Friday, November 30, 2007

Castle March

Another photo from our 2008 calendar, this of Chambord, a royal chateau in the Loire Valley.
We encountered Chambord in the autumn of 2004, as we drove along the Loire Valley from Paris to Nantes, where I was a guest at Utopiales, their annual convention.
Chambord was built by Francois I, a contemporary of Henry VIII, Charles V, and Suleiman the Magnificent. Castles were a luxurious anachronism by then, and the building was intended as a pleasure palace rather than a fortification. Francis' hobby was designing castles, and this was the one he decided to build. So devoted was he to this structure that when his two sons were captured by the Spanish, he spent their ransom money on Chambord.
In his architecture Francois had the help of his house guest, Leonardo da Vinci, who seems responsible for l'escalier d'Honneur, the central stair, which is in a double-helix design. At any rate, designs for similar stairs were found in Leonardo's notebooks.
Francois intended the place as a hunting palace in which he would live as an equal with his boon companions. The central building is a cube three stories tall, divided into twelve apartments equal in size. There is a round tower on each corner, providing another twelve apartments. Thus Francois could hunt and party with twenty-three of his closest friends.
Eventually he got tired of living as an equal with his buddies, and built a royal wing for just his own magnificent person. Naturally this wing required an opposite wing to balance the structure, but this wing was never completed in the same glorious detail as the king's.
We got to Chambord early in the day, and were lucky enough to find a room available at the local inn, which boasted a fine view of the chateau from its terrace. We went to the chateau and began sampling its delights, but the place is freakin' enormous. It took forever to see everything, and we began to pine for lunch. There was nowhere on the grounds to eat, and if we left we'd have to buy a fresh set of tickets if we wanted to return. Eventually we staggered to a nearby cafe around three in the afternoon.
The awesomeness of the place was, well, awesome. Luxury and craftsmanship on a gargantuan scale, and filled with art and gorgeous furniture.
"No wonder France had to have a revolution," was Kathy's comment.
For some reason I got up freakishly early the next morning. The restaurant hadn't opened for breakfast yet, and so I stole out onto the grounds of the chateau to photograph the building at dawn. It was hard to take a bad picture, and this is probably the best.

Samurai Attack!

From the Questions We Never Thought to Ask Department:

If the world record holder for race walking is attacked by renegade samurai, would he walk or run?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

And Now, From the Acme Network . . .

(courtesy of Kathy)

SOCORRO – "Lights, cameras, and action!" The casting call may soon be given for the New Mexico Tech campus to become a real-life movie set for a planned cable television series about the day-to-day operations of a research university.

Van Romero, New Mexico Tech vice president for research and economic development, briefed the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents at its monthly meeting yesterday on recent inquiries made to his office by The History Channel about the possibility of featuring the research university in Socorro in an upcoming 14-part program series.

"Our office recently has been inundated with requests from The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, and other television and film production companies, asking to use our campus and research facilities," Romero said. "This could result in some interesting media coverage for New Mexico Tech."

In addition, representatives from Warner Bros. Studios also have contacted New Mexico Tech administrators to explore the likelihood of using the expertise and facilities at the university's Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC) for a new game show/ reality series based on the company's classic Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons.

In the planned television program, tentatively titled "Man vs. Coyote," two teams of participants would be pitted against each other to replicate some of the mishaps and disasters to which the Coyote was typically subjected in the long-running cartoon series.

"Both of these major television productions, along with any associated media coverage, could possibly provide New Mexico Tech with new opportunities to allow the university to stand out in the public's mind," said Daniel H. López, president of New Mexico Tech.

"In addition to promoting the university, there's also the distinct possibility that these production companies would be hiring some of our students, staff, and faculty as extras or technical assistants, should they decide to come on campus," López added.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sex, Swoony and Otherwise

Now there's a title that drew you in, I bet.

I want to talk about sex because I've just finished reading a book--- a pretty good one--- that had a number of fairly explicit sex scenes, all much less worth reading than the rest of the book. All the sex scenes "threw me out," as we writers say, of the hypnotic trance into which readers ideally fall.

I do believe I laughed out loud at some of the choicer bits, but it was an embarrassed laugh. Not because I was reading about sex, but because the writing was just so awful, and I was embarrassed for the poor writer.

