Point Me

Friday, December 31, 2010

Vacation Disaster - Redux

2011 was apparently not the year for Paul and I to have a nice relaxing vakay. After our failure to embark on a cruise ship last month, we though it would be nice to have a stay-cation between Christmas and New Years. Here's a little break down of how that turned out.

4 Days Spent Driving to be with Family and Friends/ At Holiday Celebrations
3 Days Spent Fleeing Carbon Monoxide and Stressing

Leaving only 3 Days to really have to ourselves. Our 10 day vacation was reduced to a long weekend peppered between busy-ness and panic.

On Monday Night, our house started to smell like exhaust. Our 3-month old, multiple thousand dollar oil burner was clogged up, and spewing copious amounts of exhaust into our basement. At 4 AM on Tuesday, we fled to Paul's office with the cat, where we sat until 9 waiting to get a hold of somebody to address the problem.

Long story short, the trial of it included climbing on the roof to sweep our own chimney, 2 different technicians coming out to fix the problem, the fire department coming, and lots of stress. We were finally able to get back into our own home on Wednesday night. It was just bad.

I shouldn't complain about the parties and stuff, because it was great to see family and everything. We had a nice Christmas and received many wonderful thoughtful gifts.But we did have to drive far and away a lot, so it didn't feel like vacation.

Ugh, here's to hoping that in 2011, we'll finally get to have a vacation that doesn't get ruined. Maybe that will be my resolution.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Scarf for Mom

I made my mom this scarf from that pretty purple wool I showed off earlier. It was a Christmas present that I hope will keep her warm through the rest of our long northern winter.

It's kind of hard to see in detail (and the other pictures I took were even worse!), but I made the scarf from  this pattern, courtesy of Knittingonthenet's informative stitch library. It's called the "Little Pyramid" stitch.

It's a deceptively easy stitch, with just 3 variations of knitting and purling to remember. It looks fancy though, so it impresses people even though it's not that hard.

The name of the stitch combined with fleecy yarn just made me think of this song the whole time I was working on it.

Clue me in.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa's Suprise - 1947

Santa brings toys to an improbable number of children on Christmas night, but does anybody stop to think about what Santa gets for Christmas? That's the premise of the mind-boggling holiday cartoon. Children from all around the world stow away on Santa's sleigh, and discover upon arrival at the North Pole that Santa is a lazy, lonely slob. This apparently takes place in a reality where there's no Mrs. Claus, which causes Santa to go crazy with loneliness and sing constantly, talk to himself in mirrors, and let his house get hoarders-level nasty.The international children, led by the horrible "lil' Audrey" band together to give Santa a nice holiday and clean his house.

This cartoon is the most racist thing I've ever seen. The children each "do what they do best" to help Santa, and at that point the stereotypes just careen out of control. The Black kid shines his boots, the Asian kid does his laundry, and the Dutch kid is stupid and terrible at everything. The cumulative effect will blow your mind.

@ 7:00 - I guess the surprise was getting dropped from 10 feet onto his spines! Good Job, Dutchy.

The weirdest part is that this cartoon was probably meant to be PC at the time, and inclusive of all races. Too bad the 40's were just terrible at cultural sensitivity.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Elite Fleet

How awesome is that my favorite web comic ever, Perry Bible Fellowship, is making cartoons now?

Elite Fleet Ep. 2 - The Broken Code from New Picture Agencies on Vimeo.

Very Awesome.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pluto's Christmas Tree - 1952

 This Christmas themed Disney cartoon features Chip and Dale in their feral, pre-Rescue Ranger days. Poor Pluto gets a Wiley Coyote-esque raw deal as he attempts to evict the chipmunks from his beautiful tree.

This one reminds me of a story my dad (a Nursery Manager) told about a customer he had at work, who would always vigorously shake his trees before buying them. Why? One time he bought a tree that turned out to have "monkeys" in it, and the monkeys came out and bit him. The perils of buying live flora!

@2:20 - This has forever fueled my desire to be able to walk around inside a giant Christmas tree

And for the heck of it, here's our Christmas Tree:

Almost as nice as Mickey Mouse's.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania

Patrick Stewart as Oberon in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1977 production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Check out that head of hair on him!

"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,   
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in"- Oberon, Act 2, Scene 1

One of my favorite Shakespeare plays, as I got to be in it in High School. I still know bits of it by heart.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Owls in Disguise

Animals that can dramatically change their appearance are amazing and kind of scary. This guy, the Southern White-Faced Owl, hails from South Africa. His name is Popo-chan and he's only a handful of transfigurations away from being the mimic octopus of the sky.

This video is also a reminder that Japanese TV is stranger, but perhaps weirdly better than ours.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bark Bark Bark

Growing up at my house, it was practically a tradition to play this song for the family pooch around the holidays. Its a fairly certain method to make your dog go nuts. Particularly in years where we had a new puppy, playing this song was a pretty fun game. Most dogs become delightfully confused and frantic at the disembodied sound of their wassailing kin.

I guess the barking dog jingle bells isn't everybody's cup of tea though. This song (a 1950's Danish recording) was recently found to be "America's least loved Christmas Song," as it came in last place in a survey of 579 recordings. However, the focus group used to create the ranking consisted of "200 women aged 30 to 49, recruited via e-mail, who said that they either liked or loved Christmas music," and that sounds like a cat-lady hot bed to me. I think perhaps there was an anti-pooch prejudice afoot!

I bet if this was in the mix it would have been found to be THE NUMBER ONE XMAS SONG OF ALL TIME!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


It's been a LONG time since I blogged about what I've been cooking. It's too bad, because I've made some pretty yummy stuff this fall/early winter. I really felt like the dish I made last night was exceptional though, and I wanted to share it!


This recipe was one of the best tofu-centric dishes I've ever had. Something about the way you prepare the soy is just so so right. Plus the dish is loaded with fresh veggies to give you an immune system boost going into the wintry illness season. There's a lot of chopping to do though, it's a good recipe to make with a partner or group.

Serves 4, Modified from "The Vegetarian Bible"
 4 Tbsp Flour
1 Tsp Paprika
3 Tsp Chilli Powder
8 oz. Firm Tofu, in 1 inch cubes.
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, Chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 Avocado, Peeled, pitted and cut into 1 inch strips
1 Tbsp Lime Juice
2 Tomatoes, chopped
1 cup Shredded cheddar cheese
8 Flour Tortillas
Sour Cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. Mix together the flour, paprika and chilli powder. Bread your tofu cubes with the mixture and fry in oil until they are golden brown. Remove the tofu from the pan and drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil.

3. Add a little more oil to the pan and saute the onions, garlic, red pepper, and (if you're feeling bold) jalapeno until they are just starting to soften (About 4 minutes). Remove from pan and drain excess oil.

4. Take your avocado pieces and toss them in a bowl with lime juice. Gently mix in your tofu, cooked vegetables, chopped tomatoes and 1/2 your shredded cheese.

5.Put about 1/8th of this filling mixture into each tortilla, and top with a dollop of sour cream. Roll up your enchiladas and place them seam-down in a large baking dish. Cover the entire dish with your favorite salsa and the rest of your shredded cheese.

