Introducing Ali Barker and the Bug Squad!

You may never slap a mosquito the same way again, thanks to Ali Barker.

At least that’s what occurred to me when I entered the playful and creative world of Ali Barker’s Bug Squad, a cartoon of humanized, and frankly adorable, insects.

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The Creatures of Star Wars

Welcome back to my blog about balloons, rocket ships, airplanes, space travel, Star Wars, sci-fi, and everything about flying. Last night, I was watching Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace and got to thinking about the whole wide world of Star Wars (or should I say, the whole galaxy).

I couldn’t stop thinking about all the different types of creatures throughout the Star Wars galaxy and wondering who exactly created them. Well, I did a little research and found the amazing Terryl Whitlatch. Terryl Whitlatch was the principal creature designer for The Phantom Menace, in charge of creating almost all of the creatures and alien characters — she even designed Jar Jar Binks!

Whitlatch also designed Sebulba, the pod racers, and the creatures of Naboo. Working alongside Star Wars creator George Lucas, Terryl Whitlatch also helped redesign beloved and imfameous characters and creatures including Jabba the Hutt and the dewbacks.

She has written some amazing books about her creature design (my favorites are The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field GuidePrinciples of Creature Design: Creating Imaginary Animals, and Science of Creature Design: Understanding Animal Anatomy). In all of her books, the illustrations are unbelievably beautiful and just crazy cool! It is also pretty amazing to read about how Whitlatch gets inspired and how she does all the research to make her creatures seem so real!

I can’t wait to try and design some of my own creatures tonight! I’ll see you next time…in a galaxy far far away!

~ Max

To find out more about me visit Salem House Press and buy my latest book Max Teller’s Amazing Adventure! Now available in paperback at your favorite booksellers. Ask for it by name!

Transcendent Music, Trains, and Ships

Listen to this transcendent music piece. Old tall ships rock on the ocean. Steam trains speed by through picturesque landscapes. Throughout Chris Dowgin plays some Japanese Zen flute mixed with Native American styling. Guaranteed to bring you into a mindful meditative state.

The Plague

There is something to be said about horror movies. No matter how terrible the times or how horrendous reality seems to be at the moment, slasher flicks always seem to draw a crowd. In fact, many of my friends lean into a Netflix binge of Criminal Minds or Hannibal during a hard break up or difficult time in their life. These days, a horror film reads pretty close to reality — if not a bit peachier.

Following that train of thought, why not then, in the midst of a global pandemic, read about a plague? Cue to Albert Camus’ The Plague.

The Plague

The Plague by Albert Camus takes place in the French colonized town of Oran, Algeria. Racial, social, and medical injustices abound in the 308-page book which uses a devastating pandemic to delve into even deeper issues: capitalism and corruption, gross injustices, and a false sense of superiority. Split into five sections, the novel details the insidious spread of plague (in a town that steadfastly ignores its progression) and the subsequent disintegration of a sane society. Sounds eerily familiar, does it not? Well, at least COVID-19 isn’t harbored in the bodies of, and I kid you not, blood-spewing rats…at least not yet. Though…there was that one squirrel in Colorado with the Bubonic Plague (he really couldn’t read the room).

‘If things go on as they are going,’ Rieux remarked, ‘the whole town will be a madhouse.’Albert Camus, The Plague

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Flute Club- USS Constellation Baltimore

This week Flute Club travels to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore to the USS Constellation. Chris Dowgin plays for the passersby and the dancing security guards of the camera. Where will find Flute Club next around the country? Have a lookout for him and say hi. Maybe you can be in one of his videos?

The Lost Lover and The Coral Castle

It’s your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler the Boy on the Move, once again bringing you the best in last-minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months…

After we lived in Gibsonton for a while, my parents got a new gig about four hours away in Homestead, Flordia. Just like in Gibsonton, as we were settling into our new home, I took a walk to explore. I ended up finding a crazy looking sculpture garden with little moons and planets!

Little did I know that I had just stumbled into the Coral Castle! Ed Leedskalnin’s Coral Castle!

Latvian immigrant Edward “Ed” Leedskalnin was born in 1887 to a poor farming family in Riga. He spent his childhood working in the fields with his older siblings before becoming a stonemason.

According to urban legend, Ed fell madly in love with a young Lativian lass (10 years his minor) named Agnes Scuffs (or Skuvst — the accounts vary). The two quickly became engaged despite the fact that Ed was 26 and Agnes, called his “Sweet Sixteen” by Ed, was only 16 (a bit creepy if you ask me). On the very day they were meant to be married, Agnes abandoned Ed at the alter, canceling the wedding. Utterly heartbroken, Ed became despondent and ultimately left Lativia for the U.S. in 1912. Ed’s grand-nephew Janus Leedskalnin said that “it is absolutely clear that Ed left for America because he was jilted by his bride.”

Even outside of Lativia, Ed was consumed by thoughts of his “Sweet Sixteen.” After moving to Florida in 1918, Ed began to think of how he might be able to honor his lifelong lost love. Unable to forget her, Ed — despite being chronically ill, 100 pounds, and only just over 5 feet tall — began building a monument to his lost lover…out of MASSIVE blocks of stone.

With only hand-held tools and his own strength, Ed moved over 1,100 TONS of “coral” rock (actually sedimentary rock or oolite limestone) under the cover of darkness. Each and every night, Ed would set out to work, undergoing a grueling task of hauling 30-odd ton blocks of sedimentary rock onto the site of his megalithic castle before sculpturing them. None of Ed’s neighbors ever seemed to witness his moving, placing, or carving. And he did all of this to honor his runaway bride…not the best inspiration in my opinion, but hey — he built a cool castle!

Some were suspicious of Ed’s nighttime activities. Certain onlookers thought the steadfast progress could only be the result of magic. Others believe that Ed’s backbreaking work could only have been done in one way: aliens. I kid you not: extraterrestrials in Florida (is it really that much of a stretch?)!

However he did it, when it was finally all done and finished, Ed offered tours to anyone who wanted them for 10 cents a pop. After 28 years of night-time work, I’m surprised he didn’t ask for more!

By the Winter of 1951, Ed’s life’s work caught up to him. He fell ill (perhaps his chronic “Lung Condition” aggravated by the years of hard work). Before leaving his epic monument to Agnes, Ed hung a simple sign on the entranceway to his testament of lost love: “going to the hospital.” He didn’t provide a return date. He simply took a bus to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital and checked himself in. He died in his sleep three days later at age 64.

The Castle, an American Taj Mahal, was inherited by Ed’s nephew. The new owner sold the Coral Castle not three years after it’s maker died, and after that, it switched hands numerous times.

Today, the Castle remains to stand as a monument to love (kinda gross considering, you know, cooties) and a tourist attraction (it is sometimes called Flordia’s Stonehenge!).

You should stop by the next time you’re near the Everglades!

Until next time!

~ Tyler

To find out more about Tyler visit Salem House Press and buy Tyler’s latest book “Tyler Moves to Gibsonton Florida”. It is now available in paperback at most bookstores. Ask for it by name, and keep checking back for great cheap vacation ideas that might end up being the best vacation you ever had!