Saturday, October 27, 2007

Scandal! Shocking SamuraiFrog Nude Photo Leaks to the Media!

Hallow-meme

1. What is your favorite work of horror fiction?
I love Poe and Lovecraft, but I think I love The Legend of Sleepy Hollow the best. It's just so well-written, and I love reading it.

2. Who is your favorite monster?
I don't know that I have one. Vampires bore me, and so do werewolves.I guess Frankenstein's monster is the best for me; he really tries to be a good guy. Plus, I think he's got the best Universal movies. Oh, man, that scene at the end of The Bride of Frankenstein: "We belong dead..." Wow.

Close runner-up: the Creature from the Black Lagoon. He's just so cool-looking.

Oh, and Kong, of course.

Oh, Godzilla!!!

Too many! I just love monsters.

3. What horror movie gives you the most chills?
Like I said before, Phantasm scares the living hell out of me.

4. Freddy versus Jason?
Freddy. There's nothing interesting about Jason; he's just a plot device. But the idea behind A Nightmare on Elm Street is still pretty genius; the one place you can't hide is in your sleep. Plus, Robert Englund was so damn good. I have this great idea for a movie that would make Freddy Krueger rectal prolapse-inducingly scary again, but no one's biting. And really, why would they?

5. Ghosts or goblins?
Ghosts are usually so fucking lame.

6. What is your scariest encounter with the paranormal?
I hate the way this question assumes the existence of the paranormal, but anyway--there's a church somewhere here that Becca and I went to when we were first dating in 1995, and it has a Mary statue that's freaky as all hell at night.She's there, and because of the light, she almost looks like she's moving. There's this light behind her that creates a weird effect.

7. Do you believe in ghosts?
No, but that still doesn't stop my mom from trying to have conversations with me about them. Also, does it count that people keep trying to talk to me about Jesus? Or is he more of a zombie?

8. Favorite Halloween costume?
I haven't dressed up for years. I'd like to, but I don't have much occasion to. I remember when I was a kid I went as Snoopy one year, and Scooby Doo another. They were those horrible costumes with the paper mask and the smock with a picture on them. I got sick of those pretty fast. I remember one year getting a real rubber mask and going as Mer-Man from Masters of the Universe, and really being proud of doing that.

9. If you had an unlimited budget, what would your fantasy costume be for this Halloween?
The fourth Doctor. I'm even starting to get the hair for it.

10. When was the last time you went trick or treating?
I think 12 years old was the last time. I went as a wrestler.

11. What's your favorite Halloween candy?
When I was a kid, I loved 3 Musketeers. Now I hate those things. I don't eat much candy these days (at least, not American candy--the British candy bars just taste so much better for some reason; must be all that whey), but I do like Almond Joy. Mmm, coconut!

12. Tell us about a scary nightmare you had.
No, because my scary nightmares now are all about people I know getting killed.

13. What is your supernatural fear?
None. Give me a break.

14. What is your creepy-crawlie fear?
None, really. I know people are creeped out by spiders and bugs, but come on: you're literally hundreds of times bigger than they are. That would have to be a big fucking spider.

15. Would you ever stay in a real haunted house overnight?
Sure. If I'm wrong I'll say I 'm wrong, but the idea of a haunted house doesn't scare me.

Let me tell you about one of my favorite scares, though. My sister Jayne is terrified by things she sees in the movies and on TV. For instance, if anyone says "Candyman" five times, she freaks the fuck out, midnight or no. And it's fun to play with. She's such an easy scare that it shouldn't be any fun. But it totally is. I love to prank people. I'm a dick.

So, this one time, Jayne was watching some special called Ghosts of Ireland, and getting all scared by it. It was a late night, and she gets all wrapped up in that shit. My mom does, too. So, at the end of the night, Jayne is going to bed and Mom goes to the bathroom, and I'm just casually ordered (for some reason) to put Jayne's prom dress in her closet. So I take the dress into Jayne's dark room and head to her closet. She had a bathroom in her room, and the short hallway leading to it had closets on both sides, with mirrored doors. It's dark and I'm standing behind the dress, so no one can see me, and when Jayne sees the dress she literally screams as hard as she can.

For years I maintained that it was an accident; that I'd just been holding the dress that way and she'd seen it and freaked out. And it sounded true because of the time Jayne once ran into my raised fist like a total idiot--she maintains that I punched her in the jaw on purpose, but actually I stopped and held out my fist and she ran into it like Wile E. Coyote. But then, a few years later, she finally demanded outright that I be honest, and I laughed my ass off. "Duh!" I said. "I was standing behind that dress, holding it up and moving it to make it look like it was waving, making wind noises, and finally, when you didn't notice, saying in a low voice: 'Arrrr, I'm a Ghost o' Arrrrrland!'"

Oh, man, that paid off twice. And it still cracks me the fuck up.

16. Are you a traditionalist (just a face) Jack O'Lantern carver, or do you get really creative with your pumpkins?
I'm a creative traditionalist. I do the face, but I try to make it neat-looking. I'm not always great at it.And yes, that is me as a kid.

17. How much do you decorate your home for Halloween?
Not as much as I'd like; not even close. One day, I'll be able to go all out.

