14 December 2020

In Memoriam: Meg Jones | Reporter | Raconteur | Friend to Many


Reporter Meg Jones with Skyriter typewriter
Meg Jones with Skyriter Typewriter
Photo by J.A. Jablonski (c) 2018

Two years ago Meg Jones, reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and I met up at a coffee shop on Milwaukee's East Side. I had something to give her: a typewriter. Not just any typewriter, a Skyriter. The Skyriter was popular with journalists and war correspondents due its small size, portability (only 9 lbs including its metal case), and reliable action. In the 1970s, the case was updated to a soft-sided thing so that reporters, writers, and travel writers could tuck it under their airplane seats.

Meg Jones was both journalist and war correspondent. I admired the heck out of her and regular read her stories in JSOnline. I wanted her to have her own "reporter's typewriter." Five years before she'd already typed on the very machine I gave her, though she might not have remembered it that day in January 2018.

Meg Jones typing on a Skyriter Typewriter in 2013
Photo by J.A. Jablonski (c) 2018

I used to collect typewriters. In 2013, Meg contacted me. Somehow she'd heard about me and these machines. I posted about that interview here. This is how I described how it came about:

"She googled typewriters AND Milwaukee, and my post about last year's Summer Solstice Type-In came up.  Like any reporter worth her salt, she tracked me down and asked if she could call.  And like a good librarian, I said, "Sure, I have lots of info you could use for a story." 

Meg called, we talked for about 30 minutes.  Then, offhandedly, she asked, "So how many typewriters do you have?"  "Well," I says, "about 25."  Then came that amusing nano-second pause and Meg asked, "Would you mind if I came over to your house to see them? Oh, and could I bring a photographer?"

It was a lovely afternoon's conversation. Meg was delightful and completely interested in everything. Talking to her was like talking to an old friend. She said she liked to make her own short report videos on her phone and might I please type something for background noise. (That's her typing at the end with me holding her phone over her shoulder.)

Her JS Online Video

From 2013 on we'd run into each other now and then, usually on the way in to a Brewers game at Miller Park. She was a serious fan. She'd stop for a friendly chat but then promptly motored off with great intent. She wanted to see everything game-related: batting practice, pregame, everything! One got the feeling that life itself was that to her: to be seen in total.

She was so excited to receive the Skyriter--wanting to know where it came from, if anyone had used it for writing before her. I had to admit that I'd gotten it via eBay and didn't know. We followed each other on Twitter then, and exchanged snail mail addresses to correspond, and for the couple years since she sent me her holiday letters. They were a blast to read! She SO enjoyed her work, her travel, and the people she met. They were travelogues in and of themselves.

Back in September Milwaukee's own Boswell Books hosted Iranian novelist Salar Abdoh for a conversation about his latest book Out of Mesopotamia, in which Abdoh discussed the "endless war" from a Middle Eastern perspective. Meg Jones was the host for the conversation, and oh my, was it fascinating. I've watched a lot of book launch interviews and this was anything but. Abdoh and Jones were of a kind and clearly respected each others' war reporting experiences.

Salar Abdoh Virtual Event for Boswell Book Company
Host: Meg Jones | Runtime: 59 min

Not too long ago I got another of her letters. She told me what she'd been doing and where she'd been of late. Then she thanked me again for the Skyriter. She had it on display in her guest bedroom, she said.

Meg Jones' obituary is here. You can hear her vibrancy, her joy, her professionalism throughout. And you can hear how much she will be missed by her colleagues and friends.

Rest in Peace, Meg. Rest in Power. Thank you for what you gave us all. How you will be missed.

09 December 2020

Sequestering Arts: The Yuletide Edition


"Winter Scene" | Jean Beaufort
(CC0 Public Domain | Source)

Very best wishes of the solstice season
and good health to you & yours!

Sequestering Arts | About this intermittent series

With the world in lockdown due to Covid-19 (<-- link to the CDC info site), many people are struggling, practically, emotionally, and creatively. As a long-time creative & librarian I thought I might be able to help by doing what I do best: finding/sharing information. My goal is to provide links to interesting, comforting, & creative online resources that you can explore & enjoy while home- or place-bound.


