Renowned primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall made a quick stop on her round-the-world lecture tour to speak with journalists on Wednesday morning, before jumping on a plane to Saskatoon. When Dr. Goodall returns to Toronto, she’ll give a lecture, “Gombe & Beyond”, to a sold-out crowd in Con Hall.The morning of the impromptu press conference marked the 50th anniversary of Goodall’s arrival in Tanzania’s Gombe Nation Park to start her pioneering work with chimpanzees.“We missed our chance, but this is the anniversary,” she remarked before moving on to discuss the work for the Jane Goodall Institute that brought her to Toronto.“There’s no point in exhausting ourselves doing conservation work if we aren’t also trying to raise the next generation to be better stewards than ourselves,” she said.Those aren’t idle words. Roots & Shoots, JGI’s youth program, involves over 9,000 groups in 100 countries. On Sunday, Goodall will meet with some of these young people from Toronto groups, when Victoria college hosts the Roots & Shoots festival from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.Goodall’s Con Hall lecture will discuss conservation strategies for Africa, including microcredit lending to women, scholarships to allow villagers to get higher education, fair trade farming practices, and HIV/ Aids education, alongside fostering a love of nature in youth worldwide.“You have to ask people ‘what do you care about,’ and try and direct them within those areas,” she said.Dr. Jane Goodall’s public lecture “Gombe & Beyond” is scheduled for Saturday, September 15 at 7:00 p.m. in Con Hall. A book signing will follow.
24 hour primate people
Pekka packs up
Pekka Sinervo, U of T’s dean of Arts & Science, has announced he is leaving the university next June, a year before his term as dean expires.The U of T graduate, who joined the faculty as a plucky assistant professor of physics in 1990, rose quickly through the ranks, making full professor in 1995.When Carl Amrhein vacated the dean’s chair in 2003, U of T’s then-president Robert Birgeneau quickly appointed Sinervo, by then vice-dean of Arts & Science and no longer wet behind the ears, to the faculty’s top job until the university could choose a more permanent replacement. Five months later, U of T picked Sinervo as that replacement. His term began in January 2004, and was to last until June 2009.During his term as dean, Sinervo test-drove a new set of duties as the university’s first vice-provost of first-entry programs. The post, created last year as part of U of T’s program to improve the student experience, saw Sinervo speaking for Arts & Science, U of T at Mississauga, U of T at Scarborough, Applied Science and Engineering, Music and Physical Education and Health.Sinervo will instead depart early for Geneva, Switzerland, to pursue his research at the Large Hadron Collider apparatus.
With the books selling well over 100 million copies and the film trilogy earning billions in revenue, it would be an understatement to declare that there is a steady renewed interest in the works of one J.R.R. Tolkien. With the popularity of this beloved author in mind, this year U of T has included an introductory course on the fascinating world of Frodo, Sam, and the wizard Gandalf.The Lord of the Rings: A Journey Through Middle Earth is a humanities course that will discuss the characters and events of Tolkien’s namesake trilogy and continue on with student projects explaining the history of Middle Earth, explanations on its peoples and languages and how various alliances and active mobs shaped the great War of the Rings. Other course topics include Tolkien’s inspiration for the trilogy and the author’s sources as well as the themes of good and evil, the idea of “free peoples” and the role of “higher powers” in Middle Earth.Interestingly, one topic of discussion for this class is the enduring appeal of the three novels, which is sure to include talks on the complicated process of adapting such a popular novel to a major blockbuster film of great cultural impact.The Lord of the Rings: A Journey Through Middle Earth is a first-year seminar course taught at Woodworth College by Professor J. Browne. It is a full-year course open only to new students at University of Toronto.
