Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ever Been Bit by a Dead Bee?

If I had my PDA here, I'd put up a picture to show it, but I got bit by a bee as I smacked it to my head walking to campus. All right, so maybe it wasn't dead when it bit me (but it was close). I nonetheless had Walter Brennan's words in my head. Ah, that impossibly thin Lauren Bacall, and the absolutely smitten Bogart -- fun film.

If I were home, I'd put some baking soda on it, but it's not that bad -- barely pink. I'll live.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Unna ja Nuuk

Coming to Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut on August 16th & 17th at 1.30pm: the Finnish film Unna ja Nuuk, which I simply have to see! Not only for the Finnish angle, but it overlaps with so much that I am writing now that I can hardly believe it. It's been making the rounds of various festivals since its release. Here's the description from the RAW eNews:

One day, 11 year old Unna feels a stab of pain in her chest - she senses that her beloved Grandpa is in danger. Unna calls her grandfather, who has had a case of illness, and saves his life. At the hospital Unna's grandfather reveals that Unna has shaman blood in her veins and that the gift to heal has been passed on to her. Unna is the only person Grandpa can turn to for help. Grandpa tells Unna where to find the shaman's book and magic drum. When it's beaten three times, the drum will move its owner to another time and place, and so begins Unna's adventure in the Finnish Stone Age.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Zero Hour

I made a great rediscovery the other day: Patty Leidy's Zero Hour comic! We met Patty back in the days when we went to DragonCon. Sure we bonded because she's a fellow Sanrio fan, but also because she drew this fun little strip. I had lost track of her work with all the moving we've done the past few years, but found her again on the Lynda Barry list (surprise!). She's currently working on pitching Zero Hour for syndication -- wish her luck!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Medieval Mantis

Here's Judith G. Klausner's amazing mantis art, this time portraying the story of Judith, who chops off the head of the evil leader Holofernes. In the Old English poem, this woman of elfin beauty figures out that this is the best way to rally her people to defend themselves against invaders (whose description in the poem sounds a lot like the roughly contemporary Danish invaders [yeah, that means Vikings]). Judith took the vorpal sword in hand:

...sloh ða eornoste
ides ellenrof
oðre siðe
þone hæðenan hund,
þæt him þæt heafod wand
forð on ða flore...

Tip o' the wimple to Gene on this one (via Boing Boing)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A New Look for the Serial

Pop on over to The Mangrove Legacy to see the new look for the blog -- and of course, the latest episode. I've added a character list for quick reference and added an image (the one there at present will probably be just a placeholder while I look for a permanent one).

If you haven't kept up with the story, Lizzie is currently disguised as a man and Alice has been rescued somewhere in the south of France where she is about to find herself in big trouble. Where Black Ethel may be is anyone's guess...

8 Things & 8 Tags

It's meme-o-rific time! Thanks to Pádraig, who tagged me.

* 1. Post these rules.
* 2. Each tagged person must post 8 things about themself on their journal.
* 3. At the end, you have to choose and tag 8 people
* 4. Go to their pages and send a message saying you tagged them.
* 5. No tag-backs

ABOUT ME: (trying to come up with things folks may not know)

1. I did not take a job with the State Dept in the late 1980s despite passing all the necessary tests.
2. I had an office around the corner from the famous crowbar skull when I worked at Harvard Medical School.
3. My favorite city in the world is London (okay, everyone knows that -- um, my favorite spot in London is either the secret garden in Regent's Park, or the Tate Modern, or sitting in front of Les grandes baigneuses in the National Gallery, hearing Pete and Dud in my head).
4. I have kept journals since I was about ten -- and have them all.
5. I have trod the boards only once: at the Globe Theatre in London in 1999. I played Cinna the poet in Julius Caesar, so I got to die, too. I was unremarkable: crippling self-consciousness does not facilitate an acting career.
6. I have not had a thyroid since 1987.
7. Great British comedy is my primary anti-depressant (thus I genuflect before Peter Cook).
8. I have a bottomless ambition when it comes to my writing (yet so little tangible success...)

Well, how very interesting, eh? In turn let me tag a random set of folks across different platforms, some of whom seem to need an excuse to post: the Queen, James, Wendy, Susan, Jenise, Catherine, Crispinus, and oh, let's say, Kelly.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pictures from NoCarolina

As we get ready to head off on another journey, here are pictures from the last trip but one. These were all taken by Mildred who has generously allowed me to post them here. Here's the photogenic Birdie at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences near the Arthropods exhibit.

Museums can be dangerous places!

But you meet all kinds of friends --

Too many kids at the Aquarium, though, can make you a little crabby.

