22 Aug
2015

Vesuvius Day…reimagined!

 Explosive!  Fiery!

Explosive! Fiery!

In 2001 I was in sixth grade, and I wrote a short story about a girl who died in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD.  When I found out we celebrate Vesuvius Day at Kards Unlimited, I was inspired by my sixth grade self and knew I had to write a new story.  So here it is!  Enjoy!  And if you like historical fiction, Kit Harrington sexy-man extraordinaire is in a film aptly named Pompeii.  Clearly, he still plays someone who knows nothing because his character doesn’t leave Pompeii when a “mountain” i.e. super dangerous volcano, starts going all wibbly-wobbly.  

Steamy!  But is it best kiss material?

Steamy! But is it best kiss material?

 

 

10:00AM August 23, 79 AD
Dear Diary,
I am spending my summer in Pompeii and I’ve just arrived!  Mount Vesuvius is so green and beautiful I wish I could live here year round.  Pompeii may be the lushest and greenest place I’ve seen in all of Rome!  There are orchards and vineyards everywhere; just a testament to our favor in the eyes of the gods.  Although the villas, grand baths, and painted caryatids are lovely, I always prefer natural beauty.  The hustle and bustle of the working class has a beauty all its own; another reason I love vacationing here.  This city is a true melting pot.  I can walk next to slaves and freemen alike.  Like worker bees in a beehive, people move rhythmically, with purpose.  Merchants, manufacturers, and farmers all work together to make this wondrous city run smoothly. I admire the workers and the slaves.  My days are so unbearably mindless and boring.  Although I am “noble” and wealthy, my life seems so unimportant compared to theirs.  They live; I watch.  Even the prostitutes have a more glamorous life than I.  

RobertDuncanson-Vesuvius_n_Pompeii_1870

I want more than anything to live.  I guess I’m only sixteen, so there’s plenty of time.  But isn’t that always what people say before something tragic happens?  “I thought I had more time.”  Even eighty year olds on the brink of death mumble about thinking they had more time.  It’s sad really.  I’m so tired of waiting for my life to start.  

I am going to a festival tonight with my best friend, Octavia!  She knows how to live!  Octavia has been our house servant for the past eight years. I cannot believe she has been a slave her whole life.  I look forward to spending my summers with her every year.  Last year, before I left to go back to Rome, I kissed her.  I don’t know what came over me.  It just felt right.  I never had a chance to talk with her about it.  Daddy saw and smacked me later.  He said that that sort of behavior is for whores and serving girls.  He says the only girls that do that are the ones who get paid.  It isn’t a thing proper girls should do.  I don’t like any of the boys in Rome.  I also don’t like that I will most likely be a bargaining chip for my father to gain more political power once he decides to marry me off.  With my luck it’ll be to a man just like him, but maybe even older.  

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Daddy doesn’t want Octavia and I to have any sort of friendship.  He says that a politician’s daughter should not associate with people below her station.  Daddy is such a social climber, soon enough I won’t be able to associate with anyone.  Mother doesn’t care about my friendship with Octavia, as long as Mother’s wine glass is full, she doesn’t care about anything, least of all me.
Sincerely,
Lucretia

 

8:00AM August 23, 79 AD
Dear Diary,
Today is the day Lucretia finally arrives for the summer!  This past year has been so trying, I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with my best friend.  I just hope her father isn’t too overbearing.  I’ll just make sure his wine goblet is overflowing at all times and he’s occupied with the appropriate kind of flesh.  I haven’t told Lucretia about her father’s lascivious ways.  I’m sure she has an idea; how could she not?  I’ve walked in on him with the stable boys more times than I can count.  Sometimes, I’ve even walked in on him with the horses.  His wife definitely knows; why else would she keep herself in a constant stupor?  I work in a house filled with secrets and balancing them so that no one is the wiser is my most important responsibility.  Lucretia’s father is the most controlling man I have ever met.  

 

They are decent enough people to work for though.  They never abuse me, like other slave owners have in the past, they feed me well, and, for the most part, they let me have a friendship with Lucretia.  Slaves have upward mobility, so one day I hope they decide to grant me my freedom.  I could also marry a freeman and declare a child before the magistrate, but marriage has never been something I want.  I may be a slave, but I have freedom.  I look at Lucretia’s life and it’s more controlled than mine is.  Sure, she’s protected from a lot of terrible things in this world, but she doesn’t have any real friends and rarely leaves her little protective bubble.