  • Sonnets in Solitude | Royal Shakespeare Company | Videos
    Playlist (62 videos to date):
    [From description] "RSC actors perform Shakespeare's sonnets. When Covid-19 closed our theatres and stopped all live performances, so we turned to Shakespeare's poetry."

  • Until the Flood | Milwaukee Repertory Theater | Written & Performed by Dael Orlandersmith | Directed by Neel Keller | Video | Runtime: 1:02:01
    [From About] " About the Flood: Pulitzer Prize finalist and celebrated performer Dael Orlandersmith (Forever) explores the social uprising in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of teenager Michael Brown. Pulling from her extensive interviews with Missouri residents, Orlandersmith crafts a stunning theatrical experience that must be seen. The Chicago Tribune called it “palpably compassionate” and raved that it “achieves a great beauty by bringing us together rather than driving us apart.”

  • A Christmas Carol | Milwaukee Repertory Theater | Free from Dec 1-24, 2020
    Mark Clements’ Classic Production of A Christmas Carol

    [From webpage] "Each year, nearly 40,000 people experience Milwaukee Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements’ epic adaptation at the beautiful historic Pabst Theater. We are opening our video vault to bring a never-before-seen recording of the 2016 production filmed and produced by HMS Media. This production will be available for FREE to view Dec 1 – 24 as our gift to theater lovers worldwide."
  • The Gauntlet | Sydney Opera House | Video | Runtime: 25:17
    [From description] "Performed as part of Antidote in 2018, The Gauntlet is a genre-bending performance work, which combines choirs and vocal ensembles, contemporary choreography and site-specific storytelling. In this newly commissioned film, composer Sxip Shirey and choreographer Coco Karol discuss what it takes to create an immersive piece of this nature."

    This is really an unusual piece and, for those of us missing human contact & interaction, emotionally satisfying.


  • Rock the bagpipe! Scotland the Brave / We will rock you @ Switzerland | Video | Runtime: 4:39
    Apologies to my father-in-law! But they really are kicking it here!

  • Live - As Quatro Estações e Valencianas: Alceu Valença e Orquestra Ouro Preto | Video | Runtime: 2:50:37
    Originally streamed on 12/6/2020 | https://youtu.be/D219aLq4e4A
    [Translation of the video description's first paragraph - via Google Translate] "The Ouro Preto Orchestra celebrates the 125th anniversary of SulAmérica with two lives in a row, Sunday, December 6, transmitted directly from the historic city of Minas Gerais. All under the baton of Maestro Rodrigo Toffolo, with the participation of Alceu Valença and the guitarist Carmelo de Los Santos."

  • 20 minutes of Celtic mandolin, cittern and mandola | Video | Runtime: 22:40
    [Performers: Ian Stephenson &Tom Kimber]

  • Joe Utterback - Concert Fantasy on George Gershwin's Porgy & Bess; Sets for Piano solo Performed by pianist David Allen Wehr
    Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsneRuLOc8g1x_-vtiMR0T4Y8HyrAXF0v
    As many of you know I quite like this musician! This album is one of my favorites. If you are interested in acquiring his CDs, see the link provided in the description. FYI: Wehr is the Dean of the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University. They have a nice YouTube channel of performances too: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGvll7oZ4lQOXpQ7fxdAUiw

  • Alicia Keys: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert | June 2020 | Video | Runtime: 27:46

  • Florence + the Machine: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert | October 2018 | Video | Runtime: 14:01

  • Library of Congress Concerts | LOC website, YouTube, & Facebook
    NB: Not all videos will be available on all platforms, and some will be available only for a limited time; check each page for options as the event nears.
    [From webpage] "Our 2020-2021 season will be presented entirely virtually, through a freshly-conceived portal to our concerts, conversations, lectures and much more, available free of charge to everyone. In our 96th season, encountering unprecedented times and unpredictable challenges, we embark on an exciting venture: to share our concerts, and the Library’s magnificent music collections, with the greatest possible audience worldwide. New music and new media come together in a year that sees a mini-fest of Latinx composers and the world premieres of three new Library of Congress commissions. Two virtual residencies feature the JACK Quartet and violinist Jennifer Koh, visionary artists fired by a passion to reflect the rich diversity in our society and our music. '(Re)Hearing Beethoven' is a festive 250th birthday celebration you absolutely can’t miss: performances of revelatory transcriptions of the composer’s nine symphonies introduced by artists and scholars in programs."

