En Garde!

The Spawn has decided to investigate Flagship’s fencing club, and has attended an organizational meeting (where she learned that beginners are welcome) and her first practice/lesson, which was last night at Flagship’s Geezer Memorial Pleasure Dome.

She hasn’t had the chance to handle any of the weapons yet; they spent the evening working on footwork, which she says reminds her a bit of her dance work in high school color guard, and “smacking each other with gloves”, apparently as a means of punctuating lunges. (Perhaps the Fencing Bear could fill me in on this at some point.)

Along the way, the club member/instructor demonstrated a stance/position in which he stood, rocking back and forth a bit — presumably in order to advance or retreat as needed. As this was going on, the Spawn made a mental connection:

“Is this supposed to look like Mortal Kombat?”

(Artist's Conception)

(Artist’s Conception)

This apparently had not occurred to the instructor before, and left him a bit nonplussed. Nonetheless, the Spawn says she had a terrific time, and is already looking forward to the next session. As fencing is a sport that has always interested me, I’m tickled to know she’s trying it. Updates may follow as needed.

Posted in Culture, Education, Family | 1 Comment

A Chance to Be Nice

Over the last year or so, I’ve mentioned Double Life Press and its principal Craig McNeely on numerous occasions. I’ve told you that DLP has published several of my stories (and one of my daughter’s) in Dark Corners magazine, and that they’ll be bringing out the re-release of Broken Glass Waltzes in just a few weeks. DLP (which is essentially Craig and his lovely wife Emily) has also put out several works from other authors and has gone essentially from zero to a significant voice in the indie genre press in a very short time.

McNeelys

What I haven’t mentioned is that the McNeelys have done this not on a shoestring budget, but on an aglet budget. Craig is physically disabled, having been born with spina bifida, and while he has received some income from the government, he has also done whatever he could find to do in order to take care of himself and his family —  including creating a publishing house from whole cloth. However, his physical condition has worsened in recent weeks, and the fact that he and his family live in an Arkansas version of Mondoville means that medical treatment is not always as accessible as he might need it to be. This is compounded by the fact that Craig, Emily, and their kids don’t have a car. On top of that, Uncle Sugar in his wisdom decided that because Craig is married to Emily, he deserves fewer benefits than he used to get as an unmarried man, and has dramatically cut his income. Despite all that, the McNeelys have found a way to encourage and support more than a few of us writers, allowing us to get our work to folks like you who may dig it.

The wolf may not be at the McNeelys’ door, but he’s drooling all over their sidewalk. They’ve decided they need help, and have started a GoFundMe account to try to stabilize their situation. I know that you, my readers, have been generous with your prayers and dollars in the past. If you can spare any of either for the McNeelys, it would be a kindness indeed, and maybe even a down payment on keeping one of the coolest venues for latter-day pulp going. Besides — they’re really cool people, and while we may not be able to help all the cool people who need it, we can help this particular bunch.

I’m also happy to say that I’ve been asked to contribute a story to a benefit collection for Craig and his family. I’ll give you more details on that as it develops. But in the meantime, if you have the means and the desire, you can help some folks who have been paying it forward to the pulp community even before they asked for anything. Why not feel the pleasure of doing something good? Thanks!

Posted in Broken Glass Waltzes, Culture, Literature, Why I Do What I Do | Leave a comment

Sunday Potpourri

Well, classes resumed at Mondoville this week. I have two sections of froshcomp and my course on the Age of Johnson this term, and I’m also working with my chair to try to get an academic journal off the ground. As part of the Augustan course, we’re starting with Milton, a necessary stage setter. In particular, we’re doing “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity“, “L’Allegro“, and “Il Penseroso” on Tuesday.  I’ve got to admit that I’m not as strong on these works as I am on his later stuff, but it always tickles me when I see Milton essentially originating the phrase “trip the light fantastic” in “L’Allegro.”

