Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Because rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Exxon

Learned something about myself last week.

I'm willing to shill my daughters in a heartbeat for tickets to the All Star Game. Baby Ruth is sponsoring a contest for the best video of someone singing Take Me Out To the Ballgame, and grand prize is tix to the game and the opportunity to sing it in front of the entire crowd during the seventh inning stretch. You have to put a Baby Ruth candy bar somewhere in the video, which is kind of nauseating, but what the hell. I've sold my soul for less.

The whole operation took a full afternoon, and about 20 takes. It was pretty fun. And pretty silly.

If we win the contest, an admittedly unlikely event, we are going to stroll onto the field in full Mets regalia, incurring the wrath of 60,000 Yankee fans. It's like being invited to the White House for a dinner, and arriving with a copy of the Koran under your arm.

Twenty years from now, my kids will no doubt be telling their therapists all about it.

Here's one of the goofier takes:

Monday, April 28, 2008

Moth-u-ra...yah! Moth-u-ra!

This is one the odder corners of the Toho Studios mythos: the two tiny twin girls (the Peanuts) who summon Mothra to rescue mankind from some monster or other.

It's weird and cool that so many Japanese monsters are harmless creatures like moths, turtles (Gamera), lobsters (Ebirah), cuttlefish (Gezora), birds (Rodan). That would never fly in Hollywood. Some of the Japanese baseball teams have similarly gentle names: swallows, carp, blue waves.

There are so many Japanese monster movie clips on Youtube. It's bottomless.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Real People

The Friday word is "Rocket." Thanks, Mona.

(A car at night, driving suburban streets. A man and a woman are inside. The radio is playing "Rocket Man." The man is singing along. Badly.)

Woman: That's not right.

Man: What?

Woman: Those words. Those lyrics.

Man: What?

Woman: "Rocket man, burnin' up the trees on every lawn."

Man: No?

Woman: No. It's "burning up the fuse up here alone."

Man: Oh.

(Silence. The radio plays. The man is no longer singing.)

Man: What fuse?

Woman: On the rocket. The fuse on the rocket.

Man: Rockets don't have fuses.

Woman: Yes they do.

Man: Firecrackers have fuses. Dynamite has fuses. Not rockets.

Woman: Some rockets have fuses.

Man: Nope. In road runner cartoons maybe. If you're Wile E. Coyote maybe. But not real rockets.

Woman: It's not a real rocket. It's a rocket in a song.

Man (after a pause): In the song, though, it's a real rocket.

Woman (annoyed; she thought the discussion was over): What?

Man: In cartoons the rocket is a cartoon rocket. That's the reality. A cartoon reality. So it's a cartoon rocket. But the song takes place in real life. Real people. So it needs to be a real rocket. And real rockets....

Woman: ...don't have fuses. I get it.

Man: Granted, it's in the future, but the reality....

Woman: I get it.


Woman: So you're sticking with "burnin up the trees on every lawn."

Man: Yes. Yes I am.


Woman: You're so literal.

Man: I thought you liked that about me.

Woman: I used to like that about you.

(The car stops. The Man turns off the engine. The radio stops playing.)

Man: We're home.

Woman (turning to look at him): I'm leaving you.

Man: In the car? You're leaving me in the car?

(The woman turns away, gets out. The car door slams shut, with some finality.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pink Moon

Lil Hucky, the little Clowncars and I ventured out at sunset to watch this month's full moon (called the pink moon, Hux tells me, named after trees that bloom pink blossoms this time of year). We do this fairly often. It was cloudy, so the moon was less than spectacular, but I learned a little trick. We always park in the same spot to watch moonrise, and we always guess where on the horizon it will come up (the person with the closest guess "wins"). And while we were sitting there in the car, an extremely simple way to predict where the moon will rise occurred to me: look where your shadow is pointing! That is where the moon will rise. Cool, eh? And so simple. This'll only work for a full moon (as the sun and the moon are only directly opposite each other then), but, at least this time, it worked like a charm. My obsessive interest in orbital mechanics pays off!

Sadly, I told my family immediately upon figuring it out and thus cannot use my newly-gotten knowledge to win the moonrise guessing game. I can only use my powers for good, not evil. I'm like Gamera!

