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Today, thanks to the miracle of Facebook, I am being showered with good wishes from all and sundry (actually, the sundry don't post much. . .).

Via email, I received birthday greetings from my dentist--or rather, from the modern "Dental Group" that has bought his practice now that he's semi-retired.

Much to my surprise, it didn't say "Eat lots of sticky cake today, more business for us!"
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Trump sends tweets threatening North Korea with fire from the skies. Wonderful because--as a FB friend posted--crazed dictators with plans to conquer the world respond so well to threats.

I'm sure our allies in South Korea and Japan must be thrilled.
I have no better solution, not being a crazed-dictator-expert, but it all sounds like my lengthy nuclear nightmares are coming true.

Meanwhile, everyone on Facebook sends kitty pics, food pics, and argues about NecronomiCon Providence.
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For now, it's time to call it a day.

After months of preparation and two weeks of high anxiety,Live from the Stage Door Canteen is history.

We played to the largest crowd I've ever seen in about 50 years of community music and theater, they cried, they laughed, they kvelled (Jews and non-Jews alike). The best compliment I received was from a childhood friend who said "All I could think of was how much your mother would have loved this show." She remembered hearing my mother singing with me at the piano.

Best inspiration I had was to reserve the front rows for "The Greatest Generation and their families and friends." We had two Korean War vets (the one WW II vet, 96, and his wife decided not to attend) and several ladies who were north of 95 years old in those rows. Not surprisingly, the only kids in attendance belonged to a cast member; I'm pretty sure everyone else in the audience was eligible for Social Security. We Baby Boomers know these songs from childhood-- if our parents were singers --but judging from the younger cast members, we're not doing a good job of passing along the tradition.

Now for the next project: Necronomicon Providence!
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The night of the second (and last) performance of this, the third version of my World War II cabaret. This one is Live from the Stage Door Canteen: Songs of the World War II Homefront. And I have a problem unique in my 50 plus years of doing amateur theater and music in Eastern CT: TOO much audience!

I'm still getting calls for reservations. . .175 or so right now.
The synagogue's custodian put out 170 chairs--and my co-conspirator and I spent what seemed like hours--heck, maybe it was hours--rearranging them, trying to make room for more. We succeeded in squeezing in 180 chairs. Got home, and found calls for five more tickets, which means the new chairs are half occupied already. The fire marshal says capacity is 200: If many people show up without reservations, or if I get a bunch more requests. . .we might actually have to turn people away.
As I said: unprecedented. I mean, this ain't HAMILTON!

Ah, life upon the wicked stage. In addition to rearranging the chairs, I ran around looking for plastic bowls, cut up watermelon, set the refreshments tables, and continually updated the reservation spreadsheet. Lots of work for one performance! Oh, yes, rehearsed for 2 hours fixing some of the glitches from last Sunday's show.
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My house is full of singers, my email and Voicemail full of reservation inquiries, the first show is this Sunday (aaargh!) and the second a week from Thursday. Almost time to set the wayback machine to the 1940s and visit the Stage Door Canteen.
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Not being a pet-owner, I had never seen a dog humping a cat. Tonight I did. There are many YouTube videos (search "dog humps cat"), but nothing like the near success I saw tonight, because the YouTube videos show large dogs, and the size difference means the cat can get away. At this home, there was a very small furry (miniature) dachshund (low to the ground) and a fluffy kitten--not much smaller. The cat did not yowl or resist; the dog seemed very happy--"She's so soft! I'm in love!"

The owner tells me that the tiny dog is named Titan. He has big ideas, but he's been fixed. Tell that to his libido.
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Not mine--Shirley Jackson's. This is the title of Ruth Franklin's award-winning biography of Jackson.
Preparing for the Jackson tribute panel at Readercon, I'm finally reading this much-praised tome.
How many awards has it won? This might not be the complete list:
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography
Winner of the Edgar Award in Critical/Biographical
Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction

A New York Times Notable Book of 2016
A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Pick of 2016

How much-praised? Here's a few:

“With this welcome new biography Franklin makes a thoughtful and persuasive case for Jackson as a serious and accomplished literary artist. . . . [Franklin] sees Jackson not as an oddball, one-off writer of horror tales and ghost stories but as someone belonging to the great tradition of Hawthorne, Poe and James, writers preoccupied, as she was, with inner evil in the human soul.”
- Charles McGrath, New York Times Book Review

