A young Eastwood meets Nicholas Sparks in ‘Longest Ride’

Scott Eastwood, the youngest son of Clint Eastwood, stars in this movie adaptation of the 2013 Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name, “The Longest Ride.” If you like predictable romances, then you’ll like this movie.

The movie is beautifully photographed with scenes of bull riding dramatically depicted while avoiding the queston of cruelty. Everything is nice and sugar-coated. You don’t see the seamy side of a rodeo and the couple with have a happy ending.

The movie follows two romances. One is between Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood), a professional bull rider who meets a college student named Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson). At the end of a date, they rescue an elderly man named Ira Levinson (Alan Alda), a widower who cherishes the only thing he has left of his wife Ruth, their love letters. Unable to have children, Ira and Ruth collect art, focusing on American modern art, especially from famous Black Mountain College.

While Luke continues on his tour and battles his own demons, Ira tells Sophia about his romance with Ruth, with Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin playing the younger Ira and Ruth respectively.

Eastwood is tall in the saddle and looks comfortable on the ranch and rodeo. The chemistry between Eastwood and Robertson is minimal, but they are too exceptionally good-looking young actors. Alda is reliable enough.

If you’re a Sparks fan, this might be for you, but it isn’t the most emotionally moving and richly nuanced film. All the production values are handsome as are the actors, but there are better romantic movies out there. Still, what person doesn’t want to believe that someone will be there for “The Longest Ride” which is life.

“The Longest Ride” has just been released on DVD.

 

 

‘American Experience: Blackout’ recalls dark night in NYC

In the big cities, we live with noise pollution and light pollution. The industrial noise air conditioners, cars and stereos prevents us from hearing the sounds of nature. The light pollution prevents us from seeing the stars. Being plunged into total darkness, without the aid of electricity can be alarming and during the summer of 1977, on 13 July, a blackout in New York City became “an orgy of violence, arson and insanity.” Director Callie T. Wiser takes us back to that hot and humid night in the “American Experience” episode, “Blackout.”

Living in Southern California, I’ve lived through a few brown outs and even one black out, but usually it isn’t a whole city affected. And New York City has had a blackout before 1977. However, the 1965 NYC blackout was in November. The temperature was 43-45º and the shop keepers were just about closing up at 5:30 p.m. It was something out of the ordinary, but not scary one person recalls.

The blackout of 1977 was different because the city was different. Crime was high. Unemployment was high. Police and firefighters had been laid off. The city was about to declare bankruptcy. A serial killer dubbed Son of Sam was terrorizing the people. When the lights went out, it was late in the evening. The wine steward at the tony Windows on the World restaurant on the 107th floor of One World Trade Center recalls seeing the boroughs disappear, one by one before Manhattan was plunged into darkness. On a clear day, you could see 90 miles from the restaurant. At night, you could see lights on forever in the city that never sleeps.

The city didn’t sleep that night either. While the male guests at the Windows on the World restaurant were allowed first to take their jackets off and then their ties, elsewhere things were less than civilized. The restaurant guests were drinking free champagne and elsewhere block parties broke out, but in the poorer areas, looting began with things as big and expensive as washing machines and refrigerators being stolen. At the end of the 24 hours, 3,700 people had been arrested and firefighters had put out about 1,000 fires.

Wiser combines archival footage and contemporary interviews with people from all walks of life–a firefighter, a police officer, a reporter who covered the blackout, a man who grew up to be a novelist and had been playing handball at the time, an electronics store owner, the owner of a sports and trophy store,  a medical students and a graffiti artist. Also included are people who wrote about the blackout: professor of history, Joshua Freeman (“Working-Class New York: Life and Labor Since World War II”), the New York Times writer Jonathan Mahler (“Ladies and Gentleman, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City”) and Bruce Porter (“Blackout Looting!: New York City, July 13, 1977″).

Caused by a lightening strike, the blackout was also the result of poor planning. Chief System Operator for Con Edison in July 1977 Charlie Durkin is also interviewed and recalls seeing the sky made bright by constant lightening strikes and then scrambling to help reinstate power with an emergency plan that dated back to the 1960s.

“Blackout” reminds us how dependent we were on electricity and should make us think how much more dependent we have become in the ensuing decades. The distance between the haves and have-nots may be economically long but physically short. In the end, we can’t ignore the rumble of poverty’s disquiet because the civility society requires can be easily destroyed in just a frightening night.

“Blackout” premiered on 14 July 2015 on PBS American Experience and is currently available VoD.

Ms. Geek Speaks: HS school girls go feminista for fame

When high school girls turn to feminism to decry rape culture, that should be a good thing, but lately it seems more like fashionistas looking for the limelight become feministas. The problem: school dress codes.

Some dress codes are vague. Many are not and are available online. The trend is to protest rape culture that sexualizes the bodies of women and girls and to do it at one’s high school.

High schools of the 2010s have a lot more to contend with than the high schools of the 1950s. Except, there were those boys who wore muscle shirts and what used to be underwear and blue jeans and girls who wore tight pants before the benefit of lycra spandex. Girls had to learn when to wear bras and girdles. There was also that problem of women in sports that was resolved by a one-piece Lucy Bloomer influenced gym clothes.

I am glad that in most places girls and women can wear shorts and pants to high school. There are some things I wore to school that I now regret–for both style and exposure. Nothing I wore resulted in me being sent home. Coming from a poor family, I wish we had uniforms because I was never one of the cool kids and much of what I wore had either been made by my mother, my older sister (hand-me-downs) or myself.

My mother worked in the office and I remember her remarking about some of the inappropriate things that boys wore–T-shirts that objectified women.

Now the fad seems to be white girls who have plenty of money protesting by wearing something that is too short, too thin (as in spaghetti straps) or something that doesn’t provide adequate coverage.

Katy was too young to write or protest herself. At 5, she is too young to read the dress code. That would have been the responsibility of her father.

A representative of the Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District issued the following statement to ABC News: “As part of district policy, parents sign the Student Handbook at the beginning of each school year. This is an acknowledgement that they have read and understand the guidelines within. Dress code is not determined by the age of the student. The teacher visited with the student about the dress code. The student had a change of clothes in her backpack and offered to change. The outfit she decided on was her choice. The parent involved has made no attempt to contact the teacher or administrators to express any concerns or ask questions regarding the dress code.”