6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and brown. The recipe suggests garnishing with cilantro to serve, but I skipped that.

Oh my goodness, these are so good. They're also surprisingly filling, given that they're mostly vegetables. And the colors in this meal just look so vibrant and fresh, it just plain looks delicious too. Highly recommended for the recently converted or experimenting vegetarian. A+!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Riley vs. Santa

Sometimes special Christmas episodes of TV shows come out overly saccharine and sentimental. The Season 1 Christmas episode of The Boondocks does not have this problem. Instead of our 8-year-old protagonist Riley sitting on Santa's lap, we see him chucking a chair at old Saint Nick.

As "The Santa Stalker," Riley seeks compensation for all the Christmas' he's spent with no gifts from the Jolly old elf. It's a tough reminder that while Santa is a fun holiday icon, his existence is a hard pill to swallow for poor kids who don't have much to open on Christmas morning. These scenes also help you remember that Riley is a kid, who wants to trust and believe in the myth of Santa, even though he is kind of a violent yob.

This is one of my favorite episodes, particularly when the self-hating Uncle Ruckus takes over the Santa gig. It's a got just the right amount of consumerism critique (ala Charlie Brown) cut in with a very honest analysis of the holiday spirit.

Whoa, whoa, hold up...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Corporate Irony

If you needed any more proof that giant brand conglomerates are soulless monsters who will say anything to get your money, keep in mind that the company who made this;

Are the same people who brought you this.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Learn from my mistakes: Hanks.

As a (relatively) new knitter, sometimes you go through projects where you don't really know what the heck you're doing, so you just try and go along and make the best of it. More than once, I've purchased yarn packaged in this manner:
This, my friends, is a hank of yarn. When you buy your yarn directly from the spinner (as I did with this pretty purple wool) they usually opt to sell them by the hank, because it's easier for them to polish up and measure their final product packaging it this way. Hanks are also prettier for displays, because they better showcase the texture and subtle qualities of the yarn. If you buy a hank though, it is NOT ready to be used for projects as is. I learned this the hard way on more than one project, and it was a mistake I wasn't willing to make again. If you try to knit a hank as is, you will spend hours and hours attempting to untie the giant knot that your yarn has become. Seriously, it's the worst.

Before you can go to work with a hank of yarn, you have to ball it. There are countless depictions of how to do this in old movies and pictures, usually involving a loved one standing by with yarn stretched over their arms. 
I've seen characters doing this so many times before but never really got what they were doing. Now I know they were saving themselves the headache of dealing with a un-balled hank.

Even if you don't have a cute dutch child on hand to help you with balling, that's ok. You can use 2 handy kitchen chairs to the same effect.  

I actually found this to be a kind of relaxing process, and it helps you get a feel for the materials you'll be working with. I've also read that it's important not to ball your yarn until you're ready to start your project, because balling stretches your yarn out some. Good to know.
The finished product! And here's a complete tutorial. Seriously, this might have been the most important lesson on knitting I ever had.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Christmas Carol - 1951

This story of the meanest man in town who awakens to the power of kindness is considered a staple of the holiday media diet. When it comes to picking a film adaptation of Dickens 1843 classic, you have a lot of options to choose from. And once somebody picks their chosen rendition of the tale, most people are vehement about defending their film as the one true to their version of the story.

The film I grew up with (and thus the one I consider to be the quintessential, true classic) is the 1951 version starring Alastair Sims as the cold-hearted miser Scrooge.

I think that Sims himself is a huge part about why this version is so wonderful. When Scrooge is reawakened on Christmas Morning, you can really feel his manic joy. In this scene, you believe in Scrooge's transformation, and I don't think any other actor has ever really owned this performance like he did here.

This version is also a fantastic period peice, from top to bottom, and I really think it's the "A Christmas Carol" that stays truest to Dickens' original text. All the witty little 1840's jokes are kept intact, and are still funny and understandable. And this film really delves into the complex relationship between Scrooge, his sister and his nephew, which I think is a key to understanding the miser.

Want more proof this version is awesome? A woman whose name is actually Hermione stars as Bob Cratchet's wife!

But like I said, everybody has their own version of the story that they like best, and this is mine. Which is yours?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nahla's Hat

Nahla is the little baby girl that my good friend is due to have at the end of the year. I made this hat for her from this pattern. I just love how the twin pom poms give a little bald baby the opportunity to have pig tails.

I actually dug this pattern so much that I scaled it up and made one for myself.

Like my other attempts to adjust patterns in the past, this one ended up a little too oversized. But the floppiness of it actually kind of works. I love love love the yarn I used for mine. It's a gorgeous soft alpaca in these very dreamy colors.

This hat actually really reminds me of something that Molly Weasely might make for her kids. It's got a neat bit of whimsy to it that would help you fit in at Diagon Alley, even if you are a Muggle.

In case you were wondering, I still haven't seen the new HP film. But I'm going to (finally) remedy that this week! I have this terrible habit of never seeing the movie I want to see in the theater. I'm determined that Part 1 of Deathly Hallows won't go the same way as "Alice in Wonderland", "Machete" and "Where the Wild Things Are." I will actually see it!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Cross my palm with Tuna!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Snowman - 1982

I was going to save this post for the first snow of the season, but I decided I couldn't wait. I want to kick of my month of Christmas themed childhood classics with one of my favorite Christmas films of all time is "The Snowman".

My grandma had a copy of this on VHS, which she had taped off the TV. It's a movie that I associate a lot with being at her house in the winter time. I think that this movie was what cemented my love of narratives without words. I'm always amazed how much can be conveyed without dialogue. The music in this short is great, and sometimes makes me get a little emotional!

1:47: I was always bothered by this kid not wearing underwear.

The snowman party is def my favorite part, and the kilted jigging snowman is my favorite part of that!

I think this movie qualifies as pure, concentrated holiday nostalgia. Yeah!

EDIT: since this video seems to be permanently out of order, here's the show on youtube. This version even starts with a weird introduction with David Bowie. Knowing that this was what happened to him as a child explains a lot, actually.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Her heart grew 3 sizes today!

Some of you may have heard me talking about a fairly infamous volunteer at a certain site I go to to distribute groceries. She's a rather old, fragile looking lady named Trudy, who (to quote a seasoned volunteer) "ain't happy if she ain't bitchin'."

Last month, Trudy gave me the business, so to speak, when I attempted to take a finished bag off the assembly line and put it on the table for the completed bags. She blustered over in her signature purple wind pants and got in my face, screaming that I "had to put the bag right back where it was this instant". Basically, Trudy was/is so controlling, that they had to give her one thing to have complete control over, or she'd try to make herself queen of the brown bag. That thing is the monthly newsletters, and when she caught me putting a newsletter in a bag for her, It was like I tried to steal her livelihood.

I found out later that she thought I was a stupid high school-er who didn't know anything, which fueled her lashing out. Weird!