  • Jazz at Lincoln Center | John Coltrane
    I must confess Coltrane's work does a serious whack on my synesthesia (and not in a good way) but if you are into his stuff, here's a great playlist.


  • How to fold a 3D Paper Star
    [From description] "This is an origami tutorial on how to fold a fancy 3D paper star. Nice ornament for Christmas as well as party decoration for all seasons. I also recommend it as a paper aroma diffuser to purify the room air. You can make it from a sheet of A-sized copy paper. Folding pattern is simple so that you can make both 8-pointed and 6-pointed stars."

  • Origami with Jo Nakashima | Tutorials | Videos
    Playlists: https://www.youtube.com/c/JoNakashimaBR/playlists

  • TheJasonOfAllTrades | Videos
    [From About] "I'm an itinerant DIY'er and liver of life. By "liver," I don't mean the organ. Maybe I need a better word for this."

    As some of you know, I come from a family of artist/makers/creatives. I learned to sew on my grandmother's treadle machine! Pretty sure all of my siblings sew. I recall one of my brothers sewing a camping tent because at the time they didn't sell 'em for us tall folks. This gent would fit right to my family, especially for his sheer joyful interest in the machinery of the makery.

  • Fable the Raven | Did you know Ravens can talk?! | Video | Runtime: 6:25
    I have a small "unkindness" of ravens featured in my mystery novel (in process) so I like to track this sort of thing.

  • Around the world in 1896! footage from 1800's with added sound | Britannia Panopticon | Video | Runtime: 42:03

  • STRANDBEEST EVOLUTION 2017 | Theo Jansen | Video | Runtime: 4:19
    [From Wikipedia] "Theodorus Gerardus Jozef "Theo" Jansen is a Dutch artist. In 1990, he began building large mechanisms out of PVC that are able to move on their own and, collectively, are entitled, Strandbeest. The kinetic sculptures appear to walk. His animated works are intended to be a fusion of art and engineering."

  • The Last Knit | Directed by Laura Neuvonen | Video | Runtime: 6:44
    A wonderfully quirky animated film from Finland.

  • London Kensington Side Streets & Mews - 4K Walk | Video | Runtime: 37:23


I've found it especially helpful to have these longer videos playing on an older laptop which I have set to the side of my writing desk.
  • Ambience/ASMR: Writer's Library from the 1930s, 4 Hours | Ambience of Yesteryear | Video | Runtime: 4:00:07
    [From description: "List of Sounds: - wild songbirds - wood crackling as it burns in the fireplace - footsteps; doors opening & closing - clothing & upholstery softly rustling with movement - handling & flipping through antique hardback books; stroking the covers & spines - perusing & sorting papers - turning pages - jotting notes with a pencil - sketching in charcoal; drawing with pastels - writing cursive by hand with a fountain pen - pouring & stirring tea in fine bone china - the gentle clinking of teaware"]

    Their entire playlist is rather nice. Here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx70KF3RlS36RnGOtN8VKfQ

  • Fireplace 10 hours full HD | Video | Runtime: 10:01:25

  • Afternoon JAZZ - Relaxing Cafe Jazz Music - Lounge Music For Study, Work, Relax | Relax Music | Video | Runtime: 10:11:15

  • Pottery Throwing ASMR (no voice or music) | Kai Ceramics | Video | Runtime: 11:35


05 November 2020

Cool Book: Slippery Creatures by KJ Charles


KJ Charles Slippery Creatures Book Cover

It's been some time since I have found a book so entertaining as KJ Charles Slippery Creatures (KJC Books, 2020). [1] Though new to me, she's been writing for a while now. This title is the first I've read of hers and I am looking forward to reading more.

