I’m a little behind. There are a couple things in my head I’ve been meaning to put here but I just haven’t had the time. One such thing is this:

Woo-hoo! I won the F(a,kow,tL)S-/A-DBG! I was sent a free book in the mail last week. Completely, genuinely free. How? Easy — I won a contest held by weblogger Mark Anderson (no relation, I assume, to the Mark Anderson I know in Madison), simply by being the first one to ask about it. Thanks, Mark; I appreciate it.

Mark has experience sending books through the mail, but he usually gets them back. His weblog is unique (as far as I know, which isn’t particularly far) in that he operates a personal “lending library.” It’s a clever and generous touch.

* * *

Like Mark, I too have been captivated by the Kaycee Nicole hoax saga of the last two weeks. There are starting points here and here if you’re not familiar with it.

Having been unfamiliar with her story or site until Zeldman linked to her site (and again) after her “death,” I was only distantly affected emotionally. It doesn’t really change anything for me in the way I relate to people in person and on the Internet — I’ve almost exclusively had good experiences. [I consider myself smart and lucky, in about equal proportions.]

It is an extremely intriguing story, to me, because of 1. the depth, breadth, and length of the pathological deception, 2. the way the story seems to have garnered the attention of quite a few web people, resulting in the (unfortunate) knocking out of some sites with its bandwidth-sucking capacities, and 3. the amazing nature of the Google detective work that some curious souls used to out the hoaxer. I think people will be better for it overall, with the possible exception of the victimized 19-year-old girl whose face the hoaxer stole and attached to a false name. That’s the worst part of the whole thing, in my opinion.

* * *

My life — real as far as I can tell: Amber and I took a mini-road trip Sunday and Monday of this past (beautiful) long weekend. We had been planning since last winter to visit The House on the Rock (in Spring Green, WI) and the Forevertron (just south of Baraboo, WI), and this weekend afforded a perfect opportunity.

What a study in contrasts, though. The Land of Evermor, created by “Dr. Evermor” (aka Tom Every), is a whimsical outdoor sculpture garden constructed of scrap mechanical bits, largely from the Badger Army Ammunition Plant just across U.S. Highway 12. The centerpiece of the park is the majestic Forevertron, which you just have to see to understand. (Check the website.) We sat in a sheet-metal gazebo and leisurely drew in our sketchbooks, rolled around a field in people-sized metal “hamster wheels,” and generally had a great time. I would highly recommend a visit if you’re in that area. Admission is free, and the proprietors are friendly (we spoke with artist Eleanor Every, Dr. Evermor’s wife).

The House on the Rock is the product of another, creepier vision: that of a man named Andrew Jordan, 1914-1989. According to Mrs. Every, Dr. Evermor actually worked with Jordan on the House for 12 years, creating major components such as the “World’s Largest Carousel.” However, Dr. Evermor is not publicly credited with any of the work. If I were he, I’d be happy about that.

The House itself is essentially the physical embodiment of an epic, obsessive-compulsive, almost cliché nightmare. The tour is actually 2 1/2 meandering miles long. The first leg of the tour features the “Infinity Room,” a long, narrow, seemingly unsupported room which comes to a point, jutting out impressively over the lush, pastoral Wisconsin landscape, while swaying ominously. The tour continues relatively innocuously, if eccentrically: visitors wind through the opium-den-like living quarters, complete with blue translucent windows, shag-carpeted cushions on 8-foot long plush couches, stained glass, Eastern memorabilia, and the like. That area, dubbed “The Early Years,” is a curiosity and nothing more.

The second leg of the tour is where things get interesting. Jordan created a faux downtown street c. 1880. If you’ve ever seen “Streets of Old Milwaukee” at the Milwaukee Public Museum, it’s similar to that, but less genuine-seeming and more sinister. The entire house is filled with collections of dolls, guns, ivory, stuffed wildlife, models of ships, circus memorabilia, etc. Significant portions of the house consist of mechanical, musical oddities — orchestras of musical instruments clothed in machines that apparently play them automatically (for the price of 1-2 tokens, 25 cents each). Admission is $19.50. I can’t really recommend it in good faith, though I was impressed by Jordan’s ability to realize his ambition at such a grand scale, warped and disturbing as his vision was. There is more — a 2-story sculpture of a whale fighting an octopus, a pipe-organ room that is creepy as (and evocative of) hell, and worse — but I’ve already spent too much time writing about it.

If you must go there, (which, hell, why not, it’s more interesting than spending a day playing video games or watching TV), visit the first two parts of the three-part tour, look at the carousel, and then turn around and exit. Read the WWI- & WWII-era newspapers that paper the walls. There’s no need to go through the horned monkey’s mouth. Either way, if you go, many surprises are in store. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

On the way home, both Amber and I wished we had gone to the House first and the Forevertron second. It would have been nice if the more pleasant memories had been the more recent. A stop at Perkins (um) perked us up, though; and, overall, it was a very nice weekend.

Incidentally, we stayed at a clean, nice, cheap place (recommended) called the Usonian Inn [Cripes, our whole weekend is on the web!], joking about what the name might mean on the way there (e.g. “I think ‘Usonian’ means ‘pay in blood'”). We asked the proprietor, and found out that “Usonian” describes the U.S.-only style of building houses (flat roof, low ceiling, recessed lighting) invented by Frank Lloyd Wright, who hails from the Spring Green area. Ah.

In today’s world, “Usonian” also seems to mean “has cable TV.”

And luckily, we missed the deer, which does not appear on the web.