In other news, I found an answer to the baseball-thrown-from-the-space-shuttle question at the Straight Dope. Not an unimpeachable source, but a pretty good one. And amusing to boot. According to them, throwing the baseball toward Earth, or away from Earth, will not affect the orbit of the baseball at all. As Larry Niven (a GREAT sci-fi writer) puts it, "East takes you out, out takes you west, west takes you in, and in takes you east." Orbits depend upon speed. If you don't change the speed of the baseball, you won't change the orbit.

So, the only way to change the orbit of the ball so that it'll fall to earth is to throw it straight back from the shuttle, to slow it down. But (and the math here is seriously over my head, so I'm trusting the Straight Dope) a ball thrown at 92 mph wouldn't come close to getting it out of orbit - you'd be able to drop the orbit a 100 miles or so, but not all the way to Earth.

Atmospheric friction would eventually bring it down. But our premise here is a crowd at Yankee Stadium waiting for the ball to fall so the ump can shout "Play Ball!" And unless the crowd is willing to wait a few years, it's not gonna happen. Those Yankee fans are a notoriously impatient lot.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Silly Dance

Because Mona asked.

And a poem:

Don't glance
as we dance
and prance
with ants
in our fancy

I didn't say it was a good poem.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bullets and baseballs

So, I read yesterday that some astronaut on the space station was gonna throw out the first pitch from space for the Yankees-Bosox game. How does that work, exactly? Is he really gonna throw it from space into Yankee stadium? It seems unlikely. I missed the beginning of the game because of soccer practice (which got snowed out, another strange story, but I digress), so I never got to see the pitch thrown. I assume he lobbed a throw inside the space station, it got shown on the jumbo-tron at Yankee stadium, the umpire said "plsy ball," life goes on. But I don't know. All the press releases and coverage of the game just said he threw out the first pitch from space. No more explanation. You'd think somebody in the newsroom would have enough intellectual curiosity to find out exactly what that means. And then tell us.

But no.

Again, I digress.

My main point is, I don't think you can throw a baseball from the space station to Earth. If I remember my high school physics, all actions produce equal and opposite reactions. So, if you tried to throw a baseball from space, the ball would go toward Earth a little, the space station would go away from Earth a little, they'd both end up in orbit. Because the baseball is already falling. That what orbits are: objects in freefall around other, larger objects. Caught in the sweet spot where centrifugal force balances out gravity. That's what Newton really figured out when that apple fell on his head. Not that gravity caused the apple to fall. But that the falling apple and the orbiting moon are both exhibiting the exact same behavior. Both are in freefall.

But something tells me my logic regarding the baseball is wrong. Because if you fired a gun toward Earth, surely the bullet would hit. It wouldn't go in a straight line, it'd travel in a spiral, but ultimately it would hit. The bullet would have enough energy to cancel out the centrifugal force. I think.

So maybe the deciding factor is how hard you throw the baseball. I don't know.

Anybody out there know? Anybody out there care? Anybody out there spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about useless minutia like this?


Since I don't have an end to that thought (it's basically just an extended question), I'll post a wonderful picture I stole from Primordial Slack. She stole it from someone else. So I can't give credit. But it sure is cool.

Monday, April 14, 2008


This is why I love conspiracy theories.

I got this story (and both these pictures) at the always excellent Bad Astronomy blog, though it was apparently all over the intertubes last week. It's Dick Cheney, of course. But if you look into the reflection in his sunglasses you are supposed to see a naked woman. And some folks have seen a naked dead woman.

It's pretty clearly his hand, holding a fishing rod. But I think the myth speaks more truth than the reality. And the truth is this: many people are unsurprised at a picture of our Vice-President smiling in front of a naked dead woman. This is, after all, a guy who not only shot someone in the face while in office, but had the guy he shot apologize to him. The Onion has reported he can spontaneously regrow his limbs after injuries. And if you can't trust the Onion, who can you trust?

I like to think of conspiracy theories as the bubbling subconscious mind of the American people. The actual truth of them is less important than what they reveal about us. The Cheney myth tells us we fear our leaders, and believe them to be unbound by the rule of law. The alleged blowing up of a levee during Hurricane Katrina to flood poor people and save the property of the rich (which really did happen back in 1927) tell us we believe the government does not have out best interests at heart. And alternate 9-11 theories, true or not, tell us that we fear our government is actively willing to kill us if we get in the way of its real agenda.

