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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.
negothick: (Charlotte)
More to come on this, but for now, one word about my hopes for Latinos in the Arts Month:

negothick: (Charlotte)
For the first time in my career as a theater impresaria, I may have an advance sell-out on my hands. I am presenting a revival of the cabaret show "Live From the Stage Door Canteen: Songs of the Homefront in World War II" on July 30, one public performance only (for reasons I'll explain eventually). My collaborator and co-conspirator Diane and I put together this show in 1999, when many of our audience members were WW II vets or had grown up during that time. Today, except for the nursing home performances, we're less likely to have any vets in the audience.

The reason for one performance? Because Diane will be here visiting for a short time, and because we are using the banquet room of a restaurant which has other demands for its use, Prime 82 in Norwich, CT. It seats 64, and I already have 20 reservations--four months in advance. I may not have to advertise this show, since I can't add another performance.

I've got wonderful singers, a great crew, and a handicapped-accessible venue. Now I have to stop thinking about this show and worry about  Latinos in the Arts Month, etc.
negothick: (Charlotte)
I am proud of seeing the following idea into reality: Norwich Arts Center's New Visions and Voices Initiative--my idea, and so I get to chair the first month, dedicated to Latinos in the Arts. Future months will turn the spotlight on Asians, particularly China (next October); The African-American Experience (April 2018); and Under 30: Voices of the Future (Oct. 2018). Here's April's schedule-- for location and more information

Norwich Arts Center

New Visions & Voices

A month long celebration of the Latino Culture
in Norwich and the surrounding communities
of South Eastern Connecticut

NAC Gallery 4/6 to 4/30 - Latino Art Juried Show
Opening Reception 4/7 6 p.m., followed by Rufus "Baby Grand" Davis and Latin Jazz Ensemble 8 p.m.
NCC Film 4/8 - "Embrace of the Serpent"
Donald L. Oat Theater on Friday April
3:30 to 6:00 - Our Stories / Nuestras Historias
6:00 to 7:00 - Hors d' oeuvres Reception
7:00 - Readings by Award -Winning Latino Authors including Carlos Hernandez. Honoring poet and activist Bessy Reyna

negothick: (Charlotte)
As I've always known, if I want things to happen in the arts around here, I have to do them myself. My resume as volunteer promoter of the arts (as opposed to solo performer) in Eastern Connecticut goes back to high school, when I volunteered at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. Today, they have interns who pay for the privilege of sweeping the stage, parking the cars, and running errands for the great. And during the summer season, they have professional actors who accept a pittance for taking the nonspeaking or chorus parts that we stage-struck high-schoolers played. There's no doubt that I reached the pinnacle of my acting career when I stood in the background and chanted on the same stage as Michael Douglas and Brenda Vaccaro (who were an item back then). But mostly, I was a gofer.

Skip blithely over 50 years, and I'm back at the O'Neill Theater Center, this time picking up tablecloths for the literature and food tables for  last Sunday's Performing Arts InterSECT, the showcase of local performing arts groups I was helping to run for the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition. I returned the tablecloths (after laundering them, of course) the other day, where I found eager interns who stopped running the copy machine to retrieve the heavy boxes of linens from my car (age has some privileges. . .). Proud to say that I restrained myself from telling them the story I just forced upon you, dear LJ readers. Ah well, still the handmaid (or laundrymaid) of the arts.

Last night I volunteered at the Norwich Arts Center, of which I was the founding president 30 years ago. In addition to selling tickets and giving out programs for the play Naked Mole Rats in the World of Darkness (don't ask), to which I had no other connection, I gave the toilets a swipe, emptied some disgusting wastebaskets, and wiped down tables. In 2003, I had my CD release party in that same venue, and had to swamp out the same bathrooms because one of the same toilets had overflowed. At that point, I asked myself--and everyone within earshot--"How many other recording artists and record producers had to clean the toilets at their own CD launches?"

What, and leave show business?
negothick: (Charlotte)
Authors are not responsible for their readers, and sometimes the authors wish those readers would go away and not let anyone know who they love to read--Tolkien being an example, given that he referred several times in letters and interviews to his most devoted readers by the title of this entry.

Tolkien was far too genteel to do what Stephen King did--immortalize HIS "Number One Fan" as the nightmarish nurse in Misery, who cuts off her favorite writer's foot with an axe and addicts him to just enough pain pills so that he can continue to write just for her. King has said that her behaviors, both the idolatry and the threats of violence, were based on actual correspondence he received from fans--letters, in those pre-Internet days. Misery was published in 1987, and I can attest to the crazed behavior of King's fans in the 80s--I saw him cornered in a narrow hotel corridor at the 1982 World Fantasy Con in New Haven by a scrum of fans waving books, manuscripts (their own, that is--they even pushed them under the door of his toilet stall!), and random bits of paper for autographs. And this is no urban legend--I actually saw someone hand him a grease-stained Burger King bag. He crossed out "Burger" and wrote "Stephen." I believe that may have been the last World Fantasy Con that he attended.

Back then it was fashionable to call him a "post-literate" writer by those who were critical of both his style and the belief that his fans were incapable of reading anything else. These days, King has [insert really large number] of followers on Twitter (which I don't follow) and about 5 million for his Facebook page (which I do).

Only a few trolls, but mostly millions of panting commenters, no more or less literate than the majority of autocorrected autodidacts on the rest of Facebook. What a world!
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