Monday, May 31, 2010

Overheard at the Pet Store

CHILD: So you don't want a hamster.

FATHER: No I don't.

CHILD: Have you ever thought that a hamster might save your life?
I'd like to say that -- when pressed -- the child told an imaginative and brilliant story about a life-saving hamster, but instead he totally choked and couldn't provide any rationale for his statement.

But he was only about five years old and the statement was brilliant. The rationale will come.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dr. Seuss and Flit: "Jewels Me Eye!"

Because I can't think of anything clever or historically-relevant to say about this particular Dr. Seuss cartoon, I'll simply ask: does anybody else have fond memories of Cheech and Chong's "Earache My Eye?"

In response to Dave's timely posting of 25 Horribly Sexist Vintage Ads in the comments, here's an advertisement from Maillard's chocolates.
He didn't mean to let that early morning grouch get the better of him...even if the coffee was cold. And now he's making amends by bringing her a box of Maillard's Chocolats Miniature.

Will this fix things? Will it bring to dinner the entente cordiale? You know it will!
Why does her picture remind me of that guy in "Seven" who'd been strapped to a bed for a year? Must be the raccoon makeup and the crazy-eye look.

A Few Weeks with Muffet

Every day with Muffet is a new set of adventures and challenges. We're both training each other, and meanwhile she's adapting to her new environment AND growing into adulthood. She's bigger and heavier than before but still has the spindly, long-legged look of a furry spider.

Here are some scattered impressions from the past few weeks.
  • They say that "curiosity killed the cat," and now I understand why. Muffet wants to explore everything. She would climb into a running wood chipper if given the opportunity. When I washed my first load of clothes after her arrival, I went into the basement during the wash cycle and there was Muffet, sitting in the laundry tub and staring up into the washer's outflow pipe, wondering what would happen next. I removed her but there will surely come a day...
  • Yes, she has been scratching my wonderful new chairs. A liberal misting of cat repellent seems to have helped, and I've also been rewarding her each time she uses her scratching tray. As a result she spends much of her time scratching at her tray, staring up at me in confusion, and then scratching some more. It's our way of bonding.
  • Play...ooooh, play. Our morning and twilight involves burning off her excess of energy, which she signals by batting at my ankles. She doesn't care for balls or tiny facsimile mice, but she gets a kick out of a plastic spring that Delirium gal A. gave her, and she REALLY likes Zsa Zsa's old "feather snake," (see picture) though that game always ends with her hiding under the bed and just watching it go by, which is boring.
  • There was a time when I answered to her every beep and meow, which was a mistake. Now she's like the kid who stands at the bottom of the stairs and yells "HEY MA!!! I'M HUNGRY!!! COME HERE!!!" It will take some time to extinguish this behaviour, but until then my mornings are a little tense: she's a loud girl and talkative even at the best of times, and at 5am this is far from welcome.
  • Remember that Stray Badass Cat who used to terrorize Zsa Zsa? Muffet finally had enough of him the other day, and she squeezed under the patio gate and KICKED HIS ASS ALL ACROSS THE PARKING LOT. I had to stop her even though I was secretly proud of her, and that cat doesn't come into our patio anymore.
  • Zsa Zsa never noticed bugs, but Muffet hunts them relentlessly (except for bees, thankfully). Maybe this is something that cats eventually get tired of.
  • Muffet is no longer terrified of my bedroom and spends lots of time there, though she prefers to actually sleep in the living room. In the morning she comes up to meow at me, and when I finally say "Okay, time to get up," she walks over to me and lies down on my chest and then goes to sleep.
  • Shortly after she was spayed, Muffet became lethargic and very hot. Fortunately she had a vet appointment that day, and they diagnosed her with -- get this -- "Fever of Unknown Origin." This is apparently common in dogs and cats and not just a bad joke. She recovered completely in a few days.

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Constipation," Volume II

Fans of yeast will remember that two years ago I printed the words of Parisian Dr. Victor Pauchet, author of that world-famous book "Constipation." That was from the October 16, 1928 issue of The New Yorker.

Lo and behold, here in the August 2, 1930 issue of the very same magazine, we find Dr. Alberto Catalina of Madrid...
...He is the author of an important treatise, "Constipation."
I guess it was a popular title for books at the time. Folks used to be awfully concerned with their bowels, after all.


Included here is the testimony of Mrs. Marguerite Falkenburg, who had intestinal trouble until she started eating Fleischman's yeast. Please note the name of her hometown.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'd Buy Anything By...Talk Talk

It's outrageously hot here in Southern Ontario so excuse me while I try to sweat this one out. It's a shame, because...

...I'd buy absolutely ANYTHING by Talk Talk. I'd buy bootlegs. I'd buy T-shirts. I'd buy baseball hats, which I don't even wear. I'd buy clippings of Lee Harris' back hair, and I'd still cherish those clippings even if I later discovered that they actually came from some other drummer's back.

In short, I adore Talk Talk and no flippant post can adequately convey that.

Why do I love them so much?

The individuality. The uncompromising drive to do whatever the hell they wanted, while somehow having the credibility to do so. A serious and bombastic passion. A beauty.

For me, it all started when I rushed out to buy Thomas Dolby's "Europa and the Pirate Twins." The record store didn't carry the single but they DID have a 45 that featured four different artists. I bought it for Thomas Dolby, but I was amazed to hear the self-titled song by Talk Talk. I loved it but it was a bit too Duran Duran for me.

Fast forward to the title track of their second album -- c'mon, you know it, "Life's What You Make It" -- and I was somewhat hooked, but it wasn't until "Colour of Spring" that I fell completely.

Have you heard "Colour of Spring?" After shaking off their manufactured New Romantic style, and still retaining some of their sublime pop, "Colour of Spring" was an amazing fusion of Top 40 and virtuoso improvisation. Mark Hollis was still singing about the human condition, and Paul Webb's and Lee Harris were still laying down a solid groove, but suddenly all these other musicians were involved: Mark Feltham's overdriven harmonica, Robbie Macintosh and David Rhodes on guitar, Morris pert's percussion, Stevie Winwood's sublime Hammond organ, all of them given equal time and attention and yet somehow sounding great together!

And holding it all together was producer and unofficial fourth member Tim Friese-Greene. He helped make it all gel into some of the most unlikely songs to hit the charts.

I hope that the world hasn't forgotten "Life's What You Make It," which was the real baffling single off the album. But did you ever give a listen to "Living in Another World?" Here's a mostly-live performance -- I think only the drums are pre-recorded -- that presents a literal wall of perfectly-meshing sound. This was Talk Talk at their height.