***

The Spawn is taking an American Lit class at Flagship this term, and it started with a look at some of the local color and Southwestern humor that followed the Civil War. As part of this, she read a couple of pieces from Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories. She hadn’t really encountered them before, and after a bit of struggle with the dialect, she discovered she really liked them. Consequently, I went to my bookshelves and have now handed her the copy of the complete Uncle Remus stories that my parents gave me (and Dad read to me) when I was three. After she read the stories, she rang me and said that Br’er Rabbit reminded her of my own spirit animal, Bugs Bunny. I said that made sense — they’re both lapine manifestations of the Trickster archetype, I also pointed her in the direction of the African tales that likely influenced the slave stories that Harris essentially preserved. In class, they watched a couple of YouTube clips from Song of the South, which she’s too young to have seen. It occurred to me that I may be part of the last American generation to know the film — I saw it in the theaters in 1972, and it hasn’t been shown here since 1986. Later, the prof asked them if Br’er Rabbit reminded them of anyone, and in the Spawn’s words, “Dad, someone said the Road Runner! How do you reference the Looney Tunes in that context and not think of the tricky rabbit?” A good question. Meanwhile, I feel a bit remiss in not having exposed her to Harris’s work sooner, but the book was packed away for years. Better late than never, I guess.

***

On a related note, one of my stronger memories of the stories when I was a smaller Mondo was how hard it was for a lot of folks to read the dialect. My dad never had a problem with it, and neither did I, but we seem to be the exceptions rather than the rule. Years later, in the course of reading L. Sprague de Camp’s bio of Lovecraft, I saw de Camp’s suggestion that dialect writing became a casualty of the decline in phonics as a strategy for teaching reading. While I haven’t seen any data on that (nor have I sought it), de Camp’s idea makes sense to me. Even so, I have to admit that one can take dialect too far — my favorite/most annoying example is the character of Joseph from Wuthering Heights. I never liked the book anyway, but Joseph’s barely penetrable accent made it even worse. Far better if like Chandler’s Tar Baby, he had just “sit dere and don’t say nuffin.”

***

And for today’s musical selection, we’ll get a bit Antipodean, with the Chants R&B, from Christchurch, New Zealand. (As an aside, we have a significant number of ANZAC kids at Mondoville — when I point out that their feet look normal, they never get the joke. Such is the life of a medievalist.) Anyway, here’s a restaurant-quality rave-up version of a song previously done by John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, but with a Preludin-fueled lead guitar that may not be better than Clapton’s work with Mayall, but is a hell of a lot more fun. So here’s “I’m Your Witchdoctor.” Hope you like it, and I’ll see you soon!

Posted in Culture, Education, Medievalia, Music | 2 Comments

A Dispatch from the Spawn

Today at Flagship, they held the Student Organizations Fair, a street-level meet-and-greet for freshpeeps and returning students alike. As part of her required course in adjusting to college, the Spawn went and took a look around, gathering info on some of these clubs, societies, and other activities.

As a result of this, she sent me a text, including this image:

YAL

She sent it my way, along with the question, “Because tons of kids hate liberty?”, and her speculation that the organization is made up of “Mortal enemies of Young Americans for Tyranny!”

I filled her in on who YAL are (also telling her that the Young Americans for Tyranny are better known as the College Democrats), and maybe she’ll check them out. Whether she does or not, though, it made me smile, having had this conversation before. She is so my kid.

Posted in Education, Family, Politics | Leave a comment

Another Berries Special Episode…

Did the rock and roll thing last night, playing a show at Real City’s New Brookland Tavern, this time as what I guess were technically the headliners — although I think of us as more of an “agate type” kind of band — like the bowling scores on the “Local Scoreboard” page of the sports section. Still, it was a good time, so I’ll tell you about it.

It was originally supposed to be a four-band bill, but due to a scheduling conflict, it wound up with three groups, each doing a 45-minute set. There was a nice notice for us in the Real City alternapaper:

The Berries, Skull Baby – The Berries are unabashed in their love for that bygone Merseybeat sound, complete with clean guitars, pleasant hooks and crisp vocal harmonies. Skull Baby’s most obvious influence is ‘70s-era classic rock, but the band adds a healthy dash of its own camp-horror aesthetic, augmenting the songs with visual flair.

so we figured things boded well.

We arrived at the venue a bit after six and got our stuff loaded into the back room. Once that was done, we hung around a bit until the other bands were there, and we watched the openers, Psycho A Go-Go, do their sound check. After that, the Berries’ rhythm section went own the street a few blocks to the local Golden Arches. It was remarkably posh for a Mickey D’s, and looked comfortable enough to actually stay awhile, but I apparently wasn’t the first to think so, judging from the “No Loitering — You Have 30 Minutes to Eat” signs on the doors. And here I thought “fast food” referred to the providers, not the consumers. Such is life downtown, I guess.

