Archive for September, 2009

American Museum of Natural History: People are A-Holes Exhibit

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Seriously???
Are you honestly going to push me so far that I’m going to have to start Arachnid International or Amenesty Arachnid?

Because I will.

Go ahead.

Try me.

I’ll do it.

It’s not even that I’m all that fond of spiders. I would NEVER (and they say ‘never say never’, but in this case, feel free to go right ahead and say never, ever, ever, ever, EVER) own a tarantula as a pet or snuggle with one or let it walk around on me. Hell, I don’t even like to see them in the wild.

But I figure live and let live. It’s only fair.

I hope these spiders had the good sense to bite the crap out of the people 'milking' them.

I hope these spiders had the good sense to bite the crap out of the people 'milking' them.

However, I don’t only draw the line at this, it really pisses me off:

One Million Spiders Make Golden Silk for Rare Cloth

A rare textile made from the silk of more than a million wild spiders goes on display today at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. To produce this unique golden cloth, 70 people spent four years collecting golden orb spiders from telephone poles in Madagascar, while another dozen workers carefully extracted about 80 feet of silk filament from each of the arachnids. The resulting 11-foot by 4-foot textile is the only large piece of cloth made from natural spider silk existing in the world today.

Well, zippity f*cking doo dah. A scarf made through forced spider labor. I’m so impressed.

By the end of the project, Godley and Peers extracted silk from more than 1 million female golden orb spiders, which are abundant throughout Madagascar and known for the rich golden color of their silk. Because the spiders only produce silk during the rainy season, workers collected all the spiders between October and June.

Then an additional 12 people used hand-powered machines to extract the silk and weave it into 96-filament thread. Once the spiders had been milked, they were released into back into the wild, where Godley said it takes them about a week to regenerate their silk. “We can go back and re-silk the same spiders,” he said. “It’s like the gift that never stops giving.”

Is it now?
“The gift that never stops giving?”

Let’s stop and talk about this “gift” for a moment, shall we?


“The spiders were imprisoned in match boxes and by slightly compressing the abdomen he managed to extract and wind upon a little reel turned by hand it thread that sometimes attained a length of 500 yards.  This is done by means of a curious little machine in which the spiders are imprisoned by the throat while undergoing the operation.

Here it is, the cloth that a million spiders were milked for. There is so much wrong with that sentence, I'm going to end my commentary right here.

Here it is, the cloth that a million spiders were milked for. There is so much wrong with that sentence, I'm going to end my commentary right here.

“It should be said that the female halabe allows herself to be relieved of her silken store with exemplary docility and this in spite of the fact that she is distinguished for her ferocity; her usual treatment of the males who pay her court is to eat them and she feasts without compunction on members of her own sex weaker than herself. The apparatus consists of a sort of stocks arranged to pin down on their backs a dozen spiders. The spiders accept this imprisonment with resignation and lie perfectly quiet while the silken thread issuing from their bodies is rapidly wound on to a reel by means of a cleverly devised machine worked by hand.”

I find the arrogance of this little art project rather appalling.

Imagine the scene: A being 500 times your own size has captured you and a million of your brethren. You are being held by the neck and something else is pinning you down across your entire back as they extract, I don’t know, a couple pints of blood? Your tears? Maybe they just push on your bladder until you pee? Whatever. Pick the bodily emission that works for you.

At any rate, changing places in this delightful little scenario, I would imagine you’d take it with ‘exemplary docility’ too.

I imagine I would…if only in the hopes of living through the experience.

Now I’m not trying to say that spiders have frontal lobes or are the same as us, but I do think that this is some seriously unnecessary bullshit.

A golden orb web spider in its natural habitat.

A golden orb web spider in its natural habitat. It's kind of pretty. Unless it got in my hair. That would freak me out.

It’s not even like this stupid cloth thing matters.

If they were saving lives with the spider goo, I would probably be okay with the whole (self-serving) scenario…but they’re NOT.


