Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Post Title Goes Here

Well, first off, for anyone who's interested, here is a link to the NPR story about my workplace on All Things Considered. I was surprised to find a) that I'm actually IN it, and b) that I didn't sound like a complete idiot. I apparently talk awfully fast, though. Hmm. It doesn't sound fast when I say stuff in my brain... Anyway, it's an entertaining piece over and above my 30 seconds of fame, props to Neda Ulaby for doing a great story highlighting the fun stuff we work so hard on.

My usual sense of impending doom at New Year's hasn't hit yet, I have hopes that this year will be the one where the dawn on Jan 1 does not bring a wave of soul-searching moodiness in its wake. I've certainly managed to do a lot of housecleaning (both literal and metaphorical) in my week off; perhaps stumbling downstairs to a tidy kitchen is all I ever really needed to take the edge off the New Year's funk. I'll experiment with that. In the meantime, my next door neighbors have, for some reason, acquired a dog which appears to be part beagle, part bassethound, and all misery. He has been emitting rays of concentrated sadness with every BARROOOOOO he utters, and there have been a lot of them in the last 24 hours. I walked over to visit him on my way to the butcher yesterday afternoon, and he wagged and flopped over and generally behaved like a very sweet and normal dog; then as soon as I moved on, BARROOOOOOOOO.... Maybe he's just visiting. Please lord, let him be just visiting...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Full Year's Worth of Posts!

When I logged on blogger, it informed me that Cautionary Tale has 364 posts in its archive; so with this post, I now have produced a full year's worth of blogging goodness! Of course, it's taken me since 2002 to accomplish this, because I am a lazy bastard who only posts once a week at best... Honestly, I don't know how daily bloggers do it.

Anyway, I'm currently suffused with accomplishment because I managed to extract my window-mounted air conditioning unit from my window singlehandedly today, with only minor injury and property damage. Ordinarily this is a two-person job, involving one person standing outside on a ladder holding onto the thing, while the other person raises the window sash; then both heave it up over the sill and into the house. It's highly unpleasant, as the unit is generally filthy and has random sharp bits that cut into your hands when you're not expecting it. My friends have come to dread this process, to the point that if I invite Fathead over for dinner at any point during November, she says, "You want me to help you move your air conditioner, don't you? God DAMN it." So this year I kind of forgot about it... until today, when it got down to 7°F outside and frigid air was seeping in around the edges of the unit. I decided it was time to stop being such a wuss, and see if I could bring it in by myself--I had the impression that the bulk of the weight was resting on the windowsill, so it MIGHT not fall out the window the moment I raised the sash. (And if it did fall out the window, this would be an excellent excuse for buying a new window unit come next summer--this one really is a piece of crap, it came with the house, it weighs 4000 lbs, and its little fins are all mashed up. It's brought to you by Amana, which always makes me think of my childhood spent watching The Price Is Right--I don't even know what an "Amana Radar Range" actually is, but I think it came in Avocado, Mustard, and Burnt Orange.)

So as it turns out, I was wrong about the weight. I unscrewed the screws, raised the sash--and despite my claim of a cavalier attitude toward dropping my AC unit 8' to its death, I lunged forward yelling "NOOOOOO" and grabbed onto its edges just as it was heading out and downwards. And there I sat, contemplating my next move, as a cold wind rushed past me into the house and attracted the attention of the cats, who came over to investigate. This motivated me to solve the problem sooner rather than later, and after several false starts I managed to lift one corner of the thing up and onto the interior sill. Brief struggles with the couch (which was emphatically In My Way, but had nowhere to go) and then I got the thing inside, turned around, and set down in the corner of the living room. The sill is scraped up, and I punched a small but painful hole in my left middle finger on god-knows-what-sharp-bit, but I didn't throw my back out and I did get the storm window closed. This will all be worth it when I get my next gas bill.... I hope.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tragedy in LEGO Town

My LEGO advent calendar is in full swing, and this year has been a little more surreal than last year's offerings. Today I got a LEGO Crime Scene Investigator--he's got a police uniform, a baseball cap, a camera and a slightly frowny face. What else could he be? So naturally I had to set up a crime for him to investigate... the pizza chef from December 9 has apparently met a gruesome end. Who did it? Was it the diver with the spear gun? The girl with the ice cream truck? The fireman? The turkey-leg seller? Only careful CSI work will solve this unspeakable crime.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I was minding my own business on holiday slide duty--which duty consists of yelling "YAYYYYYY!!!!" each time a pair of children arrives at the bottom of the ginormous slide, then quickly but politely booting them out of the way so they don't get kicked by the next pair down--when I got the word that I was needed back up in the exhibits department. A reporter from NPR was doing a segment on technology in museums and wanted to get audio of kids testing an activity prototype. As I was the only one with a hi-tech activity nearing completion, I got tapped. Thrilling for me, of course, since I'm a fan and supporter of all things NPR. (Though I fell off listening as much during the late Bush administration; if I left my alarm clock on Morning Edition during the last couple years I was often then too depressed to get out of bed. But I'm back on track now, and I love going through the online archives for cool stuff that I've missed on TAL and All Things. Anyway.) Turned out I need not have left off "YAAAAYYYYY" duty, as it didn't need to be recorded then and there--and as it happened, the lead time getting the program installed on a laptop and hooked to the giant touchscreen monitor we use for testing was pretty substantial. It was ready about 5 minutes before we needed it. Yeesh.

So said NPR reporter got some entertaining audio of me propelling kids through playing a crude prototype of the catapult game. I could not have asked for better test groups; I got some ragingly excited 9 year olds, both girls and boys. They loved it, and one even figured out what the activity was FOR (that's the brass ring we strive for, of course.) Not bad considering that it's pretty emphatically Not Done Yet. She also captured a good deal of me babbling about technology in museums and why it's cool in a children's museum context particularly. I have no idea what I said, but I sure hope it sounded smart...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Snow

As it should be, the first snow of the year is after Thanksgiving, I woke up this morning to a dusting of fluff outside. It had shifted to rain by the time I took the coffee grounds out to the compost heap, but now it seems to be snow again--giant wet flakes, and lots of them. Right on.

I seem to have forgotten about Thanksgiving haiku again this year. Or rather, I thought of it, but was too caught up in fending off an oncoming cold and making pies to do anything about it. (Making pies and having a cold is a bad combo, true. But apparently the cold was only a proto-cold, and I've squashed it with daily overdoses of Emergen-C (black cherry flavor for Heart Health.) As there's a ton of B vitamins in the stuff, it's also doing a fair amount to hold back the tide of annual holiday depression, which I appreciate.) Anyway, if anyone has a haiku to share, feel free!

Gaming seems to be taking up a good deal more of my brain space than usual lately--which is honestly fine by me, I miss it when it DOESN'T take up brain space, especially now that I'm not In The Industry anymore. The thing about having your hobby also be your career for many years is that you start to take it a bit for granted, it eats up all aspects of your life without your really noticing--or minding, even if you did notice. But now I Make Time for it, and think about it in a more structured way I suppose... and I wonder if I'm coming up with a better product now, as it were. I suppose you'd have to ask my players. At any rate, I've got a lovely Sunday afternoon stretching before me with icky weather (it's back to rain now as I write this) and nothing to do but housework and answering the Call of Cthulhu... I'll take it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Time Traveling Frogs

Apparently, if you start a post on Sunday, but then finish and post it on Tuesday with the word "Tuesday" in the headline, Blogger will timewarp it back to having a Sunday date stamp, regardless. They're frogs from the fuuuuuuture!!!!

At any rate, today Sunday is Sunday, and this being the only day likely to be both dry and above 40 degrees out before winter really sets in, I spent it frantically doing all the yardwork tasks I'd failed to do earlier. Mowed my leaves. (Thank you, mulching mower! I say it every year...) Cleaned my gutters. Cleared the leaves off the driveway. Drained and put away the hoses. Cleaned out my community garden plot. Put away the chiminea--I'm not sure I've ever remembered to do that before the first snow. I was a machine of efficency.

I also managed to strain a quad muscle climbing back down off the roof of the garage, hurt my back in some unspecified way, and smashed my face straight into the edge of an open door while walking through my darkened house last night. Even machines have their poorly oiled days...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tuesday FrogBlogging

Meet the newest members of my ever-growing menagerie. After two years of research and thinking it over, I've finally set up a dart frog terrarium with not one, but two Dendrobates Leucomelas in residence. Before you ask, NO. They are not poisonous when in captivity. In the wild they eat ants, which have formic acid in their venom; the formic acid is metabolized by the frogs into the neurotoxin secretion that dart frogs are famous for. No ants = no poison. I hope.

