Category Archives: Humor

Amusing Monday: Actor Ed Begley obsesses over food, energy and more

Ed Begley Jr., who has appeared in hundreds of films and television shows, is also widely known for his environmental activism, both in his personal life and his outreach to the public. For years, Ed insisted on riding a bicycle almost everywhere, including to film and TV locations, but that was only the beginning.

In 2007, Ed and his wife Rachelle Carson-Begley launched a reality television show called “Living with Ed,” which demonstrated how people can live more sustainably in their own lives. The show appeared first on HGTV and later on Planet Green, a Discovery channel. Check out the episode “Fruit and Veggie Standoff.”

Ed’s latest project, launched this month, uses his reputation as an extreme environmentalist in a series of amusing videos in which he promotes simple ideas to reduce the human impact on the environment.

“The truth is, you don’t have to be famous or perform eco-heroics to help save the world from often-overlooked — but serious — issues like food waste, energy waste and population growth,” says a promotional piece about the videos.

The short-video project is called “Better than Ed.” As you will see in the three videos on this page, Ed’s antics have a serious message behind them.

Another relatively new project, started earlier this year, is a podcast “Begleyesque” in which Ed and his wife Rachelle interview Hollywood celebrities and environmental experts on various topics. Just last week, the couple interviewed Ashley Ahearn, an environmental reporter for Seattle public radio station KUOW. The free-wheeling interview touched on many subjects close to the hearts of Ed, Rachelle and Ashley. In one segment, Ashley explains why environmental reporters should never hesitate to ask stupid questions. Listen to the half-hour podcast below.

By the way, I should mention that Ashley has her own personal podcast on National Public Radio called “Terrestrial,” which focuses on the choices that we humans make in our lives. Some choices, if made by enough people, can lead to profound changes for our civilization. Ashley’s storytelling and her sense of pacing make for some enjoyable and educational listening.

While talking about Ed Begley, I feel compelled to mention “On Begley Street,” which is an entertaining reality TV program that shows the inspiration and struggle of Ed and Rachelle as they plan and build a new ultra-green home. The first six episodes of the program, originally shown on evox Television, can be seen on YouTube. “It” magazine follows up with a video tour with Ed showing off his house after it is completed.

Amusing Monday: Taking a wild ride on (or in) a killer whale or shark

I didn’t know anyone made a high-speed watercraft that resembles a killer whale until I saw Freeze List’s new video “8 Insane Water Toys that Everyone Must Try” (second video on this page).

This killer whale is built like a small aerodynamic submarine and is about the size of a real killer whale. It can race along on the surface, dive underwater, roll to the left or right, and even breach up into the air, as the operator adjusts aircraft-style controls.

The Killer Whale Y Model is one of three models of Seabreacher watercraft manufactured by Innespace Productions, based in New Zealand. The other two models are the smaller Shark X Model and the latest Dolphin Z Model, a revision of the first design.

If the videos of a speedy killer whale machine are not amusing enough, Seabreacher has produced a few oddball videos involving the watercraft. Check out the list at the end of this post.

The killer whale model is a two-seater with 360-degree viewing from within an enclosed canopy. It runs on a Rotax 1500-cc, four-stroke 260-horsepower motor. Features include a large whale tail, pectoral fins and a functioning blowhole.

As SeaWorld and other marine parks cease their killer whale performances — in which people often ride on the backs of live orcas — this manufactured whale can be built with grab handles and foot pegs to allow trained stunt people to do acrobatic feats on the outside of the machine.

Three years ago, writer Rohit Jaggi climbed into one of the Seabreacher cockpits on Shasta Lake near Redding, Calif. His goal was to write an article for the Financial Times of London. Riding with him was Rob Innes, a New Zealand boat builder who teamed up years ago with machinist Dan Piazza to create Innespace Productions.

“Drive it like you stole it,” Innes advised the reporter. “You can’t break it.”