The Art of War
After keeping a relatively low profile following the impressive opening launch in June, ROM organizers have launched another spectacular exhibit for the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, but it won’t be housed inside the structure.DARFUR/DARFUR, an exhibit of 150 photos taken by seven international photojournalists and one U.S. ex-Marine, is being projected onto the side of the Crystal each evening from dusk to 11 p.m. until September 17. The images will appear as two loops, one of portraits and the other of images of the conflict. They will be accompanied by traditional Sudanese music.Given the nature of the ongoing conflict, DARFUR/DARFUR is both a window into Sudanese culture and a political cause. Fighting broke out in 2003 between a militia known as the Janjaweed, backed by the Sudanese government, and various rebel groups such as the Sudan Liberation Movement. Over 200,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and 2.5 million have been displaced, making Darfur the subject of countless appeals to both governments and the public to provide aid to the region.However, the aim of the DARFUR/ DARFUR exhibit is not to create direct political change, but rather to have a more personal affect on passersby.A free mini-exhibit will be on display inside the front lobby of the museum during regular hours. ROM organizers say that DARFUR/ DARFUR may set a precedent that will allow other installations to be projected onto the crystal, using it as a canvas for cultural and artistic expression.“The money that’s required (to end the conflict) is on a government level,” said Jane Sachs, one of the exhibit’s co-curators. She hopes the exhibit’s captivating images will spark a grassroots response.“The most important thing you can do is send a hand-written letter to your representative. Emails just get tallied.”DARFUR/DARFUR was first exhibited at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and has since traveled to 15 American cities. The exhibit comes to Toronto just as major advancements are being made to ending to the conflict, foremost of which is U.N. Resolution 1769, an agreement between the U.N. Security Council and the African Union to send 26,000 peacekeeping troops to the region. As well, BBC News reported in July that the discovery of a large underground lake may provide a great relief to tensions in Darfur, as competition for resources has long been cited as a major cause of the conflict.
The post-9/11 world looks eerily familiar
Tuesday marked the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. For those who felt it necessary to relive that day, all one had to do was tune into the American television networks, where the newscasts covering those attacks were being replayed, as they have been every year since 2001.Those newscasts reflect our collective, immediate response to the attacks, which was characterized by horror, confusion, and above all, surprise. But six years into the so-called “post-9/11” world, it is now prudent to ask if we really should have been taken off-guard by the attacks, especially as the West seems to be fuelling the situations that contributed to those massive acts of violence.After 9/11, the media tried address the confusion and shock left in the wake of that day by asking one question: “Why?” The news reports and talk shows struggled to give the world an answer, but the one they settled on, and the one the Bush administration soon began espousing, can be summed up in the single phrase “They hate our freedom.”Terrorists despise our way of life. This has become the most important thing to know about the people the U.S. and its allies are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and hunting down inside our own borders.But this characterization of those we are fighting is, at its roots, utterly flawed, because it completely ignores any actual interaction between the West and the Islamic world over the past 20 years. It also reduces the millions of people who support armed action against America and its allies to one-dimensional, irrational ideologues, bent on destroying people for no other reason than that we live in democratic freedom.Examine the record of Western actions in Islamic regions of the world in the years leading up to 9/11. In Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, we supported highly unpopular democratic governments, which ruthlessly stifled any political opposition or moves towards democratic reform.To Israel, we sent billions in economic aid with no strings attached. No pressure was brought to bear upon our closest Mideast ally to end the occupation and find a solution to the plight of millions of Palestinian refugees.After bombing Iraq into submission during the Gulf War, the West used the United Nations to impose sanctions that were so strict and arbitrary that medicine and other vital resources became non-existent in the country. It is estimated that the sanctions led to the death of at least 500,000 Iraqi children, but when questioned about the high figure, then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright infamously answered it was “worth it.”While these events were overshadowed in the West by the details of a president’s sexual relationships and the murder trial of a sports superstar, they did not go unnoticed in the Mideast. Anyone who felt connected to the victims of Western policy in the region, by virtue of common religion, race, or basic humanity, would feel aggrieved. To be angered would not be an irrational response.Those of us who were shocked by the 9/11 attacks, then, must have been ignorant of the implications of these events.An inevitable question now is whether we have addressed these issues. Have we done anything to prove that we in the West care as much about the lives of Muslims in the Middle East as we do about the lives of Europeans or Americans? The answer is certainly negative.In Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan we continue our support of oppressive autocrats. In Afghanistan our stewardship has installed warlords into government.Last year, when the Israeli military claimed the lives of 1,000 Lebanese civilians, what was our response? We advised Israel to continue their bombardment for another week or so, to let them finish the job.The U.S. and the U.K. took custody over Iraq, only to see it dissolve in violence and displacement. The Coalition invasion in 2003 has created over 2 million refugees.Our post-9/11 policies in the Mideast can easily be read as the continuation of those we pursued before the attacks. While the leaders of the movements we seek to quell may be homicidal and even insane, they draw on a vast pool of financial and logistical support that persists in dozens of countries, support which can only have been fed by our actions in the “post 9/11” world.If we wish to understand those attacks six years after they occurred, it is well past the time to examine the implications of our interaction with the world from which that day’s assailants came.