I think we were all confused by what came next: "Spirit of Eden." Continuing their musical trajectory it dove almost completely into experimental rock-jazz, inspired by extended jams and ideas provided by all members of a huge collection of musicians. I won't rehash all the details of its recording, release, and commercial failure (read the Wikipedia article for that), but I'll be the first to admit that I didn't "get it." There were parts that I liked, but I missed the pop.

All that EMI could do was to chop up one of the most friendly songs and make a single and a video. Then they dropped the band.

I was even more at odds with their follow-up and final album, "Laughing Stock," which dispensed entirely with any pretense of commercialism and was a long, languid, meditative journey. What's more, Paul Webb had left and taken his amazing bass playing with him.

Mark Hollis eventually released a solo album that was almost entirely personal and impenetrable. Meanwhile, Harris and Webb had formed "O.Rang," a collection of musicians who performed a more raucous and percussive style of the "Spirit of Eden" phase. I didn't like Hollis' album but I did like most of O.Rang.

It took years for the world to recognize what Talk Talk had done with "Spirit of Eden" and "Laughing Stock." They're now considered to be revolutionary must-have albums, and I've happily jumped on that bandwagon: I didn't have the ears or the musical experience to appreciate those difficult albums at the time, but I do now. They're amazing.

I just KNOW that they haven't given up, and I live in hope that Talk Talk -- together or separately -- will release another amazing album.

Essential albums: "Colour of Spring" and "Laughing Stock." Albums to avoid: their first two albums of keyboard-heavy pop sound a bit dated to some, but I think they're fantastic in their own way...they definitely show the band's ripening potential. You really SHOULD avoid "History Revisted," a collection of terrible remixes and a blatant EMI cash grab which the band managed to actually withdraw and destroy with a successful lawsuit. For fans only: "Asides Besides" (a 2-CD set of rarities, demos, and remixes) and perhaps their "Live at Montreux" CD, which seems to suffer from poor production.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Creepy Pedro Reviews "Splinter"

What if you create a monster that is too scary to even film?

If you create this monster from the mind of your wickedness and also the wickedness of mimes and gymnasts, and on the set when it's time to record the movie you say to your cameraman, "Film the creature!" and the cameraman says "It's too scary! I can't even look!" and all you see are the edges of the creature and maybe some flickery light?

It's no use! No matter how much you yell "To the left! The creature isn't what you're filming! That's a shelf in a gas station!"

And not to be sexist, if also you have a female woman with a camera, and you say to her "Film the creature, already! Be brave!" and she screams in fear and in the editing room the footage is shaky like shot by a schoolgirl, one too afraid, who becomes all a'shivery-shakey in the sight of your creature?

What do you do? You must simply make the movie anyway, as the "Splinter" director did, and perhaps you throw up your hands and say "You really should've seen that creature!" and laugh ruefully...the rueful laugh of an imagination too wicked even for horror films, the laugh of a man without footage. He wishes, we think, that someday in the future -- maybe even in a sequel -- his crew will be braver and will look his wicked creature straight in the eyes...then we'll see it and we will believe him!

Until that day the Splinter creature is something seen only with Pause, and even then when it is a blur of spinning in front of the shelves or sometimes beside the shelves. On Pause, the creature is almost caught in a perfect moment. On Pause you cannot hear the dialog of the characters who suffer horrific transformations: the wimp into the hero, the tough girl into crying and all a'shivery-shakey, the heartless brutal villain who is actually not understood by us or even by the writers until we find his whole purpose is to HELP PEOPLE, but we never understood, we didn't stop to wonder until his whole arm was gone, so now we must care?

A man puts a thermometer in his mouth and stumbles coldly in a parking lot for ten minutes with bags of ice against his chest, as a climax, and they sure got enough footage of that part.

Madam Satan

I was going to mention "Madam Satan" when I posted about pre-code Hollywood last week, but because the film had come out in 1930 I figured the New Yorker would get to it soon enough. And here it is, in the June 26, 1930 issue, previewed in a short piece called "De Mille on the Flossy."
We await, with a kind of special breathlessness, the release of the new Cecil B. de Mille picture. Our eagerness is due to our knowing a little bit about the plot. It seems to us by far the finest plot we have ever heard. It is about a girl whose husband has been philandering, and the girl decides to be gay--abandoned, if you will. So she goes to a masquerade party aboard a dirigible (you can see that the thing is getting better already). The party, if we remember the story, winds up in a scene of great dissolution, in which the girl is sold on the auction block to the highest bidder, who is going to have his way with her. The highest bidder turns out to be her husband, but at that moment a Heaven-sent bold of lightning strikes the dirigible and all the guests have to make their escape in parachutes, including Ben Bernie and his orchestra, which has been playing for the dancing. The husband, floating gently earthward, lands in a bear's den in a zoo--and here we will leave him with the gentle reader.
If this EVER gets released on DVD then you really must see it. It's oddly-paced and hackneyed and meandering, but whenever it goes crazy it does so with huge spectacle, and the modern viewer can only sit in awed bafflement. It's nice to hear that the original audiences would have thought it equally fun and bizarre.

Amazingly there are no clips online of the more memorable "Madam Satan" moments -- the parade of showgirls singing "Doin' the Catwalk, Meooow!", the dance sequence meant to evoke modern machinery, the really spectacular blimp disaster -- but here's one of the sweet songs, "All I Know," featuring the two protagonists mentioned in the New Yorker writeup.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dr. Seuss and Flit: "French Flit"

When I say repeatedly that the early New Yorker magazine didn't usually tackle serious subjects, I was obviously lying, because here is Dr. Seuss referencing the London Naval Treaty.

Okay, okay, the magazine HAD mentioned the treaty in the past, but only in the context of goofy wordplay or in "The Wayward Press," their semi-regular column about what OTHER periodicals were printing. Written by Guy Fawkes, this was a bitchy take-down of New York's newspapers, often criticizing inaccuracies, inconsistencies between papers, yellow journalism, or -- Fawkes' personal beef -- the misleading elevation of minor, trivial occurrences into headline-breaking NEWS!!!

So although The New Yorker never REALLY covered the London Naval Treaty, their treatment of it probably reflected the mood of the people at the time: that it was a blustery piece of diplomacy which never seemed to end and which would ultimately achieve nothing.

I particularly remember Fawkes' article about it, where he took newspapers to task for sending hordes of reporters over to London where they...sat around and did nothing. The conference was so long and clandestine that the London-based reporters would send back stories about the weather or about the niece of some minor figurehead learning to ride a horse, but the papers would trumpet this stuff as NEWS!!!!!!

