humor, vacation

January 4&5: Camping in Antarctica

Or “Just another day in Paradise

I learned a valuable lesson last night. If someone offers you the chance to sleep on the snow in Antarctica, say “Heck no!” and back away quietly. Oh, the idea is nice enough. It sounds romantic (in the old Byronic sense, not the new naughty bits one); just you [1] on the ice in the middle of the coldest continent, with nothing but your sharp wits to keep you warm. The problem is, nobody’s wits are that sharp.

This is a lot of fun to do!
Distributing the sleeping kits









The evening started well enough. We all piled into the Zodiaks and cruised across the bay to the island where we’d be staying [2], while a gentle breeze lifted our spirits. We all had our camp kits, consisting of a liner bag, an inner sleeping bag, and outer sleeping bag, an air pillow, a rubber mat, and a bivy bag to go around it all, all packed neatly into a duffel bag by the cheerful guides. If you’ve been counting, that’s six layers of insulation between your tender flesh and frostbite. If you wear the suggested long johns, jeans, waterproofs, turtleneck, and sweater, that makes it nine layers. That isn’t enough, by at least ten layers.

Finding a place to rest
Making a hole









Let me explain why by describing how you would camp on the ice, should you be foolish enough to ignore my advice. You make camp on the ice by finding a reasonably flat spot and squashing down the ice. You see, the ice is actually graupel; large chunks [3] of frozen snow pellets that cover the area about a yard deep. You squash the ice by flinging your tender body on it [4], squashing everything into an homogenous and mostly flat layer. You then take out the bivy bag from the duffel bag without putting either of the sleeping bags on the now wet ground. But, because the duffel bag was packed by sadists, the bivy bag is on the bottom and you must pull out and hold both large, slippery, and very badly packed sleeping bags before you can get to the bivy bag.

Putting things together
What goes where?









You must then put the sleeping bags back into the duffle bag without dropping the bivy bag, which has been rolled into the perfect shape to slide down the hill and into the bay. If your bivy bag does go into the water, your guide will cheerfully tell you that there is no replacement and you’ll have to do without [5].You now flatten the bivy bag out, weighting the corners so it doesn’t blow away as the gentle breeze has now turned into a strong wind. You next unzip the bivy bag and put the sleeping bags and air mattress onto it, while keeping all of the now loose and slippery ice from getting into it. You do this because the rubber mat was rolled up to provide a shape to the duffel bag, and you have to get the rubber mat out in order to put it in the bivy bag.

You now patiently put the sleeping bags back into the duffel bag once more, while you roll out the rubber mat inside the bivy bag. However, because the rubber mat has been rolled up for at least a week, it wants to curl into an arch; you must weight it down while removing the sleeping bags again from the duffel because you accidentally put the mattress back into the duffel before replacing the sleeping bags.

It is now time to inflate the air mattress. The good news is that it is one of the new self-inflating kinds. The bad news is that it takes twenty (increasingly cold) minutes to do so. So you use the handy-dandy blow spout to speed the process. Except that your neighbor is having even more fun putting his kit together than you are, and keeps asking you questions. Every time that you stop to answer him, the air leaks back out, as the valve is not one-way. Once you discover this, you start screwing the valve shut and manage to fill the mattress after only another ten minutes of puffing.

Now you place the air mattress into the bivy bag, on top of the still curled rubber mat. And you finally get to pull the outer sleeping bag out of the duffel bag and mean it. The outer sleeping bag slides into the bivy bag easily enough [6]. And you can put the inner sleeping bag into the outer one with only about ten minutes of cursing because you have accidentally put the inner one in upside down [7]. You are now ready to put the liner into the inner sleeping bag.

Thanks to great foresight, the liner is made of a material that feels silky smooth and yet is capable of grabbing onto the inside surface of the inner sleeping bag like a politician onto a bribe. As a result, you must unzip the outer sleeping bag, unzip the inner sleeping bag, and lay the liner out [7]. As you do so, the wind metamorphoses into a light, stinging snow.

Ready for bed!

Explaining how to use a toilet (and begging us not to!)










