Friday, March 30, 2007

Things I don't like at all

1. (This is first on my list because it is irritating me the most.) Blast-Ended Skrewts. Please appreciate how much I don’t like them by the fact that they make the top of the list over number two, which is really indeed very annoying. I hate those Blast-Ended Skrewts. I JUST HATE THEM. One of the main reasons I like Goblet of Fire less than the other Harry Potter books is those damn Blast-Ended Skrewts. The more I think about them the more I hate them, and it is possible that I like Goblet of Fire even less than Chamber of Secrets (hitherto my uncontested least favorite of the six), simply due to the fact that the fourth one has the Skrewts inside it. They are so explodey. And what a waste of a lesson that could have contained interesting animals. I’ve loved Hagrid increasingly as we’ve moved away from the fourth book and the Blast-Ended Skrewt era; I think before I read the seventh one, I should reread all the Blast-Ended Skrewt bits and all the Grawp bits to make myself like Hagrid less so that if (when) he dies I shall be resigned to it.

2. Stomach cramps. Now this is really unfair. I’ve been living in England for months and months eating my own cooking, which I assure you is no pleasant task because I can only make like calzones and chicken and asparagus and steamed broccoli and grilled cheese sandwiches, and every other recipe in the world demands too many ingredients. At last I am back home where they know about Mexican food and all manner of exciting foods are here for me, and all the rich food has given me vicious stomach cramps that caused me to get only three hours of sleep last night because of the horrendous painfulness. WHY, GOD, WHY?

3. Essays. I have four. I would gladly chew my own foot off if it would mean that my essays would all magically get written. I am tired of writing essays. They are foolish. I also don’t want my grade for Symbolic Imagination because that last essay was utter crap and it will make me realize how important it is to get a good mark on this next essay, which is about Modernist poetry and bewilders me entirely.

4. Dress prices. Laura and Diwen picked me out a pretty dress that I could wear to the Summer Ball, but it’s rather expensive and I could just wear Robyn’s prom dress which is also very lovely. Only I haven’t owned a dress for years, and I’d kind of like one of my very own.

5. The fact that the next episode of Skins will not come out for months. And I won’t be in Britain when it does so I won’t see it so I’ll have to wait for the DVD and it’ll be like a year. Or two years. It’s ghastly to imagine.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Washing dishes (a saga)

I don’t actually remember how old I was when my parents started making my sisters and me do dishes regularly, but I am sure it was a black day. I believe the system was that Anna did dishes Sundays and Wednesdays (thus very fortunately getting hers all out of the way by mid-week), I did them on Mondays and Thursdays, and Robyn did them on Tuesdays and Fridays. If I’m not mistaken, these were Our days of the week anyway, which meant that when we were younger and the family all said prayers together, whoever’s day it was got to pray first AND (this was the especially good bit) got to choose what godly song to sing at the end. Tuesdays and Fridays were bad because Robyn — who in her defense was young and may not have known better — used to choose “I love you, you love me” for her song which was permissible even though God is not in it because it is about Love. Though really it just conjures up memories of a really horrific purple dinosaur who had no business taking Lamb Chop’s time slot on the TV.

But I digress. So we would all do dishes on our nights, and on Saturdays my parents would do them. And there was some system for who had to clean up the kitchen and wipe down the counters and vacuum, but I can’t remember what it was. This was, at least in theory, a superb arrangement for my parents, and my father showed it by sometimes coming to help us with the kitchen.

By “help”, of course, I mean that he made completely tyrannical and unreasonable demands on us, above and beyond the usual call of duty. He would say, “Let’s get this kitchen looking really nice for Mom”, I suppose in a vain attempt to appeal to our filial feeling for darling Mum, though in fact I think we just felt that if Mum didn’t want to see the kitchen in a mess she could easily avoid it until the next day when it was no longer expected to be clean because people were using it again. So he would come help us do the dishes,which was totally ghastly because it meant that he made us dry and put away all the dishes in addition to washing them. Seriously. We couldn’t just leave them in the dish-drainer, we had to put them away. (Am I still appalled by the bizarre injustice? Yes. Yes, I am.) And sometimes he would stand over us while we were washing, and every dish we handed him to dry he would inspect and say, “You missed a spot” and hand it back to us. Over and over if necessary. And then we’d have to put the dishes all away. Put them all away! In the cupboards! When there was a perfectly good dish-drainer to leave them in to dry on their own overnight! It was just so against reason!

