Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's Good to Be the King?

Not from The Onion:
Burger King Corp. may have just the thing. The home of the Whopper has launched a new men's body spray called "Flame." The company describes the spray as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat."
I wouldn't try wearing that while on a nature hike. Or...ever, really. Can I get a scent of fries with that? But, wait, it even gets more freakish:
Burger King is marketing the product through a Web site featuring a photo of its King character reclining fireside and naked but for an animal fur strategically placed to not offend.
I have to go be ill now...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Deep Thought

Why is it they can invent a way for me to check my e-mail while standing at a bus stop but they can't develop a municipal snowplow that doesn't dump a three-foot high wall of snow at the end of everyone's driveway?

Merdle by Numbers

Perhaps this year, the Dickens book to read is not A Christmas Carol. My first thought when I read about this whole Madoff Ponzi scheme business was of Mr. Merdle, a character in Dickens' Little Dorrit. Throughout the book, he is incredibly wealthy, powerful, and worshipped by society, introduced thusly:
Mr. Merdle was immensely rich; a man of prodigious enterprise; a Midas without the ears, who turned all he touched to gold. He was in everything good, from banking to building. He was in Parliament, of course. He was in the City, necessarily. He was Chairman of this, Trustee of that, President of the other. The weightiest of men had said to projectors, "Now, what name have you got? Have you got Merdle?" And, the reply being in the negative, had said, "Then I won't look at you."
Toward the end of the book, he turns out to have been a swindler, a complete fraud who caused the financial ruin of everyone who invested with him. He ultimately has an attackof conscience and kills himself. Why oh why can't scumbags today have such crises of conscience?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I, Mitosis

Hi keeba! One of my favorite musicians—Andrew Bird—has a new album coming out in January! I also note that he is playing the Orpheum Theater in Boston on January 31. Hm. I shall have to IM mi hermano about that...

Meanwhile, here is the somewhat Hitchcockian (that is, Robyn Hitchcockian) video for one of the best tracks from the last record, 2007's Armchair Apocrypha.

I will be flying overseas on Sunday, so long-time followers of this blog know what Andrew Bird song I will be posting in next couple of days....

I, Tunes

So this is my beef with iTunes. While I use iTunes the program all the time to play songs I have ripped from my CDs, I rarely buy songs through iTunes; I prefer CDs, and here's why. (Well, one of the reasons why.) I bought a new computer a few months ago and the couple of songs I bought through iTunes needed to be re-authenticated, because Apple's DRM (digital rights management) only allows any given iTune to be loaded on as many as five computers. So this means that I am allowed to buy three more computers in my life before I have to re-buy the songs I have already bought. Nuh-uh. I'll stick with CDs, which I can play wherever and whenever I damn well please. As John Locke (the character on Lost, not the philosopher) would say, "Don't tell me what I can't do!"

After all, I think I have single-handedly kept the music industry in business for the past 20 years; do I really need to be treated like a pirate and a thief? (Is it any coincidence, for example, that after I moved out of New York, Tower Records went out of business?)


Via Version 1.0, an MSNBC story about what may very well be the latest trend in dying (at least since the days when the Egyptian pharaohs had all their crap buried with them): taking your cellphone with you.
Ed Defort, publisher and editorial director for American Funeral Director magazine, says it's a definite trend.

“I’ve even heard of cases where people are being buried with their iPod. Or one guy who was prepared for his viewing with his Bluetooth (headset) in his ear.”

But it’s the cell phone, in particular, that seems to be the burial gadget of choice.
And given how ineptly people on cellphones drive, the devices certainly seem to be hastening their owners' demises. Even more weirdly:
“I’ve seen people leave cell phones on and tell me they’re going to call their loved one later,” says Vetter. “Not that anyone will answer, but they want to have that connection. I’m sure the family gathers around the phone when they call. They feel connected with that person because it’s their phone, but at the same time it helps them realize that a death has occurred.”
It kind of reminds me of that old Twilight Zone episode "Night Call" where an elderly woman kept getting mysterious phone calls—and it turned out that a storm had knocked the phone lines down on top of the grave of her long-dead fiancĂ©, who was apparently calling her from beyond. Today, though, with Caller ID she could easily see who it was: "Oh, it's my dead fiancĂ© calling again. I think I'll just let voicemail get it."

Phish Phlakes

The scammers aren't even trying anymore. Just got this last night:
Two things struck me. First, the salutation says "Dear costumer." I have never worked in the theater, and haven't even created a Halloween costume in decades. Also, do they honestly think that I am going to take seriously financial correspondence that has the reply-to address "finegirl_13_2002" with a Yahoo address? Come on now.

Seriously, though, for those unhip to these scams, if you ever do receive one of these things (from a bank, PayPal, credit card, etc.) the best way to authenticate it is to either a) call the institution in question and ask, or b) log onto your account using the bookmark or link you normally use. That is, never click a link embedded in one of these e-mails. And never send an e-mail to finegirl_13.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Crazy Like a Fox

While this story is upsetting on a variety of levels, I guess the real, unanswered question is how—and why—someone has easy access to any quantity of fox urine.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lost in Translation 2

There is a lesson to be learned from the prestigious science magazine Max Planck Research, and it doesn't involve Planck's constant. Rather, if you're going to put Chinese lettering on your cover, you might want to have an inkling of what it says.
While exact translations are open to some interpretation, what it apparently says is:
"With high salary, we have sincerely employed [lots of strippers/girls] to stay in our daytime show.

"Jiamei as the director, she will personally lead young girls who are as pretty as jade.

"[We have] beauties from the north who appear in all their glory with thousands of deportments.

"[We have] young housewives who have hot body that will stir up your [sexual] fire.

"They are sexy, horny and enchanting. The performance will begin in few days!"
Essentially, it's an ad for a Hong Kong brothel. So they quickly revised the cover. The replacement text refers to a book written by the 16th century Swiss Jesuit, Johannes Schreck, titled Illustrated Explanations of Strange Devices. Hmm...not worlds apart, in a way...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gonna Fly Now

Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, was a low-budget syndicated science-fiction program that ran for two seasons in 1954. It was set at some point in the 22nd century, and chronicled the exploits of the titular Space Ranger, sort of an outer space policeman who helped the United Worlds of the Solar System battle its enemies. Bland and personality-less, Rocky Jones was accompanied by his irritating sidekick Winky, as well as navigator/space babe Vena, 10-year-old whiz kid Bobby, and the doddering 800-year-old Professor Newton, who often seems as if he had Apple’s corporate headquarters fall on his head. The 39 episodes were usually divided into three-episode story arcs—which was helpful, as three half-hour shows could then easily be edited together into one feature-length movie, which is in fact what they did with pretty much the entire series. Two of the “movies” (thus six of the episodes)—Manhunt in Space and Crash of Moons—were done on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and a third, Menace from Outer Space, was included in my science-fiction box set, and is this week’s Mis-Treatment.