Hell Yes, I Cried.

Ok, just to get it on the record even though I have utterly failed to blog since the election--yes. Yes, I cried during the victory speech. I was OK til he got to talking about Lincoln and then I lost it--my companion on the couch had already had the waterworks on for a while at that point, so I was in good company. And thanks Elee and Erik for hosting me on such a glorious night, by the way! 8 years of feeling unrepresented by my government are finally over; Obama's not perfect, but his themes of change and hope really do resonate with me. I've needed some of both for quite a while now.

And Indiana sure does look beautiful in blue. :)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Wooooo! Way to Fire Up the Base!!!

Breaking news--we've just received word that John McCain, who hasn't seen fit to visit our fair state since July, who didn't even bother spending a single advertising dollar here (ads were eventually put up by the Indiana GOP) and who apparently assumed that our voter base is made up of mindless automatons, will be holding a campaign rally here in Indianapolis on Monday! Monday, the day before the election! And he'll be staging it at....wait, this can't be right.... at the AIRPORT?

Yes, it's true. As if McCain's general lack of respect for his Hoosier supporters could not have been more thorough, he is now sending them the message that just as he couldn't be bothered earlier in the campaign to spend some money or time in our state, he now can't be bothered to actually leave the airport terminal to stage his rally. "Hi Indiana, vote for me, if you haven't already voted for that terrorist--oh, whoa, is that the time? Sorry, I've got to head out, we left the engine running on the Straight Talk Jet!" Unreal. What's more, our airport is undergoing major renovations at the moment. While they're nearly done and I'm sure McCain won't be speaking amid piles of acoustical tile and bags of cement, it's significant that the approach to our airport from the highway has changed dramatically in the last 2 months, along with the parking situation. There may be serious wayfinding issues even for diehard McCain fans who genuinely want to hear the man speak--and a low turnout would be an unfortunate headline for our paper on Tuesday morning, wouldn't it? Local polls show Obama by .7%--McCain can't afford a screwup here. And yet, he's trying so hard to have one.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mutter Mutter Mütter...

The sad thing about the Mütter Museum is that they do not allow photography. So while I desperately wanted to bring you photos of heads in jars, lifelike wax models of various skin diseases, and the six-foot colon, I am unable to supply them except via this link. Instead I can only tell you that their motto ("Disturbingly Informative") is about as good as a motto gets. I'd been before, of course, but Coworker had not; so I got quite a kick out of her reactions to various and sundry awfulnesses as we worked our way around the displays. In the museum world there is always an open, neverending debate on the ethical issues surrounding the display of human remains in Natural History museums. But medical museums can neatly sidestep this issue--they're doing it for SCIENCE, and science trumps ethics. Of course, many of the specimens at the Mutter were donated by, but many more were donated by 19th century doctors who just...kept....items... after autopsies and the like. They're now enshrined in the College of Physicians (home of the Mutter, and the country's oldest medical professional organization) for the education and edification of both medical professionals and the public at large. I'm all for this, as I find it all pretty damn fascinating.

This fascination with the unseemly spilled over into a book purchase at the conference--not of something directly related to work, but a book called The Ghost Map, which is about how a map of the last great outbreak of cholera in London (in 1854) paved the way both for epidemiologists to understand how diseases are spread in an urban environment, and for the development of infrastrutures that make modern cities possible. Before the advent of water treatment and planned sewers, it was simply not possible for a city as large as London to continue growing beyond a certain point. Cool stuff, if you're a big picture sort of person--and still a hell of a story even if you're not.

And in other news, one of my cats smacked me in the face today and cut my lip open. I'm not sure if there's some kind of hotline I can call for this. Domestic abuse is a terrible thing; but abuse BY domestic animals is a tragedy not often discussed in public. Mostly because it makes their owners look like asses.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

We Interrupt This Broadcast...

I was going to do another Philly blog entry today complete with drama, excitement, and a review of the Mutter Museum (one of my all-time favorite museums ever) but instead I am forced to pre-empt myself to say--Sarah Palin on SNL? SERIOUSLY? Holy crap, could she have been LESS funny??? I admit to having very, verrry little sympathy for this woman on nearly all fronts. And I have been loving Tina Fey (not literally, though I certainly would jump at the opportunity.) But could they have MAYBE written something a little bit better than what we got? The intro bit was not horrible but not hilarious; her turn on SNL News was just sad. Her sitting there, looking uncomfortable and completely out of her element, not even trying to participate in the joke at her expense--why did she even want to come on the show, if she wasn't inclined to show us a willingness to poke a little fun at herself? John McCain has hosted a couple times, and I hear he's been hilarious--say what you like about the man, he's got a sharp sense of humor. But this was just further proof that Palin is truly unfunny both politically AND personally. I didn't think it was possible for me to be more disappointed in McCain's choice of running mate, but apparently I was wrong. Siiiiiigh.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Looking for Socks in Philadelphia

I realize that it's traditional to pack a full wardrobe, including socks, when one goes traveling for work. But I, like the McCain/Palin team, have always been a "maverick." Also like McCain/Palin, I am "more of the same damn thing" in that I never remember to think about whether I have clean socks or not until it's far too late to do another load of laundry before heading to the airport. And so it was that I found myself wandering the streets of Philadelphia looking for socks yesterday morning.

Being from a fairly spread-out midwestern city, it always seems incongruous to me to find Big Box stores nested in on downtown streets among the skyscrapers and pizza joints. Those kinds of businesses are by definition freestanding stores amid acres of the fast food jungle on the perimeter of town. So it was just a tad startling to walk 2 blocks from our hotel and go--as my roommate succinctly put it--"Shut UP! Is that a K-MART??" 15 minutes later my mission was fulfilled. (2 black, 1 beige, and one lovely pair of argyles.) Now I am more like Obama, having committed to a change of socks I can believe in.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Yesterday, Barack Obama came to town for a rally at the State Fairgrounds. This event was historic for a number of reasons. First, of course, is because he's the first black man to run for president, and the fact that he's here at all is amazing considering that as recently as 45 years ago people got murdered for trying to get black folks registered to vote. Secondly, it's amazing that a Democratic candidate for president is treating Indiana like it matters. Indiana has always had a strong democratic base--we've had democratic governors, senators, reps and city mayors on a regular basis in my lifetime. Yet in presidential elections we're always treated as a throwaway state--no one spends money here. The republicans assume we're in the bag, and the democrats have bigger fish to fry than our piddly 11 electoral votes. But not this year... This year, Obama's campaign put us on the hit list, along with the Carolinas and Missouri, as a state he could flip; and damned if he might not just do it. Polls here show him ahead by a couple % points, and allowing for margin of error it looks like he's at least in a dead heat with McCain--who by the way has not spent a DIME on advertising in this state until just this last week.

So this was the first chance in my life I've had to go to hear a presidential candidate speak in person--and it's someone who I support and feel good about voting for. Therefore, when the suggestion was made that a few of us hook off work and go, well... didn't have to ask me twice! The rally was at 12:15, doors at 10, so five of us piled into a car at 10 and headed over there, not completely sure we'd get seats.

The line. The line was unbefuckinglievable. A huge column of people, all moving briskly along thanks to some smooth organization on the part of volunteers, which snaked at least a half mile through the fairgrounds when we got there at 10:20 or so. We trotted along, trying to find the back of the line, behind an elderly woman who kept shouting out "OBAMA FOR MAMA! YEAH! I'M MAMA FOR OBAMA!" Finally, at a large gap in the line somewhere near the Home and Family Arts building, we jumped in, turned around and started walking back toward the front. (We lost the Obama Mama at this point.) We had white tickets for seats in the grandstand, which was fine--grandstand holds about 15,000 people so we figured we were probably OK. Then, when we were still a good ways from the gates, a volunteer walking down the line asked me, "Are you in a group?" I said, yeah, we're all together. She said, "Well, how many are you? Five? OK--" and she handed me 5 bright yellow tickets. "Do you guys want to be on the stage behind Obama? Just take these tickets, go right up to that tent there and they'll let you in."