Instead the father decided to celebrate his failure as a father by writing about the school’s unfair treatment of his daughter.

“I certainly didn’t go out and buy the dress to challenge it,” he said. “I would say that, in general, the only way a boy can violate the dress code other than wear a t-shirt with an offensive logo is by messing up their clothes. A girl can break the dress code just from buying her clothes.”

This is not true. If you read the Student Code of Conduct, it clearly requires that boys cover up as well.

  • Students are not to wear clothing that is tight, loose, sagging, baggy, revealing, spaghetti-strap, backless, low cut or short.
  • Pants– must be worn at the waist or upper hip and must not reveal underclothing
  • Shorts and Skirts – must be fitted at the waist or upper hip, must not reveal underclothing, and must be mid-thigh in length or longer Tops, Shirts and Blouses – must not reveal underclothing, midsection, torso, back, chest, breasts or cleavage

Rouner might be surprised to know that even men (and boys) can wear spaghetti straps. He could have easily have found images by doing a web search, but it seems more likely that he’s attempting to save face by covering up a parental failure.

Rouner also fails to consider that a dress with spaghetti straps is not appropriate for a gym class and it was a gym day. A dress that is so long his daughter must, as he described it, lift the skirt up when the lawn is wet to prevent the him from getting damp, is also not a good choice for a gym day. Anyone who has worn a long skirt and run up stair or tried to catch something above or below the waist can attest to this.

In the case of Macy Edgerly, her offense it outlined on page 23 in the Orangefield High School student handbook (TX), where the dress code is outlined. It states that leggings are allowed, but only if a garment worn over them meets the “fingertip” rule. The dress, skirt — or shirt, in this case — must be “below fingertips when hands are held straight down at your side.

Edgerly’s sister, Erica said, “Why is it OK for men to run around without a shirt, but a woman in a sports bra is scandalous?” she said. “You’ve seen baseball players’ pants — they’re tight! But it’s not OK for women to wear leggings because women are seen as sexual beings. That’s such an issue. Women are seen as sexual beings and schools are reiterating that with their dress codes.”

That’s a bit disingenuous. Sports classes do make exceptions to the dress code. Certainly if the school district has swimming classes or a swim team, one would expect exceptions to be made for girls and boys.

Erica neglects to mention that while the school does not have a girls gymnastics team,  the school does have girls volleyball and the shorts do not conform to the school dress code. The school’s website displayed the girls volleyball team and their shorts are definitely too short and too tight to fit within the regular dress code.

West Side High School has an online handbook.

Skirts, dresses, or other similar attire must extend at least to the top of the knee cap, from the front and from the back.

Boys are not allowed to wear earrings or body piercings during school hours or while participating in any school sponsored activity. The only piercings allowed for girls are in the ears during school hours or while participating in any school sponsored activity.

In the case of Alexi Halket of the Etobicoke School of the Art, crop top day was supported by both boys and girls.

“Female students are getting taken into the office because they are wearing a shirt that resembles a sports bra, but there are males in gym class and on the back fields running around shirtless and that double standard is not OK,” Halket told the Global News. People magazine reported that male students showed up  sporting crop tops to support Halket

The original objection was that what Halket was wearing was “too much like a sports bra.” Halket thought the administrators were sexualizing her outfit.

Halket has a discussion with principal Rob Mackinnon and missed a class due to her lengthy discussion. MacKinnon said the school has a purposely vague dress code, but some students have suggested codifying what is and isn’t appropriate. Halket remained defiant, bristling at the principal’s suggestion students should be more professional.

“He said ‘this is a professional environment,’ so I said, ‘yes, but the word professional comes from profession, meaning job, and this is your job, so I understand if you have to be professional, but I have to go to school and I’m going to wear whatever makes me comfortable.”‘

Halket doesn’t understand that different environments means different things are acceptable. In a performance school, places where the rules are different are again in sports classes as well as in performance classes.

I wish someone had taken me by the hand and explained about power dressing when I was in high school. I had to wait until college when a friend suggested I read a book about women and dressing for business. That was a helpful insight, but at times, regional and company culture issues have come up. Those that quickly pick up the signs and signals will advance and I haven’t always been quick to read the signs correctly, but hopefully, high school students won’t miss time out from their free education to concern themselves with faux fashion issues. At this point, I’m convinced that uniforms are the answer to the many possible arguments about dress codes in schools and uniforms could make it easier for teachers and students to concentrate on reading, writing and science skills.

 

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Ms. Geek Speaks: FX Fearless Arena fiasco

This last weekend during San Diego Comic-con, I went into the FX Fearless Arena, a clever upscale haunted house-like experience that allowed FX to advertise for “The Strain,” “Fargo,” “The Bastard Executioner” and “American Horror Story.” This tale of fearless and fearfulness takes place in the “American Horror Story” Hotel.

The line for the AMS Hotel experience gets long because the prize is not a t-shirt but a $100 gift certificate. You compete against seven other people. Entering as a group of eight, you are each assigned to a small room, really just a closet. The closet has a window side for the public to view. On the floor is colored play money bills of various denominations. When the doors are closed and the fans start up, each room becomes a chamber of free floating paper that you must catch mid-air and put the black bag you’ve been given. You have only 30 seconds.

We entered twice. The first time my husband collected a tidy sum, tying for first place and then lost in the 10-second runoff. That was Friday and we were first in line. On Sunday, we were not first in line. We were third behind a couple, Christopher and Kelsey, who had arrived at 8:30 a.m. and a mother-daughter pair, Cathy and Jessica, who arrived just before us. We arrived about nine-ish. The actual game began at 11 a.m.

The rule of a long line is that one does get chummy and we knew the eight people we expected to be competing against. Each person clearly stated if another was joining them. There were, however, two white women who were lurking about, chatting to the people working this activity. I thought they were staff; they were supposedly exhibitors, or at least that is what their passes said.

I imagine the story they told the FX staff was that they had little time to wait in line. The exhibition hall opened at 9:30 and exhibitors should be in place by 9 a.m. The two women jumped the line, without a word of apology to the people who had been waiting and by 11 a.m. the line was quite long. Once in, they determinedly headed for rooms 3 and 4, the ones which no one was watching.  Rooms 1 and 2 faced the front on one side and 5 and 6, 7 and 8 were either facing the front and viewable by the staff or were viewable by the people waiting in line.

