Monday, March 29, 2010

A Weekend of Conversations


I spent the weekend at I-Con in Stony Brook, New York.  It's essentially a media-and-gaming con with a literary track.  I was on a lot of panels, appreciatively received if somewhat sparsely attended.  But mostly I was there for the conversations.

I listened to Mike Resnick and Rob Sawyer match Hollywood horror stories.  Chatted with Jim Frenkel about promising new writers he was editing,   Talked with Jack McDevitt about the Phillies.  (We're both Philadelphians, though I was born elsewhere and he moved away.)  Swapped stories about writing fast-and-to-order with Bill Fawcett and Jody Lynn Nye.  Heard Carol Emshwiller talk about her cowboy novels and talked Samuel R. Delany about his plans for the future.

Saturday evening, Paul Barnett (who sometimes writes under his own name and sometimes as John Grant) and Pam Scoville, his wife, very kindly gave me a ride back to the convention hotel, and we proceeded to have an hour-long and rather jolly conversation about exactly where we were and how lost three people could manage to be.

And on Sunday, Marianne and I went out to breakfast with Barry and Joyce Malzberg and talked about the history of science fiction, writers of merit, both in and out of the field, the Carle Museum, Maurice Sendak, Emily Dickinson, and the worst writer ever to make it onto the Hugo ballot.  It was only a sense of duty that dragged me out of the diner and back to the con.  I could have stayed there talking all day.

Each convention has two faces:  the public one of panels and the like, and the private one of conversations.  The public face is good.  But the private one is better.

And the search for a title continues . . .

I estimate I have about six more pages to write before the novel is finished.  So at the moment I'm just dumping all title suggestions into a file for easy organization .  But the search is sincere, and I am genuinely grateful for all your ideas.  I'll be poring (and sweating) over them in just a couple of days.

Above:  My pals Carol Emshwiller and Mike Resnick.  What great smiles they have!


Friday, March 26, 2010

Drawing Down the Moon


I am, for self-evident reasons, a big fan of Charles Vess.  Just consider the picture he drew for my own Hope-in-the-Mist, an examination of the life and work of the great fantasist Hope Mirrlees published by Popular Culture.  Coming to it cold, it looks fantastic -- in both senses of the word.  But it gets better.  The more you know about its subject, the more you're impressed by the craft that went into it.  Nice line, too.

I've just this week come into possession of Drawing Down the Moon:  The Art of Charles Vess (Dark Horse Books), and it's a model for this kind of illustrative-art book:  beautifully made, perfect bound, and vividly printed, a pleasure to read and look at, a volume that flows from start to finish.

There are really two books here, cunningly folded into one.

The first is an autobiographical presentation of Vess's career, from art-school days to present, documenting (among much else) his brief relationship with Heavy Metal (his work wasn't busty-and-bloody enough for them), his stint with Marvel Comics, professional relationships with writers like Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, and Jane Yolen, and, most recently, three years spent working on an A Midsummer Night's Dream fountain for a theater in Virginia.   For those who are interested, you can see the influence of Maxfield Parrish, Aubrey Beardsley, Richard Dadd, Hal Foster, pretty much all the classic fairy-tale illustrators, and many other artists upon his work.  Among many others.  As a working illustrator and occasional collaborator, Vess has often had to work in another artist's style, and that too is fascinating to see.  There's the raw stuff of dissertations here, and a great deal of food for thought.

The second is a book of immersive fantasy, perfect for daydreaming, easy to get lost in.  Here's how Dark Horse describes its appeal:
Verdant fairy forests. Whispering mountains. The fallen towers of ancient kings. Spirit-filled lakes. The distant strains of elven bards. 
Which is exactly the kind of stuff I thought I'd gotten weary of decades ago.  But, no, as it turns out, I had not.  I'd grown sick and tired of derivative, third-hand imitations of fantasy churned out by fifth-rate hacks.  And of the art that illustrates it too.

Vess's work reminds me of why I fell in love with fantasy in the first place.

