For my first trick, I’m going to make Jack Nicholson… disappear!!!

I’m going to try to review a movie without discussing the plot much. Last night we trudged out to the theater at midnight for the first screening of the new Batman flick The Dark Knight. I went in with high expectations given the stellar cast, but a bit nervous about Heath Ledger in his role as the Joker. Heath’s acting has always been a mite bit unpredictable for me; he was amazingly good in Brokeback Mountain, for example, but bored me to tears in Ned Kelly.
Turns out that very unpredictability makes him perfect for a “reimagined” darker, grittier, noncampy version of the Joker. In the original Burton Batman, the Joker steals the show and thus completely overshadowed every conversation about Batman movies for the ensuing 15 years (minus the Bat Nipples). The same thievery applies here, but Ledger doesn’t do it in a “ooh look, Jack is acting like he just downed a case of Red Bull…. again!” sort of way. No, Ledger’s Joker is a self-proclaimed agent of chaos, and from when he first walks on screen uttering similar words that I allude to in my post title, you know that he’s about to take you for a ride.
One fucked up ride.
Ledger’s Joker is not funny. Not at all. And he knows it. He’s not supposed to be. Sure he laughs, but it’s the laughter of a hyena about to chow on a wounded gazelle, a salivating, gutteral sort of tittering that belongs in a Stephen King book. Sometimes he shrieks. But he does. not. once. in. the. entire. movie. inspire. the. audience. to. laugh. Full stop. End of line. **** What he does do is leave us constantly giggling. Nervously. This giggling should not be taken for actual laughter. It’s the sort of insecure chuckle emitted by a person who’s just seen something so completely inappropriate, so completely out of left field, that he or she can’t help but emit a nervous chattering as a coping mechanism while we try to process “Oh holy fuck, did he really just do that????”
This Joker is unstable. He’s completely amoral. You will be extremely glad that he exists only on the big screen. And Gotham is his playground. Whereas in Batman Begins Ra’s al Gul was a calculating villain, the type of comic book gentleman villain that you sit down and have a chess match with–while the audience watches move-by-move and discusses who will come out on top– in The Dark Knight you get none of that. The Joker is the sort of chap who blithely kicks over the table and sets fire to the game board, and while the rest of us scramble to pick up the pieces or stare for a second, in shock while processing the situation, he’ll shoot somebody simply because they happen to be there while he’s holding a gun. Whether they’re an innocent bystander or one of his own men, no matter. But he’s run across a very strange, effective way to inspire loyalty; people, even hardened criminals and mental patients, fear a true madman, but they’ll follow one who provides even a modicum of order amidst the overwhelming chaos he creates.
At least until he blows your face off.
Both Ra’s and The Joker had the same goal– tear Gotham apart. The former failed though, because he at least played by some rules; his own, maybe, but rules nonetheless. This time Batman, Gordon, love interest and Asisstant DA Rachel, the Mayor, and District Attorney Harvey Dent scramble to pick up the pieces of that chessboard. Even working together, they’re constantly 2 steps behind the calculating lunacy that consumes the city and threatens to compromise everyone’s moral character. I greatly enjoyed Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal of Harvey Dent and his transformation into Two-Face. You don’t get an indication from the trailers, but that transformation is a very integral part of the movie. I won’t say more because I don’t see it as my place to do so. Suffice to say that we can relate, to some degree, to what each character goes through.
Whoever wrote this script is a frakkin’ genius. To many it may seem like the pace is off, disjointed or too fast in parts. I think it’s all intentional; we’re dragged into the same world as Gordon, Dent, and even the Batman as they struggle to keep that very world from unraveling around them. It is viscerally unsettling to watch a movie and know that you’re processing the events, but only barely fast enough. The entire movie plays out like a psychological drama; in a mere 2.5 hours we are given a host of character development to work with. It is hard work to make a comic book flick where not only do you relate to the characters, but you feel as if “yes, all that personification of an animal as my superhero avatar” stuff, all those crazy costumes and gadgets, they really could be part of my world. The Dark Knight excels in this department, easily suppressing its predecessor. Some people will see that as a negative, undoubtedly because they fear the consequences of a reality where The Joker could exist. Sometimes fiction is too damn freaky to be fact, and blurring that line is unsettling as hell.
I can’t say I blame them. But damned if I’m going to let that keep me from seeing this flick again in the theater.
****I was just reminded of one actual funny remark where the Joker waxes Jerry Maguire, but even that was disturbing because you can’t quite tell how much he actually meant it.

