Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pays To Be Up On Your Superstitions

I just read that there is apparently an old Scottish superstition that, “A strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity.”

I wish I’d known this four years ago.

I was visiting at home and, naturally, reading late into the night. I remembered that there were Girl Scout cookies in the kitchen, so I went to forage. As I was rummaging through the cabinets, I saw a black nose at the door. My first thought was that the dog was outside and wondering who had let him out. I went to the door and looking up at me was a black cat with vividly yellow eyes.

This cat would not stop staring at me, to the point where she would move to watch me in the kitchen. Whenever I would glance in her direction, she would make complete, unwavering direct eye contact. Her gaze did not ever flutter for a moment.

To describe it as eerie would be an understatement.

After a few moments I decided that I had to get a picture so I would have proof when I spoke of my feline stalker. I grabbed a phone, but as soon as I turned the camera part on the cat walked away, retreating under the deck table. I could still see the light reflecting off her eyes as she continued to stare back at me.

I put the phone down and she immediately returned to the door, this time lying down, all the while maintaining direct contact with the ol' peepers. She got up once more and began to walk away, and looked back at me as though to say, Come on. Follow me.

Though I regret to say it, I stayed inside the house rather than follow the strange black cat on some sweet nocturnal wanderings. My rejection was not enough to dissuade her and she returned to the door. I went upstairs, but could not get her golden gaze out of my mind. After awhile, I ran back down to see if she was still there.

She was.

She was looking out into the backyard, but her head suddenly flipped around and she immediately trained her gaze on mine. That was enough for me. Gave the cat a quick nod and returned upstairs, feeling sufficiently creeped out. And never saw her again.

Opportunity lost.

In other animal news, I present you with a Squirrel Menace Update: A recent video shows that the Cute Squirrel Ops Force is making its presence known. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by their adorableness!

None of My Board Games Would Play With Me

By the time I was nine, I was pretty frustrated regarding my failed attempts to get into books. I’m not talking about a level of interest here. I read everything that I could get my hands on and loved it. But what I was looking for was to literally get into the books – in the classic vein of The Neverending Story (or The Pagemaster, for all you Macaulay Culkin fans out there). I could create all these worlds in my mind, but I wanted to physically go to them, at least for a little while. And all my attempts had failed.

I decided to try to go in the other direction. Maybe I could get the book to come out into my world. But try as I might, I could not induce those characters to walk out of their pages.

Maybe my medium was wrong. As much as I loved books, maybe they were not the fastest way to get to world-melding. Board games! That’s what I would try. It had certainly worked out for those kids in Jumangi. (At that point, it didn’t really matter to me that it hadn’t worked out particularly well. The moral of the story was a little bit lost behind the epic coolness of the game coming to life.)

But, none of my board games seemed inclined to play.

Then Jumangi, the movie, came out. I was so excited when we got that VHS, that as I squeezed next to my sister in that big La-Z-Boy, I upended my entire bowl of Velveeta into our laps. Still, even the loss of my delicious mac and cheese wasn’t enough to dim my thrill.

As I sat there, watching the action unfold on screen, I realized something new. I might be able to get into the board game. This wasn’t something I’d thought about. And it was awesome.

So, I asked for the Jumangi board game for Christmas. It seemed to make more sense to me to go with a game I knew had a history of working than to try to jump into one that didn’t have such a track record. But if this worked, Candy Land was totally next. Then Chutes and Ladders. Probably not Monopoly though. I wanted to get into a game, sure. But I wasn’t looking to spend eternity in there and that was generally how long it took to finish a round of Monopoly.

When I opened up the game Christmas morning, I was beside myself. I wanted to play right away. I dragged my sister over to the table and set it up. She was excited too… first.

Just to make sure that I would get out of the game if I got sucked in (did I want adventure? Sure. But, like I said, not looking for a life sentence), I made her promise – multiple times – that she would keep playing no matter what. I didn’t notice the fear rising in her face as I promised, repeatedly, that I too would keep playing if she got sucked in. No fear! Regardless of what came out of the board, I would not, ever, stop playing until she came back.

My fervent conviction finally convinced her that it was a real threat that she would be stuck in the game for some time. And, with the wisdom of her all her seven years, she decided that maybe this wasn’t the game for her.

The real moral of this story is that I’m still looking for someone with whom to test out my theory.

So, anyone up for a game of Jumangi?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Traveling By the Seat of My Papasan

So, occasionally, I must admit that I let stress get to me more than it should. When this happens I often discuss my many plans for the future. Things like, moving to Hawaii and opening a diner. This is something my extensive research (aka voracious viewing of Hawaii Five-0) has shown me there is a need for. That little slice of paradise just doesn’t seem to have nearly enough NY/NJ style eateries. Which is really all it’s missing to be the perfect place.

I begin to take out my suitcase and methodically pack up my things. It’s gonna cost me a billion dollars to ship all my books. But that’s okay. I’ll be in Hawaii! Who cares about money?

Then Roomie comes in. For every one thing I put in my suitcase, she takes another one out and puts it back in the drawer. As much fun as this strange little cyclical assembly line is, I eventually ask her why she’s trying to thwart me. Invariably, she ignores my Joey Tribbiani style wailing and gives me a ridiculous answer like: You have six weeks left of school, you’re not leaving now.

Stupid logic. Gets me every time. (Well, that’s not entirely true. But it does get me a lot of the time. It’s like 50/50. Fine! 25/75. Whatever.)

All right, I get it. Not the time to be flying off on a whim. For now, I’ll just have to restrict my vacations to the papasan.

And considering my time for these little vacations is limited, I probably shouldn’t try going anywhere I haven’t gone before. For now, I think my next trip is going to be west with Kaki Warner. That requires a little bit of time travel, as well, which is a definite bonus. Plus, I don't think I've been over to Rosa Roja since finals last spring. Makes for a nice tradition.

Still, if that doesn’t get me far enough away from homework…..I’m going to Hawaii.

Just don’t tell Roomie.

Literary Class Reunions

I'm a big re-reader. Always have been. And not just for a few select favorites. No, if it’s on my bookshelf, odds are I’ve read it more than once (probably more than thrice, if I’m being real honest). To me, it’s like re-watching a movie or TV show (something else I can do ad nauseam).

