Tuesday, December 27, 2016

'Rogue One' Movie Review ***Spolier Alert***

'Rogue One' is a  much appreciated 'Star Wars' backstory.
Image courtesy of Disney.

   If you haven't seen 'Rogue One' yet, stop reading this and go see it. I have heard a diversity of reviews, and no one I've talked to has hated it. (There's no Jar Jar Binks in here!) My friend Nathan thinks that George Lucas selling the 'Star Wars' franchise to Disney was the best thing that could've happened to it. (Nathan did not like Episodes I, II, or III, and he thinks 'Rogue One' could be the best 'Star Wars' movie yet.) 
   'Rogue One' starts off showing some very enticing Saturn-like planetary rings in space, and we see a small spacecraft hurling towards the adorned planet. What is missing is the yellow-font crawl that orients the audience to what the heck is going on. (How can you make a 'Star Wars' movie without the beginning story crawl?!) 
   The music in the movie is hit-or-miss. Parts of it are excellent, but I detest one of the major scores that plays throughout the film. You can hear it when the movie title appears on-screen, and the accompanying music is absolutely lackluster. (Maybe they were trying to under-promise at the beginning of the movie, and then over-deliver at the end, which is really what happens!)
   We meet our main character, Jyn Erso, as a young child running on a wet and foggy planet with rich black soil. The incoming spacecraft is apparently not a welcomed event. The girl's father, Galen Erso, appears to be in some sort of trouble with the Imperial officer who was aboard the spacecraft. It becomes very clear that Galen does not wish to go back to his old job with the Empire. Negotiations between the white-caped Imperial officer Krennic and the former science officer Galen do not go smoothly. Galen's wife is killed, and young Jyn runs away to hide in a cave. She is later rescued by the character Saw Gerrera, and we don't see Jyn again until she wakes up in a prison cell as an adult woman. 
   The pace is fast, and it doesn't let up. My friend Aaron thinks 'Rogue One' is the "worst" of all the 'Star Wars' movies because the character introductions were too fast. He thought Jyn's character was "great" and that there needs to be more female main characters in the franchise. 
Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones. Photo courtesy of Disney. 

   "I loved it, I loved it," said my friend Phil. He liked all of the characters,and he said, "it was a very good group effort, instead of one character doing everything." And, he wanted "MORE Darth Vader." It was absolutely thrilling to hear James Earl Jones return as the voice for our super villain Darth Vader with all of his shiny black badassery. 
   The last ten minutes of the movie feature an all-out, no-holds-barred space battle layered directly on top of an air assault and ground battle on the planet Scarif. The imagery of the Caribbeanesque blue and turquoise waters is just breath-taking, and I especially loved Admiral Raddus' (any relation to Admiral Ackbar?) floating battle chair. He could see everything from his position in space down to the planet's surface through the transparent floor of his battleship.
   Throughout the movie, there was no shortage of epic hulking 'Star Wars' war machinery. Star Destroyers, AT-AT Walkers, X-wing Starfighters, the Death Star itself...prepare yourself for a Battle Royale at the very end that rivals any we've seen yet. 
   I was so glad to see a female heroine that wasn't a princess, or a little girl. Jyn Erso is a true blood-n-guts fully grown woman who sticks to her guns until the very end. And there were at least two female fighter pilots visible in the Resistance. 
   Other noteworthy additions, (which apparently caused some controversy), were the CG-enhanced versions of the ever-menacing Grand Moff Tarkin and the always-stunning Princess Leia. I enjoyed seeing these characters again, and I think it helped weave this backstory in with the original Episode IV that premiered nearly 40 years ago.

   I've seen this movie three times already, the first time on opening night. When the movie ended, the audience burst into applause. (You only get to experience things like this on opening night!) And I still have one unanswered question: what "Jedi in hiding" is Bail Organa referring to when he says, "I would trust her with my life"?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

2016 - The Year Of Very Bad News

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Just Happened?

My friend Tracy and me at the Democratic Watch Party in Little Rock last night. 

   I had trouble sleeping last night. I considered cancelling my classes today. Instead, I came to work dressed in solid black. One of my co-workers came to my office and asked me if I was okay. Not really. I stayed up late in Little Rock at the Democratic Watch Party last night. It was packed full of bright and interesting people. I saw wigs and pearls, Hillary t-shirts, business suits, glitter and heels. I saw a few men dressed in drag, and someone who looked like Bernie Sanders. I sat outside with my friends Tracy and Audrey around 10:00 pm, and a lady in a white dress jacket came out and said, "How the hell did we pass marijuana, but we can't carry a damn democrat in the state?" Interesting point. Arkansas continues to be a political enigma. 