For my first trick, I’m going to make Jack Nicholson… disappear!!!

I’m going to try to review a movie without discussing the plot much. Last night we trudged out to the theater at midnight for the first screening of the new Batman flick The Dark Knight. I went in with high expectations given the stellar cast, but a bit nervous about Heath Ledger in his role as the Joker. Heath’s acting has always been a mite bit unpredictable for me; he was amazingly good in Brokeback Mountain, for example, but bored me to tears in Ned Kelly.
Turns out that very unpredictability makes him perfect for a “reimagined” darker, grittier, noncampy version of the Joker. In the original Burton Batman, the Joker steals the show and thus completely overshadowed every conversation about Batman movies for the ensuing 15 years (minus the Bat Nipples). The same thievery applies here, but Ledger doesn’t do it in a “ooh look, Jack is acting like he just downed a case of Red Bull…. again!” sort of way. No, Ledger’s Joker is a self-proclaimed agent of chaos, and from when he first walks on screen uttering similar words that I allude to in my post title, you know that he’s about to take you for a ride.
One fucked up ride.
Ledger’s Joker is not funny. Not at all. And he knows it. He’s not supposed to be. Sure he laughs, but it’s the laughter of a hyena about to chow on a wounded gazelle, a salivating, gutteral sort of tittering that belongs in a Stephen King book. Sometimes he shrieks. But he does. not. once. in. the. entire. movie. inspire. the. audience. to. laugh. Full stop. End of line. **** What he does do is leave us constantly giggling. Nervously. This giggling should not be taken for actual laughter. It’s the sort of insecure chuckle emitted by a person who’s just seen something so completely inappropriate, so completely out of left field, that he or she can’t help but emit a nervous chattering as a coping mechanism while we try to process “Oh holy fuck, did he really just do that????”
This Joker is unstable. He’s completely amoral. You will be extremely glad that he exists only on the big screen. And Gotham is his playground. Whereas in Batman Begins Ra’s al Gul was a calculating villain, the type of comic book gentleman villain that you sit down and have a chess match with–while the audience watches move-by-move and discusses who will come out on top– in The Dark Knight you get none of that. The Joker is the sort of chap who blithely kicks over the table and sets fire to the game board, and while the rest of us scramble to pick up the pieces or stare for a second, in shock while processing the situation, he’ll shoot somebody simply because they happen to be there while he’s holding a gun. Whether they’re an innocent bystander or one of his own men, no matter. But he’s run across a very strange, effective way to inspire loyalty; people, even hardened criminals and mental patients, fear a true madman, but they’ll follow one who provides even a modicum of order amidst the overwhelming chaos he creates.
At least until he blows your face off.
Both Ra’s and The Joker had the same goal– tear Gotham apart. The former failed though, because he at least played by some rules; his own, maybe, but rules nonetheless. This time Batman, Gordon, love interest and Asisstant DA Rachel, the Mayor, and District Attorney Harvey Dent scramble to pick up the pieces of that chessboard. Even working together, they’re constantly 2 steps behind the calculating lunacy that consumes the city and threatens to compromise everyone’s moral character. I greatly enjoyed Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal of Harvey Dent and his transformation into Two-Face. You don’t get an indication from the trailers, but that transformation is a very integral part of the movie. I won’t say more because I don’t see it as my place to do so. Suffice to say that we can relate, to some degree, to what each character goes through.
Whoever wrote this script is a frakkin’ genius. To many it may seem like the pace is off, disjointed or too fast in parts. I think it’s all intentional; we’re dragged into the same world as Gordon, Dent, and even the Batman as they struggle to keep that very world from unraveling around them. It is viscerally unsettling to watch a movie and know that you’re processing the events, but only barely fast enough. The entire movie plays out like a psychological drama; in a mere 2.5 hours we are given a host of character development to work with. It is hard work to make a comic book flick where not only do you relate to the characters, but you feel as if “yes, all that personification of an animal as my superhero avatar” stuff, all those crazy costumes and gadgets, they really could be part of my world. The Dark Knight excels in this department, easily suppressing its predecessor. Some people will see that as a negative, undoubtedly because they fear the consequences of a reality where The Joker could exist. Sometimes fiction is too damn freaky to be fact, and blurring that line is unsettling as hell.
I can’t say I blame them. But damned if I’m going to let that keep me from seeing this flick again in the theater.
****I was just reminded of one actual funny remark where the Joker waxes Jerry Maguire, but even that was disturbing because you can’t quite tell how much he actually meant it.

