All things weird and wonderful, 30 & 31

31 01 2013

Two-fer weirdness!

Fred Clark at Slacktivist/Patheos tipped me off to both of these—okay, he didn’t email me personally and say, Hey, Absurdbeats, these might be candidates for your weird wonder series, but as I’m a reader and he presumably writes for his readers, why not say he wrote about these for me?—where was I? Oh, yes, while trying to decide which to use, it occurred to me that this is my blog, and I can both of these suckers if  I damned well please.

Which I do.

So the first:

It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being ‘It’

Group of Men Have Played Game of Tag for 23 Years; Hiding in Bushes, Cars

Russell Adams, Wall Street Journal

[…]

One year early on when Mike Konesky was “It,” he got confirmation, after midnight, that people were home at the house where two other players lived. He pulled up to their place at around 2 a.m., sneaked into the garage and groped around in the dark for the house door. “It was open,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, man, I could get arrested.’ ”

Mr. Konesky tiptoed toward Mr. Dennehy’s bedroom, burst through the door and flipped on the light. A bleary-eyed Mr. Dennehy looked up as his now-wife yelled “Run, Brian!” Mr. Konesky recalls. “There was nowhere for Brian to run.”

[…]

That’s right, ten men have been playing tag for 23 years.

That’s some fuckin’ dedication, man, and if it isn’t quite as weird as some stuff (or the next item), it’s still a damned fine enough to count as wondrous.

Now this, this is weird:

Source: scuba.com

The comment on this delightful specimen:

Come on, evolution, you cannot be serious with this sh—

Oh, wait. OH. Ha! I get it. Clearly the red-lipped batfish is a work of satire, not meant to be taken as a literal “animal,” which would of course be ridiculous. Sorry, I can be a bit slow sometimes. Nice one.

The site is WTF, Evolution?, and it’s only two weeks old, so go ahead, catch up, then follow it FROM THIS DAY FORWARD.

I was talking with one of my students today about how amazing biology is—I did manage to restrain myself and not use the phrase ‘weird wonder’—especially in comparison to non-quantum physics.

Nothing against non-quantum physics—gravity and the conservation of matter and the principle of inertia are all deeply practical things—but it’s not. . . ohmyfuckinggod mindblowing the way quantum physics and almost all of biology is.

Newtonian physics, I mused to the student, is efficient and predictable, but biology, emmm, not so much. Biology is all about survival, so anything that will get you there, well by gum, let’s do it! And if conditions change such that more adaptations help with survival and reproductive fitness, go ahead, just tack those adaptations on!

If physics is sleek and efficient, then biology is a Rube Goldberg contraption.

“I’m not sure we’re done with this fiddler crab yet.” “Don’t be such a perfectionist, evolution, it’s good enough.” “But the claws are totally different sizes, don’t you think people will notice?” “Dude, it’s fine, let’s go make some birds with funny butt feathers.”  (Thanks to @davelevitan for the suggestion.)

It’s true, I don’t always love life, but damn! I do loves me some Life!





We might as well try: music break!

14 07 2012

Happy birthday, Woody Guthrie.

I wouldn’t have known it was Woody’s birthday today had it not been for a bit on NPR, which in turn made me think, Oh, I have to post that vid of “This Land Is Your Land that Fred Clark at Patheos/Slactivist (thanks Fred!) had posted:

I’m not sure why I listened to the song. I mean, it’s a damned fine song and sometimes think it would be a great national anthem until I remember I’m not so crazy about national anthems (that great scene in Casablanca aside), but I’m not really a Pete Seeger fan and, honestly, having heard it so many times before, did I really need to listen to it again?

Yes, yes I did.

By the end my chest had expanded and I was mouthing the words and honest-to-pete had tears in my eyes. I don’t know why I was moved—I rarely know why I’m moved—but moved, I was.

Not at the beginning, though.

I cringed Seeger’s earnestness at the outset—I almost always cringe at earnestness, and when I don’t, that’s only because I have to remind myself not to cringe—and winced when his “I’ll-say-the-lyrics-so-you-can-sing-along” scheme appeared to fall apart.

But ol’ Pete, bless ‘im, didn’t give up, and midway through he got his groove (and timing) down, and I thought, Goddamn, that man is committed. He’s earnest and committed and utterly unafraid of being caught out.

I’m almost always afraid of being caught out, so much so that someone else caught out feels like it ensnares me—hence the cringing and wincing. And earnest? I was an earnest kid, “painfully earnest”, as the phrase goes. Growing out of childhood meant losing the earnestness and distrusting it as a ploy whenever I find it in adults.

This is not the worst attitude to have in analyzing politics, but, as I tell my American government students, While you never can never be too cynical about politics, you can’t just be cynical. There are interests and fights and corruption and lies, but there is also love; there is no politics without love.*

*I know, rich coming from me, who stutters even when writing the word, but there it is.

Anyway, is Pete Seeger a cynic? Is he faking his sincerity? I honestly don’t know, but he does have the courage of his commitment, a courage which he uses to bring that entire audience along to sing that wondrous song.