Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

Germany, Part 4.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Before we continue on with my German Christmas, let’s look at some things I came across while driving in the countryside with Neenernator.

Trees! They line all the roads. They’re big. And old. It’s pretty awesome.

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Look children, look at this remnant from the past. This is a movie rental store. See, you go here where a monk is standing behind the counter. Then you rent a DVD and he scribes on a piece of parchment with his quill which movie has been tooken out. At some point Gutenberg will show up and show the monk how to use a printing press but it hasn’t happened yet, so he still quillin’. You watch it at home and then when you’re done watching it you bring it back. This particular video store doesn’t even an after-hours slot, you actually have to come back when the store is open to give the movies back. The monk needs to be in attendance! A slot is too advanced!* Neenernator told me that TV is Germany is lame-o, therefore people rent movies. Not gonna lie, it was really fun. It made me feel like I was back in college.

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Various barns around the area. Many of them have biblical sayings over the door. Neenernator has a barn on her property and she’s an atheist, so we decided that we should paint a saying over her big barn doors in that blackletter calligraphy but instead of being from the Bible it would say, “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons because you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.”

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It’s very windy in this area so there are those industrial windmills all over the place. However, in addition, there are old cutey-patootie windmills! I saw one from a distance in Bremen.

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But Neenernator, being the consummate host, found me a windmill I could walk right up to. And hug, which is precisely what I did. They had taken the fins off the mill for the season but I was still delighted. I hugged a windmill, y’all!

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So, the day before Christmas after we had explored most of the villages in the area of Ottersberg we went to the gigantic shopping mall called Dodenhof to wander around and allow me to see what a gigantic German shopping mall looks like. It’s pretty great. It’s like the best qualities of Ikea combined with Restoration Hardware and Trader Joe’s and a million other stores. You know how you occasionally hear about people living in a Wal-Mart for a month or whatever? I don’t know if I would do that, but I sure as hell would live in Dodenhof for an extended period of time.

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The entrance we went in (there are a ton of entrances because this place is the size of Lichtenstein) was the furniture department where Neenernator and I were greeted by some of the most awesomely garish living room set-ups I have ever seen in my life. I have a very limited knowledge of Germans and their interior designing tastes, but based on the living rooms I’ve seen they tend to go sensible, well-made and in neutral colors. I didn’t want to make assumptions based on the three German houses I’ve been in so I turned to Neenernator and said, “Who… buys these?” She was flummoxed. She said, “No Germans I know.”

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On top of being wildly vibrant, these couches were huge, like room-sized beds. Neenernator insisted I sit on a side chair. You’ll note that I look uncomfortable like a perched bird and that is because the chair was six inches wide so only about one half of one butt cheek fits on the seat part. Seriously, though, never mind the Germans – who on this planet buys these things? It’s uncomfortable, expensive, hard to clean, etc.

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We eventually ambled out of the furniture section into the light fixture section (I wanted many, many things but thankfully our plugs are different here in the U.S. so I could buy nothing). Then next part we entered was the grocery section. It was enormous, the size of a supermarket here. They sold all of the items you can imagine, but this being Europe they also sold alcohol. Remember the feurzengenbowles from the first German vacation post? Dodenhof had a kit so you can make them at home. Neenernator got one. There’s a little metal clamp you attach to the side of the mug to hold the cone of brown sugar that you set on fire and pour the wine and rum over. It’s hardcore.

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Outside the grocery store there was a full-size Lego Santa with reindeer that some kids were posing on.

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And a forest tableau populated by Steiff animals, one of which was a large huggable cuddly wild boar, about three feet long and two feet tall. I wanted him, but Neenernator pointed out that it was probably $1,000 so maybe not. I took pictures of him, though.

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On the top floor, that was the piece de resistance – the food court. It was glorious. As you enter all you see is the gelato counter. They ain’t playin’ at the gelato counter.

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Then, off to the side was the actual food area and that’s all well and good, but beyond that was the dessert bar. The magical, magical dessert bar.

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You see that? That there’s Jello. And in the middle, that’s the most wondrous substance in existence. Custard. You may think that’s the light from the ceiling illuminating the custard, but I prefer to think it is a halo bequeathed by the Lord on a dessert item plucked directly from the Garden of Eden.

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I got myself a dinner, a basic, no-frills dinner. A basic, no-frills dinner was THE BIGGEST HOT DOG EVER, some curry sauce, french fries and a salad. Neenernator got a salad and a kiwi juice. It was meat-licious meal.

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The next day was Christmas Eve which is the day that Germans open their presents. Neenernator’s family is not even the slightest bit religious so we had a lovely secular day. We went to see Frozen in German, the sing-a-long edition. I warned everyone repeatedly beforehand that I would be singing along in English. I did, doing complete hand gestures to accompany the emotions. I can now say I know what “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” in German sounds like (it sounds like this).

When Frozen was over, we returned to the homestead to wait for lasagna. I watched German television. It was a game show where Irish musicians played bagpipes, fifes and drums and then contestants guessed if they were wearing underpants beneath their kilts. After filling up on lasagna (bechamel sauce instead of ricotta, OMG) we made our way over to the tree to open presents. We had to roll two die and whoever rolled the highest number got to open their present. It’s a good technique, keeps things moving. We needed to keep things moving because there were a ton of presents.

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Post-present-opening we had more food because why not? I don’t have gout quite yet, let’s go out with inflamed toes. It was dessert – baked apples, cored, with melted gingerbread cookies in the middle. I haven’t been to many Christmas dinners but I think I can say this was a great one. Mellow, pleasant, lots of deliciousness and chatting and general friendliness. Good stuff.

