Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Some horrors are closer than one would like to think. They lay in wait, unnoticed, in the darkened corners of your home while you sleep. When you're fixing the morning coffee... they're waiting. When you're grabbing a beer out of the fridge after a long day at work... they're watching. When it's one in the morning and you're after a snack in the fridge... that's when those horrifying nightmare beings are most dangerous, because in your tired state of mind and desperation you might just draw out one of the terrors that hides in the shadows.

I remembered that, of course, while I cleaned out my fridge this afternoon.

The amount of questions that arise while cleaning out the fridge outnumber the amount of freezer bags and plastic containers that become Petri dishes and Lovecraftian horrors. Certain colors shouldn't occur in nature, let alone sprout on top of a mysterious pasta dish that sat in wait for the last month or more, but I stare through the hazily transparent plastic box at the rainbow from the fridge because opening the container might release the kind of spore that starts a zombie apocalypse. Why I find it necessary to save one slice of provolone cheese for three months, a few slices of salami until they become close to fossilized, or milk that is no longer liquid, is something I can't figure out.

It's kind of fun to see what sorts of foods don't actually go bad, though. A package of hot dogs I had open for a few weeks still looked like new, but the can of sauerkraut-- already fermented cabbage-- that I opened at the same time as the hot dogs was DEFINITELY spoiled. It makes me wonder what sort of toxic crap I willingly put in my body; if bacteria won't even survive on it, how do I? Why do I knowingly ingest food-like substances that don't follow laws of nature? I know I won't be able to eat the technicolor fuzzfest in that Tupperware, but should I attempt to eat the processed lunch meat from a bygone era?

Of course, I tend to forget about the horrors of food that refuses to spoil and the food that grows furry mold, get hungry, go grocery shopping, eat most of a meal, and save the scant few leftovers for another few months until terror strikes again.

It's finding Frankenstein's monster frankfurter that makes cleaning the fridge exciting and mortifying.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Outside of the town of Big Pine is the Owens Valley Radio Observatory. I'd visited it a few times as a kid, and aside from the badass liquid nitrogen demonstration they have at the end of the tour (dude, they straight up froze a rose and made it shatter like glass! 7-year-old me was like, "THAT'S RAD!") it got me interested in the night sky. The giant radio telescopes they have detect bodies in deep space using radio waves, and the results are images of colorful blobs representing different collections of interstellar gasses and matter in the void of space. It's a heavy concept for a little kid; there's stuff way, way, way out there in space, and the world is really small compared to the grand scheme of the Universe. It's one thing to go to a planetarium and another to stand in the place where scientists look into space daily, and it's one thing to see models and another to see actual images of deep space bodies that we will never be physically able to go to ever. 

For an small town boy in elementary school, realizing you're an insignificant speck on an insignificant speck floating around in an insignificant speck in a cluster of insignificant specks is kind of heavy.

As I got older I got into the habit of wandering into the desert and staring at the night sky. The beautiful thing about growing up in the middle of nowhere is the lack of light pollution and how easy it is to escape it, so when I wanted to do some introspection as a teenager I could walk or drive a short ways and be in complete darkness with nothing but the inky blackness of space with its Milky Way and countless constellations above me. I started thinking about being a particle in the universe made up of smaller parts, which were made up of smaller parts, and so on, and thinking about being made up of particles that were made up of other smaller stuff was enough infinity to keep my geeky high school self stoked on everything. Finding me stargazing and thinking about stuff was a pretty big hobby of mine once upon a time.

I still do the stargazing-and-thinking-about-stuff thing today. Whenever I'm camping, or walking around town at night, or hanging out at an outdoor party in the desert, I usually find myself looking up at the infinite expanse, and the completely unknown volumes space holds. I think about the atoms that make up my physical being like the amazing technicolor dream gasses of radio telescope images. I remind myself that the universe is a pretty big deal, and me being like my own universe makes me kind of a big deal too, and that everyone ever is like the universe and a big deal, and that sort of connection to everyone and everything that comes from stargazing tends to make me feel a lot better about life.