But we went outside, too, and enjoyed the beauties of the beach.

And went to the historic Fort Macon, too:

But it all comes back to Birdie eventually!

Friday, July 25, 2008

New Book Store!

Always a reason to celebrate! There's a great new book store in the area, East Line Books. The proprietor, Robyn Ringler, is just a wonderful and enthusiastic woman -- and writer! You may remember her from my radio show, Prose at the Rose, where she talked about things like being Ronald Reagan's nurse when he was shot.

Robyn is determined not only to have a terrific and well-stocked store -- with determined book sleuthing skills as well -- but also to make the store a community gathering place. She's got books to suit all interests and tastes. There are comfy chairs scattered throughout the various rooms, coffee and tea, and best of all a meeting room for book clubs, writing groups, and writing classes. There's already a book club for the suddenly ubiquitous Twilight series. Getting kids to love reading is one of Robyn's chief aims.

She has ambitious plans for readings, including a program very much like Selected Shorts. Yes, she asked me if I was interested in doing a reading (didn't have to ask twice!), so I will probably be launching Unikirja there this fall. I finally got my copy of Lynda Barry's What it Is from East Line -- thanks, Robyn! Support the independent bookstores:

East Line Books
Old Village Plaza
1714 Route 9
Clifton Park, NY 12065
(Just north of Rt. 146 on Rt. 9 across from Snyder's Restaurant, between Clifton Park Pizza and Captain's Treasures -- Exit 9 off the Northway [87])

Tues - Fri: 10AM - 5PM
Sat: 10AM - 4PM
Sun & Mon: Closed

On the walk this morning, new sightings: a wee turtle and a water rat (as opposed to my birth sign, the metal rat). City wildlife! And then there was the ABBA House of Prayer down the street which I never noticed before (mama mia!).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Necon: Live!

While the winners of the Necon Talent Show reigned with a cover of Dethklok's "Murmaider," runner-up Gary Frank composed an original tune "Oh, Great Cthulhu!" which proved both a terrific sing-a-long and a YouTube hit. And hey, the video even features the back of Gene's head next to John and Ginjer (yes, you'll notice I was able to retain my cloak of invisibility and stay out of shot to Gene's right). Enjoy --

And for more video fun, check out the trailers for Larry Blamire's The Lost Skeleton Returns Again! I can't wait.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Publication: Me and Margery Kempe

I just got word (well, it came the other day but I was at Necon) that Wild Violet magazine is going to publish my creative non-fiction essay "Me and Margery Kempe." What's it like? Well, Gene said it doesn't sound a bit like me (which he's said about the last couple of things I've written) so I can't tell you. If you don't know Margery, read about her here. She's a singular medieval woman, who forged a new path trying to live a religious life in the secular world -- and driving most of the people around her to distraction. What could I possibly have to say about her? I guess you'll find out soon.

Wild Violet also published my silly piece "Corrections to the Rules of Fimble Fowl (for 3 players or 4)" last year, a sort of Carrollian/Learish doodad (which I wrote "because it's a doodad kind of town").

Weekend of the Damned -- er, Dampened

We headed off to Necon Thursday afternoon: a three hour drive but all highway, so it wasn't much of an effort and it stayed a beautiful day. There had been a last minute venue change, so instead of the homey dorms on the Roger Williams campus, we were in their new conference center, AKA the dampest place on earth. Really -- everything felt saturated. Paper left lying in the room soon curled and undulated, including books. There was a white lacy splotch of mold between the panes of our window that looked like a fractal snowflake.

But you don't come to Necon for the ambience and we had time enough to get settled before the Saugy roast in the courtyard. As usual, people kept arriving all evening, saying hello and nattering on about this and that. The upshot, of course, is that the noise in the courtyard grew rather considerably in no time. When we're over in the dorms, everyone on the quad is part of the show. If you don't like the all night noise, you ask for a room in the middle quad. There'll still be crazy rambling noises all night, but not nearly as many.

But this wasn't the quad -- it was a hotel with other guests. Other guests who complained about the noise. There wasn't a Broadway show tune sing-along that night -- it was just a bunch of people talking, but in an enclosed space, yeah -- it became deafening. And the lights kept going out -- and the bugs were eating us alive. Over-worked organizer Dan Booth pointed out that folks could go into the lounge which was open for us, but people were so used to being at "camp" that few took that route. We chatted with Rod and Elena, who were staying in Bristol and caught up with Phil and Anya when they arrived, as well as a bunch of the regulars, but we didn't stay up all that late the first night.

