December 4 is the feast day of Saint Barbara, a martyred virgin and Catholic saint. It’s the only saint feast day that I – not being Catholic – can name without looking it up*, partly because my Mom’s first name is Barbara and because of the tradition of the Barbara branches, branches of flowering trees (usually cherry trees) which are cut on December 4 and taken indoors where they bloom in time for Christmas.
So here is a linkdump in honour of Barbara, patron saint of artillerymen and cherry branches:
First of all, I have been interviewed by David Njoku at Indie Author Land, where I talk a bit about my short holiday romance Christmas Gifts. Drop by and say hello.
At the moment, Xaver, the biggest winter storm in years is headed our way, expected to arrive tomorrow. Meteorologists fear that Xaver may be as bad as the infamous North Sea flood of 1962, which killed 315 people in Hamburg, mostly due to bad disaster management (more info here plus a documentary here). Now Xaver won’t have the devastating effects as the 1962 flood, because millions have been pumped into flood protection measures since then and the warning systems are much more advanced. Nonetheless, a lot of schools as well as several Christmas markets will remain preemptively closed tomorrow. And at university today, my students – several of which hail from the coastal regions of Emsland and Ostfriesland – were eager to head home before the storm hits.
The debate about Felicity Savage’s ill-advised article at Amazing Stories is still going on. At External Memory, a blogger identified only as the bluest girl explains why it is important to see someone (or preferably several someones) like yourself in the media we consume.
And in the comments at Amazing Stories, editor Steve Davidson responds to the criticism the article has received and basically fails to understand why so many people were upset. Those rather clueless (to put it mildly) comments sparked another round of reactions by Alix Heintzman at The Other Side of the Rain, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (twice), CheffoJeffo and N.K. Jemisin.
Now I want to like Amazing Stories, I really do. Okay, so they royally pissed me off with a very early post on their site, but so did iO9 and I really like them now. And Amazing Stories has published some good articles, e.g. Chris Gerwel’s columns. Nonetheless, Amazing Stories has become associated with “that place with all the problematic articles” and reading the effusions of Felicity Savage and Paul Cook it’s not difficult to see why.
On a related note, Apex Magazine has a great post by Daniel José Older about the need for an anti-oppressive SFF genre. This is a so much better take on the subject of diversity in SFF than what you can find at Amazing Stories.
USA Today has an article about why 1963 was such as fruitful year for pop culture and gave birth to Doctor Who, Marvel’s X-Men and Avengers (and some of the characters that made up the team), Hitchcock’s The Birds and Where the Wild Things Are among others. Talking of Where the Wild Things Are, the students in my internship prep class for aspiring primary school teachers were stunned when I told them that Where the Wild Things Are just celebrated its 50th anniversary and that The Very Hungry Caterpillar was pushing forty.
With several superheroes celebrating anniversaries this year, a zombie discussion has come roaring back to life, namely the old “Are superheroes fascist?” discussion that was a staple of leftwing pop culture criticism in the 1960s and 1970s. Now Richard Cooper at Salon and Chris Yogerst at The Atlantic get into the game. I could write a long rebuttal to both, but I have had that discussion exhaustively back as a teenager in the 1980s.
There’s also a trio of deaths to report. British actor Lewis Collins, best known for playing Bodie in The Professionals, died last Thursday, aged 67. American actor Paul Walker, best known for the Fast and Furious series, died in a car crash on his way to a charity event, aged only 40.
And British comedian, actor and singer Chris Howland, who came to Germany as a soldier directly after in WWII, stayed on and became a German radio and TV legend, died aged 85. Among other things, Chris Howland was Germany’s first radio DJ, introduced the Candid Camera TV format to 1960s audiences (which was incredibly controversial at the time) and played the “funny Brit” in several popular movies in the 1960s and 1970s. Here is a tribute with plenty of clips from the NDR, the radio and TV station where Chris Howland began his career back in 1949.
After losing Eddi Arent earlier this year, Loriot a.k.a. Vico von Bülow and Walter Giller two years ago and Harald Juhnke back in 2005 (and let’s not forget Dieter Hildebrandt in November, though I personally never found him even remotely funny), the great German comedians (including Chris Howland here, though he was British) of the 1960s and 1970s are dying out. Dieter “Didi” Hallervorden is about the only prominent comedian from that era who is still alive (and may he long remain so).
Now a lot of the comedy of the 1960s and 1970s is badly dated, but comedians of the day were all fine actors. And seeing them gradually dying off also means that party of my childhood is dying along with them.
*Okay, so I also know St. Martin’s Day, November 11, and St. Nicholas Day on December 6, but both are a much bigger deal than the poor martyred Barbara.