Monday, April 30, 2012

A Very Strange House

Deep in the middle of the woods is a very strange house. It is part plant, part animal, and part housing structure. This house has existed for eons, although very few people have had the privilege of knowing about it's existence. Throughout the centuries, many different folks have lived in the house. No one knows who first lived in the house. It was abandoned for for years before a family of odd mice took residence in the house. The mice weren't particularly odd when they entered the house, but after living in it for a while, they began to change. They took on strange, un-mouse like customs like dressing in small mouse sized clothes. They developed manners usually reserved for humans such as eating at a table for dinner and saying "gesundheit" when hearing a sneeze. The mice developed the ability to read. They would go scavenging for bits and pieces of words to bring home and read. Librarians and avid book owners living in villages around the forest were dismayed to find pages torn right out of their books. The mice developed a keen sense of curiosity about the world, fostered by their constant reading. The odd family of mice moved out of the house in order to explore the world. Next a family of tiny elves moved into the house. The elves lived a merry life, as all elves do. The elf family lived in the house until elves stopped existing, after which the family promptly vanished. A human lived in the house for a while, but every time she entered the house she had to force herself to shrink. It was hard on her bones and muscles, and eventually her ailing health forced her to find a home elsewhere. The house has been vacant for many years. It is waiting patiently for its next set of residents.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Old Marina and a Coincidence from History

Here are pictures of an old, dingy marina. I like dingy marinas more than the fancy ones because they have character. Marina's with peeling paint and rust and discoloration make more interesting photo subjects.

I recently listened to an episode of the podcast Memory Palace about John Wilkes Booth's brother, Edwin Booth. In it, an amazing historical coincidence was mentioned. I won't give it away here because it is more fun to listen to. But it got me interested in other historical coincidences. Here is one I found about King Umberto the First of Italy.
  One day, King Umberto was feeling quite famished! He decided to dine at a small restaurant with his aide. The owner of the restaurant was excited to have the king dine at his humble establishment. He wanted to show the king the utmost hospitality, so he went out to greet his famous diner personally. Both men were shocked to see each other. It wasn't just that they looked similiar, they looked identical.  Both their faces and their builds seemed to mimic each other. But it turned out it was not only the superficial appearance that was similiar. Many aspects of their life were the same. They were both born on the exact same day, March 18th 1944. They were born in the same small town. Both men were married to women named Margherita. The restaurant owner opened his restaurant on the same day that the King Umberto became King. Later on, the king learned that his odd double died in a mysterious gun accident. He learned this sad bit of info on the same day that he was cruelly assassinated.
  It could be this story is just hogwash and never really happened, but if it did, my guess is that they were identical twins separated at birth. Maybe their father thought that if the two identical boys grew up together, they would always be at each others throats, in constant competition in order to prove that they should be the true king.It seems that royal brothers throughout history quarrel over who is the rightful heir, and a set of brothers who look exactly alike might be more prone to this dispute. The father my have thought that his sons would have a better life separated. But probably, he secretly still watched his son being raised out of royalty. Most likely he sent his aides to make sure his desolate son was being provided for. Maybe this is how he got the money needed to start his own business. 
  The story of King Umberto and his potential twin reminds me of another story about twins, the Jim twins. The Jim twins were separated at birth and raised by different families but had a lives that were remarkably similiar, although most of the similarities involved names. Not only were they both named Jim, but as children they both had a dog named 'Toy.'  Both Jims married twice. Their first wives shared the same name- Linda, and their second wives also shared the same name- Betty. Both Jims have a son. One Jims son is named James Alan and the other Jims son is named James Allen.

*(I found the info on King Umberto at Wikipedia and the info on the Jim Twins at HowStuffWorks.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rain and Rainbow Pictures and Planet of the Apes

Here are some weather related pictures I took recently. The weather has been cheering up where I live but there is still a lot of rain.

