Universal Translator

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Petunia the Donkey (Television Personality)

 "One of the most important jackasses in American television history...a definite cultural icon." -American Institute of Television


Life with Petunia (1956-1960)

A pet donkey named Petunia follows two muleskinners, Pork and Beanz, around the Wild West.  Petunia could talk to the audience by using subtitles, but Pork and Beanz could only hear her bray.  The two would get themselves into all sorts of wacky adventures resulting in catastrophes from which Petunia would save them.  Petunia was famous for her line “Pork and Beanz is going to get canned!”

The show generated lots of merchandise during its initial run –from lunch boxes to Petunia dolls.  The best selling item among girls was a straw hat like the one Petunia wore with a yellow sunflower and donkey ears; boys preferred the gray or blue muleskinner hats like the ones Pork and Beanz wore.

The show most people remember is the last episode in which Petunia drags Pork and Beanz into the wagon after they knock themselves out trying to get away from lit sticks of dynamite they thought were candles.  Petunia then jumps into the back of the wagon, grabs the reins of the workhorse Theodore, and drives the buggy to the doctor’s office in Gold Nugget City. Memorable line from the episode:  Doc: “I seen a horsefly, but by tarnation, Sheriff, I’ve never seen a donkey drive.”

Petunia as herself 
Rock Boylan as Pork
Kenny Smith as Beanz
Theodore as himself
Winston Smith as Doc Johnson

Petunia’s Wagon Train (1960-1965) 

Everyone’s favorite donkey is back –in Full Color!  In this series, Petunia is a member of a wagon train going further west.  She is accompanied by a cowgirl named Bessie and an Indian named Bumblin’ Bee.  Bessie is the only person that can understand Petunia and together every week they save the wagon train and Bumblin’ Bee whenever trouble occurs.  Hilarity always ensues!

According to television legend, the actor that played Bumblin’ Bee, the British actor Harrington Cross III, hated animals, especially donkeys, making it easy to play his character which had a love/hate relationship with Petunia.  Bumblin’ Bee is famous for the line, “If I a choice, you’d be a pair of moccasins (or teepee or saddlebag or leather belt or whatever –it was changed every week)

Petunia as herself
Mary Alexander as Bessie
Harrington Cross III as Bumblin’ Bee
Mack Kennedy as Colonel Frederick Beauregard

When the series was cancelled in 1965, four movies were made to continue the franchise:

Son of Petunia, 1965
Bessie (played by Mary Alexander) must find a way to get Petunia to St. Louis to give birth to her colt; however, somebody wants to stuff her and put her in an Old West museum.

Brewster Kicks It Home, 1967
Petunia’s son, Brewster, must find his way home after accidentally getting off a train in Los Angeles.  While traveling he meets Freddy (played by Mack Kennedy), a down on his luck veteran.  During their adventures, Brewster and Freddy are hired to play for a local baseball team. Brewster helps the team to victory and becomes a star.  He finds his way home traveling along with the baseball team.
(NOTE: This movie is set in the 1960s instead of the Wild West.  The movies that follow after this will also be set in more modern times)

Brewster Kicks Across Europe, 1970
Brewster the donkey travels to Europe to play in baseball game and discovers relatives destined for the glue factory.  He defeats, with the help of his friend Freddy (played by Jack Farnsworth*), the evil glue factory millionaire Sir Alfred Stickibunns (played by veteran Shakespearean actor Sir Charles Fenwick).  He and Freddy help the donkeys find a home in a petting zoo in London. Cheerio!

*Mack Kennedy died in 1966 and was replaced by the younger Jack Farnsworth

Brewster Kicks Again!, 1973
Brewster meets a circus donkey named Lovey, and he and Freddy (Jack Farnsworth) must help her save the big top from a scheming corporation bent on closing down the Algernon Brother’s Family Circus.

Later in the seventies, a movie was made to try to bring the famous franchise back to television:

Son of Brewster (made for TV movie), 1976
Brewster the Donkey’s son, Algernon, saves a little town from being demolished and ultimate finds a quiet pasture for his entire family.

