Saturday, August 23, 2014

Another episode of Now with PT is online

and you should check it out.  With Gina and Drew hosting, this episode has something for anyone interested in tablets, laptops, or Chromebooks.

These shows are a great way to get a quick peek at some of the cool facts that PT is regularly producing.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Where you should be next Friday late afternoon:
Dragon Con, seeing my comedy show

Yes, as you can learn from my Appearances page, I will be in Atlanta at Dragon Con.  At 5:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, August 29, I'll be in Embassy A-B in the Hyatt doing my latest comedy show:  Mr. Poor Choices II:  I Don't Understand

You should be there.

As I understand it, the room has plenty of seats, so I need plenty of people to fill them.  Comedy works best with a good crowd, so you should come and help be a part of one.

If you come, you'll learn about some of my more interesting poor choices, laugh a great deal, and leave for dinner with a smile on your face.

Spread the word, please.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back at The Monti

Earlier tonight I headed over to Durham to tell another story at one of the programs from The Monti.  This evening's topic was "Heat." 

My story focused on a particularly disturbing incident involving a cat in heat; those of you who know me may well have heard variations of it before.  I thought I did a good job with the story, though I started a bit faster than I should have.

The other seven stories ranged widely in topics and approach.  The winning story and storyteller absolutely deserved to win; his tale was lyrical and moving.

I haven't yet decided if I'll return and tell more stories, but my guess is that I will, because it's a great opportunity to both practice oral storytelling and hear a lot of fun tales.  If you don't know these events and like this form of storytelling, I encourage you to check out The Monti.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On the road again: London, day 12

The wake-up call came entirely too early.  Just as I was almost ready to go, though, I learned that my flight was running about a hundred minutes late, so I was able to grab another 90 minutes of rest, which though not as good as sleeping longer was still a help.

I caught up with work as best I could in the Admirals Club, then answered the open messages on the plane—but due to the lack of bandwidth could not send my responses or keep up with the work day.

I want my transatlantic bandwidth.  Just sayin’.

I consequently landed both quite tired from over nine hours in a plane and rather far behind on work.

I've since caught up on work, had dinner with family, and now hope to get a long night of sleep and awaken feeling I'm in the right time zone. 

I greatly enjoyed London and cannot wait to visit it again.

That blog post I owe you about my last full day in London

You didn’t think I’d forget, did you? 

I started the day on the late side, because work had kept me up very late the night before, and I knew the next day would be a long one with very little sleep before it.  (I was right.)

On the way to lunch before a trip to the Natural History Museum, through the window of the taxi I spotted and was able to catch a bit of this fine statue of a boy attacking an over-sized ice cream cone. 

Click an image to see a larger version.

Wouldn’t it look fine next to the Cone Man in my driveway?

When I first reached the museum, the queue to enter was too long for my taste, so a trip to the special butterfly exhibit seemed to be just the ticket. 

Wow, was it. 

Butterflies make people happy.  Everywhere I looked, people were smiling and laughing at the beautiful creatures that were flying all through the sealed space, eating from flowers, enjoying some fruit the caretakers had set out for them, and just resting. 

The exhibit featured 28 different types of butterflies.

I didn’t keep count, but I’m sure I saw most, if not all, of them.

I know butterfly pictures aren’t anywhere near as compelling as the creatures in person, but I’m going to hit you with a few anyway, because they were so very lovely.

In a corner of the tent, you could see some butterflies just emerging. 

I found that particularly cool to watch.

Outside the butterfly tent stood two pieces of petrified wood

that the museum had dated as being about 330 million years old.  Very cool.

The Natural History museum is absolutely huge.  Here’s as much of it as my camera could capture from a spot near that petrified wood.

That’s nowhere near the full length of the building. 

I didn’t have the time to see anywhere near all of it, so I focused on working my way toward the giant blue whale and mostly stayed among the mammals, where the crowds—wow, is it crowded—were the most bearable.

Though I didn’t take this escalator into the sculpture of a planet, I loved the look and the concept.

Easily the biggest ammonite I’ve ever seen, this one appeared to be more than two feet wide. 

I know this is only a best-guess reproduction, but if it’s at all correct, damn, the Dodo was a strange-looking beast. 

This griffon vulture’s wingspan had to be at least five fight. 

Seeing that thing swooping down on you would be enough to give you nightmares.

This ichthyosaur is nearly seven meters long and one of the biggest known specimens.

A woman named Mary Anning found it in 1832.  Known, according to museum signs, as “the fossil woman,” Anning at age 11 became fascinated with fossils and became a force in fossil collecting.  Sadly, she died young at 48.

The next time someone tries to tell you that no one omitted women from your science and history texts, remember Anning.

