Mar 30, 2008

An Old Chestnut

Bad men want their women to be like cigarettes - slender and trim, all in a row to be selected at will, set aflame, and when the flame has subsided, discarded, only to select another.

The fastidious man wants his women to be like a cigar - they are more expensive, they make a better appearance, they last longer, for after all if the brand is good they are seldom discarded but still used to the end.

The good man wants his women to be like his pipe - something he becomes attached to, is patient and unhurried with, knows is worth taking his time over, only grows in worth with age and takes good care of always.

A man will give you a cigarette, offer you a cigar, but never shares his pipe.



Yes, I know it's an old picture but I haven't had any other reason to drag the tripod out.

Mar 28, 2008

The Irrelephant Show!

Be sure and join me this Sunday (since it's not Easter) for The Irrelephant Show - Political Machinations Episode. Vulgar Wizard and Stucco Discotent will be in the secret underground broadcast studio with me as always, because I can't find the microphone without them.

In the first half of the show we'll be hosting a live debate between Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Hypnotoad. For the second half of the show we'll have famed stripper and hypnotist Sir Edmund Creme de Menthe on to talk to us about swinging naughty bits for money, and of course our regular contributors if they think about calling in:

Schmoopie Discotent with The Cone Report!
Maggie Moss presenting a naughty bit of poetry!
and last but never least (because she usually has her segment first and I seem to have listed the contributors in reverse order but anyway!)
Nancy Dancehall with The Word Of The Week!

You know you can't miss this one, even for fried Snickers and a NASCAR race on the boob tube.

(Clicky the thin blue box over there to the left for more info, to set an email reminder, or to spam me unmercifully)

Mar 27, 2008

Poetry Friday Challenge

So Mona has tossed down the rubber glove of Poetry Friday Challenge, and I've scooped it up and tossed it in the dustbin. I'm that sort of guy.

I don't know if you ever noticed, but in every church there's always a small squad of usually older women who take it upon themselves to do things like make sure there's flowers on the altar, toilet paper in the bathrooms, and that things get dusted regularly. Can't have Jeebus looking shabby, now can we?

In the same general way in any office there's always someone who makes sure that the little things get done. There's always a person, guy or gal, who makes sure that the kitchen always has plenty of those plastic stirrer straws, the copier is always full of paper, and the fax machine doesn't run out of toner. That person quietly and without a lot of fuss always makes sure that the little things are taken care of. On Torchwood that guy is Ianto* (pronounced YAN-toe.) In my office I'm that guy.

I'm the guy who comes in the mornings and makes sure the A/C is on and set right, I usually start a pot of coffee tho I don't drink the horrid stuff, and I make sure that all the printers and fax machines and the big monster copier has paper. Oddly enough I also handle all the medical supplies for the office nurses. It's what I do. It appeals to a recently developed personal sense of 'a place for everything and everything in it's place, and always enough so you don't run out.'

I wasn't always this way, honest. It's something I grew into in the past, oh, decade, probably. Since becoming a parent, certainly. It's simply easier to live life when you know that there's toilet paper in the house in case of emergency, there's a new stick of deodorant under the vanity for when that almost-empty stick really IS empty, and the milk is about to expire but the grocery shopping trip is tomorrow so that's covered, too. It just Makes Life Easier, and frankly at this point in my life I LIKE my Life to be Easy.

My gripe (you knew there'd be a grip, right?) is, like before, when the system falls apart around me due to...whatever. Inattention. Failure to communicate. Lack of the "give a shits." It's hard to make sure the copier has toner when no one orders it, even though you've reminded her to order at least TWO big containers of toner three weeks in advance so we don't run out. It's worse when you've reminded her four times and she doesn't order until... wait for it... we're out. Utterly out. Kids, we're talking about an office whose copier alone goes through seven reams of paper a week and a ton of toner. We need this stuff. Last time I reminded her for the course of a whole month that we needed to make an office supplies order--colour toners for the colour laser printer, file jackets for discharged patient charts, and of course cases of paper. Lots of cases of paper. VW used to order six cases at a time at least once a month without fail and we never ran out. Well, this time we ran out of paper.

She simply never ordered it. Bedlam ensued.

When I operate my medical supply room I make sure I have what the nurses will need. I maintain about $15,000 worth of supplies in there at any one time, and I carefully monitor their usage day to day and week to week so I can make sure that there's enough Aquacel Ag dressings in the 6" x 6" size when someone comes yelling that they have a patient with a wound that's riddled with bacteria. I know that if a wound care patient suddenly erupts into weeping sores I've got 30 rolls of sterile crinkle gauze to wrap her in until we can take steps to heal the problem. The needs of the nursing staff are met where I'm concerned unless someone comes up with some off-the-wall requirement, and then I have the entire Corporate Supply Management team on tap to help me get what I, they, and the patient needs.

Why can't our office manager, she who is supposed to KNOW this, keep us in paper and toner and No. 10 envelopes? Especially when she has someone as retentive as me around to remind her that we need A, B, and three cases of C by the end of next week? It's unthinkable that we should ever be OUT of anything. It's also aggravating to a person who was taught to make sure to communicate to the management, to talk to people, to let them know when we're running low on left-handed black ink pens and they either don't listen, don't believe or simply don't really care.


Wait, what? The word for today was "Surprise" and not "Supplies?"

Oh shite.




Surprise!

(I LOVE this movie. I also love a good spot of wordplay.)

Happy Friday, you guys.


________________
* I'm not nearly as sharp a dresser as Ianto, nor am I shagging the boss, nor do I have a cool British accent but I do like to make sure that the pterodactyl stays fed.

Mar 26, 2008

Fragments

I've been scatterbrained this week, unable to deal well with work, tired and raw and agitated but I wanted to share a few moments from my life with you, the good moments.


Bayou

A few mornings ago, in the crisp morning air, I saw something I've not seen often. I was riding down one of the old back highways that dot the state, riding to the Post Office in no particular rush. On both sides of this particular stretch of asphalt are heavy trees and water and the road wanders back and forth a great deal, so I was comfortably wary. I was watching all around, as I always do, and thought I saw a hawk far up ahead on the telephone lines.

Hawks are fairly common around here, and they seem to like the power lines for the view they afford. This hawk, though, was a little bigger than the usual redtails that I see around. A lot bigger, actually. As I drew near I saw the round, soft head with it's upswept feather tufts and the huge eyes, the cruel dark curve of a razor-sharp beak. It was an owl, an immense one, calm as a lake in morning air. It was sitting there in the suffuse morning light watching the traffic go by, as unflustered as only an old owl can be. It really made me catch my breath--by daylight the numerous owls around here are long gone, hidden away in woods and old barns and such, but this huge old bird had decided this morning to stick around a little longer. I wondered what he would say, were he inclined to share his morning with me. I wondered what message he'd carry for me if I asked him to.


