Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays, Dammit

I've noticed a rather surprising amount of crabbiness this year directed at those of us who wish folks a "Happy Holiday" instead of "Merry Christmas." Some random stranger in the grocery the other day was wishing the clerk Merry Xmas--she was wearing a Santa hat, so seems safe to assume she's a celebrater of the holiday--and he had to do a 30 second diatribe on how he wasn't ashamed of saying Merry Xmas, and he wasn't going to be "politically correct," and got very self-righteous about the whole thing, although, as I said, the clerk was wearing a Santa hat at the time and therefore wasn't likely to argue with him. I've heard this in multiple places this year, in varying degrees. Not sure if it's just conservatives who feel "Happy Holidays" is part of the uncomfortable secularization of our (already secular by law) nation now that Bush and his god are out of office, but I find it mind-boggling. Back when I worked at the game store, our bookkeeper--who was a wonderful sweet person and I liked her a lot--sent me an Xmas card, with the statement that she didn't care whether I was a Christian or not, because SHE was, and so she was sending me a card, dammit. (Not that she'd have said dammit. She'd never have said dammit.) That seems to be the prevailing theme in all this bitching and moaning I've heard this year, with a slight edge of being the persecuted minority. As if Christians had ever been a persecuted minority in this country, for heaven's sake.

I'm one of those people who celebrates the Christmas season as a time for family and joy and love, even though I'm not a Christian. I don't object to friends telling me to "Have a Merry Christmas!" because I certainly intend to do so, and I appreciate the thought. But it just seems like common courtesy to wish strangers a Happy Holiday Season--if you don't know what holidays they celebrate, then why not cover them all with a single blanket statement of good wishes for the new year? It's not about you and your holiday, it's about them and theirs. Getting over yourself a little bit--that'd be a truly Christmassy thing to do, now wouldn't it?

Hope you're all having marvelous holidays of whatever type you desire!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Twilight: New Moon in Ten Paragraphs Or Less

All right, so first off, let me say that New Moon is better than Twilight I, merely due to the fact of it having a quantity of bare-chested native american hunky guys, and Graham Greene, who is an actor of a quality far exceeding that of the script. Let's see if I can sum it up in 10 paragraphs or less.

1. Bella is still stupidly in love with Vampire Ed--apparently it still has not occurred to her that perhaps she is not thinking clearly in this matter. They snuggle together in English class as they watch a Romeo and Juliet movie which Edward has memorized (because apparently being a vampire means Edward is doomed to an eternal hell of repeating the eleventh grade over and over.) Shortly after declaring his undying (heh) love for her, Edward dumps her, for no easily discernable reason--which does tie in nicely with his being an 11th grade boy. He leaves town, vowing that it will be as if he never existed. Would that this were true.

2. Bella's heart and mind are shattered, as she apparently sits in a chair and looks out the window for 3 straight months. Inexplicably, instead of having her forcibly committed, her father just looks worriedly at her from behind his facial hair and makes halfhearted threats to send her to live with her mother. Our window into Bella's distressed state of mind comes via the crude plot device of Bella's emails to Edward's "sister," Alice, who is one of the few enjoyable characters in the film. We see early on that all of Bella's emails to are bouncing back marked Account Deleted; yet we keep hearing her write them, in increasingly pathetic-sounding voice-overs.

3. Bella is just almost starting to act like a normal 16 year old girl again--which is to say self-involved and annoying, but social--when she discovers that doing something stupid or dangerous causes Edward to appear to her in ghost form, saying "er, don't do that." Ghost Edward is an improvement over Real Edward, in that he disappears after blurting out each warning and doesn't sneak into her bedroom to watch her sleeping. Thus Bella decides that occasional visits from Ghost Edward are worth risking grave bodily harm and possible sexual assault, so she goes for a ride with a random bike ganger, just to goad him into showing up. Then she buys a junky motorcycle of her own, and asks her incredibly hot ripped-out Indian friend Jacob to fix it up for her.

4. Bella and Jacob grow closer and bond over the bike repair project, and she emails Alice's non-working address to tell it that she thinks she is falling for Jacob. OH NOES! How will she handle these feelings of not-Edward?? By agreeing to go to a movie with that nice boy at school who she generally treats like crap, and inviting Jacob along, that's how. And so begins Bella's career as the world's biggest cock-tease. Nice boy wants her, she ignores him for Jacob. Jacob wants her, she turns him down at the crucial second. He swears he will be her friend forever.... aaand then the moon turns full and he runs off and doesn't come back. Bella's heart and mind are shattered, and--waaaaait a minute....

5. It is at this point we realize that we are watching the SAME GODDAMNED MOVIE as last year! Bella falls in love. Bella acts like a dumbass. Boy loves her back. Boy suddenly becomes distant and weird. Boy has a secret. Bella whines and moans until she finds out secret--Boy is a Monster who Might Hurt Her if they ever Had Sex or Anything Like That and so therefore Bella Cannot Have Love. But she wants love anyway! And boy loves her and wants to protect her, and *****sounds of violent retching****

6. Werewolves are way cooler than vampires. This is all that is necessary for us to know. Werewolves jump off cliffs for fun. Werewolves work out and are incredibly tan and buff. Werewolves have an endless supply of spare gym shorts to replace the ones that shred off each time they transform. Werewolves catch and eat vampires. They eat the annoying vampire with the dreds from the first movie. They chase the redhead vampire chick off a cliff, but can't follow her despite their mad cliff-jumping skillz, and she swims away to safety in the next film.

