Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

New Orleans 2015, Part 2.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Before we delve into cemetery-chat, some random photos I took.

You can walk around with an open container so alcohol can be procured just about anywhere. I went into PJ’s (a local coffee chain) and they had a beer tap situation next to the blenders. Because they can.

coffee-draught

I really liked these alligator lights on the side of this building.

crocodile-lights

The day before the day before the wedding the Warriors were playing. They are some sort of basketball team and Candy, Nessa’s aunt, is OBSESSED with them. She has a tattoo of their logo on her butt. She brought down all her Warrior gear and we all met up at a sports bar to watch the game. (I went to eat appetizers but let’s pretend it was for sports.) Nessa knows of my complete disinterest in all things athletic so she insisted on decking me out in some of the accessories and taking my picture. I hope you can appreciate how excited I am from this photo. Hooooooray sports. Cricket is equally excited.

sports-fans

Cemeteries! Cemeteries are a big part of New Orleans. I cannot name the last time I was in New York City and said, “Hey everyone, let’s go spend an afternoon hanging with really quiet people and their identifying rocks!” But in New Orleans it’s a major tourist destination, so much so that only tour groups are allowed in the primary cemetery (lone people were desecrating the graves and generally being a nuisance). We visited two cemeteries but the important one, St Louis No. 1, is the one I’m going to focus on.

cemetery11

Because the earth is so saturated with water (New Orleans gets between 70 to 100 inches of rain a year) you cannot bury bodies, therefore the graves are above ground and usually contain the remains of an entire family. Every time someone new is added they carve new info on the door plaque.

cemetery1

The body must lay untouched for a year and a day. The reason for that is very smart: the tomb are built of brick, stone or stucco and therefore get very hot, especially in the summer when it can be 90 degrees or above. The bodies dry out and bake until they crumble. After a year and a day all that’s left is bone and dust. The door is pulled off, the remains collected into a satin bag and then placed under the tomb in a substantially smaller area with the other powdery relatives and the tomb is then freed up for new deceased people. It’s a good way to save space.

There are a bunch of famous people buried in St. Louis. First one we encountered is Paul Morphy. Paul Morphy was a brilliant chess player.

cemetery3

Supposedly he was blindfolded and had twelve chessboards set up in front of him with master players on the other side. So phenomenal was his ability to visualize the board, Morphy would walk past each board blindfolded, have someone describe the layout of the pieces and then make the next move. He won all twelve games. Like a BAWSS.

The most famous person entombed there is Marie Laveau. She is considered the Queen of Voodoo, a religion or belief-system brought from West Africa by both slaves and free people of color. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about her:

Among the fifteen “voodoo queens” in neighborhoods scattered around 19th-century New Orleans, Marie Laveau was known as “the” Voodoo Queen, the most eminent and powerful of them all. Her religious rite on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain on St. John’s Eve in 1874 attracted some 12,000 black and white New Orleanians.It was said that politicians, lawyers, businessman, wealthy planters – all came to her to consult before making an important financial or business-related decision. She also saw the poor and enslaved. Although her help seemed non-discriminatory, she may have favored the enslaved servants of her “influential, affluent customers”, as many “runaway slaves…credited their successful escapes to Laveaux’s powerful charms.”Once the news of her powers spread, she dominated the other Voodoo leaders of New Orleans. Also a Catholic, Laveau encouraged her followers to attend Catholic Mass as a strategic way to protect their true beliefs. Her influence contributed to the adoption of Catholic practices into the Voodoo belief system.Marie Laveau is remembered for her skill and compassion for the less fortunate.

Laveau also gained influence over her clientele by her work as a hairdresser, which gave her intimate knowledge of the gossip in town. Her customers also came to her to buy voodoo dolls, potions, gris-gris bags, and the like.Her influence continues in the city. In the 21st century, her gravesite in the oldest cemetery is a major tourist attraction; believers of Voodoo offer gifts here and pray to her spirit. Across the street from the cemetery where Laveau is buried, offerings of pound cake are left to the statue of Saint Expedite; these offerings are believed to expedite the favors asked of the Voodoo queen. Saint Expedite represents the spirit standing between life and death. The chapel where the statue stands was once used only for holding funerals.Marie Laveau continues to be a central figure of Louisiana Voodoo and of New Orleans culture. Gamblers shout her name when throwing dice, and multiple tales of sightings of the Voodoo queen have been told.

Here is the outside of her family tomb.

cemetery2

You will notice it is clean and white and that is because there is a not-for-proft group in New Orleans called Save Our Cemeteries that takes care of as many tombs as they can. When this cemetery was open to whomever wanted to wander in people would write XXX all over Marie Laveau’s tomb and chip bits off as souvenirs, it was a mess. That’s one of the reasons only tours are allowed in. This one of the nearby tombs still covered with graffiti and chipped to all hell.

cemetery10

I asked what the significance of the XXX was, and the thing is to draw the Xs. knock three times on the tomb and then ask Marie Laveau to grant you a wish, often pertaining to love.

