O'Connell / Tuesday Ephemera: Chipmunk Revolution / Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Tonight’s music video is “Rescue, Mister” by TR/ST. This video was selected by Ósk Bät as part of Ósk’s “Daily Earworms” on the social network ello.

I’m on ello too, as @kitoconnell (just like on Twitter and Instagram). I’m finding the new social network a pleasant place to share photos and text without the issues of Facebook’s bothersome algorithm hiding my content.

Scientists believe that fossil remains of Megasphaera may represent one of the earliest animals to live on earth. From Live Science:

A new study finds that these controversial fossils are not likely to be bacteria or single-celled protists; their cells, preserved for more than 600 million years in rock, are too complex and differentiated. Instead, the fossils may be multicellular algae, or even the embryosof ancient animals. “The real value of these fossils is that we now have some direct evidence about how this transition from single-celled organisms to things like animals and plants occurred in the evolutionary past,” said study researcher Shuhai Xiao, a geobiologist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

[…] The bizarre fossils, known as Megasphaera, come from a rock layer in southern China called the Doushantuo Formation. Xiao first studiedMegasphaera specimens in 1998 and suspected that they might beanimal embryos. Each fossil measures a mere 0.03 inches (0.7 millimeters) or so across and comes from what would have been a shallow marine environment at the time. But no adult animals that might have produced these embryos have ever been found, leaving the identity of the fossils open to scrutiny.

[…] By slicing the rocks ultrathin, the researchers were able to shine light through the fossils to see the structures inside, just like stained glass. Using microscopy, they observed multiple cells, cleaved together in spherical clusters. The cells were different from one another in shape and size, suggesting they have developed different tissue types — a process known as cell differentiation — and presumably have different cellular functions, Xiao said.

A chipmunk, closeup shot of its upper half as it sits

“Revolution! Today we rodents rise!”

New On Mint Press News: I filed a report with MyMPN about a recent direct action by Utah Tar Sands Resistance activists dressed as chipmunks.

Activists dressed as chipmunks shut down construction at the first US tar sands mine on September 23. It was the latest in a series of actions by Utah Tar Sands Resistance targeting the 213 acre Book Cliffs tar sands mine.

A video released by the group shows chipmunks spreading rapidly through through the camp site where they block construction equipment with their bodies. Activists shut down construction for part of a day, resulting in five arrests. There have been 27 total arrests since the beginning of the campaign to halt construction.

“This project is a bellweather project,” said Raphael Cordray, an organizer with Utah Tar Sands Resistance. “If they can make this project successful than it will open up the flood gates for a whole lot of other tar sands and oil shale strip mining projects in the area and in America in general. The United States Bureau of Land Management identified 860,000 acres within Utah, Wyoming and Colorado that’s available in the future.”

Read Chipmunks Shut Down Utah Tar Sands.

And …

In the comments, tell me what you’re reading or what’s on your mind.

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O'Connell / Cartoon Friday: The Curse of Castle McDuck / Friday, September 26th, 2014


It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

After last week’s duck-themed animated offering, several of my Twitter followers shared their love of DuckTales. So, by popular demand, tonight’s selection is “The Curse of Castle McDuck.”

On Nerdvana, Jayson Peters selected this as one of “20 DuckTales episodes that never get old.”

Of course, there are more than 20 great DuckTales episodes — it’s hard to find a truly bad one with no redeeming qualities. But these are the ones I find myself watching again and again […]

The Curse of Castle McDuck: Revisiting his roots in bonnie Scotland, Scrooge and the boys and young Webby uncover a Druid conspiracy that draws elements from Sherlock Holmes’Hound of the Baskervilles.

On the AV Club, Todd VanDerWerff explained why DuckTales cartoon has such an enduring popularity.

DuckTales, the most successful show of Disney’s short-lived television-animation renaissance—and a show that kicked off a brief interest in syndicated afternoon animation from a host of media companies—has mostly disappeared from the limelight, to the degree that the company released around three-quarters of its episodes on DVD, then simply stopped. What’s fascinating about this is that DuckTales is a vastly entertaining show, with quality traits that go beyond its catchy theme song, and it’s incredibly easy to gobble up episode after episode of the thing. Plenty of cartoons from the ’80s and ’90s fail the nostalgia test, simply falling apart when re-examined through the lens of adulthood. DuckTalesisn’t one, and returning to it as an adult reveals that there are hidden pleasures there that go beyond memories of what it was like to watch as a kid. For a show so breathless and action-packed, DuckTales takes its time, and that makes all the difference.

[…] It’s an understatement to say DuckTales was a hit. Not only did it lead to a huge number of additional Disney animated shows that entered the “Disney afternoon” syndication package—shows like Chip ’N’ Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, and Darkwing Duck—but it led to other studios raiding their own cabinets to see what could be reworked into programs that would entertain America’s bored latchkey kids. […] DuckTales was the first, however, and it served almost as a statement of purpose. Rather than trying to be as kid-friendly as possible, the series made its protagonist an irascible old man. Rather than celebrating the sorts of family-friendly virtues Disney was associated with, the series was about the awesomeness of unchecked avarice and greed. (Fittingly, it debuted the same year as Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, with its famous “Greed is good” speech.) And instead of drawing its inspiration from a toy line or popular movie (like other pioneers in the afternoon animated-syndication market), DuckTales drew its inspiration from a series of comic books that weren’t terribly well-known in the United States.

