Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is basically a really weird version of Forest Gump. There is not much a plot, just Bradd Pitt wandering through the 20th century, aging backwards, and meeting people.
Technically, the movie is very well made. Like in his previous film Zodiac, director David Fincher uses a wide variety of special effects to affect the look of the film stock as well as the look of the characters as they age (and in this case de-age) over the course of the film. The cinematography and set design are also excellent.
The only problem I had with the movie was the relationship between Benjamin and Daisy. Their relationship is the emotional core of the film and the only constant thread as the film progresses. The problem is... it doesn't really work. Both Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett both play their roles well, but its hard to imagine charactors more orthogonal to one another. Their relationship is proposterous, not because Benjamin is aging backwards, but because the charactors have absolutely nothing in common. I think the film still works well despite this, but some of the more emotional moments fall a little flat.
Overall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, is an interesting movie. Just as Zodiac was completely underrated, I think Benjamin Button is being overrated. Its definitely worth seeing, but its certainly not the best film of the year. If you liked Forest Gump or David Fincher's previous films I'd check it out. If you, like Roger Ebert, think the idea of a man aging backwards is too ridiculous, I'd avoid this and go see Bolt or something.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
We have learned that under certain conditions, Hallmark’s Jumbo Snowman Snow Globe (Stock #1XAG5093, measuring 11 by 12 by 17 inches) for a suggested retail price of $99.95, may pose a risk of fire. When sunlight passes through the globe, sufficient light may be concentrated to ignite nearby combustible materials. Upon obtaining this information Hallmark immediately decided to recall this product and reported the matter to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
If you purchased this product, please remove the snow globe from exposure to any sunlight by covering it up or moving it to an area without access to sunlight. Then, at your earliest convenience, please return the Jumbo Snowman Snow Globe to a Hallmark Gold Crown® store for a full refund.
The recall pertains only to the large, $99.95 snow globe. A smaller snow globe of similar snowman design is not affected by the recall.
The safety of our consumers is always the priority at Hallmark. We apologize for any inconvenience this recall action may cause you. Your cooperation and assistance with this matter is greatly appreciated.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Check it out here.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Not that I hate babies or anything... but I really don't understand why anyone would teach Freud and ignore neurobiology in the year 2008. Also... we continue to develop after the age of 25. Gerontology is a pretty important field of research which we have not covered in Developmental Psych. Apparently learning about freudian intepretations of fairy tales is more important.
Bring on the Neuropharmacology! Its all cellular and molecular, but at least its within my area.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
In other news, its the end of the semester. Consequently I am incredibly busy with my own work and dealing with tons of students coming in to my office hours to check their exams or try to boost their grade 20-30 points. Its really quite fun.
I don't have any real finals myself, just tons of papers to write, articles to read, and statistics to write out. Basically I'm as busy as I always was at the end of the semester.
In an effort to curb my productivity, I signed up for a free trial of Netflix so I could check out their new video streaming service. The selection is limited but not bad. The main problem is that the video quality changes dramatically with you connection speed. By the time I finished with the first movie, the picture looked really bad. For now I'm going to stick to Hulu even if their selection is more limited.
My roommates are becoming increasingly passive aggressive. Apparently I offend them with my cooking and flossing and such. I'm just going to ignore it and move out at the end of my lease. So far I've had my dishes put on the floor and floss put on my doorknob. I think there is an explanation for all of this but if they aren't going to tell me, I'm not going to ask.
With The Shield ending in spectacular fashion, I find myself in need of some new dramatic episodic television. Lost and Battlestar Galactica start back up in January. Battlestar Galactica looks like it'll be good and Lost... well... the island can teleport now. Even the trailer is ridiculously dramatic.
Finally, want to see the strangest sitcom of all time? Check out Rabbits. I think its a statement about something... something complety incomprehensible.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Its hard to quantify how much the case of H.M. has informed the study of learning and memory. Unfortunatly, he died earlier this week at the age of 82. Despite his condition, its been said that H.M. was happy in life and glad that he could his case could do so much to inform researchers.
In terms of scientific progress, the case of H.M., along with the cases of K.C. and Phineas Gage, have provided enormous insight into the role of the brain in behavior.
For more information about the fascinating case of H.M, check out the New York Times article about his death and the NPR broadcast from around the time interviews with H.M. were released to the public.
