Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review: The Road

I should insert two warnings: first, that I will be discussing some definite SPOILERS to the film, though I will try to keep the worst ones to a comment to follow immediately upon this, so casual readers won't be surprised. Second, that this more or less constitutes a rant. One final caveat: I have not read McCarthy's novel, so I will make no reference to or comparison to that text. I suspect it may work rather differently -- and as a medium, may be more amenable to telling this particular story -- but I don't know.

Let me say a few good things: the cast is mostly quite good. I would not have sat through this film had not Mortensen been his usual engaging self. The bleak world is convincingly rendered visually; in fact at one point I thought, "What a nightmare set dressing must have been!"

Let me also get off my chest that in the credits one finds the most incredibly fatuous, self-inflating, pretentious credit ever for the young actor's father, something like, "Acting Coach, Guardian and Mentor." Apparently his father -- who has a bit part in the film -- is a less-successful-than-he'd-like actor and hopes to inflate his self-esteem via his son.

Now to the film: I'll admit that I find it beyond irritating when mainstream writers appropriate speculative fiction tropes, because so often they do so with arrogant ignorance. This film does that in spades; now, some of the problems may be the making of the source material, but given the cavalier attitude modern filmmaking has toward written materials, there's no excuse for not addressing them and improving the narrative.

From the start, what's clear is we're living in a kind of post-apocalyptic world. Gradually some details about the past emerge, but never a clear indication about what happened. I'm fine with that. People dealing with something they can't understand is a wonderful premise for exploring their characters. But there's a cardinal rule: to achieve Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief" you can stretch reality a long way, but there has to be an underlying plausibility. Whether you want your audience to believe they're in Hobbiton or on Rigel-7, you have to make that world work.

That's the major thing that went wrong here.

The catastrophic happening seemed to be a sort of biblical fire and brimstone, burning everything and leaving a mantel of ash behind. The cataclysm destroyed just about all vegetation and animal life -- except of course, humans (how convenient), but apparently had absolutely no affect on the water supplies.


Even in less than apocalyptic occurrences, this is an always dangerous problem. So it's completely insane that while the Man and the Boy wander the blighted landscape, they have no concerns about bending down to drink from an passing stream or indeed stripping off to enjoy the caress of a hidden waterfall's pool. If the ground is diseased, the water will be, too.

At first, this world seems to be the kind that modern Hollywood loves best: a world without women. But it becomes clear that it is in fact a world with One Woman: Charlize Theron's Woman (yes, there are other female actors, but save one addressed in the SPOILER comment, they are not really characters at all, though to be fair most of the characters are not really "characters" so much as potential dangers). Like most MW1W, it also becomes quickly clear that she is not a woman at all, but a meaning for the Man: a memory of golden sex and comfort. For my friend Peg, with whom I saw the film, this was part of showing the Man's gradual loss of humanity, but for me he never had any. From beginning to end, he is the same: terrified and paranoid, too afraid to live, but too afraid to die. Even when we flash back to the beginning of the apocalypse, he is the same bundle of terror and frozen indecision. His only deterioration is physical.

I suppose that as a meditation on how to live when all the comforts of culture are stripped away, the filmmakers want to set up a little behavioural experiment, but even there it fails. If you know you're living in a post-apocalyptic world where violent gangs rove the blighted landscape looking to kill your for your possessions and might even eat you up, do you:

A) Keep to the unpopulated areas, move at night, travel light and be silent.


B) Drive your noisy shopping cart piled high with stuff in broad daylight (well, such as it is in this murky world) along the main highway, the one place roving cannibalistic gangs will surely be found as they obstinately seek out the nearly depleted fossil fuels (leading one to assume that the gangs are made up of former oil execs and car manufacturers)?

[More in the spoilers comments]

So, no -- I didn't like The Road despite a good cast and a well-designed look. Cameos were particularly ridiculous, filled with obvious camera work designed in the most notable case to scream "isn't this Oscar-worthy! Look at this gesture!" I can't help contrasting this with the absolutely stellar cast of Young Victoria, who were without exception excellent yet completely immersed in their characters, not showboating for their reputations.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

BitchBuzz: I Hate Top 10 Lists

My latest column for BitchBuzz, grumbling about top ten lists:

If there's one thing I hate about the end of the year, it's the proliferation of Top Ten (and Top 100 and so on) lists. Everywhere you turn, there's another blowhard detailing what was really best about the last year or decade or even century. It really irks me.

To explain why, I have created my own Top Ten list in the hopes that the utter irony and chutzpah of this move will cause reality as we know it to implode or at the very least bore everyone so much that they swear off top ten lists forever.

As always, read the rest at BBHQ along with other fine pieces.

I'm just back from my travels, all of which went as well as might be hoped and with only minor irritations, which is fairly amazing for MLA. Dinner with Todd and Isabel at Eulogy was terrific, my breakfast po'boy at the Reading Terminal was delish, the panel went well and was well attended, lunch with Sandi was great -- we caught up on all kinds of news -- and then back to NYC and a bevvie with Karen at Grand Central -- first time we've met in person, glad to find her just as delightful as she is on-line -- and then up to Poughkeepsie where Robert picked me up and gave me a belated Xmas dinner and birthday cake. Quite a satisfying trip all around -- made sweeter by the fact that it was my MLA swan song! Whoo hoo -- I shouldn't have to make another trip to the world's most stressful conference™ anytime soon.

Kipper is happy I'm back, which he showed by wolfing down his food and immediately up chucking it. Ah, home. Now he's staring at the radiator as if there were something alive in it. Not at all disturbing, no.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Philadelphia and NYC

I am off to Philadelphia today to make a flying visit to the always stressful conference for the Modern Language Association. Fortunately, this is probably the last time I'll have to go to the conference (at least for the foreseeable future) and I am neither interviewing candidates nor interviewing for jobs, so my personal stress level should be reasonably low (assuming all goes well with my travel plans -- one can never tell). I plan to see friends for dinner, then chair a panel and a brief meeting on Tuesday before I head back to NYC and then dinner with Robert. Wonder if I can squeeze in a visit to the Mutter?

I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend; I actually got a good bit of writing done, which always cheers me. Nothing completed, but a couple of things well along the way. I also watched a number of movies on DVD as well as The Road which I saw with my pal Peg on Tuesday, but haven't had time to write up. I always have too much to do and too little time in which to do it.

Don't forget: there's a new episode up at The Mangrove Legacy, in which Alice chats with a very pleasant ghost. You may notice, too, that there is a new look to the serial which should make it much easier to read (or so the initial feedback suggests).