Sex is hard to write about: you've got this complex physical act going on, with various body parts both squishy and non-squishy; and you've got a whole lot of emotional texture; and there are hormones and the limbic system kicking in. There's affection, and aggression, and acceptance, and delight. And--- if you're the author writing this--- there are also the elements of plot and character revelation, which real people in real beds don't worry about so much.

Sex scenes come in three broad categories, which I will call the Swoony, the Clinical, and the Baaaad. Which is not to say that the Swoony and Clinical scenes can't be Baaaad in their very own way.

The Swoony scene is all about emotional textures. If physical details are included, they're present in order to heighten the emotion.

The best Swoony writer I can think of is Nabokov. He'll cut away from the sex for a paragraph on the blue butterflies swarming around a nearby bush, and then return with something like: "He had resolved to deal first of all with her legs which he felt he had not feted enough the previous night, to sheath them in kisses from the A or arched instep to the V of velvet, and this Van accomplished as soon as Ada and he got sufficiently deep in the larchwood which closed the park on the steep side of the rocky rise between Ardis and Ladore."

From Ada. Which also has a really terrific fellatio scene, involving the recollection of "the first time she had bent over him and he had possessed her hair."

I confess that, where sex is concerned, I am a Swoony writer. The emotional stuff is more important to me than whose organ gets impaled on whose. (I've written precisely one clinical sex scene in my life--- and boy did I get mail!)

The perils of the Swoony approach to sex scenes is that you can forget what planet you're on. "She knew at the touch of his lips that she was one with the sun and the moon and the stars, and that she wanted nothing more than to remain in his arms . . . Forever."
(Thank you, Barbara Cartland Correspondence School.)

The Swoony writer can get so lost in romance that the scene loses touch with reality. Which is not a problem you're going to encounter with the Clinical school.

The Clinical sex scene is just that: a cold and rather detached description of the physical act, as if you were a hemipterologist describing coitus among the beetles. John Updike and Paul Theroux are very good at this. I remember A.S. Byatt giving us some really grim deflowering scenes in one of her novels (the title escapes me).

The danger here is that your scene can read, well, as if you were a hemipterologist describing coitus among the beetles. The scene can end up so antiseptic and remote that it detaches itself from the rest of the book.

And as for the Baaaad . . . it's a combination of the Swoony and the Clinical. Clinical description with an overlay of Swoon. You can tell right away by the choice of adjectives and nouns--- if both are non-specific you're in trouble. It's like the real dreadful 1950s pulp porn, the kind that Silverberg used to write, when women had "dripping flanges." If the writer starts going on about "elusive globes"--- whatever those are--- you know that what follows is going to be Baaaad. When every body part gets its own semi-Swoony, or "elusive," adjective, it becomes Award-Winning Baaaad.
Back in the early days of personal computers, there was this program going around called "Pornography." It generated sentences on the following model: "Adverbally, he verbed his adjective noun into her adjective noun." The verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and nouns were chosen randomly from a list. It reproduced exactly the affect of a Baaaad sex scene.
What sex scenes work for you? Are you Swoony or Clinical? And if so, why?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Calendar, 2008

Once again, and for the second time in my life, I have become self-published.
I've put together another travel calendar for 2008, with pictures taken during my travels with Kathy.
I make no money off of this. It's available on a creative commons license. You can order the calendar here, or you can download a .pdf and print it yourself.
The calendar is 13.5" by 19", printed full-color on quality linen paper. It features Mexican, U.S., and Canadian holidays as well as astronomical events.
You're going to need a calendar anyway, so why not this one?
The cover photo, shown here, was taken in Croatia in 2001. I was guest of honor at the Croatian national convention, held in Zagreb, and the object of an enormous amount of warmth and hospitality, for which I remain grateful.
One afternoon my publisher took us out for a roundup of local attractions. We began with the birthplace of Tito--- the Marshal, not the Jackson--- an agricultural village that had, I suspect, been much spruced up in the days since young Josip Broz left home. We were taken to Vindija Cavern, once been inhabited by Neanderthals and which is now the home to bronze statues of Neanderthals. We visited the spectacular Marusavec Castle. We had a glorious lunch of local veal.
On the way home I snapped this picture of local church. The outline of the church may look a bit martial, and there's a reason for that.
After the Ottomans wiped out the Hungarian kingdom in 1526, Croatia was next on the menu. The Turkish practice at the time was to constantly raid civilian populations--- not for the loot and slaves, though they were happy to take these as well, but to convince the locals to abandon the district. Once the area lost its population, the Turks moved in.
Croatia was poor and couldn't afford a lot of castles, but it did have churches. So churches were built on hills and crags, to make them hard to attack, and built very large and stoutly, to defend against raiders. When the alarm was sounded, the entire population and their livestock took up residence in the church. Presumably a proper army would have made short work of them, but Turkish raiders didn't bring siege equipment with them, and the Croats were reasonably safe.
There are ruined churches on hilltops all over Croatia. The picture shows one that hasn't fallen into ruin, and which stands a monument to Croatian resistance against foreign oppression.

