Happy Armstrong Day!

It’s sad to admit, but I had to be reminded by Google’s banner, and by a quick look at the calendar, that today is Armstrong Day, the anniversary of the first Moon landing.

Those of us who remember watching the events of that July evening can go back in memory and touch it any time. We remember where we were, and who was in the room, and probably even the TV set itself, and those little black and white pictures, so crummy by modern video standards, that actually came from another world.

We thought it was only the beginning, the first step on the great journey to the planets and beyond, and to the future we thought was inevitable, with its flying cars and power to cheap to meter and a cure for cancer and, yes, cities on the Moon.

What it was, of course, was a high water mark, the peak of the postwar Great Good Years. Whatever genuine promise the events of July 29th, 1969 might have had (and that is debatable), it was lost in the static of history, or overwhelmed by the weight of the world’s real problems, or both. We still may achieve some of those dreams, but my hope of seeing it happen in my lifetime is rather less confident than it was the summer I turned eight, and sat up in the crickety darkness, watching television.

I’m glad we didn’t know then what we know now, and I’m glad I’m old enough to remember.

So many of you are out there are too young to remember the Moon Landing, and I don’t know how much the idea means to you. It’s like Pearl Harbor was to us, or the Kennedy assassination. It’s what 9/11 will be to those who’ve been born recently.  Just the past, which is all compacted into a solid mass: Ancient Rome, the Renaissance, the Constitution, the Civil War, everything that happened before our living memory, all pressed into a single block.  But trust me,  it’s nice to have a milestone to remember that was, at least at the time, a happy one. Let’s hope there are more to come.

Happy Armstrong Day, everyone.


Published in: on July 30, 2008 at 12:09 am  Comments (1)  
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Weird, weird, weird stuff

I’m almost 47 years old, and I’ve always collected weirdness.  I’ve seen lotsa crazy stuff, and I admit I go out looking for it.  But today was a positive bonanza.

I ventured into the next county with Mr. Shark on one of his occasional expeditions.  We were in the town of G, and I asked him what that shop was with the enormous sculpture of a deer standing on the roof.  I’d often been curious about that, but had never thought to ask for whatever reason.

He replied that it was “You know, that place, the one with all the taxidermy junk and bones and deer antler chandeliers.  You know, you’ve been there.”

Well, no, I have not.  I have not been in a store in G full of taxidermy junk and bones. I really like taxidermy junk and bones and I would have remembered it.  We debated this for a few minutes, then he pulled over and let me out to go look at it for myself.

I stepped through the door and was greeted by an enormous stuffed possum sitting up on its haunches, gazing up at me with a cheerful, insane expression on its dead face and holding a sign reading “Down South we say welcome, y’all”.  I was stunned by this. There was more to come.

This is a small store and it is just totally filled with dead things doing things. 

Row after row of beavers gnawing at logs.  A pair of otters standing on their hind legs. Squirrels climbing trees.  Bears climbing trees.  Wild boar standing on tables.  A pine martin leaping after a grouse.  Heads galore, mostly deer, but also elk, antelopes, and a moose and a Cape Buffalo. (I so want a Cape Buffalo …)  And that was just the normal stuff.

 How about a full sized coyote, meticulously taxidermied into the pose of a dog lying on a cushion, and placed on lodge style bed so it looks like there is an actual coyote lying on your actual bed in your actual bedroom??  This is an utterly amazing decorating idea and we should all try it.  Also, for those for whom a coyote is a little too much, there were also several badgers presented in a similar way.  I personally do not know which I would prefer.

Or how about a raccoon?  There were a wide variety of raccoons; the raccoon being by far the favorite dead decorating animal.  Or that is what one must assume from the stock of this store.  For the bar, the raccoon trying to open a can of beer. (At least two dozen of these, each with a different brand.) Or, for the alcohol free, a similar pose involving a box of Cracker Jack.  Or, for the outdoorsy,  a raccoon dressed as a fisherman, a hunter, a backpacker, with all the appropriate gear.

Or, if you are a big spender with lots of free space, how about an entire diorama, full sized, featuring four raccoons sitting around a little table in little chairs, playing poker?  I wish I could convey to you how strange this looked.  Especially in context, the players being watched over their shoulders by hartebeestes and foxes, and a coyote reclining on a bed nearby.

I will be going back there, with enough money to buy a fox’s skull for the studio. And maybe a business card holder made out of a coiled rattlesnake.  And I can tell you for sure, I’d never been there before.  I would have remembered.  I’m certainly never going to forget.

Or will I go back to G, next month when I have to go to the dentist, and find that the taxidermy junk and bones shop is gone, and no one remembers it but me?