And this is why – in an admittedly large leap of thought because that’s how my brain works – I think our species is writing its own ticket to Goodbyesville. The audacity with which we treat – well, EVERYTHING – like we are superior to it and own it and can do whatever the heck we freaking want really wears me out. And it’s this never-ending cavalcade of bad behavior – dog fights, whale hunting, killing elephants for their ivory tusks, inhumane poultry and beef production practices, mowing down manatees because they’re in the way of your speedboat, polar bear skin rugs, etc. etc. etc. etc. – that makes me almost as upset as it makes me sad.

And there you have it.

This spider milking operation is just another brick in the wall of my annoyance with the human race.


Oh, and for the record, if I see any spider milk cheese or other spider milk products in the dairy section of my grocery store, I am seriously going to hurl.


Share This Post

Ash is a goddamned robot

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

So the following headline caught my eye this morning: The Challenge of Making Real Robot Skin, which in turn led pretty much immediately to a “come again?” moment.

So I went to the article, and it started to come clear…and then more or less tanked straight into WTF land. Why’s that? Well, just so you don’t feel left out, here are a few excerpts to catch you up:

I don't know what this is, but the 1.5mm skin kind of reminds me of cake. Mmmmmm...  Cake.

I don't know what this is, but the 1.5mm skin kind of reminds me of cake. Mmmmmm... Cake.

In a recent paper “Towards Humanlike Social Touch for Sociable Robotics,” John Cabibihan and his fellow scientists detailed the reasons for testing and developing realistic skin for social robots.

“Touch is important in social interactions. Social touch are all those instances in which people touch each other, when shaking hands, when giving a pat in the back as a sign of congratulations and even in high-fives. Yet, one should not easily assume that humans will be comfortable with the idea of shaking an artificial hand made from a stiff material. In addition to the appropriate controls for a safe handshake grip and other forms of social touch, humanlike skin softness would be a reasonable requirement for the sociable robots envisioned to directly interact with humans in a social setting. “

Human skin has properties that are not easy to replicate in synthetics. The authors created a skin testing machine to check out some of the current substitutes for human skin in robots – like silicone and polyurethane. Unfortunately, these simplistic skin substitutes were tested and found wanting; at present, there is no accepted substitute for the feeling of real human skin.

There have been a number of different attempts to produce more lifelike skin for robots, as well as skin that would properly feed sensation to the operator of the robot. There is, of course, one ideal solution to creating robot skin that is as human as possible. Recent work done at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft science institute in Germany has demonstrated that small swatches of actual human skin can be grown in petri dishes in a mass production facility.

It takes a lot of damage before you realize Arnold isn't actually a person, but a killing machine.

It takes a lot of damage before you realize Arnold isn't actually a person, but a killing machine.

Ummm…what?

Who is doing human skin-covered robot development?
And WHY????

Clearly I missed some kind of memo. What the hell kind of robot is this?

I’m okay with Roomba and his stinky cousin, Scooba and anything that comes over to clean my floors or dishes (but no touching the laundry. I love doing laundry. It’s the only chore where I would even consider use of the word ‘love’ in association.), but I’m not so sure how I feel about robots that I can’t tell are robots.

At least even the iRobot robots looked like robots, so once they turned bad you could tell them apart. And WALL-E. Clearly a robot, and fine by me…especially because he never decided to destroy the humans who created him, which is a plus.

As for the explanation on this bad idea, I’m not buying the whole ‘people don’t want to shake hands with a robot’ excuse, either.

I would shake hands with a robot.

I shake hands with my dog (which has, in turn, taught him to flog me when he wants something, and I’m ignoring him, but that’s another story for another day). And if a robot wanted to pat me on the back with a metallic pitchfork hand, I’d be okay with that (so long as it was gentle and not a robot beat down that punctured a lung or whatnot. Punctured lungs are no good.)

My point here is I think there are only two reasons that they would want to put real skin on a robot:

1. To trick us.

2. To make robot prostitutes (or sex slaves or whatever).

See? Nothing but a goddamned robot.

See? Nothing but a goddamned robot.