End the SPP ASAP!
For whatever reason, a 2,000-strong demonstration had to be dispersed by a barrage of teargas, rubber bullets and swinging batons just outside the luxury resort where the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit was being held in Montebello, Quebec on August 20, 2007.CBC aired a 10-minute feature on the summit the same day. Curiously, the demonstration was not mentioned, but the clip did show Linda Hasenfratz (CEO of Linamar, one of the major corporations involved in the talks) commenting on how this innocuous conference was merely aimed at increasing economic growth throughout the continent.The CBC did, however, immediately throw itself on the demonstration story when it turned out that the police were implicated in hot controversy. But even with all that attention, nobody attempted to address what the demonstrators were actually trying to say.The activists were there at Le Chateau Montebello to present a petition urging the SPP participants to go home. The group was as diverse as the reasons why the SPP partnership is dangerous.One of the main problems of the SPP is that it is not subject to democratic consent. The summit happened behind closed doors, beyond the public domain. The SPP is being presented as a vague “dialogue based on shared values.” But it can escape public scrutiny and will never be debated in the House of Commons, as it is not an official treaty. Nor is it an official law. The only non-government agencies with a formal role in the SPP are mega-corporations in the North American Competitiveness Council, which brings together 30 business representatives (corporate giants like Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lockheed-Martin) from around North America.While the SPP rhetoric boldly makes such statements as “in order to remain ahead of the curve and continue to reap the rewards of trade and commerce, our nations must act in concert to build on our complementary agenda,” it’s clear that the “rewards” in question are directed towards the members of NACC and other corporations, not citizens in general.Continent-wide regulations like the ones involved in the SPP are acceptable if they set high standards, but the key question here is: who is making the decisions, and on what basis? Although previous economic integration agreements, such as NAFTA, brought about significant prosperity for corporations, they displaced many workers while doing little to reduce poverty rates.By forming policy to comply with Canada’s largest corporations—many of whom benefit greatly from military and security contracts—the government has forced a foreign policy of war manufacturing on its people, despite the wishes of the majority of Canadians. Committing to uniform regulations stipulated by the SPP might threaten Canada’s sovereignty, as pressure to pass unprecedented (largely U.S. biased) policies in areas such as military and immigration ultimately furthers U.S. domination over Canada, Mexico and other countries.The SPP also threatens Canada with the bulk transfer of water southbound. The demand for water in the U.S. is huge. Though the Canadian government said it has no intention of allowing the bulk export of water, which legal protections would prevent anyway, the federal government has jurisdiction only over waterways that are shared across the border with the United States. There is no binding legislation preventing provinces from allowing the export of the vast reserves of water they control.The definition of “barriers of trade,” which are illegal under NAFTA, will also be expanded to encompass an increasing amount of regulations, including those regarding food safety. For example, Canada is now considering raising the amount of pesticide residues it allows on fruits and vegetables in order to harmonize with U.S. standards.Drug approvals, auto standards, and other consumer product standards are also under review through the SPP, a procedure that could affect many aspects of everyday life of Canadians.Plans for a common security perimeter involve the integration of police training and law enforcement. Military and training exercises will also be standardized in an effort to redesign the armed forces in preparation for combat overseas. Cooperation in global wars and occupations are a fundamental part of the “forward defence” strategy of the security perimeter.It is not an exaggeration to claim that a colonial and capitalist framework is at the root of the SPP. In practice, the SPP is criminalizing migration, privatizing government, militarizing borders, giving control of trade regulations to major corporations, and stealing indigenous land and resources. All in the name of war, occupation, profit, and national security.
Two years ago, director Gavin Hood, then unknown to North American audiences, premiered a film called Tsotsi at the Toronto International Film Festival. Toronto’s audiences fell in love with his little, South African gangster film and gave it the People’s Choice Award. Five months later, Tsotsi won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Now Hood returns to the festival’s red carpet, this time at Roy Thomson Hall, with a bigbudget, star-studded feature called Rendition. Hood’s career has come full circle at TIFF and represents what the festival is all about: discovering new talents and welcoming back its past champions. With the 2007 TIFF—featuring 349 films—well underway, here’s what’s caught the Varsity’s eye so far.
