Thursday, April 26, 2007

Musings on Lists and Roman Apartment Pics

Well, it's happened. I am now in full List-Making Mode .

It's now less than two weeks until I'm off to Italy along with Jeff and Tai and Pol.

So I'm making Lists. It's what I do before I travel.

Lists of what clothes to pack:polka dot blouse, sandals, my lucky travelling dress...

Lists of things I need to do before I go: give mom house key, break it gently to mom that she'll need to take care of my stick bugs as well as my cats, request holiday pay, clean out fridge, breathe deeply...

Lists of things I want to see: Ostia Antica, Rialto Bridge, Cappucin Crypt (again! you can never see too many chandeliers made from bones), Isola Pescatori, the preserved head of St. Catherine in Siena, the view from the hiking trails between the villages of the Cinque Terre, the Borgese gallery in Rome....

I like making lists. When I was a child I can remember my father making lists too (gardening lists, lists of what was in the freezer, lists of stock market trends--he had all sorts of little notebooks around). I would tease him about his Super Powers of Organization, but even then I thought it was kind of a neat idea.

Last night I was re-reading one of my travel journals. It was from my first international trip ever, back in 1999 when my friend Tai and I back-packed around the British Isles. Our budget was so small that I recorded the cost of every ticket and postcard purchased in a little list at the back of a notebook. Also the cost of every meal. Looking back I see we subsisted mostly on tuna fish sandwiches and Cadbury's Whispa-mint chocolate bars. Mmmmm....backpacker's cuisine.

Don't worry, my travel budget has gotten more expansive (er, expensive too) and when I'm in Italy I'm planning on eating fabulous food...and not writing down the prices. It's just better if I remember the flavours and not the debt this time, trust me.

Speaking of spending money in Italy, these are pictures of the apartment we'll be renting in Rome for the last week of holiday.

Really central location, 1200 sq, feet, 3 bedrooms, kitchen, 2 bathrooms, washing machine.

It's up lots of stairs mind you, but it'll still be much less expensive than renting a hotel room for that length of time.

What do you think?

Monday, April 23, 2007

*singing* All We Want to Do is Eat your Brains....

Okay, it's a catchy folk-style ballad about zombies. And it's been in my head for about a week.

I mean, how can you resist a chorus like *singing* :

All we want to do is eat your brains!

We're not unreasonable....I mean, no one's going to eat your eyes...

Okay, not for everybody I suppose, but I was laughing my head off. Here's Jonathan Coulton, performing "Re: your Brains". Enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Vincent in Brixton

I love it when I go to see a play with no expectations and come home after the performance with a deeply satisfied feeling that I've just seen a genuinely brilliant piece of theatre.

Before this evening I knew little about the play called Vincent in Brixton other than it was about a young Vincent Van Gogh during an influential period in his life when he lived for a time in a boarding-house in London.

It may or may not be historically accurate, ( the program admits no one really knows what transpired between the inhabitants of 87 Hackford Rd, London, SW9) but the play's author, Nicholas C. Wright has said that in writing the script he was influenced by "an intriguing six month gap in Vincent's surviviing letters, and by the well-known tendency of young men writing home to be less than frank about their formative experiences."

It certainly was a performance which drew me in and engaged me completely. The actors were brilliant, especially the two leads (Aidan Maxted as an intense and socially awkward but endearingly eccentric Vincent, and Caroline Alexander as the widowed land-lady, Ursula Loyer).

To my surprise it was not a play about art--in 1874 Vincent had not yet begun to paint--instead it was a play about people : unlikely love, frustrated talents, self doubts and the ability to house in your heart both great joy and black depression at one and the same time..

Do you ever wonder about what the lives of famous people are like when you strip away what they are known for and examine the rest of their life? I recommend seeing Vincent in Brixton for a glimpse of that.

Thank-you to my mom for taking me out for another evening of brilliant theatre! I loved our seats, two rows from the front--close enough to the stage to feel like you're sitting in the same room as the people onstage. And most importantly in a play containing such raw emotion, to be close enough to see the facial expressions on the actors' faces.

