Category Archives: Humor

Amusing Monday: Fighting climate change with a silly school play

A school play about climate change, featuring a worried mother polar bear and evil villains named “Mr. Carbon” and “Mr. Methane,” have captured the imaginations of elementary and junior-high-school students across the country.

The program, called “Cool the Earth,” includes follow-up activities that encourage the young students to bring climate-saving ideas home with them.

The first video on this page shows a play performed by teachers at Spring Valley Science School in San Francisco. I love the laughter of the children in the background. The second video shows an NBC News story from 2011.

The “Cool the Earth” program was developed in 2007 by Carleen and Jeff Cullen, parents in Marin County, Calif., who became inspired to take action on climate change after viewing Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Showing the film to others failed to gain the action they desired, so they expanded their horizons by developing an easy-to-understand message that could be shared with kids and their parents.

The program was launched at Bacich Elementary School in Kentfield, Calif., and has grown to involve more than 200 schools across the country, though most are in California. See the list at “Participating Schools and Troops.”

An article on the Green Schools Initiative website quotes Heather Dobbs, a parent coordinator at Alexander Hamilton School in Morristown, N.J., who says “Cool the Earth” explains climate change in a meaningful way:

“The kids love the play because the teachers playing the parts are big hams. It tugs at the kids’ heart strings when they hear about polar bears in danger. Kids can take in that story more easily than just hearing about carbon emissions.”

Students then take home coupon books offering 20 ideas for no- or low-cost actions that they can do on their own or with their parents to earn points and sometimes prizes, such as earth-friendly trading cards.

Carleen Cullen explains the program in the video below.

Amusing Monday: Music in tune with salmon and orcas of the Salish Sea

Dana Lyons, known for his songs of humor and environmental inspiration, performed his tune “The Great Salish Sea” during Saturday’s Ways of Whales Workshop on Whidbey Island.

The lyrics are told from the perspective of “Granny,” an orca estimated to be 104 years old and the oldest whale among the Southern Residents. The song tells about how underwater sounds, as heard by the whales, have changed over time — from the Native American canoes and the sailing ships of yesteryear to the noisy tankers of today.

Dana performed the song solo, with only his guitar, on Saturday at the Ways of Whales Workshop, sponsored by Orca Network. The sound was wonderful, and Dana’s voice rang out clear, but the recorded version sounds richer with additional instrumentation, as you can hear in the first video on this page.

“The Great Salish Sea” is the title song is from Dana’s latest album, which includes the popular “Salmon Come Home.” I’ve posted the music video of the salmon song in the second video player on this page. Other songs on the album include “I Need the Water,” which speaks of the competition for this limited resource. To hear the songs on the album, go to “The Great Salish Sea” on Dana’s website., which also includes his full list of albums.

Dana has toured throughout North America and in many countries during his 30-year career. His current schedule includes upcoming appearances in Langley, Vancouver, B.C., and Port Townsend.

Dana was born in Kingston, New York, and graduated from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. He now lives in Bellingham.

Humor has long been a key part of Dana’s music, so I think we should revisit one of his most popular songs, “Cows with Guns,” viewed in the third video player (below).

Amusing Monday: What a man says while riding a rather large whale

Old Spice has gone crazy again, this time with a new character called “Legendary Man.”

This off-the-wall rival to the “most interesting man in the world” plays tennis while riding on the back of a whale. If that weren’t enough, he never gives a thought to his own safety (or abilities) while attempting to break the land speed record.

The campaign is designed to bring attention to the new Hardest Working Collection product line, including antiperspirant/deodorant and body wash. Scents include Lasting Legend, Pure Sport Plus and Stronger Swagger.

Ad agency Wieden + Kennedy of Portland, Ore., has created a “self-deprecating twist on the absurd bravado” that characterized previous Old Spice commercials, according to an analysis by Patrick Kulp in AdWeek magazine.

So what does “Legendary Man” think about life? Listen to what he says in the whale commercial, and see if you can make any sense of it:

Where does regular end and the extreme begin?
Mmm. Good question.
A wise man once said, “Sweat and body odor is your body’s way of saying, ‘Hey. Slow down. You need a break.’”
But thanks to new Dirt Destroyer, the most powerful Old Spice body wash ever made, my body will finally shut up and let me live.
Is there a limit to how much living I can live with my life?
How will I know if I’ve gone too far?
And why did I spend my life saving some sunglasses for a whale?
I shall find the answers to these questions.