You can now get ready for bed by taking off your boots and putting them into the duffle bag, along with your heavy parka. It is at precisely this moment that the guide asks everyone to gather over to the far side of the island so he can explain why you shouldn’t use the porta-potty that he has just set up. It is during this briefing, which takes place at 10:30 PM that he causally mentions that you’ll all need to be up by 4:30 AM in order to get back to the ship on time. With that in mind, you slog back to your little home away from home, again take off your boots and jacket, and slide into the liner.

While we were on the ice, two humpback whales buzzed the ship
At least we got to see Antarctic Terns










You then discover that it is physically impossible to zip up the bags from the inside. You must get out of the liner, zip both sleeping bags and the bivy bag shut, and then slide back into the liner. It is at this point that you realize that you really need to pee. Once you have gotten out of the bag, put on your boots and jacket, found your pee bottle [8], looked for a place with a modicum of privacy, given up and gone to stand in the least obvious area, filled the bottle, slogged back to your campsite, put your boots and jacket and the now full pee bottle into the duffle bag, and slid back into the liner that the wind becomes a gale with hard snow.

If you are sensible (or old), you pull the drawstrings closed on the bivy bag so that only a small opening to the outside is left. If you are young (or stupid), you go out and play football in the snow on top of a hill covered with ice and surrounded by freezing water [10]. The sensible ones then wait for the young ones to quiet down. At about 2 AM, you give up and look for the guide to ask him to get the kids to quiet down. You find him easily enough; he is the one shouting “Go long!”

Meanwhile you have made the discovery that the designers of the outer sleeping bag have managed to make it as slippery as Teflon both inside and out. As a result, the inner sleeping bag and its contents (read: you) are slowly sliding deeper into the outer bag, which is slowly sliding deeper into the bivy bag. That small hole now takes on the appearance of a skylight [11]. A leaky skylight that is dripping snow into your sleeping bag.

It isn't Antarctica without a Gentoo!
We saw this guy on the way home









Despite all of this, you do manage to drift off for a few hours. Your guide cheerfully and helpfully awakens you with a snowball to the side of the bag [12]. You struggle out of the bags, pull on your boots and jacket, and then put everything back into the duffle bag – all before coffee. When you get back to the ship, your cabin-mate is still asleep, but he helpfully shakes you awake at 7 AM and asks “Did you have fun?”

You let him live.


[1] And thirty other people

[2] The island was actually a peninsula , so we were technically on the mainland.

[3] The chunks start at pea sized and grown to boulders by the time the morning comes.

[4] Or using the duffel bag full of sleeping gear, if you are clever enough to think of it.

[5] To be fair, the guide will have to retrieve the bivy bag from the water, so his helpful attitude does have some basis.

[6] This should warn you. It doesn’t.

[7] How can you tell? If the zipper is on the left, it is right-side up. If it is on the right, it is upside down. For some reason, this minor yet vital fact was omitted from the briefing at the start of the trip.

[8] It is at this point that your friendly neighbor has given up. He jumps into the liner as if it were a onesie, and then wriggles into the inner sleeping bag like a butterfly inching back into a cocoon.

[9] Assuming that you remembered to bring yours and didn’t have to borrow one from your neighbor.

[10] About half of our group fell into each camp.

[11] And one that is full of light. Though the sun technically went “down” at 10:40 PM, the twilight lasts throughout the “night” until the sun rises at 3:50 AM.

[12] Unfortunately, his aim is bad; about half of the snowballs end up in the bags of the victims, er, guests.


Humor me

Sorry folks, I’ve been swamped lately. Between having my folks down for a whirl-wind tour [1], working on yet another statistics question for my favorite science reporter, and trying to do the work that they actually pay me to do, I haven’t had any opportunity to put together a decent post for my blog.

What I have put together is two amusing bits. First, there’s this report from Northern Ireland [2]

A Northern Ireland man who tried to turn his own faeces into gold by putting it on an electric heater has been jailed for three months.

The bizarre experiment, carried out by Paul Moran, 30, caused around £3,000 worth of damage to his Housing Executive home in a block of flats at Derrin Park in Enniskillen in July.

