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70’s Flashback Open Thread

Before there was MTV or VH1 if you wanted to see music on television there were variety shows like Sonny & Cher and late night music on weekends like Midnight Special. (I wasn’t supposed to stay up that late but what my mom didn’t know didn’t hurt her)

Most televisons had cheap “mono” speakers so the sound quality was bad but we didn’t know it because most of our other audio equipment was crappy too.

What were you doing back then? (If you can remember)

WTF Open Thread

I first saw this commercial over at Tennessee Guerrilla Women a couple days ago (I’ve seen it on television since then)

The egregious sexism aside, what the f*ck do phone book shaped butts on women have to do with kids meals?  Are they implying that if you eat the meals you’ll get a big square ass?

I can’t blame Sir Mix-a-lot too much for trying to make a few more bucks off his 20 year old one-hit wonder, not when you consider that this ad is cleaner than the original music video.  But think about this – some advertising agency got paid big bucks by Burger King for coming up with this stupidity.

What shape is your butt is on your mind?

Bea Arthur – May 13, 1922 – April 25, 2009

bea-arthurA Diva has passed away.

Bea Arthur – probably the best TV & stage comedienne since Lucille Ball – died today at the age of 86 from cancer.

From Wiki:

In 1972, Arthur was cast as the title character in the television series Maude. She played Maude Findlay, an outspoken liberal living in the affluent community of Tuckahoe, Westchester County, New York, with her husband, Walter (Bill Macy) and divorced daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau). The show was a spin-off from All in the Family, on which Arthur had appeared a couple of times in the same role, playing Edith Bunker‘s (Jean Stapleton)’s cousin, a feminist, and antithesis to the bigoted, conservative Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), who described Maude as a “New Deal fanatic.” Her role garnered several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, including her Emmy win in 1977 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Arthur was cast in the hit sitcom The Golden Girls in 1985, in which she played Dorothy Zbornak, a divorced substitute teacher living in a Miami, Florida house owned by Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan). Her other roommates included widow Rose Nylund (Betty White) and Dorothy’s Sicilian mother, Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty). Getty was actually a year younger than Arthur in real life, and was heavily made up to look significantly older. Dorothy had a caustic sense of humor and was prone to making witty and sarcastic wisecracks. The series was a huge hit, remaining a top ten ratings fixture for six seasons. Her performance led to several Emmy nominations over the course of the series and an Emmy win in 1988.

Bea Arthur, que descanses en paz.

From Maude, the episode when she decides whether or not to have an abortion, and her daughter, played by Adrienne Barbeau, convinces her that it’s her choice:

AND MY FAVORITE Golden Girls moment – the last episode in the last moment when Dorothy gets married.  Here’s the last part of Golden Girls’ last episode, when Dorothy Zbornak leaves with her new husband.  Everytime I watch this, I laugh through the tears:

The Search for ET Intelligence

Life (Frank H. Jump)

Life (Frank H. Jump)

Actually, what I’m about to discuss is the search for ET life, but you have to start somewhere and it’s getting more clear by the day that alien intelligence is the best hope for us blog denizens to find someone to talk to.

I’ll back up a bit and explain why I’m so interested in this, since I’m a new blogger here and you’re probably saying, “What? What’s all this?” I’m a biologist by trade, taught college for decades, and my main research specialty is evolution in terrestrial orchids. (Seriously. But that’s not as opposed to extraterrestrial orchids, it’s as opposed to the ones that grow in trees.) On the other hand, I found out a while ago that writing is the most fun you can have (except for the usual exceptions) so I’ve also been writing science fiction, and even selling some. Well, with that background, how could I not be fascinated by aliens?

(Don’t let me fool you, however. I’ll be blogging about anything and everything, whether I know diddly about it or not.)

Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno


The idea that we’re not alone has a long and fascinating history, going back to Giordano Bruno who got burned at the stake for it. By the time SETI came along, things had advanced from that point. But not too far. You pretty much got burned at the academic stake for being involved in it, if they could get at you, so the field was heavily populated with tenured professors. By now, the astronomers have found so many planets orbiting other stars (including one, maybe more, exoplanets with evidence of water!) that scientists have gone from thinking SETI was for kooks to looking for the life-bearing planets they know are out there.

Just recently, March 9th to be precise, an article came out with such an elegant method of checking for life that we may be hearing about the first find in a matter of years instead of centuries. Life is peculiar in that it prefers molecules that polarize light a certain way (technically termed chirality). Whether or not light is polarized can be seen right across the universe, and whether that polarization has a given chirality or not, likewise.

Hubble photo of polarized light from a star's protoplanetary debris disk

The only problem is that we’re talking about very, very, very faint light here. The light has to bounce off, or pass through the atmosphere of a life-bearing planet before it acquires that signature polarization. Passing through gives the brightest signal, but for that the planet has to transit in front of its parent star, from our perspective, when for two brief moments (coming and going) the star shines through the planet’s atmosphere. That’s a somewhat rare event, and we don’t have too many candidates to check yet, but we do already have the capability to see the signal if we get it.

They could be looking at, for instance, Gliese 581e in the next few months. We might actually know any day now that there’s life besides ours among the stars. Being a total nerd, I’m wildly excited and waiting with bated breath. What do you think? Fun, huh?

(What, you may ask, has this got to do with politics? Absolutely nothing. That’s why I wanted to talk about it.)

The Audacity of Republicans going nuclear Against Health Care

The big news today is that the Democratic Congressional leaders met last night and it seems that we’ll need only 51 votes to pass that rumored overhaul of our health care system.  Which gives us some leeway to account for the almost sure-loss of all Republican and some Democratic votes (emphasis mine):

Democrats’ Budget Deal Sets Up Fight on Health Plan

Democratic Congressional leaders were putting the finishes touches Friday on a budget plan virtually certain to protect a proposed health care overhaul from Senate filibusters, an approach likely to touch off a nasty partisan fight with Republicans.

Principals in the talks acknowledged that a tentative budget agreement reached Thursday night between Congressional leaders and the White House would provide for the use of an obscure procedure known as a reconciliation on a health care bill, allowing health care legislation that meets budget targets to be approved by a simple Senate majority.

This news (which has been discussed for weeks) is shocking to Republican Senators! They’ve never, ever heard of such a thing and can’t imagine why the Democrats are breaking the faith of Obama’s bi-partisan pledges to pull a maneuver like this: Continue reading