How many of you have time off this week? What do you plan to do with your leisure?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jane Quiet: Fashion Icon?

Ah, the randomness of the internet! This post on Polyvore showed up on my Google search for Jane Quiet. No idea who this user is or what prompted them to choose Jane, but it's kind of cool (especially the raven ring!), though Jane would never wear those shoes. You can't chase demons in those heels.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!

After the darkest night, the sun begins its return. It's the start of winter but the beginning of the return of the light. Enjoy the season, a good time for contemplation. I hope to do a little more of that -- not to mention writing -- now that I'm ready to turn in grades.

There's a new podcast up over at Radio Wombat, another Conceit, this one entitled "Words"; there's also a new episode of my comic Gothic serial The Mangrove Legacy up, too -- oooh, scary, kids! Ghosts!

For some seasonal reading, check out my evergreen repeat, Anglo-Saxon Yuletide which has appeared in print, electronically and occasionally as a performance.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Moping and Missing Friends

The nor'easter puts the kibosh on plans for the party at Elena's. I was so looking forward to seeing everybody tonight! I am now going to sulk and watch sad movies... once I finish grading. Bleh.

Friday, December 18, 2009

BitchBuzz: Blogging by Gender

My latest BitchBuzz column is up. It was sparked by the revelation this week that the uber-macho blogger James Chartrand is really a woman and the reasons she gave for that mask:

Blogger James Chartrand revealed this week that "he" is actually a she and deliberately took up the name after finding it impossible to make a living as a female blogger and facing ridicule and dismissal. It's hard to tell whether female bloggers were more disgusted that pretending to be a misogynist jerk actually worked or depressed that nothing has changed about the contempt for "ladies" who write.

Feministing put the revelation into the context of the "pale/stale/male-ness of the media" as a whole and pointed to a study by the University of Maryland demonstrating the disproportionate threats women face online when identified by gender...

As always, you can read the rest at BBHQ. One thing I forgot to include was trying out the Gender Analyzer to see what its opinion was and got the following: "We guess is written by a woman (55%), however it's quite gender neutral." So the AI was not fooled by the macho graphics of the page.

This here blog of mine? "We guess is written by a man (56%), however it's quite gender neutral."

I find it fascinating, the variety of ways we read gender into things. How gendered is your writing?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Chilly Birthday

Only one hat will do today: it's the Mad Hatter! During one visit to Adrean in Brussels, I kept walking past the shop window where this hat was displayed and I kept thinking, "Oh, it's too expensive." Then I thought, "You're going to regret not getting that hat. What if you never come back to Brussels?" So I got the hat -- but I've been back to Brussels many times.

No regrets though!

It's supposed to be about 17 degrees today. The hat's not just stylish, but necessary. I have to go grade my sophomores' final presentations on medieval drama, then grade the upper div papers while listening to the Punk Rock Jukebox, then meet pals at the Albany Pump Station. Sounds like a good day, eh?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cool Friends

Have I got cool friends or what? As many of you know, tomorrow is my birthday (yes, during finals week -- sigh!), but the gifts have already begun rolling in. Pictured is the book from my friend Alessandra in Rome, who knows well my obsession with Wombats and found the perfect book to appease that. Simons' tome addresses "Pre-Raphaelites and Australian Animals in in Victorian London" and is chock full of wonderful illustrations. I love it!

Not to be outdone, the Boojums sent a lovely package -- those of you who've received such packages know that the outside is every bit as lovely as the contents -- with a fantastic map of London, a jar of Marmite and the most amazing card with a photograph of a magpie quill pen.

Big smiles here, as you can imagine! Besides, when I got home a few minutes ago I had another package: pecan chocolates from New Mexico. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gothic Monday

Have you been keeping up with my serial novel blog, The Mangrove Legacy? As I contemplate ways to regularise my weekly schedule here, it strikes me that I don't always remember to draw folks' attention to the serial novel, which I update every Sunday night. If you like comic gothic shenanigans, you will probably enjoy its silly nature. It does have adventure and suspense, too -- as well as the occasional pirate or other brigands.

Ghosts, too! Are they real or are they Scooby-ed? Only Mrs. Radcliffe knows... or does she?! Mysteries, romance -- and pockets!

At present, the schedule seems to be this: Monday, serial; Tuesday, WLoAD; Thursday, BitchBuzz; Friday, podcasts. In between there will always be random thoughts and reviews as well as announcements. Of course it's not set in stone. I'm really not too inclined to follow rules, even of my own making. I do have an exciting new project for the blog in the new year, but that will be unveiled anon.

As always, I thank the faithful readers of this blog and welcome others who drop by (unless you're leaving spam links, which I cheerfully remove [okay, not that cheerfully]). Despite the fun I have on Facebook and Twitter, I have no plans to abandon the blogs any time soon.

Last day of classes today!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Radio Wombat is Back!

Yes, after far too long I have made another itty bitty podcast for your delectation, part of a new series that wormed its way into my brain in the middle of the night. Yes, do take that as a caution.

The series will be called "Conceit" (the literary kind, not the arrogant type although I suppose the habit of keeping blogs evidence enough of a kind of chutzpah) and the first one is called "Diva Soup" -- further warning I suppose. It features me playing Louhi, the ten string kantele.

The lovely Karita Mattila, pictured left, has nothing whatsoever to do with the piece other than she is Finnish and a fabulous opera diva.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

BitchBuzz: Facebook Trains Us

My latest column for BitchBuzz is up. Sure, my greatest thrill is that I was able to work both Peter Cook and Groucho into the piece, but I am interested in the ways that we grow used to new technologies. Watching people cope with change is always instructive and I think the keepers of Facebook are getting smarter about the ways that they introduce change, because folks seldom like it. While I'm always concerned about the subtle machinations behind the façade, I hardly think the world of social media is as dire as some neo-Luddite academics think. Far from being the end of the world as we know it, I've found it does nothing but enhance my friendships and bring me new ones -- and besides, it makes feel bouncy bouncy. It's only a tool, after all -- it's how you wield it that matters.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Snow Days

Well, sorry to all my students, but it appears that we will not have a snow day today, despite the snow and its continuation and the madness of the people driving and causing accidents as if snow did not fall EVERY WINTER around here! Seems that someone forgot to wear their PJs inside out (a new tradition to me -- is this a widespread practice? I only learned it here in Albany).

