Wednesday, 29 August 2012


"So, will you do it?" Carol asks me, her pale blue eyes glittering in the candlelit dimness. She lounges across the low coffee table from me, wine glass casually cradled in her left hand.

I lick my lips. Despite the wine, my mouth incredibly dry. I look down at the tiny yellow pill sitting on the polished mahogany between us. I reach towards the pill, and Carol's mouth quirks up in her usual catlike grin.

Maybe I should tell you a bit about the girl I was before I met Carol Luis. I worked (work) in a publishing house as an editor. I was renowned for my work ethic. My desk was a wonder of Taylorian efficiency and scientific precision. A constant flow of manuscripts and correspondence would make their way from my "In" tray, to my "Out" tray, leaving my workspace marvelously clean and clear at the end of every workday. My bosses loved me, my coworkers admired and envied me, and. . .. Well no, I'm lying. Everyone pretty much ignored me. Except for Rob the copy boy. I caught him making eyes at me a couple of times. I swear. Too bad he's only eighteen.

I wasn't really the sort of girl who would go out on weekends, either. In fact, my social life was pretty much nil, unless you count Sunday dinners and bouts of Euchre with your mom, dad, and little brother.

But I was happy. Or I thought I was happy. Until Carol. Then everything changed.

I changed.

Carol works at a used bookstore on the corner of Fifty Third and Prentice. Apparently the place has been there for something like forever, though I didn't discover it until five months after moving here. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love to read, so it really is surprising that it took me five months to discover Lines and Dots.

 The first thing I noticed about Carol when I first encountered her working in the dusty stacks of Lines and Dots,  were her platform "army" boots and short plaid schoolgirlish skirt. The second thing I noticed was that she was perched precariously in those boots upon a rickety old ladder, shelving an armful of John Grisham. The third thing I noticed was that the ladder was starting to tip.

In an uncharacteristic act of heroism, I charged across the room, breaking Carol and John Grisham's fall, and gaining a sprained wrist and a new friend for my trouble (Carol, not John Grisham). 

Carol, I soon found, was unlike me in every way. She was spontaneous. She was loud. She liked to party, and she loved to experiment. She was also incredibly open. As she drove me erratically to the hospital at impossible and illegal speeds, she told me a series of awkward sex stories about her and her recently ex-boyfriend. To keep my mind off of the pain, she said.  She had decided she was a lesbian, she informed me.

It wasn't long before she was taking me to parties, dragging me to concerts, introducing me to new kinds of people that I had never spoken to before. They had dreadlocks, and purple hair, smoked pot, and had a wide array of cringe-inducing piercings and tattoos. They listened to loud music, were magnetically attracted to fishnet and army surplus, and were frequently violent.

I began to see everything I had once viewed as a strength in myself as a sort of limitation. My organization and commitment to work, my virginity, my desire to constantly "play it safe" were all holding me back from truly living. Now I am someone different. I am not exactly certain who that is, but I do know that in the past three months of friendship I have experienced more than I did in the entire twenty four years prior.

Carol helped me to change. Cracked me open. And here, once again, tonight, she is offering me another opportunity to become someone new.

"Will you do it, Alison?" She asks again, as my hand hovers over the little yellow pill. I meet her gaze, brown eyes to blue, and nod firmly, taking the pill in my sweaty hand.

I swallow the pill down with a mouthful of cheap red wine. It sticks briefly, but another swallow dislodges it. I look across the coffee table at Carol, shifting uncomfortably on the cushions, as nothing happens.

The candle on the coffee table flickers, dances. Dances like Carol's eyes, or like Carol on the dance floor. Wild, mesmerizing. The music I have put on, Enya, I think, is so quiet, so mellow, I can barely hear it, yet it makes me feel as though I am being wrapped in a thick warm blanket.

And suddenly, . ..  I am falling. Carol's face grows distant, shrinks, as though she is looking at me down a long dark tunnel. Everything else vanishes, and the most visible thing in my world is her distant half-grinning, half smirk, as she watches me fall. She laughs, and her laughter blends with the music in my ears. She says something, but she is too far, and she speaks in tongues. But then doesn't she always?

 I am falling, so slowly. I am falling. . .

Falling. . .

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


A Putto is a figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually nude and sometimes winged -- Wikipedia 

That's right, kids, today we're gonna talk about fat naked boychildren and how they became a part of our artistic heritage!