The subject of washing dishes really makes me cross with everyone except my mother, whose name was often invoked but who really seems to have come on my childhood dish-washing scene very rarely. Anna, on the other hand, was a terrible dish-washer because at the outset, she never put away the dishes from the night before but simply stacked newly cleaned dishes on top of them. So the next night, when it was my turn again, I had double the amount of dishes to put away. And she didn’t even stack them in an organized fashion! She just sort of chucked them in there! And furthermore, if whoever was cleaning the kitchen up didn’t get the dirty and hard-to-clean pans put on the counter by the sink before Anna washed dishes, she just didn’t wash the pans! She just left them there until the next day.

Actually Robyn did this too. And Robyn also got persnickety about moving her feet in order to allow the kitchen-cleaning-duty person to vacuum around her. Our kitchen is relatively small, but there’s a tricky bit of vacuuming underneath where the cupboards jut out a little, and you have to sort of ram the head of the vacuum in there really hard in order to convince it to vacuum up the crumbs or whatever under there. Well, Robyn used to stand at the sink and if she was mad at you refuse to move her feet to let you vacuum.

And my whole family (except for saintly me) was responsible for the cups. I don’t know how it could be that a household of five people could use so many cups in the course of one day, but we used to have (probably still do) something like eighteen cups sitting on the kitchen counter at the end of the day. I don’t know who the main culprit was, except that I know for sure it wasn’t me. I have one cup a day and that is totally it. I do not need more than one cup. If I become thirsty, I go to the kitchen, fill my own particular cup with water, drink it, and set my own particular cup back down again ready to be drunk out of again as the need arises. Cups are hard to fit in a dish drainer. We have eight little hooks on the side where cups can go, but when those are used up it is difficult to find a convenient place for them. I used to have to DRY them and PUT THEM AWAY. This should not be a necessary step of washing dishes.

Anyway, all this dish-washing misery to which I have been subjected all my life by my well-meaning and beloved family, it has finally culminated in my being told — by a nun! — that I was a very thorough dish-washer. Indeed her exact words were, “You’re very thorough. Full marks for the washing-up. You must tell your mother I said so.” And she is a nun. So if you’re ever moved to tell me that I am bad at washing dishes, you are wrong. Wrong. A NUN says. So.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Doom; or, The Four Papers I Must Write

Beastly British education system. I have to write four papers for when I get back from Easter break (that is, April 25).

For my American Literature since 1850 class, I will be writing on the themes of suicide and oblivion in selected poems of Sylvia Plath. There was quite a lot of suicide and oblivion in her poetry, and eventually she indeed committed suicide. (I apologize, Phone, for using the word “committed”, which suggests that suicide is a crime.) I can also (if I desire) select only one of these themes (suicide or oblivion) and write upon it exclusively. You see that I am given much leeway in my depressing essay topic.

For my Sociology, Literature, and History class, I will be writing on whether it is appropriate to see Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko as a critical exploration of inhumanity and oppression. It is certainly something of inhumanity and oppression. In the end the main character kills his wife rather than let her be raped by his enemies (she agrees to this so it’s okay), and he lies by her side until he gets all stinky and gross, and then his enemies arrive and take him away and torture him and I think eventually draw and quarter him, while the narrator, who used to be his friend, refuses to go see him or try and help because he’s too icky. Though in her defense, he does get his nose and ears cut off, which is thoroughly unpleasant to witness if you are apt to fall into fits of dangerous illness upon any extraordinary melancholy, as she says she is.

For my Early Modern Culture class, I shall be writing on how the play The Roaring Girl responds to contemporary attitudes about gender relations. The main character, Moll Cutpurse, is supposed to be very jolly, but in fact she just gets on my nerves. She is so hearty it is aggravating, and although she saves a dude from being killed by some other dudes, the guy she saves is not really worthy of being saved so it does not make me give a cheer for her brave antics. I want her to die or have her nose and ears cut off in front of the narrator of Oroonoko.

