Monthly Archives: September 2006

Friday Night Videos: Ink Blot

Gnarls Barkley: Crazy (2006)

This video is one of the tightest I’ve seen in a long time. It’s visually striking, with an endless parade of Rorschach inkblots in which the faces of Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse appear. It’s thematically apropriate, what with the use of inkblots as a psychological test and the song’s subject matter. It’s focused, creating a visual language and sticking with that, and yet it’s not static, the inkblots moving from abstract shapes to much more explicitly concrete images as the video progresses.

Plus I always liked how good of a rebounder Barkley was.

Pham Quynh Anh & Marc Lavoine: J’espère (2005)

I am not crazy about the song, but I do enjoy the visuals. It’s as if the creator saw the Gnarls Barkley video and said, “That’s cool and all, but it needs more of everything.” I’m pretty sure the video for J’espère predates the one for Crazy, but let me have my illusions.

(A tip of the hat to Storme for pointing this video out to me.)

Child of the Cold War

The following post has minor spoilers for the TV show Jericho. You have been warned.

Last night, Misty, Lana Bob! and I watched the pilot episode of Jericho, a new CBS show. Jericho is a small town somewhere in Kansas. Various characters are introduced, enough interpersonal conflicts are laid out to generate a season or two worth of episodes — and then there’s a nuclear explosion rising from Denver to the west.

Going into the series, I knew Jericho was about a community dealing with the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. I was certain that meant there would be mushroom clouds rising in the distance. I was ready for the roiling clouds of destruction, and I wasn’t disappointed.

What I wasn’t ready for was my reaction to the sight of that cloud rising in the distance, reflected in the windows of a school bus, glimpsed over the trees. Panic gripped me and I could not look away.

Growing up, I didn’t think much about nuclear war. I knew it was a possibility, but I didn’t dwell on it. I remember finding a book in the Ouachita library that documented the US nuclear tests of the 1950s at the Nevada Proving Grounds. It had page after page of pictures showing houses and other structures before and after a nuclear blast. The book was a product of the era that brought us The House in the Middle, in which the National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association and the Civil Defense Administration admonish us to keep our yards clean lest a nuclear blast set fire to wayward newspapers and other detritus. I was fascinated by the book, but I didn’t connect the images to the reality of the devastation a nuclear war would cause. Unlike my friend Adam Cadre, I didn’t believe I would die in a nuclear war. I didn’t see The Day After. There were no “Duck and Cover” drills in my schools.

In 1989 I attended the Arkansas Governor’s School, a summer educational program that Bill Clinton set up. It was modeled after those in other states, most notably North Carolina, and the idea was simple: gather 400 gifted rising high school seniors and throw them in a six-week hothouse of academic instruction and self-actualization, sprinkled liberally throughout with experiences the students weren’t likely to get elsewhere. Governor’s School is where I saw Koyaanisqatsi and took part in a Holocaust rememberance that involved us packing ourselves into spaces that were equivalent to WW2-era boxcars. It’s also where I first internalized what nuclear war could mean. We watched When the Wind Blows, an animated film in which an elderly British couple in the countryside lives through a nuclear war, though not for long. I walked back to my dorm room and sat on my bed for a long time, staring off into space, sadder than I had been in some time.

My timing couldn’t have been better. While I was at Governor’s School, the Berlin Wall fell. The Soviet Union was on its way out, and with it died the Cold War and the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over our heads*.

Yet somehow I absorbed all of the old Cold War fears. When I saw that mushroom cloud on TV, I had a moment of unreasoning terror. Knowledge I didn’t realize I had flooded back into me: If they’re 30 miles or more away, they won’t be blinded, and they’re probably a couple of hundred miles away. One-over-r-squared means the gamma radiation won’t be a major concern, nor will neutron activation of the soil be a problem. Fallout will the true danger. Are the prevailing winds in that area easterly? They should have anywhere from a day to a week before the fallout reaches them.

How did that become so deeply burned into my brain that I could pull it out at a moment’s notice? A single warhead from a Trident’s MIRV is around 100 kilotons — not great but not too bad — but we’ve got bombs with a megaton yield still in active service. When did the fear of nuclear holocaust become part of my childhood, intertwined around happier memories like kudzu enveloping a tree? Little Boy and Fat Man, the bombs we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were 15 to 20 kilotons, and the tactical “briefcase” nuke was around 1 kiloton; a terrorist bomb would likely be somewhere between those.

I have no idea if others my age and older have the same reaction. I’m certain younger people don’t. They don’t look at how close they are to a major city or military base to decide if they’ll die in the first strike or linger on and face starvation and radiation sickness. When they visit sites showing the damage a bomb would do due to overpressure**, they don’t have the same visceral reaction I do. They don’t imagine themselves becoming nothing but shadows burned into concrete sidewalks, shadows that mark where they stood when the bombs fell. Thank goodness Eli and his friends won’t grow up having drunk deep from the juice of that rotten apple from the tree of knowledge.