Twenty mintues later, we were seated in the bleachers on the stage behind the podium, looking at a sea of Obama supporters. The official tally was apparently 21,000 people--I didnt' think the grandstand held that many, and one of the wings wasn't totally full. But still--15,000 or 21,000, either way that's the biggest event I've ever been at, possibly barring an Eric Clapton concert in the early 1990's. It was incredible, even before the speeches started. Since we were toward the back of the bleachers, we got a good view of the snipers setting up position, the arrival of the motorcade, and Obama's eventual entrance--got a nice little film of him walking right past not 10 feet from me before coming on stage, shaking some hands and starting his speech. Which was a great speech--it was both sobering and inspiring. At last, an intellectual running for president! Who'd have thought it. God, I hope he wins. I want him to win Indiana; but even if he doesn't, lord, let him win the shootin' match.

Friday, October 03, 2008


About a month ago I added new fish to my tank. I'd had 2 old tetras (one shabby, one brilliant-looking) and so added about 8 other tetras to keep them company.

Two weeks ago, I lost the shabby looking tetra--not surprising, he'd been shabby for a while.

One week ago, I noticed 2 more fish were dead. I looked closely and realized that they and all my remaining fish looked like this, in varying degrees. Apparently one of the new fish brought a gift with it--ichthyophthirius, a fairly virulent parasite. Within days, all but two of my fish were dead. I bought a treatment that supposedly will take care of it, but the treatment also kills snails; since I have 2 snails who I like, and about 40 that I hate, I figured this might be a mixed blessing, and evac-ed the chocolate snails to a hospital tank before putting in the treatment. Too late for one of the remaining fish... but the other one seems relatively healthy now, 48 hours after the treatment. So I now have ONE fish. And a tank that may or may not still be infested with free-swimming parasites. And 40 snails who appear to be completely resistant to Mardel Coppersafe. God DAMN it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


At the moment, he and I have reached a kind of detente; our agreement involves my gently poking him with a stick, and him angrily waving his pedipalps while ceding the high ground to me long enough for me to grab the mail. However, I'm a little worried. He's awfully big... there's nothing to say he won't start opening my mail and signing for packages while he's in there.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Un-be-freakin-lievable

Robin McKinley's got a new novel out; I've read it, it's lovely, and if you like fantasy/fairy tales/YA fiction and AREN'T reading Robin's books, then what the hell's wrong with ya? Give 'em a try! I've been a fan of her stuff since college--LaraB, didn't we have a copy of The Blue Sword kicking around Ottoman Central at one time? I know it wasn't the pizza book, at least--and she is notable, among other things, for having heroic female characters that Don't Suck. She's got a couple adult novels as well--my favorite is her retelling of the Robin Hood story, and she's also got a good vampire novel. Anyway, Robin's a friend and a talented author to boot, and so I figured a little shameless plugging was not out of place here.

Since into each life some rain must fall, I should also tell you that I finally got around to watching the MST3K version of one of the most godawful B-movies it has ever been my wretched experience to watch: Teenagers from Outer Space (1959.) Sweet mother of god, what a horrible film. Even Joel and the gang could not make watching this movie a pleasurable experience for me--unlike The Creeping Terror, which is still in the top eschelon of worst films ever formally released. I could laugh at Creeping Terror. But this.... oh god. What do you get when you combine actors so wooden you could carve your name in them, an alien teen named "Derek" whose space uniform is obviously a jumpsuit with electrical tape piping, a "disintegrator ray" which is obviously a toy gun purchased for 25 cents from the Woolworth's up the street from the studio, and a monster which only appears in the final 5 minutes of the film and is, I shit you not, created by waving a live lobster in front of a spotlight and filming its shadow menacing the townspeople? You get CRAP, that's what you get. Further proof that the creationists were right and God really IS dead in our secular society.

But for sheer "AUGH MY BRAIN" value this week, I present you with the short to end all shorts: Mr. B Natural. Here's part 1, and here's Part 2. It's like watching the Death of Music Itself. If listening to "Mister" B-Natural chirp on and on doesn't make you want to bludgeon yourself repeatedly with a sousaphone, then you're just not a music lover.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

And the Lord said, Let There Be Photos.

And there were photos. And some of them were even good.
Click here to see the Creation Museum Photoset!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Remember Remember the 8th of September

Last Monday marked the realization of a long-held dream for me. I went to the Newport Aquarium, which was every bit as fabulous as I’d been led to believe. I petted the sharks; I watched the raysharks sail overhead in their immersive reef tank environment (and holy shit is that cool); I saw otters, frogs, alligators, turtles, jellyfish, and other things that make me marvel at the amazing beauty and diversity of our natural world. And then… Then we went to the Creation Museum.

I consider myself a religious person. I consider myself a pretty open-minded person generally. But I just cannot wrap my head around biblical literalism. So walking into the Creation Museum, I was prepared for a WTF experience of (dare I say) Biblical Proportions. And I was not disappointed!

The Creation Museum, if you've not encountered it before, is a museum-cum-entertainment facility run by and directed at the followers of a ministry called Answers in Genesis, whose basic premise is that the book of Genesis (not to mention the rest of the bible) must be taken literally, word for word--and therefore, the earth must only be about 6000 years old. With that premise, they then go on to explain fossils, dinosaur/dragon conflation, diversity of species, and oh yes, the Fall of Man and the evils of the ACLU. To be fair, let me start by saying that the museum itself is a beautiful facility, some gorgeous design concepts, and that everyone who works there was the soul of niceness--no proselytizing or pushyness, they really did just kind of leave you to it. As a museum professional, I have to say I was a little disappointed at the complete lack of interactivity--there were two interactives, both in the Noah's ark room, and both frankly kind of lame. It was more like a walkthrough theme park ride than a museum in the sense that I usually use the word. But all that aside... HOLY CRAP THAT'S SOME F'D UP SHIT. From the dueling paleontologists (kindly white guy with a godly perspective vs. foolish Asian pagan scientist) to the hellishly creepy child manniquins leading you toward the light, to the brachiosaurs entering the Ark, to the label explaining why incest used to be OK, this museum is a testament to the cracked out fringe of Christian society. I'm not saying I didn't have fun there, mind you.
Any museum that lets me ride a ceratopsian is OK in my book. There will be a full photoset on Flickr shortly, with more amazing Creation Museum goodness.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Summer Colds are TEH ALSOME.

Whose dumbass idea was it to have cold viruses available year round, anyway? I've got a streaming head cold, have gone through a box and a half of kleenex since I got up this morning, and it's effing September for god's sake! I'm supposed to feel like this in FEBRUARY! Not when it's fall, and especially not when I've got 2 days training at work; as this is cross-departmental training, I have potentially infected people from HR, Security and Safety, Programs and Interpretation, School Services, and Purchasing, all at one fell sneeze. It's wretched.

Even more wretched is the unfulfilled promise of rain here. It seems odd to be wishing so hard for rain while Gustav is all in the news--but we've hardly had a drop since the end of July and it's getting a little grim here. So this evening we had wind, we had thunder, presumably somewhere in the general vicinity got a shower. But here, nada. Sigh. I love the sound of rain on the roof, particularly when I'm sick... it'd be a nice thing to go to bed early with rain outside. I'll cross my fingers, and go check the radar.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stay On Target

Duties as usher:
1. Pick up tuxedo.
2. Show up on time.
3. Apply tuxedo to self right side up, in correct order. No accidents involving suspenders and cufflinks.
4. Guide people to correct seating.
5. Guide the mother of the groom to her seat.
4 1/2. Remember what the groom's mother looks like.
6. Cue the DJ for processional.
7. Roll out floor runner thingy in front of flower girl, without getting tangled up with other usher who might actually also be a Level 12 Klutz (specialist class.)
8. Sit down and get out of the way.

Don'tscrewup don'tscrewup don'tscrewup don'tscrewup.....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Gencon kicked my ass, as usual. Which is to say, I had a good time, I lost a lot of sleep, I was painfully upbeat and cheerful with thousands of strangers while working at the booth, and I am hardly fit for human company even now, 3 days after the fact. I thought I was more or less OK yesterday; then my body betrayed me, and today was more or less a lost cause. I hope this doesn't last, I've got a wedding to be coherant for on Friday. At least I remembered to pick up the tuxedo on time....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rumbly Stumbly

I'd written a post all about fiction, and why I seldom read it, and how I think I got broken in this way, and the fact that I'm not the ONLY one like this at least... And then I re-read it, and it was boring. So I've stifled the post. It may emerge later, reformed, like a lovely butterfly from the cocoon of draft status... Or it may never advance beyond the larval stage. But at any rate, it being Gencon week, I'm going to be good for utterly nothing for the next 5 days. I have about 30 minutes to clean the kitchen and feed the cats, and then I'm off to meet Alex and get this train a rollin'. For those of you going--I'll be at the Croc Booth for most of the weekend during dealer room hours. Come find me. Entertain me. Admire my mad sales skillz. Try the veal.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Fantasy Fun

Oh, for god's sake--not THAT kind of fantasy. But if you like fantasy genre, friend Robin has just put the first chapter of her new novel up on her blog. Go have a looksee, it comes out in about a month. And while we're at it, Former-Roommate Sarah, aka Princess Anastasia, has her first e-book out, and you can read about it on the Drollerie Press website, purchase it from their store, or find it on Amazon for your Kindle, if you have such a thing.