This coelacanth, though having long since lost its natural blue coloring, is still a scary-looking critter—and a sample of a species that has survived around 85 million years. 

Just for Dave, this alpine marmot; he’d shiv you if you looked at him wrong.

Ah, finally, the blue whale.  This photo doesn’t do its size justice, but do note that you could tuck a rhino into a corner of its mouth, and it would be about the size of a chaw of tobacco, were the whale to chew rhinos like tobacco (which, of course, it does not).

I fell head over heels in love with ruin marble. 

I know that the limestone ran and then under heat and pressure became marble, but doesn’t it look like a magical cityscape?  Absolutely lovely.

I’d never heard of or seen cavansite, a rare blue mineral of vanadium.

If the museum is right, and I’m guessing it probably is, people have found cavansite in only two places:  Oregon, U.S., and Wagholi, Pune, India.  A very interesting pairing indeed.

On a whim, a spin through Harrods led to a sighting of this lovely ceiling in a part of the store’s vast grocery.

The entire fifth floor of Harrods is full of women’s shoes, real high-end stuff, and carries this name.

If you are seeking expensive women’s shoes, I expect this is heaven indeed.

I spent the bulk of the evening in the lovely Noel Coward Theatre watching the stage version of Shakespeare In Love.  Though I did not at all like the film of the same name, in large part because it depended so heavily on the performance of Gwyneth Paltrow, whom I found believable neither as a man nor a woman, I quite adored the play.  The first act had a few slow bits, but on balance I enjoyed it.  The second brought the story together and earned my complete love.  I highly recommend seeing it if you get a chance. 

Be on the lookout for the dog.

And that was a day in London.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On the road again: London, day 11

It's quite late here, and I have to get up very early, so I am going to leave you with this:

I owe you a blog entry about this day.

I'll try to write it on the plane, unless I'm sleeping.

Peace.  Out.

Monday, August 18, 2014

On the road again: London, day 10
WorldCon, day 5

The convention wrapped up today with some morning and early afternoon programming.  I left the con hotel and headed back to my favorite one in London proper; I like staying where I know the area and much is within a mile or two on foot. 

I spent the heart of the afternoon at the Tate Britain, enjoying both the parts of its normal collection on display and its British Folk Art exhibit. 

The museum had given several of its large rooms to a commission it had made to Phyllida Barlow.  Just about all of it, including this example, left me cold and uncaring. 

Click an image to see a larger version.

I do not doubt that there is more to this sort of art than I appreciate, but at times viewing it I cannot help but wondering if I'm being put on a bit. 

On a brighter note, though I did not previously know the work of Ralph Peacock, this portrait, Ethel,

and other pieces of his on display, such as this one, The Sisters,

 made me determined to see more.

The Tate Britain also turned me into a lover of rich blue walls for galleries; check out how awesome this room looks.

The British Folk Art exhibition fell physically in about the middle of my time at the museum, so I went with the flow and hit it then.  Most of it left me cold, intellectually interested but not otherwise engaged.  A few pieces, however, intrigued me.  One was the collection whose unknown artist had named God in a Bottle.

Both the title and the pieces made me want to start writing a story of the same name.

I was also touched by this Walter Greaves seascape, Nocturne in Blue and Gold.

(Sorry about my reflection in the painting's glass cover.)  I don't know Greaves' work, but if the museum's signs are correct, he was a primitive artist whose work grew immensely in quality when he started studying with Whistler.

Several pieces of prisoner-of-war art were on display; this one caught my fancy.

I had never thought of POW art as a sub-genre of folk art, but it makes great sense. 

Mary Linnell was also an intriguing folk artist, a woman who made pieces in fabric and tended to copy classic compositions.  Here we have her self portrait.

Her work was once popular but did not fit the canon, both because of her materials and her copying of the poses of others, so it sort of fell between the artistic cracks.  I can't say I particularly liked it, but it did make me think about classifications and the ways we measure originality in the arts. 

Back in the museum proper, I spent a fair amount of time enjoying this Gainsborough, Wooded Landscape with a Peasant Resting

And this one, Sunset:  Carthorses Drinking at a Stream.

I feel obliged to note at this point that the remaining blog posts for this trip will be rather short, because I'm blowing it out on this one.

Two other artists who were new to me but whose work I now plan to seek are Joseph Wright of Derby, whose An Iron Forge

I found intriguing for its use of light, and the unfortunately named Marmaduke Cradock, whose A Peacock and Other Birds in a Landscape

caught my eye. 

This Constable sketch for Hadleigh Castle was as lovely to me as many of his finished works. 

Then the exhibits hit the Pre-Raphaelite era, and I, of course, swooned at the art.  I know it's sappy and romantic of me, but I absolutely love the art from several of these folks. 