The first time through, I’m there for the main characters. I might notice some of the quirks of the supporting cast, but the focus is on the primary plot. After that, reading the story becomes a little bit like going to a class reunion. I’m really excited to see the main characters again. I remember everything I loved about them in that rosy, nostalgic, last-day-of-school sort of way. Occasionally, after awhile I also remember the little things they did to annoy me. The moments where I wanted to shake them and say, Pull yourself together! And like any reunion, I inevitably run into a few who make me think, But, you always seemed so cool….like you had everything together. You’re really a mess. Huh.

Overall, though, it’s just great to hang with the old gang again for a little while.

Still, they’re not the only ones I’m there for. I also want to chat with the people who I only knew a little. I mean, I noticed they were there, we might have had a few random run-ins, but we were all busy with our own things. I was running around with the main characters, they were doing their thing in their secondary plot lines…. There was a lot going on. No one’s fault. But now we have a chance to get to know each other a little better. And every once in awhile, I find a couple best-ies in this group (Hobbie Klivian and Remus Lupin spring to mind), who keep me coming back to his or her scenes to reminisce.

By the time I get to the third or fourth read, I’m finally taking note of people I barely realized were there the first couple times around.

You didn’t know I existed? I didn’t know you existed! Man, how have we not been friends forever? We really need to stay in touch. Here’s my number. Call anytime. Oh, and, have a nice summer.

Most of us, of course, will not stay in touch. We’ll go back to comfortably ignoring each other. But, on certain rare occasions I’ll give them a quick smile, fondly remembering that one time we chatted.

There are also the cases where I think, Man, you’re a jerk. No wonder we weren’t friends. (I’m looking at you, Blaise Zabini.)

The point is, for me, at least, that every time I go back to a book I’ve already read, there’s someone or something new. Sometimes it’s something that I honestly never noticed before – a location description, a character trait, a line of dialogue. Other times, I remember everything that happens, but my interpretation of it is different given where I am in my life at that moment.

Regardless of what brings on the new insights, I highly recommend going back and re-reading at least a few of your own books. Who knows what you’ll find?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Greek Musings

My dad and I used to watch the old Greek mythology movies, like Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, and I would laugh at the arrogant gods playing with the lives of mere toga-ed mortals on an actual chessboard. Afterward, I would take my shower and in my never ending quest for curlier hair, put it into as many braids as I could, hoping against hope that it would look awesome in the morning. Upon seeing this, my father would call me Medusa for the rest of the night and pretend to turn to stone when I looked at him.

As I drifted off into sleep, I would think of the monsters that I would like to battle. The hydra and Cerberus were always favorites. (Apparently, I had a thing for creatures with too many heads.) Due to my prowess as a detective, I figured I could outthink the sphinx. Same went for the labyrinth. I was a little nervous about the whole Minotaur situation, but I figured I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. Most likely with the help of a valiant steed.

I was fully confident that as soon as I got my own winged horse, I’d be good to go. (Despite having never actually gotten my winged horse, I still feel this way. So, if you happen upon such a creature and want to point him in my direction, I would be much obliged.)

Nowadays, I have a growing interest in the Muses, particularly Thalia, Melpomene and Cleo (specialists in comedy, tragedy and history, respectively). No disrespect to the rest of the group, but, while I greatly enjoy it, I’ve just never been all that inclined to write poetry or music. So, I’m tapping these other three in, if they’re feeling so inclined as to help me out.

I’ll admit, I haven’t heard back from them yet, regarding my invitation to join me in literary creation, but I figure it’s only a matter of time. Right?

Until they contact me, I'll muddle along on my own, and count the days until I’m done with school and can finally get to my non-degree reading list. At the top of which is Gary Corby’s The Pericles Commission. An investigator solving mysteries on “the mean streets of Classical Athens”?? Count me in.

I suddenly have “Zero to Hero,” from Disney’s Hercules stuck in my head. Awesome.

If now you do, too…’re welcome.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Blow Out the Candles and Make a Wish....

Wishes are powerful things.

The average person makes about a floppity-jillion wishes in his or her lifetime (yes, I know, there’s a reason I’m not a statistician...but, still, it's probably fairly accurate). From the mundane – wishing that your Friday afternoon at work would move just a bit faster – to the larger, change-my-life, Cinderella-level kinds.

When it comes to the actual wishing, there are a variety of options to choose from. Birthday candles, shooting stars, wishing wells, throwing coins in a fountain, blowing on dandelions…. Some people think it makes the wish more likely to come true if you keep it a secret. Others believe sharing it with those around them makes it more powerful.

My sister and I often used to get the honor of the wishbone after Thanksgiving dinner. We both wanted to make sure our wish came true. And the best way to do that? Hedge our bets. So, we decided long ago that we would not only both wish for the same thing, but we would keep that same thing consistent always. We were simple kids. All we wanted was a bigger sugar rush than we already had. Not too much to ask. Which is why, for the past twenty or so years, my sister and I have made countless wishes for….. a glass of chocolate milk the size of the world.

Each time it was made, the wish conjured up a wonderful image. My sister and I on pool floats (mine would be in the shape of a whale), as we slurped from endlessly long crazy straws.

Despite the power of the double wish and the frequency with which this particular wish was made, we have yet to see this glass. But this does not mean that the wish didn’t come true. I’m pretty sure whoever is in charge of granting wishes realized, in their infinite wisdom, that a glass of chocolate milk the size of the world would be more problematic than we realized when we first made our wish pact. I can see now some of the issues we might run into. Finding a coaster big enough to set it on, to begin with (don’t even want to think about the rings that would leave). And then there’s the whole drowning in our wish issue – something I’m happy we avoided.

Yes, the wish giver was smarter than we were, but we were not ignored. Over my lifetime, I feel pretty confident in saying that, between my sister and I, we’ve drank enough chocolate milk to fill a glass the size of the world. Not all at once, no. But if we added up every cup, I think we’d get there. I feel very lucky that I can say there’s never been a point in my life where I’ve wanted chocolate milk and haven’t had some way to acquire it.

This is proof enough for me.

Our wish did come true. It just was more spread out that we envisioned. I have found this to be true with most wishes. They come true more frequently that we notice, I think. It’s just the fact that they’re virtually never in the time frame that we expect that screws us up. Too fast or too slow. Keeps us doubting the power of the wish.

So, on this very special Friday in March, I encourage you all to keep making your wishes and keep your eyes open. They’re coming, but they’re probably going to look a little different that you expected.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my morning chocolate milk.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Secret Lives

Do you think that characters in books have lives that even their authors don’t know about?