A man in a top hat cavorts in a Scrooge McDuck style "Money Bin"

“Greed is good, kids, and money is all that matters!”

I will confess that I wasn’t a DuckTales superfan then or now. But of Disney’s diverse cartoon offerings of the era it’s the one I think has aged the best. Gummi Bears is total shit in retrospect (and didn’t seem that good even then), and TaleSpin drove me crazy by creating an annoying character with my namesake. Both were the kinds of shows that entertained just enough to stay on your TV when you were just plain bored, but DuckTales could be relied on to reliably entertain and even generate a few laughs.

Here’s the Nostalgia Critic’s take:

And since the video of this episode doesn’t have the ridiculously catchy theme song attached, I’ll close with this a cappella version I discovered.

In the comments, share your DuckTales memories or let me know what cartoons you’ve enjoyed recently!

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O'Connell / Thursday Ephemera: Oregon Trail LARP / Thursday, September 25th, 2014

In tonight’s video, Cilantro Boombox perform “Fears Away” in the woods at Utopiafest 2014.

Cilantro Boombox’s rock and Afro-Latin based sound organically integrates elements of hip-hop, funk, electronica and traditional Venezuelan music. Danceable percussive beats, infectious bass lines and vibrant horns and synths are some of the hallmarks of Cilantro Boombox’s distinctive fusion of styles.

Live action roleplayers are taking on new roles — reenacting cross country settlers from the classic 1980s video game Oregon Trail. From The Atlantic:

On a sunny Saturday last week, I found myself pushing a 200 pound man on an ancient kiddie wagon with two missing wheels up a hill with about a 40 percent incline while he shouted out facts about how to preserve meat. The sun beat down on us as we maneuvered him from a shady spot next to a historic wooden mill in Salem, Oregon, to the steps of the Pleasant Grove Church, an 1848 sanctuary for travelers who survived the Oregon Trail. […]Adults today, with real resources and skills and perhaps even a measure of success in the game behind them, are taking the nostalgic computer game, and turning it into a live action, role-playing, full contact game. I’m one of them, and I came to win.

[In] 2012 […] Kelly Williams Brown […] came up with the idea to take Oregon Trail and subject live bodies to it. “If you’ve played the game you realize how shockingly boring it was,” says Brown. A reporter for the Statesman-Journal in Salem at the time, Brown noticed that two generations within her newsroom had some experience of the game. “It has all of these touchstones that have made it into the culture. We thought: Someone has to do this.”

Brown approached The Willamette Heritage Center, who was quickly on board, seeing in a live-action Oregon Trail a chance to capture the attention of two hard-to-reach audiences for historic museums: young families and young adults. So for the past three years, the live version of the game has taken place in Salem, Oregon, a historic destination for many settlers who came to the Willamette Valley.

Here’s how it works: Teams of 2-4 people, many in pioneer garb, build a wagon out of paper and dowel rods before tackling ten challenges inspired by the computer game—things like floating the wagon across a kiddie pool, shooting at game with nerf guns, competing in a three-legged dysentery race to an outhouse. Instead of finding shelter, we built a tarp tent while volunteers sprayed us with water. We survived being pummeled with pool noodles by roller derby girls at the Platte River station.

After each challenge, every team gets a colored star based on how well they perform: One gold star means your team thrived, silver means you survived, but just barely, and a red star meant you probably perished, but you completed the station. A homesteading exam at the end tests knowledge of trail trivia from signs posted throughout the heritage center campus.

No Wait ... Just Dysentery After All.

No Wait … Just Dysentery After All.

From Mint Press News: Caliphate Versus Caliphate: Obama’s Wild Goose Chase” by David Seaton, on MyMPN.

And …

O'Connell / My First Tattoo: A Semicolon / Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

A semicolon tattoo on Kit's bicep. A yellow shirt can also be seen.

; is the pause that refreshes.

Today I got my first tattoo.

Why did I select a semicolon for my first tattoo? They’ve always been my favorite punctuation, ever since an English teacher showed me how to use them properly. It felt like esoteric knowledge. It felt like being let into a secret club of writers and I’ve never really stopped writing.

My writer friend Steven Brust also has a semi-colon tattoo, and after all we shared together it felt fitting to have matching body art. I look forward to getting a photo of both our semicolons next time he visits Austin.

Kit in a yellow shirt sitting in a chair while James works on his arm with the tattoo machine.

James Hill, of Shaman Modifications, modifying Kit.

Symbolically, I also like the what the semicolon represents — bringing two sentences together or joining disparate ideas. It might be the least used and most misunderstood of the common punctuation marks too, and I also like that. The same teacher who told me about how to use them also quipped that people are so afraid of the semicolon that you could use one to fend off muggers.

Since deciding that this would be my first tattoo, I also learned about The Semicolon Project. Though I’ve never been suicidal, I’ve dealt with debilitating depression and helped loved ones and family through their own suicide attempts. It’s not why I got this tattoo, but I am happy to display the project’s symbol.

And as if that weren’t enough, it turns out that today is coincidentally National Punctuation Day. I’d link you to the official homepage for the day, but people apparently love punctuation too much and it’s crashed.

Thanks James Hall at Shaman Modifications so easy, relatively painless and beautiful!

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