7. Bella jumps off a cliff. Because everyone is doing it.

8. Jacob saves her and brings her back to her house; her father is off dealing with the fact that Graham Greene has died, no doubt wisely, as it saves him appearing in "Eclipse." Somehow, miraculously, Alice is waiting in her house, despite not having been invited in and despite the fact that she and her family are theoretically hundreds of miles from Forks. Her weird psychic powers told her Bella was dead! So she came out in Bella's empty house and eventually scare the shit out of her grieving dad? Alice is not a good planner. She and Jacob have some tete-a-tete, and then the phone rings, and Jacob tells the caller that Bella's dad isn't home because he's arranging a funeral. DOHHHHHH!!!! It was EDWARD on the phone!!! Now he thinks Bella is dead, due to this bizarre coincidence/misunderstanding! Now he is going to kill himself because he cannot live in a Bella-less world! Wait wait I get it this is just like Romeo and Juliet, right down to the ridiculous gimmicky ending! OH NOOOOOOOOOOO

9. At THIS point, the plot jumps the rails. There was a plot, albeit a feeble one, involving Bella and Jacob and the mean redheaded vampire and all those indian dudes who we'd like to see a little more of, thanks. Bella opts out of this plot with nary a backward glance, as now she must go to Italy with Alice to save Edward (because when vampires commit suicide, they have to go to Italy to do it.) It was here that I actually said, out loud in the theatre, "What the SHIT just happened?" as Bella's airplane streaked out of Sea-Tac.

10. Edward wants the vampire council to kill him, because he can't do it himself. The vampire council, who look--as a friend of mine said on facebook--like a flaming cross between Monty Python's inquisitors and La Cage aux Folies, tell him no. So apparently the only way to force them to off him is for him to go out and sparkle in public, thus violating Vampire Law by revealing the carefully guarded secret of the vampires' existence. But before he can completely drop trou in the town square, Bella shows up and grabs him around his pale skinny chest and hugs him back into the shadows. Whew, that was close! Now comes the really scary part, where they meet the deadly dangerous and terrifying vampire council and.... wait, hang on. Nothing happens. Hm, that wasn't scary at all. They make Alice promise to turn Bella into a vampire sometime soon, and then turn them all loose. Whew! Close call, guys! Good thing you didn't piss off the council, they might have got out the Soft Cushions and the Comfy Chair....

And so Edward and Bella return to Forks, and she cockteases Jacob a bit more before admitting that she likes Edward best. Jacob points out that if Bella gets vampireated, the werewolves will go completely freestyle on the Cullen clan. Bella says "Whatever!" Jacob leaves, and Edward tells Bella that before he can have sex with h--er, before he can make her a vampire, they will need to---***DUN DUNNNNN***---Get Married! Yes. No biting before marriage for this Romeo. Aww how romantic! Roll end credits!

(yes, I know, it was 11 paragraphs. Stuff it.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Weekly WTF, Episode 1: Holiday Edition

For quite a while now, I've been meaning to start a series of blog posts devoted to the vast number of pictures I have of things that make me go Holy Crap What the Fuck is Up With THAT? There is more weird stuff in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy... In fact, if you were to build a philosophical worldview out of some of this shit, you would end up with a belief system far more damaging even than The Dao of Whiskey.

Now, I wanted to start this off with something light. Something holiday-themed, perhaps, something even OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING NOOOOOOO MY EYES

Festive, isn't it? Nothing says Christmas like drunken Santa stumbling into the midst of Sigfried and Roy's holiday performance at the Mirage, and collapsing to sleep off his bender against the flank of a tiger who has alrady slain and is preparing to eat one of his elves.

No doubt this is an act of revenge, in response to Drunk Santa's having grabbed a tiger cub and crammed it in his bag of presents "just for a laugh." Cruel old bastard.

This is actually an item from our museum's collection, and I have to say that on a 1-10 scale of scary, this is only about a 6 compared to some of the Xmas stuff we own. It boggles my mind how many different ways people can find to make something as innocuous as Santa Claus unintentionally creepy, ugly, or downright disturbing. But for sheer surreal incongruity, this has to be one of the finest holiday creations I've seen. So There you have it! Join us again next week, when I will have yet another photo of some high-quality What the Fuck on display for your edification. Thank you, and good night.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In Which a Free Book is Won

Apparently, my admission that I read Wondermark in my bathroom was the clincher. The marvelous thing is that not only did I win a free book--thus freeing up my cash to buy more of the Wondermark backlist!--but so did Robin, whom I have been barraging with Wondermark links for over a year now. Huzzah! I think I forgot to mention that David Malki also makes short films which are fairly excellent. If you like that sort of thing, go check out Expendable, which is about the rough life of the supervillain henchman.

In other news, I got to go see Star Wars in Concert last night, which was utterly fabulous. Live orchestra performing selections from all 6 films, with clips showing on the huge hi-def screen behind them and a laser/light show surrounding. The whole thing is given some coherence by live narration from Anthony Daniels--very cool to see and hear him in person. Here is a man who is making the most of a career primarily spent playing one character over and over (though I did love him in this.) The narration itself was a little over-the-top silly; Fathead didn't like it at all, but I figured it was aimed primarily at the kids in the audience, of which there were thousands. And seriously, the music's incredible, our seats were amazing--thank you, Lucasfilm, for comping the museum some dead-center floor seats!--and I had a great time. Best thing I saw was a gang of little teeny kids having a lightsaber battle with cones of cotton candy (pink and blue, of course.) Hilarious. Who could ask for anything more?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Going Stag

I write you all today from Hartford, CT, a city primary known for insurance, mutual funds, and mutual fund insurance.

The Hartford Stag was a staple image of my childhood, though I'm not entirely sure why--must have been sponsoring something I watched religiously on TV, or something. Technically, that should be the Hartford Hart... I wonder when "Hart" and "Hind" were replaced by "Stag" and "Doe" in the American lexicon. Hmm. Hmmmmm....

