Category Archives: Television

Winston Zeddemore was the First Black* Guy I Knew

Winston Zeddemore
Winston Zeddemore (all images are screengrabs from the collected series unless otherwise noted)

I am currently working through some visual culture/studies ideas on how things shape our relationship with the social order and more basically the world around us. Without getting caught up in all the theories and manners of looking at things, it has gotten me to thinking more about something I said off the cuff to a friend of mine back over the summer when and after some of the more ridiculous things began happening where I attend University:

Aside/tangent/parenthetical background:

If you have read the previous post on the Ghostbusters you won’t be surprised that it probably had something to do with that and it does. I was born in 1982 in a tiny farm/hamlet town that was filled with people whose commute to work was on (a general) average an hour. It was also a town composed completely of white people. My family tree consists of nearly every name on the mailboxes in the town. Some of this is in the “about me” section on here, but I will string it along here again to help me order my thoughts. We had an elementary school through the 5 or 6th grade depending on the number of students in a given year or three, then we were bussed 16 miles to attend Jr High and High school in the next town. There were 18 kids in my kindergarten class. We were the teacher’s first class and she had graduated with my mother (the guy that later became my high school principal graduated with them as well. We won’t get that far, but it is worth mentioning).  I was in Jr High before I ever had a class with someone who wasn’t white. We’ll leave that here and get back to the main story.

My friend and I were talking about the television shows we grew up with and what looked like and reminded us of our childhood. He was a Navy kid and spent his impressionable years in Japan so DragonBall Z was his. Mine, as I have belabored the point was The Real Ghostbusters and Scooby Doo. Both were the first things I can remember that were longer than the 6 minutes of Coyote and Roadrunner or the Hanna Barbera cartoons. Scooby Doo was in syndication (until a Pup Named Scooby Doo) but Ghostbusters was new. It also had something different in the main line up: a black guy.

Real Ghostbusters
Slimer, Peter, and Winston

We talked through it for awhile and I have been milling it over for a couple months now to make sure that what I said was indeed true: Winston Zeddemore was the first black person I “knew.” I use the quotations here because how well can you really know a cartoon character? Ghostbusters started airing when I was 4 and ran on network television until the early 90s. I don’t remember seeing the goofy Slimer/professor Dweeb things at all.

That all being said, I wasn’t aware at the time that this was the first non white person that I “knew.” If I went with my mother to the grocery store I would see people that didn’t look like me, but there was no conscious separation of us and them. There was an older guy that mowed the field at our elementary school, who I would see every other week on a tractor, but there were no daily life contact. Later I got to know James (the tractor driver) really well when we would work on the schools equipment for him in the auto mechanics shop.

Growing up like that really shapes the way you see the world. The holotype I had that structured how I thought of an entire population that I had no relationship with, was a cartoon character based on a film character. That is a powerful thing, and I have droned on through this because I believe that this happens more often that we think, and not always with such a positive representative. My school mascot was a warrior, and to this day Spirit Week consists of at least one day where the students fashion headdresses to wear. (in addition to all the bad Indian puns that were put on pep rally posters).

When this is all you know (or is the sum of your experiences), especially in a time when there were no facebooks and twitters and social change hashtags or even someone near you to offend it creates this world  of “that’s just the way it is.” What I learned of the Civil War was the northern aggression narrative and the local cemetery in town has more than one CSA foot stone belonging to my ancestors. I took one of those ye olde tyme western photos at the fair when I was 10 dressed as a confederate general with a rebel flag backdrop. I wore a rebel flag belt buckle for years, and even have one on my high school ring (wherever it is). I knew no one it offended for years, as I began life in college and started making friends with people that I didn’t grow up with, that changed, and so did my understanding of things.