So needless to say, we didn't get off on the best foot. Getting screeched at in the face will do that to a first impression. I also noticed that the other volunteers give Trudy and her newsletters a good 5 foot berth while she works on folding them.

Then today, almost everybody was surprised and impressed when Trudy asked for help with her precious paper work. It turns out that they were putting Christmas cards in with each newsletter, and she needed help folding the cards into the creased "Brown Bag Beats."

The cards were really nice, each one different, blank inside with matching envelopes. It was the gift of being able to wish somebody else a Merry Christmas. I mentioned to the site coordinator how nice I thought it was that they were giving out these cards.

"Oh, you know that was all Trudy's idea. We had been doing it the last five years or so, and I only just found last month that she had been buying all the cards for the Brown Bag out of her own pocket."

I suddenly became aware that the reason Trudy wears those purple wind pants every month wasn't just because they were her signature look, it was also because they were her only pair of pants.

It really made me see another side of this cantankerous old biddie. She bought everybody in town who needed these free groceries a Christmas card. In my eyes, it was like she went through the Grinch's heart x-ray machine.

I guess it was a lesson on open-mindedness and the duality of nature. No doubt Trudy will be back to her newsletter dictatorship in January, but it was nice to see her caring side and Christmas cheer.

I meet such weird people doing this job....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Surely you're fine, Mr. Jokeman

Paul and I like to take turns sometimes reading to each other before bed. Right now, Paul's been reading to me from "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)", an autobiography (of sorts) from the famous physicist. I say "of sorts" because this book is more like a loose collection of anecdotes strung together without much of an overall narrative. The effect is really stunningly similar to hearing your grandpa tell you stories from the good old days for hours and hours.

Feynman is kind of a rock star of the physics world, known for womanizing and playing the bongos.

Reading this book gives you a weird insight into his strange personality, and his self-centered point of view in social interactions. Right now we're at the part of his life where he works at Los Alamos, and constantly breaks into top secret govt. safes to prove that their secrets are not secure.

My favorite story so far is this one about his attempts to enlist in the Army, only to be declared 4F for mental deficiency. The chapter is called "Uncle Sam Doesn't need you!" and you can read it in this handy little e-book here, starting on page 60. The story made me laugh so much, I was too excited to go to sleep! It's a very typical Feynman story, where he's the only one who seems normal and everybody else is kind of painted like idiots. Even though he's being found mentally unstable by army psychiatrists, he comes out looking like the sanest one in the room.

This book has definitely made me wish that we had more scientists like Mr. Feynman, a rock star hipster sort of genius who inspires a sort of iconic legend. Like Einstein. I guess our modern equivalent is Stephen Hawking, who was WAY handsome back in the day.

Having more cool, sexy scientists might help the public mindset that discourages intellect in favor of social popularity. I'm totally down with getting more bad-asses in the lab.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Of All Time?


I had the privilege of hearing this song play on two different radio stations, about 10 minutes apart while driving home Thanksgiving night. It reminded me that this is one of my most favorite songs.

I have really good memories of my 2-year-old brother singing the chorus and rolling his rs in the awesomest way.

Wrapping it Up

So I'm gonna try to wrap up the vacation recap in this post. Get back to posting fun stuff like recipes and music videos and stop living in the past!

The second day we were in Dover, we decided to venture out of the warm swaddling of the casino and see Dover proper. We headed into the heart of the town, away from the strip mall and into the residential area/civic center. (You may already know that) Dover was the first state in the Union, so the center of town was positively brimming with old historical buildings, including the first State House. Most of the buildings were done in a style very similar to the dorms at UMass in Central, so I got the eerie feeling I was looking up at a transplanted Butterfield Hall. The square really felt like we had wandered into Old Sturbridge Village, except that all the old houses were actually still being used as homes and businesses. It was pretty neat to see.

Strangely, the businesses that filled the old buildings seemed to be of two sorts and two sorts only. Lawyers Offices and Bail Bondsmen. Dentists : Baltimore as Bail Bondsmen and Lawyers: Dover.

From here, we decided to drive about an hour down the coast to Rehoboth Beach, a touristy boardwalk town, to worship at a beer Mecca - The original Dogfish Head Brewery and Restaurant. It was well worth the voyage, as it supplied us with the best meal we had on the trip (OMG Turkey Lentil Soup!!!). Plus: (duh) Dogfish Head Beer(!) and a brewery tour. It was neat to see that the company started out brewing in batches not much larger than the ones we make home-brewing.

It was nice to get out there too, because it gave us the chance to walk on the beach. It's amazing how calming the ocean can be. Looking out on the horizon at sunset was when I think I finally really felt relaxed on this vacation.

The next day, after swinging back by the terminal to pick up our vacationing luggage, we headed to our final destination, Washington DC. We ended up staying in an awesome, beautiful suite at the Capital Hilton, just two blocks from the White House, which made getting to any landmark was no sweat.

I think that being in DC was both Paul and my favorite part of the whole trip. We spent the first night walking around and seeing all the monuments. Paul's favorite was the Washington Monument, Mine was the new WWII memorial. Ihad never seen it before, but it's really cool, I love how it incorporate lots of water/ fountains. After chilling in the Lincoln Memorial, we went out to an absolutely ridic beer bar called The Churchkey, which had over 50 great beers on tap. They had 2 big refrigerated rooms in a loft that they kept their kegs in, and an elaborate pipe system to pump the beer down, along the ceiling, into the tap.

The next day we went to the Smithsonian museums. We managed to see The American History Museum, Asian Art Gallery, Air and Space Museum, and Botanic Gardens. The botanic gardens were nice to do last, because you could just sit down and chill in a beautiful tropic environment and smell the orchids after a long day of walking and seeing.

5 Favorite Things I Learned/Saw at the Smithsonian
1. That the original technology for our birth control pills was developed in Worcester MA.
2. The DARPA Car.
3. That coal tar was the key to the development of chemistry, and those that understood it lead in the print industry, and causally, weapon making.
4. Apollo Anton Ohno is also a ballroom dancer.
5. The Wright Brothers Plane.

The next day, we went home. So overall, it was a pretty cool trip. We did a lot of neat stuff we wouldn't have otherwise, and had a lot of fun. I think next time we'll be a little bit more neurotic about planning our trips though. Or at least I will be.

Next destination, Bermuda by plane?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dover Downs

Like I said, we were flying by the seat of our pants on this vacation, trying to plan without the aid of the internet or anything. So when we found a brochure in our hotels tourism kiosk about a super room deal at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, we decided that Delaware would be the next stop on our tour. One of the main points of the brochure that convinced us, other than the low low prices, was that this hizzy had a pool.

It's kind of funny that we ended up going to Dover. Months ago, we were joking about taking a vacation to one of those weird state capitals that nobody ever thinks about. Dover was one of the ones we laughed about particularly mirthfully, right up there with Indianapolis and Boise. So it was kind of a surreal moment when we were like, "whoa, we're actually going to Delaware right now."

