Posts Tagged ‘Iceland’

Icelandic Horses in need of rescue. Set for slaughter on Friday

Ellen Vandover just alerted me to some Icelandic horses that are currently in the Zillah feed pens and are in need of rescue. The ages range from 2 – 14 and are based off size, body size and tail length. They are halter broken and normally friendly but in the feedlot they seem pretty timid. Most have had their feet trimmed.

The lastest word is there are still 32 on the lot that have until Friday when they go to slaughter. They are priced by the pound–$375, $475 and $575.

If you know of anyone who would like to save one or more of these Icelandics, they can call Pam at 509-952-3866.

EDITED TO ADD: I’ve been alerted that there may be a scam in play to take rescue money and slaughter the horses any way. Proceed with caution.

Heavily Inspired by Iceland

Last night when I was flying home and the fellow in the seat next to me was talking about how awful the situation in Iceland was with the whole country blanketed by ash.

It’s not.

I explained that the area affected by Eyjafjallajökul is very small and that Europe is getting most of the ash plume. He looked doubtful. When I got home, I had this video sitting in my inbox from a friend in Iceland. It’s part of the Inspired by Iceland campaign to spread the word about how fantastic Iceland is.

Inspired by Iceland Video from Inspired By Iceland on Vimeo.

If you’ve read any of my fiction you know how much living in Iceland for a year and a half inspired me. Here are some of the stories that I took out of Iceland.

If you are looking for vacation plans and a lot of sunshine, hit Iceland this summer for 20 hours per day.  The landscape changes constantly so one day it is like vacationing in Middle Earth and the next the Moon.

The Moon, with air and hot springs, that is.

In the snow with Rob

New York was scheduled to get fourteen inches of snow today. I’m not sure how many actually fell, but the blanket was pretty thick today. Rob and I went for a walk in Central Park, which had children on sleds on every possible hill. Their winter coats seemed super-saturated against the monochrome landscape. It reminded me of when we went to the glacier in Iceland. As you walk through snow, your eyes become accustomed to a stripped down palette, so any tiny variation of color stands out. Introduce machine made color into that and it almost makes the landscape bleed.

Finishing trash

This is a post that I wrote over two years ago while working on the television show in Iceland. At the time, I held it because there was no way I could talk about this stuff without giving away that we were doing a circus episode. Well, the episode has been out long enough now that I can post.

So here you go, puppetry flashback.


April 26, 2006

I did loads of stuff with one of the puppets on a highwire. We had one shot that was really fun to do because it was hard. The puppet had to hold on to one of those bars that tightrope walkers use to balance. I have no idea what they are really called, but we called it the stripey pole. So, normally, you’d tape the rod to his hands and either have someone outside the frame holding the end of it, or you’d put a rod on it. In this case, an actor needed to take it from the puppet in the shot. Which we would normally do with live hands, but the way it had to be framed, there was no way to do either of these and make it look good.

So, I put on a greenscreen top, and used the wrist-entry left arm. (Maybe I should stop and explain that with live hands I have a choice of entering the arm at the elbow or the wrist.) I pulled the green shirt sleeve over the entry sleeve and they keyed my arm out. This mean that everything in green was invisible on camera–it’s very cool. So, it just looked like the puppet was holding the stripey pole and then we could pass it to the actor.

Maybe you have to be a puppeteer to know that this was nifty.

After that, it was more stripey pole action, but I just held the end of the stripey pole out of frame.

We finished the day with a trashcan shot. I know. I thought I was finished with trash too, but no. I was the periscope which had too peek up from inside a trashcan. They painted the fiberglass trash can today and it was still degassing. Mmm…let’s sit inside the container of toxic fumes.

I don’t think so. I requested and given a respirator. Because there wasn’t room in there for me, the periscope and a monitor, I also had to use the VR goggles, all of which were oh-so-attractive. The shot itself was fairly simple. I had to make the periscope peek out of the trashcan, look around, and then an actor had to jump on me. Great fun.

And just so you can see what a trippy, trippy episode that was to work on. Here’s the music video and the closing number.

