Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Well, that's.... odd.

Hello all, sorry for my long absence. It's not that I haven't thought about blogging, it's just that I've been writing other things. Like museum labels. And Call of Cthulhu adventures. And strongly worded emails. And... ergh. Yeah.

Truth to tell, I actually did write something resembling a work of actual fiction a few months ago. It was a short story, and I wrote it as a submission to Machine of Death volume 2. Ordinarily I don't even think about writing fiction--truth is strange enough, honestly, and I don't feel I have a gift for that type of storytelling. But an idea hit me, and I figured why not write it down. For those who haven't heard of it, or are too lazy to click the above link, Machine of Death is an anthology in which all the stories have a single premise--there's a machine that can unerringly predict an individual's cause of death from a blood sample. That's it. The idea first came from this comic, by the amazing Ryan North. The first volume hit #1 on Amazon last October, pushing Glenn Beck's newest book off the chart for a day and earning his considerable animosity. It's available as a CC by SA pdf, free of charge, on the MOD website. And it sold so well that the editors decided to put together a volume 2.

So I bought the book, and I enjoyed it, but when volume 2 submissions were solicited I didn't think twice about it... until I had a sudden idea for a story a scant 10 days before the submission deadline. I busted a move, wrote a story in 4 days, and got it in on deadline. As did nearly 2000 other people! This week is the week when authors find out which of the 1958 stories submitted were chosen for publication, and let's just say I'm not getting my hopes up.

But to keep us entertained, a couple weeks ago the MOD website put up a "title cloud" of all the story titles submitted for volume 2. The rule is, the title has to be a cause of death from your story--so this title cloud is a hodgepodge of silly, sad, horrific, hilarious ways to die, and it's available as a pdf download or as a poster to purchase.

Of course I did what ever other author did, and immediately downloaded it to look for my story title in the tiny tiny fine print. I couldn't find it, but I found something else that was frankly more disturbing than the thought of death by Rapture:

Do you see it? Look closer.

Yes. That's my name, among nearly 2000 other causes of death. I actually had a sort of Donnie Darko moment where I wondered if it was just that I was going insane, and if I blinked and looked again my name wouldn't be there anymore, and then a giant vampire rabbit would show up in my bedroom and a plane would fall on me. But nope, it's there for realz. I checked in with the MOD folks, and they reassured me that someone else hadn't written a story where the protagonist dies of Me. Far less sinisterly, it was just some sort of glitch with importing the story titles between tetchy pieces of software. I'm really sort of thrilled--even if my story isn't chosen, I can legitimately say that Machine of Death put my name in print....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Debbie Reynolds' Costumes

A few months ago, some of you may recall (though many of you may not) my museum hosted a traveling exhibit called "Incredible Costumes from Film and TV." The exhibit itself, from the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, featured a lot of costumes from Star Trek, Star Wars, the Terminator, and so on…. which was fabulous, but since our average visitor is 5 years old and the mere sight of Arnold ominously declaring "AHL BE BECK" is enough to reduce many of them to tears, the exhibit team was charged to enhance the exhibit by adding some costumes with Broader Family Appeal. So our Director of Collections set about making phone calls to various costume brokers/collectors/storage facilities, etc… and one of the people she ended up talking to was a guy named Todd Fisher.

Todd's mother is actress Debbie Reynolds, who is currently (for about another 12 hours—more on that later) the owner of the world's most comprehensive collection of Hollywood costumes from the silent era on forward. Due to her unique position as both participant in and collector of Hollywood history, she's accumulated costumes and associated props that go beyond amazement for us film nerd-o types—not just from her own films, but from every freakin' movie you ever loved. And it's been her intention to house all of this collection in a Hollywood history museum someday. Those of us in the museum world were aware that the possibility of a Debbie Reynolds costume museum was floating around out there for quite a while—I know some of the collection's been on display at a venue in Vegas, and I think there have been other places as well. But the long-term museum plan didn't work out, for whatever reason, and the collection is being sold at auction. All of it.