Anyway, the point--such as it is--is that I flew into Hartford last night for a business trip, to be greeted by a massive thunderstorm that was following on the heels of 5" of wet snow. Last time I was here, it was fall, and New Englandy-looking in a completely different sense; but honestly, I'm fairly pleased with the current state of the weather. Today it's sunny, there's still snow everywhere yet traffic is humming past my window at a decent clip, so I've no complaints. I'm just sitting around the hotel waiting for my coworker to show up--she's been on the coast for a few days, so was taking the train from NYC to New Haven, picking up a rental car, and driving to pick my other coworker and I up before we head over to LEGO for our brainstorm meetings. Eric's watching Firefly over in his room... not a bad way to spend a morning. Think I'll join him.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In Which Wondermark is Touted

Yes yes, I know, I promised you a Jell-O ad. But look, this is way more important. Many of you already know of my love for Wondermark; as you can see, it's already linked right down there on the sidebar. I've passed it on to friends. I've fanned it on Facebook. I Tweeted it on Thanksgiving (and even got re-tweeted, thanks very much David Malki!) I have a signed comic on my wall, and a copy of Beards of our Forefathers in my bathroom. (Yes, the bathroom. Shut up. Don't judge me.) But do you know WHY I love Wondermark so, and why you should too? Here are three good reasons:

1. Art. While Malki! can draw—we've seen it happen—the look of Wondermark comes from his massive library of illustrations from 19th and early 20th century books and magazines. It's utterly fucking brilliant. I've no idea how he finds so many pictures of squids.

2. Beards. Malki's obsessed with beards. I can get behind that--as many of you know, I'm quite fond of beards myself. My own ambition to be a bearded lady at the circus was sadly dashed when I showed absolutely no signs of hirsutism from an early age; but I fully support the beardage of others, without bitterness.

3. Shirts. My last order from TopatoCo included what may be my current favorite t-shirt: Steam Powered Heart. Additionally, I had to buy this one for a friend (inspired, of course, by this comic) and this one for another friend. An abundance of riches! I'm giving serious thought to the Bibliophibian Onesie for Jen and Patrick...

All this shameless plugging of course has nothing to do with the fact that blogging about Wondermark enters me in a contest to win a free book. Nothing to see here. Move along. Look, a Jell-O ad from 1923!

(A basketful of happiness? Seriously? Her mom sent her out for groceries, and she comes back with 40 boxes of Jell-O and "happiness"? That's grounds for willful orphaning.)

Monday, November 02, 2009

No Such Luck

As promised, here is the first of several wonderful ads purchased at this weekend's postcard show. I didn't fully appreciate how awesome this particular one was until I got it home, as you're about to see.

This is an ad from the Ladies' Home Journal in 1919--the heyday of entertaining magazine advertising, to my way of thinking. It's advertising a now forgotten brand of soap called "Olivilo" (pron. Olive-eyelow.)

The first mystery to me is why one would market a soap with the word "vile" in the name--I do realize it's trying to evoke the nourishing properties of olive oil, and I can overlook the gimmick that the name's a palindrome, but why put that long I sound in there? It gives me a sense of ick before I've even unwrapped the bar. Also, it's packaged in a black wrapper, which doesn't exactly cry out "SPARKLING CLEAN" to me. Those are basic facets of the product itself, though, so I accept that the pitchmen in Olivilo's marketing department may have been stuck with these problems for some time before devising this particular ad.

The first great thing here is the threat implicit in the image. "Do you believe in Luck?" it asks, in enormously loopy handwriting font, the word "in" squiggling precariously upright. "Do you feel lucky, punk? Do ya? Then try our #%@*& soap!"

Next comes the promise: Fate cannot harm you, if you use this soap. Apparently, Olivilo is the detergent version of a mafia bag man. Among other things, it will protect you from the unlucky influence of the rather bitchy looking black cat who is staring balefully out of the ad with eyes like creepy green footballs. OK, that seems worth a 10¢ cake of soap to me... And hey, at no extra charge you get a sidebar explaining that black cats are unlucky! Except when they aren't.

Thanks, Olivilo, for that fleeting educational moment.

However, the single most spectacular thing in this ad, the thing I didn't even notice until I got it home, was this teeny tiny plug for one of Wrisley's other products--Wrisley's Eau de Toilette. What could be nicer than pleasantly scented floral water, right?

GAHHHHH WHAT THE FUCKING HELL???? THE IMPRISONED SOULS OF FLOWERS??!?!! Holy farking Jesus, who thought THAT would be a pleasant image for potential buyers?? **shudder** It makes me want to buy a bottle just so I can give it a decent burial in my backyard. I can only conclude that Olivilo is truly the soap of the damned.

Join us next time when I deconstruct a Jell-O ad from 1921...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Yes, Yes, I Know.

It's been forever since I blogged. The whole canal thing had me pretty beat, frankly, and then I decended into the hell that is bathroom renovation, and I kept thinking "I should blog about this!" and then failing to do so, because it wasn't done yet. And then it was done, and I was sick of the whole thing. I'll get back to it, the topic is rich with satire--but look! I'll make it up to you right now with this gem from the Postcard and Ephemera Show I went to today with Haywain McTarry.

As most of you know, I love old advertising ephemera, and I have a fondness for particular types of postcards as well. So I was thumbing through the cards at one of the bigger dealers at the show when Haywain said, "Come here, you have to see this card!" I looked, and saw the following unremarkable picture of HRH Queen Elizabeth II and her corgis:

Then, at Haywain's behest, I turned it over.