While I've been "off fiction" for about a decade now, give or take, I'm trying to get back in. The bookpile disaster inspired me a bit. Gibson's got a new novel out in PB now, I got a new (to me) John Varley novel a month or two ago, though I've not gotten through it yet, and apparently Jonathan Carroll's got something in September as well, which is exciting. And I'm just finishing Matt Ruff's Set This House In Order, which is pretty damn impressive. (the book, not me finishing it. well, I guess that's damn impressive too, considering my recent track record...)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Birthday Bowling Bash

Made it through another one! None of the pictures of us bowling came out all that well, other than a hilarious one of Professor E. which I can't post because I think she might murder me. So you'll have to settle for this.

The shirt, which was a gift from Rat Girl and Designing Woman, says "Hello, my name is NINJA." Just in case you couldn't tell...

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Short Quiz

Q: Why did it rain last night?

A. Because I left my car window down.
B. Because I left the lawnmower out.
C. Because I just watered the garden.
D. All of the above.

Write your answer on a white 3 x 5 index card in black or blue-black ink, and deposit it in the nearest storm drain for your chance to win a fabulous no-prize. Thanks for playing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

No, I Don't--So Stop Fucking Asking

The song "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" has been stuck in my brain on infinite loop for 3 days now. It becomes particularly noticeable when I am trying to figure out, for the 18th time, why Google Maps has given me completely different directions to the San Jose Ramada Limited than it did the last time I asked it. I've been doing a lot of driving in the Super PT-mobile--from Sausalito to SJ, from SJ to San Fran and back, from SJ to Monterey and Back, from SJ to Berkeley and back. Each time I have asked Google for clarification, the directions on how to get from the 101 to the Ramada differ. As a result, I have gotten turned around and lost EVERY DAMN TIME I come back to the hotel. Screw google. I'm on my own with the Avis map from here on out.

The reason I've been hoofing it all over the Bay is partly the fault of work, and partly the fault of She Who Bakes. I haven't seen her in over 3 years, so we've had a lot to catch up on. On Wednesday, she had me meet her at a very chic diner-turned-chef's-paradise called Canteen. They have assigned seating times--everyone gets seated at 7:30, orders from a choice of 4 starters, 4 entrees, and 4 desserts, and then they serve everyone simultaneously. Very elegant--and it's in a converted diner with a rusty old clock on the wall, chrome-edged counter, and vinyl booths. Things were off to a chaotic start, as due to the aforementioned fact that Palo Alto was on fire my allowing 1.5 hours to get into the city from SJ went from generous to holy crap I'm not going to make it. I got to the door of the place at EXACTLY 7:30, panting and red-faced. But soon calmed down, and we had a fantastic dinner. (Tomato/basil soup, pork schnitzel with paprika sauce, celery, and a poached egg, and glazed peaches with fresh ginger.) Last night I drove out to She Who Bakes' place in Berkeley, where we had a great pizza and she presented me with cookies from her own hands. I'm putting miles on the car, but it's all in the service of great food.

PSA Addendum: Karen was kind enough to link us to the Is California On Fire? website, which will answer that question for you on an up-to-the-minute basis. Apparently that service is provided by the same folks who bring you the answer to the burning question, Is Barack Obama a Muslim?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cruisin' the Bay

Having a great time in CA; how could it not be great with a neon blue PT Cruiser at my command? Thank you, Avis!

However, I have noticed a distinct downside to California, namely that it is apparently ALWAYS ON FIRE. Driving from San Jose into SF last night I was trapped in a traffic snarl resulting from not one, but TWO brush fires rolling clouds of smoke across the 101. For someone from the midwest, where roadside fires are primarily caused by exploding cars, this is unprecedented. I'm off to Monterey today, and no doubt it will be on fire too. Fortunately they have crack squads of sea lion first responders to take care of these things...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I'm Still Preoccupied...With 1985...

So last night I had a co-worker over to watch Ladyhawke, which is still hands-down my favorite sword and sorcery movie ever. There is nothing I do not like about this movie. And that includes the now-very-80's-sounding synthesizer-driven soundtrack. I love it. I love that kind of music in a fantasy movie--it's a fantasy, dammit! If I wanted to hear a fake medieval soundtrack, I'd go watch Excalibur again. (No, the Carmina Burana isn't real medieval music. Not that I don't like the Carmina, mind you--but real medieval music isn't nearly that stirring. I might have to watch Excalibur again anyway... I love that bit where you can totally see the film crew guy running across the background while Lancelot and Guenevere are doing it. Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh, yeah.)

So yes, I love heavily electrified music in my fantasy movies. The guitar solos totally make that movie. I don't think it sounds dated or goofy at all. And I'm firmly convinced my own life would be vastly improved with the addition of a looped soundtrack from the Alan Parsons Project. (Or Blue Oyster Cult. One or the other.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Great Bookpile Disaster of '08

Many of you who've visited my happy home know that I have a pretty massive bookshelf in the living room. (OK, whoever just said, "Where? I couldn't see it for all the piles of crap lying around!" can just shut the hell up.) It's floor to ceiling, and crammed full with books on the topics of history, more history, art, religion, science, travel... and history. It's where non-fiction books go. Some of you might also know that I have a bookshelf next to the fish tank in the office. It's where I keep huge-ass hardback books--my Complete Shakespeare is here, and my Lewis Carroll anthology--as well as graphic novels and antiquarian books. What 99.9% of you have never encountered is the Fiction Pile in the Back Closet.

While I don't read a whole lot of fiction these days, I do own a hell of a lot of it that's accumulated over the years. This store of mostly mass-market sized paperbacks can be divided into two categories: Science Fiction/Fantasy, and Everything Else. When I lived in Chicago, I had a little wood bookshelf that I'd built myself which was where the SF/F lived, and Other Fiction was at my parents' in storage. The little bookshelf got full, so I got another very little bookshelf to handle the overage, and that was fine. Then I moved, and moved again, and eventually my parents, unreasonable beasts that they are, asked if I might consider taking some of my books back into my own custody. So I had two little bookshelves of SF/F, and a cardboard box of Other. The cardboard box sat on the floor of the passthrough between my bedroom and bathroom for several years, until I tried to move it and it broke, sending a cascade of fiction onto the floor. A normal person would have seen this as a sign from god to build another damn bookshelf and get on with it. I saw it as a sign that god didn't want me to use the pass-through anymore, stacked the books loosely around on the floor, quietly shut both doors and began venturing to the bathroom the long way around.

Meanwhile, somewhere in here, the SF/F collection was growing--through no fault of my own, people keep giving me books!--and then one of the cats jumped up on the small bookshelf and then launched themselves to a windowsill, knocking the shelf over and sending books flying in all directions. Hm, I thought, this is a good opportunity to reorganize that shelf and fit in some of the additional books I've had sitting around... I'll just put them in the passthrough with the other fiction until I have time to do that.

I don't think I really need to spell this out for you here. This little closet-space was knee-deep in slightly musty, randomly-sorted paperbacks for over a year, and I was cheerfully and successfully ignoring the whole mess. THEN. Then, as is my wont, I suddenly decided I needed to find a particular book. (Peter S. Beagle's The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche. But that's beside the point.) I opened the closet door, avalanches of books slid everywhere, and I was keenly reminded that I am a horrible, unforgivably lazy slob as I kicked my way through the seething mass of paper, dust, cat hair, and guilt. (I didn't even find that damn Beagle book. But that's beside the point.)

I took a vow that I would not rest until I had at least restored the sci-fi to its original home in the two small bookshelves, neatly alphabetized and dusted. I culled through the heap, removing books I'd never really wanted to read in the first place, duplicate copies of things I'd acquired who knows how, and finally had it winnowed down to the point where I could fit it perfectly on the two little shelves, just like the days of yore, and began to impose order.