The next day, Christmas Day, we went to the spa. If this sounds like no big deal, you don’t understand the magnitude of this. We went, as a family, to the spa for five hours. We brought towels and books and slippers and drinks, it was a massive undertaking. The spa we went to, Oase Spa, was in a built originally as a waterpark under a giant glass dome but all the screaming children’s voices reverberated off the hard surfaces and the dome and it was achingly loud. So, because it had all the pipes and whatnot, they changed it to a quiet peaceful spa. Where everyone is naked all the time. I’ll repeat that: where both men and women wander around with no garments covering their components. I can now say, between Burning Man and this, I have seen all the penii and scrotaa and boobery that I ever need see. I have a wonderful range of knowledge about them now, I’m good for the rest of my existence.

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When we arrived we picked out lawn chairs on the second level and Neenernator showed me around. There’s indoor sections, there’s outdoor sections, it covers a lot of terrain. Because Neenernator is “with child” she could only go in the most temperate of saunas and steamrooms and thank God for that because I did not want to experience the extreme rooms. The cooler ones were pretty hot, thanks ever so much. Here’s where germaphobes and people with social anxiety will need to close their eyes for a while: there are signs with the pour schedules and they say things like, “11:00 a.m. in Himalayan Salt Room. Cedarwood pour and gong. 12:30 in Nordic Sauna. Wildberry scrub.” We went to the Himalayan Salt Room for the Cedarwood pour and gong (whatever the hell that was) and slowly I realized that everyone was showing up for this. Meaning small portions of my naked sweating self was up against other people’s naked sweating selfs. It could not be avoided. Luckily I totally do not care, but a typical American would have burst into flames. BTW, the Cedarwood Pour involved pouring cedarwood-scented water over the coals and then fanning the yummy steam over our faces and bodies with a giant fan, and the Gong was… a gong. That was rung several times, I imagine to increase the soothing nature of the activity.

Post-sauna you are encouraged to sit quietly in a normal temperature and recover for about forty-five minutes while drinking a ton of water. I brought a book and Neernernator snuck a photo of me with her phone. Don’t worry, I’m wearing a robe.

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Neenernator had booked me a massage, something with hot foam and I’m down for whatever so off I went with her mother for our tandem hot foam massages. First we got all nekkid and laid down on our personal marble tables, like Cold Stone Creamery but warm. Then the nice masseuse lady assigned to me scrubbed my entire body with a mitten made of cat hair. (It felt like cat hair. It looked like cat hair. Tell me different.) Following the scrubbing the masseuse did something interesting: she filled a nylon bag the size of a pillowcase, similar to the kind rice is sold in, with hot water and soap. Then she waved it in the air several times and squoze the hot foam created all over me. She did this over and over until I was completely covered. Lemme tell you something. Here, lean in, this is important. It feels amazing to be covered in hot foam. Seriously. So so good. You know what doesn’t feel so good? When the nice masseuse lady reaches through the foam and attempts to rip your body apart like bread to feed the ducks. At one point she put all her weight on her elbow which she dug into my spine and dragged down the length of my back. I thought she was trying to fracture a rib. The whole next day I felt like I had been hit across the back with a stool in a bar fight. It was brutal. I think my hands were shaking because at one point she asked if I was alright. I was honest with her, “I’m… fine, I’m no hero, I can handle this, I can’t hide that it hurts o much.” “Well,” she responded matter-of-factly, “At least you know you have muscles now.” When she had massaged me completely from head to toe (she washed my hair so she could massage my scalp), the masseuse told me to sit up, put one hand on my heart and the other on my stomach and then she threw a bucket of cold water on me. I would have imagined I would have screamed or something but… nope. It felt jarring but okay. I think my body was so grateful she was no longer acting like there was a dinosaur buried in my flesh and she was a paleontologist with a shovel that it didn’t care cold water was being chucked at me. After that she gave me a glass of apple tea and sent me back to my lawn chair to chill out for another hour or so. Now the sun was setting so they turned on these lovely interior lights. Neenernator snuck a shot of that too. She’s a good friend.

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We went to one final sauna (it was packed, they gave us honey to smear on ourselves and then blasted us in the face with steam), we returned home looking like shiny pink piggies. The Oase really took it out of us so hey, let’s have another feast! This time it was fondue. I made myself useful peeling vegetables and setting the table and all that, and then we all settled in to eat three different kinds of meat that had been boiled in oil.

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After filling up on delicious meats (and three different dipping sauces!) Neenernator and I packed because we were going to catch an overnight train to Prague. I say “was going to” because we did not, and I will delve into that joyous bullhorse in the next entry.

 

* It wasn’t really a monk, it was a middle-aged lady with an unfortunate bleach job, but it’s such a blast from the past I felt the need to go all 1100 A.D. on it.

Germany, Part 3.

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Verden! It’s pronounced “Fairden” and it is where Neenernator went to high school. She went there to meet up and chat with her old high school English teacher, so Neenernator’s mom took me around to see the sights of this small country town while Neenernator was meetin’ and chattin’.

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We walked around in the center of town where this photo was taken as well as some of the side streets that had old buildings with no right angles. Saggy, charming buildings.

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There was a sculpture in town of some horses and I guess there’s a guerilla knitting group in town because there was socks for the hoofies!

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They had a big ole church and anyone who knows me knows I love me some big ole church, so we went there.

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It was really interesting on the inside. The whole interior was painted but instead of being polychrome and covered with patterns it was all white with a rich burnt orange ceiling. Nothing else. It gave a strong sense of height and freshness to the place. I think they had performed a nativity play the night before because when we came in they were breaking it down.

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Please note that the Christmas tree is sparse, branchwise. This was a big trend I noticed. In America the Christmas trees need to be full and bushy so they can hold up ornaments made of iron and bronze or whatever dense weighty material they’re constructed out of. In Europe the most common decoration is ribbon tied into bows or creatively folded straw, so the trees can look like Christian Bale in The Machinist and still work just fine.

In a hallway off to the side were some super-ancient ladies. I hope the sculptors were not being true to life back in 900 A.D. because these women are… strong-looking. And mad. One’s boobs were all over the place. They are not pretty ladies. But they were in excellent condition and it was cool to see them.