“Obediently, I pull very hard on one of the two vertical levers in my hands, push on the other, and we switch instantly from a … straight line to a carving, steep turn to the left,” Rohit writes. “Keeping my right index finger tight on the trigger throttle, I reverse the positions of the levers and we are thrown into a tight right curve, banked so far over that water breaks over the transparent bubble canopy above our heads….

“I take a few minutes to dial my responses in, but it is not long before I am, indeed, driving it like I stole it… Rushing forward, planing on the lateral fins, I push the two levers forward and a wall of water rises swiftly up and over the canopy until the Seabreacher is underwater. All that remains above the surface is the midship-mounted vertical fin, which contains a snorkel for the engine air intake, slicing through the water at up to 40 kph.” (That’s about 25 miles per hour under water, or about half the maximum surface speed.)

The third video, at right, shows TV news reporter Avijah Scarbrough of KHSL in Los Angeles taking a spin on Shasta Lake, where Rob Innes has opened a division of Innespace.

Innespace Productions started in 1997 with a focus on high-performance submersible watercraft. More than 10 years of engineering and testing went into the Seabreacher models, which are custom built with a variety of options. Typical costs are between $80,000 and $100,000, according to “Frequently Asked Questions” posted on the company’s website.

One promotional video shows 109 different looks created for the three models, although some may have been shown more than once. I advise you to use the pause button to take a closer look at these machines. A large collection of related videos can be found on the Innespace Seabreacher Channel on YouTube.

A few amusing (or perhaps silly?) videos featuring the Seabreacher:

FEMA offers daily email briefings on weather, emergency conditions

One of the first emails I check out each morning is the “FEMA Daily Operations Briefing” issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. At a glance, I get an idea of significant weather events and emergency activities across the country.

Often, I see nothing that seems significant to me, and I move on to other email. But if something stands out, I click on the link that takes me to the full briefing in PDF format.

Today’s forecast. // Map: FEMA

This morning’s report, for example, told me that flash floods had occurred in various areas of the country and that dry thunderstorms were seen in parts of Oregon, California, Nevada and Idaho. Up until then, daily briefings included warnings that such events were about to occur.

The daily reports also include significant events, such as a non-injury train derailment and evacuation in Pennsylvania; tropical weather that could be a precursor to hurricanes and cyclones; space weather that could trigger aurora borealis; earthquakes; and disaster declarations.

The full daily briefing is also my shortcut to national weather maps with one-, two- and three-day forecasts for ordinary weather, as well as potential “severe” weather outlooks. I think the page should include a link to a more complete explanation of the colors used on the maps, but that information can be found on the website of the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.

Daily reports from the past four years can be located in an online archive on FEMA’s website.

I thought readers of this blog might be interested in this daily briefing. Anyone can receive the briefings along with other information available by email by signing up on FEMA’s email-delivery page. Just scroll down and check “FEMA Daily Operations Briefing.”

While I’m on the subject of FEMA, I should mention the mobile app for smart phones, which includes the option to receive weather alerts for up to five counties in the U.S. along with different kinds of information. You can read about the app on the FEMA website.

Amusing Monday: Amazing sand sculptures are but brief creations

Creativity, humanity and whimsy seem to be abundant qualities among the sand sculptors producing unique works of art at various competitions across the United States this year.

“Dance of the Undefined,” first place in the Hampton Beach Sand Sculpting Competition. Artist: Mélineige Beauregard, Montreal, Quebec. // Photo: Hampton Beach Facebook page

In June, the Hampton Beach Sand Sculpting Competition in New Hampshire celebrated its 17th anniversary by attracting more than a dozen professional artists, including at least five from Canada.

This year’s winner at Hampton Beach was Mélineige Beauregard from Montreal, Quebec. Her work in sand, titled “Dance of the Undefined,” shows a woman from the waist up with honeycomb arms stretched above her head. Mélineige explained that the piece represents how people are constantly changing in some ways while staying the same in others.

She considers art as a kind of spiritual experience, according her to bio on the Hampton Beach website.

