Gold Llamaé

There is nothing I like better than a good theme party. It gives you a nice hook to base your decorations on and will often suggest ideas for snacks and party favors. So the first thing that came to mind when my family decided to gather to observe the eclipse was that we would need a signature cocktail. All the best hosts are hiring mixologists to create a drink for their special events, and what could be more special than something that hasn’t been observed in totality for almost one hundred years?

Full disclosure: I am a bit of a lightweight when it comes to alcohol. I like a glass of a nice red wine, but by the time I get anywhere near a refill, my face has gone red and my fingertips numb. I laugh so hard at my own jokes that no one can understand what I am trying to say; then I fall asleep. So I am not exactly an expert when it comes to creating something that will taste delicious and not require someone to hold your hair back the next morning. However, I am a graphic designer by day, so the most important thing to me was the visual.

Picture this on Youtube: a glowing ice orb to represent the sun, floating gently on a sea of cloud like crushed ice. At the moment the music swells and Bonnie T. sings “total eclipse of the heart”, a shot glass full of a dark liquor is poured over the spherical orange sun and blots out the color and metaphorical light. I could picture it in my mind and it was breathtaking!

With the help of my sister, I started experimenting a few weeks ago. I found silicon ice cube trays to create the sun, with versions of spheres made of orange Fanta, orange juice or water with yellow food coloring. The pale cloudy liquid it would float on was either sparkling ginger lemonade, sparkling pear cider or ginger beer. The shadow of the moon would be rum, Kahlua, or bourbon. While we made some interesting combinations, we never conclusively finished because we stopped to take three-hour naps.

Knowing that the big day was nearing, I decided to finish up the recipe by myself. I lined all the bottles up on the table and tried each one with a different mixer. I documented the tasting by art directing each shot and imagining these as high quality liquor ads in Esquire magazine. I also added a plastic gold llama to the tableaux for scale.

Sometimes what you want and what you get are two different things; all of my cocktails with the glowing sun orb looked like they had an egg yolk floating in the middle of them. The sparkling lemonade and bourbon was pretty good but the Jim Beam wasn’t dark enough to blot out the yolk; the pear cider was undrinkable and the ginger beer and rum might have been delicious, but when I was trying to video the effect, I accidentally poured the rum over the llama instead of the sun. It’s really hard to do slo-mo when your depth perception is gone.

I finally gave up, knowing that my family was pretty much going to guzzle gin straight out of the bottle anyway. I’m sure there are fabulous drink recipes available online that you can use to toast the sun blockage; me and the llama are sticking to Corona.



VSL* vs. VPL*

There is a well-known tradition that if you are traveling on a car trip, you must announce it when you drive over a state line; hence, the shout of “Two States at Once!” as we left Illinois and headed south into Indiana. (If you have never heard of this tradition before, you must immediately start doing it whenever you take a long drive. Maybe it isn’t so much a “well-known tradition” as it is “something we only do in my family, ” but I would encourage you to participate in this ritual. It is enormously satisfying and when this goes viral and sweeps the country, I will get credit for creating it.)

The journey south to the Path of Totality followed a meandering interstate through Mike Pence country all the way to the bottom of Indiana. The whole northern hemisphere is excited about the upcoming eclipse, and nothing illustrates that better than people trying to figure out ways to use this remarkable once-in-a-century celestial event to sell stuff. We encountered Mooncakes at Denny’s, MoonPies at Cracker Barrel and Dark Side of the Moon bikini underwear at Target. (I thought about buying the underwear but realized I had passed the part of my life where I can get away with wearing a Pink Floyd logo on my ass. This realization made me sad.)



The first part of the weekend is being spent at a big old farm house near French Lick, IN. Most of my family has gathered at this spot to share their excitement about the eclipse, play board games and drink lots and lots of gin. We have a variety of professions represented here who know a lot about many things and also a number of people who know nothing about anything but are very good at making you believe they do. (I place myself in the latter category).

We will relax for the weekend and prepare our stamina for Monday, when we will get up reaaaalllly early and drive south to Kentucky, where we will shout “Two States at Once” as we cross the border. But the unknown awaits: Will there be an autopocalypse? Will the gas stations run out of gas? Will we be able to post on Facebook?

This excursion has been planned for over a year, long before the general public became aware that there was going to be an eclipse and everyone decided to go to the exact same spot we are going, damn it. I like to think we were the first ones to come up with the idea of going to Hopkinsville, even though there are some scientists claiming that they knew about this years ago. (Ha! Like they could know that.)