And now, with apologies to Stephan Pastis, a cartoon that explains why Perry is doing so poorly in the polls [3]:


[1] Six restaurants in three days; it is a miracle that I can still waddle!
[2] Any bets on if you can resist the urge to tell someone else about the story, starting with the phrase “I shit you not…”?
[3] Honestly – what sort of an idiot tells his major supporters “Folks, I’m going to raise your taxes while keeping them low for everyone else”?


Rock of Ages, musical of the moment

Take thirty or so tunes from the 80s, puree them in a mix-master, add the interior decorations from a defunct Hard Rock Café, and pour over the flensed bones of Pippin, and you have Rock of Ages. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Actually, it is – a lot.

As is the case with most jukebox musicals, the joy isn’t in the music (which is never sung as well as the original band did) nor the plot (which is inevitably some variant of “girl beats boy”) but in the nostalgia and whimsy. Nobody who watched Mama Mia could believe that Sophie was the daughter of Sam and Donna. But we could enjoy the absurdist and literal Greek chorus as well as the bright and zippy dance numbers. Similarly, Smoky Joe’s Café dispensed with plot entirely relying instead with a loose progression of songs – and it was two of the fastest hours I’ve ever spent in a theater.

Rock of Ages follows in this mold, taking it to new lengths. The plot is familiar to anyone who has ever seen a teen movie from the 1980s: struggling young (and extremely pretty) artists come to the Big City (Los Angeles) to become stars, unaware that nefarious Germans [1] have bribed the mayor in order to demolish their beloved Strip. Obviously, the young artists will fall in love with each other, but only after making a mess of things. Equally obviously, the Germans will fail, but only after they have exhausted every other possibility.

The plot is actually nothing more than an excuse to reprise those thirty songs while wearing an assortment of 1980s clothing and demonstrating the play’s hip factor [2]. The play manages to drag itself above the banal by displaying a wit that both meta and actually funny; that the dancers/actors [3] are perfectly in tempo at all times (even if they are not, sadly, always in tune) is an added attraction. Not only does the play begin by breaking the fourth wall [4], it spends five minutes espousing back-story and doing cheap vaudeville jokes [5]. The remaining hundred or so minutes are filled with references to the Muppets, the Theater of the Absurd, Jazzercise, Richard Simmons, and John Hughes. The jokes are given [6] in true Mel Brooks machine-gun style, with the hope that by spraying so many of them around at least one or two will hit their mark. The best joke was the deconstruction of “Can’t Fight This Feeling” using two incredibly burly guys, a Fogmaster 5000 smoke machine, and selected highlights of Dirty Dancing; a close second is the death of Dennis (“Oh, yeah – you died three years ago, dude!”).

Where the musical fails as a musical is the inexpert mash-ups of the various songs. Though the combination of Harden My Heart and Shadows of the Night is excellent, and the juxtaposition of I Hate Myself For Loving You with Heat Of The Moment was amusing, most of the other songs were melded with all of the grace and beauty of a six year-old’s clay ashtray; those that escaped that fate were either reprised interminably or presented to briefly to do more than raise the nostalgia level three more triangles. A lesser offense was the stunt casting of Constantine Maroulis as the male lead. Though he looks the part, his innate introversion was such that it overwhelmed the part; in addition, his voice was not well suited to many of the harder rock songs that he was called upon to sing [7]. Also, it would be well if the person who wrote the book had some knowledge of the songs; “We Built This City” was not written as an ode to LA!

But those are minor failings in an otherwise wonderfully silly show. If you have the chance to see the play during its tour, please do so. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss $30 goodbye – and be glad to do so.


[1] The 1980s equivalent of a modern RAV, and for the same reason. They were foreign, they were gaining power, and they had funny accents and mannerisms that could be used to humorous effect [i].
[2] Currently defined as “the ability to be ironic while paying homage to an era or genre”. Personally, I liked it better when hipness was defined by one’s ability to do things rather than by one’s ability to mock those who have accomplished something [ii].
[3] Note the order. In this play, it mattered a lot.
[4] Actually, it literally starts by breaking with the tradition of treating the theater with respect. The pre-show announcements (“Turn off your cell phone”, etc.) are done with the same level of insouciant magniloquence as the opening credits of Dogma. Any show that calls a texter a douche is OK by me!
[5] Most of which I stole for the next time that I go into doing public demonstrations…
[6] I can’t say “the jokes are told” because so many of them are sight gags, such as the chorus member in the Riff-raff meets KISS costume and the video screen playing “Get Physical” while the actors do their Jazzercise routine.
[7] That may have merely been a one-night only problem; he was nominated for a Tony for the role.

