Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Sad Tail of Bubbles the Goldfish

Presenting Bubbles. Bubbles is a goldfish. To be more precise, Bubbles is a Comet/common goldfish, the type usually found in large “feeder fish” tanks in pet stores. Feeder fish, for those who don’t know, are inexpensive fish sold to pet owners with large pets (usually other, larger fish) requiring live food to stay healthy. As intended bait for larger critters, feeder goldfish aren’t dealt a great hand in the poker game of life -- but bigger critters gotta eat, right? Bubbles is one of those rare goldfish to escape the feeder fish fate, but I’m not sure Bubbles was all that lucky in that regard.

A while back, I established a tank of Lake Malawi African Cichlids, fully aware that they weren’t the most, er, mellow of pet fish. However, I wanted fish that were colorful, tough, and didn’t require a lot of babying. Yes, African Cichlids will start killing each other if their environment isn’t ideal, so I took all the precautions that well-meaning Cichlid lovers recommend. Before getting the fish, I made sure the water quality was just right. I aquascaped the tank with lots of little terra cotta flowerpots (at least two per fish) to give the fish plenty of hiding places, so they could stake out territories and avoid each other. (The tank looked like the dumping ground of an unscrupulous flower shop, but I was determined to do right by my fishies.) I acquired baby Cichlids, all of the same species -- nine little fish total, in a 50-gallon tank. I made sure to feed them three small meals three times a day.

Because there were nine of them, the Cichlids were all named after Santa’s reindeer (including Rudolph), and at first all seemed well. I thought I’d succeeded in creating a good environment for the cute, spunky, colorful little fish.

Alas, my efforts were in vain. As they grew, the little buggers started eating each other. Eventually there was just one big fat triumphant fish left -- a big blue bully that my daughter renamed Carson for some reason. We don’t even know anyone named Carson.

Pecking orders and natural selection be darned -- I couldn’t even look at Carson without feeling bad for all those other murdered fish (never mind that they rather gleefully attacked each other before Carson did them in). So, Carson was returned to the pet store, which was more than happy to take in a big pretty blue Cichlid that could be resold to another (hopefully more experienced) Cichlid lover.

Still, I had to have something in that big ol’ fishtank of mine, but I didn’t want any more grumpy fish or any delicate fish. My options seemed limited. I finally decided to get something simple: GOLDFISH. Nice, simple, domesticated, benign, drama-free goldfish.

I started off with four small Comet goldfish, rescued from the feeder tank at the pet store. I figured, if any fish deserved a nice home, it was a feeder fish -- and besides, feeder fish are nice and colorful, and they cost next to nothing. Once the goldfish were established in their new home, I thought my aquarium fish issues were finally over.

There were four goldfish, three red/orange fish and one mostly-white fish. They all seemed to get along nicely. I also liked the way they crowded together at the front of the tank and watched me, the hubby, the kid, and the dog as we all walked around the living room. The mostly-white one even earned a name -- Bubbles. Such cheery, personable fish! It was a nice change from the grumpy Cichlids. No issues for a month. This was back in September.

In October, we went on a week-long trip and left the house in the care of our favorite house sitter -- someone who’s always been good at taking care of the dog and the fish. We arrived back home late on Saturday night, and …

Y’know, when I return home from vacation, one of the last things I want to hear from the house sitter is, “I don’t know how this happened, but--!”

Turned out the three orange goldfish -- my nice, benign, domesticated, stress-free goldfish -- ATE BUBBLES. Well, okay, they tried to eat Bubbles. More specifically, they ate all of Bubbles’ fins off, including most of Bubbles’ tail. There were nothing but little stumps where Bubbles’ fins used to be, and the tail was chewed down to a sad little nub. The house sitter still swears that the fish were regularly fed and seemed fine. The attack on Bubbles seemed to have happened one afternoon while the sitter was out.

None of the other smug little bastard goldfish had a mark on them.