Anyway, Dr. Seuss doesn't seem to be taking these issues on in his cartoon. He's just drawing funny Frenchmen. Bless him.

1968 Emmanuel Bible College Yearbook

I was thrilled with the idea of posting choice moments from the Emmanuel Bible College yearbooks, but after the 1966 expose things became pretty crazy over here. I'd even gone through the 1968 edition and I had some big plans for it, but I'm afraid I've forgotten my "angles" and all I have on record are the pictures I chose.

So this one will be a quickie without any deep insight. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 1968 Emmanuel Bible College yearbook.

Students! The people in this yearbook are my mother's contemporaries, and she has confirmed that the EBC students were wearing appropriate, up-to-date clothing. It's interesting to note that she found the clothes in the 1966 yearbook to be stodgy and geriatric...what a difference a few years in the '60s made!

Another interesting thing to note is that the woman in the picture -- Donna Barnell of Indiana -- is my nomination for "Queen of Prom!" This is partly because she's got wicked style, but also because she was on every brainy committee that year: Publications (which kept churches in the area notified about the latest EBC events), literary president, student's council (secretary AND treasurer), and school secretary in general. Donna from Indiana, you've earned this honour!

As for KING of the Prom...well, you remember Harry Habel from 1966? He graduated in '68 with a degree in "Special," which I assume meant that they were anxious to just get rid of him. It pleases me to pair a youthful over-achiever with an annoying old farmer. What must it have been like to be Jewish in an evangelical bible college during the '60s? I don't know, but maybe we can glean something from his graduation picture.

Poor Harry. A little older, a little wiser, entirely special.

Anyway, one thing that set EBC apart from other schools was its emphasis on "Practical Work." This usually meant "perfecting the skills which send non-believers screaming in the other direction."

You in West Rouge and Elmira may have kicked Wayne and Tim off your porch.

These last two pictures are my favourites, and they show the "wacky side" of EBC campus life. First, here's Dixie Dean presenting "music from the four corners of the world" at the Christmas Banquet.

Who's "Dixie Dean," you ask? For shame! He started the "Canadian Accordion Club," and was a bright light in Canadian music during the first half of the century. His star appears to have fallen during the '60s but he worked for the Ontario Conservatory of Music here in good old Waterloo, so his appearance at the banquet must have been a real coup. For those who liked accordions.

Finally, here's one of those yearbook pictures that only makes sense to those who were there. EBC students from '68 are invited to explain not only how good Dixie Dean's performance was, but also why a man in rubber SCUBA gear is molesting this woman in her bed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

All My Neighbours: The Crack House

After leaving The Grey Yonder, some friends and I moved into The Radiator House. This was just across the street and much nicer than the previous place, an actual house that had been divided into two separate areas: a downstairs where a peaceful hippie couple lived, and an upstairs where the four of us shared a few tiny common areas.

Everything would have been fine if it weren't for THE CRACK HOUSE NEXT DOOR.

The guy who rented it was an extremely quiet, perpetually-stoned, moderately well-off young man who seemed to never go outside. At night he'd put his speakers in his windows and play bass guitar at top volume.

We knew he was selling drugs because a constant stream of traffic was always pulling in and out of his driveway, one of those terrible King St. North constructions that scrape the bottoms off of cars. This driveway was the reason for our first real altercation with our neighbour and his patrons.

You see, OUR driveway was a nice, well-graded path that looped around the back into a gravel parking lot. A particularly slick and disgusting fellow -- who we called "American Psycho" -- got into the habit of screeching into our driveway, racing across the parking lot, and driving up the grassy incline into the entrance to the crack house. This allowed him to avoid the terrible hump that was no doubt damaging his flashy low-rider sports car.

The problem was, this route required him to drive directly under the bedroom window of our peaceful hippie neighbours, and he'd do this at 3am every night, spraying gravel everywhere while deliberately gunning his engine. They'd asked him to stop several times and he always said he would, but then the next night he'd do it again, louder and faster than ever before. He was That Kind of Guy.

One morning I woke up to a furious pounding on our door. I went downstairs in my bathrobe and there was the American Psycho, ready to explode.

"WHO THE F*CK KEYED MY CAR?" he screamed, pushing his way into our hallway. American Psycho was big. He wore expensive suits and wrap-around shades and combed his thinning hair backward. He was not a guy to mess with.

"I don't know what you're talking about," I said.


"Wait--" I said.

He lunged toward me. "YOU F*CKING DID IT!" he yelled.

"I did not, wait..."


"Why would I key your car?"


"It's not my window," I said. "I live in the attic. That's the window for the people downstairs. Why would I key your car?"

He flew into a complete rage and started kicking apart an old desk that we'd left by the front door. I told him he'd have to leave or I'd call the police, and he stalked around the other side of the house to confront the peaceful hippie couple. I heard him screaming, and I heard the peaceful hippie husband scream back, and then American Psycho came stomping back around the house again. He punched our wall and drove away, the scratch on the side of his sports car painfully visible.

He never drove through our parking lot again. The peaceful hippie husband was built like Grizzly Adams, you see. So it all had a happy ending.

Anyway, the quiet bass-playing guy wasn't the only person living in the crack house. He was also sheltering a drug casualty who squatted in the unfinished basement with his girlfriend. We didn't see much of him either, but on particularly spooky nights we'd hear the door slam open and the girlfriend would howl: "FWAAAAAAAWK YOU!"

"Where you gonna go?" we'd hear him slur.

"FWAAAAAAAAAWK YOU!" Slowly, stoned and incapable, she'd stumble down king street. He'd stumble out and follow her, the two of them shambling along, and he'd keep saying "Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?"

"FWAAAAAAAAAWK YOU!" she'd howl, and gradually their voices would fade.

Ten minutes later we'd hear them from the other side: "Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?"

"ffffwwwwaaaAAAAAWK YOU!" And they'd both stumble back into the house, having circled the block and providing us with some sad late-night amusement. This happened a few times and it was always the same. They deserved each other.


Eventually the quiet bass-playing tenant left and some friends of ours decided to move into their house because it was really kind of nice. On the first of the month they pulled up with their moving truck, walked inside...and found the crackhead still squatting in the basement.

"I got nowhere to go," he said. "Just let me stay for a few more days." The walls were torn apart and sprayed with graffiti. There were syringes on the floor, circling a highly illegal propane tank which later had to be removed by the police.

Our friends finally managed to coax him out by promising to drive him to a friend's house, but on the way through the door he pointed at the ceiling fan in the living room and said "Wait, dude, that's my fan."

"It's not your fan, it's part of the house."

