Saturday, March 31, 2007

The politics of justice

Paul Akers, editorial page editor of The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., has a fine column about the news that Circuit City is laying off thousands of senior store workers so they can be replaced with cheaper, less experienced, less loyal hires. It concludes:
The politics of envy have little appeal to me. But, I swear, I wouldn't mind seeing more of the politics of justice.

No choke

Debbie Parkhurst of Calvert, Md., tells her beautifully named local newspaper, the Cecil Whig, that her golden retriever, Toby, saved her life -- by performing the Heimlich maneuver.

Woody lives

I am pleased to read in today's Cumberland Times-News that first-place winners in this year's Allegany County History Day competition included Allegany High School students Derek O'Neal and Emily Schadt as Woody Guthrie and his radio partner Maxine "Lefty Lou" Crissman.
Drop whatever you are doing,
Stop your work and worry, too;
Sit right down and take it easy,
Here comes Woody and Lefty Lou.
O'Neal and Schadt performed "This Land Is Your Land," which Woody wrote, and "Lonesome Road Blues," which he inherited, as did we all: Woody sang it as "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" and, to fit the omnipresent wind motif of Dust Bowl Ballads, as "Blowin' Down the Road."

Nothing fina than West Virgina

The company that printed the misspelled "West Virgina" T-shirts that the NIT champions wore in Madison Square Garden after Thursday's game has published a funny apology on its website. It concludes:
For information about how we can leave a letter off of YOUR tee shirts and increase your website traffic 10-fold, just give us a call.

Oh, baby, make it shine!

In a recent news release about the Make It Shine cleanup programs, the state of West Virginia printed not the Make It Shine number, but the number of a 900 sex line. As The Associated Press put it:
Callers trying to reach someone who could answer questions about the state's Adopt-A-Highway program, an upcoming spring cleanup or reports on illegal dumps, were instead greeted by a woman moaning in ecstasy.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Lily and Arlo

My role in Dorothy's downfall

Sydney's paper at this year's International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts was titled "Lost Girl: The Diminution of Dorothy Gale," and it addressed what folks since L. Frank Baum have done to his magical, powerful little-girl hero -- aging her and/or sexualizing her and/or ridding her of magic and/or power (Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's new graphic novel Lost Girls, Sydney argues, has the dubious honor of accomplishing all of the above) or simply omitting her entirely, as in the Wicked industry. In the weeks that Sydney worked on this paper, and the hours I spent helping her assemble a slideshow of images, neither of us remembered that a major text was right under our noses. Not until today, when our older and more ornery cat, Hillary, knocked it off the shelf, did I remember this Wizard of Oz plate that I drew for my mother when I was in third grade.Drawing from memory, I put in all my favorite ingredients from the movie: Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, Lion, steam issuing from the Woodsman's tin hat, witch, witch's castle, sign pointing the way to the witch's castle, Yellow Brick Road, grumpy trees and lots of winged monkeys. I was too young to appreciate the contributions of Frank Morgan (indeed, I probably didn't realize, quite yet, that the same man played all those roles), had no interest in Glinda (and still don't; Billie Burke is delightful in the Topper movies, but in Oz she had nothing to do) or in the Munchkins (which were too much like my fellow third-graders for comfort) -- or, sadly, in poor Dorothy herself. In the movie, the monkeys attack four travelers, including Dorothy, but not in my Oz. Granted, in the movie the witch had buzzed through the sky earlier, and the grumpy tree had been encountered much earlier, but I clearly recall my deletion of Dorothy being deliberate, because when my teacher, Mrs. Owen, asked me why I hadn't included Dorothy, I replied, with some heat: "I can't draw Dorothy!" Paging Dr. Freud ...

The Write Book

I was pleased to see Nick DiChario at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Nick was in the audience to root for Rick Wilber as Rick read their fine new collaborative baseball story. What I did not know was that Nick co-owns an independent bookstore in Honeoye Falls, N.Y., near Rochester: The Write Book and Gift Shop. Here's the website. If you're in that area, please give him your custom.

My fortunes

Fortune cookies frequently criticize me, directly or indirectly. Here's a fortune I got this month in Florida: "Cleverness is serviceable for everything, sufficient in nothing."

The worst was one I got years ago at SWEN in Northport, Ala.: "The only obstacle in your path may be your stupidity."

I write SWEN in all caps because the name of the restaurant -- a hangout that Sydney and I miss dearly -- stands for South West East North, believe it or not.