Of course I bought it. How could I NOT buy it? I also bought some singularly hilarious soap ads from the 1920's, which will be used to decorate the newly remodeled bathroom which I haven't posted about yet. Sadly, they're too big for my scanner bed... but maybe I can use the one at work. Because you deserve to see them in all their ridiculous glory...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

We Interrupt This Blog... bring you a special bulletin, which will matter not one bit to any of you who don't live in Indianapolis. But most of you know I live on a 170+ year old canal, and that much of the joy in my life consists of walking out my front door each morning and seeing wood ducks, turtles, muskrats, etc. and so on... not to mention feeling as if I'm living in a small rustic town rather than in a city of 800,000 people, thanks to the wall of vegetation on the opposite bank. Last week, the water company which owns the canal (it's a working canal, it supplies 60% of the city's water) unveiled a plan to strip all the vegetation and several feet of dirt from both banks and replace them with a combination of mesh and riprap stone, turning this

into this:

The plan achieves the goal of preventing muskrats from denning in the bank, which does cause subsidence, and keeps geese from sliding down into the water and taking soil with them when they do it. But it will also destroy the look and feel of the canal, will drive off nearly all the bird life outside of mallards (which can live anywhere) and will completely prevent successful nesting for the 5 species of turtles which make their homes here. It's nuts. At the meeting I went to on August 24, only one of the water company representatives seemed at all interested in citizens' concerns; the main people on the project were anxious to tell us what they were planning and what a great solution it would be, but when asked questions such as "How will turtles get out to nest?" and "Will the water company repair property damage done by heavy equipment once the project is completed?" and "How will the company maintain this solution to prevent it from becoming a weed-choked eyesore," they just shrugged and told us they'd look into it. Gee, thanks. Think you might have "looked into" all this shit before settling on a plan and presenting it to the people whose property abuts your canal?

Anyway, if you live in Indianapolis, and you walk the canal's towpath and appreciate the wildlife it supports, please consider writing a letter to IDEM, or to Veolia Water, or to the local paper, and put your two cents in. Since the Star broke an article on this on Monday, the local DNR has apparently been flooded with emails requesting a re-examination of the project, so it's possible we might actually be able to be heard and this project could be delayed until another solution is found. My letter was in the Star on Wednesday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hey, check out THIS rack!

Tomato season is upon us, in the sense that a ton of bricks is "upon" you shortly after it falls. I went out to the garden after a week or two's absence expecting to find a dozen or so tomatoes worth the taking, and instead I found this:

I think this was a good 15-20 lbs of tomatoes. I'm hustling to make sauce with them before the few remaining fruitflies in my kitchen manage to colonize the fruit rack again. I made some excellent sauce the other night--secret ingredients are tomato skins (you peel the tomatoes, yes, but then put the skins in the pot while the whole thing is cooking down,) and parmesean rind, and ground bison. Really. Amazing sauce.

It was, in fact, the Year of the Tomato this year at the Indiana State Fair, and thus one of my favorite fruit/vegetables spent two weeks in the much-deserved spotlight. Every time the fair has a theme like this, there's a certain amount of art in the HFA building devoted to singing the praises of the selected farm product. This year was no exception; however, I have to say that this year I encountered one of the most disturbing artworks I've seen in all my many fairs. Check this out:

It's a gourd painted to look like a tomato--this in itself is fine, gourd painting is an established art form and I've got no problem with that. But check out the scene across the front. It's a classroom for tomatoes! The juvenile tomatoes have come to school to learn about how to become a highly productive member of tomato society--and joy! It's CAREER DAY!! And what youngster doesn't aspire to being chopped up, canned, and eaten? Errk. This closeup I found particularly disturbing:

It's almost like that little tomato and his friend the green chili have entered into some sort of unholy suicide pact. ***shudder*** Even a tomato lover like myself has to draw the line someplace... and I think this is it.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Say Buddy, That's an Ugly Mug You Got There

Well, the summer's drawing to a close; my birthday always feels a bit like the beginning of the end, though this being Indiana there's plenty of hot weather still in store. As it happens, August also brings with it the end of the 8 week wheel-thrown ceramics class I signed up for with my friend, J the Curator. Yesterday we went in to glaze our last bisque pieces and pick up the stuff that got fired the week before. I have to say I've learned several important things during this class.

1. Wheel throwing is fucking HARD! Jesus, just centering the clay on the freakin' wheel took me 20 minutes some days, and then I'd spend another 30 minutes ruining a piece, adding more and more water until eventually the poor thing just kind of oozed off the wheel and sat there in the catch basin, shapelessly glowering at me while I sluiced off the wheel and started over with a new ball of clay. That was the first 5 weeks of the class, more or less--wedge clay, wrestle with clay, turn clay into unusable mush, rinse, repeat. Then, suddenly, I almost sort of got the hang of it sometime around week 6 and produced a series of nearly serviceable bowls. Which brings me to point #2:

2. Bowls are way easier than cylinders, which is what she started us on and what nearly reduced me to tears. This isn't to say I shouldn't still learn to throw a decent cylinder--and I plan to! Really!--but for this class, bowls were my oeuvre. Though I did enter a plate phase right at the end, I have to say that bowls are The Shiznit. (The mug up top was slab built, and I kind of love it even though it looks like one of the Dark Gods threw up on it.)

3. Glazes are awesome. Our teacher mentioned that for many ceramicists, glazing is the least favorite part because it's so unpredictable--in addition to the random nature of glazes anyway, they also can look completely different depending on what you put over them, how hot the kiln is, and what's sitting next to them when the kiln's fired up. I can see how if I were trying to produce a body of work that all looked more or less the same, it would be a frustrating phase. But since really, most of my pieces were nothing to write home about in a structural sense, I felt like glazing was the Big Adventure part of the whole process! Let's try THIS one on top of THIS one, with a quick dip of the rim in THIS stuff! And as I'm very color-driven to begin with, I have to say that I am utterly taken with the part when you go and find your finished stuff in the kiln room and go "This amazingly blue thing is mine???? WHOAAAAAAH."

So I've got 5 pieces back, and 9 more in the kiln this week for a total of 14. I can't wait to see the finished products. CAN'T. WAIT. OMG.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oi, It's Me Birfday!

And a splendid one it was, despite a weather-driven change of plans in mid-stream this eve. I've never enjoyed a 39th birthday more. Though it started with cat-induced bloodletting and some frantic searching for work-appropriate attire, it improved throughout the day and ended with a free slice of key lime pie and some fantastic pizza, as well as a number of unexpected gifts!