"I bought that fan. Listen, dude, I'm not leaving without my fan, it's worth a lot of money." So our friends removed the fan and gave it to him, assuming it was a small price to pay to finally get rid of him.

The Radiator House is still there but it has been converted into a massive student apartment, with an addition on the back that actually merges with the crack house. So have things changed and the student slums have grown.

Trapping the Bird and Sealing it Up

What the hell is it with olde-timey people and their canned poultry?

You may remember the vacuum-cooked chicken-in-glass of a few days fact, I bet you've been unable to get the imagined taste of it out of your mouth.

Now, to cleanse your palette, I give you the Hormel jellied whole chicken.

But that's nothing compared to the advertisement on the NEXT page. It's SQUAB! Ready to eat! In tins!

What's "squab?" The advertisement spells it out.
Folks fall out of saddles and leap out of lakes--when you mention this!

to all picayunish appetites!

Your horoscope says...squab. Fifty million Frenchmen say...squab. Don't overlook--have a look.
Okay, so the advertisement doesn't even HINT at the true nature of squab. Is it because they assume the sophisticated readers of The New Yorker already know? Or is it because they don't want sophisticated residents of New York City to realize that they're eating pigeons?

Boston vs. The Talkies

You thought Boston was only known for banning books? No ma'am, they had problems with talkies as well, according to the July 12, 1930 issue of The New Yorker.
SOME unhappy Bostonians tell us that things are being made harder and harder for the people of their city. Lately the censors got after the talkies, deleting passages of dialogue which were dangerous to morals. The way matters stand now there are passages in many films which can't be said in the town at any time, and still further passages which pass on weekdays but won't do on Sundays...

The movie people have to assign a man at a switch which controls the speaking apparatus, and he turns off the sound when a dangerous passage is reached...

This practice bewildered the audiences at first, but they are getting pretty good at lip-reading now and can follow the plot fairly well.
And it wasn't just Boston. Only a few months before this article was published the Hayes Code had come into effect -- though it wouldn't be enforced for another four years -- with the practical result of convincing many people today that America before the 1960s was a place of tranquility, harmony, and only the simplest of problems. Which tends to be the result of most broad prohibition attempts: misinforming people and creating a disconnect between actual events and cultural artifacts.

Check out the pre-code films, though, and whoa Nelly! That's the stuff.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dr. Seuss and Flit: "Big Top"

I'll certainly give Dr. Seuss this: he hasn't duplicated a theme yet!

Sure it's the oft-spotted John Cleese protagonist, but Dr. Seuss hasn't taken us to the CIRCUS yet, not in this entire long journey through the magical land of Flit.

As an aside, if I am ever told by The New Yorker magazine to stop showcasing their material, I assume it will be because of these advertisements. People sure like to look at them!

PS: ...but not as much as this post from 2007, which scores at least 1/3 of my blog hits during any given week. Either people are cheating on their math homework or they're awfully frustrated with their books of logic puzzles.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Whole, Vacuum-Cooked Chicken-in-Glass

For months I have been unsettled by these advertisements for Kingan's Chicken-In-Glass. It's not the idea of a pre-cooked chicken that bothers me, it's the fact that it's in a glass container like a fetal pig or an aborted fetus that makes me a bit squeamish.

But housewives in the '30s obviously didn't feel that way. No doubt they echoed the sentiments of the advertisements themselves:
YOU HAVE complete assurance of getting exactly what you want when you buy KINGAN'S CHICKEN-IN-GLASS. It is packed and cooked in a crystal-clear glass container...You see at a glance its size, its milk-fed plumpness, its inviting cleanliness. Never before has ready-cooked whole chicken been prepared to skillfully, so appetizingly!

They even advise that you "take a season's supply to your summer cottage," which makes me wonder how this stuff kept. Didn't it need to be refridgerated? Did the crystal-clear glass container allow you to see every step of loving putrefaction?

Sorry, when I think about Chicken-in-Glass, that's all I can think about.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"et and "y

Here's a post for those who like to hear cat stories, or stories about me being analytically happy, or both.

Muffet is a pretty terrific cat.

Suddenly -- instead of the laid-back, sleepy, unconcerned pet that was Zsa Zsa -- I have this quirky, spunky, endlessly-curious kitten who loves me to death and strives to be permanently attached to me. She's settling in a bit more now, but for the last week she has spent every waking moment either on my lap or a few inches to the right of my least, when she's not racing up a flight of stairs and lunging to the left in an apparent attempt to kill me.

There has been one exception to her Muffy-love, however: she's afraid of my bedroom. I don't know if it smells particularly like Zsa Zsa, or if I accidentally kicked her off the bed the only night she slept there (she weighs 5 1/2 pounds and is therefore less detectable than a pea amongst the bedding), but as soon as she enters my bedroom she becomes a new fearful creature.

By contrast, Muffet-in-the-rest-of-the-house has never seen a nook or cranny she didn't want to climb into. There is no shelf high enough to deter her. She will rocket onto ironing boards, window sills, planters and kitchen appliances without a second thought...I keep a pot-lid on the stove to place over the elements when I'm finished with them, because my biggest fear -- seriously -- is that she'll leap onto a 350-degree burn. Jeez, no.

But as soon as she crosses my bedroom threshold she's like a small child in a haunted house: a discarded article of clothing is a ghost that must be tapped and evaded, a gentle hand is an evil claw, a creak in the rafters is grounds for a mad dash into the far-off basement. The first night she came back from the vet's, she climbed tentatively onto the bed and saw my right shoulder. She solemnly pressed it with her paw and then ran away in fear.

This made me paranoid, especially when my father said "Cats are known for detecting cancer and injuries before anybody else can." The next night she climbed onto the bed, gave me an evil look, and pressed both of her paws against my forehead. Then she ran away again.

Brain cancer and mounting vet bills aside -- not to mention her occasional 5am scream-fights with the Neighbourhood Badass Cat -- life with Muffet is wonderful. She is beginning to learn how to entertain herself. She smells things in that idiotic open-mouthed way that cats sometimes have. Catnip turns her into a whirling dervish. She is clean and healthy and strong and active.

Zsa Zsa reminded me of a middle-aged film star, a sort of Liz Taylor creature who preferred to lounge and smoke and share fond memories about former lovers. Muffet, however, makes me think of a Peter Greenaway character; a Cissy Colpitts, maybe, who collects esoterica and doesn't notice when her vag is showing. Which, because she's a domestic shorthair, is always.

In honour of cats and those who love them, and also in honour of British eccentrics, here's "Cat House" by forgotten indie-minx Danielle Dax. If you haven't forgotten her then simply telling me so will bring more joy to an already joyous weekend (and it hasn't even started yet!)