My most bizarre SWEN fortune read: "Alas! The onion you are eating is someone else's water lily."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Scottish play in Tlingit

Some Shakespeare plays I've seen three or four times too many and don't care to see again -- The Merchant of Venice comes to mind -- but I'm always up for a new production of the one that superstitious theater folk call "the Scottish play," and I'm especially sorry to have missed the recent Tlingit-language production at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.Seeing the poster reminded me of William Sanders' wonderful story "The Undiscovered," an alternate history in which Shakespeare winds up living among the Cherokees and writing Hamlet just for them.

The museum's production was staged by the Perseverance Theatre of Juneau, Alaska. On a video in the lobby of the museum, director Anita Maynard-Losh explained that whenever the characters are speaking words in harmony with nature and the universe, they speak Tlingit (in a new translation by Johnny Marks), but whenever the characters violate that harmony -- as the chief and his wife do through much of the play, of course -- they speak Shakespeare's English.

This struck me as a beautifully cunning move; the director makes her political point, one guaranteed to make the English-firsters apoplectic with indignation, while rationalizing the inclusion of all that familiar dark English poetry that audiences pay to hear. Who remembers any of Macduff's lines, after all?

The Grant Memorial

In Washington, D.C., on a business trip earlier in March, I explored the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial at the foot of Capitol Hill. The largest equestrian statue in the United States depicts Grant mounted on his horse Cincinnati atop a 22-foot-high pedestal, gazing west toward the Washington Monument. I was more struck by the bronze artillerymen and cavalrymen to either side of Grant, at opposite ends of their shared 252-foot marble platform. The detail in Henry Merwin Shrady's sculptures is remarkable.Shrady, whose father had been one of Grant's doctors, got the commission to sculpt the memorial in 1903 and worked on it for the rest of his life. The artillerymen were finished in 1912, the cavalrymen in 1916, the figure of Grant in 1920. Shrady died just weeks before the dedication in 1922, on the centennial of Grant's birth. The Grant Memorial was dedicated only a month before the dedication of a much better-known D.C. memorial -- to Gen. Grant's commander in chief.

Leonov's grove

In Washington, D.C., on business earlier in March, I visited the grove of trees at the west end of the Air and Space Museum, planted by the crews of the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission. The Soyuz commander was the great Aleksei Leonov, whose pioneering -- and near-fatal -- 1965 spacewalk inspired a scene in my story "The Chief Designer."The Apollo-Soyuz crews also planted a grove in Moscow, and I hope to visit it one day.

Still with the ICFA photos

Here are some photos I took on the final night of this year's International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. (This is the sixth and last post in a series.)James Patrick Kelly.Joe Haldeman.Patrick O'Leary.Christine Mains.Margaret McBride.Mark Wingenfeld.Andy Miller.

Yet more ICFA photos

Here are some photos I took on the final night of this year's International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. (This is the fifth post in a series of six.)Elizabeth Hand and John Kessel.Brett Cox and Jeanne Beckwith.Daina Chaviano, Ted Chiang and Nalo Hopkinson.David Lunde and Patricia McKillip.Judith Clute and Ellen Datlow.Bill Clemente, Donald Morse and Ellen Klages.

Sydney at ICFA

The most photogenic person at this year's International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts -- as every year -- was, of course, Sydney. (This is the fourth post in a series of six of my photos from the last night of this year's ICFA.)Sydney and Jim Casey.Sydney and Rick Wilber.Sydney with Jeanne Beckwith, Ellen Datlow, John Kessel and Brett Cox.Sydney admires Margaret McBride's pin.Sydney with Jacob Weisman and John Kessel.

Still more ICFA photos

Here are some photos I took on the final night of this year's International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. (This is the third post in a series of six.)Stefan Hall scares Marc Petersen.Elizabeth Hartwell tries to tow dad David back to the room to change before someone takes his picture.Edward James poses for Patrick O'Leary's cell-phone camera.John Clute reacts to my saying, "John, you're just like Brian Aldiss!" -- by which I meant, they both tend to turn their heads and open their mouths just before the flash goes off.Stacie Hanes is rightly skeptical.Alex Irvine and Lindsay Kaplan put their heads together.

More ICFA photos

Here are some photos I took on the final night of this year's International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. (This is the second post in a series of six.)Gay Haldeman shows Rusty Hevelin no respect.Ted Chiang explains all, but Daina Chaviano is distracted.Brian Aldiss implores passers-by to take a photo of him and Amelia Beamer.Gay Haldeman and Gary Wolfe flash the crowd.