Published in: on February 10, 2008 at 6:47 am  Comments (2)  
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Hawks on walks

We seem to be having a predatory bird extravaganza here at NSC this week.  But while the owls in question were art owls, seen only on the comic page, today we had a close encounter with a real raptor.

I was on my way back from a walk with the dog Toby, only one block from home.  I was listening to my favorite Warren Zevon song (“Searching for a Heart”, Zevon fans) and thinking about page 2 of Kekionga #2, when Toby alerted to something across the street.  He didn’t go into a full point, which he does do sometimes, but he stiffened and indicated a direction with his nose and tail.

I’ve come to trust Toby’s instincts; he’s pointed deer and pheasant for me, and something I’m 90% sure was a wild turkey, as well as many other types of birds, as well as beetles, dragonflies and plastic bags. And he was right on target again this time.  Across the street, in the tree lawn, by the base of the phone pole was a Red Shouldered Hawk. 

I’m pretty sure of the identification, and I’m thrilled, because this makes 4 species of raptor that I’ve seen within a block of the house.   In the yard, I’ve seen the small grey backed Sharpshinned Hawk several times and Sam, our neighborhood Redtail.  (And if you’ve never seen a full sized Redtail perched your backyard gate you are missing a vaguely terrifying wildlife moment.)  And I’ve seen Kestrels around the neighborhood several times.

The new hawk, who was picking at a bit of trash, looked like this.



Bigger and browner than the Sharpie, without the grey back and the markings on the face, but smaller than a Redtail and lacking the distinctive tail markings.  The plain reddish brown head, and the barred tail …It was a Red Shouldered, all right.

We sat down to watch her (him).  The hawk was completely calm, not afraid of Toby at all, and Toby, in turn, was perfectly good; he didn’t make a sound, not the tiniest “boof”.  This went on for several minutes until a contractor’s work truck went by and the hawk flew up into a tree. 

We crossed the street then and stood under the tree to take a closer look.  We couldn’t find what the hawk had been eating; he (or she) must have finished it off.  Then the hawk watched us and we watched the hawk until everyone had enough.

Then, presumably, we both went home. 

Good boy, Toby, and thank you for finding me a hawk. 


Published in: on January 19, 2008 at 2:57 am  Comments (3)  
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Shining flashlights on expensive TVs in public places

I know this sounds rather pointless, but if you have any idea at all of buying an HDTV sometime, please read! 

If you were in our local big box electronics store yesterday (well, not our local BBES, but the bigger one in the next county where they have the premium stuff) you would have seen Mr. Shark shining his Streamlight pocket flashlight at a series of moderately pricey HDTVs while I squinted at them.

Performance art project? Momentary insanity? Impulsive act of silliness?

Nope.  Serious product evaluation going on here. 

I’m including this here because I’m pretty sure a lot of you out there in the blogosphere are in the same boat as the Sharkipede household, where we are thinking about upgrading our AV entertainment setup in anticipation of the coming digitization.

Yes, we watch TV here, and we enjoy it.

So, anyway, we are shopping for an HDTV. Not a cheap crummy one, though not a top of the line one either, pretty though they are.  (I am not going to pay more for a TV than I paid for my car.  Sorry, but that’s how I feel.)  We are not ready to buy yet, but we are steadily narrowing things down.  We know we want an LCD, and are getting an idea what tech specs yield the kind of picture results we are looking for. 

Mr. Shark is the primary person on this project and will probably make the final choice.  He’s certainly doing most of the research, since reading TV specs on the Internet in teeny tiny print is major MEGO for the Sharkipede.  I mostly go along to look at the sets and complain about how the stores tune, or fail to tune, the color.

But this week Mr. Shark latched onto an idea that had never occured to us before: the issue of screen reflectivity.  Some LCD screens have incredibly shiny surfaces that reflect light sources in the surrounding room in a very distracting way, others have a kind of matte surface that diffuses light sources into vague clouds. 

If you intend to use your HDTV setup as a screening room,  strictly for watching movies in the dark, then this may not matter.  But if you want to watch TV in the usual way, in a lighted room while doing other things,  a highly reflective screen could be extremely distracting.

Hence the flashlight bit.  This turned out to be a real brainwave on Mr. Shark’s part, as we discovered that a set we were strongly considering was horribly reflective, while several other brands had excellent diffusion.

So if you are a regular watcher who integrates TV into everyday living, take a little flashlight with you when you go shopping for a new set.  (An LED penlight that makes a tight, bright white point gives the most dramatic results. ) It’s only good sense to spend your limited “meaningless entertainment” budget wisely. 


Published in: on January 12, 2008 at 10:30 pm  Comments (4)  
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