 

Tonight, Lucretia and I are going to the festival to appease the god Vulcan.  Vulcan is the god of metal workers and destruction.  I hope to show her a grand time!  She kissed me before she left last year.  I’ve been thinking about that kiss all year.  Lucretia has the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen, soft and cat-like.  That night on the dock, when she kissed me goodbye, her eyes seemed to glow like fireflies.  Lucretia’s parents are having a feast before the festival.  I will have to cook and serve, but they always get the highest quality food so I don’t mind. I’m expecting a feast of grapes, apples, figs, and fish.  Fish is a staple here in Pompeii.  Our shell middens are huge!  Anyway, I should probably get to cooking, if I’m going to be prepared for this feast. I want everything to be perfect!
Sincerely,
Octavia

 

Noon August 23, 79 AD
Dear Diary,
It’s another rumbly day in Pompeii.  Tremors are pretty common here, but they are more powerful this year.  Maybe it’s all in my head, but Vesuvius also looks larger and the sea level looks lower. I have never heard of a mountain growing in size, so it must be in my head.  Unless of course it’s a warning from the god Vulcan.  

Thanks NASA! Further proof that Vesuvius is a big ass ornery volcano.

Thanks NASA! Further proof that Vesuvius is a big ass ornery volcano.

In 62 AD, I was born.  My mother says that Vulcan was angry because I was stubborn and wouldn’t leave her belly, so he sent an earthquake to shake me out.  The ground shook and Mother’s water broke, then I came screaming out!  I wish mother would tell more stories like she used to.  Now she’s always staring into a goblet of wine.  She used to be so full of life; and now, she’s dead.  I think being married to my father killed her.  She’s a walking corpse, so far removed from reality she doesn’t even realize I’m here.  I try to take her on walks to the sea with me, but her hands shake like Vesuvius when she’s away from her wine.  

 

Anyway, strange signs have been occurring for days.  I hope the oracle predicts that Vulcan is pleased with Pompeii, but it doesn’t seem likely.  After the earthquake in 62 AD destroyed temples, homes, and altars, people rebuilt them bigger and grander than ever before.  This, of course, was in an effort to please Vulcan.  I don’t think the gods listen anymore.  A mountain that rumbles and grows in size and a shrinking sea can’t be good.  Maybe the first earthquake was to warn people to leave Pompeii for good.  I love it here, but I feel uneasy.  There’s an eeriness about that mountain.
Sincerely,
Lucretia

pompeii

10:20 AM July 23, 2015
Dear Diary,
I have never worked at such an important archaeological site!  I am documenting all of it!  I’m on my cookie break writing in you!  I am so fortunate to work at Pompeii!  My aunt is in charge of an excavation group here and I was lucky enough to join.  Ever since I was a young girl, Pompeii has fascinated me.  Pompeii is tomb and time capsule.  It shows how real ancient Romans lived, even the commoners.  No other sites show the commoners in such an illuminating light.  A trade hub filled with vacation homes, the people never knew they were living on an offshoot of a lava flow.  They never knew they lived inside the “death zone” around Vesuvius.  

Excavations

Excavations

In 1748, a farmer found traces of Pompeii beneath his vineyard.  Ever since, excavations have taken place.  I am a descendent of said farmer and so is my aunt.  I guess being fascinated by Pompeii is inherited!  Archaeologists have been digging through the massive pile of volcanic ash and mud for hundreds of years unearthing death poses, statues, altars, villas, mosaics, and, my personal favorite, the beautiful marble caryatids.  It’s funny to think we understand so much about their lives from their deaths.  

pompeii-ash-body

We have been excavating since early May and I found something that could be one of the most important finds to date.  Even more exciting than finding out that caryatids were painted!  I have found two diaries which may contain firsthand accounts of the eruption.  I believe they belonged to two girls who lived in a vacation villa.  We are excavating around two bodies in the lower section of the house now.  There are two shapes in the frigidarium, roughly the same size lying next to each other hugging.  It’s like they were trying to seek shelter in the coolest place imaginable.  They must have been burned terribly before they died together.  I don’t know if they were best friends, lovers, or two strangers united by their confrontation of a grim and terrifying death.  I can’t wait to get it translated.  The only firsthand account in existence is by Pliny the Younger and, no offense to Pliny, but the diaries of two teenage girls would be the find of the century!  

