Archive for November, 2013

The best thing just happened.

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

A woman who used to work adjacent to me left this job to live with her husband on a Christmas tree farm in Virginia. We talk occasionally on Facebook, but we see each other infrequently. So when she sent me this cryptic Facebook message – “Something fun headed your way!” – I really had no idea what it would be. And when I got to work today, sure enough there was an large box sitting next to my desk.


Now this woman’s father recently passed away so I thought maybe she found something cool while she was cleaning his house, like a vase or a painting or a book, but I was wrong. Dead wrong.* Her husband likes to hunt and he killed a enormous male wild turkey for Thanksgiving. So in the box are this big dead turkey’s wings, tail and back.


I was so happy. He had written a lovely note about how he was just going to get rid of the skin and feathers, but my former co-worker told him, “Hey, let’s mail this stuff to Jess, she’ll like it!” And I do. The feathers are really beautiful. It’s hard to see in the picture, but some of them are so iridescent they look like butterfly wings.


The only problem is the wings are completely intact, which means they are full of wing meat, which means they don’t smell great. Not atrocious, but not great. When I get home tonight I think I am going to pluck the wings and throw away anything that isn’t feathers. Before that I wanted to get a portrait of me with one of the wings intact. And here it is. I hope you can appreciate the joy on my face. DEAD THINGS FOR JESSICA ALWAYS.



*This will be funny later, the dead part.

A flurry of things.

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

1. This is fantastic. I’ve been a big PES fan since the two chairs having sex video on MTV. He made a deep-sea fish video with all metal things. Super-great.


2. A book came out and I bought it. It is called “Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints From The Catacombs.” After reading the whole thing, I have come to the conclusion that it should be called “Germans Do Weird Stuff With Their Dead: Too Much Free Time Apparently.” If a saint or martyr is particularly revered, after that person has become a skeleton the church decorates the hell out of them and puts them on display, most often in a jaunty, “Welcome to my sarcophagus, this is where the magic happens” kind of pose.

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The problem with dead people is that they tend to look… dead. Really thin and hollow and, you know, not alive. The solutions the church has found to lighten up these saints/martyrs are not helping. One approach is stuff gold all up in their faceholes. Seeing the chains in the sinuses make my nose feel full.


Another is to make a paper-mache or wax mask. That is not an improvement. Just leave the skull alone, they don’t need to look like that for eternity, that’s not nice.

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I think it’s so funny that the people who make the outfits for these saints/martyrs always feels a need to cut out the area with the sternum and ribs, like we won’t think they’re really dead if we can’t see their exposed chest bones. I want to see an empty ribcage! They could just be really thin and lethargic! You’re not pulling the wool over my eyes, costume-maker!

Anyway, it’s a cool book and a lovely addition to any home.



3. Does everyone know what “Lorem Ipsum” is? Here’s a definition from

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s … It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using ‘Content here, content here’, making it look like readable English.

It’s filler text until the real text shows up. So imagine my mirth when I got a burrito from Chipotle (yes, I know guacamole is extra, put it on anyway) to see this on one side of my bag:


And this on the other side:


Oh crap! Someone forgot to put real text on. After looking at a variety of articles about it, Chipotle said it was intentional, as little “Easter Egg” for designers to find. This reeks of PR cover-up spin, I believe it not. YOU DINE AT A TABLE OF LIES, CHIPOTLE.

My week of exciting activities – Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

The rest of my Week of Culture was less spectacular, alas. I’ll explain. On Thursday I went to see Behind the Scenes of The Colbert Report at the Town Hall.


It was most interesting in the beginning. For the first half-hour, Stephen and the twelve writers on stage with him talked about how they constructed the show. Basically, it’s crazy hard work and you cannot have a life while you’re working on it because you’re working on today’s episode and the second you’re done with that you’re working on tomorrow’s episode. Or a field piece. Or getting props. Or an animation. Or learning about who Stephen is interviewing. It’s a never-ending cycle. After they all explained their day, they opened up to the audience for questions. FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF. THE PUBLIC WAS ALLOWED TO SAY WHATEVER INTO MICROPHONES. The level of fremdschämen I felt for these people was overwhelming. One woman stood up and said, “How do I become a writer on your show?”

