Make Mine Mimas

Yesterday the Cassini mission released this photograph of Saturn’s closest moon, Mimas – an image taken less than a month ago, on October 16th. It has a wonderfully spooky vibe. I can only guess that while flying past Mimas you would get the impression that its singular gaze is following you.
Just about every modern moviegoer who sees this crater-pocked sphere thinks it bears an uncanny resemblance to a famous fictitious space object.

This is apparently a coincidence. Mimas was merely a dot in space for a very long time after William Herschel first spotted it in 1789. The first close-up photos revealing its Cyclopean flair came from the Voyager missions in 1980. The first (fourth) Star Wars movie was already in (and out of) the theaters by then, debuting in 1977.

If travel to Saturn’s moons ever becomes a common thing, one wonders if humans will call this object “The Death Star”. I have to believe it’s possible for a cultural reference to last long after it fades from common knowledge. After all, we’re calling it Mimas right now, and how many people know who Mimas is? But the currents of memory are hard to predict. Future movie loving space travelers might also re-name this moon Wazowski.

Perhaps it will be left to the moon’s colonizers to determine if they want to be thought of as Mimanteans, Imperial Storm Troopers or Wazowskers. Of course, given the pockmarked terrain, you can tell they have a local weather problem with intermittent boulder rain. Anyone looking to live on Mimas might just as well be called a dang fool.

Place names are important, though. Bali Ha’i, Shangri-la and El Dorado all sound like very nice places to go, but would you really want to live there?

If you had to live in a fictional place, where would you settle?

By a Whisker at the Tape

Perhaps you caught the Zenyatta story over the weekend, but if not here’s a way to catch up quickly.

Zenyatta is a racehorse with a sparkling personality. She dances. She drinks Guinness. And she established a distinct pattern of running over the course of her 20 big races. She tends to fall behind the competition early, sometimes all the way to last place, and then finishes with a breathtaking charge through the pack to win at the last moment.

This is a sure crowd pleaser in any sport because people like drama and excitement and surprise. It doesn’t matter if the come-from-behind victor is a hapless baseball team, a Kenyan marathoner or a football squad led by a geriatric quarterback. An unexpected late rally gets the blood flowing, and its dramatic punch is actively promoted by storytellers of all kinds, including those in Hollywood and at ESPN. A video, which has been configured so it can only be viewed by following this link, was produced to promote last Saturday’s Breeder’s Cup. It essentially places the Zenyatta story alongside the great horse racing legends like Secretariat and Seabiscuit, and asserts that she will emerge from the race in her typical fashion as an undefeated, screen-ready phenomenon.
Nice story.

Here’s what actually happened:

So Zenyatta falls by a nose to a horse named Blame. Her first loss. That good old last minute magic wasn’t enough. But don’t blame Blame. Some have said it’s the jockey’s fault, and he was reported to be quite upset at the end of the race. The Hollywood ending didn’t work. Or did it?

What is the charm of an ending that is the same every single time? Once you’ve gone through the adrenaline rush of watching this athlete pull victory from certain defeat 19 straight times, how can the exact same scenario be interesting enough for the climactic race? Hmmm. Not too compelling. Finishing second is more complex, and more human. And that’s the attraction, right? Horses R’ Us!

But how does Hollywood finish the story? Does Zenyatta sense the crushing disappointment of the jockey, the owners and ESPN? Does she spiral downward into a pit of despair, drinking deeply of her quirky sideline interests, dancing like a floozy into the wee hours at that disreputable stable that never closes? Guzzling tubs of Guinness and gassing on and on to anyone who will listen about how she was once a golden girl, a media darling, and how she threw it all way by waiting a half-second too long, and now she will never be able to put Blame behind her?

The elements are in place for a very different kind of horse racing movie, all about habit, hubris and hesitation. The moral? One should not pin one’s happiness and sense of worth on the unlikely success of a last minute rush.

Are you a procrastinator?

Found Baboons

Since this is a baboon themed blog, it is always appropriate to pass along word of a found baboon. I located this one in Minneapolis, at the X,Y and Z art gallery at 3258 Minnehaha Avenue.

I THINK it’s a baboon. Or is it a rabbit? A Raboon? A Babbit? This is from an exhibit called “When Trust Is The New Money” by an art collaborative called Broken Crow. John Grider and Mike Fitzsimmons say on their website that they are trying, through large scale stencil murals, to reintroduce wild animals into the urban habitat.

Welcome back to the city, baboons! It seems like you never left. The walls at X,Y and Z are covered with this outdoor work brought inside. It also includes, among other things, a man with a chain saw, flying saucers and a bear in a dumpster.

