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 (BenoƮt 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!