Video Fridays: The Hobbit

HobbitIn a January 2011 installment of my Video Fridays series, I came out of the closet as a lover of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Specifically, I posted a favorite clip from the first film in Peter Jackson’s triology of The Lord of the Rings, and I mentioned that I was planning on watching the three movies in one marathon viewing weekend with my teenage son as a kind of father-son bonding experience.

Well, we watched, we bonded, we ate popcorn and drank root beer, and it was glorious fun!

Imagine my great joy, then, when I found out soon afterward that Peter Jackson was going to film The Hobbit, first announced as a two-film adaptation, but more recently as a whole trilogy.

Honestly, I’m not a fan of fantasy fiction in general. I never got hooked on Dungeons & Dragons. So, it might be surprising that I love this stuff so much. But just thinking about getting to escape back into Middle Earth for three more movies makes me very, very happy.

But then, a funny thing happened.

When a friend of mine said that he was going to take his teenage daughters to the premiere, in IMAX 3-D nonetheless, and asked if I wanted to bring my son and join them, I had a reaction that surprised even me: I said I’d wait a few weeks, until the crowds died down, and that I wasn’t all that crazy about 3-D anyway (as I’ve written about previously).

I know. BORING!!!

So, I came to my senses and went to Fandango.com and prepared to buy the tickets and…what was that date again?…(checking the email from the friend)…December 14th!…right!…ok…here we go…three tickets for the 7pm show…December 14th…

…Doh!!! That’s the night we’re hosting a Hanukkah party.

I text my friend:

Me: BUMMER!!! Can’t make it! Hanukkah party at our house.

Friend: Isn’t one of the nights of the holiday called Hobbitnukkah?

Me: Fuckyounukkah!

Friend: I’m not sure that’s spelled right.

Me: That’s because it’s the Elvis transliteration of the Hebrew.

Friend: Oh, that makes sense.

Anyway, I’ll be aiming to see the movie later in the weekend, and for now I’ll have to settle for the following trailer, which totally gets me in the mood.

Just think of the 6-movie viewing marathon my son and I can have one day!

Happy Weekend, everyone!

10 Years Since The Concert For George?!

Seriously?!

And since the Concert For George, a star-studded celebration of the life and music of George Harrison, took place a year to the day after we lost him, that means it’s been 11 years since he passed?

It’s really hard to believe, that this man who meant so much to me and so many millions of people is gone at all, much less for so long.

Anyway, I hadn’t planned on following up yesterday’s music-oriented post with another today, but when I learned that the Concert For George was streaming for 24 hours today on YouTube (catch it if you can!) to mark the 10-year anniversary, and I caught the following clip of Paul McCartney sensitively singing George’s achingly beautiful song — All Things Must Pass — with Ringo playing drums, it just made me cry.

All things must, indeed, pass. No matter how much we cling to them while they’re still here. No matter how terribly we miss them when their gone. And it’s particularly painful when it’s a person, a person who moved us so deeply.

And yet, George was right to remind us of this impermanence, not so that we stop wanting and loving, but perhaps that we might use discernment, that we might let go when we need to.

So, I’ll let go of this post now. Thanks, George. I miss you.

Eno

Back in August, I wrote a post about having embarrassingly, belatedly fallen in love with the music of The Kinks from the late 1960s through the mid 1970s.

Today, I confess to another gaping hole in my musical education.

For many years, I’ve heard people express their love for the music of Brian Eno, and in response I’d do one of two things: 1. If I was in a particularly strong egotistical state, I’d nod as if I knew exactly what they were talking about; 2. I’d admit that, while I’ve heard a lot about him, heard that he’d collaborated with or produced the work of numerous other music artists I was familiar with (David Bowie, Robert Fripp, David Byrne & Talking Heads, U2, Coldplay, etc.), I’d never listened to one of his albums.

That all changed yesterday, when I saw this tweet from one of my favorite contemporary musicians, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists (WARNING: the video is 2-1/2 hours long, so don’t start watching it until after you’ve read the rest of my post…hehehe.)

Now, you’d think I’d be turned off by Meloy’s introduction, but my ignorance of Brian Eno’s music wasn’t the result of willful rejection, I’d always wanted to listen and learn, but I never got around to it. And so, last night, I watched the video, and while I watched, I took breaks from it to listen to, via Spotify, the albums mentioned.

One word: Revelation

I can’t believe I’ve been without this music for all these years! From the very start of the first song — Needles In The Camel’s Eye — from Eno’s 1974 debut solo album — Here Come The Warm Jets — I was enthralled. And, one of the first things I noticed about the music was that it sounded so utterly contemporary. Eno’s aesthetic, his use of electronica and studio techniques to put a wickedly good spin on conventional pop songs, suddenly, surprisingly, made a lot of the great new stuff I’ve heard over the past 10 years sound not as original as I’d initially thought.

And, as experimental and innovative as Here Come The Warm Jets was, the mark of a great music artist is an ability to evolve, and over the course of the six years covered in the video above, Eno was incredibly prolific, producing his own music, producing the works of others, collaborating on joint projects, developing deeply intellectual concepts and practices for the creative process and studio work, and his music morphed from quirky pop songs to Protopunk to abstract electronica, and finally ambient music.