And I don’t like it one little bit. And I suspect the robots wouldn’t like it one little bit. And this is where things go wrong. You create something in order to dominate it and use it as a slave, but you made it too smart so it collaborates with the others of its kind and overthrows you and the next thing you know we’re all hanging out in liquid cocoons and powering The Matrix.

Right????

So can’t we at least learn from our popular culture? Life imitates art and whatnot?

For instance,  in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (The Phillip K. Dick classic known more commonly as the Harrison Ford movie Blader Runner)? Replicants – or ‘skin jobs’ as they’re not-so-ironically called – that think they’re human beings but later (and not exactly in the interest of their psychological health) find out they’re not.

Daryl Hannah as a 'basic pleasure model.' This gives me an idea for Halloween....

Daryl Hannah as a 'basic pleasure model.' This gives me an idea for Halloween....

Nobody likes to grow up thinking they’re real and find out they’re not. It’s an identity crisis in the making.

How about Alien? You know, where The Company secretly sends a robot as part of the crew to ensure that a heinous monster will make it back to earth safe and sound? And nobody knew he was a robot until he tried to kill Ripley and then all that white foamy stuff started oozing out of him.

You can’t trust those robots that look like people. You think they’re a regular, reasonable person…but they can be wired as total traitors just like that.

And speaking of treacherous behavior, who can forget The Terminator? Imagine if The Terminator would have at least had the decency to look like a killer robot. Things might have turned out differently for all the other Sarah Conners in the Los Angeles phone book.

In closing, let me go on the record as not liking this petri dish skin human-looking robot stuff. I don’t know what it is, but it ain’t good.

And in the words of Ash, ”I can’t lie to you about your chances, but you have my sympathy”.

Share This Post

It’s nice to come across a kindred spirit

Friday, September 25th, 2009

No. I’m not talking about any of you lovely people who have found and stuck with this slightly pointless blog (I inserted the word ‘slightly’ to make myself feel better), but rather, The Donald.

Duh.

There but for the grace of god goes...anyone.

There but for the grace of god goes...anyone.

I wasn’t going to admit this, but now that I see Donald Trump and I are clearly mind-melding and sharing the same awesome idea, I feel a little less nuts.

That’s probably not much of a litmus test, though, is it?

Donald Trump as your gauge of acceptability?

I mean, the man lives in a gold-plated home and wears a bad toupee that looks like an even worse comb-forward.

So anyway, he’s also crazy rich and seems to be very, very decisive (minus his mad crush on Joan Rivers. It was so clear she was going to win The Celebrity Apprentice after just three episodes. She could do no wrong in his eyes. My guess is he has mom issues.)

Anywho, my point here is that I’ve been reading all this stuff about Muammar Gaddafi wanting to camp out in some yard in Englewood, New Jersey and they wouldn’t let him, and then there was a headline about “Gaddafi Can’t Find a Place to Sleep in New York,” and I found myself thinking, “I’d let him sleep in my yard. He could use the downstairs bathroom.”

I mean…come on. How many (allegedly) insane dictators have you bunked down with?

To anyone who watches True Blood: Clearly Muammar is under the influence of a Maenid!

To anyone who watches True Blood: Clearly Muammar is under the influence of a Maenid!

None, right?

I suggest you’re  missing out: The man has got to have some interesting campfire stories. And imagine the material this would provide for years to come:

The time Muammar Gaddafi and I made s’mores.

Muammar Gaddafi told me this great ghost story about an evil, talking Swiss doll…

Remember when I stuck a sleeping Muammar’s hand in a cup of warm water, and he woke up and punched me out?

Gaddafi has such a lovely singing voice. Brings tears to the eyes. You should really hear his Kumbaya.

What? This? That’s when I started calling Muammar Gaddafi “Moo Moo” without seeing if that was okay first, and he shot me. That’s the scar.

Oh, the memories we could make!

Clearly Donald Trump is having the same idea, because allegedly  - after failing to gain permission to pitch a tent in Central Park –  Moo Moo has had a lovely bedouin-style lean-to pitched at one of the Trump estates. I’m not claiming to be a crack journalist, but rumor has it Donald’s 213-acre Seven Springs property in Bedford, New York is playing host to the (seemingly) insane dictator.