[i] Witness the line “I’m not gay. I’m German!” Very, very funny in the play, but incredibly stupid out of context.
[ii] No matter how much some of those things deserve to be mocked.

geek points, humor

Ineffable infabilibity

If the Rapture comes and nobody is caught up, then did it truly happen [1]? Last Saturday was due to be the day of Judgement, when the saved would be selected and the non-elect would realize what a mistake they’d made as the world slowly slid into Armageddon [2]; at least, that’s what Camping said. So what does he say now?

That the Rapture did take place, but it was a purely transubstantial event. Camping claims that the elect were selected [3] but that they will not be caught up until October 21, when the world does end [4, 5].

Of course, most eschatologists [6] deride Camping and note that he is taking exactly the same route used by Joseph Smith, William Miller, Charles Russel, and Jerry Falwell; he made a prediction that was shown to be wrong [7] and followed it up by a “What I really meant was…”.

And, as they did, he may create a new sect of Christianity [8] but will have no real or lasting impact on the world other than that. And that, from my viewpoint, is salvation indeed – for the rest of us.


[1] Note that this is different from the old Greek conundrum involving trees and forests in that the Grecian puzzle involved only purely physical phenomena and so had a definite answer (“Yes”).
[2] This has always puzzled me. Most modern biblical scholars agree that after the Rapture it is too late to be saved by a public admission of faith [i], which means that the time between the Rapture and Armageddon is the theological equivalent of pouring gasoline down an ant hole and then using a magnifying glass to burn the ants as they escape.
[3] No word on if they were injected, inspected, detected, infected, or neglected [ii].
[4] Which does take care of the ant hill problem.
[5] Which leads me to wonder what Camping will do on October 22. There are three possibilities: (A) He is right and he is one of the elect; in which case, he will go to Heaven [iii] and his worries are over. (B) He is right and he is not one of the elect; in which case, his troubles are just starting [iv]. (C) He is wrong (his salvational status is irrelevant); in which case we have the opportunity to pull one of the best/worst practical jokes EVER. On the Morning After, we get all of his friends and family to quietly leave the area and to turn their phones off. We splice into his cable feed, and re-run parts of “The Day After” inter-cut with “Red Dawn“. We leave a joke-shop newspaper on his doorstep. And we record his slowly growing horror via hidden cameras [v].
[6] The Christian ones, anyway. The Buddhist, Hindu, and Baha’i eschatologists tended to ignore him.
[7] At least, we think it was wrong. It could be that ghu, in her infinite wisdom, decided to give the unbelievers a second chance and only took those who were ready while performing a miracle that made it appear to the rest of us as if nothing at all had happened.
[8] Better him than Fred Phelps!

[i] Their argument is that if you know that God exists, you don’t have faith, you have knowledge. For some reason, knowledge bars you from Heaven.
[ii] Geek points for the reference!
[iii] Go to Heaven. Go straight to Heaven. Do not pass Purgatory. Do not collect 200 years of atonement.
[iv] I imagine him waking up with a voice mail from Jesus: “Nobody likes a blabbermouth, Harold!”
[v] Alan Funt, where are you when we need you?

humor, science

The problem with satire

is that too often it gets replaced by reality [1]. By way of illustration, let’s consider two of Franklin’s satirical pieces. The first is well-known. In 1787, Franklin wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter to the Journal of Paris, noting that there was this big, bright thing in the sky and perhaps the Parisians could use it to light their houses instead of spending all of that money buying candles. At the time, the article was recognized as being a good-natured jape at the absurdity of complaining about “the duty on candles and the high price of tallow”, when the expense was entirely self-imposed [2]. Unfortunately, time passed and the satire was lost on new generations. As a result, we now have five timezones in the USA during the summer: Eastern Daylight Savings Time, Central Daylight Savings Time, Mountain Daylight Savings Time, Arizona Time, and Pacific Daylight Savings Time. Why? Because Arizona refused to join in the absurdity and keeps the same time year-round [3].