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After checking out the church Neenernator’s mom and I sauntered over (in the rain, always rain) to the high school Neenernator went to. I was unaware that she went to Hogwarts.

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Seriously, Hogwarts. Here’s the entrance hall and the stairwell.

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Here’s their auditorium.

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Here’s the hallway filled with local taxidermied beasties.

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Here’s the courtyard where the peacocks live in the non-winter season (not making that up).

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We ran into the janitor and he was straight out of a book about gnomes or goblins. He complemented the oldey-timey magical quality of the school perfectly.

After Verden we went to a town Neenernator called Fischerhuder (Fisherman’s Hood). Neenernator warned me the town would be picturesque but I was not prepared. It was adorable. I wanted to snuggle with the buildings and the trees.

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Many of the houses were topped with these crossed horse-head carvings. I loved them. Very Norse.

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I also liked whoever planted this hedge, alternating the yellow-green and blue-green.

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The first building we came across was the local church. It’s a very old, very small church and I guess in the 1600s and 1700s there was a graveyard that got knocked down due to weather or war, so the wall around the church was partially made of the headstones.

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Some particularly weird-looking angels.

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Some particularly Mozart-looking angels.

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Any ones that were different heights were scattered around on the church property.

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After went into a antiques store where I bought a porcelain dish featuring a small child taking his friend the insect for a walk (I tried to find a picture of it online, I could not so I will take a photo and post it at some point in the near future) we checked out the Watermill. There was a little stream that went through town and it powered the local mill which had been turned into a restaurant since milling is not the thing it once was.

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Oh boy! Tradition AND charm! Can’t wait.

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Here we go!

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Aaaaaand there it is.

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See that stain on the side of the building? That’s where the water wheel WOULD HAVE attached if there had been a DAMN WATER WHEEL there (*cough* false advertising *cough*). Shame on you, Watermill. You may be traditional, but you are not charming. There. I said it. I say harsh things when you rob me of the joy of a water wheel. Also they were closed for the season which compounded my sadness.

However, not all was lost! Another facility was open! It was post-lunch so all they were serving was tea and cake, but tea and cake is awesome so we went with that. This is one of the many times in my life where I wished I spoke another language well enough to read the signs and understand them. See that sign?

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If you know German, you would know that it says “Doll Cafe and Restaurant.” Doll Cafe, otherwise known as Nightmare Fuel Establishment. Neenernator isn’t scared of anything so she had no problem, but as soon as we walked in I knew that I would spend most of my time in there staring intently at the tablecloth.

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Oh, this doesn’t look so bad. It’s quaint and inviting.

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Those cakes look amazing OH NO DON’T TURN AROUND

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THEY’RE ALL FACING ME WITH THEIR DEAD DOLL EYES

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PLEASE DON’T SIT US NEXT TO THE SCARECROW great we’re sitting next to the scarecrow.

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They brought us menus and proceeded to read every damn word on that menu so I wouldn’t have to look up and be in my own personal version of a 1980s horror flick. The slices of cake were enormous so they recommended that we get half of one kind and half of another kind. Then they brought us our tea and cake and it was presented so beautifully I almost forgot to freak out.

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Neenernator got a blackberry cake and a yogurt and fruit cake. I got a citrus cake and a gooseberry cake. Oh my God. The citrus cake was wonderful, but the gooseberry cake… it was exquisite. I’m not exaggerating. It was so light I thought it would defy gravity and float away. I’m get a wee bit drooly right now thinking of it. So yummers.

I also noticed the art nouveau light fixtures. I thought they were abstract swirlies and nothing more, but Neenernator pointed out that little gnomes are struggling with inside-out umbrellas on the side. That made me like the lights even more.

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After we had our afternoon tea like civilized ladies Neenernator went to the bathroom while I waited outside. When she came outside she was grinning. “I’m so glad you didn’t go to the bathroom in there,” she said. Apparently there’s a guy who greets you as you approach the lavatory:

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And this lovely lady keeps you company in the stall.

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HELL TO THE NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Germany, Part 2.

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

More Bremen! Finishing up with the Christmas market, there was a booth where a woman dipped your hand in wax, pulled it off, filled it with shredded wax, put a wick through it and – yay! – your hand is a candle. I cannot for the life of me imagine why someone would want this, a waxen version of one of their limbs that they could watch melt, but there’s something for everyone out there I suppose.

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In front of one of the rides I mentioned yesterday was the creepiest Santa statue I have seen in a good long time. The combination of the jacked-up beard, the slender hands, the weirdly poochy pants… not a good scene.

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There was a booth selling Christmas decorations and I appreciated the fact that they separated the cool LED lights from the warmer-style lights.

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There was another Christmas decoration booth with a cute version of the Bremen animals in front.

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I saw the real statue at some point in my travels around the town. It’s very sweet.

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Because the weather is so sucky (have I mentioned the suckiness? I feel like I should mention it again) there are wonderful fire stations for you to warm your toesies.

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Many of the booths have tableaus on the top part, often of farm scenes or Christmas stuff. Sometimes random gnomes or snowmen make an appearance.

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There was one that caught my eye and it was certainly distinctive. What precisely is going on with those reindeer and their antlers?

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There’s a big old (seriously, old, like 1400s) sculpture of a fellow named Roland in the center of town. I liked him.

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Moving around the city: To get from the main train station to the market, Neenernator and walked through the former butcher’s district. See this here sign? It says “Bone Breaker Street.” I am not making that up.

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And nearby is a sculpture of a man blowing a horn with his dog and his pigs. Very cheerful and friendly looking pigs, they are. It’s a famous statue so the lighting above mirrors it.

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There was also a beautiful chandelier hung between some buildings. It was a lovely visual touch and added some life to an otherwise pretty dark corner.