RomanBaths13

One things for sure, they were never going to escape a ten mile mushroom cloud of ash and pumice that erupted for twelve hours.  A giant cloud of hot ash and gas surged down Vesuvius, engulfing the city and burning or asphyxiating all the people who stayed in their cellars.  The lethal cloud was followed by a flood of volcanic mud and rock which buried the city.  The eruption lasted three days.  The only way to survive was to leave and many who tried didn’t make it out in time.  After the eruption, the sea retreated and a tsunami rolled in.  If the gods truly did favor certain cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum were not those cities.
Giulia

Two lovers.

Two lovers.

20 Aug
2015

I Sing the Body Fantastic: an Appreciation of Ray Bradbury

Look at that punim.

Look at that punim.

"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down."

fahren451

I admit from the outset that I am not a very good Bradbury fan.  Bradbury, born 22 August 1920, published at least 27 novels and over 600 short stories (and likely wrote a ton more-he wrote religiously every day for almost 70 years) and I've only ever read one of his books, Fahrenheit, 451 and I only thought it was ok.  One of his works that has stuck with me since I first saw it, though, is the made-for-TV movie The Electric Grandmother written by Bradbury and based on his short story I Sing the Body Electric (named for a Walt Whitman poem).

The movie tells the story of a widower and his three children who obtain an android grandmother to help assuage the loss of their wife/mother.  It's a lovely and heart-wrenching story and it affected me very strongly as a kid.  Ray really knew how to hit you right in the feels, man.

Despite not having a great grounding in his works, I do really love Ray Bradbury for his love of and commitment to the art and craft of writing.  Aspiring writers now have so much discouraging them (us) from pursuing our goals that it's great to have the moral support of someone so influential in the field.

Thanks, Ray.

"I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true – hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it."

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19 Aug
2015

Happy Birthday Great Bird of the Galaxy!

Gene_Roddenberry_title_card_Unification_part_1
Gene Roddenberry’s birthday is August 19!  To celebrate, here are nineteen fun facts relating to the creator/king of Star Trek and his enterprise (see what I did there...enterprise.  HAH)!

 

  1. His first published work was about his children’s bunnies!!!
  2. Went through Peace Officer training at UCLA.
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  3. He was the first member of his family to earn a college degree.  It was an associates in police science.
  4. One of the founding members of the Association for Professional Law Enforcement: “We are of the opinion that professional ethics and practical police work are completely compatible and we intend to meet together to promote this compatibility.”
  5. Obtained his pilot’s license through the US Army Air Corps.

    Gotta love a man in uniform.

    Gotta love a man in uniform.

  6. He wrote scripts under the pseudonym “Robert Wesley” because a fortune cookie advised that, “A change of name will bring you fame.”
  7. He flew 89 combat missions during WWII.
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  8. He passed his police sergeants exam on his first attempt.
  9. He believed all contemporary religions would disappear by the 23rd century.
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  10. He was friends with Ray Bradbury and even asked Bradbury to write for Star Trek; unfortunately Bradbury refused.
  11. Wesley Crusher’s character was modeled after Roddenberry as a teen.  (Man, he must have been an insufferable teen!)

    "Shut up Wesley."-Said everyone ever

    "Shut up Wesley."-Said everyone ever

  12. Star Trek was created in 1964.  Star Trek: The Next Generation was created in 1987.
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  13. He worked for the “Public Information Division” of the police as a speechwriter.
  14. He was an avid fan of the John Carter of Mars series.
  15. He was a major drug abuser which added to his health problems later in life.
  16. In physics, a “Roddenberry” marks the distance traveled at light speed during a “traveler year”...whatever that means…
    enterprise_loft
  17. He was an adulterous man-slut.  Sorry Gene, you were.
  18. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife were avid Trek fans!  It was one of the only programs they felt comfortable letting their kids watch.
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  19. In 1992, his ashes were flown into space.
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14 Aug
2015

Steve Martin’s Birthday!