Debbie Reynolds, seen here in one of her most memorable film roles

Our museum doesn't have the wherewithal to buy a collection like that. No museum does, frankly, in this day and age. But our curator talked to Todd F. about the possibility of borrowing a few items from the collection prior to the auction—and he was nice as could be and talked to us about it at length. As it turned out, the timing was poor; an auction house needs to have the items a good 2 months before an auction to prep the catalog, and our exhibit didn't close til May 12. So it didn't happen, and we ended up getting some fabulous stuff from other sources, some of which I blogged about on the museum's website, if you're interested. The exhibit was a great success, and Arnie didn't make anyone cry (as far as I know,) so I think it was all good.

Anyway, this week I finally saw the catalog for the Debbie Reynolds costume auction, and it's unbelievable. Incredible, one of a kind stuff from the movies I grew up watching over and over—I kept flipping back to the page with the horrible green check suits from the "Fit as a Fiddle" number in "Singin' in the Rain" for some reason. I hope someone buys both and keeps them together. I hope that whoever buys most of this stuff finds a way to keep segments of the collection together and intact, and makes it available to the public and to researchers, as the projected museum would have.

A museum centered around this collection would have been an amazing thing to visit. I would have killed to be its exhibit developer. (Not that I don't love being an exhibit developer where I am now… but come on, seriously. I'd jump at the chance to write labels about Gene Kelly's shoes any day, and twice on Sundays. I'm just that lame.) I'll be watching the auction online tomorrow, and I might even bid on a couple things. Not that I'll be in contention for any of it, but it's about the experience. And I hope with all my heart that some of it—a lot of it—ends up in someone's museum, and doesn't just disappear into some billionaire's closet.

If you want to check it out, go to Profiles in History and download the catalog. It'll blow your mind.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I have good news, and bad news...

The good news is, I got my bike back.

The bad news is, I got raptured and wrecked it into my car.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Well, That Was a Hell of a Month.

April's always seemed like such a nice month, in past years. Showers, flowers, spring in the air... But as most of you probably already know, my April 2011 started with the sudden and unexpected death of my grandpa Fred. One could argue that at the age of 96, death isn't technically "unexpected"--and he'd have been the first to make this point, honestly--but it was still a shock, as he was in excellent health for 96, still living on his own, and still getting a lot of joy out of life. This in mind, of course, it's really great that he just dropped dead--"cocked up his toes," as my great-aunt Esther would have put it. (She cocked up her own at the age of 90, about 15 years back.) So many of the possible scenarios for Grandpa Fred's passing were so much worse that while I'd very sad about it, I can't think of a better way for things to have worked out (other than immortality, and frankly I suspect he wouldn't have gone for that even if it had been on offer.) But it was still a shock. And in the wake of that event, I had a serious veterinary issue with one of my cats, which led to problems with one of the other cats (apparently a cat with a cone on her head is the most terrifying thing in existence, as Other Cat hid in the space under the stairs for no less than 3 days straight after getting a brief glimpse of this eldrich horror.) Then I went to Washington DC on business for a few days, which was a nice break from the emotional chaos, but it led to getting a cold, which has now turned into a tidy case of walking pneumonia.


But then I remind myself, it's still just April. It's still spring, there are still flowers and baby squirrels and all that jazz. And as my grandpa was quite an appreciator of flowers, I figured I'd post up some pics of what's blooming in my yard in his honor. Bring on May! I'm ready.

Monday, March 28, 2011


For my 400th blog post, I'd like to make an announcement.

I got a new bike.

Yeah, OK. When last you saw me (at least in this context) I was railing on at the unfeeling skies about having had my much-beloved dark orange Trek 7.3FX stolen from my workplace, from right in front of a security guard. At that time I was hopeful that I might still get the bike back, as 1) we knew who did it, and 2) I had the serial number and a detective and everything. I still don't think that was an unreasonable hope. What I didn't know was that when 2 of the museum's staff identified the guy from his mug shot, a third staff member identified totally the wrong guy. And that, as they say, is that, at least in the eyes of the prosecutor. They're not going to spend time and money prosecuting someone who's not 100% open-and-shut. My detective was kind enough to tell me roughly where the guy lives; so I'm still cruising through that neighborhood on my way to and from work, in hopes of coming across some asshole riding my bike one of these days. But in the meantime I needed a new one. I put it off, hoping that 2011 would bring back orange as a color choice for that bike (or any bike, really) but apparently orange is Out. Unless you favor mountain/dirt bikes, which I don't. So since switching brands wasn't going to give me a color advantage, I figured best to stay with the make and model I'd known and loved for the last 4 years. I therefore give you: The 2011 Trek 7.3 FX, in "Royal Maroon."