The gallery, by the way, serves as the entrance to the Trylon Microcinema, a 50 seat theater with real 35 millimeter projectors and genuine bouncy-backed movie theater seats, showing a wide assortment of films that are brainy, exotic, classic and just plain fun. This month they’re screening Charlie Chaplin films. This weekend’s offering includes “The Circus” from 1928, which was, you may recall, the film at whose Hollywood premiere the newsreel camera caught that time traveler talking on her cellphone!

Whew! So many connections.

Name or describe a favorite piece of outdoor public art.

Nonsense Defeats Reason!

Former legitimate journalist-turned-sensationalist Bud Buck has another dispatch for us today.

Dog’s Chew Toy Discovered in Space
by Bud Buck

NASA released photographs yesterday that clearly reveal a roughed-up dog’s rawhide chew toy flying through space.

Scientists controlling the Deep Impact spacecraft repeatedly asserted that the object is a comet named “Hartley 2”, and that it was discovered by an Australian 24 years ago. But Alice Crumholtz of Inver Grove Heights Minnesota called a press conference yesterday afternoon to claim that the object is in fact a beloved toy that actually belongs to her dog, “Bailey”.

“I was certain he’d buried it in the yard last year,” Ms. Crumholtz told reporters. “Every now and then I’d feel under a sofa cushion or look behind a chair, hoping I’d find it because he looked so sad without that raggedy thing in his mouth. He carried it with him everywhere he went. Slept with it. Chewed on it so loud sometimes I couldn’t hear Glenn Beck over all the racket. I prayed it would turn up somehow, and now here it is!”

Ms. Crumholtz offered no detailed explanation for how her dog’s favorite chew toy might have been launched into deep space, though she does believe the causes are political.

“That Obama government wants to take over everything,” she said. “It doesn’t surprise me that they came after Bailey’s favorite chew because he would gag on it every now and then. That’s “The Nanny State”. They think they’ve got all the money in the world and it’s OK to launch a poor dog’s toy into orbit just to keep him from getting a chunk of it stuck in his throat. Bailey is a damn fool and if he doesn’t get something wedged in there he’ll never learn to slow down. We can’t afford this type of meddling!”

Officials at NASA adamantly denied that the object is Bailey’s chew.

“There is no scientific purpose to be served by sending a canine’s toy that far out there,” said Laird Undercroft, spokesman for NASA’s Rumor Control Division. “Our budget is much too tight to build any missions around a game of keep-away.”

“The thing was gross,” Ms. Crumholtz responded when told of NASA’s statement. “Putting something that nasty and butt-ugly out in space would have all kinds of sciency good reasons that they can’t tell us about because it’s top secret.”

“There are no secrets,” countered NASA’s Undercroft. “Besides, the thing is throwing off sparks and cyanide gas. What kind of dog’s toy does that?”

“It was made in China,” was Crumholtz’s reply. “I’m sure it’s got all sorts of bad stuff in it but so what? Bailey loved the damn thing.”

Crumholtz is demanding that NASA mount a rescue mission to retrieve the object, and that the president issue a formal apology to her dog. NASA refused to dignify the request with a response, though Bo Obama is rumored to be considering a toy sharing arrangement in the misguided hope that it might set a conciliatory tone for the next two years.

This is Bud Buck!

Clearly, Bud is exhausted from election night coverage and is simply trying to fill out the week with whatever juicy nearby item he can sink his teeth into. Though whenever I can’t find something I’m looking for, meddlesome big government is always my first assumption.

What missing object are you still hoping to find?

Holly Jolly Folly

I got an enthusiastic e-mail this morning from dealmaker and visionary Spin Williams

I’m writing from the meeting that never ends to tell you we are all totally pumped about the beginning of the Christmas shopping season! Yes, of course it is already underway!

Things are changing. Long, long ago the heavy-duty holiday marketing didn’t start until after Turkey Day. But every year the start of the season moves up, and now we are going to consider Election Day Turkey Day and will start in earnest on November 3rd. It’s virtually impossible to get any TV ad time during the week before Election Day anyway! This day marks our first real chance in months to cut loose!

I predict that eventually we will have a Christmas that is just like our idea meeting here at Spin Williams Strategies – it goes on and on and while it may occasionally ebb and sometimes drag, it never ends!

“Year round Christmas”, you ask? Yes! And we will get there someday. It’s not simply a matter of pushing the beginning of the season earlier and earlier. We’re also trying to extend it. Here’s a great quote from the New York Times:

“Our challenge is to keep Christmas going,” said Shay Drohan, senior vice president for sparkling brands at Coca-Cola, so “it goes the whole way through the first week in January” and takes in New Year’s Eve, school holidays and Twelfth Night.

I don’t know what I love more about that – the idea of prolonging Christmas into January, or the fact that somebody actually holds the job title “Senior Vice President for Sparkling Brands”. Having a business card that says that would be … well, it would be like having Christmas every day!