SteveMartin

Today is Steve Martin's 70th birthday! He is an incredible and intelligent man who can literally--I mean figuratively--do anything. He's a talented actor, playwright, comedian, writer, and musician. He taught himself to play the banjo at a young age, had his first child at 67, and is an ardent collector of fine art. He has written many screenplays, such as The Jerk and Roxanne, and three excellent fiction novels and novellas: Shopgirl, The Pleasure of My Company, and An Object of Beauty (available at Kards!). Just this year he won an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame. So, why not celebrate the day he was born with some of his bluegrass music, All of Me (arguably one of his best films), his comedy, or one of his novels? Or, create a drink named after him (A "steve martin(i)" perhaps? No, not that Steve Martini.) to toast his existence, if you're into that sort of thing. For now, I'll leave you with a clip from one of my favorite Steve Martin movies:

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

 

12 Aug
2015

Vinyl Record Day!

tumblr_nagb1xxBpP1rqb2tko1_500Sometimes people call the store and ask if we sell records. We don’t, which is sad. (Although we do sell these really awesome bowls made from old records. Only the un-playable ones, clearly.) I’m not entirely sure why some people think that we sell records, but I’m just going to assume it’s because Vinyl is awesome and we sell awesome things.

A few of my favorite albums of all time are only available on Vinyl. Yeah, they’re old. And not well-enough known for someone to have ripped them from record and posted online for the world to have at their fingertips. I guess, I could do that myself, but why would I when I could just throw on a record and sit back and listen to that pop hiss beauty.

If you stop in your local Barnes and Nobles, it’s pretty apparent that someone is trying to bring records back. You can now get your favorite new hot album in vinyl format, right off the presses. And they all come with MP3 download codes so that you can listed to the album on your iPod when you don’t have time to sit down and soak in the sounds from your record player.

Even though records are coming back (ish?) there are a lot of people who get all excited by my record collection but then don’t know how to interact with them. I mean, if I had a dollar for every time someone put their fingers right on one of my records or tried to stack them flat, I would still not have enough money to pay for the heart attacks that these incidents cause.

So, in honor of Vinyl Record Day, here are some handy Do’s and Don’t’s!

  • Do listen to records often. And make sure you’re sitting still and paying attention and letting that heavenly music stream all the way through your body like a good high.
  • Don’t put your greasy fingers on them, I don’t care if you JUST washed your hands. Records are delicate and wonderful things, and you know how if you touch your face, you get acne? Well if you touch a record, you give it acne and then it skips incessantly.
  • Do show off your records to your friends. Because they need to be indoctrinated into the wonder of vinyl. One Of Us.
  • Don’t sit on them. I did that once when I was very small. My mother has still not forgiven me. Nor has she thrown the pieces away.
  • Do turn the volume ALL the way up. Your neighbors can deal. Records are pretty short compared to ‘shuffle all’, so it’s not like it’s going to be noisy forever!
  • Don’t just leave your favorite record on the player all the time because don’t you know what dust is? Dust is the thing that makes your record into just a weird flat disk that you can only use to srve pasta on, but not even that because there’s a hole in the middle.
  • Do stack your records standing up. Flat records are sad records. I mean, you wouldn’t stack cupcakes directly on top of each other, would you? Records are like cupcakes.
  • Don’t just drop that record back into the sleeve. OMG are you serious. You do that one too many times, and BAM, the sleeve splits, the record hits the hard ground edge first and breaks into a million pieces like Cinderella's poor pumpkin when those idiot horse riders savagely stampeded it. Don’t be an idiot horse rider person. Slide it in gently while flat.
  • Do treat owning records like owning Pokemon. GOTTA CATCH THEM ALL.

vinylscratchMLP

10 Aug
2015

Happy S’mores Day, Y’all!

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Every diabetic’s favorite holiday is coming up...S’MORES DAY!!!  In case you’ve been living under a rock in Tianjin, a s’mores has three ingredients: graham crackers, toasted marshmallows, and melted chocolate bars.

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Anthropomorphized food is actually kind of terrifying.