Other entries in this Mis-Treatment series of silly sci-fi movie recaps include:
Night of the Lepus
Gammera the Invincible
Kong Island
The Skull
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
The Wasp Woman
The Horrors of Spider Island
The Atomic Brain
The Amazing Transparent Man
She Gods of Shark Reef
Moon of the Wolf
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Queen of the Amazons
The Incredible Petrified World
I will confess this at the outset: I actually kind of like these movies. Sure, there is plenty to make fun of, but they are actually not terrible. Sure, the special effects are cheap (but then it was 1954), the writing is pretty abysmal, and the acting a tad stilted, and even though the target audience was 8–10-year-olds, these movies have a certain goofy appeal. In true 1950s style, there were good guys, there were bad guys, and the good guys always won at the end. It was a time before everyone got so cynical and dark, which is actually kind of fun. Those were the days. And gee, our old LaSalle ran great.

Menace from Outer Space (1956)
Auteur/Perpetrator: Hollingsworth Morse (what is a Hollings worth, anyway?)
Star of Shame: no one to speak of
Monster(s): evil scientist who looks like a cross between James Coco and Boss Hogg
“Plot”: an evil scientist is trying to conquer Earth, for some reason

The hero is played by Richard Crane, a character actor who appeared in just about everything throughout the 1940s, 50, and 60s. The guy who played his annoying sidekick Winky was another story. Scotty Beckett was the Archbishop of Canterbury whom King Henry II had killed by saying “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”...No, wait, I typed the wrong thing into he write Waiting for Godot? No...Ah, here it is: Scotty Beckett was a child star of the 1930s and 40s who was one of Hal Roach’s Our Gang. He was compared at one point to Jackie Coogan in Chaplin’s The Kid (though not to Jackie Coogan in The Addams Family). His star ascendant, he entered adolescence and began appearing alongside A-list adult stars (Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Fredric March, Elizabeth Taylor), but, alas, succumbed to Child Star Syndrome and began a quick descent into booze, drugs, and crime—decades before there was a Diff’rent Strokes. By the mid-1950s, the best role he could get was a sidekick on a cheesy show like Rocky Jones, and ultimately he had to be replaced in the show’s second season after he ended up in jail for possession of a concealed weapon. He eventually died in 1968 from a drug overdose. Sad, really.

Anyway, back to Menace from Outer Space. As I said, I did rather like this one, but I shall cynically and sarcastically savage it anyway. What can I say...I’m a product of my age.

By the way, for my el cheapo DVD box set, the movie was digitally demastered by transferring the original 16mm film to a VHS tape that had been soaking in brine for two weeks, then the video uploaded to YouTube where it was re-videotaped by setting a camera in front of the computer screen as it played back. Oh, and the apparatus for this latter step must have been set up underneath a barber’s chair given the tufts of hair that waft across the picture like tumbleweeds.

And we launch into the titles with its triumphant 1950s adventure music. The production designer was Dick L’Estrange. You know, he never had a good relationship with his wife....

We open on the octogenarian Professor Newton, who has his own “Newton Observatory,” which looks conspicuously like Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. I guess in the future, the city gave it to him. He is peering into the eyepiece, watching a comet. He is deep in thought, as if trying to figure out what it is. (They call him “Professor,” but they don’t specify what he is a Professor of. My guess is Comparative Literature.)

Vena and Bobby arrive at the Observatory in one of the “cars of the future” (the “future” in this case being the model year after the movie was made, it would appear). They get out of the car and look into the sky, apparently also seeing the comet. Interesting thing about Newton’s telescope; it makes objects seem farther away. The Professor refers to it as a meteor, “and it is drawing nearer and nearer.” Bobby chirps, “You already have a comet named after you. This one is mine.” So is it a comet or a meteor? “‘Bobby’s Comet,’” the kid fantasizes. “Maybe it’s as big as a world. Maybe bigger.” The Professor says, “Just now it’s very small, but very menacing.” Kind of like Bobby. “In moments now, it will strike the Earth.” They’re all pretty calm about this. Shouldn’t someone be doing something? Like stopping it, or evacuating cities, or something more than sitting around trying to decide what to name it? “We can watch it all on the visiograph,” says the Professor, turning on the television. “Let’s hope it doesn’t fall too close.” Um, shouldn’t he be able to determine that? “Gosh, Vena,” says Bobby, “it’d be a dirty trick if my comet landed right on top of us.” Yeah, kid, a dirty trick. That’s what it would be, not fiery death from the sky.

They hear a noise coming over the visiograph. The Professor is perplexed. “A comet doesn’t make any noise,” says the Professor. Well, nothing does in space, but go ahead... “I’m going to get a closer look.” Wasn’t he just looking at it through the telescope? What’s he going to do now, climb on the roof of the observatory? Is there another professor on Earth someplace they can consult?

He runs up the stairs to the scope and takes another peek. This time, it is not a comet, but a missile. Ah, even better. Can they name that “Bobby’s Missile”? The Professor immediately calls his secretary. What? Oh, Secretary Drake, the guy in command of Earth. “What are your observations of the meteor?” asks the Secretary. “It’s not a meteor!” says the Professor. “It’s a rocket! A man-made weapon!” The Secretary’s assistant, Marshall, runs to the teletype machine (wow, that is futuristic) and obtains some readings on the object. It is due to hit Earth, “In 1510 plus 30.” That soon? “Professor,” says Bobby, “who’s shooting at us?” “I don’t know. No one knows.” Well, I would imagine the people doing the shooting do. As it happens, they have 45 seconds until it hits. They’re all pretty calm! It turns out it is heading right for the Observatory. I guess the aliens don’t like being looked at. And the missile hits, with an explosion that knocks everyone at the Observatory to the ground. They struggle to their feet, watched by Drake and Marshall. “A meteor was playing tag with us,” shouts Bobby. I thought it was a missile. The missile missed the mountain they are on, “but I’m afraid it hit the Inter-Nation Airport.” LAX? Oh, that is a shame. “The White Zone is for immediate loading and unloading only. There is no missile bombardment in the White Zone.”

“We’ll drive over immediately and see,” says the Professor. They jump into Vena’s car and zip over to the smoldering hole where the Inter-Nation Airport used to be. The Professor gets on the carphone and reports to the Secretary. Yep, the missile hit the airport, but missed the landing strip, and no one was injured. “I’ll order some equipment to lower me down into the wreckage.” Don’t they have able-bodied military personnel who do that kind of thing? Or is Professor Newton the entirety of Earth’s military force? (Kind of like SDI—Senile Dork Initiative.)

The Professor then asks where Rocky Jones is. Marshall says he is rust-proofing his car. Oh, wait, that’s Rusty Jones. Rocky Jones is trying to make sure that “Griff” is dead. Who? Marshall then points to a large wall map of the Solar System. “He’s patrolling the Asiatic Region.” But he just pointed to Venus. Have they moved Asia?

We then go to the Orbit Jet, Rocky and Winky’s ship. They couldn’t have given it a cool-sounding name or something? Inside, Winky is sleeping as the phone starts ringing. Sorry, the astrophone. It’s the future, after all, where all nouns need to have modifiers like “astro” and “space” in front of them. It was a law passed by the Office of Space Linguistics. It’s Drake calling from the “Office of Space Affairs.” I bet the Office of Space Affairs will have its hands full when Captain Kirk starts making time with all those pastel-colored alien women. But that’s still a few years off...

