Salem: It’s Alive

I finally joined my gals’ annual Salem jaunt. A tough time of year for me to get away, but I promised them this year I would go. We had a lot of fun and good eats, and there was a fantastic exhibit on at the Peabody. More pics on the ‘book.

NYC with the QoE

Spring break has mostly been work but I did manage to make another escape to spend the day with the fabulous Stephanie down in the city. Just before another collaboration escapes on Monday, Respectable Horror, which I edited and she supplied the wonderful cover art featuring cover model Poppy. She’s not just skin and bones either!

More photos in a FB album — they’d take up too much of my storage space here — but here’s a few highlights which included stops at the NYPL, Society of Illustrators and the Met as well as fine Belgian and Thai food. Click to embiggen any of the images.

Holidaze & News

qoeYou may guess from the infrequency of posts that I am extremely busy. But I have found time to enjoy myself, too. Pleased that the lovely QoE was able to visit and hang around Hipsterville AKA Hudson for the day. We had a lovely time plotting, planning and laughing. Flint and Steel, baby!

Then there was the whole Thanksgiving thing which allowed me to eat a lot of good stuff (of course, Bertie was doing almost all the cooking) and drink champagne and watch movies and do some work and get almost caught up on some things.

I did mention relaxing, right?

Brenda wouldn’t let me put this picture on Facebook, alas. I think it turned out very well. Buzz was visiting, too, which made Connor happy. It was an unexpectedly mild weekend weather-wise


News-wise: Things in the Dark is almost here! The latest of the Fox Pockets has my story ‘The Ransom of Red Witch’ for my pals Terry and Byron. Clever folk will know where I swiped that idea.

My story (or was it Graham Wynd‘s?) ‘Grotesque’ has been translated by Marta Crickmar’s student Filip Cieślak for the Polski Noir site (you know I owe that to Mr B of course). Check it out and see the other luminaries featured there.

City Pirates

Last week Bertie and I headed down to the city to see The Pirates of Penzance at City Center. He had meetings so we really just ran down for dinner and the show, but the nice thing is you can do that from here. As always, click the pictures to embiggen.

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Ah, Poughkeepsie; not a bit like Popeye Doyle said.

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Shhh, don’t tell Bertie I took a picture of him.

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Swiss chocolates in Grand Central – free samples!

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The city is full of fairies #fact.

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Huge billboards for Crimson Peak.

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Celtic Pub for Mark 🙂

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At Ruby Foo’s: the waiter looked only at Bertie, I thought perhaps I’d become invisible again.

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I haven’t heard much about it, but it’s Pan so I’ll doubtless see it.

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There he is.

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We wandered around between dinner and the show; over near Columbus Circle the sky just looked velvety.

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Chihuly-spawned jellyfish.

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The octopus was particularly delightful.

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Old NY is still there.

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Sometimes it’s all a bit hazy around City Center.

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Semi-staged with choir. Terrific cast! Phillip Boykin played the Pirate King with great verve, Deborah Voigt absolutely winning, Julia Undine wowed as Mabel (what a voice!), Hunter Parrish sings quite well and made Frederic charming, and Douglas Hodge! I associate him with such serious roles but he was hilarious as the Major General.

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Monty Python played here. I could feel the vibrations of laughter still there.

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My crap phone takes odd pictures. Sometimes in a good way.

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Yes, we were in the front row. The percussionist was not credited in the program and yet he clowned delightfully with Frederic. Percussionists rule!

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October roses and yet it snowed the other day. Take the magic where you can find it.

Sunday Shenanigans

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New Orleans & PCA

Mikkonen’s Death from ARIEL (1988)

It’s true that PCA seems to end up in New Orleans a lot. It’s also true that it comes at a kind of awkward point in the semester — just before Easter. We always have our break much earlier, though there is the extra Monday off because we’re no longer a Catholic institution even though we maintain some of the habits.