Egon and Winston
Egon and Winston (scan from my own animation cel from The Real Ghostbusters)

If you’re wondering what the point is other than “white kid can remember first black person he knew” it is that there are still a lot of rural schools in the US and there are still a lot of extremely homogenous towns, and when those kids leave those towns for college or life, it might be the first time they have experienced not only the “other” but the voice, the protests, the anger, and the offense of that other. I work with special populations on campus, which generally means first generation students and underrepresented in graduate school. I am a McNair Scholar alum, both as a scholar and working as Graduate Mentor for the two years I was working on my Master’s degree.  It has been interesting to see first gen students adapt to the new environment of university both where I am now and my previous university.

It has also been interesting to see from afar kids that have never seen a brown person to suddenly be dropped into a room with 40 varying shades and accents, and then find out that some of them are smarter than they are. There are a lot of things in place to help international students adjust, but there aren’t that many (that I am aware of) in place to work with those I only see the “other” in town sorts. The first thing they usually hear is something about “white privilege” which is never explained and all they know is they aren’t privileged in any way and all sides get defensive and any chance at meaningful conversation shuts down.  Everything we are doing to address race in this country is falling short failing. I don’t have the answer, the only suggestion I can propose that I have seen work in small groups (e.g. the McNair Scholars I have worked with) is to start focusing on what makes us the same rather than what makes us different.

Even the language that we use is up for argument about things. I have gone back and forth with the title of this, and the descriptors of  people in order to bother the fewest number of people. I have worked with people who prefer to be called African-American and some that prefer to be called black. I have seen one of each get into a very loud and heated argument on a job site about how African one was–both were born in Texas. I have also been at a drug testing center (for employment) where the black lab tech called this tall lanky white guy back up to fix his paperwork because he had checked the “African-American” box. I will forever remember his reply: in a heavy accent he said, “No, that is correct, I am from South Africa, I am an African-American, you aren’t.” Make of that what you will. There is also the trouble here of growing up with the hymn “Red and Yellow, Black and White, They are precious in his sight,” which I have seen changed to “every color every race—I can’t remember the rest but I don’t think it rhymes with “Jesus’ face.”

The Real Ghostbusters
The whole gang

The bottom line to all this is to not dismiss something as trivial in your life until you have had time to examine it and see if it really was trivial. What came out as a joke about Winston being the first black guy I knew, actually led me down a long path of talking with my friends of all ethnicities about their experiences and trying to understand where my own mental expectations of things came from. I think I am lucky in the sense that I have recognized that while my creation was based on what someone else created ( the derivative character for the cartoon based on a film) the organization around that mental construct was mostly my own (as far as I can tell) and not because I wholesale accepted what everyone around me was saying I should think about people.

When I finally did see the Ghostbusters movies Winston was the most like his animated self. Remember, I saw the cartoon first was a little let down by some of the movie versions of the others. Winston was the everyman character in both. Ernie Hudson became the “real” holotype for my characterization because it did not conflict with my mental world of what it meant to be “black.” Through it all now, I constantly wonder what the modern equivalent could be for today’s kids, the seeds of my entire notion of a significant part of the population in my country were based on a character created by Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis, played by Ernie Hudson, and then condensed (caricatured?) for a Saturday morning cartoon show. I suppose the whole point to this might be something like, “If this isn’t an example of how powerful popular culture can be (and a reason to study and take these things seriously) I don’t know what is.”



*I am aware that my use of “black” and not “African-American” or “people of color” or  other acronym may upset some but to be true to the point and expression of growing up and offering my thoughts as I have made and seen them this is the best I can do. I did not live in a world of African-Americans or People of Color, I lived in a world where the people who were not white, Indian, or Mexican were black. Or worse.

It All Started With a Tweet

Actually it was the reply to a tweet. The one below in fact. Suddenly, going through twitter in the morning before getting out of bed changed the trajectory of the entire summer and, in all honesty, may have helped my reconnect with a very long forgotten piece of myself. I’ve used the analogy before, but in this case I very much feel like Columbus who has discovered something that thousands of people already knew about. The Ghostbusters cartoon, that is The Real Ghostbusters, had a comic.

Nessie is a ghost
Nessie is a ghost
No, really.
No, really.