It goes beyond fear of government. Crop circles. Chupacabras. Cites on Mars. Ghostly figures in television static. Bat Boy. Hollow earth theories (always my favorite). It's the world behind the world. Not literally true. But speaking to our hopes, our fears, the large swaths of our lives left ignored and hungry by our culture and our institutions.

Eric at My Heart's Porch tagged me with the 6 word life story meme. I believe I did this for Dancehall a few years back, but have no memory of what I wrote. So here's a new one:

Angry at god.
Ask Abel.

Friday, April 11, 2008


The fevered fist of Friday poetry sez "negative," and we obey.

the doctor is talking
his words like rain on a tin roof
a comforting meaningless patter
the spot on the x ray
a hazy bright cloud in a threatening sky

this negative is a reversal of life, of course
for dark clouds loom in her blue summer skies
and she sighs upward in her hospital bed
leans toward the door aperch her elbows
and ponders what to tell her family

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Wonderful

This isn't a comet.

It's a dying star. With a tail. Its name is Mira ("the wonderful") and it's a fairly typical star. Except for that tail. It will die within the next several hundred thousand years or so.

As it burns up all its hydrogen and moves on to heavier fuels, it shakes and shudders in a series of expansions and contractions, blowing off outer layers of gas with each explosion. Death spasms. And a couple things happen. One, Mira isn't round, so these explosions are asymmetrical and send it hurtling off into space, screaming along at 80 miles a second.

Two, the outer layers of the star are blown off and left behind, which is what's forming that tail. Phil Platt over at Bad Astronomy says to "imagine running down the street with a smoke bomb in your hand." It's thirteen light years long. That's pretty big. If you look closely you can see the bow shock in front of the star, where the material the star is plowing through is building up. And the bright tendrils of material coming off the tail will eventually be folded into the creation of new stars, and new worlds, so you've got the whole life forming from death yada yada yada going on.

I wrote a novel several years ago that used the life and death of stars as an ongoing metaphor, and the crux of it was that when stars die they leave these gorgeous nebulae behind, each one complex and unique, with names like the Cat's Eye, the Ghost Head, the Tarantula, the Witch's Broom. These nebulae are around for the blink of an eye in terms of stellar lifetimes, but in that fleeting moment they shine across the heavens.

I got an Excellent Blogger award this week from Jo, who writes of color theory and takes wonderful pictures and draws little faces on her husband's toenails on April Fool's Day. Check her out. And thanks, Jo! I think blogger etiquette requires that I pass awards along to others, but I'm pretty new at this whole bloggy thing, so I feel a little weird giving awards to folks who have been doing this longer and better than I. But you know who you are. So consider yourselves awarded.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Come on, Space Monsters, bring it on! Let's cut and poke! Okay, go, go, go!

As I think I've mentioned before in this blog, our two little girls are adopted (not from across the world, Angelina Jolie style, but from here in our town). Neither could speak when they came to live with us, and we know very little about their lives before us. We used to comb every word they said about their pasts, sifting for clues. Their memories have slowly moved from realism to fantasy, however, and now they are less a source of concern and more a source of, well, amusement.

For instance, KK told me last week her "other Papa" is Gamera.

So this is for her, and for anyone else hungrily yearning to know the actual lyrics to the Gamera theme song.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Falling Away

The tight fist of Friday poetry informs us our word is "away."

he would prefer
to let the small day fall away
squander it on notions and frittering doodles
but the world has other plans
soccer games and casseroles
liquor stores and code

the days fall away all too readily
years fall away lives fall away
he knows this
knows the autumn wind whistling through the garden leaves
the stark trees seen through the limbs of the moon

the world knows this too
smiling like a patronizing parent
whisking him out of the door
and into the shining day

there are things to attend to

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Pedro Martinez, the pitcher I was gushing about in my last post, is injured, 4 innings into the new season. Heavy sigh. Last year, the Mets underwent the worst collapse in the century old history of baseball, blowing a 7 game lead with 17 games to play. So forgive me if I'm a little skittish.

On the plus side, they've won 2 or their first 3 games. And their left fielder is named Angel Pagan. So, that's cool.