Right behind Miss Laveau’s tomb is a pyramid. No one is in it. Yet. Because it is Nicholas Cage’s forever home. It’s sitting there uninhabited until Cage bites it. Good idea, always plan ahead. Nicholas Cage is a character, I wouldn’t be surprised if he insisted on being embalmed and having his cats join him in the afterlife. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

cemetery4

There are also group tombs (called “condominios” in Spain, that never stops being funny to me) for various groups. For example there was a massive nunnery and the nuns are laid to rest in one of those. In this picture the one on the left is for Portuguese people and the one on the right is for the Italians.

cemetery5

The round mass tomb on the right is famous because of the movie Easy Rider. There’s a scene where Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and two lovely young ladies come to this cemetery, take LSD and go on a mental journey. Fun Fact: the actors really did take LSD. It’s (not surprisingly) a very trippy scene in the film. They’re climbing all over the sculptures, the lovely young ladies are naked and frolicking, copious amounts of alcohol are being consumed. Apparently after the mayor of New Orleans saw the movie he decided no one could film movies any more in the cemetery, booooo. But the damage was already done. The main sculpture (I think it’s Athena) nestled in an alcove on the tomb has no head and no hands because bikers came for years to sit in her lap and have their picture taken a là Peter Fonda’s character. So her head fell off. Here’s the shot from the film:

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 12.02.15 AM

Here’s some jackhole doing the pose:

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 12.07.10 AM

This condominio is for war heroes. Note the bombs as corner pieces for the decorative chain. That’s baller, having explosive devices flanking your tomb.

cemetery6

Another famous person who is laid to rest there is Bernard deMarigny. He’s got a hell of a tale. He was born with not a silver spoon in his mouth, but a gold one. Legend has it that when the King of France and his two brothers came to visit, the deMarignys served them on specially-made gold plates. After the meal all the plates were thrown in the river because no one would be worthy of using them again. Yeah. Gold plates. Here’s what Wikipedia says about him:

The visit of the French royals apparently had a big impact on Marigny, as it is reported as an example of the spoiled life in which he was reared. When he was 15 years old, his father died and Bernard inherited his father’s plantation just outside the city gates, east of New Orleans’ Vieux Carré. According to historians, “His every whim [was] indulged while his father was alive, he became as wild and headstrong after his death as an unbacked [wild] mustang, and his guardian, abandoning all idea of control, finally shipped him to England, hoping that life abroad might mend his manners; but in London Bernard’s dissipations became only more pyrotechnic, and he spent most of his time at Almack’s and other famous gambling places.” One of the things Marigny brought back to New Orleans from England was the dice game Hazardwhich became popular in a simplified form, known in local dialect as “Crapaud”.

cemetery7 cemetery8

This guy and his family owned so much land that when it was developed and turned into city streets, he got to name them. There was Love Street, Poets Street, Music Street, Abundance Street, Treasure Street and even Craps Street until the three churches that sprouted up on that street petitioned to have the name changed. Marigny eventually gambled his fortune away and died relatively penniless but he left an impression on the city.

The entire cemetery is Catholic but there’s a small section off in the back where Protestants can be buried. Note I used the word “buried.” Big mistake, Protestants. In this photo you’ll see several level-with-the-ground graves. They have recently been surrounded with cement. What you can’t see under all that grass are all the other graves that sunk into the earth because no cement. This area was wall-to-wall graves. You can really stub your toe on a corner of tombstone pokin’ out of the loam.

cemetery9

That’s it for cemeteries. Coming up: alligators.

New Orleans 2015, Part 1.

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

N’Awlins! As a person who really is not into drinking, one might think I would haaaaaaate New Orleans but much to my delight I had a terrific time. If I could no longer live in New York for whatever reason I would seriously consider moving to New Orleans. A few reasons:

1. No snow. Yeah, rain all the damn time but no snow. I hate the snow. The ice, specifically. Ain’t no one slippin’ and fallin’ in the rain, and it washes away the sins of the previous night on Bourbon Street.

2. The cuisine is super-yummy. I like spicy food and rice is my favorite carb, so I was totally on board. I went through beignet-withdrawal when I came back.

3. A thriving creative community. A ton of artists, good one too, and musicians. Since the tourist industry is their biggest source of income tons of people visit the galleries so the art actually sells which is great.

4. People are ugly and weird and it’s okay. Let me clarify. In New York, being a major fashion capital people are extremely concerned with physical appearances. In New Orleans they seem to get a kick out of people who are odd and off-center far more. While I saw plenty of pretty people it seems it’s okay if you’re missing a tooth, or have odd fashion choices, or are shaped like a cube. There are people who dig that as long as you’re interesting or smart. I’m a good fit in those circles.

I went on a three-hour tour (sing the Gilligan’s Island theme if you must) around the town and got a great overview of the city. Our tour guide was amazing / a nightmare. He was 75 and had the exact same speaking style as Cleveland from Family Guy. Here is a sample of Cleveland:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4hSf50Ye0o

Imagine an older gentleman talking nonstop like that for three hours. And repeating himself several times. I loved it (“No, Grandpa, tell the story again!”) but Cricket was ready to shoot himself in the face. Here are some cool things I learned on my tour.

  •  Acadians were the first European settlers. Acadians are French Canadians. And the Native Americans already living there could not say “Acadian,” they called them “Cajun.”
  • Only five buildings from the original French rule remain (the area was French, then Spanish, then French again) due to two massive fires during the Spanish rule.
  • 64 different nationalities came to New Orleans to make their fortune with sugar cane or oil or cotton nearby. For example the Croatians are predominantly in charge of the oyster business. Who knew, Croatians? And oysters?
  • When buildings were built there were weird rules in place. You were charged a tax for each closet, so very few houses have closets. Everyone uses bureaus and armoires. And you were charged a tax for each window which is why the windows look like doors.

windows-as-doors1 windows-as-doors2

First, we’ll cover the wedding since that was the point of the trip. Nessa, my former co-worker who left the East Coast to fulfill herself (whatevs) by becoming a police officer in San Francisco decided to have a destination wedding in her favorite party city. I hadn’t seen her family since Nessa’s graduation from police academy so it was delightful to catch up with them again. The guests were instructed to meet in front of one of the hotels at 4:00 and we would be bussed to a plantation about a half-hour outside of town, the Tchoupitoulas Plantation. Nessa had decided on a purple and burgundy-themed wedding (I chose those colors, you’re welcome). That’s how I knew what color to make my nutria hat, more on that in a moment. First we were seated in a very elegant room. What you can’t see off to the side are fish bowls filled with treats for later – single packs of Advil, Tums, Pepto, earplugs, etc. Smart girl, Nessa is.