Another example is Franklin’s Letter to the Royal Academy of Brussels. In it, he excoriates them for wasting time on trivia (such as trisecting an angle) instead of focusing on important matters. But he doesn’t do it by saying “You folks are idiots” [4]; instead, he congratulates them on their ingenuity and suggests that they tackle an even more important problem: farts. He doesn’t suggest that they come up with a way to prevent farts, but merely to make them smell “agreeable as perfumes”.

Now fast forward to last week. Scientists at E. Chromi have altered the e. coli genome so that it will change colors in the presence of additives [5]. Though this indisputably has great potential benefits [6], it is also a clear case of someone taking Franklin way too seriously. And, unfortunately, I can see the downsides as well as the benefits. Sure, green poo might indicate that you’ve got ulcers [7] – but what about the “artists” who will update Ofili using an entire palette of dung?

And, of course, why settle for altering e coli so that it changes colors? Why not have it change odors as well? Currently, the odors from farts is caused by the creation of various esters and gasses by the intestinal flora (notably hydrogen sulfide, mercaptan, and assorted other sulfides). Most people attempt to reduce the odors by changing their diets; however, changing the flora (via probiotics) is also becoming popular. But with this new technique, we can swap out the flora with a set that will completely change the nature of farting so that it now has agreeable odors instead of nasty ones.Your flautus could become a means of attracting rather than repelling others!

Just imagine! You could get flash mobs that coordinate their eruptions so that they all smell of vanilla. Or your could have an “odor symphony” of trained fartists who erupt in a specified, synchronized order. Or the government could feed its soldiers pills to make their anterior eructations truly Silent But Deadly! Or you could set your bowels to smell of liver and onions when you have a problem but of cherries and vanilla when all is “go” down below. The possibilities are endless.


[1] That is when people do not mistake it for a serious proposal. I have met people who insisted that Swift was truly advocating cannibalism and that Heinlein was honestly suggesting that votes should be restricted to veterans.
[2] I note in passing that there are like absurdities today. There are many who complain of high phone bills, cable bills, gasoline prices and the like. here’s a solution: if your phone bill is too high, then just hang up. Write a letter or send an email. If your cable bill is too high, then quit using cable. TV is broadcast for free; do you really need HBO, SHOWTIME, and the rest? And if gasoline is too expensive, then why did you buy that SUV that gets 10 mpg?
[3] Amusingly, a large part of Arizona does take part in Daylight Savings Time. The areas that form the Dine Nation are spread out over three states, so the Dine Nation territory in Arizona follows DST even though the rest of the state does not.
[4] At least, not right away. He suckers them in and then goes for the kill (a skill that I need to learn).
[5] Why e. coli? Because it is ubiquitous. Because it is both bane and benefice. And because it is relatively easy to work with; for example, e. coli was the first organism altered using recombinant DNA to produce a human hormone.
[6] Unlike Daylight Savings Time, which merely serves to line the pockets of various companies.
[7] Currently, black poo does that.


30 Dumb Inventions? No, 1 Dumb Editor

Over on Life’s website, they have a list of “30 Dumb Inventions”, which appear to have been selected more for the silliness of the photo than for the actual thought (or lack thereof) that went into the invention. Looking at the list of inventions, there are a few true losers, but many more that are actually products that are sought after today:

1. Curved barrel machine gun
2. Anti-bandit bag
3. Hubbard electrometer (Dianetics)
4. Cup bras
5. Portable sauna
6. Baby cage
7. Laryngaphone (reduces external noise on phone)
8. Motorized surfboard
9. Rainy day cigarette holder
10. Rocket belt
11. Honegar (honey and vinegar mixture)
12. Illuminated tires
13. Shower hood
14. Cigarette pack holder (probably for use in tar extraction in laboratory)
15. Handwriting game
16. Fast-draw robot
17. Yodel meter
18. Mini television
19. Flying platform (Johnny Quest, anyone?)
20. Beating breasts for babies
21. Venetian blind sunglasses
22. Birdman suit
23. Phone answering robot
24. Baby holder (looks a lot like a baby sling)
25. Sea shoes
26. TV Glasses (once again, Gernsbach is ahead of the field by decades)
27. Cat-mew machine to frighten mice
28. Dog restrainer
29. Cigarette holder built for two
30. IR turkey roaster

Right now, we have stick on cup bras, noise reducers for phone calls, motorized surfboards, illuminated wheel wells, fast-draw robots, mini televisions, beating hearts for babies, a “jet man” that goes faster than the birdman ever did (and makes millions doing so), TV glasses, electronic pest control devices, answering machines, baby slings, and IR turkey cookers, and we are working on jet packs and flying cars.