By Sunday, the rules had changed. On Friday, one could not pick up the bills on the ground. On Sunday, one couldn’t pick up the bills gathering on the ceiling, caught between the grate and the plastic wind guides nor could one pick the bills stuck on the walls.  We all went into our closet-like windowed rooms and 30-seconds later were out and back in the lobby. The two ladies returned with much more money than anyone else.

After the staff said nothing and we were ushered out, Kelsey was trembling with anger and loudly complained that she and Christopher had been in line since 8:30 a.m. and yet the two ladies just sauntered up. It wasn’t fair. The two white ladies in their hats walked away, not interested in engaging in the debate.

Did the ladies cheat? Yes. Calculating the rate they would have had to snatch up bills flying in the air would require them to have superhuman speed. I noted as the hotel staff was counting, that “That was the reason” they had won–some of the bills were stuck together as if they had never been in the air and had been scooped up from the ground.

On Friday, I had already been given a heads up to the possibility of cheating. Waiting in line for  “The Bastard Executioner” experience which was right next to the AHS Hotel, I explained what the AHS Hotel experience was about and was told, “But I have seen people picking up from the floor.” I quickly explained that the staff was responsible for eliminating people who cheated. I was giving the FX staff the benefit of the doubt.

Yet on Sunday, I saw that the staff was not really that proactive. Two women were allowed to cheat by hopping the line and had no conscience against cheating fellow game players in other ways.  Kelsey was also not the top money collector of the six people who had been waiting in line and had ended up in our group. Yet what she said was likely on all our minds: Two ladies had cheated in two different ways and yet the staff did nothing. Honesty was not rewarded, not in the least.

The two line-jumping fedora hat-wearing ladies were not in such a hurry it seems. They did not hurry back to the exhibition hall or anywhere.  We saw them at the nearby smoothie shop ordering refreshment for themselves. The more outspoken of the two, a dark-haired woman who had a white sweater around her waist, only gave the cashier the first initial of her name, “L.” She was hard to miss since the design on her white sweater was a large black and red circle, almost forming a target on her derriere. She and her friend were overheard discussing how “easy” this difficult challenge was because they had collected money from the ceiling trap, exactly one of the new rules that all participants were told to refrain from.

Perhaps the AHS Hotel could have been better designed so that the rooms were all visible from the inside and thus could be better watched. Dishonesty is always ugly and made a potentially fun experience into a negative experience for at least eight people who didn’t cheat and yet were not properly supported by the FX Fearless staff who were less than fearless in their application of their own rules. The staff failed to watch all the rooms equally. The staff failed to apply logical mathematic calculations. The staff failed to respect the people who were patiently waiting in line.

I doubt that this was a one-time problem. That means the FX Fearless Arena was a failure; FX lost the feel-good moment they meant to provide potential audience members and encouraged people to be dishonest and laugh at the honest game players. The couple who complained, Christopher and Kelsey, were a good game players. They had gone through the Adult Swim family carnival and collected enough tickets to win a black cape that they both were proudly wearing on Sunday morning. I doubt that this couple will have the same fond memories of that Sunday morning with the FX American Horror Story Hotel. The experience also left my husband and I with an unpleasant memory.

 

Jurassic World: Future pet dinos, genetic stews and the Victorian swoon

Perhaps you are a dinosaur lover who read the Los Angeles Times (“‘Jurassic World’ paleontologist Wants to Turn a Chicken into a Dinosaur“) or the Popular Science article (“Real ‘Jurassic World’ about Scientist Says We Could Bring Back Dinosaurs as Pets”). The article in LiveScience.com sets a date: 10 years (“Real-Life ‘Jurassic World’ Dinos May Be 10 Years Off, Scientist Says”).

In a recent telephone interview, Mike Habib discussed the real possibility of pet dinosaurs, making a genetic stew to create an Indominus Rex and herbivore stereotyping that resulted in a Victorian swoon for sauropods.

On Twitter, Habib had tried to convince me of the beauty of the beauty of cockroaches, but on the telephone, he did a better job of convincing me about the future of pet dinos, the reality of making genetics stews across species and animal classes and the problem with Hollywood and herbivores.

Habib was one of the panelists on the Natural History Museum’s fantastic “Jurassic World” event last week which included a visit by Hunter (a life-sized juvenile T-rex puppet), the movie and a panel discussion.  In 2014, he was named one of Popular Science’s Brilliant Ten. He is an assistant professor at the USC Keck School of Medicine teaching human gross anatomy and has a joint appointment with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

Habib contends that “Jack Horner and I are very much in agreement” on the matter of the chicken or, as the LA Times called it, chickensaurus. Habib explained, “Dinosaur descendants should and do hold a lot of genes for traits that are very dinosaurian…A lot of the genes we code for those traits are in chickens and are in other birds but they are silent, not active.” By activating those traits–for tooth, claws and long tails, we can “de-extinct” these original traits.

If you de-extinct enough of them, you might get something that for functional purposes remind you of a dinosaur, but “I wouldn’t say that’s really de-extinction of a species because you’re not going to bring back velociraptors…You are not going to turn a chicken into a padosaurus…You are custom designing individual traits, picking the things that are visually apparent–tails, claws and teeth, but the internal details, the physiological details you can’t know about.”

The other question is transgenetics. Wait! Don’t worry. This isn’t as messy as the current discussions going on about transgender Caitlyn Jenner or transracism via Rachel Dolezal, this is about things like glowing fish. Yes, we know we can make glowing fish and glowing mice. That might give you nightmares of glowing things invading your house, but the GloFish for now is kind of cool and a reality.

In “Jurassic World,” Indominus Rex gets a little genetic help from a cuttlefish and a tree frog. Transgenetics means, according to Habib, “Taking genes from one organism and intercepting them into other organisms” and a lot of the organisms are plants instead of animals.

We know that we can got dog breeds from natural selection so transgenetics has to offer us something more than a larger or smaller dog, something more than getting from the ancient wolf to the modern Chihuahua. Habib notes that “the trick of transgenetics is what you’re ultimately moving is protein coding.” To make it work the trait must be “simply linked to a small number of protein.”

The problem is that genes often regulate other genes to get a visible trait. “Some traits have a fairly simple background” (e.g. eye color), but there is no single gene for height, intelligence, weight or speed. Those things are the result of a combination of lots and lots of traits that set up a structural capacity and metabolism.

