Curious George

My seventeen year old daughter is keenly interested in politics and political figures so I wasn’t surprised that she wanted to see Oliver Stone’s biopic W. We saw it on Friday night in an almost full theater. In a nutshell, the movie was entertaining in a squirm-in-your-seat fashion.
brolin_bush.jpg
Josh Brolin (l) [No Country for Old Men] starred as the Lame Duck (r). Although not a doppelganger, Brolin nailed Bushie’s mannerisms and speech patterns perfectly. Interestingly, Christian Bale was originally cast in the role, but dropped out for various reasons.

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10,000 B.C.: To MST3000 or Not to MST3000

One of the guilty pleasures of my sabbatical from the dark halls of Pharma-dur is the freedom to take in a movie on a weekday afternoon. There’s just something special about sitting in a theater of the local googolplex with maybe three to ten other people and watching a new release on the big silver screen. It’s like my own semi-private showing, and I can make believe that I am a dowdy suburban semi-literate version of the late Pauline Kael.
Among the flicks I’ve taken in as afternoon delights: No Country for Old Men (saw it twice – I’m a combined Cormac McCarthy/Coen Brothers fan), There Will Be Blood (very good), Cloverfield (when I wasn’t sick from vertigo, it was Godzilla-on-steroids and quite a horror-thriller), In Bruges (semi-bitter Belgian chocolate of a dark comedy), Vantage Point (not so fresh) and 10,000 B.C..
The latter has been roundly panned up, down and sideways, including here on Science Blogs where the honorable proprietors of Laelaps and Pharyngula have sneered at its various failings. To any critic expecting scientific accuracy, I must say, “What the fuckadiddleleeucklely, neighborinos? You were maybe expecting precise prehistorical and zoological replication from the dude who brought us Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow? What about caveat emptor do you not understand?” Well, OK, Professor Pharyngumyers didn’t plunk down his hard earned dead presidents; he rightly eschewed the egregious work of cinema that he figured would offend his sensibilities so he’s off the hook. Still, I’ve got to say I winced at the lip-curling pedanticism displayed here, there and elsewhere.

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10,000 B.C.: To MST3000 or Not to MST3000

One of the guilty pleasures of my sabbatical from the dark halls of Pharma-dur is the freedom to take in a movie on a weekday afternoon. There’s just something special about sitting in a theater of the local googolplex with maybe three to ten other people and watching a new release on the big silver screen. It’s like my own semi-private showing, and I can make believe that I am a dowdy suburban semi-literate version of the late Pauline Kael.
Among the flicks I’ve taken in as afternoon delights: No Country for Old Men (saw it twice – I’m a combined Cormac McCarthy/Coen Brothers fan), There Will Be Blood (very good), Cloverfield (when I wasn’t sick from vertigo, it was Godzilla-on-steroids and quite a horror-thriller), In Bruges (semi-bitter Belgian chocolate of a dark comedy), Vantage Point (not so fresh) and 10,000 B.C..
The latter has been roundly panned up, down and sideways, including here on Science Blogs where the honorable proprietors of Laelaps and Pharyngula have sneered at its various failings. To any critic expecting scientific accuracy, I must say, “What the fuckadiddleleeucklely, neighborinos? You were maybe expecting precise prehistorical and zoological replication from the dude who brought us Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow? What about caveat emptor do you not understand?” Well, OK, Professor Pharyngumyers didn’t plunk down his hard earned dead presidents; he rightly eschewed the egregious work of cinema that he figured would offend his sensibilities so he’s off the hook. Still, I’ve got to say I winced at the lip-curling pedanticism displayed here, there and elsewhere.

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Doc Bushwell’s MST 3000: Beowulf

When the word “stinker” was bandied about in reviews, I should have known better. Yet at happy hour last Friday, my two gal-pals and I made a date to see a Sunday matinee of Robert Zemickis’ Beowulf. My friends, a biologist and a chemist, had taken medieval literature as undergrad electives so they were curious, and having recently read Seamus Heaney’s translation and as a Tolkien aficionado, I thought the flick might be fun.
Ay caramba, man. The critics were on to something.

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America’s Most Smartest Model – a new guilty pleasure

On many occasions, I have made apparent my predilection for viewing some of the worst crap televised. Ever. I land on it like a fly on fresh feces (and not just monkey feces), so this past weekend was no exception when a friend turned me on to America’s Most Smartest Model, one of the plethora of reality TV shows that litter the airwaves, or cable lines as the case may be. This one is broadcast on VH1. Apparently, it’s a hit among the science-geeks of my friend’s Boston biotech crowd.

