Overheard at our house, sci fi edition

“Is that the guy from the hive thing?”

“‘Every sci fi show has a hive of some kind.  Can you narrow that down for me?”

He’s a magic man…

I got a Wii console for my 40th birthday – because though I may be 40, inside I am 12.  I generally use it to work out (EA Sports Fitness – though occasionally glitchy – is surprisingly intense), though I did get sucked into “World of Goo” on a friend’s recommendation.  Other than that, we only have the sports game that came with the console.  We had a party recently for my school colleagues, and the Wii was the hit of the party.  There is something about the game that seems to bring out the positive, encouraging side of people.  Miss a hit in baseball?  Nobody jeers.  Instead, cries of “You wuz ROBBED!” ring out, even from the opposing side.

As someone who really hates what my mother calls the “nyah nyahs,” I have been surprised to witness this sort of behavior.  Life has taught me more often that games where there are winners and losers are just… well, nasty.

Even John, who doesn’t really like video games, likes to play Wii.  Well, he likes to play Wii Bowling.  Since we are both New England kids, I usually respond to his, “Wanna bowl?” with, “Yeah – ya gonna take me bowlin’ an’ buy me a beah?”  We’re pretty well matched and the usual score is close.  But I found out today that John, well… he’s a magical Wii bowler.  He ran upstairs to do something when I was playing my turn, and his turn came before he had returned.  Suddenly, his figure went live, and I watched his Mii bowl a perfect strike.  Moments later, he ran downstairs and said, “How’d I do?”  He had brought his controller upstairs with him and heard it “ding.”  So he played his turn blind.  From upstairs.

Magic, I tell you.

(He smoked me that game by over 30 points.)

Early riser

Tosh and I take a short walk every morning at around 5:15 – we move out, with a sense of purpose: just long enough for Tosh to do his doggy business, but just short enough that I don’t freeze in the winter mornings.

The moon was bright this morning.  Not bright enough for me to completely see by (some less-fastidious dog walkers are not as courteous as I would like on our suburban woodland paths), but bright enough to marvel at, especially since it is past full.

Our path brings us into the sheltering woods and then out into an field of sorts – not a mowing field, as we had in the country, but green grass covering a suburban earthworks: a drainage pond fronted by a high, dramatic berm.  But the sky is a field’s sky – it is wide and open.  Coming out of the woods, my eyes played strange tricks on me – the expanse of sky was piebald with dark and light patches, but my brain could not make sense of them immediately.  The dark – clouds?  But the moon was so bright – aha.  The bright was reflection on the clouds against the dark, clear sky.  After this moment of disorientation, I snapped off my light to stand in the freezing air and watch the clouds.

Ever have that moment where you’re looking at a piece of art and you say, “Yes, very pretty – but not realistic.”  And then, months or years later, you see that “unrealistic” thing happen in nature?  Like the deep purple skies of a twighlight Maxfield Parrish painting.  “Maybe on Mars,” you think, “Or a place in a book – I’ll bet Narnia had twighlight skies like that in C.S. Lewis’ imagination.”  And then you’re out on a country road, and the molecules have lined up just right to give you a radiance-drenched, deep purple post-sunset sky right here on Earth?  These clouds were like that.  They looked like anime or the woodblock animations so often used to depict Native American legends.  Stately and stylized, they moved swiftly, like great cutouts of tissue, never changing shape in the predawn sky.

I promise I’ll have SOMETHING to say again…

…SOMEDAY.  My brain has been running rather boringly on how to get more freelance work lately, which doesn’t leave much room for scintillating blog content.

But for now, I present you the most interesting thing my father ever forwarded to me via e-mail:

Shining Eyes and One-Buttock Playing

I can think of worse things to do than to watch the entire series of TED talks. What an amazing group of smart, funny, inspirational people.

Here’s Benjamin Zander on classical music.  Brilliant.

You already know about this, right?

Okay – so if you don’t, here’s the deal: Joss Whedon (pause for that angelic choir going "waaaaa!" in the background*) apparently decided he couldn’t stand to not be creative during the writer’s strike.  So he did what any normal person in that situation would do.  He wrote a three-episode, 45-minute miniseries specifically for the web.  It’s an anti-super-hero story comedy about a nebbishy guy who wants to be a super-villain.  And it’s a musical.

You know – run-of-the-mill** stuff.

It’s free on the web until July 20, and it’s available for download, own-it-forever purchase on iTunes.  The first two episodes are available on the website, the last will be available on Saturday.  It’s funny and sweet and seriously silly. Go.  Watch.  Tell ‘em I sent you.

*Okay, so it’s probably "aaah!" but it always sounds like "waa" to me…

**Have I ever written a post with this many hyphens?

Utter and complete geek joy.

It was Mark who first told me about Oobleck (non-Newtonian fluid made out of cornstarch and water).  I’ve had a vague desire to play with it ever since (and since that was at least 20 years ago, it’s a pretty freakin’ vague desire.  I think if I was that interested in playing with the stuff, I could have gooped up a batch of it by now).

However, there’s so much fun to be had with it.  The Mythbusters played with it in lieu of Ninja water-walking, and YouTube is full of ooblecky videos.  But BoingBoing showed me this one today, which I just love: a half-sheet pan of oobleck + a subwoofer = geekly joy.

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In a continuation of the odd blogging synchronicities that we’ve been having ’round here lately…

Making Light posts a link to the YouTube Video of The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain doing one of my all time favorite power-pop songs, Life on Mars*:

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I rather love this – especially since the first singer bears a passing resemblance to John Simm.  It’s also clever in that glee-club/harmony/deadpan way when they start to go intentionally off the rails.

*My favorite version of which is probably Seu Jorge’s, even though it has none of the bombast that makes the original so compelling to me and was a key component of yesterday’s plea for help. What can I say – I’m fickle.  Of course, Bowie’s original isn’t really jangly, so doesn’t neatly fit into the category I posited anyway.

Oh – and hey lookie – another video.  Seu Jorge himself:

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See?  Love.

Oh. My. God.

I have a real fascination with Rube Goldberg machines.  I don’t have the right sort of brain to come up with them, but I love them.  When I was out visiting Marie and her family, and her kids were playing with their Mousetrap game (as opposed to playing Mousetrap, which is a very different thing), I totally understood what they were on about.

That being said, this is mind-boggling:

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I am in awe.

Driving with tears in my eyes

Just go listen to this.  I dare you to listen without feeling hope, without appreciating this man’s gentle dignity, without joy at his accomplishment. 

Go on – I dare you.