wedding-6

Then the ceremony started and I couldn’t believe how good Nessa looked. The girl sitting next to me said, “Holy crap, she looks just like Beyoncé.” These pictures taken with my iPhone do not do her justice. She glowed.

wedding-1 wedding-2

I think they hired a justice of the peace because at no point did he mention God or any specific religion, just love and family and togetherness. It took ten minutes. “You take her? And she takes you? Great, we’re done here.” Then we moved out of this room into the actual main building and I sat myself where I always seat myself at weddings – as close to the kitchen door as possible. That way you get first crack at the hors d’oeuvres. My other former co-worker Esteban and his girlfriend were there as well so we had a great time chattin’ it up and snorfing down treats on sticks. Yes, I would love a fried oyster and a crab cake and a jalapeño popper, thank you. They had a buffet set up in the other room with gumbo (which I now need at every meal seriously omg where has gumbo been all my life) and Nessa hooked up her iPod to the speakers and that was it. We danced and ate and there was open bar for hours, it was a blast. On the invitation you could put a song request. I put a favorite of mine, “Poison” by Bel Biv DeVoe, a masterpiece. The second it came on I was out there and this other guest took an opportunity to dance WAY TOO CLOSE to me but I let it slide because ain’t no one harshing my vibe during “Poison.” One of the best dances ever to that song is Turk from Scrubs in case you need a reminder of the dopeness both of Turk and the song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crITXzMW0do

And here is a picture Esteban took of me gettin’ humped on the dance floor.

poison

The men at the wedding took the dancing incredibly seriously. There were numerous moments when men were booty-popping on the dance floor. Booty-popping, in case you don’t know, is very similar to twerking but you make each gluteus maximus move individually. If done correctly it looks like your butt is possessed. The gentlemen-folk were throwing hinder-cheek action down with total disregard to accepted social rules and it was delightful. Here is the groom and the best man giving it their best shot.

wedding-dancing

I was the only one wearing a hat / fascinator and I think that was an egregious error on the part of everyone else. Dude, we’re in the South. At a wedding. With fun people. Let loose a little bit. Maybe not to the point where you’re wearing a hat with a felted rodent on it, you don’t have to go that far, but a bit. I looked awesome in my hat I must say.

wedding-7 wedding-8

Cricket wanted to explore the grounds around the main house so before the sun set we went for a walk. The trees were beautiful, very old and very large.

wedding-4

And we realized we were right up against the Mississippi River.

mississippi-levy1

Check this picture out: I’m standing on a levee next to the Mississippi River adjacent to a plantation wearing a church hat with a nutria on it. It’s the ultimate Lousiana selfie.

mississippi-levy2

Remember the parasol I made for Nessa to carry during her street parade? This one? She used it as a display item behind her cake along with the parasol she made for her fiance. It framed the space beautifully.

parasol1 parasol2

After much delicious food and drink was consumed (I love you jambalaya and bread pudding, never leave my side) we all boarded the buses again and headed to the center of town for the Second Line (what the New Orleaners call a spontaneous-style parade with a band). I had heard the comedian Hannibal Buress talk about being part of a Second Line and he was spot-on. It starts about two minutes in.

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

We got off the buses and there was the band waiting. And two cops on motorcycles. And a cop in a car. It was nuts. We destroyed traffic going in both directions on a major thoroughfare for a solid ten minutes. We all sang and yelled and cheered, strangers joined in, it was fantastic.

second-line1 second-line2 parade-1 parade-2 parade-3

After that everyone went to Bourbon Street to drink and dance some more. Cricket and I decided that eight hours of revelry was all we could manage at our ripe old age of almost forty so we went back to the room and retired for the evening. The next day we met up with other members of the bridal party and learned they had stayed out until about 4:00am so I think we made the right choice.

It was one of the funnest weddings I’ve ever been to. Nessa said we’re going to have a reunion next year back in NOLA and I’m all for it.

wedding6

Next post: cemeteries.

Addendum: I forgot two pictures I wanted to include:

I loved that because Nessa and her man were walking around the room talking to everyone they didn’t get a chance to sample all the deliciousness being passed around so someone very kindly gave them one of everything. This was their table.

wedding-3

And I thought it was cute that the bouquets were repurposed as decorations in the bar area. Waste not want not.

bouquet

Music.

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

I work on some complicated documents at work. When I’m simply aligning text or doing an image search I can listen to podcasts or stand-up comedians, but when I need to concentrate and words are involved I need to listen to music. One of my favorite types of music is the mashup. A mashup, in case you don’t know, is when one song from one genre of music is magically smooshed together with music from another genre of music. If you know both songs it feels really cool to hear them come together and evoke a totally different set of emotions. A perfect example is this one, the theme song to Ghostbusters and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

https://youtu.be/jiH1wNmZTII

Or Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” paired with House of Pain’s “On Point.”

https://youtu.be/AW9BRFnAIZs

See? Like brie cheese and warm figs, two flavors coming together to form a new flavor profile. The one I’m listening to on a loop right now is Taylor Swift and Korn. Excellent work putting those two in the same room.

https://youtu.be/bNmWt91n-QM

Everyone always harps on about a DJ named Girl Talk and his mashups but I myself am partial to Go Home Productions (a man named Mark Vidler). Really cool choices. Like Missy Elliot protege Tweet and XTC.

https://youtu.be/FUp9AD2pLvI

Or Peggy Lee and Iggy Pop.

https://youtu.be/APT5Allol04

Madonna and The Verve.

https://youtu.be/zgjRNpie9y0

Oasis and Marvin Gaye.

https://youtu.be/KH77HKvuKms

Go discover mashups that you are into. It’s a big world out there and lots of people are exploring this art form.
To hold you over, I leave you with “Big Booty Bitches in Miami:”

https://youtu.be/M8RDcIrkIxE

And Tom Petty with Biggie/Puffy/Mace.

https://youtu.be/yOo4xYWwiHc

Pertinent! Since I will be in New Orleans for most of next week for Nessa’s wedding, here’s a mashup of Louis Armstrong and Method Man from Wu Tang Clan.

https://youtu.be/Lqcy2-K7y-4

Learning!

