Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 Goals and Lots of Lists

Seeing that it is almost New Years, I would like to share with you my goals for Seas of Science in 2011.  My main goal this year is to put on a stage production by October or November. The show will be comprised of 2, ~20 minute episodes (of which one is already written about photosynthesis), an intermission, and a live band set. That, OR 1 ~20 minute episode, 1 live science experiment, an intermission and a live band set. I figure that will be about an hour+.  I want the show to be on Saturdays and Sundays during the daytime so parents can bring their kids.

The quarterly breakdown goes like this:
  • 1st Quarter (Jan1-March31): design and hand off puppets to be constructed
  • 2nd Quarter (April1-June30): Finish second episode – Rocks and Volcanoes 
  • 3rd Quarter (July1-Sept30):
    • Get actors
    • Get Puppeteers
    • Build sets
    • Make Barry’s costume
  • 4th Quarter (Oct1-Dec31): PUT ON SHOW
Here’s some lists of stuff to build/find/sew/create:

PUPPETS
  • Sergio
  • 4 – 8 small Backup Marine Band - marine life (fish, clams, octopus, etc.
  • 4 – 6 small simple flower puppets (for a scene in the photosynthesis episode)
  • One big monster butterfly puppet
  • Rock tribe for 2nd episode (maybe make as a BUNCH 30+ cardboard cutouts on sticks)

COSTUMES 
  • Barry. I was thinking about me playing Barry because the robot costume is going to be a such a bummer to navigate. There will be limited visibility and transparencies that will have to be changed out from inside the costume. It'll get hot and claustrophobic. I would feel bad making someone else do this so I might wind up doing it myself.
  • Barnacle News Hour paper mache heads
  • The Crew. I was thinking of taping my good friend Rachel Piplica, owner of IRON DOLL CLOTHING, for this task. Rachel has a really creative mind for clothing design and has made some pretty awesome derby uniforms. I would love to see what she thinks about making something that's a spin off of these guys, Los Shapis, one of my favorite Cumbia bands. Check out those outfits, they’re so good:



Right?

ACTORS
  • Marisol
  • Lily
  • Sophia
  • Rodger
  • Captain

SETS
  • Galley inside the ship
  • Forest backdrop, can be very simple like painted panels/butcher paper w/ fake plants around

PUPPETEERS
  • I feel I will only need one really good puppeteer to deal with Sergio. Everything else can be manned by people that want to participate since they'll be simple hand puppetts. All of you are invited!

I'll continue updating this blog regularly because it keeps me motivated to spend time on this project. To scan in drawings, share with you how the script writing is going or what I’m stuck on, and continue to share Inspirado as I find it. I’m super excited about the upcoming year. I think 2011 will be a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun. And thank you all for the positive feed back you've already given SOS! Much appreciated.

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Introducing: Lily

Lily is the most rambunctious member of the science Crew and is prone to pranks and boisterous behavior.  Her area of expertise is oceanography.  Specifically, deep water observation.  Lily singlehandedly captured photographs of 213 previously unknown deep water fishes, including the manta beans of the Red Sea, the monkey eel of the Galapagos and the deep water mouth-breathing gaper cod off the coast of Saigon (*).  As a post doctorate at the Alfred Wegner Insittue for Polar and Marine Research (**), Lily was set to propose her new work for time-lapse photography in the Mariana Trench that could potentially capture more deep sea fauna on film than ever before.  Her proposal, however, was rejected.  Distraught over her lack of funding, Lily decided to leave academia for a life aboard the HMS Unknown. But not before she pulled one final prank on the funding committee by filling all their desk drawers with very live (and very annoyed) purple pincher crabs.

Lily's area of expertise encompases all aspects of oceanography - wave dynamics, ocean circulation, and ocean chemistry to name a few.  She lends a rowdy enthusiasm to each expedition the HMS Unknown undertakes.  As mischevious as she is intelligent, Lily fits right in amongst the cast and Crew of Seas of Science.