“Ruth Franklin’s sympathetic and masterful biography both uncovers Jackson’s secret and haunting life and repositions her as a major artist whose fiction so uncannily channeled women’s nightmares and contradictions that it is ‘nothing less than the secret history of American women of her era.’”
- Elaine Showalter, Washington Post

A third review, from the Chicago Tribune, was attributed to Katherine A. Powers, whose near-Googleganger Katherine Ann Power was the most (in)famous member of the Brandeis class of 1971. The critic lives in Cambridge and is about the same age as the former student radical, bank robber, and most-wanted fugitive, who also lives somewhere in the Boston area, according to Wikipedia

Ah well, life is all connected, though these ruminations are not.
Back to Ruth Franklin's Shirley Jackson.
I've not quite finished it, though I've skimmed it and examined the index.
There's no entry for Gothic or New England Gothic.
There's no mention of the Shirley Jackson Awards

And the introduction makes me ache watching the author perform the maneuver so praised by the first reviewer above, proving that Jackson was a "serious and accomplished literary artist" not BECAUSE of her American Gothic vision but DESPITE working in the despised genres.

Even so, this biography gives much more representation to Jackson's interest in myth, ritual, witchcraft, and the fantastic. Unlike the earlier more Freudian bio Private Demons, Franklin does not condescend to Jackson's beliefs or belittle anything she writes. Franklin mentions Jackson's appreciation of Tolkien and the Oz books (though not of her love of Weird Tales and Lovecraft, something that I learned from her daughter Sadie). Still, she several times mentions her dismay that the Times' obituary headline read "Shirley Jackson, Author of Horror Classic, Dies." Oh Horrors! The H-word!

Another divagation: the obituary states that "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," published in 1962 by Viking Press, is being adapted for the Broadway stage." I didn't know this, so I checked to see whether this ever happened. It did. According to the Internet Broadway Database, the production was a major flop, opening and closing in 9 performances in October, 1966. The set and lighting designer, however, was David Hays, who soon left Broadway and helped found the National Theater of the Deaf. Living still in Chester, CT, he is a pillar of CBSRZ, the liberal congregation (in many senses) whose synagogue was designed by another member, the late Sol Lewitt.

It's all connected.
negothick: (Charlotte)
I have it on good authority that Otis Library will make a video of the Monday June 26 evening, 6-8 p.m. So if you can't be there, you may yet be able to watch it!
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Be there, or live in regrets. . .a night not to be duplicated, a night of a thousand (slight exaggeration) stars. Poetry, music, brilliant minds, food--and all for free--and I'm not exaggerating any of these delights.

Dreamwidth doesn't allow me to embed a picture, so it will be over on Live Journal, and eventually here.
C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez, Julia Rios, Erik Amundsen will present an evening of the poetry and music of the fantastic as this year's Jim Lafayette Memorial speakers. Monday, June 26 at 6 p.m.
Scroll down and check it out here:


Jun. 5th, 2017 09:36 am
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One's past continues to appear on the Internet. Today I received an LJ message from a Jeopardy fanboy, part of an online community that maintains a Jeopardy message board. One of their guys (regardless of the pseudonyms, I see them all as guys) posted a very blurry video of my 1985 Jeopardy appearance. It is so wavy and vertigo-inducing that I could watch only the first few minutes before feeling sick to my stomach. I swear it's the bad quality of the video capture, and not the frustration over (spoiler) losing the game.

Anyway, if you can stand it, check it out:

The date the show was aired only now rang a bell--it's Back to the Future Day! The Jeopardy show I taped in August aired on the very date--October 25, 1985--that the DeLorean set off on its journeys into the past and future.
negothick: (Charlotte)
A performance of my cabaret, for the benefit of my synagogue. A few seats remain for the Sunday July 30 show, which mainly benefits Prime 82, a restaurant kindly disposed toward the Chelsea Players. It ain't the Mermaid Tavern, but it serves food and drink after 9 p.m., rare in this town.
The flyer is the work of a new member--a talented graphic artist. Thanks,  Emily S.
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It's official. I applied today for Social Security benefits. My "full retirement age" is 66, which I will reach in August, and they sent a letter saying "we'd like to have 3 months notice." Letter arrived one week late. I applied online, and it went almost too quickly. I was sort of nonplussed when the questionnaire asked for my Social Security Number, after I had entered my name. I mean. . .everyone else has to steal it, but surely YOU have it, oh Social Security Administration!