Doesn't my Xmas cactus look lovely, though, blooming like crazy with the snow in the background?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

WLoADed: QoE

Drop over to the Women's League of Ale Drinkers to see the latest profile: our very own fabulous Queen of Everything, Stephanie Johnson. She has been responsible for an amazing amount of arresting images! It really tickles me that vague notions of mine have emerged from her keen imagination as glorious logos that serve as candy to the eyes.

I'm thinking of making every Tuesday WLoADed day, so pass along the names of fantastic female artists who might like to join the ranks of the League. We love all kinds: writers, artists, musicians, designers -- let us know about them!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Mondays Sometimes Require...

Reminding myself the semester is almost over, then will come the time to actually catch up...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Krampus Eve

Have you been good? Or will the Krampus whack you with his sticks -- or put you in chains and take you off in his basket?

Friday, December 04, 2009


I rolled myself out of bed early for the fourth Social Media Breakfast for Tech Valley. This meeting focused on blogging and coordinator Amy Mengel had as guests Lara Kulpa, Christina Gleason, Amanda Magee, and as moderator, All Over Albany's Greg Dahlmann.

My college's Communications Department sponsored the event (and they're hoping to host the next breakfast in their new media center in January) so a bunch of my colleagues were there. So was my pal Kim, who's becoming quite the media matrix herself and was indulgent of my less-than-wakeful state.

I'm not going to give you a summary: you can see the tweet stream here and get a good picture of it. The by-words for blogging remain the same: passion, responsiveness, content and the big one, community. The rules apply whether you're talking about a personal blog or a business one, something a lot of businesses still don't understand.

Ahead of time, I had put a question on the Facebook group asking whether blogging was needed anymore given the popularity of social media sources like Twitter and Facebook; of course, it was a bit of a leading question. Fortunately, the panelists all said the same thing I think, which is that the ephemeral nature of the more instantaneous lacks the stability of blog posts, which you can go back and find. Sure, there are Twitter aggregators, but the swift chunks of tweets don't add up to the same kind of experience.

But I've been thinking about the structure/planning issues. By default, Thursdays end up being BitchBuzz day; should I have themed days? Monday is movie day or Tuesday is beer day? What kind of topics should I cover regularly? How about a day for complaints? Everybody needs to complain. What if you had one day a week to just get a pet peeve off your chest? What do you think?

UPDATE: Local TV coverage of the event, as well as Humberto Martinez's article for the Times Union.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

BitchBuzz: Jane Austen Writes

My BB column this week revisits the Jane Austen exhibit at the Morgan which I enjoyed so much last week (and yes, the William Blake exhibit is still on for a few more weeks). It's such a delight to see Jane's own handwriting and little pieces of her life gathered together for this exhibit, which offers a good sense of the Regency period in which she lived:

Through March of next year, the Morgan Library & Museum in NYC features an excellent exhibit, "A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy" which contains her handwritten script of Lady Susan as well as many letters, mostly written to her beloved sister Cassandra, and other personal effects.

While it seems impossible that we don't know everything there is to know about Jane (which isn't as much as most fans would like), it's a revelation to see so much written in her own hand.

Sure, there's the fannish squee of being so close to something Jane herself touched (then again, I'm a medievalist who shed a tear upon seeing for the first time the one and only Beowulf manuscript), but it's also an intimate window on the world in which she lived: one where paper was so precious that she used up every bit of surface area in her letters by writing across her own lines with further perpendicular lines (known as "cross-hatching")..

As usual, you can read the rest at BB HQ. Please help spread the news be retweeting, sharing and linking here!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Holiday Shopping?

What could be better than a fabulously Finnish-flavored collection of stories? You'll laugh, you'll cry, it will become a part of you -- and you can tell your family and friends who receive this fabulous gift that you know the author.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Join the Cult of Kaity!

The fabulous Queen of Everything, Stephanie Johnson -- my co-conspirator in the Women's League of Ale Drinkers, the gathering place for creative women -- designed these fabulous labels for my fictional cult's official drink, Stargrove Citrus. The cult idea sprang from a silly conversational thread on Facebook, as often happens (though oddly there were no fainting goats this time). I love how Stephanie can be inspired by chance remarks and come up with such evocative visions (like our Bison Power line of gifts and the St. Urho Day logo). N.B. "Kaity" is pronounced, like "Laity," with three syllables.

Now all I need are some followers -- and a crown!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Unexpected Morecambe

Spotted in Bleecker Bob's was this EP by the Sugar Rays which features a lovely design of Eric Morecambe's iconic face. It does not seem to have helped them succeed: perhaps the existence of the more popular later band Sugar Ray created difficulties. Who can say?

And yes, belatedly, I discovered that Kim's Video is long gone from St. Mark's Place, but there were free Tollhouse Cookies in Washington Square...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

BitchBuzz: Movies without Women

My latest column for BitchBuzz is on a pet peeve I have: Movies without Women (or the dreaded Movie with One Woman). It's an irritating popular trend in the last few decades that seems to have arisen from the focus-group approach to movie making (AKA micromanaging per the unconsidered comments of a bunch of random people).

My pal Mildred shared a HitFix review of the latest Travolta/Williams fiasco Old Dogs because it made her burst out laughing.

Admittedly, it is hilarious when Drew McWeeny writes:

If you truly hate your family and you're all trapped together this weekend, and you reeeeeally want to punish them and show them just how little you value their joy, then by all means, pile into the car and rush out to find a theater playing "Old Dogs."

But I have oodles of sympathy for his wail of pain; it's a howl I have made often, though frequently only at the inadvertent viewing of a movie trailer, because I would never go to a film like Old Dogs anyway because it epitomizes one of the primary problems of current Hollywood fare: movies without women...

As usual, read the rest at BB HQ, feel free to pass it along and share with your friends.

I've been enjoying myself to much this week, including the usual Thanksgiving food coma (thanks, Robert) so now I am back with too much work facing me (also as usual, I guess).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: A Serious Man

It's always wonderful to hear that the Coen Brothers have a new film. They have enough security to experiment in unusual ways, following up the harrowing No Country for Old Men with the wacky and cynical Burn After Reading. A Serious Man has already had mixed reactions and I can understand why: for example, it begins with a Yiddish prologue set in nineteenth century Poland and features a wealth of difficult -- and entirely singular -- characters.

The prologue, however, sets up the theme of Job-like suffering. What seems to be a lucky break turns out to be a curse. Around every corner lies another opportunity for things to go horribly wrong. Typical of the Coen Bros, every character is both completely rendered and magnificently odd, which is part of their magic. You can't imagine anyone like them, but you believe them.