Though it was tucked in the cosmopolitan strip mall that is downtown Dover, Dover Downs was actually really really nice. It had a really clean, cheerful vibe that is conspicuously absent from the casinos that we've visited in Connecticut. We narrowed down why this place felt so much nicer as we whiled away the hours playing marco polo in the pool and soaking in the hot tub.

1. DD is a non-smoking casino. This makes everything smell and feel a lot cleaner. You don't have to worry about reeking when you leave the building at the end of the day.
2. Possibly because of this, they can afford to have lots of bright, open lighting, which makes the atmosphere a lot cheerier.
3. Instead of weird ambient mood music, this casino pumps in upbeat oldies hits 24/7. I can't remember the last time I heard "Splish Splash" playing in a public place.

(PS, not what I thought the guy who sang this song looked like at all)

4. Beyond Being just a casino, DD is also an all seasons race track. In the summer, they host NASCAR races, and in the winter, while we were there, they have live harness horse racing. Having this racetrack here gives the building a purpose, and makes it feel like more than just a slot machine warehouse.

Seeing the live horse racing was actually really cool. I've mentioned before how much I enjoyed watching the Kentucky Derby on TV as a kid. This was the first time I got to watch horses competing right in front of me, in real time. It was also fun to do a little gambling on them, but we never picked the right horse to win. Still fun!

It was the part of the vacation that (Paul and I both agreed) should have come first. Mindless gambling, eating delicious food, and lots of time relaxing in the pool. I found a new favorite slot machine too: Kitty Glitter. I mostly just like it because of the really judgmental kitty on the logo:

mrow, yes I see you there throwing away your life savings, mrow

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pssst...Baltimore Sucks

On our second day in Baltimore, we had a whole handful of interesting things we thought we could do. There was an exhibition of Andy Warhol paintings at the gallery up the street, a pop art/toy museum, The Baltimore Basilica (Americas First Cathedral), IMax movies at the Science center, Various Baseball museums at Camden Yard. We were pretty excited.

That is until we realized that ALL of the above choices, except the Basilica, were closed on Mondays. Pretty much everything fun was closed on Mondays. It was frustrating and bizarre, but it made sense. We were November tourists in a town that really only got visitors in the Summer.

But, in the true spirit of the trip, we made the most of it and decided to go on the tour of the Basilica. It was really neat, a monument to the true development of freedom of religion in America. It has a neo-classical look that was totally unheard of in catholic buildings, specifically designed to make it a distinctly American church. Our tour guide was this really irreverent quintessential New Yorker who seemed really "so over" the religious propriety of working in a Cathedral. In fact, the Cathedral itself in some ways, seemed tired of maintaining pomp and circumstance. The Sacristy had the usual holy cabinet dead center, but if you looked to either side, somebody was totally using it as an office, computers and all.

A few of my favorite quotes from our guide:

"This is a painting of the Baby Jesus. They say, he's blessing you, but I think he's just waving hi."
"This Bell is one of the official artifacts that make this building a Basilica. They're only allowed to ring it when the Pope is coming. Last time he was here was 50 years ago, so they're still waiting on that."
"Here's a picture of the Pope praying at this alter. He was probably thinking 'Boy this place is a dump, I can't wait to get out of here'"

She even let us touch the old vestments they had on display, which every museum worker knows is a huge no no. But an awesome no no for the inquisitive visitor.

It was a really cool building though, and it had lots of neat artifacts in it's museum, like letters from George Washington and Jewel encrusted talismans from Constantinople. My favorite part was the crypt, it was recently redone and totally architecturally awesome. Spooky!

After our cool historical tour, we were at a loss for things to do. We wandered around the city a bit, and noticed that the not-so-nice part of town creeps up surprisingly close to the nice part. It was clear that the recession had been really really unkind to this city. We also noticed that there was at a subway restaurant and at least 2 dentists offices on every block. No doctors, Baltimore only has dentists. They even have a Dentistry Museum, which was naturally closed on Mondays. Wandering around, I couldn't help but lean over and whisper to Paul "hey, Baltimore sucks."

So by 2:30, we found ourselves chillin' back in our hotel room, drinking Yuengling and watching high school kids smoke weed on the roof across the street from us.

It's so strange that you can't get Yuengling in MA. I remember the first time my New Jersey Roomate heard I didn't know Yuengling, she nearly exploded with disbelief. The next time she went home on break, she brought me a bottle. It was a nice gesture. It's a nice beer too. Pretty average!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fish are Friends, not Food.

On our first day in Baltimore, we went to the national aquarium. It really is a world-class museum. The exhibits went beyond being just informative, they were visually stunning and some were just plain innovative. They had a few that were like walking into a giant terrarium, incorporating native plants, animals and birds into the habitat. They even adjusted the climate of these exhibits, to make you feel totally immersed in the environment.

It was a fun way to spend the day. My favorites were the lion fish, the dolphin tank, and the seahorses. I had least favorites too....

3 Scariest Creatures at the National Aquarium

1. Southern Stingrays, 6 feet long. Totally thought the people swimming in the tank were going to get Irwined.

2. Blind Tetras. Little fish that are born with eyes but lose them weeks into life.

3. Mud-skippers, evolution's most indecisive freak.

If you are ever in Baltimore, I would say that this is the best thing to see. We spent the whole day there and enjoyed it greatly.

That night, we drove out to the Broadway Diner for dinner - featured on "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives"

We got an unbelievable amount of delicious food for cheap. The portions are huge, and it made me sad we didn't have a fridge in our hotel room. It's a neat place, an intersection of fine dining and greasy diner in a surprisingly complimentary way.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Clearly I will go Sailing no more...

Paul and I got back from our trip earlier this eve. We saw the ocean, gambled in casinos, sat in a tropical orchid garden, ate many nice meals and visited new places. All without ever setting foot on the cruise ship we originally planned to vacation on.

Long story short, there was a mix up with our reservation and we never made it on to the ship's manifest. The Bermudan getaway we were set to embark on was happening on the same ship, port, day, and time in the year 2011. Even though from the start there was zero likelihood that we were going to travel on the boat, we spent 4.5 hours in the terminal being told by employees that we were "all set" and they were just finding a nicer room to upgrade us to. That's 10:30 to 3:00 with no food, spare a piece of cake we snatched from the welcome aboard reception, and little acknowledgment from the crew about what the status of our situation was. Oh, PS- they made us sit that whole time in the area they were holding people to be tested for symptoms of swine flu. Awesome.

We weren't the only ones who were unable to board. Some people were denied vacations for having a hospital birth certificates instead of a state issued one. They offered us their cabins, since they would be allowed to go, but the guest services guy told us that since we weren't on the manifest we wouldn't be allowed on board. Mind you, this was in the fourth hour of us sitting there with luxury upgrades being hinted at. If they had just told us that in the first place, it would have been a lot easier to handle. We wouldn't have wasted our day at the pier, and we could have retrieved our luggage, which sailed away without us.

We were actually very lucky though. Some people, like I mentioned, were barred from boarding, and their luggage was set to sail away with their life-saving medications or their passports in them. One family even had 6 young children let on board with both parents obstructed from entry. And because of the our real reservation was a year away, we were actually able to get a full refund, which nobody else could say, really.

