Tuesday, October 15, 2013

File These Under "Awesome"

A Few More Of My Favorite Things

   It took me a LONG time to find a moisturizer I really liked, and here it is! Kiehl's Ultra Facial Oil-Free Lotion - it is not greasy, it will not make you break out, and it works ALL DAY LONG. I buy two bottles at a time just so I won't ever run out. 
   I just recently watched the entire Jacques Cousteau Odyssey series, and I was horrified to hear that one of his sons died in a plane crash while this program was still filming. What a heartbreak. All of the episodes are worth watching, and I just wrote a blog about my favorite two episodes in the post below. 
   You can't go wrong with a Leinenkugel beer! I've been a fan of the "Summer Shandy" lemon-flavored beer for years, and now they have "Orange Shandy."  It is light and delicious with the just the right amount of orangeness. Thank you, Leinenkugel!

Best Episodes Of "The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey"

   I asked my school's library to order all of The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey DVDs, and they did! Although there are only twelve shows in the series, they are quite interesting and worth watching. My favorite two are "Calypso's Search for the Britannic" (episode 7) and "The Warm-Blooded Sea: Mammals of the Deep" (episode 12). 
   The Britannic - which was larger than the mighty Titanic - was a hospital ship that sank from an unidentified explosion on November 21, 1916. Cousteau actually met with a handful of survivors from the Britannic, and they told him about their experience during the disaster. Apparently there was some mystery as to how a torpedo or a mine could take down an "unsinkable" ship. "There was a big bump...and the ship sort of rose up and came down again," said one survivor. While the ship was sinking, the engines were still running, and so, unfortunately, were the propellers. Some of the life boats were drawn into the massive turning blades. "I saw one lifeboat getting cut up. So I saw arms and legs go up there," said another survivor whose boat managed to slide past the whirling metal. "They never had any chance..." said another man. 
   Most of the survivors (eight were present at dinner with Mr. Cousteau, although more than 1000 survived) believed the boat had been torpedoed. One survivor was convinced that they had been attacked with a torpedo because he had seen a submarine on the previous voyage. The Britannic was clearly marked as a hospital ship, so it should not have been a threat to anyone. 
   Cousteau and his crew decided to travel to the Aegean Sea to visit the sleeping Britannic with their diving saucer and diving team. They also invited 86-year-old Sheila Macbeth Mitchell, a surviving nurse from the ship. She said she felt "10 years younger" after returning to the Britannic after 70 years. 
   The divers could only spend 15 minutes at a time exploring the ship because it is nearly 400 feet down. 
   Cousteau believed that the hull damage was much more extensive than what could have been cause by a single torpedo or mine, and he brought up chunks of burned coal from the ship's innards. The log from a German U-boat reported seeing a hospital ship in the Kea Channel and left it "unharmed", but they had already set out mines. Based on the evidence, the mighty Britannic most likely struck a mine, and the first explosion caught the coal dust on fire and caused a much larger, secondary explosion. 
  No weapons were detected in the storage areas of the ship. It was truly on a mercy mission. And thankfully, all of the hospital beds were empty when she sank. Mitchell said the boat went straight down into the water, "like a good dive. And everybody's heart was in their mouths."
   In episode 4 - "The Warm-Blooded Sea: Mammals of the Deep," there is amazing footage and sound recordings of whales, sea otters, sea cows, arctic seals, killer whales, and dolphins. I was particularly amazed by the footage of a dolphin named Dolly who had previously been trained by the U.S. Navy for reconnaissance missions. After 8 years of military training, Dolly was deemed "incorrigible" by the Navy and was released into the wild. Five days after her release, Dolly showed up in the aquatic backyard of a family named the Asburys. The mother, Jean, "adopted" Dolly. The dolphin seemed to thrive off of Jean's mothering, perhaps in part due to the harsh treatment she received during her military training. The Navy had learned of Dolly's whereabouts and confessed that, at times, Dolly wasn't fed if she did not perform her duties to their satisfaction. 
   The episode ends with images of baby seals in Canada. The pups have long been prized for their white fur, and the Canadian government would issue standard-size clubs so hunters would hopefully kill the seals before skinning them. (Yuck, guys, YUCK.) The show ends with this thought: "Perhaps the mammal that is most unpredictable, incomprehensible, and inexplicable is the human being." 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sandra Bullock Shines in "Gravity" (SPOILER ALERT!)

Sandra Bullock plays astronaut Ryan Stone in Alfonso Cuaron's sci-fi thriller Gravity.

   I have a new favorite movie! As soon as I heard Sandra Bullock and George Clooney were going to be astronauts in this flick about a space walk gone wrong, I knew it was a must-see. Bullock blew the ceiling out of this one. WOW. Her acting has never been better or more emotional. She makes a very convincing and brilliant astronaut. When the film opens, Dr. Stone (Bullock) is strapped into the Space Shuttle arm and is obviously motion-sick. As she struggles to restore some damaged software on a space telescope, you instantly sympathize with her and hope she doesn't vomit in her space helmet. Matt Kowalski (Clooney) is coaching her along when they get a ground alert from none other than Ed Harris. Harris played in Apollo 13 as legendary NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz (1995) and as John Glenn in The Right Stuff (1983.) This was not Clooney's first time in space, either (Solaris, 2002.) However, most of the movie focuses on Stone and her fight for survival from one major disaster to the next.  
   Apparently the role of Dr. Ryan Stone had been written for Angelina Jolie. And then it was offered to a handful of other actresses before Bullock signed on. What luck we had with Ms. Bullock! I can't imagine anyone else portraying such a likable, emotionally-damaged woman with enough intelligence and grit to live through a seemingly impossible scenario. Go see it!! You'll want to become an astronaut.