Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Busy weekend, busy autumn: I never got around to my traditional Halloween card, so here's a blast from the past which has come to mind several times this week, so clearly she wants to make an appearance:

Devil’s Night

It was called Devil’s Night in the town where I lived
That veiled night before Halloween,
When goblins came out and devils ran wild
And some said that witches were seen.
We kids stayed inside, safe in our beds
And whispered of what there might be—
But one year we intended to see for ourselves,
My sister, my black cat and me.

The sun had long set and the darkness had come
To wrap all the houses in black,
When we crawled out the window and crept ‘cross the lawn
And none of us even looked back.
Though the wind tapped our shoulders and played with our hair
And ran through the leaves with mad glee,
We were stalwart and true like the heroes we knew,
My sister, my black cat and me.

We had never quite said, but each knew in our heads
The goal of our late night foray;
There was only one house whose black shutters and spires
Cast long inky shadows by day.
The house of nightmares was the subject of dares
For children much older than we,
But we knew we must try to sneak in and spy,
My sister, my black cat and me.

As we walked on our own down the mist-shrouded lane
The goblin cries rang through the night.
My sister told me, with an air of disdain,
That I should not take any fright.
“It’s only some kids wrapped in sheets that they hid,
That they took from their mother’s laundry.”
And we continued along with much knocking of knees
By my sister, my black cat and me.

The house loomed ahead with its turrets like spikes
Aimed at a portentous sky
The old shutters rattled and the chimney howled doom
But the wind smelled like pumpkin pie.
“An old witch lives here and she eats little kids,”
My sister heard from Katie Lee
And we were likely to die if we drew too near by
My sister, my black cat and me.

“I’ll go up on the porch and ring her doorbell
then run—like the wind—quick away.
You go ‘round the back and give a sharp ratatat,
Before she can come out this way.”
Her plans carefully laid, my sister then stayed
As I walked toward the back door slowly,
I’ll admit I was scared and I felt ill- prepared,
No sister, just black cat and me.

As I prowled through the gloom I saw a bright room
And an old woman dressed all in black.
“It must be the witch,” I said to my cat
And shivered and shook in my tracks.
I wanted to run but I heard the doorbell
And I knew that my sister’s safety
Was all in my hands, so we gathered our breaths,
Poor little black cat and me.

I made a small fist and raised up my arm
To deliver the thunderous tap
But I froze to the spot when I saw a dark shape
That opened the door with a snap.
“I know what you want!” I hear the witch say
But my feet would not move to flee
And she swept us inside the warm kitchen’s light,
Poor little black cat and me.

My tears trickled down and I begged for my life
And the life of my little kitty.
The old witch just smiled and patted my head
And said to me, “Don’t be silly.
I’ve got oodles of pie and candy and fudge
And a gingerbread house so pretty,
And I wish you would share all the food I’ve prepared—
It’s too much for my big cat and me!”

I looked all around and my fear dissipated
The kitchen was cheerful and clean
And the huge oaken table was filled ‘til it groaned
With more treats than I’d ever seen—
Pies of all kinds and cookies with chips
And a big steaming pot of green tea,
And in front of the fire a great big cat yawned
At my ravenous black cat and me.

I said “Thank you ma’am!” and plopped down in a chair
And she set a blue plate before me
And I piled it up high with some warm pumpkin pie
And a big taste of each sweet dainty.
I was feeding my face and telling the witch of our chase
When my sister’s gaze fell upon me.
But it took little time before we brought her inside
To eat with my black cat and me.

So when you see a witch and your knees start to shake
And you’re tempted to run to the hills,
Just remember the night that we wandered quite late
Seeking out Devil’s Night thrills.
Some witches are good, and some witches are bad
But they all make amazing candy!
If you’re sweet and not rude, they might share their food
With your sister, your black cat and thee.

Friday, October 29, 2010

BitchBuzz: Spooky Chicks

Setting off the Halloween weekend, here's my latest column in which I wax rhapsodic over some fave femme films (oh dear, alliteration overload):

Spooky Chicks: 4 Films Full of Female Mayhem

It's nearly Halloween and if you're like most people these halcyon days, you're feeling more than a mite pinched in the wallet and depressed about your status in the world. Doubly so if you are female, because we always bear the brunt of austerity measures.
Well, nothing raises the spirits and boosts the ego like a little female mayhem. Sure you want to go on a rampage through the high street and smash windows, but you'd also like to have the possibility of keeping your job and acquaintances. Better to snack on your favorite high fat snack and let these women carry out the bloodshed for you.

