Sunday, June 23, 2013

Boom


A painting of the  Japanese Emperor Meiji and his very
colorful family, circa 1900.
 A search on the internet would show that there are a wide variety of genealogy software options available to track your family roots for at least as far back as someone, somewhere was keeping track of your family.  (For some of us, that may include criminal records.) 

  It is believed that the longest genealogical line, that is somewhat verifiable, is that of the Imperial Family of Japan and dates back as far as 663 B.C.  Others think that the record belongs to the present 79th descendant of Confucius, Kung Tsui-chang.
 
  Either way, it is very impressive for the descendants of these two families to be able to review their heritage in this manner.  But, every human today can claim an even longer line of lineage by simply realizing that all of us, everyone walking or having ever walked on our planet, can trace their origins back by not thousands, but by billions of years.


Just another average fun day in our solar system.
  Take a look around.  Everything that you see, breath, walk on or swim in, comes from the heart of a long gone star that blasted itself apart in a nearly incalculably powerful event known as a supernova.  From out of that explosion, every atom of every molecule that comprises every bit of matter that formed our planet and we humans, came into existence.  Our very DNA is comprised of the elements that were derived from that supernova.

  So how did this all happen?  From our somewhat static view, our planet, solar system, galaxy and even the universe, can have a very mundane and seemingly unchanging appearance.  Other than the sun rising and setting, the changing phases of the moon and an occasional meteorite or comet, celestial events seem rather quiet and benign.  That is primarily because our own sun is a relatively quiet and benign star.
  Things begin to change dramatically when the universe is viewed and examined from a telescope and/or a satellite.  In particular, when observing certain stars that meet a specific set of size and age requirements, things can really liven up.  Under certain conditions, those tiny, twinkling spots of light in the night sky can then become the most violent and cataclysmic locations in the cosmos.

  Commonly, it begins when a star with an approximate mass of at least 8 times the size of our sun has expended much of its hydrogen.  For example, our sun converts approximately 600 million tons of hydrogen into 596 million tons of helium every second.  That’s right, every second.  (The other hydrogen is turned into pure energy -heat and light, and that helps us to work on our tan lines.) 

  After millions of years, a massive star has converted so much of its hydrogen into the lighter helium that it can go longer sustain the delicate balancing act that gravity and mass enact to keep the star stable.  The star begins to compress and increased fusion begins to create onion-like layers of elements until a critical point known as the "Chandrasekhar Limit" is reached and the star begins to collapse on itself.  Rapidly.  As it collapses, the elements continue to further compress until they smash into the center of the star and then rebound outward in a spectacular release of light and energy.  So much light, that a supernova briefly outshines the combined light of the entire galaxy in which it has spawned.  Voila.  A supernova is born and then it's, Mama bring the laundry in!

 This, of course, is an oversimplification of how a supernova occurs and there are in fact 11 other major types of supernovae that originate in a variety of ways based on a wide variety of factors.

  But regardless of type, the results are generally the same.  Massive amounts of elements, including carbon, lead, oxygen, gold and platinum are strewn throughout the galaxy.  The shock waves from other supernovae may then form these elements into huge clouds which begin to swirl and as gravity takes effect, new stars, planets and moons are created and eventually you have…us.

  Therefore, our own ancestry and that of every living being on the good old planet earth can be traced back to a common progenitor. -A series of supernovae. 

  As Carl Sagan noted, “We are all star stuff.”

  -Article by Tom Esposito
  -Artwork by Max Garcia and Tom Esposito

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Extinctions


"What?!?"
The frogs and honeybees are disappearing.  There are facts and theories that try to pinpoint the reasons why both groups are in decline, but the end results, regardless of the causes, may be the extinction of many of the species that make up these two families of creatures. 

A world without the buzzing of bees and the evening calls of frogs would certainly be diminished.  But life is tenacious and while the honeybees are important not only aesthetically but economically, the seven known species of true honeybees make up a small part of the 20,000 known species of bees.  The frogs number 5,000 species and would appear to be at greater risk as a combination of a potent fungus and environmental changes are weighing heavily on them.