Exactly how good is Drawing Down the Moon?  I've had it for three days and been through it many times already, but I haven't yet read the foreword by Susanna Clarke.  As a fantasist, I'm intensely interested in what the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell might have to say.  But every time I open the book, there are images to look at, and my hand turns the page, and I drift deeper into the book.  It's that good.

I only wish I had the time to review it properly.

And I am not dead but only . . .

 I'm on the road again, this time to I-con.  If you're there and not entirely focused on the media guests, say hello.

On the contest front . . .

Meanwhile, the contest to name the Darger & Surplus novel continues.

Trust me, my silence on the suggestions to date does not mean that none of them will win.  It only means that I want the absolute best title possible possible for the novel.  If somebody offers a perfect title one day and somebody else comes up with an even more perfect title the next . . . well, you know that I'm going to choose the pluperfect.

 I was an English major, after all.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010



I've just received an Advance Reading Copy of what's got to be either the coolest or pretty-darned-close-est original anthology of the year:  Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio.  In Neil's intro, he emphasizes the importance of pure story as the raison d'etre.  But when Al hit me up for a story (that's how I came into possession of an ARC), the nuance was slightly different.  At the time, he told me they were looking for fantasy stories written as though the fantasy genre didn't exist.  (Emphasis and paraphrase both mine.)  Which was and is a brilliantly admirable thing to aspire to.

Why the shift in emphasis?  Well, a couple of the writers turned in stories which weren't fantasy at all -- but were too wonderfully enjoyable for any sane editor to turn down.  That's my interpretation, anyway, but I'm guessing it's a good one.

And what an extraordinary line-up of writers they've assembled.  Roddy Doyle!  Joyce Carol Oates!  Peter Straub!  Chuck Palahniuk!  Gene Wolfe!  Jonathan Carroll!  Walter Mosley!  And many, many more.

(I did a signing at a regional ALA conference once, sitting right next to Walter Mosley.  It was a humbling experience.  The librarians were pleased to get a free book from me.  But they approached Mosley with expressions of stunned joy at finding themselves in his presence.   When they extended their book toward him with both hands, I noticed that they all unconsciously dipped slightly, as if genuflecting before him.  And yet, I am happy to report, he was gracious and genial.  Somehow he's managed to keep a level head.)

So far I've only read a couple of the stories.  Peter Straub's "Mallon the Guru" was terrific.  Michael Moorcock's "Stories" (an admirably cheeky choice of titles) I loved a lot.  And I'm midway through Elizabeth Hand's "The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon."  The first half of it's great -- and I'd be shocked and scandalized if the rest of it doesn't follow suit.

(I also liked my own "Goblin Lake."  But then, I'm a big fan of Me, so that's only to be expected.)

The book is coming out very, very soon from William Morrow.  I recommend it.

And yesterday was . . .

Or rather, yesterday would have been Akira Kurosawa's one hundredth birthday.  I celebrated it by watching Seven Samurai.  I once asked a Japanese friend why Kurosawa's genius is not fully acknowledged in his own country.  My friend looked embarrassed and mumbled something about Kurosawa just reusing plots from Shakespeare and other writers from the West.  No, no, no.  Half those plots weren't original to the West.  We stole them from him.

And I'm still looking for a title . . .

The search continues for a title for my Darger & Surplus novel.  All suggestions are welcome.  Even the frivolous ones, if they're funny enough.

Which is why I'm going to be sending Matthew Frank an autographed chapbook, as soon as he emails me a street address.  My Distinguished and Only Slightly Nepotistic Blue Ribbon Panel of Judges tells me that he has to be appropriately acknowledged for his Gorky Bark.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Name My Novel! (And Win a Box of Books Too)


I'm into the final days of writing the Darger & Surplus novel and it still doesn't have a title!

This is a real problem because all the best novels (Neuromancer, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and A la recherche du temps perdu, to name but three) have titles, while untitled novels are quickly forgotten.  (Quick!  Name three!)