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A parked ship. Bremen is a major port town so ships be comin’ and goin’ all the time. All the other ships were modern, but this one was old-timey and charming.

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Speaking of ships, Neenernator took me to her favorite part of the city, the area where the sea captains lived. It’s called The Schnoor and it is so adorable it hurts a little.

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Look, a little walrus above the door to keep the sea captains company!

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Some of the walkways to get from one building to another were tight.

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Super-tight. Shoulder-width. Neenernator is demonstrating for you.

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Gravity has taken its toll on many of the buildings in the cutest way possible. Look at the door and window frames of this tiny shop selling nick-knacks.

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The Schnoor was such a wonderful area to walk around I wanted to get a cup of tea and experience it further. We stopped in a local tea shop and had some fresh hot tea with German rock sugar and listened to the street musicians outside. The tea shop had a great antique cash register.

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There are stairs all over the city and since the landscape is extremely flat, people bicycle places. Neenernator pointed out that on the sides of many stairs is a railing meant for you to slide your bike down. Thoughtful, no?

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The upcoming post will be about a very nice village called Verden that I got to experience in the dripping rain. Get excited.

I’m back from Germany! Quickest recap ever: It was rainy.

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

I have returned from my Christmas jaunt to Germany and I am now sorting through my not-too-many-but-still-a-lot pile of pictures. I shall be a-postin’ in the next few days, so get ready for that. I am sad to say that I did not see anything Krampus-related. In Germany and Austria and Switzerland, St. Nicholas is accompanied in a sleigh by a demon-lookin’ fella named Krampus. If you’ve been a good little girl or boy, St. Nick gives you a present, but if you’ve been bad Krampus hits you with a switch. If you’ve been REALLY bad, Krampus may put you in a basket on his back and take you away forever. Here are some vintage Krampus ads.

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And some great modern takes on the legend of Krampus.

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But there was no Krampus because I was in the North and I suppose he’s not popular there. Or perhaps parents are realizing that scaring the ever-loving bejesus out of their children is not the most efficient way to keep them in line. I’m not sure, but there was no Krampus. Boo.

Despite the absence of devilish Santa associates, it was a terrific trip. I ate and napped and saw churches and had a generally lovely time. I shall delve into the details shortly, so get excited for rain-smeared photos, because they are comin’.

 

All kinds of items from the internet.

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

1. The world wide web has given us many treasures over the years. One is Birds With Arms. It’s a Tumblr. With Photoshopped pictures. Of birds with arms. Enjoy some of my favorites.

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Also, Drunk J. Crew. Someone noticed that the models in the J. Crew catalog tend to look inebriated. They added text to the pictures. The rest is magic.

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2. I was pottering around and saw this phenomenal artist Dashi Namdakov. He does Mongolian-infused artwork in a myriad of mediums. Giant bronze sculptures:

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Small sculptures:

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But (not surprisingly if you’ve met me) the work by him I simply adored was his jeweled creatures.

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Addendum 12/3/2014: Look at the commercial I saw today! http://www.tastefullyoffensive.com/2014/12/birds-with-arms-star-in-this-funny-new.html

Rhinebeck Sheep ‘n’ Wool Festival 2014.

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

I went this year! It was great. I drove up with my sister K. because she is a super-talented knitress and as opposed to me who goes for the sheep-petting, she actually goes to buy yarn like a normal person. This is some of her work:

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Yeah. She’s amazing. Anyway, we went up and I saw some excellent work. I considered walking up to several people wearing beautiful handmade sweaters/shawls/gloves/etc. and thanking them for making and sharing these wonderful pieces with the world, but then I decided that that would be way too weird even for me, even for the RSnWF. And let me tell you the RSnWF can get mighty weird. One example that immediately comes to mind is when I walked up to a woman, a professional woman, a woman manning a booth filled with wooly products for sale. She had a two-year-old child sitting on the counter in front of her and while this woman was talking to a client the child pulled up her shirt and was nursing from one of her breasts while finger-playing with the other nipple. All of her goods and services were hanging out into the great wide open and I mentally shut down. It was like seeing a griffin*. I’m all for breastfeeding but this was waaaaaaay too much. I think I got boobPTSD from that experience. My point is that one could walk up to a stranger at the festival and compliment their knittery without being the oddest thing that happens to them that day. BY A LOT.

We hit up a couple of specific shops K. wanted to purchase products from, one of which was Fiber Optic. They sell yarn groupings that gradually change from one color to another so you can make ombre-type scarfs. I LURVE me some ombre so I loitered outside their booth staring at the examples they had pinned up. So good.

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Other neat things I saw at the RSnWF: this sweater.

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This shorn roving with pictures of the sheepies that it was shorned from which makes me want to buy this fleece even though it’s probably greasy (lanolin) and I have zero use for it.

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The truth was I did end up buying some roving because I have a very special project in mind. Let’s start at the beginning. When my friend Ness turned 30 she and a bunch of her chums went to New Orleans to celebrate what she called her Dirty Thirty. At this exact time a hurricane had passed through the delta and drowned thousands of nutria (a giant South-American rat) and these nutria corpses were washing up on the beaches. I could not stop talking about it. So, in order to make Ness’ trip even more memorable, every time she would post something on Facebook I would comment with something about nutria. No context, no explanation. Every time.

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Then I started photoshopping her pictures.

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I was shocked she didn’t come back and stab me in the face with a collectible plastic margarita glass shaped like a fleur de lis. I honestly expected the stabbing but I still couldn’t stop myself. Now Ness is getting married in May and the wedding is going to be in New Orleans, her reasoning being “it’s equally inconvenient from people on both the East and West Coast.” I cannot let this opportunity pass. I am making myself a Southern church-going hat to wear to the wedding and on top (you guessed it) will be a six-inch nutria doll made of felt. In order to make this felted nutria I bought some brown roving from a llama (no lanolin so naturally dry and clean) with tiny sparkly threads woven in. It’s going to be glorious. Get ready.

