Saturday, November 15, 2008

b.a. baroctopus vs. the think tank

Two days ago, my friend Drue drew this article to my attention:

It's well worth reading. If you are too lazy to click that link, it's about an octopus who is totally burning down the house at a German aquarium. He is one fussy camper and decidedly unpsyched about captivity. Who can blame the guy? The Telegraph explains:

Staff believe that the octopus called Otto had been annoyed by the bright light shining into his aquarium and had discovered he could extinguish it by climbing onto the rim of his tank and squirting a jet of water in its direction.

Well played, Otto. Not everyone wants to see the bright lights tonight. And every day. And every night. It's not like those guys hang out near light in the ocean as it is. Don't they live in coral reefs?

We knew that he was bored as the aquarium is closed for winter, and at two feet, seven inches Otto had discovered he was big enough to swing onto the edge of his tank and shoot out the 2000 Watt spot light above him with a carefully directed jet of water. Once we saw him juggling the hermit crabs in his tank, another time he threw stones against the glass damaging it. And from time to time he completely re-arranges his tank to make it suit his own taste better - much to the distress of his fellow tank inhabitants.

Man! It sounds like the OK Corral over there! Or like they should send Otto to military school. Or, say, maybe let him live under the sea again?

I just learned that Octopuses have three hearts. And they are really smart. And that they are good at throwing AND catching! Maybe the New England Patriots should consider Otto during next year's draft. According to Peggy Noonan in her article about Obama in today's Wall Street Journal, a football player like Otto would make a very good President:

America threw long, and America is praying for a dazzling reception. People want him to catch the ball....Actually, how it felt this week was that there is a sense of suspension (the ball is in the air, it's arcing over the field) accompanied by a sense of urgency (if he fumbles at this high-stakes time, more than a game is lost).

Judging from the 3 November date of the Telegraph article, maybe Otto was just plain on edge about the US election.

Whatever the case, I hope the Coburg Aquarium designs a tank more hospitable to the Octopus condition. Or that Otto comes up with more funny tricks, and enjoys the good fight. Perhaps Peggy Noonan's consolation to Young Republicans will also offer comfort to our decidedly Yes-I-Can Octopus:

There is joy to be had in being out of power. You don't have to defend stupid decisions anymore. You get to criticize with complete abandon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

tricks of the tale

Tonight I was thinking about my average weekend night as a single digit gal growing up. Most often it meant my mom and dad went out to dinner and either my brother or sister home babysitting. If Erik was in charge, Stouffer's French Bread Pizzas, ice cream sandwiches and, say, an Ohio State Buckeye's football game were the order of the evening. If my sister Kristin was at the helm? Chef Boy-R-Dee Beef-a-roni, Push-up pops, and Remington Steele.

I got to thinking about home alone hi-jinx and how, actually, we were pretty well behaved all things considered. I know certain households where all Cain broke loose once parents were off the premises. Generally, when we were home without a parent, drama stayed at a bare minimum. We had unmonitored television to watch. Get while the getting was good. This was also a time way before cellphones, when parents would leave the number "where we'll be." That degree of separation alone imposed an implicit "this had better be an emergency" proviso to any placed call. Thus, the question "Do we want to have to call mom and dad's restaurant/dinner party/movie theater/event space and explain?" kept us in fairly consistent check.

I once made the mistake of secretly calling a Chicago restaurant to ask my mom through tears if I really had to finish my dinner. My mom was *not amused*.

Most of our sibling mischief making was behind the scenes and very under the radar. As the youngest of three, it was also generally at my expense. And more often than not, that fact was under MY radar—days/weeks/months later. My brother and sister are seven and nine years older than I am, respectively. Smarter, bigger, more worldly, and my idols— I would fairly consistently do absolutely anything they told me to do. I was just happy to be included.

A log of some quotidian monkey business:

(Kristin: 16; Me: 7)

[Kristin walks into our room holding mom's well worn, cloth bound, dictionary]

Kristin: Jules, do me a favor, can you tell me how to pronounce this word?
[points to "marijuana"]

Me: [sounding out the word just like I was taught to do]: Mary....jew....ahna. Mary-jew-ahna.

Kristin: [choking on laughter] Thank you. Thank you very much.

[Kristin takes the dictionary and walks out of the room]

(Kristin: Age 15; Me: Age 6)

Kristin: Julia, I really like your new unicorn. [looking at the stuffed unicorn I received from my godmother for Christmas]

Me: Thank you!

Kristin: Have you thought of a name for it, yet?

Me: Mmm. No.

Kristin: Well, I think I picked out the perfect name. You should name him Charlie Tiverton. [ed. note: charlie tiverton= a random guy from our school I didn't know.]

Me: Do you think so?

Kristin: Yes. Definitely.

[cut to: a week later. Kristin's friend Tammy is over hanging out]

Kristin: Julia, you should introduce Tammy to your new unicorn.

Julia: [eager to please] Ok! Tammy, meet Charlie Tiverton.

[Tammy and Kristin burst out laughing]

(Erik: age 13; Me: 6)

[in the middle of a pillow fight]

Erik: Hey wait, Julia, I have an idea for a game BETTER than Pillow Fight. It's called Mr. Smiley.

Julia: Ok. [listening intently]

Erik: You stand against the wall, and I'm going to hit you in the face with a pillow. Now in order to win you have to KEEP SMILING no matter what.

During a three week summer trip, Erik and Kristin collaborated on a rainy day initiative called "Make Julia Look Like Kristy McNichol." This involved wetting a comb, styling my hair, and trying to blow dry it so it "feathered more." I was four.