Apparently, there were some really fucked up people in the Renaissance who thought that this: 
Ded Putto
. . . was aesthetically appealing. 

In all honesty, I find this:

Drunk Putto
in some ways as disturbing as this: 

except one is Renaissance art, and the other is what terrible mothers do to their confused five year olds.

The only explanation I have for the Putto is that it was an early form of Catholic birth control. Because after you've seen this:

. . .you'll probably never want to think about having kids again.


Benjamin Britten

On the tail of the Feynman post, let me introduce to you Benjamin Britten: a man who worked to bring orchestra and opera back to the people. The video says it better than I do, and the second video of him and Pears almost brought me to tears.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Scientists are People, Too

A beautifully written post by Scott on one of Science's unsung heroes, who should be sung about, for his curiosity and character alone:

Richard Feynman.
As a first post, this might be fairly lackluster, but I feel it's important to credit the man who sparked my interest in science.  I wasn't attracted by his achievements, so much as I was his experiences -- if you need example, I suggest you read "Tuva or Bust," by Ralph Leighton.
I first experienced him in 1993, when I read one of his books as a high school sophomore.  It was called "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman".  Everyone who has even a passing interest in science of any kind knows his name.  He was even credited in a recent episode of "Eureka," where they celebrated "Feyman Day" -- a day where pranks were pulled with reckless abandon.
Feyman worked on both the Manhattan, and the Trinity projects, but what I remember most, is his inclusion on the inquiry board that investigated the Challenger Disaster.  After millions of dollars spent, on investigating it turned out to be something as simple as an incorrectly calibrated digital thermometer, and bad O-Rings.
That being said:  The most interesting thing about Feynman, had nothing to do with his accomplishments as a physicist (The Nobel in '65, and the National Medal of Science in '79) but instead his personal life.  His first wife, Arline was diagnosed with Tuberculosis, while he was working on the Trinity Project.  He would drive to visit her frequently, expressing his love for her in his own special way:  Conducting experiments.  He would have Arline handle a bottle of coke from a six-pack while he was out of the room.  Then, blindfolded, using only his sense of smell, he would attempt to discover which bottle she had picked up.
Arline died in 1945.  On October 17, 1946, Feynman wrote a letter to his deceased wife.  If you would like, you can read the entire text here
His final words in this letter were:
"My darling wife, I do adore you.
I love my wife.  My wife is dead.
PS Please excuse my not mailing this -- but I don't know your new address"
Even in tragedy, he never lost his sense of humor.  That letter remained sealed, until he died from cancer in 1988.
I have always lived my life by one simple rule:  Question everything.  When I was 17, I had no clue what that really meant.  Then I discovered Feynman. This was a "curious character", who questioned everything around him.  His second wife even cited this as a reason in her divorce filing.
It occurs to me that I have left out so many of his experiences.  How he used to fix his neighbors radios as a child.  He was an avid bongo player.  He was a notorious prankster.  Yet he still found a way, 5 years after his death, to inspire a teenage boy living in rural Arkansas.
Further Reading:
"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character, by Richard P. Feynman  ISBN 0-393-31604-1
"What Do You Care What Other People Think?": Further Adventures of a Curious Character, by Richard P. Feynman  ISBN 0-393-02659-0
Tuva or Bust! , by Ralph Leighton ISBN 0-140-15614-3

Tiffany Lamps

Talk about ambivalence. At once, I feel that the Tiffany lamp is tacky, an adorably chintzy relic, and downright cool. Perhaps my biggest hangup is that I think these lamps would look adorable in a child's room .. . except for the part where a child lives in the child's room. Much too delicate for nursery decoration. I have difficulty thinking of where else I would want to place my Tiffany, unless I had my whole master bedroom done up in twenties style decor (though personally I enjoy a less cluttered feeling in my bedroom). 

Anyway, here are some Tiffany lamps that struck my fancy: 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Session 9

Was in the mood for a scary movie tonight, so Scott suggested Session 9, a psychological horror flick centered on a team of (interestingly) asbestos removers as they work in an abandoned insane asylum. First off, major props for making asbestos part of a horror film in an abandoned building. Realism ftw. The building they were working in was pretty damn cool too. It sorta set my inner archivist alive with the desire to salvage mental patient records (which could never be opened to the  public anyway, but meh). Municipal archives were also mentioned in the movie. So, props for that too. 

The main character was inexplicably Irish (?). His best friend was named Phil, this guy: 

Session 9

Who you may better recognize as this guy: 

CSI Miami

I know, I know, CSI to asbestos remover is a hard mental leap to make, but if you squint real hard, you can almost see the similarities between the two characters.