Hopkinsville is the Point of Greatest Eclipse, where there will be a solid 2 minutes and 41 seconds of sun blockage. We have six reserved spaces in a field there, guaranteeing us at least a 15 x 15 foot area per space.  We have paid actual money to reserve grass, which makes me admire the entrepreneurial spirit of America.

Our little eclipse piece of real estate is quite roomy, but the spaces are end to end so we will have to stand shoulder to shoulder in a line and stare up. We will bring our own snacks and shade, but they have promised us there will be bathrooms and the National Guard. Our group will number 13, which could be a potent symbol of something menacing as the dimming begins and the wolves start to howl. Maybe we will, too.


* Visual State Line

*Visual Panty Line

It’s Not Plagiarism if I Admit I Didn’t Write It, Right?

If you’ve ever expressed a fondness for something whimsical—let’s say, ceramic figurines of llamas—you are probably now the proud owner of an entire collection of the little Peruvian porcelains. When people find out you’re a collector of something, it makes buying a birthday present so much easier.

And so it follows that when you mention that you are jotting down a few thoughts about a specific astronomical event, that people will start sending you links to articles about said happening. It is both gratifying and annoying at the same time, because most of the articles are far better than anything I’m going to write and thus make me feel sad and inferior. But I soldier on!  And rather than pretend that no one else had the unique idea to write about the eclipse, today the woodchuck will share with you the best of the internet. Think of these fascinating articles as way to fill your thirst for knowledge with actual research and facts so that you won’t be disappointed when I get back to quoting

fake glasses

These Are Not Going to Work


The Best Picture Ever Taken of People Gathered Together to Celebrate the Eclipse


CU bear at Williams Village

Cranky Bears and Other Pissed Off Deities


Bonnie Tyler Died For Your Sins and other pop culture stuff


Do We Really Think This Is Going to be Worth It?



Tomorrow: The Journey to Hopkinsville Begins!

You Light Up My Life

You’re going to need a playlist.

Not for the actual event – that should be two minutes and forty-one seconds of quality silence, orchestrated by freaked-out birds and chilly cicadas who stop swiping left when the temps drop because they don’t have enough body heat to look for a date. You definitely need to be unplugged and present for that.

But there will be a lot of travel time to fill up as people make their way towards the Path of Totality, and for that you’re going to need tunes. My own journey starts on Friday, August 18 and will involve many hours in the car. Every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of “Hamilton”, so here are a few ideas on what to look for in appropriate music.

1) It should contain factual information, and no song gets that better than “Brain Damage/Eclipse” by Pink Floyd from the album Dark Side of the Moon.

One side of the moon is always lit by the sun, but the lit side isn’t always facing the Earth. This is how we get the phases of the moon. For a solar eclipse to occur, it needs to be in its “new moon” phase. During the new moon, the dark side of the moon is directly facing the Earth.

Brian Resnick

Nobody puts the lunatic in lunar quite like Pink Floyd, and their lyrics perfectly illustrate what it will be like if it’s too crowded or the weather doesn’t cooperate:

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

The album “Dark Side of the Moon” syncs up perfectly with “The Wizard of Oz”. Start the record right after the MGM lion roars at beginning of film. Here I am as a winged monkey.

I am going to be so mad if it rains. I know I shouldn’t worry about that but every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the rest of all the clouds won’t go by.

2) It should reference all parties involved, so anything mentioning the sun, the moon, or a shadow are acceptable. Easy enough, as there are a million songs that touch on all these things. “Here Comes the Sun” will be great as it emerges from behind the darkness. “Moonshadow” is a twofer! If you’re a Smashmouth fan (and who isn’t!)  “Walking on the Sun” can merge right into “Walking on the Moon” by the Police. I’m putting together a mashup of “Big Hard Sun” and “Moondance” – it worked perfectly when I sang it in the car this morning so I just need a sound editor to mix it together for me and maybe add some reverb and autotune my voice. (Fun fact: I always thought the song was “Big Hot Sun” until I googled it just now. One of those “someone ate my wife tonight” situations.)

3) It should probably be something pretty obvious that everyone can sing. Come on, you know what I’m talking about! “Then you flew your Learjet to Nova Scotia, to see the total eclipse of the sun”.