The reboot movie:

Three Donkeys (animated) 2016
Three donkeys (Petunia, Brewster, and Algernon) must save the world from the archvillian Zazu and her evil henchmen.  Zazu wants to poison all the farms with a monster plant she has created in order to force everyone to buy food from her factories.  It is up to the three donkeys with an orphan named Bess and a bumblebee sidekick named Bebe to stop the evil Zazu.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

"Ethan" (Updated)

            It had all started with the Chinese.  The scientific community in China had become the “Wild West” of the science world.  Chinese scientists didn’t have the same limits that many other nations imposed upon research, such as the outlawing genetic engineering of human DNA or the banning of the use of human embryos in scientific research.  Chinese scientists had begun to experiment with the genetic engineering of human embryos – something that had been outlawed in most other industrialized nations decades earlier as the fear that people would begin to design their own babies’ intelligence and looks.  The Chinese reported that they had tried to manipulate the genes that were responsible for various genetic diseases in the human body.  They insisted that the embryos would have never survived and that the data gathered was never planned on being used to create “designer” babies.  The Chinese government, after discussions with the United Nations and other nations, closed down the facilities engaged in the research and the world thought that that was the end of it.  As time passed, genetic engineering of plants, animals, bacteria, and viruses became a common technology that eventually settled into academia and failed to get the attention of the news media.  Laws became more relaxed and often quietly discarded.  Some nations began to actively seek out those Chinese scientists that had experimented with genetically modifying human DNA.  Biotechnology companies sought out the brightest of those scientists.  For years, despite rumors and protest campaigns, companies remained quiet concerning any research involving the modification of human DNA, until that day Ethan was presented to the world.
The world at large didn’t know about Ethan until he was six years old.  When he was presented at the international news conference, people immediately fell in love with the adorable child.  He amazed everyone with his intellectual abilities and physical skills.  Of course, many thought that he was just an ordinary child – until it was proven that he really was the first genetically modified human.  A DNA test was done live at the press conference under the skeptic eyes of several noted scientists from various international universities.  The scientists who presented him to the world talked about the various genetic changes and genetic protein coding.  They merely glanced over the topic of  “insertion of other taxonomic genetic material”, but the world was more enchanted with the sweetness of the child they saw online singing “Jesus Loves Me”.  Some questioned the phrase “insertion of other taxonomic genetic material”, but the scientists would state that it was merely inconsequential biological material and unimportant to the discussion. The procedure, according to the scientists employed by the American Bio-Tech Consortium (ABTC) was completely safe - Ethan was as human as anyone else. The procedure, they explained, took DNA from a human egg and a human sperm and merely modified them to bring out the best qualities possible. It was no different, they assured, than buying a car and then adding the best options available to it.  Ethan was a child with the best options that could be found in DNA.
            ABTC said that there had been extraordinary testing of the procedures involved in producing Ethan.  They admitted that there had been four other children before Ethan who had not survived but that finally all the problems of viability had been solved.  The ABTC scientists gave lectures at every major university on the development and future of genetically engineered children.  They asserted that Ethan would have a normal, if not extended, lifespan and that he was as healthy, if not healthier, as any child his age.  Doctors across the globe backed up the claims of the ABTC, signing letters supporting the work, which were published in newspapers around the world. Governments quickly approved the procedures and gave ABTC a wide leeway.  Many thought it would be a new golden age for Mankind.
       The year after Ethan turned eleven, couples from across the world had embraced the new technology to create their own baby.  It was estimated that well over 1,000 couples had initially signed up when the technology was first offered.  Many people wondered if it could solve their infertility.  Some just wanted the best child money could buy.  Some just wanted a bright healthy child like Ethan.  ABTC reported that by the first anniversary of the procedure, fifty thousand couples had CNM children.
       Genetic engineering wasn’t a foreign thing to people at the time.  It had become an accepted part of life.  Genetic engineering was to this time, as chemistry was to the 20th Century – the way to a better life.  There were still non-GMO fundamentalists that would complain or protest, but no one took them seriously.  It had been many years since genetically modified organisms had lost their patents and they were now everywhere.  You couldn’t avoid them since practically all life now contained bits of altered DNA –“genetic pollution”, as some radicals called it.  “Organic” came to mean merely anything grown stationary in soil since the locomotive vegetable barrier had been broken.  Cross-taxonomic organisms, locomotive or not, had become a fact of life. Before Ethan the greatest genetic engineering feat had been the creation of the avocado steak, the first non-locomotive meat, from a “tree”.
        By the time Ethan had turned 20, he had been joined by over 4,020,730 other “Children of the New Mother”, or CNM. They had been given that name by a journalist who coined the term to differentiate them from unmodified children, or “Children of the Old Mother” – “Old Mother” referring to the mythological Mother Earth.  The “New Mother” was science.  The ABTC preferred to call them “non-CNM” children –it made them to be seen as lacking something important.