So it goes, that April 19th began a tireless internet search for any format of any of these comics I could find. I lived for the ghostbusters cartoon when I was a kid. I saw the series before the movie and was always a bit bummed that Egon did not look the same in the movie. If I ever had a television hero or role model as such, it was Egon. Cartoon Egon. I can’t tell you how hard I tried to get my hair to roll like that. Incidentally it was the late 80s and early 90s and I did have the rat-tail too.

Personal collection of animation cells
Personal collection of animation cells

Not a single person I knew was into comic books when I was a kid. To be fair I grew up mostly around adults, but still I don’t remember classmates bringing any to school or whatever. The first one I bought was an Uncanny X-men that was in the magazine section of the grocery store (Brookshire Brothers is its name), because I had been watching the animated series on Fox Kids on Saturday mornings.

I kept up with the story arc until at some point in Jr. High school, I was made to get rid of my collection of two large Nocona boot boxes full of comics, by this time X-men, Ninja Turtles, and Wolverine because they were “a fire hazard.” I gave them to the one person I knew had comics and as far as I know he still has them all to this day.

When I tried to get back into them later when I had my own place that I wasn’t concerned with pyromaniac comics burning down, I found that the single story lines I had followed had been split into seemingly limitless different arcs and I absolutely hated it. I didn’t pick up a comic again until this year.

The original run, drawn and written true to the cartoon are a thing of beauty. Not far into the run, there is Egon pointing out the debates on the warm-bloodedness of dinosaurs. That was neat enough, but when I got to the issue that had the reference to Symmes Hollow Earth theory I was hook. I am a historian of science (specifically earth and field sciences, geology, paleontology, and archaeology) so it was fascinating to see  that obscure reference in a comic from 1988 aimed at kids. I now have an enlargement of that panel on my office wall.

Discussing the finer details about dinosaurian blood temperature
Discussing the finer details about dinosaurian blood temperature
The Hollow Earth Theory
The Hollow Earth Theory

In addition for finally rounding up all the original US comics and digitizing them, I lucked on to a fellow from the UK selling the first 100+ of the UK Mag comics. I have about 15 of them digitized, but they are coming along. That aside, something interesting started showing up in the google searches for Ghostbusters comics–(and here we have the second voyage of Columbus) there were new ones.

They were new, but they weren’t new. They are brilliant. They are absolutely everything that a fan could possibly want in a 21st century rendition of the franchise. I hate to admit just how long it took me to get used to the newly drawn characters specifically because I love all the artwork and the artist Dan Schoening (@Dapperpomade) is such a great guy and a must follow on Twitter if not for interaction then for his sneak peak/previews (including some really neat post-it art).

That is the "Rookie" from the video game.
That is the “Rookie” from the video game. (all images are copyright of IDW Publishing and are used here to highlight and review the work where they are originally located. no infringement is intended and they are used for educational purposes (secondary to praise))
The Twinkie
The Twinkie

There could be a full manual written on just the easter eggs and sly references to other incarnations of the Ghostbusters that he includes in the series. When I started reading the series (that is now more than a couple years old) the appearance of Belushi as Ray’s Dreamworld Virgil pretty much squashed any doubts I had about where this was going. The writing, masterfully executed by Erik Burnham (@Erikburnham) brings everything together in a way that make every single issue enjoyable every single time you read one.

It's the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
and I feel...
and I feel…

What I think I love the most amongst all this stuff that many of you have been enjoying for years is the fact that it does the very opposite of the thing that turned me away from comics all those years ago. Instead of splitting stories into backstories and alternate universes and riding relative dimensions to some weird end, the IDW publishing series is tying in everything. That is everything. The cartoons–yes, plural, even that weird one made for teens is represented, the movies, the video games, it is all coming together and that, for me, is a nice bit of Ray Stantz cosmological symmetry.

So much goodness
So much goodness

They, along with Tom Waltz (@TomWaltz) produced the crossover to rule them all: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ghostbusters. (I don’t want to leave the colorist Luis Antonio Delgado out either, the stuff pops on the page and looks amazing on a retina display iPad, Luis doesn’t have a twitter that I am aware). God, how I wish this would have been done when I was a kid, because the very UN-esque agreement that my mother made me submit to in order to get Ninja Turtle toys was to make room for them by getting rid of my ghostbusters toys. That this even exists is a tribute to humanity’s greatness. I am telling you, t is golden record in space worthy.