I think it's time Trump show us what he's truly made of: Go balls to the wall, get a weave, and rock a crazy ass mullet. There's no such thing as bad press, Donald!

I think it's time Trump show us what he's truly made of: Go balls to the wall, let the comb-forward fall backward, and rock a crazy ass mullet. There's no such thing as bad press, Donald!

When questioned about the giant Bedouin tent behind him, Sergeant Tom Diebold, a spokesman for the Bedford Hills police department, even went so far as to say (on the record!), “I’m not going to confirm or deny anything.”

Sounds like a yes to me!!!

Who can blame The Donald? According to reports, Gaddafi fears elevators and “needs space for his all-female security team.” Because there’s nothing the average woman loves more than camping!

We know Trump loves the ladies. And the tent sounds right up his swanky alley: The interior is decorated with a “print of pineapple plants and camels” and there’s red patterned carpets on the floor. Oooh! Sounds like Vegas casino meets cheap Florida hotel!

I do hope the UN decides to hold talks in my neck of the woods soon. It’s been years since anyone in the neighborhood hosted an African dictator and his all-female entourage in a tent. We’re overdue.

The tent itself. Looks like your average wedding reception, really.

The tent itself. Looks like your average wedding reception, really.

p.s.

I’m digging the camping out in Central Park idea. Hotel rooms in Manhattan are so damn expensive.

The local homeless population may not see it the same way, however.

p.p.s. To anyone who randomly finds this and is now boiling with rage and gearing up to send me a spiteful email about Gaddafi and his ties to the Pam Am Lockerbie incident, I’m KIDDING. Look around the blog. Dry sarcasm everywhere. Funny!

Ha ha.

Share This Post

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it…

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Damn, that it some catchy shit.

Somebody sent me a link of a baby dancing to that Single Ladies video, and I have not been able to get it out of my head all day. I don’t even know any other words – are there other words? If memory serves, she just says “If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it” about 350 times.

Now, normally, I’m not down with dancing baby videos.

I don’t mind the occasional baby getting clobbered by a pet, or pounced upon baby knocked to the ground, and god knows I love me some Keyboard Cat. I was talking to someone about the Hall and Oates song “You Make My Dreams Come True”.

Wait. Stop the press.

Time for a moment of honesty: I wasn’t talking about the song. I’d had an adult beverage or two or some number less than ten, and I was attempting to sing the song. That’s what was actually going on. Now back to the story…

Although it’s part of my current running mix, I realized I don’t really know the lyrics to that one either. It’s not entirely my fault. He mumbles.

So anyway, I googled it to find a video, and what came up but the Keyboard Cat ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’ video (where the cat is poorly spliced into the corner, which only heightens the priceless absurdity)!?!  Double happiness.

At the same time, this experience doubled as a harsh dose of sobering reality: Not everybody thinks Keyboard Cat is hysterically funny. I know. Weird, right?

It’s hard to understand. But apparently there are people out there that don’t relish stupidity for the sake of stupidity. I’m not sure how they get through life, but I suspect it involves lots of prescription drugs.

But I digress.

So as I was saying, I don’t usually dig the dancing baby videos, but this baby has got some moves. I particularly appreciate the time he kind of gets the head/arm bit dead on. And with those jimmy legs, he could very well grow up to break down the female-only barrier and join the Rockettes.

Admittedly, the video goes on about 2 minutes longer than it needs to, but I will say that this is the kind of baby that makes me want a baby.

This baby makes me want a baby the way I would like to have a court jester or Jim Gaffigan around: To entertain me and make me laugh. Which is quite possibly the worst reason on earth to have a baby (well, that and to trap somebody into staying with you, but this isn’t that kind of blog.)

On the other hand, this video makes me wish I could dance like that, and even vaguely consider some dancing lessons. Which is a less bad idea than the amusing clown baby idea, but since neither one is likely to happen in the near term, you needn’t worry about it.

So there you have it.

And if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it.

p.s.

Isn’t it amazing that I got through this post without once mentioning Kanye West and his ‘outburst’?