Missing Iceland

After having Icelandic visitors for the last week, I’m missing the place even more. Daddi and Friða left last night, safely, and our apartment seems empty. As much as anything else, I miss the sound of the language when they would quickly chat with one another. I made a few abortive attempts to use my Icelandic, but have lost most of it. I can still cobble together a sentence, but I’m out of practice at listening to it. It’s starting to blur together into a wash of sound rather than discreet words.

I also miss the lack of bullshit with Icelanders. With an American you so often have to do a social dance to make plans. You know the one.

Host: “I could make muffins or we could go out to a diner for breakfast.”

Guest: “Whichever is easiest.”

Host: “They’re both easy. Which would you like?”

Guest: “Oh, I don’t want you to go to any trouble.”

etc, etc, etc… until it’s time for lunch and the whole thing starts again.

With an Icelander.

Host: “I could make muffins or we could go out to a diner for breakfast.”

Guest: “A diner sounds good.”

So, with that in mind, here’s the Daily Show and their documentary on the effort to get Iceland’s troops back in Iraq.

We have flatkökur!

Our friend Daddi is in town for a big expo and he brought us several packs of our favorite Icelandic treat. Flatkökur are flat cakes, that sort of look like burned crepes. Made with rye flour, they are sooooo tasty and I’ve missed them a lot. There’s nothing comparable here.

Earthquake in Iceland

A 6.1 earthquake hit Southern Iceland today. We’ve talked with some of our friends and everyone seems to be fine. Since Iceland is a geologically unstable island, they tend to be more architecturally prepared than we do. Even so, all the residents in Hveragerdi ((Hveragerdi has the hot river where we spent summer solstice.)) and Selfoss were told not to go back into their homes until authorities are sure that they are safe.

Our friend, Daddi, said that he was at the studio packing up for an expo here and that he and Hannis felt it, saw the lights shaking and headed outside. The quake lasted long enough that they got all the way outside before the tremors stopped. He also said that the weather is perfect today, so that most people are just pitching tents outside and planning on camping while things get sorted out. ((Given where they live, they don’t have to worry about trees falling on them.))

If you click through you can watch footage of the quake from different parts of the country, including parliament. Does business stop? No. I love the Icelandic spirit.

And I’m so grateful that everyone is okay.

How I got started in puppetry

Elizabeth Barrette asked, “How did you get into your cool practice of acquiring bizarre props and building puppets?”

This is one that comes up a lot and, strangely, I don’t think I’ve posted on it, so I’ll give the long answer.

I was one of those kids who wanted to do everything. My parents indulged me and so I took violin, art, theater classes, writing workshops and then, in high school, discovered puppetry. A friend of mine went to a church that had a puppet ministry program, which was the coolest thing ever. I started going to the church so I could be involved — maybe not the best reason to join a church. Anyway, I got very lucky because the leaders of the puppetry program worked very hard on teaching us good skills. A lot of puppet ministry programs have truly dreadful puppetry.

I loved the puppetry. When our high school did Little Shop of Horrors, I was the plant.

I did puppetry as a hobby until I went to college. I majored in art education with a minor in theater, which was the closest I could come to combining everything that I loved to do. ((Later I learned about colleges, like the University of Connecticut, that had puppetry programs.)) My sophomore year, the college did Little Shop and I was the plant again.

Then a professional puppeteer came to see the show. Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that someone would actually get paid to do puppetry. I mean, sure, I’d seen Sesame Street, but that was on PBS and everyone knew that PBS was run by volunteers, right? Yeah… But this puppeteer, Dee Braxton, owned a house, only worked a couple of days a week and most importantly, was willing to train me. By the end of the first summer, she was handing me the gigs she couldn’t take. People were giving me money. To do puppets. I was making more money doing that than my part-time job.

Later, I realized that we lived in an area of the country with a very low cost of living and that we were the only puppeteers in a three county radius. It helps.

From there I went to the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, GA for an internship. This shaped me as a puppeteer more than anything else. George Latshaw (like unto a god, in puppetry) was directing, and the cast was a dream team of puppeteers, Jon Ludwig, Jane Catherine Shaw, Bobby Box, and Peter Hart. Pete was in charge of the internship program and my mentor. If I tried to say enough good things about that program, I would bore you, so suffice to say that I can trace everything back to there.