Creatures is certainly lively. The 1963 movie Tom Jones (with Albert Finney in the titular role) came to mind immediately. [2]


(YouTube link)

Specifically, the famous eating scene. Here is Wook Kim's 2012 summary of it:

"Bawdy, boisterous, and full of heart, Tom Jones won four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director (for Terry Richardson). In the film’s perhaps most famous scene, the raffish but utterly charming Tom (Albert Finney) shares a tavern meal with a Mrs. Waters (who, unbeknownst to Tom, just may be his mother). The dinner begins innocently enough, but their furtive glances soon turn into almost incandescent gazing: even a village fool can see where this is going. It’s a simple two-shot scene, oft parodied, that fleshes out, both literally and figuratively, the sometimes eye-winkingly genteel descriptions in Henry Fielding’s picaresque novel." (Populist, Jan 5, 2012)

Albert Finney in eating scene of Tom Jones movie

Joyce Redman in eating scene of Tom Jones movie
Top: Albert Finney as Tom Jones (Source)
Lower: Joyce Redman as Mrs. Redman/Jenny Jones (Source)

The young Finney, I imagine, would be a lovely Will Darling, the rough and tumble, murderous WWI soldier turned bookseller in Creatures. Opposite him, as the charming and devious Lord Arthur "Kim" Secretan, I'd cast Matthew Goode.

Actor Matthew Goode
Actor Matthew Goode (Source)

In fact, for all that Creatures is set in England in the 1920s after the so-called Great War, I kept harkening back to my grad school days when I seriously considered shifting from my focus on medieval lit to 18th-century stuff. Tom Jones, yes, and the roaring, bawdy William Hogarth, "English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist." (Wikipedia) Not surprisingly, Tom Jones author Henry Fielding was a friend.

William Hogarth's Industry and Idleness, Plate 7, The Idle 'Prentice return'd from Sea, & in a Garret with common Prostitute
William Hogarth: The Idle 'Prentice return'd from Sea,
& in a Garret with common Prostitute (Source)

Creatures has that kind of joie de vivre, raucous, broadly adventurous, and terrifically sexy. Here's the quick intro to Slippery Creatures from Charles' website:

Will Darling came back from the Great War with a few scars, a lot of medals, and no idea what to do next. Inheriting his uncle’s chaotic second-hand bookshop is a blessing…until strange visitors start making threats. First a criminal gang, then the War Office, both telling Will to give them the information they want, or else.

Will has no idea what that information is, and nobody to turn to, until Kim Secretan—charming, cultured, oddly attractive—steps in to offer help. As Kim and Will try to find answers and outrun trouble, mutual desire grows along with the danger.

And then Will discovers the truth about Kim. His identity, his past, his real intentions. Enraged and betrayed, Will never wants to see him again.

But Will possesses knowledge that could cost thousands of lives. Enemies are closing in on him from all sides—and Kim is the only man who can help.

A 1920s m/m romance trilogy in the spirit of Golden Age pulp fiction.

It took me a bit to get into Creatures as I am, admittedly, a reader with serious attitude. I almost put it down as a no-go, in part because the character of the bookseller is such a worn trope. I follow Charles on Twitter, though. She is sharp, witty, opinionated, and writes a damn good tweet. So I skipped ahead a chapter or two and, oh wonderful! Creatures indeed resurrects the Golden Age of pulp fiction in that it is action-packed, clever and funny, and moves the reader along right proper. What's unique and particularly intriguing and frankly, appreciated, is its eroticism, queer specifically.

Charles notes on her Content Warnings web page that all of her "full-length novels contain on-page sex and swearing." On-page, oh my, yes. (Though the swearing in Creatures escaped me, I have to admit. Then again, the F-word is so frequent in my own natterings that I hardly see it.) The sex is explicit, occasionally quite raw, and matter of fact. It is also historically accurate in that Charles keeps the mindset of her characters in their time period. On that Warnings page she states that her "books are historicals and thus set against a background of Georgian/Victorian/20s British attitudes to sex and gender. I’ve mentioned homophobia where it’s explicit.

