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Month: September 2014

Tuesday Ephemera: Chipmunk Revolution

Posted in Media, MintPress News, and Other Writing

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.

Cartoon Friday: The Curse of Castle McDuck

Posted in Media

 

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!

My First Tattoo: A Semicolon

Posted in Austin, Life, Other Writing, and Polyamory

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!

Monday Ephemera: The Verse

Posted in MintPress News

Welcome to the first of my “bits and pieces” posts on Approximately 8,000 Words. It’s modeled after the Watercooler posts I made on Firedoglake from 2012 until my departure last week. For now, I’m calling them my Daily Ephemera. I’ll try to share a video, a link or two, and something from Twitter.

Tonight’s video is “The Verse,” a rather wonderful short fan film based on Firefly. 

Written for fans and by fans who are inspired by the cult sci-fi series Firefly, An exciting new look at this beloved world featuring a new crew, a new ship and a heaping dose of misbehavin’!

Directed by Julian Higgins (@JulianHiggins)

Starring
Hunter: Ryan Caldwell (@rycaldwell)
Stack: Jennifer Wenger (@JennyWenger)
Yoke: Peter Weidman (@PeterWeidman)
Maribelle: Tybee Diskin (@hellotybeeren)
Rusty: Zack Finfrock (@ZackFinfrock)
Annie: Alex Marshall-Brown (@amarshallbrown)
Chow: Ewan Chung (@ewanchung)
Commodore Woodruff: Vic Mignogna (@vicmignogna)

 

A minimalist poster showing outlined drawings of each of Serentiy's recognizable crew
Browncoats rejoice at a brand new Firefly fanfilm.

Also: Many people who know me don’t realize I helped best-selling author Steven Brust edit his FREE Firefly fan-fiction novelMy Own Kind of Freedom, some years ago.

Toronto cyclists are striking back against drivers that park in bicycle lanes. From road.cc:

Cyclists in Toronto fed up with motorists illegally parking in bike lanes are striking back – by placing stickers on cars to shame drivers into think twice about doing so in future. […] The green stickers, which cost C$5 a roll, have the words “I parked in a bike lane” on them, together with the hashtag, #IParkedInABikeLane. They were thought up by a pair of anonymous cyclists who say on their Tumblr page:

“#IParkedInABikeLane was started out of frustration for the blatant disregard for cyclists and cycling infrastructure in Toronto. The concept is simple – you see a vehicle parked in a bike lane, you slap a sticker on it. The intention isn’t to cause damage or vandalize (the stickers don’t damage anything anyway) – it’s to get drivers to think twice about what they are doing and perhaps change their actions in the future. Parking and driving in bike lanes is not only inconsiderate and selfish, but also incredibly dangerous, especially for cyclists who are not comfortable integrating with the flow of traffic.”

From Mint Press News: On MyMPN, Adam Powell’s report on how Carly’s Law could revolutionize the lives of Alabama children suffering from extreme forms of epilepsy through access to an experimental drug derived from cannabis:

Carly’s Law, which unanimously passed the Alabama House and Senate in May, allows the University of Alabama at Birmingham to research the medical uses of cannabidiol, or CBD oil, and provide it to eligible recipients.

CBD oil has proved effective in other states for limiting, if not completely eliminating, seizures and improving patient’s quality of life. Many families have moved from Alabama, Georgia and other states to Colorado just to have access to this treatment option.

Carly’s Law is named after Carly Chandler, a three year old who suffers from daily debilitating seizures, and received wide support from many families who need the medication for their children.

When moves were being made in the Alabama statehouse earlier this year, Wayne Young was on the front-lines knocking on doors and speaking with whoever would listen. While both Amy and Wayne [Young] will acknowledge, CBD oil is “not a magical drug,” but could provide [daughter] Leni Young, and thousands of other Alabama children, with comfort while also relieving her pain and eliminating her seizures.

And a Republican legislator led the way!

One of Carly’s Law’s biggest political advocates was Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, who met Leni and Carly while pushing the bill through the statehouse.

He can recall the day perfectly.

“It was kind of strange when that picture (of Ball and Leni) was taken,” Ball said. “That’s the only time I’ve ever gotten to hold her.”

Ball was in quiet reflection when Amy approached him and placed Leni in his arms.

“I held that baby and we were praying and it was like we were all alone,” Ball recalled. “It’s one of those unique moments I’ll always remember.”

This was one of the most moving stories I’ve edited. Now if we can just find a way to get our legislators to hold Palestinian babies or border children.

Activism in the 21st century …

Love and solidarity from Approximately 8,000 Words to everyone that took part in Flood Wall Street today!

Cartoon Friday: Count Duckula

Posted in Firedoglake, Life, Media, and Other Writing

I may not be working for Firedoglake anymore but … It’s STILL Cartoon Friday!

During my two years at Firedoglake I turned the Watercooler — MyFDL’s end of the night wrap up post — into something I looked forward to assembling every night. Partway through that process, I realized I could do almost anything I wanted with the feature. And between that and my love of cartoons, Cartoon Friday was born.

Now that I won’t be blogging at FDL as much anymore it seems only fitting to bring this “tradition” to my blog, Approximately 8,000 Words.

If you’re new or want to review past installments, here’s a retrospective of Cartoon Friday 2013 and a bunch of more recent installments.

Tonight’s selection is the Count Duckula episode, “There are Werewolves at the Bottom of our Garden.” It originally aired in November of 1990.

Duckula is a British cartoon which spun off from another popular series that also saw syndication in the United States, Danger Mouse. In the original series, Duckula was a fearsome villain — at least relatively speaking when you remember the main characters of the original series were a mouse and a mole.

For his feature series, he was reimagined as something far less fierce.

A vampire rubber duck.
OK, a bit more fierce than that.

Perhaps because Danger Mouse dispatched Duckula in the original, Duckula finds himself revived through an ancient and mystic rite — only Nanny, a clumsy hen and one of the vampire duck’s closest allies, substitutes ketchup for blood. Now the mighty warrior is much closer to an Inspector Gadget-like figure: he becomes a hapless vegetarian that survives primarily through the aid of his friends and servants like the tireless but cynical butler, Igor.

So curl up with a favorite libation and get ready to get silly — from the very first moments. Oh, they don’t make theme songs like that anymore.

Thank God.

Seen any good cartoons lately?

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