So I need a title and I'm asking for suggestion.

This is almost but not quite a contest.  It's almost a contest because I'm offering prizes.  It's not quite one because I can't guarantee that anybody entering will win.  The ultimate title might come from me or from Marianne or from Sean and his friends or from my editor.

But if it comes from you, I'm prepared to offer some serious schwag.

So what am I offering?

First of all, bragging rights.  I will not be shy about giving you credit.  You will be mentioned not only online but in the novel's acknowledgements.  When your grandchildren call your bluff, I'll be happy to email them with the truth.

Secondly, a copy of the novel itself, inscribed to you with genuine gratitude.  It won't be the first autographed copy (that's already been promised) but it will be one of the first three.

Thirdly and bestly, a Big Box O' Books.  I'll dig deep into the book closet and assemble a selection of novels, chapbooks, best-of-the-year collections, and anthologies.  Enough to fill a large-size flat rate USPS box (mostly empty above).  I'll do my best to fill it full of interesting stuff, and I'll check with you first to make sure I'm not sending you anything you already have.  (Unless you'd like it inscribed to a friend.)  Every book will be autographed.  If you'd like them inscribed, that too.

Finally, I'll include the original signed typescript of a short-short story (aka a flash fiction) with either your name or the name of somebody you designate as a character.  This is called a Tuckerization, after Wilson Tucker who liked to give shout outs to friends and colleagues in his fiction.  To the best of my recollection, I've never Tuckerized anybody.  So this will be a first (and probably last) for me.  I met Wilson Tucker once and was appropriately awed.

So what's the novel about?

Here's what I can tell you about the plot:

Sometime in the Postutopian era, Darger and Surplus, two talented con men, come to Moscow, hoping to pull a very big scam on the Duke of Muscovy.  This great man has dreams of resurrecting the Russian Empire and is, they discover, all but unapproachable.  Meanwhile, other forces (including the exiled demons of the Internet) are conspiring against the duke's rule.  Wolves are involved.  Darger and Surplus soon learn exactly how mean and dangerous Moscow can be.  But will they burn it down, as they did London?

That's a little cryptic, I confess, and terribly oversimplified.  But if I tell you more, I'll have to just start at the beginning and give you the entire story.

Oh, what the heck. Here's the opening:

Deep in the heart of the Kremlin, the Duke of Muscovy dreamt of empire.  Advisors and spies from every quarter of the shattered remnants of Old Russia came to whisper in his ear.  Most he listened to impassively.  But sometimes he would nod and mumble a few soft words.  Then messengers would be sent flying to provision his navy, redeploy his armies, comfort his allies, humor those who thought they could deceive and mislead him.  Other times he sent for the head of his secret police and with a few oblique but impossible to misunderstand sentences, launched a saboteur at an enemy’s industries or an assassin at an insufficiently stalwart friend.
The great man’s mind never rested.  In the liberal state of Greater St. Petersburg, he considered student radicals who dabbled in forbidden electronic wizardry, and in the Siberian polity of Yekaterinburg, he brooded over the forges where mighty cannons were being cast and fools blinded by greed strove to recover lost industrial processes.  In Kiev and Novo Ruthenia and the principality of Suzdal, which were vassal states in all but name, he looked for ambitious men to encourage and suborn.  In the low dives of Moscow itself, he tracked the shifting movements of monks, gangsters, dissidents, and prostitutes, and pondered the fluctuations in the prices of hashish and opium.  Patient as a spider, he spun his webs.  Passionless as a gargoyle, he did what needed to be done.  His thoughts ranged from the merchant ports of the Baltic Sea to the pirate shipyards of the Pacific coast, from the shaman-haunted fringes of the Arctic to the radioactive wastes of the Mongolian Desert.  Always he watched.
But nobody’s thoughts can be everywhere.  And so the mighty duke missed the single greatest threat to his ambitions as it slipped quietly across the border into his someday empire from the desolate territory which had once been known as Kazakhstan . . .