The patrol is cancelled; they need Rocky back on Earth. Rocky looks derisively at the sleeping Winky, then does...something with the ship to jolt Winky out of his seat. “You backtracked into our sound wash to wake me up.” Wow, Winky’s started drinking early. Well, it must be noon somewhere in the Solar System. Rocky then suggests that Winky will be given an office duty at the Tibet Observatory. I don’t know; I think even the Dalai Lama would want to beat the crap out of Winky.

A missile then flies by their ship. Winky is startled. “What in the name of space...” Does space have a name?

Back in Drake’s office, Professor Newton sits at a table with an array of stones in front of him. “Now these,” he begins, “I passed this morning.” What? Oh, wait, I got that wrong... “Now these fragments I was able to dig from the crater.” They’re from the missile. The entire missile was made from that material “which I would call a poor substitute for our alloys.” Rocky bitch-slaps Newton by saying that for anything to remain after the impact it must have great power. Yeah. “Phenomenal power, Rocky,” agrees the Professor. “Yes, we on Earth, with all our ego, are far behind whoever built this missile.” You’re just making this all up, aren’t you? “What about atomic energy,” asks Winky. “Oh, they probably had that long before we did,” says the Professor dismissively. And fat-free ice cream technology? Forget it! Drake asks Marshall if they have heard from the Tibet Station. “They haven’t responded to my signals.” Probably the Chinese army again. The Professor then blurts out, “I can say this however....” “Estelle Getty is one hot mama.” Oh, wait... “The power used to project their strange weapon is developed by friction.” So this is more like science-friction. “Rub two pieces of crystal together and intense heat and energy are generated.” Wow, that is highly advanced. So their missile technology is not far removed from a carpet burn. Bobby of course has to find out this himself so he begins vigorously rubbing two of the rocks together and burns his hands.

That bit of gobbledygook over with, it’s Vena’s turn. Vena, by the way, must have set many a young boy’s heart a-flutter with her short skirt, festive cape, and gilt cross-the-heart/here-are-my-breasts piping on her shirt. She walks over to the big Solar System map (which curiously stops at Jupiter), says she has traced the missile back and “it could only have come from here: Jupiter’s moon.” Which one? Says Rocky, “Fornax.” What? The moon of Jupiter called Fornax? “I can hardly believe it. Professor, that moon is so hot it was used to coin our word ‘furnace.’” (For the record, the word “furnace” is from the Latin word fornax, which in turn was derived from the word fornus which means “oven.” Jupiter has no such moon.) “Nothing could possibly live there,” says Rocky. “Ah, nothing but crystal,” says the Professor. Huh? Crystal Gayle, maybe? “Crystal grows in intense heat, and growth is life!” Um, yeah.... So when icicles grow from my eaves or frost grows in my freezer, they’re alive? No wonder people were shooting missiles at this guy. “We’ve always believed that there could be no life on Fornax, but a true scientist never believes anything until it’s proven.” What about him, though? “Professor, you’ve heard the saying, ‘Seeing is believing.’” says Rocky. Yeah, but he didn’t believe it until someone proved it to him. He is pretty ornery like that. You should see him in a restaurant going through the menu line by line. (“I don’t believe this is cooked in a ‘zesty’ marinara sauce. Prove it.”) Rocky then implies that they’re all going on a mission to Fornax.
Says Secretary Drake, “Professor Newton believes they need our ores and alloys for metal just as we would like to learn about their great wealth of energy.” When did he say that? Didn’t he just say that he didn’t believe anything—like the existence of life on Formax—until it was proven? And suddenly he’s not only assuming there is life there but ascribing motivations to it? Or is Drake putting words in his mouth?

So the issue is how to get out to Jupiter’s moon, since this is apparently further than the Orbit Jet usually travels, and there is an issue of having enough fuel. Winky asks where the refueling station is and Rocky heaps shame on him. Not to turn down any opportunity to heap shame on Winky, but it was a reasonable question...

Marshall finally makes contact with the Tibet station. The second missile that Rocky and Winky had seen earlier apparently fell nearby, but Drake insists that the guy who is running the Tibet station should tell everyone that it was just a meteor and to squelch the “real story.” However, as we cut to the Tibet station, we see that the guy who is running it is being held at weird-space-laser-point by a balding man in a highly futuristic space parka. This turns out to be “Griff,” who I think is some recurring all-purpose bad guy. Griff overhears the conversation with Drake, that Fornax is a “rich prize” and that Rocky “is going to stake a claim.” He makes a mental note of this, just as the other guy starts beating the crap out of him. Griff wins—funny how he keeps holding his weapon but is content to just slug the other guy. He then turns to the map on the wall—an identical map to the one in Drake’s office. He looks at the picture of Jupiter and says, “Sorry, Rocky, you won’t get to Fornax first. In fact you won’t get there at all.” Rocky is a pretty two-dimensional character, and a bit on the doughy side, so I guess it’s easy to mistake him for a picture of a planet.

Back on Earth, Rocky hand-picks his crew: Professor Newton has to go, ideally so they can ditch him in space when no one is looking, and Winky of course has to go, perhaps for the same reason. Bobby asks to go, and boasts about how big he’s getting. Rocky points out that space on the ship is limited, and Bobby changes his story and points out that he’s still a little kid. “Gosh, I hardly weigh anything. I’m anemic.” You might want to have that looked into. Says Professor Newton: “Bobby is more valuable to me than his weight in instruments.” There’s a weird, upsetting relationship between those two that one dares not speculate about without becoming violently ill. Rocky accedes to the will of Professor Newton. “Roaring rockets, you mean I can go along?” exults Bobby. You just don’t get this kind of cornball dialogue in movies anymore. For which we should be thankful, I suppose, but it is a distinct improvement over the endless stream of f-bombs that passes for movie dialogue these days.

Triumphant “we’re off into space!” music plays, and we see the Orbit Jet being rolled out to the launch site, and the crew parades toward it, Professor Newton decked out in his foppish hat worn at a jaunty angle. Secretary Drake tells Winky that almost all the weapons have been removed from the ship to reduce the weight. I thought the Space Rangers zipped all over the Solar System, and now they can’t get to Jupiter without everyone freaking out? Just how many United Worlds can there be between Earth and Mars? It also seems that their launch site is an electrical power substation.

They sure don’t make it easy to board that rocket; to get into it, you have to climb a 50-foot-high ladder, and to get to the ladder to have to clamber over the giant metal wheel of the gantry. Rocky and Bobby have no problem, but the director wisely cuts away as Professor Newton approaches it. Best to imply that he is spry enough to make it. Besides, I doubt they could afford a stunt double.

Rocky then warns Vena that with the force of take off that will be required, they will black out for a short period. Vena says not to worry about her, the Professor, and Bobby. They’re all old pros at blacking out. Heck, I bet it’s a struggle to keep the Professor conscious at all. “We’ll be the best crew you ever had,” she says. He’s used to Winky, so the bar has already been set pretty low.