Saturday, May 08, 2010

I'd Buy Anything By...Sky Cries Mary

I first heard Sky Cries Mary when their "Return to the Inner Experience" album appeared at CKMS. Its eye-catching cover, odd song titles, and long list of band members influenced my decision to play it.

And WOW. What an odd mix of elements, all crammed together to make up such beautiful and unconventional songs! Lead singers Anisa and Roderick Romero have perfectly-matched voices -- his gruff, hers soaring -- and they're backed up with a solid prog/psychedelic rock band and hints of trip-hop electronics.

I was less impressed by their follow-up, and also confused by the collection of early self-released tracks (from a time when they made extended and challenging sound collages), but it was all still good enough to keep my attention.

Years later, iTunes has finally allowed me to find and buy the rest of their catalog, including their post-hiatus comeback ("Small Town") which is just as good as anything they've ever done. Now I wish I could see them live!

Here's a prime slice of Sky Cries Mary: the sublime, the very slight twang, the perfectly-balanced instrumentation, and the characteristic Romero harmony.

Albums to buy:"A Return to the Inner Experience" is still my favourite, and "Moonbathing on Sleeping Leaves" has a more relaxed and epic feeling, but all the albums are lovable. Albums to avoid: None. For fans only: "Fresh Fruits for the Liberation," a collection of oddities that will only appeal to those who love both their current material AND their experimental tape manipulation.


When I wrote my initial post about Muffet I was in the process of dropping into the depths of grief, panic, and depression. That is not a good time to adopt a new pet, particularly not when that pet is in heat.

Fortunately I was able to book an appointment at the vet's the next morning, and while waiting for my saintly parents to drive us there, I finally saw the GOOD side of Muffet.

Previously she'd been a manic, yowling demon...a drunken, sex-crazed lunatic without any pants or underwear to disguise the sight of her insatiable desire, a creature who I was afraid to even touch lest I set her off into another seizure of rolling and screaming and perhaps even spraying. In the morning she was still that, but she took time out to explore, purr, sit on my lap, and demonstrate her considerable intelligence.

To elaborate on Muffet's smarts:
  • After two attempts to sharpen her claws on my new chairs, and two gentle removals to her scratch pad, she returned to the scratch pad and has been using it exclusively.
  • "That's my litterbox? Okay, I'll poop there."
  • I couldn't figure out why she kept climbing around in my laundry basins, until I realized she recognized them as places where water comes from. Carrying her to her water dish has done the trick.
Since then she has been a constant observer of everything. Nothing I do escapes her notice. She even watches me in the mirror. Right now she is sitting on my desk in front of the computer monitor, watching me type this blog entry and no doubt learning to spell.

Anyway, I took her to the vet, and after a rigorous checkup (and a rabies shot) I was told that they could keep Muffet overnight and spay her, then I could pick her up on Saturday morning. Buck Animal Hospital, you people are WONDERFUL.

They also said that here's no way Muffet is two years old...more like one year old, which would explain her zest and zeal. Her narrow face, skinny body, and long legs also imply that she's part Siamese, hence her frequent and expressive (and potentially excessive) vocalizations.

I felt bad leaving Muffet with the vet for two days, but I was rapidly turning into a basket case, and for the interim I wept and wept and gradually pulled the pieces of my life back together.

And now, on Saturday, she's home.

First things first: Muffet likes and trusts me. From the moment I picked her up to this very moment now, she has come to me for comfort and affection and play. She purrs and purrs and purrs when I am around. This is wonderful.

Secondly, she's frightened of the environment -- the wind outside, the furnace noises, and footsteps on the stairs in particular -- but every hour she is more confident of this house. She still retreats to the basement whenever things get too hairy for her, but I no longer have to spend any time coaxing her out; I call and she comes (usually with a barrage of meows).

Third, she's still a raging ball of hormones, but not nearly the way she was before. Apparently it will take some time for her sex drive to go into neutral. This, coupled with her extreme reaction to catnip, makes me worry a bit about the state of her incision; I'm trying to distract her whenever she gets too wild, and she actually slept for a while in her fuzzy cat bed.

Finally, my other worry is her food: she isn't eating her Science Diet or the soft food that the vet provided, but in my experience cats don't eat like pigs anyway; I assume that when she's hungry she will eat, and eventually I'll fall back on the super-expensive kibble that the vet gave me (and which she happily ate in her crate when we were driving her home).

Muffet is a wonderful cat. I am returning to a point where I can even be a wonderful owner. She will be a handful: energetic, hungry for affection, and playful in a very kittenish way. She will be impossible to outwit, and she's so active that I'll need to be permanently watchful. In these ways she is nothing like the relaxed and stoic cat that Zsa Zsa was, whose response to adversity was "Oh well, I didn't care about that anyway."

But Muffet is also delightful and pleasant and sociable, and I see some indication that she can entertain herself when necessary. She's a much-need attraction and comfort, right now, when I absolutely need to be kept busy.

Muffet, thank you. You're not Zsa Zsa -- however much I probably wanted you to be a few days ago -- and you're not going to reduce the stress in my everyday life (especially as it relates to the huge wads of money I've spent and will need to continue to spend), but I'm very glad to have you and I'll do my best to be good to you.

Cleon Throckmorton, a Very Odd Man

Aha, now that I've got my eye out for Cleon Throckmorton's bizarre advertisements, I'm finding more hidden gems. This one's from the June 7, 1930 issue of The New Yorker, tucked in the bottom-left corner of page 94.

Is this a joke? Was Throckmorton just incredibly strange, either with his finger on the pulse of underground '30s humour or so far in his own world that nothing made sense?

I don't know. I can only assume he's advertising to be hired as an interior decorator, a sideline to his scenic designer business. But at least we can be assured that he was a Really Serious Person.

Friday, May 07, 2010

It Is Doubly Difficult to Get Out

I am reading William T. Vollmann's second-latest enormous book -- "Imperial" -- and I came across this apt, wonderful, and terrible paragraph which addresses why the New River (in Mexico and California) remains so terribly polluted.
Maybe the New River wasn't anybody's fault, either. People need to defecate, and if they are poor, they cannot afford to process their sewage. People need to eat, and so they work in the maquiladoras--factories owned by foreign polluters. The polluters pollute to save money; then we buy their inexpensive and perhaps well-made tractor parts, fertilizers, pesticides. It is doubly difficult to get out. And it's all ghastly.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Total Grief

I am so sad. I feel like a permanent part of me is gone. I'm missing Zsa Zsa every second, especially when I come home. She was always around, and every square foot of floor and furniture is imprinted with her. When I moved here I put everything away with some consideration given to her needs, so everything I do and everywhere I look makes me think of her.