Give me your best, and tell your friends to do likewise.  This is a terrific novel and it deserves a  terrific title.


Monday, March 22, 2010

World's Best Technology Showcase


"Have you seen anything here that hasn't appeared in a science fiction story?" somebody asked at the end of the Sigma panel.

There was a brief, embarrassed silence before one of the writers allowed as how none of it was new to us.  Then I said, "You have to understand that if you and I have the same idea, you've got to come up with proof of concept, work up a prototype, and come up with a marketing strategy.  All I have to do is write, 'And it worked.  So we acquired funding and went into production.'"

The World's Best Technology Showcase is one of those odd events, peculiar to our times, designed to bring together venture capitalists and innovative technology entrepreneurs.  Everybody had booths, though a lot of the time they were unmanned, and all the hungry young innovators got six minutes in front of a small group of potential investors to state what their product was, why it would fill or create a need, how much money they expected to make and how soon they'd make it, and how much money they were looking for (as a rule, either five hundred thousand dollars to cover the next two years of development or five million for the next three years bringing the product to profitability).

I liked much of what I saw, but the notion that pretty much all the science fiction writers present were most taken by was Hypios's scheme for harnessing crowd-sourcing for commercial problem-solving.   They take a problem a corporation needs solved, and then make it available to a cloud of experts around the world, offering a cash prize for a solution by a given deadline.  They present any successful solutions to the corporation which either buys it or walks away without spending any money.

It's an extremely tidy notion.  Cheap and simple for the corporations and a good way for bright people to pick up a little extra cash without worrying that their ideas will be simply ripped off.

It reminds me of the solution that Bill Gibson came up with for the old cyberpunk-assassin problem.  Back when the whole C-word thing was hot, I read any number of imitation Gibson stories which came smack-dab up against the same problem:  An assassin has just killed somebody for the Evil Corporation.  How does he get paid when it's simpler for the EC to simply off him?

Bill's solution was typically elegant.  In (I think) Mona Lisa Overdrive, an assassin accepts an assignment and then says, "Call my agent to work out the details."

The Hypios model seems sound to me.  But I think its real value is going to come when the software and/or basic notion gets into the hands of nonprofit do-gooder organizations.  Solving problems of health, sanitation, and poverty in emerging nations not for money but simply for the satisfaction of having made a difference.  I look forward to that.

Watch this (social) space.

You can check out the Hypios website here.

And on an unhappier note . . .

Canadian science fiction writer Peter Watts has been found guilty of mouthing off to a U.S. border agent.  During the trial it was apparently established that he did not attack, strike, or attempt to choke anybody during the incident.  But in our nation you can be legally charged with failing to obey a Federal officer with the desired alacrity.

Watts' crime was that of being insufficiently servile.

Here's what the terrible Canadian threat to American security had to say about the trial:  "While I think they made the wrong decision I'm obviously not the most impartial attendee at this party.  I still maintain I did nothing wrong; but as far as I can tell the trial was fair, and I will abide by its outcome.

If I may quote Thomas Jefferson, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.

You can read Watts' account of the trial here.

Above:  Just a few of a deck of promotional cards that Lockheed Martin (one of the sponsors) stuck in the gimme bag.  I'm going to keep them handy to remind myself that none of this stuff is science fiction anymore.


Friday, March 19, 2010

The Scarecrow's Boy


I'm back!  And I'm weary as weary.  But I had a good time, and I'll write up a few words about the conference Monday.

