Tag Archives: Entertainment_Culture

Amusing Monday: Mermaids are called to the job

Movies about mermaids — notably “Splash” and Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” — apparently inspired a bunch of little girls who wished to become mermaids themselves. For some, the feeling never went away. And for a select few, the idea of being a mermaid has grown into a full-time occupation.

Perhaps the most impressive of these professional mermaids is Mermaid Melissa, whose training and job skills include actress, animal trainer, scuba diver and professional free diver. She is able to hold her breath for more than four minutes while swimming, which adds reality to her underwater performances as a mermaid.

The first video on this page shows Melissa swimming with fishes and marine mammals. The background music gives this video a surreal quality. (It is a little longer than I would prefer.)

But if you want to learn about the journey of the girl who would become a mermaid, check out the second video, or read her brief autobiography on her website, mermaidmelissa.com. Melissa’s blog also features some interesting videos and commentary, including her decision to legally change her name to “Mermaid Melissa” at the end of last year.

A new video by singer/song writer Sean Dennison features Melissa as the subject of the song “Mermaid.” Click on the last video at the bottom of this page.

Other professional mermaids, all with their own interesting stories, include:

And if those are not enough mermaids for you, check out MerPalooza, the international mermaid convention held the past two years in Tampa.

Amusing Monday: flying flecks of colored light

Brian Maffitt, an experimental videographer from Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., had a brilliant idea when he aimed a video projector out his window into a swirling snowstorm. The result, documented in both still photos and video, resembles abstract art.

“I’ve toyed with the idea of shooting swirling snow for a while, but this was the first big snowstorm we’ve had when I was prepared to experiment,” Maffitt told Lewis Wallace of Wired magazine.

His video can be viewed in the top window on this page; his series of photos can be seen in a Flickr slideshow in the bottom window. Be sure to view both of these full-screen.

Personally, I’m intrigued by the variety of images produced by this blending of nature and technology, knowing that the images are an artifact of the mechanical and electronic function of the video projector. By the way, the video he chose to project was “The Lorax,” a colorful animated film based on a Dr. Seuss book.

The stock music for the video was taken from the video-editing software Final Cut Pro, and I think the piano tune is a nice accompaniment to the video. However, I wish Brian would recognize the poor sound quality on the YouTube video and re-do the soundtrack.

As for the slideshow, he told Chris Lambeth for his blog on F Stoppers:

“I used a somewhat slow shutter speed to capture a little relative motion, but seldom more than a second or so. When the snow was drifting slowly, the results were colorful and etherial. When the snow moved more rapidly however, the spinning color wheel of the projector produced a strobing effect that generated separate red, green, and blue dots where the snowflakes fell… The end results are a wonderful mix of analog photo techniques, augmented by digital projection.”

Maffitt, 50, is a founder and chief creative officer for Total Training, which provides online classes in web design, digital video and related technology.

Amusing Monday: Sea World trains TV personalities

First, the folks at Sea World confine them in a tight space. Then trainers teach them tricks. Finally, they are expected to perform before a live audience.

I could be talking about killer whales, but I’m actually describing the activities of Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, cohosts of NBC’s “Today” show.

A big-screen TV was erected in front of a killer whale tank, so four orcas could offer their encouragement to Kathie Lee and Hoda. Unfortunately, the whales kept trying to change the channel.

At first, the training of the two TV personalities did not go so well. Julie Scardina, Sea World’s “animal ambassador,” had a hard time keeping the two focused on the task at hand.

Kathie Lee was worried about how her underarms looked and appeared to be focused on the huge TV rather than the simple movements she was asked to perform.

“Gee, I think I need to lose some weight,” she said. “Speaking of killer whales!”

The whales watching the screen were hardly amused.

Julie finally was able to get Kathie Lee and Hoda to pay attention, and she showed them how to turn and move their arms. It was a challenge for the two humans, but Julie taught them a little ditty that helped them perform the task: “Splash and turn… Splash and turn…,” they repeated over and over again.

The whales responded with encouragement, swimming the length of their pool, as the two co-hosts finally learned their new tricks.

Many people think it is cruel to confine killer whales in small tanks and expect them to perform for a few fish. But you should have seen the relief on their faces when the trainers finally took away the giant TV. Forcing the orcas to watch Kathie Lee and Hoda do their tricks seemed truly traumatic to them.

I hear that Sea World trainers are considering installing a TV near the killer whale pool and keeping it on all the time. Nobody knows if the whales would become addicted to television like lesser-intelligent humans. What shows would they want to watch anyway? Feel free to speculate.

Anyway, I want to thank blogger Candace Calloway Whiting for dredging up this video. Somehow I missed the original “Today” show segment from last summer.

To view the complete segment, which includes more on the killer whales along with footage of other animals, go to the Today show webpage.

Amusing Monday: Telling stories about saving water

Rain Bird Corporation’s “Intelligent Use of Water Film Competition” brought forth some amusing moments this year, as film producers looked for new and clever ways to convey a message about saving water.

Winners of this year’s contest were announced in a ceremony last week in Los Angeles, where wildlife celebrity Jack Hannah served as master of ceremonies.

A jury of water professionals preferred a film about a man and a woman who get side-tracked into a discussion about water while trying to engage in sexy role-playing on the phone. Ben Mills of Basingstoke, Hants, U.K., produced the film, called “Fun and Games.” View it in the player at right.

Audience members who attended the ceremonies picked their favorite video, called “Just Don’t Flush It” by Brian McAndrew of North Bend, Ore.

The Green Industry Award went to by Jall Cowasji of Norman, Okla., who found an interesting way to describe a rather intricate, but somewhat primitive, irrigation system in the film “Water Ways.”