For my Symbolic Imagination class (this one is really the prize, and by prize I mean I may cut my nose and ears off rather than write it), I shall be writing on the relation between imagination and reality in two or more poems of the Modernist period. If that doesn’t work out I shall evaluate the presence of mythic concepts and patterns in two or more poems of the Modernist period. The thing is, I do not like any of these Modernist poems very much (I would like some of them (NOT Wallace Stevens) if I didn’t have to explain them all thoroughly. They are evocative but I do not want to interpret them because I am a failure at it.), and I am not good at knowing what the hell these crazy men are talking about. I wish I could go back in time and urge Wallace Stevens to stick to his main occupation of lawyery businessy guy rather than venturing into the realms of the poetic. That would save us all a lot of headache and nuisance. I would actually rather be reading Wordsworth, and if you know my views on Wordsworth you know that’s saying quite a bit.

See how many there are? And did I mention they will each be 3000 words long, meaning I have to write 12,000 words in the next month? Which is only 400 words a day, I grant you, but there is also researching and making up theses and supporting points and all that jazz. And furthermore I must study for the exams that are going to DESTROY MY SOUL with their vicious evilness. To make myself feel better, I picked out classes for next year that include a short story writing class and — I’m very excited about this one — a parapsychology class! I can practice my phone psychic skills! Yippee!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

God and chocolate

You will all be glad to hear that I am going on a pilgrimage to Norwich this week in order to pay my respects at Dame Julian’s shrine and get some peaceful reading done; and I am also hoping that God will take this opportunity to manifest and tell me what to do with my life.

(I hope that God does not manifest and tell me to become a bungee-jumper. I have neither the temperament nor the inclination to undertake such a profession.)

For the purposes of this pilgrimage I have purchased an extra box of chocolate muffins. I believe that these will see me through the weekend handily. There is a nice place to stay near the Julian shrine and they will feed me breakfast and dinner, and then for luncheon I shall have chocolate muffins. The pilgrimage will thus serve the dual purpose of discovering the Purpose Of My Life and fattening me up so that if I get captured by cannibals they will kill me swiftly and I will not have to suffer the agonies of suspense.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I can't see. Because I am stupid.

My eyes are all foggy. My contact lenses have become all cloudy and splotchy because you know why? Because MY TEARS ARE DEFECTIVE. That’s right. I am a defective crier. If I cry, I can no longer see. God is trying to provide me with an incentive to never, ever, ever (yes, I know I just split that infinitive and have made it vastly worse by inserting this long parenthetical aside) cry. Unfortunately as I grow older the world seems tragicer and tragicker (I have offered you two spellings there and you may choose which is best) so virtually everything makes me cry. Today I have cried so much that I can no longer see out of my eyes. I am typing this with as much accuracy as I would have if I had my eyes shut because I can’t read the words on the screen.

See, it turns out (I discovered the last time I went to visit my eye doctor) my tears have a weird and unpleasant oily quality that messes up my eyes. When I am at the eye doctor and she does the shiny light in my eyes thing, she has to have me blink a lot of times because my tears are so weird that it screws up all her instruments to look at my eyes when they contain my bizarrely goopy tears.

I said oily first and now I said goopy, and the actual truth is that I have no idea which one (if either) it is. Just some thing in my tears that makes it hard for my doctor to examine my eyes appropriately and also messes up my contact lenses.

Anyway in this case I cried a lot today and that makes it my own fault and here’s why. It is because I went to my taught-by-a-nice-lady but rather boring two-hour-long Symbolic Imagination class (that didn’t make me cry — but nearly. I was raised a Catholic and I can’t sit still in one place for more than an hour, or 90 minutes at the outside); and we looked at a sample exam paper, which made me realize how much this exam (and by extension all of my exams) is going to KICK MY ASS (that didn’t make me cry either); and when I got back to my dorm I kind of wanted to do something to cheer me up. And I chose to watch What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

Do you know what happens in that movie? If not stop reading this because you don’t want to spoil it for yourself because it’s a really wonderful movie. In that movie, Johnny Depp goes through lots of misery and finally circumstances conspire against him even more and he betrays everything he believes in and is totally crushed and wretched and then his mother dies. So I totally bawled.