Meanwhile, you can get a free listen to my story, "The Scarecrow's Boy," which Infinivox has posted online to promote their CD anthology of robot tales, We, Robots, edited by Allan Kaster.  It will be released next Tuesday and it contains . . . well, here's the official release:

This is a collection of seven contemporary robot tales written by some of today’s most acclaimed science fiction authors.  A sentient war machine combs a beach for trinkets to create memorials for its fallen comrades in the Hugo Award winning story, “Tideline,” by Elizabeth Bear. In “Balancing Accounts,” by James Cambias, a small-time independent robotic space tug is hired by a mysterious client for a voyage between two of Saturn’s moons. “The Seventh Expression of the Robot General,” by Jeffrey Ford, involves a robot general coming to grips with his position in a world that no longer requires, or even understands, his role. A city awakens its ancient guardian as it is about to be invaded by a mining company in “Shining Armour” by Dominic Green. In “The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm,” by Daryl Gregory, a country ruled by a super villain comes under attack by American super heroes.  In “Sanjeev and Robotwallah,” by Ian McDonald,  a young boy becomes enamored with the armed robots that do the fighting in a Civil War and the celebrity boy-soldiers who pilot them. A robot acting as a scarecrow could be a desperate young boy’s one chance of staying alive in “The Scarecrow’s Boy” by Michael Swanwick. These are unabridged readings by Amy Bruce and J. P. Linton.

Not all the stories in the anthology are familiar to me, but that's one good lineup of writers.

You can go the Infinivox blog and click the link not far down the page here.  Or you can go directly to a blank page with the story here.

I haven't listened to the podcast yet -- that's how tired I am -- but I've seen a couple of reviews that say the reader is quite good.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Everybody's Faux Irish For A Day

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  Will I be wearing green you ask?  Will I be wearing green?!  No.  I will not.  This I do in memory of my grandfather, Michael O'Brien, after whom I was named.  Every Saint Patrick's Day, when friends asked him why he wasn't wearing green, he'd angrily say, "I am Irish.  I don't have to prove a thing to anybody!"

God bless you, Grandfather.  You died when I was only four but I can still remember you clearly.  I also remember your wake.  The whiskey flowed like water, and there were bowls of jelly beans.

So where's Waldo today . . . ?

I'm away from home in Arlington, Texas, for a Sigma function -- a panel at the World's Best Technology Showcase, an annual event that puts together tech entrepreneurs with potential government or private money.  You can click here to see the agenda if you're curious.

And what makes a guy who can't share a photo of the event with you because he forgot to put the SD card back in his camera last time he downloaded photos to his computer qualified to be here at all, you ask?

Um . . . I'm a lateral thinker?

More soon-ish, I hope.


Monday, March 15, 2010

In Praise of Bureaucrats

Some years ago, when I was about to start a novel, I asked Marianne, "Before I start writing, is there anything you'd like me to include in this book?"

"Yes," she said.  "I'd like to see a bureaucrat who was honest and efficient and doing a job that needed doing."

"Okay," I said, and that's where Stations of the Tide came from.

 Yesterday, Marianne (who, you'll remember, is the retired Director of the Division of Laboratory Improvement at the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories)  had a visit from Stanley and Evelyn Reynolds.  Stan is the Director of the Division of Clinical Microbiology at the Bureau, so he and Marianne had a lot of shop talk to work through.

Listening to them . . .

But wait.  What is a bureaucrat?  Somebody who's paid to ensure that legislation is honestly applied.  Let's say that you pass a law that all lab tests be competently performed.  You could go with the libertarian model that if the lab sink-tests everything (i.e., dumps all specimens in the sink and reports results within the normal range, whatever that might be), eventually their surviving customers will give their business to somebody else.  (You've had blood or whatever drawn at your doctor's office, right?  Quick!  What's the name of the lab that processed it?)

Or you could presume that the government makes sure that the labs have a certain minimal level of competence.  And if you do, who actually ensures this?

Bureaucrats, that's who.

So Stanley and Marianne, the current and retired second-highest-ranking guys in the Bureau were talking about what's going on back in the Labs and guess what?  They were passionate!  They raised the roof.  They could not possibly have cared more about making Pennsylvania as safe as it can possibly be for people who might sometime in their life be sick.

Yeah, some bureaucrats are exactly as pointless as you think they are.  But there are a lot of 'em out there who are giving it their all to make the world a better place.

