Tuesday, July 31, 2012

more days at Menlo

Saturday: It's the Young Performers concert. Yeah, thrill to the ten-year-olds playing chamber music by Beethoven, Mozart, and Mendelssohn like seasoned professionals.

Sunday: This.

Monday: Sunday's harpist gave a harp talk. I learned quite a bit. Yes, there's lots of pieces requiring the harpist to knock on the soundboard. The modern double-action harp was invented around the turn of the 20th century to allow harpists to play fully chromatic music like Ravel's Introduction and Allegro which was promptly written for that purpose. It has seven pedals, one each attached to all the strings in different octaves playing the same note, and allows each of them to be raised or lowered one-half step. Want to play a pentatonic scale glissando? Just raise all your B's and E's half a step, and you're done. The pedals also enable you to play the same (flatted or sharped) note twice in quick succession without dampening the vibrating string and thus cutting off the sound.

For this reason harpists have to plan out their pedal settings and rarely sight-read music. The harpist told of one conductor who, during rehearsal, when he wanted to start the music somewhere in the middle, to give the harpist time to set the pedals for how they'd be needed at that moment, would say, "Harp, start your motor!"

Friday, July 27, 2012

alert warning

If you watch The Daily Show online, you've probably seen the ads for something called "5-Hour Energy", an unholy concoction of caffeine, niacin, and various amino acids. I'm not letting anything like that anywhere near me, but I was intrigued by the wording of the latest ad, which features a serious-looking woman brightly informing us that Doctors Recommend It.

What she said specifically was that "Over 73% who reviewed 5-Hour Energy said they would recommend a low-calorie energy supplement to their healthy patients who use energy supplements."

That's a remarkable weasel statement, because what it actually means is that 73% of them said that well, if you're going to take an energy supplement anyway, it might as well be a low-calorie one. Nothing about whether they actually advise taking one, just that they don't think it would do any harm.

What struck me, though, was the 73%, which Serious Woman thinks is an awfully high number. Not as high as the number in the classic ad that this one should remind you of, the one that famously said, "Sugarless gum is recommended by four out of five dentists for their patients who chew gum." Four out of five is 80%. (The actual number in that case was 85%.)

And what, one wonders, does the fifth dentist recommend? Gum with sugar? No, Cecil Adams had the answer: "Fact is, the fifth dentist usually recommended no gum at all. Not the kind of advice a chewing-gum company wants to play up real big."

So, 15% of the dentists would tell gum-chewing patients to quit gum-chewing altogether. And would 27% of doctors tell partakers of 5-Hour Energy to quit the stuff entirely? Maybe so. At any rate, this is not as encouraging an ad as its makers seem to want you to think it is. Maybe it was made by Mitt Romney's ad agency.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Music@Menlo, day 3

This was a short day for me, as I was only there to hear Jeffrey Kahane, who's always good at this, take a masterclass. A movement of the Mendelssohn Piano Trio Op. 49 was fine enough, though, as Kahane pointed out, it's a well-known work. The revelation was a movement (the opening movement, I guess) of Dohnanyi's Piano Quintet Op. 26. What a fantastically great piece of music, which I'd never heard before (neither had Kahane, though he claims to like Dohnanyi even more than I do). I'm going back to hear this in full at the Prelude concert tomorrow, you betcha.

Afterwards, off with B. to appear in a regional theater performance of Three Men and Four Women and a Baby: Episode 2, At a Seafood Restaurant. Passed the time before the show started by paying our first visit in many's the year to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This has been totally refurbished since our last trip, and nothing's the same except the otter tank. The big open sea tank that used to dominate the middle of the building seems to have been removed, and the entire rest of the building is now best describable as the aquarium building at a zoo, built to the same model as the insect building and the small-reptile building. Walking along winding darkened theme pathways, you're invited to peer in windows that reveal small tanks in which live a small colony of one or two or three species. There are entire corridors of jellyfish, or jellies as they are now apparently known - appropriate, since they're about to take over the ocean in place of all the fish we've harvested - and seahorses, the latter something I'd hardly ever seen, at least alive, before. (A colony of live sand dollars - they prefer to live on the sandy bottom, resting on their edge - was another new one on me.) There are also a few seabirds, including penguins. The changes were a bit disconcerting at first, but I think it's a better museum now than it used to be.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Music @ Menlo, day 2

All-Shostakovich prelude concert today. As one of the performers gave a pre-concert talk describing Shostakovich's denunciation by Pravda in 1936, even though the work to be performed was written before that, a voice a row behind me in the audience was heard to grumble, "I'm tired of hearing that story."