Will Darling and Kim Secretan cannot be out though Secretan's proclivities are known to certain colleagues. Secretan has a fiancée--the delightfully solid Phoebe Stephens-Prince--and Darling a good friend, the pragmatic and smart Maisie Jones. So their couplings are intense but always guarded. It adds to the sexual tension that they are so but also brings painfully to mind how even now the LGBTQIA community lives, or is forced to live, in society's substrates.

Silhouette portrait of Phoebe Stephens-Prince characterSilhouette portrait of Maisie Jones character
(Image source, Left & Right)

For all that Creatures is a kind of romp, with the underlying humor of the noir and pulp fiction genres, the storytelling rests profoundly on Charles' solid historical accuracy. There is a sobering tone: the social and emotional impact of World War I on a generation.

John Singer Sargent's sketch Studies for Wounded Soldier for "Death and Victory"
Studies for Wounded Soldier for "Death and Victory,"
Widener Library, Harvard University, John Singer Sargent, 1921-1922 
John Singer Sargent's painting Gassed of World War One soliders
Imperial War Museum, London, John Singer Sargent, c. March 1919
(Image source)

At one point Darling has been captured and, it seems, likely left to die. As he struggles in darkness and cold, his time in the filthy trenches fills his mind. At another point, describing to Secretan what it was like to kill, the deep flavor of his actions vibrates from the page.
Like the current pandemic, Death doesn't simply hover. It is quite real. Former soldier Darling isn't simply a victim of war. Killing remains a visceral component of his psychology and behavior. Secretan, whose younger brother served as his war surrogate and died in his place, and who is himself something of what was referred to in 1920s London as a Bright Young Thing, is made melancholy and driven by the loss. Yes, there is sex for these two, but the sex is as much driven by a mortality-wrought aphrodisia as it is their own desires.

Charles describes The Will Darling Adventures series as a romance trilogy. She promises a happy ending, as she does for all her works. Will and Kim are of that mode, but they are also of an older tradition, that of romantic friends. I rather like the Wikipedia description of this:

"A romantic friendship, passionate friendship, or affectionate friendship is a very close but typically non-sexual relationship between friends, often involving a degree of physical closeness beyond that which is common in the contemporary Western societies. It may include for example holding hands, cuddling, hugging, kissing, giving massages, and sharing a bed, without sexual intercourse or other physical sexual expression."

In Slippery Creatures the emotional tenor of a romantic friendship is just aborning as is the sexual romance. The success of Charles' storytelling is that she draws the reader into the narrative romp and the luxuriating passions while also promising the connection of souls that we also desire. Quite a feat for a novel with such a breezing style and relative brevity.

My other Cool Books reviews


[1] ISBN: Print ISBN: 978-1912688166; also in eBook via this link from Charles' site: https://books2read.com/u/4j2OvX

[2] Tom Jones movie info via Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Jones_(1963_film); info on the original book, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, by Henry Fielding here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_History_of_Tom_Jones,_a_Foundling

27 September 2020

Sequestering Arts | A Little Music, A Little Theater

Illustration from
J. J. Grandville's Un autre monde (1844)
Sequestering Arts | About this intermittent series

With the world in lockdown due to Covid-19 (<-- link to the CDC info site), many people are struggling, practically, emotionally, and creatively. As a long-time creative & librarian I thought I might be able to help by doing what I do best: finding/sharing information. My goal is to provide links to interesting, comforting, & creative online resources that you can explore & enjoy while home- or place-bound.
  • Mary Pappert School of Music | Duquesne University
    Music on the Bluff - Virtual Series

    Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyejVSw0ivQBeIiC7wa2lN1nsBljMSIiB

    [From website] "Beginning in September, we will release a new Bluff Series video on the Mary Pappert School of Music YouTube channel that will feature the talents of Artistic Director and pianist, David Allen Wehr, along with our all-star faculty, members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and internationally-renowned guest artists."
    • Sonata for Cello and Piano (Debussy)
      Fri Sep 18th - Thu Oct 15th 
    • Première Rhapsody for Clarinet and Piano (Debussy)
      Fri Oct 16th - Fri Nov 20th