Friday started with actual breakfast -- hmmm, we thought, maybe this hotel thing wasn't going to be so bad. Next up the first Olympic event, mini-golf, which meant our usual foursome was off to Fantasyland (a little late, but that just meant we didn't have to wait in line long to start). We had the usual craziness and teasing, but for all that pretty good rounds for us. Gene was one stroke away from a medal, I think we each got a hole in one, and most importantly, I had a better score than Phil (that one stroke means everything). We had our complementary slices o' pizza after, played skeeball and splat the spider, and found a new addition to the Fantasyland regulars: bumper cars! Yee ha! That was great fun.

Having found out that we were going to have the Necon's Got Talent? Show instead of the always agonizingly interminable That Damn Game Show, we set out for the Dollar Store to muse our options. Anya already had a plan and a purpose, but the rest of us meandered around finding things that made us laugh (ant farm candies and plaster rubber duckies). After the requisite stops at Stop & Shop and the 1776 liquor store (wondering yet again if they make all of their profits the third week in July), we were back to the conference center and actual panels. I caught part of the artist panel and then the gay writers panel which was good to see at Necon, which can sometimes seem just a little too much of an old boys network (which in this country inevitably seems to mean making lots of homophobic jokes). We skipped out for dinner to our favorite seafood restaurant which had changed names but little else. I had a lobster roll -- yummmm.

We were back in time for the Hall of Fame induction and the tasty art show reception. Gene bought me one of Richard Sardinha's cool faux-medieval fire dragon plaques which will go up in my office. Then it was Meet the Authors time which meant packing us and all our books into a much too small lounge which was quickly filled with people and enormous heat. We didn't sell near enough books (Gene had his latest tome too), but Elena was a big hit with her off-the-cuff caricatures of folks passing by. We caught a couple of shorts played in the lounge later: "Eater" based on Peter Crowther's short story (and which even he hadn't seen yet) and "Peepers" scripted by Rick Hautala. Again, a not very late night, but we were pacing ourselves (and anyway, I had an idea for the Talent Show that I needed to write).

Saturday we had another big breakfast and spent so long chatting with John Douglas that we missed half the film panel that we told Phil we were coming to (sorry!). The myth panel afterward was excellent. It featured Ginjer Buchanan, Laura Anne Gilman, Charlaine Harris, Toni Kelner, Tom Sniegoski. I had seen Toni at World Fantasy and enjoyed her comments, Ginjer and Laura Anne are always interesting -- Charlaine Harris was a hoot. It was a terrific and lively panel, much fun to hear about the very different ways people developed their books' mythologies -- from Tom's remembrances of the gigantic archangel Michael painting in his childhood church to Laura Anne's detailed research into lightning strike victims. I got a big laugh out of Charlaine's struggle with Irish fairy names and made sure to go up and tell her afterward that, having worked with medieval Irish texts, she was right to have gone with her gut and just made a choice. Inconsistency is the by-word of medieval Irish works -- argh! Look for the new HBO series based on Charlaine's True Blood this fall. I bet it will be a lot of fun.

We had a birthday dinner with Rod and Elena at the Lobster Pot and did a little shopping before hand. I bought a great new moss green wool cape for a fabulously cheap price -- I guess July is the time to buy woolen goods. The Pot was amazing as always, although Rod wouldn't let us tell the waitress it was his birthday. Back in time for the Talent Show, which to seemingly everyone's surprise had a good balance of talent. Phil and Anya and Sephera did a spooky mad scientist version of "Two Ladies" and there were a number of guitar singers, which prompted referee Cortney Skinner to declare a good number of 5 yard penalties even though Beth Massie declared them all to be "The best thing I ever saw!" MC Craig kept things moving, and although we were the penultimate act, it hardly seemed like a long evening (unlike ANY version of the game show, especially the "shortened" ones). If you want to read our bit, you can, but I warn you that it's chock full of in-jokes as all Necon bits tend to be. I prefaced it with the comment "We're academics: we don't sing, we don't dance, but we have put our research skills to use for you." Most of the humor relied on Gene's delivery of the lines, of course.

The big surprise: the long rumored film brainstormed by Phil and shot by Sal actually appeared. Of course there were some technical difficulties that prolonged the wait for the captive audience, but finally it was on. Amazing -- "tubesocks" became the word du jour and Gene found a new fan base. Next up was the far too gentle roast of John "Mac" McIlveen, bookseller extraordinaire and then the usual Saturday night babbling conversation, helped along by another load of saugies. We did stay up late talking and talking, blessed at a late hour by Laura Anne Gilman, the Lovely Lady of Laphroaig, celebrating with the film-makers and co-stars, listening to Dan's Navy tales, getting a Larry Blamire update from Cortney (bad news, Trail of the Screaming Forehead is in limbo; good news, Dark and Stormy Night is coming along) and chatting with all and sundry while the singers sang, the movies played and everyone had fun.