AdamsAlexanderAnthonyBeagleBradburyBrinBurroughsBullCardCarroll(Jonathan not Lewis) ChestertonClarkeCrispinDickEddingsGibson (and more Gibson, and more Gibson) HandHeinleinHowardHughartKressLeGuinLewisLovecraft (where on earth did I get all these Lovecraft paperbacks with the ugly-ass covers?) McCaffreyMcCrumbMcKinleyMillerMoonMoorcockMorrowPratchettPullmanRobinsonRowling (British "adult"covers only, I happily chucked my ugly American copy of "Sorceror's Stone" into the bag to go to halfprice) StephensonTepperTolkienVarleyWangerinWellsWilliamsWillis and....and... DAMN YOU TO HELL ROGER ZELAZNY, I ONLY OWN ONE OF YOUR FREAKIN' BOOKS AND THE SHELF IS #@%$£¢ FULL!!!!

I swear, if Lord of Light hadn't been a gift from an ex-boyfriend I'd have chucked it right out the window then and there. I'm crabby when I'm optimizing.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Up, Down, and All Around

So yes, I'm back from my vacation over the pond and have had several days to recover. My stress levels peaked about 24 hours before departure (which is pretty typical for me, really) and by the time I left I was in full-on "oh well fuck it, if I forgot something then the hell with it" mode. So naturally, I forgot my toothbrush. The one thing you really, REALLY want to have on the plane after 12 hours in transit. Pleh.

As to where I went, Charles, it's almost a question of where didn't I went? I got into London early morning on Sunday and fumbled my way from Gatwick to Charleton; I was visiting my friend L., who needed to be at work in North Wales Monday-Tuesday. So Sunday we went to Leeds and then returned to watch Dr. Who with her husband, J. Then up to Wales for 2 days, during which she worked like a stevedore and I pottered around looking at castles (Beaumaris and Caernarfon) and the scenery around Snowdon. Then Wednesday it was down to the south of England--L. is originally from Sussex, so we meandered down there to visit her mom, went to Arundel Castle Thursday, back up to London Friday for some sightseeing and beer drinkin'. Then away back home again. L. was an utter trooper the entire week and figured out the morass of travelling by rail in Britain. It used to be so easy! When I was there 10 years ago, on my stopover en route to Kenya, I bopped around on cheap day returns out of London without external assistance for nearly a week; it was so easy an American could do it. But now the system's privatized, the different rail systems don't all play well with one another, and "cheap" is no longer an operative word. A particularly egregious moment--to get from Worthing to London/Charleton via London Bridge, I got a ticket for £19.50. Over at the next window, L. requested a ticket from Worthing to London Bridge, since she had a commuter travel card that would allow her to go London Bridge to Charleton. Her ticket was £22. Luckily she overheard my transaction before the sale was completed: "Wait, I'm going 4 stops fewer than she is, and her ticket is £2.50 less???" The cashier squinted at his screen for a few minutes, tapped at some keys, and then said, sheepishly, "Yes." "Right, one ticket for Charleton, please."

Overall it was a fantastic time. The weather was great, I took hundreds of photos of castles and ruins and L.'s garden; although a day did not go by where I did not spend at least an hour on a train of some description, even that was a blast and I couldn't have asked for better.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

You Know You're Back in America When... have a moment like this. The flight to Cleveland was long, and included persistent kicking from the 8 year old in the seat behind, and an annoying conversation from two rather bitchy women sitting next to me. I was airsick, angry, and tired when we finally pulled up to the gate; and then we sat there for 10 minutes waiting for them to connect up the gangway and let us out. By the time I'd stood through the ABSOLUTE SLOWEST of the 5 passport control lines, and the entire crew of the aircraft had cut in line ahead of me, and the passport guy'd asked me some totally dumb questions, and then I had to get my bag and go through intensive X-Ray security AGAIN including taking off my damn shoes and belt and showing all my 3.5 oz liquid containers (which I still feel is a direct violation of my protection against unreasonable search and seizure) and I was struggling to put my shoes back on while leaning against a wall and hanging desperately onto my 400 lb shoulder bag, I was close to white-hot fury. Then I rounded a corner to the escalator, and what was playing full blast on the overhead speakers in the Cleveland airport? The Pina Colada song. One of the dumbest, most hilariously cheesy songs in the American pop music canon. I almost fell over laughing. Home, home, home.

More trip blogging shortly--unlike The Noz I didn't manage to find internet cafes on every corner so wasn't able to do the remote blogging thing...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Originally uploaded by blackbear88
First Thing's First.

I regret to say that due to the dappled sunlight effect, I don't think the Rick's hair question has been answered by this photo one way or the other. But you can form your own opinions.

Second--a brief return to the question of films. Specifically, Indiana Jones and the Big Disappointment. Look, I'm not saying it wasn't fun to watch, and I'm certainly not saying people shouldn't go see it on the big screen. But here's the thing--last weekend, I went to see Iron Man. I was not a fan of the Iron Man comic book as a kid--I never read the Avengers, and I'm purely an X-Men girl. I'm not a fan of Robert Downey Jr. either. But MAN--what a FUCKIN' AWESOME movie!! I liked it start to finish, overlooked its goofier plot elements and slightly strange timeline, and you know why? Because the script was awesome. There's a big difference between story and script, and that I think is the problem with Indiana Jones IV. Here's an example:

STORY: Ok, so they're looking down in the pit, and it's full of snakes, and Indy's scared of snakes.


Indy (rolling over and staring blankly off into space): Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?

Sallah (peering down into the hole): Ooh. Asps. Very dangerous! (pause.) You go first.

You see what I'm getting at here? The story of each Indiana Jones film has been standard pulp fare, more or less. The story of Temple of Doom is pretty outlandish, and that's what hurts it even more than the loss of Karen Allen and the addition of Short Round. But Crystal Skull has a perfectly OK story, and one godawful script. As Miss Alex pointed out--"Knowledge was their treasure...their treasure was knowledge." Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Lines like that run throughout the damn film. Then you add on top of that the poor use of CGI (the ants weren't scary. The monkeys...were. and don't even talk to me about that damn snake.) AND the fact that they made Cate Blanchett completely unattractive, which is a feat I would never have thought possible. AND the near complete lack of chemistry/banter between Indy and Marian... I'm not going to nitpick all the little stuff, but the big things that were bad were just. Bad. In comparison, Iron Man took a character I had no pre-viewing love for, built him up to be completely likeable yet a total asshole, and then spun a kick-ass story that left me waiting on the edge of my seat for the upcoming Avengers film. All because the script was good. The story wasn't that much better or more believable than Indy IV; it's all about the script.

I also saw an Israeli film called "Cafe Tales" this week--hilarious, borderline surreal film about 5 totally insane guys and a coffeeshop. Totally recommend it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Well, That's....Hmmmm.

So I was an usher at a friend's wedding last weekend. What with the norovirus and the power outage and all, I didn't have time for a haircut beforehand. Not wanting to reinforce my general reputation as a slob, I broke out the styling gel and hairdryer, and did my damnedest to make myself look more or less intentionally tidy. It was an uphill battle, and the results were not completely clear to me even after I got the tux on and ran a brush through it one final time. So I asked Andy how my hair looked, and he said, "You look kind of like Rick Springfield."

It only occurred to me later that I should have asked if he meant Young Rick, or Current Rick. I sure hope it was the former. As my mom said the other day, Current Rick is lookin' a little like he was rode hard and put away wet. Gone are the days when my best friend and I stood on tiptoe in the horse barn at the State Fairgrounds to get a glimpse of Rick and his perfectly feathered coiffure arriving for a concert. Ah well--at least the tuxedo fit.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Broken Hip

OK, I was going to come home and write an extended review of the new Indiana Jones movie, but it's late. So I'll give you the short version now:

Karen Allen reprising Marian Ravenwood = +50 cool points.

The dialogue and general level of ridiculousness = minus several million bajillion cool points.

Seriously, I'm pretty tolerant and I did have fun watching it--but holy shit, did the scriptwriter for the first couple movies die in the intervening decades? You could have fit all the clever repartee in this one in a teacup and still had room for milk and two sugars. Sigh.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Not Dead

I'm not dead, but my comments appear to be so. I'll try to sort that out later, I think it's got something to do with my old comments system (enetation) still being invisibly linked here via code... but not sure how that's bollocksing up the new comments system (Haloscan.) Oh well. Y'all didn't want to say anything anyway, right?

