25 September 2009

The Annex is open—and Interfictions 2 is almost out

Appropriately, even the characters on the cover* of
Interfictions 2 refuse to stay in place.

And not every tale editors Delia Sherman and Christopher Barzak wanted, would fit between the covers of this anthology that contains 21 delightfully unruly stories by authors from around the globe, so the Interstitial Arts Foundation has now opened:
"The IAF Annex, an online showcase of exclusive interstitial works. One part anthology, one part gallery, one part performance space, and one part everything else, the Annex is the IAF's grand exhibition hall."
Waiting for you already are:
"To Set Before the King" by Genevieve Valentine
"Nylon Seam" by F. Brett Cox, a story/song/ interfiction
Romp in.
Interfictions 2, the Interstitial Arts Foundation's second anthology
"Delving deeper into the genre-spanning territory explored in Interfictions"
is published by Small Beer Press.
Order (Nov 3 release) from Small Beer Press,
Powell's and Amazon, and via IndieBound.

*Cover art (and that's another story) by Alex Myers

24 September 2009

Resistance was futile

"I want my whole name as the brand name," said the founder of the company.

"We really think, sir, that your middle name should be deleted as it is too long," said a member of the consulting team. "And since your first name is the same as your last name," said another member, "don't you think one name is enough?"

"If that were true, then all people would only have one name," said the client. "And that would make us hard to distinguish, no?"

"You could not have put it better," said the owner of the marketing consultants, eyeing his employees with disgust. "We recommend you use your first and last name and just your middle initial."

"I hate middle initials," said the client.

"Splendid. So do I," said the marketing experts.

And that settled, the brand was launched.

23 September 2009

Coralline Seaweed and Yen

Coralline seaweed Corallina officinalis (fresh and dried)
and leather kelp Eklonia radiata

Like many other algae and seaweeds, Corallina officinalis has a history of uses, including (dried and ground) as a remedy for indigestion. In 1780, it was part of the Compendium Pharmaceuticum of Jean François Coste when he was director of the French medical corps in General Rochambeau's mission to support General Washington and the Continental Army. Coste was such a stickler for the health and welfare of the common servicemen that he requested as part of their victuals against scurvy: salads and cherries.

Today we have other, less beautiful remedies for indigestion, so the seaweed has been recruited for a far more important use: the cosmetics industry, this being a typical claim —
"Corallina Officinalis (Red Seaweed) Extract helps firm skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines."
Beauty naturally, a matter of bringing out your inner stone
"The coralline group . . . is noteworthy because all its members extract lime from the sea-water and build it up in their tissues, which become hard and, in fact, stony. . . The most common corallines of plant-like form . . . are small and very neatly branched algae, each little branch looking as it made up of a series of joints, with jointed sub-branches and so on. The fronds really are jointed — no other description will fit the structure. Often when they are dead (from exposure to hot sun during low tides in midsummer) these seaweeds stand out conspicuously, lime white in appearance, because practically nothing but limy substance is left."
— from pg 142 of my favourite book about seashores, W.J. Dakin's classic study: Australian Seashores, fully revised and illustrated by Isobel Bennett, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1987

I don't know about you, but the sight of both the fresh and dried coralline gives me a powerful yen for beets.

Morta Di Fame's Beet Ginger Cake with Citrus Cream Cheese Frosting
gives instant relief to the eyes (those pictures of the raw beets and batter!) but the cooked cake doesn't retain that gorgeous colour and texture, though it would be scrumptious. This blog and recipe are great examples of how good cooks are great compounders. MDF is not afraid to adjust to taste, and not intimidated by what anyone else calls "good taste".
(In that spirit, here are my changes: substitute cardamom for the cinnamon, add a half teaspoon cloves, and substitute a whole lime smooshed in a blender for some of the milk and all of the citrus zest [but I'm an acidhead], and use a lighter oil— grapeseed—that I often use in cakes, instead of olive oil. And I would take off those orange sections there, as central decorations in cakes don't work for me unless they're big enough for everyone and outrageously gorgeous or funny, but then that's my taste.)