*”Is that half eagle, half lion? What’s going on with its front legs? I have so many questions and I cannot physically stare hard enough at this.”

A small medium at large. And all the dog memes today.

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Sorry for the long delay between posts. There just wasn’t a whole lot of anything going on. I was working, and then I was working some more, and then for a change, work.

The joke I am referring to in the title is this one:

small-medium-at-large

My sister K. is a producer and she asked me two weeks ago if I would be available to be filmed having a reading done by a medium. I said I had ebolaAIDSpinkeye and wouldn’t be able to go because I do not believe in hocus-pocus, but she needed bodies to populate this video so finally I acquiesced and said yessssssssss fine. On Sunday morning I woke up at 7:30 (before the sun which is the Lord’s way of saying don’t wake up yet), put on an appropriate outfit (no black, no logos), painted my face, brushed my hair and went to Manhattan where the filming was happening. I filled out paperwork allowing them to use my face and any corresponding footage for this video and possibly as filler in porn movies (I didn’t read the document) and then waited for the medium to arrive. The other producers asked me whom of my dead relatives I wanted to speak to, and I answered honestly. “Well, I would really like to talk to my paternal grandmother because she died when my father was nine and all accounts describe her as a very nice woman, but she only spoke Yiddish and chances are we might not be able to communicate. Most likely my maternal grandmother will come through who helped raise me and was a ‘strong woman.’ That’s a nice way to say it. I’ve heard her referred to as ‘soul-crushing’ and ‘emasculating’ but ‘strong woman’ is probably the best way to put it.” The first thing the medium, who was a nice tiny woman of about thirty years old, di when she arrived was burn sage and clear the room of negative energy (actual result: the whole space smelled somewhere between a Catholic mass and a 4/20 rally) and then she called the four people who were going to be read into filming area (me and three freshly-graduated NYU students). We did some meditation, clearing our minds and readying ourselves to contact the deceased. And then she began. I would LOVE to say she changed my mind and I got to chat with family members and I’m a total believer now, but alas, she did not. She asked incredibly vague questions until she narrowed it down to something tangible in your life and then she honed in on that. My favorite example was, “I’m feeling a twisting sensation in my belly area. Did you know someone who had gastrointestinal troubles or someone who internalized their feelings?” Why, yes, yes I do, because you’ve just described everyone who’s ever lived on this planet, ever. Thanks for that. She could have said, “I’m feeling a tender sensation in my earlobes. Do you have a relative who was able to hear in both ears?” Wow! As a matter of fact I did.

doge-psychic

In my follow-up interview I was very diplomatic. I said while I didn’t feel convinced that this was not an advanced parlor trick, if someone had lost a person close to them and was suffering and this medium brought them some peace, then I was totally okay with it. Placebos work too. I don’t think that’s what the people recording the TV show wanted to hear but I wasn’t going to lie, especially for what they were paying me (a fat hairy ball of nuthin’).

In a thoroughly unrelated note my friend Gem was in town for the Annual Gathering of the Nerds Otherwise Known as Comic-Con (did everyone see this amazing costume? It’s all the roles Johnny Depp has played on one person, that is GENIUS):

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And every time Gem comes to town she takes me to a different bar or eatery which is good because I am totally inclined to staying in my apartment and crafting while watching copious amounts of Nat Geo Wild and Investigation Discovery. This time she took us to The Dead Rabbit which is a bar in the financial district. It was extremely cool. I know exactly zero things about the original gangs that ran in New York during the 1850s and one of them was called The Dead Rabbits. I believe the movie Gangs of New York was based on them. We got to sit at the bar in the parlor which normally would bother me (I’m sad when my feet don’t touch the ground) but this particular time it was awesome because I could watch the bartendress. Her name was Jillian Vose and she blew my mind. First of all, there are seventy-two cocktails on the menu. Seventy-two. Twelve of them are seasonal and change regularly. Sixty-four are separated into groups based on different sections of the Dead Rabbit gang leader’s life, John Morrissey. Here’s a sample page from their menu.

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When an order comes up there’s a small screen under the bar that lists the ingredients but Jillian still had to figure out which bottles to use to make it. There were like fifty bottles with various concoctions in them, syrups and whatnot, all the same size, all unlabeled. You can see them in this picture from their website.

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She was amazing to watch. And then she would take large chunks of ice, put it in the palm of her hand and whack at it with an ice pick. I kept waiting for Jillian to give herself stigmata and a strong metallic taste to the subsequent drinks but it never happened. That woman’s a pro. In addition to there being a gazillion festive drinks and British foods (I tried a scotch egg for the first time, they’re pretty darn good, like a breakfast food orb) when you order your drink, in order to hold you over until your drink arrives, you get some house punch in a porcelain tea cup. How freakin’ cute is that?

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I would go back if it was on the grid, or near the grid, or literally not at the bottom of the island in what I consider a no-man’s-land of New York. Perhaps if someone else goes with me I will return. If left to my own devices I would get lost.

I left no things, in San Francisco (because I packed carefully the night before).

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

My friend and former co-worker Ness moved back to her homeland of California to become a police officer and after seven months of grueling training (seriously, she got pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed on the same day which is insane) she graduated and I decided to go and show support because I’m proud of her and hey, free cake. So off I went to the San Francisco Police Academy Graduation.

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I arrived the night before the graduation so I had plenty of time to pet Ness’ cat, Gizzy. If we’re telling truths here, I may miss Gizzy more than Ness. I wore a nightgown given to me by my neighbor that had a Gizzy-like cat on it and posed for several pictures while hoisting her in the air like a prize-winning ham. Gizzbeast was pretty okay with it (because she’s AWESOME). She clearly wasn’t too put out because she spent the rest of the evening punching me in the face with her face and purring.