By the way, I really do admire Vincent's art ( he signed his paintings as Vincent and I never can pronounce Van Gogh in the proper Dutch fashion). The Musee D'Orsay has some very fine pieces of his that I was privileged to see during my visit to Paris, and I was absolutely thrilled to eat lunch at the little restaurant in Arles that is so famous for its depiction in the painting of the Night Terrace Cafe.

His life story is ultimately a tragic one (ending in poverty and mental illness) and his work rarely sold during his life (even with the support of his brother Theo who was an art dealer). And yet, knowing how important his works are considered nowadays, it should give hope to all those artists out there living under-appreciated in their own times. But why must artists traditionally suffer so much? Why do they usually have to die before their paintings are suddenly worth a million bucks? It's just not fair.

And why does an actor as talented as Mr. Maxted in Vincent in Brixton still have to hold down a day job?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


A spider may not be everybody's idea of a beautiful creature, but they are artists in their own way.

This web hung below a cherry tree, welcoming people to my home last fall as they turned into the driveway (well, if they looked closely and the morning dew was just right). :)

Some folks wait to see the first robin; I'm waiting for the first spider webs of Spring to soon appear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Owning Real Estate on the Moon

This is an excerpt from a recent BBC news article that made me wonder why I'm not busy selling someone a bridge on Betelgeuse 5:

From his office in Nevada, entrepreneur Dennis Hope has spawned a multi-million-dollar property business selling plots of lunar real estate at $20 (£10) an acre.

Mr Hope exploited a loophole in the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty and he has been claiming ownership of the Earth's Moon - and seven planets and their moons - for more than 20 years.

These are "truly unowned lands", he says. "We're doing exactly what our forefathers did when they came to the New World from the European continent."

Hope says he has so far sold more than 400 million acres (1.6 million sq km), leaving a further eight billion acres still up for grabs.

Buyers include Hollywood stars, large corporations - including the Hilton and Marriot hotel chains - and even former US presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. George W Bush is also said to be a stake holder.

Mr Hope claims to be selling 1,500 lunar properties a day. He allocates land by simply closing his eyes and pointing to a map of the Moon.

No government has yet recognised the lunar sales as legally binding"It's not very scientific but it's kinda fun," he says. It is fun that has already made him $9m (£4.5m).

Well, I simply don't know whether to be more flabbergasted at this guy's arrogance or amused at his powers of entrepreneurship. A little from Column A and a little from Column B I think....

The article goes on to say that no actual world government recognizes his claim as legally binding, so if you go ahead and buy an acre on the Moon (and usually I'd say that twenty dollars for that amount of real estate is a smart buy even if it's uniformally grey and EVEN if the commute to the summer cottage IS rather laborious what with the cost of rocketship fuel and all nowadays )--- just know that you won't be able to claim the mineral rights to your little patch of moon dust. Apparently the US government (among others) has plans regarding that. Big plans.

It reminds me of that sticker I've seen around down on some redneck-around-town's bumper: EARTH FIRST: WE'LL LOG THE OTHER PLANETS LATER.

I was just at a party the other night where one of the topics tossed about between the cutest teensy little bottles of fruit liqueur was whether or not the Americans really landed on the moon or whether it was all a big hoax to uh, I dunno, annoy the Russians during the Cold War era.

Some of my dearest friends have a charming conspiracy-theory streak a mile wide. They said they had seen/heard/read on the internet some fairly compelling evidence that seemed to back their suspicions. I've read some things too---about suspicious identical rocks in photographs and about flags rippling in the breeze of a place with no wind and of mysterious accidents happening to people who could have leaked to the media. It all seemed rather compelling under the warm influence of German Sour Apple-flavoured alcohol.

Then again I've also heard and read plenty of scientific material which neatly rebuts all the hoax evidence. Deep down, I'm pretty sure the Russians wouldn't have let the Americans get away with claiming all the thunder if it wasn't so. Spider Girl is thinking the moon landing was two parts marvellous technological accomplishment and one part expensive testosterone-fuelled Cold War-inspired ego trip.