Taking out the “dumb inventions” that we are still using or working on shortens the list considerably:

1. Curved barrel machine gun
2. Anti-bandit bag
3. Portable sauna
4. Baby cage
5. Rainy day cigarette holder
6. Honegar (honey and vinegar mixture)
7. Handwriting game
8. Yodel meter
9. Sea shoes
10. Dog restrainer
11. Cigarette holder built for two

So what is the lesson to be learned here? It is that you should never assume that an invention is dumb just because it looks a little silly; odds are, you are using that invention or one of its direct descendants.


humor, meme slut

Day 21 – Favorite movie from your childhood

Though I will indubitably be accused of “cheating”, rather than selecting a single movie I would like to tell you about a television series that shaped me in ways both superficial and profound: The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle [1, 2].

Just in case you have forgotten the show, it was the cartoon equivalent of a half-hour variety show. There were always a couple of episodes in the serial adventures of Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose as they fought notorious spies and no-goodniks Boris and Natasha or engaged in improbable adventures centering around ruby yachts and long-lost heirs. Between the serials were skits based on history (featuring Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman), fables (Aesop & Son), and fairy tales (Fractured Fairy Tales). And between those were interstitial bits that usually ended with Bullwinkle pulling something from a hat.

Back in the day, the show was great because it was inspired silliness. You never knew what that darn moose was going to do next, nor how Boris would give old Wile E. Coyote [3] a run for his money in constructing the most elaborate and doomed-to-failure deathtrap possible. As I grew older, the rythm and flow of the comedy caught my mind. Listening to Bullwinkle’s malapropisms and eagerly anticipating the punnish ending of each episode [4] warped my sensibilities in ways that are both socially irredeemable and deeply satisfying [5]. Bullwinkle and Rocky combined the best parts of Lauren and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, and Burns and Gracie, wrapping them in a shell of nutty goodness [6].

Even as the budget shrank from miniscule to infinitesimal, taking the production values with it, the show became more creative and more outrageous. Satirization of TV, politics, and popular music were frequent staples, and the comedy became broader and broader. It is a testament to the show’s enduring legacy that, like Star Trek, though it was cancelled too soon it has never gone off the air. On a channel somewhere, someone is playing an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some channels to surf…


[1] A.k.a. “The Rocky and Friends Show”, “The Bullwinkle Show”, and “that damned crap” (that last from my father).
[2] Frequently shown in conjunction with either the Underdog Show or Tennessee Tuxedo & His Tales.
[3] “Su-u-uper-genius!”
[4] Yes, I have a problem. No, I won’t go to a twelve-step program to cure it, not even if they put in an escalator.
[5] Much like an eructation during Communion.
[6] Or good nuttiness; I’m not sure which it is.


Travel warning

From the Department of State:

The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform US Citizens traveling to and living in the area known as “The Wonderful Land of Oz” (Oz) about the security situation in Oz. Despite the death of the leader of the eastern matriarchy, conditions remain tense in the area. The civil war between the two remaining matriarchies continues unabated. The southern matriarchy has allied itself with a rebel city in the central portion of Oz and is now attempting to fund itself through the sale of gemstones endemic to the area. US Citizens are reminded that trafficking in conflict emeralds is prohibited by US and international law.

The leader of the southern matriarchy, known only by her code-name “Glinda the Good”, is also stepping up a public relations campaign against the leader of the western alliance, known variously as Theodora and Bastinda, by referring to her and the now-deceased leader of the eastern matriarchy as “Wicked Witches”. The area remains very dangerous, as it is infested with lions and tigers and bears.

The US had previously aligned itself with the East-West alliance, supporting their attempts to suppress the cannibalism endemic to the “Much-Kin” through the efforts of the Winkie army. Stabilization of the area is deemed to be in the interest of national security, though no-one is quite certain why.