Because finalist Rob Kennedy was not selected for any cash prizes, I’d like to recognize his music video called “Save Water” for a special Amusing Monday Honorable Mention. Let me know if you think this film was better than the ones above or if you like any of them.

Rain Bird skipped the film competition last year for some reason, but you may review films from previous years at the website of the “Intelligent Use of Water Film Competition.”

Amusing Monday: Have you seen the show ‘Tanked’?

I was away from home and away from my computer all weekend, but I want to tell you about an amusing new show on Animal Planet. It’s about a couple of New York aquarium builders who moved to Las Vegas to build some of the most spectacular aquariums in the world.

If you haven’t seen this program, which started in August, you are missing a reality show with family tension, practical jokes and some of the most unusual aquarium designs I have ever seen.

These aquariums are installed in casinos, restaurants, offices and homes for a variety of occasions, many of them romantic. I always thought of aquariums as square and ordinary until I saw this show. I could watch just to be surprised by the unusual tanks featured each week, yet this real-life odd-ball family is more fun than most fictional characters you see on TV sitcoms.

If you visit the “Tanked” website, you can catch up on the already-aired programs along with many extra videos, such as Wayde and Brett’s top-five most amazing aquariums, “Tanked” highlights, the most annoying habits of Brett and Wayde and even tips for building your own aquarium.

Please let me know what you think about this show.

Amusing Monday: Bowser and Blue all over again

I’m on vacation this week, so I’m falling back to some of my early entries for Amusing Monday. I found an old entry for Bowser and Blue, a couple of funny Canadians who are getting older yet continue to write songs and make fools of themselves, as they’ve been doing for more than 30 years.

I featured their song “Halifax Harbour” in Water Ways on Nov. 24, 2008. This time, I’ve added a new song (in the video player at right) called the “BP Song.” They’re singing about an oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico.

Their Bowser and Blue Webpage includes many more songs of all kinds. But the advance warning still stands: Some of their videos are irreverent, off-color and even medically oriented to the point of going places you never want to go — as in “Colon is a Mighty Big River.”

Amusing Monday: Water cycle songs go on and on

I’m still impressed, and a little amused, by the number of videos continually being made about the water cycle.

I guess it’s good to know that even the youngest children are coming to understand this multi-layered concept that regulates all life on Earth. See YouTube video “Water Travels in a Cycle, Yes It Does.”

Government agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have produced dozens of animations about the water cycle. But sometimes it takes a little music to keep one’s attention. Check out “NASA the Water Cycle” and keep your eye on the little red water molecule.

Speaking of music, it seems everyone has a song about the water cycle. Believe it or not, most are called “The Water Cycle Song”:

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Amusing Monday: Water music from a garden

I was thinking today that I wanted to find some kind of unusual water-related music, since I haven’t featured music in Amusing Monday for quite sometime.

As coincidence would have it, the program “Living on Earth” this week featured a recording of a Japanese instrument called suikinkutsu. The recording was made by anthropologist and ethnomusicologist Steven Feld.

      1. Click here for the sound file.
Or review this week’s entire “Living on Earth” radio show.

I was fortunate to find a video on YouTube that not only describes how the sound is made but also shows how the instrument is created in a Japanese garden. It turns out that just about anyone can get this unusual sound with a ceramic jar placed in a water basin, but I can’t help but prefer the elaborate effort it takes to create the sound of water in a garden setting.

From the liner notes of Feld’s album “Suikinkutsu” comes this description of the instrument:

“Suikinkutsu literally “water-zither-cave,” is a unique instrument associated with washing for the Japanese tea ceremony. Water drips from a chozubachi stone basin into a partly-filled underground ceramic bowl. The dripping sound, resembling a kotozither, projects up through bamboo tubes into a garden, where water may symbolize spirit, purification, solace, and reflection.

“Dating to the mid 17th century Edo period, the name suikinkutsuis often
credited to the famous tea ceremony teacher Kobori Enshu. After a decline, the instrument re-emerged in the Meiji Era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with renewed recent popularity.”

Amusing Monday: Having fun — like a hampster

I’m on vacation this week and next, so I’m not sure how many blog entries I will post over the next two weeks, but I wanted to offer something for this regular Amusing Monday feature.

In this video, people volunteer to become hamsters and try to walk or run inside an inflatable beach ball.
If you’ve never seen the water ball, I think you’ll get a kick out of this video. I chose it for its music and action, but there are dozens of other videos on YouTube and other sites. If you would like to view more videos, search for “walking on water ball” or “water walking.”

If you’re ready to buy one of these balls, you’ll find lots of online retailers in Hong Kong and a few in the U.S. I’m not sure who sells them locally, but I saw a reference to K-Mart. It appears they start around $300, including postage.

If you’ve actually climbed into one of these things, I’d like to hear about your experience.

Amusing Monday: Boneheads teach ecology

A whole family of Boneheads resides in a place where water and the interconnections of life are explained to those who don’t get the picture.

Planet Bonehead is inhabited by cartoon characters who interact with the real world, as you can see in the music video at right. Music is a key part of Planet Bonehead.

The project was created by graphics designer Bob Donahue and his longtime friend Dan Roeper. Roeper’s sister, Patti Romano, became a partner, providing the essential educational elements.

Planet Bonehead videos can be viewed online or purchased as DVDs for use in the classroom or other educational settings. If this catches your interest, you can meet each of the Boneheads on a video called “Meet the Boneheads #1 — Global Warming & the Boneheads.”

For the complete set of videos, check out the Planet Bonehead channel on YouTube or on the Planet Bonehead website.