There is then a bit of business with a blast-off synchronizer that emits an irritating noise that goes on for rather a long time. In the ship, Rocky and Winky strip down to their T-shirts which are a few sizes too small for them, while the other three strap themselves into what looks like a La-Z-Boy recliner showroom in the back of the ship. And they’re off, and everyone immediately falls asleep. I know how they feel. The ship is run by a robot control. However, Winky wakes up first, which is a first, leans over the control panel, then immediately passes out again—maybe he shouldn’t have had those five bourbons before taking off. He slumps onto the control panel, turning off the robot control. The ship immediately starts to nosedive. Good one, Winky. Drake has been watching the launch from his office and starts panicking. Rocky manages to wake up just in time and save the day. Winky wakes up, discovers what happened, and starts to apologize. Rocky cuts him off and says, “Go tell the rest of the crew that blast-off was super-stellar.” You know, passive-aggressive behavior just doesn’t cut it with Winky; wouldn’t aggressive-aggressive behavior be far more satisfying? Like, say, kneeing him right in the winky?

Vena asks Rocky how they plan to land on Fornax should they have no landing facilities. “Or do we face that problem when we come to it?” Yeah, because interplanetary space travel is the kind of thing you just want to make up as you go along. “If the Professor is right, and he usually is—” He is?! Sorry, I don’t grant the premise. “We won’t find the necessary steel for a blast-off cradle. Our best bet is to land on our tail section, then we’ll be ready for a return flight.” So, in other words, just like they always do.

They soon discover that they are being pursued by another unidentified ship. It is Griff, and Griff starts attacking the Orbit Jet. Rocky shoots one of the only missiles they have and it scores a direct hit. Well, that was suspenseful. Rocky is not happy. “Hey, Rocky, switch on the grin.” Is there a control for that? It turns out that they have barely left Earth and the gas tank is half empty (not half full) already. What with Winky’s screw-up on blast-off and the dogfight that lasted a nanosecond, they expended a lot of fuel. So he outlines three options: return to Earth and refuel (the Professor and Bobby vote that down immediately, and who asked them anyway?), divert to a nearby space station and refuel (which the Professor also nixes, saying it would waste time), or gamble that there is a way on Fornax to refuel—despite the fact that they have no idea if there is even anyone there. They all decide to go for the most irrational, unsafe option.

Before long, Fornax comes into visual range. Rocky and Winky stare at it on the screen. “Well, rattle my rocket reflexes.” Oh, shut up, Winky. Everyone crowds into the bridge and is shocked and awed. Rocky turns on the Fasten Seatbelt light and everyone straps themselves in for landing. Winky is concerned. “These instruments must be daffy.” It bugs him, I know. The gravitational pull of the planet is twice as strong as on Earth, which means they have to expend even more fuel to land without crashing. Shouldn’t the Professor have been able to calculate that before they got there? The original Professor Newton was. “Erect and stabilize,” orders Rocky. Moving right along...

They finally land, but are now completely out of fuel. “Sparkling stardust, skipper, I never thought we’d make it.” Oh shut up, Winky. Everyone crowds back onto the bridge and gazes at the landscape in awe. There is some kind of structure in the distance. “This means there’s life here!” exults the Professor. “Yeah, but what kind?” asks Winky. Well, it’s a low-budget 1950s TV show so I’m guessing human but wearing a wacky costume.

“Man with his small mind is too ready to accept the apparent,” says the Professor. “We’ve always believed that life wasn’t possible on Fornax.” Didn’t you say that true scientists don’t accept anything until it’s proven? Why did they bring him again? “But look, Rocky, those pyramids, they are not a phenomenon of nature.” They’re also not pyramids. Bobby wants to just run outside and play without thinking that the atmosphere might not be breathable. I say let him. Rocky orders Winky to get out the “electronic canary” and check atmospheric conditions. Winky carries on a rather lengthy and emotional conversation with what is essentially an electronic sensor. “Now listen to me, chirp chirp, if you tell me I’ve got to put on a space suit, I’m gonna pluck all your tailfeathers out one at a time the hard way.” Is there an easy way? And just how many bourbons did he have before take off?

The Professor goes off to take the atmosphere readings. Great; I bet those’ll be accurate. “The atmopshere is 20% oxygen, 60% nitrogen, and 20% Metamucil.” Vena worries that she brought the right clothes—even though she’s only got one outfit. And is there a dress code on Fornax? Rocky starts dictating his log to Vena. Winky comes in, says, “The birdie says tweet tweet.” Oh, so he’s on Twitter. That figures. Adds the Professor, “It’s comparable to a May day in Connecticut.” Is that a good thing? Maybe Fornax was colonized by a race of Joe Liebermans. Isn’t that a terrifying thought. The Professor starts rubbing his hands over his chest and says “I can almost smell the flowers.” Maybe the Fornaxians have a home they can put him in...

The Professor takes Rocky aside and points out one of the large structures, and says something about alloys...steel...blah blah blah. And then that it was made out of stone blocks. What? He also mentions that the stone blocks would weigh twice as much here as they would on Earth. “The ratio of weight here is two pounds to our one. We’ll all feel it, and we’ll be a lot heavier, too.” It’ll be fun watching him collapse like one of those old collapsible top hats or something out of a Tex Avery cartoon. Rocky then rags on Vena and tells her to step on the cargo scale. Vena freaks out that she now weighs 236 pounds. Even Bobby chides her, “Jumping satellites, you gotta go easy on the mashed potatoes.” Ha ha ha ha—kill them.

Outside, they all descend an enormous ladder—cleverly done so that they don’t have to build an exterior of the spaceship. Just extend the ladder up off the top of the frame. Says Bobby, “Well chutes and satellites, this is super cosmic.” Oh, shut up, Bobby. Says Winky, “Hey, Professor, you said Connecticut. This is more like Palm Beach, Florida.” Oppressively humid and full of mosquitoes? “I sure hope a 200-pound bathing beauty walks by.” Oh, shut up, Winky. Says Vena, “Where’s the reception committee? Isn’t there anyone here to greet us?” Yeah, where’s the bellhop? Could someone get the luggage? This place, like, rilly bites. Bobby yells “Hello” and his voice echoes for some time. Professor Newton excitedly points out the same structure that they had just been looking at on the ship’s viewscreen. I guess it’s much more exciting in person than on TV.

They amble over to the structure. “Ama-a-a-a-a-azing,” groans the Professor. What, that he can walk 20 feet in 2g gravity without his bones snapping like dry twigs?

A door slides aside and kettledrums herald the emergence of several figures—humanoids wearing capes and headdresses. (Told you.) They walk up to Rocky and Winky. “We likey your moon,” says Winky, in patronizing pidgin English. “You, us, we be good friends. Be cosmic pals?” Oh, shut up, Winky. No wonder they’re trying to destroy the Earth. “You have journeyed from Earth?” asks the figure in perfect English. Wah wah wah. The Fornaxian is happy. Turns out the missile was only intended to get Earth’s attention. Surely there was a better way of doing that. The Fornaxian then heaps shame on Winky, as well he should. Rocky asks how he knows their language. “Rosetta Stone.” You know, he was a simple farm boy, she an Italian supermodel, and he knew he would have just one chance to impress her. After all, what is more attractive to a supermodel than being able to speak the same language? That’s really all it takes. But I digress...