The worst thing is that the fridge has always made little noises that sounded like her "hello" meow. To come home today and go into the kitchen and hear that sound! Out back is the garden where she's buried, and the living room was where she'd lie on me and sleep while I watched TV, and the comfortable bedroom chair for reading is where she'd relax, with or without me being there.

I know this gradually gets better, and when it builds up and builds up I can finally bash out in a huge long cry that helps. I didn't have any time or energy for a big cry yesterday, but today -- with Muffet getting spayed at the vet's -- I'm back home alone in this house that I feel so much of Zsa Zsa in, it's like suffocating.

I've had my huge come-home crash-and-cry. I can see some good things. This is the worst feeling in the world. My heart goes out to everybody who has felt it, because I think everybody has, and if they haven't yet then they will.

Hot on the Feline Heels and Hot to Trot and Anxiety

If I hadn't gone out to find a new cat companion, I would probably be in an agony of depression right now. Instead I'm in an agony of worry, which is really no better or worse I suppose.

My mother and I went to the Humane Society after being unable to find a suitable cat at Petcetera. The Humane Society was full of people checking out the cats and climbing into their cages to sit with them, so I was already feeling a sense of urgency.

When I walked past the cage of Muffet, she reached out and gently pawed at the glass, so I asked to sit with her and evaluate her personality.

Muffet was very outgoing, wanting to be rubbed and making lots of vocalizations. At the time she seemed like the right cat, so after ten minutes or so with her I asked for the adoption forms.

But as I was filling them out I began to realize that Muffet's rolling-and-meowing routine wasn't stopping and -- frankly -- was getting a bit annoying. When the Humane Society volunteer returned, I said I was having second thoughts, and she said "Oh, I see what's happening...Muffet's going into heat."

She reassured me that getting her spayed would fix the problem, and also that veterinarians will spay cats in heat. Relieved, I filled out the forms and handed them in...

...but something was in the back of my mind. As I stood waiting for everything to be entered into the computer and processed, I began to wonder if I should adopt a cat who I had only interacted with while she was in heat...what if her personality radically changed afterwards, or what if she continued to be this manic? Something in me was struggling, I wanted to say "Wait, maybe not," but adopters were wandering around the halls pouncing on cats and I was afraid that if I waited I would lose a potentially great companion.

Then, after I paid, the receptionist heard that Muffet was in heat. "Oh, you're adopting a cat in heat? Bless you!" she said, laughing.

Oh shit, I thought. What am I getting myself in for?

The woman at the pet store had equally ominous "cat in heat" stories to tell, and everybody online talks about what a disruptive and annoying experience it is for cat owners. They also say that vets may refuse to spay a cat in heat, so I may be looking at two weeks of this "ominously-described" behaviour.

I say "ominously-described," because Muffet hasn't really done much yet. She's still getting used to my house so -- in between coaxed exploration -- she's hiding in the basement crawl space. No "caterwauling" yet, but when I pet her she begins to rub herself all over me in the "cat in heat" way, and I automatically get anxious...

...and is an anxious pet owner a good pet owner? Am I already souring our relationship? Is Muffet going to do things before I can spay her that will make me dislike her?

I say this as a person who is quite obsessed with my routine, my sleep, and my stretches of "quiet time." A cat in heat sounds, to me, the way that kryptonite probably makes Superman feel.

So I'm WORRIED. Part of this is because this is a new situation and I don't respond to new situations well. It's also that I kick myself for not giving it all more consideration before I took Muffet home (I feel irresponsible), and the knowledge that if somebody had said "Muffet will yowl loudly and constantly for hours on end at all times of day and night," I would not have consented. I didn't know what was involved.

I tell myself that if I can't get her spayed until she's out of heat, and if her heat-behaviour drives me over the edge, I can surrender her back to the Humane Society and accept the lost money (and the additional outlay of the surrender fee), and also accept that this is not fair to her, it's annoying for the Humane Society, and it will probably negatively-impact my chances of adopting another cat.

The thing is, when I'm on the brink of uncertainty I absolutely torture myself with worry and anxiety. As an adolescent I would work myself into full-blown, incapacitating panic attacks, and while I no longer (it seems) react in such an extreme way as an adult I still do put myself into a bad state. This coupled with a crushing grief about Zsa Zsa and the additional anxiety of a Saturday-night drag show and a (next-) Wednesday-night spoken word stint.

I'm writing all this out because I recognize that my anxiety is based on cognitive-reasoning flaws, so when I express everything (as I have here) and see that it isn't half as catastrophic* as I thought it was, I can calm down to a point where I can (hopefully) sleep eventually. You blog readers -- and "you blog" itself -- are at this moment substitutes for a friendly, logical, reassuring voice.

What, ultimately, do I need to recognize in order to calm myself down? The same things that I ALWAYS need to recognize but I so often manage to forget:
  1. I can deal with the situation.
  2. The fact that I got into the situation in the first place does not make me a bad or worthless person.
  3. If I CAN'T deal with the situation, there is a solution.
In my head I believe all three of those things. Now if I could only convince my adrenal glands...

* Pun!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Bad Advice from General Electric

Goodbye, Zsa Zsa

I figured that when it came time to put Zsa Zsa down I'd want to write a huge memorial post. But I think this is too personal to talk about, at least for now. And sad death stories don't do anybody any good.

I do feel really, really awful. I dread all the times I'm going to think I see her out of the corner of my eye. I'm going to try to consider that a gift instead of a curse, though, because we actually had a fond last night and that's the thing to remember. And in terms of suffering I don't think she really suffered at all until the very end.

Bye, pretty cat.

Monday, May 03, 2010

1966 Emmanuel Bible College Yearbook

"You" said you wanted more pictures from the Emmanuel Bible College yearbooks...who am I to refuse! I just wish I had a working scanner, instead of a small Hewlett-Packard device that makes a terrible grinding noise and whispers "Need more ink cartridges" when I turn it on.

As I've said previously, yearbooks are fascinating and funny things in so many ways. The EBC yearbooks, however, have an additional interest for the secular reader because they're so totally focused on God, but without the "Christianity is COOL!" element that would no doubt be there if they were external, proselytizing documents.

Ready to see the bible students in their natural habitat, like rabbits in a glass-walled hutch? Without further ado, here are some choice moments from the 1966 edition of the EBC yearbook, "The Pilot."

First off, the prayer/bomb drill/corporal punishment picture that will soon be the subject of its own fetish.

