Friday, August 30, 2013

Million-Dollar Idea

You, dear reader, will do well to become my friend now. Why? Because it will serve you very well in about ten years. Why is that, Maddie? you ask.

Well, gentle friend, I just came back from what we non-athletic types call "a very spontaneous and unexpectedly barefoot walk/run/jog/trot thing." And while I was sort of loping along the sidewalk, I thought of a million-dollar idea.

Now, this in itself is not all that remarkable. I come up with million-dollar ideas quite often, usually when I'm talking to my best friend Elli or my online-Nerdfighter-friend-who-unfortunately-lives-multiple-states-away-from-me, Drew. My collaborations with these two include a Chinese restaurant/theme park/spa staffed by a viking, a shoe store for people with only one half of a body (think Phantom Tollbooth-style, non-gory, split down the middle), and a new genre of music: Shakespeare rap. (While we're on the subject, I believe I am currently the only artist to have rhymed the words "enigmatic" and "demographic" in a rap song). But I digress.

I do believe that this million-dollar idea surpasses most that I've had before. Now, sit back, relax, and let me pitch it to you:

You know those smells that everyone seems to know, but do not tend to be unduly celebrated by the human race? I'm talking about that slightly sweet, slightly bready air-freshener-like smell that you get in the houses of some kinds of old people. Or the smell of play-doh. The smell that a house gets when there are a lot of dogs in it. The smell of Subway restaurants. I could go on, but I'm pretty sure you know what I'm talking about at this point: the kinds of smells that no one thinks too much about, but when you mention them, everyone in the conversation knows what you're talking about.

Well, imagine this: you walk into your apartment, and suddenly you can't shake the feeling that there is somehow, inexplicably and against all reason, an dog in the room. You don't own a dog, and your husband insists that there is no dog in the room, that he hadn't even seen a dog that day, etc. Then, you look at the calendar and realize that it's April 1st. Your husband admits to having bought the Nose-Fooler: a brand new product that diffuses just enough of a scent that the brain picks it up and puts on the there's-a-dog-in-this-room alert. Or an old person. Or a bucket of play-doh. You get the idea.

Yes, friends. I have just invented a product that plays pranks using the victim's own nose. And now, I present to you some questions: what scents would you buy, once my fabulous products rolls out to A Store Near You? Also, I recognize that "The Nose-Fooler" is an incredibly lame name. Thoughts?

I'm gonna be rich, I tell you. Rich.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Goldfish is a Boss.

FACT: People dislike reading lengthy stories about other people's pets.

FACT: I don't happen to care.

And so, without further ado, I present: Six Reasons Why My Goldfish is a Boss.

1. He has an awesome name. My fish is named simultaneously named after one of the best trumpet trumpet players ever and one of the coolest and most unappreciated Disney characters ever. (Hint: my fish is not called "Mushu" or "Cruella DeVille.") He's called King Louie. King Louie is the orangutan in The Jungle Book, who is one of the hippest primates around. He's way cooler than Mowgli, for sure, though that's not a difficult thing to be, admittedly. King Louie (the ape) is named after and voiced by Louis Prima, a fantastic jazz musician.

King Louie
Louis Prima

2. He is approximately the size of a tennis ball. When I got him, he was maybe the size of a ping pong ball. I'd almost swear he was inflatable or something.

3. He has a hobby. Yes, friends. King Louie is, like both his namesakes, a musician at heart. He likes to pick up the largest pebbles adorning his tank bottom in his gaping, toothless maw, and put them back down again. Really loudly. Seriously, you would not believe the noise he can produce. Once, I could hear him doing it all the way from the living room, which is downstairs and across the house from his tank. I kid you not. For some reason, he prefers to do this at night. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but the tank that he shares with my other fish (Gershwin the Clueless Black Moor) is in my bedroom. You'd think a goldfish, of all animals, wouldn't keep me up at night by making noise. How hilariously wrong you'd be.