        Most of the major hospitals of the world had CNM franchises.  The franchises were so popular because of the huge profits that could be made by selling CNM products and services.  After the biological mother had been implanted with the CNM egg, she could be sold a multitude of prenatal packages; after the birth, there were the various other products based on the age of the child.  Of course no one wanted their CNM child to be the one lacking the best.  The financial floodgates really opened when the CNM franchises began to offer products and services to parents of non-CNM children. The best-selling product for non-CNM children was CNM cellular injections. Hospitals were also urged to consider CNM services for certain illnesses and conditions in adults.
       Anyone visiting a CNM franchise couldn’t get away from Ethan’s image.  Cardboard cutouts of Ethan would direct you to various areas.  Posters of the cute little boy staring out at you asking, “How important is your child? If they aren’t Children of the New Mother, then try CNM CogniTherapy today!”  Videos played in every hospital waiting room and lobby showing Ethan solving intricate math problems and laughing. The ubiquitous t-shirts with his drawings or watercolours were usually sold-out.  The Adventures of Ethan comic books were on every shelf.
       People had not seen much of Ethan himself since his 16th birthday; anyway, the world was busy with its new prodigies.  The ABTC stated that Ethan was living a regular life and that they did not want him to be under the scrutiny of the press every day.  Of course, you would hear a rumor or see a photo, but there really wasn’t too much press about Ethan.  The tabloids would report that he was supposedly dating some young film star or a royal, but not much else.
        The children born after Ethan, however, were constantly in the news.  Many were the focus of human-interest stories.  The stories focusing on their rights and conditions always made the top news stories. The American Bio-tech Consortium had made the claim that genetically modified children had to attend the ABTC School of Science and the Arts (available at most franchises), and many parents complained; the court ruled that the parents had signed a waiver upon implantation of the modified embryo and had to comply or give their child up to the guardianship of the ABTC. In the ruling the court stated that the children were too mentally advanced for regular public or private school and only the ABTC could effectively and completely educate them.  One couple had been imprisoned for endangering a minor and child abuse when they went to live in the mountains with their CNM child.  There was a big media blitz when one couple won a lawsuit against a church that had refused to allow their young boy to enter the cathedral during a vacation, the priest saying, “that the child was an abomination unto the Lord”.
        The biggest scandal on record occurred after a journalist attempted to interview Ethan on his 25th birthday. The ABTC had issued an official birthday packet, covering what Ethan had been doing since his 16th birthday.  According to the packet, he had attended a major university and had started a job at ABTC as a genetic engineer/advisor.  The journalist, Laura Hopkins, had wanted more information as well as a personal interview with Ethan but ABTC refused again and again.  She finally went undercover as an ABTC franchise employee, ultimately making it to ABTC central headquarters.  She published a story on the eve of Ethan’s 33rd birthday that totally blew Ethan’s life open to the world.  The world was shocked.  Many refused to believe it, however, Miss Hopkins had documented everything perfectly.
       According to the Hopkins Report, there was a reason Ethan disappeared from the public when he was 16 and it didn’t follow the story released to the public.  When Ethan started to experience puberty, some hidden genes had begun to exert themselves; Ethan began to develop physical changes beyond those of a normal puberty, including but not limited to extremely excessive hair growth, bony growth projections on his jaw, and rough hard epithelial cells on his skin. Besides the physical changes, Ethan had begun to experience intense moments of rage so bad he had to be restrained and sedated.  Hopkins also reported that Ethan could now only consume raw meat, becoming very ill and violent if he did not.  Ethan had also begun to fail many mental skill tests, although he had maintained his excellence in physical skills.  ABTC commented to say only that the report was a lie and they were talking to their lawyers.  ABTC did admit that certain treatments had been given free to CNM children after Ethan to correct certain irregularities.  However, they refused to admit that Ethan wasn’t the accomplished young man that he was portrayed as being.  A judge asked to meet with Ethan face-to-face, and ultimately the ABTC had to admit that that was impossible, due to Ethan’s violent nature.  For the next two years, there was a torrent of legal battles, suits and counter suits. 
Parents of CNM children began to give up their children to ABTC guardianship or to the appropriate authorities, although some parents refused to even consider it.  One couple came out and publicly said that they were well aware that they had made a mistake genetically engineering their child, but that they were ready to accept the responsibility of their actions.  The couple was killed by their CNM son who himself was shot by the police who answered the emergency call.  When pictures of the boy were leaked online, many considered it a joke.  The pictures of the dead boy were considered by many to be photographs of an animal that had been altered.  When it was proven it was indeed the boy, people became outraged and frightened.
            ABTC franchise hospitals began to report that the parents of CNM children were overwhelming them.  Many of the children had started to become ill and many of the hospitals were unprepared for the onslaught.  Governments didn’t get involved until one of the children went on a rampage and killed four nurses. The death of the nurses started people openly talking about what would actually happen when the children grew up.   Riots around the world damaged and sometimes destroyed ABTC facilities.  Doctors, scientists and others connected with ABTC were attacked. 
  At the last count there were 220,267,000 CNM children worldwide. An estimated third of all non-CNM children worldwide had received at least one CNM cellular treatment, designed to enhance their DNA.  People began asking the question –who was really truly human?

