Gamera

Saw the 1995 Gamera reboot last night. Awesome. Scientific, intellectual, and they flatten Tokyo. He’s—wait, is he a he? There’s no huge swinging giant monster balls, but he does have a violent streak for a turtle—anyway, he fights this neo-Rodan whose name escapes me and they totally fuck up everything scientifically and intellectually. All that plus the usual paleontologists, doomed fishermen, panicky city folk and suicidal reporters. Lots of tanks and jets and rocket launchers, too, plus the occasional pathos. And if some of Gamera’s behavioral traits–bipedalism, fire breathing, spinning, flying, even the touching inter-species empathy–test the credulity of testudine phylogeny, it makes for some groovy giant monster action sequences. So while not exactly David Attenborough, it certainly stands as the Citizen Kane of giant turtle movies.

Axolotll

Weird how cultural perceptions change over time. When I was a kid, axolotls were really freaky looking, almost science fiction, even scary, like aliens. As bizarre looking a creature as you could find in earth. Even the name, a Nahuatl word (they are found in lakes around Mexico City), meant water monster. A little foot long water monster, pink (a relatively rare color in the wild, they are typically brownish) and exotic and weird, especially with those bizarre juvenile gills retained in adulthood. Now in this adorable educational video, fifty years later, they are seen as positively cute. They look cute to me even. How can anyone not love that anthropomorphized smile? Ripley (distinctly not a Nahuatl word for water monster) seems to have a personality, like an anime character (though in Japan, where giant salamanders are five feet long and without the neotenic gills, salamanders are more unnerving than cute and even show up in a Godzilla movie). Somewhere over this past half century there’s been a fundamental shift in what is freakish and what is cute, a shift that even changed my own perceptions. Who knows how this works. Collective thinking. We are still far from a full understanding of how our brains work, and just beginning to figure out how all our brains work together. We stumble through existence with this unparalleled device in our heads, clueless, almost, as to what it is making us think and see and do and remember.