Read more: to see what films I recommend!

A busy weekend ahead: of course! So many Halloween things going on, it will be hard to choose. Definitely a bonfire out at Mandi's tonight with a bunch of folks and probably Sunday out at Mary's in Berne, but in between...? Still making up my mind. Maybe I'll just stay home and watch scary movies :-)

I have been quoted in this article from the Schenectady Gazette, but as it's behind a paywall, so you may need to take that into consideration. It's in conjunction with a spooky dramatic reading program that's going on Sunday afternoon by the Schenectady Civic Players. Not quite in time for Halloween, my zombie Western "High Plains Lazarus" will be available in the anthology Rotting Tales from Pill Hill Press next week. If you're on Facebook, you can see a teaser of the story there.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Visiting the Vanderbilts

We headed over to the Vanderbilt place to check out how the other half lives (of course, at this point, it's not so much the "other half" as the super-rich 1%), but first we stopped to fortify ourselves at the diner.

I had a terrific burger cooked just the way I liked and everything was really fresh. My only disappointments: they have those coated fries with extra starch (bleh!) and they do not have real mayonnaise. But we did some more antiquing and saw a wonderful sight: an older woman in a leopard skin coat walking a cat in the rain. Wonderful!

Next we headed over to the Vanderbilt House. It's not quite as magnificent as the Biltmore, of course -- they only came here for a month each in the spring and fall -- but it is quite nice. The way they give you the tour is to take you through the experience of arriving there to spend the weekend as their fellow millionaire friends so you can see how the day was spent, but then you get to leave through the servants' area, so it brings you back down to earth. It was a bit rainy off and on, but a lovely day nonetheless.

Driving home last night there was a whole lotta fog: the effects of rather too warm weather for this time of year and a lot of rain. A bit nerve-wracking for driving, but it always looks so cool. Spooky in time for Halloween, eh?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

With my Brothers

Buck, the most good-natured dog in the world, supervises the process, while Robert makes the dough, Steve explains why rutabagas are always a bad idea and then the final product appears: mmmm, fresh pasties straight from the oven -- yum!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Keeping it Peel

Legendary DJ John Peel died on this day just six years ago. He could be curmudgeonly and peculiar in his tastes, but he had a profound effect on the musical tastes of people around the world, so I've joined in the effort toward Keeping it Peel -- passing on the legacy by sharing some of the extraordinary work that he brought to the airwaves, like this oddity from Peel faves (and yes, mine) The Fall. Sing a song in celebration of John Peel, like our pals Reticents did.

Find more artists like Reticents at MySpace Music

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Into the Woods

Off on a retreat today with my friends in the lovely woods and hills (and cave!) of Berne. No cell phone reception, no wifi. Just silence in nature. Tomorrow I'll write up my review of the latest Woody Allen movie -- sigh! Short version: what a colossal waste of a stellar cast.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wombat Day

I did not start this particular celebration, but you know I'm willing to lend a hand for a good cause. So join the dance for Wombat Day. Wombat cake below made by the Wombies. How to celebrate: Eat chocolate, think marsupial thoughts, put something in a pouch. Smile. Hug a wombat.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

BitchBuzz: Are We Getting Nicer?

Well now, don't go getting your hopes up: it's just my latest column --

Is the World Becoming Nicer? (Probably not)

People around the world watched and cheered as the Chilean miners were freed, one by one, from their underground prison. I was surprised to find my friends, normally hard-hearted cynics, dabbing away tears as they watched this "miracle," this "triumph of the human spirit." No, let's not get distracted by the fact that the miners had their pay docked for not working, because it's possible that this emotional tide is the sign of a cultural sea change.

After all, as BitchBuzz's own Rebecca Thompson reported, our favourite grumbling misanthrope pin-up, Charlie Brooker has given notice on his bitch-fest Screen Burn, the better to embrace marital bliss and pumping our babies in the suburbs (Sob! No!). And spanky gossipist extraordinaire, Perez Hilton has sworn to turn over a newer, kinder leaf as well, asking for absolution upon the altar of Ellen, the Archbishop of Nice. As I write this, Facebook and Twitter are a sea of purple in honor of GLAAD's Spirit Day "to show support for the teens who took their lives because of anti-LGBT bullying."