Thursday, 11 June 2015

“Do wizards need money?”


I should be working on my writing.  Procrastination has set in. This is merely done for the fun of it.  I enjoy Ms. Rowling's imaginitive writing, but I get these questions in my head and want to answer them (writing practice and mental exercise is my excuse).  So to get the formalities out of the way: Disclaimer: All Harry Potter names, characters, places, incidents et al. herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and her legal licensees, including but not limited to Bloomsbury/Scholastic, etc. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended and no money is being made.

Muggle-born Orientation Lecture (MOLe) #22, 
presented by Prof. Amelia Tillywig, answering the question, 
“Do wizards need money?”

Professor Tillywig: “Most wizards have a large stockpile of gold, silver, and bronze metals in the bank.  Some of the most powerful wizards and witches in history are said to have had the powers of alchemic transmutation –the ability to turn base metals into precious metals.  All magical folk have the power to feed, to clothe, and to shelter themselves without the need of money.  Magical folk can exist without money or an economic system, yet we choose to use the gold Galleon, the silver Sickle, and the bronze Knut everyday. Why do we bother with a system of money?

It happens that gold, silver, and bronze have the unique characteristics of being incredibly powerful conductors and intensifiers of magic.  Rarely are wands made using gold, silver, or bronze due to their power potential; when one of the precious metals is used in creation of a wand it must be used in small amounts by a powerful wizard using other substances able to subtlety balance the effects of the potent metal. Any spell using these metals should be considered very forceful and extremely effective (and should only be attempted by accomplished magic folk). Charms, amulets, and other magical items made of one of the precious metals has the magic of the item amplified many, many times over. A witch and wizard can successfully use magic without ever using the precious metals; however, the metals remain an extremely strong cultural symbol of increased magical power and potential.

The symbolism of the metals is actually the basis of the wizard ‘monetary system’.  Magic folk could easily swap needed items or use a simple barter system, yet they prefer to use a system of ‘power exchange’.

When a magic person offers the owner of The Three Broomsticks Pub two sickles for a pint of butterbeer, he isn’t offering money –he’s offering power.  He’s saying, in effect, ‘Take this small representation of potential magical strength in exchange for the butterbeer’.  It is an exchange of power having nothing to do with economics.

Old wizarding families that sit upon outrageous uncountable fortunes would look wealthy by Muggle standards but to magic folk they are powerful –powerful enough to give away bits of potential magical power in exchange for grand finery without worry.  Magic people with more limited stashes of the precious metals must be a bit more conservative.

Why not just make more precious metals using magic?  The alchemic transmutation of base metals into precious metals is difficult for even the most experienced and powerful wizards using huge amounts of magic; and even then, it has its limitations.  Most available precious metals have been secured into family vaults and are passed on to following generations.”

“Why do some magical spaces seem so dusty, dirty and full of cobwebs?”

I should be working on my writing.  Procrastination has set in. This is merely done for the fun of it.  I enjoy Ms. Rowling's imaginitive writing, but I get these questions in my head and want to answer them (writing practice and mental exercise is my excuse).  So to get the formalities out of the way: Disclaimer: All Harry Potter names, characters, places, incidents et al. herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and her legal licensees, including but not limited to Bloomsbury/Scholastic, etc. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended and no money is being made.

Muggle-born Orientation Lecture (MOLe) #13, 
presented by Prof. Amelia Tillywig, answering the question, 
“Why do some magical spaces seem so dusty, dirty and full of cobwebs?”