Cows

There's a large pasture on the bayou that I pass every day. It used to be someone's homestead; a slowly collapsing cottage and it's sagging, ramshackle chimney still stand in the midst of the field. The front of the field holds several huge old oaks and a line of stately, ancient crepe myrtles, their smooth skins like twines of muscle tissue holding up huge sprays of thin branches to the morning light. The new farmhouse that overlooks the place sits well back off the road, and the rest of the area is surrounded by open cotton fields, so it's an oasis of green in a sea of brown rows.

The farmer who owns the field keeps a herd of Black Angus cows there, all of them solid black but for the very occasional white patch on a head or two. Now that spring is coming the grass is greening up beautifully, and each morning I get to pass by one corner, slow, make the turn and watch the pasture again the whole time if I've a mind. I passed it that same morning I was to see the owl; crisp and cold out, the sun just barely over the horizon, and the scene was perfect, a storybook laid open in front of me. Huge, slow black shapes moved across the field of green, every blade silvered with dew, and the pattern of lumbering bodies was broken only by the occasional gambol of a calf running, exuberant with the simply joy of being alive on a cold spring morning.

The cropping teeth and crushing hooves of the cows had filled the air with the scent of grass, and it carried in the cold air. As I slowed for my turn my senses were overcome with that powerful scent, that smell of life and growth, that sharp odor that sent me back to a myriad of days of my childhood spent watching my father mowing the yard, filling the air with that same smell and myriad tiny flickerings of cut grass.


Hound

Umquayquay is doing better. She's fattening up, her belly filling out, her muscle tone is returning and above all, she gets happy enough to bay her deep coon-dog bark. She runs, she trots, she follows me everywhere outside, and she stays around when I'm gone. She serves to remind me of another part of my childhood, of springtimes and dogs long since gone. There's a certain smell to an outside dog that seems to be encoded in my genes, that ties me to all those long-past dogs. It's that musky smell, not sharp but pungent, that smell that grips you by the nose and lets you know that there's a dog around. It's the same smell that our many-times removed ancestor smelled when the wolf he befriended came into his cave to sleep the night away. The same smell that a thousand times a thousand boys have smelled when running with their hounds in the sun.

Quay comes up to me in the mornings after sleeping in her hay pile in the garage and she's stiff and slow, the age lying heavy on her broad head, but she's always bright-eyed and eager to greet me. When she presses her soft muzzle into my hand I can always smell her dog smell, overlaid with the smell of sweet dry hay.

She's careful to meet me every day at lunch when I arrive, and she fully expects me to spend at least a few minutes petting her while she sniffs and snuffles at the scents my riding pants and leather jacket have picked up for her. I in turn start my relaxation with the sensation of leathery dog nose in my palms, the soft, whiskery whuffle of her snout across my face, and that warm dog smell.

When I come home in the evenings the ritual is the same--I have to stop, take off helmet and gloves and let her sniff, snuffle, read off of me like a book the stories that I've unwittingly picked up and brought home for her before I can go inside. She in turn gives me her story. I'm able to pick up the smell of green and white clover in her fur; my hands can feel the warmth of the sun flowing from her coat. For all my senses lacking hound's sharpness I can see it in her eyes. I can see the fields she's roamed across, the backyard as she sees it, and I can feel the warm sun beating down on my tired bones as I lie in the sweet clover and listen to the bees hum around me.

Mar 22, 2008

Happy Ether!

It's that time of year--time for a giant, mutant rabbit who walks on his hind legs to come and knock you out with an antiquated anesthetic and hide brightly-coloured eggs in very uncomfortable places.

Vincent wanted me to say right up front that a) no animals were harmed and no eggs were wasted in the making of this post, b) all eggs used in this holiday will be eaten and c) those cute little baby chicks that have been airbrushed various cute colours will sometimes grow up to be giant angry roosters.

Case in point:


The egg-dying happened tonite in the Irrelephant household. Parents, as a life lesson, thirteen is NOT too old to dye eggs.


Even if your favourite article of clothing is a pink zippered hoodie with black skull-n-crossbones pattern all over it. Nor is it out of line to let one of your cats sit at the table while you engage in dyeing activities.

Face it, there's just something fun (and photogenic) about brightly-coloured eggs, even if it's a travesty to buy medium, white eggs from the grocery store when you have a yard-full of chickens who produce 17 eggs A DAY.


My argument was that using tan as a base coat is rather like using grey gesso on a canvas--it can be done, but you gotta really know what you're doing.


And, as is patently obvious from the following photos, we do NOT know what we're doing. Let a single Sharpie marker get onto the table during the egg-decorating and there's no telling WHAT is going to happen.

El Pollo Loco, wanted for infecting a fellow Mexican wrestler with salmonella while in the ring.


Like I said, the Chicken Liberation Front had a few strong things to say about my choice to start with white, factory-produced eggs.



It's hard to see, but he's got a little automatic pistol and a bag of cash.


What is he rebelling against? What have you got?

Before I forget, tomorrow being The Easter Day and family being what it is, I have two, count 'em TWO Easter meals to eat, one at each family's home, so The Irrelephant Show will be on hiatus tomorrow, to return next week at a new time to be announced here, so keep those dialing fingers ready!

Happy Ether, one and all!

Mar 20, 2008

Poetry Friday Challenge: P

You know Mona, in the Past you've tossed me complete ringers, let me Pick the word myself (remember "cloud"?) and assigned us words that completely take me by surprise.

Today you've stumped me. *lol*

I could write about Penny the Papillion who often goes by the name "Pee" because of her habits, and because she's a Princess Pup and because her first name was Penny Pocket and has since been changed to Penny Puddles. It would also make Mrs. I ecstatically happy were I to talk about her, but I don't know if I can write a whole Post on a small dog who slides across the floor like a strange, four-legged dust mop when she chases her (very small) toys.

I was going to write about Photography, since I'm a Photographer and love my camera, but I went out this afternoon after work with Vulgar Wizard and her camera, to one of our favourite haunts and saw...nothing. That is to say I took a few nature shots, and took what I think will be a nice open Photo of a seeming tangle of rails, and took Plenty of Photos of graffiti and such, but no trains. Not a signal light winked on, not a single ding-ding sounded at the crossing, not once did we hear the almost-musical humming of new trucks rolling along on steel wheels.