Of ‘Maa ka Pyar’ and Gaajar ka Halwa ( And Beetroot, too) is like having a live-in chemist/cook who compounds just for me — or a mythic mother? This is an utterly delightful post in an always enjoyable, heartwarming, and often funny blog, an outtake from this post being: Every Hindi film protaganist talks about the love for his mother and her “gajjar ka halwa”.

As to the recipe and picture, feast. The colours! The textures! Even the harmony of those grated slivers of coconut! It's the picture of above, turned into food. The only thing I would add is a thin ribbon of pure tamarind paste or for those who find that too tart, tamarind chutney.

22 September 2009

Sky Whales and Other Wonders

Thanks to Vera Nazarian, publisher of Norilana Books and editor of (December release)
Sky Whales and Other Wonders,
this is the almost-final cover--------------->

"The Sky Won't Listen" by Tanith Lee
"The Tin and the Damask Rose" by Anna Tambour
"What a Queen Does with her Hands" by Erzebet YellowBoy
"The Gifting of Nyla's Son" by Linda J. Dunn
"Stone Song" by Sonya Taaffe
"Sky Whales" by Lisa Silverthorne
"Death's Appointment Book, or the Dance of Death" by JoSelle Vanderhooft
"The Sugar" by Mary A. Turzillo
"She Who Runs" by Mike Allen
"Breaking Laws" by John Grant
"Only One Story But He Told It Well" by Robert Brandt

Cover Artwork: "Sky Whales," © 2009 by Ahyicodae.

20 September 2009

The spider behind the counter

Going to a spider-silk shop can be a daunting experience if you don't know precisely what you want, for spiders are very precise in the silk they make, the same spider spinning and weaving different skeins, nets and fabrics, depending upon the purpose.

Although you might be prepared to specify line weight, pull strength, crimp or stickiness, dullness or shine; thick felt, papery or mylar-smooth tough bagging, you should also be ready to smile knowingly when the salesnid asks, "And now, which colours?"

See these fascinating pages from two informative and extensive sites:
Common Net-casting Spider- Deinopis ravidus in the Chew family's Insects and Spiders in Brisbane.
Desis - Long-jawed intertidal spiders or lace web spiders in Ed Nieuwenhuys' Spiders of Australia.

19 September 2009

First reviews of Lovecraft Unbound edited by Ellen Datlow

Nathan Ballingrud's "North American Lake Monsters" and Lair Barron's "The Lagerstätte" were two of the most intriguing and widely praised stories in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow (2008). And there's more to come.

Publishers Weekly gave Lovecraft Unbound (pre-order now for Oct release) this starred review:
Lovecraft Unbound Edited by Ellen Datlow. Dark Horse, $19.95 paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-59582-146-1

The 16 new and four reprint stories Datlow (Poe) assembles for this outstanding tribute anthology all capture what Dale Bailey praises as horror master H.P. Lovecraft’s gift for depicting the universe as “inconceivably more vast, strange, and terrifying than mere human beings can possibly imagine.” Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud, in “The Crevasse,” evoke this alien sensibility through an Antarctic expedition’s glimpses of an astonishingly ancient prehuman civilization preserved in the polar ice. Laird Barron’s “Catch Hell” depicts a Lovecraft-type backwoods community in the grip of a profoundly creepy occult mythology. Selections range in tone from the darkly humorous to the sublimely horrific, and all show the contributors to be perceptive interpreters of Lovecraft’s work. Readers who know Lovecraft’s legacy mostly through turgid and tentacled Cthulhu Mythos pastiches will find this book a treasure trove of literary terrors. (Oct.)