Now that we've got that over with, a few words about the degrees. It seems like the ultimate goal at EBC was to be a "Bachelor of Theology," but I find it interesting that the only B.Th graduates were males, at least for the first several yearbooks that I have. The "Missionary Course" and "Christian Education" degrees, however, were granted to both sexes.

Here's the president of the college at the time, Reverend H. B. Wideman, on a day that I charitably assume was windy.

Some sleuthing has revealed that the other man is Reverend Kenneth Geiger, and the book he's presenting -- "The Word and the Doctrine" -- is a collection of papers from a conference about Wesleyanism. What's Wesleyanism? Damned if I can figure it out! That's why Wideman was the president of EBC and the Bachelor of Divinity, not me.

A few thoughts about the teachers that year: none of the women were pretty and most of the men were schlubs, except for Mr. Wilson T. Wiley (English & Guidance Instructor), who wore a small fedora and looked like he wrapped his secret gat in a copy of "Catcher in the Rye." You'll be comforted to know that the "Social Dean of Women" and the "Social Dean of Men" were a married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Warner Spyker.

Here's some insight into student demographics:
The afternoons are times of service, study, and wage earning.

Many students work with Child Evangelism, teaching Bible Clubs for boys and girls. Other students find opportunities to witness while working at a part-time job. At Emmanuel, we have a barber, an auctioneer, carry-out boys, salesmen, office workers, nurses, teachers, farmers, waitresses, and construction labourers.
Here are some girls harassing an old lady to score Bible Points.

My favourite 1966 EBC students -- my votes for "king and queen of the prom," so to speak -- are paino-playing Fern Densmore and plump squirrel David Hills. The latter's graduation poem is a good example of the beloved artform of BAD YEARBOOK POETRY:
From working in a paint factory he came,
So that he might better uphold God's name
By studying the Word with hope that he
One day, in the service of the Lord may be.
What makes this a bad poem? The ungainly swapping of sentence fragments, sacrificing style (and clarity) to the altar of Thee Almighty Rhyme.

Here's another good poem, for Mervin ("Merv") Richardson, notable for its vague attempt at being personal:
A goal, a goal in hockey
(Even when the road is rocky)
Leading music at Lincoln Heights
Keeps him busy various nights.
I think the yearbook staff got that one in just before the deadline.

To wrap up the 1966 year, here's my favourite picture of them all. I'm not sure if it's supposed to mean what I think it means but I sure hope so!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Dr. Seuss and Flit: "Self Defense"

The usual assortment of Dr. Seuss insects form the "Self-Defense Association of American Household Insects," and their charibug has a brilliant plan.

Something tells me that this is a reference to a contemporary organization -- the name seems a bit too specific to be a total throw-away -- but I can't find any proof. Maybe I'm just hunting for connections where none exist...

Cleon Throckmorton, Scenic Designer and Reverse Psychologist

While reading the May 31, 1930 issue of The New Yorker I ran across this advertisement, tucked into the corner of page 46. It was so small that I had to zoom in to read it.

What kind of guy relies on such a self-defeating advertisement, which doesn't even mention what he's advertising FOR?

An eccentric fellow with a high degree of name recognition, that's who. In this case it's Cleon Throckmorton, architect, set designer, and bohemian painter of spunky dancing girls. If you really want an eyeful, check out Erica De Mane's photographs of some of his works at Ristorante Volare.

Meanwhile, over at Shorpy you can also find this amazing 1921 photograph of "Throck" at work (go there for a larger version), along with additional information from amateur sleuths in the comments. Apparently that's his wife puffing on a stogie while modeling.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Dogs: The Neighbourhood Icebreakers

Today my mother came by to help me fix up my foliage. I've kept it all wet and I've even done some weeding, but there's no substitute for a green-thumb matriarch with a bag full of mulch.

On a beautiful day and under a beautiful sky we worked at separate tasks, drinking and not really speaking. She did the heavy lifting, being only about five feet tall but actually having a functional shoulder. I did the first REAL weeding I've ever done in my life, digging out the grass that's sapping the life from my burgeoning maple trees and my bleeding hearts. It's amazing how tenacious grass can be, it spreads a thick network of tiny roots through the soil. It's almost a shame to pull up such a capable weed.

After my mother left and I was standing on my patio admiring her work, the dog arrived, a huge bouncy orange creature who barked playfully at the children next door. It had come running into their back yard, followed closely by Pearl, a neighbour I'd only previously seen dancing during an impromptu long weekend celebration on our mutual fire route.

Pearl was talking to the small children, and I found myself drawn to the dog. "Can I pet him?" I asked, and suddenly I realized that dogs are "people bridges" who entice reserved people into talking with each other.

Through this dog I met not just Pearl, but also the kids next door and their mother...I don't think their mother is my biggest fan as of yet, but I'm convinced that it's 99% due to the usual problems with neighbours: we haven't spoken yet. I waved at her across the yard and she smiled genuinely and waved back, and wished I hadn't had that second drink with my mom.

Sensing that the children wanted to talk to me a bit, I turned to one of them and said "When I first saw this dog I thought it was yours."

"No," he sighed sadly. "We don't have anything...except for a baby named Jackson."

So I think that people who move into a new neighbourhood should be able to RENT dogs, so we can stand around and wait for somebody to say "How old is he? Can I pet him? What's his name? How big will he get?" followed shortly by "Hi, my name is..."

Eat Your Eskimo Pie with the Six Brown Brothers While Playing Tops and Anagrams: A 1930s Trend Retrospective

The New Yorker was in a tizzy about humanism throughout 1930, as the philosophy had suddenly come back into vogue and gained national attention. Thanks to Charles Francis Potter and the establishment of The First Humanist Society of New York, discussing humanism became a frequent pastime among the New York intelligentsia. You can't pick up an issue of the magazine during this period without reading stories and sly jabs about the debates, the propaganda, and the reactionary religious response to the movement.

In the May 31, 1930 issue, Donald Moffat wrote "The Crime at Mrs. Ward's," in which a young man -- fed up with all the latest fads -- actually SHOOTS the guests at a swanky party when they are unable to tell him what humanism is. This supposedly indicates that lots of people gave lip-service to humanism at the time, and they loved to talk about it, but none of them had the faintest idea what it was all about (which seems strange to me, frankly).