According to their benefit calculator, the monthly benefit at age 70, maximum retirement age, would be quite a bit more a month, but I would have to live until age 92 to "make a profit" on income lost between now and age 70. I'll be thrilled to reach 2044 or so and have to declare "gee, I made a mistake back in 2017." As things stand, I just hope that Social Security lasts that long. The way things are going, I just hope Washington isn't underwater by then.

Let's hope this deceptively simple online application does what it's supposed to do--and the bureaucracy does what IT's supposed to do. We'll see, come August.
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So this is the New Normal. We go on reading and writing, posting pictures and reminiscences of our mums, going to movies and watching TV, planting and appreciating gardens, cooking. All the while, a maniac occupies (in the military sense) the White House, shares secret information with the Russians (Ha! Ha! Why? Because I can!), and plays games with the nuclear football as though it were hide the salami (which he also plays).

We plan for the future--travel, shows, visits with the family, conventions--by practicing denial of the madness that has replaced what we used to call our government. I've been through this once already, before social media. In the 70s, the country descended into chaos, but I was busy pretending it was the Middle Ages and barely noticed. It seemed as though apocalypse was imminent, but no. . .we survived. Let's hope we are as lucky this time.
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Lovely, beautifully-arranged museum with fine collection of (what else?) American art. Today's field trip of the Adventures in Lifelong Learning group--age 55 and up--went very well.
The Museum displays a fine example of the ups and downs of artistic reputation. One room is devoted to murals by Thomas Hart Benton, including a full set of "The Arts of American Life," created in 1932 for the Whitney family residence, valued and loved at the time. When Gertrude Whitney died and her home became the Whitney Museum, things changed. Benton, once one of America's most commercially-successful fine artists--he made the cover of TIME!--went out of style with a pop of the bubble reputation.
Did you know that Jackson Pollock was his student? I didn't. And how ironic that the student's Abstract Expressionism is what superseded his teacher's figurative--though hardly photorealist or academic--style.
In 1951, the Whitney Museum planned to discard "The Arts of American Life," but no other New York museum would accept the murals. Word reached the director of the New Britain, CT museum, and their Board approved $500 to cover the costs of transporting them from the Whitney to New Britain.
Today, Thomas Hart Benton is back in style, and the contents of the room are insured for $15 million.
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As (many of) you know, I rarely say "no" to any church, library, historical society, chowder and marching society, etc. that asks for my services as speaker or performer or both. But last winter I said "yes" to the Ladies Benevolent Society of the First Congregational Church of a shoreline town. Wrote the date in my calendar and promptly forgot about it. Luckily, I had a recent call, not from the woman who made the initial contact, but from a man. ("Long story," he said. "Don't ask"). Seems the date was changed from the fourth to the second Tuesday of May--but nobody told me. OK--didn't take too much re-arranging. He asked for a bio, I sent it. He told me "figure about 20 minutes."
Just now I looked at their website--there was my bio just as I had sent it, including being a member of Klezmenschen, traditional Klezmer band--and the presentation time? 45 minutes, followed by Q&A! OK again, I always have plenty of material.

Then I began reading my way around the site, as one does, and discovered that this was the church that has become notorious in Connecticut for its pro-Palestinian AND anti-Israel stance. Even though the former minister--famous for writing inflammatory letters to the editor of Jewish newspapers--is now "Emeritus," the articles and links on the website made it clear that his opinions still prevail. Oh well, it's not like I'm doing the Yiddish theater or the Three Stooges and Jewish tradition programs. I'm set to present the condensed version of "Live from the Stage Door Canteen--Songs of the World War II Homefront." Still, conversation could get sticky--and I'm not known for my patience and diplomacy.
We'll see.
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Flyer Nuestras Historias Our Stories
I don't think the program will allow me to insert the flyer for April 29, tomorrow's program at the Norwich Arts Center in Norwich CT. Our Stories/ Nuestras Historias will be a first-time-ever celebration of Latino culture, with everything from Peruvian dancers, maybe a Honduran singer, story-telling, food and drink (I'm making the guacamole, while the Mexican restaurant provides taquitos and tamalitos). At 7 p.m., an amazing quartet of poets read in tribute to Bessy Reyna, mentor, activist, memorist and poet.