Even when interests mesh, it isn't a perfect 1:1 and that makes it perfect
Even when interests mesh, it isn’t a perfect 1:1 and that makes it perfect
Mikey asks the important questions
Mikey asks the important questions

Every page has comes with something like this. Which, of course, has led to backtracking to Tom Waltz recent runs with Ninja Turtles proper and it doesn’t disappoint either, but that is a thought for another time.

Currently they are running a 4 part Ghostbusters Get Real, wherein the cartoon ghobstbusters have crossed over into the new/real/comic universe.  Never before have I wanted to hit up a Comic Con and get anything signed before, but this series has me looking at future locations.

Get Real #'s 1 & 2
Get Real #’s 1 & 2

The third one is out in a couple weeks and will feature Egon on the cover, so I am more than a little excited for that. The story is running true to all forms too. The best news comes that they are also working on a Ghostbusters Annual for the end of this year and a full new series (this will be Vol. 3) for 2016 along with a full published Tobin’s Spirit guide. There is really much, much more to say about just how wonderful all of this is and most especially for me as it recaptures a lot of what I was before life really got in the way. It also doesn’t hurt that I am finding it as I am working on my PhD research. A quick read through of one or two issues is a welcome break and recharge from digitizing thousands of WPA letters and funding, locality, worker records, and bureaucratic paperwork. I will, with all sincerity but these guys in my acknowledgements when the dissertation is finished.

The Ant and the Aardvark, er, um Anteater

   My apologies to my reader(s) about the long drought of blog material.  Many people I know would say this was just a time to gather information with which to wow my readers with; this however, is not the case.  Moving, class, and money have all gotten in the way of actually sharing points to ponder with the world at large.  Hopefully, when I get my laptops repaired, or my desktop close enough to a wifi station to access the internet, the posts will take on some sort of rhythm and actually combine to make some kind of tangible, coherent thought phase. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

     I have taken some constructive criticism from one semi-loyal reader who possesses the attention span of a gerbil.  With that in mind, I will try and make these nature musings more curt and to the point with brevity.  Again, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

      Edentates have always fascinated me, and anyone interested in life should look into their habits and lifestyles.   They are one of the larger enigmas in the fossil record due to their lack of teeth.  The great thing about studying mammalian fossils is that the teeth are the hardest part of the organism, and therefore more likely to become fossilized.  The beauty of that luck is that mammalian teeth are extremely diagnostic.  Whole species and some genera have been classed based on teeth alone.  Anteaters have no teeth.  Their skull ends with a long bony tube that holds their tongue.  So the anteater fossil record is pretty sparse.  That is not what I want to tell you today.  I want to clear up a little misunderstanding that toy companies, among many others have about anteaters and aardvarks.

      I like odd things, and this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me.  So I went looking for a plush anteater.  I found two, one is huge, for stuffed animal proportions.  He is about two feet long, grey with the signature black stripe across his side.  The tag in his ear is filled with information regarding “The Anteater.” This information includes habitat, diet, etc.  This larger anteater follows the normal studies of the Anteater:  South and Central America, ants, grubs, etc., one pup that rides on its mothers back for nearly a year, and all that other cute cuddly information that one needs to know when purchasing a plus 22″ anteater.

Large anteater Plush Toy

     I bought a smaller one as well, to put on my desk at work. Same body style, about half the size, this one is brown instead of grey.  The tag conveniently contains information on “The Aardvark.”  African savanna habitat, nearly the same diet though, young, etc.  So now everyone that buys this particular plush toy will receive the wrong idea of the Anteater, or Aardvark.

small “aardvark” plush toy 

     This confusion stems back to the 60s when the DePatie-Freleng team added The Ant and the Aardvark  to their Pink Panther lineup.