At the center of the lovingly captured 60s Minnesota setting is under-siege math professor Larry Gopnick (Michael Stuhlbarg). He's up for tenure but his department chair (who never quite enters his office, hovering instead at the doorway) keeps assuring him that the anonymous letters they're receiving about his moral turpitude will not really be taken seriously in their deliberations. Larry worries that the student currently disputing his grade might be behind the letters and the strain is evident. Maybe because I'm going through the same process at present I found it especially and painfully funny.

He's completely blind-sided by his wife Judith's (Sari Lennick) revelation that she will be leaving him for the more manly yet touchy-feely Sy Abelman (played with aggressive mellowness by Fred Melamed). Judith's exasperation with Larry's failure to understand and Sy's bear hugs only make Larry more miserable and confused. It doesn't help that the house is filled with his self-absorbed daughter, would-be delinquent son and his peculiar brother (played with painful abjectness by Richard Kind) working on a theory of everything while constantly draining the abscess on the back of his neck.

There are running jokes that get better as they go along, spot on perfect renderings of the time which make Scandinavian Minnesota look like a hermetically Jewish enclave. Larry's increasingly desperate search for meaning and solace turns up only more bizarre answers and coincidences, until we reach the final frames of the film with a jaw-dropping moment of "uh oh!"

Brilliant cast, beautifully authentic look, outlandishly and bizarrely plausible and so real -- I really enjoyed this.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

BitchBuzz: Jingle Freakin' Bells

My latest BitchBuzz column takes time out for a humorous holiday grumble. Of course I lie -- there's all kinds of Xmas music I like including Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas, Joey Ramone and yes, I just bought the new Tori CD, too. But the omnipresence of the jingle of the bells when Halloween hasn't even finished? Grrr.

I'll say it loud and say it proud: oh god, how I hate Christmas music!

I hate it even more when it starts up at inappropriate times. What is inappropriate? Any day other than Christmas or Christmas Eve. That is my rule. So naturally I am irked annually that shops of seemingly all kinds and even some radio stations begin playing yuletide music while Halloween decorations are still in the stores.

I admit it; Halloween is my fave holiday. Unsentimental, spooky, a tad bit dangerous— what's not to love? What is Christmas but an all-out assault of guilt, competition, and forced jollity? People expect you to be nice just because of the season, even though they'll use every opportunity to take advantage of that niceness to wangle whatever it is they need out of you...

As always, read the rest at BB HQ and pass it along on Facebook, Twitter and whatnot.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Library Thing

All righty, kiddos -- I am finally getting on Library Thing, mostly because I have a grad student willing to put in some of the books in my office for me. Hurrah -- thanks, Anne!

How many of you use Library Thing? It seems quite easy, but there's also Good Reads which I have been invited to join, too. Any pros and cons between them -- or am I wrong in my assumption that they do the same thing? I love the idea of having my books catalogued, but as most of you know, I am hopeless at tedious and repetitive tasks...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review: Coco Before Chanel

Thanks to my pal Peg, I got to see Coco avant Chanel for free, which is particularly wonderful for a film that I would have paid to see. I have a love/hate relationship with fashion: it can be such a wonderful and practical art, yet so often the practitioners show little imagination when it comes to actually making the body more beautiful.

Not surprisingly, this was a very beautiful film. Audrey Tautou is of course wonderful, but the child they got to play Chanel in the first part of the film was very well chosen: her intense gaze was unnerving. The bitter little orphan grows into a rather prim young woman who is unimpressed by the world and particularly by love. She's ambitious but unfocused; unlike her sister Adrienne (Marie Gillain), who is madly in love with her duke, whom she's convinced will marry her. The sisters work as seamstresses and singers, but Gabrielle (AKA Coco) knows it is a dead end and surprises the baron (Benoît Poelvoorde) who took a shine to her by visiting his palatial country estate. The two eventually achieve a sort of grudging intimacy, that he comes to depend upon while Coco begins to develop her signature style in response to the frivolous frippery of the baron's loutish friends, particularly the dramatic diva who takes a fancy to her straw hats.

Everything changes when the hard-nosed Coco falls for Boy Capel, but in the end, it is her ambition that sustains her -- and that's the best thing about the film. While it tries to shoehorn this love affair into providing the impetus for Chanel's eventual triumph, what comes through clearly is that she was someone with vision and ambition who followed them both unapologetically. It's rare yet to see a film that shows a woman as ambitious without having to soften it somehow and make her more "acceptable" somehow. While the weird telescoping of time that ends the film made us both go "wha?!", in the end the gorgeous look of it, Tautou's and the other fine performances and the unapologetic ambition of Chanel made the film worthwhile.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

BitchBuzz: Hoax News

My latest BitchBuzz column manages to slip in a Fast Show reference before turning to its topic of the lack of critical reading skills by seemingly everyone on the 'net. Part of the phenomenon comes from the universal lack of time and also the ease of forwarding what looks like an interesting/amusing/incendiary headline without actually reading what it says -- or from whom it comes:

Isn't the internet brilliant?

You can talk to friends around the world instantaneously. You can send files to your editor with the click of a button. You can watch videos of shows you can't be arsed to watch in real time—or at least the highlights because there's far too much filler in most programs (doubly or trebly so if we're talking about awards shows).

But it's not all frivolity.

Twittering during news events has become the norm: the first high profile was perhaps the Mumbai hotel hostage situation, but all too many emergencies and natural disasters have proved the usefulness and immediacy of Twitter coverage whether it's wildfires in Australia or election protests in Iran.

Other outlets, too, have been used to keep those in power slightly more honest, e.g. this week's embarrassing moment when intrepid investigative reporter comedian Jon Stewart demonstrated the faked footage in Sean Hannity's use of old footage of supposed protests against health-care. We're on to you, people in the public eye, and we're not idiots. We're here for the little guy!

As always, read the rest at BB HQ and forward the link -- LOL, if you agree with it and after you have read it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Advisement Day

It's advisement day, so I am short on time, but as my of my friends and acquaintances are knee deep in NaNoWriMo, let me offer a little cheap writing advice (mostly) from my favourite site for writing quotes:

When fate's got it in for you, there's no limit to what you may have to put up with.
- Georgette Heyer

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
- T. S. Eliot

I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten - happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.
- Brenda Ueland

You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
- Mark Twain

The brain that doesn't feed itself, eats itself.
- Gore Vidal

Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.
- Barbara Kingsolver

A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.
- Eugene Ionesco

Friday, November 06, 2009

Hello and Goodbye Again in Boston

I made a quick run to Boston today to meet up with my pal, Aalya, who was giving a paper at MAPACA on fan reception of horror film remakes. Aalya is another member of the Horror List and is currently writing a dissertation on horror (which I'm being allowed to read -- it's good!). Her colleague Sean also gave a paper on Let the Right One In, a fantastic Swedish film that I most highly recommend.