Sunday morning came too soon, time to pack up and check out, although the day continued. At the town meeting, people came around to the realisation that despite the initial shock of the conference center, it had its positive aspects. Since we can't be on campus next year either, the decision seemed to be that we would return -- perhaps with dehumidifiers. We didn't have the usual barbecue send off, but the food was good and the desserts plentiful. The usual sad goodbyes followed, always making it difficult to extricate yourself from the crowd, but we finally did.

We filled up on cheap Massachusetts gas and made the long drive home in good time. We found that there had been big storms in Albany which we had missed. As I walked to the lake this morning, there were still limbs down every where. Of course, I miscalculated and found myself soaked by a shower while I walked. The ducks laughed at me, but I didn't care. Naturally, it stopped raining by the time I got back to the Aerie. Figures.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Off to Necon

We're off to Necon, which has had a last minute venue change. It's still at Roger Williams University but at their conference center, so the camp has gone corporate. Poor Dan Booth, the organizer, is tearing his hair out and surely most of the folks are grumbling with disappointment because we're not on the quads with an easy walk down to the shore for those singing-Broadway-show-tunes-at-dawn traditions (horror writers are weird, eh?). We go because we see lots of friends we don't see the rest of the year, so that's still the case and something to look forward to doing.

No internet, sigh. I'll post when I get back.

This morning as I walked to the lake, I glimpsed a few houses ahead of me a nun in full habit getting into a mini-van. Just then I looked to my left to see a vine-covered cottage with a nude man disappearing down the stairs. The name plate by the porch said simply "Faust."

The eternal struggle continues...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Publication: Fluorescence

I'm always the last to know: "Fluorescence" is up at The Harrow, that swanky logo'd journal of fun stuff. Check it out and read the other stories, poems and reviews. Let 'em know what you think (or even donate to the cause of good writing).

If I've earned a little bragging right for this story that was long in search of a home, it is that this is the tale that made Marilyn Nelson say, "You've made me want to write prose again!" when I read the first draft of it in a café in Willimantic back in grad school.

Happy Birthday, Steve

HB, big bro! Hope it's a great day hangin' with the little bro in the ancestral home.

I headed out this morning for Buckingham Lake, a local nature spot which I found out about thanks to pal Jenise. It lies a reasonable walk away from the Aerie and has a nice little path around the pond. I had to make way for ducklings and even surprised a little brown rabbit, who after shying initially, decided I wasn't much of a threat. There are picnic tables and benches and a playground with T-Rex spring riders and swings. It's a little urban oasis that I'll be visiting often.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

At a Loss for Words

In that situation, one should always check the Meaning of Liff (all the gods bless Lloyd and Adams):

ARAGLIN (n. archaic)
A medieval practical joke played by young squires on a knight aspirant the afternoon he is due to start his vigil. As the knight arrives at the castle the squires attempt to raise the drawbridge very suddenly as the knight and his charger step on to it.

CLIXBY (adj.)
Politely rude. Briskly vague. Firmly uninformative.

The marks left on your bottom or thighs after sunbathing on a wickerwork chair.

WEST WITTERING (participial vb.)
The uncontrollable twitching which breaks out when you're trying to get away from the most boring person at a party.

*Photo by ktims82

MST3K Beowulf

Tip o' the keyboard to my theoretical co-editor Scott for linking to this at the Got Medieval blog, which highlights the following comments:

* "Oh, please, sarcastic slow claps went out in the 200's."
* "Gee, in my translation, Grendel wasn't an effeminate mincing puss."
* "I am Beowulf, if that helps. Just throwing it out there."
* "She has Barbie's rack and Ken's genitals."
* "You know, Old English sounds about as pleasant as Olde English tastes."

Click here to go to the Rifftrax site and the Nelson, Murphy, Corbett downloads. Or if you want to MSTy it old school, check out Cinematic Titanic, home of Joel, Tom Servo, Crow, Pearl and Frank.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Baby Jane

On the way to the post office and grocery store today, I walked past a woman I have seen once or twice before so she's probably local. The weird thing is she looks an awful lot like a latter day Baby Jane Hudson with her garish lips, raven-kohled eyes layered with blue and a thick pancake crust shifting like tectonic plates across her face. Today she was wearing a red and white striped top that didn't quite cover her midriff. I'd make a stab at guessing her to be in her sixties, but who can really say. Was there a Blanche sitting at home waiting for her?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Home Again