I'm thinking of spending my 40th birthday in St. Louis at the City Museum. Who's with me?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I got a bone bruise, it was AWESOME!

So last week, I went to St. Louis for a museum conference. I presented a paper--my first time doing so in this field, and I only did it once back in my medievalist days, so the experience was fairly exciting. (The bit where it wasn't done until the night before was particularly exciting, as was the bit where I wondered if my laptop was going to work with the projection equipment on hand. Yes, I did a powerpoint. Shut up.)

Anyway, so I got that out of the way Thursday morning, and this left me free to enjoy the rest of the conference without stress. Which I did, it was a great time and I met a lot of lovely people in the Visitor's Studies biz. However, the thing I'd been looking forward to mostest of all in going to St. Louis was a visit to the CITY MUSEUM. I had heard all kinds of amazing and wonderful things about this place. And I was NOT disappointed!

First of all, if you are one of those folk who think that museums are Places With Stuff in Cases with Labels Telling You What the Stuff is and Why You Should Care, then the City Museum will just bother the shit out of you. "That's not a museum!" you'll say. "There's no learning going on there, it's just a playground! And a dangerous one at that!" Ohhhh contrarey, my snobbish friend! Picture, if you will, a giant shoe factory near downtown St. Louis. Now picture a visionary--whose name is "Bob", I think--scavenging pieces of architecture and hunks of junk, works of art and random objects from demolition sites around the city, and beginning to weld them together into a weirdly surrealist microcosm of St. Louis itself. The first floor of City Museum consists of a cave system, with endless passages branching off each other, mostly in pitch darkness--I could only find my way by feel in places, and some passages were too small for me to fit through or too high for me to reach--with stairs and twists and turns and a crystal cave filled with fantastical sculptures of monsters at its center. Finally you find your way out, and you're standing next to a massive fiberglass whale; you can walk into its mouth and out its tail and onto a platform which leads to a hollow log which you can crawl through to reach a treehouse. The second floor is filled with wild and wonderful bits of architectural salvage, cobbled together like a nightmare landscape, with a bizarre art installation about corndogs and a one-ring circus in a room to the side. I watched a performance by 3 trapeze artists and an acrobat there around 10:30 at night, they were fantastic. The third floor is a snack bar/souvenir shop/vintage clothing store. And outside....

Outside is Monstrocity, an amazing construction of salvage and rebar which is completely climbable (for anyone who doesn't have issues with heights.) Note the airplanes. Note the fact that people are climbing along giant coils of industrial cooling equipment to get to airplanes which are suspended 4 stories up. Note that there are no safety nets to catch your glasses, your camera, or your child when you drop them. (Kidding--while it seems almost appallingly unsafe for children, whose fingers and feet could easily get wedged or caught any number of places in this museum--there's no real danger of falling from a height, and frankly I saw a tremendous amount of very positive parent/child interaction here, BECAUSE it seems so unsafe. Parents were actually paying ATTENTION to what their kids were doing, imagine that! This is a rare thing in our museum, which is so disgustingly safe that parents often just turn their kids loose, plant themselves on a bench, and tune out until little Johnny's done breaking stuff and is ready to go.) But this isn't the end of it--there's also the rooftop, where for an extra $5 you can climb into an old schoolbus which hangs out over the street, 12 stories up; you can ride a ferris wheel, slide down a giant slide, cross a pool on stepping stones and get sprayed with jets of water, and have a nice cold beer while watching the sun set over St. Louis.

So why IS it a museum and not just a playground? Because the whole point of the museum is teaching kids (and adults) about exploration. Every corner of City Museum hides something new and unexpected. Every choice you make about where to go, what to do, and how to get where you're going can have unintended consequences. Visitors learn not to be afraid, to explore, to be careful but be adventurous, and they'll be rewarded with an amazing experience. This is, quite frankly, exactly the sort of thing St. Louis itself is all about, with its "Gateway to the West" identity; the strangely conceptual museum at the base of the Arch is all about Lewis and Clark and Boldly Going Forth Into the Unknown. But what were Lewis and Clark doing? The same thing kids are doing at City Museum. Boldly going. Taking risks. Finding out what's down the passage or around the curve, sometimes completely without parental guidance. The City Museum IS the City of St. Louis, both in structure and in spirit.

And yeah, I hurt myself almost immediately. Whacked my anklebone while climbing over a low wall in the cave system. It was blindingly painful... as it was again 4 hours later when I whacked the same bone in the same spot while sliding underneath the whale. My own damn fault. And I had an AMAZING time.
Top of the world
(Flickr photoset is here.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Don't let the bedbugs.... yeah, well.

I'm sure you're all wondering why I've not posted any further on my exciting trip to London and my narrow escape from Gatwickia. My excuse is that my enthusiasm for the trip was pretty sharply curtailed about 4 days after I got home, when I started showing a number of itchy bites on my arms, back, and legs. At first I thought they were chiggers, a common summer complaint around here--but I'd not spent any substantial time out in the high grass in the days since returning from England. Then, within a day or so, the number and appearance of the things made it apparent that this was something more than chiggers, or mosquito bites. I did stay in a cheap-shit hotel for 2 of the days in London, and I thought to myself, holy hell... Did I bring bedbugs home with me??? The bites occurred in clusters and occasionally rows of three, which is pretty textbook bedbug behavior. But I'd not gotten any bites WHILE in the crummy hotel, which was at the very start of the trip, so the whole experience was fairly unhinging as I proceeded to steamclean my bedroom and wash load after load of laundry in boiling water. All the while itching and cursing. Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to eradicate once established, so I was a bit terrified. But then I found some stuff on the internet (thank you interwebz!) suggesting that bedbug bites can take up to 10 days to appear, since sensitivity takes time to develop. Could it be that I got all these bites while at Crappy Hotel? Most of them were on my left arm and leg, which was the side closest the wall in the hotel bed. I decided that I would stand down red alert if I went 10 days without a new bite after the initial outbreak.... and we seem to be in the clear as of now. The bites are nearly gone now, and I've not had new ones. BUT JESUS CHRIST SERIOUSLY BEDBUGS WTF????
(This was in the early stages; I marked the bites with a pen to keep track of when new welts showed up. They ended up looking much worse--imagine each of them with a bright pink welt the size of a quarter. I had about 50 bites total, I think. CREEPY AS FUCK.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