4. He also likes to paint. Whenever I open his tank, he greets me by enthusiastically swimming to the surface and spitting great quantities of water onto my shirt and/or carpet. He's my aquatic Jackson Pollack.

5. He is greedier than Mr. Potter in It's A Wonderful Life. I had to buy special sinking food for my fish, because he wouldn't let Gershwin (who has an eye and, I suspect, common sense impairment) get a thing to eat.

6. He is pretty darn beautiful. I told myself I wasn't going to play the 'pretty fish' card, but oh well. He's a gorgeous, shiny calico.

I've had a *lot* of pets over the years, including many fish, but King Louie is one of the weirdest I've shared my house with yet. Now look me in the eye and tell me with a straight face that goldfish don't have personalities.


Posting These Photos Because Reasons

Just gonna leave this here:

And this:

And this one:

Yes, gentle friends. What you have just witnessed is a badly photoshopped picture of Oscar Wilde riding a unicorn towards a giant, floating jammy dodger that is shooting rainbows. I was a little bit excited when I made it, because I had just been accepted to the Shakespeare Theatre Company's youth program (Young Company).

Thank you and good day.


In Which Maddie Gets Perhaps a Bit Too Philosophical About Squirrels

Today, my sister and her friend found a squirrel on the road. He was injured. Maybe he fell out of a tree, or got hit by a car. We'll never know for sure. I walked to the spot with my rabbit's pet carrier as fast as I could.

I tried to ask my mom and the squirrel rehab lady on the phone every possible question I could, in the thin hopes that one of them would be met with "oh, we didn't think of that! Let's try it. Maybe we can save him." (And yes, we know a squirrel rehab lady). But, of course, it didn't happen like that. It never does. The fact was, he couldn't move his front arms. One of them seemed to be abnormally small. Because of this, he had been trying to drag himself along the road when we found him, and his chin was hairless and bloody from being scraped along the asphalt as he tried to free himself from danger, or pain, or fear, or whatever was going on in his head. Because his mouth was injured and he couldn't walk, there was no way that he could feed himself. He was an adult, and so there was no way to acclimate him to humans. If we had left him on the road, he would have become live bait. Euthanizing him was the kindest option.

At least, that's what everyone kept telling me. I kept it to myself, but the whole time I was in the car, with his carrier clutched firmly on my lap, staring at his madly twitching back legs and the fear beyond all comprehension in his eyes, I wondered if it really was the kindest option. Squirrels are used to the out-of-doors. Everyday can contain a life-and-death struggle for them. Predators were something that he doubtless understood, something that was in his personal lexicon of understanding. At least he would have had some idea of what was happening to him while crows pecked him to death or a fox made a meal of him.

I'm not saying it would have been pleasant for him. If I could possibly have spared him from it, I'd have done it in a heartbeat. But there is a kind of unspeakable horror that I don't think humans, as inquisitive and thus incredibly knowledgeable beings, can fully understand, and I saw it in his face. It comes with the complete loss of any understanding of what is happening to you. In a sense, picking him up and putting him in my rabbit's pet carrier and driving him to the animal shelter was taking him completely out of the context of his own species. He had no frames of reference with which to process what was happening to him, and so his mind resorted to the only emotion, if you can call it that, that was anything like what was going through his head: the most pure panic I have ever seen. Trying to understand human horrors with a squirrel's mind would be enough to induce wild, clawing, frantic, all-encompassing terror in any creature. Blood, wind, dirt, food, teeth, injury, trees, rain, grass, dogs and running for his life were things that he understood. There was no way to explain to him what was happening. I would rather be ripped to shreds by something I understood than to be subjected to a nameless horror beyond my understanding and then killed. Sure, getting a euthanizing shot is a much less painful manner of death than getting eaten. But when you don't have the ability to understand the former, it's infinitely more scary and horrible.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we're all wrong. All human ideas are from, well, humans. The best we can do to test whether they're right or not is to live by them, but we'll never know what "right" and "wrong" really are, anyway, other than by making wild stabs in the dark by ourselves. The only assurance we have that we are "right" is from other members of our own species. This is fine for human matters, but when our choices affect members of other species, we have nothing beyond guesses as to what the outcome will really be in their opinions. All I know is that I wasn't able to ask the squirrel which way that he would have preferred to die, and it made me more upset than I've been in a while.

