Sunday, June 29, 2008

Thank you!

Gracious thanks to all who showed up to the Aerie (yes, Dan, you were right, caps now) for the housewarming that, unfortunately, more than lived up to that title -- whew! it was hot, eh? But we fit more people into the aerie than we ever could have in the wee house on Crabapple, so it's a good thing. Despite the horrendous humidity and heat, everyone seemed to have a good time (at least we were all alike in our sweatitude) and ate lots (yes, call me old country, but that's how you judge whether people were having a good time). I was pleased that despite my usual anxieties (assuming all will be a disaster, no one will show up, or if they do, fights will break out) everyone seemed to not only gel, but also to chat across cultural divides (i.e. our friends from different aspects of our lives which don't have much overlap seemed to find overlap nonetheless).

I didn't talk to anyone as much as I would like to have, because as hostess, I was worrying about everyone having fun and keeping an eye out for anyone who didn't seem to be engaged in deep conversation, filling the chips bowl and freshening the sangria (mmmm, sangria!). Thanks to all who showed up (even for a minute, Kim and Tim! wow, that was hit and run fun!) and to those who didn't, well you missed the big time fun happenin' for sure.

And erm, no pictures because I have no idea where the camera is -- I'm sure it got moved, but -- and I didn't see anybody with a snapper, so c'est la vie. Just picture the Algonquin Roundtable and you'll have a good idea of what it was like...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Found in the Supermarket

I was reminded by Marko playing the Clash's "Lost in the Supermarket" (you're listening to WECS right now, aren't you?) that I discovered this morning that the Price Chopper over on Central has -- in addition to a large Indian section, yum! -- a small section dedicated to British foods, so I have somewhere to get Hob Nobs (although, as usual only Milk Chocolate and not Plain -- when will they learn?!) so I don't have to go without all of my London delights.

"Good morning, it's the news, and all of it is good..."

How will the aerie be ready for a party tomorrow? It's a mystery. As is the process by which Ray Davies got to be 64 this past week -- oh well, let's hear him sing the best song of all time about London.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


It's the penultimate day of the "working week" and it's raining. Not ideal for moving, of course, particularly because a large part of what needs to be moved is art. Plus, the cable guy (or gal) is coming today to finally hook up the internet at the aerie, which will make life more convenient. I keep imagining bills I have forgotten to pay.

I seem to recall that I first learned the word "penultimate" as a wee teen (pre-teen?) from the "Last Supper" routine recorded on A Poke in the Eye (with a sharp stick), the LP of the first Amnesty benefit, directed by Jonathan Miller and starring Peter Cook, the Pythons, the Goodies, Neil Innes, the fabulous Eleanor Bron, and more (but not Pirate "Bob", alas). It's a bit irritating that the film version, Pleasure at Her Majesty's, cuts some of the bits (gaah, how can you cut Peter Cook?!) but is still wonderful. The bit in question has to do with a conversation between Michelangelo and the pope about this painting he's done of the Last Supper: the pope has a few objections. While Jonathan Lynn plays the painter to Cleese's pope in that version, on YouTube I found this other version with Ade Edmonson playing Michelangelo: enjoy.

Oh, and the reason the word was on my mind: I'm into what I thought would be the penultimate chapter of the novel I've been writing for the last year (although now I think it will be hard to wrap up in the next chapter). If this is news to you, don't worry -- I haven't been talking about it. It's a weird feeling -- while a year may seem like a long time, it's relatively short for me to write a book (as some of you foot-tapping folks have let me know). Being near the end is both frightening and exhilarating.

And yes, Unikirja will be done this summer too. Really!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Sending off edits to my story "Fluorescence" which will appear in the Harrow next month. As always, awkward phrases seem to abound, but it's best to avoid giving the editor the impression that you're writing a completely different story when you make editing suggestions. I'm such a bad copy editor. Detail work is not my strong point.

I keep waking up around four which leaves me a bit sleepy, oddly enough. Doesn't help that Kipper has found his unibrow nemesis. They yowl and spit at each other through the window by the fire escape. Consequently, I'm sleep-walking through the days. At least it keeps me from thinking about how much more there is to move...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More Moore -- and More!

Part two of pal Pádraig Ó Méalóid's interview with the Alan Moore is up at the Forbidden Planet blog (along with lots of other cool news, interviews, etc., so wander around and take a gander).

I'm deeply envious that my pal Paul Hamilton is heading out to see Michael Palin and Terry Jones present "The Complete and Utter History of Britain" at the NFT today. I expect to hear all about it (please, please).