I really did feel like I was in a Randy Newman song though...

So there we were, down in Baltimore with a week of vacation days, one set of clothes each, and a non-refundable two night stay in Washington DC booked for 5 days in the future. Faced with the prospect of trusting Royal Caribbean to ship our bags back (and also the prospect of them charging us a huge fee for the pleasure), and in spite of the strong urge to cut our losses and flee home for a stay-cation, we decided to make our most of our time down in the mid-Atlantic. We wanted to get our bags in person when the boat came back to port.

It made for a very unorthodox and random vacation to places we never would have gone otherwise. It was quite an adventure planning travel without a computer or the internet. And despite the bad beginning, it did turn out to be a pretty fun trip. Like I said, we did all the things that a cruise vacation invokes, just in a different place entirely.

I'll be blogging a little bit of what we ended up doing over the next few days. Like this trip, I ended up not taking pictures. It's strange when that happens.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bodliean Baby

I've been reminiscing a fair bit about Oxford lately. It might just be because I'm about to travel again, and my mind is drifting back to other places I've been. I missed it so much I even watched the terrible Elijah Wood mystery movie, "Oxford Murders" (2008) just to see the scenery. Seriously, don't ever watch it. It's awful.

This was the view from the bed in my dorm room. I always knew what time it was.

One of the Oldest and most complete libraries in Great Britain...

The world coolest Natural History Museum...

Or maybe its the impending Harry Potter film that's got me thinking of Oxford. I got to see a lot of the places they filmed there, including the cloisters at New College, where Draco Malfoy gets his from Mad-eye Mooney. Though I suppose this last film won't really show much of Hogwarts...

PS, while we're on the topic - When did Neville Longbottom get so f-ing handsome? I'm very impressed with this!
Can't wait to see the film when we get back from our trip!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cups and Balls

Paul and I watched "Penn and Tellers Magical History Tour" last night. It was a weird mix of documentary, magic show, and uncomfortably awkward personal monologue. The famous magicians go to Egypt to uncover the country's supposed ties with ancient magic. In the end, they basically conclude that the only reason we associate Egypt with magic is because magicians in the 70's drew hieroglyphs on their Aztec Tombs.

They meet a lot of street performers, including one that swallows and regurgitates snakes. But the real star of the show is the "cups and balls" illusion, that magicians have allegedly been doing since the time of pyramid wall paintings. Penn and Teller cap off the special by showing us their version of the cups and balls, done with complete transparency, right down to the clear plastic cups.

Even when they're telling you what they're doing, I still have a hard time catching them palming the balls. My eyes don't move fast enough I guess.

The weirdest part of this movie is that Teller talks!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I recently re-read all of Rene Engstrom's wonderful webcomic dramedy "Anders Loves Maria".
If you haven't read it yet, you really should. It's a surprisingly complex love story of two Swedish art students and their strange social worlds. The art is really striking, and it's cool to read from the beginning and see Engstrom's style refine. I would describe it as a page turner, you (or at least I) get really invested in the characters and want them to come out of it all unscathed. It's a complete story too, with a really surprising end. The artist has a new comic "So Far Apart" that I haven't read yet, but want to soon.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Here's another classic Aardman animation. This actually might be my favorite of all their shorts, and the soundtrack has a fair bit to do with it. "Wat's Pig" (1996) is the story of twin brothers, separated as babies, and their diverging and converging lives. It's a great example of just how much in a story can be conveyed non-verbally. Only one word is used in the whole of it all.

Despite being the title character, you hardly see Wat's pet/mom pig at all. The split screen effect is creatively done too, and the sets are beautifully detailed. Claymation is so cool.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Birds of a Feather

I've been getting really into bird watching again. Right now, with the migrations and whatnot, we're getting a great number and variety of birds at our feeder. Yesterday, there was a huge flock of dark-eyed juncos (which really sounds like a slur) in the yard. At least 30 of them, scratching for food on the ground. When I went out to refill the feeder, they all took flight, and it was really quite amazing.

My new favorite at the feeder is the red-breasted nuthatch. I was always fond of its bigger, white breasted cousin and his habit for going down trees face first. This little guy has a cool racing stripe across his eyes that looks just like our state bird, the black-capped chickadee.

It's kind of cool actually, these two birds seems to have a verry friendly relationship in nature. It might have something to do with their similar markings, or maybe it's because their calls are alike, but there's lots of evidence that nuthatches are able to understand the distress calls that chickadees make. There has also been instances of the two species sharing nests and child rearing duties. And as a matter of fact, the nuthatches at our feeder seem to roam around with a gang of chickadee buddies. BFFs forever!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The "children writhing on a pike" platform

Today is election day, and I hope that you're all taking the time to be an active citizen and vote. This is the first time in a very long while that I'll actually be going to my polling place, instead of phoning it in via absentee ballot. Probably, actually, since the first time I ever voted, at the Hubbardston Center School. I'm kind of excited to go in the little cubicle, it gives the whole process a more theatrical air.

And boy is this a benchmark year for political theatrics. So much chest beating and whatnot. There's a lot of talk about how the rhetorical climate has reached a new low. But this nifty video I found via stumble helps remind us all how name calling has been a staple of our public discourse since hardtack was a staple of our diet.

And man, they had much better insults back then. Cut through the passive aggressive bullshit and say how you really feel, John Adams. Go for the throat!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Nothing like politics to make for a scary Halloween, right?

I was just reading this great article about domestic terrorists that were inspired by the Faux News crew. Number 3 caught my eye in particular:

"Jim David Adkisson: Killed two people and wounded six others in a shooting attack at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in West Knoxville, Tenn., in 2008. Adkisson was inspired by Fox commentator Bernard Goldberg: “This was a symbolic killing,” Adkisson wrote. “Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate and House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg’s book. I’d like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I knew these people were inaccessible to me.” Goldberg is the author of 110 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken Is #37) "

This just makes me sad. Al Franken is a great American and a conscientious leader.

He may have started on TV, but he's earned his place as a powerful citizen. And doggone it, people like him.

He's sort of like Sarah Palin in reverse. She started as a somewhat respected leader and devolved into a silly caricature.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Spooky Tale by Me

Hi Guys!
I decided for Halloween that I'd like to put up one of the creepier stories that I wrote for my Senior Project. It's pretty long, so I won't be offended if you don't read it. But I thought it might be cool to put up my writing for other folks to see. Its a story about a college professor, his gross dinner and his tawdry past. If you do read it, thanks!

The Bones

Faculty dinners are a torturous bore. I had almost decided not to go. They always wanted to group us all together to discuss some dismal news, a budget cut or some overblown union conflict. They lure you in with the promise of a fine meal and bottles of wine, then broadside you with some parochial atrocity.

I was walking down, or rather, I was scraping along Miller St., enumerating all the reasons I hated going to these dismal affairs. I doubted that anybody would even miss the head of the English department at all, and it would be easy to play sick, being an old man. I had just about talked myself into truancy, turning around and retreating to my warm apartment, when I passed a pack of vagrants squatting along the building's foundation. There were at least ten of them, lying indiscriminately on blankets and propping themselves upon the wall. They were all men, bearded and stinking, that is, except for one misplaced child. A little girl, who was at once astonishingly thin and pale.