Prairie Voles in Love

ResearchBlogging.org
For your Friday Weird Science, I present to you a Poem!  And I shall call it “Prairie Voles in Love: An Ode to Oxytocin”

Out on the lonely prairie, gazing at the stars above
I saw through the night
the wondrous sight
Of prairie voles in love

‘Twas truly a miracle to see
this display of monogamy
Monogamy, subject of vast debates
In only 3% of mammals, mostly primates
But here on the prairie, in burrows and holes
whole colonies of uxorious voles!

In disbelief, I cried “But who could love a prairie vole?
The way they look, to get laid you’d have to be a blind mole.
The rodents are small,
hairy, buck-toothed and all
Though whiskers are cute, with bright eyes above,
That’s a face only a mother could love!”

Alas, love is not for our minds to control
The hormones must our hearts console
Our posterior pituitary is something great
For forming pair-bonds with our chosen mate!
In the voles together through thick and thin
There is nothing better than oxytocin.

The posterior pituiary, the neurohypophysis
The place the love glow from pair-bonding is.
Without oxytocin, the voles just get laid
There is nothing from which pairings can be made.
The females needed oxytocin for when the morning came
Or male voles were kicked out, to do the walk of shame.

But it turns out that oxytocin is just for a girl
The boys need vasopressin to make their toes curl
ADH can turn those dead-beat dads
who otherwise would be bounders and cads
into a model husband, father, and mate
who any smart girl vole would kill to date.

No miracle, this monogamous bliss
So when your lover walks out
Don’t waste time, scream, or shout,
Look to your neurohypophysis!

I am a HUGE geek.  I know.  Even my advisor tells me so.  Ack!  I’m still rhyming!!
Insel, T.R., Winslow, J.R., Wang, Z.X., Young, L., Hulihan, T.J. (1995). Oxytocin and the molecular basis of monogamy. Advances in Experimental and Medical Biology, 395(1), 227-234.

For your final bit of Friday crack, I give you Things she could have blinded me with

Survival of the Abudant: Mutational Networks Constrain Evolution

There’s been a bit of talk around the blogs about Olivia Judson’s recent article entitled “Let’s Get Rid of Darwinism”.  I do have an opinion on it, but I don’t consider myself well-versed enough on the topic to blog about it specifically.  I do recommend other people’s posts on the subject, Coturnix, Evolving Thoughts, The Frontal Cortex, and Laelaps.

ResearchBlogging.org
But it seems like a lovely coincidence that, just as Natural Selection celebrates its 150th birthday, (well it was July 1), there is a new paper come out in PLoS Computational Biology on evolution!  I can’t say that I’ll get it right, but I think it’s really cool, and if I don’t get it all right, read it yourself and let me know.  I really do some to this from pretty much a lay perspective, being both bad at math and not very well-versed in the actual ins and outs of evolution, mutations, and fitness (hangs head in shame).  Continue reading