All right -- time to stop stalling and go unpack more boxes of books, books, books.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wonderful WINO off the air

Waah -- George Carlin has died. A beautiful user of language, he will be much missed (and already is by many). He was just about to receive a (much overdue) Twain Prize. Perhaps it was this final acknowledgment of his iconic status that made that rebel give up the ghost.

I remember memorizing Carlin's routines at my friend Chris' house, as we listened to his records in between the Beatles and the Who and Elton John, using her brother's stereo while he was away. "Wonderful WINO, the big sound in the big town...": I'm nothing if not obsessive.

But I wasn't the only one who adored Carlin. I recall a geeky guy in high school, the type most folks overlooked, who totally changed his stars at a pep rally. We were invited to step up to the mic and share our school spirit, a desultory affair at best for our school dedicated to making better autoworkers for tomorrow. This kid stepped up to the mic and gave Carlin's "Seven Words" bit to thunderous applause and laughter. He was suspended, but attained instantaneous fame that lasted the rest of high school.

Here's to the folks who make us laugh and make life worth living. I've been thinking a lot about his comments on stuff, as we labor to carry all our stuff across town and up those stairs.

[And here's to the folks who did yeoman's duty this weekend helping us cart boxes up the steps: thanks Jenise, David, Dan and Kaitlin.]

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Longest Day

Not just because we're (wait for it) still moving. No, no -- it's the solstice today, the longest stretch of daylight for the year. In Finland, that's Juhannus päivä: bonfires, singing, dancing and great food. It was a good excuse last night to gather around the fire pit at Claudia's, make some music, eat some food and play with Cookie, the chocolate lab pup. Oh, and we got to see what a tiki torch looks like when it catches on fire! You could hear the cows mooing and the goats were on the road -- country life in the Catskills.

Today is packing and carrying; tomorrow the same. With luck, we'll be able to see significant progress. It just seems like there's always a little more...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday is for Books

I'm packing them, Bernard Black is trying not to sell them. Why can't I be more like Bernard? Hail Black Books, Dylan Moran, Graham Linehan, Bill Bailey and the wonderful Tamsin Greig.

"Manny -- splishy-splashy!"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

If Thursday was a Boat...

"Here's why I did not go to work today..."

I'm spending this "surreptitiously unique" day once more in the moving process because time is running out, work was not advancing well anyway, and it's got to get done. Somehow, somehow -- at least Harry Nilsson is in my head.

Think positive: progress is being made. Not entirely tangible right now as I sit among scattered boxes in the still-too-full house, but there has been progress.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wacky Wednesday

I don't have much to say myself, so I will point you to Lynda Barry. If you don't know who she is, you need to know right now.

If you do know who she is, have you got your copy of What It Is, yet?

Have you seen the monkeys?!

Do you understand that she is Funk Queen of the Universe? Oh, yeah.

Yes, we're still moving. Yes, really.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Loopy Tuesday

While still reeling from the news that Russell T's getting an OBE (wasn't Saturday's Davies-penned episode a lot of fun?), which I discovered as I was over at the Forbidden Planet blog reading my pal Pádraig's interview with the ever-wonderful Alan Moore, I share with you news of Wrong Trousers Day! Mmmmmm -- cheese, Gromit!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hail Monday

At least I was inside when the hail came -- Gene was in the parking lot at the grocery store (the nice picture comes from Zimbop). Lights have been blinking here at my office, but haven't gone out, so here I stay. Busy, so here's some inspiring words from inimitable Dorothy Parker for your delectation:

Symptom Recital

I do not like my state of mind;
I'm bitter, querulous, unkind.
I hate my legs, I hate my hands,
I do not yearn for lovelier lands.
I dread the dawn's recurrent light;
I hate to go to bed at night.
I snoot at simple, earnest folk.
I cannot take the gentlest joke.
I find no peace in paint or type.
My world is but a lot of tripe.
I'm disillusioned, empty-breasted.
For what I think, I'd be arrested.
I am not sick, I am not well.
My quondam dreams are shot to hell.
My soul is crushed, my spirit sore;
I do not like me any more.
I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse.
I ponder on the narrow house.
I shudder at the thought of men....
I'm due to fall in love again.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Minus One Sofa

Consumatum est: well, the big furniture that required a truck, anyway (we still have lots of boxes, cough cough, hint hint). We decided the sofa did not have a place in our new third floor lifestyle (fortunately, we decided this on the first set of stairs). I wanted to chuck it off the back of the truck, but Gene insisted we not do that. So if you need a sofa, come and get it. We're going to get a futon again, which will double as a guest bed (hint hint).