I was already in their midst, as they outstretched their rattling cans. It felt unmanageable to turn back, I didn't want to seem like I was avoiding them, or afraid of them. I had to march through their ranks. I decided to put a few quarters into the mooching hands of the one I assumed to be the girl's father. She was clinging near his arm, and whispered something in his ear as I passed by. As she tilted her head away from the vagabond's ear, I was struck by the beauty of her eyes. They were the softest, palest green, and seemed to shine from some inward light.

To my surprise, I found myself outside the restaurant very shortly after. My mind had been so consumed by that frail little girl, and those bright, beautiful eyes. I had wandered all the way there without realizing it. I was about to return to my original avoidance, when I was grabbed by the arm by the Dean, who greeted me with unaccountable exuberance. I was quickly conveyed into the private dining room where far-too familiar faces where already clucking about tenure policies. I ordered a glass of wine and did my best to convincingly mingle among people who seemed unconscious of my agitated groans. Now there was really no escape.

Things carried on as they usually did . People talking about their new books, complaining about how rude and entitled their students are, gossiping about the Chancellor. I, as usual, stayed quiet, counting the minutes in the meal, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next course as soon as the first was put in front of me.

Hathaway finally arrived after I had drained my soup bowl. I was swallowing my second glass of pinot noir when he came running in, stammering over-loud apologies and awkwardly shaking his fraying attache case at his hip.

“I'm so sorry! You wouldn't believe the traffic on the way up, and I couldn't even find a
place to chain my bicycle...”

As his rambling excuses continued to flow out, I noticed his pant-legs were splattered with a dark brown filth. As he turned to shake the Bursar's hand, I noticed the stains were also dappled up his jacket's back. Had he been riding through a cow field? When I noticed he was shuffling over, extending his weather-chilled hand to me, I shuddered, unintentionally. I hoped none of my fellow dinner guests noticed. I had always had a hard time dealing with Hathaway. I had just became the head of the English department when he was hired to teach the Romantic poets to undergraduates. For whatever reason, he latched on to the idea of befriending me that first year, and was always dogging me around my office, wiping his nose on his sleeve and trying to discuss Lord Byron. It was oppressive! I avoided him as best I could and tried my hardest not to give him any impression of interest at all in his skinny, anxious person.

He's a rather pathetic case, though, and I do feel sorry for him. About five years ago, the poor man was on a sabbatical in Scotland. He was at Abbotsford, the Walter Scott homestead, when, well, nobody is quite sure how it happened, but he managed to poke his eye clear out on some ornamental sword. I assume he was giving it an examination in his own disgustingly exuberant way. He spent nearly three weeks in the hospital, and came back one month early with a rather realistic glass eye. Despite it's well crafted pupil, I couldn't quite get over the stiff mismatched gaze. That was nearly fifteen years ago, which I can hardly believe. I'm still agitated by his uneven stare, and his sniveling nervousness. I shook his hand though, of course.

“Glad you could finally grace us with your presence.”

“I'm so sorry, again. Did I miss anything important?”

“No.” I said plainly. Though truthfully, I hadn't been really paying attention much either. The Dean of Students had been blabbering on about some research grants and a rather sinister sounding ten-point plan. Whenever plans had points, it was bound to cost us funding. My meal was gently placed in front of me by a very attractive young girl in a lop-sided red bow tie. Bland Salmon. For years I had been religiously simple in my diet, in the dream of achieving longevity. It didn't seem to do much, at seventy five I was just as old as anybody else in my position. The worst part was, I wasn't prepared. Despite the years of prayers, the flimsy advice columns and magic potions. Even the daily rigor of calisthenics, glasses of red wine, merciless self-denial. It felt all for naught.

My body's deterioration was a cruel joke. Every new ache, and wrinkle felt like a sweltering bruise. My name now even served as a mockery, Nelson Balding, conspicuously absent of hair. Everyday I had to walk through this wretched campus, teeming with handsome, blithe young men and buxom girls in their prime of sweetness. Then I had to go home and look at my own sagging, feeble aspect. It hadn't always been this way. Once upon a time, I had a following here on campus. My classes were always overfilled, and girls would come to my office hours with hungry looks. More than a few were there solely to flirt.

I slept with some. Not many. Only the ones that I felt were mature enough to understand how our relationship must be. The ones who knew it was physical, intellectual and nothing more. The ones who really understood Proust. My favorite had been a brunette named Marie, an exchange student from Sweden, who shouted quotes from Tolstoy throughout. Where had the time gone? I've lost myself.

I was carefully digging through my pile of rice pilaf, when my fork struck something thick and stiff, hidden by the granular pile. I felt with the prongs of my implement to measure out the material's shape, avoiding drawing attention to my curious prodding. I glanced at the person next to me, the Provost, a skinny, bird-like women, was sneering over a plate of beef bourguignon.

“Weren't you at the Physics hiring committee last weekend?” She was asked by a fat man I didn't recognize, gesturing with a half-eaten roll.

“Yes!” Her voice was raspy and dry, “Isn't that a riot? What do I know about physics?”

I continued my excavation project, diverting all my attention to picking at the plate. As the grains fell away, my stomach began to contort. It arose from the ashes of my meal with a remarkable distinctness. Small but dense, the color of dirty snow, with a slender, arched bit jutting from the bottom. The two deep, round hollows of the side were aimed up at me, and seemed to be connecting with my gaze.

“Oh god! Oh god!” Gravelly screams spurted near my ear, spewed out by the Provost. “What is that! What is that! Oh god! What is that?”

I looked up and saw that she was standing now, her flimsy chair thrown to the ground behind her, pointing her bony finger violently toward my plate. Soon everybody was standing up and looking, a few men gagged. Nearly all the women were screaming.

Chairs scraped across the ground, water glasses overturned. I just sat there, with that same raw feeling in my stomach, my eyes flashing between the bedlam that surrounded me, and the bare rodent's skull, neatly nestled in the mound of multi-colored rice. The dinner adjourned early.

The managers gave everybody a full refund, and treated me with groveling, boot-licking deference. I'm sure they fully expected me to go immediately to the authorities, to shut them down, and sue the bow ties right off of them. I felt nauseous, and my knees were starting to dully throb. I just wanted to go home, I told them, don't worry. I just wanted to leave. Honestly, they should have been more concerned about my frantic colleagues than me. The Dean's wife was still crying these loud, nasally sobs that could have broken plate glass. Hathaway seemed totally disoriented, and kept asking the mortified wait staff where he had parked his bicycle. When one of the trustees started vomiting into a potted plant in the foyer, I took the opportunity to slip out without saying goodbye to any of them.

