The Wolf Eel

Not really an eel, but in no way related to wolves, these unique fish are a species of wolffish, known for their long canines and large molars.

But of the wolffish, the Wolf Eel is by far the longest, with most measuring around eight feet long. They use their long, grey body to swim around the ocean like snakes, coiling into an S-shape to propel themselves through the water. 

Despite the large teeth and predatory faces, Wolf Eels are incredibly docile and friendly, in some cases approaching divers for affection. But they are born predators, and after hatching they take to the sea and strike at the smaller fish like snakes, using their long canines to catch them.  

As they mature, their molars grow in they become more sedentary bottom feeders and switch to diet of harder to eat crabs and sea urchins. Often they obscure their long bodies in rocks, and wait for a tasty crab or fish to pass by. Once they reach breeding age, they mate for life, and stay in the same rocky “den” until the whole cycle repeats.

Roaming the Pacific Ocean, these fish are also a critical food source for harbor seals, and a staple of the bottom feeder and reef ecosystems there. Most importantly, these fish are not endangered and remain stable in the wild.

The Big Lebowski

Part comedy, part mystery, and mostly WTF?

I really wasn’t really sure what to expect with this movie. But after spending an hour or two with Jeff Bridges as The Dude, I can see the appeal of this movie. 

The plot is honestly a bit irrelevant, as most of the movie is built to lampoon everything from political correctness to the ridiculousness of the modern art atmosphere. 

And although I’m sure there’s an agenda in here some where, when the main character is The Dude, a 30-ish stoner and all around bum, it doesn’t matter. 

The Dude just wants to bowl, smoke marijuana, and have a nice rug, but when Hollywood schemes and the high-strung people associated with them get in his way, he must fight to be left alone and maybe screw them out of some money, after all you can’t smoke roaches forever. 

The satire in the movie comes from The Dude interacting with the absolutely insane people in this area, who are repulsed by his laziness. The Dude’s friends, who are crazy too, are also high-strung, at one point pulling out a gun at a league bowling match. 

In navigating this world of people caring too much about things, the movie puts their megalomania and pathetic efforts into perspective, by introducing a stoner who doesn’t care and just wants to get by, and it’s the perfect contrast. 

The movie is a solid classic that criticizes both culture and counter-culture, opting for not caring at all, and continuing the bowling match.  

New Cat!

Tyche, my new cat!

So, just before Halloween one of my co-workers found this cat hanging around the zoo. Black cats have a hard enough time being adopted anyway, but Halloween can also be a dangerous season for them as well.

My co-worker took the cat home and cared for it, but she’s already got plenty of cats, and hers weren’t getting along with the new cat.

You see, up until a year ago my family had five cats, but three of them were extremely old and passed away due to natural circumstances within the last year. Despite being devout cat lovers we weren’t sure about getting any new animals just yet.

But when this big guy showed up and needed a home I felt like it was time. So, I told my co-worker I’d take the cat, get it checked out and keep it. And so far it’s worked out great.

The picture above is from her vet visit, where she got a clean bill of health and all of her shots. It’d been years since any of our cat had needed anything aside from a regular check-up, and I had forgotten how expensive a full run down can be. It was $180 in total, but I’m glad the cat is all taken care of for now.

When we took her home all of our other cats have given her plenty of space and everyone gets along easily, although my dog, who is partially blind, is a little annoyed about having another tiny feline that he has to make sure he doesn’t step on. 

After a couple days I decided to name the cat Tyche, after the Greek goddess of luck, and she’s an absolute delight. She’s surprisingly social for a presumably street cat, and she loves to be petted.

We also bought her some new toys, because most of our other cats are older and have stopped playing for the most part, but Tyche loves the toys. She’s also the youngest cat I’ve ever had, with the vet thinking she’s around two years old. 

Overall, getting a new cat has been awesome. Even though it can be hard to get over the death of older pets, there’s always another homeless animal who can use your help and love. I’ll be sure to remember that for the future. 