Monday, November 24, 2008
I've heard really good things about this for awhile actually. Since no one went and saw Aronofsky's last film, The Fountain, I'm sure it'll be in theaters for about six seconds but it looks like it'll be worth checking out.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Thanksgiving break being next week means exams were given out this week, hence the lack of blogging. The department is trying to save money on paper so I had to channel my inner Dürer and carve the exams into wood. Ok... so really I just had to make 300 copies, but its basically the same thing. At least Durer didn't have to contend with incredibly sensitive and discontent machines. You know, if the machines really do rise up to take over the world they'll probably do it through exasperating us all to death with copy feed loader errors and stapler jams instead of with terminator robots.
Little known fact, PhD actually stands for Doctor of PHotocopying. At least thats what my adviser keeps telling me.
Speaking of famous old guys who did art-related things, there is an interesting article in Nature about Christopher Wren's contribution to neuroanatomy. Apparently the same guy who designed St Paul's cathedral in London also helped to create images of the brain that shaped neuroscience for hundreds of years. The article should be available for free even without a university IP address. Check it out here.
Other ways the psychology department is trying to save money... getting rid of the water cooler in the lounge and raising the price of coffee to 50 cents. The department chair sent out an e-mail telling us these changes would go into effect on the 24th, which has already been termed "Black Monday." I'm not sure if thats a coffee related pun or not, but I'd like to think it is.
There is a new trailer for the new Star Trek movie and looks like it could actually be pretty good. The bridge looks like an apple store and I'm not sure why there are classic cars in the future, but Star Trek always was a little silly (I say this with the most reverence possible). At the very least, the movie has Simon Pegg as Scotty. Genius casting, that.
Finally, I don't recommend watching Eraserhead late at night alone in a cold room. I was trying to do a David Lynch double feature, but after Lost Highway I really didn't need to see crazy monster babies and mutant people singing inside radiators. I hear INLAND EMPIRE (not my caps) is even weirder and more nonsensical. For the craziest David Lynch movie ever, go see The Straight Story.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I hope I'm wrong but it looks like this is going to be really awful.
The comic.. ahem... graphic novel is so celebrated because while it tells a really good story about superheroes, it also quietly (and not so quietly) subverts every single trope of the superhero genre. The comic version of Watchmen is more about the characters and the world they live in than super cool fight scenes in slow motion. On a deeper level, it was written as a critique of superhero comics. Literally everything from the characterization of the heroes to the physical layout of the panels is some sort of meta-commentary. I really recommend the comic, its complex and requires a few readings to really absorb, but its well worth it.
The movie... well lets just say that whoever decided to make this an action story with slow motion fight scenes and cool costumes completely and utterly missed the point. As I said, I really hope I'm wrong about this, but it seems like the only good thing about the movie is that it'll cause more people to read the book.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Twenty four hours later, I still can't believe that really happened. For as long as I've been old enough to be interested, I have been consistently disenchanted by the policies and actions of the American executive branch. For myself and many of my peers the sense of pride on our country that we are feeling now and belief that tomorrow could actually prove to be better than today are new things. There is still a great deal of work to be done, but it is impossible to quantify the positive effects of last night on the psyche of America. Cynicism certainly isn't dead, but its difficult to not feel at least a little bit hopeful for the future of this country.
Someone asked me today if this is what being a patriot feels like. I'd say yes, and it feels good.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
I don't recommend rubbing your eyes after cutting hot peppers... or rubbing hot peppers in your eyes... or cutting hot peppers using only your eyes.
Two of those option lead to sadness and one is physically impossible.
The little bit of green in the pool of beef fat makes chili the healthy choice.
Don't ever eat chipotle peppers straight from the can: down that path lies madness.
Chili in some indeterminate number of moderately easy steps!
I've been thinking a lot about how the national discourse has changed during the Bush presidency, but looking through these I'm not so sure. Many of these commercials seem almost interchangable with the ones we've been seeing for the last two years. Of course, there is a fairly significant difference between praying on the american public's fear of nuclear proliferation and their fear of secret muslims.
