Friday, July 10, 2009

Public Enemies

From a production standpoint, this is a very interesting movie. The mix of HD and handheld camera work gives Public Enemies a unique mise en scene and the excellent sound design adds a realistic and much needed punch to the action scenes. Likewise, the acting is generally excellent with Johnny Depp putting in his usual terrific performance and Christian Bale finally ditching the congested Batman/John Conner speaking style.

However while technically excellent, Public Enemies was ultimately a bit of a disappointment. The story felt disjointed and (surprisingly given that it's about bank robbers) generally tension-free. The film seemed a lot more interested with the minute details of Dillenger's life than the broader story. Shot on location, the film looks incredibly realistic which ultimately doesn't matter so much because the audience often has little reason to care about the characters on the screen.

Public Enemies is definitely worth seeing and given how weak this year has been movie-wise I'm sure it'll be nominated for a lot for awards, but given the cast and crew I expected a lot more. The acting performances coupled with the unique visuals and sound design carry the film, but I can't help thinking that a more cohesive story would have made Public Enemies a great film rather than just a good one.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Greatest Thing Ever?

I think so.


This is what research has been like for weeks now. Luckily my adviser is more understanding...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I was listening to NPR and there was a report on Hal Pashler, Chris Baker, and Ed Vul's criticisms on the use of fMRI. The report is essentially a recap of the Vul et al paper that was been debated in neuroimaging circles for almost a year. The original version of the paper, omniously named Voodo Correlations in Social Neuroscience, and can now be read in it's final, less incituous form here.

Essentially the paper argues that the results of social neuroscience papers using fMRI techniques are simply too good to be true. The NPR report unfortunately generalizes this to all fMRI studies although the criticism was initially only leveled at the social neurosciences. Setting aside huge problems in data collection and the ethics involved in publication, the Vul et al paper (and the corresponding NPR report) neglect one major factor. In general, the criticisms leveled by Vul et al are valid. However, they are problems of poor experimentation. There is nothing about fMRI that inherently causes these problems, generally they arise from scientists either not being careful or being overzealous in their claims. The same criticisms can be leveled against any technique in any field. The only difference is that fMRI results in pretty pictures.

I have my own problems with the social neurosciences (mostly variations on "Who cares what discrimination looks like in the brain anyways? What does that tell us about disrimination or the brain?) But the problems of fMRI are like the problems in ERP, TMS, PET, Western Blots, Southern Blots, Electrophloretic Gels, and any other technique you can think of, they are due to incorrect interpretations of the data rather than a problem with the data. Many of Vul's examples of bad fMRI studies are examples of bad studies, studies making claims well beyond the extant data. The fact that fMRI was is really a non-factor.


1. I'm finding Google Reader is a nice way to keep up with current journal articles. My only problem is that Nature and Science publish so much per week it's hard to weed through it all. I'm late to the game here, but RSS is really nice.

2. I have t.v. for the first time in over a year and the only thing on is a hotdog eating contest... I think I'll stick to Hulu and DVDs.

3. Apparently learning C will make me more competitive in the job market once I graduate. Add that to the list of things I never imagined doing before grad school.

4. I'm hoping Public Enemies will be good because aside from Star Trek and Up this summer has been incredibly disappointing. I guess this is all because of the Writer's Strike a year or so ago?

5. I went to Manhattan with some friends to see fireworks on the fourth. Little known fact, Manhattan is crowded and there are a lot of people there. I got some pictures with my phone, but I'm not sure how to upload them.

6. Scanning brains every day is fun, counterbalancing experimental trials is not. I'm glad I'm not a "real" scientist because I kinda hate sitting in the lab all day working alone.

7. Ikea is like legos for adults. Walmart is like torture for everyone. All my furniture is assembled except for my bed. Thanks for the easy instructions there Walmart!

8. There is a drawing class offered at Stony Brook in the summer. I'm thinking that next year (when I know about it before the deadline) I'll sign up. Wierdly, the pottery class is super popular with psychology people.

9. Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev might just be the best superhero noir story I've ever read. Too bad it peters out so much at the end. Some of the best comics I've ever read... but by the end they are some of the worst.

10. Intro to Neurobiological Techniques? Ok! Developmental Neurobiology? Ok! Why are there no Biopsychology courses being offered again?


This movie is like a mediocre cover band doing James Cameron's greatest hits. There is some good stuff here, but it's buried amongst so much incomprehensible, hackneyed filmmaking that the whole thing is just boring and predictable.

The trailer below basically gives away the entire movie. However, it's a lot more tightly edited and plotted than the actual film. Watch at your own risk.


Sorry for the lack of updates. I've been moving and trying to get an experiment off the ground.

Updates forthcoming.