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

My friend Børrke, who is getting married in a little over a month, had a bachelorette party. Normally bachelorette parties involve strippers and penii-shaped straws and hats and I dislike these festivities intensely. Luckily Børrke’s sister Blürrr made way better plans. The day started with a private tour of the Museum of Natural History. Something called MuseumHack, created to encourage people to visit museums and see all the awesome stuff housed inside without being a tourist or feeling obligated because they have kids. It’s a great idea. I highly recommend it if you live in or are visiting New York. Our guide was a lovely young man named Jared who works during the week teaching children at the Bronx Zoo (swoon). He knew we were a classy bunch from the second we arrived with Børrke. She was sporting a tiara, a pink sash that said “Bachelorette,” a t-shirt that said “Feyoncé” and a pimp cup emblazoned with “Ho Fo Sho” that she was required to carry around.

11255462_10100646885054312_5277887858336830756_n 1507989_10153062997098145_7427971900073709595_n

Yeah. A group of non-drunk (yet), well-educated, mouthy dames. Good luck Jared. He did a stellar job I must say. Jared took us from interesting exhibit to interesting exhibit telling us all kinds of things we would not have known from reading the little placards. One of the things we learned:

Right after the ticket counter, everyone always goes right into the African Mammals Room so it’s always packed, but the Asian Mammals Room is right off to the side and it’s never packed, so go into there. The taxidermied mammals in the Asia Hall are equally awesome and in surprisingly good condition considering that they were mounted in the early 1900s. The primary animal collector/taxidermist for the museum was a man named Carl Akeley and he’s a swell guy and all, but his back-up guy was a SUPER-special fella named Walter Potter who, in his free time, would make anthropomorphic tableaus featuring kittens and bunnies. Like this:

Rabbits’ Village School, Circa 1888

And this:

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 8.00.33 PM.

Now the reason many taxidermied things previous to Carl Akeley were absolutely terrible was that the industry used pre-built stands for each beast and it was irrelevant whether the animal skin fit over the mount, they would tug it and yank it and make it fit. That’s fine and all that but the problem with that is that you end up with pieces like this:

bad_taxidermy2

Which are not great, Bob. What Carl Akeley did was immediately after he shot an animal he took extremely detailed measurements and mailed those back to the museum so a form could be created. The smaller forms could be made from clay and paste, but the larger ones like the elephants were hollow iron covered in papier-mache. When the animal’s skin got home it could be stretched over a form made especially for it, a one-of-a-kind. They also created the diorama around the animals so it appeared like they were in their natural habitat. Jared said that due to the curved walls and ceilings of the diorama rooms, Renaissance painting techniques were implemented. All of this combined helped to make the animals in the dioramas extra-realistic and they have totally stood the test of time. Jared then had us pretend to be water buffalo and tigers and elephants in the middle of the Asian Mammals section. I was a water buffalo and I was promptly eaten by a tiger so I had to lay on the floor and be dead while another member of the bachelorette party pretended to be an enormous feline consuming me. Way better than a male stripper.

11269019_10153385804438189_943583431405510535_n

Other things we learned from Jared:

  • The gigantor boat that is hanging from the ceiling in one of the halls? It used to sit on the floor and it was filled with sand. At that time there were also cats that patrolled the museum taking care of the mice. You may not know this but cats use sand for their litter box so one of the tasks of the museum workers was to clean the kitty poop out of the boat every day.
  • The big blue whale that the museum is famous for was incorrectly rendered until fairly recently. It was based on a big ole dead whale that had washed up on the shore and was in the process of decomposing. In the last few years the scientists decided, hey, maybe we should paint it, you know, BLUE and not gray since blue is the color it’s supposed to be and maybe throw a bellybutton on up there so it’s vaguely accurate? Yeah, let’s do that.
  • Sea otters are not cute and delightful all the time. Yes, they hold hands so they do not float away from their beloveds (squee) and they have a pocket in their fur for their favorite rock (additional squee) but sometimes darkness befalls the sea otter. Otters used to be all the way up and down the Pacific Coast but due to that horrible time when they were almost hunted to extinction they are now only in pockets. When the teenage males come of age and there are no females available, the males get ornery and horny (hornery?). Aaaaaaaand then they rape baby seals.

pinkie_sad_face_vector_by_termi92-d4q5ksi

  • In the oldest room in the museum (museums are very expensive and are often built over many years) the Pacific Northwest Collection is housed. It smells really good in there because of all the giant cedar sculptures. There are also murals on the walls depicting Native American village life. Recently there was a bit of a flood on an upper floor and some of the collection was destroyed which is terrible but also a blessing in disguise. Jared showed us one mural that had been damaged in the flood, and a good thing it was. It was called “The Dog-Eating Ceremony” and it was so very clearly painted by some white guy in 1860 who had no idea what these “savages” were doing. On the outer edges are various tribesmen carving something into stone tablets a là Moses on Mount Sinai and in the middle is a woman about to start chewing on the back end of a still-alive poodle. I mean, really. White people, this is ridiculous. The ignorance, it is palpable.
  • Why are there only skyscrapers in the Financial District and Midtown in Manhattan? Well, it’s because the bedrock in both those places is 30 feet below the surface. Elsewhere on the island it is 100 feet below the surface. No one wants to dig that deep so areas like the Upper West Side and Chelsea get normal-heighted buildings.
  • Speaking of bedrock, you know the humongous iron meteorite that is in the middle of the museum? It’s not sitting on the floor. The meteorite is so heavy if it was sitting on the floor it would smash through all the levels of the building. It’s sitting on a giant pillar that goes directly into the bedrock under the museum. If you were granted permission to go into the floors beneath the museum you would see the pillar. Apparently it’s painted red.

