Saturday was cold. I want to emphasize this because ``cold'' by itself doesn't really describe how cold it was. There would, later in January, be colder days yet, but as we didn't have hopes to go out and do interesting things in that (the most I did on those colder days was go to work, which required almost no involvement from me) they wouldn't affect me so much. For bunny_hugger and I, though, we planned in the cold to go to the zoo.
The zoo is the one mentioned before, the Popcorn Park Zoo, where skylerbunny had bought support for one of the coatis for the year. This should be my great chance to actually meet Cocoa and, with Google Maps instructions printed out we set out to drive to a zoo I didn't really have any idea where it was. We didn't rely on the satellite navigation box for some good reason that I'm sure we had at the time, and good thing too, since the directions were all perfectly clear except that once we got to the town the zoo's in they seemed to no longer correspond to anything on the ground. Some of this may be the curious difference between what Google Maps thinks streets should be called and what the people in charge of hanging road signs think they should be called, and we were forced to do some backtracking and looking around in despair, particularly in what was plainly a county highway in the place that Google Maps thought should be Second Street or a similar name for an obviously middle-of-town road. As we were about to give up on the printed directions we found a sign highlighting the zoo's entrance road. Things just happen that way.
At the entrance to the zoo --- which is run as part of a humane societies program, so it's not as slick and polished as, say, a county zoo would be --- we found nobody anywhere, with ticket windows closed, and some signs warning about what should or should not be fed to various things. We figured out that we should go around to the other building, with the area's veterinary care projects, to pay admission (and, we would have the option, to buy popcorn, although we didn't). And then we went back around and through the first building and into the zoo.
We started off with the Reptile House, which was small but nearby and offered the prospect of being warm. The zoo's in something of an odd position since as far as I can tell all their animals are rescued from the vicinity so that there isn't the sort of reasonably logical collecting of species. It's instead whatever sufficiently idiotic or irresponsible people happened to have around. So the larger attraction in the Reptile House was a pair of alligators, with another exhibit of an iguana, and around this time my mother text-messaged trying to figure out our dinner plans. (We'd planned to be on our own for dinner.)
That blend of erratic animal selection would run across the whole zoo, although given its origins that's to be expected. Once we figured how to get into anything past the Reptile House --- there was a swinging gate blocking the only path, and we supposed that it was all right to open it up even though there wasn't any direction or a map of the whole place for us to understand where we were expected to go --- we found reasonable, if slightly aged, enclosures for quite a few species of larger cats (although unless I missed something none of the Tiger Lady's tigers), or a surprising number of capuchin monkeys (in this case, I believe, six; would you expect that many people in central New Jersey belatedly realizing they're not monkey-keepers?), or Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.
These were accompanied by a sign explaining that in the early 80s there was this weird little fad for thinking that Vietnamese pigs would be somehow better pet choices than dogs or cats. In a remarkable show of restraint the sign did not drip onto the past owners the full sarcasm deserved for people who figured, sure, why not get relatively exotic long-lived animals that their veterinarians were sure to know nothing about with diets that aren't well-provided-for by every supermarket, pet food store, and 7-Eleven in existence? Actually, while the signs explained where many of the individual animals came from and could provide a lingering depressing undercurrent --- many of the animals are there, after all, because they were in physical danger from owners who were at best incompetent and at worst abusive to them --- they managed to stay remarkably un-irritated at the people behind the animals.
Right about the middle of our walking path we came to Cocoa, the coatimundi. He had an enclosure a fair bit larger than the one at the Flag Acres Zoo, to which I'd been with rcoony several times, although this one too kept him two fences away from pedestrians. He had a fair number of toys and things to climb on, although he didn't seem interested in posing for pictures. Possibly the gusts of wind making things extra cold left him more interested in moving around to stay warm (although he had a small shelter that he poked into several times); possibly he didn't notice bunny_hugger's camera. Inexplicably I left mine behind, although I was able to attempt taking pictures with my hand phone, for my first deliberate pictures with that. It's not well configured for taking pictures, but you could clearly make out that something was there.