Monday, May 26, 2008


I would have blogged more about the con, but the main exciting event here was an outbreak of norovirus or something like it. I started feeling like crap when I'd been here about 24 hours; by 36 hours I was deep in the throes of stomach flu, and spent a good deal of yesterday being both miserable and pissed off. I woke up yesterday feeling kind of ick, and then when I went down to the front desk there were signs everywhere warning of an outbreak, and I was all "God DAMN it!" I'm not looking forward to the drive home, to say the least--while I'm better this morning, I wouldn't say I'm out of the woods yet. Gah.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

It's a Mad Mad Madison...

Well, I'm up in Madison for the weekend, as I am every year at this time. I'm rooming with my good friend Mr. Noz. Sadly he has not left his blog logged in and unattended like he did last time, so I have not been able to sabotage his template or alter his link roll. He DID manage to leave his key in the room once already, and I could have let him howl miserably in the hallway, begging for the use of the bathroom, for a lot longer than I did a bit ago. But I let him in. Because that's the kind of friend I am.

At least he didn't spray seltzer water on me when he woke me up this morning at 6 am. That happened last time we roomed together, too....

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Cold Grey Light of Dawn

So I went to my 20 year high school reunion two weekends ago. I have no problem with reunions, for the most part--thanks to my ridiculously poor memory, I don't really carry a lot of grudges for anything that happened during high school. There's no one likely to show up at our reunions who would make me go all cold with dread. Mind you, I had plenty of intense and damaging experiences in high school, just like everyone else; but time takes the edge off, plus most of them involved people I didn't end up graduating with anyway.

When I was in middle school, I had a couple of best friends. By high school, I had a completely different set of friends, because the first set had discovered the joys of substance abuse. Now, I'm the first to admit to being a bit of a straight-edger about drugs... but it's a chicken-and-egg thing, did I stop being friends with these people because I was so put off by their drug use, or was I so put off by seeing the effects of drug use on my friends that it cemented my opinion that it wasn't a place I wanted to go in my life? Drugs (and we're talking here about the gamut from pot to shrooms to acid to heroin) universally seemed to bring out the worst in my friends--if they were already depressed, lazy, uncommunicative, bad-tempered, forgetful or spacey, it just made them more so. They may have felt better on the inside, mind you, but for me on the outside looking in, it was annoying at best and completely maddening at worst. I had to fight down constant strong urges to punch them in the collective face. So, not surprisingly, those friendships died off. New ones took their place--and Mara, just so you know, thank you thank you thank you for being my pal for the past 25 years. :)

Now, the interesting thing about all of this is that I bopped along quite happily without those people for some time. When I went to college, NONE of my friends were into the drug scene in any substantial way. We didn't even drink that often. I'd occasionally run up against one of my old homies in one context or another, but it was obvious we were still not remotely on the same path. And I don't think I worried about it too much, other than still being annoyed that they'd changed so radically from the people I remembered.

Sometime in the late 1990's, one of those people--my best friend from Kindergarten through 6th grade or so--started contacting me again. She'd been through a lot of shit, come out the other side, and while I never got too many details about those intervening years, she wanted me to know she was sorry she'd been a jerk back then. And so we made up, and we visit now and then, and things are--while not the same as they might have been--are really very nice. About 6 months ago, the miracle of MySpace led to a reconnection with my first boyfriend/close friend from grades 7-9. He emailed me out of the blue to say he was sorry he'd been a jerk back in high school, and would I like to be friends again? Again I said, sure! He's married now, expecting a kid, and I'm looking forward to meeting up with him when I'm out in California sometime in the coming year.

The other most important person in my Lost Friend triumverate was a guy named Paul. When he dropped out of school, he almost completely dropped out of my life. He got into the indie music scene, and spent the subsequent decades doing the two things he loved--heroin, and playing the drums. Not necessarily in that order. In 2003, I heard from him via Friendster--he wanted to say he was sorry he'd been a jerk (you sense a theme here? apparently your 30's are all about the nostalgia and regret.) He told me he had seen me at the State Fair that year, but he'd been tripping at the time and hadn't wanted to try to talk to me. He seemed embarassed--and in the few subsequent email exchanges we had, he talked about trying to kick the drug habit, but it was apparent that things weren't going well in that area. So we didn't email much; we still didn't have a lot in common or a good frame of reference for each other's lives. We didn't really reconnect... but I always sort of assumed we would when he was ready and able.

So when Paul died of a heroin overdose last week, it was affecting on a lot of levels. On one hand, I mourned the loss of a guy who obviously meant so much to so many people in the here and now--there were about 200 people at his memorial service, mostly his pals from the music scene and from his years of wandering aimlessly around Broad Ripple, getting high, and having those endless conversations with friends and strangers that you have when you're young, or high, or both. I mourned the loss of a very talented musician; though his music in recent years wasn't to my tastes, I know that he devoted his life to creating sound in new and amazing ways, and I don't even pretend to understand what he achieved in his 25 years of making music. But mostly, I mourned the loss of my friend, who remains frozen for me at the age of 14...never aging, never going on to achieve the things he might have done if he'd made different choices way back then. I had forgotten how much I liked that guy, and it's like I lost him all over again--only now it's permanent.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Greetings from the 9th Circle

I spent the weekend at a medieval studies conference in Kalamazoo. This is always a good time, even when I'm only there for 1 full day. But this week has been a long series of bad news from multiple directions, which I'm not really prepared to blog about just yet, and while I'm glad I went, I'm still kind of in a fog. When I'm depressed or under stress, I tend to slip into a purely functional mode; I get things done on a purely mechanical level, can still hold conversations and make jokes, but I can't really think or concentrate beyond a certain depth, and that's kind of where I am at the moment. A 4 hour drive each way to and from Michigan is, unfortunately, way too much time for contemplation when I'm in a Mood. As my friend Ellen said, "Thank god your car radio works, at least!" True dat! I can't imagine where my head would be if I hadn't had a few worthwhile CD's in the car--the stretch between Battle Creek and Ft. Wayne is one long, lonely string of country/western stations...

Uh oh.

Uh oh.
Originally uploaded by blackbear88
'Nuff Said.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Uh oh.
Originally uploaded by blackbear88
This Space Unintentionally Left Blank.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Case 19, Beyond the Page
Originally uploaded by blackbear88
Look! Some Comic Books!

Exhibit opens May 3, and I am apparently too busy/addled to post. But I do have time to make a Flickr photoset. Will be adding to it all this week... Hope you like it!

Friday, April 11, 2008

At Long Last

Spring arrived, for a total of one day; tomorrow, we are back to 40 degree temperatures and a chance of snow for the weekend. But the promise of spring is in the air, and along with spring comes the Indianapolis International Film Festival. Last year I missed most of it, but I'm thinking this year I may try to catch a few films; year before last I bought a 10 ticket bundle and saw several really good things. But I was also a volunteer that year, and it wasn't a good experience--the IIFF is not a well-oiled machine, or at least it wasn't back then, and IFS (the Indiana Film Society, of which I'm a board member) actually got the short end of the stick from our linking up with IIFF that year. So in 2007 I still had a bit of a bad taste in my mouth regarding the IIFF. I'm still not offering to volunteer for them, but I'm perfectly happy to go see some cool films in a few weeks. The run of the festival includes the weekend of our new exhibit opening, and coincidentally my 20 Year High School Reunion falls on that very same day. Hell, I may need a little escapism that week...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Limited Engagement - One Night Only!

So you all know how much I love circus posters, and circus wagons, and the circus museum in Baraboo, right? (Mind you, I don't actually like circuses themselves, at least not the modern version of them--but that's a paradox for another day.) Anyway, check out this beaut of an original half-sheet poster I bought at the antique advertising show last weekend! Dates from 1938, I'm fairly sure--after Sells-Floto was bought out by Ringling Bros but before the Ringlings had completely absorbed them and discarded the Sells name. The "Portage" is Portage, Wisconsin. The rip in the corner is the only reason I was able to afford it at all... and it still wasn't cheap. But no buyer's remorse here, I love it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Checkered Past

We have a new employee at work. She and I are getting along quite well, she responds effectively to my sarcastic and abusive tendencies with same. But the other day I said something about my teaching job, and she said (essentially) "WTF?!?! How many jobs have you HAD? You talk about working in retail, working for a game company, going to grad school, blah blah blah--how many career changes can one person have?" How many, indeed. I realized I had no idea how many different jobs I'd had, so I thought I'd count it out.

