Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Nadya Comes to Town

Nadya, Adorned in a 
Space-Inspired Outfit.
The Space Alien, a highly knowledgeable aficionado of personal adornment, is always overjoyed when Nadya arrives from beautiful Bali to bring her latest fashions to town.  Being somewhat hard-to-fit, the Space Alien only occasionally finds suitable personal outfits, but always loves to frolic in the piles of soft, colorful and timeless articles of silky clothing strewn about the venue.  

The greatest treat of all, however, is the opportunity to commune with Nadya herself, who is, like the Space Alien, a sophisticated traveler who appreciates diverse forms of beauty and cultural expression.

The Space Alien will certainly schedule a lingering fly-by over her Chicago show at the Marriott Residence Inn on Walton Street on September 21 and 22.  Never a dull moment when Nadya is in town!  Check her schedule at

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Black Holes Revisited -- with Albert Einstein

The Space Alien's encounter with a black hole was previously covered. To read about this,  click here.

Black holes caught the Space Alien's attention once again in a New York Times back issue from earlier this year reporting the detection of colliding black holes. To see this article, click here.    The Space Alien, always careful to avoid these pits of annihilation, found yet another troubling article about this discovery in the super-prestigious journal Nature, which called these collisions "catastrophic on a cosmic scale"  To see this article, click here.

All of this was most upsetting to the Space Alien, who sipped a bit of kvass (fermented beet juice) to settle the stomach while recalling a discussion on this topic during an encounter with Albert Einstein over one hundred years ago.

Einstein 100 Years Ago
At that time, Albert Einstein, an avid amateur violinist, relaxed after work in the Swiss Patent Office playing with a local string quartet.   One evening the cellist was taken ill and was unable to join the group.

The Space Alien, enjoying an Alpine ski holiday nearby, became aware of this crisis and left the slopes to float through the keyhole of the house where the disappointed musicians were gathered and proceeded to perfectly mimic the complex cello part of Mozart's 14th String Quartet in G Major.  (Here is where you can hear  another group perform this beautiful work!

Einstein was so grateful that he invited the Space Alien back to his simple quarters where they shared a hot chocolate and deep conversation.  Einstein was fascinated to hear about the scary black holes the Space Alien had encountered.  The Space Alien, overjoyed to have a sympathetic listener, did not notice Einstein furiously taking notes on every available scrap of paper.  

In fact,  Einstein became so excited that he almost choked on the marshmallow floating in his hot chocolate, but fortunately the Space Alien was able to administer a vigorous Heimlich maneuver just in time to save Einstein's life.

Still coughing, gasping and waving sheets of figures about, Einstein blurted out:
"The black holes have already collided! The world does not know this yet, but it was cataclysmic!"
"How do you know for sure" asked the Space Alien?
 "The numbers never lie," answered Einstein. "Clearly our universe is just one big bowl of Jell-O!"
"What flavor?" asked the Space Alien.

But Einstein did not seem to hear.
His giant head sank to his chest and he fell, exhausted, into a deep restorative sleep.
The Space Alien carefully covered this delightful new friend with an afghan, rinsed the cocoa mugs in the kitchen sink, and quietly departed.

Later at home the Space Alien pulled a tattered photo album from the shelf and looked at pictures from previous journeys into deep space.  These photos clearly confirmed what Einstein had said.   One showed two black holes much too close to each other for comfort.  Another, taken with the Space Alien's special gravitational wave lens, left no doubt that the universe was indeed made of Jell-O -- probably orange and lemon.

Special to the Space Alien Gazette!

 Photos of Black Holes from the Space Alien's Personal Photo Album!

Two Scary Black Holes
Too Close for Comfort
Black Holes in an
Orange and Lemon Universe

Comment from a Reader:

An astute reader pointed out that the Space Alien could not have saved Einstein by using the Heimlich maneuver inasmuch as Dr. Harry Heimlich did not publish on this topic until 1974.

To this the Space Alien would simply point out that in a universe made of Jell-O one cannot be too persnickety about the order of things.  

However the Space Alien is a great admirer of Dr. Heimlich who just recently, at the age of 96, saved a choking woman using his own technique. To read about this dramatic rescue please click here.  The Space Alien is gratified to have been able to use this practical approach to save a life.

Received Sunday, December 11, 2016: The Space Alien Gazette reports with sadness the death of Dr. Harry Heimlich on December 10 at the Age of 96.   Dr. Heimlich's maneuver has saved countless lives and doubtless will continue to do so.
The Space Alien Cares!

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Space Alien's Voice is Lifted in Song

This summer the Space Alien decided to resume a beloved pastime of years past: choral singing.
The Space Alien's Anatomy
Built for Vocal Perfection!
Blessed with an unusually capacious oral capacity to enhance vocal resonance, and demonstrating exquisite musicianship, the Space Alien has long been in demand as a singer.   But this year, the Space Alien's sights were set on an especially high goal: singing with the famed Encore Illinois Chorale, an outstanding group limited to those having achieved advanced years - for which the Space Alien was surely qualified.
"The Space Alien is a
Conductor's Dream Come True!"
Jonathan Miller, Director
Encore, Illinois

World famous conductor Jonathan Miller was thrilled  when the Space Alien expressed this interest, as the Space Alien's voice is not only exceptionally rich and sonorous but exhibits an enormous vocal and dynamic range.