Rendition (Dir. Gavin Hood)
Although it’s a slightly overpopulated and overzealous affair, Gavin Hood’s Rendition makes for an effective political thriller. The title references a cloak-and-dagger U.S. tactic that extradites terrorist suspects to foreign locations in order to maneuver around anti-torture laws.Secretly abducted while en-route from South Africa to the U.S., Anwar El-Ibrahim (Omar Metwally) becomes subject to this seemingly routine procedure after he is dubiously connected to a suicide-bombing in Egypt. Overseeing Anwar’s torture is Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a doubting CIA analyst who has few questions for the suspect but plenty more for his superiors in Washington. All the while, a subplot races forward in which an Egyptian teenager is prepped for what might be another bombing.Since the film deals with themes like counter-terrorism tactics and homeland security, it’s understandable how it could get overheated. However, Hood’s direction gets too caught up in the thrill of the chase, and sometimes forgets to keep things within the boundaries of believability and, succumbs to manipulative Hollywood clichés. That being said, there’s a terrific ensemble cast that keeps the film grounded, with terrific performances by Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, and Meryl Streep in particular.—RSRating: VVV
Control (Dir. Anton Corbijn)
In this haunting, black and white bio-pic, Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn presents the tortured and all-too-brief life of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. For years, fans and rock critics alike have wondered what could have brought Curtis— the twenty-three-year-old singer in what would become one of the most influential rock bands of all time—to hang himself on the eve of Joy Division’s first North American tour. The film follows Curtis (played so brilliantly by Sam Riley it feels like a documentary) from the age of 16, through the formation of Joy Division in Manchester in 1976, to his suicide in 1980, and paints the picture of a young man who, while following his dreams, finds himself incredibly unhappy, and increasingly desperate. Fans of Joy Division’s gloomy post-punk songs will be impressed by the casting (all four band members look nearly identical to their namesakes) and by the fact that shots of the band playing live are backed by versions of their songs recorded by the actors themselves. This could have been the recipe for a cheesy disaster, but Riley and Co. pull off complex gems like “Disorder” and “Transmission” with astonishing fidelity. Co-produced by Curtis’s widow and Factory Records head Tony Wilson (who sadly passed away last month), Corbijn has created the most fitting elegy possible. Dark, enlightening, and at times quite funny, Control is a must-see for fans of this amazing band.—JBRating: VVVVV
Eastern Promises (Dir. David Cronenberg)
You have to give screenwriter Steven Knight credit for being able to shine within one of director David Cronenberg’s strongest films to date. Knight gets help from a strong cast, including Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts, in this dark, blood-curdling tale set in London’s creepy, Russian underbelly.Mortensen plays Nikolai, a rising henchman in the age-old criminal dynasty Vory V Zakone, the members of which can be identified by their elaborate tattoos. Nikolai’s allegiances become divided when a British mid-wife named Anna (Watts) confronts the Vory with the diary of an exploited 14-year-old Russian immigrant who died giving birth to a now-orphaned baby. The British-born infant with Russian blood seems to be the only link between two very disparate worlds, one that the Vory would like to see severed at any cost.Knight depicts London as a secretive and decaying hub of immigrants (as he did in 2002’s Dirty Pretty Things), a place where Russians build businesses and families but never truly find a home. Indifferent to British citizenship, the only thing the Vory identify with is their tattoos, which are permanent “passports” to a hidden world far from Anna’s quaint existence.As intelligent as it is spine-tingling, Knight guides the viewer through dark back alleys while Cronenberg shines a light on the dark recesses within.—RS Eastern Promises opens in theatres this Friday.Rating: VVVVV
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Dir. Julian Schnabel)