And I Shall Call It....Gatwickia

Once, when I was a senior in college, Jeremy and I borrowed our housemate's car to make a fairly large grocery run. We came back to the car with about three full carts from Grand Union (pronounced "Grand Onion") only to discover that one of us ahem had managed to lock the keys in the car. Eric, the car's owner, was in class, and these were the days before cell phones, and our only recourse was a piteous message on the answering machine back at the house and copious prayer. But as we're both action-oriented risk-taking types, Jeremy and I decided to explore alternate options. We considered taking the groceries back to the house on foot, but this seemed like a lot of work. So instead, we decided to set up a new and culturally rich civilization on the grass median in the middle of Highway 9, just outside the Grand Onion. We had plenty of supplies, after all, though the frozen stuff was already starting to melt we figured the rest would sustain us. Well, most of it. We soon declared our new civilization would be dairy-free, in the interest of public safety. We gave ourselves governmental titles--I think Jeremy was a Grand Vizier, and I was the Secretary of Transportation, or something. We were hard at work developing a belief system based on traffic lights when someone (probably Becky, a long-suffering person if ever there was one) showed up to rescue us with Eric's spare keys. Thus ended our grand social experiment.

I'm in mind of this story right now because I arrived at Gatwick airport this morning at 8:30 am GMT after a week in London and parts south, ready for my 10:45 flight home. Worked my way through the line at the check in desk, and the woman behind the Delta counter said, "Ah, yes. The first thing I need to tell you is that your flight has been delayed. It will leave around 4 o'clock this afternoon." Ah. Yes. Four, as in seven hours from now? As in getting back to the states at 8 pm EDT, which is 1 am on the time I'm currently on? As in trying to decide if I should then rent a car and drive to Indy from Cincy, getting home around 3 am on my present personal clock, or if I should let the airline put me up overnight in Cincy and miss work tomorrow, blowing yet another precious vacation day? That 4 o'clock? That's FABULOUS. So with 7 hours to kill, and ready supplies of food in the North Terminal, I have joined the Greater Civilization of People Who are Stuck In Gatwick Airport. I am busy developing simple hand tools and building crude luggage-framed structures near the public restrooms. At least I know what my belief system is going to be based on...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Spin Around, Ninjas!

I laughed so hard I cried--this is the best literal video I've seen. They need to do a few Duran Duran videos...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I'm Not Sure It Gets Better Than This.Beef-a-Roo

Sure, Wiscon was a lot of fun--best one in years, quite frankly. (Upyernoz skipped coming this year. Coincidence? I think not.) ((Actually, I did miss him a lot, the parties were dull without him and I missed him repeatedly texting me HELP THIS PANEL IS BORING GAHHHHHH. But on the upside, I didn't get norovirus this year.)) Panels were good, though I'm not sure if this was because panels were better generally or because I chose more wisely than I usually do... I adopted Jake and Jeremy's rule of panel selection, which is to read the description of the panel in the program book, and then imagine EVERY POSSIBLE WAY the panel could go horribly horribly wrong and off topic. If you would find this derailment more amusing that annoying, then go to the panel! If not, skip it. This works pretty well generally. Good panels at WisCon are really really good, but bad ones are either hilarious or horrible depending on your perspective. I skipped going to the one called "Are we done believing in god yet?" partly because it was opposite something else I wanted to go to, and partly because I knew it would just irritate me. ("No, I'm not. Are you done being an intolerant jerkface yet? OK, status quo for both of us, then! High five!") But I went to a fabulous one on bisexuality in fiction, where some genuinely interesting things got said and many laughs were had; and I went to a fun one on Internet Drama, which I attended solely for the purpose of trying to understand what for me is an extremely alien mindset: caring what other people on the internet do or say. I did get some insight into this, and I can sort of grok it a bit better (though I still don't personally care what some dipshit typing away in his basement bomb shelter thinks about gay marriage, or race politics, or the price of a cup of coffee. Just...can' But more importantly I got to hear Karen's One Asshole Theory of Systems, which was HILARIOUS.

So yes, the panels were good. And yes, Madison is ALWAYS lovely this time of year--even a downpour during the farmer's market only dampened my hoodie, not my spirits. But the high spot of the con was NOT the panels, or the farmer's market, or the meeting up with a fellow mod from McKinley's forum, or even this:
Beertini closeup
Which is, for the mercifully uninitiated, a Bacon and Cheese Beer-tini. Don't get me wrong, I'm a lover of all things beer and cheese, and I've been giving serious thought to joining the Bacon-of-the-Month club. But this--an unholy confluence of microwaved pre-cooked bacon, Cheez-Whiz, and Pabst--was like a work of concept art. I love the idea of it, and yet I don't ever want it in my living room. No, the beertini was not the apex, ladies and gentlemen. The Apex of Joy for this year's Wiscon was our unexpectedly wonderful stop at Beef-a-Roo, a hilariously-named fast food joint at Beloit Exit 1. We stopped because I needed a drink (not a Drink, mind you--though the prospect of facing the Illinois toll roads does kind of call for mild sedation) and I figured that a place called "Beef-a-Roo" had to be at least a little bit hilarious, especially since my driving partner is a vegetarian. But it exceeded my wildest expectations. From its gorgeous retro-sign to its Route 66 mural to its menu of shakes, fries, malts and--yes--beef, Beef-a-Roo won me over instantly. I gather that other Beef-a-Roos (Beef-a-Rim?) have different decorative themes, but this one, frozen in fake 1962 glory, has captured my heart forever. It's now a permanent stop on the Wiscon tour. Oh, Beef-a-Roo... you make me smile.Beef-a-roo interior

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Dear God, What Have I Done?

