Sunday, August 27, 2006

Breakfast on...a Dwarf Planet?

I for one am greatly saddened by the news that the International Astronomic Union has decided to strip Pluto of its status as a planet.Not that I give one whit about astronomical taxonomy in the clinical sense, its just our culture is losing something very real by cutting the number of planets in our solar system down to eight. That there are nine planets in the Milky Way is one of the first scientific facts most of us ever commit to memory. How many of us made models with nine planets orbiting the Sun? How many of us learned mnemonic devices to remember the nine planets? ("My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas")

It was one of the basic numbers of life: 9 planets, 12 months, 50 states. (God help us if Puerto Rico ever gains statehood!)

I know I'm being silly. There are plenty of people walking around today who were taught elementary school astronomy before Pluto was designated a planet. But what about the otherconsequences of this rash reclassification? Think of the added burden on our over-taxed school systems! Astronomy texts were probably the only books principals didn't have to reorder every few years to keep up-to-date. Now everyone's going to have to order new textbooks, models and charts. And how many planetariums will go out of business because they can't afford to hire new narrators to update their decades-old voiceovers?

Why can't we just say a planet is whatever we say it is? I mean a year has 365 days except when it has 366, right? i before e except after c? Lets make a friggin' exception here. All planets must clear the orbits of their neighboring bodies, except for Pluto. Done and done.

On a side-rant, I also have to take exception to "Xena," the common name given to 2003 UB313, the trans-Neptunian object (def.: any big piece of space junk beyond Neptune) found by astronomers at Mount Palomar Observatory three years ago. A centuries-old tradition of naming celestial orbs after Roman gods is thrown out the window so some space-Eurkel can give a shout out to his favorite syndicated sci-fi series?! I bet he's waiting by the phone, expecting a call from Lucy Lawless any moment now. Ring, damn it, ring!

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Hopping the pond is the smartest move Allen's made in years.

Last night, I went and saw Scoop, the new Woody Allen comedy. My main interest was finding a well air-conditioned space that didn't require me to drink alcohol, but I have to say I found the film quite amusing. It's a charming and sometimes witty whodunnit, where the mystery is secondary to the quirky characters--like Manhattan Murder Mystery, but set in London. After years (decades?) of regurgitating the same stale stories, Allen has found a new creative outlet by sending his nebbishy lead into unfamiliar territory.

Scarlet Johansson, star of Allen's last British affar, Match Point, is the Woody stand-in this time, a firmly direct but sometimes blunderous student journalist in London investigating whether dashing millionare Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) is the dreaded Tarot Card killer. Allen does appear in the film, but thankfully not as Johansson's love interest. He's a father figure of sorts, a cornball stage magician named Splendini who accidentally connects Johansson to a recently deceased reporter (Ian McShane) with inside information on the case. Though Johansson is a little out of her element (why is this 20-year-old kid constantly cast in roles that are beyond her depth and age?), Allen guides her well and their reparte is keenly sharp for the most part. Jackman has little trouble playing the smooth rich guy--though the part doesn't demand much.

It's all very light and silly, and if you're the kind of person who likes to follow mysteries and figure out who the guilty party is before the characters do, don't get your hopes up. But if you're looking for a lighthearted romantic comedy with solid performances, a few knee-slappers, and a refreshing return to form by a flagging genius, this one's a definite keeper.

At the very least, you'll be cool and comfortable for a few hours.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hellacious Heat

The A/C was broken at work today (Why is it always freezing in offices every other day except the day of a massive heatwave) so everyone was suffering miserably. Any other sort of job, everyone wouldve just gone home. But the magazine has to come out, no matter how friggin' hot it is. The weird thing was the heat was making everybody punchy and unable to focus. It was like an office Christmas party, except in July and everyone was sober--just suffering from heatstroke. The only consolation was that our big boss's office was the hottest room in the place. (very proletariat) They also sprung for ice cream for everyone.

I'm not sure if it was related to the heat, but the building next door to my office caught on fire. THe entire roof was engulfed in flames as the poor firefighters had to clamor up 10 flights of stair in full gear to put it out.