Jared took through many other sections. He had us pretend to worship a giant stone in the gem section and then since we were in the minerals and metals section he gave us all Hershey’s nuggets because we were all his little “golden nuggets.” He had us take the best picture of diorama testicles in the primates section and the winner got astronaut ice cream from the planetarium gift shop. This was so damn fun. If you have someone coming in from out of town or you need to come up with a cool gift for that hard-to-shop person, definitely consider Museum Hack. It’s a jolly good time had by all.

Bonus: a picture of Børrke sharing some imaginary liquor from her “Ho Fo Sho” goblet with the gorilla bust. That one is going in the album.

1908216_10100646959330462_5927128594323422503_n

Cleansing breath.

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Wow, the last two weeks have been rough, work-wise. First a big client said they wouldn’t need a Keynote, then they said they totally did, then naw never mind, then eighteen hours before the global meeting HOLY CRAP WE NEED FIVE KEYNOTES SRSLY. Five decks in eighteen hours. The best part is they insisted I click through one of the five decks so the A/V techs set me up on a laptop in the far back corner of the room. The room was filled with giant display boards and my clicking was supposed to correlate with what the creative director was pointing to on the boards. Only one problem with that: I was stationed in the corner so unless I had a periscope perched on the top of my head I couldn’t see nuthin’. I could hear him point to something and say, “This campaign is something I’m very proud of, ” and I had to guess… uhhh, maybe in-store? Or digital? Or something entirely different? It was stressful. But now that is done and according to people who could see both the boards and the TV I kept in pretty good sync which means I have the lamest X-Men superpower ever in the history of things.

More importantly, I went to birthing class! No, not for me, I’m just rockin’ my regular pooch. No, my friend Neenernator who I went with to Germany is expecting in mid-June and since she and I have seen each other all kinds of naked (refer back to when I went with her family to the spa) I asked her if she would be okay with me being at the birth of her child. I want to see what it’s like. Neenernator said yes! Really! I can go! However it’s not all sunshine and placentas, if I’m going to be in the birthin’ suite I need to bring some skills so as not to be completely useless. So I went to a first-time parents class at Neenernator’s local hospital. I learned for five hours. I learned A LOT. I learned that however gross you think birth is, it can get so much grosser. For example, when your amniotic fluid breaks you have to remember the acronym c.o.a.t. – color, odor, amount and time. Odor, people. And bonus horror, after the baby is born the woman may spot and have cramps for six weeks as her uterus shrinks back down. This bringing-life-into-the-world-thing may be miraculous but it is just the worst. If I didn’t want to have kids already this just about sealed the deal. If they want teens to abstain from pre-marital sex they should have to take this five-hour class because dear Lord. Guess who has two thumbs and watched a c-section? This guy. I made a-cow-mooing-in-distress noises the whole time I watched, but I watched. I would have to say the best part of the class was observing the dads-to-be. It’s a class for first-time parents, remember, so these guys have no idea what’s in store for them. They were terrified – of the information presented, of what was required of them, of their partners, everything. They kept treating their ladies like beautiful delicate flowers wrapped around a hand grenade that could go off at any time. Meanwhile I’m calling Neenernator “Chubby” and making fun of her when she’d drop her bottle cap and could not retrieve it due to her swollen limbs and giant parasitic midsection-dweller. The other attendees were all in shock that I could do that and I wanted to say, “See, you should have found a girl with a sense of humor before you filled her with your genetic pollen.” Luckily Neenernator has an excellent sense of humor, plus she knew I would help her as soon as I was done mocking her. And I did, I picked up that bottle cap and carried her comfy folding chair and rubbed her back and counted through her practice contractions (I am terrible at it, I cannot math which clearly means I cannot count, thank God for iPhones). Since I am such a diligent friend I can get away with being a sassy one. It’s an excellent trade-off. I will, of course, blog in great but vague detail how the birth goes come June 13th (or thereabouts). Get emotionally prepared.

A melange of things.

Monday, April 13th, 2015

1. I love flowing lava footage. It’s gooey, it’s glowing, I never get tired of it. I remembered watching a program on Hawaii and they showed lava flowing into the ocean, the only thing in lava’s path that can stop it. Watching them fight it out made me want to go back to believing in the old Gods, Pele and Heimdallr and Neptune and all them guys. I recently saw a perfectly-looping animated gif of the lava / ocean battle and I watched it for far too long. It draws you in, I tell you.

http://i.imgur.com/1BliSYw.gif

 

2. Shoulder chickens. They’re apparently a thing right now. I approve.

http://catsbeaversandducks.tumblr.com/post/116155567796/shoulder-chickens-possibly-the-best-thing-on-the

 

3. Another animated gif, this time of kitties moving with the sunbeams. Awwww.

tumblr_nk3u5qnCo01s02vreo1_400

 

4. This teacher bringing his A+ Halloween game.

a2e7a7b2f453142e7c25979c09131935

 

Random things n’ stuff.

Monday, April 6th, 2015

1. This man put his own labels at the wine shop and the results are glorious.

http://obviousplant.tumblr.com/post/112604964273/here-are-some-of-my-top-wine-picks

 

2. Ever wonder what the people on vintage sewing patterns are thinking? Well, wonder no more.

http://mccallspatternbehavior.tumblr.com/

 

3. This chessboard is great. The pawns are snails! I don’t play chess but I want it nonetheless.

http://www.blankwilliam.com/kngdom-chess/ts2lq71753jlchqnhwag8egaa050oi

 

Random debris.

