Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I, Carlius

I don't watch the Nickelodeon network, because I am not a kid, nor do I have kids.  And in general I have a hard time even keeping straight which shows have been on Nickelodeon, and which have been on the Disney channel (although, from what I can tell, child actors from Nickelodeon are less likely to develop serious drug problems than their peers from Disney).  

But unknown elements of the popular culture will sometimes float up into my view. An indeterminate amount of time ago, I saw a reference somewhere to the Nickelodeon show iCarly.  I was bored, and decided to research the show on Wikipedia.  I read about the premise (a comedy, that ran from 2007 to 2012, about teenagers who produce a popular webcast), and the characters, and the various seasons, and even the cross-over episode with the show Victorious, starring, among others, Ariana Grande, who sounds like something that one would order at Starbucks.

And then I had an even better idea for a cross-over episode—iCarly meets I, Claudius

I, Claudius (which I discussed earlier) is a classic BBC historical drama from the Seventies, dealing with ancient Rome and the ambitions, schemes, and outright madness of those who ruled it, or sought to. 

And when wholesome teen internet celebrities meet depraved, insane Roman emperors, you get fun for the whole family!  Well, maybe not for the whole family . . .  I, Claudius does contain material that is unsuitable for children.  Indeed, I, Claudius contains material that is unsuitable for adults.

Still, I can't help thinking that an iCarly and I, Claudius cross-over would be a landmark television event just as powerful and crazy as Emperor Caligula himself.  And maybe if we're lucky Patrick Stewart would reprise his role as Sejanus.  Of course, on the downside, there is the reasonable chance that some of the iCarly characters would end up decapitated and/or crucified.

The pitch meeting with a Nickelodeon executive would run something like this:

Me: Okay, I have a great idea.  All that you need to do is to put iCarly back into production, then make an extended cross-over episode utilizing the characters from the BBC show I, Claudius.

Nickelodeon Executive: Hey what what??

Me: It's a can't-miss concept.  Take one of your popular comedies, and combine it with a 1976 TV show based on a 1934 book about the early days of the Roman Empire.  It's what today's tweens are clamoring for.  

Nickelodeon Executive: I don't see that working out on a lot of different levels.

Me:  It would be ground-breaking television.  It would win all kinds of awards.  It would get raves from both twelve-year-olds and classical scholars. Of course, on the downside, there is the reasonable chance that some of the iCarly characters would end up decapitated and/or crucified.

Nickelodeon Executive: Did you just say "and/or" in casual conversation?

Me: Yes.

Nickelodeon Executive:  I just don't think that it would fit with our demographic.

Me: You've got to do it.  The kids will love it!  It'll be awesome!  It won't just be awesome.  It'll be . . . it'll be . . . supercalifragilistic!!

[long, awkward silence]

Me: What?

Nickelodeon Executive: That's Disney.

Me: Oh . . . um . . . sorry.

Nickelodeon Executive: Get out.

Friday, September 12, 2014

People Whom I Have Known Part IV: Gubernatorial Aspirations

("Gubernatorial" is a funny word.)

It is time to return to my series about people whom I encountered in my past who have gone on to some level of fame.  (See Part I, Part II, and Part III.)  Today's entry concerns Zephyr Teachout, a law professor who challenged Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary for the New York gubernatorial race.  She lost in her primary bid, but still collected an impressive 34% of the vote.  

Zephyr was in the class two years ahead of me when I was in college.  I didn't know her all that well, but I did frequently see her working at her job in the dining hall; most of my memories of her involve her serving "meatless baked ziti", which was the staff of life in the college's meal system at the time. 

And it is impossible to forget someone named "Zephyr Teachout".  I imagine, though, that there is no possibility of her remembering me. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer Has Slipped Away

Summer has slipped away again.  And I am writing about it again.  

At the end of November, I never feel like writing about how autumn has slipped away.  But summer exemplifies the two things that I hate most about being an adult.  One is that I don't get a summer vacation.  But the other, bigger thing is how fast time goes by.  When I was young, each summer lasted for an entire lifetime, a lifetime of heat and humidity and freedom and boredom and air conditioning and television.   Now it's May, and then there are a few weeks of warm weather, and then a few weeks of cool weather, and then it's January, and then a few weeks later it's May again.  Nothing seems to last.  It's like perpetually falling over a waterfall.  

