Her name was Dorothy, and she had an extra ticket. Little did I know that Dorothy would lead me to a tornado that symbolized The End. Toto, I don’t think we were in Kansas… ever.
Dorothy had recently retired from UC Berkeley’s Chemistry department and was without a doubt a fan of Radiolab. She had grown up in Oakland and had been around for the end and revival of The Paramount*. She mentioned that when the doors of The Paramount were first reopened, there was still pop corn on the floor from its earlier close. We made smalltalk before the program began, hours before its inevitable end.
Then there was the beginning, with the host of Snap Judgment, a band, and the entrance of Jad and Robert with an MGM-like banner across a backdrop of three screens with a fancy cursive heading: “The End”.
Jad and Robert then proceeded to discuss what that meant for the dinosaurs and wove a fascinating, forensic, adjectival tale of the final hours of the dinosaurs (minus the ones that would become birds, of course), which took place some time between June and July some hundreds of millions of years ago, complete with animatronic dinosaurs, music, and explosive special effects.
They described the moment of impact, the vacuum that would have been created in the atmosphere, as the meteor on its tail end hurtled down towards Earth like a tornado, threw gaseous rock up out of the atmosphere, where it reformed as glass, returned to the Earth due to the planet’s gravitational pull, and now spread out across the planet to create the world’s most intense meteor shower, enough to heat the Earth’s surface to the point that all dinosaurs’ blood would have boiled across the planet within a matter of two hours.
I remained skeptical about the tale, particularly how anything would have survived (e.g., my great-great-great-great-…-grandmother), but then they explained how, and I suspended disbelief.
It was around this time that Jad and Robert needed to take a break, so they brought Reginald Watts to the stage, who entertained with his brand of comedy and music, thanking Disney, Nickelodeon, and NPR in a final song that had the audience laughing.
They returned to pull out the periodic table, whereby they discussed bismuth**, its criticality to producing a bottle of the pink stuff, and concluded the segment with a toast to what I imagine was actually strawberry milk, lest they suffer from nightly indigestion.
The program ended with a poignant tale of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame*** as it was performed by two actors suffering with Parkinson’s disease.
The night concluded with some music, not by Jim Morrison or The Doors, but by Mr. Watts and the Radiolab band.
It was the perfect button to the weekend.
* An impromptu improv performance at the Continental Club in West Oakland on Saturday was purportedly once an Oakland institution and featured Richard Pryor(‘s grandson) as well as Redd Foxx(‘s nephew). There were empty beer cans, perhaps remnants of its own apocalypse.
** At a monoscene practice this weekend, a hospital room contained a periodic table that highlighted the element bismuth.
*** Is this one even necessary?
There’s a nice rhythm to the nightly routine of Pinky and the Brain:
Pinky: Gee, Brain. What do you want to do tonight?
Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky: try to take over the world!
Oliver Sacks has rhythm, too: a culinary rhythm, to be precise. The Musicophilia author eats the same thing every day of the week. Sacks’s rhythm and deviations from it are mentioned in part of an episode of Radiolab.
This week found me deviating dramatically from my weekly rhythm, and while the deviations were welcome, it was comforting to receive a text Saturday morning about meeting at the market without specifying any more details, and to grab brunch after the market rendezvous. These weekly meetups have only been going on for a couple months, but their apparent consistency have become one of the highlights of my week.
This consistency is all an illusion, of course. If anything, the rhythm changes constantly, and I must adapt. I am already seeing the changes as I take on new challenges and meet new people; however, these routines provide a beat that makes the week recognizable, and I look forward to them.
Tomorrow includes another common beat in the weekly rhythm, and it happens to be the one where I learn to improvise along with changing rhythms and melodies. I can’t wait.
So you think that you’ve got trouble?
Well trouble’s a bubble.
So tell old Mr. Trouble to get lost!
Why not hold your head up high and
And don’t forget to keep your fingers crossed.
When you find the joy of living
You’ll be there when the winning dice are tossed.
Is just a frown that’s turned upside down
So smile and that frown’ll defrost.
And don’t forget to keep your fingers crossed!
They’re both stories of captives, but neither are thought of that way. Let’s start with the first: nursing home residents. Often, these elderly cannot leave the grounds, and sometimes they attempt escape. The Bus Stop, a recent Radiolab podcast, explores an interesting technique used to keep the escapees from traveling far.
The second would have Elphaba in an uproar over Animal Rights. It is the story of Fu Manchu, an orangutan with the supposedly evolved trait of deception. He uses it to evade his captors, leave his jail cell in the zoo, and climb to the top of a nearby tree. I couldn’t help but feel unease at the fact that the Omaha Zoo won. Fu Manchu did nothing wrong, but he was captured, anyway, and his escape was to somewhere on the grounds. Why couldn’t the tree just be his bus stop?
While sharing a Berkeley-Bowl-infused meal, a radio program discusses an interesting study about making decisions when faced with a large number of choices. The story begins at Berkeley Bowl, a store known for its unfathomably large varieties of produce. The same program goes on to consider the following question: what if people were rational like Mr. Spock? The program’s available online. Visit the link below:
The tale of this missing child is surprising, and the name is difficult to forget: Bobby Dunbar. A retelling is available online.