Thursday, July 31, 2008

Time Wasters, Inc.

Mrs. Nator is in the Dirty South for a week, and what do I do? Do I clean the house or get started on my Fall semester reading? No. After I finish my term paper, I go out to lunch with a friend, take myself to a movie (Wall-E, did it make anyone else cry?) and out to dinner. Oh, and buy and play around with the Spore Creature Creator. All in one day.

This is my first Spore video. It's a fairly simple dragon-like creature dancing. I know, it's no dancing penis monster, which seems to be the thing to do, of course. People are so creative, don't you think?

Anyway, I can't get the shadings quite right, because my cheapo computer has a chipset instead of a video card. I hope I'll be able to play the full game when it comes out.

Do you think Mrs. Nator will be happy when she comes back to find the dishes and recycling piled up and the cat litter unchanged, but a full planet's worth of creatures on our computer?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bruce Lee + Karsh Kale + Drunken Brooklynites

= A Good Time. Went to the Prospect Park Bandshell for this Celebrate Brooklyn event last Saturday. Had a picnic with some friends and watched this chop socky classic with a new, live soundtrack performed by Kale, a tabla player-cum-electronica musician. The Indian sounds of sitar seemed a little odd in some places, but overall a pretty good job at delivering new mood music for Bruce Lee's final film. The audience, who were indeed largely drunken (or stoned, from the smell of it), seemed to enjoy it, as you may gather from my artistically fuzzy cell phone footage.

More episodes of A Zoo Intern's Journal coming up, friends, and a bunch more photos...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Encounters at the End of the World

Two dates in one week? It's almost unheard of for Mrs. Nator & I nowdays, but we went out to dinner and a movie last night. The occasion was the last night that Werner Herzog's film Encounters at the End of the World was being shown at the Film Forum. I don't know if it's being picked up at another local theatre, but after seeing it, by Jeebus, I hope so.

I don't want to describe the film too much, because I don't want to spoil any of the surprises for you if it comes to your town and you see it. But if it does come to your town, do go see it. It managed to make me shake with laughter and cry with heartbreak at the same time. I left the theatre with my mind blown, which is a rare and wonderful experience. I find myself Googling phenomena I saw in the movie just to confirm what I saw and find out more. And, tying it all together, I hear the droning, Teutonic, sometimes sly narration of Herzog, making observations both profound and not unfitting for an episode of Sprockets.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Date at Barcade

More cell phone camera masterpieces!
Click to read captions or see bigger.

Saturday is my Friday, which means I've finished work and internship and am usually pooped. Mrs. Nator and I sometimes talk about going out when I'm done work, but it rarely happens because if we don't have a plan I don't have the energy to schlep home, discuss, shower, and go out again.

This past Saturday, however, Mrs. Nator fulfilled one of my wishes by calling me at work to say she was picking me up to take me out, and had the date all planned. It was a good night to do it, as we were celebrating both the illustrious birth of the Trucker (yay, oneofhismoms!) and my finally standing up to an aggravating co-worker. All I had to do was hop in the office shower and toss my scrubs in my bag.

Normally we avoid Williamsburg, Brooklyn, because we are not hipsters. However, there was a restaurant Mrs. N. wanted to try (Fiore, which was a bit disappointing to me, food-wise, but had great atmosphere and service,) and then there was Barcade.

Barcade is a large bar that specializes in two things: microbrewery beers and classic cabinet video games. Again, not being hipsters, we didn't hear about this place until four years after it opened. Once we did, however, we had to go.

It was the perfect date for us. Two drinks apiece and about ten bucks in quarters, and we whiled away several hours in an increasingly drunken festival of giggles and Game Overs. Many of the classic games we remembered were there, from Asteroids to Zaxxon. They had Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Centipede, and Tetris – hell yeah! Most of our time was spent playing Frogger, Moon Patrol, Q*Bert and Punch Out (Super Mario Bros. was sadly broken, and no-one seemed to be up to taking on Donkey Kong, possibly fearing the wrath of Billy Mitchell).

Of course, everyone's got their childhood favourites, so some might wonder why Berzerker but not Battlezone, Galaxian but not Space Invaders, Out Run but not Pole Position, Gauntlet but not Joust? Personally I'd also like to have tried early classics like Sea Wolf and Stunt Cycle, again, as well as the first laser disc game, Dragon's Lair. But in their place were games no doubt some people were glad to see that I'd never hear of before (Sinistar? Crystal Castles?).

There were no pinball games, alas, but there were pool and a varied jukebox. Being the old hags we are, when someone took it over with metalcore and the place got crowded, we headed out.