I think that all of these movies are starting to affect my brain


humor, meme slut

Day 05 – A movie that makes you happy

Though there are plenty of movies that make me happy [1] there is only one that makes me happy every time that I see it [2], and that is The Muppet Movie.

Part of the reason for that is because the movie was important to my friends and me. We saw it on the big screen when it first came out and laughed all the way home.  And part of the reason is because the movie is important to my nephews and me [3]. But the main reason is that the movie is just plain fun.

The jokes are witty without being trashy (example: “Good thing frogs can jump, or I’d be gone with the Schwinn!”, “Myth! Myth!” “Yeath?”, “All I can see are millions of frogs with tiny crutches”). The plot was interesting without being complicated for the sake of complications (Frog goes to Hollywood to seek fortune and fame, meeting friends and weirdoes on the way [4, 5]). The cameos were integral to the movie rather than distracting from it (e.g., every Scary Movie ever made). And it wasn’t just people that made cameos; there are scenes from Casablanca, High Noon, What A Way to Go!, and a dozen other classics. Plus the moral was good (Work hard but follow your dream; it is the best way to be happy).

Besides which, the music is classic. Listen to the first bit of “Rainbow Connection” and see if you don’t start singing along. Try not to feel sympathy for the poor schleps in “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along“. Believe with Gonzo that you can go home again, or just sit back and let Dr. Teeth’s insanity fall over you.

Even better – go pop some popcorn, gather your family around, and put the movie on.  I promise you that you’ll get up smiling when Animal tells you to “Go home! Go home! Movie over! Buh-bye!”


[1] Superman, The Blind Side, Space Truckers, Wallace and Gromit [a], The Flying Deuces, The Princess Bride, Sleeper, Heidi, The Cocoanuts, Bringing Up Baby, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Visit to a Small Planet, Support Your Local Sherriff!, Airplane!, The Quiet Man, Galaxy Quest, to name a few…
[2] So, of course, I see to it that I do not see it too often lest the oft-seen sight seem standard. Mirth is a dish best spiced by variety.
[3] My sister still gets annoyed at the way that her oldest and I would sit on the couch and laugh our way through the movie together [b]. We probably saw it six times in the week that I visited, and even did our own dance to the “Moving right along” song [c]. And John’s boys and I watched the movie in Florida during our sailing vacation two years ago [d] and played Muppet songs all that week [e].
[4] Or, as Miss Piggy would put it: “Frog meets moi. Frog loses moi. Moi decides to give frog a second chance that he really doesn’t deserve and then moi makes the ending fabulous!”
[5] Speaking as a professional weirdo, I was honored to be included…

[a] Any Wallace and Gromit film!
[b] At the time, “five” described both his age and my IQ (grad school takes quite the toll).
[c] Said dance has since been outlawed by seventeen countries as being in violation of the Geneva Conventions, the laws of thermodynamics, and simple human decency.
[d] Then I “made” them go see the MuppetVision show at Disney’s California Adventure during our trip last year. I am such a mean uncle!
[e] Thereby driving their mother insane(er).


Songs at the office

You may not think of geo-types as being great at music [1], but the truth is that we love it. As a result, things can sometimes get a little weird [2] when you have a bunch of them clustered together over something that isn’t a rock sample or seismic section.

The current moratorium on drilling [3] has left us with lots of time to cluster. And while this is good, in a team-building sort of way, it also gives rise to oddities such as the song that has been floating around the office today:

My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
My Bonnie lies over the sea,
My Bonnie lies over the oil spill,
Clean up, my Bonnie, for me
Chorus – Clean up, sweep up, break up the spill for me (BP!)

Disperse, dilute, destroy the spill for me!
BP spilled some oil
BP made a (freakin’ huge, completely unnecessary, stupidly annoying) big mess
BP hasn’t fixed it
So we ask the damsel in distress

And now that I have ruined your day [4], I’ll return to mine….


[1] Q: What sort of a band does a geologist play in? A: A rock band!

[2] Weirder than usual, actually.

[3] About which I will blog once my blood pressure comes down into a reasonable range (say 2000/600)…

[4] Thereby making mine better.