Professor Tillywig: “One of the first things that many of you will notice is that the world of magical folk is a bit dusty.  It isn’t because magical folk are particularly dirty or unclean; we’re just all very careful.  The wizarding world has dangers never seen in the other world –the most mundane object can be imbued with a magic spell or charm and become dangerous if treated without caution or respect.  Well what does this have to do with the dust and cobwebs found in many places in the magical world, you may ask?  I can easily answer that for you.

As I was wizard-born, I can tell you that we are told from a very early age to keep our hands in our pockets when we went to the house of a wizard or witch.  To go around touching strange objects in a strange magical environment can get you hurt very badly or even kill you.  My cousin Bartimelous was killed when he picked up a charmed pair of secateurs in the shed of an old witch – it cut him up like he was an old hedge.  He had neither the ability to control it nor the power.  As they say in the Muggle world, ‘let sleeping dogs lie’.  Because we have been trained not to touch or interact with things we don’t know, you’d never see a magical being going into the house of a dead magical person to have a clear out.  We’ll just let the dust collect and leave most of the objects alone.  No one wants to be the victim of contagious magic.

That is one of the biggest problems in the magical world –contagious magic. Contagious magic is when objects are still linked to a witch or wizard or still imbued with a charm with the potential to suddenly become magically active.  This is a problem especially if a spell or charm has not been carried out to fruition.  A needle can be charmed to, say, repair a tear in a robe, but the magical person might walk away before the act is accomplished.  That needle might retain the charm and end up poking someone in the eye or sewing up his or her mouth. [The professor makes a sewing motion across her mouth, and then pretends to try to speak.  She throws her hands into the air with feigned exasperation, then continues.]  Always be sure to carry your spells and charms to fruition or nullify them. As the saying goes, ‘if you can’t carry it out, then put it out. Nullify, nullify, nullify.’

Even when things are not purposely imbued with magic, natural objects can still have magical effects.  For example, feathers are powerful objects used in the magical world for many purposes.  The quill itself that you are holding is an important magical tool.  Feathers have been used in magic for thousands of years because of their magical potential.  To rub a feather duster across an assortment of objects could be a very dangerous act.  Let me demonstrate; [The professor walks to her desk and positions a small clay pot of ivy near the edge.  She picks up her wand and turns the pot of ivy into a pot of ‘poison ivy’.  The spines on the tip of the leaves strike against the pot making tiny pinging sounds.  The enchanted vine twists and turns, occasionally striking at nearby objects like an angry serpent.  The professor picks up a quill and moves the tip toward the ‘poison ivy’ which strikes at it.]  As you see the charmed ivy is very dangerous as this simple quill can be. [She reaches into a nearby drawer and pulls out a polished ball of quartz]  As you may or may not know, quartz is also a powerful natural object often used in charms, spells and rituals.  The combination of feather and quartz can produce an intriguing elementary charm. Watch. [She sets the orb onto the desk and rolls it toward the potted plant.  It hits the clay pot, with a sharp tap.  The ‘poison ivy’ coils then strikes out at the quartz.  The professor reaches in with the quill and rubs it across the polished surface of the quartz.  Immediately, the ‘poison ivy’ reverts back to a pot of ordinary harmless ivy. The professor stops rubbing the quill against the quartz and the charmed ivy then returns to its venomous state.  The professor rests against the edge of her desk and crosses her arms.  The tip of the quill brushes against her nose and she lets out a small sneeze.  She regains her composure.]  Rubbing a feather, quill or not, over a polished quartz can temporarily create a nullifying magical effect – it, of course, only lasts seconds and can only be done once with each feather.  Imagine the effect if that is done near a binding spell keeping a dangerous enchanted object at bay.  Imagine if it was done near a magical lock keeping something dangerous imprisoned.  It is a very weak piece of magic but the potential is there.

What I’m saying is that it is the magical potential of objects that prevent magical folks to approach unknown objects with caution and respect.  You wouldn’t find many witches or witches that would randomly pick up an object and wipe it with a cleaning cloth or polish it with a chamois.  No magical folk would walk into an unknown room and begin to dust everything with a feather duster.  I hope you will conduct yourself accordingly.

It must also be noted, however, that some magical spaces are kept very clean for security reasons.  Magical powders and dustings can easily be disguised as ordinary house dust.  Spiders, as well as other small creatures, might be employed as ‘bugging devices’.  Cleanliness is simply a security measure.  Aurors will go into a space that needs to be secured and they will inventory every object.  They will also disintegrate every dust particle and cobweb.  They will use enchantments to repel small creatures and dirt.  It is a long and intense charm session that most magical folk wouldn’t want to conduct.