Performance by the young professionals was very good, though. Sonata for Cello and Piano: piano hammered away at vigorously by tall young woman hunched awkwardly over the keyboard; cello played well, though reedily and with less enormous vigor, by a young man with glasses: as soon as the guy sitting next to me muttered, "He looks like Woody Allen," all of a sudden he inescapably did. (Woody Allen of half a century ago, of course.)

Also on the program, the Quartet No. 8, given a fresh, slightly tentative approach by four young women who confessed that none of them had ever played it before.

Earlier in the day, interview session with the mezzo who's singing at the concert I'm reviewing this weekend. She talked about conductors who insist that the singers look directly at them even when they're acting in the middle of an opera, about being a last-minute substitute in an opera and not recognizing your fellow cast members when you run into them later because you've never seen them out of costume, about making the same bad habit mistakes when demonstrating to your students that you always tell them never to do, about being shocked by hearing instrumentalists critique each others' playing because singers would never speak that way to each other, and about her love for chamber music with voices - like the Respighi she'll be singing this weekend.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mr Hitchcock, you cheated

I'm reviewing a concert this weekend that includes a suite of Bernard Herrmann's music for Psycho, and it occurred to me that maybe I ought to see the movie Psycho, since I never had. I've read much about it, of course, so I was approaching it in exactly the opposite frame of mind from that which Hitchcock intended the original audience to have. Any discussion of the long-term impact of plot spoilers should include a consideration of Psycho. [And if you somehow haven't had this movie's plot spoiled, you'd better stop reading this right now.]

It certainly affected my viewing. I was quite astonished at how effective much of the movie was; I was not expecting it to be anywhere near so good, especially as there were some specific things in it that were unexpectedly bad. The plot tension is well kept up, entirely vitiating one of what I'd expected to be my two main beefs with the movie, that it's really two movies insufficiently connected: one the story of Marion stealing the money (it's sometimes said that she embezzles it; I don't think that's quite the right term), and the other the hunt for her after she goes missing and the unmasking of her killer. The problem is that her death is not a Shakespearean tragedy; it doesn't follow from her own nemesis, and is purely the accidental result of her landing in a motel with a homicidal maniac innkeeper. The reasons this didn't bother me were threefold: 1) that it's at least possible that Norman's "decision" (if that's the word) to murder her arises from her behavior towards him which in turn is a result of her being on the run; 2) the pace of the movie pushes forward well enough to prevent the viewer dwelling on the problem; 3) I already knew it was going to happen anyway. So in that way having the movie spoiled first helped.

The thing I liked best in the movie, which I wasn't expecting, was the early scenes involving Marion driving to California. These depict what it was actually like to travel on US highways fifty years ago - before most of the interstates were built - something I can myself barely remember. And the way in which the story conveys that Marion has actually stolen the money, as opposed to just thinking about it, was subtle and sophisticated.

The other beef, though, bothered me a lot, and that is the surprise ending: that Norman is really his mother in disguise. I mean, that she's really him in disguise. You know, when I first saw The Empire Strikes Back, with its surprise ending - "Luke, I am your father" - my reaction was Luke's: "Noooo!" When I saw the movie a second time - about 25 years after I saw it the first time, which demonstrates how little I cared about this - I was even more convinced that Vader is lying. Nothing in the earlier conversations between Vader and the Emperor makes sense unless Vader and Luke's father are different people. I felt something similar here: the plot would make more sense if Norman is not the person dressing up as his mother. For instance, the events preceding the murder of Arbogast. As Arbogast returns to the motel, Norman is walking down the motel breezeway away from the house. Presumably he ducks around the back of the building and runs up to the house - as Lila does later - while Arbogast is poking around the motel office, but it doesn't really make any sense that he would do this without knowing exactly where Arbogast will be walking to and how long he will take to get there.

This common cinematic convention of hiding the true explanation of events by having it make less sense than false explanations is, however, trumped by a genuine cheat, and this I've learned and confirmed from books about the movie. The way Hitchcock keeps you from guessing that "Mother" is really Norman in disguise is this: Norman is played by Tony Perkins, but "Mother" isn't. Except for the final appearance after the secret has already been blown, the previous appearances of the shadowy stabbing figure in the dress and hairbun are played by somebody else. And the voice when Norman and "Mother" are having their unseen arguments? That's not Perkins either. And the reason Hitchcock used other actors was that he was afraid the audience would recognize Perkins' figure or voice, even disguised. Yes, well, that's the point, isn't it, you moron?

