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17 October 2014 @ 08:45 am
From THE JOY OF PIGGING OUT, a paragraph that's remarkable in so many ways – "After she lost a eating contest to five-foot one-inch 422-pound Dee Dee Spencer, five-foot two-inch 375-pound Emma "Big Bertha Creighton commented, "I made a big mistake.  I turned to the tapioca pudding after the hot food, and Dee Dee went after the tuna salad.  Tapioca pudding – which is one of my favorites – is no match in calories for tuna salad, with all that mayo in it."  The twenty-eight-year-old winner consumed 42,194 calories in a five-hour period – eating more than the average person consumes in two and one-half weeks."
12 October 2014 @ 08:19 pm
Here's a double-whammy of absolutely trivial coincidence.   While I was bicycling yesterday I was thinking about poetry, as I sometimes do, and tried to remember the poem that starts out "A sweet disorder in the dress . . ." which I remembered was by Robert Herrick.  But nothing more came.

Meant to look it up when I got home, but hours passed while I went to sketching studio (and did not enjoy drawing the macho body-builder model, so left early), and I forgot about it.
Lo and begorra, this afternoon I got my daily poetry dose from Poem-a-Day, (from the Academy of American Poets) and it was the Herrick poem.

Just a single whammy, I guess.  But a whammy of synchronicity nevertheless.

A Sweet Disorder_ _

Robert Herrick (1591–1674)

A SWEET disorder in the dress

Kindles in clothes a wantonness:—

A lawn about the shoulders thrown

Into a fine distractión,—

An erring lace, which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher,—

A cuff neglectful, and thereby

Ribbands to flow confusedly,—

A winning wave, deserving note,

In the tempestuous petticoat,—
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie

I see a wild civility,—

Do more bewitch me, than when art

Is too precise in every part.
03 October 2014 @ 10:55 am
We saw a fun movie yesterday, which I guess qualifies as an "old person's" movie in various meanings of the phrase – "My Old Lady," with Maggie Smith and Kevin Kline. Young (-ish) man inherits Paris apartment building when his father dies. But scrappy old lady is living there and can stay legally for the rest of her life – which might be another twenty or thirty years, since she expects to live more than a century.

Of course there's an elegant beautiful woman, Chloe, living downstairs (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) – who of course instantly hates the interloper. Low points for originality, but good acting and the Paris photography is well done. Worth catching on teepee. (I meant to spell out TV, but sort of like the image.)

Perhaps it goes without saying that I could happily watch Thomas sit and read a newspaper. Wonderful classic beauty.

21 September 2014 @ 10:26 am
Wow, what a party.  I'm not good at estimating crowds, but it was much larger than I'd expected.  A good salmon dinner and free-flowing bar.  Some nice speeches – notably from the men who hired me, Ken Manning and Jim Paradis, both still professors here; and a nostalgic slide show, which niece Lore organized with the help of Karinthia,  the writing department office manager.  Pictures of Gay and me together, and childhood pictures from Alaska (ca. 1950) and even Puerto Rico (40's).

There were good video greetings from writers all over the globe, and a valiant attempt at a real-time call from George RR Martin, but the cell-phone technology failed us.


Gay and I went out for breakfast and that grew to take up most of the rest of the day!  We went down to Harvard Square and chatted for hours with one of my favorite ex-students, Chris Robichaud, who's now a professor at Harvard.  We didn't do any other Harvard Square things, except buy a couple of bottles of wine on the way back to the subway.

Going out of town in about half an hour to visit Mary Zoll, a good poet who was in Ricky 's class with me for decades.

No drawing or painting yet.  There hasn't been any sun, either, but so far it hasn't rained. 

Enough diddling around!  I must work on the novel tomorrow!  (Not that I have anything against diddling.)

(I asked Gay whether it was who or whom in the paragraph above, and now she's doing owl imitations . . . )

Better send this and get moving.

12 September 2014 @ 03:55 pm
Friends Antony and Jag are picking us up in a few minutes to go to MIT for my retirement party.  Mixed feelings, of course; the end of an era for both of us.  (Gay has also been teaching here, as an instructor in the Writing Center, for thirty years as well.)

I'm not "retiring," as in going fishing forever; I'll still be writing full time.

Here they are.  Will write about it tomorrow.