While the color changing aspect of Jurassic World’s Indominus Rex is a “cool idea” it would be impossible to do transgenetically via cuttlefish, Habib explained. In “Jurassic World,” the scientists added a bit of cuttlefish genetic material and Habib noted that cuttlefish, octopus and squids can cloak quite impressively, “but they do this with a ver complicated structure, a chromatic block which is in their skin.” The problem is moving a lot of genes without disrupting other genes and the “structures that work in the outer covering of a mollusk, a cuttlefish is a marine mollusk, wouldn’t work without having the other structural systems around them.”

These color changing cells are called chromatophores and are just below the surface of the skin. You can read more about this here (“How Octopuses and Squids Change Color”) and note that squids, octopuses and cuttlefishes are cephalopods, a particular group of mollusks.

Habib noted that the biggest problems for chromatophores is they can’t dry out. A dried cuttlefish is a dead one. Moreover, the color change is “a combination of other smaller traits” and while you “could probably move those into another mollusk that doesn’t normally change color” the greater problem would be getting “all the genes in the right place would be a tall order.”

Taking the traits of a mollusk which is an invertebrate to a type of vertebrate would be implausible. Conversely, the likelihood of making a feathered octopus would be just as implausible because an “octopus doesn’t have the underlying structures to make feathers.”

You can try what Habib calls the shotgun approach and get surprises. This was tried in an experiment between mice and bats. Mice have short lives. Bats live relatively longer. Scientists attempted to make their lab mice live longer using a shotgun approach and while most didn’t survive, some did and lived longer than a normal mouse. Yet this is working with related animals. Mice and bats are both from the same animal class: Mammals.

For a quick review: there are five known classes of vertebrates: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. They are part of the phylum chordata. Mollusca is the phylum and Cephalopoda is the class for cuttlefish.

Mice and bats both belong to Phylum Chordata in the class of Mammalia and the both give live birth (subclass Theria) and are not marsupials (Infraclass Metatheria) but belong to the Infraclass Eutheria (placentals). Mice belong to the order Rodentia. Bats belong to the order Chiroptera.

Habib explained that you “can’t just throw in the genes for formation of fingers, throw them into a roach” because “you’re not going to get cockroaches with opposable thumbs.” Wouldn’t that be a nightmare and I know some of you are thinking of the science fiction classic, “The Fly,” right now.

“You need a whole series of genes for constructing a limb” and then genes that give instructions for fingers. Genes also have some weird evolutionary tracts. For instance, the evolution of venom in snakes comes from two mutated genes. One if a protein that is “normally express in their testicles” and yet now turns into something that kills.

There are some things that are easy such as in a reptile, adding a neck vertebra. In a mammal, you always have seven cervical vertebra–from giraffe to mouse. To make a longer neck in a giraffe the genetic signal is to make the cervical vertebra bigger and longer. Birds and reptiles do not have a set number. Owls have 14. That’s the genetic difference between a giraffe and an ostrich. Genetically making a long neck in an ostrich is different from making a long neck in a giraffe.

So that cuttlefish to Indominus Rex camouflage is implausible although chameleon to dinosaur might not be such a big jump. Dinosaurs are from the phylum Chordata in the Clade Dinosauriformes. They have skin somewhat like lizards and thus similar support systems.

Beside the improbably pathway to camouflage, a problem Habib sees in the Jurassic series is “the common trope that herbivores are gentle and peaceful.”

In “Jurassic World” juvenile triceratops are so peaceful that they are used for “pony” rides despite those impressive horns. In another segment, our intrepid Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Christ Pratt) comforts one of the few surviving apatosaur. The Indominus Rex has begun killing for sport, slashing the flanks of a herd of Apatosaurs who all lay dead on the great plains. Herbivores are so peaceful that guests (in the movie brothers Zach and Gray as played by   Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) to the Jurassic World can take a clear gyrosphere (an oversized hamster ball) and drive it amongst the Sauropods and Triceratops.

(I do not recommend taking one of those balloon balls and taking it through a herd of stampeding herbivores.)

Habib laughed and noted that “other than other humans in Africa, the animal that kills more humans in Africa are hippos.” Yes, those friendly smiling hippos are fast and can be aggressive. “They have weaponry to do damage.”

“Predators,” Habib noted, “are not just strangely aggressive.” They are aggressive when they are hungry, but “if they have food, if they are full, they are not dangerous killing machines.” But for herbivores, their job is protecting their offspring from predators because “predators mostly eat juveniles” and if herbivores find an off guard predator, they might just kill it on principle. If it doesn’t kill the predator today, the predator may kill one of its offspring tomorrow.

In “Jurassic World” and other movies, Habib said “Writers get most of their training on how to write human-like characters.” So they write about heroes, villains and neutral secondary characters.

Having spent sometime as a zoo keeper in the bird and herpetology department, Habib said, “We consider them valuable, awesome creatures that have personalities whose intelligence is underestimated by humans,” although he cautioned, “They don’t think like humans do.”

One of the topics brought up in the panel discussion was that for the dinosaur role component, fluffy seems too friendly. “If we had discovered that the dinosaurs with feathers were triceratops or the ‘gentle animals,’ then we’d probably see fluffy dinosaurs. Yet the feathered dinosaurs are the top dinosaur film predators: T-rex and the Velociraptor.

In the movie, because of this dino stereotyping the Padosaur is “super mellow” and becomes a redshirt. “Sauropods are depicted as being defenseless against big predators” but, Habib contends, they would have “totally kicked ass.”

Think of it. “A mother sauropod would be hideously dangerous.” Imagine a 30-ton animal taking on a big T-rex who is only six-tons. That adult Sauropod could do some damage with its neck or tail. Instead, in “Jurassic World,” the Padosaurs get scratched and “swoon” like out of some Victorian novel.

When asked about the Pterodons escaping the aviary, Habib commented that he doesn’t think that would be “vengeful” and “swarm the visitor center.” He feels, “The first thing they would do is fly away.”

“They could fly like a bird and could swoop, but they wouldn’t be able to pick up a person with their feet. A person would be far too heavy and they don’t have talons. They would also not be able to hover.”

The Pterodons would have “no way of dismembering a person” although if they wee angry, they would poke a person to death.