It is totally recommended that you get creative with your s’mores ingredients!  Substitute peanut butter cups for chocolate bars!  Or cut open a banana lengthwise, scoop a bit out, fill it with chocolate  and marshmallows, then wrap in tinfoil and put it in the embers of your campfire for a few minutes.  Instantly your s’mores is now healthy (and gluten free)!!!

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The first official s’mores recipe was published in Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts in 1927, but culinary historians believe the tradition began much earlier than that.  Leave it to the Girl Scouts to make everything official!  You’ll always want “some more” of this delicious treat, and if you’re eating it correctly it’ll sound like s’mores!!!

s'mores kitty wants more s'mores.

s'mores kitty wants more s'mores.

Most children don’t know how to eat healthy, I was no exception.  Oftentimes, when deprived of campfires in the winter, I would microwave chocolate chips and marshmallows in a Pyrex measuring cup, then dip graham crackers in it.  Sometimes, I skipped the graham crackers altogether and just dug in with a spoon.  MMmmmmmMMmm

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8 Aug
2015

Sneaky Zucchini!

If you are a gardener, farmer, or zucchini enthusiast, then you’re probably ready to celebrate National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day on August 8.  Each year, like a plague upon their houses, neighbors with abundant harvests rush upon bare porches adorning them with fruit (yes zucchini is a fruit)!  One must employ great stealth not to be seen.  After all, we want people thinking, “What the hell is that?  Is that a zucchini?  Whose zucchini is this?  Is it my zucchini?”  If one doesn’t employ great stealth, then the jig is up!

This is the least sneaky of all the zucchinis...

This is the least sneaky of all the zucchinis...

So, here is some advice for any novice zucchini sneaks:

If you need some stickies to leave notes on your zucchini, we've got them!

If you need some stickies to leave notes on your zucchini, we've got them!

  1. Remember to harvest some zucchini blossoms.  By harvesting the zucchini blossoms you will reduce the overabundance that normally results from growing zucchini.  Zucchini blossoms can be eaten raw, fried, or stuffed and cooked.
  2. Even one zucchini plant will produce a mountain of zucchinis!
  3. Be creative.  Don’t just lob a zucchini onto your neighbor's porch like an apathetic kid on a paper route (unless you hate them or something).  Internet legend says to leave a basket under the cover of darkness, but that seems too simplistic.  Have fun with it!  Wear a disguise, disguise your zucchini, leave a note, don’t leave a note, leave a recipe...the possibilities are endless.
  4. However you decide to leave your zucchini, your neighbors will be thrilled to share in the fruits of your labor.  Sharing is cool and so are you.  Perhaps you should share your favorite zucchini recipe too.
Zucchinis in disguise!

Zucchinis in disguise!

Here are three wonderful zucchini recipes to try if you’re one of the lucky ducks that gets free zucchini!

Baked Zucchini Sticks

Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

Existential crisis weenie dog: I DON'T KNOW WHAT I AM ANYMORE!

Existential crisis weenie dog: I DON'T KNOW WHAT I AM ANYMORE!

6 Aug
2015

Raise your glass of BootRear to Piers Anthony!

headshot"I found that I simply couldn't take fantasy seriously, so it became humourous, and continued from there."

If you're a fan of funny, punny fantasy stories, you probably are very familiar with Piers2236-75561 Anthony. His Xanth book series is well known to be painfully packed with puns. They're hilarious and wonderful and light and fun, but if you're someone who takes personal offense at someone rearranging the English language, this series is probably not for you.

There was a point in my life that I would proudly be able to say that I had read all of the Xanth books. that was back when there were only 28 or so. There are now a whopping 39 books in the series. With like 5 more in the works already. Partly, this is because fans of puns send them all to Mr. Anthony, hoping their own unique word play will end up in his next books. So I'm sure he has a million books' worth of material by now.

xanthIf you are a fan of light reads that will pull you in but also allow you to pick up and put down whenever you want, Piers Anthony books are so totally for you. If you're not into the pun thing, don't worry, he has a million other non-Xanth stories.

My particular favorite is the Incarnations of Immortality series. Each book in the set is about one of the immortals; Death, Time, the Fates, the devil, etc. They're very fun and fast. Perfect for airplanes or bus rides.book

The point is, this guy is someone who you should know about. And now you know a bit. the next step is to pick up one of his million books and give him a try!

Have fun!