“When my hands touch the material, when my heart opens to give life, when my head is illuminated by light, I become the co-creator of the universe,” she was quoted as saying. “An artist is one who spiritualizes matter. For me, art is a means of communication, a way to transmit the energy of life, to affirm its vastness and its beauty.”

Mélineige has won more than 30 individual awards in sand sculpting. In 2004, she teamed up with her father, renowned sculptor Guy Beauregard, to win the World Championship doubles competition. Last year, she was the winner at the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival in Massachusetts. See the article by Liz Vanderau in Boston University Today. A slideshow of the Hampton Beach sculptures was posted on YouTube by Ammoguy5. Winners were listed on the Hampton Beach website with photos on the Hampton Beach Facebook page.

“Soul Evolution,” first place in the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Frestival. Artist: Pavel Mylnikov, Moscow, Russia.
Photo: Revere Beach Facebook page

This year’s winner at the Revere Beach competition, July 21-23, was Pavel Mylnikov of Moscow, Russia. His sculpture, titled “Soul Evolution,” is an intricately carved piece with two masculine angels on a rocky outcropping. Artist-reporters Dan Doubleday and Meredith Corson-Doubleday of RevereTV do a nice job of explaining their craft in a series of videos. Below, I’ve linked to two videos focused on four sculptures in this year’s competition — including entries by Pavel and Mélineige:

The festivals at Hampton Beach and Revere Beach are listed among the top 10 sand-sculpting competitions in the United States, according to Coastal Living magazine. Also making the list is the SandSations Sandcastle Competition in Long Beach, Wash. (See Facebook for some random photos and a list of winners.)

Another great sand-sculpting festival was held this year on July 14 and 15 at Imperial Beach, California. NBC 7, San Diego put together a nice video of the top winners.

“Neptune’s Organ,” first place in the 2016 Virginia Beach International Sand Sculpting Championship. Artists: Meredith Corson Doubleday and Dan Doubleday, Florida.
Photo: Virginia Beach website

Still to come this year is the International Sand Sculpting Championship, Sept. 30 to Oct. 8 in Virginia Beach, Va. The event is part of the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival. More than 30 of the world’s top sculptors are scheduled to compete along with separate competitions for amateur sculptors.

Last year’s first-place winner in Virginia Beach was Mélineige Beauregard, mentioned above. The first-place in team competition was won by Meredith Corson Doubleday and Dan Doubleday, mentioned above as artist-reporters in the Revere Beach competition. Their sculpture, Neptune’s Organ, also took the Neptune’s Choice, Sculptors’ Choice and People’s Choice awards in the team division.

Winners from 2016 contest in Virgina Beach can be seen on the festival’s winners page.

After enjoying dozens of photos showing amazing sculptures, I can’t help but think about the fragility and temporary nature of these artworks. For all their beauty and intricacy, as well as the thoughts and emotions they inspire, these sculptures soon disappear, and the artists are left to prepare for their next fleeting creation.

Amusing Monday: Some call it the ‘snake bird’

Living on the West Coast, we don’t normally encounter the anhinga, a freshwater bird sometimes called the “snake bird.” The name comes from its ability to swim with its body submerged so that only its long neck protrudes out of the water, looking like a snake.

“When hunting fish, an Anhinga hangs motionless in the water or swims slowly just below the surface, its neck crooked, almost like a cobra’s,” says Michael Stein of BirdNote, which is featuring the anhinga this week as one of its birds of the week. “The Anhinga has specialized muscles and a hinge in its neck. And when an unwary fish swims close, the bird’s head darts forward, impaling its prey.”

Anhingas resemble cormorants, a species far more familiar to those of us in the Puget Sound region. Cormorants are typically found in saltwater areas, while anhingas are common in the Everglades and the bayous of the Gulf Coast. For other notable differences, check out the website Difference Between.

In Miami, there’s an elementary school near the Dolphin Mall named for Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of the best-selling book “The Everglades: River of Glass” (1947). Douglas’ book helped people understand the value of wetlands across the country, and her later life’s work led to greater protections for The Everglades. After the school was named Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Elementary School, officials chose the anhinga as its mascot.