Screen Capture from the DVD 

     Innocently enough, all the write-ups reveal that this show follows the life of an “aardvark” chasing an ant.   No harm, no foul, right?  In this case, and I am not expecting great biology from cartoon maker, there is a bit to be confused about.  Do not get me wrong I absolutely love this cartoon and Depatie-Freleng works in general, but this has got some people screwed up in the general knowledge sector.  I present to you the following:

Giant Anteater
The Aardvark

    Which of these guys does Aardvark most resemble?  Exactly.  Arguments may be made that he is an amalgam of both species.  He has the anteater’s long snout, but is not as furry, perhaps he is covered in (blue?) coarse fur. Most of the cartoons take place in Africa, or a savannah like setting. He is drawn with teeth, but he can also talk so that might be irrelevant.  The list goes on and on of differences between the two, aardvarks are nocturnal, anteaters are not. Aardvarks have teeth, anteaters do not. Except that one from Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital.

Screenshot from Kingdom Hospital

      The toothed God-like anteater of Stephen King’s psyche is not that made up. Horror film enthusiast will remember the human form of this anteater was a pale individual with an Ankh necklace. This is pretty interesting because there is a group of individuals who propose that the Egyptian God Set was depicted as, at least, part aardvark.

     There are so many other things to consider when studying both species here, but I hope this short primer will reveal that the confusion over anteaters and aardvarks goes way back and is prominent in even successful ventures.  The confusion expounds exponentially when arboreal anteaters are introduced to the discussion as well as “common” names given to species around the world, “antbear” is one that falls on the aardvark as well as the anteater. Even the binomial nomenclature can sometimes be a misnomer. The giant anteater is known as the Myrmecophaga tridactyla, Greek for “three-fingered ant-eater” drawing on its prominent “three toes.”  The anteaters have five digits on each foot.

     All this being said, I hope that it does not take the magic out of cartoons, or a movie, or anything else.  What I hope it does is that it might draw your attention to things as they are not really being what they are, and that if something seems strange to look into it farther.  I have found that most times, the truth that I find is many times more fascinating than any of the mistakes that are represented.

   I would like to leave you with what started me on this strange, pointless quest: here is the pilot episode of The Ant and the Aardvark: (The Ant and the Anteater, just doesn’t roll off the tongue with the same ring, so kudos to Depatie and Freleng.)

The Great Northern Penguin and other bird brains

      There are no penguins in the arctic, at least not anymore.  In the 1960s Robert Silverberg wrote a hat trick of books about natural history and science.  Funny thing, when I ordered them from Amazon they came discarded from Jr. High libraries.  After reading two of them I realized that Jr. High students must have been capable of much higher degrees of thinking than the standard secondary children are forced to endure today.  They are written in a plain spoken and easy to understand manner, that in no way detracts from their scholarly contribution to knowledge.  But enough about the state of education in the 21st century, back to the northern penguins.

     The penguins of the north are more commonly known as the Great Auk.  This flightless bird was nearly 3 feet tall and weighted in a bit over ten pounds.  Early European explorers found them a very convenient food source.  See where this is going?

     Nomenclature has always been terribly interesting to me, and these are no exceptions.  According to one story recounted by Silverberg says the fishermen of Brittany gave the bird a Celtic name, pen-gwyn, which translates to “white-head.” Others argue that it comes from the Latin pinguis which means fat.  A third school of thought has something to do with pinioning which basically means making a bird unable to fly.  Either way they name took hold and was reason enough, according to Silverberg, for Sir Frances Drake and other voyagers in the late sixteenth century, to call the different black and white flightless seabirds “southern penguins”

    They eventually became rare on the rocky Islands of the Northern Atlantic where they would breed.  Silverberg says that between 1833 and 1844 they were systematically removed from the Island of Eldey off Iceland. One by one brought back and sold to some eager Museum representative.