    I recently saw the first Planet of the Apes movie.  After the new Planet of the Apes movie came out, the franchise seemed to have a resurgence within pop culture. But I was out of the loop because I had not seen any of the movies. I didn't feel particularly motivated to watch the old movie because I already knew the twist ending. Also, I thought it would be one of those movies where the sixties costuming would belittle the entire movie with it's cheesiness. But after I heard the movie was like a long version of a Twilight Zone episode, I was on board! Rod Serling helped to write the Planet of the Apes screenplay so it makes sense that the movie would have a  Twilight Zone sensibility.
   On an aesthetic level, I thought the costumes were quite good. The costumes didn't look cheesy to me. Since the apes had evolved from their ancestors, it made sense to have people in apes suits. Before viewing the movie, I thought the apes were suppose to be more like the apes of today.
   The plot of the movie was very interesting also. Space travelers from earth travel through space with intentions to land on another planet. They crash land on an eerie and desolate planet where apes are intelligent creatures and humans are nothing more than a pack of mindless beasts. In the beginning of the movie, the main character, Tayler, was a bit of a jerk. He was grouchy and surly and not the kind of guy I would want to travel through space with.  But Tayler abandoned much of his former bad attitude after experiencing the hardships of imprisonment by apes.
     The movie definitely lived up to my Twilight Zone expectations. The unsettling feel of the story coupled with the ironic, heart wrenching twist at the end is what really gave the movie a Twilight Zone feel. The Twilight Zone is known fore it's twist endings, and the type of twist The Twilight Zone utilizes is similiar to The Planet of the Apes twist because they both leave you heart broken for the character. For example (Spoiler alert from here on out), in the episode 'Time Enough At Last,' Henry Beemis is the last survivor of a bomb that wipes out humanity. He is depressed and suicidal until he sees the library. Mr. Beemis had a great love for reading. To him, books are like kind and comforting friends. Before the bomb, Mr. Beemis was consonantly trying to sneak away to read. He was berated for his love or reading by his bitter wife and his no nonsense employer. Now that he is the only survivor, he at least has his beloved books to keep him company. That is, until his glasses break. Mr. Beemis is practically blind without them. He is now left to his desolate existence without a comfort in the world. The twist isn't jaw-dropping shocking (Like when you find out sweet, demure Ms. So-And-So is the murderer in a mystery novel) but it is heart breaking.
     Another example of an episode with a heart wrenching twist is the episode 'Silence." In this episode, a grouchy old aristocrat is offended by the constant prattle of a younger man. The young man has the gift of gab and loves to chatter. The rich man bets the young man 500,000 dollars that he can not remain silent for a year's worth of time. The young man eagerly accepts the bet. For a years worth of time, the young man lives inside a glass house equipped with microphones, so his silence is constantly monitored. To everyone's amazement, the young man manages to remain quiet for the entire year. But the rich man has lost all his vast wealth and cannot fulfill his end of the bet. The young man was so determined to win the bet not because he is greedy or stubbornly competitive, but because he is deeply in love with his wife who is a very greedy woman. He wants to make his greedy wife happy with money. He was so committed to wining the bet that he took drastic measures, he cut his vocal chords. In the end, he does not get the money and he never gets to talk again.
  The ending of Planet of the Apes leaves the viewer with the same heart wrenching feeling.  At the end, (more spoiler alert)  Tayler sees the statue of liberty and realizes the horrible planet he is on is his own. Seeing humans reduced to nothing more than glazed eyed and speechless animals was hard enough. But at least he was able to comfort himself with the knowledge that on his own planet humans were still prospering and probably had evolved eons beyond comprehension. But all hope for his kind is lost when he realizes that he is on his own planet. The end has a very "you can never go home" feel, which is also a common theme in The Twilight Zone. So many of the episodes in The Twilight Zone are steeped in nostalgia for a simpler time. One example is an episode called "Walking Distance." In this episode, a man maned Martin visits his home town. Surprisingly, nothing has changed, not even soda prices (Which of course is one of the most commonly used economic indicators of inflation, right after candy bar prices.) Martin realizes he isn't just visiting his home town, he is visiting the past. He is back in the summer of his youth when he was just a jolly young boy. He even meets little him. But his presence in the past is depriving little Martin of the carefree childhood that grown Martin is so nostalgic for. In the end, the learns that you can never truly go home again. Both Martin and Taylor learn the same heart breaking lesson in very different ways.
   Now that I have seen the first Planet of the Apes movie, I want to see the new one and the other movies in the series. I hope they live up to The Twilight Zone charm that the first movie had.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Spirited Goose and It's Notorious Honk

The other day while walking, I ran into these two little guys.

    They were searching for bits of food on a grassy patch between the sidewalk and the road. I'm not sure if they were eating grass or the insects they discovered between the blades of grass. They are quite messy eaters, though. Their bills were covered with bits of grass.
    When I was little, I use to live by a man made lake that my family and I would sometimes walk around. There were many geese that used the lake to float upon. They were accustomed to being fed bits of bread by humans, and had developed a sense of entitlement in regards to being fed. They would come waddling up from the edge of the lake, honking and demanding food. Even though I've always been an animal lover, these geese were a bit scary. I remember being able to see into their open, honking mouths. The inside of their beaks were lined with sharp teeth. Which, I've discovered through an internet search are not teeth at all, but 'ridges.' In my memory they are sharp teeth that were ready to tear at my flesh. Geese are fairly tall birds too, so when a person is still little, they seem like formidable foes.
    One thing about Canadian Geese that I have noticed is that whenever they land, they make quite a raucous with honks and squawks. Then once they land, they usually stop. Although once I saw a pair of geese honk for a long time after they landed. A man came out of his boat and started yelling at them to be quiet. I use to have two friends who were bird experts. They both studied birds in school. They are both nomadic types (like birds) and moved away. I wish I had asked them why geese honk when they land. I'm sure I can find out from the internet, but sometimes it is fun to learn things from a live expert. However, I did learn from them that the reason that some seagulls are speckled gray is because they are the young seagulls.
    When I came back from my walk, I saw the two geese from my picture in the middle of the road! They were in the suicide lane, trying to get to the other side. A taxi was barreling toward them. The taxi stopped at the very last minute. He must have been a foot away from hitting those geese. The geese seemed rather unperturbed, as if they are almost hit by taxi cabs everyday of the week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mira Learns That Just Because Something Is A Plant, Doesn't Mean It Can't Be An Animal Too

