Cornflake Girl"), finishing up the second encore with a meditative version of "Hey Jupiter" that left the crowd happy but peaceful as they exited. I was kind of expecting her to end with "Teenage Hustling" as it adorned a few of the merchandise items, but I suppose that would have left the audience jumped up and volatile, so it was likely better to cool them down after all the excitement.

Tori fans are notoriously rabid in their fandom, so it was great to see them so welcoming to opening artist Yoaz who played a fascinating percussive guitar and received enthusiastic applause at the end of each song. Of course it didn't compare to the thundering ovation Tori and her steady band received, but hey -- it's a start. She started with her anti-Bush song "Yo George" (just like the album does) and numbers like "Big Wheel" and "Devils and Gods" (the latter with a sort of "Tubular Bells" riff introduction) worked fantastically well live. No surprise there: Tori is one of the most consistently strong performers I've ever seen onstage (and yes, I've lost count of how many times I've seen her, but I've loved it every time).

The good news is they're planning to release official "bootlegs" of the performances on the American leg, so I hope this is one of them. No stories, but in recent years, that's been more and more the case. Too busy pounding that piano with the band, I guess -- always great to see her playing two pianos at once and vamping in between.

If you want a less impressionistic review, see the Times-Union review.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Imagine Peace

Happy Birthday, Dad!

I don't have a handy photo here on campus, so here's a picture of your favorite car! Hope you have a great day (and that your gift gets there on time!).

Monday, October 08, 2007

More Bragging

My most prized memento from the Conference on Medievalism: Terry Jones' signature on my copy of Erik the Viking: the Director's Son's Cut. Mr. Jones was so very nice and amusing (calling Machiavelli "a very naughty boy indeed" or pointing out that Richard II is so unpopular that he discovered that searching for hits on Google gets the immediate result, "Did you mean Richard III?") and generous with his time (medievalists, after all being the second geekiest bunch there is) when we all buzzed endlessly about him, begging for autographs. Of course the other find of the conference at a local used book store made me happy, too. Nothing like finding obscure (well, in the States) British comedy duo books from the seventies. Even in Britain this is not a real easy book to stumble across. It's full of exactly the kind of silliness you'd expect from Eric and Ern. If you don't know them, you might want to start with their version of "Singin' in the Rain."

Publication: Folklore/Cinema

Hurrah! First off, there's no department meeting today as it counts as a holiday (silly as that may be). Better yet, I just ran across the street to check my mailbox. Rather than the student papers I was expecting (hmmm, wonder where they are?) I found my latest publication, "The Virgin Victim: Reimagining a Medieval Folk Ballad in The Virgin Spring and The Last House on the Left" in the collection Folklore/Cinema: Popular Film as Vernacular Culture (yes, colons are required by law in all academic publications to give the impression that there's just too much information to pack in). In the introduction, editors Mikel Koven and Sharon Sherman write, "Laity's chapter exemplifies what we hope to establish within this book: a well-considered analysis of a film with specific reference to its use of folklore and an eye on the cultural contexts of production and consumption which inform and are changed by human transmission and expression."


I can't wait to find time to read the rest of the collection -- looks like some interesting essays. Hey, shouldn't you be ordering a copy (or reviewing it somewhere)?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Medievalism Round-up

My paper went okay -- it got a few laughs, I got to say rude words because they're in the text and it was fun. The conference was very enjoyable and brought together a wide variety of folks, mostly (but not all) medievalists. Topics touched on books, films, video games and of course, opera (my paper was on Julie Taymor's Grendel opera). I've got a few things to look for and had time to do a little writing.

The parks here are full of black squirrels. It took me a while to get used to that. Growing up with yellow squirrels, it was odd to see grey ones in New England, but black ones! They look somehow a lot more exotic.

There was a rainbow in the sky as we entered the main building on campus this morning, even though it had not rained.

Hotel rooms are restful. No work lies in wait, no reminders of things to do -- it always feels like you're a little outside time, rather like airports. As soon as you enter an airport, you're in no-time (as opposed to Noh time ;-) and time passes at a different rate. Mostly it's slower because there's nothing to do but wait. In a hotel room, you have a little hideaway where no one's looking for you and once the conference is over, time is your own.

Yet I was restless last night and kept waking up. The strangeness of sleeping alone -- no Gene, no Kipper -- and all the strange noises. I have learned the trick of turning the radio to static to provide white noise and drown out noisy neighbors. It will be good to get home and sleep, even if the responsibilities return, too.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

How Nice!