There's always Penis, which leads to Pee, and I could discuss at length (heh) the joys of being a man, of being the Partner who Penetrates, he who gets to enjoy the sense of Power that comes of knowing that the world is my urinal. But you know, the Interwebs is full of Pictures of Penises (Pene?), and hemipenes (I think reptiles get those, that's not OEM for hooman beans) and People of all sorts and kinds doing all sorts of normal and strange and sometimes obscene things with their Penes, so I won't go there. You can Google it if you get bored.

I could speak at some length about being Polysyllabic, about the joy of knowing that sometimes bigger is better (at least when you're carrying on verbal intercourse) but then I'd seem Pedantic, and I don't like that in People. So I'll do as I usually do, which is to Pepper my writing with the occasional five dollar word, and just let anyone accuse me of casting my Pearls before swine, I'll rip their Pancreas out.

There's my real name, the name I was given as an infant, before I had the chance to speak my mind, to offer my opinion, but I'm not going to toss that off. Some of you know it, I've outed myself once or twice and been outed by others at least once that I know of, but *shrug* 'tis neither here nor there. Here, with you, my blog friends, I get to be Irrelephant, he who has a name that is a most foul Pun indeed. I also use the Pseudonym "Gentleman Rook," which is much more akin to my own Persona, at least in spirit but strangely enough it's Irrelephant who gets all the girls, and Gentleman Rook who Posts all the Pictures. Not usually of girls, tho I do like a bit of female Pulchritude once in a while. I even occasionally look at Pr0n.

No Mona, you've got me beat, and this one isn't even as good as the "Creativity" one. Let's face it, I've screwed the Pooch on this one.

Mar 19, 2008

Damnit, Stop Dying!

First we lose Gygax, the guy who taught us never to trust a Mind Flayer, never bugger a Bugbear and to always make certain you were more intelligent than your Vorpal Blade.

Now, we've lost Sir Arthur C. Clarke. He was the first author I ever actively seeked as a babe-in-the-woods science fiction reader; he's the man who gave us the HAL9000 and Rama and "Childhood's End" and something like over 100 other books, plus things like geosynchronous orbits before such a thing was feasible. He passed on yesterday at age 90, a ripe, good age to die at, but dangit, why not another few years, another few books?

All I can say is Bradbury, you'd sure better be doing your exercises and taking your meds exactly as prescribed. We've already lost Heinlein and Phil Dick and now Clarke, we can't be losing another Grand Master.

Mar 16, 2008

Umquayquay And The Post-Show Wrapup

Some of you might have giggled your way through me mentioning the ongoing exploits of Umquayquay the Ethiopian Hound on today's radio show. Well, I'm pleased to report that the old dear is already thickening up a little in the tummy area, is well-hydrated now and has made for herself a nice daybed out of a pile of hay that was in my garage and now seems destined to remain therein.

Now, before you freak out, I'm laughing at this whole sad, sickening thing because it's keeping me from crying, becoming fiercely angry, deeply morose and otherwise get all wound up over something I can't do very much about. My house is a dumping grounds for abandoned and neglected animals, and most times I do what little I can and send them on to either the Humane Society or, in a few lucky instances, new and loving homes.



That is she: Umquayquay the Ethiopian Hound. Truth be told I'm thinking she's part Doberman Pinscer and part Weimaraner because she's got a peculiar brownish-grey tint to her. This may also be deeply-encrusted dirt, but I'm thinking not. She wandered up Saturday morning while I was enduring more of the family trying to pick the bones of my not-yet-dead Uncle, and me being me I first made sure she had no open sores, no froth from her big, lippy jowls nor an issue of blood. Passing the initial tests with flying colours I took in her advanced emaciation, her gentle nature, her greying muzzle and her very worn-down teeth (she's obviously an older dog) and decided it was time to keep her, if she'd let herself be kept.

A water bowl full of fresh tapwater was greatly appreciated, but a big heaping bowlful of Belle's advanced nutrition diet was snubbed. By a starving dog. This worries me, but I guess even a starving dog won't lower itself to eating the sort of stuff a supermodel eats for supper.

So, a brief foray by Mrs. I into town brought back a big bag of Kibbles N Bits, also known in this household as "potatoe chips" and our dear Miss Umquayquay pounded into it like...well, like a starving dog. She's been keeping it down well, so Stage Two has been passed with flying colours.

The funny thing about her is that she's SUCH a Farm Dawg. She watches the chickens but doesn't chase them, she tried to get into the trailer when I got it stuck in the back backyard this morning, and she follows us everywhere we go outside. I know it's mostly due to her joy at finding a new pack after what looks like a very long time without one but she's also really good, very sweet and mild.

This afternoon she got some Advantage put on her, so she's been doing the "Dying Flea Shimmy" all afternoon as the horrid things sicken and go crawling around before they die. It's rewarding to know that we've helped turn her life and her fortunes around. I'm hoping that she was simply a hunting dog who got lost (not as rare as you'd think) and not a case of neglect and abandonment but there's no telling for sure. She'd no collar, and while she does have an ear tattoo it's not very helpful. Inquiries will be made at the local vet offices but judging by her advanced starvation and the callouses where her hip-bones have been rubbing on the ground I'm not thinking she'll be claimed very fast if at all.

So? Now I have a Farm Dawg again, having grown up my entire life with one about. As soon as she puts on some weight we'll bring her to the vet to be thumped and palpated and peered at (she has amazingly clean ears for a stray) and we're hoping desperately that she's not heartworm positive. If not she'll go on preventative and live out her days here in her big straw bed in the garage that she's made her own. If she's positive? We'll keep her happy and as comfortable as we can. At such time as it becomes necessary we'll put her down as humanely and as lovingly as possible.

I'm hoping that thus far the quality of her life has improved, if not the quantity. It's all I can hope for right now, so I'm going to smile and ruffle her big ears when I go outside to see her, and I'm going to make sure she has plenty potatoe chips and pizza bones and table scraps, whatever fattens her up. Plenty of fresh water too--she tried my dirty, soapy truck-wash water and seemed to find it pretty palatable but I'm going to stick with fresh tapwater for now. Tomorrow we'll deal with tomorrow's problems. It's the best lesson any dog can teach us--live in the Right Now.



There you are. Umquayquay the Ethiopian Hound, said joke hopefully to not make much sense in a few more weeks. I'll keep you posted.

And so, without further ado:

The Irrelephant Show Cone! Er, List!

