Archive for June, 2010

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An Alien World

June 30, 2010

This is the first photograph taken of a planet that isn’t part of our solar system. What we’re seeing here is a star, slightly smaller than our own sun, in the Upper Scorpius Association, with its planet in orbit up there on the left. Space.com reports that the planet is eight times the size of Jupiter, with an estimated temperature of 1,500 C (2,700 F).

The solar system has been given a name: 1RXS J160929.1-210524. This is not as catchy as Upper Scorpius Association, which sounds like a soccer team from the wrong side of town, or maybe a really bad men’s club. Anyway, all this is significant for a few reasons:

  1. We’ve never been able to photograph an extrasolar planet before. We know they’re out there, and we can detect them based on orbital wobble and luminescent transference, which I just made up, but we haven’t had photographic proof. Now we do.
  2. We thought Jupiter was big, but now we know ol’ Jove’s a wimp next to some of the bad boys out there.
  3. The new planet is 500 light years away, which means humans couldn’t ever travel there. Franchising officials at Subway issued a terse “no comment.”
  4. If life exists on this planet, it will bear no resemblance to anything we know or understand, kind of like Utah.
  5. This planet does not yet have a name, so I am going to come up with one. I am naming it Marius, and not because it’s big and gaseous and far away, despite what you may think.

Welcome to the galaxy, Marius.

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Best Ensemble Cast Of All Time: Back To School

June 29, 2010

Don’t you laugh, now. I’m going to tell you about  the actors who made this Rodney Dangerfield vehicle in 1986, and when I’m done, you’ll say “holy moley.”

This is a cheap ass-and-insults comedy about an aging retail tycoon (Dangerfield) who decides to complete his college education while well into his seventies (Dangerfield appears to think he’s playing a guy in his forties, but You Can Tell.)

This movie came at a pivotal moment in Hollywood. This was the year that the world of entertainment changed — movies got smarter, rock got harder, hair got bigger and I saw my first stripper. And for some reason, the cast of this movie turned out to be the most diverse, yet accomplished, actors on the planet. Consider:

  • Rodney Dangerfield: Okay, don’t.
  • Keith Gordon: This guy played Arnie in the fantastic John Carpenter riff on Stephen King’s Christine, and then he played in this movie, and now he tells people he isn’t me, we just have similar names. That’s too bad. His performance in Christine showed he had range, and this movie showed he could accept a paycheck for sex jokes.

  • M. Emmet Walsh: He’s a “Oh, that guy” actor with the best name to say out loud. I’ve said out loud today, while typing, which would be creepy if I were at the office but is okay since I’m in the basement.
  • Paxton Whitehead: This guy’s name makes you think he’s a really important and distinguished actor, and that’s the joke of it.
  • Terry Farrell: Jadzia Dax plays the campus hottie. Oh yes, she does.
  • Robert Picardo: You will think this is a Star Trek thing, but it isn’t. Robert Picardo has been in pretty much everything ever made. You just have to look closely.
  • Adrienne Barbeau: If you don’t nod when you read that name, you’re too young to be here.
  • Ned Beatty: Otis himself, Squeal Like A Piggie himself, plays Dean Martin. As in, the dean of students. It’s funnier in context, and so is Ned.
  • Burt Young: If you don’t nod when you read that name, you’re too young to be here, and also not Italian enough.
  • Sally Kellerman: If you don’t nod when … hey, it’s Sally Kellerman, and I shouldn’t have to explain.

  • Robert Downey Jr.: He’s playing the same guy he played in Weird Science, complete with big-shouldered blazer, tall hair and a smirk. He still has all those things, but now the shoulders are made of iron and shoot little rockets at bad guys.
  • Sam Kinison: Oh, I miss this guy. This is the movie that made him famous, and opened the door for a whole generation of rage comics and angry bloggers. Fuck angry bloggers! I hate those fuckers.
  • William Zabka: I hate this guy, too.
  • Edie McClurg: You know who this is, and you love her. You probably had her picture in your locker. I know I did.
  • Kurt Vonnegut Jr.: Seriously. This is a Rodney Dangerfield campus comedy with boobs, featuring Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Like I said: Best Ensemble Cast Of All Time. A warning, though … there is poetry in this film.

“How about tomorrow night?”

“I have class then, too.”

“Why don’t you call me sometime when you have no class?”

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G20: Crucial Shortages In Wake Of Protests

June 27, 2010

As Toronto settled back down after Saturday’s flaming-cop-car protests, people woke up Sunday to learn about crucial shortages of much-needed supplies.

Rioters smashed windows and looted during the protests Saturday, leaving many downtown businesses in a shambles … with a particular emphasis on coffee-shop chains. This forced their closure Sunday … which meant if you were downtown, you couldn’t get a cup of coffee. All Tim Hortons were closed until Monday, as were most Starbucks. The Toronto Sun reported Sunday night that a lone Second Cup had long, long lineups Sunday, as it was one of the only spots open. You know things are bad when people are lining up for The Second Cup.

Torontonians, it seems, don’t know how to make coffee at home.

In the meantime, the head of Toronto’s official association of  prostitutes, and I am not making that up, complained to the same newspaper about how the G20 hurt the local sex trade. You will probably ask “Wouldn’t these people see more business with all these visitors, particularly American political types, in town?” No, says Valerie Scott of Sex Professional of Canada: G20 visitors tend to be “too busy” to sneak out for any fun. Meanwhile, Scott said, authorities were checking IDs of everyone entering the downtown core during the G20, which meant the “high-end brothels” in downtown condo buildings saw a drop in business. And police sweeps meant the streetwalkers had to clear out.

