Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Well, that's.... odd.

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

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

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

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

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

Do you see it? Look closer.

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

Friday, June 17, 2011

Debbie Reynolds' Costumes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I have good news, and bad news...

The good news is, I got my bike back.

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Well, That Was a Hell of a Month.

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


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

Monday, March 28, 2011


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

I got a new bike.

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

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

Song Sparrow