Chaucer & the Art of the Grift

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Over at Empty Mirror magazine I’m featured with my essay on Chaucer’s Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale and David Maurer’s The Big Con, which (among other things) inspired The Sting. Check it out and take a look around: they feature a lot of smart, offbeat and interesting pieces that include fiction, non-fiction and art.

Interdisciplinarity #FTW!

Collisions

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I shared my Inspirations Song List today as I’d updated it (Songs that Inspired Stories), then joked that I should make a list of stories that started from collisions. Not literally — although I do have one or two of those — but collisions of ideas.

Example: later this month Empty Mirror will publish my essay ‘Chaucer and the Art of the Grift’ which came from a collision in my head between The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale and David Maurer’s The Big Con. It makes perfect sense to me but maybe this is why I have a hard time getting people to follow my thoughts. Possibly they seem random and incoherent!

But they seem reasonable to me. Here’s a random selection of things what I have written and the collisions from which they sprang:

The Mangrove Legacy: Peter Cook & Jane Austen

White RabbitBlue Sunshine & Seance on a Wet Afternoon & certain London pubs

How to Be Dull: academia & Jerome K. Jerome

Airships & Alchemy:  <— exactly that

Owl Stretching: The Descent of Inanna & Spike Milligan

‘Elf Prefix’: The Maltese Falcon & The Fairy Melusine

‘Headless in Bury’: The Big Sleep & vikings

‘Wordgeryne’: Lovecraft and medieval charms

‘Losing My Religion’: REM, Tony Hancock & social media debates

“Domus inferna Sancti Guthlaci: A Rediscovery of the Twelfth-Century Narrative of The Saint and the Money Pit”: my Pseudo-Society talk that sprang from rearranging the Harley Roll illustrations of the life of the saint so they became a sort of DIY disaster

…and of course there’s a whole random Fall song + whatever random obsession has fired in my brain this week which covers most of my crime writing that isn’t currently inspired by Robyn Hitchcock.

It’s not just me, right?

[Image from the Cosmagraphia Scoti MS. Canon. Misc. 378 via Bodleian Library]

Occult Humanities Conference 2017


I headed down to the city on a day that started out dark but became rather lovely. I saw the lovely Katja and her kitties: she’s the hostess with the mostest. We had a lovely dinner at Veselka, too. I saw a couple of the Ai Weiwei installations too. There are always sights to see in NYC including the 777 exhibit by Jen DeNike & Damien Echols and of course there was the third Occult Humanities Conference, which proved most inspirational in all kinds of ways. More photos on the ‘book — I’m thinking of trying Instagram: pros or cons you care to offer?

Make note: next April the 100th anniversary celebration of Leonora Carrington in Mexico City. I may need to get to that. Road trip, anyone? I’ve not been there before. Only along the border.

I forgot to take pictures of the lovely exhibit by Tin Can Forest, but you can see a lot of their art online. They did the fabulous What is a Witch with conference co-host Pam Grossman.

Tomorrow I’m talking on medieval charms at ISATMA. Free and open, including the concerts honouring the late Pauline Oliveros.

ISATMA 2017

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When I saw Pauline Oliveros about a year ago I didn’t know it would be the last time. Her concert with the International Contemporary Ensemble at Bard’s Fisher Center was –as she always was — riveting and compelling. Hearing about her new work with assistive technology for music (she had just come back from Norway) was fascinating and very moving. As I had begun finding ways to move my fascination with sound into my scholarly work, it expanded further my thoughts in that direction.

So I’m pleased to say that I will be part of the upcoming ISATMA conference at RPI’s EMPAC, talking about medieval magic and music in charms. More on the free conference which includes a tribute concert for Oliveros:

5th Annual International Symposium on Adaptive Technology in Music and Art (ISATMA), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

“EXPANDING THE IMPROVISING COMMUNITY ACROSS ABILITIES, BODIES, CULTURES”

October 20-22, 2017

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation supports the The International Symposium on Assistive Technology for Music and Art (ISATMA), a conference devoted to new technologies and artistic concepts for artists across abilities to create new multi-media works. This symposium, hosted by the Center for Cognition, Communication, and Culture, showcases adaptive musical interfaces in an immersive telepresence environment which celebrates international collaborations and limit-defying improvisations. Expanding the improvising community aims to stretch social, perceptual, and cultural differences potentially generative of creative transformation: of music, of community, of consciousness.

Download the press release (PDF).

Pauline will be there in spirit at least as her legacy expands.

Pauline Oliveros Listening all the time

NYC with the QoE

It was nice to get away for a day even though I’m still ailing and still behind on a lot of things. You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging as much lately. Maybe there’s not much to say. I can show you things though: like this fabulous day. Our main objective was to catch the Mystical Symbolism exhibit at the Guggenheim but we managed to fit in some other wanderings as well. Oodles more photos on the ‘book.

Charcoal Burners, Black Sails & Magic

Uskglass Charcoal Burner

Admittedly I’ve not left the house since I got here, but don’t let my indolence fool you! I am ready to rise to the opportunity and sure enough, I will be. Thanks to Cailleach’s Herbarium mentioning it on Facebook, I got on the waitlist and now have ticket in hand to attend ‘The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland’ this Friday. A workshop at The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, it looks to be a fascinating day (see the whole list of speakers here).

So many interests colliding in useful ways! It’s great to have the feeling you’re in the right place at the right time.

And speaking of collisions: the above illustration is of course the lovely Charles Vess. It’s for the last story in Susanna Clarke’s collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu. In my usual way I had hoarded the last few stories last summer, thinking when I read them there would be no more of her writing to read as she has nothing else out at present (yes, that’s how my brain works). I didn’t know the interest I would develop in charcoal burners in the meantime! So it was the first thing I read when I got back here. A delightful tale with saints (including Brigit), Uskglass and of course the titular charcoal burner.

Total collision count: dissertation subjects, two forthcoming conference papers, and the new all-consuming medieval project, Rauf Coilyear. I’m teaching Rauf in the upper division medieval class this fall. I love it when a plan comes together.

Meanwhile I am playing dolls with Miss C and catching up on Black Sails with my sweetie. Life is good.

Ca’ canny an’ flee laigh

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Henry Meynell Rheam: The Sorceress (1898)

The Scots Language Centre posted a photo this week that gave me a new motto:

This windae is in a leebrary in Aigle (‘Edzell’) in Angus. Caw cannie an flee laich is an auld saw that micht be set in Inglis as “Go carefully and don’t take on too much.” Tak tent that the ‘apologetic apostrophe’ kythes in the spellings here. The spelling laigh shuid be soondit as ‘lay-ch’ (wi the ‘ch’ as in loch).

Photie taen bi Steve Murdoch.

The Proverbs of Scotland give a slightly different version:

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And I was struck by a similar note in Jessica Abel’s email today (if you’re not following her posts on making a success of your creative life, you’re missing out) lamenting how easy it is to forget these resolutions:

 I keep telling you that taking on too much is a recipe for things not happening, so why do I think I’m immune? I’m coughing my lungs up; I’m clearly not immune to anything. Life has taught me this lesson over and over again. When will I learn?

I am doing better on the whole at not taking on ever-more stuff. I know that seems ironic given yesterday’s announcement, but the way I’m handling that project is the model for how to do things now: clear timelines (giving myself space to finish what I’m working on  now), careful collaboration with trusted people (knowing you can count on people is half the battle), not doing everything myself (this is opening the doors for others).

But there are always temptations: the more I delve into Medieval Scots literature and culture, the more intrigues I find, like Nicnevin and the Weird Sisters…

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