And now I can’t see. Damn you, Lasse Hallstrom. Damn you also for not directing Rent. I think you would have done a better job than Chris Columbus.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I am the worst blog haver in the world because my life is boring

but here is a cute little baby elephant.

I have a very big soft spot for baby elephants, though I don’t know why this should be. There is even a little video of the dear little elephant, and it puts up its itty bitty trunk and opens its mouth and it’s SO CUTE with its little stumbly knees.

(Yes, I realize that elephants are like 250 pounds when they’re born. It is still very adorable and wee compared to its mum.)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reflections on the Rocky Horror Phenomenon

Steve took me to see The Rocky Horror Show in Ipswich on Saturday, and it was very great fun indeed. I am kicking myself for not seeing it when it was playing at home, and also for not taking my sister to see it while we and it were both in London. We went to Evita instead, which was good because I got to see Philip Quast who I love, but we could have done the Time Warp together in sisterly bonding fashion.

Anyway, I went on the interweb and looked up The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I discovered a whole bunch of good things. Like that the audience participation, it really was just totally spontaneous; I don’t know how else it might have happened, but whatever, it’s nice to know that the movie was just cool enough that people randomly started yelling things back at it.

Also the guy who played Rocky in the movie was so mortified by his participation in it that he never acted or modelled again. And Tim Curry got tired of fans flinging themselves at him in a passionate frenzy so he became, and I quote, “chubby and plain” in order to deter them.

This is the best thing I learned. I was reading about the audience participation thing and how it changes over time and in different places, and apparently in Salt Lake City the callbacks include lots of references to Mormons and Brigham Young University. Let me just say right now that I can imagine no greater happiness than to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Salt Lake City where all the Mormons are. None. That is the best thing that life offers us.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


So yeah, I’m actually going to tell you what to think of a film that was nominated for an Oscar. Now that the Oscars are over and it doesn’t matter anymore.

The problem with Babel, I think, is that the director had these three short stories to tell, you know, and he didn’t want to make three little short films because – I don’t know – he didn’t think enough people would see them and appreciate his excellent cinematography and choice of actors and sensitive direction of the said well-chosen actors. And indeed he was probably correct, because I myself have only ever seen one short film, a nice little animated one narrated by Geoffrey Rush that featured a cute animated man who liked to hang around naked and smile.

And so the hodgey-podgey Babel was born. It’s about two young Moroccan boys who are taking pot shots while they mind their family’s goats and end up shooting at a tour bus and severely wounding Cate Blanchett, who is on a vacation with her husband (Brad Pitt) that is supposed to mend their marriage after their newest baby died (crib death) and Brad Pitt, in his soul-crushing grief, temporarily deserted the family. Her getting shot brings them together. It’s sweet. They kiss while she pees in a pan. (I’m sorry. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the pathos of her having these bladder problems while she’s languishing near death in a small Moroccan town and waiting for the US Embassy to get its ass in gear to come and save her. But I couldn’t help it. I snickered.) The US makes a big deal about her being shot by a terrorist and there is a lot of gritty brutality towards the Moroccan villagers, who are all entirely innocent because the whole thing was just two kids messing around with a gun.

Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt have also two (live) children at home in California, being cared for by a devoted Mexican (turns out, illegal immigrant) housekeeper/nanny person called Amelia, and they apparently have no relatives at all because Amelia ends up being forced to take the kids with her to her son’s wedding in Mexico.

Meanwhile, over in Tokyo (I know, right?), a lonely deaf-mute teenager called Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) struggles to come to terms with her mother’s suicide.

It’s not that I’m complaining about any one aspect of the film, although I really did not appreciate watching Cate Blanchett writhe in agony while a local doctor stitches up her shoulder without any anesthesia (at least I think that’s what was happening – I played it in fast motion and thus lost all of the dialogue, so it is marginally possible that the operating doctor said, “Don’t worry, Mr. Pitt, I will give her this leaf to chew on that will cause her to writhe but prevent her from feeling any pain”). The acting was very good all around (they might have given Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal more to do). Rinko Kikuchi was as excellent as you’ve heard, really heart-wrenching at times, and I kept hoping the writer would forget he wasn’t writing a soap opera and have her undergo an operation that would give her the use of her ears, poor darling. (He didn’t though.) The cinematography I guess was well-done except that I have to shut my eyes and whimper when the camera gets all shaky for longer than ten seconds, so I missed several whole portions. Nor was it necessary to keep on alternating between the world with sound in it and the world without sound in it while Cheiko was at the night-club. Once or twice, and I promise dude, the audience gets it.