Like maybe Elizabeth Bennet had a mild gambling problem that she tried to keep hidden from Jane Austen. Or Abel Magwitch is a wizard at needlepoint and never clued Dickens in. And was it just me or did Melanie Wilkes seem like someone who might have a bonsai tree collection? Just me? Fine.

Anyway, I’ve always liked this thought. It’s one of the reasons I enjoyed Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. All those supposedly fictional characters walking around, causing problems and changing plots. One of my favorite moments in the series is in Something Rotten when the other characters in Hamlet are trying to start a coup so that they will get the attention rather than the young prince. Who wouldn’t want to read “The Tragedy of the Very Witty and Not Remotely Boring Polonius, Father of the Noble Laertes, Who Avenges His Fair Sister, Ophelia, Driven Mad by the Callous, Murderous and Outrageously Disrespectful Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”? I mean, it just rolls off the tongue.

Occasionally when I’m writing I get a feeling of great power. I’m creating these characters, giving them life. Their likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses and quirks all come from me. I am mighty. Nothing can stop me.

I start planning world domination in the illustrious style of Pinky and the Brain.

Then, out of nowhere, I get this image of these individuals I’ve been writing about sitting around a table, laughing. They find my arrogance funny.

“She thinks she created us. Like we weren’t all just doing our things, waiting to let her know what was going on.”

“Seriously. You try to be nice, you try to wait until someone’s ready to know that you exist, and what happens?”

“She gets a god complex.”


“What a dinkus.”

It’s a humbling conversation and one that pulls me back from my power high to reality (well, my version of reality, at least). I take off my Master of the Universe crown and put down my Ruler of All that Prevails scepter. And I go back to writing, more clear-headed now that all the maniacal egotism has subsided. Thankful that the story people pulled me back from the brink of literary destruction.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You Look Kinda Familiar....

In recent years, I have been told by an increasing number of friends and family that they’ve just seen someone who looks exactly like me. I don’t know if I just have “one of those faces,” or if the fact that I make a lot of faces makes my loved ones more likely to see similarities between me and this sea of other people. Sometimes, it’s just someone who they saw out during their day. Other times, it’s people on TV. The following people are just some of those who have been accused of being my doppelgangers: Sara Bareilles, Cristina Parks, Lana Parilla and Robert Carlyle (though, my sister swears she just meant his mannerisms).

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. None of those people really look alike, so how can I look like all of them? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I never see the similarities. Which I suppose is a good thing, as I’m pretty sure that seeing your own doppelganger is an omen of illness or death.

However, in honor of my doppelganger (wherever you are), here are my top five television doppelganger storylines:

5. Stefan Urquelle (Family Matters)
- Who would have guessed that next door to such a normal family, the neighbor would create a machine that would not only turn him into his suave alter ego from time to time, but would eventually create his own permanent doppelganger? Really makes you wonder what the people next door to you are up to, doesn’t it?

4. Mexican Wrestler Ted (How I Met Your Mother)
- The search for all of the main characters’ doppelgangers is fantastic. However, Ted’s wins for me. I think a large part of this has to do with the fact that his doppelganger fights robots. And it doesn’t get too much cooler than that.

3. Russ (Friends)
- Rachel’s short lived gentleman caller Russ and her long term love interest Ross were “as different as night….and later that night.”

2. Sydney Bristow (Alias)
- Now, technically I don’t think that you can really call someone who underwent an extremely painful gene mutation process a doppelganger, but, seriously, how fun was it to see Jennifer Gardner playing Anna Espinosa playing Sydney Bristow? Ruling: Pretty fun.

1. Vampire Willow (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
- Seeing everyone react to evil Willow would have been enough for me, but my absolute favorite part of this episode? When evil Willow gets knocked out and good Willow switches clothes with her so the gang can trick some vampires. Why? Because someone chose to put good Willow’s tights on evil Willow. Tights are annoying enough to put on yourself, who is taking the time to put them on someone else when the Bronze is (once again) being held hostage by the undead?

Final note, if my real doppelganger is actually out there? Well, maybe we could just stay out of each other’s ways.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

An Age Old Question

I was hanging out with some friends this weekend and, not surprisingly, we circled around to an inevitable topic of conversation: Pirates vs. Ninjas.

The arguments on both sides were well thought out and valid.

- Ninjas are highly trained, while pirates are drunk lay-abouts without any sort of unifying factor.
o Advantage: Ninja

- Ninjas have a code of honor. This weakens them. Pirates with cheat and fight dirty.
o Advantage: Pirate

- It takes a really long time to reload a single shot musket. You know what doesn’t need to be reloaded? The talent for pure stealth.
o Advantage: Ninja

- Pirates spend most of their time on the water. Ninjas are renowned for their sea sickness.
o Advantage: Pirate

This goes on for awhile.

There was one exception to the logical arguments being laid out, a comment made that pirates would win because ninjas don’t exist, nor have they ever existed. The poor, misguided gentleman (name redacted to protect him from any ninjas who might happen upon this post) likened them to unicorns.

Even those siding with pirates couldn’t support this train of thought.

Now, some of you may be reading this and thinking, Of course, I know which side would win. It’s so obvious! How can anyone not know immediately which side is right??

To you, I say, Calm down. Don’t get cocky. It's unbecoming.

For all of you who are still on the fence about it, I would like to recommend a couple of books that a pair of lovely friends were kind enough to present me with on the last anniversary of my birth:

- Ask A Ninja Presents:The Ninja Handbook (Douglas Sarine and Kent Nichols)
- Pirate Haiku: Bilge-Sucking Poems of Booty, Grog and Wenches For Scurvy Sea Dogs (Michael P. Spradlin)

Both are extremely well thought out works, that will, arguably, change your very life.

And yes, you’re very welcome. It has been my pleasure enriching your existences.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Now, Just Hold Your Horses

My mom said this to me the other day and I had sudden flashbacks of my youth.

I’m sure every adult has some phrase that they remember their parents saying to them when they were a child. Mine is: “Hold your horses.”

I wasn’t a super rowdy kid, but when there was something I wanted to do, I wanted to do it five minutes ago. Particularly if it was watching a movie or eating macaroni and cheese. If it was watching a movie whilst eating macaroni and cheese? Well then, I would be downright wired. There would be a lot of jumping up and down involved, perhaps a little singing. And my parents would laugh and say, “Hold your horses.”