When Mira was in second grade, she brought her spider plant to school for show and tell. She proudly announced to the class "This is my pet plant, Daniel." Her teacher, Mrs. Humpleton, arranged her features in a stern expression and said "Mira, a plant can not be a pet! Only animals are pets. And a plant is not an animal." Mira felt a bit suspicious about Mrs. Humpletons assertion, but she was still at a young age and believed that teachers were infallible. And throughout Mira's life, Mrs. Humpleton was proven right over and over again. Every time Mira went to the zoo, all the animals were just animals. In the botanical garden, all the plants had no eyes or mouths to identify them as animals too. But one day while wandering the graveyard (where she always went when she needed space to think), she met the strangest of creatures. This creatures very existence seemed to demand questions of all Mira's previous biological assumptions. Not only was this creature a plant, but it most certainly was an animal too. He had a face and a body of an animal, but branches and leaves like an autumn tree. After this day, Mira never looked at the world in black and white terms again. Sometimes she would stare up at the sky and think "maybe the sky is the ground!" or she'd be swimming in the sea and think "Maybe I'm swimming through both water and air." Sometimes people were confused by Mira, but they always appreciated her unique world view.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Turmoil at the Library! and, Photos from Around Town.

Here are some photographs from around town:

    This weekend I went to the downtown library to browse the stacks. Two interesting things happened.:
  First, I was in the women's restroom when a man walked in. In movies when a man enters the women's restroom all the women shriek hysterically. Usually there is one particularly gutsy lady (Usually a woman in her forties with a sassy personality and a no nonsense approach to life) who begins to swing at the male intruder with her purse. The man then shields himself from the blows as he depart out the door, walking backwards while stumbling over his shoelaces. In real life, no one batted an eye. I think what happened is without thinking, the guy walked in the ladies bathroom thinking it was the men's room. When he found himself among women, he thought "Well, I'm already here. Might as well commit."
  Later on, I was on the eighth or ninth floor browsing through books when a heated argument broke the accustomed silence that all librarians work feverishly to cultivate in every library around the world. What I could gather from careful eavesdropping was that  a man had been working on a very important document for several months all while using the libraries computers. He saved it in the library computer system under his own code so only he could get to it. But on this particular day, the document was missing. The angry man insisted a library employee was to blame. A very mild mannered librarian explained that he did not believe any library employee would do such a thing. The angry man said "Just because you wouldn't, doesn't mean nobody would!" The mild mannered librarian said "Nobody would have any motivation to steal your document." The angry man said "This is a conspiracy and I demand a thorough investigation into this affair!" The librarian, who probably chose his job because a love for the written word where all confrontations are constrained between the comforting pages of books, was obviously out of his league. He hustled off to find a more assertive co worker to assist him. Meanwhile, two other library patrons who had also been eavesdropping chimed in to offer their two cents. They basically told the angry guy that he is acting irrational and that nobody stole is document. The angry man wanted these two other men to mind their own business. Thus, a new argument ensued. Most arguments seem to go in loops with the same argumentative points being readdressed in different words. This is definitely how this argument was going until the angry man said "Wait! I found it." He had found the missing document that caused such an uproar! The angry man was actually quite humble and sheepish about the way he had behaved and apologized to all that were around him. The two men he'd been arguing with were not having it and did not accept his apology. The angry man said "I have to go apologize to the librarian!" and he rushed off. It was a much more dramatic day at the library than I had expected.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Naturalists Sketchbook Pt. 2

Here are more illustrations from my 'Naturalists Sketchbook' series.

  The naturalist explored the forests early one October morning. The sun had not quite risen and the sky was the color of caramel. The naturalist tromped through the woods in pursuit of more strange and interesting animals to document in her sketchbook.

   She spotted the leaf tailed antelope lumbering through the woods, dragging his long leafy tail behind him. It is easy to find the leaf tailed antelope, because wherever they go, they drag a stripe through the dirt with their massive tail.