  • Is a marriage implied to cross all genetic boundaries?
  • He's a hunt & pecker?
  • farmyard life
  • homo dogs
  • because I haven't said "breasts" yet . . . damn!
  • Little Caesar's, now with more Ol' Roy
  • Pagliacci's is the shiznit.
  • fan-damn-tastic
  • What can I get for free, dude?
  • We serve goats as this establishment.
  • I had sea cucumber at a wedding once.
  • There once was a fellow McSweeny.
  • McSweeny's Sea Cucumber
  • on a steek
  • food du jour
  • gaping hole
  • Oh, God, the cone is back.
  • por-KEE
  • "My mind is more like a distribution center." - Maggie
  • I like it up against the wall, but only when the kids aren't home.
  • had it set on 'puree'
  • banjo assigned to him at birth
  • iconoclast
  • Happy Conening!
  • beer and scotch
  • Nancy, are you sleeping around?
  • bang, bang, bang-bang-bang
  • You-go-kway, it's your birthday
  • I'm really snotty this morning.
  • warm confusion
  • Stucco violated the cone.
  • like a defibrillator
  • "I don't do words on Spring Break" - Nancy Dancehall
  • Oh, Pants!
  • Whambamthankyouma'amazon
  • The Harrison Cone


Give a listen, and be sure to bend an ear to Schmoopie's eye-opening Cone Report and be sure to go see Maggie's post about her Poem of The Week which talked about rich soil, pH balance and distribution centers. It seems she's been voted Commander In Chef or something, too. Perhaps some sort of strange, Canadian knock-off?

Thank you, won't you?

Mar 15, 2008

A Quickie

Reminder, that is.

This Sunday. Noon. The radio show. Gonna talk about skinny dogs and Ridley Scott's _Alien_ (specifically The Space Jockey) or The Pilot, and why my office reeks of Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh and cigar smoke.

Bring your worst manners, your liveliest opinions and a ton of cash in small bills.

Mar 13, 2008

Poetry Friday Challenge: Fever

Seems the dis-ease is creeping round, making it's Captain Tripp's route around the blogosphere. I finally kicked mine with a trip to the doctor for a megadose of Azithromycin antibiotics and a really kick-ass 12-hour cough suppressant with hydrocodone that tastes like liquid Lemon Heads and works like being hit with a sledgehammer wrapped with a pillow. Now Mona's wee chillin' got it, have mercy on their little spirits and hers, so she'll be enduring the grief indirectly.

Hence the PFC word: Fever.

Fever. I had it. The first day, the last day, all the days inbetween. The chills, the unaccountable craving for warmth that simply wouldn't come, wouldn't last. The one thing I didn't have, the thing I don't miss, is fever dreams.

When I was a kid and fever would come visiting it's plague upon my temple I'd spike some pretty impressive temperatures in that way that only small children can. One moment I'd feel fine, perhaps a little scratchy in the throat, but the next moment I'd be reeling, trembling violently, temperature racing for those relegated to "at the bone" levels of readiness in meat and I'd be reclined on the couch, a cup of crushed ice at my side, wrapped in blankets to fend off the chills.

Invariably, it seemed, my mind would begin to play tricks, would warp reality around me like waves of heat coming off a distant road. There is a specific image that used to come back time and again, an image that so disturbed me that it would make my stomach turn. I've tried time and again in the past to draw that image with words, tried to make my mind call it back to full, sickening life in the confines of my mind's theater but I can never make it live, can never seem to shape it to that fever-sick sharpness. Every time I whip the curtains back on that small stage and throw the blinding lights of my attention on it, it is lessened, it is small and insignificant and powerless, struck dumb.

I wonder, when I lie in bed sick, trembling with the fever, what it would take to bring that image back to it's height of power? What dizzy pinnacle of fever would my brain require to reforge that stomach-turning image? If I could reach that point, if I saw that hell-spawned image in my mind again, if I could reach out with trembling fingers and touch the thing, cringe at the sensation I found there, what would I think of it, now that I am a man? Would it still have it's power over me, or would my adult mind see it for what it is, a shadow-play of sickness and fever, a puppet formed of smoke and mirror? Would I simply dismiss it, even though I labour in my state of dis-ease, or would I fall into it, head-first, revolted and shivering as always, powerless to look away, wanting to retch out the few teaspoonfuls of liquid left in my stomach?

I long to see it again, to vivisect it with all the strength of my adult's mind, with all the sharp tools that a love of surrealism has given me, for it is the most surreal thing in all my mind, but it hides now, seemingly for good. It lurks in my memories, a wasted shadow of itself, a pale and sickly child wandering the empty hospital halls of my memory, and my body heals it's ills and carries me back out into the sunshine.

Mar 10, 2008

White Makeup And Evening Dress

It worked for Bella Lugosi, and he's probably the first person 90% of cinema-viewing people think of when you say "vampire," but let's face it, it's lame.

I like horror movies, I do. I haven't been scared by one in longer than I can possibly remember, but I keep trying, keep looking. Vampire movies are a staple of the horror genre, but honestly they're worse than most at scaring me. These days if a horror movie can at least show me something, a single scene or an actor of moderate skill, hell, if it can show me a zombie fighting a shark underwater then I'll happily take that and move on.

30 Days of Night did it for me.

Gordo brought it back to my attention in a post a while back, but it'd been lurking there for a while. When Hellboy came out the wife fell in love with the character and promptly dove into the graphic novels which spawned the movie(s). She filled her head with Hellboy lore, and I read a few. Meh. Didn't hold me, no big deal.

Then 30 Days of Night came out. We didn't see it in the theater but promised ourselves we'd put it in the DVD rental que, and forgot about it pretty promptly. Mrs. I bought quite a few of the original graphic novel series and declared it good, scary and so forth. I haven't opened them yet to read but it remained in the back of my mind. Then the DVD showed up a few days ago, to coincide with Gordo mentioning it in his blog and he gave it a passing high review, so it was with some interest I watched.

No offense to Gordo or his taste, but it was...meh. The idea was interesting: a town so far north that they endure thirty days of no sun. Prime hunting time for...wait for it...creatures who can't stand the light, yes? Works out beautifully. The follow through was okay, the blood and violence pretty average buckets-of-blood stuff, but I have to say this: the director did some interesting things for his creatures, and it's that which has been floating around my battered old head.