Stephen said, “You have to submit a script with jokes in it.”

“Can I tell you a joke?” she said.

“Sure,” he said.

“What’s green and has wheels?”


“Grass. I was lying about the wheels.”

*The entire audience groans*
*I clutch my face and try to gouge my own eyes out*
*An angel loses its wings and falls screaming*

Here’s the deal: I purposely do not go up to famous people or people I admire and try to talk to them because I get very excited and basically piddle on the floor like an incontinent cocker spaniel. I feel like an epic loser, the famous person is usually not thrilled to be in the presence of someone having an episode of some sort, nobody wins. It’s not unusual, that’s what most people do when they meet someone famous. Now, knowing that that kind of thing is going to happen, why didn’t they have notecards in the entry hall for people to write their questions on and then, when the Q&A started, just read a bunch of those questions? You can curate the crazy while still having people feel like they are participating. Nope. I had to listen to people spazz out for an hour and a half. It wasn’t all bad. One of the intelligent questions I liked was, “Is there any topic that you won’t do?” The writers mentioned that they write jokes all day and it makes them desensitized, so when they write something they think is too much Stephen will say, “Is this fit for humans?” and they will pull a human out of the hallway and read them the joke. And then Stephen said, “Any joke where the victim is the punchline,” which I think is pretty classy. Here’s a Vulture article on the other things that were talked about.

Then on Friday I went to see Bill Burr at the Beacon Theater with Cricket. The Beacon has a gorgeous chandelier in the entry hall.


Underneath the chandelier were two bars set up on either sides of the room. Cricket went to the bathroom before the show started and I waited in the corner. It became extremely apparent to me that Bill Burr’s audience is primarily made up of the douchiest, frat-iest, date-rape-iest men I’ve ever seen in my life. It was like the Duke lacrosse team had been put through a copy machine and now there were a hundred of them. One guy standing next to me said to his friend, “Hey, I’m going to the bar, you want something?” and his friend said, “Yeah, I dunno, a mixed drink or something,” and the first guy said, “A mixed drink? What are you, a fag?? FAAAAAAG!!” And then he smiled at me and I tried to tamp down my feelings of disgust. Bill Burr does a bit about that, talking about his youth and how his guy friends do that, but then he talks about how it eventually kills them because they’re not allowed to express their feelings. You know what, buddy? You’re not Bill Burr. You’re not making a statement about society. Shut it.

Then Cricket and I went in and we watched Bill Burr perform and he was great and it would have been great if the drunk fratboy behind me would stop yelling. Every time Bill said something really clever the guy would say, “Here we go!” or “Yeah B.B.!” or something of that ilk. I’ve come to the conclusion that I really enjoy going to things, I just don’t enjoy the people around me. They ruin everything. Either they’re unwrapping a cough drop for fifty years, or they’re checking their phone, or whatever. I don’t like my co-audience members. Does no one know the unwritten social contract we all signed? The one where we can do whatever the heck we want in our homes, but when we go outside we say excuse me and don’t shout and close our legs on the train so others can sit? I feel like we as a group should re-address this. If I can follow it anyone can follow it. Seriously. People. Get it together.

Then on Saturday my friend K. had an extra ticket to the Justin Timberlake concert in New Jersey. I always say “never look a free ticket to anything in the mouth” so even though I’m not a huge Justin Timberlake fan, I was down with it. It was a great show, I must say. The set design was phenomenal and we had really good seats.


Hexagons! The set was covered in hexagons! I love hexagons, I really do. There was light painting and video footage and part of the hexagon background was made of scrim so lights showed through, it was just killer design. The only complaint I had was the lights above the stage were organized to form a sad, disappointed face. Occasionally it would appear to be a deity was looking down on Justin and his crew and thinking, “Has it really come to this?”


And then – lasers! All over the arena!