The Space Alien's years of study with noted singers included lessons with Yma Sumac, the South American singer whose range exceeded five octaves. To read about her,  click here.  

The Space Alien also studied the art of  "overtone singers" (also known as "throat singers") the world over. To read about these singers click here.  This contributed to the production of a vocal instrument capable of exceeding the highest soprano notes and the lowest bass notes, all with bell-like clarity and perfect intonation.

In addition, the Space Alien's total command of many languages, enhanced by the concentration which the Space Alien brings to each rehearsal and the tenacity with which the Space Alien maintains a daily practice schedule, is any choral director's dream come true!

Arturo Toscanini denied
Space Alien the role of

Mimi in La Boheme 
The Space Alien had previously auditioned for leading roles with major opera companies.  Unfortunately, for reasons the Space Alien never understood, singers such as Caruso, Tebaldi, Callas and Pavarotti always seemed to land the roles the Space Alien so badly desired.

Conductor Arturo Toscanini had offered the Space Alien the title role for the premiere of Pagliacci in 1892 at Covent Garden in London,  but the Space Alien declined, not wishing to be typecast as a clown.  The Space Alien now bitterly regrets that decision.

Four years later Maestro Toscanini turned down the Space Alien for the role of Mimi in the premiere of La Boheme in Turin.  The Space Alien had hoped to win this role to show how Mimi could be restored to radiant health before the final curtain with plenty of rest, fresh air, and a more nutritious diet, a finale sure to please critics and aficionados alike.

But alas this was not to be.  The role went to another singer not nearly as talented as the Space Alien and having no notion of how poor Mimi's life might have been spared.  Did Maestro Toscanini's decision here have anything to do with the Space Alien's previous rejection of the Pagliacci role?  The Space Alien ruminates on that to this day.

But the Space Alien's love for great music has overcome this heartbreak and when your editor proposed adding her own admittedly small and inconsequential voice to the Encore Illinois Chorale, the Space Alien enthusiastically agreed to join her as fellow chorister and coach.

As noted before on these pages, the Space Alien regularly moves about at tachyonic velocities exceeding the speed of light.  For this reason, it is sometimes hard to catch a glimpse of this talented performer moving amongst the choristers to fill in where a section needs additional volume or where individual singers may be experiencing difficulties with voice, breath, or music.    

Choristers momentarily distracted by wondering if they left a pot burning on the stove, or mentally straying into pleasant remembrances of things past, appreciate the friendly buzz in their ears with the correct notes, or the mysterious beam of light pointing to exactly the right place in their music.  The Space Alien is truly the chorister's friend!

To hear the Space Alien's magnificent voice lifted in song along with the voices of dozens of other choristers, or perhaps even to catch a glimpse of the Space Alien performing Va Pensiero, from Giuseppe Verdi's opera Nabucco with the Encore Illinois Chorale at their concert August 11, 2016, please click here.   If you would like to sing along with the Space Alien right now, please see the words printed below.
The Space Alien Sings Va Pensiero
And if you are over 55, live in or near Chicago, and would like to lift your voice in song with the  Encore Illinois Chorale, please visit

Italian Lyrics:

Va', pensiero, sull'ali dorate;
Va, ti posa sui clivi, sui colli,
ove olezzano tepide e molli
l'aure dolci del suolo natal!
Del Giordano le rive saluta,
di Sionne le torri atterrate…
Oh mia Patria sì bella e perduta!
O membranza sì cara e fatal!
Arpa d'or dei fatidici vati,
perché muta dal salice pendi?
Le memorie nel petto raccendi,
ci favella del tempo che fu!
O simile di Solima ai fati,
traggi un suono di crudo lamento;
o t'ispiri il Signore un concento
che ne infonda al patire virtù!

English Translation from the Schiller Institute: 

Go, thought, on golden wings 
Go, alight on the cliffs, on the hills,
Where there are wafting the warm and gentle 
Sweet breezes of our native land.
Greet the Jordan's banks  m
The fallen towers of Zion.... 
Oh, my fatherland—so beautiful and so lost! 
Oh, remembrance so dear, and fatal.
Harp of gold of the prophet bards, 
Why do you hang silent, from the willow?
Rekindle the memories in our breast 
That speak to us of the time that was.
O [harp], like Jerusalem to the fates, 
Draw a sound of harsh lamentation 
May the Lord inspire in thee an accord 
Which might infuse our suffering with virtù.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Space Alien Meets a Questionable New Friend

Recently the Space Alien was approached by a mysterious stranger, a somewhat self-absorbed Venus Flytrap. This Venus Flytrap, claiming to be a skilled chef, suggested they meet for dinner to discuss a possible restaurant venture combining the Space Alien's photosynthetic skills (learned from friendly paleozoic ferns, as reported in Meeting the Space Alien's Nutritional Needs), together with the Venus Flytrap's culinary acumen.  The Venus Flytrap generously offered to prepare dinner for the Space Alien at a local greenhouse.