Dead tired, achey, body covered with a galaxy of new bruises (the ones on my left thigh form Ursa Minor!), so we're getting Kipper and the minimum of necessities and heading back to the new place. Tomorrow I have a retreat (yay! woodsy goodness) and then a party at Mahar's. Much better than moving furniture. Wow, one day of physical labor and I'm done in. I'm so lazy!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Slammed by the Standard

Hey, nice attack piece in the Weekly Standard on medievalists and Kalamazoo -- best of all, it includes a personal swipe at my panel. Whoo hoo:

The blowout, or perhaps the reductio ad absurdum, of these scholarly endeavors was Session 531 on Sunday morning, "Medieval Masculinities on Film." That session featured four separate papers: yet another examination of A Knight's Tale, an effort to prove that the 1961 movie El Cid, starring Charlton Heston, was a piece of Franco-engineered propaganda, a cinematic look at the story of Tristan and Isolde, and "Medieval Masculinity as Modern Monstrosity," a postmodernist analysis of Hannibal Lecter. Such presentations proved to be among the better attended, and at least some of the individual papers (although maybe not those read in Session 531) displayed more literary depth and passion than many of the papers dealing with "real" medieval literature run through the postmodernist meat-grinder.

All of which makes it sounds like she didn't actually attend the panel, which is often the way of these attacks (e.g. there's no doubt that El Cid was Franco-funded propaganda, which paid off big time for Spanish tourism). Looks like Charlotte Allen is trying to be a cut-rate Coulter while using her graduate studies. Wow, she is just chock-full of self-hatred (maybe she looked at how bad the job market was for medievalists, particularly those who research poorly, and decided becoming a conservative opinionator was much easier to do). Gee, maybe things would have gone differently if someone asked her to dance on Saturday night.

Hey, I'm finally as big of a danger to the academic world as my husband. Yes!

Tip o' the keyboard to Michael Torregrossa for passing the link along.

Boxing Day

Just taking a break from the numbing process. Today we need to box up everything that's sitting on furniture large enough to have to be moved on the truck that we rented for tomorrow. Time to turn off the brain in order to avoid thinking about a) how much stuff we still have, b) how hard it will be to drag it up to the third floor, and c) how it will not all fit anyway. Yes, yes, we brought it on ourselves. No one should pity us. Just reporting the facts, ma'am. And doing a good impression of a Romero extra.

Tomorrow will be the deciding day: what doesn't fit (furniture-wise), has to go... somewhere. Not in the aerie. Shelves that don't fit mean books that won't fit either. I just don't know. I don't think I can fit too many more books in my office. But we're not going to live with boxes like now; I've had enough of that.

Save the date: Saturday June 28th -- I think by then everything that's going there will have to be situated. Sangria in the afternoon, chips and salsa and the unveiling of the new digs. It's small, but there are the stairs for overflow. Kipper will just hide under the bed anyway.

Yard sale at the old place the day after... everything must go.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

HB, QoE!

Happy Birthday wishes to the proprietress of the Aloha Alcohula, Connecticut's finest tiki bar. Raise a glass to the Queen of Everything!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Update: Human Cuisine

Well, I haven't got a physical copy yet, but the editors of Human Cuisine have sent along electronic copies of the book. This means I got to re-read what I wrote at least three (?) years ago and see whether I was embarrassed by it. It's not too bad, so I can live with it. The bio, of course, has me at UHD, but I can live with that, too (particularly since I'm no longer there!).

Co-editor Ken Albala took the book and a giant poster to the big conference for the Association for the Study of Food and Society in New Orleans last week and "there was phenomenal interest" in it. He also said the book has sold something like 23K copies on Amazon (pity I don't get any royalties).

Happy Birthday, Johnny Depp!

The fabulous Queen alerts me that everyone's favorite pirate captain celebrates his birthday today. Whoo hoo (anything to keep my mind off moving...). Here he is with the equally fabulous John Waters at an earlier birthday, courtesy of Depp Impact (a pertinent reminder that obsession is what the intarwub is all about).

Pssst: it's the QoE's birthday tomorrow...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

What Fresh Hell?

What could make the process of moving less pleasant? 90+ F degree weather (that's 30+ C) and humidity -- what is this, Houston?! Let's not forget thunderstorms, too. We moved some lighter stuff yesterday: musical instruments and dvds. Our new stove is in, though not the new fridge and our landlord was busy painting some of the chipped and peeled areas. Despite the climb to our third floor walk up, we found it cooler up there in our new aerie than in our squat house, so that portends well for that unimaginable time in the future when the move is done. The sparrows were hopping along the roof looking in at us with frank curiosity ("hey, new neighbors!"). I still don't know how it will be done, but somehow it will have to be.