We all went out to lunch along with Lyz and Lance, who were also giving papers, and were eventually joined by Aalya's husband Dietrich and daughter, Sophia. Amazingly enough, the Hilton's pub actually had good beer (i.e. everything did not end with "lite" or "weiser") and my salmon was terrific (thanks, Aalya, for lunch! very kind). We had a good natter about horror and beer and this and that, before we all had to run off to other places. I saw a couple of folks I knew in the program, but they were all speaking much later in the day and I needed to be elsewhere.

My other place to go was Mount Auburn Cemetery, where I had a little duty of remembrance to perform. Little Maggie-Moo died while we were in Texas, but I wasn't going to leave my little Beantown cat behind there. I think she'll enjoy being home again. Mount Auburn is a lovely location: I've used it as a setting for a key scene in my next novel (and have plans to include it in another work as well).

I will not mention the white stuff I saw in the Berkshires: I can only assume it was dandruff...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

BitchBuzz: Douglas Adams & Dolphins

My latest column for BitchBuzz was sparked by a story about dolphins and television. Seems they figured it out pretty quick, unlike simians who had to be coached in the ways of the box. I shudder to think how much they laughed to see what humans do with their non-nautical time:

At the moment of Earth's destruction, Douglas Adams tell us in the course of the five part trilogy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the dolphins left the planet behind with a well-meaning and heartily kind words: so long and thanks for all the fish. The stunningly intelligent creatures were long dismissed by the hubristic humans because of their life style choices. Adams explains.

It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the wheel, New York, wars and so on -- whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man -- for precisely the same reasons...

As always, read the rest at BB HQ and spread the wealth via Facebook, Twitter and so on.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Publication: Talking to Goddess

My sonnet for the goddess Kali makes another appearance, this time in a collection gathered by D'vorah Grenn of The Lilith Institute, called Talking to Goddess. The book is available in both print and digital formats, so you can decide which you need. I seem to recall that this came about in conjunction with the Women and the Divine Conference I attended in Liverpool a few years back, but I may be misremembering. I am still very proud of this poem, since 1) I seldom write poetry and 2) it captures this complex deity in all her awesome power and stature.

I've been so crazy busy for all of October and September, I still feel as if I am simply trying to catch up and draw breath. So many more things going on this month, that chimera of a respite may prove to be no more than a dream.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween, Poe & Pals

I was going to entitle this "John Crowley Owes Me $5" but I only just met him this week and I'm not sure I can feel comfortable joshing about money with him; of course it does make for a funny story. My adventures for the weekend started with the kick off of the Poe Conference at UMass Amherst on Thursday night. My pal, the fabulous Liz Hand, was the primary draw, but as I ended up sitting next to Crowley at dinner, I had a chance to get to know him a bit more.

The $5 came about because we were all supposed to go out to dinner after the reading, courtesy of UMass and coordinator Chris Couch. I was driving Liz and Tristan, her son, but we didn't know where the restaurant was, so we were supposed to follow Crowley and his daughter Zoe who was a student there. However, they couldn't get out of the garage because he had no cash! So I gave him a fin and we were off. Good food was on offer and assessing the situation, Crowley ran out to get some wine ($5 investment paid in FULL!); since we had about a dozen folks there, Liz followed suit, so we had a good amount of beverage for the fine dinner (some yummy goat as well as rice and beans and plantains). Crowley and I ended up talking about all kinds of things like why he couldn't see the appeal of vampires (rotting corpses! think of the smell!), medieval revenants and even my film class about portrayals of writers, for which he had an additional suggestion I'd never heard of: "Youngblood Hawke" written by Herman Wouk and filmed in 1964.

Liz tried to convince me to stay in Amherst that night, but I'd brought no clothes or even a toothbrush ("You can use mine," she offered -- isn't she a sweetie?) but when dinner broke up around 11pm, I headed home. Too wired when I got home to go to sleep, I ended up pottering around until after 3am, so no way I was going back to Amherst in the morning. Sorry, Faye! I missed your panel, but heard about it afterward (and that it was enjoyed). Friday night I celebrated Samhaim with my pals and stuffed myself silly! Thought I might never eat again.

Sat dawned with an early rising to get to Amherst in time to see some of the presenters before my panel. My reading went well: I had fun talking about Poe's influence and then reading from "Palakainen" which seemed to go over well, too. Lunch offered an opportunity for chatting with folks, then Craig Shaw Gardner gave the keynote speech which -- of course! -- turned into a game show.

Then I jumped back in the car to head down to Willimantic and Miss Wendy's, where we had some tasty brisket, then prepped and headed down to New London to celebrate the day with the Queen and Johnny 10X, Marko and the Boojums (Cheryl is responsible for the photo above) at the Hygenic Park. I was dressed as Mater Tenebrarum (in case you can't tell) and we all had a lot of fun until it rained.

Some folks followed the bands to the Oasis (Marko told us later that we missed blood, 80 degree heat and a fight), some to the Bank Street (Flesh Hammer and D.O.T. were playing) and me, Miss Wendy, the Queen and Johnny 10X went to the Dutch, where we were fortunate to get a table from some friendly Phillies fans. I'm sure it looked odd enough to have Mater Tenebrarum, a Raven and the Scarecrow come in and sit down, but we got a chuckle when Batman came in and bellied up to the bar, sipping a cold one while he watched the game. We got home late and Miss Wendy and I sat up for a bit watching Halloweeny fare.

Even better, we had that extra hour from daylight savings and Miss Wendy made me breakfast -- eggs, bacon and bagels, yum! Why is breakfast always such a treat? I dunno, but it was delicious. Better yet, "I'm All Right, Jack" was playing on TCM so I had a lot of laughs with breakfast, too. Eventually I had to head home; it's such an easy drive with music playing and plenty of convenient places to stop if need be. Best thing today was being in the ladies room at one rest area and listening to a little girl sing "Lollipop" with her mom making the "pop" sound.