    One paragraph from the book I will repeat here in full. (I take some interest in whether this is the first time Silverberg’s work has been uploaded in a blog but that is neither here nor there:

On June 4, 1844, three fishermen named Jon Brandesson, Sigurdr Islefesson, and Ketil Ketilsson made a trip to Eldey.  They had been hired by an Icelandicbird collector named Carl Siemsen, who wanted auk specimens.  Jon Brandssonfound an auk and killed it.  Sigurdr Islefesson found another and did the same.  KetilKetilsson had to return empty-handed, because his two companions had just 
completed the extinction of the Great Auk. 
(p. 94, The Auk, the Dodo, and the Oryx. Robert Silverberg, 1967) 
     As short as that was I feel that I should offer you a twofer here.  For some readers this means you can stop here and come back later, for the rest of the story. (only without Paul Harvey)
   Per request I dug back through some posted articles to find something interesting on crows, magpies, ravens, etc.  Not hard, these guys are more than meets the eye. That does not mean they turn into monster trucks or tanks and attack one another. But, that they are pretty good problem solvers. 
   I am going to this the lazy way and post the links for the studies.  I have other things, which are more pressing for my education, even if they are extremely less interesting than this blog. Hopefully that changes soon, but whatever.  
   Back in May of 2009 Rebecca Marelle reported for the BBC about Rooks making tools. There are a couple of videos in the article.  Basically it shows rooks using tools, not unlike the chimps using grass to catch termites, and you know how we all swoon over chimp termite catching. 
    
   Rooks are part of the corvids, the same group as new caledonian crows. Both of which are known for their tool use prowess. This Sciencedaily article reveals just how well the crows can use tools, and how many they can use at a time.   Apparently they can use up to three tools in proper sequence without being trained.  This is similar to another article I read in BBC knowledge where they could choose.  There was one straw, too short to reach the food in a wooden cage, and another straw long enough, but behind another cage like barricade. The birds used the short straw to get the long one, and then use the long one to get the food.  
    Another article about rooks show them actually making tools. Again back in 2009 this study shows rooks making a hook to get food from a graduated cylinder looking device.  
   Maybe Aesop was right, maybe they even use rocks to raise the water level to drink.  Food for thought.  I leave you with another tidbit I read in BBC knowledge but cannot find a link to.  Magpies have a self awareness at least on par with some mammals.  Most bird will attack a reflection of themselves.  Exceptions in this case would be parakeets who love the company of their reflection and play with it affectionately.  Magpies in the study were given the “dot test.” I am unsure the technical name for this test but they place a small colored (usually red) disc sticker on the bird and then present the subject with it’s reflection.  The magpies to a man (bird) all attempted to remove the colored discs from themselves. They recognize that they were the bird in the looking glass.  Cognitive abilities. Amazing to watch, too.  
    I will leave this mostly scientific and scholarly post with two of the best examples of how intelligent magpies can be: 
 Finally one on the teamwork prowess and brotherhood that unites crows everywhere: 

And now a word from our sponsor.

     I do not like football. That is no secret among those that know me. So whenever the most important game comes around, I usually sit it out quietly with a good book.  Before the days of instant knowledge and the internet I would occasionally sit through part of a game just to see how well the beer commercials were getting along.  Now, thanks to youtube and other related internet phenomena, I no longer have to do that.