18. Do you think Halloween is too commercial these days? Do you miss classic Halloween costumes or traditions from your childhood?
I like commercial Halloween. In fact, I don't think Halloween is commercial enough these days! There is far too little Halloween stuff going on right now. I'm not sure what a more traditional Halloween is, but I do think it's a shame that so many people have turned it into a less innocent holiday and put so much of the wrong kind of fear on it. People can't even make their own treats anymore because no one trusts anyone else. I think kids should make their own costumes more often, but costumes aren't as bad and lame as they were 25 years ago...

Shut Up! Shut Up! SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!

General Wesley Clark lied to Bill Maher about Iran. And what's worse, you only had to look in his eyes to know that he knew he was lying. He knows the what he was saying about Iran and why war with them is necessary was a steaming pile of bullshit--perhaps an even bigger pile of bullshit than our Iraq fuck-up. He has to know that. He's doing such a shitty job of acting like he believes it.

He was talking about the declaration of Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, which is just outright admitting there's going to be a war. Because we have a self-imposed mandate to fight terrorism across the globe, as long as it's not our own corporate terrorism. And since the US has handily equated Islam with fascism over the past few years, it's just a given that we have to go to war with every Muslim nation. Except for Saudi Arabia, majority shareholders in the Bush family and the American government. Their nationals can fly planes into buildings and we'll blame it on a similarly brown country.

I've talked in the past about what a mistake war with Iran would be. The young people there are in the process of rebelling against the revolution and want to become more modern. The majority of the country is under 30, and they don't like the man in power. We may be on the cusp of real change in Iran, and instead of making friends with the right people and encouraging them through diplomacy, people in Washington would rather have a war and strengthen Iran's falling government and prove to those kids that their parents were right all along and the West only cares about the oil and not about people.

Yeah, oil. Because this is really all about oil. All wars are about money. All of them. Oh, you may be on the side of right, but really it comes down to money. Even the "good war," the "righteous war," World War II--that was about money. Why do you think American businesses were allowed to conquer Hawaii in the first place? Why do you think the Navy was there in the first place? It was to protect American business interests in the South Pacific. We were already there raping the land and the people. Who were we protecting in the Philippines? If you said rich, white plantation owners, you are correct. Japan wanted the resources we were taking. That's the Pacific theater right there.

All war is about money. And this one will be no different.

Because this is about oil in the Caspian Sea. This is about Iran wanting to do oil business with Russia and China and not the United States. This is about greed for oil that is willing to go to war with Iran and Russia rather than act rationally and just pay for shit. That's all this is about.

Do not let them scare you into a war with Iran. No matter how much they whine about gays and Mexicans and terrorists and gay Mexican terrorists being the problem, they will never be the problem. The problem is the rampant profiteering the government is doing. They're doing it to the world, and they're doing it to us. Do you honestly think Iraq isn't working out the way it's supposed to? Because it is. It's supposed to be an endless quagmire. Because those are perfect conditions for unregulated profiteering. And Bush isn't just doing it to Iraq, he's doing it to us. He's doing it to New Orleans. I saw FEMA and Adolf Chertoff were in California, checking out the wildfires. I guess California's next. Get ready for the profiteers and carpetbaggers and government functionaries to come in and sell you sinking trailers and phone cards. Good luck surviving. Because it's never going to get fixed. It's not supposed to. Why be efficient when you can be rich?

Did they ever fix that bridge in Minnesota?

And to the older women I know who want to vote for Hillary Clinton because she's an older woman and that bullshit: please don't. Because she's all for declaring the Revolutionary Guard terrorists. Which means that, if she gets elected, we're still going to get a pointless and stupid war with Iran. A war which will turn Russia back into enemies. Because things were so much better under the Cold War.

Wake up, America. Just wake up, already. Stop believing their stupid bullshit and do something useful for once instead of just standing back and letting people get hurt. Gays, Mexicans, terrorists, and Iran are so far from the real problem.

Friday, October 26, 2007

An Indelicate Question

Not to have too much of an opinion on the veracity of the claim a woman is making that she was raped by David Copperfield in the Bahamas, but: if it's true, how are they going to keep David Copperfield behind bars? I mean, dude escaped from Alcatraz, that's all I'm saying.

Scares I Have Had

I notice a lot of bloggers have been putting up lists of movies that genuinely scared them for Halloween. And now, I do the same. The movies that have genuinely scared me--not shocked or upset or depressed me, but genuinely frightened me.

Well, Pinocchio probably seems like an odd choice. But I saw it as a kid, and it frightened the hell out of me. To this day, one of the most intense experiences I've ever had with a movie is the Pleasure Island sequence. When Pinocchio's new friend (and fellow brat) Chester J. Lampwick turns into a donkey, I still get chills and want to run from the room. The way he begs and pleads: "Mother! Motheeeeerrrrr!" Oh, holy shit, that does something to me inside. Especially when I was a child; I really thought there were people who were going to take me to a place where something like that could happen. I was very impressionable and, I realize now, afraid of the world.

