Thursday, January 31, 2008

Byron’s Landlady

Andrea di Robilant has a new book about his great-great-great-great grandmother, Lucia Mocenigo, the daughter of Andrea Memmo from his A Venetian Affair and the wife of Alvise Mocenigo. Lucia later became a friend of Empress Josephine, a lady-in-waiting at the court of Napoleon’s stepson, Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, and eventually Lord Byron’s landlady, renting out the piano nobile of the Palazzo Mocenigo to the poet and his pets. Andrea di Robilant’s Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon, published last autumn in Britain and Australia, hit bookstores in the States last week.

Norway the Space Nation

For readers in the New York area, Pål Brekke of the Norwegian Space Centre (Norsk Romsenter) will present the next installment of the American Scandinavian Foundation’s series “Living in the Northern Landscape: Culture & Climate Near the Arctic Circle” tonight at 6:30 in the Scandinavia House on Park Avenue. Brekke will discuss, among other things, recent advances in solar physics, Sun-Earth interaction, and perhaps also the Andøya Rocket Range and the Svalbard archipelago in his talk, “Northern Lights & Satellites: Norway as a Space Nation.” Admission charge/free for students.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Slacker Manifesto" for Generation X?

Jeff Gordinier, editor-at-large at Details and Entertainment Weekly, has a book out later this spring that’s likely to spark a lot of discussion, X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking. According to the publisher, Gordinier will show “how Gen X innovations in art, comedy, technology, activism, and (gasp!) business have come to define the way we live now.” Generation X, the book will also argue, is “maybe, secretly, the ‘greatest generation’ of all” (Gordinier, X Saves the World). I'm looking forward to reading it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Meet the McMafia

Misha Glenny, author of The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, 1804-1999 and The Fall of Yugoslavia: The Third Balkan War, has a new book that will explore the political, economic, and criminal links of the borderless underworld that has emerged since the collapse of Soviet Union and the expansion of the European Union. The scale of this illegal international trade is staggering, and he will discuss everything from cybercrime to the “caviar mafia” of Kazakhstan. Glenny’s McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld will be published in April 2008.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

High Noon at the 9:30 Club

In 1982, the owner of D.C.’s 9:30 Club (now Nightclub 9:30) heard of two new interesting bands who happened to share the same name – one a post-punk quartet from the thriving D.C. music scene and the other a jangly band from a college town down south – and decided it would be a hoot to stage a battle of the bands. The challenge was made and accepted. The rules were simple: A coin toss would decide which band opened, and the victors would then rename the losers.

One member of the DC band described the evening: “The night came, and we lost the coin toss. No worries--we went on and played a killer set, got a lot of applause, then retired to the bar to enjoy our victory.” Then the other band took the stage: “I'm a little fuzzy about the progression,” he continued, “but I think the first song they played was Radio Free Europe. The crowd went silent, mouths hung agape, and when the last chord was struck, the room exploded. Crap.”

So ended the “Battle of the R.E.M.”s – the D.C. band included, by the way, Greg Strzempka, the future front man of Raging Slab and Chris Anderson, now Editor in Chief at Wired Magazine. (It’s Chris who is quoted above). Apparently, too, it was Mike Mills of the other R.E.M. who then renamed Anderson’s band: Egoslavia. Not bad! Chris's blog is here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Winter Festival 2008

For readers in the Bluegrass region, this year’s Winter Festival will begin on Sunday, February 3 at Jessamine County Public Library. One of my favorite people, Jane Gentry Vance, Kentucky’s Poet Laureate, will read from her latest work, the Lexington Philharmonic will perform, and I’ll give a talk about my adventures in writing. There will also be a film festival, an open mic night, a Civil War Extravaganza, a performance by the Bi-Okoto Drum & Dance Theatre of Cincinnati, and other activities for people of all ages. Read more about the week’s events here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Vienna 1814: Book Club News

Vienna 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna has just been selected for the History Book Club and the Military Book Club for spring 2008. Details to follow as we get closer to the launch.