There are two things I can say for sure since I'd visited the OVRO; even though the universe is massive it doesn't mean we're all too insignificant, and that liquid nitrogen is hella cool.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The X Files, Then And Now: An Observation

(DISCLAIMER: This post has some spoilers for a 21-year-old television show. If this sort of thing bothers you... well, you should probably reconsider your priorities of things to be mad about, but to each their own, so don't say I didn't warn you.)

The other night I watched a few episodes of The X Files. My family used to watch it all the time when it was on the air, so for the sake of nostalgia and good television I decided to revisit it. Mulder and Scully were household names when I was a kid, and the theme music queued a night of bad dreams for me and my overactive imagination, so from the time it aired in 1993 until it ended in 2001, it made itself a fixture in my life. It's still an entertaining show, and I can see why my parents watched it back in the day, but it's very obviously from the '90s.

If Agents Mulder and Scully were conducting their investigations into the X files during the 2010s instead of the 1990s, they probably wouldn't have run into the same roadblocks they'd faced in the first few episodes of the series. For example, toward the end of the very first episode, a bunch of evidence was destroyed when Scully's motel room was burned down. If they were conducting this investigation nowadays all of her field reports, her photos, the x-ray images from the autopsy, and research materials would have probably been saved to a cloud account somewhere. Her report on the case would have been in Dropbox before she ran off to see Mulder. Little snippets of information she'd have jotted in a pad of paper could have been saved in Evernote. Hell, the pictures and x-ray images could have been saved to the camera roll of her iPhone if she'd had one.

That's another thing; if Mulder and Scully had smart phones, there would never be any question to the credibility of their reports. Some creepy contortionist cannibal crawling through the vent in your bathroom? Scully could film that with her phone! UFO sightings over a secret airbase? It'd be on Instagram for the world to see before anyone was the wiser. Delicate information needs to be conveyed? Snapchat destroys the evidence within ten seconds. Need to silently get a hold of someone while hiding from some supernatural entity? Texting. Having a smartphone alone would make solving Mulder and Scully's problems exponentially easier.

You know what else would have helped them? The internet. Since they work for the FBI, they have access to a lot of government databases, one a federal level to a local level, so the amount of time spent looking through physical archives in dramatic dark libraries would be cut way shorter. Google would make a lot of questions they have a lot easier to answer, like searching "UFO sightings near Iowa" or whatever they happen to be working on. The combination of smart phones, the internet, and cloud storage, probably could cut a conveniently timed 45 minute episode of investigation and spooky stuff in half.

Then again, one thing about modern times is government surveillance. The NSA could swoop in and swipe up anyone tweeting "omg just saw sum dude eat & puke out a healthy FBI person. #gross #wat" or someone searching Google for Cthulhu-like nonsense that doesn't seem normal. Any bizarre findings being saved to Scully's Drive account could be theoretically be seized and destroyed by the NSA if they really wanted to. Hiding identities or going undercover would be impossible if anyone found Fox "Spooky" Mulder of Facebook. A lot of cases would probably be pretty obvious if some blogger somewhere decided to talk about how his cousin wrote a bunch of binary code and the government got involved... unless the government saw that blog post and got involved.

Really, the only way to keep that sort of secret stuff secret and out of the hands of the wrong people would be to have it all in physical forms; notebooks, film photos, physically documented information, in-person discussions and first-hand-eyewitness accounts... like they did in the show, I guess. Hmm.

Either way, while there would be some pitfalls for Mulder and Scully working in the 21st century, cases would probably still be way easier than doing so by communicating via land line and car phone, losing evidence to fire and exposing undeveloped film, and not having the worlds knowledge accessible from a device that can fit in a pocket. The 1990s were a simpler time, despite confusing shows like The X Files and Twin Peaks, and it's fun to think about them from a modern perspective.