Thursday, November 30, 2006

Way cool

This is so makes me feel like a kid again. Like watching the X-Men 3 film with fellow Wiscon friends and then going on and on about the comic narratives with Dave Schwartz afterwards. That's how cool this is!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Two Reminders

Reminder #1:

Buy M. Rickert's book Map of Dreams. I got my copy of it yesterday, and it's even more beautiful in person than I thought from just the online images of the cover. I think it's maybe the most gorgeous Golden Gryphon book I've seen so far. The other Golden Gryphon book that I thought had a fabulous cover was Richard Bowes' mosaic novel "From the Files of the Time Rangers".

Reminder #2:

Buy The Best New Fantasy, edited by Sean Wallace at Prime. This book, too, is really pleasing to look at. I love the cover and the short introduction to the book, as well as the concept of an anthology collecting stories published by the best "new" or "up and coming" writers publishing each year. I received my copies of this book yesterday, and was impressed with it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Local news

Tonight was the Open Stage at the Oakland Theater, which my friend Brooke organizes. Brooke is a force here in Youngstown. She brings together so many different kinds of people from the various branches of the arts, and has, in my opinion, been the main reason why Youngstown's arts scene has begun to cross-pollinize over the past few years, bringing about a rebirth in the downtown, which now has so much more to offer the citizens of this cold steel town. It's so nice to be able to have something like the Open Stage Night at the Oakland because there's something for everyone, and all the local talents can showcase themselves for each other. Tonight we had a spontaneous artist painting throughout the show, and there were fiction readings from people like myself, and poetry and standup comedy acts, and bands, and singer/songwriters, and storytellers, and monologues and odd science projects. I heard the most amazing songs written by a young woman who only recently put together a band by the name of The Crissie McCree Band, and it was like hearing Neko Case, only to be honest, in my opinion, at least three times better. After the show, I went up to her and told her how much I loved the songs her band played and asked if they had a myspace page or somewhere online where I could keep track of when they might have dates to play in or around town, and Crissie said she enjoyed my reading as well, so we exchanged information and can now keep track of each other much more easily in order to enjoy further projects we're doing in the future. An event like the Open Stage Night at the Oakland Theater just didn't really exist a few years ago. And wouldn't have been well attended like it has been the past few months here, so I take it as only one of the many good signs that life is stirring in this town that for decades has been in the process of disintegration.

The Open Stage is one aspect of one of the changes I've been experiencing since returning from Japan. I find that I'm being more active in the arts scene here in town, perhaps only because there's one that's more consistent and has more serious artists working in it since I can remember. In December, on the 16th, I'm also going to try my hand at acting for the first time. My friend Rob has written a Christmas musical and asked me to be in it. It's called, "How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas". Rob works in the Oakland Theater and also makes a lot of the costumes for local drag queens, and also makes dresses for former Mrs. Americas and beauty pageant type women. He also writes funny plays. When he asked me to play a role in "How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas", I was a little surprised and confused. I'm not an actor, though I've always secretly wanted to try it. Then I found out he wants me to play the main character's flashback 17 year old shy, nervous, sad self before he becomes a drag queen (no, I will not be wearing women's clothes for this role), and also before the character has a surgery to seperate the conjoined twin from his head (I'm not kidding). He said, "It's a flashback modeled off the Ghost of Christmas Past scene from Dickens. You'd be the main drag queen character's younger, slimmer self, before she had the surgery to remove her conjoined twin from her head, and you'd have to be sad and shy. That's not a stretch." Yes, I know most of my readers would not consider me sad and shy, though I once was sad and shy, but sometimes I still can be. Anyhow, I went to the first read-through for the play last week and it was a lot of fun, so I'm excited to see how things go on December 16th. Who knows? If I like being on stage, I may occasionally try to find ways to help out in the local theater.

It's odd for me to think about my life in Youngstown now and what it was before I went to Japan. My life here is different now than how I lived it before I went to Japan. I like what I'm doing, and who I'm around, so much. And I like becoming more involved in the arts scene here that's developed while I was away. I still think about Japan often, though, and think of my life there, of my apartment and the roads in town I ran every day after school, and the schools where I worked, and the children and my co-workers, and my friends and neighbors, and well...everything that was a part of my life there. I think of Japan and my life there almost every day. I still speak to myself in Japanese every day throughout the day, still study the language and listen to the music my adopted mom in Sapporo sends me, trying my best to hold on to that part of my life, that other country, this other self of mine which I found while I was there. It's odd to be home and to feel like another part of me is away from home, and I'm still not sure if that feeling will ever change.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Two Year Wait for Turkey

Happy Belated Thanksgiving to anyone who celebrates it. I spent the night before Thanksgiving with my family and then got up already smelling the turkey and pies my mother was making. I haven't had a Thanksgiving dinner in two years, so this was just the most incredible scent for me. Turkey isn't a popular bird to eat in Japan, so I don't think I ate it the entire time I was there. God how I missed stuffing and sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows, which if you ask me is the only way to eat sweet potatoes. It was good to finally celebrate a holiday with my family again for the first time in a couple of years. Living in Japan and celebrating the holidays there with friends or alone was an experience I'll never forget, and actually really did love for a different set of reasons, but it's nice to sit with my mom and dad and brothers and sisters in law and their kids and my grandparents and spend the holidays together again. My grandma hadn't seen my beard and mustache yet. She thinks I look like Abraham Lincoln. I laughed a lot, trying to picture myself with Abraham Lincoln's head on my short little body.