Are we getting nicer?

Read more:

I'm doing my best to fight off a cold that tried to start yesterday. Not sure if I've been successful, but I keep drinking liquids and soup (semi-liquid?). Just when I was beginning to feel as if I were getting caught up -- there's not time to be sick!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

La Ronde, Part Three: Provocateur

Here's a fun thing: I'm part of a Round Robin story sequence thanks to Patti Abbott, which circles around envy. One character envies another in Patti's story, then that character envied, envies another in Dana's story and now I'm writing about that character envying a third. 

Hence the lovely woodcut of the punishment of the envious.

I figured it was about time to get a female character into the story :-) so without further ado --

by K. A. Laity

James Preston basked in the warmth of the congratulatory accolades. People swarmed around him, touching him, smiling at him and it was bliss. The glowering presence of that ponderous fool Disch nearby only made the golden glow burn brighter.

How ridiculous he had been! Amateur! Trying to steal the spotlight from him? A smile curled his lip as he remembered the way the man had floundered through his ponderous pontificating. What a contrast it made to Preston's own witty, economical—and studiously humble—speech. Who would be quoted in the papers tomorrow? Me, that's who, Preston thought as he accepted another congratulatory accolade with what appeared to be an abashed modesty.

I've reached the tipping point at last! My sonorous voice will be the vehicle that takes me to the pinnacle of success. His smile broadened.

The party had gone on long enough, however.  With the expertise lent by years of practise, Preston could sense that the peak had passed and folks were thinking about the after-parties. That was his cue: he looked around to find Jeannette.

Preston's personal assistant had been flitting around all night, working on his behalf, pressing the flesh he'd rather not have to press. Jeannette was perfect: bubbly, persistent and pleasantly zaftig. He spotted her talking up Rav Noonan, the producer of last year's sleeper hit and doubtless casting something new. Good work, Jeannette, he thought as, smiling left and right as if warding off bad luck, he made his way through the parting waves of partiers. Jeanette's ample breasts rose and fell with excitement as she gestured toward him, waving him over to the conversation. Her long brunette hair retained its perfect curls from that afternoon. He must remember to ask about her styling products.

"Wouldn't you, James?" Jeanette said with a grin, laying her hand on his arm which caused her silk blouse to part a little more and show a peek at her black satin brassiere. 

Preston smiled warmly at the two women, but his thoughts ran ahead with delight. It must still be tucked away upstairs! "If it's a fabulous opportunity to work with Ms. Noonan, then yes, of course I would be delighted." There were chuckles and more words, but his thoughts were racing ahead to the suite upstairs.

Noonan made a lot of grandiose plans and vague promises, but he took it as a sign that she said she'd be calling him the following week.  At last he thought the time was right to announce, "This pumpkin needs to go to bed, my dears. Actors hours," he said, his voice ruched with regret.

"But James," his PA said, her eyes wide with surprise, some of which might have been genuine, "there's the party UNM has put together for Grady.  You must go."

"Oh, my dear," Preston said, his voice filled with longing and just a soupçon of regret. He rested a hand lightly on her shoulder, where he could feel the strap of her brassiere just beneath the filmy material. "You will make my apologies to everyone and be your charming self. I'm counting on you."

Jeannette looked up him, her brown eyes wide. She leaned in and whispered, "You're not snubbing him for that tedious speech of his, are you?"

"Tedious?" he whispered back, giving his words a conspiratorial tone. "I thought it riveting."

Jeanette laughed behind her hand, her breasts jiggling ever so slightly within the confines of her undergarment. A warm flush rose up the back of Preston's neck and at once he was impatient to get away, but he had to play by the rules.

He willed his eyes to meet hers with something approaching sincerity. "I'm counting on you to make it clear that I wont be there because I don't want Grady to have to share the spotlight. It is his night after all."

"You're being generous."

Preston chuckled. "Indeed I am. But you will have to do yeoman's duty, my girl, to make sure everyone understands how generous I am." He pecked her on the cheek. "Good night—and don't worry about making noise when you come in. You know I sleep like the dead." Especially tonight, he promised himself.