I should also mention that, as a small child, I was scared by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (the old crone, mostly), Sleeping Beauty (the dragon), The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (the Headless Horseman), and Alice in Wonderland (just about everything). One of the real lasting impressions was Fantasia; not the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence, but the "Pastoral Symphony," the one with all of the Greek mythological characters. When the rainstorm begins, Zeus's gigantic face suddenly rips through the clouds, and that Beethoven music... that terrified me.

I was so young when I first saw The Wizard of Oz that I can't remember a time in my life when I hadn't seen it. When I was very little, I slept in a bedroom with one of those seemingly gigantic trees outside my window. I've always been an early riser, even when I was little, and would see the shadows of the branches on my wall. For whatever reason, I used to see them and call to my mom "'keys, 'keys!" I was terrified by the flying monkies. But I have to note, I don't really remember this being true. But I've been told about it enough times that it feels like I can remember it.

At some point when I was a kid, I saw Time Bandits. There's some imagery in it that still kind of haunts me: specifically when the Time Bandits are captured by Evil and put in giant, old cages hanging from a ceiling. Nothing--not the floor, not the ceiling, not the walls--is visible in the dark. Why this terrifies me, I can't say. But I've always had recurring dreams, ever since I was a child, of being in the dark and being chased by things which are loud but unseen, with lights searching for me. Also, lately I've come to think that I was scared by some kind of ride at Santa's Village as a kid that was very dark. I don't know, it's odd.

There's a scene with a harpy that terrified me until I was an adult. Not a teenager, an adult.

Oh, man. The Dark Crystal still scares me to this day. I know it's silly, but I can't help it. It is quite literally the most alien movie I've ever seen--there is no human presence. The creature effects are astonishingly great, but they're so good that nothing human is left. Now, that's great filmmaking, it really is. But it also puts me ill at ease. The Skeksis are nightmare figures for me. Seriously, sometimes they still appear in particularly intense nightmares. So reptilian, so cold, so lifeless. To this day, I cannot watch this movie alone at night. During the day, sure. But I still make sure my back is to the wall. I can't even listen to the score alone. Sad? Perhaps. But it left a mark on my psyche.

As I mentioned before, when I was a kid we had one of those giant trees outside my bedroom window. Like the one that comes to life and tries to kill the kid in this movie. Besides, that movie's just terrifying.

My dad told me a story once about scaring one of my aunts after seeing this movie by stacking the chairs on the kitchen table. Classic. I love doing that to people. Mean? Sure. But also very funny.

One of the biggest traumas of my life. Seriously. Events conspired when I was little (and I was six when this movie came out) to turn me into a pretty fearful kid. Overly-sensitive and fearful. Now, remember those lifelong nightmares I've been having about being pursued in the dark? It all comes into play here.

Right away, the movie has a sort of creepy tone. The spaceship, the plant with a human face that moans lowly. And then E.T., in a little reverie, broken by car headlights and faceless men with flashlights coming out of the dark. He screams in terror and flees, pursued, and then gets left behind. I was screaming too, scared out of my mind and trying to run. I think I did run, too, and my mom had to follow me and talk me into going back inside. When I did, Elliott found E.T. in the corn field and they screamed and screamed. That was it; I took off, and my mom and I sat out in the lobby while my dad and my sister watched the rest of the movie. From then on, I was scared of aliens and scared of government guys. I used to actually look around the yard and make sure that there was nothing out there before I went out the door. Even hearing the word E.T. would scare me.

Ironically, when it was re-released just three years later in 1985, it became one of my all-time favorite movies. And when it finally came out on video (1988?), I watched it nearly every day for a while. I love that movie. But I remember how it frightened me at age six.

Incidentally, I had a similar experience of terror with Jaws: The Revenge which led to a lifelong fear of/fascination with sharks.

I was ten. I had nightmares about that fucking Alien for years.

Okay, it sounds pretty stupid to put RoboCop on a list of scary movies, but it genuinely terrified me the first time I saw it. I saw this in the theater when it first came out. Now, I was 11 years old then. And I hadn't seen much in the way of depictions of real gore and violence. I wasn't really sheltered too much, but there were things I hadn't seen. I was being ostracized a lot by my peers at this point because I wasn't interested in growing up as damn quickly as everyone else. I still liked cartoons and Lego. It wasn't that I didn't like girls, but I knew the girls I knew didn't like me because I was the fat kid. Anyway, enough with the sob story--the point is, RoboCop terrified me because of its depictions of cruelty, gore, and just general meanness. I was 11; I just didn't get that people could act that way to each other. I was still watching G.I. Joe, for chrissakes. It was just so intense that it gave me nightmares for weeks; I even cried, which is my usual response to that kind of cruelty.

That said, much like E.T., it's one of my favorite movies now.

The first time I saw Night of the Living Dead I was 14 and just accidentally caught it on some local TV station a few days before Halloween. Scared the crap out of me. I saw Halloween the same way, and that scared me too.

The Man Who Saw Tomorrow is a pseudo-documentary hosted by Orson Welles about that fake Nostradamus crap that some people inexplicably take some kind of creepy comfort in. But it has a big depiction of the end of the world that scared the crap out me in my early teens. Seriously, who the fuck makes this exploitation crap? Orson Welles is telling me that a nuclear war is going to happen in the 1990s (and it's 1992 as I'm watching it), then there's lava and shit, and then he says: "And in the future?" and then the planet just explodes like the Death Star. Fuck you, makers of The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, for all the nightmares people got from this shiz!