In other words, the innocent audience is right to suspect that "Mother" isn't Norman, because she isn't. Perkins is Norman, and "Mother" isn't Perkins. To then tell them that she is him is the rawest form of cheat, worse than anything M. Night Shyamalan has done, and that's the worst condemnation I can think of. Mr Hitchcock, you cheated.

But maybe he should have. Perkins does a good job as Norman, but in his one appearance, brightly lit in the cellar doorway, as "Mother", waving his knife around with a maniacal grimace on his face, he looks ridiculous. It's the worst bit of acting in the film, made worse by the cry of "Norma Bates!" (was that really Mother's name?), which isn't coming from Perkins' mouth either. It's a good thing that Bernard Herrmann convinced Hitchcock to let him use his "stabbing" musical motif a third time here, because otherwise it would have been a completely dud moment. It's even worse than Arbogast's fall downstairs. It may have sounded like a clever idea to film this bit with the viewpoint centered on the falling man, but it's too obviously a matte paste job, and for special effects deserves the Anti-Oscar.

Other things that bothered me that I hadn't known about before seeing it:

*The stolen money is something of a McGuffin, isn't it? Sam thinks that Norman killed Marion for it, but though Norman buried the money with the body, it was clearly inadvertent: he hadn't known the money was wrapped up in the newspaper he tossed in the car trunk.

*The plot line of tracing the fugitive Marion, her concern over which dictates much of her actions, peters out awkwardly. Her trading in her car serves no plot function, because the same highway patrolman who thought her suspicious is standing there the whole time she's at the dealership, so he has her new license plate number. Did he later call in her ID and find out she was a wanted fugitive, and did this have anything to do with why Lila and Arbogast separately show up at Sam's store? (Presumably Marion had kept Sam's existence a secret from both Lila and her employer, who presumably hired Arbogast, though we're never told this, so they must have found out about Sam somehow.)

*If, as the sheriff says, the death of Norman's mother ten years previously was well-known around town, then why didn't Sam, who lives in that town, know it? (Not to mention that if Norman had been making a regular habit of telling guests about his mother, word of his delusion would have gotten out long before now.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

a little touch of Harry in the park

The Bay Area's free touring Shakespeare in the Park is in Cupertino this week, so I wandered over to see Henry V. That's the Henry who conquered France, if you have trouble keeping all those Henries straight.

It was a good, professional performance with a small, versatile cast. You need a strong Henry, and in Craig Marker they had a strong Henry: big, bluff, commanding voice, and spoke the Harfleur and Agincourt speeches as if he meant them, while trying to bluff through the midnight and courting scenes as if he felt he ought to be able to command those as he did armies. Good work from others, as well: Jack Powell in all the old man parts, Ryan Tasker and Michael Wisely comically ethnic as Fluellen and Pistol, and Maggie Mason kept the "Kate recites the English names for body parts" scene from being dull.

Most impressive was the tech. The amplification from body mikes was nearly flawless, and they did it without making the actors dress up as telephone operators, either. Costuming and setting was vaguely WW1-ish, without the clothes getting too specific, though the French did wear those French army hats, the kepi; but the only anachronism that really jarred was having the English wave a Union Jack around. The part of the Chorus was traded around among several actors, and scene changes were frequently marked by singing of a verse or so from a variety of old war and otherwise appropriate songs, including a verse from Parry's "Jerusalem" and bits from the Steeleye versions of "Rogues in a Nation" and "Fighting for Strangers."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Music @ Menlo, day 1

So the Menlo Festival has started, and I've spent there the first of several scattered days over the next three weeks. My formal reviews of some of the big evening concerts come later, and otherwise I'm contenting myself with the free events, the lectures and the "prelude" concerts. The preludes are performed by the junior international artists, and very worthwhile they often are. Today's was a good workmanlike program, with a fine Dvorak Op. 87 Piano Quartet, solving that problematic work with a lyrical shine and a strongly folklike swing. The scherzo didn't jangle, nor the Lento rise to passion, but the outer movements were courtly and enjoyable, a more notable achievement. It was paired with Haydn's Lark Quartet, likewise gentle and reserved.