After the internship, I just kept working. I’ve been at it for nineteen years now and, with the exception of a two-year break due to a wrist injury, have made my living as a puppeteer.

Until I came to NYC.

Now the irony here is that, before Iceland, I’d had several years where I worked three to five months out of the year here, as a puppeteer. I always felt as if I would work constantly if I lived here. And behold, that’s true. The odd thing is that almost all the work has been in the props department.

That’s something I stumbled into and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, I enjoy it and it’s honest work. On the other hand, it’s not why we came to NYC and is taking up so much time that I haven’t had a chance to really pursue puppetry and it’s cutting into my writing time.

Rob and I are talking about how to balance that, going forward. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

My birthday was a splendid day

Konjoined KittySince my plans with the folks were out, I decided to throw an impromptu party. I was figuring it would be a small turnout, you know, what with last minute notice for a Friday night. To my pleasant surprise, close to twenty people came round. We opened some interesting wines, had hors d’ouerves, ordered Chinese. Oh and cake.

AND a friend from Iceland was in town on business. A mutual friend told her about the party and brought her along to surprise me. Such happiness!

Mom and Dad called today too. Dad sounds like he’s in good spirits. On the other hand, I could clearly hear that they made the right choice to stay in Tennessee.

I also got a package from Mom and Pop K in the mail which contained, among other goodies, some of her world-famous cookies. Mmm… I’m not sharing those. Which reminds me that I have to hide them from Rob.

And I also got a Konjoined Kitty, lovingly created by Michael Schupbach. This is very cool, not only because it is adorable, but because I got to see him work through the process of developing the idea, creating it and now he’s marketing them. And I have one of my very own. Soft, cute and disturbing. What more could you ask for in a pillow/toy?

Movies with things that explode

Normally I’m all etiquette books and puppets, but there are days when what I really want to see is a movie with things that explode, you know? Today was one of those — don’t ask — and so Rob went out to find something for me. He came back with The Bourne Supremacy, which I saw in Iceland and Charlie’s Angels. Good fluffy explosions and fight sequences. I love wire work and there was plenty of it in this.

The urge to watch this kind of film doesn’t come up that often so I don’t keep up with the good action films out there. I’m looking for suggestions for the next time I need an exploding film nights.

To start you off, here are movies that fit the bill:
Almost anything by Jackie Chan
The Blues Brothers
Spiderman
Indiana Jones
The Bourne Identity

Some Bond, such as Goldfinger
Serenity
Robocop

There’s a tendency for comic book escapism here, you might note. It’s not that they need to be light-hearted it’s just that I don’t handle monsters well.

So… got any suggestions for me?

Christmas party

Last night, Rob and I threw our annual dinner party. I normally have a guest list of 40, but given the size of the apartment, whittled the list down to twenty, fifteen of whom attended. One of the most curious things was how many of our guests had been to the party in Portland or the one time I threw it in Iceland. It was a nice mix of writers, puppeteers, actors, musicians and activists.

On the whole, I think the layout worked well for the dining portion, but the mingling portion beforehand still has some kinks to be worked out. We had the cats locked up in the bedroom, but next time, I think we’ll have to have that room open just for more milling about space.

I really, really love throwing dinner parties. Especially this one because it’s my formal dress party. I’ve got a bit of a thing for evening dress and I throw this party as “black tie optional.” Now, technically, that means that it’s a white tie party and the gentlemen can dress down to black tie, but in this day and age, it just means you can dress up if you feel like it. And everyone looked stunning, I must say.

Sorry. Like an idiot, I forgot to take pictures with the tables set. You’ll have to trust me that there was much china and crystal, with placecards and party favors.

Ah me… I need to throw more parties.


The Menu
Baguette and Challah rolls
Cheese plate with Mobay, Goat Gouda and Goat Brie
Green salad
Garbanzo Pomegranate Salad
Key Lime Green Beans with Thyme
Baby red potatoes with garlic and gorgonzola
Spinach, artichoke heart casserole
Butternut squash, eggplant, mushroom and chestnut lasagna
Shrimp Curry and rice
Apple tart

What? A social life?