Want to read about one of the plays I saw in London? The Guardian has a review up of Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy. Billington's right about the opening squashing the first speech, but it was quite a cornucopia of sights that had the audience riveted (even up amongst the gods where I was sitting). Kinnear clearly enjoyed himself thoroughly in the role(s, I suppose I ought to add). There was a weird inconsistency in register throughout, playing the gothic for humor, but how else to combine Caravaggio and camp? Gleeful mayhem all around. Kinnear's also going to be in the new Bond film, so more folks will see him soon (his dad would be proud).

Here's a review of the Midsummer Night's Dream we saw at the Globe. It's a bit harsh, but it does touch on my main problem: if Puck isn't magic, it doesn't come off. The rest of the cast worked well -- certainly the students saw it more like this review, but for me Michael Jibson might have made a better Bottom than Puck (although Paul Hunter did just fine in that role while eerily reminiscent physically of Chris Elliott). Puck should be fluid, androgynous, quicksilver and dangerous. Jibson looked far too mundane, weary even at times, and yes, irrationally, I thought his head too round. Sue me. I would have liked to have seen Adam Burton, who played Mustardseed, try the role. You expect the regals (Tom Mannion and Siobhan Redmond) to be great -- they were -- but too often the four lovers are little more than mooning cyphers. Not so here: Boot and Brandon made Demetrius and Lysander wildly passionate lovers, ready to erupt violently at the least provocation, and Nixon and Rogers brought a powerful physicality to the traditionally demure young women which matched them well. It was fun -- how can it not be? -- but I wanted a better Puck. Dean Lennox Kelly was good in the recent BBC version: you might recognize him as a saucy Shakespeare in one of the first Martha Jones episodes of Doctor Who.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Son of Dracula Iron-On

Big thanks to Gene for scanning in this beauty:

Yes, it's the iron-on patch from the soundtrack album for the Apple film Son of Dracula, starring Harry Nilsson and, as Merlin, Ringo Starr. Thanks to the internet, I finally got a copy of the film some time back. It's not good (shock! horror!), but I have at last seen that for myself. And now I can share the wealth with you all. While chatting about the film last week, I remembered the iron-on which I was too indecisive to ever use (and of course, I figured I would no doubt set fire to the house trying to actually apply it -- don't forget I'm the one whose hairdryer started on fire just a couple of weeks ago). So, voilá!

You can find other lovely Harry stuff over at the always wonderful For the Love of Harry blog if this isn't enough for you. Yes, I ought to be thinking about (and doing something about) moving. I'm trying -- yesterday we had the slow leak in the tire patched and the suddenly broken trunk lock fixed. Later in the afternoon the tire blew while Gene was driving on the highway, so now we need a new tire. Sigh. As if moving wasn't horrible enough on its own...

Is it time to just set fire to it all? Ashes take up far less room than books.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

House of Black Wings Trailer

Check out the awesome trailer for writer/director David Schmidt's House of Black Wings. I have read the script which was just amazing -- the film looks like it will live up to it nicely. David has made other terrific films like Sword of Hearts, Grave Invitations and The Lovecraft Syndrome, all of which I have loved.

Here's the skinny:
After a tragic act of violence cuts short her music career, Kate Stone is returning to a city full of ex-fans and ex-friends. Taking shelter with her last friend, a struggling artist named Robyn Huck, the two women work to restore the aging courtyard apartment building Robyn has inherited. But a terrible secret infests the venerable structure, and soon Kate will be haunted by horrific dreams, sinister apparitions, and the sounds of something moving in the walls. She will be dragged into a confrontation not only with her own dark past, but the unspeakable nightmare that lurks beyond the walls!

Coming this Halloween -- spread the word!

Publication: Human Cuisine

Now available, apparently -- I have yet to see it, but surely you want to buy a copy anyway! My essay is on Grendel in Beowulf, a meditation on what it takes to frighten the intimidating warriors of that Anglo-Saxon epic. Only the horror of burial denied... no body, no funeral.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Nonsense upon Stilts

[Well, it sounds better than 'a hodge podge of things recent but forgotten in posts', and comes from Jeremy Bentham]

I learned today that my former UHD colleague, Dan Shea, was leading a crew of students around London the very same time that I was and stayed at the Royal National around the corner from us *and* drank at the Marquis of Cornwallis, too, without ever running into me. How odd is that? How big is London, too. They were even at the Globe the same day as us (at the evening show, but standing in almost the very same spot we stood as groundlings in the afternoon).