Moving on, the movie had a number of elements which make psychological horror one of my favorite genres. The cinematography was great, the setting suitably eerie, the characters just realistic enough (I especially loved mullet kid), the subplots twisty and leaving you hungry for more,  the background music just subtle enough to keep you on edge, and a nice slow buildup. 

However, the movie was also lacking a major element which I think is in some ways essential to pulling off good psych horror (she says pedantically). That is the potential for a supernatural alternative, to keep the audience guessing. It was made quite clear throughout the film that nothing supernatural could possibly be happening in the abandoned mental institution. I mean, for gossakes, when the lights flickered and the power went out, we were shown the generator running out of gas. No mystery there. I think it is important that psych horror have some *potential* for the supernatural to be there. . .bizarre hallucinations, tales of hauntings, weird reflections in mirrors as a red herring for the audience. Without that, the only challenge is in figuring out who's psyche we are inside of (in the case of Session 9, we are given ample and obvious clues, so even that mystery is taken from us), and once that has been discovered, all that is left is to lay money down on who will be the first and the last to die, and how the deaths will occur. Once again, props to Session 9 for the murder method, very cool. 

Given that the two biggest "mysteries" of psych horror were given away fairly early on (the reality of the situation, and whodunit), the subplots took precedence, as with the unraveling of the story of one of the former inmates of the asylum, or the bizarre love triangle between Phil, Hank, and Amy. I would almost like to see the story of the former inmate as its own movie. Shit was creepy. The slow tension buildup was well done, though the payoff in terms of gore at the end was a little disappointing. However, overall, I liked the way the movie dealt with psychotic meltdown, and how it is perceived both by the one undergoing it, and those around him. That part was very well done, and it seemed fairly well researched by the writer. 

Another interesting note: Women are completely absent in the real time of this film. They exist only as flashbacks, on the other end of the phone, or in conversation. I'm sure there's some sort of deeper meaning in there, but I'm not sure what it is. 

So, overall, not the best psych horror I've seen in terms of scare factor, but if you're going for realism in setting, story, and mental illness, this might be a good place to look.  

Sunday, 19 August 2012

My drunk haircut. . .

So, last night was hanging out with the girls, and I got the urge to cut my hair. I randomly do this from time to time. In fact, I have been cutting my own hair for about two to three years now (yes, I know, frequently, it shows). I thought it would be fun to let my friends play with it this time instead, but they seemed nervous.

I apologize for the nasty morning after makeup. 

While they were busy laying down paper and trying to figure out how to go about it, I cheerfully took the scissors and began lobbing off about a foot of hair. This elicited noises of horror from behind me, which in itself was worth the whole thing. Added a second layer (with help), kinda trimmed the bangs, but not really, and this is what I got:

 The reaction of my friends as I casually cut off about two years growth of hair sort of got me thinking though: How much of that "a woman's hair is her glory" mentality are we carrying with us. What is this fear of losing something that will grow back, eventually? I guess I lost that instinct along the way somewhere. Maybe a few too many shitty salon haircuts at Ultracuts. Who knows?

For me, hair cutting is a lot like baking. If you mess it up, unless you totally burn it to a crisp, its still gonna taste sweet and relatively good, just might not look as pretty as you wanted. I think last nights attempt turned out fairly cute, despite jack daniels being involved. Its not a work of art, but at least its not a big tatty mess down my back anymore.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

World in my Pocket

Little wander in the park "craft" for you. All you need is a tic tac container, a pair of tweezers, and a liking for playing in the dirt.

Basically, I collected some crap on my way home from work and made a little scene with it. It was a relaxing thing to do in the park. Maybe next time I buy tic tacs I'll make a more complicated scene.


tic tacs! 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Because . . .

Sandwich Art

I'm a Subway fan. I'll admit it. Its not because the food is great (its mediocre), its not because the service is great (although I do have people who recognize me as a "regular" at the subway on campus, which is kinda nice), its not because the price is great (its not), and its not because I'm trying to lose weight (I am, but Subway definitely does not factor in). I like subway because my dad buys me subway cards, as a gift, and mails them to me.

Having a "trio" with a warm cookie, that was bought with a gift card from home makes me feel less alone, I guess. Cheesy, right? Also, who am I to argue with free food.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. I'm here to talk about Subway "Sandwich Artist's" sometimes alarming art, the way we fall in line with it, and the uniqueness of Subway in Quebec.