Extinction of any species is a sad event but the events are extremely common.  Think about this.  Science has identified over 1.3 million species of currently living creatures.  There is also the probability that over 7 million more have yet to be identified and catalogued.  Yet, 98% of all creatures that have ever crawled, slithered, walked, swum or have flown on and above our planet are extinct.  98%!

In recent history, the true extinction of a species such as the Passenger Pigeon, the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger), the Dodo and others draws a tremendous amount of attention as well as regret as examples such as these can be related to the activities of man. 

But these types of extinctions are relatively rare and blame can only be placed on humans for the smallest fraction of them.  Not so in the history of life on our planet.  By far, extinction events are incredibly common.  In fact, they are the norm.  Remember that 98% number.

The marine and geological fossil records show that there have been 5 major extinction events throughout history.  Certainly, the best known occurrence is the Cretaceous-Paleogene event that took place 65-66 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs. 

But this is not even close to being the king of the planet-wide extinctions.  That title goes to the Permian-Triassic kill-off that occurred 250 million years ago and effectively terminated 95%-97% of all of the species of flora and fauna on the planet.  This event was so catastrophic that it is simply called, “The Great Dying.”  Life was on the precipice.

More recent in history, the end of the age of the giant mammals, while not qualifying as an extinction event, took its toll on numerous large animals such as the Mastodon, the Wooly Mammoth, the Saber Tooth Tiger and the Giant Ground Sloth.  Since the geologic record here is much more recent, remarkable fossil remains continuously enthrall scientists on a regular basis.

A multitude of theories and to a lesser degree, certainties proliferate the scientific community concerning the causes of these major as well as 9 other lesser but still significant extinctions.  They range from asteroids to volcanic activity to gamma ray exposure (supernovas) to glacial activity to a host of others. –And sometimes in combination with each other.

Today, along with the honeybees and frogs, the list of imperiled creatures abounds.  Many species of whales, birds, the Mountain Gorilla and other primates as well as pandas and rhinos are only a few of the threatened species on our planet. 
Theoretically, all species walk a tightrope
between proliferation and extinction. Here,
Natural Selection is the width of a dog leash.
Some of the causes of the potential demise of these species are manmade, such as the poaching of the rhinoceros.  Others are attributed to nature itself such as the virus that is threatening to destroy the entire Tasmanian Devil species.  It seems that not a week or even a day goes by that something, somewhere is being noted as being pushed to the brink of its existence.

Always has been and always will be.
-----------
Editor’s note:  This blog is posted in conjunction with one of Max’s cartoons that will be running later in the week on GoComics.

Article by Tom Esposito
Art by Max Garcia - Walt Beringson and Tom Esposito



Sunday, May 12, 2013

American Cartoonist

Editor's Note:  We invited our good friend, Walt Beringson, the creator of the very funny cartoon strip, "Two Bits" to become a contributing editor to our "Sunny Street" blog.  Walt graciously agreed and sent us an email that we decided would be a great lead-in piece in this weeks blog.  "Two Bits" is a warm, philosophical and gentle cartoon about a barber, his friends, customers and pet dog.  Sounds charming.  But while doing a little background work that caused us to delve into the "Two Bits" blog, a dark and disturbing side of Walt that heretofore was unknown to us began to emerge.  Our story begins.
Walt Beringson; The creator of "Two Bits"

Meet Walt Beringson.  Career man, loving father and husband, cartoonist and a bulwark of stability and community spirit in his home town.  Our blog starts with this innocent email that we recently received from Walt...

"THE EMAIL FROM WALT"
I'd like to start by saying I'm a huge fan of the old Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld, Garry Shandling Show, Simpsons, Futurama & (younger, less bitter) David Letterman shows.  So you can imagine how excited and honored I was when the driving humor behind many of these wildly popular programs asked me to write an article for their blog.  Tom Gammill and Max Pross have done just that! 