After nearly 7 years of blogging, I finally broke down and updated my template. My main problem was not just my basic Fear Of Change, but the fact that while blogger used to have about 30 different templates, with easily changable background colors etc., they now have about 12 to pick from, and they all kind of suck. This was the least awful of them, and while I do like the general layout, I hate that brown-with-florettes background and want to change it. Only I can't seem to find the bit of code that sets that image--I found everything else, for god's sake. But not that. SIIIIGH. Why can't they just provide us with a library of backgrounds, borders, etc., and let us tinker around with the look of the template without having to start from html scratch?

Anyway, apologies to anyone who fell off my blogroll--I thought it would import over, but it didn't, and now I'm trying to remember what was there off the top of my head with limited success. Likewise my webcomics--though a bunch of them were defunct now anyway, as well I pruned the list. And fun linky stuff... I'm actually too tired to try to forensically reconstruct that at this point. Maybe tomorrow.

This whole emotional crisis of shifting templates is a nice parallel for the emotional crisis of buying a new car, which has been plaguing me now for months. I love my old Saturn. But I admit that it has not seemed in the best of health in the last year or so, and so (under relentless parental pressure) I have conceded the necessity of buying a new one. But which one? I have been torn between buying a hybrid, and buying something cheaper yet less gas-efficient. I finally went and drove a Prius yesterday (the civic doesn't float my boat, and all the rest of the hybrids aren't great) and I was hoping I would either fall in love with it, or hate it, thus making my decision easier. Sadly that didn't happen... It drives well, handles nicely, certainly gets great milage, and fits my ever-greener lifestyle. But... the salesman was an ass, it's got all sorts of computery bells and whistles I don't NEED which irritates me, and it's damn expensive. So I've been agonizing over the whole thing, and I think I've finally decided on the cheaper car. (Ford Focus Sedan, Manual 5 speed.) A nice simple car, much like my Saturn. Only with non-leaky gaskets and an ignition switch that doesn't cut out periodically....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

yes i know i need a haircut goddam it

This whole business of actually being expected to look good for work has been a struggle for me. I am chronically clueless about things like Whether My Clothes Need Ironing, or Whether Those Pants Have A Lingering Coffee Stain, or What Makes Some Shoes Cuter Than Others. I can hedge around some of these failings; dry cleaning is a godsend. But my hair is another matter. I have had the same haircut, more or less, since 1984. I like to think of it as Timeless Style.... but really, it's just that I can't wrap my brain around doing anything that requires effort involving my hair. It's very straight and very very fine, and so getting it to do anything other than look a bit like Shaggy Meets Rick Springfield would take both time and hair products, neither of which I have much of. I could cut it off a lot shorter than I usually wear it, but it being so fine and soft I think that what looks all tough and butch and european on some women would read as sad baby duck on me. So I content myself with getting it trimmed and shaped periodically, and put gel in it when I think about it to keep it out of my eyes.

But the lingering problem is that I still don't THINK about it. I'm always shocked when I look in the mirror on some random morning when I really do need to look Good, and find that my hair is about 2" over my collar in back and my eyebrows in front, and looks like utter ass. Yes, hmm, let me see.... last time I got a haircut was before those stupid TV shots for the LEGO Castles exhibit, which was... mmm... Late January. Great. And now, 2 months later, why am I frantically running out to get an emergency haircut today? Because of a TV shot for the new exhibit that opens Monday. If it weren't for exhibit openings, June would roll around and I'd look like Cousin Itt. For god's sake.

Friday, March 20, 2009

In Which I am Utterly Spent

Against all odds, the exhibit that I was assigned not fully 2 months ago is open, or will be in a day or so. It was supposed to open Monday, but the local paper apparently promo-ed it as opening Sunday, and of course people will want to get into it tomorrow. Today we practically had to beat them off with a stick, as you could see into the installation area from the bottom curve of the ramp to the Lower Level. It did my heart good to hear that many kids screaming with anticipation... which was good, because it counteracted the palpitations I experienced during the two final case installations. We borrowed cases from another--VERY GENEROUS--museum to put 2 of the costumes loaned us by Lucasfilm into, as we don't really have large cases just hanging around. Those cases had some... structural integrity issues... during the installation process, which then led to problems with the graphics applications. One thing progressed to another, and by about 3:30 pm I was cussing (quietly) a blue streak while pulling velcro up, moving a large piece of vinyl 3mm to the left, sticking the velcro down, checking the position, unhooking the velcro, moving it 2mm right and 4 mm down, sticking the velcro, looking at it from the front again... Man, it was frustrating. Kudos to all my coworkers who valiantly put up with this and all sorts of other crap in the last couple of days. All told, things went about as smoothly as one could have imagined considering the hugely accelerated timeline. And I'm really happy with it. It was important to me to have a good product at the end of this--not just something satisfactory, or something that echoed the last venue that had these objects, but something new and interesting and cohesive and fun... and I think we did it. Come see it and find out for yourselves, if you can! Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Exhibition will be at our museum til next January 31. Oh, and there's a spaceship in the Welcome Center. Just so's you know.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Things I'm Not Telling You

So my life has been more or less dominated by work since 2009 reared its ugly head. For January it was LEGO CASTLES LEGO CASTLES LEGO CASTLES all the time. It opened January 31, which was amazing and awesome as chronicled earlier here--my first baby, as it were. I was on this exhibit from its inception to finish, and a large part of it is more or less pulled from my own brain, and seeing something like that come to fruition is an utterly new experience. It opened very, VERY well, and has been incredibly popular--which means that about 2 days after it opened, the children had found our weak spots and begun to exploit them. They broke everything that could possibly be broken, and even some impossible things--who knew children could break a welded steel plate? I ask you! Kids are scary. So the start of February was fixing, and adjusting, and tightening and re-welding and replacing and grabbing our heads and going "holy fuck srsly" a whole lot. But in the midst of all of this, another project dropped on us, as it were, from outer space, and landed squarely in my lap.