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America’s Most Smartest Model – a new guilty pleasure

On many occasions, I have made apparent my predilection for viewing some of the worst crap televised. Ever. I land on it like a fly on fresh feces (and not just monkey feces), so this past weekend was no exception when a friend turned me on to America’s Most Smartest Model, one of the plethora of reality TV shows that litter the airwaves, or cable lines as the case may be. This one is broadcast on VH1. Apparently, it’s a hit among the science-geeks of my friend’s Boston biotech crowd.

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MST3000 – Doc Bushwell Version: Reign of Fire and The Prestige

In anticipation of forking over multiple dead presidents, a healthy kidney and sacrificing a pair of white doves to enter the local googolplex cinema to see 3:10 to Yuma, I indulged in a Christian Bale-o-thon this weekend. Well, OK, two DVDs don’t make a “-thon” but it’s a little more focused than my typical viewing habits.
The two films I watched this past weekend were Reign of Fire and The Prestige. Both qualify as Mystery Science Theatre designates. In fact, Michael Nelson of the real MST 3000 has a Riff on Reign of Fire available for the low, low, LOW price of $2.99!

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Humor, Men, and Women: The Film.

As a belated follow-on to my rant on ol’ Hissy Chrissy Hitchies’ contention that women aren’t funny, I offer this film clip via LiveScience: Humor and the Sexes. Be forewarned that you must suffer through a Yahoo ad in the beginning which pokes gentle fun at Incompetent Men and Their Tools, a subject that is always a knee-slappper. In the meat of the film, Allan Reiss discusses the tantalizing observations that men’s and women’s brains respond differently to humor.

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An Exhibition of Mythic Proportions

A friend visited from Boston this past weekend, so we took a jaunt into The City on Saturday. Our prime destination was the American Museum of Natural History where Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids is now playing as a special exhibition.
The imaginary bestiary was entertaining and informative. The basis of myth was explored nicely, and provided testament to the power of human imagination when confronted with natural phenomenon. A seventeen-foot winged green dragon greeted us at the entry, and a plethora of dragon, unicorn and mermaid flavored tchotckes awaited the unsuspecting as they exited. The exhibition was divided into Creatures of the Deep, Creatures of the Earth, Creatures of the Sky, and Dragons – Creatures of Power.

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An Exhibition of Mythic Proportions

A friend visited from Boston this past weekend, so we took a jaunt into The City on Saturday. Our prime destination was the American Museum of Natural History where Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids is now playing as a special exhibition.
The imaginary bestiary was entertaining and informative. The basis of myth was explored nicely, and provided testament to the power of human imagination when confronted with natural phenomenon. A seventeen-foot winged green dragon greeted us at the entry, and a plethora of dragon, unicorn and mermaid flavored tchotckes awaited the unsuspecting as they exited. The exhibition was divided into Creatures of the Deep, Creatures of the Earth, Creatures of the Sky, and Dragons – Creatures of Power.

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Doc Bushwell’s MST3K: “Dark Storm” and “Pandemic.”

My Saturday night exercises in TV viewing resemble Mystery Science Theater 3000 as my spawn and I hoot at bad sci-fi offerings. On occasion, I seek these out in the interest of seeing how poorly scientists and science are portrayed in the pop cultural milieu. Last night’s trawling of the cable networks landed Pandemic which premiered (oooo, la, la!) on the Hallmark Channel, of all places, and the truly horrid Dark Storm on the SciFi Network.

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Seven Items Or Less (III and final)

Jack righted himself, slowly and with a creaking and protesting of joints and muscle and gristle. The fluorescent lights overhead hurt his eyes, one of which, three weeks removed from his accident, was still swollen partly shut and rimmed with an ugly yellow bruise. The armrests of the wheelchair bit into his elbows as he heaved himself forward. He ignored the discomfort.
“Easy, Jack,” the rehabilitation specialist, a tall redhead named Karen, advised in a practiced, condescending sing-song. “We still have twenty minutes. One at a time!” If helping injured people regain their strength and health was the primary function of these whitecoats, Jack mused dully, dismissing the obvious burden of ambient suffering ran a close second. Jack was, at some abstract level, all for it. But his head still hurt and his left arm was a mangled and shattered mess. He’d worry about that some other day.
“I’m going to apply some pressure to your shins, m’kay?” said Karen. “I want you to push forward and bend your knees against the resistance. Just five seconds.” As she placed her practiced palms against his lower legs, her pager went off. She unclipped it from her pocket and studied it. “Be right back…Jack.” She smiled, partly out of habit and partly at her impromptu dose of yuk-yuk, then padded away toward a telephone.