1) Evening dress. The creatures all wore some variation on black and white. The men seemed to tend toward black suits with white shirts, the ladies had white or black dresses, but the colour palette was pretty standard fare. TOO standard. Iconic, one would be tempted to say. The point being, the whole "Vampire Lestat" finery was ignored. They wore plain black and white clothes, but it seemed to be more protective camouflage or a weird sort of uniform rather than the "I live forever therefore I can amass wealth and dress really spanking nice." On the surface it was a sour note but watching it for a while, especially in a snow-and-night-heavy movie sort of made an eerie, 'urban camo' sense.

2) Language. The creatures didn't speak English. They didn't speak in any sort of a cultured manner at all when they did speak, and when they did it was a harsh, vile, gutteral series of growls and grunts and throaty noises. VERY bestial, and a very neat treatment of the idea that vampires are a separate race from us, not of human stock at all, and the vampirism thing passed on by the blood is simply a lucky (?) break. It makes sense that another race would have their own method of communication other than fey looks over a particularly pale and choice neck.

3) Behaviour. The vampires were smart, at least as smart as the town-full of yokels they were rending and thrashing their way through, but they still behaved like pack animals. They crept around on all fours at times. They lurked behind cover like wolves hunting bigger prey. They crawled around on roofs and under buildings and so forth, rather than parading through New Orleans in a horse-drawn trap. When they did prey on someone it was more often a snatch-and-grab attack with the intent of dragging the victim off into the shadows to dispatch then rather than a frontal assault, tho there were plenty of those too. The writer/director/visionary really played up the "these are animals" side of the vampires, and I really liked it. It further pushed the idea that this was not Christopher Lee seducing a farm girl in a Hammer House Of Horror movie, it was as gruesome and normal as a bird attacking and eviscerating a lizard.

4) Glamour. This was the kicker for me. From Bella's time on, vampires have been beautiful. Eerie, but oh so seductive. Pure evil but damned delicious. The lure of evil, their particular power, whatever the reason vampires are almost always portrayed as beautiful. Not these. These had strange haircuts, had features that were enlongated and vulpine, and they did things like sniffing the air with mouths open, or standing about with their jaws slack, like a cat using it's Jacobson's organs to draw in more sensory data. They were pale, yes, but they were ugly. The individuals were all either very emaciated or very heavy-set, never average. Their features were irregular, as though the actors were chosen solely on the basis that they DIDN'T have actor's generic good looks. They seemed to ALMOST meet the standard of how an average person should look, but not quite.

No one had an outrageous or bizarre haircut but the leader of the pack looked like his 'do had been done to him by an enthusiastic but untalented barber student. The rest seemed to follow suit in so many small ways--almost but not quite normal. It was unnerving. It also didn't help that the vampire leader looked a lot like Billy Bob Thornton in Slingblade. He was thick featured, spoke thickly if at all, and seemed quite filled with revulsion over his human prey.

5) Teeth. A small point but an interesting one. The critters didn't have two pronounced canines, nor four. They had a whole MOUTHFUL of small, filthy, needle-like teeth, so many that it often seemed the reason they held their mouths open was because they had too many teeth to fit behind their lips. It gave them a look like a species of ultra-deep-sea fish whose adaptation had gone so far off the beaten path that it could only exist in it's tiny niche, nowhere else. They had so many teeth poking forward and out you were given the impression that if they were to sneeze suddenly they'd accidentally gnaw their own mouths off. Their method of shaking their heads violently back and forth when opening a neck vein seemed at first a little over the top, but it seemed to play along with the animal theme, and with teeth like that they could just about sever a head without trying too hard.

All that being said, it still wasn't all that. The plight of the humans hiding out was more annoying than suspenseful, the hero and heroine weren't very smart nor likeable and the inevitable end of most of the survivors was a yawner--you didn't much CARE about them anyway, so why shed a tear when they were harvested. The thing that most drew me, as you can tell, is the whole development of the creatures. At least the writer of the original stories and the folks who developed the script from the novels took it upon themselves to make their creatures different, rather than following the accepted stereotypes.

Vlad would be proud.

Mar 9, 2008

The Irrelephant Show

Now with less listeners!

I'm thinking that between taking last weekend off, the time change and the inclement weather most of your folks above the Mason-Dixon line are suffering from all combined to make this Sunday's show rank right up there with the first one for lack of listeners. *G* Not to worry, I've never been one to let a little failure stop me.

Nancy managed to chime in just before we went live and stuck around in the chat for a few minutes, but had to go shortly after we launched. She's got the Clowncar family over for various and sundry doings, so I can only imagine the hectic pace that many kids are keeping. Our thoughts are with you, Pants! She hasn't given me the official Nancy Dancehall Word Of The Week, but I'm thinking it might be "homicide."

Vulgar Wizard, my ever-faithful cohost is down with some sort of horrible ailment involving her ears, sinuses, and her left leg falling off, so she spent the hour absent and, I'm told, heavily medicated. Get better soonest, VW. I know you hate being sick as much as I do.

Maggie over at Mind Moss emailed me an hour or so after the show's close (Stucco and I talked for the show's hour and then most of another hour after the broadcast ended) and reported that not only was her entire house under about seventeen feet of snow but her internet connection was as spotty as a spotted owl so she was unable to be with us. Maggie's Poetry Corner simply wasn't as good without her.

But far be it from me to let failure stop me! Stucco and I carried on like a pair of complete dorks, Shelli joined us after a while to discuss sex on a motorcycle (stationary, kickstand down, not otherwise*) and then Stucco and I wrapped up most of another 45 minutes bashing Nature and television.

Plus VW managed to listen with her good ear to the archived show and produced

THE WEEKLY CATCHPHRASE LIST!


  • I'm already bent.
  • How about if I grab my ankles . . .
  • I'm up at the crack of death.
  • a complete tit
  • paradoxical
  • Dr. Happy Finger
  • This is the all-get-bent episode.
  • I saw Shatner on the Henry Rollins show.
  • I can't get behind that.
  • Yum, green
  • Who are we gonna dog first?
  • eat your brain into a sponge
  • Soylent cow is moo!
  • We're into chickens now.
  • Show us your chicken!
  • when I was a little doobie
  • You can, in fact, fire Jergens with a squirt gun.
  • pocket flamethrowers
  • Is that a ninja?
  • So, I was on a bike banging this chick . . .
  • Shelli, do you go to work sick?
  • my penis hooks didn't engage properly
  • perfectly normal, but dead
  • because I don't like to be hot
  • What's the temperature at which boogers freeze?
  • How do you NOT know how to swim?