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

1. We have all had the hype of Fifty Shades of Grey inflicted on us against our will, yes? You can try to avoid it but it will hunt you down and poke you in the eye when you’re least expecting. So I imagine many of us have seen the commercial where Christian Grey vigorously mooshes mouths with Anastasia Steele in an elevator.

fifty-shades-mouth-moosh

Okay, when you see this do you also think of the mudskippers fighting for a mate?

mudskippers-yelling

Just me? That’s fine.

 

2. Some bread from Japan made into the shape of beetles. Had I seen these, I would have bought them. I would have bought them so hard.

tumblr_nedjrjWiwX1qcvixlo1_1280

 

3.  Spam! I haven’t posted about the spam comments I’ve been getting because they haven’t been all that interesting. But recently the spammers have been using small sentences they clearly pulled from somewhere and I like to try and guess what the reference material is about.

spam1

This one I’m guessing is about the healthful, kimchi-like qualities of ginger and how they can help you naturally recover from psoriasis.

spam2

Wow. Ummm, so maybe North Korea made an app that, once activated, will cause you to bleed from the ears and die, so if perchance you should download it under the impression that it was new emojis or something, be careful because even a short exposure will cause your cat to die. It most definitely doesn’t like you (it’s trying to kill you, after all).

spam3

Awww. This person likes to sew and make their own clothes but they have a tendency to flail their arms a bit. Once, mid-conversation, they hit Grandma in the face and they’ve never really recovered from that. Therefore, all garments must have pockets for them to shove their fists into. Grandma still has a dent where the class ring embedded itself. It haunts this person at night.

Germany Part Done (technically Prague).

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Our first night in Prague after we returned from visiting Prague Castle we were freezing and keen to eat something warm. We found a traditional Czech restaurant where I saw an interesting delicacy on the menu – “Moravian Sparrow.” Oooh, that sounds intriguing, some little forest bird. Nope. It’s pork. Pork with onions and two kinds of dumplings. I feel like that is false advertising. Do not sell your meat by the name of another meat. It’s deceiving. That being said, it was also delicious, so my intentions to write angry letters to the Czech president were sated with tasty tasty pork ‘n’ dumplings.

moravian-sparrow

After getting our fill of this scrumptiousness, we walked back to our hotel for some much-deserved sleep (remember our truly atrocious travel experience the day before). I realized our hotel butted up against one of the finest examples of art nouveau architecture, the metropolitan pavilion. Even though the chill pierced your clothes and got down to your bones I made Neenernator stand there for a minute while I gawked and sighed and generally had emotions over this building. So good.

metropolitan-pavilion

Then we went back to the room and passed out. The next morning I was in no shape to get out of bed at 9:00 so Neenernator went to the Jewish Quarter to see the cemetery by herself which is fine, I’ve been before. The tombstones are still wibbly-wobbly. We met in the central square to join a tour I had booked at 11:00 to go to Kutna Hora. I’m glad I left the hotel early because I got an opportunity to see the tiny petting zoo right next to the tree.

prague-christmas-tree-day petting-zoo1 petting-zoo2

Now, both Neenernator and I were looking forward to sitting quietly on a tour bus and having a relaxing time, but I had not read the small print on the tour site so I blew it. We were on a eco-friendly tour that only took mass transit. Lotta trains. Lotta walking in the icy air. I felt terrible. Neenernator was a trooper, but I could tell she was super-bummed. I gave a her a foot massage when we got back to the hotel that night to make up for it. We went to the train station and caught the one that takes one to the bone church. It was about an hour ride which gave me the opportunity to enjoy the communist buildings scattered around the countryside and stare intently at the pattern on the train seats. At first I thought they were abstract elbow macaroni, and then I thought they were peppy modern swastikas. I settled on pasta-inspired third-Reich symbols filtered through the 1960s aesthetic. That seems about right.

prague-train-pattern

After then taking a little tram we finally made it. Now I felt like the last tour guide I went with gave me a nice overview of the interior of the church but this guide elaborated and I discovered some neat new things. Here is the blog entry of my previous visit. Once you’ve read that I will add additional information. So, same place. Walk in, go down steps, be visually assaulted by a colossal amount of bones. Awesome every time. BUT, here’s some things you did not know. For example. the chandelier, contrary to popular thought, does not contain at least one of every bone in the human body because there’s a rinky-dink bone in your ear and it is not represented on the chandelier so to say there is all 206 bones is false. The Schwarzenburg family crest off to the side, I now know what the four quadrants represent. The top two and the lower left-hand one represent land ownership and growing assets through various marriages, but the bottom right one, that one is an event. Right before 1600, the Turks and the Hungarians were fighting over a fortress. The Turks lost and the rule in war is after the fighting is over you go and retrieve your dead for proper burial. But the Schwarzenburgs who were in charge said No, Turks, you leave your dead there and watch crows peck their eyes out. And now that’s what that lower quadrant is – a skull with bones shards coming out the top representing the high ponytail the Turks rocked at that point in time, and a bird off to the side of the eye. Interestingly, the wing of the bird is made using a hand that had such crippling arthritis that all the bones are fused. Altogether a lovely addition to any home.

kutna-hora2 kutna-hora1

The other piece of knowledge I acquired was a small display case off in the corner. Several special examples of skull damage are there. The one on the left was whacked with an pickaxe, the one in the middle got a solid wallop from a mace and the one on the right had signs of healing so it appears that that skull had rudimentary surgery performed on it, possibly due to brain swelling. You go Europe, doing brain surgery back in the 1200s.