Anyway, the interesting thing about the story isn't the heavy-handed plot, it's the long list of PREVIOUS crazes that are presented. Want to know what the highbrow fads were in New York between 1905 and 1930? Here you go. friend acquired a leather-burning set, and happily joined the nation in burning Indian heads on leather--he was too young for the first ping-pong wave. He shouted 'Uneeda Biscuit' to street-car conductors and cabbies, 'Get a horse' to stalled motorists, and said 'ZuZu' to the groceryman. He was among the first of the 1906 diabolo addicts, and as the years rolled by he similarly took to his bosom put-and-take tops, Eskimo Pie, mah-jongg, Coué, scofflawry, categories (or Guggenheim), Queen Marie, crossword puzzles, sex, anagrams, badminton, Yo-Yo tops, and backgammon, as each in turn came into fashion. He seideled to Hoboken and taxied to Harlem when those were the things to do, and wrote little pieces on the social, artistic, and economic significance of....Charlie Chaplin, the Six Brown Brothers, short skirts, Joe Jackson, Lillian Gish, Will Rogers, the return of the corset, Rudy Valée, 'The Well of Loneliness,' Amos 'n' Andy, D. H. Lawrence, Krazy Kat, long skirts, Paul Whiteman, and kindred modern phenomena. He returned from France last summer wearing a beret and espadrilles, and he'd thrown away the top part of his bathing suit.
Whew! Some of them are self-explanatory. Here are my thoughts on the others that require a bit more explanation:
  • Uneeda Biscuit: I assume this was just a joke on the name of the biscuit -- "Hey, you need a biscuit" -- along the lines of other knee-slappers at the time like "Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Then you'd better let him out!"
  • Zuzu: A ginger snap brand. Their advertisements said "For a bang-up time take five cents to the grocery and ask for Zuzu ginger snaps. You'll hit the mark every time!" I guess this was similar to the hordes of people who walk into Tim Horton's and say "Rrrrrroll up the rim to win!" It's the adoption of a catchphrase.
  • Seidel: I have no idea what this means. A seidel was a glass of beer, but how this relates to traveling to Hoboken I don't know.
  • I also don't get the "beret and espadrilles" and "threw away the top half of his bathing suit" references.
I love a good piece of culture-spew, and I also love a good mystery! Any insights?

The Great Duckling Rescue of 2010

I didn't participate in last year's Great Duckling Rescue, because my shoulder was an awful mess and I didn't want to aggravate it. Workmate Dave did the honours in 2009.

This year I dived back into the bushes and it was Dave's turn to stand and laugh (and also to stop me from breaking my neck after an ill-advised jump on the stairs). After the problems of past rescues this one went pretty smoothly.

First, the preliminaries: after four years of this ritual, mama duck no longer considers us a threat, and when it's time for the babies to leave their impossible nest she actually comes to the front door of the office and quacks. Then she takes an enormous, smelly dump on the steps (presumably because she's been holding it in during the last few days of intense nesting action).

This year, though, she retreated back to the nest by the time I got out there, and she absolutely REFUSED to let me near the babies. Maybe she realized that one of them wasn't ready to go yet. I made a few half-hearted attempts to approach her, only to have her hiss ominously, which is pretty spooky when you're wedged face to face with her among the gridlocked shrubbery.

Half an hour later she was back out and down on the lawn, quacking for her cheeping babies to come down. Time for us to get to work.

I've discovered a good technique for trapping ducklings in our work planter: I push myself deep into the torturous foliage, with my hands free to scoop the huddled birds out of their nesting corner, and with my left foot against the wall to block their escape. Any ducklings that got past me were ably trapped by workmate Mark, who participated for the first time and probably managed to totally destroy his office casual attire.

Our other innovation was a stiff recyclable grocery bag, which we could put on top of the bushes and drop ducklings into as we caught them. Previously we had to climb partway out of the planter and drop them one-by-one work workmate Aurora far below, which allowed the remaining ducklings to reassemble in a more remote spot and also resulted in more than one baby falling beak-over-tailfeathers into the flowers on the front lawn.

We got eleven of them out and the mother walked toward the creek with her entourage, but one poor duckling was unable to keep up; maybe he was a runt, or maybe he was damaged or deformed, but he seemed to have trouble walking quickly. It was absolutely HEARTBREAKING to watch that poor little baby trying EVERYTHING to catch the herd, occasionally falling helplessly on its back and peeping terribly.

Amidst the usual unhelpful and pointless comments from passing coworkers -- "Nature's cruel!" "Natural selection!" "Let them die!" -- I wondered whether I could adopt this bird. But I've got a cat who LOVES to eat cute little things, and you can't housebreak a duck, and I've got enough things to worry about in my life as it is. So instead I picked him up and helped him along whenever I could, and when he finally got into the water he seemed able to swim well enough to his mother, so maybe he'll live.

It's inevitable that every year a few ducks will hatch several hours later, requiring us to catch them and take them down to the creek until we find the mother. This year, though, it was just a single bird that hatched late...and the parents actually came back for it! I don't know what they'd done with the rest of the brood -- probably left it with an aunt or something -- but after we dropped the latecomer down the three of them waddled back to the water. This is the first time I've seen the mother come back, and the ONLY time I've EVER seen the deadbeat father get involved.

Maybe he's off the booze and is trying to make a second go at family life?

Dunjonquest: The Curse of Ra

Rah rah rah! Here are the maps for the third and final expansion module in the original "Apshai" trilogy, "The Curse of Ra."

Level One: The Well of Forever

This simple level is a nice introduction to both the game and the overriding Egyptian theme, and it only gets hairy once you reach the pit.

Level Two: The Sphinx

No annoying riddles in this one. The actual MONSTER sphinx is something you meet right near the beginning. The fun part is enjoying their attempt at creating a level which is actually SHAPED like a sphinx, complete with paws, ears, and a tail.

Level Three: The Pyramid

And what a huge place it is, too! Here's the exterior and interior:

but you only reach those inner rooms when you go partway up and then return through the FIRST passage:
Compared to all the other levels, this one provides the most opportunities for increasing your stats (in the sandy rooms to the north). Watch out for the moving statues.

Level Four: Temple of Ra

Because the Apshai engine didn't allow for triggers or conditions of any kind, attempts to convey a complicated causal environment were bound to falter now and then...if you enter a room LATER that the level designers assumed you'd enter much EARLIER, for instance, you might read a room description that tries to evoke a progressive narrative by referring to a room you haven't been in yet. Causality gets reversed. It feels weird.

This is my way of saying that if you proceed through the levels in the way they HOPED you would, you'll feel nicely submerged in the action. If you DON'T, however, then you might feel like you're watching the episodes of a TV series in the wrong order.

Fortunately I played "Temple of Ra" in the "correct" way, so I was baffled by the "mysterious force" in the secret area following the Temple Room. I do suggest you play through the base of the Ra statue before going to the upper section.

And after you're done...that's it for "Temple of Apshai!" But don't despair, the "Hellfire Warrior" sequel comes next.