The lecture was on the currently fashionable topic of examining composers' original manuscripts to determine their intent. This is much easier these days due to extensive online archives. Cellist and festival co-director David Finckel, using Julliard's manuscript collection, went over the manuscript of Beethoven's Op. 127 quartet's scherzo and his own photographs of the score of Dvorak's Dumky Trio, which he took in Prague (this manuscript is not online). Some of the assumptions arrived at by this process seem to me to be questionable - if a particular cluster of notes or a direction in a ms. appears to have been written in before or after the rest, does that make it more or less important, and which is which? or, if one passage was written down in its final form the first time, while another was crossed out and rewritten several times, does that mean the composer cared less about the exact notes in the second case? - but if it serves the cause of making performers think deeply about the music, any fancy stories they come up with can be for the good. Finckel burbled, something he rarely does, as he described finding two pages in Dvorak's score which had been glued together by the composer. Prying them apart (!), he found the passage from the next, unglued, page, only written differently, with lots of tremolos and grace notes not in the final score. So does this mean that you should play the passage with a stronger vibrato on the verge of tremolo (it was the composer's original idea), or does it mean that you shouldn't (he did reject it, and even went to the trouble of gluing it up)? And, unmentioned by Finckel or anyone else, this ties in with the history of performance style. At the time Dvorak wrote, custom was not to use vibrato except as a special effect. If we play with today's conspicuous vibrato, we're already most of the way to what Dvorak wrote on those cancelled pages, and to add more is merely to exaggerate it. This is a murkier subject than you perhaps suppose.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mythcon statistic

In keeping with the latest essentialist fad of counting up the sex and/or gender of SF convention panelists, here's how the six Mythcon panels turned out (moderators included as panelists, which is how I want them to see themselves):

Four panels each of 3 women and 1 man (2 female moderators, 2 male) One panel of 4 women and 1 man (female moderator) One panel of 2 women and 3 men (female moderator)

It just worked out that way; I didn't plan it. We have a lot of sharp and intelligent women at Mythcon. In fact, one of the panels I didn't even cast myself at all; it was cast by the man moderating it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

a box

I have this little set of cubbyholes, about a foot square each, in structures made of painted particleboard. They form two stacks next to the desk in my home office. (When we moved, I described them to the moving planning guy as "cubicles", and even though I said they were about a foot square each and then showed them to him, he didn't process that and was still looking for those big square portable dividers you see in open plan offices. So I was rather alarmed when he told me I'd have to dismantle them for moving, which in this case would involve removing all the screws that hold the particleboard pieces together. We got that straightened out.)

I use them to keep materials for long-term projects and some other things I need near my desk. One of them has long been devoted to "The Year's Work in Tolkien Studies." I accumulate all the photocopies of articles and my own copies of the new books I have to cover, and take them out from there when it's time to write the review, then file the articles and shelve the books elsewhere and start over for the new year.

Since I won't be doing that any more, I just took out all of the material I had in there and repurposed the space for my new job with Tolkien Studies. In there went a box of review copies forwarded to me from the other editor, books not covered in this year's issue which it'll be my responsibility to assign reviews of. So from now on, anything in that cubicle is not my book; it belongs to the journal.

Come to think of it, I can now keep in there the books I've been assigned to review by other journals, because those too still technically belong to the journal until I write the review.

All the TS books in there now are rather ugly utilitarian trade paperbacks from Walking Tree Publishers, a German Tolkien Society-sponsored project that's been pouring out monographs and anthologies about Tolkien at an alarming rate for over a decade now. The books, or more accurately the essays in the anthology volumes, are of disturbingly varying quality, some of them brilliantly incisive and some just dull or clotted, reading like bad translations from the German, which perhaps they are. The best essays they've published have been a detailed historical investigation into Tolkien's undergraduate social life, and a meditation by a scholar looking back on what The Silmarillion meant to him as a lonely child reading it at the age of ten on first publication. But I already knew their authors by name as good scholars before I read the pieces. Reception studies have been a growing part of Tolkien criticism, and what The Silmarillion now means to readers who encounter it as part of Tolkien's established oeuvre is a subject I'd like to see more on, because it must be different than it is to those of us already adults when it was first published, to whom it had been a Legend and a Mystery for long before it became an Actuality.

What do we have now? Two books on Tolkien and Wagner. Two of them. I'd thought that subject was already played out, or hoped it was, because the misunderstandings on the subject are immense, starting with the way everyone quotes a supposed dismissive remark by Tolkien which, if you actually look at it in context, isn't specifically about Wagner at all! But nobody notices that. Then there are the people who claim that Tolkien got everything from Wagner, apparently on the grounds that Wagner came first and they can't think of anywhere else Tolkien could have gotten his ideas from. Then there's the neo-revisionist version of that argument, more subtly claiming that specific points in Tolkien are found in Wagner but not in their common sources. I'm not wholly convinced by that argument, but it's been well-argued.