We got back around 7:45, and spent the intervening hour chatting with friends and the folks from other bands, and then it was time for Psycho A Go-Go to, well, Go-go. This was the first show for the trio, and the first for any incarnation of the band in a little over a decade. The approach was rough-and-ready garage rock, very much in the tradition of the Back from the Grave anthologies. If you like your amps Vox and your guitars to match, these guys may be for you. Special kudos go to bassist “Mojoe” for invoking the spirit of 1973 Bowie with his ensemble of button-down shirt, Lolita sunglasses, and knee-length skirt.

Next up were our pals from Skull Baby, and they brought their typical brand of chaotic charisma to the stage. Their mix of horror-punk, psychobilly, and Dolls-style sleaze is brash, campily offensive, and delightfully funny, often simultaneously. They’re a guaranteed good time, and some of the sweetest guys I know. Any night I get to share the stage with them is a fun one.

Then it was our turn, and I think we had a strong show, shoehorning fifteen tunes into our 45 minutes. We debuted a cover of the Brigands’ “(Would I Still Be) Her Big Man“, and the two rows of crowd I could see appeared to have fun, with a couple of folks even ambling over from the bar to check us out as the set went along. A couple of folks told us that every time they see us, we seem to get better (and they charitably add that we weren’t awful when they first saw us.)

An interesting side note — the crowd last night included members of several of Real City’s garage and surf bands past and present. Could a (very small) scene be developing in the Greater Mondoville Region? Perhaps — it would be nice to see that happen.

So we finished up and loaded out, and a good time seemed to have been had by all in attendance, onstage and off, which is what we try for, right? With luck, we’ll get to do it again before long. Meanwhile, tomorrow marks the beginning of another school year; I’m glad I had one more chance to sleep in.

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Another Milepost

This morning, the Supreme Court of Kentucky announced that it has affirmed my brother’s conviction for the murders of our parents. The decision was essentially unanimous, all the Justices concurring on the result. Once again, my family and I would like to thank the police, the attorneys, the jurors, the judge, and now the Justices for their work in doing justice for my mother and father.

It’s a pretty good day.

Posted in Family, Why I Do What I Do | Leave a comment

Hello, Flagship…

So this was day one. We had the van loaded by 10:30, and the Spawn rode with me (Mrs. M driving separately) to Real City, and so to Flagship. I have to say, they seem to have the move-in business down to a science. We had the van unloaded and our gear at the curb in about 4 minutes after our arrival. Mrs. M was wise enough to score us a couple of hand trucks (another reason we needed two vehicles), so getting the supplies to her room  was no problem. In fact, by the time I had moved the cars to a nearby parking lot, the girls were already in her room.

Due to some bureaucratic confusion, the Spawn didn’t wind up with the roommate she had planned, who is now in the adjacent building. However, the new roommate, a young woman from North Carolina who wants to be a pediatrician, seems very pleasant and welcoming, and she and the Spawn appeared to hit it off pretty nicely. The Roomie is going through Sorority Rush, and so she has already been on campus for a few days. I think she was glad of the company.

After unpacking and getting everything set up, we made a quick run to a local WalMart, bringing the Roomie along as well, because she needed to pick up a couple of things — neither of the girls has a car on campus at this time. About twenty minutes after our return from the store, it was time for Mrs. M and me to head out. The Spawn walked us down to the lobby of the residence hall, and we told her we’d see her before too long.

In her new habitat.

In her new habitat.

Mrs. M got a bit of a lead on me on the way home, as I had to pick up a few things at a grocery in Real City that aren’t available in Mondoville. However, when I got back to the Midcentury Mondohaus, there was no sign of Mrs. M. I dialed her up on the cell phone. “Where are you?”

“I don’t want to tell you,” she said. It turns out that she had driven past all three of the Mondoville exits, and was about halfway out of the state before she realized it. She may have been a bit distracted. She got turned around, however, and made it home a little while ago.

So now I think we’re all where we’re supposed to be, and we’re waiting to see what comes next. I think it’ll be exciting, once we get used to it.

Posted in Education, Family, Music, Why I Do What I Do | Leave a comment