Dora the Explorer

The time is 6:30 AM, and I am covered in the morning dew–my daily ritual is beginning. I’m splayed out in the parking lot of the Pleasant Glen apartment complex, just lying there as water collects on my skin.

My owner and her family come out to meet me, and my face lights up at the sight of them. Doors unlock, slam.

“Get your seatbelt fastened! We’re already late,” says my owner—Jane.

My name is Dora, and I am a Ford Explorer. It was Jane’s daughter that called me Dora first, and it’s the name I identify with the most. I’ve been called a lot of other names as well, but I won’t repeat those–what happens in the car stays in the car.

Jane turns the key in the ignition, and I sputter before turning on. Headlights on, a swipe of the windshield. A systems check. Get those seatbelts on, kiddos–I flash the seatbelt light furiously until they click their belts.

Uh-oh: the front right tire has low pressure.

Jane needs to be alerted, so I light up the low pressure light on the instrument panel.

“Ah, shoot,” says Jane. Good, she noticed. “Joey, get out and kick the tires to see if any of them look low.”

Joey hops out and looks around. He kicks my tires, one by one, circling around. Getting back inside, he says, “The one in the front on my side looked a little low, but the rest were fine.”

“Well, it should be enough to get y’all to school then,” says Jane. She shifts to reverse, and I begin to back up. I don’t think this is a good idea, but I always obey what Jane says to do–it’s one of my best characteristics.

Jane signals me to go forward, and I pull away at a good clip. Jane always wants me to go faster than I want to–ignoring most speed limits, but it’s a forgivable trait for me. At least she uses her turn signals.

Barrelling down the highway, I see it’s going to be a beautiful day–58 degrees, and I notice my MPG’s are up to 22, which is a good streak–Jane gave me high-octane fuel when she refueled me last time, so that has helped. The road is slick, but my tires have little wear, so I enjoy the traction.

Everything is good except the front right tire–I’m concerned about that one. Suddenly, I hear a bang, and I lurch involuntarily to the right. Jane stifles an exclamation of dismay and slows down, heading towards the shoulder of the road. It irritates me, because (like I said before), I’m a very obedient vehicle. But this time, I couldn’t help it. I come to a complete stop.

“Do we have a flat tire, Mommy?” says Tricia from the back seat.

“We do, honey,” says Jane. “Now be quiet while Joey and I get out the spare.”

It’s a long process, and I can’t do anything to help, so I just sit back and take a moment to rest while Jane and Joey take care of the problem. Soon, they’ve attached the new tire. It feels weird, foreign, like putting a new shoe on just one foot–at least, that’s what I imagine it would feel like, if I was a person. It’s smaller too.

I just hope that Jane remembers that she’s not supposed to go as fast on a spare tire–it can be bad.

With the punctured tire in the trunk, we take off once again–20-35-45-60, then even higher. Nope, Jane definitely did not consult the user guide. I can sort of sympathize, but sometimes I wished Jane followed the rules more–things tend to go better.

We arrive at school, and Joey and Tricia hop out.

“Have a good day, you two,” says Jane. “I’ll pick y’all up at 2:30, just like normal.”

It’s just another successful expedition completed–a morning in the life of a car.

A Roman Wedding in One Act

Cast of Characters:

Silvius—Heir of the house of Valerius, a rich Roman family

Gaius—Friend of Silvius

Aurelius—The paterfamilias of the Aureli home

Jullina—Aurelius’ wife

Aurelia—Aurelius’ daughter

Nomenclature of Aurelius

Act I

Scene 1:  The light of early morning is peeping over the rooftops of the houses that crown the Caelian Hill of Rome, tinging the roofs in gold and the shadows in gray. Clients are already gathering in the vestibulium of the house of Aureli.  Silvius is about to enter when a friend on the street recognizes him.

Gaius:  Good morning, Silvius!  What brings you here?

Silvius:  Some personal business with Aurelius.

Gaius (with a wink):  Not in debt with him, I hope?

Silvius (seriously):  No, I’m here to ask for his daughter in marriage.

Gaius:  Well, you’re a rich, promising gentleman!  You deserve Aurelia, and I bet her father will think the same.  The gods be with you.  Bring your news to the Campus Martius this afternoon.  I’ll be there.  (Silvius looks embarrassed.)  Is anything wrong?

Silvius:  Whenever I have visited Aurelius before, he never seems to remember me!  He always consults his lurking nomenclature when I show my face in the atrium.

Gaius (waving his hand dismissively):  Oh, I doubt he cares what his future son-in-law’s name is as long as it’s that of a rich aristocrat.  Can’t wait to hear your happy announcement!

(Gaius exits, leaving Silvius pacing in the vestibulium.)

 

Scene 2:  Silvius enters the atrium where Aurelius sits with his nomenclature standing next to him.

Aurelius (aside to nomenclature):  Who is that man?  He looks familiar.  Is his name Julius?