What they all ignore, but not surprisingly considering the existence of people who actually think the Jackson movies capture Tolkien's spirit, is how totally different the ethos and feel of Tolkien's LotR and Wagner's Ring are. Plot motives are not what make a story; the total atmosphere and direction are more important.

Originally I was antipathetic to Wagner, then I learned to know his work better and appreciate it a little, and now as I know it better still I'm coming to loathe it again. As a student of deeply integrated symphonies like Sibelius's, I am thunderously unimpressed with Wagner's musical structure and his use of leitmotifs, which aren't built into the surrounding music but dredged up abruptly to beat the listener over the head with every time a character mentions something. And I'm getting less tolerant of Wagner's overall sound. His harmonies are coming to sound to me sickly sweet, like fruit that's over-ripe and decayed and just a bit nauseating. And just as the similarities between Tolkien and Jackson, or Tolkien and Wagner, are superficial and miss the deeper meaning, so too the differences between Wagner and Bruckner, the composer usually considered his most faithful disciple, are looming even larger to me now than before.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

student of Tolkien

(as in, studying the subject. To be a pupil of the man himself, the form should probably be "student of Tolkien's")

When the journal Tolkien Studies was being established, along about ten years ago, the editors asked me if I'd care to participate in this enterprise, in the form of being on the advisory board and writing a survey of "The Year's Work in Tolkien Studies" for each annual issue of the journal. I'm sure that I was asked because I was a prolific - and varyingly enthusiastic and caustic, depending on the merits of the book - reviewer of Tolkien scholarship, writing frequent book reviews, especially for Mythprint of which I'd up until recently been editor. In the late 80s, I'd written for Beyond Bree a survey, potting, in a paragraph each, every book about Tolkien that had ever been published, because I'd read them all. (There were a lot fewer then than now, to be sure.)

It was an honor. Tolkien himself had written the survey on philology for the journal The Year's Work in English Studies for several years in the 1920s (and I chose the title of my own survey specifically in honor of that fact). The first thing I did was sort through my shelves of Tolkien literature in search of the books that would need to be covered in the first year's survey. I already had almost all of them.

Time passes. Each year since then I've gathered up the material and written the survey - only once did I find a paper so incoherent I had to give up trying to describe it - but eventually I began to think of stepping down. I was no longer quite so proactive in gathering books in advance as I'd once been, and I'd been doing the job a lot longer than Tolkien did his. The 2008 survey, published last year, was the catalyst. It included the huge bulk of the proceedings of the 2005 Birmingham conference, a hundred papers, as many as the rest of the year's work combined.

I took on a collaborator. It had to be someone whose knowledge of the topic was both broad and deep, two qualities not often found in combination. On that basis, Merlin DeTardo was almost self-recommending. We split up the work, and did it again this year; the 2009 Year's Work in issue 9 of TS is now in press. The plan was that eventually I'd hand it over. But it's happened sooner than I expected.

Earlier this year, Douglas A. Anderson, one of the founding co-editors of the journal, resigned his position. (It wasn't a happy parting, alas. You can read Doug's account of it here.) Now the other editors have asked me to take his place, and I'm handing the Year's Work entirely over to Merlin as of next year.

Now this is intimidating. I feel like Thomas Jefferson, on arriving in France as U.S. ambassador and being told, "So, you replace Dr. Franklin?" He replied, "No, I succeed Dr. Franklin. No man can replace him." Doug was, and is, the master of facts and trends in Tolkien publishing and on the historic roots of Tolkien's creativity. He's an old friend of mine, and I wish him the best at carrying on his scholarly activities elsewhere. We've been communicating about his impending next anthology, and I hope it sees the light soon.

Meanwhile, I'll be working with two other friends, the other co-editors of the journal: Michael D.C. Drout, the master Beowulfian among Tolkienists, and Verlyn Flieger, who more than any other scholar feels the heartbeat of Tolkien's genius. (And the nature of Doug's publishing concerns has not escaped us, I assure you.) My primary job will be organizing the book reviews, starting with next year's journal. Some of you will be hearing from me. But that comes later. In the meantime, there's a ship to be built.

concert review: Summer Stanford Symphony

Well, I thought I was done with both the Mythcon schedule and the other big project of the moment, cleaning up and supplementing the bibliography for the next issue of Tolkien Studies, but they're both still biting me with enough proofing and changing to keep me occupied. I escaped for a couple hours to go to Stanford for a student orchestra concert.