Dark Scribe Magazine's review is by Blu Gilliand, and it's too long for me to pinch so read it here:

Both PW and DS reviewers pick up on the fact that Datlow doesn't do fanologies or collections of pastiches. It's lucky for her that flaming is more electronic these days, as she's a prime candidate for burning at the stake in just-so societies that like their definitions of what fits and what is, as familiar and limited as the range of movement for a healthy human tooth.

(Disclaimer: I have stories in both Datlow anthologies, and am quite attracted to the surprises that result from her taste. She could have been a wonderful museum curator, filling cases with unexpecteds, instigators of questions. I'm also prejudiced about her as an editor in a personal sense. She is a joy to work with, and a great help when I've bumphed along falling over feet I didn't even know I have.)

I found Gilliand's piece of great interest, as he started out with a flick of his devil's tail.

"Let me go ahead and get this out of the way. I’m no fan of H.P. Lovecraft. There. I said it . . . I think my inability to 'get' Lovecraft makes me the perfect person to review Ellen Datlow’s new anthology Lovecraft Unbound. This may be my ticket in. Because what Datlow wanted out of her contributors was not for them to do their best Lovecraft imitation – instead, she sought stories that were expressions of the authors’ love for Lovecraft. She wanted them to take the things that spoke to them in his writing and express them in their own style."

I also think that Gilliand's stance on approaching the anthology is perfect. No need to wet a towel to rub off sticky goosh. But I wonder if I'm alone in the reaction to his words, as Motown rings in that murky space between my ears: it's Marvin Gaye singing What's Love Got To Do With It?

After reading Lovecraft Unbound, Gilliand not only finds a common idea in the stories (a quest that reviewers set out on with what must be a sense of manifest destiny, and fulfil faster than flashfic heroes) but ends with "thanks to Datlow and all the able contributors for opening this reviewer’s eyes to the attraction of Lovecraft . . ."

Speak of the devil! I'm thrilled that he was not prejudiced against reading an anthology sparked by (but not imitative of) a writer that he couldn't stand. But I don't think he needs to go overboard. One doesn't have to be attracted to (let alone love) murder to be inspired by it to commit a story.

Table of Contents
Introduction by Ellen Datlow
"The Crevasse" by Dale Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud
"The Office of Doom" by Richard Bowes
"Sincerely, Petrified" by Anna Tambour
"The Din of Celestial Birds" by Brian Evenson
"The Tenderness of Jackals" by Amanda Downum
"Sight Unseen" by Joel Lane
"Cold Water Survival" by Holly Phillips
"Come Lurk with Me and Be My Love" by William Browning Spencer
"Houses Under the Sea" by Caitlín R. Kiernan
"Machines of Concrete Light and Dark" by Michael Cisco
"Leng" by Marc Laidlaw
"In the Black Mill" by Michael Chabon
"One Day, Soon" by Lavie Tidhar
"Commencement" by Joyce Carol Oates
"Vernon, Driving" by Simon Kurt Unsworth
"The Recruiter" by Michael Shea
"Marya Nox" by Gemma Files
"Mongoose" by Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear
"Catch Hell" by Laird Barron
"That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable" by Nick Mamatas

14 September 2009

Another optical illusion: the skull

This is the ilium of the great albatross (Diomedea) I told you about three years ago when it was washed up on a nearby beach. Although it was dead, its chest ravaged, it smelled of the sea —fresher than any supermarket chicken.

Mistakes are frequently made in albatross identification, but I'll stick my neck out and say that this is a wandering albatross, although since that time, I've come across two more washed-up albatrosses with no damage evident, including, like this one, no damage from long-line or ingestion that I could see. One was a Buller's that was banded, so I could communicate to the New Zealand scientists who told me that it bred on an island colony near Auckland, and that it was about, they thought, 4 years old. The third albatross was too mangled in the head to make any guess as to species. The cause of death is unknown for each of these three, as it often is — for a dead albatross or a sick, dying, or ex-member of any other species (as doctors and coroners know more than they are free to tell).