When he locked the door behind him, Preston could barely stifle the urge to run at once into her room, but he took off his jacket and hung it in the wardrobe first, then took out his cufflinks. He began unbuttoning his shirt as he walked into her room, slipping through the door she'd left ajar this afternoon. Jeanette's table was strewn with papers, though her business card binder left an impression of neatness.

Preston pulled the top drawer open and there it was: the pink box with the name in script.  The black ribbon had been undone, but it didn't matter. He knew she had tried it on. Blushing she had said, yes, it fit, it was the right size, and oh, how extravagant he was. Preston grinned and picked up the brassiere, his excitement growing. His thumb brushed the purple silk gently, then he traced the black Chantilly lace with his finger. He didn't even realise that he had sighed.

He laid the brassiere on the bed, his eyes upon it as he removed his shirt and lay it on the bed, too, as if they were lovers. Preston picked up the brassiere, his touch reverent as he turned toward the mirror. He shivered as he let the straps slip down his upraised arms. The silk kissed his skin, its touch slightly cold, but warming quickly. Reaching behind he fastened the hooks, his eye riveted on his image in the mirror. It was a snug fit but that only added to his delight—and his excitement.

If only he had breasts like Jeanette's, Preston thought as he allowed his fingers to make lazy circles across the expanse of silk and lace. He grinned at himself. If you did, you'd never work again. Excitement surged within him as he pictured Jeanette's creamy breasts encased in the purple silk, getting nearer and nearer the breaking point, his breath getting ragged as his fingers moved more quickly.

Preston didn't recognize the sound that preceded the door opening—those damned little cards—but he couldn't miss Jeanette's startled expression as she stood in the doorway. What he must look like, he had time to think, his chest tightly bound by her brassiere, his chinos tented with barely contained desire.

"Oh god no," he whispered, but she already had her phone out and aimed at him. In the camera's click her heard the end of his brilliant career.

[For the curious, a link to Agent Provocateur's Stephanee brassiere featured in the story]

Monday, October 18, 2010

Laurie Anderson's 'Delusion' & Nowhere Boy

Friday I had the chance to catch a couple of fun things: Laurie Anderson's Delusion at EMPAC (my favourite local venue) and Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy at the Spectrum 8 (as usual). Of course there were several other things possible that night -- among them, Nick Lowe sob! -- but one can't do everything (but two might try, but how to make two of me...?).

Nowhere Boy tells the story of John Lennon's teenage years living with his aunt Mimi (Kristen Scott Thomas) while getting reacquainted with his mother (Ann-Marie Duff)who had left him at the age of five and the emotional turmoil inherent in that situation, as well as the budding musical career he got off the ground between various hooliganish larks. Initially the film's release was overshadowed by director Taylor-Wood's relationship with her much younger lead actor, Aaron Johnson -- a disparity and relationship that would raise few eyebrows if the genders were reversed. The film has a brilliant cast all around (and not too terrible with the Liverpudlian accents for the most part) and definite emotional hooks, but the script doesn't really hang together well. Despite its basis in fact, it's not always compellingly believable, but I did enjoy it on the whole. There are plenty of little tidbits for the fans, like the drawings hanging on the wall that later show up on Lennon's Walls and Bridges LP. The visual accuracy of recreating existing photos through careful wardrobe choices: a pity the same care is seldom applied to crafting the script (cf. Sid & Nancy where the "My Way" sequence mimics the video precisely, but the filmmakers can't be bothered to find out how many siblings Nancy has).

Laurie Anderson is always an interesting performer. I had seen her talk about developing this piece at MassMOCA months ago, so I was already curious to see what had come. It was a much more visual show than some of the others I'd seen in recent years, with images and words projected on the giant screen behind her, on a sofa as well as two uniquely shaped screens on either side of the stage. The show, "a meditation on life and language", ranged widely across a wide variety of subjects in a dialogue between her own voice and the "male voice" she's been using for years that now has the name of Fenway Bergamot. Many of the themes had great resonance for me particularly her thoughts on the impact of silence and her descriptions of her travels in Iceland and how they sparked revelations about her own family. She rode Icelandic ponies at Halldór Laxness' farm (I only rode them at the farm across the way) and met a man who had a brilliant idea to turn a decrepit barn into dance club. Looking around the bleak landscape, Anderson realised at last who this man reminded her of: her own father and his enthusiasm for completely impractical notions.

