Friday, June 26, 2009

Another One Hits the Dust

I am not a fan of Michael Jackson (although I think he was an incredible dancer) but my friend Michael Whelan did the painting on the left for the Victory album and for one evening during the duration of a chocolate and champagne party the original painting hung on the wall of my photography studio in Merrifield, Virginia. The full cover is a wrap-around, so what you can't see is the rest of the star-scape that would be to the left of what is on screen. It is fairly large.

Michael, his wife, and his daughter spent more than a month in L.A. while Michael worked on the cover. Alexa, now a biology Ph.D. from Cal Tech, played with her Barbie dolls on the floor with Michael Jackson. He was, apparently, far more comfortable interacting with a child of 3 or 4 than he was with adults.

When the Jacksons went on the Victory Tour, I was still shooting for the Washington Post on a regular basis. I was sent to RFK stadium to photograph people waiting to get in to one night of the concerts, particularly the folks who were dressing like Michael--shiny gloves on one hand, jackets resembling those in the painting. I found it rather irritating that Michael Jackson took credit for "designing" the clothes on that tour, when they clearly were derived from the drawings that Michael Whelan did for this cover.

My son Michael (please keep them straight, there are so many of them in this post) had what he called a "Michael Jackson jacket." I think it is still in storage because he looked so cute in it, I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it. It was red, faux leather, and I did a portrait for my portfolio of him in it. I wish I had a digital copy to post.

Days after the party mentioned above, I left my son in the care of my sister and the company of his two cousins, on two years older, one 9 months younger than his almost three years at that time. I headed off to Colorado, and when I got back to Des Moines to pick him up, he was moon-walking. My little John Denver fan had turned into a Michael Jackson fan, courtesy of Kristina and Stephanie. He is one of a generation whose first musical purchase request was for a Michael Jackson recording.

It is strange how male celebrities of 70 or 50 are described as "young" when they die under these circumstances, when most of us who are women or over 40 are put in a position to avoid talking about our ages or risk losing out on work. David Caradine, who lived a few blocks from us, looked like a lot of bad miles and certainly not young. Yet there was shock that "he died so young." Michael Jackson was just plain creepy to me, and clearly had emotional and mental problems from having been a cash cow for 45 years. He never had to grow up, but he never really had a childhood, if you believe the bio-pic of the rise of the Jackson family.

MSNBC looked like the TV Guide channel last night. I missed my Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow government news fixes (Keith was on, but covering this story.) The entire area above the fold of the front page of the Los Angeles Times this morning is devoted to this story. Half of the remaining space goes to Farrah Fawcett. What's going in in Iran is limited to about four inches of text. The Supreme Court ruling on school strip-searches got about six inches of text. The Sanford story was relegated to page 20, following five more full pages of Jackson coverage. There is something not right about that kind of journalistic decision-making, but I'll bet the bean counters will be happy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Day

Today is Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day. I recommend that everyone go out and buy a new book so the writer will see 5-18% of the cover price sometime within the next year.

I've spent a lot of time with SF&F writers in my life, both physically and metaphorically. I started reading SF&F with Edgar Rice Burroughs and Andre Norton when I was a pre-teen, and being carried off to strange new worlds got me through the worst of high school. In college, I met my college boyfriend because of a class in science fiction (and discovered the work of Cordwainer Smith and Clifford Simak, among others, for the first time.) I started photographing SF&F authors, artists, editors, and publishers in the 1980s, and some of that work has appeared on book jackets, in magazines and newspapers, and in encyclopedic works about the genres. I met my husband while working on that project. And by the mid-1990s, I was the lawyer for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Not bad for a kid from a tiny town in upstate New York who just loved the town library.

Of the many wonderful Thanksgiving dinners we've had at our home, none was so entertaining as the year Connie Willis and her family joined us. Connie was guest of honor at the local science fiction convention that year, which is always held Thanksgiving weekend. With Connie sitting on Len's left, and Harlan Ellison sitting on my right, it was like watching a Wimbledon of words. Priceless.

So let me recommend a few writers and books:

Connie Willis: To Say Nothing of the Dog; Firewatch, Doomsday Book.
Harlan Ellison: A Boy and His Dog; Any of Harlan's collected works.
Barbara Hambly: Those Who Hunt the Night.
George R.R. Martin: Fevre Dream; Armageddon Rag; A Game of Thrones.
Melinda Snodgrass: Edge of Reason; The Circuit Trilogy; Double Solitaire.
Len Wein: Swamp Thing (his 13 stories have just been collected in one volume); Giant-sized X-men #1.
Michael Cassutt: Missing Man; Red Moon.
Cordwainer Smith: The Instrumentality of Mankind.
Arthur C. Clarke: The Sentinel; The Star; The Nine Billion Names of God.
Clifford Simak: City.
Joe Haldeman: The Forever War; 1968.
Larry Niven: Ringworld.
David Gerrold: The Man Who Folded Himself.
Jack Dann: The Memory Cathedral.
Vonda McIntyre: Dream Snake.
Robert A. Heinlein: Red Planet.
Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars.
J.K. Rowling: The Prisoner of Azkaban.
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings.
Pat Murphy: There and Back Again; The Falling Woman.
C.L. Moore: Shambleau.
Marion Zimmer Bradley: The Bloody Sun.
C.J. Cherryh: The Pride of Chanur; The Faded Sun Trilogy.
Gordon Dickson: The Dragon and the George.
H. Beam Piper: Little Fuzzy.
Octavia Butler: Kindred.
Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard Book; American Gods.
Harry Bates: Farewell to the Master.
Anne McCaffrey: The Dragonriders of Pern (the first three novels.)

This is by no means an all-encompassing list. It's what I could think of on the fly. I tried to come up with something that would definitely involve horses (other than The Lord of the Rings, of course) but I couldn't think of anything I've read. I hear that one of the Walter Farley books steps into the fantasy or science fiction arena, but I haven't read it. Horse Fantastic is a collection of short stories edited by Marty Greenberg with contributions by writers like Anne McCaffrey who actually know something about horses, but I haven't read that, either. I'm frankly surprised that Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois haven't done an anthology called Horse! because they've done a whole lot of other animals. I must suggest it to them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ace Goes to a Show

It's been a busy few weeks. I've wanted to do a nice, edited clip of Ace at his first horse-show, but Windows and Picasa are determined to thwart that objective. Windows refuses to recognize the format of the clips and Picasa can't edit video. Plus, the longer clip is too long for Blogger. So I'll show the clip of him entering the ring and if I ever get to edit the two clips together, I'll post that another time. If you aren't interested, just feel free to skip the visuals.We took Ace to an all-breed schooling show sponsored by the San Fernando Valley Arabian Horse Association, which was held in Simi Valley on May 31. In the photograph above, he's on the left hanging out with his distant cousin (determined by a comparison of pedigrees) Peanut, recently acquired by the owner of the ranch where Ace boards and Total Equestrian Experience has lessons. Ace was having a fine time being fussed over by several of the young women who served as grooms that day.

Gayle's assistant Ashley, who turned 18 last week, rode him. She's been riding him in lessons and wanted to show him in flat classes because her Welsh pony, Curio, doesn't like to do flat work. Ace acted like he'd been going to shows all of his life. He was totally sensible, keeping himself under control even when other horses were going nuts nearby.

Once he was in the ring, nothing mattered more than being the center of attention. He's always loved having an audience, and he sure had one that day.

Ace came home with second place ribbons for Obedience and English Pleasure, a third place in ground poles (which we entered for the heck of it, never expecting him to place), and a forth in English Equitation. We were all very proud of him and he seemed pretty proud of himself.