26 April 2008

Toba, or Not Toba?

I just yesterday finished reading Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded and today I find this article about recently completed DNA research that shows humans may have nearly gone extinct about 70,000 years ago.

The relationship?

In the Krakatoa book was discussion of the largest known (from physical evidence) volcanic eruption in the history of humans: the Toba volcano in Indonesia, approximately 73,000 years ago.

The Toba explosion was so big as to make the explosion of Krakatoa look like a firecracker. To compare, the Mount St. Helens eruption spewed 1 cubic kilometer of rock and debris into the air. Krakatoa's eruption was about 20 cubic kilometers. Toba was 2,800 cubic kilometers making it the largest by far.

Like other volcanic eruptions, the material that flew high into the air with the Toba eruption began to drift over the world, eventually encircling it. Sunlight was drastically reduced, temperatures plummeted, plant life began to die off, and so did the animal life that depended on it -- including humans. One study, mentioned in the article, indicates as few as 2,000 humans were left alive, bringing our species perilously close to the edge of extinction.

This is fascinating in its own way; but it is even more fascinating to think of the repercussions of such an eruption were it to happen today. Global warming would come screeching to a halt, and the world would be dropped into another year without summer (like 1816, thought to have been caused by the massive eruption of Mount Tambora) that could last several years wiping out millions of humans and other animals.

19 April 2008


You won't believe me, but this is, like, the funniest thing I have seen since that one episode of "Big Bang Theory" that involved the luminous fish.

16 April 2008

Buddy's the Man

Interesting article in today's Los Angeles Times comparing the two movies which were honored in 1929 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It was the occasion of the first Academy Awards recognizing films made in the 1927-1928 period. "Sunrise" was honored for its unique and artistic production, and "Wings" as best production.

I did not realize that there has been some kind of feud about which movie should really be recognized all these years later as the better film. "Wings," of course, appears in all the books as the first film to win the Best Picture award (not yet known as the "Oscar").

I've long been a fan of both films: "Sunrise" because it was directed by F.W. Murnau; and "Wings" because if features hottie Charles "Buddy" Rogers. (As good a reason as any.)

"Wings" is a fantastic film with aerial battles, Clara Bow, the French, etc. but give me Buddy Rogers in a uniform any day and -- Yowza!

Rogers (pictured here from the 1930 film "Young Eagles") was about as hot as you could get back in the days of silent pictures. I mean, look at him!

I came this close to meeting him some time in the late 1980s when I was attending a function at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He was a guest of honor (or, maybe, just an honored guest) and was in a wheelchair -- he would have been in his mid-80s. His entourage was all over him and I couldn't have gotten near him -- which is really sad, 'cause I would have loved to tell him how hot he was back then (although I am sure he knew).

You can read about the film feud here.

11 April 2008

My Brush with Torchness

Wednesday, the Olympic torch made its way through San Francisco, its route changed owing to protests that accompanied it in London and Paris.

The protests center around China's treatment of Tibet and its people. While it is a contentious issue, it is sad that the Olympic spirit should have to be tarnished in this way. (I do not blame the protesters. I blame China.)

The point of my blog today is to remember another time when the torch made its way through the San Francisco Bay Area, to remember a humble boy and his brush with torchness.

That boy (pictured, right) is me -- 24, thinner, cuter, and with substantially more hair.

I was going through a really bad time in my life, the details of which too boring now to retell. However, things perked up when I found out the torch bearer was going to run mere feet from my house in Foster City, just south of San Francisco.

I made a point of getting out there to see the torch go by. All I knew was it was going to pass along the route. I had no idea ahead of time that there was going to be a runner change right there. So, when I arrived, I saw the next runner (pictured, left). We were told we could not approach him, although security was not as tight then as I am sure it is now.

Not letting rules stand in my way, I walked up to him, introduced myself and asked if it was alright to have a photograph taken of me holding the torch. He said no.

Okay. "Could I have a photograph of me standing next to you holding the torch?" He hesitated, then agreed. Right before a friend snapped the shutter, I reached out and grabbed the torch. I mean, when would I ever have this chance again? You can see the reaction in the runner's face. There I was, with my little plastic American flag in hand, disobeying the rules, and touching the torch.

Mere seconds later, the other runner arrived, handed off the lit torch (what you see in the photograph was one of the spares) and sent the new runner along his way.

While I cannot say this was the highlight of my life (thankfully, there have been other, more wonderful things) this was pretty cool.

10 April 2008

Lautner, Reborn

Interesting article in today's Los Angeles Times about the recently restored Harpel House in the Hollywood Hills. The house was designed by John Lautner, one of the most innovative architects of the twentieth century.

Lautner was a visionary designer. You probably have seen the recreated interior of his iconic Chemosphere which serves as the main studio for the Current TV network. My favorite work of his is the breathtaking Arango residence in Acapulco (pictured).

You can read more about the work of this future-thinking architect

04 April 2008

Helen, Queen of the Brits

If you love the work of Helen Mirren (pictured) only half as much as I do, you will still be interested in
Ten Questions for Helen Mirren.

Any surprise she's one of the best actors working today?

03 April 2008

World Peace?

There will not be peace in this world until penguins fly.

Oh, wait:

Thanks to Matt for this!