Oh, yeah, the show itself. Decent, with some uneven writing and a couple of gut-punching twists. Some “why don’t they…?” moments — for instance, when the phones and TV transmissions go dead, why doesn’t anyone check the Internet, given that it was designed for just this contingency? Perhaps everyone used dialup and Denver ISP. I was anxious from the moment the mushroom cloud rose into the air until nearly the end of the episode. I expect any teenagers watching it said, “Whoa, cool.”

On my way to a lunch appointment today I saw a jet contrail rising vertically into the air. I thought of missiles streaking through the sky, carrying deadly payloads and announcing to all who saw them launch that the end was sure to come in thirty minutes or less. I thought of those who sat in silos and submarines and on whose backs rested the entire world’s fate.

Then I went and had pizza and listened to a technical talk, knowing that nuclear annihilation is now a negligible threat compared to that of the drivers sharing the road with me.

* Though not really, given that, in 1995, a NASA rocket launched from Norway was mistaken for a Trident-launched nuclear missile. Russia came close to launching a retaliatory strike by mistake. And it’s not like that was the first time we came close to a nuclear exchange. Hope you sleep well!

** The link is to a Google Maps mashup that shows where the damage zones due to the pressure caused by an atomic explosion would be. For fun, enter “-86.64951, 34.69392” in the longitude and latitude box and press “Go”. That’s a ground-level detonation centered on Redstone Arsenal in the town where I live. At 1,000 kilotons my house is still outside the zones of major overpressure damage, though I make no guarantees about how much of the blast Monte Sano mountain would reflect back our way. Of course, where I work is within the 2 psi zone from a 100 kT blast, so I’d best hope the war happens at night. Hope I sleep well!

Car Seats and Vomit Don’t Mix, Trust Me on This

WARNING: This post contains graphic descriptions of vomit and the resulting cleanup. Please don’t read any further if you are eating your lunch or if you have a queazy stomach. Just know that we got off to a very bad start this morning…

Also note that Eli had dubbed my long-time friend Alana, Lana Bob! She will be known from now on as Lana Bob! I’ve even changed her link down on the left.

Eli woke me up crying. This should have been my clue that the day would not be a normal one. However, once I got him out of the crib, he seemed fine. We ate breakfast and got ready to go to the gym with Lana Bob! since we didn’t go yesterday. We were about half way there when I heard the retching sounds from the back seat.

Now, in his defense Eli is able to make this combination cough/hiccough/wheeze sound that always gets my attention because when he makes it, it sounds as if vomit is sure to follow. I’m fairly certain that he can now make it on command simply because it always causes my head to whip around as if on ball bearings and since he is a boy, that amuses him. So I was sort of amazed when I whipped my head around this morning and actually witnessed vomit flying out of his mouth.

Thank God that I have a cold this week as that is the only thing that allowed me to drive home without retching myself over the smell. Lana Bob! was not so lucky. As we pulled into the garage, she was frantically trying to get out of the car to keep from throwing up in sympathy.

During the ride home, Eli said multiple times, “I’m okay, Mom.” The interesting part was he did seem to be in better shape than either Lana Bob! or me.

Once we got home came the truly gross part. Removing Eli from the orange vomit covered car seat. I took him into the laundry room and started chucking his clothing straight into the washer. We went from there to the bathtub because of course, taking Eli’s shirt off caused us to get vomit in his hair.

Stephen hadn’t left for work yet so he very kindly, and while dressed in work-approved khakis and polo, removed the car seat from the car and started disassembling it. My clever, clever husband had installed the car seat into the car on top of an old towel, so luckily no Buick Le Sabre’s were harmed in the previously described vomit spree.

After his speedy bath and redressing, I went out to help with the car seat take apart. During that process I got vomit lodged under my fingernails. That’s where I nearly lost it. I assembled the sprayer on the water hose and carted the plastic shell of the seat over to the grass to hose it down, mostly with my eyes closed and trying desperately not to breath through my nose. Also, did I mention that the temperature has dropped noticeably in the past couple of days? It’s noon and still below 70°. So I’m doing this crazy cleaning dance while in my exercise clothes and trying to avoid the frigid water spray.

I find it fascinating how my mind sorta blanked out so I could accomplish the tasks at hand. I’ve often wondered how my mom dealt with vomit when I was a kid. I have such a sensitive nose that Stephen and I made a pact before we had kids that he would deal with the vomit and I would deal with the blood. He apologized as he was leaving for work that he didn’t have time to do more for us this morning. What he doesn’t know was that he did the job I had no idea how I was going to do: get the disgusting car seat out of the car.

I did manage to get the car seat base washed off and all the straps and buckles washed. The seat cover is drying after it’s trip through the washing machine. And we are marooned at home while it all dries. The poor car seat manual was a loss however, since it is rather stupidly stored under the seat. One short call to the manufacturer and I have .pdf of the manual sitting in my inbox. I forwarded it to Stephen so he could print it out double sided.