The delightful and inspiring true story of former Elle editor Jean- Dominique Bauby is given the right treatment in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. After a stroke leaves him completely paralyzed, Bauby (Mathieu Almaric) has only his dreams and memories for comfort. Visitors only imprison Bauby in a perpetual state of being talked to, as he apparently lacks the ability to respond to them in any way. Director Julian Schnabel takes pains to focus on the discomfort and awkwardness in these one-sided interactions. However, hope arrives by way of a nurse (Marie-Josee Croze) who develops a method of communication that utilizes the one function Bauby still has command over: blinking.Often shooting from Bauby’s perspective, Schnabel sympathetically brings the audience face-to-face with the frustration and anger that burns inside of his incapacitated subject. Yet Diving Bell manages to stay optimistic and humourous, largely in keeping with Bauby’s own personality.—RSRating: VVVv
The Edge of Heaven (Dir. Faith Akin)
Gorgeously photographed and filled with awkward and endearing moments, Faith Akin’s The Edge of Heaven feels a tad too plotted to match the rash, offthe- cuff nature of its characters. Dealing once again with cross-cultural relations between Germany and Turkey (the director has roots in both nations), Edge has an almost tiresome familiarity to films like Babel, which undermines what would otherwise be a fresh and enjoyable film.Akin’s characters include a sex-obsessed widower and his Professor son, a prostitute and her political-activist daughter, along with the daughter’s German lover and his conservative mother. Over the course of three morbidly-titled chapters, these characters seek each other out to fill personal voids but are frequently disappointed, missing one another in their hurried travels between Germany and Turkey.Both countries become characters in their own right, as Akin invests a lot in the political relationships between the two, and consistently relies on location photography to capture a unique feel for each place. It’s a pity that it ends up feeling like a place we’ve seen before.—RSRating: VVV
The Banishment (Dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev)
This brooding and atmospheric work from the director of The Return has so much style he should have traded some of it off for characters that are more believable.The film follows a family of four as they retreat from an industrial wasteland to the pristine countryside. Things take a turn for the worse when the mother’s many indiscretions begin to surface, forcing the father to make a difficult choice: forgiveness or revenge?The Banishment’s magnificently shot compositions and endearing performances (particularly that by Maria Bonnevie) are deceptive in the way they lure an audience into the film’s elusive direction. It’s only near the end of the film’s 150 minutes that we realize it’s a total tease.—RSRating: VV
Starting Out in the Evening (Dir. Andrew Wagner)
Adapted from Brian Morton’s novel of the same name, Andrew Wagner’s Starting Out in the Evening is an exercise in restraint and subtlety. It’s a film about people who have lived quietly, and find their world altered by a series of events that come late in the day, so to speak.Frank Langella plays Leonard Schiller, a mostly forgotten novelist whose comfortably dull existence is stirred when Heather, a graduate student writing her thesis on him (played with slick confidence by Lauren Ambrose), foists herself into his life. Contrasted against this relationship is the one between Leonard and his daughter, Ariel (Lili Taylor), a woman who has learned to compromise what she really wants for familiarity’s sake. As Heather prods at Leonard’s reserved manner, she unintentionally leaves herself stranded within the consequences of her own self-interest. The results are not jarringly climactic, but realistically understated.Not exactly blink-and-miss, the grace of this film lies in the delicacy of the realization. Starting Out is a moving exami- nation of complacency and desire, maturity and youth and also offers rare glimpses of Manhattan that are usually only found in Woody Allen films. Langella gives an outstanding performance that indicates his vast theatrical experience, and is supported admirably by Ambrose and Taylor. Kudos to Wagner for coaxing such an elegant story out of seemingly ordinary material.—NSRating: VVVVv
No Country for Old Men (Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)
A stash of drugs, $2 million in cash, a handful of bullet-ridden trucks, and several torn corpses all lay cooking under the Texas sun. This is merely the pretext to the Coen Bros’ No Country for Old Men. It’s a set-up that one character describes as “a mess.” Another responds: “If it ain’t, it’ll do till the mess gets here.” Sure as John Wayne is dead, that mess most certainly arrives in this layered, ultraviolent, neo-Western.No Country stars Josh Brolin as the hard-headed yet resourceful yokel who stumbles upon the drug money, and Javier Bardem as the crafty, psycho killer who’s hot on his trail. In the middle of it all is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones in his element), who can’t quite believe the type of innovative blood-letting he’s witness to.The film’s gravitational pull is Javier Bardem’s diabolical performance, which taps into fears that haven’t been felt since Anthony Hopkins first played Hannibal Lector.An engrossing thriller featuring a sharp screenplay, No Country only lags during its final minutes which seem to blaze past major plot points. Overall the film is a welcome rupture in generic expectations that gives open range to interpretation.—RSRating: VVVV