In one of the most moving -- and difficult -- parts of the evening, she spoke of her mother's death and her difficulty in dealing with the loss of someone she "did not love". A priest she talked to suggested that she simply say that she had always cared about her, but she never got the chance to say those words. Anderson described her mother's delusions at the end of her life, animals she could see on the ceiling, and her gratitude, thanking everyone for coming, for all they had done. It was a really naked moment. She described a dream in which she gave birth to her dog, but also caught herself out in the dream because she had engineered the experience.

There was enthusiastic applause at the end, which continued even after she had come out for another bow, and I had just thought, "well, it's not as if she could do an encore..." when she stepped out again and did just that, picking up the electric violin and stepping to the edge of the stage where we could see her without the lighting (we were in the second row) and played a plaintive tune that held the audience spellbound.


Friday, October 15, 2010

BitchBuzz: The Social Network

My latest for which I cannibalize a bit of my review of The Social Network in order to make a different point, namely that women need to continue to squeeze their way into these clubs and make friends with the boys despite their resistance -- oh, and have the skills to do so:

The Social Network aka The Old Boys Club

By K.A. Laity
I tweeted my initial review of The Social Network: Why not spend a couple of hours with really unpleasant people? No? Well, I did so you don't have to do so. As many of you know, I am a happy user of "The Facebook" and have written about it once or twice - or maybe a lot. So I had to see The Social Network for professional reasons.


Despite the inexplicably glowing notices for it, there are all kinds of problems with this film but let me start with the most irksome because it's a problem bigger than this picture. Sorkin's screenplay paints Zuckerberg as a pathetic misogynist whose empire is based on rejection by one woman. No, I don't have a problem with that portrayal, it looks to jibe with the facts as known. It rings a little hollow, however, coming from the same misogynist Hollywood system that cannot conceive of women as anything but sexual trophies or emotional security blankets. This is film is yet another example of the dread Movies Without Women™.

Read more:
Isn't that a lovely picture from Women in Technology?
It would be tedious to mention yet again how busy I have been -- same old, same old -- so I'll just say I'm seeing Laurie Anderson tonight at EMPAC, that gorgeous venue! But right now, I'm going to head out for a walk if it's stopped raining. Much writing to do this weekend and a bit of grading, too. Still feeling fatigued -- can I keep blaming Albacon for it?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Phèdre

Despite being exhausted by Albacon, I decided to head out to the Spectrum Monday night with my pals Ron and Peg because they were rebroadcasting Helen Mirren's star turn in Ted Hughes' translation of Racine's Phèdre at the National Theatre in London. I was sighing from the get go: they had a new introduction from one of the execs at NT, who was speaking from somewhere up high, so you could see Waterloo Bridge and the Southbank Centre in the background across the Thames.

I miss London so much :-(

But the production at the Lyttleton (the medium size of the three stages) quickly made me forget about London as it thrust us back to ancient Greece and the illicit longings of the queen for her stepson, Hippolytus, played by the smoldering Dominic Cooper. It's amazing to think how much fear and disgust an older woman's sexuality can still arouse (hence the existence of the disparaging term "cougar"). In the play, it brings down a nation.

The absolutely gorgeous Ruth Negga plays Aricia, the true love of Hippolytus and the rival to power in the vacuum created by the supposed death of Theseus. The only other older woman, Oenone, played by the always amazing Margaret Tyzack, proves to be scheming and trouble-making even more so than her queen, condemning them all in this tragedy by her maneuverings. John Schrapnel as Théramène, not only has to act as wise adviser to Hippolytus, but also has to relate a tragic death that happens off-stage (as is normal for Greek drama). Schrapnel brought the audience to tears with his moving re-enactment with just words and gestures. The real power of theatre.

The only weak link was Stanley Townsend's Theseus; perhaps he was having an off night, because at times he seemed to capture the magic that the others made look effortless, but all too often his movements and speech fell flat, losing that fragile connection to the imitation of life. A pity.

I love the NT and I am really grateful that the Spectrum 8 carries their broadcasts -- really looking forward to the Hamlet with Rory Kinnear and Danny Boyle's Frankenstein.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kit Marlowe & The Big Splash

Today's the day! Kit Marlowe's debut novella is now available from Noble Romance. Here's the blurb:

It's London in the Jazz Age: the times are fast and the women faster. Constance Wynne Hare has men eager to throw themselves at her feet—so why does she pine for the one man who takes her for granted? 