Later on I had a second Thanksgiving dinner with friends in Youngstown, and afterwards played board games and made fun of each other for various challenges we had to do while playing Cranium. After that we watched several episodes of "Strangers with Candy" and laughed and laughed. I love Amy Sedaris heaps.

My apartment is already looking very Christmas-y. The tree is up, and various other decorations. I'm so excited for the holidays. I love the lights, the music, the Christmas movies, the decorations all over downtown and in the shopping plazas, the people hurrying around so that they can get all the presents they want to give to others. I think Christmas trees and lights should be permanent, year-round decorations.

I've been working on my third novel the past few months. It's going well, and I'm well into it: around 40,000 words so far. I hope to finish a first draft by the end of May, or if I get busy with other writerly or teacherly duties, then by the end of next August.

Also, I forgot to mention my story "A Thousand Tails" will appear in Firebirds 3, edited by Sharyn November. It's one of the stories I wrote while living in Japan, and shares a character in common with my story "Realer Than You" which will appear in Coyote Road, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, this Summer.

Lots more going on, as usual. School is winding down into the last couple of weeks of the semester. Soon I'll be neck-high in final essays that need to be graded. But I look forward to the Christmas and New Year season afterwards. I may throw a New Year's Party for friends. That, too, I look forward to doing. I can't remember the last time I threw a party. I mean, other than the karaoke parties Alan and Kristin and I throw at Wiscon for everyone.

Lots of fun coming up over the next month or so. I hope everyone has a good holiday season. I know I'm going to do my best to have the most fun possible.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This coming Saturday

Come down to the Oakland Theater if you're local, or even if you're passing through. The Stage is *the* most fun monthly event in Youngstown, at least for me. I'm going to read a story. Come and read one of your own, or bring a guitar and sing a song, or act out a skit, or do a dance routine; whatever talent you may have, put it on stage and show us what you've got.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Why We Fight

If you haven't already seen the 2005 documentary, "Why We Fight", you must rent it now. It's an amazing documentary that pulls together a story of America that most Americans have no narrative for: why America is a militaristic country with a standing army, which even the first president warned would be a sign that empire was forming to overtake true democracy. It's scary, it'll have you in tears, and many viewers won't come back to the America they left when they started watching this film.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Got Reading Skills?

Maybe someday your kids won't. Or not in the same way that we read at any rate.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Zadie Smith

This interview with Zadie Smith is gorgeous. The sort that makes me want to have a chance to sit down and talk with her myself someday.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Happy as a Pirate, but with Reservations...

Okay, I *am* happy about the turnover in the election to the Democrats, but I am a little hesitant to think this will make all the woes of American culture go away. Why? Well, writing an email to a friend tonight, I found myself bringing some of this up, and will just cut and paste that part to explain myself a little further:

"Yes, this election was really weird. I woke up with a new Democratic Senator and lots of Democratic Representatives and a new Democratic Governor, which we haven't had in years and years here, which all automatically made me feel safer, until I thought about all the anti-gay marriage amendments that passed on the same day, and how the new Democratic governor of Pennsylvania is anti-abortion rights and anti-gay marriage rights as well, and yet he's somehow a Democrat, right? And shouldn't I feel safer? But why all of a sudden do I not, because really there seems to be no difference between the people the Democrats had to run with the conservative messages they had to carry in order to get back into power to begin with and the Republicans they've displaced. I'm hoping the Dems were just doing what they had to in order to get back into power and that eventually they'll move people towards the line of liberal thinking as they seemed to be doing in the nineties, after edging them there for a while slowly, so that the masses don't go into shock about allowing other people the rights to their own lives. I don't know. All I do know is that if in a couple of years I don't see some of this homophobia and right to life issues the politicians are using so deliberately to manipulate the public into voting for them, I'm possibly going to leave the country again in a fit of despair over the staggeringly fearful and ignorant state the culture is in at the moment.

"Today at school I went into the Dean of Arts and Sciences office to ask if they had any applications for admission to YSU for prospective students. The girl working the front desk, always students who work part time at the university, which I did myself for several years, furrowed her brows and said, "The who?" I said, "For people who want to go to school here," and she said, "Oh," and looked very relieved and said, "No, I don't think we have anything like that here." Then she picked her magazine back up and started reading again. I know that's not representative of the entire population, but some days it certainly feels like it."

Life as a Pirate

I'm so happy about the elections, all I can do is keep taking pictures of my generally happy life as a pirate...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

While Waiting for Election Results...

Some pictures from fall on YSU's campus.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Day

American Readers, don't forget tomorrow is an election day. Get out there and vote.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Nothing New to Say

I am at the point where things like this can only make me snort and shake my head.

I'm pretty exhausted by politics and religion at this point. Neither have anything new to say, and neither have a core of people who truly are trying to change things for the better. It's sad, because people are looking for direction, and there are so few choices at this point, at least viable choices. No wonder there is so much affectlessness afflicting the American public. We have no one who can really lead anyone anywhere worth anything.

If you can point me in a direction of hope, by all means, point me towards it.

Friday, November 03, 2006

More Good Times from October

Another pic from Mill Creek Park. This bridge appeared in my story "Born on the Edge of an Adjective". It's one of my favorite places in the world.

Went to a wedding with Tony and Nicole mid-October. It was the first time I wore a suit since teaching in Japan, so it was fun to dress up a little.

After the wedding reception, we decided to keep the good times going and went dancing. I changed clothes. Tony and Nicole stayed spiffy.

And still there are more pics to post. Little by little, October will appear.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pictures from a Busy October

Elva's birthday party at the country bar where the deer sings karaoke.

Mill Creek Park is one of Youngstown's best kept secrets.

Next entry, weddings and afterparties and Halloween.