If you are impressed, listen closely to what “Legendary Man” says in the second commercial on this page, called “Rocket Car.” Don’t forget to make these fullscreen by clicking on the box in the lower right had corner of the video player.

These newest Old Spice commercials, launched just this month, are included in a set of four commercials called “Smellegendary.”

Old Spice turns out new ad concepts more quickly than the change of the seasons.

In November, a series called ESPN Takeover includes a piece called “Bathroom Break.” See the third video on this page.

In August, the commercials were called “Make a Smellmitment,” including the commercial called “And so it begins,” which is the final video on this page.

Amusing Monday: It was so cold in Minneapolis …

I can’t resist the temptation to revisit the frosty football game in which the Seattle Seahawks skated on thin ice — almost literally — right up to the end of the game.

The condensed breath of field judge Brad Freeman (88) and line judge Tom Symonette (100) begins to tell the story of the wild-card football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings. AP photo by Jim Mone
The condensed breath of field judge Brad Freeman (88) and line judge Tom Symonette (100) begins to tell the story of the wild-card football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings. // AP photo by Jim Mone

You know it was cold Sunday, when the temperature in Minneapolis never got up to zero degrees Fahrenheit for the entire day. So how cold was it?

It was so cold that Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s contact lenses started freezing on his eyeballs.

It was so cold that quarterback Russell Wilson’s voice was unable to call out the snap count as loud as he usually does.

Quarterback Russell Wilson said his voice was affected by the cold. AP photo by Nam Y. Huh
Quarterback Russell Wilson said his voice was affected by the cold.
AP photo by Nam Y. Huh

It was so cold that defensive end Michael Bennett felt like he was playing the game in Antarctica.

All true, according to John Boyle of Seahawks.com.

“The hardest part was commutating, because it was so cold your mouth kept freezing,” Wilson was quoted as saying. “But it’s no excuse; you’ve got to find a way to win, and that’s what we were able to do.”

Since this is a blog about water issues, I searched for photos that showed how the moist breath of fans, players, coaches and officials condensed in the cold air. Reuters had the same idea, and you can read about the conditions in Detroit Newsline.

I was amused by the man drinking a beer that had turned into a slushy. It looks like he is on the verge of shaking out the icy brew. (Check out the first video at right.)

If you didn’t drink fast, your drink would be frozen, as many people learned to their dismay. After all, this was the third-coldest game in NFL history. It was interesting to see that some tailgaters at the game were warming their cans of beer by the fire in order to take a drink. (Check out the second video below.)

It was so cold at game time that the Vikings’ gjallarhorn, the giant curved horn blown during pregame activities, was broken just two hours before the game. In Norse tradition, the gjallerhorn was once sounded to announce the arrival of the gods. In Minnesota, the team selected a special person to sound the horn at the beginning of each game. Some people took the breakage as an oman about the game to come. But the team did have a backup — the previous horn used up until 2009 — and it was blown by Minnesota’s injured tight end Rhett Ellison, who was sitting out the game. Perhaps the old horn was not the proper replacement after all.

Amusing Monday: I’m learning my ABCs and something about Earth

Adam Volland of NASA’s Earth Observatory program came up with an interesting idea. Looking over satellite images, Adam has found every letter of the alphabet formed by Earthly features, mostly land-based formations.

Letter B

He calls it “Reading the ABCs from Space.”

Whoever knew that Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas forms the letter “B” if you include a nearby section of the Arkansas River?

He found the letter “C” in a man-made island in the southern part of Bahrain, an island country in the Persian Gulf.

What I also like about Adam’s project is the narrative he has written about each letter, describing the names of relevant features, animals and objects that start with the particular letter, including links to learn more about those features.

Letter C

Here’s what he wrote for the letter “Z”: “What begins with Z? Zenith and zooplankton. Zillions of smoke particles zipping, zooming and zigzagging above Canada!”

And it all ties together, since Adam’s Z is an image of wildfire smoke over Canada. As the caption explains (and all images are explained), the image for “Z” was captured with a “moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer” (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

Letter Z

Considering all the associated links, this was a big project to create. It is also a great way to organize a lot of educational material. It reminds me of when I was in junior high school and decided to read the entire “World Book Encyclopedia.” I started at the beginning of the first book, a thick one that contained all the “A” words. I read for an hour or two each night after doing my regular homework. After many weeks, I was about halfway through the “A” words before I shifted my attention to other reading materials.

I’m sure it won’t take nearly as long to read through Adam’s letters and all the linked materials. I’ve begun reading “The ABCs from space” with the letter “A” and expect to learn a lot about things on Earth.