Now, I’ve mentioned before that my thinking pattern tends to be a visual/audible mixture. There have always been pictures involved. For whatever reason, though, when I heard this, I never got any pictures of horses. I do now, but it’s still not the right picture. I don’t see myself or anybody else sitting at the reins of a carriage, holding the horses still. Nope, I first picture myself actually holding a horse, like in swaddling. Very weird, yes. But that’s where my mind goes first. This is a recent development, as a kid there was nothing. Not one picture.

Somewhere along the line, though, I got it into my head that “hold your horses” meant “hold your shoulders.” For the very life of me, I can not explain to you why. I have no recollection of when I first came to this decision. My best guess is that maybe one of my parents put their hands on my shoulders to stop me from bouncing through the ceiling once when they were saying it. Regardless of the origin of this weird thought process, I was convinced.

Every time my parents said “hold your horses,” my hands would immediate go to my shoulders. I would stand there, bursting with barely controlled energy, but, you know, still holding my horses.

After awhile, my sister started doing it as well (one more example of me leading her away from the path of logic and truth, and miring her solidly in the wild jungle of my imaginings). My parents, of course, took notice of the strange behavior and asked what we were doing. I looked up at them, laughed, and said, “Holding our horses.” I’ll admit, I was a little confused why they would ask when we were doing what they just told us to do.

My favorite part of this whole story is that, at this point, my parents did not correct us. We went on for another few years grabbing our shoulders every time they said “hold your horses.” Later, when I finally came to the realization that I was, in fact, a lunatic, I asked them why they hadn’t informed me of this earlier. The prevailing response was, “It was so cute.”

I did, of course, grow out of this habit. Mostly. But on the rare occasion that I hear someone uttering that magic phrase, there is still a tiny part of me that has to stifle the urge to rest my hands upon my shoulders. And on those very rare days that my six year old self overpowers the grown-up me and I do find my hands in that general vicinity? Well, then, I turn that bad boy into a full arm stretch and hope no one asks about the hesitation around the clavicle area.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Calling all Leprechauns...

What week of Irish discussion would be complete without some mention of the leprechaun?

These mischievous fairies are less known for their shoe-making prowess than they are for their tendency to keep their business proceeds in pots, hidden at the end of rainbows. It seems like a strange banking system now, but I bet it made all kinds of sense before the dawn of debit cards.

Like most individuals who are concerned about the possibility of being mugged, leprechauns rarely carry a great deal of cash on them. Rather, they have but two coins on their person at any given moment, one silver, one gold. It would behoove you not to accept either one of them, if you’re ever in such a position. The silver coin returns to the leprechaun’s pocket whenever spent and the gold coin turns to ash as soon as the leprechaun has escaped. Not a bad system, all in all, for individuals so frequently the targets of theft.

Also, leprechauns are wily fairies and can vanish with nary a warning. Believe me, I know.

The first leprechaun I ever saw was standing on the street lamp outside my residence hall window.

He was just watching the water, whiling away the minutes. I opened my window further to get a better look. I thought maybe we could have a little chat. I didn’t want his gold or anything. I learned my lesson with the banshees….Don’t try to take what doesn’t belong to you. Face it, situations like that always end poorly. I was just hoping that, considering I was too far away to make a grab for him, that I might be able to fill my lifelong goal of speaking to a leprechaun.

As soon as I opened my mouth to greet him, though, he disappeared in a blink. I also thought I heard him mumble “Pog Mo Thon,” which was kind of rude. I guess he had bad experiences in the past or something.

My sister had much better luck when she came to visit me. I don’t know if she has a more calming presence or this other leprechaun was just less uptight, but he even hung out with us for a couple minutes before vanishing.

I don’t think that he really believed us about not being after his gold and he refused to answer any of my questions, but he did, at least, pose for this awesome picture.

Seconds after this was taken, he was gone.

I’m guessing I haven’t built up a huge leprechaun following at this point, but if, by chance, there is a leprechaun reading this, please know that I have no interest in your gold. I simply want to get to know you. You see, one day I may include you in one of my stories and I would just hate to portray you inaccurately. So, if any of you are ever available for a short meet and greet, please feel free to get in touch with me. I’m happy to travel to you, but I completely understand if you’re more comfortable meeting somewhere away from rainbows.

One last message to all reading this (regardless of your leprechaun status), I hope you have a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Insanity, Horcruxes and Wisdom: These Cliffs Have Everything

When I was in Ireland, I somehow ended up at the Cliffs of Insanity.

Sadly, nary a pirate ship in sight.

Luckily, I came at them from the other direction, though. Must have been using a different wind then they were using. Anyway, it meant I avoided the whole having to climb up the cliff side thing. Which was good, because I totally forgot to give Fezzick a call before I started out on the journey. Stupid, I know. But everyone makes mistakes.

I didn’t actually realize when I first got there that Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher were the Cliffs of Insanity, in disguise. Someone mentioned it while I was there, and later when I looked it up, I was thrilled to discover it was true. Who didn’t want to join Inigo and the Man in Black in their little pre-fight chat?

A couple years later, when I was watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the second (okay, fine, maybe fifth) time, I realized that the caves that Professor Dumbledore and Harry were going into, to hunt for the horcrux, looked familiar. Yep, the Cliffs of Moher had struck again.

On my trip I neither engaged in any sword fights, nor tracked down any mystical whoosits (at least none that I am at liberty to discuss), but I still call the trip a success. The Cliffs were absolutely beautiful. I think perhaps my favorite part of them was, as I looked down to the lower peaks, I noticed a man’s face in the stone.

Isn't he handsome?

I like to think that he keeps watch over Ireland, waiting to sound the alarm if ever a threat approaches. Considering how long he’s probably been maintaining the guard there, I’m guessing he’s seen some stuff. If I’d remembered to bring my repelling rope, I totally would have gone down to ask him some questions. He’d have all sorts of wise answers, I’m sure. But that’s for my next trip to the Emerald Isle.

If you do happen to get there before me, though, please tell him I said hi.

One other thing, the Cliffs are a little daunting. Quite a bit of height and no real railings to speak of, so just do me a favor and be careful. I don’t want you to end up like this stick man.

Well...I can't say that it doesn't get the point across.

Whether you’re looking for a moment of insanity, a hidden horcrux or just a little bit of sage advice, I think the Cliffs of Moher is the place to be. And if you just want to go and try to slip the word “inconceivable” into your conversation as much as possible, well, that’s okay too.