___________________________
* Don't try this at home.

**

** My apologies for the black duct tape; I've had enough grief with BlogTalkRadio attacking me for the sex episode, all I need is for Blogger to come down on me for posting pornographic motorcycling photos. And I notice now, looking at the photo again that she's wearing jeans and tennis shoes, not completely naked as I thought she was during the broadcast. I do note that she's wearing a Shoei helmet which makes me feel better--my first helmet was a Shoei, and it was damned comfortable as well as being ANSI certified. Way to go, hooker!

Mar 6, 2008

Poetry Friday Challenge

I know it's not a poem again, and this is the Poetry Friday Challenge, but it is Friday (well, okay, so it's actually Thursday as I write this and if I get it completed before bed I'll post it today so ...anyway, here goes.)


Lick

When I was a kid we played pickup softball a lot. There was the typical empty lot, and the typical rag-tag group of sunburned, sweaty kids. There was the one bat that had a hairline crack in it that someone always managed to scrounge up from someone's garage or other, and the ball was a consistent dark brown colour from years of dirt, but it was our game, and we loved it.

And there was that one kid. Ricky. He'd had some sort of an accident when he was very young, and his tongue had been replaced by a fake. A 'prosthetic' they called it, his parents that is, but we didn't use words like that. It was fake, it let him talk fairly clearly and he could do all the things we could do, plus he was a whiz with the bat. He was also a rotten outfielder, but we needed the guy, so he played with us.

I remember the day as clearly as I remember my first kiss. A group of kids from the neighborhood next to ours had challenged us to a game, and we were tied right straight through to the end. It was the bottom of the ninth, the score balanced at five to five, two outs. Our hearts sank when their biggest hitter stepped up to the plate, a hateful grin crossing his freckled mug. We all backed up, all of us, even the pitcher, knowing full well what this fifth-grade holdback could do if he got a piece of that ball.

Ricky was way out in the right field, and I was standing all alone in left. I knew it was coming to us, knew it was going to be high in that blinding, cloudless sky. I just prayed it came to me, because if it came to Ricky it was all over. Ricky simply couldn't catch high flies. I crossed myself nervously, muttered a prayer to The Babe and hunkered down.

The pitch flew, clean and perfect, a brown dollop of mud sailing...too slowly, too easily toward the batter. I saw the vile glitter in his eyes, saw his muscles bunch, and knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that This Was It. It was coming for me, and I'd have it.

I backed up a step or two, and cast a glance at Ricky. He was standing there, intent, so intent his tongue was hanging out of his mouth. It was comic as hell, and I'd have laughed at his Basset Hound expression if I'd not known how serious this was. I heard the soft, meaty 'THWACK' as the bat connected, and saw the ball rise, a mud-encrusted angel ascending into the heavens. Toward right field. Toward Ricky.

In that moment I could see everyone's hearts drop, could hear the cruel laugh of the batter as his plan worked. I started running, desperate to be there in time, but I knew it wasn't going to happen. I was too far away, the ball was moving too fast, falling, plummeting toward Ricky.

His glove went up. His big goofy face turned skyward, and his damned tongue lolled to the corner of his mouth. I closed my eyes, knew it was all over.

I heard the 'thump.' I saw Ricky pounding toward the base line, could see the tiny puffs of dirt his Converse stirred up. I saw him reach into his glove, scoop out what was there and touch...yes, TOUCH that grinning, freckled boy as he headed toward the base. The kid didn't stop, though. He kept running, headed toward home plate in an insolent, devil-may-care lope. I ran to Ricky, tears burning behind my eyes. Grabbed him. Shook him hard.

Then I saw what was in his hand.

"Ricky, you bastard!" I shouted!

Ricky, blinking, stunned, looked at me mutely, questioningly, unsure what had gone wrong.

"You didn't tag him out, you jerk!" I opened his hand, showed him the length of prosthetic tongue he had bitten off when the softball had hit him square in the top of the head. "You just licked him on the shoulder!"






Not work or kid friendly, so if you're a minority at your job, please surf away now.

(Based on an experience I'd like to have some day.)

Lick

She lay on the bed with a calm that belied her racing heart and her need to do...something. Anything. Touch him, talk to him, reach out, but he'd told her not to. This night, he'd said, was for her. But, he'd gone on, there were a few rules, and one was that she not speak, simply let him work. So she lay still, tiny uncontrollable quivers racing across her body. Her arms were tied loosely over her head to the corners of the headboard, soft scarves tied around her wrists; her ankles were wide, equally restrained with scarves to the footboard. She was as exposed and vulnerable as she'd ever been with him, and it excited her desperately.

He was kneeling between her feet, surveying the array of household things he'd set out carefully, the tools of a mechanic working at a vitally important job. He'd started slowly, using first the innocuous things piled there--the feather duster, brushed across her arms and thighs lightly. The swatch of silk he'd found in her scrap bag, also lightly brushed and draped across her skin, across her lips. Then he'd stepped up his gentle assault. The cube of ice had been interesting, and had earned her a stern look when she unintentionally squealed at the first sharp sensation. There was still a pale white taper lying there by his side, and he'd found and brought out her favourite pink dildo, but thus far they went ignored, unused.

He was still handling the hairbrush with an intent look on his face, the look of an artist who'd stopped at a particularly tricky shadow. He'd carefully, painstakingly brushed first her hair and then her plume with it; long, careful strokes until she'd itched for contact of some form but then come to this stop. The silence was almost unnerving, but also highly-charged. He hadn't stopped yet, not once, slowly moving from texture to object, paying lavish attention to her, but now...stopped. Why?

He'd been careful, she'd had to grant him that. He'd not touched her at all, not skin to skin once, and the lack of his touch was making the tightness and warmth in her belly grow, reaching out to her extremities. It had been, by her reckoning, either about fifteen minutes or all night. With no end in sight, no culmination but his intense, silent tease of her she wanted to scream, wanted to grab him, wanted him to give her a release, any release. She could feel her body responding to his attentions, quickly and without volition. She felt full, felt the heat of her softest place radiating like an oven between her open thighs. She knew full well that he could see the dampness trickling down, making the dark spot on the duvet wider and wider, but still he didn't relent, didn't rush, didn't leap on her and finish.

Putting the hairbrush down carefully, almost reverently, he placed his hands on the duvet beside his knees and smiled a small, satisfied smile. His tongue snaked out to lick his lips, leaving a fine damp sheen there, and like an acolyte at his god's altar he leaned forward toward her.

Mar 5, 2008

We Lost A Good One

The man who taught the world that dungeons could be profitable places to lurk in died yesterday.

Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons died at age 69. The man who make it okay to be a geek, made it possible for us to step out of our confusing, sometimes troubled lives into a place where things were as simple as we wanted to make it. Orcs are evil, you're not, and you're the guy with the big sword--no easier equation.

I thought maybe a mind flayer had caught him, or a rust monster had crept up on him while he was standing on a high metal scaffolding, but no, plain old life got him in the end. Not the ending I expected for the man who brought us Elminster the Mage and gave us the Apparatus of Kwalish, the man who turned a few books and some funny-shaped dice into my bible and my chalice. His game helped me sharpen and develop my imagination to what it is today, helped make me a storyteller, helped me touch people's hearts. I haven't played in a very long time but I've still got my books, still have my black cloth bag of dice, and I still know that you never ever poke a dragon in his hoarde.

Resquiat In Pace, Mr. G. You were our paladin.


Gary Gygax Memorial Cat

Patient Zero & Horse And Pony Shows

I hate being sick almost as much as I hate being off work on a beautiful day and not being able to do anything but sit around and be sick.

Did I mention I hate being sick?

It started out Sunday afternoon after the dog show, which I'll get to after this rant. You recall my back pain from the previous post? Still with me, but decreasing. I hd already taken off work Monday for recoup time and you recall I spent it doped up with Percocet, sleeping, hoping that the muscles wouldn't be too strained. Well, I went to work yesterday like a good little monkey, winced a lot, was careful how I walked and the whole works. Survived nicely even though I felt like a thinly hammered dog-turd. I also tried to stay far away from the nurse who was coughing and hacking like she'd caught TB.

(One of the things I hate about nurses? They work when they're sick because they think it's their calling. Uhm...hello? If your sick, don't come to work--We Don't Want It! You're just causing more misery, not alleviating it!)

This morning around 4am, still very groggy under the effects of two Percocet taken at 9 to help my back relax enough to sleep I find the urge to pee pushing me out of bed. I creep slowly across the cold room (I let the heater drop to 60 at night during the winter, makes for nice warm blanket time) and by the time I'd reached the toilet I was shaking so bad I thought I was having a petit mal seizure. The thing being, I was conscious. My entire body was literally shaking like I had palsy. I managed to make a mess of me and the bathroom, got back to bed and lay there trembling like I was going through the delirium tremens. After a few minutes of quaking I warmed back up and stopped, and it occurred to me that the Percocet must have so loosened my muscle control that I couldn't put enough strain on them to make them stop trembling. I realised later that I was running fever too, so the shock of suddenly going from a superheated fever bed to a 60 degree room made an octogenarian out of me.

I've got...something. The flu? Gods I hope not. Fever, sniffles, and a chest full of green stuff that makes me cough so hard I strain my back muscles. NICE! Have I mentioned I hate being sick? And that by the way is one of the reasons I'm afraid of prescription medication stronger than weak tea. I don't like not being able to make any of my major muscle groups stop with the St. Vitus Dance.

So here I am, at home, sick on a beautiful day, wishing for a magic bullet. Someone just come shoot me now?


Okay, rant over. On to the dog show.

Texas is a vile place, let's just put that up front plain and clear. It's dry, hot, and too empty. It's a desert with a thin layer of dirt over it to give the mesquite trees something to cling to. I don't like Texas, but the dog show was a blast.

Now, owning a Borzoi is a strange thing. They fell out of popular favour back in the 40s when Art Deco became passe' and tiny ornamental dogs became all the rage. Owning and showing one becomes a bit of a challenge then because it's hard to get much competition at shows. If we owned a Golden Lab we'd be competing in groups so big that it takes hours to complete a showing in the breed ring. As it is, we're lucky to get three or four other Borzoi together in a ring on the same day, and anything past that is near impossible.

Until this weekend.

The stars aligned, all the incense bearers were in town, the red-carpet rollers were on standby; there were TWENTY TWO Borzoi at the Wichita Falls show. One of the exhibitors said it looked like a national Borzoi Club meet, and I have to agree--it was startling. Everywhere you looked there were elegant faces and curled coats and long, streamlined bodies. All we needed was a Duesenburg Model J touring car and a blonde starlet in a white fur coat and we'd have all the elements for an Esquire photo shoot.

If you've ever watched Westminster or the Eukanuba Tournament on television you know that the typical show ring time is short. You don't have scads of time to make a good impression so you go in with all guns blazing. Ordinarily the dogs go in, the handlers stack them quickly, the judge eyes them each briefly and then he or she sends them around the ring once in a circle. He or she then sets in to examining each dog separately. After that expert hands-on (perhaps all of thirty seconds) the judge sends the handler and dog 'down and back,' which is to say they move to the far corner of the ring and back again at a trot so the judge can see how the dog moves in a straight line, and then it's the next dog's turn. For Mrs. I to be in the breed ring with Belle more than five minutes is startling; it's simply that quick and efficient.

Not Saturday.

Saturday we had an ARSEHOLE for a judge. A veteran breeder/handler/judge of some 30 + years, this guy decided he wanted to take these 22 Borzoi and their handlers and make as much misery for everyone as possible, be they professional handlers and champion dogs or, like us, raw novices.

He sent everyone around not once but three times. He berated everyone vocally and at length the entire time this went on. He reset every dog he examined (moved their legs to where he thought they should be.) During the down and back he berated Mrs. I the entire time, telling her to speed up, slow down, do this and that. He did this to EVERYONE in the ring. Then instead of making his final pick he started taking groups of two or three or four dogs and making them move around, all the while berating others to "stay there and don't do a thing until I tell you to move." Then he'd take a few more and do the same. Repeat ad nauseum. This went on for a good fifteen minutes, far longer than the average Borzoi's fun tolerance. I could see the sweat pouring off these people's faces, and could see restlessness in each dog's posture. It was a gauntlet, and he was going to make everyone run it. Twice. The muttering outside the ring sounded like someone was about to light torches and start handing out the pitchforks.

And then? Belle took Best of Winners. My little sweet lanky gold and creme Belle beat out a huge pack of dogs to take her first major win. I won't get into the somewhat labyrinthine layout of AKC points and prizes; suffice to say she didn't take Best In Breed (top honors, that went to a champion-level dog) but she did place EXTREMELY high in the rankings, enough to earn us three points toward her championship. Now all we need is one other major win (determined by how many dogs you compete against) and enough minor wins to make 15 points and she'll be done! "Finished," as they call it, and we can append "Ch" to her name, ask a far better price for her puppies which will come years later, and be proud owners of a champion class dog.