Home again to a happy Kipper, but no hot water! Maybe it's fixed now. Too busy catching up on things to check. Hope you all had fun this weekend!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween and Maith Samhain! I didn't get cards out this year, so this will have to do. Thanks to The joey Zone for passing along this lovely Levy-Dhurmer illo.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

BitchBuzz: Exporting Halloween

The last of my Halloween-themed columns (probably!) deals with the fun of Halloween and veers off into Heyer-ville for no apparent reason. As I am re-thinking my costuming needs for the weekend, I feel absolutely devoid of imagination, so who knows what will happen. Heading off to the Poe conference tonight -- maybe I'll finally get a schedule of events. Back to UMass a couple more times and then down to Connecticut for Halloween itself. Let's hope I'll have made up my mind about my costume by then.

A disgruntled Guardian reader (is there really any other kind?) derided Halloween as a “ghastly American import” and moaned about the need to herd children around on their forays for candy. Considering the dire nature of most American imports (McDonald’s, baseball caps, L. Ron Hubbard), I think Halloween is a reason to celebrate.

Think of it: Pumpkins! Free candy! An excuse for parties! Dressing up!

Read the rest -- and a slew of interesting articles -- over at BitchBuzz HQ.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blast from the Past: Wordgeryne

Just in time for the Halloween season, my dissertation and Cthulhu-inspired short story, "Wordgeryne" will be featured over at Unbound. The story originally appeared in Lovecraft's Weird Mysteries back in 2002. It's kind of a fun story (well, for horror, you know) because it combines a bunch of references that amuse me: of course, there's Cthulhu, but there's also a reference to my brother's favourite bad painting, "Brigitte" (she of the massive eyes), to Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart (the novella that provided the script for Hellraiser), to The Bride of Frankenstein as well as a nod to my studies in Anglo-Saxon literature, culture and language in many details, including the title, a word not chosen at random but with special purpose. Enjoy!

“Take my hand!” I begged, but Brigitte’s wide eyes only stared back in mute terror. I inched further out the window, stepping gingerly onto the narrow ledge, trying to reach toward her hand. “Please!” There was an audible gulp, but no other response. She closed her eyes and lay her palms flat against the wall. Hope sprang up in my heart. Perhaps Brigitte had changed her mind. Her whole body suggested defeat, relinquishing. Give up this foolish plan, I urged silently, but aloud I repeated, “Please, take my hand.” Brigitte turned her head slowly and opened her eyes once more to meet my gaze. My tentative sense of hope disappeared at once and I could hear an increase of fearful whispering in the crowd below.

“I didn’t know,” my friend said softly, a single tear crawling down her cheek. “I didn’t believe…it. I’m sorry.” And before I could begin to puzzle the meaning of her words, Brigitte pushed herself away from the wall, the ledge and, arms wide, fell into the air...
[read the rest at Unbound!]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bill, Lenny & Bob

I headed down Thursday to Bard for a talk about Blake's quiet years that promised to fill in the missing details. I had been surprised to hear about an event at Bard before the actual day of the event, a rarity. However, when I got there and found the room, I also found a note saying the lecture was delayed. I decided not to wait around and went to Robert's, where he was making a tasty dinner -- much better. If the lecture's any good, it'll be published, right?

The next morning we headed down to the Cloisters to get a little medieval. If you haven't been there, the museum located in the lovely Fort Tryon Park offers a nice little taste of the Middle Ages in Manhattan with artifacts, bits of chapels, tombs and other treasures. After having a good wander around the grounds, we headed over to the New Leaf Café, which Robert informed me was run by Bette Midler, but we didn't see her in the kitchen, but we were able to enjoy a really good lunch while supporting the New York Restoration Project.

We took the A train downtown in order to get to the Morgan. As we passed through the 42nd Street station, Robert helpfully pointed out the tubes that were part of the internet, which as we all know is a system of tubes. Quite knowledgeable my brother. Why the Morgan? Well, they're having a Blake exhibit which more than made up for the missed lecture. It had so much more than I expected, not just pages from his books, but letters, manuscripts and watercolors. Wonderful!

Of course, the main event was seeing Leonard Cohen at Madison Square Garden. The sold out show featured most of his hits which pleased the crowd (full of an awful lot of balding heads we could see from our vantage point up near the top), but the energy and exuberance of Cohen and his band really impressed me. Although 75, he was dancing and skipping on and off stage during the 8pm show which lasted until 11.30. He seemed truly joyful, telling the audience, "I don’t know when we’ll be passing through here again, so I want to tell you that it is our intention to give you everything we’ve got tonight” -- and they did. Fantastic band all around, including his frequent collaborator, Sharon Robinson and an amazing Spanish guitarist. Everyone got a turn in the spotlight, but the crowd was there to see Cohen and he gave them everything, turning songs like "I'm Your Man" from intimate love songs to an offering to the thousands assembled. You can find videos for many of the songs like "So Long, Marianne", "Tower of Song", my fave "Famous Blue Raincoat" and the perennial fave, "Hallelujah" but I am so glad I was actually there. Some nights are just magical -- and this was one.

Of course getting back was less than magical -- not only was there a rail replacement bus for the A train uptown, but it was pouring and we had to drive back to Hudson. But we kept each other awake, listening to Peter Cook until we finally made it back to Robert's about 3.30am. Totally worth it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Taste of My Weekend

It's my long long day, so I'm not sure I'll get around to writing up all my adventures of the weekend, but here's a little taste of what I did and saw. An absolutely amazing concert!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

BitchBuzz: Poe-tastic!

Yeah, it's that time again -- for both my weekly column and for the Poe-mania that October always brings, increased this year because it's the 200th anniversary of his birth. As I've mentioned, I'll be at the Poe conference that's going on at UMass Amherst the end of the month, but details are a bit vague at present.

October inevitably ends up being unofficial Poe month across the world as his dark tales get tied to the spooky Halloween season.

If he were still alive, Edgar would have turned 200 hundred in January, a nice round number for celebrations. I’m going to be part of a gathering at U-Mass Amherst focused on New England writers and artists and their relationship to the master of the macabre, but there are a wealth of possibilities out there...

As always, you can read the rest at BitchBuzz HQ as well as checking out all their other fascinating articles on tech, culture and fun.