Of course, I’ve only scratched the surface and have a LOT of listening to do in order to fully absorb this unearthed, for me at least, treasure.

In fact, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll have another go at his 1975 album, Another Green World, which, at first listen, is currently my favorite.

I’ll be back soon!

Fantastic Voyage II: The Gaseous Network

So, part of my day job concerns Internet service for students living on campus at the local university here, two years ago we began a 2-year project to implement Wi-Fi in all of the residence halls, it’s been a bumpy ride, with the wireless networking having to tackle numerous complexities, from aging network equipment to buildings loaded with concrete and rebar, through which Wi-Fi doesn’t like to travel.

Still, despite the many challenges, at least I didn’t have to deal with cow farts and belches.

Seriously.

Via Gizmodo:

Wireless Networks of Cows Will Keep Gas Under Control

I’d hate to be the IT guy fixing this network. By dropping electronic devices into the stomachs of cows and networking them together, researchers hope to reduce the climate-warming farts and burps they produce.

Emissions from livestock – much of which is methane released when they burp – are a serious component of global greenhouse gas emissions. But some individuals are a little more, erm, ‘gassy’ than others. By breeding “low methane” animals, and modifying farming practices slightly, their emissions could be lowered by up to 50 per cent, says Chris McSweeny from the CSIRO’s Sustainable Agriculture Flagship in Brisbane, Australia.

But, as fabulous, albeit disgusting, as this might be, the part of the story that makes it super fantastical, as in Fantastic Voyage (the 1966 Sci-Fi film) fantastical, is this bit (emphasis in bold added by me):

The problem is it’s hard to measure how much cows burp while they’re roaming around the paddock. So McSweeny and colleagues developed a gas-sniffing submarine that lives in a cow’s stomach. Coated with a special membrane that helps it survive the harsh conditions inside, the plan is to pop them in the stomachs of whole paddocks of cows and connect them with an ad-hoc wireless network.

The device stays in the stomach for weeks and measures gas concentration using infra-red sensors. A pair of wings pops out after it enters the stomach and stops it from moving beyond the rumen – the chamber in a cow or sheep’s stomach where much of the gas production occurs.

No way!!!

Yes way!!!

Now, as gross as this might sound, I might just be willing to do it if 1966 Raquel Welch was on the crew with me.

Thanks

You know, I’m sorry to admit that when I see a cornucopia, AKA horn of plenty, I usually just think of cheesy Thanksgiving cards and decorations.

And yet, when I really think about the ancient symbol, I realize that there’s a lot of useful meaning to be derived from it.

  • It is a reminder of the bounty in our lives, for which we give thanks on Thanksgiving.
  • As nice as the image is, sadly the magic cornucopia of Greco-Roman mythology, that provides an endless supply of food, doesn’t really exist. And so, it is a reminder, conversely, of the millions of people who have little to no bounty in their lives, that we might do something, no matter how small, for them.
  • It’s notable that the horn of plenty is overflowing with fruits and vegetables, rather than iPhones, sports cars, and bling. Thinking again of those who lack bounty, it’s humbling to consider how many of them would be utterly satisfied with abundant fruits and vegetables.

I, indeed, have much to be thankful for. Family, friends, food, clothing, shelter, etc.

But here, at Fish & Bicycles, I like to give thanks for…

…you!

It’s been a while since I’ve written in appreciation of all the people who take a moment to visit, to read, to click on the Like button, to leave a comment, or to choose to Follow the blog.

As I’ve written in the past, I don’t make any money from Fish & Bicycles, I work a 40+ hour per week job, and I have time-consuming responsibilities to my family and my home. Therefore, I don’t have the time to respond to everyone who Likes one of my posts or chooses to subscribe, even though I am incredibly grateful for every.single.instance.

So, thank you, dear readers! Sincerely!

I’ll leave you with some links to my previous Thanksgiving posts, ghosts of Thanksgivings past, so to speak.

2009
2010
2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

More Thanksgiving Eve Fun

Following up on my Tweet of the Day post from this morning, I thought I’d share something else I’ve come across today, a funny, entertaining piece at The Atlantic, from a seemingly unlikely source…their Health Editor.

I don’t know about you, but when I think “Health Editor” I think of dry information about diets and exercise regimens. The Atlantic‘s James Hamblin, MD, however, has a very accessible, natural writing style, peppered with just enough humor to keep the health-writing-averse engaged.

Well, in today’s piece, titled Answers to Every Possible Thanksgiving Health Question, Hamblin pulls out the comedy stops, resulting in a VERY fun read on a topic that could be a total wet blanket on the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Written like a traditional FAQ, here are some of my favorites (Be sure to read the whole thing, though!):

How bad is it that I stuff our turkey a few days in advance?

Bad — disgusting actually, don’t do that.

Is quinoa stuffing healthier than regular stuffing?

Yes. If regular white bread stuffing is what’s on the table, though, don’t let the words quinoa stuffing leave your mouth.

Tryptophan is what makes us sleepy?