   One of my friends from Germany texted me early this morning. She said she thought the news of Trump winning the election was a joke, and then she offered me a place to stay. She was serious.  
   I cannot see how a person who exemplifies male toxicity by intimidating and belittling women has won a democratic election over another person, who, by ANY account, is simply THE MOST QUALIFIED, THE MOST EXPERIENCED, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD. And the part that turns my stomach is the fact that THE MOST QUALIFIED, MOST EXPERIENCED, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD just happened to be a woman.
   What the $%@# is going on here?? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Funniest Saturday Night Live Skit EVER - The Second Presidential Debate

    As hard as it was to watch the real second Presidential Debate, the SNL skit that followed was pure gold. Thanks to my friend Nathan for showing it to me. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hillary Cleans Trump's Clock For The Third Time

   The third and final Presidential Debate was arguably the best one between candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, largely due to Chris Wallace's mastery at being a tenacious and well-prepared moderator. I was nervous about the debate, considering how tense and unprofessional the second debate had been. When Donald Trump becomes unglued, he appears to be capable of nearly anything. His physical lurking behind Hillary at the second debate was unnerving and inappropriate on all levels. Near the end of the final debate last night, Hillary once again showed the world how very capable she is at staying calm and measured in the face of a brutal storm. Trump, who was apparently aware that Hillary had cleaned his clock for the third time in a row, called her "such a nasty woman" after she jabbed him rather craftily in her statement about taxes and social security. I'm sure Trump's last handful of fans cheered loudly when he said that, and Hillary gained a new following of "nasty" women!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

You're Scaring The Women And Children, Donald Trump

Trump and Hillary Clinton at the second Presidential Debate. Photo credit: The Chicago Tribune

    This debate was hard to watch. It was tense, unsettling, and frightening. I noticed people in the audience, including Trump's wife and daughter, looked scared at times. 
   Trump was in full-attack mode, which has probably always served him well in the past. I am surprised Hillary managed to hold herself together as well as she did. She definitely took the "high road" most of the night. 
   In light of Trump's most recently uncovered bad behavior, debate moderator Anderson Cooper minced no words when he asked Trump if he was really bragging about sexual assault when he said on tape years ago, "Grab them by the p___y." Trump repeatedly stated that it was just "locker room talk" and then he started talking about how horrible ISIS is.  (Seriously?)
   Trump attacked Bill Clinton, who looked kind of sad sitting up in the balcony. Some of the Clintons' ghosts from the past even sat together at the debate (Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broadderick, and Kathy Shelton), presumably to show support for Trump. 
   Clinton stayed impressively calm throughout the 90-minute "scorched-earth debate", as CNN called it. Trump's body language was aggressive enough I wondered if he'd actually hit Hillary.
   Trump is losing and he knows it. His gloves were off, and he went for Hillary and Bill's throats. He reminds me a little of the Hulk. When things aren't going the way he wants them to, Trump gets mad and TRUMP SMASH!!!! TRUMP SMASH HILLARY!!!

Image credit: King & McGaw


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why Aren't We Looking For Life On Mars?

"It is unfortunate that the Mars 2020 rover currently being developed by NASA has no experiments designed to detect living organisms on the Red Planet. It will be looking only for "signs of past life." Gilbert Levin's Labeled Release (LR) Experimental Data was indicative of active metabolism in the Martian regolith during the Viking I and Viking 2 Lander missions in the 1970s. The Viking LR data was dismissed as due to unexplained "alien chemistry" rather than biology. Even though all efforts to replicate the Viking LR data by abiotic means have failed, not a single subsequent NASA mission to Mars has searched for living microbes or evidence for ancient life. Subsequent NASA, ESA and Russian missions have established that there are vast amounts of near surface water ice and permafrost even at mid-latitudes on Mars. It is now known that on Earth microorganisms do live and grow in polar ice and permafrost. Hence there is no valid scientific reason to dismiss the Viking LR results. In consideration of Planetary Protection Protocols it is of profound importance that experiments designed to search for indigenous life on Mars be carried out before the Red Planet is hopelessly contaminated by a manned mission."

                      -Astrobiologist Richard B. Hoover
                                        August 29, 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dinner With Doctors (the Ph.D. kind)

"Balanced meals 
are a bitch."

-Dr. Paula P.

"I would think one could live quite nicely on oatmeal cookies."