Because I couldn't get into his mind, and he couldn't get into mine, I did human things to try to make him feel better. I know it's a bit silly because it probably only served to make me feel better when it should have been him, but I didn't know what else to do. I talked to him. I told him what was happening. I tried to stop him from butting his head against the side of the carrier. I quietly sang him the song that my dad always sang to me when I was little and upset. He was so scared that I'm not exaggerating or being fanciful when I say that if I concentrated, I could feel his fear in the air around him. I think that perceiving the emotions of other creatures in that way, human or not, is something that many of us forget to take the time to do.

I decided to call him Hephaestus, after the Greek god. Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera, king and queen of all the gods. When he was born, he had a deformed leg. Because of that, Hera decided that he shouldn't live, and tried to end his life by tossing him off of a mountain. But Hephaestus fell into the sea, where he grew up and learned to make beautiful things, instead of dying, which people expected him to do. I didn't tell anyone else that I'd named him that, because I didn't want them to argue with me and try to call him something else.

I carried him on my lap the whole way to the animal shelter, and as I carried him out of the car I tried to hold the carrier so that he could see the grass if he wanted to. As his carrier sat on the counter, I looked at him, and thought "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Maybe he understood me. Maybe he didn't. I tried to communicate the thought by projecting my emotions towards him, which I know sounds stupid to you, but that's because you're human and you're used to communicating through other methods. Animals communicate like that all the time. The last I saw of Hephaestus was his bushy tail, as the volunteer carried him into the back room. When she came back, the carrier was empty, and so was Hephaestus.

I like to think of the world as a web of stories. Everyone and everything is and has a story: you, me, people you've never heard of, snails, that guy you saw picking his nose at the bus stop, your mother, the tree in your backyard, and the pair of shoes you bought at the thrift stop. No one will ever completely know the full story of any single object or person. It's just too much information. People affect people in ways that nobody ever fully realizes. Maybe a man you will never meet was late for work one day because a woman he will never meet bought the last tube of toothpaste at the store the previous week and so he had to go buy some before leaving the house, and he ran so fast that he knocked over a trash can in the park, and a plastic cup from that trash can rolled until it hit the sidewalk, and you saw a woman trip over it and that's how you met your wife. That's what happens when the stories bump into each other.

I will never know Hephaestus's story, or why his bumped into mine. But I'm glad it did, even though it makes me sad that his life ended. From every story that bumps into mine, I try to learn new ideas. That helps me find a spot for myself in the one, big story that is our existence as members of this planet. I'm not going to say which ideas exactly I got from today's story collision, because I want to you get ideas of your own from it.

Good luck with your stories.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New piano piece: 123 Miles Away

I wrote this piece last spring. Please excuse the poor-quality recording; my computer has a limited microphone and my piano is pretty bad. By the way, I should say why I've posted this as a video.

Once upon a time, there was a young maiden who was way more comfortable with the kind of keyboard that has a damper pedal attached than she was with the kind that has a backspace key. She could not figure out how to upload an mp3 file to her blog, and so instead of figuring out how, she decided that the easiest way to get said piece onto said blog was to create a video, which she did know how to upload.

After some trial and error, she figured out how to use her video creating software, and the result you see before you. The pictures have no significance whatsoever; they are only there to make it possible for the music to be in a video. Some of them I took at Philmont Scout Ranch, some are memes from the internet, and one is an old biology assignment. 

Please enjoy the music. If you have any suggestions for me (I'm an amateur composer), please let me know. I'd love some feedback :)

(By the way, this is mine. Please don't be horrible and steal my work. If you do, I might send my attack rabbit--pictured in the video-- to come chew your couch).