Squirrel Menace Update: The 2007 All-Ireland Squirrel Survey shed light on the in-fighting, and biological warfare, occurring between the greys and the reds. The battle continues, with the public now being asked to report squirrel sighting whether the creatures are dead or alive. We may be able to use this rodent disunity to our advantage.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lacking Sophistication and Loving It

Ireland is thought to be home to many of the good folk. These fairies will often live in large communities under some sort of royal rule. They are big fans of the fun - dancing, singing and feasting. But this enjoyment of life should not lessen the seriousness with which these creatures are taken. They are highly intelligent beings, who can in turn be benevolent or hostile towards humans.

There are many meeting spots where these communities of fairies will come together, often bushes or trees that stand alone, away from other natural groupings. When I was in Ireland, my folklore professor told us a story about a highway that was to be built in County Clare in the late ‘90s. As they got ready to begin construction of the road, a gentleman, well studied in traditional Irish folklore, spoke out in opposition.

You see, he pointed out that directly in the middle of where this road would be was a fairy tree. If this foliage was destroyed, he promised that the fairies would come and wreak havoc on everyone who used the road, in retaliation for this offense. At first, our professor told us, this gentleman was seen only as a nuisance. However, his persistence eventually paid off. The highway was still built, but it was built around the fairy tree, so no harm would come to it.

The professor used this story to illustrate that while people like to act as though they are above the belief in fairies and other creatures of magic, questions still remain. Ultimately, the people behind the construction of they highway decided that it was better to be safe than sorry. Why tempt the possibility of fairy wrath, as improbable as that seemed, if it could be avoided with some slight plan alterations?

I sat in that class listening to this and thought that it was possibly the greatest thing I had ever heard.

It’s easy to dismiss tales of magic and paranormal creatures as being the stuff of children’s stories, but maybe there’s a reason that so many similar creatures show up in the folklore of so many different culture in so many different locations. Now, I’m not saying that I have absolute faith in the existence of fairies, I just don’t want to rule it out. And nothing made me happier than knowing that the people of Ireland also weren’t ready to rule definitively against the existence of the wee folk, even when it was probably exceedingly annoying to change those road plans.

Peter Pan once explained to Wendy, “You see children know such a lot now, they soon don’t believe in fairies, and every time a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.”

I do agree that the amount of information we now have so immediately at our fingertips can make it easier for us to dispel so-called myths. But, as to the rest of it....No offense to Mr. Barrie, and I know good old Peter was a bit of a cocky kid, but this strikes me as a whole lot of arrogant. If fairies exist, I’m guessing the do so regardless of whether or not we choose to believe in them. And probably get a good laugh at us humans thinking that their lives are fueled by nothing more than our good thoughts.

While it may not be the thing keeping their hearts a-tickin’, belief does play some role in the folklore surrounding fairies. Apparently they will only show themselves to people who truly believe. Now, that I can understand. Why would you want to waste all that time convincing the person you were chatting with that you really are real and they don’t need to keep reaching for their anti-psychotic medications?

I, for one, am really going to try and believe. One, because it’s more fun than not believing. Two, because if the construction workers behind that highway in Ireland can entertain the notion, why can’t I? And three, because maybe if I believe hard enough, one day, a fairy might deign to have a chat with me. And, perhaps answer one or two of my floppity-jillion questions.

The gentleman who opposed the highway, Mr. Lenihan, said, “They laugh at you. It’s not sophisticated. But subconsciously, they believe.”

So, here’s to being unsophisticated. Who’s with me?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Banshees: Crying and Combs

Today we’re going to take a look at banshees. In Irish legend, these creatures always show themselves in the forms of women. Sometimes the banshee will take the form of an old crone, other times she will appear as a beautiful woman, either young or middle aged. She is most known for her wail, as the banshee is said to cry out if someone is about to die. Originally, the banshees were believed to only appear to particular Irish families. However, after centuries of marriages, this group has likely expanded.

During her keening, she is not always visible to the living, but whether you see her or hear her, the message is always the same: Death is near. Possibly for you, possibly for a loved one, but regardless, it’s coming. This may seem scary, but the banshee isn’t there to make sure someone dies, just to give you warning so you have time to prepare. Get your affairs in order. Say your goodbyes.

Really, she just providing a public service.

This is not the only legend surrounding the banshees. They are believed to have long pale or auburn hair, which they brush with silver combs. If you take a comb from a banshee, watch out. She is likely to spirit you away, never to return. If you somehow manage to escape her before this, she’s coming for you. She will hunt you down and make your life miserable until she gets you or the comb. Because of this, some find the banshee to be very frightening.

But, let’s just pause for a second and think about this.

To me, it is very reminiscent of our previous conversation on the Wicked Witch of the West. She is considered the villain of that story. Why? Because she won’t accept that it’s okay for someone to have stolen shoes off the corpse of her late sister.

Here’s a crazy thought: Let’s stop stealing from these women.

Now, I’m not defending the manner in which banshees or the Witch handled their respective thefts, but come on. Who likes to have their stuff stolen? Not me. I would find it extraordinarily aggravating. Would my gut reaction be abduction of others? No. These ladies are definitely letting their anger get the better of them and I certainly won’t argue in favor of their methods. All I’m saying is that before we go calling them names, maybe we should take a quick gander in the mirror.

Perhaps it’s just a tad unfair of us to take what doesn’t belong to us and then get all high and mighty about the behavior of those we’ve stolen from.

So, let’s give the not-stealing experiment a go, shall we? Now, if these women continue to behave in the same way, regardless of our lack of theft, go ahead, call them the bad guys. But if you run into one and she doesn’t immediately try to spirit you away, give her a chance. It may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And who wouldn’t want a friend on the other side?

Oh, and one other thing….just invite Maleficent to your parties. Ostracizing her is ultimately going to make everyone feel bad.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Shortcuts to Eloquence Can be Unexpectedly Scary

St. Patrick’s Day is coming and celebrations have already started. People are going to parades….pub crawls….Hallmark sent me an email about chasing leprechauns on their channel….It’s all very exciting. And it’s, naturally, got me thinking about stories. The Irish are renowned for their ability to spin a tale. They also have some pretty awesome folklore on which to base these yarns. In honor of the coming holiday, I’m going to spend the week looking at some different bits and pieces of Irish legends and myths.