They brought in a real conductor, they did: Martin West, whom I've heard with Symphony Silicon Valley. He led Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations with a real cellist, one from his own orchestra, the SF Ballet, as soloist; it must have been good, because I'm still re-running it in my head the next morning, and I don't even like the Rococo Variations that much. And Shostakovich's Fifth with enough flexibility to make it interesting; revealingly, though, the best part was a rigidly brutal rendition of the finale, enough to give the lie to West's program note claiming that it has "all the trappings of a genuinely jubilant closing passage." No more than the closing scene of Star Wars does, man.

The importance of who's wagging the stick, even if it's in front of a student orchestra, was proven by the student conductor who began the program with an entirely correct (and with smoothly handled tempo changes) but terminally dull Rimsky Russian Easter Overture.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mythcon, schedule to the world

The Mythcon 43 schedule, open at last. I wrote this, yes I did, so blame me for the goofy panel titles and descriptions, as well as for the inevitable spots where the two papers you most want to hear are on opposite each other. I must have done that on purpose to frustrate you; can't think of any other reason.

Warning: this is a draft, and some changes will be made. So far none of the panelists has objected to the timing of anything, even when I ate into their lunchtimes; but most of the paper presenters haven't seen it yet. Apparently the list of papers I was given didn't have some late title changes (hmph), so that will be fixed later.

The only matter of concern to the average attendee is that checkout time on Monday is noon, not 1 pm. We'll be shoving stuff forward a bit to make room for that. (The Members' Meeting isn't really going to take 90 minutes, anyway.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

one down

A few hours ago I fell over in the satisfied collapse of the productive worker. For, after spending most of the last week on it, I completed organizing and typing up the Mythcon schedule. (It'll be going up on the Mythopoeic Society's website soon, I trust.)

Mythcon is a small conference, small enough that, when I'm on the committee, I usually hand-craft the entire schedule myself, because I like doing that. It's necessary to be creative in certain ways: when faced with a list of (this year) 32 papers, 6 panels, 5 author readings, and various other items, the question becomes, where do you start? I usually start by picking out all the papers requiring AV and putting them in the same room on the same day. (Why many SF cons end up trundling their AV equipment from room to room and back again, I don't know.) That serves as a backbone to grow the rest of the schedule from. This paper should follow that one, that other one can go opposite this one, this person can't be here on Saturday, and eventually it comes together.

Because we're rather overprogrammed for such a small con - we got in more paper proposals than we expected, but then we always do - I opted for a perhaps controversial "broken field" style of scheduling, where items of varying lengths, 30 to 90 minutes, start at varying half-hour intervals. The idea is to avoid too many items occupying exactly the same timeslot as each other, in case one of them is so obscure that nobody comes. (And with luck, the attendees won't notice the way I slotted papers on obscure books to be opposite each other, instead of opposite something popular.) With items starting every which way of a time, it'll be easier to drop in on one, then another, or get caught up in something because it's the only item starting at that time.

I began my work with little slips of paper with titles and summaries on them, which I pushed around a table. (I can't use the floor here, because if you put a piece of paper on our floor, Pandora will come and sit on it, in keeping with the cat rule of "if there is something to be on top of, do so.") Then I transfer that to a scrawled time-graph on lined paper, where each pre-printed line represents a half-hour interval as you temporally drop down the page. Finally, I type it up, copying and pasting paper information from the papers coordinator. Then I re-create the graph from the typed schedule to check against typos.

The other thing I had to do, and I accomplished this first, was to invent panel titles and descriptions. This year our theme is "Myths and legends from Europe and Asia meet and mingle," and I put together 3 panels to address various aspects of this topic. The problem is that, due partly to the limited availability of good panelists for a given topic, the subtopics twist around and overlap each other. I explained in detail in an e-mail to all the panelists how I intended for this to fit together, and why they were all chosen for those specific panels. That done, in the program book I could be looser, and went for the fanciful and allusive.

And that's done. It'll be up soon. Now, on to corrections and additions to bibliography that was just dropped in my lap last night with an Ultra Urgent sticker; getting the Mythcon readers' theatre play organized; writing my paper no, I cancelled that; possibly updating a very very overdue article; writing some LoCs ...