  • Ralph Zurmühle | Composer & Pianist
    Live Recording Session at Little Big Beat Studios

    [Video description] "
    Video of the full program performed in the live recording session on the 19th of August 2020 at Little Big Beat Studios in cooperation with Tangente, Eschen/FL. There is a unique silence in such a recording session, a silence that is challenging, intense and at the same time extremely inspiring - one can literally hear the drop of a needle. The connection between performer and audience is intimate through the use of earphones and both journey together, moment by moment… with every key touched, every note played and every melody transmitted.

    [From website] "The Swiss composer and pianist was born in Zürich and grew up mainly in Liechtenstein. He graduated from the University of Zürich and lives in Spain. Ralph discovered his natural ability for the piano at the age of five. He fostered his talent over decades with jazz and classical music training in Zürich and Liechtenstein. Imbued with subtle changes of tempo and nuance, crossing various musical genres, Zurmühle’s compositions maintain the intuitive feeling of improvised music. With great sensitivity to touch, he combines fluidity and freedom with refinement and development, resulting in graceful melodies, sublime sound textures and introspective ambiences."

  • Beall & Finch
    Playlists: https://www.youtube.com/c/BeallandFinch/playlists
    [From website] "Jesse Finch and Rosalind Beall are two guitarists who enjoy playing classical music and also writing their own music (with classical, folk and singer-songwriter influences)."

* * * * *

 Procession of Characters from Shakespeare's Plays | Link/Info below

"I don't think people should bother to read Shakespeare.
They should see him in the theatre. Reading just reduces him to an examination subject."  

~ Sir Ian McKellen (Source info below)

  • Shakespeare's Globe Theatre | Romeo & Juliet |
    Available: 9/28/2020 - Feb Half-Term 2021

  • Sadler Wells Theatre
    Sadler's Wells Theatre is a performing arts venue in Clerkenwell, London, England. Noted on 9/10/2020 (What's On Stage). They are set to reopen for public performances and will be releasing archived shows online. See their website for show info.

  • Cirque du Soleil | 60-MINUTE SPECIALS
    See their playlist of 1-hour specials here:
  • The Curve Theatre (Leicester, England) | My Beautiful Launderette
    Available until the Curve reopens
    Hanif Kureishi's play based on his Oscar-nominated screenplay, featuring original music from Tennant/Lowe of the Pet Shops Boys. Omar Malik and Jonny Fines star in the production, filmed at Leicester's Curve theatre in 2019.

  • Clock Productions (Chicago, IL, US) | Black Joy
    [From website] "BLACK JOY is a World Premiere featuring a variety of original scenes, songs, and spoken word pieces, all written and performed by Black artists. The festival will have a Facebook premiere on October 9th and also be available to stream here on the website from October 9th thru 23rd. Tickets are a Pay-What-You-Can donation.Adapted and Directed by Clock alumna Kayla V. White, BLACK JOY takes a physical and emotional journey through the seasons, sharing stories about being Black in America."

  • St. Ann's Warehouse (Brooklyn, NY)
    • Julius Caesar | October 9–15
      [From website] "Harriet Walter, Jackie Clune, and Jade Anouka star in Phyllida Lloyd's all-female production of the Shakespeare play, filmed in December 2016 at the Donmar Warehouse King's Cross in London."
    • Henry IV | October 16–22
      [From website] "Harriet Walter plays the title role in Phyllida Lloyd's all-female production of the Shakespeare play, filmed in December 2016 at the Donmar Warehouse King's Cross in London."

Other posts in this series can be found via this link.


Source/Image Credit
  1. The Telegraph. "Sir Ian McKellen: Don't bother reading Shakespeare." By Patrick Foster,  27 Oct 2015.
  2. Procession of Characters from Shakespeare’s plays, c 1840  | William Shakespeare | Signature from Last Will  
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