First, Subway in Quebec. Their combo is a trio (though this isn't just a Subway thing). Their sandwich du jour selection (known to us simple folks as Subathaday) has a great deal more variety than what I am used to in Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan, it ranges from Ham, to BMT, to roast beef, right up to (of course) tuna salad on a Friday. Here, bbq pork is thrown into the mix, as well as Wednesday's (todays) unique offering: fruits de mer.

Sidebar: fruits de mer : fruits of the sea (known to us simple folks as seafood)
             pomme de terre: apple of the earth (known to us simple folks as 'potato')
* I am not certain why the French language has this propensity to add a touch of poetry to the names for such unpoetical things as crabs and potatoes, but what the hell, right?

Back to Subway, and the sandwich art.

So, I sidle up to the counter, and mutter "Subathaday, sizzinch . . .brown" in my (no doubt terrible) western accent. The girl slops some (raw? lightly cooked? preserved? I dunno) crab meat onto the bun and hastily asks "cheddar or swiss?"

"Swiss," I respond automatically, though honestly the notion of having dairy on a seafood sandwich is somehow stomach turning. She took me off guard! I answered by rote. To my horror, she passes off my sandwich to the guy running the toaster oven. I watch as the sandwich goes in, envisioning the cheese covered, unhappy, possibly rancid pile of fishmeat that will come out. The guy behind me happily orders extra cheese on his fruits de mer, and his goes in the toaster too.

My sandwich emerges, looking like something an Italian hacked up, and now I am at the veggie station. "Everything except the cucumbers and green peppers" I say, in a state of despair, knowing nothing can salvage my sandwich now.


"Ranch" comes my helpless reply. Ranch dressing is spurted on top of my (I swear it is moving) pile of crabmeat and melted cheese, the lid is put on the sandwich, and the sandwich is safely bound in its wrapper, and tucked away in a sandwich bag condom. Presumably so it cannot escape.

I obtain my cookies, my drink, and make my way out of the restaurant to find a sunny place to sit and eat. (Ironically, when I go to sit down, my sandwich really does make a run for it, almost spilling out of the bag). But when I eat it, its not so bad. In fact, it tastes pretty much like every other damn subway sandwich I have ever had.

Which brought me to contemplate the role of the sandwich artist. The sandwich artist, is very much like the artist who covers himself in paint and throws himself at a white wall. The pattern may be ugly, little thought or craft goes into it, and yet somehow, some customer somewhere is going to be satisfied.

Eat fresh, guys.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

sunnyside up sponge cake

So, this cake was half accident, half boredom, and 100% delicious.

for the cake: 

2 c. sugar
4 eggs
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. milk
1 stick butter
1 tsp. vanilla
First beat eggs and sugar until very fluffy and then add flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla and beat. Bring butter and milk to a scald and mix with other ingredients, don't beat too much. Will be a thin batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

for the filling: I used apricot jam, because its what I had

for the glaze:

one cup sugar
four tablespoons lemon juice
dash vanilla

mix altogether until you have something that is thick, but still pourable, and tastes good, and dump it on top. Aww yeah. 

Now for the accident: I decided to balance out the apricot filling by putting a dollop of apricot on top. What I came out with was something that looked like a sunny side up egg. I completed my insanity by garnishing with glazed crumbs, and sprinkling lightly with powdered cocoa. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Troilus and Criseyde: Book I by Geoffrey Chaucer

That's right, kids. For those of you who have been following my blog faithfully for a year and a half *snicker* I'm going back to my roots and converting an Olde (okay, okay, Middle) English tale into modern language, for my amusement and/or your viewing pleasure. 

This round (yeah, I never did finish the Niebeliahblahlungenluau, whatever) I am tackling some Chaucer. Namely, Chaucer's take on the love tale of Troilus and Criseyde, set during the Trojan war. Our narrator is Pandarus (origin of the word "panderer" but I don't want to give you a bad impression of him right off the bat), a friend and "uncle" figure for the two lovers (though in the Shakespearean take, he is something more sinister).

Without further ado (and after much ado about nothing), 

Book 1: 

Pandarus, rapping to the tune of the Fresh Prince

In west Troy, son of Priam, born and raised
 on the battleground is where he spent most of his days.
 Soon fell in love with a pretty young girl
and that's when his life began to unfurl. 

Thesiphone, goddess of torment, listens, and silently facepalms.