I wrote this story in a rush last Christmas, inspired in equal parts by Winifred Watson (author of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) and P. G. Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves and Wooster. I tried to capture that same sense of madcap wildness, humor and adventure. It's such a sparkling era -- at least for the well-to-do. As I discovered in my research, the era produced its own Lady Gaga and a whole host of Bright Young Things. And yes, I hope to have more Constance and Collier stories.

All right, time to recover from Albacon and get work done. I'll write up my adventures when I get a chance. I got to hang out with a bunch of writer pals, sat on a couple of panels, sold some books and got some new ideas.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Crazy, busy -- wild times! Check the program to see what's up: more when it's over but here's my tea.

Fab friends here: Susan Hanniford Crowley, Stella Price, Morven Westfield (who just gave me some Cadbury Whole Nut!!), KT Pinto, Isabel Roman (yes both of them :-), Jackie Kessler and a whole lot more. Dancing last night, so tired this morning, and there's a long day ahead, but filled with fun.

Thanks, Debi, for the Reese's!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Utter Nonsense

Thanks to the fabulous Adele at Un:Bound, I have a post up at Everybody's Reading, the site for the festival of reading in Leicester this week. I wish I could be in Leicester for the celebration, but I suppose this will be the next best thing.

I write about my love of nonsense and its roots in Lewis Carroll's books (which is of course why I insert a picture of me in my Mad Hatter hat from Brussels):

If there is one theme of my life, it has to be nonsense. I blame Lewis Carroll. I had a jacket-less hard cover edition of both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There that was the lynchpin of my childhood. Along with the Mary Poppins series, Alice’s adventures filled my head as a child in some profound kind of way that – looking back – I realised has shaped me ever since. Carroll’s books prepared me to discover Peter Cook, Monty Python and Vic Reeves and put me permanently out of step with my contemporaries.

I don’t care. 

Read the rest over at their site and please consider leaving a comment so they know you dropped by. By the by, if you're wondering where my BitchBuzz columns are, my editor is on holiday in Greece and I didn't get it together to write posts in advance (madness! utter madness!), so I got a two week holiday, too. However, there are still fantastic columns by our other writers so drop by.

I have to run to campus now because I realise it's probably my duty as programming chair to print the placards for all the panelists so you can know who's talking in the panels at Albacon. Sigh. At least I remembered!

Kit Marlowe and I will be there, of course, flogging our books. Kit's got her own Facebook page now, so drop by and "like" it as we say in the parlance of our times. Look for our lovely promo postcards -- and our lovely selves who are really one. Of course. But I'm talking nonsense again...

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Albacon & Publishing News

Yes, I'm going to be tied up all this weekend at Albacon, so if you're trying to reach me, you may have to wait a bit for me to get back to you. Here's my schedule, but you can see the entire schedule on the wiki and see the website for a full list of guests who are not me (there are many friends!):

Thu 7.30pm
Writers & Artists Reception

Fri 3pm
Social Media & Promotion
How to use the myriad frequencies of social media to promote your work without allowing it to suck up all your time
Alexandre (M), Holzner, Laity, Roman, Ventrella

Fri 5pm
General Signing with All Workshop Authors

Fri 8pm
Ice Cream Social AKA Meet the panelists

Fri 9pm
Fantasy Ball

Sat 1pm
Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading:
Arthen, Kempe, Laity, Rogow, Westfield

Sat 11pm
Steamy Romance Reading
The stories don't have to be scorching, but it helps! This is a 18+ event. Attendees will have the chance to win some swag thanks to Authors After Dark. 
Alexandre, Arthen, Crowley, D'Arc, Darvill, Jamison, Kempe, Lynne, Marlowe, Price, Westfield [MC: Laity]

Sun 2pm
Comics that Rock
What should you be reading right now?
Fludd (M), Laity, Martineck, Prellwitz

And of course, I will be running around meeting and greeting all weekend. It's also Kit Marlowe's debut on Monday :-) She's pretty excited about her cover for her first publication, the novella:

Though I'd have loved to have something like you find here, I understand the need for corporate branding -- and the need to keep costs low! And I just got the proofs for the zombie Western novella, High Plains Lazarus, in the collection that now has the name Rotting Tales from Pill Hill Press. Now I just need time to go through them carefully -- why do I write such long stories! The edits for The Mangrove Legacy took a long long time because it's over 100,000 words -- insane! But you knew that, right?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Filament @ EMPAC

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Nippertown! I was planning to see some events at Filament, the weekend long fest at EMPAC, AKA the finest performing arts center in the region, but thanks to the free pass I won, I got to see a LOT. It was a gorgeous weekend -- inside and out. Cool but sunny and the big wooden ball inside the glass case looked lovely. That's the thing about EMPAC, it's aesthetically appealing but also amazingly and intricately functional. Each performance space can be endlessly rearranged to accommodate sound, lighting, screens and so on. The small studio spaces have mobile seating as well.