My apartment was dark when I finally got home, with only a square reddish outline, cast by the window, imposing itself on the faded wall. I stood in the dark awhile, my eyes casting its own images on the canvas of the dark. I perceived the outline of the gloomy skull, hovering above where my sofa would sit. It was soon enveloped by the horror of Hathaway's glass eye, floating pupil up in the thin brown broth of the Provost's meal. I kept the lights off even as I turned to climb the stairs, cautiously feeling the familiar steps with my feet. My brittle feet.

It seemed much later than nine. It seemed like I had been awake for an age. I clicked on the bedside lamp, a ghastly rococo looking thing a colleague gave me to celebrate my tenure. It gave the glass of my framed photographs, family portraits, past vacations, an impossible white glare, obscuring landmarks, and the expressions of faces. The thin glow made my room unfamiliar and dusty, the bed cold and strangely solid, like it was hewn from marble. I decided to avoid resting on its stone countenance and chose to tire my rambling mind and eyes with reading. My finger, my yellowed nails, ran across the bindings of my collection. I decided on Doctor Faustus, and slowly lowered myself into my window seat, unhappily aware of the soreness in the back of my thighs. I regretted walking from the restaurant.

I was distracted. The skull kept returning to my thoughts, meshed with the Provost's terrified shouts. I sat and watched the shadows pass and change in the alley, between my apartment building and the next. Garbage scraps mingled with misplaced leaves and pale swirls of light dust, blowing aimlessly in the confines of the brick-lined compartment. It was all rather subdued, save for the shadows of a few dirty cats, hopping in and out of a wet cardboard box. I pushed my slipping spectacles back up the bridge of my nose, fitting the cushions back into the red sweaty indents habitual wearing wrought. They slid together like puzzle pieces. I turned my eyes back to Marlowe, scanning some fading pencil-marked notes I made in the margins, when a sudden light movement, a brightness, heavily pulled my gaze. I was brought again to the window. The young beggar was there.

Her tiny frame, lit by some eerie glow, cast a long shadow. She was creeping with her hands outreached, walking with such careful, ginger steps. Her silvery hair hung loose around her slightly hunched shoulders. Her arms were bare in spite of the cold. Her feet were thick in black boots that seemed a great deal too large. I watched her move toward the wall, her fingers flexing open and shut into tight fists. It came upon me with sickening clarity that she might actually be blind as I watched her face strain, her mouth open and trembling. She felt along the array of overfilled dumpsters. The mangy cats stopped capering to watch her approach, cowering with their ears back. As her hand grazed the edge of their damp cardboard they erupted from their silence with strained yowls. One clamored away, loudly upending a metal bin, while the other harshly struck, clawing at the groping child's arm before skittering into some dark corner. The girl threw herself back from the scene frantically, shielding her face with one arm, and swatting at the air with the other. Her hair flew wildly unkempt as her frail body tumbled awkwardly to the ground.

I don't remember how my muscles and bones overtook my fatigue, I don't remember how my knees regained their forgotten elasticity, but before my mind had recovered its place, I was ankle deep in dirty rotting leaves. The little girl was on her hands and knees, pushing her pale thin fingertips between the cracks in the pavement. Her breathing was deep and quick. I extended my hand to her, but her eyes stayed fixedly downcast. She was blind.

“Hello? Little girl? Are you ok?” Her head turned sharply toward me, her hair still madly
skewed across her face.

“Who's there?” Her voice was very small, but surprisingly deep.

“My name is Doctor Balding. Are you ok?” I ventured to touch her shoulders, and guide her to standing. Her skin was cold, much colder than the air that surrounded us. As I hoisted her to her feet, she began to breath unsettlingly quickly, a precursor to tears. She pushed at her face with her raw bluish palms.

“Dear, you're freezing,” I heard my voice croak, “come inside.” Her eyes once again fixed themselves on my voice, her lids fluttered opened. I saw beneath her shining lashes her pupils, the color of faded mint green and swollen with sadness.

I left the little one in the living room. She sat silently, wrapped in a colorful crocheted blanket on my sofa, smiling, staring into nothing. She had been very quiet as we climbed the stairs back up my apartment. It had been a slow ascent, but she didn't seem to be bothered by it. Unlike some hyper-active, indolent brat, who would clamor obnoxiously ahead of me, she kept closely by my side, grasping my hand and shuffling slowly in her monstrous boots. The only sound that escaped her was an unhealthy sniffling.

I sifted through my cupboards trying to find some food that a child would like. I had managed, so far in my life, to remain childless, and thus my house was free of anything with a cartoon character on it or a prize in the box. I settled on butter cookies with little glazed chess pieces on them. She remained in her silent satisfaction as I arrayed them on a small tea saucer, and poured a tall glass of milk.

“There now, I hope you like cookies,” I said as I pressed the glass into her hands. Her skin was still fantastically cold, even now that she was wrapped in warmer layers. She didn't say a word, but maintained her feverish smile, as she brought a sweet bishop to her lips.

“What's your name, little girl?” I asked as I sat beside her on the couch. Her smile seemed to grow wider at this. She pressed her fingertips together as she finished chewing.

“Cassandra.” Her voice again startled me, it was so low it defied the the slightness of her figure, the slenderness of her uncovered arms.

“Cassandra. That's a very beautiful name. How old are you Cassandra?”

At this, she shook her head playfully and laughed, wagging her loose hair. She greedily pushed another cookie into her mouth, leaving a few stray crumbs on her lips. Her strange bluish lips.

“Do you live nearby here? Where are your mommy and daddy?” Her blank eyes flickered around the room as she giggled some more. She brought her hands slowly to her chest and began to crack her knuckles, slowly, one finger at a time. The noise was piercing and full, ten methodical hollow snaps. I questioned her again, but she kept to her unarticulated withdrawn laughter.

What to do about this little girl? I felt very confused about what to offer her next. She was so quiet and unhelpful at announcing her needs. She mostly stayed silent and withdrawn, or inwardly chuckling at some unheard joke. Perhaps she was just happy to be warm? I decided that when it came to parenting, I was a hopeless case. I needed help from somebody who understood children. But who? I mentally sorted through all the women in my department who had sought maternity leave. They might know what this poor little blind girl expected of me. Yet, I couldn't bring myself to look up their numbers and call them. The situation was just too strange. It would look all wrong to them. I would become, in their feminine eyes, the specter of some kidnapper from a crime drama.

Then, it hit me! Someone who was accustomed to young children and the loss of sight. I looked up Hathaway's number in my day planner, inked hurriedly in the margins. How many times had he elbowed pictures of his little darlings under my nose, to boast with a saccharine fatherly pride? It was finally relevant to me.

As the phone rang by my ear, I wondered about Cassandra, sleeping so peacefully on the sofa. She lay down to rest so peculiarly, giggling even her eyes closed. Her slumber seemed to come instantaneously, as she lay flat, facing upward on her back. The ringing clicked off, and I heard the drowsy, distracted voice of Hathaway muffled slightly at the other end.

“Hathaway? It's Balding calling.” I said briefly

“Balding!” his voice amplified ten-fold “Jesus! What happened to you? You just

“Well, I understand, the whole...dinner thing, it was rather traumatizing. But you should have told somebody you were leaving. The Dean made us stay for an hour looking for you under tables!”