They were really un-ironically serious about this project. I don't think I have ever seen them put forth such a team effort in all our years following.

(Erik: 18; me: 11)

Our favorite drive-each-other-crazy trick of that time was called "Keyboard Player." This game was actually my own invention and surprisingly effective: the hunter had become the hunted.
One day we were watching tv, I got up to get a snack, walked in front of the tv, stopped, and suddenly and very seriously, started pantomiming rhythmic keyboard playing in the style of Paul Schaffer. This frustrated Erik to NO end.

I thought every aspect of the situation was hilarious.

Then he did it back to me while watching a show I chose. Foiled again.

There are certainly many more examples of sibling gags and roguery, well deserving of air time.

For now, it's Friday night and I have a French Bread Pizza to eat, fine programming to watch, and this Friday night song to play air keyboards to during a commercial break:

[ed. note: The only way I could manage to embed an audio file was to make it into a movie. Maybe there's another way but I am technologically inept. I attached an image in the file to make it a "movie"—an image of a British Shorthair cat that was on my desk top from an email sent earlier today. I just threw it in the file as the footage thinking only audio would appear if I followed the instructions I googled. Not so. Now I can't stop laughing.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

retton: A

I went to dinner with my friend KK the other night and by chance we ended up sitting next to her friend who is currently enrolled in tumbling classes a stone's throw from my house. She completely loves it. She had no prior experience. It's a sign.

This brings us to part two of Gymnastics Tales.

1984. George Orwell's Julia was carrying on an illicit affair with Winston Smith under the totalitarian regime of Big Brother. This Julia was carrying on an illicit affair with gymnastics under the watchful eye of My Mother.

That year Mary Lou Retton struck gold in the Olympic All Around event and pretty much sealed the deal in my mind that gymnastics was the most awesome sport ever. I asked my mom about taking classes. A lot. No go. So instead I cobbled together my own at-home DIY gymnastics clinic. I subscribed to USA Gymnastics Magazine, cut out every photo of Mary Lou Retton and the 1984 women's and men's Olympic gymnastics teams from Newsweek, Time, People, Sports Illustrated etc. and tacked them to my wall and door. I practiced headstands daily. I stood with my back to my parents bed, jumped backward, bounced from a sitting position back into the air, onto the floor, and tried to stick the landing.

My friend Justine (see: "the tell tale twin") was similarly smitten. She even had the Mary Lou Retton Wheaties Box with Wheaties sealed, uneaten inside. I'm pretty sure she had that box, intact until Senior Year of high school

Justine was responsible for actually getting us as close to Mt. Olympus as I could possibly imagine: Her family purchased tickets for the Post Olympics Gymnastics Tour Chicago show at Rosemont Horizon.... And. Invited. Me. (Insert one thousand exclamation points.) There were no words.

No Mary Lou on the tour, but no matter, Julianne McNamara would be there. Julianne McNamara was basically the silver medal of Gymnastic celebrities. She won the first gold EVER in an individual women's event (uneven bars). And Justine and I agreed she was really pretty.

We went to the show, on a school night no less, and were appropriately star struck. We clutched our special edition programs (which I still have!) and stared at the team leaping and flipping around in a non-competitive environment. Just basically hanging out, doing flip-flops. No big deal. JUST MY DREAM.

All I wanted to do was hang out at school recess, hear the words, "Julia, do a flip flop!", smile, very shyly explain, "It's actually called a back handspring," waver, sigh, seem demure, and then bust out a back flip to the delight of my ten-year-old colleagues.

Instead, I jumped off swings in motion and practiced sticking my landings.

To tell you the truth, my memory of the actual individual performances at Rosemont Horizon is hazy at best. I was awestruck and overwhelmed. Humbled, even. The portion of the program I recall in completely lucid detail, however? Interludes with Paul Hunt: Gymnastics Comedian.

Paul Hunt was a competitive college gymnast in the 70s and to this day works as a gymnastics coach. In the 80s he also dressed up in tutus, bows, and barrettes, called himself "Paulette Huntsinova," and performed fake gymnastics routines with heavy-handed servings of horrible falls and twisted limbs. Most often he performed complicated tumbling sequences and landed directly on his face. All to the uproarious laughter of stadium crowds nationwide:

The crowd at Rosemont Horizon ate it up. Everytime he walked out for another solo segment, Justine and I were completely annoyed. We took gymnastics seriously. We soberly stared straight ahead at his wacky in-drag accidents muttering, "This sucks." We wanted all serious, medal winning, professional gymnastics, all night.

Watching the Paul Hunt footage many years later, I am totally guilty of laughing. 1984 Julia would have zero tolerance for this behavior.

I think 2009 is the year I'm gonna make my dream come true and take a tumbling course. At this point, if I can learn how to do a handstand for more than two seconds and not unintentionally fall directly on my face I will feel like a star.

For now, I just enjoy watching the perfect 10 floor routine I yearned to perform as a ten-year-old gal on the playground:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Last night after the acceptance speech heard round the world, Brooklyn erupted with shouting and cheering from open windows, drivers cruising and honking, and people literally jumping for joy and dancing in the streets. I am so glad I am not exaggerating.

The song "Donna" from the musical Hair has been in my head since the big moment—but with the lyrics "Oh bama, oh-oh bama, oh-oh-oh Pre-si-dent O-ba-ma." The scene from the movie pretty looks like what I saw on the streets of the Slope at 1am. The dance moves look like my own, at any rate. Watch for yourself:

[Please note: The "psychedelic urchin" and "sixteen-year-old virgin" lyrics are NOT part of my adapted celebration song.]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

decision 2008

Bull the Costner. Hands down.

Monday, November 3, 2008