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Seven Items Or Less (II)

The clerk in charge of his register had the contrived bearing of Everyteen: sullen yet amused. He was taking an inordinately long time with the couple and their purchases, jawing with them spiritedly about some over-budgeted disaster flick. Save it, kids, Jack thought. Spare your wallets and guard what’s left of your brains. But he kept quiet; only his shuffling feet belied his air of insouciance.
Then he noticed a box of Skor Bars on the candy rack. Man, how he loved those things. He’d thought they’d gone out of circulation years ago, but obviously not; maybe this place wasn’t as contemptible as he’d judged it to be. In any event, he really wanted a Skor Bar now. His weakness for chocolate perturbed him, but he sometimes submitted.
Jack chanced a subtle glance over his shoulder, scratching his neck to mask the maneuver. He edged toward the candy rack and casually extended his arm toward his prey, keeping his eyes fixed on the clerk. His fingers played blindly over the candy bars for a moment, then snatched up a Skor Bar, which he quickly deposited among his other purchases. There had been a maddening rustle of wrappers when his candy bar was plied from its fellows, but the deed was done. He exhaled again. Bouncing on his toes, Jack whistled a few strains along with the Muzak before looking back once more.
Shamu was still staring. Her eyes were beady and porcine; her countenance – haughty, vapid and accusatory in the manner of a lifelong dreg – as hopelessly flawed as the rest of her. Yet she looked imperious. Jack was reminded of an intimidating grade-school teacher, and the memory – and the unsettling effect this bloated cretin was having on him now – galled him. Several other customers were now lined up behind her. All of them seemed to be looking at him, too. Inspecting him.
Jack swiveled to face Shamu directly. “Don’t count my items,” he snapped.

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Seven Items Or Less (I)

Jack Beecher’s eyes, twin green pools sparkling with intelligence but hooded with ennui, charted a bumpy course over the dozen checkout lanes in Hall’s Market. All of them were clogged with the singularly maddening obstacles of the supermarket milieu: bloated, ponderous carts lined up insipidly like bovines awaiting slaughter, young children scampering under and around these de facto cattle with the aimless avidity of flies, glad-handing cashiers and baggers in braces and clip-on ties – the lackluster cowboys and cowgirls of this wingding ranch.
He glanced at his imitation Rolex and frowned, his hopes of a hasty exodus from this loathsome bazaar fading. It was Wednesday; why the supermarket was as crowded as a frat-house bash was a mystery. A rare day off from his duties as a collection supervisor had become a series of misadventures: a popped button on his snazziest shorts, a tearful call from his manic-depressive secretary, a massive pile of excrement — the cheerful endowment of his neighbor’s Mastiff — on his well-manicured front lawn. Now, with the help of the rabble, he’d managed to expand a quick stop at the grocery store into an honest-to-goodness shopping trip, frittering away resources of money and time. He simply wished to go home, roam the Internet, and crash for a spell before taking in an episode of South Park and launching a few well-earned Heinekens down his throat.
Jack shifted the weary plastic market basket from hand to hand, appraising its heft as its metal handle cut into his palm. It held a dozen eggs, four boxes of macaroni and cheese, a six-pack of beer, a roll of paper towels, a razor, a stick of deodorant, and a can of Hormel chili. After a moment’s pause, he slid into the shortest and fastest-moving checkout line, one marked by a self-important sign: SEVEN ITEMS OR LESS. Jack glanced indifferently at his purchases. He had, after all, only one basket. He didn’t need to spend the rest of his afternoon in the clamor of this enervating establishment for the sake of an arbitrary dictum.

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Swing Time (VIII and final)

It was only four or five minutes later when the first several police officers, accompanied by several members of the Hadley Fire Department, a handful of paramedics, and an assortment of squawking radios, burst through the brambly growth at the edge of the bluff, cut, cursing and panicked. They saw the rope, now dangling peacefully from its impossibly high anchor site. The end of it hung limply over the water, pointing down like a weak, accusatory finger. The surface of the Kiddamoosuc mocked them with its calmness. And that was all.
Then the radios started jabbering in earnest, and didn’t stop for several hours. It seemed like a long time before the first State Police Aquatic Rescue Unit (otherwise known as a boat) arrived on the scene. By then, national networks were already receiving the incredible footage of the daredevil jumper from small-town New Hampshire and dressing it up with appropriately somber voice-overs.