Likes: pulling one over on smug bourgeois, any sports game where she can yell, playing cards with Sergio, and the monstrous creatures of the deep sea
Dislikes: dissapointment


(*) these are made-up sea creatures
(**) this is not a made-up institute

Monday, December 20, 2010

Science Lesson #6: Electromagnetic Waves

In this lesson, students learn all about the various behavior and properties of electromagnetic waves.

Electromagnetic waves include waves of light and the colors that we see along with gamma ray, x-rays, ultra violet and infrared radiation, and microwaves. All these waves are made up of quanta, which is the scientific term for packets of energy. Photon is also an important vocabulary word for this episode. A photon is the unit of light or electromagnetic radiation. It's also the name of my friend Ben's old band!

The science discussion throughout this episode can include the following ideas:

- what is a photon? why are they important to know about
- the relationship between photons, color, wavelength, and energy
- types of electromagnetic radiation (see above)
- why we see colors the way we do
- quanta = packets of energy
- how we can relate color to energy in far away objects like stars

I was thinking that for the character part of this episode, the Crew aboard the ship are going on vacation to California. Venice beach, exactly. They're all excited about going on vacation and this can have a lot of gags with goofy swim suits and beach stuff. Sergio finds a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses (that fit his heart-shaped eyes perfectly) that let him see things all weird and psychedelic when he looks through them. This can lead into a conversation about why we see colors the way we do and so on and so forth into the science lesson on E&M waves. Sergio loves the glasses but everyone else that tries them on can't tell any difference. I keep thinking of that John Carpenter movie They Live but without super scary alien/skeleton/mind control angle.  Maybe it would be really funny if the episode DOES turn into a They Live spoof, with silly puppets and shennanigans going on behind Sergio's glasses. The weirdness in the world of Sergios glasses crescendos throughout the episode so that by the end he wants nothing to do with the glasses anymore. Ha, yes. I like this idea.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Inspirado: Echo Park Film Center


Last night I went to an event put on by the Echo Park Film Center at the Downtown Independent Theater. It was called The Sound We See. The film was a 24 minute look at Los Angeles, with each minute of the film representing an hour of the day. It was so wonderful! The best part was it was created by the youth students who take classes at the center. The group of young filmmakers (37 in total) were partnered up and assigned sections of the city to go out and film with 16mm cameras.  The film did such a great job encompassing the vibes of the different parts of LA – from the industrial parts of Vernon, to late night Chinatown, to sunny MacAurther Park, to evening rush hour on the 10, to night roller skating in Glendale. The film itself had no sound, but there was a live band playing in the theater as the film was shown, making music that went along with the visuals. There was a Q&A with all 37 filmmakers at the end of the screening which was just delightful. The young filmmakers were so genuine with their answers. Some you could tell were nervous, others were overly boisterous, and there were more than a few “AWWW CUTE” moments as they answered questions from the audience.  I really didn’t know what I was walking into when I agreed to join my friends for the screening. I’m so glad I went. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Echo Park Film Center. It’s been brought up in more than a few conversations as a place I should look into for help with Seas Of Science. I love that it is run by people who are stoked on what they do and more stoked about sharing their passion with other people. I met Paulo and Lisa last night briefly, but they were more than busy sorting out their show. But in the brief moments I was introduced they were so nice!

I’m going to a puppet show put on by the center next Sunday. I’m excited to see it (I missed it last year) and maybe I’ll get the chance to meet and talk to of some of the people behind the show and the center. It is places like the Echo Park Film Center that make me think putting on a show like Seas of Science isn't shear insanity. That it's totally do-able with enough patience, tenacity, and the right resources behind it.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

WE HAVE LOGOS!

Exciting news! The lovely and talented Ms. Jenny Comperda has designed several ADORABLE logos for SOS. Check 'em out!



So cute! I'm having a hard time deciding which one I like the best...we may just have to use them all. I especially like the idea we tossed around of animating each logo, like having the wind blowing the letters in the middle one, or the tentacles reaching up and grabbing the logo in the top one. The whale spout is I think my fav. I could just imagine it animated with the spout lifting up the letters and the little atom symbol whirling around.