A lot of the commercials are pretty ironic in retrospect, especially those for presidents that ultimately proved unpopular. But even for popular presidents, the dissonance between what is promised in a lot of their commercials and what was actually done is rather gigantic. I don't think its much of a suprise that so many people are so cynical with the political process. After all, everything we're seeing now has been happening for the last half century.
Depending on outcome on Tuesday, I do think some of this will change. One of the most impressive aspects of the Obama campaign has been its media savvyness. They've used text messages, facebook posts, traditional commercials, 30 minute informercials, youtube, and any number of other means to get their message out. Furthermore, the tone of these messages has been remarkably consistant. There is little in the way of personal attacks on McCain and Palin, instead the ads (even the attack ads) have pretty much stuck to the issues. The McCain campaign is also running a revolutionary ad campaign. I'd call it more disguisting than savvy as it has recently relied on stating blantent exaggerations or outright lies as truth. However, it is difficult to argue with their success as many people still belive Obama started his campaign in William Ayers' living room or that he is responsible for voter fraud.
Its going to be an interesting couple of days before we know how this is all going to turn out. I know which side I want to win and its not the one thats been revolutionizing political advertising by repeating outright lies.
To see more commercials check out the living room candidate.
Friday, October 31, 2008
I'm not sure how I managed not to see the original Dawn of the Dead before now, but I thought it was pretty great. Sure the acting is a bit cheesy and the special effects aren't great, but its a movie about a zombie plague overtaking the world. The social commentary on consumerism and greed are probably more relevant now than when the film was made. I've seen some of the later sequels and Night of the Living Dead is available through archive.org but I think I'm going to have to check out some other George Remero.
Oh and 28 Days Later is now available for free via hulu. I think you need to sign in to see it because its rated R, but its worth checking out.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I've seen Primer before, but even on the second viewing I'm not sure I've got it all worked out. Ostensibly, the movie is about two friends who accidentally invent a time machine in their garage. However, it quickly becomes about the paradoxes that erupt as the men attempt to use the machine to alter their own lives and the breakdown of trust that occurs as they try to interfere with each other's actions.
The story is very engaging, but it is really difficult to follow exactly whats going on as the film proceeds. As I said, this was my second time through and I still had a hard time putting everything together. While the plot is radically different, Primer is a lot like The Fountain in that the exact plot is really open to interpretation. As the film proceeds it is clear that everything is not what it appears, but exactly how much this effects what we see on the screen doesn't become clear until repeat viewings.
I really liked "Primer" and its creation with a measly $7,000 budget is certainly not apparent on the screen, but its not for everyone. Certainly one of the most cerebral movies I've seen in a while... not much in the way of action scenes of funny dialogue here. If your looking for a fun adventure flick, don't look at "Primer" but if your idea of good sci-fi is more 2001 a Space Odyssey and less Transformers: The Movie, I recommend Primer.
Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle is a bit more traditional. It involves astronauts on a mission to reignite the sun with the world's largest nuclear payload. However, things are played as straight as possible given the ludicrousness of the plot. The characters react realistically to the situation, and the the mission is dealt with with appropriate gravitas. Throughout the film the characters discuss the importance of completing the mission at all costs. The debate about a slight course alteration to investigate a distress signal from an earlier mission becomes a huge plot point. This is basically the anti-Armageddon as preventing the end of the world is not heralded by flashy camera movements and Aerosmith riffs, but with deep psychological stress and extreme action.
Although I thought the third act was a bit weak compared to the rest of the film, I really enjoyed Sunshine. The visuals and the score were both really well done and the cast was made up of a number of good, if underrated, actors. Seriously, why Cillian Murphy and Michelle Yeoh don't get more mainstream work, I'll never know. Sunshine isn't exactly light comedy as there is some really heavy moments, but if you don't mind some suble science vs. religion allegory (ok so its not subtle in the least especially by the end), I'd definately reccomend it. Also if you haven't seen it yet, check out 28 Days Later. Its about how people react when society completely breaks down... due to a zombie plague. Its also directed by Danny Boyle and its also really well done.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
With the crazy hours I've been keeping and no tv, its been difficult to keep up with all the Red Sox post season shenanigans. I was going to keep up with everything on the radio, but it turns out the only a.m. stations I can get are insane talk radio people. As fun as it is to listen to the most racist conversations about Barack Obama I could imagine or about how our secret alien overlords are trying to control us through messages encoded in The Day After Tomorrow, I really just wanted to hear some baseball.