Some of my earliest memories of laughing hysterically were at the Steve Martin Comedy Specials that Tom and Max helped write for late 70's early 80's prime time television.  I can't help but wonder how they've shaped my sense of humor, and America's for that matter, in many ways.  
The main protagonist of "Two Bits", Carl the barber
and an unidentified customer.  Is it just coincidence that
the first name of the barber is the same as that of
Carl Jung, the psychiatrist and psychologist who
developed the concepts of the introverted and the
extroverted archetypes and the collective unconscious?
I don't really give much thought to the sketch writers while I'm watching my favorite shows.  George and Kramer are funny. 'The Wild and Crazy Guys' were funny.  Rosanna Rosanna Danna was funny.  The Lubner's were hilarious.  The Cone Heads were stupid. I hope Tom and Max didn't have anything to do with the Cone Heads.  But I digress.  

A huge reason, dare I say the main reason these men and women on camera crack us up is because of the anonymous men and women that stay up drinking coffee all night far away from the cameras in cramped offices.  Tom Gammill and Max Pross are two of the best. 

When you look at Tom and Max's impressive body of work, you can't help but notice how ingrained their sense of humor has become in the fabric of American comedy.  How many times in your everyday goings on have you or a friend seen something that triggered a hey "that reminds me of when Kramer..."  And now my children watch the Seinfeld reruns religiously.  Truly a humor that is timeless.

To think the guys that wrote bits for Ackroyd, Martin, Shandling, Murray, Belushi, Radner and Seinfeld have asked ME to write a piece for their blog is somewhat daunting.  Before I start I can't resist this opportunity to pitch something I've been working on.  I know this is a little unprofessional.  But I would regret it if I didn't try.
 
 
The "Two Bits" logo?  Or a cryptic symbol of the
rumored cabal of the dreaded Tonsorial Illuminati?


Tom and Max, I've got a great idea for a sitcom.  It's about a man who owns a barber shop called 'Two Bits'.  His name is Carl.  I think Kevin James or John Goodman should play him.  He's got a dog named Duke who is always fighting with a squirrel.  His wife Wanda is never seen, just heard. His best friend is....

What?  What's that now?  Tom ESPOSITO and Max GARCIA?  Who the hell are they?  THEY'RE the ones that asked me write for their blog!?  What is it, a blog for an Italian/Mexican restaurant?!  What?...  “Sunny Street?”  Oh, cool they write for that
show that Danny Devito is in?!  The one where he owns that bar in Philadelphia!  That show's funny!  What?!...  A COMIC STRIP?!!  You mean like Cathy?  Or Mutts? 

I'm outta here.  -Walt

--------------------------

Editor's Note:  Cute story.  -And it all should have ended here.  But this is what we found when we visited Walt's blog... 

"THE CONFESSION"

I was looking at my hands last night.  I mean really looking at them.  All wrinkled, dried and full of veins.  Not a very pretty sight.  This got me thinking of all the things my hands have done the last 46 years. 

All the footballs and baseballs they've thrown.  The hands they've shaken and backs they've patted.  The thousands of diapers they've changed.  The thousands of tons of asphalt they've shoveled and raked.  The fist bumps and high fives they've delivered.  The babies they've held.  The dogs they've played with.  The tears they've wiped.  The tears they've caused. 

 
Carl's dog, Duke.  A pup at play or a 
sublimated message from Walt of the
inner turmoil that is torturing his psyche? 
 

All the trees they've planted in third world countries (OK, didn't happen).  The glasses of adult beverages held high in the air.  The noses I've punched. (OK, only one in 7th grade.  And it was a lucky punch.  But he did deserve it.) 