Through all these machinations poor Lana Bob! was trying to keep her cool and still get ready to go to her lunch meeting/interview with Jessica and Ashley’s company. She was a trooper through it all and managed to head out the door this morning looking cool and put together. Eli has watched his week’s worth of tv just this morning. He’s managed now to keep a whole package of crackers down and drink two cups of water. Frankly, I’m starting to wonder if he planned the whole episode just to skip the gym, get to watch tv all morning long, and eat his favorite food, crackers.

The Temper Tantrum Switch

Eli is now fully two. He’s as two as you can be and not yet be three or more. One of the ways he exhibits this is in his temper tantrums.

Mind you, his temper tantrums are comparitively small and often cute. But there are times when we are tired or otherwise run down and they drive us crazy. Most of them occur when he doesn’t get exactly what he wants and isn’t willing to be diverted to other things. His lip quivers, his eyes fill with tears, and he CRIES, mouth stretched wide, inconsolable because the world is ending ending ending unless he can have that sharp pointy electrified stick, must have, must have!

What really amuses me, in a “ha ha, I must laugh to keep from killing” way, is how he can turn it off. On occasion he has thrown a fit and we’ve given in after he has added “please” to his request. He takes it, says “thanks, daddy!” and goes on about his business.

Why I Haven’t Posted Much Lately

Last week’s schedule was as follows.

Sunday: Church; standing game of Truth & Justice.
Monday: Travel with Geof to see Sufjan Stevens at the Ryman.
Tuesday: Tuesday Night Movie Club with the locals (watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Wednesday: Choir practice.
Thursday: free, as you might have guessed.
Friday: Dinner with the locals, then seeing the new band Jeremy is in, Bone Dry, play.
Saturday: Josh and Lynnea and crew over for dinner.

Once upon a time I thought I had no social life.

Joy’s Very Early Birthday Present

I saw these very cool little notebooks in Hobby Lobby a month or so ago and was just itching to get one and cover it with my usual junkola. But I really didn’t have a use for them, so I stratigically waited until I had a 40% off coupon to buy the stuff. I’ve had it mostly finished for about two weeks now but I still didn’t know what I was going to do with it. After talking to my sister-in-law, Joy, this afternoon, I have put the finishing touches on it and I am sending it to her for her birthday.

So Happy Birthday, Joy! Here’s a sneak peek of your gift that will come with Sam’s birthday present (after I finish making it too!).

The front cover with my favorite quote.

Inside Front Cover

Inside Back Cover

Back Cover


If you have anything that you’d like to be covered with my usual brand of junkola, just send it on over!

Bow Before My New iMac

The beauty of the white box.

Out of the box.

The switchover.

The new improved desk.

Thanks to Stephen for paying for my new computer with his article writing money. Lurv from me!

Geof, aren’t you jealous?

Size of the Internet in the US

No one knows how many people seriously use the Internet, right? Pshaw. I can give you bounds on that number in the US, easily.

Serenity‘s US gross: $25,335,935
Average US ticket price for 2005: $6.41
Number of people seeing Serenity: 3,950,000

Snakes on a Plane‘s US gross: $31,561,108
Average US ticket price for 2006 (estimated): $6.60
Number of people seeing Snakes on a Plane: 4,780,000

So roughly 4.4 million people, or about 1.5% of the current US population.

Don’t you love Fermi problems?

Friday Night Videos: Al

Paul Simon: You Can Call Me Al (1996)

Remember when Chevy Chase was funny? Me, neither. But this video provides documentary evidence to back up the claim. A lot of the humor comes from seeing wee little Paul Simon next to the shaggy tower that is Chevy Chase.

Weird Al: Don’t Download This Song (2006)

Yes, I already did a song by Weird Al, and I’m trying not to repeat artists. But I’m posting links to videos on the Internet. How could I ignore this song? What’s great about the song’s video is that Bill Plympton created it. Plympton has a unique style, and he hand-draws every frame of video. Some people’s work ethic. If you go looking for other things Plympton has done, beware: his cartoons are often really strange and not safe for work.

And now a word from our program director. Last night I watched MTV’s Video Music Awards. It’s been a while since I paid attention to them, but now that I have to come up with two videos every week to post, I need exposure to new videos. MTV’s never been known for taste and restraint, but the 2006 VMAs managed to be both overwhelmingly busy and incredibly boring. The set design was clearly created by a class of overstimulated kindergartners drip-fed Mountain Dew. The graphics department had a field day with the overlays and transitions. When videos were shown at all, they were most often relegated to one-eighth of the screen, sometimes with overlays or graphics behind the videos.

The best part of the night was OK Go performing their synchronized gliding act live. The giant frames and other kipple behind the band made it harder to watch than it should have been, but OK Go did an admirable job. To sum up: the highlight of the VMAs was a live recreation of a low-budget video made famous not by MTV but by the Internet and word of mouth. I can’t think of a better metaphor for MTV’s current relevance.