If it were not so freezing out I could easily have spent more time watching Cocoa, although we weren't able to say anything which he found interesting enough to stop and listen to. Even a pair of other people walking by and tossing popcorn into his cage --- which bunny_hugger and I were not sure what should be done --- didn't attract his interest, suggesting that he's getting enough to eat or doesn't like frozen popcorn. I could interpret it either way easily. What we did conclude was it'd be nicer to spend time watching the animals here when it wasn't so freezing.
So this made for the shortest visit we'd taken to a zoo, and nearly the shortest visit we'd taken anyplace, due to inclement weather. We got back in my car with the heater set on ``stun'' and thought of where to go from here.
We ended up naturally enough at the county library, main branch, which is not too far from Seaside Heights where we'd had such wonderful days and also was adjacent to the county's Christmas Tree. That tree was comparable in height to the Rockefeller Center and to the Michigan State trees, although not so well-decorated, and we used that mostly as a good excuse to stop before going into the library.
The library has some attractive features, particularly a two-level lobby with constellations on the ceiling and a tiled floor with the imitation (we think) of fossilized sea animals, which fits the vague maritime ambitions of the county well. The library also usually has on display some oddball collection of stuff that some resident has offered; naturally, we hit in one of the between-exhibit times where there wasn't anything in any case. But we found something to entertain us anyway: this branch is the one that has videotapes of the pre-modern Doctor Who in it, and we picked up a couple of tapes as things we might watch if we had a few hours with the VCR.
Since we were nearby, and warmed up a bit, I had the brilliant idea that we might poke east to Seaside Heights and take in the tranquil pleasures of a summer resort bundled up for winter. I've had stupider ideas but not quite this dumb in a long while. It wasn't just the cold; if it was just the cold and most things being closed we wouldn't have had the beautiful counterpoint last year there. This was cold, and windy, and I believe there were tiny frozen-nitrogen daggers stabbing us from all directions, including through our shoes. Also the only parking spaces were ones using this freak centralized payment system where we had to try getting a reader to accept cash which it wouldn't, and then gave up and bought time with a credit card, and may I point out again that it was impossibly cold out? We ducked into one arcade and found the antique carousel was not running at least at that moment and accepted that we were not going to spend any more time than this here today under these circumstances. It was cold.
Still, it was barely around sunset so we had the thought that we could take in a movie. There were several we were interested in seeing, including Avatar, The Princess And The Frog, and Sherlock Holmes; and there's a theater not too far from my home and reasonably accessible from where we were coming, so we figured to go there and buy tickets to whatever was the first film showing. We modified this plan slightly to get something to eat first, and that something would be veggie sandwiches at Jersey Mike's, which has for some reason opened about 149 shops in the area of my home this past year. One of them is just around the strip mall from the theater, well within walking distance if it weren't so cold.
The first movie playing turned out to be Sherlock Holmes, which had seemed like the least appealing to me of the options anticipated. Also just after all the previews came a hefty man charged into our row and plopped down in the seat next to me, barely giving me time to pull my jacket out of the way. Nevertheless, the movie was pretty interesting and while Holmes was more of an action-hero character than I expected it played pretty well. In particular, one of the conventions it adopted --- to have Holmes plan out how he'll beat up a ruffian in a slow-motion identification of how he identifies a weakness, exploits it, and projects its likely effects such as seconds of disorientation or months to regain self-confidence, and then to execute the moves as planned --- actually made the action sequences look as if they were smart. It gave the impression of a very sharp, fast-thinking Holmes figuring out on the fly just how to punch someone efficiently.
The story felt a bit dopey in some ways --- is it my lack of having read much Holmes or do screen adaptations of Sherlock Holmes feature way more Moriarty than he ``really'' did --- and the threat against all Parliament felt outside the pattern of the crimes which built up to the climax. Still, the visuals were impressive, the directing tricks done to make Holmes look nearly as clever as Gregory House were played well, and everything came out in the end with explanations that very nearly made sense, including enough explanations for the apparently supernatural elements that the Skeptical Inquirer won't be whining about the movie.