After hunting around online I found a few options of varying legality. Somewhat suprisingly, the best option was offered by major league baseball itself which has a deal where for a few bucks I could stream any baseball broadcasts off the MLB site. Its called mlb.tv and aside from some small sound quality issues, it works pretty well. I mean, it sounds fine on my laptop speakers, but I can pick up the compression in my headphones. However, for the price (and the internet connectivity in my apartment) it works well.
Apparently if your Phil or someone else crazy enough to want to do this, you can stream multiple video feeds at the same time to keep track of every game as it happens. Since there is only two games happening every day now... and I only care about one of them... I just chose the radio option. I'm thinking next year, I'll have to invest in the yearly package so I can annoy my office and lab mates 160 times next year.
Oh, and apparently Jacoby Ellsbury has a blog now? Actually as far as blogs go, I think Curt Schilling's is better.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
So whats going on? The best summary I have been able to find is a set of podcasts from Chicago Public Radio. I've included links below where you can download the podcast or transcripts.
This podcast is from May and summarizes how everything started.
The image is from PhD comics, but the data is pulled from legitimate sources. Will undergraduate students now look to graduate school as an alternative to entering the workforce? Will people already working return to school in order to boost their credentials? All signs point to yes. I'm not sure how this will effect the application process, but if graduate funding remains as tight as it has been for the last eight years, its going to become even more competitive as more people with more qualifications apply for a dwindling number of spaces.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Oh and this looks promising. If I can get it to work out I might have to actually start using the oven.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
I was listening to some podcast the other day that mentioned Nighthawks, and ever since I've been kind of obsessed with the work of Edward Hopper. I can't remember enough from Art History to say anything particularly pretentious about them. I just like the use of light and the composition of the images. Well that and the fact that some of them remind me of film noir movie posters.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Anyways, when I first moved in I complained pretty vocally to the management about the apartment not being cleaned between the last tenants moving out and myself and my illustrious roommates moving in. Apparently by doing this, I was put on some sort of waitlist for better housing. This week, I was informed that a single room was available in another apartment in the same compex I live in now. I toured the apartment this morning, and it is significantly nicer (and cleaner) than my current situation.
So for the second time in six weeks, I'm going to by moving. I'll be glad to have my own room again and hopefully be free from whole fish on the counter and presentient mildew. I'll probably be moving again once my lease is up, but at least I'll have my own room from now on.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Request for Urgent Business Relationship
This letter may come to you as a surprise, please treat it like a blood brother affair. Your address was made available to me by a good friend who works with the
nigerian chamber of commerce and industry IRS.
Dr. Chinaka Steve,Hank Paulson, the principal accountant with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) U.S. Treasury Secretary. I am writing on behalf of my colleagues in the NNPC Wall Street.
We would like to transfer the sum of
thirty two million $700 Billion (or more). This money is now deposited in the NNPC U.S. treasury account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
We have been safeguarding this money waiting for conducive time for its transfer.
The current favourable political climate
since the assumption of duty by the new civilian administration presented an opportunity for this money to be transferred out of the country is, ye gods, about to run out in 45 days! So ACT NOW!
The Code of Conduct Bureau does not allow us to
own and operate foreign account print the money, therefore, we needed a foreign partner that will present himself as the sub-contractor by providing his bank particulars so that the money will be transferred into from his personal account.
For your assistance in this business,
your share will be 30% of the total sum we will stop scaring the living daylights out of you.
If you are willing to assist us in this transaction, please call your Representative in Congress.
DR. CHINAKA STEVE.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
If you are interested in American graphic storytelling at all, read this. Its a new interpretation of the Superman mythos that affectionately distills classical comic book storytelling through a very modern take on who Superman is and what he represents. Its really, really... really good. The last issue came out yesterday and a collected edition will be out in a few months.
Next week I get to make thousands of photocopies and use a three tesla electromagnet to look at brains.
More to come on my great adventure to the great lakes state when I return.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I observed my first two fMRI tests today and I also was a subject for the testing of a new high resolution imaging protocol. There is a significant amount of image processing to be done first, the image above is the raw data from an fMRI scan, but I'll eventually post some images of what my brain looks like while I am worrying about whether or not I remembered to take the change out of my pocket before lying down inside a giant electromagnet.