ICFA photos

Here are some of the photos I took on the final night of this year's International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. (This is the first post in a series of six.)Jeanne Beckwith beams.Joseph Berlant, chair of the 2007 World Fantasy Convention, shows that power has gone to his head.Charles Brown beats me for not being Sydney.Brian Aldiss is haunted by Bernie Goodman.Stanford University student Natty Bokenkamp, winner of this year's Dell Magazines Award for undergraduate science fiction and fantasy writing, with his editor, Sheila Williams.Peter Halasz tells Brian Aldiss how things are done in Canada.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lovecraft Land

As if the Library of America edition of his stories weren't proof enough of the mainstreaming of H.P. Lovecraft, now The Associated Press is pitching his old haunts in Providence, R.I., to tourists: "Visitors can stroll the same streets where Lovecraft imagined stories about dormant gods returning to torment or annihilate mankind."

In his 1995 guest-scholar speech at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, children's-literature expert Peter Hunt deplored the fact that great swaths of his English homeland had been taken over by promoters of literary tourism -- so that what once was the Lake District had become Wordsworth World, Oxford had become Alice-ville, and so forth. What would the civic boosters of Providence, I wonder, think of their town becoming known mainly as Lovecraft Land?

A.E.P. Wall

The humane and cantankerous spirit of the late Harry Golden, publisher of The Carolina Israelite, is alive in the Orlando Sentinel columns of 82-year-old A.E.P. Wall, collected on his website.

Of wit, an iota / In Minnesiota

Poetry lovers, please take a moment to read the text of the latest bill in Minnesota that would create a state poet laureate. (Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill in 2005, saying the state didn't need "a state mime, interpretive dancer or potter" either.)

The Loft Literary Center offers good background on the bill, while posters to the Walker Art Center blog already are deliberating whether the bill would mandate rhymes or allow the writing of free verse as an implied power.

Another can

After reading my earlier post about the marvelous claim that WD-40 "Solves All Your Problems," my mother-in-law, Fran Bowling, told Sydney: "I'll have to get another can, because this one isn't working yet."

She also reported that Sydney's Uncle Pat Sartin used to put WD-40 on his knee. This reminded me that in the 1980s, when I wrote a News & Record feature story on folk remedies, we illustrated it with a staged photo of a Wilford Brimley-looking old-timer spraying WD-40 on his elbow.

For other claimed uses of WD-40, see this article at the invaluable

Patrick's ICFA photos

Henri Cartier-Bresson, who viewed his impromptu photographs as "instant drawings," would have loved Patrick O'Leary's cell-phone photos. Patrick already has posted his photos from this past weekend's International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Patrick's photos record a happy evening Sydney and I spent with Patrick, Brett Cox and Jeanne Beckwith along the surf at Lloyd Beach State Park and then on the nearby Dania Fishing Pier.

Sydney and I enjoyed the pier so much that the next night, we returned with Brett, Jeanne and Ellen Klages and had a good meal at the Beach Watch restaurant.

Thanks to ICFA, I've been coming to Fort Lauderdale each March since 1995, so I know the area pretty well by now. Next year, ICFA moves from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando, so we'll have to find some new haunts.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Vox populi

My hero Buddy Moore writes:
Andy, I was reading your blog (and enjoying it), and showed a friend of mine the photo of the gal with the "no one cares about your blog" t-shirt.

He noted the irony of her having won a Voice of Democracy award while advertising her disdain for free speech!
Ha! I hadn't thought of that. One could argue, of course, that democracy means the right not only to say whatever you please, but to ignore whatever you please.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Our latest snow

Sydney took this photo of our front yard this afternoon, from the warmth of the foyer. (That's not an orb, but the reflection of the flash on the glass door.) Mr. Bobby Drees, who came by to shovel our driveway and walk, told us that Frostburg got 11 inches total before the flakes stopped falling, and Mr. Drees ought to know.

Whenever it snows here -- and it snows here early and often, the first snowfall of the winter having been Oct. 24 -- I think of how I warned my hero and fellow Southerner Brett Cox, when he announced a move from L.A. (Lower Alabama) to Vermont, against the dangers of shoveling snow. "Shoveling snow killed Kornbluth," I told him. Sydney rightly points out that it's in no danger of killing me, as seldom as I pick up a shovel.


On Saturday, Feb. 17, Sydney, Lily and I drove north to the Animal Angels no-kill shelter in Mount Pleasant, Pa., and -- after he met with Lily's approval -- brought home our latest member of the household, a terrier mix. About a half-hour after we made his acquaintance, as we were pulling into a Burger King, Sydney decided that his name probably was Arlo, and she turned out to be right. He even answers to it, now.

Lily's a bit jealous, but mostly they get along fine, and they even share the living-room sofa much of the afternoon, doing their best to sleep despite the paparazzi.