     Talk around the water cooler today will no doubt turn to that game, but more importantly, it will turn to the commercials.  So I might as well jump on this band wagon, since I do not care in the least that the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Indiana Pacers. (for the record I know it was the steelers and the packers from Green Bay that played, but I markedly do not care enough to mix sports affiliations and cities. I did not capitalize them on purpose, I do not think they are work it. 
    I will start with a couple of fun, yet completely unrelated to the rest of this blog commercial.  I will say that the beer commercial writes were a little off this year.  Hold me closer tiny dancer was more of a shock than funny. I will say I watched it to the end. So, too, was coke’s offering.  The world of warcraft-esque one was very nicely done, but not on the favorite list. Coke’s border one had to look good on paper, I bet it even sounded good out loud, but something was lost in the editing. 
     Doritos was okay, but not their A-game.  The dead granpa one was best, the pug attack, slightly funny, the cheese freak guy in the office was just creepy. I do not mean creepy-funny either, I mean flat out did-he-just-really-do-that creepy. The guys at E-trade need to get more creative, at least Geico new when it was time to retire the cavemen. That way their cameos are still funny. The baby has fulfilled his use, please move on. 
     The Carfax I’m as happy as a… ad was good, but not worth putting up here. Really it was good to show that even nerds at conventions have similes.  How great was it to see Ozzy functioning.  How much greater was it to have Ozzy make fun of what’s his name? Great, and Ozzy may be out of touch, but he is still Ozzy, and not that little rat fink, I would have written an new Ozzy meets Old Ozzy gig. In fact take the space-time vortex that Kia has, shove that girly-kid through and have Ozzy bite off his head at the concert, and it even saves the life of a bat. If that is not a win-win situation, then I do not know what is. 
    I will give kudos out to Chrysler for the Detroit commercial, it was very well done. I went in thinking M&M really? what could this possibly have going for it.  But it was very tasteful, and you do hope Detroit gets back on track. 
      First up, my not related to nature or dodos fan pick goes to snickers, last year they brought Betty White back and years ago they brought us the KC “Chefs” (great googley-moogley) and this year they gave Richard Lewis an industrial chain saw and employ him with lumberjacks.  AND if that was not enough, they bring out Roseanne, and then, the best part–pummel her with a huge portion of tree. Maybe this is nature related. 
     What could super bowl ads possibly have to do with a nature/history blog?  The most common answer to this would have to be nothing.  However, something this year stepped away from the growing trend that sex sells (all but the Skechers commercials, whom I am sure are reveling in growing stock this morning.) to a more natural approach.  
    Collected here are 6 of the 50 odd commercials that came through for your enjoyment that I thought had some think tank value.  Some are directly related to history and nature, some more obscure and just good ole fashioned fun.  
    First up, has little to do with football, less to do with history and science. What it has going for it is posh, and a not unimportant role for that of a Dodo. Albeit, it is only a stuffed specimen, but that brings something up of interest: Why is a stuffed Dodo a sign of luxury, old or otherwise?  Are they a luxurious item due to their rarity, or is it because of their association with learned men of science that frequent the old stuffy museums?  Who knows. Fact is, the writers could have chosen any numerous, random thing to hold a gate open for an escape from Club Fed, but it was, very poignantly, a Dodo.  Almost a tearing up sensation for any self-respecting Dodo. So here is the top of the list and probably greatest stretch the Audi Commercial: 
    
    Moving on from that little gem, I find that apparently out of work anthropologist are writing commercial material for Kia.  There 3 million clam  ad spot contains a bit of James Bondery, the sea god Posiedon, an Alien abduction and subsequent joy ride, (thus rendering Kia the only model that can maintain proper air/fuel mixture in a non oxygenated atmosphere–go Kia.) A space-time vortex from another planet to I am assuming an ancient Aztec ritual back on Earth.  If you want to get anal then one could say the motorcycle cop was from Terminator 2, and the giant Yacht belonged to Marcellus Wallace. This one I took less seriously than the Audi, but it was a fun ride.
     From strictly a historical perspective, the 125 years of Mercedes Benz was fantastic. The only drawback was that it showed how much more awesome MB vehicles were in the past.  I welcome the new Benz on the block, but my money is on some of the older generation models for shows of class, cool, and style.  This following is the extended clip, with more footage of the awesome Mercedes of yesteryear.  Not a bad touch to have the beginning of the ad startup with Joplin either, it almost balanced out having that other guy in there. I can only think of two questions for the execs over at MB: 1) Why don’t they offer older body styles and release them as Redux editions?, and B) Why did they feel the need to put any humans in that commercial at all? ( I will grant safe conduct for the Museum guard and the toll attendant.) 
   A little closer to home in the land of History of Science, comes the aspiring Chevy Volt commercial.  Looks like Chevy and BMW were in a race to see who could spend the most on advertising during super bowl 2011.  That being said, the volt commercial had a lot to love for anyone who did not sleep completely through their history courses in school, There was Franklin, and Edison, the television, Apollo (the rocket missions, not the theatre)  and even computing nerds short circuiting the garage. Not sure on how well electric cars are going to be accepted in rural-commute-to-work areas, but they tried.  Every time I see one of these commercials I think about the car charging “hydrants” that were a large part of The Watchmen graphic novel. 
    Filling out the final two entries in my short list, are another car commercial, and a company who oversees, quite literally, where the rubber meets the road.  I had not seen the teaser trailer for this commercial (which a teaser for a 30 second spot seems a tad overzealous, but that is what drives the public these days, apparently) before, but was still delighted with the outcome.  Post commercial I went back and discovered that is was all about “carma.” I have heard a few people claim this as their favorite, and why not, Human beings as a whole would like to believe what goes around comes around, it makes us feel better about ourselves, and it offers hope that one day that guy in the jacked up truck who swerved to hit a turtle, will burn in hell. 
    Finally, last but not least, I will submit my favorite commercial from the super bowl of 2011. As a nature writer I am biased, but I know my biases so that makes it okay.  The battle for the best by general consensus and popular vote really only comes down to two, and both are Volkswagen commercials.  I will admit, the young Darth Vader’s intense focus, and equally intense surprise at the end was very nice. However, one must remain true to the “force” that is within, and quite frankly, my “force” does not choke baby dolls, or move peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, It hauls ass. 