Friday I had a meeting about a show I’m going to do set design for — one that does not involve any body parts at all — and then… then I had nothing on my calendar. I staggered for a bit, feeling like I had to race somewhere or do something but I didn’t.

I took the subway home, where my fabulous husband had dinner waiting. I spent some time getting work done that’s been pending at home and rediscovered the surface of my desk. It is brown and wood. Who knew?

Saturday, well, suffice to say that Saturday was lovely and is private. It has been a good six years.

Then today we rode the motorcycle up to D– and J–‘s home from their son’s second birthday party. It was good seeing them both. I hadn’t seen D– since the show we’d worked on in Iceland. My heavens. Their son was still in-arms last time I saw him and he’s a tyke now. Plus! They had a puppet show there, which was performed by our mutual friend Steve Widerman, of The Puppet Company. Great seeing him.

We headed from there to Katonah to visit the L– family. They let us store Rob’s motorcycle in their garage and, as a bonus, we get to spend time visiting. Tonight I introduced them to hot toddies and may have made converts.

If you don’t know, a hot toddy is the best cold weather beverage ever invented. Unless you don’t drink, in which case I’ll argue for hot apple cider.

We just returned from those outings. Heavens. I feel like a real human being.

Edited to add, per request:

My hot toddy recipe

1 shot of bourbon, whiskey or scotch
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Fill the rest of the cup with boiling-hot water

There are many variations and I make no claims that this one is The Genuine hot toddy, but it’s the one I like. Tweak to your hearts content; I like mine on the tart side, so I tend to keep the lemon juice ration high.

Eve’s Alexandria reviews Twenty Epics

Twenty EpicsEve’s Alexandria reviewed Twenty Epics and includes favorable comments about my story “Bound Man.” Here’s a snippet of the section about “Bound Man.”

Other stories do in fact meet many of the criteria listed in my opening paragraph. Mary Robinette Kowal’s ‘Bound Man’ – one of the longer pieces in the anthology – goes for an epic scale in both space and time, having her warrior heroine Li Reiko summoned across the ages, by means of a magical Sword, to aid a beleaguered village community in a harsh northern land. Both Li Reiko’s sophisticated Japan-esque homeland and the Viking-era Iceland analogue to which she travels are nicely evoked – and the heightened, the-fate-of-all-depends-on-this register of epic is captured well:

Strange Horizons Podcast interviews me

Last week I spent an enjoyable hour being interviewedby Susan Marie Groppi for Strange Horizons‘ podcast. Susan was my editor for “Bound Man,” in Twenty Epics and also “Portrait of Ari” for Strange Horizons.

In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Susan Marie Groppi spoke with Mary Robinette Kowal. Mary is a puppeteer and writer, and she is also the art director of Shimmer magazine.

More mossEdited to add: I was just listening to this to make sure I didn’t sound like an idiot. Which I mostly don’t, until I try to speak a little Icelandic. In fact, I talk about Iceland a bit and figured I would throw some visual aids up here. If you’ve listened to the podcast and want to know what the Land of a Thousand Throw Pillows looks like, it looks like this.

See! I wasn’t exaggerating my description, was I.

Susan was a really gracious host to the podcast. The only thing she seems to have cut was my closing remark, which was something along the lines of “Strange Horizons is one of the best things going for short fiction.”

Adventures in Reading reviews Horizontal Rain

Golly, it’s a banner week for reviews. Joe Sherry, at Adventures in Reading, reviewed “Horizontal Rain.”

Here’s a snippet.

Horizontal Rain is a reasonably short short-story, fewer than 2700 words, but Mary Robinette Kowal packs a good deal of story into those 2700 words. Confusion, fear, fairy tales, trolls, death, driving, construction, meetings, phone calls, and a general sense of unease as the harsh Icelandic wind blows the rain sideways.

If you’d like to read the story, it’s at Apex Online.

Mr. Sherry also posted his dream list of authors to invite for an anthology. Lord help me, I have no idea what sorting criteria could possibly have put me on the list at number two. Still, I like his day dream.

It’s an interesting mental game, isn’t it. Who would you invite to your dream anthology?