Amusing Monday: Toilet songs for the holidays

Four years ago, I wrote an “Amusing Monday” blog post I called “Toilet songs for the holidays.” This year, I was unsuccessful in finding some good water-related songs for the Christmas season, so I thought a replay might be in order. The following, from Dec. 19, 2011, features an amusing song called “O Christmas Grease” by Steve Anderson.

Knowing more than a few sewer operators in my day, I can tell you that their leading pet peeve is all the stuff that people dump down their toilets and drains.

I’ll never forget the courtroom description of a giant “rag ball” — some 30 feet long — found in Bremerton’s sewer. Rag balls are the accumulation of diapers, tampons and baby wipes that get flushed down the toilet and become caught somewhere in the sewer lines.

Bremerton’s famous rag ball became wrapped up in courtroom testimony during a lawsuit against a sewer contractor hired by the city to run the operation. For details, check out my story from April of 1998.

Steve Anderson

What I really wanted to share with you this week is a song called “O Christmas Grease” by Steve Anderson, a water resources analyst at Clean Water Services. This is the agency that manages wastewater and stormwater in a 12-city region west of Portland, Ore.

Steve often writes music and performs in a band when he’s not working at the utility. He told me that he started writing original songs as well as parodies of existing tunes to entertain his fellow water experts at conferences. Last week, for example, he showed up at a conference to help educators decide whether humor is useful in educating people about wastewater issues.

Steve says the public-education folks at Clean Water Services tolerates his songs, but they do not fully embrace his activities. His first song — a parody about the low levels of drugs that make it through the treatment process — got him into a little hot water with some folks in the business. “Dope in the Water” is sung to the tune of the Deep Purple original.

“The Ballad of Betty Poop” was written as a kid’s song for Take-Your-Children-to-Work Day. It’s about the adventures of a plastic GI Joe and other characters. It includes these famous lines: “Give it up, you toilet treasures… You’ll never make it all the way to the river…”

Steve has not released these songs to the public, though he readily shares them with friends and anyone who will listen. I must thank Gayle Leonard, who writes a blog called “Thirsty in Suburbia,” for bringing Steve’s songs out into the light and putting me in touch with this creative force in the sewer world.

      1. O Christmas Grease
      2. Dope in the Water
      3. The Ballad of Betty Poop
      4. Dont Flush the Baby (Wipes)
      5. Fats Oils and Grease

Download the lyrics to all five songs (PDF 72 kb)

Amusing Monday: ‘Don’t fret,’ says new celebrity video for climate deniers

A new celebrity-filled music video, billed as the “Climate Change Deniers’ Anthem,” assures us that “the Earth’s not getting warmer; these temperatures are normal.”

The satire, posted on the website “Funny or Die,” is reminiscent of the 1985 video of “We Are the World,” which involved many voices in the effort to raise money for African famine relief.

The new video opens with David and Charles Koch , both played by Beau Bridges, explaining that the real problem plaguing society is “idiots who claim that climate change is real.”

“Folks, climate change is pure fiction.”

Performers include about a dozen stars, including Emily Osment, Darren Criss, Ben Feldman, Jennette McCurdy, Estelle and Ed Weeks. At the end of the inspiring song, actress January Jones has a lively conversation with the Koch brothers, explaining why she is not interested in performing in their video.

Involved in the production of the satirical video was ClimateTruth.org, which was formed to combat disinformation about climate change and discuss solutions to the problem.

“Funny or Die” is the Emmy-winning comedy website created in 2007 by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy. The website has taken aim at many humorous issues, including climate change and the so-called “climate deniers.”

The second video on this page features Kristen Wiig, who has a solution to climate change, her “Global Breathing Initiative.” Since everyone exhales carbon dioxide, she notes, think how much we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions if everyone would hold their breath for a minute a day.

What appears to be largely a monologue is actually part of a longer video called the “Clinton Foundation: Celebrity Division.” Actor Ben Stiller leads a focus group of celebrities trying to come up with ideas to help the Clinton Foundation do more good for society.

Another “Funny or Die” video focused on climate change is called “Climate Change Denial Disorder,” featuring Ed Begley Jr. playing the role of a senator with some sort of brain disorder.

Amusing Monday: Photo contest shows variety
of wildlife images

Winners in this year’s National Wildlife Photo Contest range from an image showing a vast school of fish dwarfing a human swimmer to a picture catching the gaze between a female gorilla and her baby.