Tonight I head down to Bard for a talk on Blake, then dinner with Robert. We're off to the city tomorrow to stop by the Cloisters and see Leonard Cohen at Madison Square Garden. Should be fun! (Ironically, Marko is playing "No Fun" right now, hee hee!)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Albacon Wrap-up

It was a crazy and fun-filled Albacon this year. Of course one of the most fun parts was having a chance to catch up with the wonderful Liz Hand. Fortunately, I'll see her the end of the month, too, at the Poe conference at UMass Amherst (no, I don't have many details to give -- one of the things we both hoped the other knew more about. Well, surprises can be nice, too). She read from her forthcoming story "The Maiden Voyage of Macauley's Bellerephon" which held the audience enraptured. I can't wait to read the whole thing.

Things kicked off Thursday night with a new event. Jackie Kessler (whom I'll be featuring on Prose at the Rose next week) hosted an editors and agent panel. It was informative and well-attended despite not being part of the "traditional" con. New and experienced writers found a lot of information and had questions a-plenty. Afterward, Debi Chowdhury and I hosted a tarot card reader party (thanks so much, Donna, for coming to read!). It was a lot of fun and we met lots of people.

Friday was also a new event: the writers conference. Brainstormed by Debi and coordinated and scheduled by the indefatigable Susan Hanniford Crowley, it featured all kinds of panels and workshops like Toni Andrews' "Five Fixes" for your manuscript, the fabulous Stella Price's "Promotion for the Author on a Budget" and Jackie Kessler's "How to Write a Query Letter" -- all of which went over very well with the eager writers and writers-to-be. I was on panels about Urban Fantasy and Using Mythology. There was a big signing at 3 o'clock, but that's when I had to run off to give my paper across town on Beowulf: Prince of Geats at the 24th International Conference on Medievalism over at Siena College.

I got back in time for dinner and then the ice cream social. Stayed up way too late yakking and having fun, meeting for the first time fellow writer Debra Hyde, whom I'd only known on-line. Saturday was a jam-packed day of panels and readings. Fortunately I was only on one panel, so I didn't have to be too bubbly after the craziness of the day before. It was perhaps not the thing to do for con com members to do, but some of us skipped the banquet and went to Plum Blossom for dinner and it was worth it. Debra and Debi and Susan and I hosted a reading in Debi's room that night which went on 'til quite late and everyone seemed to have a terrific time.

Sunday everyone was dragging a little bit, but there was a good showing for the panel appreciating Charles Brown. Liz, David Hartwell, Brett Cox and Ron Drummond reminisced about their own memories of Brown while explaining his importance to the field of speculative fiction as a whole, not just as editor of Locus, but as a cheerleader for the genres. Even after all the panels were done, we couldn't all drag ourselves away, so Ruth and Debi and I went out for sushi at Sushi Tei. Yum!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Master Class with Evelyn Glennie

I roused myself from my sick bed on a Sunday morning to head to campus to enjoy the rare opportunity of a master class led by world-renown percussionist, Dame Evelyn Glennie (soon to appear on Ready Steady Cook!). If you haven't heard her play or seen her fabulous film Touch the Music, you really need to check her out. Absolutely stunning work in all modes of percussion and drumming!

It was a treat to see her interact with the students and audience. Each student played a piece and the Glennie gave some encouragement and pointers for improvement. It was instructive to see how much focus she put on the physicality of playing, being grounded and balanced. "Try to be simple," she repeated a few times. While technique has to be there (and timing and accuracy), she also said it's important to "feel it here," smacking her belly. Because it was a master class, Glennie was working with students who were already excellent players, so she focused on improving the performance aspects of their technique. Clearly they had been spending long hours practicing, but Glennie exhorted them to see every opportunity as a performance and think about what they wanted to say with the piece they were inhabiting -- adjust to the room, respond to the audience.

Glennie looked so fit and chic in her silver top. She moved with energy but also a natural grace. It's amazing the power that she sends into the sticks when she plays, evident when she broke one of the students' mallets at the marimba when demonstrating a passage. "Oh, I'll replace that!" Glennie said at once while the audience laughed. "Tell me how much it was." She joked later about it being part of her Scots heritage to want to use every part of the bar while playing the instrument, demonstrating the different tones all along one bar.

Three students ended the class with John Beck's rousing "Episodes for Percussion" which really rang out in the fancy new performance hall of the Massry Center. Glennie finished by answering a few questions, including one about whether she would encourage young musicians to become performers. Not only did she talk about how she enjoyed the physicality of her work, but also spoke to the need to be a professional, not to wait for opportunity to come to you, but to go find it. The business is changing rapidly and you have to keep up.

Right now, I have to go make some more tea and take more cold medicine in the hopes that I will be ready for my twelve hour Monday. Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

BitchBuzz: Unique Halloween Costumes

Okay, most of the readers here won't need this particular column, but others will, so be kind -- and share! Yes, I know it's been a week since I last posted, but between Albacon and the Medievalism conference AND too many meetings and teaching all day yesterday, I'm still getting caught up.

So here's my [hastily written] column on interesting Halloween costumes (is the Victorian Squid not the ginchiest costume ever?!):

It's that time of year again: fancy dress calls for the spooktacular season. Forget about the tired old superhero route, pirates have been done to death and no, you can't go as a naughty nurse again. You have to try to be a little bit imaginative.

If you want to be like the hip kids, then steampunk is a must. Jump on this bandwagon before the rest of the world does, because the costumes are totally awesome. Like the recent exhibit at Oxford's Museum of the History of Science, steampunk paraphernalia rocks because it is both elegant and wicked cool.

As always, read the rest at BitchBuzz.

And YES, I am working on the posts about the cons, so coming very soon!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

BitchBuzz: Indy Horror

Hey kids, new BitchBuzz column -- and it's seasonal! Check out some indy horror including the wonderfully creepy House of Black Wings, created by friend o' the blog David Schmidt and the folks at Sword & Cloak Productions:

You know it's October when Maureen Dowd quotes Hannibal Lecter and the National Review has a Bush speech writer (fill in your own joke) waxing rhapsodic about anti-prejudice campaigner Rod Serling and his Twilight Zone [children please note, it has nothing to do with Bella and Edward].

The market forces are poised to get your cash, whether it's for ginchy Halloween decorations, naughty costumes or the latest over-hyped horror extravaganza, which would of course be Zombieland. But it's a good time to share the love with some of the hard working indy film makers who find it hard to get a foot into that lucrative Hollywood pipeline.

As always, read the rest over at BB. Don't forget to retweet it and link to the piece. Every bit helps!

Just a reminder I'll be at Albacon most of the weekend, so follow my tweets or just be patient until I have a chance to draw breath again.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


You'll be hard pressed to catch up with me the next few days, because I will be marinating in Albacon, the local SF/F/H -- and this year, romance -- con. I somehow ended up on the planning committee which included (to my surprise) setting up the program book (eek!) as well as helping to publicise the con here and there.