Torontonians, it seems, don’t know how to make love at home.

The biggest city in Canada saw a lot of flaming violence this weekend, a lot of punk-rock protests as people had their say about the governments, economics and politics of the world’s most powerful country. But in typical Canadian style, when two things we really, really like were taken away, barely a peep was heard.

In related news, a cottage-country bakery named a muffin after Barack Obama. So there’s that.

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Turds of Misery: The Lost Turd

June 27, 2010

Every great band has its Pete Best, its Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy, a founding member lost in the sudden onslaught of fame and fortune. In the case of Davenport, Iowa’s Turds of Misery, that was the band’s original drummer. He isn’t in the famous photo, and he doesn’t remember why … although he acknowledges that he may have taken it.

Pat emailed me today to share his memories of the band.

“Hey, this is the lost Turd, Pat,” he wrote. “I was the drummer for the Turds and probably the least talented of our group, but we always had lots of fun jamming.”

I’ll just bet. Look at that photo … some of the most fun I’ve ever had has been down in the basement, with musical instruments and beer. I was the drummer, too, and also the least talented, especially in my basement. This has not changed, by the way.

Anyway, Pat goes on to explain a bit of the history of the band. “It was so long ago, but I believe we played in the early ’70s, because for some reason I think it was during my college years …”

Well, I can relate to that, too. My memories of making music in my college days in the ’80s are pretty fuzzy, too. Our band was called The Rhythm Method, which makes me wish I had thought of Turds of Misery.

“I’m not sure where the name originated,” Pat says, “but least of all, it was appropriate!” In other words, they played places that paid in cheap draft beer and pickled eggs — again, I can relate. “Lots of fun,” he goes on. “Ah, for the good old days …”

Pat didn’t say what he’s doing now, but I checked the Foreigner website and he’s definitely not a member.

Anyway, it was Laurie, the daughter of band member Dave (not the Dave who looks like Jakob, but the one who looks like Seth Rogen), who first turned me on to the Turds’ true history after I invented one of my own. Laurie then went on to set up a band website as a Father’s Day present, and told me on the weekend via email that she’s trying to convince Dave to write a full account of the band … and maybe even put together a reunion of sorts.

This is the sort of thing that could work really well in the YouTube age. If it happens, I think I’ll put together the opening act. I’ll call it Bagpipes MacDonald.

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Look And Feel Canadian … Instantly

June 26, 2010

When I was a boy, growing up on a hardscrabble farm in rural Turkmenazakstan, I dreamed of three things. The first was to have a pair of proper shoes, not sandals made from used condoms and old bicycle tires. The second was to eat something other than robins, but unfortunately, we were robin farmers, so that was our lot in life. The third dream, though, was the biggest: to go to a magical land populated by The World’s Finest People, a far-off place more wonderful than Narnia, Oz or even Hobbiton …

I wanted to be Canadian.

But Canada has blocked immigration from Turkmenazakstan ever since the unfortunate urine-in-the-water-bottles at the 1980 Olympics. We tried to explain that this is our traditional way of boosting our immune system, and we had no way of knowing the Canadian women’s balance beam team would accidentally grab our cooler, but Canadian authorities wouldn’t listen, and we were blacklisted.

I was offered a chance to emigrate to America, but it would have meant living in Florida, so I said no, and went back to the robin farm.

And then, one fateful day, I was sent to the city of Kyzmyvakanaz to purchase our annual bag of flour and stick of goat butter when a street vendor’s wares caught my eye. After I looked at the American magazines like Hustler, Playboy, Penthouse, and Poo Poo Pumpers, and briefly reconsidered my earlier decision to say no to moving to America, a lone packet on the top shelf of his cart caught my eye:

I had to have it … it even said, right on the package, As Used By Some Of The World’s Finest People! Knowing I would receive a sound whipping for not buying the flour and butter, I gave over our family’s money to purchase this magical formula. I have no regrets about that; the 6,565 vlatyulintz (about a dollar fifty Canadian) we had saved all year turned out to be worth sacrificing for my future.

Within an hour of blasting my mouth with this cool, refreshing spray, I started to feel strange. I began saying “excuse me,” “please,” and “no, you go ahead and take the last one” to everyone I met. They couldn’t understand me, because I was speaking Canadian, which is sort of like English, eh.

Later that night, as I lay in my cot in the robin coop, I heard a loud sound outside, and saw flashing lights in the sky. I dashed outside and watched, amazed, as a helicopter hovered, then landed, behind the outhouse. Its door opened, and a man stepped out.

“Kyngragoly Grindooni?” he said.

“That is I,” said me.

“No longer,” said he. “You are now a Canadian, and you shall have a Canadian name. Come with me; we’re having pancakes.”

The next day, I saw my first hockey game. And it was all due to Look And Feel Canadian … Instantly and, of course, that amazing Canadian, the magical man who delivered me into my new life. I’ll never forget you, Doug Henning.

Being Canadian has turned out to be better than I could have hoped. I have a socialized health care plan and a place that makes BlackBerries. The coffee is quite good and usually warm. We are blessed with an excellent music scene, compelling independent filmmaking, some of the best writers in the world, and most American TV channels. I love being Canadian.

I do get homesick sometimes, which is what led me to invent robin bacon. Mmmmm.

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A Thousand Times

June 26, 2010

This is the 1,000th item I’ve written for Weather Station 1. That’s quite a milestone, and I’d hate to waste it by writing something stupid.

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Best Klan Photo Of All Time

June 25, 2010

The sad thing is, this guy will think of a way to blame Obama.