Standard More about Me or And now here’s your Host

Sir David Attenborough recording a chorus of frogs in 1954.
Photo courtesy of wildfilmhistory.org, a fantastic site

Given that we are all living in the 21st century together and through the good advice of trusted associates of mine I have started a blog.  I shall retro-act a New Year’s resolution of creating one and then cross it from my list.  I am not at all entirely sure what this will always consist of or where it will go in the future.  My guess is that it will just provide more filler for me to work on instead of actually doing work for my classes.

I am working towards a Master’s degree in history.  My main research focuses on live animal collecting for zoos.  There is also some tangential work being done on specimen collecting for museums.  I have three minor’s in Anthropology, Geology, and Earth Sciences.  I am a Natural Historian of the 19th Century vein.  Not unlike Porthos who claimed a beheading axe a gift from the Tsarina of America, I  self proclaim my college hours and experience to be a Bachelor of Science in History.  I can do that, its my blog.

What I hope my followers (all both of you) will get out of this is a concise inclusion of things that are going on in the science world presently. I confess many issues will include links to BBC news.  I also hope to enlighten some about what went on in the world of science in the past.  We all grow up with iconic images of famous people, I shall use Darwin as an example. In our mind’s eye we see him old and white-bearded, about 23.

However this is not the Darwin that sailed on the Beagle. It was a younger man (Darwin really wasn’t 23 with the white beard) that lost his cookies over the Beagle’s railing explored Argentina, and ate large flightless bird over a campfire.  A specimen which turned out to be a new species, upon that realization Charles went around gathering up everyone’s table scraps to make another scientific contribution via Richard Owen’s descriptions.

Those are the stories I want to share. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I, but if you do not I will also fill updates with reviews of books I have had to read for class and the ones I have chosen to read for pleasure, they are seldom the same. Some movies we go to, but that is infrequent, as well as reviews for a few theatre performances, and local symphony happenings.

I will also try and highlight anything I do along the way to a PhD somewhere over time’s horizon.  I am notorious for visiting a city and really only going to two places: the zoo and their Natural History Museum. I will try and keep these things brief enough to read between laps your boss makes in your office, but some will require a bit more page time.

Updates will be infrequent, and sometimes more than once a day. I look forward to constructive comments from my captivated and attentive audiences as well as any questions that you guys have. I will try to cite sources that I use, even though the one for the above Darwin anecdote escapes me at the moment.

So, for a brief semi introduction, this will have to suffice.  Once I get my blogging sea legs under me, I will go into more detail about why I call this blog The Platypus and the Dodo and maybe some back history on me that could be found in the about me section, if you are inclined to give a fig about who I am. Most of you do, and the only reason you will check the “About Me” section is to see if I have lied.