In the end, I think it would have been better for the storylines to have just been thematically linked. Something about human isolation maybe. Because I just really wasn’t prepared for how tenuous the connection between the Tokyo story arc and the Morocco story arc was going to be. Turns out Chieko’s father used to own the gun that ends up making it into the hands of the Moroccan kids. Bit of a stretch to pretend like this is in any way relevant? Well, yes. And sometimes the plot devices are just silly. Like, seriously, there was no one in the entire country to look after the kids for an evening? And seriously, she left them by themselves in a trackless waste and thought she’d be able to find them again easily?

Or, you know, I could just be searching for something to be cranky about as a cover for the thing I am actually cranky about, which is dust. I have contact lenses, so watching all these scenes with the sand and the dust clouds made my eyes water. I was watching nearly the whole film in a blur. I hate grit.

Monday, March 5, 2007

A fond, fond memory

Yesterday Steve mentioned something about his taste in French fries, and it reminded me of the restaurant that exists in my memory as probably the best restaurant of all time. It is a nice little restaurant called Allison’s Restaurant, and it has many delightful features.

In the first place, it is called Allison’s Restaurant, which means that you can sing, You can get anythi-ing you want / At Allison’s Restaurant, and not feel you have been untrue to the lyrics. Indeed, for many years I was not certain whether the song actually said Alice’s or Allison’s Restaurant. I felt that if the lyricist knew what s/he was talking about, s/he would have gone with the latter; but I suppose it’s unreasonable to expect all lyricists in the world to know about nice restaurants in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Leading me to the second nice feature, which is that this charming eatery is in Kennebunkport, Maine, which is a town of many charms. For instance, it has a place called Blowing Cave where if you get there at the exact right time, the ocean water will swoosh into the cave and come out PFFOOOOOOO! in a big splash! And if you stand on the rocks nearby the water will splash upon you! IT IS SO FUN! So by timing your life correctly, you can eat a big delicious meal and then go and be splashed by a very fascinating natural phenomenon! And I believe that from Blowing Cave you can also see the senior Bushes’ summer home, so you can also stick your tongue out at that in order to express your disapproval of their philosophy and leadership. (But do not do it very conspicuously or the security people will Come And Get You. They will. It’s true.)

Then also the food at Allison’s Restaurant is very tasty. I am not a clam chowder aficionado, but I am informed by those who are that the clam chowder at Allison’s Restaurant is matchless clam chowder. Myself, I am a big fan of their French fries. It is one of those dishes that I cannot bear to share with other people, even though I am a good sharer usually.

Furthermore (as if you need a furthermore!), they have Trivial Pursuit cards on every table! Which means that every meal eaten at Allison’s Restaurant is a chance to acquire more knowledge on any number of subjects! (Six.) I was the best at the literature one, but I was not even very good at that. My mum got lots and lots and lots of answers right. What jolly good times we did have there.

So if you are ever in or around Kennebunkport, Maine, hit up Allison’s Restaurant. Also the toy shop with the marionnettes. I always kind of wanted one of those marionnettes, but as they were big goofy colorful flamingo things, I was not sure what I would do with them once I possessed them. Stage a one-flamingo marionnette drama?

Sunday, March 4, 2007


I forgot to say! Today is the only day of the year that is a command! MARCH FORTH! I love today. It is one of my happy days in the year because I love to shout March FORTH in stentorian tones, even when there is no one around to hear me. It is really more like MARCH FORTH! because I place emphasis on both words, but even more on the FORTH.

Today is also pleasing because it is 3.4.07 (or, if you are British, 4.3.07), and 3 + 4 = 7! Hooray! Today is mathematically accurate! You know, if you substitute the proper little math symbols for the day month and year separation marks. Hooray for today! The only way this date could be any better is if God had chosen to mark it with a lunar eclipse rather than yesterday. (Although yesterday’s lunar eclipse was very cool, and it was still kinda going on after midnight, depending on what time zone you were in.)