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The red lasers went up and down all over the audience made me feel like a can of corn at the self-checkout in Stop-n-Shop. I said quietly to myself, “Please move your items to the bagging area.” And then I chuckled because I amuse myself. I thought that was the extent of the coolness that could be brought, but I was wrong. The entire front edge of the stage was glass that lit up and during one song it came off, rose up on pneumatic lifts and rolled down the aisles so Justin, his trumpeters and his back-up singers could slide past the entire audience on the ground level. Kind of amazing.


Here’s a video someone took of the glass part moving.

He did a bunch of songs there (including the best rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel” I’ve ever heard) and the the stage slid on back and went down and it was like nothing happened. So very rad. And then his did “Poison” by Bel Biv DeVoe! With the cheesy 90s dancing! I was so happy! I found footage from a different show, but it was the same.

Anyway, after I see Richard III tonight, that is the end of my evening galavants for a while. It’ll be good for me to get away from the public and go back into my little hole and craft. I need to build up a tolerance to humanity.

My week of exciting activities – Tuesday: Twelfth Night.

Friday, November 8th, 2013

My week of culture-consuming continues! On Tuesday night I went to see the Shakespearean play Twelfth Night with Mark Rylance. Stephen Fry was also in it and I imagine most people went because of him, but I love Mark Rylance. I love him. He’s one of the most amazing actors ever. Really. I’m not exaggerating. I don’t much care for Shakespeare most times – too many words, too confusing. But when phenomenal actors perform it, it becomes clear like crystal. It should be the litmus test of whether actors are good or not. They should have to come into a room, do a soliloquy from a Shakespearean play, and if at the end I understood what they were talking about, they’re good. Here’s Mark Rylance doing Richard II in the Globe Theater in London.

Rylance was the director of the Globe Theater in London for a decade where you could go and see Shakespearean plays exactly like they did back in the 1590’s (but with probably less body odor). They often don’t use female actresses, making males play female roles (period-accurate). The audience has to stand the whole time (also accurate). The costumes they wear are insane. There are no zippers or velcro or elastic. It’s all linen and silk and cotton and fur and leather sewn together by hand. One costume took sixteen people to make because each person knew a different olde-timey skill and it took all of them to figure the costume out. Amazing. Anyway, Rylance and the rest of the actors got together and came over here and are doing a double-billing of Twelfth Night and Richard III. I have tickets for Richard III (the royal they found in a parking lot last year) which I will see next week. It is not fun. It’s about a crippled man who kills family members to ascend the throne. Twelfth Night, however, is fun. There’s mistaken identity! And silly stockings! And music! There was one song at the end that I could not get out of my head. The lyrics were, “The wind and the rain, it raineth ev’ry day, it raineth ev’ry day.” Four hours later I found myself saying, “England! It raineth every damn day!” to nobody. What an earworm. The music was really cool. They used authentic instruments and parked the musicians above the stage so they could play various tunes to make the scenes more impactful. Ever heard someone play a hurdy-gurdy? I have, now. If you have a chance to see it, I recommend that you do. It’s really a pleasant farce, and it’s so great to see super-talented people do the thing that they do so well. I’m going to buy the DVD version (which is pretty much identical).
It raineth ev’ry day.

My week of exciting activities – Monday: StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

It just so happens that this week I have things planned for the evenings of Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and possibly Saturday. On Monday I went to the Town Hall in midtown Manhattan to see StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson.