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Before we get into the graduation itself, let us discuss the flight to California. Fellow travelers: we are, for all intents and purposes, trapped in an airless tube for which there is no escape but death. Can you pretend to be a person for, like, five hours? Five hours, that’s all I’m asking. On my flight there was a man, a morbidly obese extremely hairy man who was wearing a muscle shirt where the sleeves were so stretched out his hirsute nips were hanging out said sleeve-holes. THIS WAS HIS IDEA OF PUBLIC ATTIRE. In addition a woman brought a hot fresh full-size pizza on the flight for her family to enjoy which made the entire plane smell like pepperoni. I know I use the wise teachings of Patton Oswalt often on this blog, but he has the insights we often look for in a prophet or guru and this is no exception. Listen to this link and feel my pain.

http://www.tubechop.com/watch/3593326

The next morning when I got up Ness was already gone and her aunt (also a cop) was going to come by and pick me up later and take me where the graduation was being held. We swung by a Krispie Kreme to get doughnuts (the appropriate food for a police academy event)(Ness’ aunt the cop bought them so it’s not offensive) and stood in line outside the Scottish Rite Masonic Center. Hoo boy. Do you look for Illuminati symbols in things? Well, look no further because here they all are, designed in a lovely 1960s style with mosaics.

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Finally we got into the main hall and settled ourselves down in the third row which gave me a chance to be confused about the murals. From what I can gather they are important figures to the Masons, all I know is on my left was a figure labeled “Venerable Master” next to “Zarathustra.” I found this page trying to gather more information. It’s not really helping to clarify anything.

http://www.scottishritecalifornia.org/orient_of_california.htm

So… they build houses but they’re also secretive and community-oriented? I don’t get clubs.

While everyone was getting seated the loudspeakers was playing patriotic music, which is fine except that the only place I’ve ever heard the songs they were playing is in Assassins, a musical about all the failed and successful attempts to assassinate various American presidents. I realized I was singing out loud along with all of the tunes about how I prevented Roosevelt’s murder and creeping everyone around me out. I should not be allowed to leave the house sometimes. Listen to this chunk of song:

http://www.tubechop.com/watch/3534901

and this chunk:

http://www.tubechop.com/watch/3534911

to hear what I probably should not have been gleefully crooning so close to the San Francisco Chief of Police.

There were a ton of seats set up on the stage and off to the side was a plaque with glittery things all around it. When I got up closer I could see that it was a carpeted display with the graduates’ shields on it.

shields

Ness’ was at the bottom, number 844.

shield844

The important people went up on the stage and it began with color guard coming in. Another reason to add to the enormous pile of why I can’t be a cop: all the pomp. It took forever for the color guardians to put their flags in the damn stand. They had to march and bark instructions and I have zero patience for that. PUT THE FLAG IN THE STAND. TODAY. I’M GETTIN’ OLD OVER HERE.

After that the graduates came in and the clergyman was invited to say a prayer. I want everyone to know how well-behaved I was at this point. He was an elderly Asian man and he spoke extemporaneously which may have not been the best choice for him. He rambled so damn bad, it was all over the place and it was long. I started getting the giggles in the middle part (about four years into his prayer). He totally reminded me of Oogway from Kung Fu Panda but with less of a cohesive thought flow.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nq8loZlpa_8

Then various politicians and police-people gave speeches, including the city supervisor for District 8 (Harvey Milk’s original district) a 6’7″ man named Scott Weiner who I renamed The Jewish Jack Skellington:

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Finally the class president got up to speak. A tall woman named Mikayla Connell got up and as soon as she opened her mouth to speak I realized that she was MtoF transgender. And then she told her story. She was 45. She tried to join the police force right after college 23 years ago and was rejected. She joined the military (wow) and then became a lawyer (damn). About ten years ago she transitioned to female and after sitting behind a desk Mikayla realized she still really wanted to be a cop so she applied again and not only did she make it in this time, she was class president, the oldest person in her class and the first MtoF transgender person the San Francisco Police has ever had. Not enough? There were five awards given that night and Mikayla won two of them. Two. Out of five. This woman is my hero. She let nothing get in the way of her dreams. Ever. I wish I had one half of the strength of spirit Mikayla has. (And her speech was terrific, I wish I could get a copy of it.)

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The shields were given, closing statements were made and we were done! Ness is now a cop! I took an atrocious selfie of us but you can appreciate how happy both of us are.

shaking-hands-with-officials terrible-selfie

There was a reception in an adjacent hall and I’m sure most people were excited to see their friends and family members but I was totally focused on the 1960s murals of trees on the wall. I was wandering around taking closeups for research purposes; I definitely asked a police academy student who was serving cake to move out of the way so I could take a better photo. In my defense, the paintings were awesome. Very “It’s A Small World After All” ish.

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Her family and I went out for a celebratory dinner which included a cake specially made for Ness decorated with icing versions of a gun, handcuffs, a baton and a radio.

cake

Luckily Ness got Saturday and Sunday off (some of the graduates had to show up for duty the next morning at 6:00 a.m. which is awful) so we could travel around San Francisco. Saturday we went down to Fisherman’s Wharf and walked around there in matching t-shirts because even though Ness lives in San Fran, if you’re going to be a tourist do it right or don’t do it at all.

She drove into the city and we were led into the city proper by a tour of people on Segways, which was adorable and dorky.

segways

Ness took me through the Tenderloin area which is famous for being a bit rough-and-tumble and sho’ nuff as we were passing through a 20-something man was peeing into the street. Not like, behind a car or anything. No, he was doing his best impression of the Manneken Pis into the street, arc of pee glinting in the sunlight. It made the experience very authentic for me. Thank you, Peeing Man. I hope whatever drug you enjoy gives you much pleasure, as much pleasure as watching you urinate gave me.

We went to Lombard Street which in case you don’t know is the super-wiggly street. It allowed us some beautiful views of the city.