I ordered it last weekend, picked it up this weekend, and we went for our first ride together yesterday despite it being freezing cold out. I still miss my old bike. I wish death on the guy who took it, and I'm not going to stop looking for it everytime I go through that neighborhood. But I'm OK in the meantime. I've got another bike to love, and spring is here.

Song Sparrow

Saturday, December 04, 2010

No Excuses

Whyfor no blog for 6 months? Lots of reasons, none of them particularly interesting or good. :) In the interim, I went to Hampshire, England for pleasure and Edmonton, Alberta for work. I opened two exhibits and closed one. I lost 3 of my 5 dart frogs, and bought 1 new one. My diabetic cat went back on insulin, then into remission, then back onto insulin. And my bicycle was stolen.

You might remember my bicycle; I blogged about buying it back in May of 2007, and before that I blogged about my lust for this particular bicycle (or one like it) for at least a year or two. It was the first big purchase I made when I became full-time employed again--my reward to myself for sticking out the 5 years of living frugally with only part-time work and sponging off my parents keeping me afloat. This bike was special in a sappy sentimental way, and also in a this-bike-fucking-rocks kind of a way. I hadn't had a new bike since 1984, and this 2006 Trek FX 7.3 was worth the wait, I have to say.

So when I got out of work on Saturday November 13, I was naturally pretty upset to discover that it had been stolen from the garage, right in front of the garage greeter who isn't always an actual security guard. My friend Sarah--a goddess if ever there was one--drove me around the neighborhood for nearly an hour looking to see if we could catch someone out and about on it, but to no avail. Returning to the museum, I learned that the thief had been caught on camera, and furthermore had had multiple alteractions with our security staff after trying to chain his own bike (yes, he arrived on a bike) to a guard rail fence. When he was told he needed to chain it in the garage instead, he became abusive, and shouted that he was a ticket scalper who worked downtown and didn't have TIME to waste putting his bike in the garage. (Apparently he did have time to steal my fucking bike. And time to get a ladyfriend of his to walk over to the museum and pick his own bike up while I was standing 10 feet away in tears trying to file a security report. It was only later upon review of the camera footage that we realized this.) When we heard the bit about him being a ticket scalper, Sarah said, "You've got to be kidding me. I know him, he walked in behind me from the garage today and I remembered him from when I used to work downtown. He's always scalping tickets near the Circle." (For the non-Hoosiers out there, ticket scalping is legal in Indiana, and any major event sees dozens of guys on street corners downtown offering to buy or sell tickets.) So, wow, I thought. At least we know where he works, sort of, and we have a good picture of him.

It took me a couple days to dig up my serial number, and the police wouldn't make a report without one, so I filled in time by posting REWARD flyers all over the neighborhood around the museum, and visiting the two nearest pawn shops to give them info on my bike as well. Once I'd filed a report, the police department actually assigned a detective to my case, and he assured me he'd come down to the museum to look at the footage and see what he could do... but I was rapidly giving up hope on getting my bike back. I got a copy of one of the stills from the security video myself, and made up some new flyers with my case #, the bike's serial #, the dude's description and photo, and a picture of a Trek 7.3 FX for reference purposes, planning to give them to the police officers downtown and see if that got me anywhere. Then the museum's concierge let me know she had cheap tickets available for that night's Pacer game, and I thought, hm. Well, I'd like to go to the game, and then I'll be able to hand some flyers to the cops who work around the Fieldhouse, so why not?

