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).