Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The New Planet is a Tease!

Good news! They've found a potentially earthlike planet that could- assuming it is earthlike- support life.
It's called. Gliese 581 c.
Bad news! It's 20.5 light years away.
That's over 14 trillion miles!
Remember Voyager 1? That flying lawn chair we launched in the 70's that took those cool pictures of Jupiter and Saturn? It's one of the fastest things we've sent into space, going 38400 mph and sorta in the right direction* It'll get there in about ....358011 years.** So much for marking my calender.
How Annoying. Even if it is inhabited with creatures, it's too far away for us to observe them.
It's like I'm a kid and it's a cool toy on a shelf I can't reach.
Gliese 581c ( and they'll have to do something about that name***) is a tease!

*sorta. From an earthly perspective they're a constellation apart. (Gliese 581 c is in Libra, Voyager 1 is in Ophiuchus****) Saying Voyager 1 will reach X because of this is like saying a postcard to Portugal will end up in Italy since they're nearby on the map. Voyager 1 won't end up anywhere near there.

**a more math savvy pal says 35
7011 is the correct number.

***Okay, I know it's a technical name because it's one of many on a list of nearby stars, but it sounds funny out of context. Like it's a pharmaceutical.:"Maybe you should ask your doctor about Gliese581c"

****my inner nerd insists that "in" libra means, if you could see it from earth, it would
appear to be in the patch of sky we've named Libra. My inner nerd is no fun.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Second Coolest Cartoon Ever

Overtime at work has kept me away from the drawing board, so, like last week, I'll substitute my content with a cartoon made by folks more talented than I.

It's Minnie the Moocher, a Fleischer Studios Talkartoon . Like it's sister cartoon, Snow White, Betty Boop and her dog friend Bimbo find themselves in a surreal cave. A ghost sings a Cab Calloway song (you can probably guess which one).
I love how they've combined cuteness (Betty, Bimbo, the ghosts) with the tawdry and the morbid. Combine the lyrics of the song with the animation and you have a mix of death, drinking, heroin, skelletons, and electric chair executions.
As with Snow White, this cartoon can be watched many times, as the creators have thrown in a lot of gags and details that a lesser studio might have skipped.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Waking Dreams (Stupid Mind Tricks)

Ever have a waking dream? That's when you're awake enough to observe stuff in the room, but still asleep enough to see stuff that's not there. They're behind the "I woke up and there was a ghost/monster/alien standing by the bed" accounts you sometimes hear. The technical name for them is hypnogogic hallucinations.
I sometimes get these. Sensations I've experienced include:
  • A heavy, grunting rhino-sized animal sitting on the bed and or on me
  • A cat face coming out of the wall
  • A blue ghost standing in my room
  • Bugs
  • The bed shaking
  • Sliding and being dragged at odd angles
  • Being lifted out of the bed and thrown down violently, over and over
  • Dead body parts in my bed
The last one freaked me out so badly that I got up and got dressed, even though it was a quarter to five and still dark. What a rip off! Sleep is supposed to be relaxing, not the Spanish Inquisition Meets a Hokey Horror Flick. The wikipedia link classifies the bed shaking and sliding bits as "rare". I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.
If my mind has to play stupid tricks on me, it could at least provide some nice hallucinations. Baby seals instead of bugs? A massage instead of being slammed around like pizza dough?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Coolest Cartoon Ever!

Snow White (1933)

I've been doing lots of overtime lately, so I can't crank out new material.
Instead, I'll share one of my favorite cartoons of all time. Snow White by the Fleischer Studios.
If you think it's too cutsy, keep watching, as half way into the cartoon it takes a wacky morbid turn.
Note the details in the animation (especially things morphing into different shapes) and the imagery on the background scroll during the "St James Infirmary Blues*" scene. That's Cab Calloway doing the singing.
More about this fabulous cartoon can be found here.

*a song about a down on his luck fellow visiting his dead, drug addict girlfriend. Cartoons weren't always for kids!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Octopus Crackers

About 12 years ago, an octopus at a local aquarium created a flap.
Her name, Octavia
"She shouldn't confined to a tank!,"animal rights protesters said. "Octopuses are sensitive, intelligent, compassionate creatures! Free Octavia!"
Octopuses are intelligent- at least enough to solve problems and get into mischief. But I have a hard time buying the concept of an octopus tapping his tentacles and contemplating his imprisonment. If anything, they like to snuggle up in a secure nook when they're not hunting. Compassionate? Get outta here. They eat each other.
At the height of the controversy, Octavia pulled the plug on her tank. It happened at night, so there was nobody around to stop the drainage. When the aquarium reopened the next morning, it was too late. She was octopus jerky.
The activists blamed the aquarium, suggesting that the creature did this on purpose to end her tragic life.
They held a candlelight vigil in her honor.
People are nuts.

Friday, April 06, 2007

My Television Debut

I can't act. Period. It's a shame, since I loved doing plays as a kid (and a bit as an adult, but that's another story). That didn't keep my then roommate Juli from casting me in her movie in 2003. It was a Good Morning America contest. Contestants were invited to make a Valentine's Day film. Would I mind playing a "bum" collecting cans and bottles from the trash at the beach?
I agreed. I figured I couldn't screw it up too badly. It was a small part, and for me, an easy one. In my early teens I spent a summer raiding park trashcans for bottles and cans so I could cash them in.* I was an old pro at this thing.
The costume Juli and I created looked rattier than an old sneaker. I wore stained, mismatched clothes. Thick makeup covered my face, neck and arms, making me look like I hadn't showered for weeks.
We got to the beach. I rooted through the trash as the camera rolled. Some beach goers didn't get that this was only a movie and glared at me in disgust.
A week later ABC called.
Juli's film was a finalist in the contest and would be shown in part on Good Morning America. We were thrilled. We'd be on T.V.! National T.V.
Then it hit me- I'd make my T.V. debut, on Good Morning America, no less, in a hideous getup, coated with fake dirt, and greasy hair. How flattering. Hello world, it's me!
It aired. I was onscreen for about four seconds. Joel Siegel referred to me as "a homeless lady" a I learned later that Juli's relatives thought that she'd used a real homeless person. Thanks, I think...

*Don't feel sorry for me- I wasn't poor. I was in it for the money

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

You've Got Spider!

This is getting silly.
Last week there was a snail in my mailbox. This week's prize? A spider. The coward bit my hand and ran off. Jerk. He could have at least slowed down to give me chance to swat him with Linens 'N' Things coupon. Now I have a welt on my hand. Thanks, Spider.
How'd he get in there? Was he just looking for a hiding spot? Or had my mailbox saboteur struck again?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Dolphin Games II: The Dark Side.

Dolphins have a good rep. They're smart. Cute. They do tricks. They rescue drowning swimmers and scare off sharks. They're the role model animal. "Look how they cooperate and get along," people say. "So peaceful. So helpful. Maybe us so-called civilized humans could learn something from them."
A few years ago, we did learn something. The flap started when dead, mangled porpoises washed ashore in Scotland. What was going on? Sharks? Motor blades?
The mystery was solved when someone filmed a pod of dolphins roughing up porpoise. The poor little guy squeals in terror as the dolphins batter him like a volleyball. They bit him, rammed him and tossed him in the air.
What really disturbed me was that the dolphins were probably smart enough to know they were tormenting him. This wasn't a pack of dumb sharks chomping for food. This was a game, for fun, at another creature's expense.
So much for the noble, peaceful undersea role model.
If dolphin squeaks are ever translated into English, I bet the results would be threats, jeers, catcalls and profanity.