And I for one am grateful

And this week . . .

I'll be on the road this week, from Tuesday through Thursday.  I'll do my best to blog, but if I don't . . . well, it'll only be due to lack of access.

Be well.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Old Hundredth


My old friend George R.R. Martin to the contrary, Spring Is Coming!

As if to mark this event, I passed a milestone yesterday.  The Darger and Surplus novel just crossed the hundred-thousand-word mark.  And how close is that to completion?  Well . . . normally, my novels are made up of twenty chapters of five thousand words each.  It used to spook Marianne how tidily that came out.  But this one's coming out a little longer than usual.

How much longer?  Not much.  Maybe five thousand, maybe ten thousand words.  Which means that I am close as close to finished.

And keeping my nose to the grindstone, staying at home working, foregoing adventures of all sorts in order to get this thing written and done with.  Which is why today the only news I have at all is that:

Above:  The first flowers of the year have bloomed in our back yard.  And, mirabile dictu,  they weren't crocuses.  They were snowdrops.  This has been a strange winter.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Eternal Search for the Perfect Manhattan Continues


Y'all know about the search for the perfect martini, right?  It consists of minimizing the vermouth until you reach the point of homeopathy where, statistically, the odds of there being a single molecule of vermouth in the gin are a zillion to one.  Really, it's a chest-pounding guy thing.

But what about the perfect Manhattan?  This is not about perfect steely fascist purity.  No!  It's about taste and mellow sinfulness.  A Manhattan is the kind of drink your sophisticated and scandalous aunt would drink.  It's is the most flavorful cocktail that you'd ever seriously consider putting into your mouth, this side of a grasshopper.

"Rye?  I've never heard of it," said the bartendroid at the otherwise-admirable Chestnut Hill Grill.  So perhaps I need to explain.  A Manhattan is made up of three shots rye, one shot sweet vermouth, and a dash of bitters.  Drop in a maraschino cherry.  Serve in a chilled glass.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  Sweet as a sunset over New York City.

But it can be improved.

Let's start with the rye.  Instead of Jim Beam, which is a superior product sold at an insanely reasonable price, Marianne and I used Rittenhouse Rye.  A Pennsylvania whiskey (obviously, if you're a Philadelphia local) which is NOT available in the state store system and which has a darker amber color and a rich flavor reminiscent of caramel .  Who could wonder why I bought a bottle illegally in Delaware?  We added the sweet vermouth.  Then we shot in a dash or two per drink of Fee Brothers cherry bitters.

The piece de resistance?   Hand-made brandied cherries with various spices.  (The full recipe will be posted after Marianne decides her recipe is just-so.  Now, it's merely exquisite.)

And the result?  Oh, dear God.  A Manhattan is the drink you'd be holding in your hand while listening to Dorothy Parker trash reputations.  Marianne's improved Manhattan is the drink you'd be holding while you one-upped her.  With Duke Ellington playing the piano in the same room.

I will provide further updates as the search for perfection continues.  Those of you who have recipe suggestions are encouraged to post them here.


Monday, March 8, 2010

This Glitteratti Life (Part 5,284)


I'm still working hard on the Darger and Surplus novel, which is going like gangbusters and should be finished any day now.  As a result, I'm not engaged in a whole lot of exciting extra-curricular activity nowadays.  But last night Marianne and I had Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger (who, when they're not being our friends, are the mainstays of the Walters & Kissinger Studio -- click here to view some very cool dinosaur reconstruction art) over for dinner.  Much good conversation, and I won five bucks betting on the best-picture Oscar.

So I am content.

And a linguistics note . . . 

I was reading an article about Joanna Newsom in the NYTimes and (no coincidence) listening to one of her songs on YouTube yesterday.  Midway through the ensuing conversation, Marianne said, "Did you just use the term 'elfy-welfy'?"

"Yes," I said, surprised.  "Didn't you know it already?"