Pandarus: This is a sad, sad tale. I weep to write it down. (sobbing) Listen! Stay awhile and listen, Thesiphone! Its ALL MY FAULT! I am filled with pain, writhing in torment! Oh, those poor, poor lovers, would that I had never become an instrument to their --

Thesiphone: On with it! 

Pandarus: (sings) What is love! Baby don't hurt me! Don't hurt me! No more! 

Pandarus regains composure.

Pandarus: I hope that all you lovers out there. All you happy lovers. All you lucky lovers. (glares around at the audience) All you lovers who are free to love, and do. I hope when you hear this tale, you are grateful for what you have. Grateful! Damn . . .

The Audience: ON WITH IT!

Pandarus : (sings) All you need is love . . . No wait, that isn't where we begin. Where do we begin? Right, straight to the matter: the double sorrows of Troilus in loving Criseyde, and how she forsook him before she died. 

So, we all know how the Greeks, strong in arms, came upon Troy in a thousand ships. There was a long seige. Paris, all that, blah blah. Living in Troy at this time, there was a great lord named Calkas, an expert in science, who knew by his science that Troy was bound to be destroyed. So, once he figured this out, he did what any rational man would do, and attempted to flee the city. Silently. In the dead of night.

However, it wasn't long before the people of Troy noticed Calkas was missing. He was called a traitor , accused of allying with Greece. This would have been fine, except for that he left a daughter behind, and left her in bad shape, what with the townspeople crying traitor outside her door, and she with no husband, and all alone in the world.

Her name was Criseyde, and no fairer beauty was there in all of Troy (which makes you really question the point of the whole war, doesn't it?). So angelic was her native beauty, that she seemed like a thing immortal (men looking for pick-up lines, look no further). When she heard of her fathers betrayal, she was half mad with sorrow and fear. In a brown robe (mind you, what she was wearing is important) she fell on her knees before Ector, and begged for mercy.

Now, Ector was a good-hearted man, and it didn't hurt that she was a pretty fine specimen of woman, so he said to her "Its all good"

She thanked him, and went home.

The end.

Just joking! The war went on, and it went on bloody (as wars do) , but talking about the fall of Troy isn't the point of my story. Fuck history anyway. 
Although they were besieged, the people of Troy kept up with their yearly rites, and so, come April, they held as always the festival of Palladiones. Everyone, and I mean everyone, went to the temple, decked out in their finest. Among them, was Criseyde, garbed in widow's black (at least she changed her clothes). Yet, even in black, she was still a fine hunk of woman.  She stood behind the crowd, alone, and in shame. 

Toilus, meanwhile, was scoping the crowd, deeming himself too good for most of the ladies there, indeed, deeming himself altogether above such foolishness as "love". But don't you know that pride comes before a fall? Troilus didn't. As he wandered around, checking out the women, his eyes finally landed upon Criseyde, and his gaze, his heart, and the whole world stopped all at once: 

And of hir look in him ther gan to quiken
       So greet desir, and swich affeccioun,
       That in his herte botme gan to stiken
       Of hir his fixe and depe impressioun:
       And though he erst hadde poured up and doun,
300    He was tho glad his hornes in to shrinke;
       Unnethes wiste he how to loke or winke.

He couldn't get her out of his mind. He became angsty, as only first love can angst. Its true! Criseyde was cold to him, cold to all men, and it was driving him insane, feeling as though he had no chance with her. For three days and three nights, Trolius languished, weeping, moping, calling her name. His parents didn't understand him, his teachers didn't understand him. He dyed his hair black. He painted his nails black. He started listening to Screamo, and grew his hair out. Mostly, he emosturbated. He was in a state. 

Pandarus: and that is when I, an old friend of Troilus, came in, and said "Bitch, what the hell is wrong with you?" 

/End first half, book one. More later. . .maybe. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots 
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud 
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 - March, 1918

This poem, largely dubbed the most well known poem of the first world war, is probably my favorite war poem of all time. It brings the horrors of war (here, mustard gas) to vivid reality. It is honest, it is brutal. The language is jagged and catches the readers attention, dragging them into the soldier's hellish world. So, I guess you could say my liking for this poem is twofold: first, from an English major's perspective, it is brilliantly done in use of sound and word choice. But, more importantly, I like it for my own political beliefs, which is just that war is generally a terrible thing, and anything that can open our eyes to this fact without sensationalizing or glorifying warfare is valuable.