In the 1970s, a small group of astronomers used the first prototype of the Concorde to pursue a total eclipse across the Sahara at twice the speed of sound.
                                                                                     Chris Hatherill/

When I read about these scientists who chartered the Concorde in order to follow the Path of Totality across the earth for 70 minutes, I actually thought it was this episode that Carly Simon was referring to in “You’re So Vain”. But apparently this happened in 1973 and the song was written in 1971, so I guess not. Unless . . . the plane went fast enough to reverse the spin of the earth and turn back time so that Warren Beatty could go with them!  Turn, earth! Turn around!

It’s so easy to find the correct info on the internet. And I’ll only be making it right, ‘Cause we’ll never be wrong together! We can take it to the end of the line –
this blog is like a shadow on me all of the time (all of the time).

Um… sorry.
I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark.
It’s like I’m living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.
Nothing I can do.
But let’s just return to the start . . .

You’re going to need a playlist.


Note: Here are some songs you should NOT add to your iPod
A Whiter Shade of Pale
On a Clear Day You Can Nazi Forever
Waitin’ for the Robert E. Lee
Springtime for Hitler
Tomorrow Belongs To Me

#Charlottesville #fuckinnazis

Burn, Baby, Burn


Countless articles are warning that you will need special glasses if you plan on looking at the eclipse. Make sure you get the right kind —shameless grifters are apparently repurposing old 3D glasses and trying to pass them off as NASA approved, so be suspicious if yours have a Captain America logo on the side. I found a pair at a local hardware store for under two bucks and was surprised at how flimsy they are. For all the worry about blind woodchucks, I was expecting something a bit more substantial.

Some procedural questions for those of us who already wear glasses: do you duct tape the cardboard ones over your existing specs or shove them underneath? What if you have bifocals? Can I get these in my prescription? Are the disposables biodegradable or will they still be in landfills by the time we go through this again in 2024? Can I get the eclipse pair in those really thick, dark frames that all the hipsters are wearing?

Not peeking may be the safest option, but you can’t hear all the hype about this event and then elect to just stare at your shoes while it is happening. Looking at your feet should at least remind you to make the classic Pinhole Shoebox experiment. This diagram shows how to construct this project. It works exactly as described but should come with a warning— opinions may vary on its effectiveness.

Pinhole Shoebox

The last eclipse that was visible from the midwest area of the U.S. was in 1994. Chicago wasn’t anywhere near the path of totality so there wasn’t quite the amount of coverage there is now, but it was still in the news. I had been talking it up to my kids (who were nine and four at the time) and perhaps raising expectations for this great event in the sky just a tad more than I should have. Since I was all about Safety First and crafty as hell to boot, we constructed the Pinhole Shoebox as a family project. It was very low-tech but I assured them it was going to work perfectly. They seemed doubtful.

The afternoon of the eclipse found us out on the playground of the elementary school with kids milling about waiting for something momentous to happen. As the time approached, the light started to vaguely dim but it wasn’t as if total darkness fell. It just seemed cloudy. I had the shoebox positioned correctly to catch the light and as the moon moved in front of the sun, a perfect crescent shadow slowly advanced over the white circle that was the sun projected at the back of the box. It looked exactly as Carl Sagan had promised!

The problem with this whole experiment is that it happens inside of a shoebox and the image is about the size of a pencil eraser. You could call it anticlimactic. Others might use the words profoundly underwhelming.

Excitedly I called the kids over to show them that it had worked and they looked baffled. They had imagined something like the stream of light hitting the crystal staff and sending a laser beam through the darkness of the pyramid tomb in Raiders of the Lost Ark. What they got was their mother with her head in a shoebox acting like she had discovered something about the sun that Galileo might have missed. As I handed the box to my daughter so that she, too, could marvel at this astronomical event, I caught the look on her face. It was the dawning realization that this was to be the first of many moments when her up-to-that-point cool mom was actual going to turn out to be the embarrassment of her life. She’d heard about this in the girl’s bathroom but hadn’t expected it to happen this soon. And why was the waist of her jeans so high?!?

Shortly after this, she refused to be picked up from school in the battered old Chevy Chevette I was driving at the time. My advice is don’t try the shoebox experiment with anyone over the age of eight. You’re setting yourself up for humiliation. It’s going to happen eventually, but why add fuel to the fire? And for God’s sake, stop wearing those mom jeans.

Fun fact: Galileo was completely blind by the age of 74. Coincidence? I think not. 