Here's Squeak and Stinky in a typical pose at Susan's in front of the gigantor tv screen. But I'm back home again to the rain and the warm weather that seems to be constant across the Eastern seaboard. When we were on the beach at Fort Macon Thursday, a big storm blew up -- enhancing the already giant waves in advance of Bertha and resulting in a lightning strike a little too close for comfort. Well, not for me as I had wandered over to the ocean side of the beach and missed it all. Waah! But I enjoyed sitting on the rocks as the spray broke over them and walking along the almost completely deserted sands (who else is foolish enough to be out in a thunderstorm?). Black headed gulls, sandpipers and even a few pelicans cruised by. Later we headed over to the hotel bar that had a happy hour featuring free hot hors d'œuvre -- yum. Even though it started raining, we sat out on the pier for a while, then jumped in puddles in the parking lot pretending to be either five year olds or Gene Kelly as the mood struck.

I had a great time on the trip, not just walking along the deserted beach, but watching movies with my pals and talking as we do and, of course -- since we were at Susan's -- feasting on all kinds of delicious foods and indulging far too much. It's sad that spending quality time with good friends is so rare as to be remarkable. I should fix that. But friends are so far flung and I can't spend all my time traveling (unless someone knows about a no-fail method for winning the lottery), so I'll need to work some more. It's been a tough summer what with moving and all, so I feel as if I've got very little done and it's time to get cracking.

I didn't take a camera (since moving I have no idea where it might be), but Susan and Mildred did, so with luck they'll post their pictures from the house, the aquarium, the museums and the beach soon. I even hear there might be one or two pictures I didn't manage to slip out of, so there's that. In the mean time, miss you all! Wish we were still lounging lazily at Susan's.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

To the Beach

Off we go to the beach house today (because Susan's palatial home isn't quite enough luxury for our indolence). Yesterday was our visit to the North Carolina Museum of Natural History where we saw lots of critters and things -- lots o' snakes, giant bugs and a good number of skinks and salamanders -- although sadly we found the butterfly refuge closed -- waah!

On the road soon to Pine Knoll Shores...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Summertime and the Livin's Easy

Off on an early flight from Albany, briefly stopping over at Baltimore. In Carolina now at Susan's palatial home, relaxin' as if this were something I did everyday. Kitties surround us waiting for patting. Snacks and bevvies at hand with plenty of friendly conversation. It's good.

Oh, and there's the shiatsu massage chair (reason for the Homer drool; that's how I looked after fifteen minutes in it).

Friday, July 04, 2008

Hightailing it Again

In the morning I'm off to a reunion of the Three Mothers in North Carolina, where we'll be staying at Susan's lovely house and enjoying the wit and wisdom of Mildred and Birdie (emergency health care, as always, provided by Ron if needed -- maybe it won't be this year.... ha ha ha!). Normally this coincides with Trinoc*coN, but they're taking a year off to hold a relaxicon, so we're doing the same thing.

Yes, it's an actual vacation!

I have vague memories of the idea, but I'm sure it will come back to me once I get over thinking I must be somewhere or do something every minute. I can relax...sure...wait, how do you do that? Well, there are helpful assistants like Squeak (pictured above) to get us into the right state of mind.

Poor Gene -- he'll be here emptying boxes and listening to Kipper yowl at four in the morning when the unibrow cat doesn't show up. Today we're just relaxing (see, I'm practicing), unpacking some things and watching videos. It's enough.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Scream for Phil

Check it out -- pal Phil Nutman has a fabulous new publication, Scream and Scream Again, his acclaimed critical history of the British horror film production company Amicus. Here's the scoop:

DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS, TORTURE GARDEN, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, ASYLUM, the original TALES FROM THE CRYPT film… classic British anthology horror movies made by Amicus Productions, who worked extensively with author Robert (PSYCHO) Bloch. Now the full story can be told…

In 1985, critically acclaimed, award-nominated writer and journalist Philip Nutman was commissioned to pen the definitive, illustrated history of Amicus Productions, the chief rival to Hammer Films in the British horror movie market of the1960s and ‘70s. Twenty-three years later, the manuscript – now expanded to over 80,000 words – will finally be published in a special issue of LITTLE SHOPPE of HORRORS magazine, one of the longest-running publications devoted to British horror films.

Given unprecedented access to over 600 pages of confidential company documents, memos, faxes, treatments, screenplays and production information, SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN: THE UNCENSORED HISTORY OF AMICUS PRODUCTIONS is the definitive critical history of one of the most beloved British film companies during the golden era of horror films when the names Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price guaranteed chilling suspense and shocking scares from quality low budget movies.

Buy yourself a copy now!