The Fornaxian—Zorovac (isn’t that a line of wet/dry vacuum cleaners?)—says that they had been preparing for this for some time, and that they have had previous contact with Earthmen. Zorovac is the ruler of Fornax, and they all introduce each other (it seems that Winky is his given name), and Rocky and the Professor excitedly mention the prospect of setting up trade relations. I can see how this show would appeal to 8–10-year-olds; what red-blooded American boy wouldn’t be captivated by a TV show about interplanetary trade relations. I bet all the neighborhood kids got together after the show was over, got together, and drew up little play trade agreements...

But, uh oh, out of the building comes someone the soundtrack tells us is bad, and who has some kind of past with Professor Newton. An old flame, perhaps? “Professor Card Us!” What? Oh, Cardoz. “Congratulations on your landing,” says Card Us. “I crashed. I owe my life to Zorovac and his shvantzes.” Sorry? “Forgive me; vonsoom means wife in English.” Whew! “You’ll find me a changed man, Professor,” Card Us continues. Yep. The vonsoom changes him twice a day.

They show Zorovac and Card Us the Orbit Jet and Zorovac is impressed, for some reason. Zorovac offers to vacuum the floor. Winky leads Zorovac and Card Us into the back of the ship to attempt to explain how the ship works (oh, like he’d know) and Rocky asks about Card Us. Apparently, Card Us was a college professor who ruthlessly killed his two assistants. “Oh, he was a brilliant man, but an egoist! And extreeeeemely ambitious.” So, basically like any college professor. Card Us escaped and was presumed lost in space.

Meanwhile, Zorovac continues to be impressed by the ship. He then offers to show them the wonders of Fornax. That shouldn’t take long. He then says he is going to fix his daughter up with Bobby. “Thanks, Mr. Zorovac. I always wanted to meet a girl who was out of this world.” Zorovac reconsiders... Card Us says they are about to experience “boundless luxury.” Rocky suggests that Winky and he remain on the ship. Winky is disappointed. Rocky is staging an intervention, which is a good thing...

They decide to spy on the goings on on Fornax using the visiograph. “I don’t know,” says Winky. “We’re here, we can see it with these things”—he points to his eyes—“and you want to see it on that thing.” So for Rocky, nothing is real unless he sees it on TV? Is this a Don DeLillo novel all of a sudden? The visiograph is quite a remarkable device; they can see inside the building with it. And get audio. “Oh, those boundless luxuries,” says Winky, even though on the screen are Professor Newton, Card Us, and Zorovac. Now, that’s just weird.

Card Us tells Newton that the missile was the only way they could communicate with Earth. “Now what about this great power?” asks the Professor. Zorovac hands him a rock. “I call it the Dirt Devil...” Oh, wait... Says Card Us, “On Earth, you would call it an extremely sensitive form of silicon.” If you tell it that it’s not as good as carbon, it gets really upset. Card Us then proceeds to explain it. Blah blah blah. Bobby bonds with Zorovac’s daughter and Vena has apparently become one of the harem and is decked out in the local garb. That gets Winky’s attention, even though it’s a less revealing outfit than what she normally wears.

Zorovac and Card Us go off alone, and Rocky and Winky discover that Card Us has been telling the Fornaxians that Earthmen make slaves of any planets and satellites they encounter, despite the fact that Zorovac seems quite optimistic about setting up friendly relations with Earth. “They first deceive, then colonize and enslave,” says Card Us. “For the time being, we’ll play their game of deceit.” But eventually they’ll move on to Pictionary.

There is a whole evil scheme that Card Us has the Fornaxians working on. The missile, as it turns out, was just Point 1, to test their accuracy. “Now, on to Point 2.” They then go into a workshop-like room, but there is “something in the walls” that blocks the rays of the visiograph. So Rocky and Winky go to investigate in person. This’ll go well. They put on their jackets and caps and somehow make it all the way to the workshop room without encountering anyone. They sneak into the room and stand in the doorway, unseen by anyone, as they are all hunched over a table across the room. They duck into an alcove and eavesdrop. Card Us tells Zorovac that the warhead is attached, and “we are now ready to launch a missile every Earth month.” Maybe Earth has subscribed to the Missile-of-the-Month Club. “Four of them should turn the trick.” What? Do outer space aliens get card game references?

Zorovac then pulls out a Viewmaster or horizontal periscope-like thing from the wall and looks through it “Look, Professor Card Us,” he says. Yep, just the Orbit Jet, pretty much where it’s been for the last few hours. Card Us grins weirdly. “Yes, that’s the spaceship that will take us into their communication zone to negotiate a surrender.” Ah, so they’re going to shoot missiles at Earth and hijack the Orbit Jet. Check.

Zorovac is having an existential crisis. “You had always taught me that we were surrounded by a galaxy of enemies, that there was no such thing as friendship in the universe.” Oh, so Card Us had a show on Fox News. Zorovac is no longer convinced and stalks off menacingly. Or as menacingly as anyone can be wearing that outfit. He kind of looks like Maude playing Lawrence of Arabia. (You know, I would use more contemporary references, but is there anyone on TV today that could be compared to Maude?)

Rocky and Winky go to leave but a Fornaxian charges in, sees them, and a brawl breaks out. Winky does a good job of getting pinned almost immediately, and soon Rocky is subdued. A crystal is rubbed against the floor until it’s good and hot, and it is brought closer to Rocky’s face until Card Us stops him. Card Us will tell Zorovac about “the way you have returned our offer of hospitality.” Oh, good one.

Some time later, Bobby has somehow becomes the ambassador from Earth, and explains Earth policy to Zorovac. “We don’t try to conquer anybody,” the 10-year-old tells the alien leader, “The laws of the United Worlds of the Solar System give every planet and moon their independence.” Can a moon, by definition, really have independence? “And the only fighting we do, Mr. Zorovac, is when somebody gets out of line.” Then we whack ’em, and whack ’em good. The Asteroid Belt is the East River of the Solar System.... Zorovac will himself determine which side the Earth people are on by going to Earth with Rocky and Winky. Meanwhile, Billy, Vena, and the Professor will be held as hostages “under the rule of my bassoon.” What? Oh, vonsoom (wife) again. Zorovac also adds that they will lend all assistance to adapting their power to the Orbit Jet. Does anyone have one of those international voltage converters?

Some time later, Winky comes in and says, “Hey, Rocky, we really got some thoroughbreds in the harness.” I do hope that’s an analogy about the power supply. Rocky asks the Professor for an instrument count, and the Professor starts to rattle off the entire string section... No, wait... Billy jumps in and starts babbling pretentiously about mass this and exhaust velocity that. Blah blah blah. Well, Zorovac’s daughter is in the room, so he’s probably just being a little show-off. A bit young for that nonsense, isn’t he? At any rate, Rocky says they will conduct a test flight that evening. Zorovac’s daughter—whose name is Harmonica (can that be right?) wants to go along, impressed with what Bobby was rabbiting on about. Rocky says he is going alone—and this time, no Winky. This is the first sensible decision this guy has made in the entire movie.