How does a fish swim without fins and a tail, you might ask? Well, it tends to wiggle a lot. REALLY wiggle. That’s what Bubbles was reduced to doing, just to keep functioning as a proper fish. Lots and lots of wiggling. It had to be very tiresome work, but survival is a very impressive instinct, particularly in a goldfish.

Again, I couldn’t bring myself to look at the bully fish, but I didn’t want to return them to their previous pet-store-feeder-fish-tank fate. Thankfully, in my mom’s back yard is a very large, very established goldfish pond, and she agreed to add the three bullies to the fleet of Comets and Kois. So, off they went. Given the size of some of those Koi, though, maybe the little buggers ended up being feeder fish after all. I’ll probably never know.

Bubbles has been alone in that big 50-gallon tank since last October and doesn’t seem to mind the solitude one bit. I did tape some little round craft store mirrors to the outside of one end of the tank, just so Bubbles can at least see another fish when the need arises. Really, though, Bubbles seems fine. Bubbles still wiggles to get around the tank, still comes to the front of the tank to watch us, and still has a healthy appetite. Best of all, Bubbles’ fins are starting to grow back! Well, at least some of them are. They seem to be growing from back-to-front, starting with the tail. Bubbles’ tail -- that sad stub of a tail -- is almost completely grown back. Also, the anal fin is almost back to normal and the dorsal fin is about halfway grown. It remains to be seen if Bubbles’ pectoral and pelvic fins will return, but there’s hope.

So, I guess Bubbles is lucky in that he didn’t end up being fed to a larger critter, but talk about being unlucky amongst one’s peers!

I think maybe I’ll stick with just one fish from now on.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dumb things one regularly says during the course of a day

It’s a rainy, gloomy day here in Indianapolis. The first thing I did this morning when I noticed the rain was to imitate the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan and start belting out that blues classic, “The SKY is CRYIN’….!” Then, later in the morning a light bulb blew out in the living room ceiling and I had to get out a ladder to change the darned thing. Immediately upon switching the light back on to make sure the new bulb was working, the first thing I said was, “What light thru yonder window breaks! ‘Tis the east and Juliet is the sun!”

It’s finally occurred to me -- I say these things every frickin’ time it rains or I have to change a light bulb. Every time! Why do I say these things every time? The light bulb thing doesn’t even make sense. The bulb is not shining at me through a window, and I’m not even a huge Shakespeare fan. I mean, I like Shakespeare just fine, but Romeo and Juliet isn’t exactly at the top of my all-time-favorite-stories list.

So, I’ve been scared into paying attention to every little thing I say, and I’ve noticed other things. For example, I seem to say “Y’know” an awful lot. I think that’s a Midwestern USA thing: “Y’know, y’know, y’know…” No one’s ever corrected me on it, but that’s hardly surprising. I’m usually surrounded by fellow Midwesterners after all, plus there aren’t many people willing to admit that, hey, they DON’T know.

I also seem to use the word “actually” a lot, usually at the beginning of sentences: “Actually, we did run out of yogurt this weekend…”

WEIRD that one’s subconscious can latch onto making one repeat certain words and/or phrases during the course of a day. Is it an “autopilot” function? Laziness of expression? A reflection of a comfort zone of the brain? Merely a normal function/side effect of speech development? I wonder if someone’s done a study on this?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Totally digging Daredevil on Netflix

No real spoilers.

No offense to Mr. Sea’s godparents, who have had very long and impressive careers in the television industry, but I have not been a huge watcher of broadcast television for many, many years -- DECADES, in fact. I think the last regular prime time TV show I was addicted to was the original broadcast of Star Trek: The Next Generation(!). Most of the regular viewing I’ve had in the last few years have involved either old reruns (MeTV is wonderful), or various DC animated series, or the stuff Mighty Mite watches on PBS Kids (most of which is actually pretty entertaining for adults, too). I even ditched cable/satellite TV a few years ago when it finally dawned on me that I was paying an awful lot of money for something I hardly watched. I much prefer viewing movies and BBC stuff, new and old, on my own terms -- so for the last couple of years, I’ve been subscribing to Netflix’s streaming service and watching everything mostly through Amazon/Kindle and the PlayStation Network.