All in all, it was more fun than I've had in a while. Often after a couple drinks following a long day, I become paranoid and melancholy. Somehow, however, being around games I had played as a kid circumvented that by bringing back the excitement I felt then - and this time with no spending limits or heshers waiting outside to jump me! The combination was... oddly romantic.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

R.I.P. Nannie

Mrs. Nator's wonderful grandmother passed away early Saturday morning. We got the call that she was going fast Friday morning, and I was able to leave the zoo early so we could catch a flight down that night. She was unresponsive by the time we got there, but fortunately in hospice care in my mother-in-law's home, a much friedlier and more comfortable place to pass on than some facility. When we told her we were there, her eyes didn't open, but her eyebrows raised and she wriggled her toes. We think she understood, because she crossed over just a few hours later.

She was a wonderful woman, a pillar of the community, as they used to say. She was an old-fashioned Christian, meaning she believed God's directive was to love everyone unconditionally and not judge them, rather than the modern day bastardization. All though she was in her late 80s when I met her, she accepted me, her beloved granchild's godless lesbian partner, warmly and graciously into the family. Often when I visited, she and I were the only ones awake, and I would ask her about her past and opinions. She'd share her stories with a twinkle and a giggle, and always tell me I was sweet. She and her husband, Poppie, raised Mrs. Nator right when there was trouble in Mrs. Nator's mother's life, and later they treated me and Mrs, Nator's fiancée like grand their own grandchildren. She not only went out of her way to introduce me as her "other granddaughter," but she showed me love like I had never even had from my own grandparents.

Despite life-long health problems, Nannie outlived Poppie by around five years. She missed him terribly. I don't know if it was wishful thinking, but around the time she died, I kept feeling his presence. It was as though I could feel him nearby, with his teasing smile on, only younger than when I had known him.

We are all glad she is out of pain, and hope she is reunited with him. It's the end of an era. The community has lost a woman of class and tireless generosity who helped found and grow it. This family has lost a woman who brought us all together with love and helped us be better people.

Thank you, Nannie. I hope we all do honour to your memory.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Excerpts from a Zoo Intern's Journal, Pt. I

Names and details fudged to protect the innocent and influential.

Day one. Although we corresponded beforehand about my sizes, the supervisor didn’t have time to look for a uniform for me, so we spend the first 15-20 minutes searching. What are the odds they have other fat zookeepers? Aren't they usually outdoorsy, willowy people with ponytails? Surprise! None in my size. Fortunately, I brought scrubs.

A call comes over the radio that one of the ferrets has crashed and needs to be taken to the clinic stat. A senior zookeeper rushes out with the limp critter in a carrying case and we all run over to the clinic. (I learn here that my boots are going to be too stiff.) Heloise has collapsed before, but not this badly. She was flat out in the middle of her cage, which is a sorry sight when you know that ferrets are usually hidden in their bedding or zipping around like they are on fast forward.

W., the vet tech, administers dextrose and fluids both SQ and PO for hypoglycemic shock. Heloise slowly revives, but is still blinking and stumbling a bit when Karen OKs her to go back to her cage. Pitiful! One of the veterinarians is coming in today, so they will run bloods and consult on her problem.


Later, W. walks me through the clinic. She shows me how to run the radiograph processing machine, which is pretty straightforward. The smell of the chemicals brings me back to my darkroom and retouching years in high school and college. Next thing you know I'll be putting on a black beret. W. says their budget isn’t huge, and they just got the machine about a year ago. All rads were hand-developed before that. It’s quite a difference from the digital set-up at my job. Fancy emergency hospital group, meet small, non-profit zoo.

All animals are kept in quarantine 30 days, more if they end up housed with later arrivals. In quarantine right now are a green-winged king parrot, 2 monkey frogs and, in the back room, 2 mata mata turtles and a nervous fruit dove. There’s also a tragopan –a type of pheasant- elsewhere in the clinic that was scalped by another bird. I can’t get into her area, nor am I allowed in with the macaques, for liability reasons. I’m a little sorry about the macaques, but not at all about being banned from being near the Hamadryas baboons. Those guys are one of the few animals I am actively frightened by. They're all aggression, muscle and teeth.


Karen shows me basic husbandry – hosing down enclosures, feeding, etc. I have to be extra careful to watch the drains if I have the covers up, so animals don’t go down them. The parrot, “Holly” according to W., is an escape artist, too. I am do a head count on everyone – especially the tiny, jumpy mantella frogs – and to note feedings on and the animals' health on cards. The mantellas are poison dart frogs I've never seen before, ebony black with outlines in yellow, green and orange. "It's okay, I've been to your cloud forest and respect you," I silently tell them. Hop, hop, suspiciously hop, the mantellas say.

The mata matas get around 10-12 minnows every couple days and have an optimal water temperature of 80-85 °F - similar to my red-eared slider turtles. The mata matas are so COOL! They look like lumps of leaves with triangular heads. The shells are covered in pointed peaks, and their skin is covered in irregular nodules and flaps, to make them look all the more like plant litter at the bottom of a creek. Their tiny snouts just poke up out of the water. Just when you think they're ugly, you look closely enough at their alien faces, and their mouths turn up like a happy-face smile...