Venus Flytrap Dressed for 
Dinner with the Space Alien 
The Space Alien, intrigued, brought along a video camera to record the culinary technique of the Venus Flytrap, but intrigue soon gave way to a premonition of doom as the Venus Flytrap opened its voluptuous lips in a wide-mouthed smile and slowly leaned in towards towards the Space Alien.

Pleading a headache and expressing profound regret, the Space Alien bade the Venus Flytrap an early farewell and hurried home to watch soothing Marx Brothers reruns on TV.

Later, while uploading videos of this meeting on YouTube (where they may be found by searching on the words Venus flytrap eating or just by clicking here ) the Space Alien pondered the irony of the success of another Venus Flytrap named Audrey who was awarded a leading role in a  1986 Hollywood film (q.v.), while the far more versatile talent of the Space Alien was never properly recognized.  But the Space Alien, always philosophical, remains hopeful.

The Space Alien Cares
A few readers have asked when the Space Alien's videos of the Venus Flytrap will be posted on these pages.  The Space Alien believes that even to ask this question displays an unbecoming degree of schadenfreude (to read an interesting discussion of this word click here).  So even though this question hardly deserves an answer, the Space Alien has indicated that those videos will not be posted here as they are likely to frighten readers just as they did the Space Alien.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Meeting The Space Alien's Nutritional Needs

The Space Alien is deeply interested in nutrition but can only speak authoritatively about this from personal experience.  For countless eons, the Space Alien did not appear to have any discernible source of nutrition.  Perhaps someday the mystery of how the Space Alien survived so long in this condition will be solved, but it is clear that for a long time the Space Alien truly craved a nosh!

Friendly Ferns Taught the
Space Alien to Photosynthesize
This situation was somewhat resolved millions of years ago during the Carboniferous Period of the Paleozoic Era, when Friendly Ferns taught the Space Alien how to photosynthesize, converting beams of sunlight and even starlight into nutritious, if not particularly delicious, meals.

During those years the Space Alien's beautiful dentition was regarded simply as personal adornment having no utilitarian function, and the Space Alien was deeply grateful to be able to depend upon personal photosynthesis to fill a growing appetite.

For Naughty Children
But these Friendly Ferns were burdened by many pressures not only during but also after their lives.  It saddened the Space Alien to see the helpful plants that so generously shared their secrets of turning light into nourishment become lumps of coal to be viewed with disappointment and even derision by naughty children on Christmas morning.

For Happy Brides

This sadness was fortunately somewhat relieved when the Space Alien found the Friendly Ferns of bygone days transformed into sparkling gems on the fingers of happy brides.

The Space Alien Cares

Today, while the Space Alien's lovely dentition is frequently put to practical use, photosynthesis remains an important, if mysterious, means by which the Space Alien's nutritional needs are satisfied, and the Friendly Ferns of yesteryear are always recalled with gratitude.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Did Lucy fall? Or was she pushed?

This title was the headline of an editorial in the Chicago Tribune on September 1, 2016.  The Space Alien read this with more than casual interest, as the the Tribune, citing a new theory on the demise of this reputed ancient ancestor of Homo sapiens, wrote: "The world's oldest cold case file is simmering."  To read this editorial click here.

Is this what happened to Lucy? 
Those wishing to read the abstract of the recent  paper by experts at the University of Texas and published in the prestigious science journal Nature that raised this issue may click here.   The Space Alien is a serious student and believes in going to original sources.

A dissenting view was expressed by experts at Arizona State University who noted that similar injuries have been found in fossils of "pigs, rhinos and horses" that do not normally climb trees.  For more on this, click here.

Which experts are correct?  The Space Alien hates dissension and this is clearly a case of a Texas-Arizona feud that should have been settled on a football field or basketball court like any other important controversy.

Lucy (whose real name was Australopithecus afarensis) was one of the Space Alien's BFFs back in the day.  They once shared walks among simmering volcanoes, cooled off in evening desert breezes, and repaired to the forests for rest among sheltering trees.

The Space Alien often warned Lucy about her appetite for her "special dessert" made from a mash of  berries combined with a little sweet tree sap and left in a hole in a rock until it started to bubble. Lucy  was a wonderful hostess, and dinner guests who arrived sad would cheer up and even start to sing jolly songs after enjoying this "special dessert."

The Space Alien Warned Lucy:
Be Careful!  

The Space Alien, then as now an observant scientist, urged Lucy not to run around barefoot or climb in the trees after eating those special berries, but she laughed off these warnings.  Clearly Lucy was under the influence of this "special dessert" when the accident that so tragically took her life occurred.

Another Lucy and friend

The Space Alien was lonely for a long time, and missed the convivial dinners and "special desserts" as well, but three million years have somewhat softened the pain.

Still, the name "Lucy" is never far from the Space Alien's mind, and another Lucy was one of the Space Alien's faves for years! 
Was this love?   You be the judge!