During my semester in Ireland, back in 2007, my friend and I spent almost every weekend traveling the country. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we figured we needed to make the most of it. One of our earliest trips was to Blarney Castle. Legend has it that if a person kisses the Blarney Stone, they will be graced with the gift of gab. Being an aspiring writer, I figured I should hedge my bets and we set off to get ourselves that gabby gift.

Here’s what I didn’t do before setting out on my adventure – actually read up on the Blarney Stone. See, in my mind, it was just a big stone, maybe a small boulder. If I’d taken the time to do my research, I would have found that along with providing eloquence, this stone was apparently predicted to be untouchable due to its location. It didn’t just bestow its magical gift on someone because they schlepped out to the castle. No, you had to earn it.

When we arrived at the castle, we first walked around the grounds. It was absolutely beautiful. Once in the castle, we followed signs for the Stone leading us further and further up. We laughed as we ascended the narrow, slippery stairs, holding tight to the rope placed there for our balancing needs. I looked out the windows of the tower and imagined fighting my way past guards to escape my imprisonment by an evil wizard.

We finally reached the top and saw the line of people waiting to kiss the Stone, but we didn’t see the Stone. Still we waited in line, confident that everything would be made clear to our little tourist minds soon. And it was. When we reached the front we saw that in order to kiss the Blarney Stone, we would have to lie on our backs with half our bodies on the stone and the other half balancing out over a narrow abyss. The abyss had a few poles across it to ensure that we wouldn’t plummet to our deaths. Probably.

I was particularly unnerved by the whole hanging my head upside down part. I’m known for my slightly overlarge noggin’ and knew that if anything was going to send me plummeting to the ground below, it was cranium weight. So, I held on to the bars as tightly as humanly possible and hoped that the Irishman there to ensure my balance knew that if I started falling, I was probably taking him with me. No matter how friendly he was.

I’ve had a few years now to assess the outcome of that trip, but I’m still not really sure I was bequeathed the gift of gab. Definitely got a good story out of it, though. Which is generally all that I’m really looking for.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Enjoying the Anticipation

So, the weather has been beautiful these last couple of days. Roomie and I actually walked to dinner last night without coats. It was magical. So much so that I was almost ready to do my warm weather dance. Which I have no intention of sharing with you. Because then you’d be in such reverence of my sweet moves that you’d feel insecure about your own dancing for the rest of your lives. And I just couldn’t live with myself if I deprived you of lives of dancing. So, I’ll keep it to myself, save to say that it’s almost time. (I suggest you get to practicing your own warm weather dances. Don’t want to be caught unprepared when the time comes.)

This is all beside the point, though. The point is that even though I know that we likely have another couple months of the Miser brothers trying to outdo each other, I choose to trick myself into believing that the warm weather is here to stay. Ignoring the possibility of me being caught without the needed number of layers when the cold swoops back in, there is only one real problem with my chosen delusion: I want my summer movies now.

I need a waning winter superhero pick-me-up. I want to know how Lincoln handled the undead during this tenure as President. Aliens. Fairy tales. Some good, old fashioned ‘80s rock. Maybe throw in something having to do with spies, and I’m set.

But, I know I can’t have any of this yet. And I get why.

I remember that anticipation as I entered those last couple months of school. I was just…so…close…to getting out of there. To that blissful feeling of summer vacation. And then it came, the glory of that last day of school. Three months of freedom. Endless possibilities.

With all the things that take up residence in the post-high school mind, it can be difficult to recapture that feeling of ultimate freedom (though, I do find it helps if you hold your arms above your head and run full tilt down your office hallway, screaming. People may look at you funny, but that’s just a bonus). However, we can still get that sense of anticipation. That belief that something awesome is accompanying the warm weather on its journey to reach us.

Last summer I was taking night classes and working, but as I stood on line for the midnight showing of Harry Potter, I felt like a little kid. Giddy is really the only word to properly describe it. It didn’t matter than I had a paper due in a few days or that I’d just been assigned some time-intensive projects at work. That was Future Kelly’s problem and this was Present Kelly’s time. And Present Kelly was filled with barely containable mirth and frivolity.

So, that’s why, no matter how much I want my summer movies immediately, I can accept the wait. I like the anticipation. I like feeling just the slightest bit bummed when the previews end and the movie starts, because that means that it’s closer to being over (as illogical as that sounds). Because in those darkened theaters, we’re all just little kids again – not really sure of what’s coming next and super excited about it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Clearance Level: Top Secret

When I was a kid, every month I would wait anxiously for my Top Secret Adventures kit to arrive. On that glorious day that it was dropped off on my door step, I would immediately set up camp on the floor of the TV room. I’d put on a little Are You Afraid of the Dark? (and let me tell you, the answer to that question was generally a resounding yes. I still get creeped when I think about the episode where the girl moves into the new apartment and ends up living next to the elderly lady who’s actually been dead for a number of years. Gives me the heeby jeebies.) and roll up my sleeves.

It was mystery time.

I’d read my guidebook to get a better idea of the terrain I’d be traveling and then take a look at the possible culprits. I loved pulling together all the clues and narrowing down my pool of suspects. When I reached that ultimate moment where my culprit became clear, it was a magnificent thing. I was wired. I was the greatest detective who had ever lived. No criminal could elude me. It almost wasn’t fair. But I didn’t care, because I was the Queen of Justice. Had it been around at the time, I would have totally gained membership into the Unicorn Success Club for my crime-solving prowess alone. Never mind my sharp fashion sense.

When this was all said and done, I’d pack up the month’s kit and put it away with all my other saved kits. I couldn’t, after all, get rid of them. If I threw them away then I couldn’t take them out from time to time and bask in the warmth of a job well done, grinning smugly, as I sat there in one of my many roller coaster t-shirts, and laughing over how they thought they could get past me. As if that were ever even a possibility.

But my pint-sized ego trips were not the only reason that keeping these kits ended up being beneficial. Those villain cards were a gold mine. A particular set of friends – a lovely trio of brothers – my sister and I liked to play Robbers & Robbers. The game was just more fun if we were all on the same side and trying to outsmart the same cops. (Plus, as I’ve clearly demonstrated here, it wouldn’t even have been fair to have me as one of the cops. You know, due to my awesomeness.) So, at the beginning of each game of R & R, we would pick our new aliases from the Top Secret kits. Some of the others liked to change it up, but, being the creature of habit I am, I always went straight for my regular card: Kelly Green.