What do YOU think? Any NASA employees out there for comment? (Hey, would you get a discount on moon properties if you worked for NASA, ya think?) Any conspiracy theorists out there?

Well, back to land ownership of the solar-system....

Here are some historical dates pertaining to the subject that I borrowed straight from Wikipedia for your elucidation. I like the one where lunar property rights come in your box of cereal.:

In 1937, A.D.Lindsay of Ocilla, Georgia claimed all “planets, islands-of-space or other matter” in the Universe as his property.

In the 1940s, people were enquiring with the US Bureau of Land Management for lunar homesteads.

In 1948, James Thomas Mangan of Chicago proclaimed himself First Representative of the Nation of Celestial Space and envisaged selling “parcels of space” to interested buyers.

In the 1950s, deeds for square inches of lunar property were offered as premiums with morning cereals.

In 1952, a Science Fiction club in Berkeley, California claimed a triangular area on the Moon with the United Nations.

In 1953, Jenaro Gajardo Vera of Chile lodged the first Latin American claim to the Moon.

In 1955, Crater Copernicus was parceled by Robert R. Coles, the CEO of the Interplanetary Development Corporation, much to the chagrin of New York State Attorney General’s office.
Japan entered the extraterrestrial real estate business in 1956.

In 1957, a Le Mars, Iowa newspaper gave its readers deeds to lunar farms.

In the 1960s, the Moon and Venus were officially annexed by several municipalities. Deer Park, Texas claimed planet Venus, while Oklahoma City and Geneva, Ohio expanded their boundaries with the Moon.

In 1969, a man in Brazil was arrested for selling lunar real estate.

In the 1970s, Barry McArdle of Berkeley criss-crossed America “selling” the Moon in the mode of the traveling medicine show performer.

In 1974, land on Mercury was "sold" by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific as a fund raising ploy.

In 1980, the American Dennis Hope starts his own business, claiming to have found a loophole in international law allowing him to claim full sovereignty of the moon. He was the first to sell lunar deeds (also on the Internet) after sending off declarations to the US, (then) Soviet and UN governments. Hope has so far made $9 million off his business, claiming to sell 1,500 lunar properties a day at $20 an acre. He allocates land to be sold by closing his eyes and randomly pointing to a map of the Moon.

In 1982, newborn Prince William and Kermit the Frog were given complimentary “Martian Land” packages, courtesy of Fiske Planetarium’s David Aguilar.

In 1997, three men in Yemen sued NASA for landing on their inheritance – planet Mars.

In 1998, Mars was claimed by the Western Federation Church and Tribe, who plan to terraform it, provided there is no indigenous life.

In 1999, The Lunar Registry was founded, like the Lunar Embassy, to sell real estate on the Moon.

In 2000, Russ Wylie founded, a humoristic approach outlining the importance of “owning” Uranus.

In 2001, Orbital Development invoiced NASA for having landed a probe on asteroid Eros, and a legal battle ensues.

In 2001, Virgiliu Poplodged a tongue-in-cheek claim for the Sun with the Archimedes Institute.

In 2002, Anthony M Grasso incorporated the Lunar Federation Inc , according to Articles of Incorporation of the State of Florida, and entered the Moon and Mars Real Estate Business.

In 2003, Charles Wesley Faires claimed ownership of the three stars of Orion's Belt: Alnilam, Alnitak and Mintaka. The claim has been filed with a Knox County Courthouse, United States Library of Congress and the Kingdom of Swaziland, among other entities.

In 2005, Marina Bai , a Russian astrologer, sued NASA for having encroached upon her ‘holy of holies’ (the moon) by landing a probe on comet Tempel 1.