Big thanks to Jenny Comperda! J2, you are totally hired as my head graphic designer!

Introducing: Barnacle News Network

This is one I like a lot. From time to time, the characters on board the HMS Unknown find themselves watching news reports that may lead into the episode's science lesson. The news program is called Barnacle News Network (BNN). The news anchors are played by actors wearing paper mache Barnacle puppet heads. The program is in the style of a typical local news show. Maybe throw in a pretty lady Barnacle who does the weather or a Barnacle sports report. I think having this segment available as a vehicle for segways or a cut away would be really helpful. If ever there's a time the discussion lags, we can always throw in a Barnacle News report!

Originally, I wanted to call this the Barnacle Brothers News Hour as a shout out to the Barnacle Bros. fabrication studio here in Los Angeles. I think it would be funny if all the Barnacle anchors are related, then the banter can be like, "Back to you, brother barnacle." and "Thank you, brother barnacle. On to tonight's top story..." or other stuff like that. The shop itself is run by a cool dude who goes by the name of Smilee Barnacle. They make some really fun stuff, check 'em out!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Inspirado: The Mighty Boosh

The Mighty Boosh has pretty much been one of my favorite things since ever since it was introduced to me last year. It's a show that's difficult to explain to people who have not seen it. Some people hate it or absolutely do not get it. I think it's brilliant. The comedy aside, I love the way this show looks. The vibrant colors and lighting, costumes and background. The show has a style all of it's own.

Something that struck me about this show is that it's not just silly for the sake of nonsense. Silly, yes, but there are rules to which the characters abide even though the world they live in is fantasy. Maybe the only boundaries are defined by the behavior of the character himself (i.e: how will So-And-So react to this?). This is a notion I think about a lot with Seas Of Science and why it is important to me to flush out the world before moving forward. The characters have to be complete, with likes and dislikes that define how they will react in all sorts of situations.

One of my favorite gags in the show is at 1:03 in this clip:



That KILLS me every time! What gets me is that for a gag that takes 2 seconds, a costume designer had to design that costume, cut fabric and sew the thing together, THEN that actor had to sit in a makeup chair for at least maybe an hour (?) to get that Naan bread costume put on him. Painstaking and totally worth it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Science Lesson #5: Density

The density lab was one of my favorite labs to teach when I was a TA. The lab exercises were simple: One bowl of water with different sized blocks all made out of the same type of wood. With all the blocks floating in the water, students were asked to examine the % above water and % below water. They found out it was the same percentage regardless of the size of the block, therefore all the blocks have the same density. Simple and effective!

Density might seems like a dry subject for a kid's show, but it's such an integral concept in science. It's hard to move on to larger topics without first laying the foundation. Here are some ideas of what to touch on in this episode.

- Density formula: density = mass per unit volume
- What is mass? Emphasize that it is different than weight
- What is volume? Describe simply
- Density explains why things sink or float in water
- How density changes when materials change phase (solid, liquid, gas)
- Archimedes story about the bath water rising - water displacement is associated with density
- Talk about the unique property of water: that the solid is less dense than the liquid, is why ice floats
- Comparing density of other substances: rocks, metals, gases (some sink b/c heavier than air)

I want this episode to introduce the geography of the imaginary world of the HMS Unknown. The episode starts out with the Crew watching a news report that the residents of a peninsula attached to the continent of New Kittyland (go with me on this) are concerned about recent earthquakes. They think that since their peninsula is attached to the continent by a small strip of land that it could break free in a large earthquake and sink into the sea. The residents of New Kittyland are woefully uninformed about how density works, therefore the crew of the HMS Unknown must travel to this distant land to calm their fears. The Captain and Crew teach Marisol about density on the way there.