But I'm not going to tell you about it. Not yet, at any rate. The upshot is, major project, outside player requested that we do a small but flashy exhibit with them, of course we said yes, and the timeline is friggin' insane. A project that would ordinarily take 6 months at least is coming together in the space of 6 weeks. I am utterly confident that we'll do it and it'll be awesome once it's open--but I have a feeling I am about to get a lot more experience laying graphics in trying circumstances.

I'm also not going to tell you about refinancing my house, because that is one goddam sack of joy that I am trying not to think about at the moment. And I'm not going to tell you that for some asinine reason I've got the Eagles' Victim of Love stuck in my head--which let me tell you is NOT a work of lyrical genius; "I might be wrong, but I'm not?" Seriously, jesus--and I'd hate for you to get it stuck in your head too simply because I brought it up here. That's the kind of friend I am. So I won't mention it.

But I will tell you that the frogs are doing great, thanks for asking! I think they're getting bigger, though it's hard to tell. They must be getting bigger, they are eating the frog equivalent of 30 White Castle sliders every damn day and keep peering hungrily at me looking for more. I'm finding I feel a little sorry for the fruitflies, who as tiny insects go are reasonably charming and well-behaved... but then the frogs come along and zap them up, and the sheer coolness of poisonous-frog-speed-hunting in my living room overwhelms the pity I have for the flies. Maybe I'm just getting callous in my old age...

Friday, February 20, 2009


Today I bothered to go out to the mailbox for the first time in several days, and lo and behold found myself laden with bills--not surprising, really, no matter how many times I pay them, they keep coming. I have a pretty spotty history of paying my bills on time. This is partly due to being pathologically absent-minded, and partly due to my general state of disorganization, which depending on who you talk to is either a charming personality quirk or a major weakness of character. To pay a bill, you first have to FIND it, and when bills come into my house they end up in all sorts of odd places only to emerge 3 days after the due date... and of course I don't think to look for them due to the absentmindedness issue. Out of sight, out of my tiny mind. The other day I found a phone bill under a cookie sheet in the kitchen...

Anyhow, the convenience of online billpay has come to my rescue more than once; but I try not to do it regularly, as I feel it indulges my laziness, and besides I don't trust things to post properly. I'm not sure why I feel mailing them a check is more reliable--call me crazy, but paper just seems inherently more trustworthy than the intertubez. But last month I discovered my Visa bill--rather like Indiana Jones finding the Ark of the Covenant--underneath a pile of sand and snakes in my living room, on the VERY DAY IT WAS DUE. Huzzah--I rushed online to pay it and avoid a late fee. Thank you, online banking!

And.... then I got my new bill today, and I took a quick look at it so I'd recognize it again a month from now when it appeared amid the ruins of ancient Troy in the dining room. Lo and behold, I now had a balance of $awholebunchamoneyplusfees, because the prior payment had never posted. Fucking online payments, I KNEW I couldn't trust them! So I leaped online to see what the deal was.

Sigh. I actually have 2 accounts with MBNA, one for my visa card and one for the loan for my new carpet in the den, which was paid off 2 years ago. Naturally, despite 24+ months of inactivity, that loan appears first when I sign on to my online MBNA account, and apparently somehow my frantic "PAY BILL! PAY BILL NOW!!" hindbrain led me to post a payment in the correct amount, to the completely wrong account. 20 minutes of phone menus and hold music later, I got the dough transferred over to the correct account. And obviously I was right all along--online bill payment CANNOT be trusted. At least not in the hands of a skilled fuckerupper like myself...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Good Lord But I Am Lazy

I'd planned a post about a week ago called "Hamentashen on My Doorstep"--because I came home from errands the weekend before and found a bag of hamentashen from Andy, and a note saying "Happy Purim!" propped up against my back door, and it was so thoroughly unexpected and lovely that it made my whole day. So it was going to be a post about unexpected and lovely things... and then, expectedly, I failed to post. SIGH.

Anyway, recovery from LEGO opening is taking longer than I'd anticipated, and I think I'm going to need a day off just to try to get back in control of things. Including blogging, this is getting ridiculous. But look, I have something for you! It's not safe for work, unless you have headphones on!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

My First Post of 2009

That may be the first time since I started the blog that I missed an entire month. Yeesh. Let's see, what have you missed? In January I developed a cure for cancer, started a rescue home for stranded whales, and got my life organized. Heh.

No, actually I spent all month becoming gradually more and more obsessed with THIS. More specificially, getting it open successfully and on time. Totally worth it, but now I'm so exhausted that all I can do is sit here and stare in mindless horror at Bruce Springsteen's hideous patch of chin fur during Superbowl Halftime. Seriously, what the fuck IS that thing on his face? I was never a Springsteen fan, but this little sample of Over-the-Hill Glory Days left me kind of speechless from Awful.

So the spectaculariffic snowfall last week led to a much needed moment of Pure Funny in the garage at work:

Unfortunately, I had a cold all week, and though I fought mightily I was utterly miserable by Friday night. I gave serious thought to skipping the group dinner at Bourbon Street with the LEGO team and our exhibit team and just going to bed. But I took some drugs, drank some coffee, and showed up at the appointed time... And I'm so glad I did! Because just LOOK at what the LEGO guys made for each of us to commemorate our work on this exhibit and look forward to the next one....

How awesome is that? It totally made my evening worthwhile--a cold is nothing in the face of my very own LEGO dragon.