Okay

         I was walking around the OU campus, when I saw a message written in chalk on the sidewalk. Normally at OU these chalk messages are for clubs, but for some reason, a person decided to write “It’s okay to vote for Stitt”. This is, of course, a reference to the most recent governors race between Kevin Stitt and Drew Edmondson. 

My initial reaction was dismay, the university is a public institution, it’s probably not good idea to write political endorsement messages quite literally on the streets. But after giving it a bit of thought I’m okay with the message staying, even after the election.

I was thinking why it was so oddly phrased. Why “It’s okay to vote for Stitt” and not “Vote Stitt”? It’s fewer words, less space, and less time to make the message. Then I thought of times when I say something is okay. The only examples I could think of are when I’ve possibly done something wrong.

For example, I asked “Is this way of quoting okay?” an instructor one day, and I asked “Is this answer okay?” my calculus teacher another time. So, when we have to ask if something is okay, we’re not sure. So this persons only argument and own reasoning is telling them that voting for Stitt may not be a good idea. And when they ask people to vote for Stitt they have to assure others that it will be okay. But why is that?

Is it possibly because Stitt plans on carrying on with the previous governors terrible policies? Because he plans on continuing to inadequately support public education? Because Stitt himself hasn’t voted in the last four elections? Because Stitt’s mortgage company is currently being sued for selling defective mortgages at the height of a mortgage crisis? Because Stitt sends his six kids to private school, a luxury many others cannot afford? Becasue Stitt has questioned the effectiveness of vaccinating children from deadly diseases? 

I don’t know, but what I do know is that the person writing those messages on the sidewalks is having to convince their self each time they write it. So it’s fine by me, write away my friend. But remember, your vote for Stitt isn’t good, it’s just Okay.

The Final Curtain Call

The Oklahoma City Philharmonic. Joel Levine stands on the center podium.

   After 29 seasons, Joel Levine conducted the OKC Philharmonic for the last time on November 3rd, 2018. I’ve had season tickets to every concert for the last 5 years, but Maestro Levine was what made me come back each season.

No matter what else going on in my life, school projects, my own school orchestra, work, or family I always made time for the classics concerts, one Saturday a month for three hours. 

When I started attending the concerts I was intimidated. Here were people talking freely about Chopin, Brahms, Satie, and every composer in between. However, when the lights dimmed, and the maestro came out to the podium, he stood and explained what the music was about, what the person who made it was like, and why any of it mannered.

Maestro Levine had a wealth of experience in the creation of music and it showed in his story telling. The idea of someone going on stage, creating music and explaining why they loved it, was alien to the twelve-year-old me, but I’m so glad I was introduced to the greats of classical music. There is no haughtiness or elitism in enjoying the classics, and I’m grateful I was given an adequate education of the beginnings of music.

So, thank you Maestro Levine, not only have you instilled in me a love for the classics, but have also left the philharmonic in the capable hands of your predecessor. 

Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors,

Davion Juarez

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Image result for no country for old men book
Before the Coen brothers film this thing was a book!

I’ll be honest, I’ve never really liked western styled books that take place in the desert. The dry grimness of it really gets to me.

However, each time I opened my Amazon recommend page, this book eyed me, silently daring me to pick it up. And now here we are.

So, for starters I’ve never seen the movie, though I’ve heard it’s pretty good, perhaps I’ll compare them at some point, but this book defied my expectations.

Starting somewhat slow, the book eventually throws you into the action, when our hero, hunting deer at first, finds a drug deal gone bad. With most of the criminals dead, and one or two at Death’s door, the only salvageable thing is a briefcase with millions of dollars.

Our protagonist remarks on his luck, taking the briefcase. And so begins the game of cat and mouse, between our hero, and the criminal forces that seek to take the money back.

This book shines in two areas.