The ilium is a fancy name for the pelvic bone of a bird, though the ilium also refers to the upper pelvic bone in other species such as our own. If you have ever experienced sacroiliac joint pain you'll be able to locate your ilium. Those "eye sockets" on this albatross ilium are actually for the leg bones.

The albatross was brought home to decompose at its own rate, and has only reached this state. The picture below is the inside of this structure built for lightness.

This is the skull and top mandible:

Here is a whole skeleton put together at the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History, and here is a generic diagram of a bird skeleton.

I highly recommend Albatrosses by Terence Lindsey, Principle Photographer Rod Morris, Australian Natural History Series, CSIRO Publishing, Australia, 2008.

That refers to this previous post on Medlar Comfits:
Optical Illusions, Spiders and Waspishness

The Big Domino: Amerika the Commie Pinko

Part 2 of my rave about health coverage around the world. (Part 1 was Australia in the American health debatcle.)

Today's post is inspired by all the placards waved now at "tea parties" around America — the ones that say Socialist/Commie (whatever!) — and by the type of person who is rousing this type of debate, someone of the caliber of Joe Wilson.

Not that listening to a member of the Chinese Politburo saying that China is democratic isn't surreal, or that listening to the level of debate in our own Australian parliament is something that children should ever be exposed to. It's not that they swear there, but that they act so childish! They do, however, have more respectful (of the institution) ways, and much more wit, as the British do, for saying, "You lie."

No place is perfect, but some places are louder than others.

Anyway, onwards!

The Big Domino

America's gone socialist
with bolshie institutions.
Let's count them: public schools, parks, libraries
and public prosecutions . . .

I've been robbed to pay for US surpluses,
though how much can I eat myself?
Those NASAns and Russians who moon-walked
stepped out with public wealth.

My taxes pay for highways on which I'll never drive,
for inspectors in places like Fargo. Would you go there
dead or alive?
Public libraries invite free reading, and they say, "check out our books"
when "check out" should mean, of store stocks. It's your duty as an American
to shop till you drop. Go look!
And if someone can't afford it, that somebody is a deadbeat.
Certainly not a someone you or I would ever want to meet.

There's the FCC, the CDC, the SEC. It's a conspiracy.
Now the public option for health coverage as a matter of personal choice
is the straw that makes me raise my voice.
It's commie and it's pinko letting choice tip the balance of wealth
that was already getting undermined by all this commie stealth.

The bolshie warriors we pay for,
(those of us who pay some taxes)
fight supposedly for our public good, even if the war's excuseless.
Ask not what they can do for you,
because I did — and they are useless!
Did they take out Fred X., Hugo V., and a certain Mr. Jack
(just a small list I asked the local SWAT first, and then the mils to wax?)
No! It proves: When you need a job done,
always capitalist contract!

Yes, the domino has fallen. Amerika's gone commie.
Let's those of us who value freedom move to where it's balmy.
Let's move to our yachts as domiciles, and make of them our nations.
Let's pay to ourselves our taxes, and dole to ourselves our rations.
(Not forgetting our lobbyists in DC
who still will get subsidies for
you and me, adjusted for our mtwwba-inflation.)

"In America, people like me -- whose health, credit rating, ability to find employment and financial future have been severely compromised due to a lack of health care -- deserve our situations, right? After all, things like this don't happen to real Americans, do they? Well, things like this do happen to real Americans, and this real American has had more than enough and is packing her bags and leaving the country forever."
- GrrlScientist, Living the Scientific Life, Real Canadians Talk About Real Health Care, September 3, 2009

"Ignorance has now become an existential threat."
- Dr. Jeff Schweitzer, A Failure of Citizenship and the Health Care Debacle

08 September 2009

Corsets and explorers

Compared to all the successful crinolines and corsets in Australia: the "celebrated E.E.E.", Brown's patent dermathistic, Queen Bess, the Duchess, the Ferris Good Sense; and all the lacy but unsuitable shapers copied from European style sheets and sewn by ladies who called themselves something high like Madame Serviette; compared even to the daunting Ironside — it is one of history's tragedies that the only corset designed by an unknown Australian explorer never made a success.