So I had a fine time, and bunny_hugger did too --- we come out with startlingly close evaluations of the movie we see together --- although she noticed that a woman sitting in the row ahead of me turned around at one point and started cursing me out. I had no idea, and I can't imagine why she would have done that. I didn't do anything which I could imagine would attract attention to myself, not even cracking jokes at parts of the movie that lent themselves to Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing. Possibly she was just having a worse day.
On our way out we noticed the elaborate cardboard display advertising the forthcoming Alice in Wonderland movie and got to evaluating the different character designs. There was one figure in it, a snow queen sort, whom we couldn't think of from what we remembered of Alice's various adventures, although in my case it's been a long while since I've read any and I could easily believe I've forgotten them all. We also noticed the pictures of piles of books used for decoration and flavor included some books with Library of Congress numbers and stickers on them, and once we had that discovery made I got to comparing different piles and found the same book included in several piles. Even better, one of them was the Journal of the American Medical Association for 1927. Does it signify anything? No, of course not. But we were entertained by some property wrangler's decision that it didn't matter what books they used for the pictures as long as they looked old enough to be 19th century volumes and who would even notice if they used the same books several times over?
Back home, late enough that my parents were in bed already, we weren't ready yet to call the day over. We did watch Doctor Who, though not the tapes we'd brought in. I'd had recorded on Tivo the two-parter ``The End Of Time'', where the Tenth Doctor was supposed to bring his tenure to a conclusion. bunny_hugger hadn't seen them, partly from not having BBC America and partly from having grown sufficiently annoyed at New Who in the past as to not watch it as a regular thing anymore. I proposed we watch until we reached the point she couldn't take it any longer, and then we would jump into the Old Who.
It got off to a rather good start in her eyes, and I think in mine too. The Master gets around to conquering Earth, again, and the Time Lords make a surprising reappearance as inexplicably leeringly cranky villainous jerkfaces. My big reservation about this conclusion was that, first, since there wasn't really a full series building up to it but rather a set of one-off specials that it lacked the build-up which made previous series conclusions, like the last time the Master conquered Earth or when the Daleks stole the Earth, feel quite so big. Also this one felt like it depended a little too much on evoking the excitement of those previous series finales rather than making its own. (Heck, this one even had a dropped subplot --- Donna Noble having a burst of Something Or Other --- which played exactly like in ``The Stolen Earth'' where it turns out Torchwood has a time lock or something, namely, nobody knew what to do afterwards so we don't see Noble/Torchwood again until all the action is over, sorry to bother you with including them in the story.)
And, yes, while bunny_hugger started out enjoying it, as the story progressed into looser plot logic and more stuff exploding and why can the Master fly by shooting flames out his hands exactly now, she lost her sympathy with this particular adventure. Still, she never reached the point of saying ``enough'', so the finale managed that. And the concluding scenes of the end of the Tenth Doctor were ... mawkish, admittedly, and Noble got rooked, but they mostly worked. I was still trying to figure how this fit against the Doctor choosing to screw with the Laws Of Time That Are Sacred And Inviolable Now That We've Thought Them Up But We'll Forget Them In Half A Voyager Plot Point's Duration, from ``The Waters Of Mars'', but since it seems they didn't matter at all I suppose we'll have to let it go at that.
And that's how we filled out a happy Saturday.
Trivia: Radio City Music Hall's initial manager and operator, S L ``Roxy'' Rothapfel, claimed the design was the product of ``experience gained from a study of 6,000,000 letters'' from the public. This would imply his studying 68 letters per hour for his typical twelve-hour workday for his twenty years in the theatrical business. Source: Great Fortune: The Epic Of Rockefeller Center, Daniel Okrent.
Currently Reading: When Computers Were Human, David Alan Grier. And it happens I went back to that Burger King which has caused me mild disconcernment, and as I read it, one of the kids who stopped in asked what I was reading. I tried describing it briefly, and he claimed to find it interesting and discussed something about early video games I didn't quite get, and thanked me for the chat when his order was ready and he left.