Game store clerk/manager/ubermanager - 1987-1996, 1998-2002.
Campus Patrol - 1989.
Costume seamstress - 1989-1992.
Comic Book envelope stuffer - 1988-89. (thanks for the reminder, noz)
Apprentice Personal Property Appraiser - 1993.
Freelance set construction and run crew work, various local theaters - 1992-1996.
Grad school - 1996-1998, 2003-2006.
Pet store clerk - 1998.
Teaching assistant, World History 105/6 - 1996-97.
Research Assistant - 1997-98.
University office assistant - 2003-2005.
Seasonal gardener at the zoo - 2004, 2005.
Animal care volunteer at the zoo - 2003-2007.
Game company sales director - 2004-2007.
Teaching assistant, Art History 101/102 - 2005-2007.
Adjunct professor, art appreciation - 2006-2007.
Web page content developer - 2006-2007.
Contract worker, various local museums - 2004-2007.
Miniature painting artist - 2004-present (though I really started informally back in 1988 or so.)
Museum exhibit developer - 2007-present.

My god, is that really everything? Seems short, somehow.... How many varied jobs have you had?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Back to Normal

Well, my finger is, anyway. I seem to have not done any permanent damage, as usual... But otherwise, not a lot to report. I'd like to do one of my long ranting posts on why I hate DST today, just to celebrate the joy of having to suffer several weeks of painful internal clock adjustment; but out of consideration for my readers, such as they are, I'm instead doing another webcomic post. This week's bundle of joy is "How to be Happy," by Shannon Wheeler. I met Shannon at Comic Con this summer, and he's a fabulous guy, very friendly and enthusiastic--about his own comics, but also the topic of comics and comic books in general. He made me wish our upcoming exhibit weren't limited to comic books, I'd have loved to get him involved. Maybe the next time around.

As usual, you can click to view it big. Shannon's mainly known for his cult-status comic character, Too Much Coffee Man; but "How to be Happy" mostly centers on a guy, his cat, and the occasional giant space squid. I love his art. I love the very simple, very expressive black linework. The cat in panel 2 is awesome, with only a few lines and dots we have a very earnest expression as the cat peers down at his owner--"You awake? Hello?" The cat flying out the door in panel 6, with his little stick legs crossed as he flails (just as my cats do in this exact situation)--and then the completely unexpected punchline. Perfect. One of my complaints with some webcomics is the failure to understand timing between panels--building up to a good solid punchline isn't easy, after all. Standup comedians have trouble with this concept all the time, it's not surprising some cartoonists do too. But "How to be Happy" consistantly delivers, whether he's doing a serial plot or a one-off. Even when he's doing a "god, I have writer's block" comic, the art never fails to charm me. So this is another one I strongly recommend checking out, if you're up for another webcomic in your life.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Last Aid

I was going to write another post on webcomics, but then I shut my finger in a door and severely limited by typing speed (already pretty piss-poor.) So instead I offer you this gem of a video, which I found via SirValence.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Why I Love Webcomics.

OK, this is going to be a completely wasted post for anyone who is not particularly into comics, comic books, or the idea of sequential visual storytelling. But I'm thinking about it a lot lately--"it" being, what makes a good comic good, at least for me? I've been working on a project involving comics at work for the last 6 months As part of that project I've had a couple of really entertaining and fruitful chats with Scott McCloud, whose books Understanding Comics and Making Comics have comprised a huge portion of the background research for the project. One of the things that keeps coming up in these conversations is the place of the webcomic in the world of "Comics" with a capital C. I love traditional superhero comics and the graphic novels they've spawned in the last 20 years; but as Scott has pointed out, some of the most inovative, crazy, and wonderful stuff out there in the first part of this new century has sprung not from pen and ink, but from stylus and Wacom. (Yes, I know many webcomic artists do still use pen and then scan it in. Shut up.)

In the last couple weeks, I've become aware of a blog called "PvP Makes Me Sad," which is a panel by panel critical deconstruction of one of the most popular webcomics out there. I started reading it regularly, not because I am a meanspirited brute who hates Scott Kurtz, but because--like the blog's author--I used to be a big fan of PvP, and now I hardly ever read it anymore. It's not just the material--which is admittedly often same-joke-different-day--but the fact that it's basically a 3-4 panel standard comic with predictable punch lines and somewhat repetative art. (I think of this as KoDT syndrome--Knights of the Dinner Table was damn funny for about the first year I read it. And then it was the same characters, doing the same things, in essentially the same drawings--I think they were often actual photocopies of earlier panels--and I started to think, WTF? Where's the fun in that? And I stopped reading regularly. So it's been with PvP, though admittedly Kurtz is a far far better artist than Jolly Washburn.) I've been enjoying "PvP Makes Me Sad," partly because its author has managed to put a finger on why PvP doesn't work for me anymore. The timing is often off. There are places where just a tiny adjustment of phrasing or attention to a detail of line would turn an OK comic into a pretty funny one, and it's not happening. This kind of analysis is always interesting to me, again in light of McCloud's books--a well-crafted comic requires those kind of fine-tuning adjustments to go from good to great. Some webcomics are brilliant because of this... and instead of spending a blog post trashing on a webcomic I find disappointing, I'm going to spend a couple looking at webcomics I think are amazing, and trying to sort out why.

The first one I'm looking at is a comic that only updates about once a week these days, if that. I bring this up because I don't have it on RSS; I just pop on the site and check it every few days. And even when it's not a new comic, I will always scroll down and re-read the present post, because Beaver and Steve always makes me laugh. Even when I've read the same panels 5 times before, I'll read it again and snicker, because James Turner is a freakin' genius. Beaver and Steve tends to be a bit surreal in its plotting, which is one of the things I like about it--all you really need to know is that Beaver is sensible and practical, and Steve is a creative thinker. In the present storyline, he has started a sweatshop factory to make Steve Brand tennis shoes in the arctic, using the local workforce (seals) as cheap labor. Here's this week's offering (click to view big):

First of all, I like how the panels are laid out, with the tall one in the center; the artist gets to really create a swirl of chaos around Miss Jones, with seals flying every which way, mixed in and around with Turner's trademark onomotopoeia sound effects. It's a great panel. The seals look so shocked. And the spilled coffee creates a sense for us of what happened outside Steve's door between panels 1 & 2--Miss Jones GOT the requested coffee. She was on her way to his office, when suddenly nature got the better of her and GRAAAARRRRR ark ark ark!! Monty Pythonesque in its hilariousness. And then her expression in Panel 4: embarrassed, apologetic--"I don't know how this happened, I'm soooo sorry Mr. Steve," and the little detail of the nervous gesture of her tapping fingertips/claws. And best of all, the seal in panel 5 has, not stars, but little tiny fishes swirling over his head. Almost unnoticeable, it's like an easter egg within the drawing. And so Steve learns that it's so hard to find good help these days... Anyway, Beaver and Steve is one of my very favorite webcomics for just this reason--it's always visually rich, yet subtle in its humor. If you're inclined to go through the archives, you'll see this is just the tip of the iceberg--Turner pushes all kinds of limits in his plotting, sequencing, and drawing style, in ways that I've never seen in print comics.

Next time: I blather on about some other comic I like. Maybe.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Have Stone, Will Curl

In my endless quest to participate in the most bizarre and esoteric sports on the planet, I have added yet another notch on my metaphorical bow:
Yes. A sport involving brooms, giant heavy rocks, and ice. If you were not sucked in by the 2006 Olympic Curling championships on TV, then here is a YouTube video showing the Canadian Men winning with what can only be described as a perfect shot. The narration in Russian just makes it all the more entertaining. (At least, I think it's Russian.) Anyway, after almost 2 years, Indianapolis finally has its own curling club and I am THERE.

I suck at it, of course. Here are the things I've learned:
1. Many things can affect where the rock ends up stopping, including how hard you throw it, how much English you put on it, how hard your sweepers are sweeping, and how the ice is running.
2. I am completely incapable of perceiving ANY of these factors when I am actually the one throwing the rock. I'm too busy wondering if I'm about to fall over as I launch myself forward out of the hack. But I'm hoping to get the hang of it.