Real Jurassic World problems would be preventing adults from killing themselves by flying into glass like birds. Other real problems would be feeding dinosaurs because what they originally fed on no longer exists and they would likely not have a resistance to diseased like West Nile Virus.

I told him I thought the herbivores might learn to play soccer with the human “hamster balls,” after all, horses do, but also express concern that herbivores are presented as gentle and just not very dangerous.

At the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, Habib noted that from its collection of dinosaur fossils, the most dangerous was the big and powerful adult triceratops. From its fossil remains, Habib explained, it must have had bad back problems. So imagine, a horned animal with in a permanent bad mood. Yet another reason not to be riding a triceratops.

Want more dinosaurs? Here are Habib’s recommendations:

Reading:

  • “The Dinosauria, Second Edition” by Weishampel et al. (For those that want a big, technical book)
  • “Dinosaurs” by Tom Holtz, “All Yesterdays” (multi-authored by Naish et al.)
  • “The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi” (for those looking for the latest artistic renderings).
  • “Pterosaurs” by Mark Witton (not dinosaurs, but immensely popular with the same folks that like dinosaurs)

Toys: The Carnegie series of toys are generally quite good (with both dinosaurs and other animals from the Mesozoic)

Plants: Want to grow a Mesozoic garden? Ginkgo trees, cycads, and ferns are all nice examples of plants that were around for most of the Age of Dinosaurs

More toys: The LEGO 2110 Set includes a paleontologist: http://www.amazon.com/LEGO-Cuusoo-21110-Research-Institute/dp/B00L2DL6N4. (It is also one of the few toy sets to feature all female scientists, which is pretty rad).

Misc: Our shop at the Natural History Museum in LA has some fun dinosaur items, as does the Natural History Museum (i.e. the original, in London). Many other museums do, as well:

http://shop.nhm.org/a301/catalogsearch/result/?q=dinosaur

http://www.nhmshop.co.uk/dinosaurs.html

 

 

Ms. Geek Speaks: War and stolen art

Last week, I viewed “Woman in Gold” several times, including one viewing of the whole movie with commentary with Director Simon Curtis and Producer David M. Thompson. “Woman in Gold” is a very Los Angeles story because the real Maria Altmann fled Vienna with her husband and eventually ended up in Los Angeles. It was again in Los Angeles that she found the son of two other Austrian refugees, who was a lawyer, E. Randol Schoenberg.

Schoenberg won her case for her and remains in Los Angeles and is very active in the Jewish community in Los Angeles and he teaches about law and art at USC.

There is another California story about art that we haven’t really spoken about. Each time I think about “Woman in Gold,” I think about one of my uncles. He has now passed away, and I didn’t speak with him much as he lived in Chicago, but when I interviewed him for an article about the Japanese American internment, I very clearly remember the anger in his voice when he recalled one thing: All of my grandmother’s fine lacquerware from Japan had been stolen from the place they had stored it in. Imagine leaving the camp in the Arizona desert and returning home to it had been vandalized and your most precious things stolen.

My grandmother came from a merchant family who are doing well enough now in current day Osaka. She had five kids, three boys and two girls. Now only the girls–my mother and my aunt survive. The kind of things that were lost then–the lacquerware, photos and the items tied to family history and events, cannot be replaced.

Yet that was the way with most of the Japanese and Japanese Americans who were in California at the time of World War II. They were only allowed to take what they could carry before they were taken away from their homes, rented or owned. Are there any records or photographs? I don’t know. Many sold things they could not take with them.

I know that from both sides of my family there should have been items brought as dowery and gifts, but those heirlooms are gone and perhaps exist now in antique stores.

In my own lifetime, the two thefts that hurt the most were things that my parents had made me–the handcrafted coin purse with the image of a horse carved into the leather that my dad made for me before he died and the walnut desk my mother gave me.

Sentiment and value do not always go hand in hand, but the loss of family heirlooms is part of the unresolved ache the remains and touches every succeeding generation. And sometimes a theft is not just a theft. Certainly, the lost heirlooms that resulted from the Japanese American internment is less widespread that of the European WWII Holocaust and except for those men who died as WWII soldiers, most of the Japanese Americans who were relocated did live and they did return to their homes and cities to live again among the very people who took their treasures. Like my uncle, most of the people are now gone and the memory of the things lost will be lost with them as well.

 

DVD/Blu-ray review: ‘Woman in Gold’

Theft happens in war, that’s why we have that phrase of “rape and plunder.” It is only recently that we’ve begun to see warfare as a crime and connected it to other crimes like theft. “Woman in Gold” is a fictional account of a Los Angeles true story. The story is intelligently and sensitively told with a touch of humor under the direction of Simon Curtis and written by Alexi Kaye Campbell.

 Curtis noted that “immediately after the war, the human cost had been so disastrous with the loss of people and lives,” that we didn’t have time to consider other things, such as art. Curtis said, “The ‘Woman in Gold’ was last great hostage of World War II.”

The 2015 British-American “Woman in Gold” is inspired by the true story of Maria Altmann. Born in Vienna, Austria in 1916 as Maria Victoria Bloch, she was the niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Adele was the model for Gustav Klimt’s most famous painting, originally known as “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauther” and it was one of five Klimt paintings that the Nazis took from Altmann’s uncle and later ended up in the Austrian National museum.

The movie intersperses flashbacks throughout the film as Maria (Tatiana Maslany) recalls life in Vienna, Austria before the Nazi come into power and then we see the oppression of the Jewish community as they are sometimes helped and other times betrayed by their former community. Maria and her husband eventually escape. Her parents do not.

In the present day, the now elderly Maria (Helen Mirren) is widowed and has recently buried her sister. In her sister’s papers she finds notes about the Klimt paintings. She asks a friend of the family, Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), a young lawyer, to take the case. They end up on a road trip to Austria, a place that Maria doesn’t really want to see again and yet seeing it, she also sees some comforting ghosts from her past.

Maria and Randol meet up with Austrian journalist Hubertus Czernin, a man who has devoted himself to investigating the claims of stolen Nazi art. Together, these three will take on the Austrian government in the U.S. and in Austria.

For the director who had been working on this project for about six years, “the most important (he wanted people to take away from the movie) was that people forget especially the young about the progress made coming into this troubled century, that terrible things  happened in the last century.”