I have never listened to Neil’s podcast, so I was totally ready for whatever when I got there. He has Eugene Mirman the comedian co-host the show regularly. Neil brought on two guests – Brian Greene, the theoretical physicist and string theorist, and Michael Massimino, an astronaut who went into space twice, both times to do repairs on the Hubble Telescope. Eugene brought fellow comedian Michael Ian Black who’s been in a gazillion things. The topic of this episode of StarTalk was gravity, both the movie that just came out and, you know, the stuff that keeps you on the crust of the earth. I had a lot of problems with this because there’s very few things in nature that make my skin get all icy and leave*, and one of those things is outer space. I can’t even watch the trailers for the movie Gravity. You can fall! In any direction! Forever! Complete darkness! No oxygen! So cold! So alone! It just freaks me out down to my core. You want to know my idea of a horror movie? WALL•E. The scene where WALL•E propels himself through space with the fire extinguisher? Nightmare fuel for me. So the two hours of the show was a bit of a struggle for me to get through without curling up a ball, wrapping my coat around my head and moaning, but I made it. Neil talked about several things that bothered him about the movie Gravity. Number one: Sandra Bullock played a medical doctor sent to space to fix a gigantic space machine. Michael Ian Black’s response: “Neil, the Hubble Telescope was sick.” Michael the Astronaut did say that all the tools they used in the film were completely accurate. The space repairmen use really similar tools to what we use here, but they have those big gloves on and therefore they cannot be as dextrous, so the tools are slightly different. And we got the stamp of authenticity on the tools from a real space-tool-knowledge-haver, so that’s good.

This was a cool demonstration. Neil talked about a scene in the movie where Sandra Bullock was running out of oxygen and she had to let go of George Clooney and when she released the tether holding them together he flew backwards away. Or maybe she was the one who flew backwards away. I haven’t seen the film. Whatever, someone released a tether and someone flew backwards away. Neil brought out a dolly, the kind one uses to move furniture, and he made Brian Greene sit on it so his feet were off the floor. Neil handed him one end of a rope and he walked to the end of the length of the rope. And then Neil let go. And Brian didn’t move. Neil turned to us, the audience, and said, “THAT’S WHAT WOULD HAPPEN.” Since Ms. Bullock and Mr. Clooney weren’t on something spinning or moving rapidly and pulling on them, if they let go they would stay put. Nowhere near as dramatic as what happens in the film.

I learned so many things. I learned that Aristotle was the first guy to talk about gravity, but he thought that things will more mass fell faster. To demonstrate the incorrectness of this, Neil took off his boot and picked up a pen. Then he dropped them at the same time. They hit the stage at the same time. Neil then chastised Aristotle for not conducting that experiment, for if he had he would have known the correct answer. I learned that there was a Chinese satellite hanging out in orbit at 550 miles and the Chinese shot it out of existence for scientific reasons. We also had a satellite we wanted to destroy, but it was at 110 miles. We shot it out of existence as well. The difference is that all the debris from our satellite fell into our atmosphere and burned up and was gone. The Chinese satellite debris did not, now making it really difficult to send, like, another satellite into orbit at 550 miles. The new satellite is going to get battered with all the crap from the destroyed satellite. I had never thought of that. If we keep putting things into orbit and they explode or bonk into each other, that layer of orbits will be riddled with pointy things that can jack up our other scientific experiments. Neil mentioned something about nets, but I lost him around there. There was much talk about theoretical mathematical stuff that I simply could not grasp with my non-mathematical-oriented brain. At one point the discussion turned to black holes. I learned that if you are falling into a black hole, if someone is watching you from the outside it will appear that your gestures are slowing down, until you reach the event horizon which is what they call the rim of the black hole. To the person on the outside, it will have appeared that you have frozen. Meanwhile, everything will look normal to you, but the things around you will look sped up, so as you reach the event horizon you will see the future of the universe until the end of time. As Neil said, “You’ll notice you’ve fallen into a black hole right after you get pulled into the thickness of a piece of spaghetti. Then you’ll notice.”

The best thing I learned is that the qualities that makes a flame pointy is the hot air rising and sucking in more oxygen. In space, like in the space station, where there is both oxygen and a lack of gravity, the flame would be a ball. An orb of fire, if you will. And Neil commented that if aliens who were accustomed to a gravity-free environment came to earth, they would not understand why our chandelier candle-lights are shaped like that.

Long story short, I’m going to start listening to StarTalk if it’s a podcast. Is it a podcast? If it is, I will listen to it. And I developed crushes on all the scientists on the stage because goshdarnit I like me a smart man. And these men are SMART. Mmmmmmmm, intelligence.


*The other thing is when an insect lays eggs in another insect and then the camera zooms all up in there as the babies emerge from the host-beast. TOO MUCH. Blargh.