Jaded (Song of the Week, 1/17/11)

I first saw the video for Aerosmith’s “Jaded” years ago, in the midst of a loveless marriage, overcome by my depression, feeling utterly cut off from the primal charge of life and from the world outside.

The video, which tells the tale of a young woman living an artificial life, similarly out of touch with the marrow of existence, moved me incredibly. Eyes might’ve gotten misty. I watched it repeatedly, seeing in it what I’d lost, and trying to use it to inspire me in finding it again.

It’s a well-crafted, beautiful video for a fun song, and as I renew my offensive against my depression today, and once more try to find that doorway into the world, it’s once again a rousing call to life.

Cold World

This whole week has been about snow.

At one point, it was reported that snow was falling in forty-nine of the fifty states. Only Florida had none.

For global warming deniers it’s been a grand old time, as they can all chortle to each other and say, “My my my, it sure is cold…guess that puts that old ‘global warming’ bullshit to rest,” as if they have a clue what they’re talking about. (Hint: they don’t, and this extreme weather is, if anything, likely evidence that climate change theories are correct).

Here, we’ve been solidly snowed in. Inches of snow have over the course of the week solidified into a hard slick shell over everything. The kids have missed (or, more likely, not) school since Monday, and tomorrow (Friday) remains to be seen. We don’t have the infrastructure for snow that northern states have, and our drivers are imbeciles as a rule (distracted by their kvetching about that stupid Al Gore, perhaps), so weather like this rightly makes us cautious.

I’ve had a wonderful time, just hanging out with my son here at the Byrdcave, playing games, watching old Seinfelds, reading. Taking Boone, our two year old Point Bernard (English Pointer/St. Bernard mix) for walks and watching him spin out on slopes.

We also spent some time at my kid’s mom’s, where we established a pretty speedy sled path down the backyard hill, using a boogie board left from some beach vacation as a sled.

Traversing the landscape when it’s slippery and glacial always reminds us of an amusing incident from another snowfall a few years ago. My son, his mom, and I were carefully negotiating a snow-packed sidewalk in downtown Decatur, and she told him “Watch out for the black ice.”

Unfortunately, just as she did, a small group of black kids my son knew from school passed us, close enough to hear, and from their expressions, we were pretty sure what they thought they’d heard her say was, “Watch out for the black guys.”

So now, when it’s frozen underfoot, my son and I make sure to bring that up, and it never gets old.

Snow Is Lightly Falling (Song of the Week, 1/10/11)

Someone dumped Alaska on Decatur last night. I half expect Sarah Palin to show up trying to slaughter our squirrels and steal medicine from our sick children.

Overnight we had a phenomenal snowfall here in Decatur, and at 7 am it’s still falling. It must be 5-6 inches deep out there.

Nathaniel and I took Boone for a walk in it last night, and it was incredible. By the time we returned to the apartment (and we were only out maybe 15 minutes), I had at least half an inch of snow layered on the brim of my fedora.

Boone, who is a big goofy St. Bernard/English Pointer mix (we call him a Point Bernard), was delighted, snorfeling about, leaping in the air, and wrestling with us.

In honor of this great, white, schoolless snow day, I present to you this song of the week, by Nightnoise.

Good Memories of 2009, Day 7: Avatar and Avatar

Avatar & Avatar

This was a year in which I got to enjoy two creations called “Avatar,” and how often does that happen? Perhaps it’s a sign.

The first was the Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender

The second, of course, was James Cameron’s science fiction epic Avatar, in theaters now earning a billion plus dollars.

Let’s talk the Cameron film first, saving the best for last. Continue reading

The Long Weekend, Overstimulation, & Frogs With Pointy Teeth

I’m awake, and I’ve been lax of late with the blog, so I figured I’d type at you a bit.

As the last couple of entries indicate, this has been the weekend of both my big convention and my book festival debuts, at DragonCon (largest SF con in the world, I’m told) and the Decatur Book Festival (largest book fest in the US, right here walking distance from my front door).

It has been fun and exciting and stressful and exhausting, and I’ll revisit it in another post once it’s truly over (I still have a DragonCon panel at 4 pm tomorrow…uh, today. Monday.), hopefully with pictures from at least one of my appearances.

I’m not sure if it’s just the over-stimulation of it all, the public speaking, the meeting of cool new people, the armies of amazingly hot women in cool costumes, or lingering full moon energy, but I got maybe two hours of sleep so far tonight. And I have an earworm of Felicia Day’s lovely voice singing “Do you want to date my avatar?” over and over in my head.

Scanning the news as I sat here in my drawers, wishing I was a-slumber, I came across this headline from The Guardian: “Lost World of Fanged Frogs and Giant Rats Discovered in Papua New Guinea.”

Fanged frogs!

I already wrote about the discovery in the Andes of the world’s tiniest frogs a while back, indication that perhaps the evil Frogs of Doom were up to new tricks after their defeat by Spartacus Wilde and his kids (as chronicled in my novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom). And now this.

Fanged frogs. In a lost world.

They also discovered a species of rat as big as a cat, kangaroos that live in trees, and a fish that grunts. Among many other new critters.

See? There really is pulp in our world.

UPDATE: For another report on the lost world and its denizens, with several pictures, check out The Daily Mail here.

Do you smoke? If so, are you a dick? [updated]

And now, an actual RANT, with SCIENCE!®

Is this YOUR legacy?

Is this YOUR legacy?

One of my pet peeves is people who just toss their cigarette butts around with no consideration for the public weal, the environment, or their own basic human integrity.

I’ve been known to toss smoldering butts back into car windows, or to politely return a butt to a smoker afoot with a comment along the lines of, “Hey, you dropped this. Figured it was an accident ’cause you look like you have more class than those assholes who just toss butts on the ground.”