All the money they've wasted.  All the art they've created.  When they slipped a ring on my wife’s finger.  The disgusting beer cans they sorted at my first job.  The snowballs they've made.  All the presents they've opened and wrapped.  The times they were folded in prayer (not often enough).  All the baby seals they've clubbed (I had a permit).  And lately all the mouse clicking.
What will my hands be doing the next 46 years of my life, I wonder.  I know in about a year they will be handing my daughter over to a fine young man who asked me for her hand.  I look forward to playing a lot of golf with my grown sons.  I pray that I'll have many grandchildren and great grandchildren to play with and throw balls to. 
There may be one or two noses out there that'll need punching.  They'll drive all over the country with my fellow empty-nester.  And God willing, they'll hoist many more adult beverages in the air.  --Walt
 
Editor's Note:  Beautiful sentiments, right?  ...But then, clubbing baby seals?  The horror.  There is more...
"THE COVERUP"
I'm a bit upset and disappointed with the amount of hate-mail I've received after my last post.  It seems many of you took offense that I have been involved in baby seal clubbing.  Normally I'm not one who feels the need to explain or defend myself if I offend someone, but due to the sheer volume of negative response I think I'll make an exception.

Funny Animal hi-jinks?  Or a sign of the 
repressed, seething, violent rage that lurks
beneath the seemingly calm
surface of a troubled cartoonist?
 What I said in my last blog was that I had 'clubbed a lot of baby seals in my life'.  I apologize.  Now that I reread I can see where some of you would be angry.  What it should have read was 'I've clubbed with a lot of baby seals in my life'.  You see, about 10 years ago I founded and still run a non-profit organization called 'Party Pups' that takes baby seals out for a night of food and dancing (no alcohol since they are babies) to some of the world's premier nightclubs.
The only two remaining friends that Walt has.
They are discussing a possible intervention.
 Our volunteers travel to desolate arctic regions to find deserving pups.  We then dress them up in some cool clothes (usually Rocawear from Jay-Z's clothing line) and take them clubbing.  They seem to like the Russian nightlife the best.  Which is kind of nice because they do blend in more with the Russian women.  I think it's the facial hair.  If you could see the looks on the seals faces after a night out on the town.  It is quite rewarding and definitely worth all the work.

 So you see, I'm not the horrible monster many of you portrayed in your emails.  I'm the opposite.  I'm still a bit upset that I had to explain this to some of you.  I thought you all knew me better than that and I hoped you would give me the benefit of the doubt.  Especially you, Mom.  Well, if you'll all excuse me, I'll just sit back and wait for my inbox to fill with apology emails.


Editor’s Note: The Cartoonist doth protest too much, methinks.

“THE CRY FOR HELP AND FORGIVENESS”

The "before" and "after" imagery that haunts a man
whose twisted mindset, and possible cult associations,
leaves him adrift in a fantasy world of cute, fluffy,
adorable, doe-eyed, sweet, gentle, playful,
defenseless creatures and wanton butchery. 
 

 OK, you got me.  There’s no such organization as Party Pups.  I made it up.  I guess I didn’t believe that anyone in my audience to actually Google search the ‘facts’ in my story.  To tell you the truth, I would have bet you guys didn’t even know what a search engine was.  That’s my fault.  I shouldn’t have given out so many details.  But as a mentor of mine who now works for the “New York Times” once told me, “Just make it up, no one ever fact checks anymore.”  Oh well, you are all smarter than I thought. 

 Listen people.  You have to cut me some slack.  I have a wife and two kids to support, and a daughter getting married soon.  My meager cartoonist salary needs to be supplemented with something! Do you know how much money you can get for a pair of baby seal lined slippers in Moscow? 
 There's a huge demand over there.  Just about every Russian mobster's girlfriend has at least three pair.  They're as popular as Crocs and Jeggings are here in the U.S...  And believe me, they can tell if it's a baby seal's fur or not. 

 

"Zdravstvujtye, Valter.  You are funny man, no?  You
like to make funny picture stories with your crayons
and now you like to talk to peoples about your
funny stories on Internet. Maybe you talk too much. 
Maybe we stop by and talk to you about this. 
Funny, eh?"
 
One time I tried to sell a crate of slippers made from seals that died of natural causes (because I care).  Well, let's just say the Moskva River is unbelievably cold in November.  I barely escaped with my life that day.  Look, if I didn't provide this incredibly soft, luxurious product that makes your feet feel like they're in heaven to the lady friends of Russian mobsters, someone else would. 
 