First, the pacing of the cat and mouse chase between hero and villain is superb, as are the scenes of conflict between the two.

However, this action is cut off by the POV of the sheriff investigating the case, which I felt added little to the story over-all. And by the end of the book, when the chase has ended, the book drags on for another few chapters, which I felt didn’t add anything to the story.  

The second amazing thing in this book is the main villain. Anton Chiguhr is a well-crafted antagonist with complex motives and haunting imagery to go with it. He is masterfully used, keeping just enough about him secret, allowing the reader’s own imagination to wonder about his past, but at the same time giving the reader a clear perception of this hit man’s M.O..

Overall, the book was a great suspenseful chase novel, with a shining antagonist. However, sometimes the book felt like it included unnecessary parts that dragged the pace down.  

The Tanuki

Also known as the Japanese Raccoon Dog, scientists still debate about the species’ origin, and possible relations to other species, much like another Asian canine, the Red Panda.

But this lovable bundle fur is the only canine species known to hibernate. As omnivores, Tanukis scavenge the South Asian landscape, eating voraciously in the summer and storing up body fat for the coming winter.

Due to their widespread presence in Japan, with some even becoming invasive in Europe, the Tanuki is in no danger of extinction anytime soon.

Though their invasive nature in Europe makes it legal to hunt them there, the only other predators have to fear are larger canines such as wolves. The fur and pelt of the Tanuki has also gained some acclaim, replacing other species as a substrate for fur laden clothing.

In folklore, the Japanese Tanuki is a mischievous soul full of mirth, using shape shifting and disguises to fool others in their plotting, but they’re not without their own gullibility and absentmindedness. 

And if you’re looking for a zoo near you to see these tricksters, Zoo Atlanta and Red River Zoo are your best bets, however the Oklahoma City Zoo is setting up a habitat for a Tanuki that is due to be completed soon.

Bad Times at the El Royale

A thrill ride, with neon and noir.

At glance this film looks to like a summer blockbuster, with a star studded cast including Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, and Jeff Bridges to mention a few.

Despite that, it retains a very powerful sense of being a somewhat budget movie, relying more on magnificent visuals and sound, than acting.

That is not to say the acting is in anyway lacking-it is more than proficient- especially as the actors embrace the roles and dynamics of people in a neo-noir era like the 70s. However compared to the acting, the visuals win out every time, this film features some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen.

The rooms that are featured in the movie fit the look and feel of era, and colors pop, except for during intense scenes, when they match the mood perfectly. Speaking of, the tone of the movie, as an uncomfortable thriller, is masterfully done.

The start is a slow burn that introduces us to each character, and lays out personality and motives within a scene or two at most. Much of the story telling is done visually, with definite craft, giving careful viewers even greater insight into the characters they are watching, as they try to determine whats really going on behind the scenes.

Another aspect of the film that I loved, was it’s attention to detail. The film features many different perspectives on events that happen through the eyes of different characters, and in that transition no details are forgotten, every t is crossed, and every i dotted.

Beyond just being a cool camera trick, the use of different perspectives in the same scene is also a great way, for me at least, to detach myself from how I might see the characters’ actions, and how they might be perceived by others.

But the main take away if you’re considering seeing the film is this. The film has beautiful visuals, and great acting, with a unique story to tell, and moments of intense suspense done horrifyingly well.

Album Review: A/B by Kaleo

Released in 2016, A/B is the second studio album released by Icelandic rock band, Kaleo.

Despite never having heard of this band, I absolutely loved this album. The album has an incredible range of style, from bluesy country feels to die hard rock anthems.

The tracks “No Good”, “Glass House”, and “Hot Blood” find themselves on the rock end of that spectrum. With strong drum beats, chant-like lyrics, and baselines that get your blood pumping. Each one of the tracks is a roller coaster ride, chocked full of rock music tropes, but the band puts passion and bravado into the very familiar licks.