Not far from the eastern entrance to Everglades National Park lies the Anhinga Trail, a loop trail that goes 0.8 mile through a sawgrass marsh. The trail is popular because it puts people up close to lots of wildlife, including alligators and anhingas. Check out the description and video from the Everglades National Park website.

The mugs on this page can be purchased from Cafe Press. The dog tank top is from FunnyShirts through Amazon.

Amusing Monday: Without a doubt, these dogs are athletes

UPDATE: July 19

Purina has posted videos of the Surf Dog competition for both large and small dogs. Check the bottom of this page to watch.
—–

In promotional materials, Purina calls these dogs “canine athletes” for their ability to perform and compete before crowds of observers.

This is the 20th year that Purina Pro Plan has sponsored the Incredible Dog Challenge, which features dog surfing, diving and agility contests, along with the freestyle flying disc competition, which comes about as close to dancing as a dog can get.

I’ve posted videos of the winners of the Diving Dog and Fetch It! finals on this page, including both the Western Regional and Eastern Regional competitions. If you enjoy these videos, you may wish to take time to watch the full competitions:

Both the Diving Dog and Fetch It! contests challenge the leaping ability of water-loving dogs. In Diving Dog, the canines leap off a 40-foot carpeted runway and try to go as far out as they can. The winner is the dog whose nose is the farthest when its chest hits the water.

Fetch It! uses the same runway but adds the physical challenge of touching an object at the end. The winner is the dog who is able to knock the object, called a bumper, the farthest out into the water.

While athletic ability is important, trainer Brianna Minshew of Rome, Ga., says the most important thing for a beginning dog is good obedience.

“My advice for those wanting to get into the sport of dock diving is to start off with a basic obedience class so the dog can learn to sit and/or down stay on the dock,” Brianna said on the Pro Plan’s website. “They also need to learn to track and retrieve a toy. What I believe is the most important is to find a local facility that has a pool and get proper instruction and safety tips for the dock and also to have fun with your dog.”


Brianna is staff supervisor at the Georgia Dog Gym. Her 4-year-old border collie, named Knox, took first place in the Diving Dog competition during the 2014 Eastern Regionals.

Other events in the Incredible Dog Challenge:

WESTERN REGIONAL FINALS

EASTERN REGIONAL FINALS

The Incredible Dog Challenge Eastern Regional Championship was held April 7 and 8 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Western Regional Championship was held June 9-10 in Huntington Beach, Calif. The national finals are scheduled Sept. 29-30 in St. Louis, Mo.

The Western Regional Championships are scheduled to be rebroadcast on Aug. 3 at 9 p.m. on KING-TV, Channel 5, according to Carson International Events. I anticipate that the finals will be broadcast as well.

Note: The Surf Dog competition, also sponsored by Purina Pro Plan, is normally considered part of the Incredible Dog Challenge. It is my favorite event. So far, I have been unable to locate video of this year’s surfing competition, but I have asked the Purina folks if they have such video and can make it available. If something comes through, I will post an update.

Amusing Monday: Hey, did you see that strange dude at the beach?

Dude Perfect, a goofy group of friends who became known for their mouth-dropping trick shots and crazy stunts, has just released a video highlighting the quirkiness of people you might see hanging out at the beach.

The new video, first on this page, is part of the Dude Perfect “Stereotypes” series, which the guys started in 2013 by noting that players in basketball pickup games fall into certain obnoxious categories. Check on the second video on this page for the basketball stereotypes video.

I didn’t know that there were so many different kinds of fishermen until I watched the Dude Perfect “Fishing Stereotypes,” the third video on this page. As I watched the dudes act out a variety of characters, I realized that, Oh, yes, I have seen that guy!

I have to say that all of the stereotype videos are pretty good, because annoying people are everywhere. If you can’t laugh at them, what are you going to do?