So Rocky starts enjoying his sweet freedom. Remember that scene with Tom Cruise dancing and lip syncing in Risky Business? Winky is getting separation anxiety and pleads to come along. Barring that, Winky insists that Rocky never stop talking to him over the astrophone. Is this guy codependent or what? “Sure, Winky” says Rocky in a tone that could just as easily have said, “Get knotted.” As Rocky straps himself into his seat, I get the sense that he must have overdone it on the Fornaxian food because in his white T-shirt he kind of looks like the Michelin Man. “Well, the heat’s on,” says Rocky. Good, the new gas furnace works. Rocky seems overjoyed to be getting away from Winky for at least a few hours, and who could blame him?

And up the rocket goes, and Rocky immediately passes out. Everyone below is watching. “Amaaaaazing!” exults the Professor, who has apparently never seen a rocket take off before. “Super-stellar, eh, Winky?” says Bobby. Winky goes off the deep end. “That’s some powerful stardust you’re packing, Rocky, and you wouldn’t let me join in the fun. Well, this is what I say to you: baaaah!” Rocky did get his goat, didn’t he? Meanwhile, Card Us smirks from elsewhere in the building.

They are suddenly upset about the fact that they cannot make contact with the unconscious Rocky. Card Us smirks again. Winky is despondent. Zorovac walks up to him, and Winky says, “I was just thinking about something Secretary Drake once said to me...” “Winky, I’m going to start smashing your head on my desk and I may never stop.” Oh, wait... He actually told Winky, “Wait till you have a pal out there in space and he doesn’t answer...There’s nothing quite as frightening as silence.” But I thought Depeche Mode said that we should enjoy the silence?

Winky then asks Professor Newton a question about “the fuel.” “I’m afraid I have no answers to any of your questions,” says the Professor. And how is that different from any other time?

Bobby and Harmonica clamber up the side of the building. Bobby insists that he sees something in the sky and, sure enough, it is a ship landing. He bellows, “It’s Rocky” and his voice again echoes across the landscape. “I’ll never get used to that echo.” Funny, he’s the only one who triggers it.

The ship lands, and everyone gets excited, Winky starts walking in circles and whimpering, a like a dog whose master has been away for too long. They still can’t make astrophone contact with the ship. After Rocky comes back out, he explains that the thrust of the ship forced all the instruments right out of the panels. That can’t be good. Professor Newton says he can help weaken the power of the thrust, and Winky says he can solve the problem of the instruments with some glue, string, and rubber bands. So, basically, future technology is currently available at the local Office Depot. Winky then rabbits on about exhaust velocity and...blah blah blah. Oh, like he knows what he’s talking about. He then mentions a kangaroo at one point. What? Has he had even more bourbon?

Zorovac walks over. “Welcome back, Rocky. And now we can...what do you call it?” Love? “Oh, yes, blast off for Earth.” Whew! Meanwhile, Card Us frowns.

Dissolve to some time later, even through everyone is standing in basically the same places. Card Us is still glaring at them. Rocky tells Bobby and the Professor, “Keep an eye on Card Us.” Yeah, those two will be an effective security force. And Rocky, Winky, and Zorovac take off for Earth.

Get this: they apparently returned Zorovac’s hospitality by making him stand the entire way; he is hovering right behind their pilots’ chairs. They do have that La-Z-Boy showroom in the back... Professor Newton calls in, and he can just barely be heard, as the ship is almost out of Fornax’s communication zone. Sounds like my cellphone plan. Newton again obsesses about the power and how well it’s working. Winky jumps on the other astrophone. “There’s only one way to describe it: it’s super-spatial.” Oh, shut up Winky. “In fact, we just passed a meteor like it was standing still.” Rocky eyes him like he would love to bludgeon him with something. Will no one rid him of this meddlesome sidekick? Zorovac then gets on the astrophone. “Is my monsoon with you, Professor Newton?” Huh? Oh, vonsoom again. The Professor passes the astrophone—which, by the way, looks like a large, black pickle, to Mrs. Zorovac just as the line goes dead.

Meanwhile, on another ship, Griff and another bad guy are speaking over an astrophone in an alien tongue that sounds not unlike Sid Caesar doing his foreign language skits. Griff picks up in English and it turns out he is talking to Garganto (can that be right—it sounds like a large Italian tomato). Garganto is their contact on the plant Officious. Huh? Was the planet colonized by a bunch of meddlesome and interfering administrative assistants? “Oh, yes, we’ll take over your planetary government for you.” Oh, I see, it’s spelled Ophiucius. Well, that’s no fun. Anyway, in the Rocky Jones show, Ophiucius is a planet that keeps making trouble for Rocky Jones. In this episode—I mean, movie—Griff and other guy have forged some sort of alliance with Ophiucius and are headed there to make repairs following the skirmish with the Orbit Jet. Says Garganto, “I’ll arrange an audience with Sousaphone Cleolanta at once.” There is going to be a Sousaphone concert? Oh, I see: “suzerain” is the title of Cleolanta (not Cleopatra, no, not at all), the woman who rules Ophiucius.

Ophiucius is basically a model building that looks like it was out together from a girder and panel building kit I had when I was a kid. The bad guys’ ship lands. Cleolanta wears a low-cut black satin evening gown and tiara, and looks like she just got out of a state dinner. They debate the existence of life on Fornax for a while. If there is “strange fantastic power” on Fornax, as Garganto describes it, shouldn’t Ophiucius go and get it? Just think how large Garganto’s tomatoes could grow with such power. Cleolanta asks if he wants to make an “exploratory flight.” He says he would rather call it a “flight of conquest.” Boy, he does know how to appeal to a despotic ruler. She smiles smugly. And that’s pretty much how you get any government funding.

While they are cackling malevolently off-camera (you know they have gotten out a box of fake moustaches just so they can put them on and twirl them), the Orbit Jet lands on Earth. Zorovac is impressed. “A forest of iron and steel.” Whatever you do, don’t show him Manhattan; he’ll plotz. He is so impressed by the sight of an electrical power station that he apologizes for ever being suspicious of humans’ motives. “I see now that Card Us was an evil man.” Is that all it takes to turn this guy around, a few electric power pylons? I could show this guy my circuit breaker box and convince him to give me his planet.

Back on Fornax, Bobby is chatting up Harmonica, teaching her Earth words like “picnic” and “vacation.” They enter a half-open doorway which leads directly to the missile workshop. They are looking, apparently, for Harmonica’s “headquarters.” She stresses that they are not supposed to be there, and they overhear a conversation conducted in the Fornaxian tongue. Harmonica translates: “It’s Card Us. He wants to overthrow the rule of my daddy’s pontoon.” What? Oh, it’s that damn vonsoom again. So...that would be your mother. “He wants to fire more missiles at Earth.” And with warheads. They run off to tell the vonsoom about what they heard. The vonsoom is dubious. “Harmonica, are you sure you heard Card Us say all those things.” Bobby pipes up, “Sure she did. I was right there, too. She translated and told me.” Oh, that’s convincing testimony. The guys in the missile room could have been comparing quiche recipes for all he knows. The vonsoom says, “I’ll talk to those men who were plotting against my husband. And that Card Us—I’ll teach him a lesson.” Oooh, I’ll give them such a pinch! I would think that high treason probably deserves a little more than a stern talking to.