I'm thinking this episode also needs some interpersonal drama. I hesitate to put a lot of romance stuff in because it is still a kid's show, but even the Muppets had some romance! We find out that Rodger is sweet on Sophia who totally does not reciprocate his affection. In fact, all this amorous gestures tend to confuse Sophia more than titillate her. I like that idea. It could make for some very silly gags.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Science Lesson #4: Planets

Something we find out about Marisol in this episode is that her dream is to become a famous rock n' roll drummer. Although in the real world of Cleveland she is only a pre-teen, she's the drummer in a band with her friends called Prussian Blue. The planets episode begins with Marisol bumming out about her band being rejected from her school's Battle of the Bands. She makes her way aboard the HMS Unknown where the subject of rejection...COLOSSAL rejection...is brought up with the Crew. The conversation turns to the recent rejection of Pluto as a planetary body and continues on to explore topics about our solar system.

Points of the lesson include:
- Planets held together by the gravitational force of the Sun
- types of planets: rocky vs. gaseous
- how many Earths would fill the volume of Jupiter
- temperature differences on the planets
- how the abundance of liquid water found on our planet is unique to the solar system
- Moons! How moons stick with their respective planets
- Rings of Saturn
- Quick mention of telescopes. How to build a rudimentary telescope?
- How far away we are from other planets and the Sun
     - How long it would take to travel to each planet
- Asteroid belts
- Kuiper belt which Pluto belongs to

Those are the ideas for the Planets episode. Marisol is comforted by the Crew who point out to her that being rejected from a Battle of the Bands isn't nearly as bad as a planet being rejected from a Solar System. She agrees. In the end, we come to find out that Prussian Blue is actually a really horribly unlistenable band who make noisy, disorganized punk music not fit for human consumption. The Crew are all very polite upon this discovery.

(image: www.solarsystem.nasa.gov)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Introducing: Sophia

Sophia is the resident biologist on the HMS Unknown. She was picked up while drifting on an Antarctic ice flow during her search for the Diamond Diatom, a species of phytoplankton rumored to make it's frustules out of diamond instead of silicon. The Diamond Diatom is more myth than reality, but Sophia was hoping to find a specimen of the tiny sea life when an entire chunk of the glacier she was camping on broke away and floated out to sea. The captain and crew of the HMS Unknown were sailing the southern ocean in hopes of joining a game of penguin soccer and spotted the scientist drifting aimlessly. Sophia was invited on board.

Sophia brings a wealth of knowledge to the HMS Unknown in all aspects of biology. She is Marisol's go-to for any question on plants or animals and all living organisms in between. While most of the time she is cool headed, Sophia does tend to have a feisty streak. Spirited and gregarious, Sophia is a charming addition to the crew of the HMS Unknown.


Likes: the living world, microscopy, handsome paleontologists
Dislikes: losing an argument

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Inspirado: Jacques Cousteau

“Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives have been changed, to discard the old, embrace the new, and run headlong down an immutable course.”



If you know me, you know my obsession with all things nautical. Fitting with this theme is my admiration of Jacques Cousteau. It wasn't until very recently that I picked up his book The Silent World at the downtown library. Published in the 1950's, The Silent World  recounts Cousteau’s adventures when he and his crew were testing the first “aqua-lungs" (underwater breathing apparatus predating SCUBA technology). 

I started reading it and I can’t put it down. It's filled with these wonderful adventures, real adventures, real exploration and really, really almost stupidly dangerous experiments that could NEVER be done today. My favorite section is in Chapter 4 where Cousteau and his diving partner Frederic Dumas take it upon themselves to test the bodily resistance of underwater explosions. So here are grown men, 60 years in the past and under 100+ feet of water, setting off grenades and just hanging around for the subsequent explosion. All for the sake of just finding out what happens. Sounds completely insane when you think about it. I can get behind that.

More than the subject matter, I'm very fond of the tone of the book. It reads like part report summary and part diary and in (I find) a very humble voice. Cousteau never belabors the point. He's telling you what happened during his dives but not in a way that's overly clinical. Not in a way that you forget people are involved. It struck me while reading this book that by 1953 when it was published, Cousteau had been diving for almost 20 years. Twenty years is a long time to do one thing. I haven't even done the same thing for 5 years yet. But diving is what he loved and when you find something you love...that's just what you do.  