As for the trick-shot videos, if you haven’t seen them, I recommend:

Dude Perfect got its start while the friends were betting each other sandwiches on who could make the best basketball trick shots, which became the subject of the first video, according to an entry in Wikipedia, which claims that Dude Perfect has broken several Guinness World Records and now has more than 3.2 billion views on all its videos. The article says Dude Perfect has 20 million subscribers, making it the 18th most subscribed channel on YouTube and the most subscribed sports-related channel.

Amusing Monday: Strangest impossible secrets of the ocean

“The Richest,” which bills itself as the “world’s most entertaining website,” often features celebrity gossip along with plenty of freakish people, animals and events. Sometimes the website tries to be helpful with videos such as “10 awesome school hacks every student should know.”

In short, it is a three-ring circus with thousands of different acts.

For amusement, I pulled up some water-related videos, which you can watch on this page or link to YouTube:

As implied by the name “The Richest,” this website goes out of its way to find opulent places and products, as in the gold-plated water bottle that one can buy for $60,000. See “10 times rich people took it too far.” It is also amusing to watch “10 ridiculously expensive things that President Trump owns.”

“The Richest” is owned by Valnet, Inc., based in St. Laurent, Quebec, Canada. The company operates 10 similar websites containing well-hyped stories on just about every topic, including :

“The web has a become a streamlined environment where operational excellence wins, and we have embraced this new reality to its fullest,” declares a statement on the Valnet website.

The company boasts of 80 million users with 52 million of them from the U.S., all producing 800 million page views a month. The managers are searching for web content producers, freelance writers and future staffers to build and manage its web production. See the webpage “Careers.”

Amusing Monday: Underwater mysteries of the national parks

Mysterious underwater areas can be found in numerous national parks and national monuments throughout the United States. The National Park Service operates a special division, the Submerged Resources Center, to explore some of the mysteries.

To share its underwater exploration and preservation efforts, the Park Service has created seven films in partnership with CuriosityStream, a documentary production and distribution company. Though longer than most videos featured in “Amusing Monday,” I believe the science and history revealed in these fascinating films are well worth the time.

The Submerged Resources Center, which has been in existence more than 30 years, has been recognized as a leader in documenting, interpreting and preserving underwater resources. As you will see in the films, the research teams use some of the most advanced underwater technologies. Their mission is to support the National Park Service’s preservation mandate and to enhance public appreciation, access and protection of these resources. Areas of focus include archeology, marine survey, underwater imaging and diving.

I have embedded three videos on this page, but I’m providing the full list here, with links, also accessible on the National Park Service’s website called “Underwater Wonders of the National Parks.”

Devil’s Hole: This unique underwater cave can be found in Death Valley National Park on the border between California and Nevada northwest of Las Vegas. The film features a unique species of fish called the pupfish, which are among the most endangered species in the world. Assessing and protecting these fish is a major responsibility of the Park Service. Another good story with photos and video was featured in The Desert Sun newspaper of Palm Springs, Calif.

Montezuma Well: Swirling sands at the bottom of this lake create spooky conditions for divers who cannot find the bottom and often find themselves sucked into a kind of quicksand. The “well” can be found within Montezuma Castle National Monument south of Flagstaff, Ariz. Few creatures can survive in the waters rich in carbon dioxide and arsenic and fed by pressurized water vents. But divers are monitoring the populations and interactions among four species found there: diatoms, amphipods, snails, non-blood-sucking leaches and water scorpions.

USS Arizona, Part 1: The USS Arizona, which sank during the attack on Pearl Harbor, is a national memorial to the 1,177 sailors who went down with the ship. The National Park Service is responsible for monitoring conditions — including sea life — in and around the Arizona.

USS Arizona, Part 2: The second video on the Arizona Memorial features more about the history of the ship and artifacts still being discovered. Divers are serious about their solemn roles. For example, World War II survivors of the attack may choose to be reunited with their shipmates, so urns with their remains are moved into a special place aboard the sunken battleship.

Yellowstone Lake: Thermal vents and impressive geothermal spires are unique to the freshwater habitat of Yellowstone Lake, which lies in the center of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. A major concern is the survival of the lake’s native cutthroat trout, which are being consumed by the voracious lake trout, an invasive species. Mapping the lake’s bottom to locate the lake trout’s spawning grounds is one idea to help contain the problem.