kutna-hora4

After we had stayed our allotted time we went to the Church of St. Barbara. I realized that I called it a cathedral in the post from 2010 and I was corrected. Do you know what makes a church a cathedral? I did not. I thought it was about size or how the floorplan was laid out, with transepts and naves and whatnot. Nope. In order to be a cathedral it has to have a bishop. And even though the Church of St. Barbara is huge and was supposed to have a bishop, it never did so it’s still just a gigantic church.

st-barbara9

The inside is gorgeous and lofty with remnants of polychrome on many of the surfaces.

st-barbara1 st-barbara10 st-barbara3 st-barbara-polychrome

Another janky tree on display.

janky-tree2

The windows are almost all art nouveau and they’re great.

st-barbara-window st-barbara-windows1 st-barbara-windows2

One window is very clearly late 20th / early 21st century work and even though I don’t love the style I was delighted to see hedgehogs represented. A whole family of hedgehogs.

st-barbara-hedgehog-window

Most of the chapels have an enormous black and gold baroque altar as the centerpiece.

st-barbara2

One had a considerably older Madonna and Child with it. I started chortling because for a long time sculptors didn’t understand how to distribute weight and balance in their figures, and in this Madonna, combined with her bored-looking expression, made me think she was mid-neck swirl. “Oh no you dint!”

st-barbara-mary

d5237a8c767ac91c92ddc43f962731bc

Another altar had a suit of armor with a bit of muffin-top and a bellybutton.

st-barbara-bellybutton

The pulpit was also clearly baroque.

st-barbara-pulpit

The tour guide took us to several different important things in the church. One was a sculptor of a miner holding a lamp. Kutna Hora used to be a major source of silver and was the mint of the area so most of the people working there were miners. Our guide explained to us that the reason the miner is wearing an leather apron backwards is because it took them two days to climb down into the mine. Eventually they built a wooden slide to get them down faster but it still took forty minutes and HOLY CRAP BUTT SPLINTERS ergo the leather apron to cover your hind-bits.

st-barbara5

The miners are represented in various places throughout the church. There are these smarmy rich guys who owned the mines. “I’m Duke de Wealthy Off The Backs Of Others!” “Oh, are you? I’m Lord Haven’t Done A Day Of Hard Labor In My Life! Pleased to meet you.”

st-barbara4

In one area they show how the money was actually minted. There were two people. One had a decent job, the man who swung the mallet. The other guy, wow. Rough. He had to hold the slug of metal and pray that hammer-dude didn’t miss his mark and smash his fingers. This job was so disliked it was offered to prisoners who had committed robbery in exchange for a substantially reduced sentence. The theory was after six months of holding this position their hands would be so permanently destroyed they would never be able to steal again.

st-barbara6

After four hundred years of rockin’ this terrible technique they finally figured out a system that maimed no one and that was implemented.

st-barbara7

There were many medieval paintings throughout the church. Sadly, we as a people did not know how to “make art good” at that time. Perfect example ? an enormous painting of St. Christopher. St. Christopher was a giant, so large that he used a tree trunk as a walking stick. There was a river that would flood and he would carry people across it, giving him the name “Opher” or “One Who Carries.” At one point a small child came to him late at night and begged St. Christopher to carry him over. Even though it was late St. Christopher obliges, and strangely the child gets heavier and heavier as they are crossing, almost drowning them both. But they make it and when they reach the other side it is revealed that the child was Jesus Christ, which is how the “Christ” got added to the “Opher” making his name “One Who Carries Christ.” The act of St. Christopher crossing the river is supposed to be depicted in this mural but no one knew how to paint water so they put fishes near his legs in the hopes that you, the viewer, would understand that St. Christopher is crossing water. But mere fish wasn’t enough, the artist thought. Let’s throw a lobster in there. And hey, why not add the ugliest mermaid in the world? Put her in there too. Every little bit helps.

st-barbara-st-christopher1 st-barbara-st-christopher2

While the paintings got better in the Renaissance, there was still some struggling. Another example – This huge mural of St. Ignatius sick and in Africa. Considering that this was probably painting in the mid-1600s, the artist had not been to Africa and had to resort to heresay about how to represent the continent. So, starting from the lower right-hand corner, there’s a blue genie (à la Aladdin), a horny camel making sexy-face at the viewer while licking his lips, a bunch of guys in turbans, a valiant attempt to render a lion, an equally valiant attempt to render an elephant, and one black guy who might be Indian. Africa!

st-barbara-st-ignatius2 st-barbara-st-ignatius3 st-barbara-st-ignatius4

After the church we went to an authentic restaurant for lunch where I had, what else? Meat and dumplings. This time it was wild boar goulash. And it was lovely.

kutna-hora-restaurant6

The restaurant itself was amazing. First of all, they had a great menu translated in English. Both Neenernator and I had a giggle over 3A.

freaking-sword

A freaking sword, people!

Whoever decorated the restaurant really embraced the weirder side of old European painting. I was totally loving it.

kutna-hora-restaurant1 kutna-hora-restaurant2 kutna-hora-restaurant3 kutna-hora-restaurant4 kutna-hora-restaurant5 kutna-hora-restaurant7

Post-lunch we headed over to the mint as the sun was setting. We only had a short time there, but we got a chance to see the now-cemented-over doors of the individual money-makers.

kutna-hora-mints

And the fountain that they really should have turned off before it got so cold out.

kutna-hora-frozen-fountain

As we headed away from the church down the hill to the train I turned around and got this neat shot.

st-barbara8

The next day we flew back home. That was my trip and it was great. Once again, much thanks to Neenernator and her family for making me feel so welcome. Here are a few pictures that were left over.