In 2007, Nicholas Yoho-Wikse filed official claim to Venus, and all space from its surface out to 333km from it to space vacuum, to be eternally his. He filed with the UN and the International Court of Justice (a court of planet earth states)...he pledged to share it however as it was such a large amount of space to deal with...he declared soon after the proposed motto of Venus to be "love reigns eternally" and expected all future inhabitants to live in this spirit of planet Venus..."earth had so far failed in this...may venus never be so..." A company called MoonEstates has also been selling plots on the Moon and Mars, which it purchased from Dennis Hope.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Best and Worst Couple Dollars I Ever Spent

Sometimes you don't have to spend a lot of money to create memorable experiences.

The pictures in today's post represent the best two dollars I ever spent, and the worst three dollars I ever spent, both transactions taking place while in Zanzibar.

Yes, five dollars worth of memories....okay, I know full well that I'm ignoring the not insignificant price-tag of flying to Africa in the first place.

(Heh, it reminds me of the time my friend Emily responded to my compliment about her gorgeous dangly silver earrings. She said, "Yes, these earrings are special alright, they cost me five thousand and five dollars---five thousand for my trip to Turkey and the five dollars I paid for these earrings there".)

The Best Two Dollars: Were spent as the admission fee for the Mnarani Natural Aquarium, an educational conservation project in an enclosed tidal lagoon on Nungwi Beach to protect the local green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles from being killed for the use of their shells in souvenir products, to raise local sea turtle populations by protecting hatchlings, and to raise money for the local community through turtle tourism.

We got to feed adult sea turtles seaweed and hold baby ones! How cool is that!

The Worst Three Dollars: Getting a Black Henna design painted on my skin on Zanzibar the very next day. It was very pretty. At first. Then I had a severe allergic reaction and ended up in a hospital in London with second-degree chemical burns and blood-poisoning.

Note: Black Henna is not real plant-based henna. I learned the hard way. (If you want to see a gory picture of my arm taken three weeks after I got this done, I posted one over on my other blog. Never, ever do what I did.)

So, part of the reason I mention these things is because you can now read about them in fuller detail if you are interested at my travel blog (

I'm finally writing the last posts for it. I'm actually writing about my last day there--whew, finally. (I've had all the posts started in draft form with the photographs since December!)

My motivation to finish writing about this trip? Well, pretty soon that blog will have to be the new Spider Girl Goes to Italy blog and I should really finish transcribing the journal for one trip before I start the next one, right?Geez, it's taken me long enough.

I hope everyone out there had a good Easter holiday.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Bellydance Party

If you want to be invited to a lot of parties, become a bellydancer. Every time you turn around someone wearing sequins is looking for a happy excuse to get everybody together to dance.

There was a very fun hafla (bellydance party) up in Campbell River last night. Even though I've thought of myself as unofficially out of the bellydance loop (the last show I danced in was in June), I still got an invite. Somebody has to be sitting in the the audience after all I reckoned.

But, wouldn't you know it, I ended up dancing at the party after all.

Most of my old troupe (the Yalla Gypsies) were there (except for Emily who's climbing in the Himalayas) so it was bound to happen.

Yes, Chris just happened to have the music for one of our old choreographies with her.

But! (I protested) I can't even remember the tune to Santiago. But! It's been two years since I danced this piece. But! I didn't bring a costume.

None of that mattered apparently. Glasses of wine in hand, we went over the choreography:

Three-point turn this way...chest circle chest circle...spin back the other way...hip circle hip circle.....fiiiiiigure eighhhtttt.....OH! now I remember! Grapevine step...ah yes! It was all coming back.

Oh sure it was unpolished, but it was merry fun to be up dancing again. The hostess lent me a gypsy skirt and Sherry lent me a tasselled scarf and away we went.

Alas, no pictures of us dancing to share with you, but I did take these one's of the Campbell River troupe.

So Much Fun!

I don't think you can beat the fun factor of a roomful of bellydancers hamming it up to the Bangles "Walk Like an Egyptian ".

We danced, we ate, we drummed, we played with veils....I'm sure you can't help but note how the polka-dot dress I was wearing under my veil only added to the Mystery-of-the-Orient-like atmosphere I was trying to convey. :)