Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sigourney is back!

Sigourney Weaver - the original Elegant Astronaut   I honestly didn't know Sigourney Weaver was going to be in the new Avatar movie. This is significant to me because the movie Aliens, which was directed by James Cameron in 1986, has been my favorite movie for years. So yesterday, when I watched a cranky Sigourney sit up out of her sleeping pod and ask for her cigarettes, I was ecstatic!

   There were many nods towards the Alien movies in Avatar. Aside from the smart, sexy, no-frills Sigourney herself (playing scientist Grace Augustine), there were also large metal robots operated by a human strapped inside. This type of exo-skeleton was made famous in the 1986 fight scene between Lt. Ripley (Weaver) and the alien queen.
   The tracking devices used by the military on Pandora, where Avatar was set, were also very similar to the hand-held motion detectors used by the marines in Aliens.
   The plot itself had similarities as well. Ripley had to thwart a sabotage attempt from a unethical colleague, Burke, who was attempting to bring back an alien embryo for military purposes. The idea was to secretly implant the embryo in Ripley, bring her back home and cash in the ultimate militant prize: a badass race of creatures who are bigger, faster and stronger than humans. One of my favorite lines in the movie is when Ripley figures out what is happening (she would, of course, die during the birthing process of the alien), and she says, "You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them f***ing each other over for a goddamn percentage."

   In Avatar, the humans are merely trying to convince the indigenous race of tall, blue, cat-like people to move away from their beloved "Home Tree" because of the rich stash of minerals right below it. Augustine (Weaver) clashes with the head military guy to try and preserve the rights of these spiritual people. Negotiations fail, the tree is destroyed, and war ensues.
   The bottom line: money is the root of all evil.

   Avatar has some breath-taking scenes. I plan to go see it again, but next time in 3-D.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rum Baba - the Dessert!

   Mmmmmmm......this is a good one. In fact, I think any dessert made with rum is quite good. Rum balls, rum cake, rum anything. This lovely thing pictured here is a Rum Baba, made by Paula, my favorite local patissier.
   The Rum Baba is a yeast-based baby bundt cake. Paula added craisins to this batch (which I think are dried out cranberries.) The rum sauce was given to me in a separate container so I could heat it up and then pour it all over the thirsty little bundt cake. And then I spooned a chilly heap of Cool Whip on top.
   It was GOOD!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Don't always listen to your Dad...

   When my Dad tells me I am making a mistake, my ears perk up. Usually he's right.
   One of the worst jobs I ever had was working for a small aerospace company. My boss hired me without the consent or knowledge of my soon-to-be co-workers, and I was treated with ridiculous condescension by a few of them.    My boss seemed to really enjoy the sophomoric office drama that my situation caused, and he stirred it thicker whenever possible.
   I was devastated. I had quit my position as a West-coast sales rep for a biotech firm for this new job. I called my father almost weekly to tell him how bad things were.
   "Should I quit?" I'd ask him. It's not in my nature to quit. I try very hard at everything I do, so I really needed his advice.
   "I would've quit a long time ago," was his quick reply. (This was one of those times he was dead-on.)
   Heeding the advice of your father is not always the best thing to do, however. Consider Mr. Charles Darwin, the great proponent of the Theory of Evolution, and his relationship with his own father, a well-to-do physician in England during the 1800s.
   Many people know that Charles sailed around the world on the HMS Beagle, collecting zoological specimens and fossils, and taking notes as the ship's naturalist. This was all crucial research for the basis of his infamous book, On the Origin of Species. But did you know that his father was very much opposed to the idea of Charles taking the voyage? From Charles' journal, here are The Doctor's objections to his son's proposed over-seas adventure:

1. Disreputable to my character as a Clergyman hereafter (Yes - Charles Darwin had studied to become a minister at one time! -JL)
2. A wild scheme
3. That they must have offered to many others before me, the place of Naturalist
4. And from its not being accepted there must be some serious objection to the vessel or expedition
5. That I should never settle down to a steady life hereafter
6. That my accommodations would be most uncomfortable
7. That you should consider it again changing my profession
8. That it would be a useless undertaking

   And there you have it; Charles Darwin did not listen to his father, and he went on to become one of the most respected figures in science. He did eventually "settle down" with his wife Emma. They had 10 children all together, and when he died at the ripe old age of 73, he was buried with high honors at Westminster Abbey.