The monsoon blows into the missile room and looks like she’s about to hit Card Us over the head with a rolling pin. (Well, this was the 1950s. Didn’t women do that back then? Or...ever?) She has the guards carry Card Us off to prison. Now that’s more like it!

Up in space, Griff, Garganto, and...the other guy approach Fornax. They detect the strong gravitation and make “an observation dive.”

Down below, Bobby hears the ship approaching, and suggests it may be Rocky and Zorovac returning. Says the Professor, “That’s not like Rocky.” Rocky never returns after having gone somewhere else. They all rush outside—even Card Us. But, hey, wasn’t he supposed to be hauled off to prison? As they all muse about what ship it could be, Card Us has some kind of moment of inner ecstasy. Inside the ship, the bad guys recognize Vena, Bobby, and the Professor, but make especial note that Rocky Jones’ ship is nowhere to be seen. They get on the loudspeaker, “Attention, Fornax inhabitants. We intend to land, by force if necessary.” They’ve already landed, but go on... “This is Garganto...” and his name echoes across the planet. The Professor either recognizes the name or he has a temporomandibular joint problem, because he makes a variety of very strange mouth movements.

A short time later, Card Us is lounging in the missile room with Griff and Garganto. He has forged an alliance with them to keep from being sent to prison. And Card Us had to utter the line that was bound to turn up at some point: “Whoever has this power, which we control here, can rule the universe.” Bwa-ha-ha-ha! He asks if Cleolanta would reward him. “You give us the universe,” says Garganto, “and name your prize.” The kettledrum on the soundtrack makes the offer official. Or Ophiuciul.

Vena and the Professor are despondent over the prospect of the invaders firing more missiles at Earth. Bobby silently springs into action and strides purposefully out the door...only to be nabbed by a guard and shoved back inside again. Okay, Plan B... “What would Rocky do in a case like this?” Knee Winky in the groin? Bobby thinks hard, but has nothing.

On Earth, Rocky and Zorovac are in Drake’s office. Let’s see, is Zorovac impressed? “Look at this stapler! And any planet that has a caddy full of paper clips can’t be evil. Oh, and these ballpoint pens...” Well, not really, but I guess they wisely kept all that stuff hidden from him or he’d be swooning all over the place. Professor Collins comes in (I guess they have another Professor on Earth, who takes over when Newton is away) and says there is a missile approaching Earth. Yep, from Fornax. And it has a warhead. Rocky’s idea: detonate it before it hits Earth. “Winky,” he says, “strap yourself to the nosecone of the Orbit Jet and ram it.” Well, no... “Winky, take along a double load of atomic missiles and fuel for a quick blast off.” Ooh, a double load. That turns Winky on.

On the Orbit Jet, Rocky, Zorovac, and Winky are en route to intercept the missile. Winky is making note of something on the radar. Zorovac asks, “Is it the warhead missile from Fornax?” No, dickweed, it’s a school of bluefin tuna. What do you think? “I want you to know that I’m on your side, Rocky. All the way.” Well, he would almost have to be, as it would make no sense for him to have Earth bombed while he was on it. But then this guy isn’t the brightest star in the firmament, so who knows... “We’ll talk more about that later. Right now, we’ve got to do something about Bobby, Vena, and Professor Newton...and that missile coming toward us.” Uh, hopefully not in that order. Winky charges in. “What’s the plan, Rocky? We have to act fast.” And then they sit and watch the missile for a while. The plan is to shoot one of the atomic missiles of their own at it. Not exactly rocket science, Winky. Oh, wait, actually it is... “Too bad we haven’t got a lariat. We could rope her on over to Ophiucius.” Oh, shut up, Winky. Besides, how do they even know that Ophiucius is involved at this point? Everyone straps down, except Rocky of course, who has to get up and fire the missiles from what looks like a thermostat on the far wall of the bridge. There’s good ship design. They couldn’t have put the missile firing control on the main control panel? At any rate, they hit the incoming missile and as Winky veers off, Rocky is thrown to the floor. He is, of course, perfectly fine. They set course for Fornax.

On Fornax, Griff is having the Fornaxians load sacks of crystals into the Ophiuciun ship. One Fornaxian is slowly and carefully climbing the very tall ladder into the ship and is berated. “Be careful with that sack of crystals!” The guy was! What a dink. Bobby and Harmonica go back to their regular spot on the stone wall. Bobby has an astrophone and tries calling the Orbit Jet. He apprises Rocky of who all is there. “They’re waiting for you, Rocky. They’re gonna blow the Orbit Jets to bits.” Rocky takes all this in. “What are their plans?” he asks. To blow the Orbit Jet to bits! Wasn’t he listening? Bobby says he doesn’t know if they plan to fire another missile at Earth, but says he will find out. Rocky suggests they synchronize their watches. Is this Mission Impossible all of a sudden? Bobby takes out a pocket watch. “Mine has stopped. And there’s no way to set a watch on Fornax.” No wonder everyone is always late for things there. “It’s 1544,” says Rocky. Ah, of course. “Try to find out what you can, and call me back at 12:00 noon.” Wouldn’t it be less confusing if they stuck to one consistent type of time measurement? And it’s good thing that they synchronized their watches; Rocky wouldn’t take Bobby’s call at any other time. Not that I blame him.

Bobby hangs up, then tells Harmonica to tell Vena and the Professor that he has been in contact with Rocky, and that Rocky destroyed the missile that was on the way to Earth. But Rocky didn’t tell him that! Do they convey important information through some sort of unspoken code?

Griff notices Harmonica slinking back into the building and gets suspicious. Bobby, meanwhile, sneaks into the missile room at the exact moment that Card Us tells Garganto says “We’re ready to roll the second missile into place.” They then lay out the entire plan within Bobby’s earshot. Unfortunately, it happens to be the same alcove right next to the door that Rocky and Winky had hid in earlier, and Griff charges in and immediately nabs him.

Bobby is hauled off to prison. Harmonica sneaks over and calls to him through the window. She wants to know how he can get him out. Ah, I see; she’s going to pull a Sydney Carton, disguise herself as Bobby and let him go free, that way it will be she who is taken to the guillotine. You know, this is the strangest adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities I’ve ever seen. “It is a far far better thing I do now than I have ever done before.” Well, maybe not. “Never mind about me,” says Bobby. “You’ve got to call Rocky Jones. You gotta!” A guard approaches, and Bobby ducks down and sits on his cot in his cell. I bet he could use a harmonica right about now. When the guard leaves, he hands Harmonica his pocket watch. “When both hands get together straight up, you’ve got to call Rocky.” “What should I tell him, Bobby?” “Shh, the guard’s coming back.” Is that what she’s going to tell Rocky? Alcatraz never had this much security.

