30 October 2007

Comet Holmes!

    When beggars die there are no comets seen;
    The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
      William Shakespeare

Comet Holmes unexpectedly brightened last week, but I've only just heard about it. Thanks to Heavens Above, I was able to locate it. To the naked eye, it appears as a slightly fuzzy star in the constellation Perseus.

Cosmic messages

    Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.
      Dr. Carl Sagan

This week's Radio Lab episode was a rebroadcast of a 2006 episode. The topic is space.

It includes a segment about the famous Golden Records placed aboard the Voyager spacecraft. I features an interview with Ann Druyan, who helped create the record and married Carl Sagan soon after the Voyager probes launched. Their love story alone is worth hearing.

The episode uses the record to ask the question, "What would you send into space?" Composer Phillip Glass gives his answer in the episode, but they also asked chef Alice Waters, author Neil Gaiman, comedian Margaret Cho, and author Michael Cunningham. You can listen to these online via links on the Space episode page. (Unfortunately, you Real Player for the clips.)

If I had to construct a message for extraterrestrials that explains the human race, I'm not sure what I would send. These days we can probably send a Gold DVD with a lot more information on it.

I would likely choose some of the same sounds on the record: children laughing, babies, voices in different languages. They couldn't manage motion pictures on Voyager, but if I could, there would be time-lapse movies flower growing, trees budding, and something decomposing. 360-degree panoramas would be nice, from places like NYC, the Sahara desert, and the Amazon rain forest. As for books an poetry, I'm at a loss to choose authors. Shakespeare, Homer, and Steinbeck come to mind. Seeing Homer makes me think the Simpsons should be on there. And there should be Pink Floyd music on there somewhere....

What would you send?

29 October 2007

Do you like corn?

    And He Who Walks Behind the Rows did say, "I will send outlanders among you...."
      Children of the Corn

Outlanders are welcome to "walk behind the rows" at Howell Living History Farm's 11th annual Corn Maze, but you'll need to get there soon. The final three days are 11/3, 11/4, and 11/10.

I went looking for an aerial shot of a past maze. Google and MapQuest imagery is from the wrong time of year, but Microsoft Virtual Earth has a great shot of last year's windmill maze.

We were there two weeks ago, and we had a great time. We also set a new family record of 1 1/2 hours! Beat that!

Update: I was wrong. Our maze time was 1:05, not 1:30. Sorry to have sold my family short!

26 October 2007

The Lord of the Rings Soundtracks

    I am going to blow the horn of Rohan, and give them all some music they have never heard before.

      The Return of the King
      by J.R.R. Tolkien

I've been saying for years that I wanted to get the soundtracks to the Lord of the Rings films. I finally borrowed the first two from the library. I'm not an expert on classical music or film scores, but I think Howard Shores compositions stand as great works in their own right. I haven't stopped listening to them.

The soundtrack to The Fellowship of the Ring won the Original Score Oscar. I remember a 2002 NPR segment calling Shore the "dark horse" nominee, in part because he was up against not one but two works of Oscar juggernaut John Williams (Jaws, Star Wars), including the Harry Potter score. The Two Towers was overlooked entirely, robbed if you ask me, but The Return of the King won both Original Score and Original Song.

I don't know what I like about this music. I love films, that's definitely part of it, but not all of it. It certainly has great themes stick in your head. The Rohan theme, usually played on a violin, and the Hobbit theme, often on recorder, are examples. There is also the main theme you hear during those sweeping panoramic shots of the Fellowship heading south. There are also haunting elements that capture mystery of the elves and the melancholy of Frodo's self-sacrifice so well.

I guess what I'm saying is that the music conveys the emotions of the story so well, even on its own. That is what has me hooked on them. I don't know where you stand on film scores, but you should give these a listen (if you haven't already).

24 October 2007

Seven clues that Dumbledore was gay

    You know, Minister, I disagree with Dumbledore on many counts... but you cannot deny he's got style.
      Phineas Nigellus Black
      Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

From the L.A. Times comes the best analysis of the Dumbledore revelation. Apparently all the clues were there.

I like #2 best.

23 October 2007

Radio Lab

    A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales.
      Marie Curie

That's not a bad description of the approach taken by the WNYC show Radio Lab. Each show explores a broad topic like morality, time, music, or even zoos by interviewing exports and telling stories. They're really interesting, informative, and fun.

All shows are available online and podcasted. Check it out!

22 October 2007

Celery and all!

    I'm definitely not the man I was... thank goodness!
      The Doctor

Rob reports that one of my favorite Doctors (and his celery) will be back!

Advertising Unitarian Universalism

    Stephen Colbert: So do you celebrate Christmas of Chanuka?
    Bobby (a Unitarian): Sure.
      The Colbert Report

A Unitarian Universalist "elevator pitch" was subject of recent thread on my church's e-mail list. It speaks to the difficulty UUs have in explaining their religion, as illustrated about halfway through this segment of The Colbert Report. But a new national ad campaign could change that:

Not bad for a 30 second pitch. It's part of an ad campaign that includes these ads in Time and a 10 minute video available on DVD and online.


    Andrew, you are completely slacking off.
      (Source: You know who you are)

Yes, it's been twenty-one days since I've posted anything. I will try to remedy this.

02 October 2007

In the future


In the future, advances in nanotechnology will create tiny robots that fly around my house and kill all those frickin' moths.

We will be unprepared for the long term consequences of this technology.

Eventually they will become a threat to humankind.

It will still be worth it.