But if I can go I always do go because amongst all the other fun things, Miss Wendy generally goes too and it is always too long since I have had a chance to hang out with her. And I got to talk about Aki Kaurismäki, one of my favourite directors. Here’s my abstract:

No Reason for Pessimism: Exploring Aki Kaurismäki’s Finnish ‘Noir’

It’s no surprise that the director who declared that, “Hollywood is the reason I make the films I do. Because I hate it,” has produced films that seldom fit within established mainstream genres. Blockbuster-level success has eluded Kaurismäki, unlike his fellow countryman Renny Harlin. One umbrella that covers many of his films is noir, both for their stylistic elements of mood and shadow and their frequent focus on crime narratives. Like traditional noir, there’s a focus on people on the wrong side of the law, the cracks in society and a downward spiral of luck. As Otto Penzler has said many times, “Noir is about losers.” Kaurismäki’s films are all about losers whose low expectations generally prove too ambitious, yet for all their noir trappings, there’s an element of positivity that undercuts genre expectations with a pitch-black humour. As the director has said, “When all the hope is gone, there is no reason for pessimism.” This presentation will focus primarily on the film Ariel (1988) with some references to analogues in both later and earlier films to explore how Kaurismäki uses the genre expectations and style of noir films to carve out a uniquely dark comic mode that offers a peculiarly Finnish sensibility, even when the director sets his films in England (I Hired a Contract Killer), the United States (Leningrad Cowboys Go America) or France (La Vie de Boheme, Le Havre).

Yes, I have lots of pictures, but no time to post them just yet — oh, here’s one: strange sights on Bourbon Street!

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Music Not to Miss

Give the gift of music this holiday season (or all year long!) Some suggestions:


I was sold on the packaging before I heard the first note. Of course I’ve been sold on Godard for ages but this is such a bright swinging disc that it hasn’t been out of rotation since I got it. From the first note to the last there’s not a moment’s boredom. People use the term ‘infectious’ all the time, but there’s just no other word to describe it. It’s clever and light-hearted, genuine Northern soul. After the bouncy intro, ‘Holiday Hymn’ is just that:

We can have a day to remember
Forget about the mid December
Bring about a change of the weather

Typically, what seems like just a bit of fun masks the melancholy depths behind it:

Today all the girls
Are feeling sad but they don’t let it show
With a tear in your eye, smile on your face
I know that you know
More than you let me know
Your eyes would melt the snow.

It’s all just that good. I defy you not to dance to ‘Happy Go Lucky Girl’ — or for that matter ‘Born to be a Rebel’ or — well, you could dance to all of it. Devils and demons cavort with the lost and the nearly hopeless just looking for redemption, or a beast who could be saved by your love. For all its authentic 1979 sound, what keeps this from ever feeling like nostalgia is the world-weary good humour in Godard’s voice. Love this.

Buy it!


There’s a connection here: Edwyn Collins. He co-produced Godard’s album and he produced another of my current faves, Paul Quinn & the Independent Group’s Will I Ever Be Inside You? (which I also cannot recommend enough though it will break your heart). I just got the soundtrack to this film which I will be ordering, too. It follows Collins on his path from huge pop star to stroke to recovery and return to music. I saw the short half hour film on the BBC some time back and it was amazing so I can’t wait for this. The soundtrack is wonderful.

Buy it.


I know I’ve mentioned this one before, but it’s worth a mention again. Julie is a woman after my own heart, throwing herself into her creative muse with curiosity and no preconceived notions about what it should produce. We have ongoing conversations on Twitter about that process, about how pop music doesn’t get any respect — a perfect pop song like Julie’s ‘Hollyhocking’ is a thing of genius more so than some dull bum-faced mugging ‘perfect’ guitar solo — and of course various rants about the way the world ought to be 😉 And she recommends great stuff to me, like Ex-Hex, because good stuff leads to more good stuff.

Buy it.


My pals The Autumn Stones have a new single out called “Endless War” (a tune for our times, indeed); Mr B recommended Colorama and I’m grooving on them a lot. Check out their Welsh tunes, Dere Mewn. And this morning the Queen of Everything (AKA S. L. Johnson) got my feet moving with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings (the latter even backed up Amy Winehouse, so you know they rock). Jones has an awesome voice. There’s a whole lot out there — find your muse.