With the chemistry of Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds together, Curtis was able “to bring a lot of the humor to the film” which Curtis wanted so that the subject matter would be “approachable as possible” despite being a legal drama.” And it is also “an odd couple  journey” where we get to see different aspects of life in Vienna.

If you have seen the movie in theaters and liked it, then you’ll still want to get this DVD/Blu-ray. The extras make it worthwhile.

The special features include “The Making of ‘Woman in Gold,'” Feature commentary with Director Simon Curtis and Producer David M. Thompson and the “Stealing Klimt” documentary trailer. Through these you’ll get to see and hear more about the actual Maria Altmann and her lawyer E. Randol Schoenberg. The case changed Schoenberg’s life.

While some people have express disappointment that Altmann didn’t donate the painting to a public institute, Curtis said that as the rightful owner, Altmann had an absolute right to do as she wished with her property and provide for herself and her family.

In the commentary, you’ll here some of the reasoning for certain scenes and will be able to see some of the real people who make cameos in the film. Although the real journalist Czernin died not long after Altmann won her paintings back, his three daughters are in the crowd scene. Curtis calls him one of the unsung heroes of this whole case.

“Woman in Gold” is worth seeing to remember what war is and what art is and to know how stubborn pride resulted in the “Woman in Gold” leaving Vienna and taking up residence in New York where she is currently on view.

Thoughts on ‘Spirited Away’

In 2002, I dragged my then-boyfriend reluctantly to see “Spirited Away.” The screening was attended by some parents who brought their too-young children expecting to see something simple and diverting, but there was an exodus as it became clear that this wasn’t a movie aimed at entertaining children on a simplistic level.

Now that it has come out on Blu-ray, I’ve had the opportunity to play it over and over again, listening to first the original Japanese and then to the English dubbing and back again to the Japanese. The English subtitles are not the same as the English dubbed dialogue. The dubbed dialogue attempts to match up English words with the animated lip movements and yet that in itself is problematic.

Women in the U.S., particularly in my region are more likely to give broad toothy smiles. In Japan, women do not laugh showing their teeth. If you see a Japanese woman laughing and showing her teeth it means something–perhaps that she is coarse or perhaps she has adopted foreign ways.

We can see a lot of foreign influence in what the family encounters in “Spirited Away.” The family has a foreign car (Audi). The daughter, like many Japanese, eats Kit Kat bars–hugely popular in Japan with limited edition flavors. The family visits Kinokuniya, the largest bookstore chain in Japan. For foreigners in Japan, it was well-known for offering books in European languages.

The movie is called “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” (千と千尋の神隠し). Sen means a thousand, but the pronunciation of the character can change to “chi” as it does in the name Chihiro. The “hiro” in Chihiro means to ask questions. Kamikakushi means spirited away with kami meaning spirit or god and kakushi meaning hidden. So perhaps we can translate the title as “Sen and the Mysterious Disappearance of Chihiro.”

As the father, Akio Ogira, takes a dirt road that leads the family to what seems to be an old amusement park, Chihiro notices the stone statues. She’s somewhat disturbed by them, but her parents don’t seem to notice. There is a disarray of stones near the entry way and Chihiro’s mother tells her those are spirit houses, but thinks little more of it. There’s another stone statue at the entry gate and Chihiro pleads with her parents not to enter. Doesn’t she seem whiny and almost hysterical?

Now this is crucial: pacing. We’ve had two brief moments of foreshadowing before entering the tunnel. Is there really nothing else until the transformation of the parents?

Inside the tunnel we see a waiting room and then outside the tunnel, there are more stone statues up a hill. We see buildings. On the first building we see an incomplete phrase. Alone the character 正 would be read “sho” or “sei” and means right, righteous, justice and genuine, but 正 also suggests 正しい, meaning correct, right, honest and truthful.

There are other signs, such as 三千眼  (3,000 eyes) and 塩 (salt). I wonder about the repetition of  “me” (眼 or め) in the movie.  Eyes can mean so many things and figures in many idiomatic phrases. There’s also a repetition of “yu” with different meanings.

We see 生あります posted on a corner which Chihiro and later Sen passes several times during the movie. The character 生 in this phrase  means raw and usually refers to beer.  When we get to the main street we see the characters  市場 for market (ichiba) and the word 自由 (jiyuu) for freedom.

Then there are some disquieting Chinese characters. The mother says that all the places are restaurants. When you see 天 float by you might think 天ぷら (for tempura), but actually the characters are: 天祖 (tensoo) for the ancestral goddess of the sun, Amaterasu. In one frame we see only 天狗 (tengu), with “ten” above and “gu” below.  The character 狗 means dog, but can be used for dog meat (狗肉)which is not commonly eaten in Japan (and could suggest the homophone 苦肉 or “kuniku” which  literally means bitter meat meaning a countermeasure that requires personal sacrifice). The character usually used for dog is 犬.

Floating at the corner of one building is 骨 which means bone and it could be a restaurant term as in the creamy broth: 豚骨 (tonkotsu) which is literally pig bone. Yet bone or “hone” is used in idiomatic phrases such as hone-nashi meaning to lack moral backbone.

There’s a repetition of terms for fat such as 脂 (abura) and 油 (abura). The first suggests meat and flesh because the radical (肉 or 月) represents meat. The second suggests liquid because of the radical sansui or three water drops. The latter is also a common term for cooking as in  油揚げ (abura-age or oil fried).

When we look above at the arch, there is also something off.  The characters are 飢と食と会 which seem to substitute for 飢える (ueru, to starve),  食べる(taberu, to eat)  and 会う(au, to meet).  The と signifies “and.” It should read eat ( 食べる), drink (飲む) and meet (会う) or something like that, but the last two symbols are backwards–on either side.

Just before the father Akio (昭夫) turns into the narrow alleyway that leads to the sumptuous meals, we see him framed by two large characters. On the left is the character for heaven (天). On the right, is the character for demon(鬼 or oni). That I believe foreshadows what happens next.

Akio sees large plates with piles of meat. That never happens in Japan. Rice is the filler and you generally eat meat sparingly. You rarely see a whole chicken or bird.  The buffet would be sumptuous by American standards and in Japan, suspiciously grand and unreal. While the father makes assurances that he can pay with his credit card, are they really that wealthy?

