Last Sunday, at the San Francisco International Film Festival, I saw the world premiere of a fascinating and disturbing documentary, We Believe in Dinosaurs, about the building of the Ark Encounter, a $102 million pseudoscientific tourist attraction in Williamstown, Kentucky. (You can read about the Encounter’s 2016 opening and about Ken Ham, the “creationist” zealot behind the endeavor, here.)
The film doesn’t yet have a distributor, so I can’t tell you where it will play next. What I can tell you is the story of 137 Films, the production company that made We Believe in Dinosaurs. It’s one of the best how-they-got-that-name stories I’ve read, and certainly one of the best numeral-as-name stories.
NASA has renamed a facility in West Virginia after Katherine Johnson, the mathematician whose story was told in the book and and subsequent film Hidden Figures. Johnson, who was born in West Virginia, will turn 101 in August.
You can help name some newly discovered moons of Jupiter, but only you follow some restrictive rules. The name “must be 16 characters or fewer, preferably one word. It can’t be offensive, too commercial, or closely tied to any political, military or religious activities of the past 100 years.” And that’s just the beginning. (Hat tip: Chris Labarthe.)
Lately the news on this planet has been just too depressing. So let’s slip these surly* bonds and see what’s happening on Mars.
Here’s Dr. Tanya Harrison, “professional Martian” and director of Arizona State University’s NewSpace initiative, with a weather report and a question for her Twitter followers: If fog on Earth is called @KarlTheFog, what should we call fog on Mars?
My own vote goes to Wanda’s nomination, “Marsha,” which is derived from Latin “Marcius,” meaning “of Mars” and which evokes damp marshes.** But what interests me even more comes further down in the Twitter thread, where Tanya reveals the source of the photo.
You’re probably heard of babies named after brands: Porsche, Chanel, Armani, and, lest we forget, Tiffany. Now the Baby Name Wizard blog tells us about three baby names from the 1980s and 1990s that were inspired by TV advertising.
San Francisco’s new Transbay Transit Center, a 1.2-million-square-foot hub for four Bay Area counties’ bus systems plus intercity Greyhound buses (and light rail, too, eventually), officially opened on August 11 to huge crowds. I skipped the festivities but heard rave reports from friends who'd gone, and so on August 13 I took an AC Transit bus from Oakland to San Francisco to see it for myself. I was not disappointed. Indeed, I was elated by the light-filled Grand Hall, the clear signage, the well-integrated public art, the pristine restrooms (every fixture is touchless), and the astonishing 5.4-acre rooftop garden, officially called Salesforce Park. (The software company bought the naming rights to the park and transit center in 2017; the adjacent 1,070-foot-tall Salesforce Tower, which opened earlier this year, is the tallest building in San Francisco.)
During the eight years of construction, I’d frequently driven beneath a filigreed white overpass that marked one of the center’s boundaries. While researching the completed center I learned that the filigree’s distinctive pattern has a name: Penrose tiling. And it’s not merely some designer’s fanciful grace note: it’s a mathematical marvel discovered in the 1970s and defended in a famous lawsuit.
Filigreed Penrose tiling outside the new transit center.
Settle in with a nice tofu sandwich and some edamame as I tell you about soy boy and how it became the insult of choice among alt-right troglodytes – the sort of chuckleheads who call Trump “god emperor.”
After a gunman opened fire June 14 on a Republican congressional baseball practice, responses from the public and the media tended to focus less on American gundamentalism than on the mood that fuels it. One word was used over and over to describe that mood: vitriol.
“It didn’t take long for partisan vitriol to erupt,” noted the lede of a story in USA Today. “Vitriol Is Poisoning America,” lamented the writer of a letter to the Chicago Tribune. A columnist for the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal – “no fan of Trump” – wrote that the American left should “admit that their – our – vitriol can be as bad. Or worse” than that of the president’s supporters. Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, took to Twitter to condemn partisan vitriol:
Many members talked about threats to their lives and families. The vitriol must stop.
Last week five Democratic congressmen introduced a bill that would require the Trump administration to release the visitor logs at the White House or wherever else the president holds court – including Mar-a-Lago, the Trump-owned private Florida club that the president likes to call the “Southern White House” and which the club’s website calls “The Legendary Pinnacle of Palm Beach.”
The name of the bill: Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness, or MAR-A-LAGO.