But I can look on the bright side—since I've never managed to become famous, I don't have to worry about anyone nominating me to take the Ice Bucket Challenge. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Mystery Goose Update

On July 20, I saw the Old Town mystery goose again.  This time it was slightly upriver, in the water at Oronoco Bay Park.  

I also discovered that the mystery goose is on YouTube, in a video from last August that shows the goose in the same place as my most recent sighting.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Crash Bandicoot's Eponymous Ancestor

I am interested in cases in which organisms, and particularly extinct organisms, are given non-typical scientific names.  Mostly I concentrate on prehistoric animals named after rock stars (and I have a few of those still to blog about).  But today it came to my attention that paleontologists have named an extinct bandicoot from the Miocene of Australia after the video game character Crash Bandicoot, under the binomial Crash bandicoot—yes, that's right, genus Crash, species bandicoot.  (For the record, I have never played that game, as it came out at a point in my life when I had mostly stopped playing video games.)

What is really surprising to me is not that an extinct animal was named after a video game character, but that the name was used in an entirely unaltered form. Normally when scientists name a species after someone or something from pop culture, they make some effort to Latinize . . . or, um . . . Greekify the name.  For example, a pterosaur from China was recently named in honor of the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but the name was rendered using Greek roots as Kryptodrakon

And thus we are left with the irony that Crash Bandicoot himself is not a Crash bandicoot, but (according to his Wikipedia page) an Eastern Barred Bandicoot (Perameles gunnii).

I will note that, if I wanted to, I could update the Crash Bandicoot Wikipedia page, which as of today does not reflect that a prehistoric species has been named after the character, but I just don't have the energy.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Mystery Goose of Old Town

On Saturday I saw a goose that I couldn't identify among the Mallards and Canada Geese in the Potomac River at Founders Park in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia.  I got a few pictures, including the one above. 

I later consulted my Peterson guide and found that the bird resembles a Greater White-Fronted Goose (Anser albifrons). This was unexpected (although not as unexpected as the announcement that Pink Floyd will be releasing a new album in October), since the Greater White-Fronted Goose is not a resident of the mid-Atlantic states; it spends its summers in Canada and its winters in the Gulf of Mexico region.

I did some checking on the internet, and found that this individual bird has been seen in the area last year (pictures here, discussion here and here).  The speculation is that the mystery goose is not  a pure Greater White-Fronted Goose, but a hybrid with some other species.  If if is a hybrid, it doesn't show much physical input from the other species, having just about all the characteristics of a Greater White-Fronted Goose with the exception of the white line on the sides (which doesn't occur in juveniles).

(I sometimes think about starting a separate blog to document my wildlife observations here in Alexandria, but since I don't even have the energy to update Scaly Distractions more than twice a month, I don't know if I should be undertaking any new blogging projects.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mosquito Hopes and Theories Are Dashed

The Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is an introduced species of day-biting mosquito which has been making summers unbearable in parts of the Washington area for the last fifteen years or so.  The adults die off during the winter in temperate climates; populations survive via eggs.  

   Much of the country experienced an abnormally cold winter in 2014, which, I thought, might have had an effect on this obnoxious species. A recent study discovered that Aedes albopictus eggs will suffer 100% mortality after being exposed to temperature of 10° F (-12° C) for four hours, or 5° F (-15° C) for one hour.  On January 7, the low temperature at Reagan National Airport was 6° F; on this day the temperature may possibly have met the condition of four hours at 10° F or lower.  For most of the spring I held out hope that the cold might have locally eliminated the Asian Tiger Mosquito (until it could recolonize from warmer areas, which one hopes would take a few years).

   But then on May 21, I received the first Asian Tiger Mosquito bite of the year.  Asian Tiger Mosquitoes are still here, bringing another summer of misery.  I assume that ultimately it was a problem of microclimate. Members of the species lay their eggs in holes in trees and other cavities where rainwater accumulates.  These cavities presumably created sheltered environments in which the temperature was significantly warmer than that of the surrounding air.