Cold Weather Cuisine

I'm getting sick of Thanksgiving leftovers, which are far from exhausted. I had errands today, and it was a brisk cold winter morning, and that put me in mind of a local treat.

So I went to a nearby restaurant and ordered a big heapin' bowl of menudo. Which, for those uninitiated among you, is cow's stomach chopped up and simmered in a red chile broth, served with sides of chile flakes, chopped onion, tangy Mexican oregano, and sliced lemon (which I put in my tea).

Warm, hearty peasant cooking, just right for a cold winter's day. It really hit the spot.

Around here we have a saying, "Menudo pera los crudos," menudo for the hangover. I haven't tried menudo for that reason, since I don't get hangovers since I stopped drinking cheap booze, but I know people who swear by it. Cow's stomach just sops those toxins right up, apparently.

In my case, what was hanging over was Thanksgiving. And now I'm cured.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reader Response

I'd like to give a shout-out to the Weather Gods, because apparently they read my blog.

Back in August, when I complained that none of the monsoon rains that were pelting the rest of the state were hitting my neighborhood, the Weather Gods responded, and hammered the district with a series of storms that washed several new potholes into our road and left my brown lawn all green and rejuvenated.

And just a few days ago, when I mentioned that the weather had been unseasonably warm all autumn and free of moisture, the Weather Gods rolled a storm over the area on Thanksgiving Day, complete with rain, wind, snow, and subzero temperatures at night.

The ski areas should offer their thanks, and so do I.

In the meantime, if any of you have any weather problems, just let me know and I'll see what I can do, okay?


According to an article in tomorrow's New Scientist, we may have doomed the universe simply by observing dark energy

"At the quantum level, whenever we observe or measure something, we reset its clock and stop it decaying - something known as the quantum Zeno effect. Our measurement of the light from supernovae in 1998, which provided evidence of dark energy, may have reset the false vacuum’s decay clock to zero - back to a point when the likelihood of its surviving was falling exponentially over time. “In short, we may have snatched away the possibility of long-term survival for our universe and made it more likely it will decay,” says Krauss."

(Oops . . . )

Fortunately, my forthcoming novel Implied Spaces has a solve for this.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Turkey Has Landed . . . Houston, Are You Drooling?

Skin crispy all over . . .
Note that the drumstick is beginning to fall off even before I have laid so much as a fork to the epidermis.
Kathy deserves credit for the meal, really. All I did was make the Highly Dangerous Stuffing the night before. (Sausage, bacon, butter, hard-boiled eggs, onion, garlic, sage, breading.)
And I wielded the baster after Kathy collapsed mid-afternoon from organizing everything.
Photo by Patricia.

Weapon of Choice

Photo by Patricia.
My rosy complexion is not an effect of overcelebration, but the fact that after nearly seven hours of roasting, that kitchen was damned hot!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thank You, David Chase

From David Ceska's Thanksgiving piece:

With The Sopranos finale as precedent, whenever I or any of my writer colleagues are stuck for an ending, we're now empowered to just stop the thing in mid-sentence somewhere near the end and just walk away. If someone calls us on it, we can point to David Chase's "artistic" example. No need for conclusions or endings anymore, suckers. Screw endings. Thanks, Mr. Chase, for saving us a shitload of work.

This is so freaking liberating!

Dark Side of My Ass

So while we've been getting the house ready for our holiday company, I've been listening to XM Radio, and they've just proclaimed Dark Side of the Moon the greatest rock 'n' roll album of all time.

Sergeant Pepper was number two.

How fucked is that?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gumbo Rocks!