09 September 2014 @ 06:35 pm
A smile from the letter column of New Scientist this week.  (from Iain Cromarty)

"This brings to mind the back pages of Flight magazine at least 20 years ago, when arguments began about whether one pilot or two were necessary.
  'In future, the cockpit will contain just one pilot and a dog . . . the pilot will be there to feed the dog.  The dog will be there to bite the pilot if he touches anything.'"

07 September 2014 @ 08:09 am
I just read on George Martin's blog that his agent, Kirby McCauley, has died.  A tragic loss, but not a surprise.  He hadn't been well for many years.

I remember very well the night Kirby asked me to join forces.  It was in a hotel corridor outside a raucous party -- at Minicon, I think, in Minneapolis.  We were splitting a warm six-pack and talking about our futures.

Without Kirby's instinct and enthusiasm, I might have left science fiction.  I loved sf, but it wasn't rewarding me, and the mainstream beckoned.  I started the novel 1968, which I wound up putting off for another twenty years.  Kirby kept me in the field, in the fold.

He was a wonderful guy as well as a killer agent.  A lot of people in sf and fantasy have lost a brother in arms.  Our hearts go out to his family and friends.

Joe Haldeman
07 September 2014 @ 07:59 am
Yesterday we went out to see Guardians of the Galaxy, an amusing spoof but not as fun as its predecessor – not as random and gonzo.  The psychotic raccoon was worth the price of admission to me, though.  Needed more sexy bits, I say as an objective observer.  Didn't see enough of Zoe Saldana, the female lead.

It seemed to me that the story got lost soon after the midpoint, and then became strongly plotted again at the end.  There was a dead period where the people and aliens sort of ran around crashing into each other and the scenery.  If it had been deliberately slapstick, it would have worked better.  But it really looked like someone had stuck a few pages from a different script in there by accident.  Or design:  "Nobody'll notice; it isn't supposed to make sense."

Yesterday's pretty model, Lily, looked familiar, in a rather spectacular way.  No wonder; we did her twin sister Emily last year.  Same flaming red hair and generous-but-trim figure.  Her first time; she modeled well in the perhaps unchallenging poses we set for her.  She was surprised that it made her sweat so much; the studio was pretty cool.  Hard work.


03 September 2014 @ 09:06 am
Back from England and Germany, still a bit travel-jangled.  Will be home for nine or ten days, long enough to unpack.

Then a week up in Cambridge, and then home for two whole weeks.  Maybe I'll plant some weeds.  Give the place a sense of permanence.

Actually, we'll be home for most of the month of October.  I should put out some container vegetables; late tomatoes.  Just do-able in north central Florida.

Germany was interesting, but it went by in a flash.  I was invited to a small convention near Frankfurt, that turned out to be a gaming con.  Held in an actual castle.  Most of the people sat around playing games, as you might expect.  We did get out a couple of times.  The nearest town was a short drive down the mountain, and it was fun to walk around in a no-pressure situation.  My German is not good, but I didn't have to use it except for eavesdropping.

Then we went over to London for a couple of days, and kidnapped Judith Clute for an excursion up to York – she's lived in England most of her life, but had never been up there.  It's a fun town; the three of us had a great time with somewhat foreign travel.  Guys in armor and girls in swirling dresses.  Lots of walking, on the ground and up on the walls surrounding the medieval town. We were joined by a couple Gay and I met in Italy last year, Nigel and Louise Denison, lifelong residents of York.  We did succumb to a Disneyish reconstruction, which was fun.  A twilight boat ride as well, and a "spooky" nighttime walk.

Definitely will do that again.  It's fun to be in a foreign land where they somehow speak your language.

Well, better pump up my bicycle tires and go off to write for a couple of hours.

08 August 2014 @ 06:39 pm
Pepys has an interesting diary entry, a few hundred years ago, getting up hours before dawn.  I can't quite decode the last sentence - - assuming he wasn't really serious about stealing the dog.  I guess it's 17th-century irony.

Wednesday 7 August 1661
Called up at three o’clock, and was a-horseback by four; and as I was eating my breakfast I saw a man riding by that rode a little way upon the road with me last night; and he being going with venison in his pan-yards to London, I called him in and did give him his breakfast with me, and so we went together all the way. At Hatfield we bayted and walked into the great house through all the courts; and I would fain have stolen a pretty dog that followed me, but I could not, which troubled me.

A lot of the diary that was probably crystal clear at the time has become a bit obscure.  Thus a fun read rather than a dry record of what/who/when/where.