People respond either belligerently or sheepishly, depending on whether they give a damn about anything outside of themselves or whether they at least don’t want people to think they’re trashy.

I’m sure some of you reading this are smokers. Some of you are smokers and also friends, maybe even good friends. If you’re my friend and a smoker, rest assured that I’m very concerned about your health (though I’ll never broach the subject, since you’re not an idiot and know it’s bad for you). And I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you toss your coffin nail remnants into an ashtray or bin where they belong, rather than treating the world as your goddamned ashtray. I think well of you, and just assume you’re better than that.

It’s not just a matter of litter, as ugly as the scattered constellations of dirty cigarette butts in the street, or in a park, or just along the highway, are. It’s actually bad for the environment. Really bad.

A doctor once told me that a single cigarette butt contains enough nicotine to kill an infant. And now this is in the news:

One of the most common forms of litter are cigarette butts.  Once these butts enter waterways, they become toxic to fish.  According to a new study by San Diego Sate University (SDSU), filter-tipped cigarette butts are deadly to marine and freshwater fish.  In fact, researchers would like to have the butts classified as hazardous waste.

Cigarette butts are not biodegradable. The filters are made up of 12,000 plastic-like cellulose acetate fibers that trap nicotine and tar.  There’s enough nicotine trapped in 200 used cigarette filters to kill a human!   An estimated 1.69 billion pounds of butts are littered each year worldwide, so you can imagine the negative effects these butts have on aquatic life when they wash into streams and oceans.

SDSU Public Health Professor Tom Novotny explains, “It is toxic at rather low concentrations. Even one butt in a liter of water can kill the fish in a period of 96 hours…”

Professor Novotny continues: “When they unconsciously throw their butts onto the ground, it’s not just litter, it’s a toxic hazardous waste product, and that’s what we’re trying to say. So that may be regulated at the local or state level. And we hope people will be more conscious about what they do with these cigarette butts.” [Source: “Cigarette Butts Kill Fish According to New Study,” Blue Living Ideas]

There’s also this article from KPBS at San Diego State University, and likely a bunch more.

So, if you smoke, keep this stuff in mind. You can smell bad if you like, but please don’t be a dick.

UPDATE: A very good friend who’s a vet tells me “One single cigarette butt consumed can kill a dog or a cat according to the National Animal Poison Control Center – nasty !!”

So just think, worst case scenario, a single butt you throw on the ground could kill a dog, a cat, or a baby. Nice work, kemosabe.

The Souls of Dogs

Travis 1995-2007

Travis 1995-2007

There’s a good short piece in the Seattle Times about the ethical/emotional lives of dogs. It’s not going to provide any groundbreaking insight to anyone who has ever lived with a dog, but it’s a nice break from the usual Cartesian philosophy that animals are guided entirely by instinct and have no emotions.

One thing I was very interested to find out:

“Dogs apparently laugh,” Page said. The same brain structures show the same activity in laughing humans and in dogs that are enjoying themselves. A dog’s laugh is a rhythmic pant.

I know that pant. You naturally know it means happy, but I had no idea it’s actual laughter, physiologically speaking.

Go here to read.

Some Amazing Kinetic Art

This video is about the artist Reuben Margolin, and his amazing kinetic sculptures based on waveforms in nature. His work is incredible in its complexity, and gloriously beautiful to gaze upon.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Some Amazing Kinetic Art“, posted with vodpod

Tiny Frogs of Doom Discovered

Many of you know I have a book about to come out (Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom) chronicling Doctor Spartacus Wilde’s dire battle with mutated eldritch amphibians in the jungles of South America.

Not to spoil anything, but the Wildes saved the day, as is their wont. But you know that already, because the earth still exists, and you’re reading this.

The threat may not be over, however. Scientists recently discovered a tiny beast, the smallest frog known in the world, in the Peruvian Andes (perhaps not far from the area of the Wildes’ final battle with the Frogs of Doom).

What evil lurks in the heart of this frog?

What evil lurks in the heart of this frog?

From National Geographic:

…But scientists searching the Andes mountains’ upper Cosnipata Valley in southern Peru, near Cusco, spotted the coin-size creature–a member of the Noblella genus–in the leaf litter of a cloud forest between 9,925 and 10,466 feet…

“The most distinctive character of the new species,” scientists write in the February issue of the journal Copeia, “is its diminutive size.” Females grow to 0.49 inch (12.4 millimeters) at most. Males make it to only 0.44 inch (11.1 millimeters).

What’s most surprising is that the frog lives at such high elevations…In general, larger animals are found at greater heights.

Yes, in general. But if these tiny monsters are indeed another variety of the Frogs of Doom, perhaps they are arcanely adapted to the higher elevation.

And if so…what sinister purpose do they have in our world?

Sophisticated Beehavior

Interesting article at Scientific American about the nature of consciousness, using bees as an example:

Although these experiments do not tell us that bees are conscious, they caution us that we have no principled reason at this point to reject this assertion. Bees are highly adaptive and sophisticated creatures with a bit fewer than one million neurons, which are interconnected in ways that are beyond our current understanding, jammed into less than one cubic millimeter of brain tissue. The neural density in the bee’s brain is about 10 times higher than that in a mammalian ce­rebral cortex, which most of us take to be the pinnacle of evolu­tion on this planet. In humans, widespread loss of cerebral cortex, as in the vegetative patient Terri Schiavo, leads to an irreversible loss of con­scious­ness. That is not to say that a cerebral cortex is necessary for consciousness in creatures with a different evolutionary heritage.

Very interesting stuff.