Chihiro perhaps here further notices something is wrong. She refuses to eat. Sure she was probably eating Kit Kat on the drive down, but she won’t even venture a bite. Instead, she leaves the alleyway and above her, we seen the character, 冢 (tsuka), which means hill or mound. Yet this is not the preferred character which would be 塚 (also read tsuka). The small cross represents ground or earth. Without that radical, 冢 is only one stroke different than the word for house  家 (uchi) which is the same one used for the combination that means family 家族 (kazoku). The significance here is that pig (豚 or buta) under a roof represents house/home 家. That quick flash of the character gives the suggestion of pig and family. Yet it is also like bone (骨  or hone) associated with death as in grave (冢穴).  The usage of the character for abura or fat also ties in with the word for obesity (脂肪過多).

Abura is the character that predominates and stands for the public bathhouse or a yuya (湯屋)but in this case, the usual yu is 湯 and instead we have 油 and there’s okurigana to tell us we should read it yu instead of abura so that this yuya 油 屋 becomes a pun for the other type of yuya 湯屋 .

The “yu” is repeated in the mother’s name 悠子 or Yuuko. On one discussion board in Japanese, someone posted a comment that perhaps if we put yu (ゆ)and me (め)together, we have yume (夢)which means dream.

If we are looking at the names of the family, Ogino, 荻野, then we also have another suggestion of barbarian with the first character (which means reed) without the grass radical. The mother’s name derives from “yuu” meaning distant or longtime. The father’s name, Akio (明夫 ) means sunny and the last character means husband or man.

Although there is no characters given for Haku whose real name is Kohakugawa, I think most people who read Japanese would instantly think 小白川 or small white river and that seems to be confirmed when Haku is seen to be a white dragon. Dragons are associated with water in Japanese and Chinese mythology.

Other names have meaning, some of which I would translate differently. Yubaba (湯婆婆) means hot water old woman. Baba doesn’t mean witch (魔女 or maho) as I see it translated in some places. B It can mean a wet nurse and婆 is the character used for grandmother (婆さん).aba can also mean grandmother with different characters (祖母). Her twin sister is Zeniba (銭婆) and the “zeni” means a zen or one-hundredth of a yen and that’s not a lot of money at all. Today 3 July 2015, the yen equals 0.0081 of a US dollar. Zeni does mean money and is used in phrases such as the coin slot for machines. Zeni is a homophone for 善意 or good intentions.

Kamaji ( 釜爺) means kettle old man with kama meaning kettle and ji meaning grandfather.

Another katakana name is カオナシ which a reader of Japanese would assume to be 顔なし and literally means to be without a face. There is an expression in Japanese for someone not to have a face which means to be ashamed ( 君に合わせる顔がない or I am ashamed to meet you). 

The servant woman who helps Sen is named Rin or リン which is oddly translated Lin even though Japanese does not have an “L” sound. Someone who reads Japanese might think that this person also had her identity stolen and her name was perhaps Hayashi (林)which can also be read “Rin.”

As with the movie “When Marnie Was There,” which was released on 19 July 2014,  the release date (20 July 2001) for “Spirited Away” in Japan was right about the time for Obon, when people would be expected to return to their true homes and spirits were believed to be traveling back to their earthly homes to meet with their descendants. If you keep that in mind, the movie makes more sense.

However, I’m writing this essay mostly to talk about my A-ha moment, when I realized just how the changes in the amusement park were foreshadowed. That alone makes this DVD/Blu-ray worth purchasing.

 

Reflections on ‘When Marnie Was There’

“When Marnie Was There” ties together two Japanese summer festivals: Tanabata and Obon. Originally released in Japan on the 19 of July, the original Japanese title was “Marnie no Omoide” (思い出のマーニー) or “Memories of Marnie.”

According to Japan-Guide.com, Obon is an annual Buddhist event where one commemorates the return of one’s ancestors to this world. The spirited come to visit their relatives.

By the lunar calendar it was the 13-15 days of the 7th month of the year.  Using the solar calendar, that would be mid-August, but out of tradition and practicality, Obon is celebrated at various times in various regions.

Obon week in mid-August in one of Japanese three major holiday seasons (the other two are New Year’s in January and Golden Week in April).

The Chinese characters for Tanabata literally mean the evening of the seventh. The tale of Tanabata likely comes from China. The tale of Tanabata has many variations, but the legend is about two lovers, Orihime (織姫 Weaver Princess ) and Hikoboshi (彦星 or牽牛 Cowherd), who are separated by the Silver River  or the Heavenly River (銀河系 or 天の川  what we call the Milky Way). They were once married, but neglected their duties so they were separated. They can only meet once a year–one the seventh day of the seventh month, when the magpies build a bridge across for their rendez-vous. If it should rain, they must wait another year.

The festival is celebrated on 7 July and into August. Although  “When Marnie Was There” was originally set in Great Britain and written by Joan G. Robinson, this Studio Ghibli movie was released on 19 July 2014 (except for “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Grave of the Fireflies” and “My Neighbor Totoro,” all Studio Ghibli movies had their Japanese release in July or August) and and is set on the Northern most of the four main islands of Japan, Hokkaido.

The 12-year-old brown-haired, grey-eyed Anna Sasaki (佐々木 杏奈) lives in the centrally located inland capital of Sapporo with her foster parents. She watches other girls her age, but feel that she is on the outside. “In this world, there’s an invisible circle.” For some reason, Anna has changed from a happy child to a sullen, angry outsider. When Anna suffers an asthma attack, her foster parents sent her to live in the small coastal town of Kushiro with the foster mother Yoriko’s relatives, Setsu and Kiyomasa Oiwa.

In Kushiro, across the seaside marsh, there’s a mysterious abandoned mansion that is decidedly exotic in its European-style rooms and windows. Crossing over at low tide to explore, Anna feels a certain familiarity about the house, but when she is ready to leave, the tide has risen and she can no longer cross over.

An old fisherman, Toichi, picks her up and takes her across in his rowboat. Looking back, Anne imagines the mansion as it once was–beautiful and well lit.

Back at the Oiwa’s house, a traditional Japanese home, Setsu tells her that the mansion was once the vacation home for some foreigners, but has been vacant and become rundown.

In her dreams, Anna sees a girl with her long blonde hair being brushed by an older woman in a kimono.

On the night of the Tanabata festival, Setsu encourages Anna to make friends with other young people. Where most people might wish for good grades or better skills in sports, Anna wishes only to be normal.  After saying mean things to one of the local girls, Anna runs away, ending up at the marsh where she meets Marnie–the long blonde girl in her dreams.