The quote above is from the first chapter in the book where Cousteau describes how it was when he first looked through goggles underwater. I like this quote because it really hit home for me. So for that, and for all the wonderful adventures and beauty of the ocean that he brought back for us to enjoy, Jacques Cousteau truly is Inspirado.

Monday, November 15, 2010

When I can't write, I can draw

I'm a big doodler. I doodled my way through college, filling my math notebooks with drawings and patterns and some stuff I don't even know what it is. Sergio came from a doodle in a notebook. I'll at least try to draw something even if I find I am having a hard time writing. Maybe the doodles turn into characters, maybe they don't. Most of the time they are fairly amusing. Here are some from tonight:

Barry has a chest piece that shows images since he doesn't speak an actual language. He just beeps and boops and visuals come up on his screen to relay what he's saying. Fitting with the steam punk-ness of the design, his chest plate is old tyme. I realized I spelled chest piece wrong. Sadly, being a scientist does not make someone a good speller.
I have no idea what this is.


Possible villain? We don't have one of those yet in the show...

I like this one. As part of the ship, I want to have a house band with some marine life puppets as the musicians. Reminds me of Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Science Lesson #3: Gravity

Short list of topics to be included in the lesson on gravity:

- Explain how gravity is a force
- Newton's law: F = mg
- How things fall i.e: slowly at first, building up speed with gravitational acceleration
- History behind gravitational theory (Galileo and Newton)
- Gravity holds bodies in the Solar System together
- The Moon stays in orbit around the Earth because of gravity
- Bigger objects (planets, stars) have greater gravitational pull
- Weight on the Moon is different because the Moon is so much smaller than Earth

This episode starts with The Captain receiving a package in the mail.  The Crew (with visiting Marisol and Barry) spend some time guessing what is in the package. The Captain finally opens it and it's an anti-gravity laser gun - whatever you shoot it at loses gravitational pull. This lends to lots of items in the ship being fired at and floating up and away - most notably, Rodger and Sergio.  Can put in some funny gags like they are tethered to furniture or weigh down their feet to keep them anchored. Lessons on gravity are interspersed through the episode while the cast tries to bring Rodger and Sergio back into check with gravity. The Crew learns that you have to order another product to undo the effects of the anti-gravitational laser. Rodger and Sergio end up floating for a weeks time before the re-gravitizing potion arrives. 

Here's a song by one of my favorite bands Super Furry Animals that was playing in my head while I was thinking about gravity. It doesn't have much to do with science, but is a nice song anyways.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Introducing: Marisol


Our main character, Marisol, lives with her mother in Cleveland, Ohio.  Her parents are divorced and her mother is a busy engineering professor at the local university who is rarely around.  Barry was built to serve as sort of a nanny to young Marisol before her mother lost the time and interest to perfect Barry’s robotics.  Despite being left to her own devices most of the time, Marisol is rarely sullen. She’s a bright girl, full of enthusiasm, and a true believer in the idea that everyone has something good about them if you look hard enough.

Marisol’s grandfather was a renowned ocean explorer who was lost at sea when she was 4 years old. Hanging on the wall in her attic is a lifesaver that her grandfather found in his travels. The lifesaver serves as a porthole through which, along with her famous sailing heritage, Marisol is granted access aboard the HMS Unknown. 

Her dream in life is to become a famous drummer. She’s in a band in the real world with a few of her friends and they play new-wave/electro-clash. In addition to being charming and adventurous, Marsisol is also very hip.

I’d like the part of Marisol played by 2 actresses – as a child between 10-12 years old in the real world of Cleveland, and as an adult in the world of the HMS Unknown.  I think this could work nicely.  This way the science lessons can be introduced by Marisol’s school work or a project that’s due or something an elementary/junior high school kid would have to deal with.