Harmonica does as she was instructed, calls Rocky, and gives him the lowdown on the missile plans. “And they’ve got Bobby locked up.” That’s a bad thing? Although, Rocky does look over as if thinking, “Why, oh, why couldn’t it have been Winky who was locked up?”

The Orbit Jet arrives at Fornax, and targets its own missiles as Garganto’s ship, and fires. On Garganto’s ship are Garganto, Griff, and Card Us. Garganto pulls a gun on Card Us and tells him to stay put and prepare to fire. Card Us, mentioning all the crystals on board, hightails it out of there. Griff follows him. So much for honor among thieves. As the three of them flee the Ophiuciun ship, the Orbit Jet spins around, fires, and destroys it. So much for the crystals. As the explosion rocks the building, the rest of the cast comes out, and vonsoom yells, “Crowbar infidels!” What? The guards grab Garganto, Griff and Card Us and haul them inside. So why didn’t they do this earlier?

Finally: epilogue.

Rocky tells Garganto that he will be brought up before the United Worlds and “will get everything that’s coming to you.” Miracle Gro? And Card Us will be turned over to the Civil Police. Well, at least in the future the police are civil. “And Griff...” This should be good. “You know what happens to spies.” “And when it happens, I want to be in on it,” adds Winky. One shudders to think.

Everyone is led off to the Orbit Jet. Vena and the Professor are strapped into their La-Z-Boys. Winky comes in from the bridge. “Rocky wanted me to count noses.” Since the crystals were destroyed, are they now bringing back a cargo hold full of powerful Fornaxian noses? Vena points out her own and the Professor’s, but adds, “You won’t find Bobby’s.” Was it cut off while he was in prison? They turn on the visiograph and catch Bobby making time with Harmonica. Um, please turn that off, Gladys Kravitz. They see Zorovac come over and turn the hose on them. I mean, he says, “Tell Rocky Jones that people of Fornax will be his friends through eternity.” You just did, actually. Bobby says okay, and Harmonica watches a tad too intently as he climbs the ladder....

“That kid has a way with the women,” says Winky, perhaps a tad jealous. And away they go.

The end. Wait—you’ve giving Winky the last line! You’re sure about that, movie?

And now it’s time for...

Profiles in Incompetence
One of the back stories to the Rocky Jones series involves the stirring tale of the birth, death, burial, realization of a horrible mistake, disinterment, resuscitation, and continued life of Professor Newton.

Many people believe that, given the time frame of the Rocky Jones TV show, that Professor Newton was born in the future. Newton was actually born in the past. Long past? Your past. No, actually, long past.... In fact, he was known to call Sir Isaac Newton “Sonny,” often in the context of “Get off my lawn!” and “Stop throwing apples at me!” The founder of classical physics was known to often look at Professor Newton and remark, “If I have seen further it’s because I have stood on the shoulders of those whose spines would snap like fresh celery if I ever tried it.”

No one is quite sure how Newton—who had just the one name—got the title “Professor.” The most likely explanation is that, with his unkempt white hair (which had developed by the time he was 25), pince-nez glasses, and penchant for white lab coats, everyone just made the assumption, even though the closest he had come to an academic institution was an incident involving a fraternity hazing, a school mascot (a large, grimacing foam rubber cockatoo), and a vat of lime Jell-O.

Over the course of his academic life, Professor Newton earned three degrees; that is to say, his body temperature went up to 101.6°, where it remained permanently.

His big break came in the late 2050s when, due to a typographical error on some legislation, he was inadvertently given the Griffith Observatory by the City of Los Angeles. For some time, he rattled around inside it fairly aimlessly. Within 20 years, he had noticed the giant telescope which, he soon discovered, had an unobstructed view of Venice Beach.

In the early 2100s, a chance meeting with Rocky Jones led to his being involved with the Space Ranger organization. (One afternoon in a Wal-Mart parking lot, Professor Newton had accidentally backed his car over Winky, and Rocky was forever in the Professor’s debt.) Soon, Professor Newton met Bobby, the precocious 10-year-old with a deep interest and love of both science and really, really old people, and the team became inseparable, however much Bobby tried to escape.

After Rocky Jones’ adventures were canceled, Professor Newton retired to his Observatory where he still stubbornly refuses to die. It is rumored he feeds on the lifeblood of the young like a succubus, but that could just be a myth. The Mythbusters people are due to film an episode about it in a few weeks. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Armed and Dangerous?

I have to say this: the chairwoman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisors will have to juggle a lot of things. What will make it easy, I think, is that, if this picture from the December 8 issue of Time magazine is any indication, Christina Romer has three arms!
Either that, or someone over at Time needs to take a refresher course in Photoshop.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Acid Redux

No, not from The Onion, but rather Engadget:
Violet announces dal:dal internet-connected lamp

the lamp will change colors to relay different information, or, as Violet puts it, convert the "world's ebb & flow and endless stream of events into halos of living colours and audio micro-messages." No exact release date just yet but, according to GeekLifeBlog, it'll set you back €59, or about $75
An Internet-connected lamp? Sounds like sort of a modern version of a lava lamp, although "world's ebb & flow and endless stream of events into halos of living colours and audio micro-messages" sounds like it is being primarily marketed toward heavy LSD users. Hm...kind of like lava lamps, now that I think about it.

Friday Octopus Blogging

Some of you may remember the classic videos "octopus escaping through a one-inch hole," "octopus unscrewing a jar," or perhaps the chilling "octopus eating a shark" so you know how wily the cephalopods can be (hmm...should someone invent a cephal-iPod for octopus videos?). Anyway, an aquarium in Germany has found that Kierkegaard's statement "boredom is the root of all evil" is certainly true of its own eight-armed denizen:
Otto the octopus wreaks havoc

A octopus has caused havoc in his aquarium by performing juggling tricks using his fellow occupants, smashing rocks against the glass and turning off the power by shortcircuiting a lamp.
"We knew that he was bored as the aquarium is closed for winter, and at two feet, seven inches Otto had discovered he was big enough to swing onto the edge of his tank and shoot out the 2000 Watt spot light above him with a carefully directed jet of water."

Director Elfriede Kummer who witnessed the act said: "We've put the light a bit higher now so he shouldn't be able to reach it. But Otto is constantly craving for attention and always comes up with new stunts so we have realised we will have to keep more careful eye on him - and also perhaps give him a few more toys to play with.

"Once we saw him juggling the hermit crabs in his tank, another time he threw stones against the glass damaging it. And from time to time he completely re-arranges his tank to make it suit his own taste better - much to the distress of his fellow tank inhabitants.
An octopus that that is evil!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Unfriendly Ground

What would we do without The Onion to tell it like it is? (h/t to Dr. Joe.)
American Airlines Now Charging Fees To Non-Passengers

FORT WORTH, TX—Cash-strapped American Airlines announced a new series of fees this week that will apply to all customers not currently flying, scheduled to fly, or even thinking about flying aboard the commercial carrier.

The fees, the latest introduced by American Airlines in a continuing effort to combat its financial woes, will take effect on Monday. According to company officials, these charges will include a $25 tax on citizens traveling with any other airline, as well as a mandatory $30 surcharge for passengers who decide to just stay home for the holidays instead.