4 Months 3 Weeks & 2 Days (Dir. Cristian Mungiu)
4 Months, 3 Weeks, & 2 Days is stripped down in both narrative and aesthetics. Set during Romania’s final days of communism, the film follows two university roommates—the headstrong and matter- of-fact Otilia and the spacey Gabita—as they set out to secure Otilia an illegal abortion. Shot with what appears to be a handheld camera and utilizing long takes, the film hovers uncomfortably over Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) while she scavenges through the worn corridors of Romania. Her preparations for her operation are frequently fumbled by Gabita’s own incompetence. Both find themselves in situations that become obscenely compromising.Although the film doesn’t take a firm stance on the abortion argument, it certainly doesn’t shy away from depicting the subject. As much a film about living under a communist regime as it is about abortion, 4 Months keeps an open mind to desperate measures in desperate times.—RSRating: VVVVV
Sleuth (Dir. Kenneth Brannagh)
A ruthless power-play unfolds in Sleuth, a dark and prickly remake of the 1972 film of the same name about a crime novelist and the man who is boinking his wife. Michael Caine is absolutely ferocious as wealthy cuckold Andrew Wyke, who invites Milo Tindle (Jude Law in the role played by Caine in the original) into his lavish-yet-cold estate for some matters of business and pleasure. The two leads then embark on a homoerotic battle of wits at times fiendishly funny and at others somewhat repulsive.The remake seems promising from the onset, with the screenplay’s razorsharp verbal blows not dulling over time, yet the film eventually winds down and has trouble shaking the 1970s air that hangs over from the original: even a reference to Dick Cheney feels out of place. See it for Caine’s performance, which alternates from devilishly witty to ultimately pathetic.—RSRating: VVV
Secret Sunshine (Dir. Lee Chang-Dong)
Don’t be fooled by the title. What at first seems to be a chipper and brightly-hued testament to moving on in life in this South Korean film soon drops off into the darkest wells of depression and psychological torment.Jean Do-Yeon delivers a sweet and devastating performance as Shin-Ae, a mother who moves to the unappealing hometown of her late husband to start life over with her young son. Tragedy follows close behind in this uncomfortably funny and surprisingly intelligent film.Unsatisfied with traditional portrayals of mourning, director Lee Chang-Dong crafts a film that dissects the countless stages of depression and anger that follow misfortune. The film builds a smart and daring critique of the popular therapies that offer dangerously temporary senses of healing.—RSRating: VVVV
Reservation Road (Dir. Terry George)
There should be no shortage of Kleenex at Roy Thomson Hall for the Gala screening of Terry George’s Reservation Road because, really, there’s really nothing sadder than watching beautiful celebrities cry. This floodgate of woe boasts remarkably sincere performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, and Jennifer Connelly in a tragedy that revolves around a child’s death.Phoenix and Connelly play Connecticut parents Ethan and Grace Learner, whose postcard-perfect existence is disturbed when an SUV, steered by Ruffalo’s Dwight Arno, accidentally takes their son’s life. After Dwight flees the scene, Ethan—the film’s all-too-obvious equivalent to the impulsive revenge-driven post-9/11 America—barely gives himself time to mourn before engaging in a cat-and mouse hunt for his son’s killer.There’s not much new to be found in this type of drama given that these themes have been recently mined by more accomplished filmmakers like Todd Fields (In the Bedroom) and Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (21 Grams). However, the director has the support of predictably good actors, particularly Mark Ruffalo who once again steals the show as a smug weasel who can still elicit sympathy when the proverbial noose tightens around his neck.—RSRating: VVV
It’s Not Rocket Science
Wikipedia has just surpassed the two-million mark in a number of English articles, approximately 15 times as many articles as the largest version of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Last-second essay writers are rejoicing the world over. (I just looked up Wikipedia on Wikipedia and it blew my mind).
Organism of the week: Rattus norvegicus.
