Friday, May 31, 2013

We'll be right back after these messages.

Here she is now, the High Priestess of Soul:

Bonus drinking advice: Since the late 1990s, ordering a "Nina Simone" with breakfast in the TMI cafeteria means you get a small glass of red wine (usually cabernet franc or pinot noir) and a cup of strong black coffee. It's a real treat, and yes, we said breakfast.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Elder Moss, Pink Slugs and Cannibal Snails

A University of Alberta biologist has grown fresh moss from a 400-year-old specimen found after Arctic ice melted away. We repeat: Moss, buried under polar ice for centuries, was ground up and placed in fresh soil. Seven out of 24 samples grew green and new moss.

Yes, the polar ice is melting and that’s horrible. We are not here to diminish the wailing of the klaxons that herald the end of humanity’s “dominion” over this planet.

Having recently read H.P. Lovecraft’s excellent novella At the Mountains of Madness, and then this article from the Edmonton Journal about Catherine La Farge’s resuscitation of dormant moss, the immediate, and we feel, appropriate, question is: What else is under the ice caps?

We don’t doubt the tenacity of moss. Cockroaches and rats have nothing on moss, lichens and fungus, in terms of survival skill. No animal will ever best a plant in that department, until the skies rain ammonia. Then we’re all done for.

But if moss can creep out from beneath the thaw, it’s only a matter of time before somebody accidentally wakes up a shoggoth.

La Farge herself says: “’Now we have to think there may be populations of land plants that survived that freezing. It makes you wonder what’s under the big ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic and alpine glaciers.’”

She goes on to call glacial ice an “`Unrecognized genetic reservoir ... We really have not examined all the biological systems that exist in the world; we don’t know it all.’"

While we’re on the topic of slimy things that lurk in dark, little-explored corners of the globe, we direct your attention to New South Wales, Australia.

From the misty heights of Mount Kaputar, a rainforest peak and National Park amidst New South Wales’ generally dry landscape, comes news of new species of invertebrates once only rumored to exist.

One of the confirmed new creatures is a retina-frying pink slug that feeds on moss and mold while the world sleeps. It’s a pretty thing with the kind of coloring we’d expect to come from Laffy Taffy.

The other big discovery at Kaputar is a snail that feeds on other snails, particularly snails that follow a strict vegetarian diet. And if bumper stickers have taught us anything, it’s that vegetarians taste better. Good work, cannibal snail.

[Incantations of ancient thank-yous to Edmonton Journal, The Age, and Pahko]

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Friday on a Tuesday

Please enjoy what was to be a "holiday weekend post" to send the reader off into a holiday weekend with a good feeling.

Now it's something to help you coast through a short work week.

First is a cut from the long-gestating third full-length recording by Quasimoto:

Our thinking is that greedy heads will eat this up and share it, as we have, because if not stupendous, at least it's something. But our untainted devotion to The Unseen and The Further Adventures of Lord Quas give us hope that there's much more to Yessir Whatever. Quas's latest comes out June 18 and yet, nobody has given us a copy. Curses.

And while you listen to that, you can look at this variant cover artwork by Kevin Wada. It's for the new X-Men comic book simply titled X-Men, which is a funny title on account of the team comprises women only. Go ladies! (For non-geeks the players are, from left to right: Rachel Summers, Shadowcat, Psylocke, Storm, Rogue and Jubilee.)

Despite the Fitzgerald-ish look of the mutants, the book does not take place during the 1920s in upstate New York. Oh well.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Do Blind People See Ghosts? attempts to answer that very question with a video, some links and anecdotes. It's funny and interesting.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Wackys Found

For a certain kind of kid, probably most kinds of kid, the phrase "Wacky Packs" triggers immediate memories of playground conclaves in which the titular cards and stickers were shown off and traded as aggressively as pork bellies at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

For those sadly left out of that Venn diagram, this is a Wacky card:

It's a simple concept. A silly, unexpected or gross-out pun on a popular consumer product is played for laughs. Children, slobbering teens and adults with severe cases of arrested development in the pop culture realm, fell under the sway of Wacky Packs.

Most of the artists responsible for Wacky Packs were of the '60s and '70s comic underground movement. We hope Topps, the baseball-card and petrified gum company that produced Wackys, paid the artists well because kids spent plenty of allowance and paper route earnings on the cards.

Seeing Wackys now gives us a better understanding of how a bunch of Mad magazine types helped shape a generation or two of consumers happy to bite the tail of the commerce beast. We may eat Doritos, but we can laugh along with Don't Eat Those.

There are two astounding archives of Wacky Packages, and probably more, on the web. Lost Wackys catalogs some of the rare specimens, while is a buyer's guide run by a fellow named Greg, who will also sell you sets.

Before we release you into the galleries of Lost Wackys, we want to share with you two examples from the '70s era sets that simply wouldn't fly today. "Hostage Cupcakes" is far too grim for modern parenting and "Commie Cleanser" requires both a knowledge of the existence of Comet cleanser and Communism. Discuss?

Friday, May 17, 2013


The Typing Monkey may re-use that headline (and tag) anytime we post links to articles on the web that actually qualify as articles.

What qualifies us to decide what qualifies as an "article"? Any piece we read that reaches a certain tipping point of the tl;dr factor. To save you a trip to Urban Dictionary, that weird abbreviation stands for "too long; didn't read" and is often used jokingly in comments under articles on the Web.

But it's just as often typed in earnest, because attention for reading web articles drops exponentially after certain word counts. The numbers vary depending on which study you read, but the advice is the same: the shorter the better. Which loosely means, anything that can't be read "above the fold" -- read without the user having to scroll further down the page -- is least likely to be read.