Things we saw: Early Morning Opera's ABACUS performance in the main concert hall, presented by Early Morning Opera, directed by Lars Jan and performed by Paul Abacus. It was inspired by R. Buckminster Fuller, he of the geodesic dome, whom I learned about from the inner sleeves of Harry Nilsson albums. The multimedia presentation, was a combination of Abacus' exhortations, video screens, music, the steadicam dancers and -- briefly -- a giant panda. It was meant to be a melding of Powerpoint business lectures, stadium church preaching and genuine appeal. Much of it worked well, although I thought the final shooting in the hallway tried too hard to connect the radical notion of a world without borders to the fates of leaders who had been assassinated for their radical views. The Q&A after was hampered by Abacus appearing in one of the studios in another performance and for me, because Jan looks disconcertingly like David Baddiel but talks Californian. We went to the installation afterward, which happened in the same space but for one person at a time. We each went in for our encounter with Dr. Hieronymus Yang, "the world's first accredited giant panda" which involved touch screen control of images projected on the six giant screens (although not all the bugs had been worked out).

By far my favourite pieces were the live shorts, which were in Studio 1 (in various configurations). Standouts included "The Golden Veil: A Cautionary Entertainment" by the National Theater of the United States of America who offered a spookily creepy, fairytale-like narrative. "Sheepspace" by Sue-C and Laetitia Sonami offered a video projection into the secret world of sheepwomen who live between the boundaries of known worlds. "Intervention #2" by Wally Cardona + Heidi Jo Newberg, professor of Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy at RPI, featured an interview with Newberg to which Cardona creates a choreography. Items that seemed like random things strewn across the space
ended up being part of the tools by which Newberg helped students understand infinity and the vastness of space. Cardona's amazing movements created an extra layer of wonder. It's been so long since I've seen a dance performance, I had forgotten just how amazing the human body can be.

MTAA did a twitter performance called "You Don't Know What You're Talking About" which allowed the audience to tweet things that they would read. Of course I was pleased that several of my tweets got read :-) It was great to see people tweeting ways to involve the whole audience, too. Despite the short time (10 minutes) it was wonderful to see how the performance innovated. I liked the ideas behind Trouble's performance "A Narrow Vehicle" but their attempt to utilize ritual elements for a kind of spiritual performance fell a little flat because the ritual didn't go anywhere, it certainly wasn't (as they claimed) shamanistic in any way and wow, people are not observant. A lot of people just walked off the path. The ballet-centric piece "Another Circle" by Jen DeNike and Rose Kallal likewise tried to call on the power of ritual magic, but didn't quite come together. The hypnotic pirouettes of the dancer on screen and live did offer a sort of abstract meditative energy, but the assaultive soundscape undercut any meditative impulse. A real crowd-pleaser was "Amazingland in Troy EMagicPAC" by Steve Cuiffo, Trey Lyford and Geoff Sobelle, which used the practices of popular magic and showmanship.

We finished Saturday night with BalletLab's Miracle, "a triumphant onslaught of choreographic hysteria performed against repetitive mantra, movement, and hym-like voices." It was cathartic, emotional -- I think I felt exhausted just watching the dancers perform. It was remarkable how they evoked scenes of religious and social hysteria, cult behaviour and terrible emotional suffering. Near the end the sound became almost too much for me to bear (high sharp tones at high volume always bother me), but it was an arresting performance that left the audience simply limp by the end.

There was more -- installations, performances, the crowds roosting in the trees surrounding the site, lots of conversation and a gorgeous weekend of weather. I'm exhausted just typing all this and it's taken me all day to finally sit down to do it, so this will have to do for now. But if you haven't got yourself up to EMPAC, you need to do so with all due speed. Amazing and beautiful. My head is humming with ideas and inspirations -- and that's what it's all about.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Review: The Social Network

Why not spend a couple of hours with really unpleasant people? No? Well, I did so you don't have to do so. Yes, intrepid movie pal Peg and I headed over to the Spectrum, fortified by a good lunch at the Fountain. As many of you know, I am a happy user of "The Facebook" and have written about it once or twice -- or maybe a lot. So I had to see if for professional reasons.