-Dr. Bill B.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Day-After Hair


   Have you ever seen anyone at the grocery store, or maybe IHOP or the Cracker Barrel in the morning, and you could tell they were still recovering from a GREAT party the night before? They may not be dressed well, or they might have smeared make-up left on, but the tell-tale sign is their HAIR. Their fabulous, messy, over-sprayed, pinned up, tousled hair. You usually have to pay someone to do a great up-do for you. And normal people don't wear up-dos unless they are going to a wedding, a prom, or some big party where they want to look their BEST. 
   I went to a party like that last night. Eight doctors had just graduated from a 3-year-residency program. It was a grueling and emotionally abusive process, according to my friend Nathan. He did not try to hide the anger in his graduation speech. 
   I joined his family at the ceremony, which was hosted at the Movie Lounge in Fort Smith, Arkansas. There were more than 200 people present, and half of them were decked out in formal gowns and dresses. Aunt Frances and I were excited to be there, although Nathan was less enthusiastic.
   Besides Nathan's angry speech, the most other noteworthy event happened during another graduate's speech. The young doctor from New York mentioned one of the residents who had been kicked out of the program, and he poured part of a beer onto the podium in his honor (???). I'm not sure where that idea came from, but Nathan said he'd probably get yelled at for it later. (That same New York doctor yelled "To Valhalla!" near the end of Nathan's speech.)
    The Movie Lounge had a really nice bartender, and I asked him to recommend a good girlie drink. He made something called "The Mob Wife" for me, and it was DELICIOUS! It had orange juice and amaretto in it, and I'm going to call him to see if I can get the rest of the ingredients. I let Nathan try it, and he said that was the highlight of his night. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dispatch from the Gulf Coast

   Why am I blogging when I could be fishing? Actually, it is pouring down rain outside, so that is why I am sitting here in the cafeteria at the Gulf Coast Research Lab (GCRL) in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. A young girl in a sweatshirt just came in cursing because the room is cold. 
There are several large fishes hanging in the cafeteria at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, MS.

   Every summer, I travel with a group of college students here. I have never been to a facility like this anywhere else. It is literally a college campus on the ocean. They have dorms, and "cottages" (think FEMA trailers), and a small house for students and faculty to rent.
This was my room for the week. 

 Aside from the cafeteria, they also have a library, and a museum full of strange saltwater creatures in jars and barrels. (The barrels are not see-through. Personally, I find this terrifying.) There are permanent-looking brick building labs for scientists and graduate students to do research, and several research vessels (boats) for field studies out in the Gulf. 
The tiger prawn shown here is an invasive species in the Gulf, and just one of the many creatures preserved at the GCRL's museum. Note the Starbucks cup for a size comparison. 

   Their newest boat addition is the R/V Jim Franks, and I was desperate to see it. The boat we usually take out is the sixty-something-year-old Hermes, so seeing a brand new research vessel is kind of a big deal. (Research boats remind me of Jacques Cousteau's Calypso, and there aren't many things cooler than that!)
The R/V Jim Franks, the newest boat at the Gulf Coast Research Lab. Mr. Jim Franks is a researcher and the "most celebrated fisherman" at the GCRL.
The captain's chair on the Jim Franks; the top level.

Inside the Jim Franks; the bottom level.

The rear of the Jim Franks. The green net in the center is the trawling net for collecting fish and ocean creatures.

   I was not able to go out on the Jim Franks, but I was happy to get on board and take pictures while it was docked at Point Cadet in Biloxi. The boat cost more than 2 million dollars, and the man it was named for was very humbled by the honor. I found Mr. Franks on campus and asked him about his boat. "It looks like a little battleship," he told me. There are 8 beds on board, and it would be suitable for a 48-hour trip. There are two bathrooms, but no showers. Researchers from the GCRL had already taken the boat out to Horn Island that week.

   Our students, most of whom were majoring in fish and wildlife biology, became very adept at catching crabs and fish near the campus.
The blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, is beautiful AND tasty!
I always tell our students to NOT stick their thumbs in the mouths of saltwater fish. Look at the vampire teeth on this sand sea trout (Cynoscion arenarius)!
   One of the most dreaded activities we do is the 24-hour diel study, where every 5 hours we take seine nets and kicknets and comb the water for any sort of creatures that we can catch. Since this is an ecology class, the students must identify everything from the nets. Over the years, I have seen several sharks (albeit small ones) caught from the main pier we use for our collections. NO ONE wants to get in that murky water at night, but we do it at 11:00 pm and at 4:00 in the morning. We were scared. We started singing the popular "Hell 2 Da Naw Naw" song as we waded through the dark water with our nets. 
Didn't anyone see Jaws? Late night ocean creature collecting is a character-building experience.
Here we are on the pier, trying to identify small fish and shrimp we caught in the seine nets. 
   I absolutely love this class. I think it is the best undergraduate class a biology student can take. Learning how to effectively sample the ocean and how to identify all the different life forms you see inherently makes you appreciate the diversity of life and the delicate balance we have with them. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Favorite Quote # 18

"Luckily, I'm a botanist. Mars will come to fear my botany powers."

                                                   -Astronaut Mark Whatney (played by Matt Damon)
                                                                   The Martian

This was a really fun movie. I almost started singing with joy when I found out the main character was a botanist astronaut.