Guest of honor is the every fabulous Liz Hand and artist guest of honor is Alan F. Beck. The band Igor's Egg is playing Friday night, and all day Friday there are writing workshops (yes, I'll be on a couple of panels). See the full list of participants and panels; you'll definitely want to be there!

Things kick off with an editors, agents and publishers gathering Thursday night about 6:30, hosted by the faboo Jackie Kessler, who I am featuring on the next episode of Prose at the Rose.

Of course, somehow I have to juggle this with the Medievalism conference that's taking place across town, where I'll be giving a paper on masculinity and Beowulf (and Beowulf: Prince of Geats!).

Madness -- but that's typical for me, eh?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Review: Bright Star

I headed off to see Jane Campion's latest film, Bright Star, with my intrepid fellow film reviewer, Peg, on Friday. Yes, it was another afternoon matinée, or what we have come to call the blue hair screening. It was also a particularly packed one, so there was nowhere to go to get away from the gentleman next to me emitting rather noisy, um, eruptions, nor to escape the man a row back who suddenly began snoring loudly upon the instant in which one of the characters mentioned needing to sleep (about two thirds of the way through the film).

Named for Keats' poem "Bright Star" the film follows the development of the attachment between Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) and John Keats (Ben Wishaw) in the early nineteenth century. The cast is full of actors you recognize (well, if you watch a lot of small British films) and for the most part excellent and able to slip into their roles with ease. Paul Schneider as Charles Armitage Brown sometimes seems to be powering his Scottish accent with a bellows, nonetheless he has a terrific physical presence that makes much of the intricate intimate relationship between himself, Keats and Brawne. Wishaw brings a vulnerability to the poet, but also a wistful humour. His passionate reactions at times seems to be about to make his limbs fall apart. Cornish brilliantly conveys the awakening interest Brawne develops for this most unlikely man, and her transformation from hard-headed bon vivant to love-sick partner completely captivates.

The film is leisurely and episodic, as you might expect from Campion -- it's also incredibly gorgeous, making the most of both the period costumes and Brawne's fascination with fashion. The color is absolutely breathtaking in some scenes (yes, yes, the bluebells lavender [thanks, Chloë!]) and as enervating as a black hole in others. I can't recall the last time an entire audience stayed spellbound through the closing credits, but in our showing they did -- everyone listening to Wishaw's recital of "Ode to a Nightingale" as the music continued and the credits rolled by. Wonderful.

Friday, October 02, 2009

In Case You're Wondering

This is what a tenure package looks like; this is actually Kim's (who had loaned me hers as a model) because I only remembered that I was going to take a picture of it after I had turned it in. More or less like mine, though the tabbing is far neater. It contains the letter applying for tenure and promotion (the hardest part to produce), CV, all your year end reports, all your faculty data forms (another kind of end-of-year report), nine teaching observations, from other faculty members, and course evaluations from twelve different courses. The letter has to highlight what's important in the hundreds of pages of data included in the binder, so the committee gets a picture of who you are as a teacher, scholar and colleague (assuming they don't already know). I'm fortunate that at least a couple members of the committee know me personally and are acquainted with what I do. The problem of being a medievalist -- what you do seems odd and often obscure to others.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

BitchBuzz: Mistress of Horror

My latest column gives some recommendations if you want to give a really good fright movie fest this month. Ah, the spooky season!

October! The season of the witch and all things creepy crawly. Sure, you're probably thinking about that big Halloween fright fest and chattering eagerly to your friends. But, what's this? They're rolling their eyes. Why?

Your films are lame.

What you need is to class up your offerings with some truly memorable films. God knows there are people willing to pay to see umpteen iterations of Saw, but you don't have to be one of them. Your friends will thank you.

For the early part of the evening, while the jelly-mould brain is setting up and the Real Lady Fingers are cooling, start out with atmospheric classics. You can't go wrong with the artsy Teutonic stylings of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu. If your guests continue to gab through the screening, not to worry. Silent films create a stylish ambience and you will rise a few notches in the estimation of the connoisseurs.

Read the rest over at BB (though most of the readers of this blog will probably not need the recommendations).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Consummatum est

The tenure package has been submitted. Hallelujah. Now the five month or so wait...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I dislike being assessed. Being judged and evaluated, measured against some abstract scale, always makes me resentful. I have my own measures of success and have no interest in conforming to anyone else's opinions of what is valuable.

Of course, when you choose to become part of academia, it's a non-stop parade of evaluation. As a student you're graded on what you write, what you say and what you do. When you become a faculty member, you're graded on your grading and general teaching, on your writing, as well as the publishing and presenting of that writing and its attendant research, as well as how many committees you sit on, organisations you join and contributions you bring. Bleh.

Everyone gets evaluated on their job; I should just get over myself. But I have a lot of material to gather together. I'll try to remember to take a picture of the tenure package before I deliver it. Nearly there. The letter is out to friends for scrutiny. Meanwhile, holes to punch. It may prove soothing after straining to pull meaningful but not too clever prose from my brain.

UPDATE: It also didn't help that I discovered that all of last year's course evaluations were missing. It turns out our departmental secretary has them (after assuring me this morning she did not); I would have gone to get them by now, but she's apparently left for the day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


So, my day started by waking up to this disturbing sight:

because I had stayed at Jenise's after celebrating her birthday with Cary Grant movies and some wine -- and then a little Hennessey. Yum! Of course it was more relaxing to know I didn't have to drive home that night and her guest room is quite comfortable and, as you can see, guests are carefully watched over.

Nonetheless I was up early to join friends for a day's retreat to relax and recharge at Universal Pathways. The lovely Mary Browne has created a gorgeous sanctuary in Berne, NY with acres and acres of countryside and forests, streams and a cave. We all wandered about in various locations then met up at the main building for lunch, then wandered off again, though many of us gravitated toward the cave for a little music.

While wandering through the woods I came across this tree that had been uprooted probably by high winds. There are ravens, turkeys, elk and more in the woods around Mary's. Pheasants too, I guess, though the only one we saw had been hit by a car on the road!

After wandering through the woods I came out into a wide field, still green, though the leaves have begun to change. I could see where the elk or deer had lain in the field, so with the midday sun shining bright I decided to do the same. There was hardly a cloud in the sky anywhere as I gazed up, and though the wind was cold, the sun was quite warm. It was like being ten again. Big smiles. Good day.