For those celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday, have a lovely one.
For those not celebrating the holiday, have a nice Thursday, wherever you are.
If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, you're going to get sick of turkey pretty soon and need an alternative.
And if you're not celebrating Thanksgiving, you'll need something to eat anyway.
That's why this is the ideal time for posting the recipe to Chef Francoise's Black Roux Gumbo.
You'll need:
2 chickens cut up, or six pounds chicken pieces. Skin on.
2.5 pounds andouille sausage, kielbasa, or some other smoked sausage, cubed
15 cups chicken stock, degreased
1 teaspoon dry thyme.
2 cups onions, chopped fine.
1.5 cups green peppers, chopped fine.
1.5 cups celery, chopped fine.
1 cup green onions, chopped fine (keep separate)
Seasoning mix (dry rub):
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1.5 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt.
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1.2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper.
(you'll probably need more of the seasoning mix than given here.)
Flour mix
2.5 cups flour, all purpose.
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon paprika
Rub chicken parts with seasoning mix. Let rest for at least 30 minutes.
In a big skillet, preferably cast iron, heat 2.5 cups vegetable oil over moderately high heat.
In a plastic bag or pan, shake the seasoned chicken parts in the flour mix and shake.
Remove excess by tapping.
Measure one cup of the flour and keep the remaining.
Fry the chicken by batches until golden brown on both sides. (Chicken doesn't have to be cooked all the way through, you'll do that later.)
Remove one cup of the oil, keep the remainder.
Clean skillet.
Put one cup of the oil and bring it over high heat until you see a faint haze of smoke. Lower heat to medium high.
Add a little flour from the cup into the skillet, whisking all the while. Continue until all flour is in.
Whisk continuously until it becomes a dark chocolate brown.
Remove from heat, still stirring, let cool about ten seconds.
Add 1/2 the vegetables.
Stir well and slowly add 1.5 cups hot stock. Cook over medium low fire for one minute.
Transfer slowly into pot of hot stock.
Add the cubed andouille or kielbasa and the garlic. Add remaining vegetables.
Bring to boil, lower the heat, and simmer 40 minutes.
While all this is going on, debone and cube the chicken, including crispy skin but not fatty skin.
When simmering is over, add chicken and green onions. Stir and simmer 10 minutes more.
Serve 3 heaping tablespoon of rice per 8 oz gumbo.
Makes 16 servings.
4 tablespoons very fine chopped onions.
4 tablespoons very fine chopped green onions
6 stalks of celery finely chopped
4 medium cloves of garlic minced
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1 tablespoon of dry thyme
4 cups rice
5.5 cups hot chicken stock, degreased
2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice.
Heat stock. Add everything but the green onion. When the rice is cooked, scatter chopped green onion over the top.
Much of the spicy taste is actually in the rice. If you like your gumbo spicy, add more red, white, and black pepper to the rice, or increase the ratio of rice to gumbo. And vice versa, or course.
Laissez les bon temps roulez.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ojo Caliente

I've been watching a forest fire all day. The Ojo Peak fire has been roaring away on the southern end of the Manzano chain, producing huge clouds of white smoke. The fire is on the peak of the mountain and it's very difficult for firefighters to get to.

But more astonishing is the fact we're having a forest fire at the end of November. And furthermore on top of a mountain, where it's colder than my area. The fire season usually ends in July. I think I can safely say that we're not used to this.

We've had a very warm and dry autumn. The last rain was, I think, very early in September. The leaves have turned but most haven't fallen. We've only had a very few nights where it's got below freezing, and those were over a month ago.

By now, the mountains north of here should be white with snow. Thanksgiving is usually the day when Taos Ski Valley opens, but they haven't had a drop of snow. Until a few days ago, they couldn't even make snow, because it didn't get below freezing even at night and the snow would have melted.

In the meantime, the Kentucky legislature held a hearing on global warming and forgot to invite scientists.

"Well, I mean, where are we going to get scientists?" Gooch asked. "We're limited here in Kentucky to what we can do. I don't know how we'd necessarily get scientists to come here."

The scientists are just a few miles away, Mr. Gooch. In that thing called a university, which you in the legislature fund.

Monday, November 19, 2007

. . . And Speaking of Cab Calloway

Listening to Cab Calloway's daughter a few nights ago--- look here for details--- brought to mind the night, some time back, when we went to Pat and Scott's place and took in the classic all-black 1943 film Stormy Weather.

The film was a sort of who's who of black talent for the period. Fats Waller sings "Ain't Misbehavin'." Lena Horne sings the title song, and also gets to act--- she said it was one of the two occasions in her Hollywood career when she got to really act, the other being Cabin in the Sky, where she played the evil seductress Georgia Brown. (Lena Horne can seduce me any time. And yes, I know she's ninety.)