I still hadn't gotten over my fear of aliens when I watched D.B. Sweeney get essentially gang-raped by a bunch of mean-looking aliens. This didn't do me any favors. It's pretty brutal and, oddly, the only good scene in this stupid, stupid movie.

My fear of being pursued in the dark: meet the liquidation of the Polish ghetto. Still, those nightmares pop up every now and then. Sometimes I'm in reeds trying to hide; sometimes, like in this movie, it's in a building. Very, very intense. This is one of the first movies that really made me think about violence in a meaningful way, though.

I didn't see this movie until I was 20, and it still scared the living shit out of me. It really did; and it's one of the few actual horror movies to do that.

I really think The Blair Witch Project is a stupid, artless piece of nothing. But credit where credit is due: the scene with the hands pressing against the tent scared me.

It's rare these days when a movie can play into my old alien fear. This one genuinely did. That scene at the kid's birthday party, when the alien walks by the camera? Yeah, I actually cried out a little bit. And that's rare, too. This movie really, really works for me, which is why it's such a shame that I've fucking hated every other movie M. Night Shyamalan has made (though I haven't seen Lady in the Water yet...).

When Leatherface suddenly appears out of the kitchen, hits the guy in the head with a mallet, pulls him in and slams the steel door shut behind him... holy shit. Modern horror movies have nothing this visceral.

Most recently, these two movies scared me. Somehow, they both managed to tap into something primal that scares the living hell out of me. There was a moment in The Descent when I actually cried out--and I was at home! It just fucking scared me! And Grizzly Man scared me for complicated reasons, and actually similar reasons that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre scared me--that sense that sometimes we aren't safe, and our civilized ways have fooled us into thinking that we are. Hearing that tape...

And those are the times movies have really, truly scared me.

The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers

From 1983, this is my second-favorite episode of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre. Peter McNicol stars as a farm boy who never gets frightened; Vincent Price narrates, and Christopher Lee, David Warner, and Frank Zappa are all in it. It's a Halloween staple for me; watch it while it's still there.






Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bunny Calling

To say:

Happy Birthday, Becca!

She'd never tell you, but today is her 31st birthday. Why not drop on by at No Smoking in the Skull Cave and wish her well?

It Seems I'm Some Sort of Blogging Star

At least, that's what J.D. says, and he's never wrong. Well, at least not in this case...

This award is for bloggers who shine their light throughout the Blogosphere. Some do it with humor, others with creativity, and others with their kind and thoughtful natures. We all know more than a few of them so why not give them some recognition?

Here’s what to do if you receive this:

* Proudly display it on your blog along with a link to who gave it to you.
* Mention that it originated here at
Skittles’ Place so I can follow its journey.
* Pass it on to any blogger(s) you think should have it.
Alright, I will. To five other bloggers.

1. Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein has already won this award, but I would be remiss if I didn't give him one myself. His is one of the blogs I obsessively read every day; and thankfully, he obsessively updates it every day. One of the best blogs in history. That's right; I said it.

2. Fellow Chicagoan Johnny Yen also has a great blog, full of truly interesting political thoughts and historical comparisons, and some great pictures of my city (yeah, it's mine) and anecdotes about being a father. I think I want to be him when I grow up.

3. I'm heartily disappointed at the collapse of the Green Monkey Music Project, but there are so many other reasons to check out Splotchy: movie reviews, MS Paint doodles, a wit with the English language that sometimes I wish I could plagiarize without anyone noticing. Although... I wonder how many people still read this thing...

4. MWB is not just a blogging star, but some kind of weird pop culture genius. I mean, Starcrash? Starcrash? He may be braver than I. Even with Caroline Munro in it (and God I love her), I'm not quite that brave.

5. And Becca, even though she's in a blogging malaise, certainly deserves this award. Because not only did she give me the idea to start a blog, she has a really damn good one herself. I hope she comes back soon!

He Is a Genius, Make No Mistake

There's a Professor Ludwig Von Drake statue? Oh, man, I totally need this! Or, I would if it weren't so insanely overpriced. But still, I love it. I love that there's a Ludwig Von Drake statue out there in the world.

I love Disney's duck characters. If you asked me to name my favorite Disney character of all time, the answer would be simple: Scrooge McDuck. I love the whole population of Duckburg; Carl Barks peopled that town with Scrooge McDuck, Gyro Gearloose, Gladstone Gander, Joe Carioca, Panchito Pistoles, the Junior Woodchucks, the Beagle Boys, Magica De Spell, Flintheart Glomgold, Bolivar the dog, and so many others. And I love him for it.

I found this great website called Who's Who in Duckburg, for total duck addicts like myself. Just passing it on if there are any fellow Duck fans out there.

Unintended Effect: A Monologue

She didn't understand the hidden meanings in words.

The subtleties of language.

The way that "I love you" is a question. The way "I love you" is a brush-off. The way "I love you" implies action. Something you don't just say. Something you do; something you are. Something you have to live.