The entire head covered in tattoos aside (surely all that ink that close to your brain is inadvisable), the man was on the red carpet chugging a bottle of Hennessy. Whaddaya expect?

Share This Post

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

I’m on a real roll.

The condo was a couple blocks from the beach...but then the water came to us!!!

The condo was a couple blocks from the beach...but then the water came to us!!!

Wait, let me rephrase: Mysterious supernatural forces are doing strange things to the blog, and I am seemingly powerless to stop them. I wonder if George Carlin has got his own magical telephone booth in heaven? That would certainly clear up some of the mystery.

(Does anyone have any idea what I’m talking about? I’m going to leave this as-is, regardless, but I do realize I’m being a bit obtuse. Okay, very obtuse. Unless you love Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Then you know exactly what I’m talking about, and I can add this thought, and you’ll appreciate it: This is a dude who, 700 years ago, totally ravaged China, and who, we were told, two hours ago totally ravaged Oshman’s Sporting Goods.)

What a lovely day to sit in a beach chair and read a book. Amazing how the crowds thin out when a little horrific weather blows in!

What a lovely day to sit in a beach chair and read a book. Amazing how the crowds thin out when a little torrential rain blows in!

That stated, to anyone wondering if you’ve recently seen an inadvisable and slightly alarming photo of me that may or may not be misinterpreted such that it could’ve been a feature spread in an oversized vegetable skin rag…you were imaging things. It’s not here now, is it?

So clearly it never existed.

That’s the rule: You don’t see it now, it never happened.

This is my blog. I make whatever freaking rules I want.

In other news, perhaps you thought you read  a rambling snippet of a blog idea (which was going to be about my duress at having two of my treasured childhood books made into movies and released within weeks of each other: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Where the Wild Things Are. Why must they keep destroying everything I loved??? Were Land of the Lost and A Wrinkle in Time not enough? It’s probably a matter of minutes before someone redoes Mary Poppins with the kids from High School Musical)?

The idiot lifeguards were cruising all over the beach in their truck...until they drove it into a sink hole.

The idiot lifeguards were cruising all over the beach in their truck...until they drove it into a sink hole.

Anyway, diatribe aside, apparently someone snuck into my house in the middle of the night and hit the ‘publish’ button instead of the ‘save draft’ button (the ‘publish button is dark blue and so very alluring. It’s understandable. Right???) and left that tripe up there for several unauthorized hours.

In fact, I think that same person had something to do with the photo that never was.

And yes, that same person is my semi-functional and not very clever middle of the night alter-ego, who – for the good of us all – should be sent to bed by 11pm and never, ever be allowed around the blog again.

Making some chicken picatta for dinner.

Making some chicken picatta for dinner.

So I’ll get to work on that. (Note to self: purchase vast array of ropes, handcuffs, and sleeping pills…and possibly a gag of some sort, lest I decide to take up vlogging at 2am.)

In the meantime, forget about what you may or may not have seen.

Push it out of your pretty little head, and enjoy some random photos my father sent me from our trip a couple weeks ago. Mazal tov!

p.s.

Did anyone see the footage of that red dust storm in Sydney? Or is anyone in Sydney?
Craziness.

I imagine the Swiffer duster people are about to make some serious bank. If they sell Swiffers in Australia? No? How about Pledge?

p.p.s.

Has anyone seen Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs? Was it good? Did you read the book, too? Did you LOVE the book, and wished you lived in Chewandswallow? Can you still see the image of the fancy couple eating overcooked broccoli in a fine restaurant in your mind?

Can you? CAN YOU???

I loved that book so friggin’ much.

I went through this phase where I was obsessed with my tape recorder and would record EVERYTHING (For example: I would record myself reading the Sunday comics out loud and describing them. And yes, that’s as painful as it sounds), and my dad would sometimes play along. I remember one tape (that I listened to over and over) where he gave these fake weather reports from all over the world, and it was raining fish and rice in Japan!

I just feel like there’s no way they could do justice to my treasured childhood memory with a movie.

Especially a movie where Mr. T provides one of the voices.  ***shudder***

Share This Post