In addition to more cool stuff from Cab Calloway, the film features this astounding dance number from Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers, which Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly both agreed was the best dance number ever caught on film.

And of course there's the ever-copacetic Bill Robinson. He's in his mid-sixties in this movie, but still vigorous enough to make a plausible love interest for the twenty-something Lena Horne.

There's also Dooley Wilson, Eddie Anderson (who gets screen credit for a part that was cut from the film), and a glance at the Calloway orchestra will reveal glimpses of Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins. Zutty Nicholson, Calloway's wife, is also in there somewhere.

The plot, as slight as most musicals, has to do with Bill Robinson (a veteran, as he was in real life, of James Europe's legendary First World War marching band, the Marching Hellfighters) meeting Lena Horne in a postwar cabaret. After they both become successful in show business, Bill wants to settle down and Lena doesn't. That's it, more or less.

The film's principal flaw, of course, is the limited range permitted black entertainers in the 1940s. This film is, in fact, pretty daring by period standards--- I wonder if the necessity of getting black people behind the war effort loosened Hollywood strictures somewhat.

The film features stereotypes--- Bill Robinson's spectacular Jungle Drum Dance is still, well, a Jungle Drum Dance--- but it helps that the picture is about glamorous show people and not, say, poor folk living in cabins in Alabama. The stereotypes are, as stereotypes go, fairly benign--- something of a contract to the current range of roles for black actors, which runs the gamut from gangsters to Magical Negroes to comics to stern lieutenants. The center may have shifted, but the range is still about the same.

Gangstas vs. amiable entertainers. If you had a choice of stereotypes (and realizing that most people don't get this choice), would you rather be feared or condescended to?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Land of Hope and . . . What's the Other Thing?

Last night, listening to NPR's news quiz, "Wait Wait Don't Tell me," I learned that Britain's new PM, Gordon Brown, has suggested that the country needs a new slogan to set it on its feet and send it hurtling into the 21st Century.

The old slogan is "Land of Hope and Glory," which is, as Peter Sagal pointed out, is a Wishbone Ash album.

They can't have "E Pluribus Unum"--- that one's taken.

The public is invited to send in their own slogans. They have to be five words or less.

Slogans submitted so far include:

"Thieving bastards since 1170."

"Courage. Reason. Humanity. Democracy. Monarchy."

"Once Mighty Empire, Slightly Used."

"Drinking Continues Until Morale Improves."

"Sorry, It's All Our Fault."

"The Land that Orthodonture Forgot"

Do ya'll have any snappy slogans for Britain, or for that matter any other country?


This weekend we sojourned once again to Socorro, the Athens of the Southwest, to check out Chris Calloway. This isn't the football player, or the wrestler, but the niece of pioneering band leader Blanche Calloway, the daughter of Cab Calloway, and the god-daughter of Lena Horne.

"Chris," by the way, is short for "Christopher." By the time Cab and Auntie Lena got to the hospital, they had taken on a serious load of celebration, and were far too plastered to worry about gender protocols while naming the new arrival.

We'd seen Calloway a few years ago, when much of her act consisted of tunes made famous by Blanche and Cab, with a bit of Billie Holliday thrown in. This time the first set was a tribute to Auntie Lena, with a number of anecdotes thrown in. She said that Lena and Cab first met at a party, when Lena walked in, looked at Cab's wife, and said, "What's that white bitch doing here?" Cab's wife was not white, as it turned out, and Lena apologized, though not (presumably) for her white husband. An odd beginning for a friendship, but there go you.

The second half featured one Blanche song and one Cab song--- one about Minnie the Moocher and Smokey Joe, but not the one you're probably thinking about. Minnie and Joe were recurring characters in the Calloway song cycle.

Songs were nicely performed, and interspersed with lengthy anecdotes and humor. The band was solid, and I was particularly impressed by drummer Ricky Malachi. Sometimes the schtick got in the way of the music, but it was all amiable enough fun.

At the end Calloway talked about the fact that she'd been undergoing cancer treatment for the last few years, and the audience left in a more thoughtful mood than is usual for that venue.

We bought a CD, and are enjoying it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Surfer Dude Susses Reality

Two brain-warping stories from the World o' Science. (Try to hear a theremin playing for the rest of this post.)

First, folks at the British Interplanetary Society are spending the weekend talking seriously about warp drive, based on the theories of Miguel Alcubierre.