“Well it's a shame you left too, the restaurant wrote a big check to you to pay for your distress. The manager and the owner were going to present to you themselves. They were ready to do just about anything to keep you quiet! Then we all looked around and you were nowhere to be found!”

“But how do you think it got in there? You know,” his voice lowered again, “the bones? It's not like something like that just falls in a plate of rice. It almost looked like it had been buried or...”

“Oh, right sorry. I'm sure that this is still pretty horrid for you. I told myself I wasn't going to bring it up. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring it up. But the whole situation is so irregular. It's the sort of thing you only hear about on the news or something. The whole thing is just too bizarre. How does a skull get into food like that? So neatly preserved and placed...”

“Well, I've got to go!” I had practically yelled into the receiver before throwing it down.

Damn Hathaway. His speech was like an eternal barrage of words, he never stops. He just wanted to talk about that damned skull. That damned skull, looking up from my plate and meeting my eyes. It stared right at me, compelling me to return the gaze from the depths of those dark hollows. Damn! I tried not to think of it anymore. As I walked back out to the living room, my hands were shaking more than their usual dull tremor. Cassandra was still there, sleeping soundly on her back. I had resolved to call the police in the morning.

My bed felt so uncomfortable that night, the sheets as coarse as paper bags on my skin. I laboriously tossed and turned, tangling myself in blankets. Light flickered oddly through my bedroom window. I had neglected to shut the curtain. I looked toward my alarm clock. Midnight. Wasn't it midnight hours ago? It seemed like this night was never ending, the hours perpetually sustaining themselves over the course of days, of lifetimes! I rose to draw shut the curtain and decided to get a glass of water, and maybe look in on that little girl. Her face was so familiar somehow. I knew I had seen her before somewhere, other than that street corner. But where?

As I opened the door, a rush of air pushed past me, flattening my pajamas against my body. I normally slept nude, but thought I should dress in case Cassandra woke up fearful in the night. It suddenly struck me that her blindness made that an issue of lesser consequence. I was also struck by the sudden change in the air as I entered the hall.

Everything was cold and sharp. I glanced at the framed art in the wall and thought, in the darkness, I saw frost forming in the corners of the frame. My skin raised into rough goosebumps along my arms. The air also felt thicker, like a wet humidity. My lungs were laboring, my breath was pinched, wheezing. When I reached the top of the stairs, I leaned heavily on the wall, my shoulders slumping into it. The hall seemed suddenly lit by a strange bright light. Perhaps the full moon lit through the window behind me? It seemed too strong for that. I closed my eyes and tried to regain my breathing. It was alarmingly harsh. I tried to calm my pulse.

When I opened my eyes again, I was startled to see Cassandra standing at the bottom of the stairs. She was looking up toward me, smiling, her stare aimed at me with that same unerring glare I found on my dinner plate. She reached up toward me, and pulsated her hands between fists and flattened palms again, her lips pursed shut. My breathing had calmed slightly, but there was an intolerable buzzing rising in my ears. It asserted itself above all other sounds; my thoughts were subdued. All I could focus on was the grinding, low buzzing and Cassandra as her lips parted into that same accustomed grin.

I slowly, clumsily descended the stair towards her. My ears were aching with this terrible sound. I ran my hands against the wall to steady myself, and ended my descent by crumbling to my knees at the bottom of the stair. I had lost my footing, my knees slapped heavily against the hardwood floor. I was at Cassandra's feet. She was glancing downward, her eyes aimed now at my neck, but her arms still remained lifted.

Flattened palm, tightened fists, skin stretched then tucked and hidden behind fingers. The brightness of this strange moon cast the whole hall in a cool glow. My chest felt as though it was going to cave in from the horrible vibrations of this growling, terrible sound. It only became louder and more excruciating. Cassandra raised her arms higher, reaching above her head, still grasping at the air.

Her lips parted. Her chest rose. As the air passed between her lips, the deep, horrible vibrations increased in intensity, then dropped away, like a wave breaking on the shore. I knew at that moment that this intense, inescapable grinding was coming from within this tiny girl. Her breath was generating these terrible tones. I looked toward her face, which was tilted slightly, still marked by that unaccountable half-smile. I grasped feebly around the hem of her dirty skirt and called up to her;

“Cassandra,” I felt dizzy, “Cassandra? Are you making that sound?”

The harsh deep tones shuddered inwardly, and returned. At the very tip of the noise, I could hear the girls voice speaking. How high-pitched it now seemed in comparison to this endless dirge.

“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.” Her voice roared, as she slowly lowered her flexing arms from above her head. Her voice was terrible to listen to. I pressed my hands into my ears to mute it, but the sound only seemed to rise in intensity again.

“Nelson,” her voice commanded, but her lips were still, “What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness.”

She brought her cold hand to my cheek. It felt like ice on my skin, burning with cold. She cupped my cheeks like a concerned mother, commanding my face to meet her eyes. The buzzing had wracked my body with pain, but it was starting to melt away. Cutting through the low tones, Cassandra's voice became a more pronounced pitch.

“Oh Nelson,” she moaned, moaning like a woman would, “If you want to be happy, be.”

How quickly her face changed to me. I saw it all so clearly. The fullness of her lips. The paleness of her complexion, the gleam of her eyes, even the pointedness of her ears. All but her hair, silver instead of black, matched the aspect of my gentle Marie. My mind matched her with a memory. Marie on her back, writhing in the sheets. Her eyes closed, lips parted. She moans.

I ripped my face from the girls cold hands, and turned, scrambling up the stairs on all fours like a frightened animal. At the top, I rose clumsily and took a step back from the edge of the landing. Cassandra was still there, staring up at me. The buzzing rose as she took a long, deep breath. She raised her arms again, and once again pulled in fistfuls of cold, deathly air.

“Daddy?” her voice was a whisper, but it reverberated in my mind like a piercing screech. I fell down again to my bruised knees. The eerie glow of the room overwhelmed me. The buzzing wouldn't stop, it was growing louder and louder again. I called up a memory, Marie on the last day of class, waiting for me outside my office door. Me, doubling back, avoiding her. I knew she was attached. I couldn't afford to perpetuate it. I threw away her letters, unopened.

As I crumpled further into a heap, I realized how to stop this torturous noise. I knew how to end this sound, this pain. I knew how to appease Cassandra. I brought my hands together into a neat point, and felt the cool clamminess of my pressing palms. Another memory, even through the sickening dark rumbling that shook my mind, of the goodnight prayers of my childhood, pushed from behind onto pious knees by my bedside. My chest ached. I rushed back up to the edge of the stair, and cast my body through the air's thickness, diving from the top step. For a long-stretched instant, I floated, effortlessly above the stair, as though I was hovering, suspended from a thin string. All the pains that I had carried through the day had vanished, and my body was perfect and new. How soothing to be carried through air like a breath of nothingness. Beneath me, Cassandra laughed and turned in tight circles, gleeful that I recognized her mind. The terrible buzzing stopped, and was replaced by a new kind of silence.