As an aside, the character Marisol is partially inspired by my friend, Marisol Medina. To find out more about Marisol the Person, please feel free to visit her WEBSITE.  You can see me in her video short "Beards and Plaid" as one of the moustachiod hipsters. I'm the one that says, "Heeeey Buddy!"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Inspirado: Thee Cormans


Thee Cormans are some pretty righteous dudes. They're friends of mine who play rowdy surf music while wearing homemade monster masks. They're a fun band to see live. I've taken a few people to see Thee Cormans and the majority of them walk away smiling and laughing. The ones who don't are clearly squares.

Three of the members are brothers and I think it's pretty rad to get to be in a band with your family. My buddy Mr. Tiny designed and made the swamp monster mask that the guitar player wears. He also made these little russian dolls all by hand!



Swamp monster, Ape, Biker Frankenstein, and Tadpole. Mr. Tiny is a diamond and when the time comes to start making stuff for S.O.S, I definitely want his wonderful sense of design to be involved.

I love the asthetic of Thee Cormans - horror show surf rock that's tough but also silly and accessible. I think a kid watching them might be inspired to make his or her own goofy costume and rock out. I'm keeping in mind a place for Thee Cormans to exist in the world of S.O.S, be it a reoccuring guest spot or house band. It's my friends like Thee Cormans who inspire me to make this show so more people get to check out their tunes and enjoy what they do.

Find out more about Thee Cormans on their BLOG or friend them on FACEBOOK.

Here's a clip from one of their shows:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Science Lesson #2: Food Chain

Ideas for the Food Chain episode:

1. Trophic Levels (emphasis on vocabulary)
·         Primary Producers – photosynthetic plants
·         Primary Consumers – eat only plants (herbivores)
·         Secondary Consumers – eat Primary Consumers (carnivores and omnivores)
·         Tertiary and Quaternary Consumers – eat Secondary and Tertiary Consumers
·         Top Predator – EATS THE WORLD!
·         Decomposers and scavengers eat and break down what is dead

2. Ecosystems that don’t rely on the sun
·         Hydrothermal vents
·         New research on microbes that “eat” rocks on the sea floor (very neat)

3. Energy is lost at each trophic level

4. Spotlight on Primary Producers
·         Different types of plant ecosystems
o   Grasslands
o   Phytoplankton
o   Forests

5. Spotlight on Decomposers
·         It might be unpleasant for kids to think about what happens when something dies, but focus on the importance of the decomposers’ job to return energy back to the food web

5. How humans fit in
·         Top Predators
·         Eating a variety of different things is good
·         One meal can be eating on multiple trophic levels (salad + fish + ?)
·         Can interview an ecologist to talk about the balance of Food Chains
·         Touch on the different kinds of diets people have all over the world


It seems to me that this episode calls for a guest star. It would be great to have real scientists visit the show and give short lessons or interviews relating to the science theme. I can think of a few pretty awesome scientists I worked with in college who would be perfect for this. This way kids get to put a face on the business of science, letting them know that all scientists aren’t just anonymous nerds in starchy lab coats.

The character conflict for this episode could be that Sergio ruins his favorite cookbook and starts getting everybody’s meals wrong. Feeding them things that don’t make sense like inedible objects (lamps, pencils, shoes). The Crew and Marisol have to explain to him why they eat what they eat. The lesson on the food chain starts from there. Marisol finds out that Lily the Oceanographer is a vegetarian which leads into a discussion about that. In the end, the ship finds another copy of Sergio’s cookbook and all goes back to normal.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Ship, Itself

Disclaimer: This post is going to jump into the deep end of nerdom.

The HMS Unknown is home to everyone on the show except for Barry and Marisol.  Built in the grand tradition of wooden sailing vessels, the HMS Unknown looks to be a relic but is actually quite futuristic.  The ship exists between time and space which allows passengers aboard it to travel to distant planets as well as back and forward through time.  It is allowed to do this because it's equipped with twin Paradox Thrusters (see Disclaimer above).  I wanted more than to just call it a magical traveling boat for the sake of the emphasis on science in this show.  For a young audience, I feel this is a good and whimsical explanation as to why our cast and crew are allowed to travel to all these fanciful places.