Second, in a story with a headline that ought to have come from the Onion, "Surfer Dude Stuns Physicists with Theory of Everything." The stunning thing is that Lee Smolin is taking it seriously. "It is one of the most compelling unification models I've seen in many, many years," he says.

Off the Grid

I used to hang out with a shockingly talented group of people.

(Not that I don't now, of course.)

But over the years people move or fade away or just lose touch. In the old days that would pretty much be that, but nowadays there's Google to help you keep up with the old gang.

Every so often, motivated by nostalgia and curiosity, I'll type in some names and learn a few things.

So the girl who played viola is now a woman who plays viola for a symphony. Cool.

The talented actress and disk jockey is now a comedian and disk jockey who's won a G.L.A.A.D. award. Nifty.

The student of Greek and Latin is now a professor of Greek and Latin. Excellent!

The artist who was a militant crusader for abstraction is now a landscape painter. The reason? She couldn't sell the abstracts. (The part of me that is a commercial writer giggled a bit.)

One astoundingly talented writer is a colonel and a military linguist. Which is all very well, but what about the stories? I want to read more.

I encountered one bit of sad news. The charismatic actor, who last I heard was a dramaturge at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, dropped dead in a parking lot of a heart attack at the age of 50. (I'd guess too much bourbon, too many Luckies.) He had morphed into a journalism professor, of all things.

(My last conversation with him was pretty funny. I had just started publishing the sea-adventure books, and the Guthrie was doing a production of Billy Budd. He called me and began the conversation: "So what the fuck is a foretopman, anyway?")

But it has to be said that most of my old friends have just dropped out of sight completely, at least as far as the internet is concerned. (Some had common names, though, so I suppose that it's possible they were hit number 75,181 out of 1,890,552.) But since so many of them were both talented and creative, sufficiently so that I was often intimidated by their abilities, that's a terrible shame.

I would like to read their stories, enjoy their poetry, view their plays--- and apparently I never will. And I'm inclined to wonder why their creative abilities never flourished, and mine did.

Was it fear? (I wasn't brave, I was just dogged. Or arrogant, take your pick.) Too many adult responsibilities too young? (I married late, never had kids.) Lack of any clear idea of how to proceed? (I had no idea, either, but found the path after blundering around in the jungle for a few years.)

Do y'all Google old friends? What have you discovered?

Blogger Still Wonky

Blogger is still wonky. It insists my email address doesn't exist, when it's the same email address I've been using for years, and the same email address I've used for login since this blog started.

Oddly enough, when I went to the Help Group page and was asked to log in there, it accepted my email, and thus I am able to post here.

I don't trust that this happy accident will occur again, so if I mysteriously disappear from this site, that's very likely why.

The Surgeon's Tale

My Taos Toolbox student, Cat Rambo, has a book!
Just in time for the holidays, the perfect gift for lovers of dark fantasy...
And Other Stories

By Cat Rambo & Jeff VanderMeer
Order at
The Surgeon's Tale & Other Stories is the first book by exciting new talent Cat Rambo, in collaboration with World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer. Enter a world of rat suitors, severed arms, and Fungi Et Fruits de Mer, served up with prose both appetizing and uncanny. Dark Fantasy has never been quite so decadent. This book of six stories includes "The Surgeon's Tale", "The Dead Girl's Wedding March", "The Farmer's Cat," "A Key Decides Its Destiny," "Three Sons," and "The Strange Case of the Lovecraft Café".
Once Upon a Time...
There was a surgeon with a terrible obsession
who befriended a dead girl in a strange underground city
from whence came the trolls that made the farmer's cat mad,
and which manifested itself on the surface in the form of both
the heart of a dark and sinister enchanter
and an eccentric, damned cafe.
No one lived happily ever after,
but some of them did, indeed, live.
John Barth has described Cat Rambo's writings as "works of urban mythopoeia"—her stories take place in a universe where chickens aid the lovelorn, Death is just another face on the train, and a rodent's wooing can affect an entire subterranean city. Rambo's stories have been appearing for the last few years in Subterranean Magazine, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons, with work forthcoming in Weird Tales and Asimov's SF Magazine. She also recently became co-editor of the highly-praised Fantasy magazine. Her website can be found at
Jeff VanderMeer is a two-time World Fantasy Award winner whose latest novel is Shriek: An Afterword. His short fiction has been translated into fifeen languages and adapted by Sony Playstation into an animation by Joel Veitch. For more information on his work, visit and
Featuring a cover by Starchild creator James Owen and interior art by New York artist Kris Dikeman.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

And Speaking of Veterans

Okay, so here's another hazard the military doesn't talk about.