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Everyone else was looking at the view but I kept getting distracted by the stunning flowers and plants. Ness could not have cared less if she tried. I think I yelled at her at one point. “YOU DO NOT APPRECIATE YOUR FOLIAGE!”

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We ended up down at the edge of the water where we saw the sea lions basking.

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We saw that there were antique fire trucks that had been turned into tour buses and I decided that when I came back I would ride on one.

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I took pictures of the phenomenal flower baskets on the street corners while Ness rolled her eyes. “YOU DO NOT APPRECIATE YOUR FOLIAGE!”

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And we posed in front of a big metal crab structure that had succulents planted in its body area. I love how it looks like the crab is attacking us. Also note the matching shirts.

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My favorite thing that day was the aquarium. It’s a small aquarium but it’s a not-for-profit that helps maintain the health of the bay area so I was delighted to support them and see some fishies in the process. I got to pet some rays (yay!) and a sea cucumber which I had never touched (slimy! squishy! yay!):

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but the coolest part was by far the shark tank. You walked through a tunnel in the middle of the tank and it had some really cool sea creatures in it. In addition to having rays (I love rays) it had a shark that looked like a leopard and a shark with barbs down its back. I called that the toothback shark. I don’t know what its real name is, but toothback shark is perfectly descriptive. The toothback shark looked like it was swimming around 400 million years ago and decided, “Yeah, I think I got this exactly how I want this. I’m done with evolving. I’m good.” And that’s how he’s been, completely unchanged since forever.

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I made a little animated gif so you can appreciate the awesomeness in motion. I could have stayed in that tunnel all day.

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The next day Ness took me sight-seeing to places of interest in her life. We went to the Police Academy where she trained:

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And the top of the hill they would make her run where people were taking pictures of the view. I found that extremely funny due to the fact that we were surrounded by cloud and you couldn’t see anything but people were taking pictures regardless.

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I guess I drank the tourist Kool-Aid because shortly after I had to take a picture myself. Damn you, FOMO! Damn you straight to hell!

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We drove past her high school where I found mirth in this sign:

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And we spent the afternoon at a Zucchini Festival.

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It was only vaguely related to zucchinis in any way. It was predominantly the fried-bad-things-for-you festival.

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If it could be fried, chances are it was there.

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There was also a booth entirely comprised of inflatable aliens:

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Some kind of hamster-ball-in-water thing that the kids were loving:

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And a person selling spinny rainbow garden decorations. I couldn’t stop looking at them. So many colors… and spinning… I was mesmerized.

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rainbow-spinnies

On a stage off to the side were various acts performing throughout the day and when we got there it was a pretty damn good Elvis impersonator. He was great. Many women thought so as well. I am not joking, they were lined up at the stage swooning. It was intense.

zucchini-festival1 elvis-impersonator1

There were people selling all manner of items – jewelry and useful home appliances, all kinds of things. I bought The Moomins some local honey made with bee pollen. One of the booths was to help shelter animals so I totally donated to that. There was a dog at that booth and people were putting dollar bills in its collar like it was a stripper, which I found amusing. I put it in the jar myself. Keeping it classy here, people.

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Of course I spent most of my time in the petting zoo hanging with the goats. There was an enormous paddock with dwarf goats hanging out and you could feed them. I took a photo of this couple who were just sitting with a stranger goat. It was looking at the woman’s iPhone like it was helping her pick out photos. I loved it.

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There was a super-pregnant little lady goat. I made sure she got most of my food.

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And in one corner of the giant park was… a small table with zucchinis on them. There are the zucchinis for the Zucchini Festival. Look at them. There they are.

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Shortly after that I got on a plane and took the red-eye back to work. I will go back at some point and hang out with Ness again. (And Gizzy. Who are we kidding, almost entirely to see Gizzy.)

I went to a cat fashion show. Yes, you heard me correctly.

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Every so often I would see that there had been a cat fashion show in New York where cats were in costumes and looked peeved. Despite my love of kitties I had little or no interest in seeing felines dressed in festive ensembles traipsing down a runway. However, recently I “liked” the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals Facebook feed and therefore I see their posts. One of their posts was this:

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Now this is different. My entry fee goes to support beasties in need, I get to go inside the Algonquin Hotel, a national treasure of a building, AND I get to see haute couture kittehs? Well, now I’m totally in. I bought myself a ticket and when I told The Moomins I was going she said, “You got me a ticket too, right?” I was like, “No, do you want to go?” and she was all, “HELL YES I want to go” so off we went. Shortly after we got to the hotel we were greeted by Matilda, the house cat of the Algonquin.

http://www.algonquinhotel.com/algonquin-cat

People went CRAZY. They all ran up to her, begging her to face this way, banging the concierge phone on the counter to get her attention. Here’s a shocker: she would have none of it.

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I love how in this picture where The Moomins is talking to her, Matilda looks all, “Do I know you?”

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There were a ton of professional photographers there. I just brought my cellphone so all my pictures look like they were taken with a potato. If any of the pictures I show here look good it’s because they were taken by someone with a real camera and I wrote their names in the corners so they would get credit.

The cat show was upstairs and didn’t start for another fifteen or twenty minutes so in the meantime The Moomins and I wandered around the ground floor. Set up were gift bags for the raffle, various foodstuffs like crudites and fancy cheeses and an enormous cake with (I’m sad to say, extremely poor) renditions of Matilda and Tara, the cat that rescued that little boy a few months ago. The LEDs in the base were a nice touch, though.