Okay, I should be starting with how cool it was to meet Terry Jones, but really, I have to start with how cool the city bus driver was.

No kidding!

When he picked us all up at the campus after the plenary and reception tonight (along with a whole lot of students), he hadn't seen the free passes we were given for the city buses, but he shrugged and waved us onboard. We kept nervously looking around for landmarks and asked how close the bus came to the hotel (since it was the 2C and not the usual 2), so he said not to worry, he'd drop us off. Three blocks further than he was supposed to go. Clearly, he was heading off duty, too.

That's Canada, all right.

But oh yeah, Terry Jones was cool, too. Taller than I thought -- I guess standing next to John Cleese all the time makes you look shorter. Dressed in black (like any sensible person) he was very affable, friendly, signed things for everybody when he could have been drinking wine (well, people felt bad and got him wine). He was so busy setting up his computer for the talk at first, like any academic (the computer? a Powerbook G4 of course -- 15" screen), and hooray! knows how to use Powerpoint effectively [I was almost driven mad by the security presentation in the Arts & Humanity meeting because they never went into the slideshow -- argh!]. As expected he was entertaining and amusing as well as informative on reconsidering Richard II.

So yes, I got him to sign my new copy of Erik the Viking (the director's son's cut) so I can show it to my students next week. I also gave him my Sharpie, so hey -- he has something of mine. It was an exchange ;-) Well, he was busy signing many things and what works better than a Sharpie? I was happy to contribute.

The conference ends up being full of people I know at least slightly. The medieval world is large, but the medievalism world is a bit smaller -- and I met someone in the Albany area, so that's cool, too!

Hello from the Great White North

Although it's looking rather green at present; does London even qualify as "the Great White North"? It's rather southern as Canada goes. You can tell you're in another country because everyone's so nice. And the money's pretty! I am always bemused by American money's ugliness. I think it's an outgrowth of the Puritan/capitalist clash -- we're supposed to despise money-grubbing but everything in our culture screams spend spend spend. There's free internet which helps to make up for the phone roaming (argh).

At this point, I'm just glad I have some money. I left with $7 in my wallet, thinking "I'll just get some money at the airport." To my surprise, the ATM refused to give me money. I took a limousine to the hotel (which actually cost the same as a taxi -- ah, regulation to prevent gouging) because they took charge cards. The ATM at the hotel likewise turned its mechanical nose up at me, but a real bank cashpoint quickly distributed funds without the extra fee, too.

Although I slept through most of the first flight, I started reading the book I chose for the trip, Eric Idle's Road to Mars in which he cogitates on the nature of comedy, touching on the Red Nose, White Face dichotomy among other topics. Fun so far; it's always nice to have an excuse to read for more than five minutes at a time.

The BIG NEWS: Gene quoted again! (Why hasn't he blogged it?)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Oh, Canada!

I'm off on a very early flight for Detroit and then another for London (Ontario) to go to the 22nd annual Conference on Medievalism. My paper is written (whew!) and my flight ought to be set (checking on that now -- yay, boarding pass printed). One of the keynote speakers tomorrow: Terry Jones! I shall blog if I can -- my room's supposed to have free internet.

I had an email from a former creative writing student in Houston, telling me he was writing seriously now. Always good to hear things like that. You never know -- sometimes a little nudge is all people need, even if it takes while to sink in. Like the man said, pass it on whenever you can.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Publication: Tove Jansson

It was a nice surprise to come home after a long day of teaching (in which my students did not like Egil Skallagrimsson, grumble grumble) to find my latest publication on the kitchen table.
This is the collection that grew from the conference in Oxford last March. My essay is "Roses, Beads and Bones: Gender, Borders and Slippage in Tove Jansson's Moomin Comics." Of course it is on the gorgeous comics now being issued by Drawn & Quarterly. I can't wait to read the rest of the essays -- but I will have to wait, as I'm still writing my conference paper which I'll be giving Friday morning in Canada!

Monday, October 01, 2007


Here's a video from the first Mythic Journeys conference of the lovely Ulla Suokko, whom I am proud to call a friend. Her music is incredible, plus she's a wonderful healer and storyteller as well. I cannot recommend her highly enough. It's just the thing for a gloomy Monday. Enjoy!