An exhausted Greg Drumb emerged from the shadowy waters of the Kiddamoosuc forty-five minutes later. Over three-quarters of a mile from the panic and clamor and flashing lights, he pulled himself up on shore and crawled under the shade of an elm. He was hundreds of yards from any road – that was the thing about the Kiddamoosuc; it teased Hadley rather than joined it, and was really only visible from major roadways for about a half-mile stretch downtown, still two miles south of where Greg, looking like an alien, took refuge in the shade of a particular tree and, fighting off the urge to fade into unconsciousness, began stripping off his scuba gear.
Bill Conroy was not with him. But a rigid-limbed figure in a black dry suit floated facedown in a small cove less than a hundred feet from where Greg lay. Greg had made sure it was out of sight.

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Swing Time (VII)

Greg trotted south along the bluff for about a hundred yards, still out of view of the burgeoning crowd. He saw that traffic was now blocked on either side of the bridge; vehicles were backed up perhaps two hundred yards in both directions. He smiled. Incidental additions to the audience.
He checked his watch. Two minutes. It was almost perfect. The first set of flashing blue lights was making its way impatiently toward the clamor on the bridge. People with cameras and mikes were parading around like ants, unsure of what was happening but self-important all the same. He saw they were loosely focusing their attention to the north, as instructed.
Greg let himself slide over the edge and partway down the steep embankment. They had determined that because of the curvature of the bluff, a person could make his way almost to water’s edge at this point and not be spotted from the bridge. Soon enough, no one would be looking his way anyway.

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Swing Time (VI)

The trip back to the bottom again was easier.
“I doubt anyone can really see this from the road, but it’s best to be safe,” Bill remarked in the still-thickening darkness, trudging in slow circles around the mammoth trunk while holding the rope flush against it. “I’ll be goddamned if anyone undoes ninety percent of the good I’ve accomplished in the past five years. Besides, who knows how many kids wander down this way?” He sounded quite tired now. It was close to one in the morning.
Soon, the rope was wrapped fully around the trunk of the venerable oak. There was nothing to be done about the stretch of it extending from the middle of the branch to the point at which wrapping had begun, a hundred feet above (a height managed only when Bill had climbed partway up the bluff again), but neither of the men imagined the rope could be seen at a casual glance, even from much closer than the bridge downstream.
And they were done. Rather than scale the bluff again (would that it were possible), they meandered along the shore in the direction of the bridge, where climbing would be easier, a luxury unavailable during daylight if you were carrying, say, a crossbow. Greg was enveloped in a strange sense of calm – one he couldn’t place. Maybe it was just the endorphins from all the physical work, but more than that it seemed to him the afterglow of accomplishment – a sensation with which he was rarely in tune. It was odd anyway: What had they really done?

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Swing Time (IV)

9:31 p.m. on the shore of the Kiddamoosuc.
The waters, the fields, the evening were quiet; only the occasional car trundling over the Route 4 bridge a quarter-mile downstream broke the illusion that the rest of the world had frozen in sleep. A three-quarter moon was just poking its face over the ridge above them, at the edge of Hadley Heights; the nearest house was a good quarter-mile over the top of the ridge, through scrub brush grown thick in the summer. Slogging their way through it carrying the gear had rewarded the pair with enough scratches to require a fabricated story for later, for their parents.
Bill, standing just at water’s edge about fifty yards south of the mammoth tree, was about to give it another try. He leaned back, angling his torso just so, and pointed the Excalibur skyward. “Nice and steady,” he commanded. “And stay clear of that line!”
Greg kept the flashlight beam trained on the middle of the giant solitary branch, wishing vaguely that he was drunk but grateful he wasn’t. Regardless of what it led to, he thought this particular idea was pure genius, but Bill assured him he’d learned of the trick from Malmo and hadn’t thought it up himself. The crossbow, he’d explained on the way down, was a remarkably easy tool for a novice to use. He had gone over all of the packed equipment as they’d sat in a weed patch near the far reaches of the Heights, waiting for dark, his lesson as polished as that of a lifelong tree-climbing expert. Greg had listened and tried to assemble how, or if, it was all going to work.

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