Netflix has been streaming its own series programming for a while, which I’ve basically dismissed with a shrug -- until now. As an ancient and certified comic book fangeek, how could I resist giving the new Daredevil series a shot?

My brother watched the entire series in a relentless Saturday night marathon. I’ve made it to episode 8 so far, and that’s saying something. I generally dump TV series pretty quickly if they don’t catch my interest in the first episode or two -- part of the reason why I’m not much of a series viewer. THIS series, though … Wow.

When we were kids, my brother collected mostly Marvel and I collected DC, and then we read each others’ collections. Worked out pretty well for us. So, most of my Daredevil knowledge dates from the 1970s and early ‘80s -- yes, including the Frank Miller era. Netflix’s Daredevil draws so heavily from that era that watching it, I almost feel like a teenager again, sitting on that awful orange shag carpeting in my brother’s bedroom and reading through his box of Daredevil comics.

Netflix’s Daredevil is gritty, gruesome, and glorious (plus no commercials -- yay!). It definitely earns its TV-MA rating -- NOT kid friendly AT ALL. However, given the circumstances in this series’ version of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen and the crime organizations involved, the violence and blood do not feel gratuitous. For the most part, the actors’ portrayals are spot-on. Charlie Cox is intense and deceptively low-key as Matt Murdock. The villains are deplorable characters, but fascinatingly complex and nuanced, especially Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin. And Elden Henson, bless his heart, not only nails Foggy Nelson’s behavior without making him too much of a jerk, he even looks like Foggy Nelson.

A huge, huge, HUGE thanks to the series creators for telling Daredevil’s origins mostly via backstory snippets throughout the episodes. I despise series that start off with one big fat origin story -- I just wanna get to the action! Okay, so Daredevil hasn’t appeared in costume yet, but … Seriously, most people watching the series already know Daredevil’s origins, so kudos to everyone involved for just skipping ahead to the good stuff.

Will this series attract any new Daredevil fans? Not sure. My guess is that many new viewers will be strongly reminded of Batman. Indeed, watching this series so far, I’ve been reminded of Nolan’s Dark Knight movies more than once. This is not a criticism -- quite the contrary. After all, the modern interpretations of both Batman and Daredevil have been heavily influenced by Frank Miller, so how can there not be similarities? Still, this TV Daredevil’s universe has been so well-fleshed-out in only a few episodes, I can’t imagine there won’t be any new fans.

Warner Bros., take note: When Disney first acquired Marvel, I was a bit worried. The gritty Marvel universe didn’t seem like a logical fit, and it appeared Disney merely wanted Marvel because they wanted to compete with Warner Bros.’s ownership of DC. Well, that may have been the case, but I don’t think Disney could have done a better job with Marvel right out of the starting gate. Indeed, they have surpassed Warner’s accomplishments with DC in live action, and I think it’s now obvious that Warner’s is scrambling to catch up, what with the Superman/Batman film, and the upcoming Wonder Woman film, et al. One very important thing that has given Disney an edge here is that Disney has not forgotten that all of these characters exist in the same universe. In fact, they capitalize on this fact, which is also a bit of a Marvel tradition -- These characters do not and never have existed in individual vacuums. Warner’s has a history of isolating the DC characters in their live-action films -- “Oh, no, you can’t have XYZ appearing in THIS film, because we’re thinking about putting him in ANOTHER film. So don’t even mention XYZ in THIS film.” In the modern Marvel films, by contrast, TV and movie, there’s a lot of cross-pollination, and characters freely refer to each other. (I like how in Daredevil, the characters tend to comment on the Avengers’ “incident.”) This not only keeps the Marvel film universe rich and well fleshed-out, it generates more interest among viewers so they’re more likely to watch all of these films. It’s fun, and it’s good business. I think Warner’s has finally figured this out, but we’ll see.

Which reminds me -- I would LOVE to see Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow appear in the Daredevil series, given the comic book history between the two characters. Here’s hoping!