Much more to come on fMRI (and eyetracking and EEG) in the future, but after spending all day in the radiology department of Stony Brook University Hospital, my brain is a bit fried.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Actually the largest free hand drawing on earth. Its all been washed away by now, but the pictures are still really cool.
This particular work was done in a few months ago in Nevada, but the artist has done a lot of similarly themed stuff in the past. Check out his website for more.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
This week was the first week of classes. To be sure, starting graduate level classes was a lot like starting undergraduate classes. However, there was one keen difference. The goal here is to do research for your dissertation; as such classes are often not the priority. Its strange to be in a position where I am being told to get what I need out of classes and not worry as much about grades. With that said, my courses seem like they will be generally interesting and helpful in understanding my research. I’m taking a graduate stats course, a seminar on attention, and a behavioral neuroscience seminar. In addition, there are a number of psychology seminars I am required to attend throughout the term. So far the workload doesn’t seem impossible, but with research and TAing added in, it should keep my quite busy.
This week was also the first time I’ve TAed as a graduate student. I am TAing an undergraduate developmental psychology course. Essentially it’s all about babies and how awesome they are. Interesting I guess, but not exactly what I’m here to learn about. Nevertheless, the professor of the course has won some teaching awards and written a bunch of books (including the book for the course) so I’ll get some valuable experience that way. After this semester I’ll likely teach or TA for courses more in my area. I have to teach at least one course before I graduate, but if I teach summer courses I can increase my stipend. So I’m going to try to do that as soon as I am able. I think I just need to take one course to get certified (take that Phil!), but I haven’t heard too much about that yet.
Some combination of the first week of classes, long island weather, and a cataclysmic immune system failure left me with flu-like symptoms for most of the week. I wanted to start running again this week, but I just didn’t have the energy. I was talking to a first year mathematics grad student and he said there were a number of 5K and 10K races on long island throughout the year. Definitely something I’m going to keep and ear out for. Anyways, I’m feeling more or less like a human again after a few days of being a zombie. Apparently cough medicine helps with coughs and Tylenol helps with headaches.
Research starts up next week and I am going to try to get some pictures of the campus. Look for more updates soon.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
With classes starting next week, I had graduate school orientation this week. Wednesday was psychology department orientation. There was a barbecue, featuring avocado pineapple chicken teriyaki sandwiches, to introduce the incoming students to the rest of the department. Unsurprisingly, I, as a male psychology student coming straight from undergrad, am in a distinct minority in the department. It seems that most of the incoming class spent some time working before coming to graduate school, this isn't surprising given how ridiculous the application process has become. I guess its even worse for humanities students whose departments receive less external funding and are often forced to pay their own way towards a doctorate. Anyways, after the barbecue we toured the psychology buildings and claimed our office spaces. Finally, there was a party at a house shared by some of the 4th year graduate students. I'll post about my housing situation eventually, but lets just say if all of the off campus housing is like that... I'm moving off campus as soon as my lease is up.
Thursday was Stony Brook orientation which was much longer and a whole lot less fun. From nine to five all incoming graduate students were lectured on how to use the library, the campus computer system, and other things that were virtually identical to what we all had to use as undergraduates. Still, there was a significant amount of departmental bonding as we all had to suffer through an hour lecture on how to make copies. I also joined the TA union which is apparently trying to negotiate a better contract for all graduate teaching assistants. Although all of us in the psychology department make significantly more, the minimum wage for a graduate teaching assistant is a paltry 8,000 a year. Which is clearly much to low to live on, even for graduate students. The union is also trying to institute a graded payment system for which more experienced TAs are granted a higher stipend.
Classes and my teaching assistanceship start next week. So expect a post about that sooner or later. From what I've been told, the first semester of graduate school is the most stressful, so I am trying to force myself be even more organized then I was as an undergrad. Some students are able to fit all of their grad school activities into an (often extended) 9-5 workday. I'm going to try to do the same... or at least try to sleep, eat, and do nonpsychology-related activities on some regular schedule.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Here is a trailer made to give people a feel for the project.
This is the clip for sodium. In it, sodium is reacted with water (twice!) and sodium is described as motherly.
The project's website contains links to all of the videos as well as biographies of all the chemists involved. Check it out.