The interior of the ship has a Jules Vern-ean / steampunk asthetic.  Everything is more grand than it needs to be.  Lots of brass knobs and embellishments, darkly stained wood paneling, and bellows that breathe in and out for various pieces of machinery.  This is what I imagine the ship's navigational computer to look like:


Much of the show takes place in the ship's galley where the science crew hangs out and Sergio cooks.  The galley is furnished with simple tables and benches, decorated with maps and posters of things like the periodic table of elements.  The ship also has a laboratory where the crew and Barry run experiments. 

On a final stylistic note, the photo above is of a tattoo that my friend Andy Moore did on the back of my arm.  I think of this picture when I visualize the HMS Unknown- swirling clouds, dreamy and drifting. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Inspirado: Pee Wee's Playhouse

Oh, Pee Wee. I was a child of the 80’s and as such I LOVED Pee Wee’s Playhouse. I remember a few specific things about it, #1: how much it annoyed my parents and #2: that I had honest to God nightmares for many, many years over the big headed salesman. The one who would knock on the door and talk really fast and everybody in the playhouse would scream. That puppet tormented my childhood imagination for years!  

I sat down and watched a bunch of Pee Wee’s Playhouse when I started forming ideas for Seas Of Science. I realized watching it that it was (and is) a really sound children’s television show. There are life lessons like sharing, being nice to people, standing up to bullies, and the episode I love where the playhouse gang makes friends with that scary one eyed monster.  I was cracking up over the snack time segments (parfait!) and of course the word of the day.

Something else that caught my attention was that although it's Pee Wee's Playhouse, it isn’t necessarily about Pee Wee all the time. It’s about his friends too. I think in some subtle way that instilled in me the importance of inviting your friends to participate in all the fun you're having.

Visually, Pee Wee’s Playhouse is delightful. My favorite segments are the clay animation toys and the puppet band. The attention to detail in the set and puppet design are especially impressive. Friends of mine who went to art school know much more about the history and the artists behind the show, I’m not very knowledgeable in that arena. But I will say that the feel of the show, the charm, and the look of Pee Wee’s Playhouse are all inspiring to me. I’m definitely keeping in mind all those aspects while shaping SOS.

And because it is so great, here's a clip of the show's theme song. Sorry, Mom and Dad.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Introducing: Rodger

There are three Crew members aboard the HMS Unknown: Rodger the Physicist, Lily the Oceanographer, and Sophia the Biologist. Originally I wrote parts for 5, but pared it down for the sake of one day trying to find actors to play all these parts. More can be added later on if so desired. Let's start by introducing Rodger, our resident Physics expert.

Rodger's area of study before he came aboard the HMS Unknown was Quantum Turbulence. He was the youngest researcher ever to mathematically describe the behavior of fluids at wicked fast speeds. After time however, he realized that his work was about more than fluid motion. His work was uncovering scientific concepts that could explain the very turbulence of every piece of matter that existed. That he could, in essence, explain the motion of anything, at any time, at any place in the known universe.

The presentation of his work to his thesis committee was so mind blowing, so enlightening in it's definition of the subatomic motion of the universe, that his thesis committee members froze in shock. Rodger feared he would be held responsible for paralyzing several of the highest minds in the field of Quantum Turbulence. With their bodies suspended in rapt attention, Rodger fled to the nearest Ports Of Call, where the HMS Unknown was docked to visit the local Lobster Fest. The Captain invited Rodger aboard to lend a hand at navigation since the ability to explain the motion of anything, anywhere, at any time, comes in handy when sailing the uncharted Seas of Science. Overall, Rodger makes a delightful addition to the ship. His affable nature and quirky sense of humor make him one of the nicest physicists you could ever find yourself in the company of.


Likes: triple integrals, graph paper, coffee breaks, any album by David Byrne, staring off into space
Dislikes: combing his hair, and when the TA in the classroom before you leaves only itty-bitty chalk nubs

Monday, October 18, 2010

Inspirado: Big Nazo



Big Nazo is weird.