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We eventually worked our way upstairs to the actual fashion show. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe a runway or something. It turned out to be various cats perched on pillows wearing costumes inspired by Broadway shows. Their emotions ranged from, “Eh, it could be worse” to “This is WAAAAAAY too many people” to “Please, if you have any compassion in your heart kill me now and end this living nightmare.” First you encountered Vito who was sleeping for most of the time he was on display. He was the chillest cat ever.

cat-show-cat

Behind him was a cat dressed as the lead from Legally Blonde. The owner informed me that this was totally appropriate because this cat was raised by a chihuahua who adopted him as a kitten when she lost all her pups (Elle, the main character of Legally Blonde has her chihuahua with her all the time). He was also calm, but I think he would have preferred to have slightly less people flashing lightbulbs in his face.

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There was the Persian representing Wicked.

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There was a black cat who was Roxy Hart from Chicago and he wanted to leave so badly his owner had to keep her hand under the skirt area to keep the little guy from fleeing.

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Off to the side was the Rock of Ages cats, Tigger and Cody:

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And off in the far corner was two cats representing… something with turquoise and argyle. One was a Savannah and he was sleeping and the other was a wee kitten with yellow eyes and he was full of the frisky.

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In the library was Tara, the cat that rescued the little boy from the attacking dog. This cat. As I entered the room Tara stalked across the carpet and hid under the tablecloth.

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But he best part for me, without a doubt, was when a woman showed up late all flustered and I realized she was wearing two cats, one on her shoulder and one in a baby sling.

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I have a weak spot for gray cats so I immediately fell in love with sling-cat whose name, I found out later, is R2D2 because of the wee beeping noises he makes. In addition both these cats are ancient and really shouldn’t have to go through this stupid and humiliating endeavor. Wearing costumes is a young kitty’s game. These elderly fellas should be playing shuffleboard in Florida. But here they were and it was about to get real rough for them.

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R2D2 was then dressed as The Phantom of the Opera and Orange Cat Who’s Name I Never Caught was the Phantom’s Angel of Music. Orange Cat seemed moderately tolerant of this but R2D2 immediately went into some kind of sadness trance and stared at, nay, through, the carpet for the next hour. I think he was willing himself to die. People petted him, cameras went off in his face, he didn’t care. He was convincing the Grim Reaper to drop on by and help him shuffle off this mortal coil. I’m a bad person because I may or may not have laughed until tears rolled down my face at the utter pitifulness of R2D2. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.

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OH GOD NOT THE MASK HASN’T HE SUFFERED ENOUGH

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I didn’t purchase any raffle tickets so The Moomins and I split after we petted all the cats that would let us and munched some cheese. It was a nice experience and I would go again to give funds to a worthy cause but once you’ve seen a bunch of cats in costumes you’re kind of good with that for a long time.

 

Saw two shows, read a book.

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

1. Shows! I saw Breaking the Code and Violet. I went to the Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts to see Breaking the Code. It’s the story of Alan Turing, the British genius who broke the German enigma code during WWII and pretty much invented the computer as we know it. That’s all I knew when I bought the ticket. Interestingly enough, that’s not really what the show was about. You would think that would be enough plot, but there’s so much more to this man’s life. Turing was a homosexual when it was illegal to be one. When he went to the police after he was robbed Turing let it slip that the man who robbed him had slept with him the night before. Turing was accused of “gross indecency” even though the dalliance happened between two consenting adults behind closed doors (this makes me SO ANGEEE) and the court gave Turing one year of probation and estrogen to render him impotent. It also made him grow breasts. The whole thing is messed up. At 41 Turing was found dead from cyanide poisoning. It is assumed that it was suicide, but there is another theory, From Wikipedia:

Philosophy professor Jack Copeland has questioned various aspects of the coroner’s historical verdict, suggesting the alternative explanation of the accidental inhalation of cyanide fumes from an apparatus for gold electroplating spoons, using potassium cyanide to dissolve the gold, which Turing had set up in his tiny spare room.

Breaking the Code was really engrossing. I wouldn’t call it “fun” but it was definitely informative.

The other show I saw was Violet. I had no interest in checking it out until I saw their performance at the Tony Awards. I am a sucker for good gospel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kVaDl1MsYs

Violet, when she was about thirteen, was whacked in the face with an axe blade while chopping wood and her father was scared she was going to bleed out from the wound so he went to the nearest place and had it stitched up quickly and not very well, so she has a big ole lumpy scar across her nose-bridge and cheek, not unlike Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones.

Tyrion-Lannister

(Interesting directing choice: the actress doesn’t have anything on her face. You have to imagine it. It makes the third act better.) Violet is about this young woman’s journey via Greyhound bus to a faith healer who she is convinced will fix her scar and make her beautiful. It takes place in the 1960s so there’s some race stuff in there as well. It’s a good show with good music, but the talent of the stars is what makes it great. I would recommend Violet except it’s closing in four days, so chances are you will not have a chance to check it out. If by some strange fluke of nature you are in the city before August 10th and you are going to see a Broadway show, this is a good one to see.

2. Book! I read Gone Girl and THAT BOOK CAN SUCK IT. It is the worst because it started so well! I loved the writing at the beginning, it was engrossing and the adjectives were well-chosen, I was hooked. I stayed up until 1:30 on a work-night because I couldn’t put it down. So thrilling! So many twists and turns! And then… garbagepants. It goes right off the edge of anything reasonable and straight into Housewives-of-New-Jersey-throwing-wine-in-each-other’s-faces level stupidity. And the ending BLOWS. It just ends. Crappily. You hate every single character and your face is in a permanent grimace for two days after. I hear they’re making it into a movie. A MOVIE I WILL NOT BE SEEING.

Me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOBr8lOTZ6I

Addendum 8/12/14: I forgot to mention that one of the people starring in Violet is the silent character Norma on Orange is the New Black, Annie Golden. She plays a bunch of different people in the show Violet and while I was waiting outside for the will-call counter to open, who should show up but Lea Delaria, another actress from Orange is the New Black! Lea plays Big Boo. People were asking her for photos and telling her how much they loved her and I didn’t want to bother her, but it was so nice to see fellow actors supporting each other in different performance mediums.

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