While the thought had occurred to me, I was really more or less unprepared for the possibility that I might actually find the guy myself. Yet as I tooled around looking for inexpensive downtown parking, suddenly there he was at the corner of Washington and Pennsylvania. My heart skipped, and not in a good way. While I am the first to admit I'm pretty terrible at remembering faces, I'd been staring at his photo on my desk for the better part of two days, and I knew instantly it was him--I'd thought his eyes were closed in the photo, but he actually is a pretty fat guy and his eyes are sort of permanently squinted, and he looked really identical to the photo, right down to the hat he was wearing. I looped around the block just to get another look, and this time I ended up stopped in traffic not 10 feet from him. We made eye contact. I'm sure he thought I was a potential customer for his handful of Pacer tickets, but I looked away and hit the gas as soon as the light changed, and then frantically took the nearest parking space I could find. Ran the three blocks back to the Fieldhouse and found a cop; I was panting so badly that I couldn't really explain myself, but Thank God for those flyers! I was able to hand one to the cop, point, and say "This guy is scalping tickets... gasp... two blocks up on Penn... help me..." The policeman was nice, told me he couldn't leave his post but that I should go see if the dude was still there, then call Dispatch and tell them I needed a patrol car asap. I did, and he was, and I did.

I then spent about the longest 20 minutes of my life standing in the freezing cold a half block from the dude who stole my bike, who remained blissfully unaware of my scrutiny. (If you're wondering why I didn't confront him, 1. He didnt' have my bike with him, and 2. The dude is the size of a mack truck. And apparently has anger management problems, judging from his performance at the museum. I don't particularly want to have my teeth punched down my throat by an angry scalper-bike-thief dude, so I stayed back.) The cops finally showed up, and once again I was able to just give them the flyer, babble incoherantly a bit, and then point up the street at the dude. "Wow," said the cops. "Usually people aren't this... er... well prepared." They strolled over to question him, while I stayed by the patrol car. Then they came back and said since he didn't have my bike they couldn't arrest him, but they were going to run his ID for warrants. Which they did, and there weren't any, but now we had his name and address attached to my case number. WOOT. When they gave the guy his ID back, he protested loudly that he didn't know anything about my bike, or any bike, he didn't have a bike, and this was *bullshit*, and then he walked off. The cops said, "We'll see if Vice is out here tonight. If they are, we'll have them go pick him up and take his tickets. That'll ruin his night." Suck on that, douchebag.

So that's the story of me finding the guy who stole my bike, but not the bike itself. The bike is still missing. My detective brought a photo array to the museum, and two different security staff were able to ID the guy. I haven't heard from the detective since then, though, so I assume things haven't just been open and shut, they got a warrant and went to his house and found my bike. I'm sure it's probably long gone, sold to his dealer or to someone who specializes in stolen bikes. At least my serial # is in the database that the pawnshops check against.

On that happy note--well, Jake asked for it!--I'll leave y'all. Hopefully I can get back on the blogging horse without too much trouble; lord knows I haven't stopped having stuff to say. :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

And in Other News, Soccer is Still Boring. Film at 11.*

Sorry for the long absence, those of you who are still paying attention (or were kind enough to put me on their RSS feed.) Work kind of sucked the life out of me on many levels for the months of April and May, and I was unable to think of anything witty or pleasant to say for over 60 days straight. However, here's a funny post about squirrels I wrote quite a while ago, which came to light during my Lost Period.

What else is new? Hmmm. I did in fact get paid to draw about a half-dozen maps for a Call of Cthulhu product in their Ancient Rome setting, which was a lot of fun. Will let you all know when it comes out so you can rush to buy a copy. In the process of this I learned a lot more about Photoshop--or at least, how to turn black and white line drawings into something decent-looking with Photoshop CS4. Not a bad skill to have, even if they never call me for another map. My cat's diabetic again--this is bad, but not unexpected honestly, the remission lasted 2 years and that was pretty damn amazing. And I've lost 10 lbs since January, which about knocks my socks off. While I've never worried a whole lot about my weight, I figured the best 40th birthday present I could think of would be to get off my butt and lose a few, and it seems to be working. Huzzah me. Hopefully I'll have something more entertaining to post soon, our exhibit just opened and I'm starting to feel my strength returning...

*Apparently there's some soccer thing on TV right now, and USA has failed to lose to England--which just goes to prove my point. Any sport they can play for hours and still end with a score of 1-1 (or, ye gods, 0-0) is just not my cup of coffee...