She didn't understand the way "I love you" is also a rejection.

And she didn't understand the way "You finally made me realize what's important" is not the compliment she thinks it is. That's it's actually one of the worst things anyone can say to you. Because it means they hadn't realized before. That they weren't sure before. That all that you shared had been wrapped in indecision. That things you thought really meant something--assurances made in the past and declarations of feelings outright and hidden--all really meant something else. That they hadn't decided, or been able to decide, if you were worth giving up their previous lives for. That there was still the possibility that a life of trauma, of death and murder, of near-death and near-coma, of hysterical blindness and being owned by someone else and giving up all humanity in service of others--there was a possibility that repeatedly waking up in hospital beds.... that there was still the possibility that that kind of life was preferrable to life with you.

She didn't understand "You finally made me realize what's important" is a near-fatal heartbreak that is nearly impossibly to recover from. That being yourself wasn't enough to make them sure, and that they'd told you otherwise even though it wasn't true.

And she could never understand--at least, she didn't then--that "I miss you" and "I need you" are questions, too. That they really mean "I'm afraid of being without you; why doesn't this mean anything to you?" and "I need you to reassure me because I feel like I'm losing you; am I?" Or that silence is a weapon just as much as it's a defense. Or that the way pain is expressed means "Sometimes I hate you for doing this to me" and "I hate myself for letting it get this far when you were never really sure in the first place." Or that shutting off means "I don't want you anymore." Or that "Sometimes it's like talking to a brick wall" sounds like "Get over it, because what you want is not what you're going to get."

And through all of that, she never understood that none of it ever once meant "I don't love you anymore." She wanted to be hurt instead. Or maybe she didn't want the responsibility of putting someone's life on hold, only to make them wait more and more in a life of misery and lies and pain while she tried to make up her mind. Even though none of that ever meant "I don't love you anymore" either.

Maybe she just didn't listen. Maybe I wasn't clear enough. Maybe it will all get sorted out; or it could be mistaken for indifference. For disinterest.

The uncertainty. The unintended effect of things unsaid. Or unheard. The way one person says something and means something else. The way we want things to mean what perhaps they do not.

Maybe we all just want to hear ourselves and believe what we say is true. Even when we know it isn't.

--undated

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

From Carl: Penguin Ornament

That's it, dammit. If Carl won't blog, I'm just going to start printing his emails.

Knowing how much you like penguins, I thought you'd get a kick out of this. I saw this ornament at a Hallmark while shopping for a coworker's birthday card.

It's a little penguin angel with wings and a harp.

Some thoughts I had:

It's a penguin, doesn't it already have wings?

Technically, it's a DEAD penguin, so isn't that kind of sad?

Is this penguin an angel in penguin afterlife, or is there a universal afterlife where all animals (humans being animals, after all) go?

And if so, does that mean it could be a guardian angel? And if so, would it be one for another penguin, or could a penguin angel be a guardian angel for a human?

And if so, wouldn't it only really be on the lookout for walruses and leopard seals, and not pay attention at all if you were about to walk into traffic?

And why is it when I think of these things... people think it takes a lot of effort to think these things up? I mentioned this to the coworker I was shopping with, and while he's a bit of a weirdo himself, he thought this was abysmally strange of me, as though 110% of my brain power was devoted to it.

Sigh...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Health Report: Week 45

The fools at the Board of Education have given me a substitute teacher's license! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

No, that's Licensed Substitute Teacher Chunk!

But seriously. This wonderful piece of paper and my existence in a database of people willing to help mold young minds makes me even more laid back at work. Just a few more days--Halloween at the absolute latest--and I am out of the university and not dealing with the Beast everyday. She was a total bitch today, too, squawking at me with a lecture about how I didn't have to call a professor on something, and before I even got my computer on, at that. Come on, let me get my station working before you go all bitchcakes on me, huh? She went on and on and on and on about how calling the professor was unneccesary.

It felt great to be able to say: "You do remember that you were the one who told me to call on it in the first place, right?"

She didn't. It was like watching an old computer try and find the right filepath--click * click* click--before she could recover and try to play it off as something else. The funny thing was, this little breach in her all-important protocol didn't actually delay anything. Or even affect anything, to be honest. So I played it off as unimportant, which at least kept her from talking to me for the rest of the day. Aaaaahhhhh...

Anyway, this isn't the Complain About Work Report, this is the Health Report. No weight lost, but I'm feeling okay and not tiring too easily (especially after that heroic trip to the zoo, where I could actually walk all day). I'm making a much more concerted effort. My life is finally changing for the better, and it's time to change my health with that. And a change is gonna come.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Boo! At the Zoo

Becca and I went to the Brookfield Zoo on Saturday. It's one of my favorite places to go in the world, and especially in October--my favorite month of the year. Weather conditions were perfect. It was in the low seventies, breezy and cool, and because it's nearly Halloween, the crowds didn't bother me. The zoo was having its annual Boo! At the Zoo celebration, and all the kids were wearing costumes, which was awesome, especially here in DeKalb where no one dresses up ever for any reason. Things were finally feeling like Halloween (especially since, the night before, Turner Classic Movies played a bunch of Tod Browning movies, putting me right in the Halloween mood). The family atmosphere actually wasn't too bad; normally I can't stand being around people.