The unfair thing about British rain

I discovered this today, and I think it’s totally unfair.

So Britain has a reputation for raining a lot, and it’s not totally unmerited (though not as merited as I might have thought, because — at least in Essex — we have a fair amount of sunny days), and today when I got up it was raining.

Sort of. I mean, it wasn’t raining hard. It doesn’t rain hard very often here; in fact, usually it is just a light drizzle that looks much rainier than it is, and it seems like you can see lots of raindrops falling in front of you but you aren’t getting hit by all that many. Whereas at home when it properly rains, each individual raindrop is deliberately searching you out so that it can fall on you and make you as soaking wet as it can possibly manage. When I put my hand out the window, it did not get hit by a lot of raindrops. So I figured it would be fine if I walked down to Tesco for my groceries, since Sunday is my shopping day, and walked back unless there was a handy bus to take me (which I knew there wouldn’t be because it’s Sunday and the buses do not love me on a Sunday. Or ever.)

Okay, but here’s the thing I failed to factor into my calculations. Even when it’s not raining very hard, it still gets you wet. And if you stay out in the not-very-hard rain for a long time — say twenty minutes or so, the approximate time it takes me to walk from my flat to Tesco — enough raindrops will find their way to you that by the time you get home you will be very, very wet indeed. In fact soaking. And you will have to put your dripping coat onto the radiator in order to remind it that it doesn’t work unless it is dry.

Anyway it made me cross. Why must it look so harmless if it will soak you so thoroughly? Stupid rain. I can hear it drizzling harmlessly on my window pretending it never did a thing to anyone in its life. HUH. I know about you, rain. Fool me once, shame — shame — shame on you; fool me — you can’t get fooled again!

Friday, March 2, 2007

The day in review

Things that have made me happy today

1. My professor says “agin” for “against”. Heeheeheehee.

2. The 3rd Marquess of Queensberry, who was also (in case you’re interested) a relation of Lord Alfred Douglas, wretched Bosie who did the sex with Oscar Wilde, was violently insane, and — hee, hee, hee, hee — one time (I really shouldn’t be laughing) he killed a young scullion and roasted him on a spit and ATE HIM. Partly. Until someone found him and made him stop. Yes, this is on the list of things that made me happy today.

3. Cheese. I love cheese. Today I am having a delicious calzone. Calzones are terribly delicious and they are extremely full of cheese and I will eat one! Full of cheese! YUM!

4. Prussia! I totally forgot Prussia existed! But, hey, everyone, remember Prussia? Prussia! It’s like Russia, but with a P! And I think there was one poor heir apparent who like watched his best friend get killed on his father’s orders. Again, yes, this is on the list of things that made me happy today. PRUSSIA! (I feel like a Sesame Street episode.)

5. Queen Victoria liked Negro spirituals, and every year this one black choir from a college in Nashville would come over to England and sing for her.

6. Jane Austen. I like her. She’s funny.

7. PRUSSIA! Remember Prussia? Lovely Prussia!

8. my optimistic certainty, and I’m sorry to bring this up again because I’m tempting the Fates, that Lupin isn’t going to die.

Things that didn’t make me happy today

1. The essay I still have to write by Wednesday.

2. Being an American. I felt really bad about this today because in class today (the same class where the professor says “agin” and tells us about Queen Victoria liking spirituals!) the professor was talking about the American Revolution and how it was a humongous body blow to the country of Britain. And they were crushed and disheartened and they began to doubt themselves. And oh, I just felt so sad and sorry. I hung my head in shame because I felt that I was responsible for crushing the souls of a nation. But, y’know, they were doing taxation without representation. I also felt silly because I couldn’t remember when the American Revolution ended, and I only remembered two facts about the War of 1812 (the stealing people from American ships and the Andrew Jackson leading the Battle of New Orleans victory thing after the war was actually over).

I never knew that before!

I have totally saved your asses, people who read this blog and are planning to travel by wind-powered boat to the Southern Hemisphere. I am going to give you a handy navigational tip!