Big Nazo is one of those things where, at first, you're not quite sure what you're looking at. A friend of mine suggested I do some research about them and I just fell in love with everything they are about. They're a performance art group out of Providence, Rhode Island that make these amazing, monstrous costumes and run amok at festivals, parades, pretty much anywhere they want. People laugh, freak out, hug them, run away screaming...whatever the reaction, Big Nazo gets a reaction.

And those costumes?!? Dios Mio, they're horrifying! They're so much like what I remember about the nightmarish creatures of my imagination when I was a kid. Not that I'm looking to make SOS aesthetically terrifying to children, but I remember seeing things like Big Nazo as a kid and being drawn in solely by the look of them. I'd be even more delighted if the creature made me laugh. There's something so great about a big, burly monster who's really just a total goofball.

The artists behind Big Nazo make all the costumes and puppets by hand in their shop in Rhode Island. I'll admit I'm bummed I live on the other side of the country or else I'd march right over and pick their brains about characters for Seas Of Science

You can find out more about Big Nazo on their website. and blog.  I challenge you to take some time perusing their photo galleries and not be impressed with the crazy creatures they build. Here are a few more photos:

I love the one with the kid in the sandals being eaten.



Truly, Big Nazo is Inspirado. They go out and do their thing, and don't give a shit if people like it or hate it. In the end, they have a good time and that's all that matters.



All images are from the Big Nazo website.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Science Lesson #1: Rocks and Minerals

Lest we forget, at the heart of Seas Of Science is the science. I’ve been happily dancing around so far on this blog by introducing characters and inspirado. However, what we really need to do is get some science involved. My plan is to sit down once a week and work through the nuts and bolts of one science theme for an episode of the show. 

The intention of these posts is not to present a full blown science lesson, but rather to organize and outline what points I want to make during each episode. These posts are probably going to be messy, so bear with me in the meantime while I attempt to streamline some of these ideas.  

I’ve written one episode about photosynthesis. I’m going to start with ideas for the next episode, Rocks and Minerals, for the sake of not spinning my own wheels. Here’s a list of potential scientific topics to include…

1.) Minerals 
o   Rocks are made of minerals
o   Minerals are all the same “stuff” (have one of the science Crew give a ridged definition, take time to explain what exactly all the jargon means)
o   Minerals have a crystalline structure

·         2.) Familiar Minerals
o   Salt (HCl)
o   Hematite (magnetic)
o   Gypsum (? Do kids know what drywall is? Probably no)
o   Diamonds

·         3.) ROCKS!
o   Rocks are made of Minerals

·         4.) The Different Kinds of Rocks
-          Igneous (made from cooling magma or lava)
-          Sedimentary (made from cementing bits of other rocks together)
-          Metamorphic (a rock that once was one type of rock and turned into a different type of rock by being squeezed under pressure and or heated to extreme temperatures inside the earth)

·         5.) Continents we live on are made up of rocks
o   The study of rocks is geology
o   Granite (continents) vs. Basalt (ocean floor) – maybe show sweet video of underwater volcanoes??

·        6.)  Rock density
o   How rock density can affect the world!
o   Mountain building (Himalayas)
o   Subduction (Volcanoes)
Wow, that’s a lot already. I realize that’s way too many topics to address in one episode, but better to have a lot to start with then not enough, right? 

I’m thinking that for this episode, the character conflict can come from Barry being kidnapped by a tribe of rock creatures. The episode starts with Barry experiencing trouble with his circuits. The Captain steers the HMS Unknown to a planet with a robot repair shop. While Marisol, Sergio, and the Crew are off exploring, Barry gets spirited away. The rest of the characters spend the episode following clues to Barry’s whereabouts until finding him in the village of the rock creatures. The villagers have taken to worshipping Barry as a god because of his metallic body. Barry is delighted with this hospitality and newfound fame. Only after much coercing does he give up his new deity-hood and return to the ship.

Phew! These Science Lesson posts are going to be meaty!