The first thing I noticed is that the zoo now has a carousel. It's huge and it's really nice, with all kinds of animals to ride on. I didn't go on it, but at some point I'd like to at least sit in the peacock chair and go around. The carousel just put me right in the mind of an old carnival or some kind of circus, and it was so damn cool. I thought Bubs would get a kick out of the cicada and praying mantis. That cicada is so cool I want to take it home and put it in my garden.

Moving over to the Nature Stage, it seemed a "professional pumpkin carver" (how does one apply for that job?) was working on a gigantic pumpkin. I kept that in mind so we could swing by at the end of the day and see what he'd come up with. From there it was just a short swing over to my favorite animal on this earth: the elephant.

This one was up and about. For whatever reason, I just love pachyderms. The Pachyderm House is a long stop for me, because I'm hypnotized by those creatures. They're like dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals all at once. And since I'll never be able to see a Uintatherium or a Prodinoceras at a zoo, the rhino will have to do. Luckily, rhinos are outstanding.



That one sure was enjoying his laziness, anyhow. I also thought this one was very cute:He was sucking on that rock like crazy. Maybe it had some kind of salt on it, or something. The rhinos and I are a little closer now, ever since the year one of them came up to me, turned around, lifted its tail, and tried to piss all over me. Seriously, it was like a fire hose of animal urine. I managed to leap out of the way just in time, but I could feel the heat off it. Damn, that was close.

If there's one thing about the Pachyderm House that always bothers me a little, it's that it seems kind of empty. There are a number of black rhinos, and the elephants are usually outside, but there's, like, one tapir and despite the sign, there hasn't been a pygmy hippo there in years. There were some gorgeous Nile hippos outside, though, letting the sun hit them.

I think the river horse is underrated. It's a beautiful animal.

Then we moved across the lane to the hippo's ballet partner, the ostrich. Ostriches always look oddly fake, like puppets. They have a weird way of moving that looks almost unreal. I remember once holding out my hand to an ostrich at a petting zoo in Iowa. He clamped on my hand and, making sure no one was looking, I smacked it in the head to get it off me.

The ostrich was in with some surprisingly cute warthogs. I used to have a pair of warthog tusks, but I don't know what happened to them. I got them on Guam; found them on the beach. They were with the shells we brought back. Hmmm, I need to bug my mom about those.

A warthog once attacked my aunt's car. While she was driving. Cool.

Then we checked out the aardvarks in their dark little house, and they were extremely cute. They came up to us and sniffed around and stuck their tongues out, looking for food or something. They were just lovable. We rounded the kangaroos and the emu, and then went around to the line of hoofed animals.

I think camels are really neat. I wish the Brookfield Zoo has dromedary camels, though. Still, camels are cool. Before going around the rest of the hoofs, I had to stop in the Australia House for my favorite part of being at the zoo.

This was a very curious (or very annoyed) skink in the Australia House.

As well as a beautiful green tree snake.

And very cute! Enlarge this if you have to; it's a wombat lying on her back with her newborn joey on her tummy. That was absolutely adorable, and I was frankly disappointed that more people weren't excited. It's an endangered species, man.

But there was another, even bigger disappointment in store for me.

Bats, like rhinos, are outstanding. Just wonderful. And about half of the Australia House is devoted to fruit bats. The best part? They're free-flying. They just fly around you and over you, and it's great. I love being there and watching the bats fly around. Well, imagine my disappointment when I saw that the bats now have a big fence between them and the walkway! What the hell, man?! They're not free-flying anymore! I want to know who to complain to about the Brookfield Zoo's bat policy. For their part, the bats don't seem to like it, either. None of them were flying around, and there was a bit of a pall over the place. It also looks like their population has been reduced by about two-thirds. Where are all of my bats?

And why are they gone? Did someone complain? I mean, they're fruit bats, for crying out loud, it's not like they hurt people. They're not vampire bats, or rabies-carrying brown bats, which we actually have a lot of in Illinois, by the way. I see brown bats all the time--I love to watch them fly around. Thanks, Brookfield Zoo, for taking one of my favorite experiences there and turning it into a pet store. Thanks for nothing. Well, I resolved to contiue having a good time as we looked at the hoofed animals.

O, lament for the waterbuck!
Everyone says a mere goat I be!
For all of my interesting features,
No one ever takes pictures of me.

Positioned across the lane
From giraffes so compelling and long;
Positioned right next to a zebra,
With a flashy and light-sounding song.

But a waterbuck does nothing of value
For the entertainment dollar.
So I can only sit here, ignored,
And in patron apathy wallow.

According to a zoo guide on a passing tram, the addax is the second-rarest animal in the world, now completely extinct in the wild. That made me a little sad. They don't exist outside of zoos anymore. I'm sure there are other species we'll be able to say that about before long.

Why does this kangaroo look like he's taking a dump? Seriously, he should be reading a newspaper.