Otherwise known as the common rat, this is one of a few organisms to have a truly worldwide distribution, discounting Antarctica of course. Its name means “Norwegian rat” but this is a misnomer as it most likely originated in China. Responsible for spreading the bubonic plague (with the help of fleas) through Europe during the 14th century, rats are capable of carrying and transmitting many other diseases as well. These spectacular pests are known to eat almost anything and are probably one of the best examples of omnivores known to exist. There is an upside, surprisingly—brown rats have been used to breed many strains of laboratory rats, which have been extremely useful in a wide variety of biological experiments. Their favorite foods? Macaroni and cheese, cooked corn kernels and scrambled eggs. Least favourite? Celery, raw beets and peaches. Should I find it weird that my culinary tastes are similar to those of the common rat?
How little we know
This piece from NewScientist.com may reduce your confidence in the almighty power of science. It surveys thirteen glaring holes—ranging from dark matter to the placebo effect—in our knowledge of the universe. It’s a lengthy read, but worth the time and effort. After reading this article, I tore up my copy of The Universe In A Nutshell and wept for several hours. Link: http://space.newscientist.com/ article.ns?id=mg18524911.600&print= true
I need to get me one of those Science … it works, bitches t-shirts.
Anyone who can point me in the right direction gets a free pound of dark matter.
Supply and demand
(Whales owe the economy, big time): Iceland has decided to call off its whale hunt not because of pressure from other governments or environmental groups, but because there was simply not enough demand for whale products to justify it. Even better, Iceland’s whale-watching industry is estimated to bring in over $20 million per year.
Power of wind (I miss Captain Planet)
It feels good when another group recognizes the usefulness of renewable energy. As reported at ecogeek. com, the Bahrain World Trade Centre is installing wind turbines to take advantage of otherwise wasted wind flow at the higher stories of the giant structure. It’s like getting something for nothing (after a few million dollars of construction costs, that is).
If you like big holes (this is not goatrelated, you sicko)
Also from ecogeek are the Seven Largest Holes in the World. Five of the seven are man-made (apologies to eco-friendlies for the graphic pictures of open pit mines) and are a stark reminder of the power of humanity to shape the world we inhabit. The scariest one would have to be the 100-metre-deep sinkhole in Guatemala that opened up and consumed several homes. I am currently fighting the urge to visit some of these and throw a pebble down to the bottom. Link: http://deputy-dog. com/2007/09/09/7-amazing-holes/
With apologies to Carl Sagan
A weekly web-roundup column would be incomplete if I neglected to add a YouTube link. View for possibly one of my favourite Family Guy moments of all time. (Sure to get me a lot of angry e-mails from creationists). Link: http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=VYOYfG0QGG0&NR=1
In the year 2000
This collection of pictures from 1910 depict what French life could have been like by the year 2000—including flying firemen, automated barbers and (accurately enough) helicopters used for surveillance. While it’s probably for the best that heating with radium didn’t catch on, the futuristic school where books are transferred directly into students’ brains without reading them is an idea I wish was reality. The flying policemen are still kind of scary, though. Link: http://paleo-future.blogspot. com/2007/09/french-prints-show-year- 2000-1910.html
The Crazy Things We Used To Believe #1
Orthogenesis: Ever since Charles Darwin proposed the idea of natural selection in 1859 (with a little help from the spectacularly-bearded Alfred Russel Wallace), the field of evolution has seen controversy, debate and discovery on a regular basis. Although evolution is far from being fully understood, we have a fairly good idea of how it works, thanks to advances in genetics and evolutionary biology. At one point, though, it wasn’t so cut and dry. In the 19th century, the idea of orthogenesis had a large following in the scientific community. The hypothesis centred on the assumption that evolution is linear organisms evolving towards a particular goal. Under this model, species were thought to specialize by developing certain traits (say limb length or visual ability) towards perfection. This model had difficulty explaining extinctions, which by that time were known to occur. Those who defended orthogenesis argued that organisms could overshoot their goal and end up being unable to survive due to the over-development of a trait. The poster boy for this explanation was the extinct Irish Elk (see picture), whose giant antlers were said to be an overdeveloped advantageous trait. One major flaw in the theory was that it couldn’t find a driving force to explain linear evolution. In a famous critique of the hypothesis, George Gaylord Simpson harangued “the mysterious inner force.” Surprisingly, orthogenesis had hangers-on in the scientific community up until the 1950s. It only goes to show that the dumber the idea, the harder it falls (see: creationism).
Schrodinger’s cat up for adoption
No takers yet.