Nomenclature:  No, sir.  It’s Silvius Valerius.

Aurelius (sotto voce):  Oh, yes!

Aurelius (aloud):  Silvius, welcome!  What business brings you here?  Not debts, I think!  (laughs heartily, for the Valerius family is famously rich)

Silvius:  I’m here to sign a contract with you.  I would like to marry your daughter Aurelia.

Aurelius:  I could not find a happier choice in a son-in-law.  You have my happy blessing, Julius—

Nomenclature (in an urgent whisper):  Silvius!  His name is Silvius, sir!

Aurelius (turns slightly red and clears his throat):  That is Silvius.  Lapsus linguae!

(Silvius does not appear convinced, but he does look happy as he and Aurelius bid farewell.)

 

Scene 3:  Jullina prepares Aurelia for the wedding.

Jullina:  Today is the day!  The omens are favorable, and all is prepared.  You look beautiful, Aurelia.

Aurelia (smiles):  Thank you, mother.

Jullina (placing the flame-colored wedding veil on Aurelia’s head):  The perfect color for you, my beautiful daughter!

(Jullina and Aurelia embrace affectionately.  The noise in the house grows louder.)

Jullina:  We must go down.  Silvius will be here soon.

(They exit.)

 

Scene 4:  A crowd waits outside Silvius’ new house as Silvius and Aurelia complete the wedding ceremony inside and light their hearthfire.  At last, they emerge into the sunlight, smiling.

Silvius: Thank you for sharing in our joy, friends.

Gaius (yells from the crowd): I was right!

(Silvius smiles and winks at Gaius as everyone else becomes distracted.  Too late, Gaius sees the wedding torch Aurelia tossed.  It knocks him down, but a moment later he pops up, torch in hand and grinning.)

Silvius (mouths to Gaius): You’re next.

Gaius: Hope you’re as right as I was!

(The End.  Curtain falls.)

TYCHO

Music elicits moods. A power-metal battle hymn will make you feel strong and impervious, the string section of Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ will make you feel anxious, and Tycho’s synth-filled soundscape will make you feel relaxed in its vastness. Since I work in an open office floorplan, the incessant chatter can often become distracting and a handy pair of earbuds has become invaluable. However, much more so than in college (when music made an excellent study aid), various styles of music have proven themselves to be even more distracting than the people around me. Anymore, when I need to withdraw from the hubbub of office chatter, I turn to a variety of genres including power metal, hard rock, and most recently—electronic.

Because electronic is a very expansive genre, and one I know little about, most of my listening knowledge has come from artists I have stumbled across or learned about from others better versed in this style of music than myself. With roots going all the way back to the 1960’s with bands like Kraftwerk from Germany, the genre has a vast, but pretty short, history. The style of music has been typified by the use of synthesizers to produce tones and notes, but today it encapsulates a much broader swath of music—all of which is produced using some variation of live and computer generated instruments and sounds.

One group that falls within the ‘electronic’ genre, called Tycho, produces music using a mixture of both synthesized instruments (hardware synths) and regular instruments (e.g. electronic guitars, drums, etc.). The group is primarily known for using lots of ambient melodies and is incredibly relaxing to listen too. The band’s lead, Scott Hansen, also designs all the merchandise and album covers himself in an effort to present a visual image that is consistent with the sonic nature of his work—efficient, clean, and pleasing. Tycho makes for excellent working music due to their relaxing and clean sounds, but also contains the depth that makes attentive listening rewarding.

The genre of electronic music contains a huge variety of artists, sounds, and sub-genres, and people will be drawn to it for a variety of reasons. Mine is probably not as idealistic as most—just wanting something to block out the cacophony of the office-space; however, by pursuing it I have discovered bands like Tycho, that present a beautiful artistry in their melding of old with new, acoustic with digital, and audio with visual.

For Emily, in the Fall

“If you were coming in the fall,”
She dreamed, “I’d brush the summer by,
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.”

So I, like her, fondly mused,
And dreamed of all I could do,
Of both quiet actions and eternal deeds
And what and where, and who.

“If I could see you in a year,”
She wished, yet “centuries delayed”
And she finally was left, “ignorant of length,”
With goblin’s sting unstaid.

Likewise my dreams, and wishes too,
That fall was charged to bring,
When summer’s sum was all but spent,
Fall gave me not a thing.

So fall’s months were gathered, and put aside,
“Each in a separate drawer,”
And I waited for the time to drip away,
And for winter to bring me more.

Then winter came and failed to bring
Just what I thought it ought,
Yet third is the charm, though long the nights
‘Till spring, whose aid I sought.

Yet when she came, Spring but smiled,
And what I wanted she refused to send,
But instead she tossed my old dreams away
And bade me begin again.

So through summer I plotted anew
An autumn course of my own fair making,
You may not come, or perhaps you may,
But this time’s my own for the spending.

Inspiration and quoted passages courtesy of Emily Dickinson, “If You Were Coming in the Fall.”