Lake Mead: The first national recreation area in the United States, Lake Mead, which is east of Las Vegas, was formed by the construction of Hoover Dam in an area known for its military secrets, including Area 51. In 1948, a B-29 bomber crashed and sank in the lake while conducting research into a new navigational concept, which eventually became incorporated into guidance missile systems. The aluminum aircraft is well preserved on the bottom of the lake, although it is now encrusted with invasive quagga mussels, which spread too fast for divers to keep track of them.

Buck Island: An amazingly productive ecosystem can be found within Buck Island Reef National Monument in the U.S. Virgin Islands of the Caribbean. Experts monitoring the reef’s conditions must experience mixed emotions, as they document the amazing sea life as well as “bleaching” of the coral reef, portions of which are dying from disease. Divers have been able to save some of the corals by chiseling away the infected areas. The National Park Service also documents the history of the slave trade as it explores for artifacts from more than 100 slave ships that sank in the Virgin Islands — including at least two near Buck Island.

Amusing Monday: Videos by students try to convince climate skeptics

“How do you convince a climate-change skeptic?” That’s the question posed to high-school film producers in a contest sponsored by the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

I find it interesting that the challenge to create a two-minute video does not include a reason that climate-change skeptics might need convincing. No doubt this was intentional, giving young filmmakers more leeway to be creative. It may result from a recognition that so-called skeptics are not all of one mind when it comes to talking about climate change.

In fact, I’ve observed varying points of view among people who disagree with widely held findings among climate scientists. Consider these types of skeptics:

  • First, there are some people who do not believe that the scientific method could ever produce meaningful answers about climate change.
  • Others accept the methods of science, but they believe the evidence actually shows that the climate is not warming and may even be cooling.
  • Some accept scientific evidence that the climate is warming, but they believe that this is a natural phenomenon and that human-produced greenhouse gases have nothing to do with it.
  • Some accept scientific evidence that climate is warming and that humans are having an effect, but they believe that climatologists have miscalculated the rate of warming.
  • Finally, there are those in the policy realm who admit that they don’t know what is causing climate change, but they believe that the costs of addressing the problem are too great or that government should not be involved.

So I was interested to see how high school filmmakers would address the skeptics of climate change. The winner, Tiamo Minard of Roosevelt High School, simply laid out the facts, as they are best known by climate scientists.

Second place went to a team from Lynwood High School, whose approach was highly personal, showing how people’s everyday actions contribute to climate change. The team included Saron Almaw, Hani Ghebrehiwet, Brittaney Hong, Kristen Nguyen and Jasmine Pel.

Third-place winner, Hazel Camer of Lynnwood High School, simply pounded home the fact that climate change is real and that the consequences for the human race could be severe. One man on the video pooh-poohed the notion that climate change is a liberal conspiracy. Then, surprisingly, the next person on the video is U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, a Washington Democrat who is not likely to convince many skeptics.

I found the winning videos entertaining and at times amusing, and I can’t argue with their arguments. But I doubt that they will convince any of the climate-skeptic types that I outlined above. This was truly a difficult challenge, yet one that seems worthwhile. Even professional media experts have trouble addressing this issue, although humor may be helpful. See, for example, the blog post, “Ontario employs humor in climate discussion,” Water Ways, May 15, or “‘Don’t fret,’ says new celebrity video for climate deniers,” Water Ways, Dec. 14, 2015.

Other finalists:

Judging the contest were Laura Jean Cronin, producer/director of award-winning short films currently involved with B47 studios in Seattle; Melanie Harrison Okoro, water quality specialist and the aquatic invasive species coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, West Coast Region; Cody Permenter, social media manager for Grist, an online news magazine; and Ethan Steinman, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker who owns Seattle-based production company Daltonic Films.

A report on last year’s contest can be found on Water Ways, June 27, 2016. It is great to see the work of local filmmakers, and I hope the contest continues.