I wonder if he saw the mouse that was in the pub, apparently running over my feet that night (or so the people at the next table said). One of the things I forgot to mention in my last post: Sunday morning as I headed out I heard the distinctive sound of drums which my feet can never resist, so I headed through Russell Square, much to my surprise, to run right into the Pagan Pride Parade (in the States, it comes in the fall). Drummers, dancers, banners waving -- and people singing, laughing, dancing and running through the fountains in the park. Wonderful serendipity.

Oh, and there was a trouser press in my room. How could I not meet a Bonzo?

I wrote a flash fiction piece in the Rothko room at the Tate Modern and yes, I've already sent it off for submission. While at the Mod, I also scribbled down a line from Jenny Holzer's "Inflammatory Essays" piece: "Fear is the most elegant weapon, your hands are never messy..." Sums up the current administration quite succinctly.

Last Wednesday I went back to the National Gallery mostly because I wanted some Caravaggios (while wondering whether all libertines eventually repent), but I also looked in on "Les Grand Baigneuses" (as one must) and Alison Watt's "Phantom" exhibit, which included a video of her working -- always wonderful to see an artist in process. Better yet, there was a string quartet playing in the gallery, so I got a little Haydn before going off to see Middleton.

The move crawls along: the LPs (yes, we do still have some) have been moved to my office because there's no room in the new flat and they can't go in storage without warping. After some hemming and hawing went to Mahar's to meet the Tuesday crew (which was a skeleton crew but still enjoyable). Back to it tomorrow after trying to get some writing done tonight. Everything seems to creep along. But even miniscule movement qualifies as motion.

Yes, still peevish about being back, missing London's swirl, but slowly resigning myself to the work that lies ahead.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Ah, London

Today is the first day of the rest of the month, and for us it's the beginning of the hideous process known as moving. This is one of the shorter moves we've had in recent years, so I ought not to complain, but it's still a painful process best avoided by putting my fingers in my ears and repeating LALALALA anytime it's mentioned.

Which of course makes me wish I were still in London and pine for that extra week I thought I might have (until I checked on the actual cost of changing the ticket). Instead I will recall the fun I did have: Friday and Saturday with the Brookses, my home away from home (and the very finest graphic design in London!). Thank you so much for always having room for one more. Sunday I saw Stewart Lee at the Tate Modern (which has quickly become my favorite museum in London and that's saying something) then headed out to Great Dunmow for dinner with James and Joanne (thanks!), taking a late train back to London as I needed to meet with the students Monday morning.

It was your usual bank holiday Monday, which means it was pouring all day. I had my full count of 9 students after their weekend travels, so I didn't mind. We made a quick stop at the British Museum, where it was discovered that not all the medieval exhibits were closed, just the stairs leading to them, so two students gave their presentations before we were off to the National Gallery's medieval paintings. I gave the students their assignment, then slipped off to the Modern again because I had a chance to see Neil Innes talk about Claes Oldenburg and the Bonzos. I even worked up the moxie to go talk to him and say how I had seen him on my first visit to Britain in 1980 at a Save the Whales concert -- and yes, I got his autograph and shook his hand (which gets me as close to George Harrison as I'll get I guess). He was fun and funny, and swore us all in as Egowarriors. I am eternally grateful to Mr. Hamilton for tipping me off to this event (and the Stewart Lee one). It was all part of the Long Weekend, which highlighted a lot of fun and Flux. Brilliant!

I was pleased to discover that my words are in the Tate -- true, they're not credited to me and they're only in the gift shop (on the back cover of the second Moomin book, my review from Finlandia Weekly), but one must clutch at straws where they fly. Gosh has the two books in their display window, which was a pleasing sight as well, since most days required walking past the shop.

Tuesday was the Globe and a lively production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which seemed to convince the students that this Shakespeare guy has something to offer. Wednesday was the Revenger's Tragedy at the National -- blood, sex and violence in equal parts. Middleton was no Shakespeare, but what he lacked in poetry he made up in guts (both senses). Thursday, the last day to enjoy London and we tried to cram in as much as possible and make the day last as long as possible and taste as sweet as could be. How could it not succeed? The sweetness lasted at least as far as Heathrow -- the students all seemed enthusiastic if a little wistful. I hope they will be beginning new travels soon.