Please ignore the lights reflected in this gorgeous Frederic Leighton, The Bath of Psyche

I'm running out of steam--it's very late here--but I cannot stop without showing you this lovely piece from perhaps my favorite of the wild men of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB), Dante Gabriel Rosetti. 

Called Aurelia (Fazio's Mistress), it is romantic and lovely, more in person than this photo can ever suggest. 

Rosetti didn't just start painting this way, of course.  He grew with experience.  I was thrilled to get to see the first oil painting he completed, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin.

It was also the first to carry the PRB notice.

I apologize in advance for the light reflection you're about to see, but I do not know how many times I have studied photos of Rosetti's Proserpine, and here it was in person.

I am skipping so many more great paintings by many other wonderful artists, but I can't pass by Rosetti's Woman in Yellow.

I also have to include one from the delightful Lawrence Alma-Tadema, A Favourite Custom.

And then there was the entire room of original work from William Blake--a fraction of the museum's Blake collection, but still a wonder to behold.  I have long found Blake fascinating, a man so tortured by his faith--and lack thereof--that he could never find peace.  This piece, The Inscription Over the Gate, from his Dante series

was particularly arresting, an odd blend of colors and poses that made me stop and study it for a bit.

After the museum, I worked for a while and then went to see Skylight, the David Hare play, starring Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan. 

On the walk to the theatre, I encountered an admonition some would find useful

and a new organic ice cream shop, from which I enjoyed a small cup of mango ice cream.  I offer this photo of the front of the cup by way of endorsement, for the ice cream was good. 

The slogan on the bottom of the cup's rear simply charmed me.

The play was powerful and engaging, with all three cast members excellent.  Nighy, one of my favorite movie character actors, here was a prowling, raging, hyper-kinetic lead man.  Mulligan, whose film work has always underwhelmed me, turned in an amazing performance as a still but strong presence whose eruptions were all the more powerful for her normally calm demeanor.  I have a huge, new-found respect for her talent.

All that said, the play was ultimately emotionally unsatisfying, far more successful as economic commentary than as an inquiry into the human condition.  I enjoyed it, but I wanted a stronger ending. 

Dinner was at an interesting fusion place whose name says it all, Asia de Cuba.  Perhaps I'll show some of its dishes in a later blog, but suffice to say that if the name at all intrigues you, you should absolutely check it out.

On the walk back to the hotel, I encountered a bit of unintentional comedy in this sign in the window of a hair-cutting place.

I thought I understood what a "BRAZILIAN" was in the context of such an establishment, and I also thought I understood what "BLOWDRY" meant in the same context, but it never occurred to me to put the two words together.  The mind boggles.  Don't even get me started on how there can ever be highlights from only half head.

And so I laughed my way back to the hotel and some hours of work.

Tomorrow marks my last full day in London, and I have no daytime plans, save to sleep quite late given how very late I am getting to bed.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

On the road again: London, day 9
WorldCon, day 4

The high point of today was the Hugo Awards ceremony, the SF/F community's annual gathering in celebration of the best of its works of the years.  I've dreamed of winning a Hugo since I was quite young, so I've gone to the Hugos at every WorldCon I've attended.  I find them bittersweet affairs, having never been nominated, much less won, but I wouldn't miss them.

Publisher Toni could not attend, so I was her designated acceptor, should she have won in the Best Editor Long Form category in which she was nominated.  (As deserving as she is of the award, and she very much is, she did not win it; the estimable Ginjer Buchanan won it in the year in which she retired.  Well done, Ginjer!)  Because I was to accept for Toni, I got to attend the pre-awards reception and then sit down front with the nominees.  It was quite a lovely experience; I hope one day to repeat it on my own behalf.

On the walk to the reception, I saw these buildings, which I absolutely adore.

Click an image to see a larger version.

If you zoom in on them, you'll see how burned out they are, skeletons just waiting to play roles in some post-apocalypse or alien-invasion story.  I'm sure I'll use them in something.

At the reception, two celebrities unexpectedly appeared:  Peter Davidson and David Tennant.  As things turned out, both must have come should their shows have won awards (neither did), so no one in the main audience saw them.  All the people at the reception with whom I spoke were, however, a-twitter at their presence.  All the women with whom I spoke agreed that Tennant was far hotter in person than on screen.  I have to agree that he is entirely more beautiful in person than on screen.

If you enlarge this, you can just see him. 

The photo does him no justice; trust me.

After the ceremony ended, I had the opportunity, courtesy of being Toni's designated acceptor, to attend the Hugo Losers party.  Though I have long wanted to go, I declined; it was not my party.  Should I one day be nominated, however, you can bet your ass I'll go.

I spent the rest of the evening socializing with friends and then working.

Tomorrow, the con ends, I return to my favorite hotel, and I see another play.


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