We walked up the entire west side of the zoo, which is Indian Lake and the Salt Creek Wilderness. There's a nature walk, but we skipped it and instead went all the way up in the corner to the Regenstein Wolf Woods, which have a German name but house a pack of Mexican gray wolves. Beautiful creatures they are. They had an observation station for the wolves, which included a chamber you could go into and experience the night in a scarily unique way. The idea was, for two minutes, you would stand in a 10-foot x 10-foot room in total darkness and hear the sounds of wolf howls surround you. There was a little warning on the chamber door that said the experience was too intense for very young kids. Some day I'll let you know if that's true.

Also by the lake: a trachodon.This guy is one of my favorite Brookefield Zoo mainstays. He's been there since 1970, positioned by the lake, in the wilderness, as a sort of reminder of things past. 32 feet high, he was built by the Atlanta-Richfield Company out of fiberglass for the Sinclair collection of dinosaurs that showed at the New York World's Fair in 1964.

This had been hours by now; we were really taking our time on Saturday, more so than usual. It had been about three or so hours, and we had only seen about a quarter of the zoo. Worse, I had to stop twice to use the bathroom--I was having a situation after eating a too-greasy breakfast. So after the Wolf Woods we walked over to the Ibex Island (said one kid to his grandfather, "The ibex is just a goat.") and sat for a while, talking about how neat it was that all the kids were wearing costumes and what a surprising number of hot moms there were. Many of them Latinas. Seriously, there were a LOT of sexy Hispanic chicas there on Saturday, so I was very, very happy with that.

I looked over at the faded ads for Icee and said: "I always wanted an Icee when I was a kid, but my parents would never let me get one. I'd love to know what they taste like."

Becca: "Well, they're just like a Slurpee."

Me: "Oh... okay, yeah..."

Becca: "You've never had a Slurpee?! What happened to you as a kid?!"

So, I finally had my first Icee. It was mixed--blue raspberry and wild cherry. And it tasted blissful, like kissing a fruit-flavored cloud. It did nothing for my slight hunger, but it did quench my thirst. So that was nice.

Finally, we headed north again, the direction we'd come from, and checked out the okapi, wild dogs, giraffes and others at the various Habitat Africa! houses. I remember when this little guy was still suckling. They grow up fast. Especially when they're camelids.

I hope my sister Jayne reads this post. She loves the little klipspringers, and I took the pictures of these little cliff-jumping deers for her. They're oddly hypnotic to look at. Also oddly hypnotic was the grey go-away bird. It was kind of mean and kept flying pretty low. A lot of the houses have free-flying birds now.

Red river hogs. The little piglets were so cute! Especially running around on their stubby little legs!

Finally, we got up to the west corner to check out the new house, Feathers and Scales, which is a total redressing of the house where they had birds and penguins. (Whatever happened to that little kiwi bird they used to have?) They've got reptiles and birds in there, including a neat exhibit that's supposed to be all Mexican birds. It's a stereotype, maybe, but the place had a kind of atmosphere that made me hum songs from Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. I enjoyed my self-imposed easygoing samba beat.

There were beautiful birds, like these burrow owls......and this stupendous tucan. Tucans are splendid.

And there were neat lizards, like this gecko, the kind we used to see everywhere on Guam (including inside the houses)......and, um, this thing. I don't remember its name. But he's neat, like many lizards.

After that, we took a trip to the Living Coast, which can be a really annoying house to go into. There's some neat stuff in the aquarium part of it, though.

This precious little seahorse is missing a swim bladder, so she hangs upside down a lot.

Starfish. I have one of these hanging on my wall. Again, got it on Guam.

I can't explain it, but every time I go in an aquarium I think I'm going to die.

And there's penguins, currently the most overrated animal alive. Kids flock all around them, so I try to get out of their as quick as I can. I've seen penguins. And I've seen annoying kids. Moving on!

Behold the Footsie Wootsie machine. By this time, my feet were killing me, and these seductively odd machines just begged to be sat on and tried out. Hell, it was only a quarter! We each took a machine and the foot massage started. We both laughed uncontrollably, because the vibrations are so hard that they brutally tickle your feet. I couldn't wait for it to end, and I jumped off the little torture box. And my feet still hurt, but in a different sort of way. Then we walked to the Perching Bird House.

That last one if a frogmouth, and it's quite unsettling. It just stares and stares at you.

This cockatoo, Cookie, is at least 70 years old and has been with the zoo since the thirties (actually, since they opened in 1934).

After we left the Perching Bird House we conceded that, although our feet didn't feel refreshed, they didn't hurt as much as they did before the Footsie Wootsie got a hold of them.

Finally, it was time to head down to Tropic World. How do I know that Becca's favorite part of the zoo is Tropic World? Because she brought up going to Tropic World roughly 36 times that day before we finally got there. To be fair, though, Tropic World is pretty awesome. I remember when you used to have to stand in a line for about an hour and pay to get in. Now, you just walk right in. I decided to cheat and hop the fence, and when I did, I twisted something in my side and had to lean over a fence until it stopped hurting. Until then, I felt like I wanted to vomit. When I came to, Becca rubbed it in by saying: "You missed the really hot Spanish chick. She looked like a real-life Hilda Suarez." (She knows how much I want Hilda Suarez.)"Only with much bigger breasts."

Damn it!