 Next, the naturalist spotted the flora bat flapping from one tree branch to the next. The flora bat has a long string of leaves and a flower growing from her wing. When the bat flutters around the sky, the leafy flower trails behind her like a flapping flag or a holiday.

Skipping along a tree branch, the naturalist spotted the leaf tail squirrel. Like the leaf tail squirrels distant cousin, the flying squirrel, this squirrel too glides in the air. He uses his leafy tail like a parachute as he glides from one tree to the next. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between the sound of wind rustling through leaves and the sound of the squirrel gliding from tree to tree.

 The naturalist could smell the flower fox before she spotted him scampering merrily through the woods. Wherever the flower fox goes, he brings with him the fragrant smell of spring meadows.

When the naturalist spotted the leaf winged owl perched upon a tree branch, she was surprised the owl was still awake. The leaf winged owl, like most owls, spends most of her waking hours in the night and spends the days sleeping. Leaf winged owls sleep in trees. Their wings provide perfect camouflage!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Exploring the Islands Windblown, Driftwood Strewn Shores

Here are more pictures from my island adventure on Whidbey. We explored the shores where there were lots of rocks and driftwood. One day I took a walk by myself and I walked until I came across a sign that said 'No Trespassing, Private Beach.' I had an urge to just ignore the sign and keep walking. But who knows what could have happened?... Angry private beach owners wielding weapons and screaming like a banshee at the sight of me... Or vicious sea monsters who linger at the shore of private beaches spotting me and attacking.... Or maybe I'd fall down an endless pit that all the locals know to avoid. This last possibility reminds me of something I learned about recently called the Money Pit. The Money Pit is on an island in Nova Scotia called Oak Island. In 1795, a teenager found a circular depression on the island. This sparked his curiosity, so he gathered a couple of friends and they began to dig. They dug about thirty feet. During the dig they discovered previous marks from picks. At about every ten feet there were logs. The curious boys were only eighteen and could not spend all their time digging, so they gave up. But their discovery sparked the imagination of many. Most peoples imaginations led to the slightly greed induced conclusion that the pit must be full of buried treasure, and this is how it got the name Money Pit. The notability of the Money Pit attracted new explorers with more resources, starting with the Onslow Company. The Onslow Company dug about ninety feet more and continued to find the logs at about every ten feet. They also found something more intriguing, stones with what appeared to be writing or symbols. One person translated the inscriptions to say "forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried" but this translation may have been inspired more by the translators own treasure filled imagination. The pit flooded and this team of excavators stopped their digging. Time went by, and various other companies and groups made unsuccessful attempts to discover the secrets of the Money Pit. Instead of finding treasure beyond imagination, six people died. In the sixties an new an attempt at the Money Pits treasures which included putting a camera in the Money Pit. It is said the camera recorded chests, tools and even human remains. These accounts are unverified. Treasure hunters are still trying to discover the mystery of the Money Pit in current times. There are many different theories about the money pit including pirate treasures, Marie Antoinette treasures, and naval treasures. Another theory says their are documents in the money pit that prove that Francis Bacon was the real writer of Shakespeare's plays. Others think that the Holy Grail or Ark of the Covenant are in the money pit. As with most mysteries, some people think the Freemasons are responsible. And of course there is the boring theory that the money pit is not human made but instead a sink hole.

While we were on the island, we also played this really fun game called Dixit. Basically it is a game where the players get to make up stories about the pictures on randomly drawn cards.

*( all info about the money pit found at this Wikipedia article and this Stuff They Don't Want You To Know video.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Henry Cloud Man Rains Upon the Autumn Trees

Henry Cloud Man is like a bird, but instead of traveling South to find summer, he travels North in search of perpetual fall and winter. It is the responsibility of the cloud people in the world to find the cold and create dreary, overcast days and lots of rain. Henry is accustomed to looking down and seeing people staring up at him and frowning. Once, he looked down to see a man glaring up at him with a particularly sinister look of anger on his face. The man shook his great fist toward Henry and yelled, "Darn you clouds! I am tired of rain!" Being a cloud can be a very ungratifying experience. Henry knows the world needs the rain he creates, but so many people are unhappy with his rain. It is often difficult for Henry to keep a chipper disposition.
When Henry was young, like most young cloud people, he eagerly traveled to the cities of the world. He liked raining upon the tall buildings and glistening lights. He liked the stir of excitement in big cities. But the older he gets, the more he wants to travel to the forests. The trees never stare up at him with angry looks. They seem to appreciate the rain Henry makes. They push their roots deeper into the wet soil. They reach their leaf covered branches up higher to better catch the rain. Henry is happy to have found an Autumn forest. He thinks that this cold season he will stay above the same forest the entire season instead of constantly traveling to different parts of the sky.