 So, no more lies.  I'm straight up asking for your forgiveness, people.  I'd like to make a gesture to those of you who were so offended in the first place that you felt the need to send me hate mail/death threats.  I want to give you a gift to smooth things over.  I'd like to send you a 42" x 30" full color poster of a baby seal.  They're soooo cute!  I take these pictures myself moments before...well, you know.  They normally sell for $25 apiece on my website.  It would really make me happy knowing the same seals that are warming Tatiana's and Svetlana's feet are now warming the hearts of you all.  We all good now?  --Walt
 
 
-Article by Tom Esposito and Max Garcia

-Artwork Courtesy of "Two Bits" cartoon, Walt Smith and release
 of materials approved by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and the
 Federal Witness Protection Program


-Walt, Carl, Duke and the rest of the "Two Bits" gang can be found on "Comics Sherpa or on the Two Bits Blog.  In addition, Walt's work is published on "Future Cities".


 
 
 





 






 





  








 

 

 



Monday, May 6, 2013

Suburban Rapper Wannabe Early-Onset Brain Block Disorder

--Editor's Note:  This post is the second in a series of excerpts from an upcoming book from Sunny Street Productions, "The Great Big Fun Book of Extinctions, Endangerment, Mutations and Evolution."--
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As recently as a decade ago, teenage boys still engaged in common, harmless daydreaming on a variety of subjects that included sports, female breasts, comic book superheroes, female breasts, movie stars, female breasts and breasts.  However…,




 ...Today, having been exposed on a daily basis to the poser, wannabe lifestyle of the urban, Caucasian rapper, these same youths have been turned into pale, iambic pentameter zombies who are incapable of any rational thought or daydreams other than sitting in despair in their parent's basements while hopelessly trying to figure out how to find a word that rhymes with "orange".

All aspiring suburban rappers base their career hopes on hitting the big time due to the phenomenal success of their fellow Caucasian, Hip-Hop heroes.  Stars with household names like, “Aesop Rock,” “El-P,” “MC-Serch” and the unforgettable, “Slug.”

Of course, since dreams can come true, many of the rappin' hopeful’s dreams of someday becoming players on the biggest stages are mostly due to the success of artists like “The Beastie Boys” and “Eminem.” 


After all, if the two aforementioned Caucasian performers like these gentlemen can reach the top of the ladder ahead of the other 27,675,982 white rappers who can be found on the street corners of America, why can’t others find success?  (Ref: See –Odds of winning the Powerball Lottery and marrying Kate Upton –on the same day.)*
But what can distraught parents do to help their children fight this pervasive and insidious lifestyle.  Fortunately, there is now help and hope available.
 
 Hi, I’m Dirk Broadstone, CEO and Director of the newly established, Broadstone SRWE-OBBD Treatment Center, located here, in the beautiful Bahamas.  I would like to reach out to parents everywhere who are searching for help in the treatment of SRWE-OBBD for their hipster children.
 
At our treatment center, your children will be given the loving, caring attention and specialized counseling that they so desperately need to overcome their affliction.  The Broadstone Treatment Center features the newest and most innovative forms of rehabilitation to be found anywhere in the Caribbean and Cuba.
  
Heavy Metal songwriter and performer Paul Simon is just one of
the many artists that we were hoping to attract to our Treatment
Center but who have all turned down our invitations.
(Photo of Paul Simon courtesy of Miho)
Intensive treatment sessions include classes and therapy time with some of the grooviest mainstream songwriters and poets of our time.  These mod artists are here to help get your sons and daughters back on track in order to become normal, functioning members of society.
So I hope that you will consider the Broadstone Treatment Center to help your children and remember, financing and easy terms are available, primarily depending on the equity position you currently have in your home and the strength of your stock, bonds and precious metals holdings.
 
--More Reading -see article: "Science Still Seeking Cure For 'Vanillaiceitis'"
 
*Odds of winning the Powerball Lottery: 1 in 146,107,962.  Odds combined with marrying Kate Upton on the same day as winning lottery…data unavailable. Query upload to the Craig Supercomputer caused system crash.
 
  -Article by T. Esposito
  -Artwork by M. Garcia