Grabbing that increasingly creased piece of paper, I was transformed from normal Kelly into criminal mastermind – or at least, criminal – Kelly. If I needed help in this transition, all I had to do was look at the back of the card:

Kelly Green

Height: 6 feet
Weight: 150 pounds
Hair: Green
Eyes: Green

Characteristics: Kelly has devoted her life to plants and crim. When she’s not raking, she’s taking. She has a green thumb, along with similar shades on her other fingers. Her green fingerprints usually lead police to her.

Criminal History:
Kelly pluck prize-winning roses from Ned’s Nursery. She also stole the grassy diamond from Dodger Stadium.

Clearly, I was a force to be reckoned with. The others, finding similar strength in their new alter egos, quickly joined me and we became the ultimate crime syndicate. A bunch of crooks specializing in entirely different areas of bizarre crime without any uniting goal. It was perfect.

And though I’m sure they tried mightily, those imaginary cops never could quite keep up with us. It was too bad they couldn’t sway me to their side. ‘Cause I would have caught us in a second.

She may be a little worse for wear, but my good friend Ms. Green has stuck with me through the years.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Informal Research

My loved ones have to put up with a lot when I’m writing. Most of this burden comes in the form of disturbing questions. I don’t always remember that, as they’re not in my mind with me, they don’t necessarily know that I’m researching plot lines. So, when I call my nurse mother and, without providing any context, ask her if there are any medications that could have the side effect of causing seizures followed by a coma-like state, she responds with “What’s going on? Is someone seizing?” After which, I think, Why would someone be seizing? Then the writing haze finally clears and I realize I sound like a crazy person. So, I clear up the fact that this is all for the sake of fiction and my mother laughs, relieved, and pulls out her medical books to see if she can find anything that might fit the bill.

Most people I’m close to are subjected to such questions. Dad generally gets obscure law enforcement procedure queries. My sister gets a lot of “How would you feel if….” followed traditionally by something that prompts her to respond with “What’s wrong with you?” My brother and I discuss the finer points of time travel. And all my friends field whatever I randomly happen to think about when I’m with them.

Living with me, Roomie deals with my questions on a fairly regular basis. I can’t say that she is quite as enthusiastic about them as some, but this may or may not be because I ask her things I know are going to disturb her (*cartoon villainess laugh*). See, for instance, the below gchat:

Me: Strange question, do you know anything about dislocations? It’s for my writing.

Roomie: You’re gross, that’s what I know.

Me: Answer my questions. If you were to dislocate something, like a finger or shoulder, would it make any noise when the bone was popped back in its socket?

Roomie: I don’t know, but my guess would be yes.

Me: You don’t know? You’re supposed to be my resident expert on injuries. You’ve broken everything. Twice.

Roomie: I’ve never dislocated anything. I just looked at a couple things and I believe it would. Read Step 6:

Me: You know, if you were to pull your finger out of its socket and then pop it back in, it would probably be the best way to find out.

Roomie: That’s probably true. And most logical.

Me: Exactly. I’m going with the clicking sound, for now. Sound good?

Roomie: I think "gross" would be more appropriate. But, yeah.

Me: Excellent. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.


Me: Well, I’ll allow you to call me Your Majesty, if you’d like.

In addition, to taking issue with my queries regarding injuries, she also is excessively wigged out by fantasy creatures. This doesn’t stop me from telling her about them, though. Of course, I think this is fair turn around. Sure, she has to listen to my ponderings on centicores, lamassus and banshees, but she once made me go into the Shore Store. It’s a toss up as to which is more terrifying. (Except, not really. One is clearly a more scarring experience than the other.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Story in the Song

Thanks to Roomie’s music choice during the car ride in to work today, I have been singing Meat Loaf all morning. More specifically “Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” a song that brings to mind Sweet 16 parties where boys stood on one side of the dance floor, girls stood on the other and the whole group took part in a giant duet. Anyone else remember doing that? Don’t be shy about it. At the very least, I know I wasn’t alone on that dance floor, so there have to be some people out there who have taken part in similar teen musical moments.

More than just bringing back those awkward high school dance memories, this song had me thinking about music that tells a complete story. The story of the young couple in “Paradise” might not have had a particularly happy ending, but the listener knows how they got there. And you have to respect someone who takes their word that seriously.

All songs have a story behind them, but some have fuller narratives than others. They’re like little mini books you can sing along to. And they’re awesome.

Here are a few others that come to mind:

The Mary Ellen Carter
This song was written by Stan Rogers, but I saw Liam Clancy perform it when I was studying in Ireland, so I generally think of him when I hear it. It’s about a crew’s effort to salvage a wrecked ship. The song starts with the ships sinking, moving on the men’s decision and those standing in their way. It even has a moral to be applied to things other than ship salvaging. Which is nice. Mostly ‘cause I’ve never salvaged a ship. (But just give me time.)

“Goodbye Earl”
The friendship of Mary Ann and Wanda is laid out in detail here, from their high school days to their ultimate choice to open a produce stand together. And you know, the little homicide incident in the middle. Well, regardless, these ladies get their happy ending, and listeners get a beginning, a middle and an end.

“Leader of the Pack”
Ah, the Shangri Las - The voices behind melodramatic hits like “Walking in the Sand” and “I Can Never Go Home Anymore.” Still, I think this track may be their most well know. It tells the tragic story of young lovers from the opposite side of the tracks. Of course, my biggest question after listening to it was always, why did the other two girls not seem to have any knowledge that the motorcycle riding gentleman caller in question had already met his dreadful end? Particularly if “at school, they all stop and stare”? For two ladies so interested in the relationship, they were a little behind the times. Perhaps they were new to the whole art of gossip.

How about you? What narrative songs come to mind?

Also, in other news…. Squirrel Menace Update: Don’t tell me Rocky didn’t know exactly what he was doing.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Window to the Past

The written word is a lot more than something that can convey a story or message. It connects people. I will never meet the vast, vast majority of people in this world, but because of something I read I may have a link to them. Blogs alone are excellent examples of the connectedness of strangers. Words build communities, bringing people together across the miles. But they can also bring people together across time.

I never knew my grandfather. Sadly, he passed away years before I was born. My mom told me stories about him. Memories of her sitting on the back of his chair, combing what little hair he had. How the constant ringing of the phone drove him nuts. The time he said “Happy Thankshgiving,” leading to a new family tradition. I know that he bore a slight resemblance to Barney Fife and that this fact made both my mother and I partial to the Andy Griffith Show.

