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The one about witches, on October 29. Just learned the time: It will be at 4 p.m.
Willimantic has an excellent brewpub, The Main Street Cafe, better known as WilliBrew. It's located in the old post office, a grand Beaux Arts structure from the little city's prosperous days. The menu has P.O. puns--the salad menu is called "Letters and Tomatoes." There is great veggie chili. The beer list also refers to the location, with "Zip" and "Rail Mail" etc. http://willibrew.com/beers-offered/

So, gentle readers, if anyone happens to be lurking in the Quiet Corner (yes, I didn't make that up--it's the "branding" that cost the local tourist board a lot of money) on Sunday October 29, let me know and we can combine witches, old mills, textile machinery, frogs (another local legend) and WilliBrew.
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So I'm re-reading IT, in preparation for seeing the recent movie version. I'm pretty sure I haven't re-read it cover to cover since practically memorizing it while writing my book New England's Gothic Literature: History and Folklore of the Supernatural (etc.). IT is practically a textbook on the Gothic in New England, encompassing Bangor's history and folklore together with so many other self-referential tropes of the Gothic. So that means I last read it ca. 1993-4.

And I came up against something that I remembered not at all. A tiny thing, among the 1000+ pages of this Magnum Opus, but so striking that I felt like one of the Losers Club, who were constantly having their everyday objects invaded by the Weird. Ben Hanscom as an adult returns to Derry to re-fight the Evil Incarnate of his childhood. He visits the library (of course!), takes a book at random from the shelf, and gets a library card with The Latest Technology! (Microfiche). Of course he discovers that the book is one he had taken out as a child, and it still had a card pocket with borrowers' names on a card inside. His name is there, but there are three others--and the next two are Charles N. Brown and David Hartwell!
What must have been a merry jest in 1986 is especially poignant now, with both men dead under--well, if not mysterious, then unusual and well-publicized circumstances. The third name, "Joseph Brennan," probably refers to Joseph Payne Brennan, still alive at the time of the book's publication (he died in 1990). All three men were prominent in the first World Fantasy Convention (1975) and the 1979 WFC, both held in Providence. In fact, Brennan's short novel Act of Providence was set at the 1975 con, where King was a Guest of Honor. Wikipedia reminds me that King wrote the introduction to Brennan's short story collection The Shapes of Midnight (1980).

If there's ever an "Annotated IT" (which will need to be a Talmud-sized endeavor), here's a little entry for it.
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On October 29 in Willimantic at the Windham Textile Museum. I'll speak on witches in folklore and literature (though not specifically in Willimantic--there were no witch trials in this part of the state).
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That's what I've been doing my entire career as an American Gothic expert. These days, the media and Twitter are doing that job all too well. There's a long list of places to which I won't be invited back: Beverly and Andover, Mass--who practice denial about their part in the Essex County witch panic of 1692-3 (more people were accused and jailed for witchcraft from Andover than from Salem, but they'd rather you didn't know that). Then there's Brattleboro and Dummerston, Vermont--they really didn't want to know about the Vermont Eugenics Project.

Then there's my home town of Norwich, CT--I've been a Gothic gadfly for over 50 years. Not alone--there was once a coffeehouse called "The Thorn" because Norwich's nickname is "The Rose of New England." Ah, blessed memories.
But I've lately been confronting people, in person and on Facebook, about their refusal to acknowledge what would seem obvious to any visitor--that Norwich has a huge number of recent immigrants speaking many different languages.

The elementary schools are overcrowded as they have not been in decades, but no one in power seems to mind--or if they do, they blame the state government (True, CT has been operating without a budget since July 1, and that means no state grants). But the schools were overcrowded--and full of non-English-speakers--long before the current budget mess.

On Facebook, one of the "nostalgia for the good old days of Norwich" sites, someone ventured to post about this situation. Several responded blaming the current party in power, or corruption, or whatever. Others lamented "Why is it different now--there used to be so many opportunities for the children, active PTAs, civic groups, etc." LONG chain of comments, covering many hours.

A few hours back, I posted this:
"Look at the make-up of city government--and many civic groups. . .they have no kids in the public schools. Mostly they're too old, or their kids go elsewhere--private or parochial or even home-schooled. Who are the parents of the kids of Norwich? The majority are poor, recent immigrants, or both. . .demographics, folks."

Followed by dead silence. Not a single response.

I didn't tell the following tale, since I suspect the city councilor who features in it might be among the readers: (I admit, I'm rounding off the numbers.)
In 2000, Norwich's population had dropped to about 35,000. Schools were emptying--the elementary school I attended, which opened when I hit kindergarten, was demolished.

In 2010, Norwich population was back up to its previous 40,000. Schools were full (several other schools had been closed). I said to a City Council member that the entire 5,000--and more--were immigrants, primarily Asian, Haitian, South American--and that might have something to do with the current lack of interest in the public schools, as there are no representatives of these groups on the School Board or City Council. When I confronted the alderwoman with these facts, she accused me of lying--or at least embellishing.

They just don't want to know.
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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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katherine_Ann_Power

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 http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/

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.
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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: http://www.otislibrarynorwich.org/lafayette-writers/

Jeopardy

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: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x54noi2_jeopardy-october-25-1985-mark-faye-al_tv

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.
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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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