As it turned out, she didn't.  And if she didn't, perhaps it will be new to some of you.  So here's the definition:

Elfy-welfy:  adj.  Sentimentally fey; light and wifty; overfond of unicorns, rainbows, and sparkly gauze wings you can strap onto your back at an age when it's no longer cute.

Tolkien was never elf-welfy, though C.S. Lewis came close once or twice.  The phenomenon is not rare, however.  I've read (or, rather, begun) more elfy-welfy fantasy books than I care to think about.   Fortunately, time and trauma have mercifully blotted their names and those of their perpetrators from my memory.

Above:  Bob and Tess.  I swiped this picture from a Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting notice I found online.  I hope that's okay.


Friday, March 5, 2010

No Exit


Yes, yes, yes, Hell is other people.  We all get that.  But what does it look like?   Well, last night I went to see No Exit at the Curio Theatre Company.   Even though I read J. P. Sartre's harrowing little posthumous fantasy, Good Lord!, it must be forty years ago, this is the first time I've seen it performed.  I enjoyed it immensely.

And the answer to my question?  It's triangular with a chessboard-patterned floor, a huge German expressionist door, and a gridwork of black strings separating it from the audience.  Much praise to Paul Kuhn for a great design for an intimate (a total of 62 seats, with chairs on all three sides of the action) evening of theater.

And elsewhere on the Intertubes . . . 

This comes straight from the streets of Babel.  All I can say is, Joshua Allen Harris must be reading my dreams.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

City Root Ten Months Later


I'm on the road again!  This happens to me a lot these days.  But on Sunday, after visiting the Tract House, I took a quick run over to Twelfth and Callowhill, here in Philadelphia, to see how Keiko Miyamori's orphan sculpture City Root was doing.

And the eight and a half ton sculpture which I wrote about last April here, is doing just fine.  The cracks are maybe a little wider after a long winter's repeated freezing and thawing but it's still one gorgeous hunk of gigantic lucite, and it doesn't look likely to fall apart anytime soon.  I took dozens of photos.  The thing is mesmerizing.

The owner of the property (and maybe of the sculpture; he offered free storage of the sculpture while Miyamori tried to find a buyer with the understanding that after a certain length of time unsold, it would be his to keep) has clamped four lights onto the top of the sculpture.  Which means, I guess, that it lights up at night.  Next time I'm in the city after dark, I'm going to find out!

Above:  The artwork itself.  Right:  A graphic demonstration of the current size of one of the cracks.  


Monday, March 1, 2010

The Tract House


If you're like me, you go to a fair number of art exhibits.   How many of them let you take the art home with them?

There's the strange beauty of The Tract House - A Darwin Addition, an installation by Lisa Anne Auerbach.  It's made up of tracts riffing on Darwin.  The texts were penned by a variety of writers, poets, and ambitious volunteers and then attractively laid out and illustrated by a graphic designer.  Visitors are welcome to stop by the Tract House, browse through the offerings, and then take home copies of those they like.  I took home one of each and put them in an old cigar box I had lying around.

The exhibit is being done as part of Philagrafika 2010, a new annual festival of art prints.  You can find them here.  Why Darwin?  Because it's sponsored by the Philosophical Society.

The Tract House 'site is here.  And the vitals for those who'd like to visit are:

On view until April 11, 2010
Friday - Sunday, 11am - 5pm
First Fridays, 11am - 8pm (reception 6-8pm)

231 North Third Street
Philadelphia, PA

Oh, and did anybody else catch the big hockey game yesterday?

I'm not a jingoistic Olympics viewer.  It's nice when the home team wins, but mostly I just want to watch folks from all around the world being the absolute best at what they do.  Still, some sports simply belong to particular nations.  Like hockey does to Canada.

So when I discovered that the Canadian team were the underdogs in the final game against the U.S. team, my heart went right out to them.  And they won in overtime!

Is this a great continent or what?

Above:  Marianne Porter perusing tracts.  Art, (para)literature, and the woman I love, all in one snapshot!