Animal Crackers

An interesting factoid about the solar eclipse is how it will affect the behavior of animals. Clearly the woodchuck* may be regretting some of his decisions, but how will his furry friends react to this natural phenomenon? According to the internet, not well.

“Researchers of the Zoological Survey of India studied rock bees during an eclipse, finding that the number of them leaving and returning to their hive every minute increased dramatically during a partial solar eclipse. These social bees are known for their aggressive defense strategies and vicious behavior when disturbed. As the sun dipped behind the moon, more than 150 bees buzzed about, when normally only a few would move away from the hive. Said the researcher, “It would appear that during the partial solar eclipse, the rock bees became distinctly restless and more active.” 

Distinctly restless and more active is not how I want my bees to behave, and that was just during a partial eclipse. They are going to totally freak during a total one. It also appears that the colonial orb-weaving spiders of Mexico will have no idea what to do with themselves, as they start ripping apart their webs when the day goes completely dark, then reconstructing them when the light returns. Even the hippos are going to need Xanax:

“Hippos on a sandbar in the Zambezi River began entering the water as the eclipse set in — possibly mistaking it for the onset of evening, when the animals typically leave their resting places and traverse the bottom of the river. Sunlight returned before any of the herd had reached the riverbanks, and the study reported an apparent sense of confusion, even apprehension among the animals. They continued in this state, seemingly, for the rest of the day.”

So now we’ve got angry bees, confused spiders and apprehensive hippos all running around, as well as an extra million cars on the roads trying to get to the Path. And apparently ground squirrels go completely nuts as well, as the length of their “non-stop running sessions were much greater than normal during and for two hours after the eclipse.” This should make for some interesting roadkill. Between the angry bees and the manic squirrels, I may not even get out of the car.

Oh, sure, you say, it’s just a squirrel. They are small and cute and can be beaten to death with a shovel if necessary. But have scientists considered how this lunar event is going to affect werewolves? The moon will be full as the shadow passes in front of the sun, even though it’s the middle of the day. If this is messing with the hippo’s heads, what will it do to werewolves? Once again, I turned to the internet for expert advice:

“A lunar eclipse during a full moon will cause a werewolf to de-transform from their monstrous hairy wolf form during the eclipse. Yet they will maintain their mindless violent werewolf rage while in human form and will totally lose all sense of humanity, causing them to go on a serial killing spree of anything that crosses their path.”

And I was worried there wasn’t going to be any cell phone service.


*There was some chatter on Facebook about the fact that a woodchuck and a groundhog are the same thing. While that may be factually correct, please be assured that nothing on this blog can be assumed to be true as my main research tool is But it would explain the nightmare that I had where I kept thinking I had written a new post, only to wake up each day and find it was the same one over and over.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck stared directly into a solar eclipse?

woodchuck_eclipsebehind it

I think the answer is obvious. The first rule about watching the solar eclipse is don’t watch the solar eclipse. Foolish woodchucks who don’t wear their special glasses during this event will find themselves scorned and mocked by the other rodents. They can be very mean.

I hope the rest of the woodchucks have already ordered their glasses from NASA, because on August 21, 2017, North America will be able to experience its first solar eclipse in almost a century. For a total of 2 minutes and 41 seconds, the moon will move in front of the sun, blocking the light and warmth of the star we depend upon for our very survival. It’s a preview of what life will be like if Donald Trump stays in office much longer.

A total eclipse is said to be an awe-inspiring moment.  The light dims and goes flat, the temperature suddenly chills, birds and animals go silent (except for my cats, who will assume it’s time to eat since it will be dark). Woodchucks will make bad choices.

Most of the U.S. will be able to see at least a partial eclipse (or as Congress calls it, “a skinny eclipse”), but to get the whole experience of Black is the New Orange, you will need to be in the Path of Totality. The Path is not some flower-laden trail of dirt that little girls skip along; it is a wide arc of the sightline that swoops across the country, suddenly throwing tiny little midwestern towns into the spotlight simply because of where they are geographically located.

One of these towns is Hopkinsville, KY, population 31,000. That’s for today. On August 21, it is expected to be more like 150,000; or rather, 150,011, as my entire family and I will be there, too.

The Blind Woodchuck, besides being a cautionary tale, is also your guide to All Things Eclipse. Check back frequently for a first person narrative of how to prepare for this great event, and moment to moment observations about whether thousands of people standing together in a field staring up at the sun will simultaneously burn their retinas to a crisp. We can all learn from the woodchuck.