Fish

Now in its 45th year of competition, the contest garners thousands of entries from throughout the world as well as from people’s own backyards. I am always pleased to feature the winners of the contest, which is sponsored by “National Wildlife” magazine and National Wildlife Federation.

Judges base their selections on originality, technical execution and true-to-nature accuracy.

The first picture on this page, taken by Chris Schenker of Hopkinton, Mass., took first place in a category called “Connecting people with nature.” Schenker caught the image of the swirling mass of bohar snappers off Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The diver, who was taking pictures of the fish, added an appropriate perspective to the scene.

“The fish come to these waters in massive schools every year to mate,” said Schenker, a college student who was quoted on the “National Wildlife” website. “It was an absolutely thrilling experience.”

Bird

At the other end of the size scale, a black-capped chickadee was caught getting a drink from a garden hose by photographer Linda Krueger. Krueger was washing her car when she noticed several birds flying in. She propped up the hose and grabbed the shot when the bird landed on the end of the hose. The photo took second place in the “Backyard habitat” category.

Krueger and her husband Kevin participate in the Certified Wildlife Habitat program, sponsored by National Wildlife Federation. They own 20 acres with native plants, bird feeders, nest boxes and a backyard pond in Hastings, Minn.

Lois Settlemeyer’s photo of the Aurora Borealis shining among the trees in northern Alaska won first place in the “Landscapes and plant life” category.

Aurora

“It was a night I’ll never forget,” said Settlemeyer, a retired corporate technician who lives in Camas, Wash. “As the clouds parted briefly, I was able to take one good shot of the dancing light.”

The gorilla mom and baby I mentioned above along with other contest winners can be viewed on the website of the “2015 National Wildlife Photo Contest Winners.”

Amusing Monday: Canadian retailer posts Christmas commercials

For many years, Canadian Tire Corporation, Canada’s largest retailer, has been providing amusing television commercials around Christmas, as well as at other times of year. This Christmas season is no exception, as the company has taken to the airwaves to promote a variety of products on a Christmas theme.

Who wouldn’t like a pasta-maker? How you serve the finished pasta is up to you, as you’ll see in the first video on this page.

Other videos in this year’s series:

Another Christmas series by Canadian Tire features the Eh Bee family. Check out “Eh Bee Falcon Flight School” in the second video player on this page. Other commercials can be launched from the page titled “The Eh Bee Family tackles Giftmas.”

Last Christmas, a commercial told the story of a young boy who was worrying that Santa would not be able to find him after his family moved to a new home. See the video in the third player on this page.

Canadian Tire, a 90-year-old company, has been featuring Christmas commercials since at least 1985, as you can see in the final video featuring Santa Claus and Ebenezer Scrooge talking together and pondering the price of a Commodore 128 or Commodore 64 computer.

Amusing Monday: Help ‘hydrate’ Ashanti’s video to make it come to life

Ashanti, the singer, songwriter and record producer, has come up with an interesting way to release her latest single while urging people to drink water instead of sweet drinks.

The single, called “Let’s Go,” was released in a “dehydrated” form, stripped of lively elements, clear images, colorful lighting and dynamic sound. Ashanti has asked her fans to “hydrate” the music and video by using the hashtag “#DrinkUpAshanti” on social media, such as Twitter and Instgram.

As of this morning, I believe the “Let’s Go” video has reached the third of four levels and should soon reach its full entertainment potential. At that point, the song will be for sale on iTunes and other music outlets. The first video on this page describes the making of the video and demonstrates the four phases of “hydration.”

To see the current version of the video, go to: DrinkUpAshanti.com

I’ve never heard of a promotion like this, but Ashanti is using this approach to support First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign called Partnership for a Healthier America and its Drink Up effort, which encourages people to drink more water to support their health.

The video player at DrinkUpAshanti.com is clever, because one can pause it when graphic elements, such as flowers and stars, come into view. Click on the white circles that appear, and you’ll see the Twitter handles that helped to “hydrate” it. Add your own Twitter handle, and you will be assigned a flower and can see who is sharing that graphic element with you.

The Genius.com website shows the four levels of hydration and provides lyrics to the new song for anyone who wants them.

“I love that my song is being used to encourage people to make a really easy choice: drinking more water every day,” Ashanti said in a news release. “It’s even more rewarding when it’s being done in a creative, positive way.

“Drinking water is in … it’s just cool and sexy. You are what you drink, so drink up. It’s also a pleasure to work with the First Lady again to help make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

Ashanti explains her involvement in the campaign in an interview shown on the Valder Beebe Show, an Internet video blog. See the second video above.