Tropic World is so cool. It was the world's first indoor immersion rain forest, with thunderstorms and waterfalls and everything. It's divided into three sections--South America, Asia, and Africa. The South America section has some neat spider monkeys. New World monkeys have prehensile tails; Old World monkeys do not. I love watching them swing around and listening to them. There's a pretty boss sloth in there, too. I even saw him move once.

Here's the host of the Asia section:Is some designer a science fiction fan?

"Is that a pygmy hippo in the Asia section?" "It's just a candy bar, I swear!"

The Asia section is only half-good. The gibbons and monkeys and the hippo and the otters are hella neat. The otters looked especially devious; they were all gathered together in a little informal circle. Becca said they looked like they were having some kind of secret otter meeting, and all I could think of was that episode of South Park. As soon as she'd said it, the otters looked up at the people watching, then broke and ran off behind a big rock. "Cheese it, they're on to us!"

But the other half, with the orangutans, is a constant disappointment. They almost never come out! I think I've seen two orangs there in the last decade. That kind of sucks. Secretive and shy little guys. They need an outdoor viewing space for them.

The Africa section totally kicks ass. The mandrills are pretty fucking cool, but the gorillas are amazing. I love the gorilla family at the Brookfield Zoo; I was so sad in 1988 when Samson died, but his offspring continue to live in zoos across America. I'm oddly interested in famous zoo gorillas, such as the Great Bushman, the largest gorilla ever in captivity, caught by the great Frank Buck, a favorite figure of mine. Bushman is now at the Chicago Field Museum. The current silverback of Brookfield's gorilla troop is Ramar.

I think this is Koola, the daughter of Binti Jua. Binti is famous for, back in 1996, helping to rescue a three year-old boy who fell 18 feet into the gorilla enclosure. The boy was unconscious, and Binti Jua cradled him in her arms and carried him 60 feet to an access entrance and waited for zoo personnel to come get him. The boy recovered after four days. There's some video footage here. Koola was 17 months old at the time; now she's a mother. She gave birth two or so years ago, and Binti Jua also gave birth around the same time. I remember the little gorilla babies; they're getting bigger now, but they're still so cute.



We spent a lot of time with the gorillas. They're so human-like. So fascinating. They're Becca's favorite animal, and one of mine.

The gorgeous Roosevelt Fountain. There was a visible rainbow, but you can't really see it in that picture.

Now it was time to take a load off and get a bite to eat. I had some Coke (sorry, I needed it badly) and some Connie's Pizza over at the Bear Grotto. We watched the polar bears play while we ate, and noticed we'd missed The Swamp. Since we'd seen a cool crocodile in one of the Africa houses, we decided we could live without seeing alligators, especially since it was barrelling towards closing time and we wanted to see the eastern half of the zoo. So, finishing the pizza, we stepped inside the Children's Zoo to see some of the local animals. I petted a little chick and nearly lost my eardrum to a sudden rooster crow. I like the Children's Zoo, though.

This is the groundhog. Nesting, obviously.

He's in an enclosure with this skunk and a raccoon, like some kind of real-life version of Pogo.



The groundhog was sleeping in the sunset as we made our way out. I also pet a sheep. They've got lots of hand sanitizer there, though, so I was good to go.

Heading north in the fading light, we hit the Seven Seas and took a look at the dolphins. The Brookfield Zoo built the nation's first inland dolphinarium in 1960. I still remember the old one, which must've been the original; I can't remember when they renovated it. We were too late for the dolphin show, but we've seen it before. It was enough to see the dolphins.

Plus, we got to add some new Mold-A-Ramas to our collection. We've been slowly collecting all the ones we can find, and this year we picked up the lion and the wombat. Some of the little stuff I collect. And hey, someone's got a whole webpage devoted to Mold-A-Ramas!

Another bit of Brookfield trivia: the first giant pandas in the US--Su-lin, Mei-mei, and Mei-lan, were at the Brookfield Zoo. I love my zoo.

Even the seals were sleeping when we got to Pinneped Point. It was the end of a long, yet short, completely fun day.

This was also where Becca tried to take some pictures of some teenagers she thought were hot, but their mom was watching too closely.

I think it's great that there's a statue to Olga (there's one to Samson, too). Olga was such a neat, huge walrus. The zoo had two others there, but they weren't anywhere to be found on Saturday. After the bats, that was just even more disappointing. I love those guys.

It was too late to go into the other houses--the Fragile Desert and the Fragile Rain Forest--but we zipped past the big cats. I remember when I was a kid and they had the Big Cat House, with barred cages, and they had a black panther. I'd love to see one of those again. We did get to see the tiger, which is beautiful.

For a final disappointment, though, we didn't get to see any lions, my second-favorite animal. The male, Makonnen, hurt his back somehow, so they've moved the lions in and soaped up the observation window to limit his interaction with guests. That was very disappointing, because I love the lions so much and love to sit by the window and watch them. I'll see them again, but they were always one of my favorite parts. So--no bats, no walrus, no lion. Too bad.

But still, all in all, it was a fun day. My feet were killing me when I got home (and the next morning), but it wasn't like WizardWorld--no charlie horses this time.

I can't wait to go again.