So if you're in Indy and you want to try curling, here is a basic primer:
The point of the game is to score points. You do this by sliding a granite boulder with a handle on top along a sheet of ice toward a target at the other end. After each team has slid 8 rocks down the sheet, you look to see who's got a rock closest to the center of the target, and that team scores. It's called curling, because the rock usually doesn't slide straight, but curls in one direction or another depending on which way it's rotating as it slides and how melty the surface of the ice is beneath it. Your teammates may attempt to affect the speed and curl of your throw by scrubbing the ice in front of the moving rock with brooms--this melts up the ice just a tiny bit and makes the rock speed up and curl less. When to sweep and how hard to sweep is one of the subtleties that will only come from experience; likewise which way to spin the rock and how hard to throw it. All my throws seem to cruise straight through the target and out the back, or else fall short and are taken out of play. But I've only done it twice. There's always room for improvement...

Sunday, January 20, 2008


My score on The Which Lolcat Are You? Test:


Lion Warning Cat
(51% Affectionate, 63% Excitable, 46% Hungry)

You are the good Samaritan of the lolcat world. Protecting others from danger by shouting observations and guidance in cases of imminent threat, you believe in the well-being of everyone.


Take it!

The problem with LOLcats is that I'm completely at a loss to explain why I find them so hilariously funny. I think it's a cumulative effect from having spent a sick day paging through the archives of I Can Has Cheezburger. Or maybe I'm just easily amused these days...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Who Put the Goat In There?

I can already tell that Netflix is going to change my life for the better. I am one of those people who hardly ever sees movies in the theater; I like documentaries, foreign and independent films, and I've got a long list of things I've seen reviewed which I'd like to watch.... but since Rhinebeck is really too far a drive now, and the Indianapolis arts theater is expensive, and I'm spacy and forget to check what they've got on... I miss stuff. One of the things I missed, way back in the day, was Earth, the second film in Deepa Mehta's Elements trilogy. I saw Fire when it first came out, when Upyernoz and I were still doing our near-weekly trips to the Music Box to catch whatever cool foreign flicks were on offer. I thought it was fantastic, hands down, and made up my mind to catch the other two films which were (we thought) to follow shortly. Earth did come out in 1998, the year I left Chicago, and no opportunity to see it arose, and it didn't show up at my local rental place, and I forgot about it. The third movie met with difficulties--the first two were not popular in the areas of India where Mehta was doing her filming, and as I understand it, a lot of her equipment was destroyed, workers threatened, etc. So the production ground to a halt, and the film was eventually finished in Sri Lanka and released in 2005. I caught Water at its Indianapolis premiere in 2006, and my review of it is here. But the whole point of this is--I did HAVE a point--that shortly after signing up for Netflix I realized I could finally see Earth and complete the trifecta. GOOOOOO ME!

Earth was very, very good. It's a story of what happened in Lahore in 1947, as the British were pulling up the stakes and saying "see you later, and oh by the way, this is now Pakistan and that's India, have a nice day!" The resultant rapid and gruesome explosion of Lahore's formerly closely knit community of Hindus, Sikhs, Moslems and Parsees forms the backbone of the film. I thought it was better than Water, personally; and like all of the trilogy, it was wrenchingly painful, beautiful, and funny all at the same time. It was not as visually lush as the other two films, I didn't feel overwhelmed by the visuals. Both Earth and Water are told through the eyes of children who don't really grasp the significance of what is going on around them, and I think this is why the latter two lack the intimate feel of Fire. But at any rate, I highly recommend all three films.

So I also like Indian cinema--and by Indian cinema here I don't mean Deepa Mehta. I am an unashamed fan of Bollywood musicals, and they are the sort of thing where you either think they are fantastic and amazingly hilarious, or you think they are bizarre and annoying. There is very little middle ground. So if you are in the second category, I strongly recommend that you NOT watch This You Tube Video. I found this link via Jane, literally minutes after finishing watching Earth, and I laughed so hard I cried. One thing to note, if you've never encountered this genre of films before, is that while Bollywood musicals are generally subtitled, and the dialogue is usually in Hindi, the musical numbers are almost NEVER subtitled, and the lyrics are frequently in another language like Urdu. So you--the average American viewer--will NEVER know what the FUCK they are singing about, and frankly this video pretty accurately simulates what my brain is filling in when I am watching one of these films. I love it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

30% in Common with Huckabee? Dear God.

Here's how my own political convictions line up with the available candidates, more or less.

81% Chris Dodd
79% John Edwards
78% Barack Obama
78% Bill Richardson
73% Hillary Clinton
71% Joe Biden
69% Mike Gravel
62% Dennis Kucinich
45% Tom Tancredo
39% Rudy Giuliani
37% Mitt Romney
33% John McCain
30% Mike Huckabee
29% Fred Thompson
26% Ron Paul

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

This is interesting--it's more or less exactly what I anticipated (Edwards over Obama over Clinton) but the % of agreement with the weirder GOP candidates surprises me a little. There were a few questions I felt could have used another answer option--like the illegal immigration one. I firmly believe that illegal immigrants should be deported, because they've broken the law by arriving illegally in the first place. Many immigrants bust their asses to arrive here legally; what's their incentive to do so if arriving illegally gets you benefits or a path to citizenship? However, I also think that our current immigration laws obviously aren't working all that well, and we need to find a way to grant worker status to more people so that they can work here legally (which will help the economy in their home countries, if they're sending money back to family) and put some serious energy into helping improve the infrastruture in central and south american countries so that there will be less incentive FOR people to come illegally to the US. But that wasn't an option on the quiz.

I wonder if it's notable that both my top democrat and top republican have already dropped out of the race...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Thanks For Playing!

The fascinating thing about blogging, for me, is not just the fact that I'm casting my life upon the waters of the internet for anyone to read, but that I can go back at the click of a mouse and find out what I was thinking on this date in history, from 2003 onwards. I know other people have been keeping personal journals all their lives; but despite various attempts at diarying at points in my life, I've never been able to do it with any consistancy. Why? I think because I don't like writing for myself. I like writing for other people to read. I like choosing my words carefully in order to make you laugh when you click my bookmark and see a new post. It doesn't matter that there are only about 10 people who read this thing regularly--even if it was only 2, or 1, or just someone randomly Googling the words "Cautionary Tale" every week or so, it still provides more motivation for me than just writing something for myself. Must be the Leo in me.

Anyway, so the ability to go back and check on my state of mind on New Year's pasts is quite a feature. I generally tend to be depressed on New Year's, but I note that I only posted about being depressed twice in the last 5, which is impressive. Maybe because depression isn't all that funny, and I strive to stay funny so that all 10 of you will stick around for another year! But this year, I'm not depressed at all. For the first New Year's since I started the blog, I'm gainfully employed, full time, in a job that I really love and am passionate about. I'm in a good place with family and friends, and we have again the hopeful prospect of political change in the wind for 2008. (Mind you, if we get a Democrat in the White House the "good place" with my family may change--my mom holds me personally responsible for betraying the Republican party at times like this.) I'm in reasonably good health mentally and physically, as are my pets and family. This may be one of the best New Year's in the last decade for me, simply because I don't have anything to dwell on while listening to Pink Floyd's "Time" in a darkened room. Go, 2008!

So how did I start this new year on a high note? By getting completely cleaned out at penny poker. Jesus, my luck was just awful, and I had a great time. We pulled out This Book, and I got to call some great variants like "Liz Taylor" and "Rescue 9-1-1." As you might expect from a book authored by Phil Foglio and James Ernest, these variants are wild and brilliant and hilarious, resulting in huge pots. If you like poker and don't take it too seriously, you should add this book to your library. Just to give you a taste, here's the two games I called last night:
Liz Taylor. 7-Card Stud. Queen of Hearts is wild, and starts in the middle of the table. First person to get a jack or king face up gets "Liz." She stays in his hand until a new man comes along--ie, someone else is dealt a face up jack or king. So until the last faceup card is dealt, you don't know for sure who's going to end up with the wild card. Prevents early folding, builds the pot, and carries a nice suspensful jolt.
Rescue 9-1-1. 5-Card Draw. Natural 9-A-A beats all hands. Everyone's discards after the first betting round go into a pile in the center called "The Media Crew." The injured cards (one-eyed jacks and the suicide king) are wild. Play is as normal, but before the winner collects, all the cards in the media crew are revealed. If a 5-card hand can be made from that pool of cards which beats the winning hand, then the Media Crew has arrived at the emergency first! All cards are reshuffled, another hand is dealt to all live players, and the pot stays. Play continues until a player has a winning hand that isn't trumped by the media. Last night we had two full houses beat by the Media Crew before someone finally won with a 7-high straight. It was awesome, the pot was enormous and there was a huge tension each time we flipped the media hand and started sliding cards around to see what we could make of it. Totally worth the $3 I lost last night.

So...Happy New Year, y'all!