Gee, I wish you could all be there. . .
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This is the first year that I'm not shouting hosannas (actually that happens at Sukkot, but whatever. . .) because the 8th day of Passover has just passed into history. Why? Because last year (too late for me to alter my eating plans), the Conservative rabbinate decided that 800 years of custom--not law, but with the force of law--could be set aside. That's how long the Sefardic and Ashkenazic Jewish communities had been divided on whether a certain class of foods called "kitniyot" were chometz or not. That is, could we eat beans, legumes, and pulses--including peanuts, chickpeas, cashews, lentils, rice--during Passover. Those who know me recognize these as the staples of my diet and my major protein source. In past years, I suffered through Passover with a protein deficit and carb overload, feeling bloated and unwell and celebrating the end of the holiday.
This year--wonderful! Homemade hummus! Beans and rice! Various stews with chickpeas! Very little matza--ritual only. I felt great.
Since last summer, I've been avoiding bread and pasta as much as possible, eating them only in situations where there was nothing else I could eat. I've lost weight, and I hope to continue slowly losing it.
The result was that this Passover was no hardship for me: I never craved bread, as I had in past years. Where Facebook has been alight with Friends announcing "Pizza time!" or "Pastrami sandwich" or simply "I can eat bread now!" I've been very happy to eat another batch of beans and rice.
Well, OK, I did kind of miss Cream of Wheat.
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Until now, I've been importing every so often from LiveJournal. If LJ continues to diminish, I'll have to get used to posting here. I've only found a few Friends who have "subscribed" to me, and I finally figured out how to "subscribe" to them.

My icon is a Tarasque, my heraldic animal.
negothick: (Charlotte)
Most sources agree that Trump ordered 59 Tomahawk missiles launched against one Syrian airfield. The approximate cost per missile is $1 million. (Such a Bargain!). Buy stock in Raytheon, because they manufacture them.
Seriously, the attack cost (not counting overhead for the ships and crews) about $60 million.  It's hard to get an accurate casualty figure --after all, Syria would naturally want to inflate the number, yet even the Syrians are saying 15 died. That would be approximately $4 million per person killed.

By coincidence, someone drove a hijacked beer truck into a crowd in Stockholm, killing 4 and wounding many. As a former prime minister of Sweden said, "Steal a lorry or a car and then drive it into a crowd. That seems to be the latest terrorist method. Berlin. London. Now Stockholm."

Cost to international organization sponsoring terrorist per person killed. Zero. This wasn't even a suicide bomber, since the driver apparently jumped to safety--at least if that IS the driver they have in custody.
negothick: (Charlotte)
One blue sky above us
One ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round
Who could ask for more
And because I love you
I'll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race
It's too soon to die.   --Pete Seeger

Moving outside my usual mode of apocalypticism, a hopeful entry for a change. My band Klezmenschen played the other night for a local K-5 elementary school's "Multicultural Night." The school is located in the town's poorest neighborhood, where a flood of new immigrants have taken over the houses built for millworkers in the 19th century--but without the jobs or paternalism provided by the long-shuttered mills. Where once the only second language was Canadian French, now it's Haitian Creole. The instructions and introductions by the evening's organizer were repeated by a parent in Creole and another parent in Spanish. These represented the majority of the students. No one attempted Chinese or (for one tiny solemn girl in costume) Tibetan. Parents brought food of their lost homes or generic American--all was happily devoured. Folk dancers performed to recorded music. Troupes of Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Peruvian girls danced choreographed and costumed numbers--really well!, and one brave boy from Brazil danced a solo. Several high school girls from Haiti, graduates of this school, gave us trance-like moves reminiscent of Katherine Dunham's stylized dancing in this video--not surprising, given her research in Haiti.

I know it's a cliche, but the children gave me such hope for the future. All so beautiful, eyes so bright; they were the best audience we've had--some getting up from tables and plopping themselves on the gym floor to listen raptly to our music, others spontaneously dancing in circles. Respectfully watching and listening to all the dancers and singers of our rainbow race. They seemed really at ease with their teachers, who knew every child's name and their parents as well. I saw happy faces light up as they greeted the principal--a white man who looked like a child to me, though I assume he's over 30.

Yes, I know it was a special night, and everyone may have been on "best behavior," but it was wonderful while it lasted. It is how America ought to be, nothing to do with the dystopia represented by our current government.
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