"At least 120 Americans who served in the U.S. military killed themselves per week in 2005, CBS News learned in a five-month investigation into veteran suicides. That's 6,256 veteran suicides in one year, in 45 states."

6256. In one year. That's more deaths than the entire Iraq War so far.

The story here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans' Day

So here we are on a holiday that celebrates the sacrifices and triumphs of our nation's veterans. All honor to them.

Alas, recently declassified information now reveals that both our government and our private sector has once again failed returning veterans. The health care scandal was bad enough, as was the various administration moves to deny them benefits, but here's what's happened to the National Guard and Reservists:

"Since 9/11, nearly 11,000 National Guard and Reserve troops have been denied prompt reemployment. 20,000 service men and women had their pensions cut, and another 11,000 lost their health insurance."

So much for the thanks of a grateful nation.

What's worse is that the Pentagon apparently was in cahoots with the scumbucket employers who perpetrated this--- otherwise why classify this information in the first place?

Yet more evidence that "Support Our Troops" is just a bumper-sticker slogan for those in power.

It would be great to have a list of the offenders, so we know whose tires to slash.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ear Bugs

I am always surrounded by music, this despite the fact that I rarely seem to get around to turning on the radio or playing a CD. There is a radio station in my head, though like a Top 40 station it just plays the same songs over and over.

Today I made a point of listening to what was echoing in my brain and making an actual playlist.

Today's selections:

"Code Monkey" by Jonathan Coulton.

"The Internet is for Porn" from Avenue Q.

"Going Up the Country Blues" by Sippie Wallace, though sometimes the Bonnie Raitt and Maria Muldaur versions intrude.

That Hollies song about the bus stop and the umbrella, which I heard in a store and couldn't shake.

"Bambole'" by Baka Beyond.

"Hocus Pocus," originally by Focus, but it's been going through my brain for so long that I seem to have evolved my own arrangement involving an alternate rhythm section. I really need to be saved from this one.

What tunes are humming in your minds?

Omniscient Narrator Surprised

"PROVIDENCE, RI—The third-person limited omniscient voice, a narrative mode used to convey a story through the thoughts and senses of a literary character, was reportedly "caught totally off guard" after the main character was unexpectedly killed in the last chapter of the new novel Bertram's Way. . . "

The rest here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

All We Need Are a Couple Wee Little Speakers. . .

"Physicists at the University of California, Berkeley, have built
the world's smallest radio out of single carbon nanotube one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair.

"Researchers say the tiny radio needs only a battery and a pair of
earphones to hook listeners up with their favorite radio stations. But that's not all the new device could be good for.

"The radio's tiny size could make cell phones more efficient, or it even
could be used in radio-controlled devices that flow through the human blood stream,
according to a paper written in part by team leader Alex Zettl, a U.C. Berkeley professor of physics. Zettl also noted that he hopes to use the radio to replace cumbersome devices used today to identify atoms or even measure their mass, since the new radio can pick up on atoms jumping on and off the tip of the nanotube. "

For the rest of the story, check this out.

Back from WFC

So in New York and in Saratoga I saw and talked to Constance Ash, Tim Holman, Alex Lencicki, Alice Emigh, Saladin Ahmed, Cat Rambo, Oz, Christopher Cevasco, Tim & Serena Powers, Nancy Kress, Geoffrey Jacoby, Joe and Gay Haldeman, Ian Tregillis, Melinda Snodgrass, Kelly Link, Jeremy Lassen, Moebius, Elizabeth Bear, L.E. Modesitt, George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois, Jack Dann, Guy Gavriel Kay, Steve Erikson, Charles N Brown, Daniel Abraham, John Douglas, Ginjer Buchanan, Diana "the Bomber" Rowland, Jae Brim, Judith Berman, Christopher Schelling, Ralph Vicinanza, Jonathan Strahan.

And Many, Many more. My apologies if I've left you off the list, but I think I drank more pints of beer than I met actual people, so my memories may be hazy.

Unfortunately I don't have time to record all the fascinating things that these people said to me, so you'll have to settle for looking them up on Wikipedia or something.

Welcome back, Me. One year older, five pounds heavier.