Naturally Spin would find this trend exciting. Personally, I’m interested in avoiding all advertising. I don’t believe I saw a single political ad in its entirety at all this year. Shouldn’t I get an award for that? I suspect that once Christmas goes full time, the campaign season is sure to follow.

If something never begins or ends, does it exist?

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I read in the paper this morning that there will be another re-count in a Minnesota election.

I’m starting to think there is someone in this state who is my exact double in almost every respect except when it comes down to politics. In that realm, where I zig, they zag. When I see, they saw. Whenever I’m feeling helter, they’re skelter.

I think I saw this person a few weeks ago. We were headed into the Metrodome for a Vikings game. I was wearing my foam rubber horns, Helga braids, and of course I had Brett Favre’s number painted across my face. I had just put on my brand new Randy Moss “84” (again) jersey when I spied my double in the exact same get-up, except the purple“4” on her face pointed to the right, and mine went left. Then I noticed the price tag was still on her Moss wear – she got it at Wal-Mart while mine was from Target. She paid less! (And because it still had the price tag on it, she might be able to take it back!)

I wanted to pull her aside, introduce myself, and try to find out why she was so like me, but NOT. Maybe by engaging on a personal level I could help break the deadlock! But I didn’t. On some fundamental, totally unconscious level, I was afraid getting too close to this strange, bizzaro echo of myself.

If I see her again, should I approach?


Afraid of My Almost-Doppelganger

I told “Afraid of My Almost-Doppelganger” it all has to do with your intentions. Trying to change another person’s beliefs through force of will doesn’t work, and being reasonable depends on them seeing you as something other than a raving lunatic. Having a purple number “4” painted on your face can be a good start only when the other person also has a purple “4” face. Though it is odd that her right-facing “4” was backwards. Maybe she imagined looking at the number from inside Brett’s jersey. That’s disturbing on a whole new level, and difficult to overlook. It sometimes takes great courage to enter into a discussion without pre-judging.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

The Votes Are Cast

As usual for the first Tuesday in November, there is a last minute statement from a familiar source – the Hon. Loomis Beechly, representing Minnesota’s 9th district – all the water surface area in the state.

Hello 9th Districters,

It is Election Day once again and I encourage you to vote! Voting is a right. You should exercise all your rights and as many of your lefts as possible. Principled debate between opposing viewpoints is key to the proper operation of a democracy, so take the time today to have a say in how you are governed. Simple as that!

Although I just made what I think is a brief and compelling argument in favor of voting, I know that some people will stay away from the polls today. In many cases, 9th districters will skip it because I am running unopposed this year and there is no controversy. That fact alone makes our district very special, so I hope you’ll reconsider just for the sake of taking part in something remarkable. But I’m also concerned. A low turnout opens up an opportunity for successful write in candidates, and my opponents are just stealthy enough to mount a day-of campaign to unseat me.

I can’t let that happen, so I encourage you, if you’re uninspired by the thought of just checking a box on the pre-printed ballot and returning me to office once again, please send me a message by writing me in at the last minute – as an alternative to me.

Yes, I can be my own Tea Party opposition.

I can do it because the Tea Party has no actual mechanism for selecting and endorsing candidates. I can do it because no one owns the market on fed up-ness. I can do it because today is Election Day, and even if my write-in campaign against myself sparks an argument, the voting will be over in a few hours. And lastly, I can do it because there’s no one who knows my flaws and failings better than me!

So write me in! Help me defeat me! I pledge that if my write in totals are larger than my printed ballot totals, I will take that as a clear sign as to how you would like me to govern us, and I will behave accordingly. Yes! I can be a maverick and a thorn in my own side if you will only give me the chance.

But don’t simply react out of anger, fear and spite. Think about the sort of world you would like to live in. Think about the tone of the public policy discussion you would like to have going forward. And think about three-cornered hats. How do you feel about the look? Are you OK with seeing them in movie theaters, in elevators, and on restaurant hat racks all up and down Main Street? Today’s results will determine, to a large extent, the future of the global three-cornered hat industry. But don’t do it simply to keep a handful of hat factories open. I believe they are manufactured in China.

However you vote for me, I hope you WILL find a way to vote for me today, Election Day. Minnesota’s 9th district (all the water surface area in the state) is primarily a fishing district made up of small, independent operators who know how to cast. The time has come to cast your vote in a way that won’t hurt more than it helps, so make sure you don’t catch a hook on your clothes or your nose. Toss out a message that’s straight and true – one I’m sure to get! I’m counting on you and you and you. And the angry revolutionary part of me is counting on you, too.

Your congressman,
Loomis Beechly

Leave it to Congressman Beechly to try to generate a day-of controversy and undermine his own re-election even as he secures his eventual victory.

If a surprise write-in campaign unexpectedly catapulted you into public office, would you serve?

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