Apparently, there is no north star in the Southern Hemisphere! No North Star whatsoever! You can’t use the North Star to navigate in the Southern Hemisphere. So if you’re traveling to the Southern Hemisphere, and you were planning on depending on the North Star for navigational purposes, you would have been SHIT OUT OF LUCK. Because when you cross the equator, the North Star, it completely and totally and utterly vanishes, and you can’t see it! And you can’t use it to find North!

Okay, so let me help you out. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, and you’re having navigational issues, just search for the Southern Cross! Not the North Star but the Southern Cross. It is a very teensy little constellation, but if you follow the line created by the two stars (I know that a cross requires four stars, so try very hard to pick the two correct ones), they will take you right to the South Pole. Or, y’know, close enough.

See? I have SAVED YOU.

More saving information: If you get into a fight with an alligator or a crocodile, hit it on the nose, poke it in the eyes, and scream a lot. If that doesn’t work, play dead.

Even more saving information: Garlic fends off vampires and also like demons and werewolves.

You are so very, very welcome.

Happy birthday, lil Splotch!

This is a day late because I was trying to think of what to say about Kate that would encapsulate her fabulousness, but I have plainly failed miserably so I’m just going to settle for a few comments at random. What really encapsulates her is this story, and I’ve already said that, so anything afterwards is just going to be much less Kate-capturing. But here we go. Lil Kate’s birthday post.

Kate is nice because she likes to watch movies. And Robyn likes to watch movies. This pretty much forms the basis of their relationship. They watch movies together like anything. The other thing that forms the basis of their relationship is their mutual very small bladder size. When I watch movies with them, about every twenty minutes one of them says, “Um, can we pause it for a sec?” (In my household we do not let people leave the room while movies are playing and not pause the movie. That just Isn’t Done. Even if they say they’ve seen it ten thousand times and they hate this part and that’s why they’re pretending they need to go get some water, we pause the movie. Because every golden moment counts.) So we pause the movie, and the one that didn’t ask for it to be paused says, “Oh good! Me too!” and off they both dash to the bathrooms to answer the call of nature. It is just lucky for them that we have two bathrooms in my house because otherwise wouldn’t that just be too bad for them.

But I forgive her for this bladder issue for the following reasons:

This one time a few years ago when my sister and I were staying at the house alone for a week and everything went totally wrong and the dog got sick and we had no food and no money and it was very stressful, we finally decided that damn it we were going to make some delicious dessert for ourselves, so we started assembling ingredients, and we were out of milk. All out. Of milk. We had no milk. I believe both of us burst into tears, and then we rang up lil Kate and asked if we could borrow some milk and she said of course. So we drove over there and she gave us some milk and additionally gave us some movies that she said would help us through our time of struggle, and indeed the merry hijinks of the metal-controlling Ian McKellan and sexy clawed Hugh Jackman saved us from falling into the depths of despair and never re-emerging.

She totally hooked us up with Cold Comfort Farm. When Seth is all being his farmy Seth Starkadder self and Judith is wailing and they play the Tara theme — ah, we knew we were in the presence of cinematic genius. And that is only one of the genius flims she has introduced us to; there are many others, including (hooray!) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Angels in America.

She is very cute in this one picture I have of her sitting upon the bed in her cute pajamas reading Barbara Cartland’s romance masterpiece Love is Contraband. And yes! she…likes Barbara…Cartland. It is…sad, but…true.

(Barbara Cartland, in case you’re interested, is deeply interested in vitamin therapy. Deeply. It says so in all her About the Authors. And she helps gypsies and old people, and one year she published 26 books. That’s one every two weeks. Just to give those of you who don’t know Barbara Cartland a feel for the quality of her novels.)

A few years ago she did a science fair project on dark chocolate and its effect on blood pressure and I got to be part of it and she gave me all this chocolate for free! And I just had to eat it! Every day I HAD to eat some chocolate! IT WAS SO GREAT. And that is how I know that I love dark dark dark Lindt chocolate with all of my soul.

She once said that Anne of Green Gables could kiss her ass.

So anyway, lil Kate, happy belated birthday! I hope you had a splendid splendid birthday! And I even have some birthday advice for you, since I am such a wisdom figure in your life: If you ever meet Matt Damon, don’t do that. I know it’s tempting but you’ll have to resist.