Kaleo also innovates with a unique resonance, throughout the album, that separates their music from contemporaries. Their dynamic use of pacing makes each song a unique journey, and they create such solid and meaningful progressions that you’ll never want that journey to end.

Kaleo not only maintain their rock band status with these tracks, but also build upon it, using musical themes that have been done before, but have been given a new breath of life from the band’s unique sound.

Their bluesy tracks show a rare ability to succeed in different genres. The tracks “All The Pretty Girls”,”I Can’t Go On Without You”, “Automobile”, and “Save Yourself” showcase a different mood altogether. The music in these tracks starts slow, the words sung soulfully and reluctantly, as if being dragged from someone’s vocal chords.

As with the rock aspect of the album, each song is a distinct journey, but as another testament of their diverse tone, they rarely repeat the techniques used to create that sense of journey in each of these soul songs. Instead opting to write different ways of progressing the story of each song. Some songs progress into their rock tone, speeding up to a grand crescendo, ending the ballad with a bang, while others fade out in a slow whisper.

In my opinion two songs stand out as truly amazing contributions in the album, “Broken Bones” and “Vor i Vaglaskogi”.

“Broken Bones” is a song with a slow burn that pays off like no other. Staying slow, the track first adds a theme and story in simple lyrics, sung by a lone vocalist. It slowly adds more vocalists to it’s simple chorus and keeps the anticipation growing with amazing guitar licks.

Not long after, even more vocalists join in on the chant, and the tempo is held steady, though the beat pulses slightly faster, seemingly restraining itself. The finale a fitting crescendo with a choir of discordant voices chanting and the main vocalist’s simple lyrics fighting to be heard over the others, perfectly complementing the theme of the song.

“Vor i Vaglaskogi” is a uniquely Icelandic song that truly separates the album from others in the rock genre. A cover of an Icelandic love song from the 1960s, even without knowing the meaning of the lyrics, the gravely vocals and slow, persistent rhythm make the track special and add a unseen twist of another culture, worth a listen, even if you don’t plan on looking up the lyrics.

Moonlighter: A video game with a fresh capitalistic take on the world of dungeon delving

Moonlighter is a dungeon crawling video game and is the first game from the indie developer studio Digital Sun. 

Despite it being their first foray into the territory the game brings together classic dungeon crawling, with a twist that revitalizes character progressions and changes the game’s dynamic.

The Story:

The story starts in the town of Rynoka, where strange dungeons have appeared in a field to the southwest. Curious heroes from around the world descend upon the town seeking glory and riches. For in the dungeons reside strange, dangerous creatures with unworldly treasure.

The heroes who succeed and come back from the dungeons with treasure are aided by merchants who help them to sell their goods. Over time Rynoka became a hub for traders and heroes alike. The economy prospered, and the people where happy. 

Many years later, after too many heroes have gone missing in the dungeons, the town decided to close the dungeons, and as a result the town’s economy took a nose-dive. 

Our protagonist Will is the son of two merchants who opened the shop the Moonlighter. As the town continued to decline, he watched helplessly as his parents passed away, and business died down. 

Now with the Moonlighter solely in his name, he braves the dungeons at night in secret to save his families’ shop and revitalize the town. Along the way he also uncovers the origin of the dungeons, and some of it’s most wretched inhabitants. 

Game-play:

Although the story works, the true value here is game-play. The combat in dungeons is fun and challenging with unique enemies in each floor, and a wide variety of ways you can outfit yourself in to take them on. 

Risk-reward decisions haunt every corner and each floor, as you want to get as much as you an without being knocked out, both to sell items and store, and get upgrades for your character. 

Aesthetics:

Moonlighter isn’t astounding graphically, but it’s simple and retro graphics give it a great feel, and even reminded me of playing the older Zelda games. 

Overall, Moonlighter is a great first entry for the new studio Digital Sun, and although it won’t break any records, it is a great game with relaxed pace and beautiful artwork.