I also know the story of him and my grandmother. I used to lie with my head in her lap, as she played with my hair and told it to me. It was always one of my favorites.

During World War II, he was stationed abroad. Before leaving he went on only one date with my grandmother, who worked in the same New York Life office, but that was apparently enough to have him asking her to wait for him. I guess he wanted to keep the relationship strong because he sent her 225 letters while he was away.

Grandma kept them all, storing them in a simple wooden box. I knew about the letters since I was a kid. Grandma liked talking about what a wonderful writer he was. As much as she valued those letters, she was always ready to let one of us borrow them. She was proud of him and wanted us to be too.

So, in high school, becoming more conscious of both my love of writing and history, I took Grandma up on her offer. Sitting at home, I read every one of his letters. It was like having a front row seat to his brain. His likes and dislikes; the love he had for his mother; the enjoyment he and my grandmother’s brother took in tormenting each other when their paths crossed abroad. Little things – He really liked the song At Last and mentioned a number of times that he wanted to dance with my grandmother to that at their wedding. And bigger things – His outrage that the United States wasn’t showing videos of the destruction found at concentration camps because it was felt that it would be too much for the public.

He returned home in December 1945 and my grandparents married on March 3, 1946 (Saturday would have been their 66th anniversary). Reading those letters, I bore witness to their whole courtship: from “Hello Kay” in 1942 to “Dear Dreamy Eyes” in 1945.

My mom often told my sister and me that she wished my grandfather had gotten the chance to meet us. That he would have loved us. I never had any trouble believing this. He was our grandfather; of course he would love us. It was sort of his job. Reading those letters I got a sense that we would have more than loved each other, we would have liked each other. We would have been friends. I’m sorry that I never got to meet him, but I’m exceedingly grateful to him for putting so much of himself into those letters and to Grandma for guarding them for all those years. Because of them, I got to know him.

And, because of them, I have one more reason to love the written word.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bad Movies/Good Party Themes: Shag Indoor Beach Party

It is officially the first Friday of the month, which means it’s time for some party themes.

(Once again, for my disclaimer: While I am referring to these movies as “bad,” I love every one of them. The title of this should really be “Movies That Never Got the Critical Acclaim They So Rightfully Deserved/Good Party Themes.” But that’s really long.)

We’re getting closer to spring. We’ve even had a few warm days. But all that means to me is that the colder days seem worse. So, if you’re getting impatient waiting for the summer sun, this theme might help you out. Because nothing squelches the winter blues like an indoor beach party.

Like last month’s, this theme also made its way on to the stage in college. We were in finals season and all needed a break before we started throwing books at the walls (or each other). So, naturally, we planned a late night dorm room beach party.

As we already knew, no party was complete without a cinematic offering. We found ourselves unsatisfied with our combined movie collection, so a few of us ventured out to rectify the problem. At first we were looking to rent, but nothing was jumping out at us.

Then, in Best Buy, it happened.

There, just sitting on the shelves, waiting for us, was Shag: The Movie. We knew immediately that this was the one. None of us had ever seen it, but it was a movie that had “The Movie” in the title. We were sold.

Needless to say, the evening was what magic is made of.

Crackerjack dialogue to look forward to:

“If I’m not engaged by the time I’m twenty, I’m gonna kill myself.”
“Well, don’t play hard to get. You might miss something.”
“It’s bad manners to think about winning!”

Tag line: “On a summer weekend in 1963, four girlfriends made memories that would last a lifetime.”

For a Shag: The Movie Indoor Beach Party of your very own, here’s what you need:

- Shag: The Movie (1989)
- Towels to sit on (better if you can acquire ones that have fun cartoon characters or superheroes adorning them)
- Beach wear
- Suntan lotion (don’t go crazy and waste all of it, just a little bit on everyone’s hands so they get to experience that great sticky feeling that accompanies every beach trip and the room has that sweet Coppertone scent)
- Snacks: chips, cookies, cut up fruit in little plastic baggies, sandwiches (get realistic and add a little bit of sand to these bad boys), watered down ice tea or lemonade or both out of a cooler, etc.
- A volunteer to walk around the room every half hour or so yelling about the sale of ice cream and water (make sure this individual has ice cream to give out to people or you’re just going to make enemies)
- Heat cranked up as high as possible (you want to feel as though the sun is in the room with you)
- Second volunteer to spritz people in the face with salted water when the heat starts getting to them
- Group of winter weary and/or beach-loving and/or nostalgic for the ‘60s individuals (bonus if they also have always harbored the secret desire to learn how to do the Shag)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

High on the Hog

Big week for holidays, huh?

As I imagine you are all already aware, today is the 40th annual National Pig Day.

There are a number of different suggestions on the internet for how to celebrate this epic holiday (is it just me or does it seem like suggestions two and four here were penned by different writers?). Also, check out this post for a run down of pigs in literature.

I have to admit, though, when I hear National Pig Day, I don’t think first of actual pigs, but rather of more humanoid characters who have gone by pig related monikers.

First up is Piggy from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. This bullied kid was the intellectual of that supremely scary tribe and one of the biggest proponents of their continued striving towards democratic civilization. Unfortunately, these values were not enough to save him from a tragic end. I read this book for the first time in eighth grade and remember that my stomach hurt when I was done. I can't even look at conch shells without being a little wigged out.

Apparently living in a galaxy far, far away did not preclude the use of this nickname. There were two “Piggy”s in Star Wars: the first a human, named Jek Tono Porkins who met his tragic end going up against the first Death Star, the second a biogenetically altered Gamorrean, Voort saBinring, who flew under Wedge Antilles in the Wraith Squadron. Strangely, despite pigs apparently being wide-spread enough that every species understood why these men were referred to in such a way, I can’t remember anyone ever ordering any pork products for consumption. Apparently, there, every day is Galactic Pig Day.

And who could forget Pig-Pen, our favorite unwashed boy? That poor kid just could not stay clean. On the plus side, I always knew that no matter how disheveled I got during a day of playing Robbers & Robbers (we were a fairly sophisticated crime syndicate. I often manned the getaway monkey bars) there was no way I was going to be in worst shape than him.

So, in honor of all these individuals, and the animals they were named for, I wish each and every one of you the happiest National Pig Day of your lives. And because I can’t say it any better….Porky Pig, ladies and gentlemen!