Oliverina Hesperine Woolley never reconciled the failure of her father's "graceful, springy and athletifying" model, the one inspired by their new country and her new toys.

And in fact, if it were not for this toy found washed up on a beach, the Neva Roo from "Marsupiana" would be lost beneath the waves of history.

07 September 2009

Possession makes the heart beat faster?

International enrollments in business and advertising schools are up, spurred by the economic downturn and shows like HBO's oil-slick that coats advertising as a livelihood— not empty-souled salaryman grey—but newgrey, a rivetting shade of soul that is gloriously unprincipled and narcissistic, nihilistic black. The curriculum is business as usual, even in Harvard and Columbia, those training grounds of so many MBAs who as CEOs now, have been bailed out by the great mug public.

With spending down in so many sectors, the level of desperation to catch customers is high. So, just as in any war, new strategies and campaigns are called for, and campaigns to catch campaigns.

Buick ad in Fortune Magazine, May 1934

"Don't believe the hype"
warns Advertising Age, though that caveat is only meant to apply when the hype is not for profit.
WHEN Target boss Launa Inman was in London last December, she picked up a Coach handbag and was just about to buy it when she stopped herself. "I told myself: be sensible," she says. "I asked myself: do I really need another handbag? Given the tough economic times, I put it down and walked away." Today the boss of the homewares and apparel chain still carries a Coach bag, but it is at least a year old.

Inman, who shops for work and pleasure, could well afford the new handbag. It was simply politically incorrect to keep adding to her collection of luxury bags and shoes... While she is confident the Government's second economic stimulus will tempt more customers through Target's doors, she shares the worries of other retailers.

"The issue here is how to entice women to spend on themselves, their children, their husband and their home in a downturn," Inman says...

"The idea is to encourage women shoppers to make that impulse buy."
- from Retailer on target under new boss Launa Inman by Teresa Ooi, The Australian, May 04, 2009
KMart's price promise translated:
You do the work to compare prices and we'll match some of them but not all, and certainly not clearance, online or warehouse offers. And this promise says only that we'll match, not beat
, though we've got the buying power to outcompete. And we think this is such a good promise that we're spending $$s on TV ads to tell you. Oh, we love the part where some big-eyed chick talks of promises being politically incorrect. You're with us, hey hey wink?! Cuz you can trust us like your fave sister, the one you pinch stilettos from.

"The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit."
James Murdoch, September 2009

On the Trail of Their Campaigns

He's sold Death life insurance
"Cuz ya never know," he said.
"You live like you're immortal, man,
but so did all your dead."
"And who else has ever thought of you?"

They've skimmed the scum off pickled tongue
(a gloop of phlegmish green)
and everywhere that buyers come
they buy their Enerkreme—
"An elite force in a bottle"

It was she who sold to Cupid
a dose to make him "bigger"
and bigger Cupid got, all right,
this baby with an arrow-holder.
"Targetted solutions. It's both our specialities."

"As thick as thieves," they like to laugh.
"We, on the other hand, sell.
In a lineup of thieves and two by fours,
which has the brains, pray tell?"
"Risk management today, for all your tomorrows"

Possession . . . is the first stage of ennui
as Casanova, Imelda Marcos, Napoleon,
William Randolph Hearst, and the Murdochs all could have told from their experience. But there are other ways to make the heart beat faster.

"I knew the precise moment that you saw it because through that microphone, which was on your chest, the radio microphone, I could hear your heart beat. And it suddenly doubled its speed."
— the sound recordist, when David Attenborough spotted a certain bird of paradise they were looking for, to film.

05 September 2009

The reticent beauty of some dog roses

This species of Dog Rose (Bauera rubioides) not only grows close to the ground, but each flower shows its face only to those who walk below it.

There are other species that are popular in gardens, but they have not only shed all mystery, but look cosmetically beautified.