The train station in Neenernator’s home town. That particular area of Germany uses bricks predominantly in their buildings but they’re all these grim brown ones. The train station used these delightful orange ones. C’mon, rest of Ottersberg! Orange bricks! Get on board!

ottersberg-train-station2 ottersberg-train-station1

This bakery is called Le Crobag. It seems like an insult. I have taken to calling people “crobags” under my breath.

le-crobag

The perpetual rain in Germany isn’t all bad. Some beautiful moss grows because of it. This was a rock right outside Neenernator’s front door.

germany-moss

A sign on the side of a German elevator. It appears from the picture that you should not elevator. I wish it was more specific.

elevator-sign

The most terrifying stairwell I have ever seen. It was in the Bremen town hall. The fact that the Amnesty International booth was directly under a railing that looks like a torture device was not lost on me.

scary-staircase-railing

Some beer tankards in Prague that look like startled fish.

beer-tankards

And a stone carving.

gargoyle

That’s it. My trip to Germany.

Germany Part 6 (technically Prague).

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Prague! God, I love Prague. The architecture never stops being the best. So stabby and pointy and riddled with Art Nouveau. It’s got to be one of my favorite cities.

prague1 prague2 prague3 prague4 prague5 prague6 prague7 prague8

After we checked into our hotel (The Grand Hotel Bohemia, fantastic hotel, I highly recommend it) we trekked up to the top of the mountain to see St. Vitus’ Cathedral. Neenernator loves Mucha and so do I, so I wanted her to see the stained glass window in the cathedral. I actually prefer St. Barbara’s Church (the church in Kutna Hora that we went to the next day) but St. Vitus is nothing to sneeze at.

st-vitus-cathedral4

One of the things I enjoy the most in St. Vitus is how they just smashed all the different styles all together with zero concern for flow. The baroque is smacking right up to the medieval which is snuggling with some modern what-not, it’s like a attic of design. A big pile o’ art.

st-vitus-cathedral2

Plus there’s tall vaulted ceilings and regular, non-Mucha stained glass windows.

st-vitus-cathedral1

AND there’s a lot of dead people tastefully displayed. I’ve talked in the past about my love of reliquaries, so seeing bits of saints in glass cases just brightens my day.

st-vitus-cathedral-reliqueries reliquery1 reliquery2

I have seen the Mucha window before, but it doesn’t matter how many times you see it, it flattens you every time. Just blows you away with its beauty. Ugh, right in the heart.

st-vitus-mucha-window1 st-vitus-mucha-window2

There’s a tomb area where a bishop is laid to rest, but both Neenernator and I showed our complete lack of reverence in our own special ways. I was delighted by the dragons above the grave.

st-vitus-cathedral3

And Neenernator was convinced the bishop was a giant fish.

st-vitus

Behind St. Vitus’ Cathedral is an additional, considerably older church called St. George’s Basilica. It’s from, like, 1000 A.D. but at some point the powers that be decided that there desperately needed to be a garish Baroque facade on the front. And so it came to pass.

st-george1

The inside continues to be regular old. No baroque.

st-george2

In the basement was a crypt with one of the creepiest sculptures I’ve seen in a while.

st-george-basement-sculpture

St. George is big in Prague. I cannot figure out why, since there are no ties between him and Prague in any way, but periodically as you walk through the city you will find a sculpture or tableau or painting of him on a horse slaying a dragon.

st-george-dragon

St. Vitus’ Cathedral and St. George’s Basilica are part of a large complex called Prague Castle. There’s all kinds of buildings in there, it’s pretty much an entire village. There are streets that show where the cobblers and metalworkers and ceramicists lived. In front of the former ceramicist’s house (all the tiny homes have been converted into wee museums or shops) there was a delightful wreath covered with small ceramic wares.

wreath-ceramic

Many of the storehouses were turned into museums as well. Neenernator’s favorite was the armory.

armor1 armor4 armor5

I posed with the rack of angry-villagers-attacking-Frankenstein’s-monster weapons.

armor6

There were a great many combo-weapons. This one is a gun-sword.

armor2

And this is a neato device. Fire off your shot, then flip it over – poof! It’s a crossbow. It made me think of The Janitor from Scrubs.

armor3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x22yNaLdiGA

Off to one side of the armory was a shooting gallery where, if one desired, one could fire a crossbow of their very own. Neenernator was super-excited to do that. She didn’t do too bad either. When the apocalypse comes and the zombies arise, hang out with her. She can handle her zombie-killing tools.

shooting-gallery1 shooting-gallery2

After we had checked out all the things in the castle that we wanted to see we walked back down the mountain to our hotel which meant we walked right through the middle of the central square. Still awesome but, as opposed to the last time I was there (around Easter), there is a giant glittering dripping Christmas tree.

prague-christmas-tree prague-christmas

prague-christmas-tree

It’s a standard European Christmas market but with a few local twists. For example, you can get a thing that I call a turtleneck. It’s spelled trdelnik and it’s a piece of dough wound around a large wooden dowel and then baked over a fire. Then sugar is quickly poured around the outside and it is slid off the dowel and handed to you. The particular booth we went to gave it to us with plum jam on the inside. As you can imagine, it is delicious.

trdlnk

A few things before I head into Kutna Hora and the surrounding area:

The Christmas tree at Prag Castle. I’m telling you, Europeans have no problem with jacked-up looking trees. They’re much more tolerant than we (Americans) are.

janky-tree1

Neenernator standing next to a door at St. Vitus. She is five-foot-one, maybe five-foot-two. That gives you an idea of the door’s height.

st-vitus-cathedral-door

An awesome weathervane.

fish-weathervane

A chess set that is gnomes versus dragons. I was tempted. I don’t play and have nowhere to put it which is why I ultimately didn’t purchase it, but I thought about it.

chessboard

And the sweet (no pun intended) gingerbread house in our hotel.

gingerbread-house

Next, the final installment of the trip: Kutna Hora.