Turkey has tryptophan, but not significantly more than chicken or beef. We fall asleep because we’re hypoglycemic and bored. If napping is a concern, go for a walk or ask an old person about their old love stories.

Alternatively (and hopefully not the case), sleep could be how you respond to stress.

How can I avoid talking to my family and just focus on what I really want: the f-o-o-d!

Please try to be more sincere. Some day you will spend the holidays alone, and it will suck.

How much gravy is “too much”?

Unless you have heart failure, don’t overthink it on the holiday. But then the fact that you’re asking makes me wonder if you’ve had issues with gravy in the past?

It’s my first vegetarian Thanksgiving. Should I make tofurkey?

Tofurkey is offensive, linguistically and culturally. If you want to eat turkey, eat turkey. Tofu doesn’t look or taste or smell like turkey at all. If you make tofu, own it and treat it like tofu and call it tofu.

Is pumpkin the new bacon?

Yes, but we’ll be mostly rid of pumpkin by March, and bacon is eternal. These are getting less like health questions. Well, I suppose that is a health question insofar as all of the pumpkin everywhere might be stressing us out. Like if you feel you can’t escape it. Seasonal pumpkin-related anxiety.

Do you need love to enjoy the holidays?

No, but if you have the opportunity and are on the fence about loving someone, do it.

I don’t normally smoke, but hey, it’s Thanksgiving, right?

Why are you putting me in this position?

“Lost” Update: I Finally Escaped The Island!

As I wrote last month, in a post titled On Becoming A “Lost” Masochist, I got seriously hooked on the 2004-2010 TV serires Lost.

Well, this past weekend I finally made it off the island.

After nearly 90 hours of screen time, the family and I watched the Season 6 finale this past weekend, and, despite how much I enjoyed the show, the relief I feel is tremendous!

I say this without any amount of judgment: I can’t understand how people can watch television every single night on an ongoing basis. I know that, for lots of people, it’s a comforting ritual, but I just don’t function well with such a routine, and I’m practically ecstatic that I have the 45-90 minutes every night that I used to dedicate to Lost — watching 1-2 episodes per night — freed up for other pursuits. I’ve got house projects I want to get done, new songs to learn on the guitar, books to read, etc.

Of course, I’ll be haunted by the show for a while still. You can’t spend that many hours with a cast of characters and not get attached…or at least I can’t! I’ll miss them, actually. I already do!

Jack the mostly failing hero, Kate the hot murderess, Sawyer the lovable con man (yes, it seems there can be such a thing), Hurley the bear hug dude, Claire the hot Aussie, Charlie the recovering rock star, Sayid the tortured torturer, Locke the walking paraplegic smoke monster, Desmond the Dustin Hoffman doppelganger, Jin and Sun the world’s most adorable Korean couple EVER, and more.

I’m glad they all met up in the end on that tropical island in the sky!

In preparation for writing this postmortem, I did a little research, and I found dozens of fan websites and discussion forums, thousands of news articles, blog posts, and YouTube clips, and even the Lostpedia wiki, making it clear to me that some folks invested WAY more time into the show than I did.

Now, while I did this research, I’ll admit, I was interested in reading interpretations of the series finale (one example), as it, like the other 120 episodes, raised just about as many new questions for every pre-existing question that it answered.

And what I found, was nothing but astounding. Whether you liked the show or not, it’s hard to dismiss the impact it had on so many peoples’ lives, resulting in the exhausting analysis of practically every frame of every episode, the endless theorizing about the mythology of the show, and the wild prognostication as to where it was heading and how it would end.

It’s not every show/movie that inspires this level of interest, but the ones that come to mind most readily are Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, but years before that, and ever since, the whole Star Wars franchise.

Speaking of the latter, to wrap up and to illustrate the extraordinary and lasting immersion that fans will engage in, just by coincidence I came across a hilarious post at McSweeney’s today that parodies this kind of fandom, an analysis titled, On The Implausibility Of The Death Star’s Trash Compactor, written, it hardly needs to be pointed out, 35 years after the debut of Star Wars.

A brief sample:

Here are the problems, as I can ascertain them, with the Death Star’s garbage-disposal system:

1. Ignoring the question of how Princess Leia could possibly know where the trash compactor is, or that the vent she blasts open leads to a good hiding place for the rescue crew, why are there vents leading down there at all? Would not vents leading into any garbage-disposal system allow the fetid smell of rotting garbage, spores, molds, etc., to seep up into the rest of the Death Star? Would not it have been more prudent for the designers of the Death Star to opt for a closed system, like a septic tank?

2. Why do both walls of the trash compactor move towards each other, rather than employing a one-movable-wall system that would thus rely on the anchored stability, to say nothing of the strength, of the other, non-moving wall, to crush trash more effectively?

3. Why does the trash compactor compact trash so slowly, and with such difficulty, once the resistance of a thin metal rod is introduced? Surely metal Death Star pieces are one of the main items of trash in need of compacting. It thus stands to reason that the trash compactor should have been better designed to handle the problem of a skinny piece of metal. (And while I hate to be the sort of person who says I told you so, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that a one-movable-wall system would have improved performance.)

Seriously funny, but funny because it’s so close to reality.