Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category


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.”

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

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.

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.

Or Peggy Lee and Iggy Pop.

Madonna and The Verve.

Oasis and Marvin Gaye.

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:”

And Tom Petty with Biggie/Puffy/Mace.

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.


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:


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.


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.


  • 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.


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.


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


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



4. This teacher bringing his A+ Halloween game.



Random things n’ stuff.

Monday, April 6th, 2015

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


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


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


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.


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


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.



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.


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


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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!”



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


The pulpit was also clearly baroque.


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.


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.”


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


Some beer tankards in Prague that look like startled fish.


And a stone carving.


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.


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.


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


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.


And Neenernator was convinced the bishop was a giant fish.


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.


The inside continues to be regular old. No baroque.


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


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. 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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


An awesome 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.


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


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

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.


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.


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.”

bible-quotes-over-door1 bible-quotes-over-door2 bible-quotes-over-door3 bible-quotes-over-door4

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.


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!

windmill4 windmill3 windmill1 windmill2

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.


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.”

dodenhof-livingroom1 dodenhof-livingroom2

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.


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.


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


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.

dodenhof-plush-boar1 dodenhof-plush-boar2

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

christmas1 christmas2

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.


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.


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 so 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.


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.


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’.


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.


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!


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


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.

verden-dom2 verden-dom3 verden-dom7

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.

verden-dom4 verden-dom5 verden-dom6

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.

verden-hogwarts1 verden-hogwarts2 verden-hogwarts6

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

verden-hogwarts4 verden-hogwarts5

Here’s their auditorium.


Here’s the hallway filled with local taxidermied beasties.

verden-hogwarts7 verden-hogwarts8

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


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.

fischerhuder1 fischerhuder8 fischerhuder9

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


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


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.

fischerhuder2 fischerhuder5

Some particularly weird-looking angels.


Some particularly Mozart-looking angels.


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

fischerhuder6 fischerhuder7

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.


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


Here we go!


Aaaaaand there it is.


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?


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.


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

fischerhuder-puppencafe3 fischerhuder-puppencafe9 fischerhuder-puppencafe8

Those cakes look amazing OH NO DON’T TURN AROUND




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


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.



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.

fischerhuder-puppencafe7 fischerhuder-puppencafe-light

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:


And this lovely lady keeps you company in the stall.