Trial by fire. I'm still not sure if the judge was just an arse or he really wanted to have Belle shown to the best of her ability, but either way it's a win. A BIG win.

Sunday we lost over some political gambit being played between a big breeder and the judge, but hey, I don't care. Nothing could spoil the feeling I got when he pulled Belle out of the lineup in first position and handed Mrs. I that blue and white ribbon.

The neatest part of the weekend, though? Watching twenty two Borzoi lope in a big circle. It looked like some sort of marvelous calliope, all multi-coloured dogs loping along easily, tails held low, long faces straight out in front, their long silky fur blowing. And then it happened--the third pass of all those elegant dogs created enough of a coriolis effect in the air that a breeze stirred up and blew across the spectators.

I haven't smiled that big in a while.



Belle and Sean being prepped


Sean, waiting impatiently for his incense bearers.

Belle, wondering why HER incense bearers think she's a complete dork.

Mar 3, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

It's been a weekend, kids. A weekend driven by caffeine and McFood and dog breath and adrenaline. In short, I was out of town at a dog show.

Now before you guys shut down or reopen your bookmarks list to go somewhere else, let it be known that I'm not going to talk about it. At least not today. It was a memorable time but...not right now. You see, I'm in pain. Too many hours standing on concrete floors mixed with too many hours in the car and a good-sized dollop of support-free motel room bed combined to make my L3 and L4 vertebrae decide that there's no need for that pesky bit of squishy cartilage in the way, they by gosh by gum need to meet! My back, friends and neighbors, is killing me. Pinched nerve. Muy pain.

So, I'm not going to gripe about a whole day off work I took to recover and catch up from the weekend that's been shot to hell by my poor health. I'm not going to lament the fact that I'm hurting so bad that I could scream aloud and would if it'd make my back feel any better. Heck, I'd eat a live rat ass-first without mustard if I thought it'd help. No, I'm going to apply some more Tiger Balm, resettle the pillow stuffed in the curve of my spine betwixt me and the chair and I'm going to tell you about classical music.

Back in the day a Russian composer by the name of Modest Mussorgsky wrote a fairly simple piece of piano music he called "Pictures At An Exhibition." It's subtitle is "In Remembrance of Viktor Hartmann" and it's fast becoming one of my top three favourite pieces of classical music*. Long story short, Mussorgsky lost a dear friend of his at the age of 39; Viktor Hoffmann, an architect and artist. To pay hommage to his lost beloved friend Mussorgsky wrote ten pieces of piano music that described his walking through an exhibition of his friend Hartmann's works. Ten pieces of music that can rip my heart out and send it soaring into the heavens on it's notes.

Now, the piece originally was written for solo piano, and as such it's a spare, haunting work. You can FEEL Mussorgsky walking through the exhibition hall through the piece of music that links the vignettes- "Promenade." At times it's jaunty, at times slow, and toward the end of the music it actually becomes part of the 'pictures' in a sort of grand, exquisite celebration. You can see the tone of each painting, can sense the reaction. Being classical music it's been reworked many times, but specifically there's a variation that Maurice Ravel (yes, THAT Ravel, he of Bolero) wrote for full orchestra in 1922 that, while not complete to the original is still utterly astounding.

Being stuck at home with no hope of venturing outside for fear of ending up curled up in a painful ball on the ground I turned on NPR and started surfing blogs, playing catch-up. Performance Today was on, and Fred Child introduced "Pictures" and I perked right up and hobbled myself into the living room.

(A brief aside, please bear with me. It actually does have something to do with the subject and not much to do with the painkillers I'm on.)

Critical Listening. When I was selling home theater systems and mid- to high-end audio systems (in that price range they're not 'stereos' anymore) my boss taught me about critical listening. That's when you have the audio setup just right and you sit in the sweet spot and you really LISTEN. If the recording is well-engineered and the artists are particular about their recording, in short if it's Done Right a CD or an LP can sound awfully like real live music, which is the whole point of recorded music. He taught me that good speakers and good recordings and good speaker wires and a good CD player can all combine to put Jewel about six feet in front of you, playing her guitar and singing in that sweet, clear voice of hers. It can array Dire Straits around your living room, each performer seeming to appear in his own 'space' in the sound field and stick Mark Knopfler right in front of you. It can turn Track 1 of Mike Oldfield's landmark album "Tubular Bells" into the most hypnotizing twenty-three minute trip you can have without heavily controlled pharmaceuticals or a sharp blow to the back of your head.

So, I know how to listen, and I know how to let go, let the music wash over me and drag me out to sea without a single struggle, there to toss me or rock me to sleep or do whatever the water wants to do with me. I like it like that.

This morning found me, hunched over to one side and shuffling hurridly to the couch, to the sweet spot. I closed my eyes, turned the volume up, and through all the hissing and popping and creaking of public radio and FM broadcast I heard the clear bright horns, the mournful sigh of violins in their woman's voices and even the quiet rushed rustle of pages of music being turned. I was carried utterly away.

I could feel...hell, I WAS Mussorgsky, walking through this massive, grandiose art museum. I was there, standing in front of "The Great Gates of Kiev." I walked some more and was looking with delighted curiousity at "Gnomus." I laughed to see the unhatched chicks dance, their little legs sticking out of their shells. I shied from the horrific sight of the Baba Yaga's hut, and I watched with somber reflection the ox-drawn cart in the street. I could SEE the art, could see Mussorgsky himself seeing them, as though I stood just behind him, as though I could see the scenes themselves played out for me.

I don't know that there is a piece of music in existence that tells such a story in such clear terms to a listener. There's no studious reflection, no searching up critics with dozens of years of musicology behind them to explain to me what I'm hearing: I can SEE it, as clearly as if my eyes were open and I were trying to elbow Modest out of the way so I could get a closer look at Catacombae, wanting to peer urgently into the empty eyesockets of the softly-glowing skulls therein and see reflected my own mortality staring back.

I wept this morning listening to that music, listening to Sir Simon Rattle leading the Berlin Philharmonic**. I know the pain has done a lot to bring my emotions up and my barriers low, but I know too that such a skilled composer with such feeling in him for his friend can reach out through his music, through the span of one hundred and twenty five years and make me ache the way he was when he first put notes on parchment.

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* One of the others is Beethoven's Piano Sonata #14, "Moonlight." If you're curious about "Pictures..." you can download several variations, both partial and complete by various artists for free at ClassicalCat.net, my all-time favourite site for finding free performances of classical music for download.

** You can listen to this performance at the PT website for a week - just follow the archives to March 3rd's first hour.