There are all kinds of problems with this film; I'll get to a few of them in a moment, but let me start with the most irksome because it's a problem bigger than this picture. Sorkin's screenplay paints Zuckerberg as a pathetic misogynist whose empire is based on rejection by one woman. No, I don't have a problem with that portrayal, it looks to jibe with the facts as known. It rings a little hollow, however, coming from the same misogynist Hollywood system that cannot conceive of women as anything but sexual trophies or emotional security blankets. This is film is yet another example of the dread Movie Without Women.

Yeah, there are female actors in the film, but not a one is a character. They're just props: one to make him angry, others as trophies to demonstrate success, one to cross examine him, one to offer an emotional pat on the head. There's even a "crazy girlfriend out of left field" to ramp up the tension pointlessly -- and then immediately abandoned.

The opening scene is painful -- as intended. We need to see what a schmuck Zuckerberg is and Jesse Eisenberg makes him completely unsympathetic (while looking like Michael Cera's older cousin). But it creates problems for an audience looking for someone to connect with -- and will look in vain. The nearest we come is Andrew Garfield's Eduardo Saverin, but he becomes a character far too late in the film. Attempts to set up the Winklevoss twins as the opposition fail, too; Syracuse-grad Sorkin's loathing for the privileged Harvard elite is palpable, but ineffective (and I've dealt with the Harvard snootiness on a first hand basis while working there).

It's only with the arrival of Justin Timberlake as Napster creator Sean Parker that the film sparks a little. I admit to having never thought much of Timberlake until his stellar turn on SNL, but he did a lot with a part that was not up to much. A very flawed character, he's nonetheless compelling to watch -- and that's what's missing with Zuckerberg's character. Perhaps it's a flaw of the original model, but this ain't a documentary.

The screenplay is the biggest problem: in addition to the above problems, it also attempts to juggle two lawsuits with the unfolding historical narrative. The lawsuits however are not equal in importance, but set up as if they are. The whole Winklevoss storyline seems to focus primarily on sneering at the old money wealth and privilege (while nonetheless glamorizing it). And so clunky! As soon as Larry Summer's admin talks to the twins about how old the building is and how they need to be careful, you just count the minutes until they break something. Later, when Zuckerberg uncharacteristically asks Eduardo how his girlfriend is and he says she's acting crazy and scaring him, you count the minutes until -- shock! -- she's acting crazy for the first time.

They seem to be using Wall Street greed as a model, when that's not what this story is about; they do realise that Zuckerberg is not motivated by money, but it's clear that while they know what Facebook looks like and they know what the trajectory of the network is -- there's a pointless "dramatic" interweaving of coding at one point as if it were somehow like explaining the Dow Jones ticker -- it's clear none of the key people involved in the film have used Facebook or social media or have the slightest understanding of its significance.

I suppose this is no different than most Hollywood attempts to capitalize on a popular phenomenon. But their contempt for the public and the fact that money seems to be their only motivation blinds them to what's really going on.

To get the taste of this out of our mouths, we headed off to the Filament fest at EMPAC. Oh, how I love this space! But it will get a separate review to avoid the taint of this film. Random words to intrigue you: crows, giant panda, R. Buckminster Fuller, nations, installations, performance, studios, cheese. Intrigued? :-)

Friday, October 01, 2010

October Arrives

September was a busy blur: I'm hoping October will be more relaxed, but if this morning's madness is anything to go by, it won't be. Argh.

The first round of edits on The Mangrove Legacy have been sent off. A load off my mind; the novella "The Big Splash," Kit Marlowe's first publication is scheduled for release Monday, October 11th. Busy woman!

Of course, I have a few things to write under my own name, too. Hope to find time for that soon, although this weekend looks like it will be for filling the empty head up again because I won tickets to EMPAC's Filament Festival which ought to be really fun and exciting. It's an incredible space.

And yes, it's been raining and raining, but I find that soothing (apart from the leak that all the roof work seems not to have solved). Autumn and cool weather -- wonderful.