Why does this happen? Again, search around the Web and read up on studies, statistics and opinions, but the fact that it happens bugs us. It bugs us even more when we catch ourselves doing it. Never mind that this very blog posts two- and three-page scrollers all the time. We just can't shut up and that's another issue entirely.

So in defense of long-form journalism, criticism and other types of information delivery through the written word, we'll put "tl;dr" right there in the headline to let you know that what we're linking to, when we're recommending it, is more than one "page down" button's worth of reading but worth the time and attention.

To the links!

First up is "Wikipedia's Women Problem" from science writer James Gleick for The New York Review of Books. If you've been following the story at all, Wikipedia has slowly moved all of the women from the category "American novelists" into a sub-category specific to their gender. While this sort of OCD categorizing isn't weird on it's own, it's a problem because they didn't call the other category "male American novelists." Gleick goes deep. Hold on.

Take a break, drink some juice and then dig into Christopher Riley's love letter to Richard Feynman from The Telegraph. Riley's piece is secretly hyping the film version of his love letter to Feynman, but that doesn't reduce the appeal of his writing.

And perhaps most interesting to all of us at TMI, is a Wilson Quarterly article by Tom Vanderbilt called "Star Wars." Vanderbilt examines the value of "user review" critical opinions that dominate and influence our behavior on the Web and in the real world of commerce.

Yelp, Amazon and other giants of this format really do shape opinions, but Vanderbilt asks whether there's any real worth in these arbitrary and generally anonymous voices. Plus he asks what we bring to these opinions in contrast to what we might bring to the critical writing of that dying species: the paid, published critic.

For us, Vanderbilt's article is the most interesting, but all are worth a dive.

You'll be seeing mention of Arts & Letters Daily frequently for the tl;dr items, because that's where we go most often to grow our brains. Thank you A&L.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Thank You Ray Harryhausen

Stop-motion animation and visual effects master Ray Harryhausen has died.

For a certain kind of kid, the mere mention of Harryhausen stirs up many happy memories of watching his films on TV, or in the theater if you were lucky enough, and being fully transported to worlds where the beasts of Greek, Arab and Hindu mythology were very real and frequently out to kill the hero.

The AV Club's obit contains the fun "Creature List" video from Youtube, with a montage of nearly every beast that came to life at Ray Harryhausen's hands -- including his wonderful dinosaurs that are clearly the foundation of Jurassic Park.

Coming Soon's obit contains this wonderful quotation from Phil Tippet, the man who is as close to inheriting the Harryhausen throne as any: "You know I'm always saying to the guys that I work with now on computer graphics -- do it like Ray Harryhausen"

The Typing Monkey spent many afternoons running loose in the suburban wilds, recreating scenes from the Sinbad movies, and especially Ray Harryhausen's master work, Jason and the Argonauts.

[courtesy of jasonargomov]

Monday, May 6, 2013

Smiley Sings

Hello tender-hearts. Beltane, aka That Ol' Pagan Summer, arrived on May 1, and we missed an opportunity to wish you a happy one.

From our broom closet, we can peer through the slats of an air vent, where we can see the window at the end of the hall, and even though your average Western calendar says it's still spring, it sure looks like sweet, sweet summer out there.

Here's Sesame Street's frequent game show host, Guy Smiley, demonstrating his vocal prowess with "I'll Love You In Springtime." The Muppet crooner is of the Ed Ames/Robert Goulet school of delivery. It's pure Brylcreem and Pepsodent:

[courtesy of Sesame Street]

Friday, May 3, 2013

Now That's What We Call Good Writing

The Typing Monkey finally made good on our promise to read more H.P. Lovecraft and it's paying off. Some of the ideas -- a terrific blend of science fiction, horror and fantasy -- buzz right off the page, they're so well thought-out.

And like so many other big names of his era, it's easy to see how much Lovecraft influenced genre fiction of this sort during the 20th century and beyond. (There'd be no Alan Moore if Lovecraft had never put pen to paper.)

One of Lovecraft's greatest feats in his blending of horror and science fiction was the creation of the Cthulhu Cult. It's a time-spanning mythology, methodically laid out in the classic Victorian horror form, with a narrator relating to the reader how researching an unbelievable event has lead down a kaleidoscopic hole.

But Cthulhu's no spirit wandering the halls of an old house. It's much bigger, and far more horrible than that. And to prepare the reader for what's to come, Lovecraft wrote this incredible opening paragraph:

     The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Whew. Make all the proper comparisons to our modern political situation you like. They'll work, because this paragraph neatly isolates the cycles of human civilization in service of straight-on monster storytelling.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Whoa, Dude

When former Typing Monkey publisher/editor-in-chief/ombudsman S.L. Kreighton asked the staff to join him in a video conference this afternoon, we thought it might have something to do with May Day.

After all, our Fearless Leader, Emeritus, has taken to aimlessly travelling the highways and byways of the West Coast, so it's entirely possible that he'd take up with activists and bohemians, laughing on the inside the entire time, knowing that his deep pockets and secure retirement plan means he only sleeps on freight trains because he wants to.

What was it he wanted us to tell us? He had links for two websites that he "got from a friend from Mildred Street University." [What? -- ed.]

Before we could complete the orbit of our collective eye-roll, our mouths were shut for us by this:

and this:

The first is a John Buscema splash page, colored for maximum black-light ka-pow. It's part of Nick Derington's Flickr gallery "Marvel Third Eye Posters."

And the Dr. Strange splash, from the good doctor's brief run in his masked mystic costume, was drawn by Gene Conlan. That comes from Richard Guion's blog Giant Size Marvel.

Friend, both of these destinations are worth blowing off whatever chore you had planned. Sincerely.