Marnie and Anna become friends, but Marnie has asked Anna to keep their meetings secret. One evening Marnie invites Anna to a party at the mansion. In the evening light, the mansion is beautiful, but the party very un-Japanese. The people enter the house with their shoes on and the men and women are coupled. Marnie disguises Anna as a flower girl, and later, Marnie meets with a boy named Kazuhiko.

Eventually, a new family moves into the house and Anna meets the girl Sayaka, who now lives in Marnie’s old room. Sayaka has found Marnie’s diary and together Sayaka and Anna try to learn what happened to Marnie.

Some other things to keep in mind about Japan when watching “When Marnie Was There.” When Anna is taken in by Oiwa, we see them treat her to sushi and watermelon. To a Japanese person, sushi would seem like a special treat and watermelon in Japan is quite expensive.

Marnie’s grandmother is shown always, to my memory having seen it only once, dressed traditionally, in a kimono. Marnie’s mother and father are shown as having to a large extent rejected Japanese traditional values. The house is built in European style both inside and outside. While many modern houses and apartments have taken a European style, that is usually limited to the outside and the inside at least has a genkan (entry way) where you take off your shoes). While most women in contemporary Japan wear Western style clothes, they still adhere to certain customs. Yet in the party scene, we see Marnie enter the room with her shoes on. The rest of the guest have their shoes on in the house. This isn’t just a Japanese custom, the removal of shoes before entering a home is very East Asian, something you’ll see in China and Korea. I understand it has carried over to Hawaii.

You have to wonder if the grandmother is unusually traditional or if we’re in a time period when women still wore kimono or, at least, the grandmother is from a time period when women normally wore kimono. Yet even if the grandmother was from more contemporary times, she and others of her generation would still remove their shoes before entering a house. Without noticing this, one might  judge the grandmother more harshly instead of seeing the dynamics of a generation gap and even a very natural reaction by the grandmother to her daughter’s total rejection of current Asian customs. There is, of course, also the consideration of racism, or zenophobic sentiments on the part of the grandmother.

The account we get of the grandmother is from Marnie’s point of view, and the grandmother doesn’t get to tell us her side of the story. Moreover, Marnie’s mother, even from Marnie’s point of view, is an absentee parent as is her father. The grandmother might resent being made into a parent for no other reason than the parents are too self-involved.

Still Marnie returns to a moment when her life was filled with hope, when she was loved by a good friend and falling in love with the boy she would later marry. The vacation home seems to be her furusato, the home she returns to for Obon and the place where she is able to visit and help Anna. This is a haunting in a gentle Obon sense that might strike a deeper chord in the soundtrack of the Japanese culture.

 

‘Magic Mike XXL’ is a celebration of the sexy male body in dance

Recently, I was in a dance appreciation class where one of the male students wanted to talk about twerking yet all the video examples he brought for us to view were of women twerking. I asked about men twerking and that kind of weirded him out. Apparently, he hadn’t seen the 2012 movie “Magic Mike” or imagined that women would find something more vigorous and articulated than the Elvis Pelvis erotic. “Magic Mike XXL” expands the focus on the male dancers compared to its predecessor. The previous movie was darker; this one celebrates the the bonding of single sex dancers during a road trip.

Yes this is part bromance and part road trip film, but to be sure there is plenty of dancing. While F-bombs fly, we won’t see flying penises but flashing cheeks of the nether regions. There’s no full frontal nudity. The men wear their thongs, but keep their dicks covered.

“Magic Mike XXL” is a more positive movie than its predecessor and relies more heavily on Channing Tatum and his gang of male entertainers (strippers). Gone is the slick and sleazy Dallas (played with admirable oily charm by Matthew McConaughey) and the young, misguided horn-dog Adam (Alex Pettyfer).

For those who didn’t see the 2012 “Magic Mike,” Tatum played the titular character, the lead dancer at a male strip club owned by Dallas, a former stripper and now money-grubbing manager and owner of a Tampa club. Magic Mike introduces Adam to the lifestyle and Adam, a directionless college dropout, plunges in, loving the easy money, easy sex and gets a little entrepreneurial with a drug dealing on the side. Adam has a responsible sister, Brooke, who eventually couples up with Mike. Mike leaves the lifestyle for a more settled life and to start his own custom furniture business.

“Magic Mike XXL” opens up three years later. Dallas has departed for a better market in Macau and taken with him Adam. Brooke has left Mike soon after he proposed. Mike has started his company, but has to struggle with his one employee. Out of the blue, he gets a call from his old dance crew and they convince him to show up and join their last chance road trip from Tampa to Myrtle Beach for the annual male stripper convention. He joins Ken (Matt Bomer), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) along with the old DJ and Ecstacy dealer Tobias (Cabriel Iglesias) and they begin the journey in a gourmet truck specializing in yogurt. Along they way, the men enter a queen dance contest and a pick up a new DJ and some new crew members after they lose their old DJ and the truck is in an accident.

As the other contemplate life after the convention when they’ll have to find something to do besides stripping, Mike meets a potential new love interest (Amber Heard) and one of the guys finds his Cinderella (Andie MacDowell).

“Magic Mike XXL” is a more positive movie, emphasizing the camaraderie between the dancers and even showing how a little sexually-charged flirtation can be emotionally healing to some, such as the recently bitterly divorced.  If you’re thinking that the dancing is too overtly sexual remember that before Miley Cyrus was twerking, the young kids were doing that and more on the dance floor. Part of the urban dance trend has been basically dry sex or dry humping in public.

Tatum was a stripper and the original movie was inspired by his experiences. With McConaughey out of the picture, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning Bomer has a more prominent role here although the third degree reiki healer schtick is less convincing than his wanna-be actor who can sing characterization. His vocal talents are balanced by the rapping of the Grammy-nominated Glover. The dance numbers are different and there’s even a let’s-make-a-last-minute-show urgency to justify the new dance numbers. The dance highlight is a match up between Tatum and “So You Think You Can Dance” alum tWitch. While Tatum was in the original “Step Up” and “Step Up2: The Streets,” tWitch played Jason in “Step Up 3D.” 

As with the Step Up series, you don’t go for good dialogue or convincing plot devices. You go to see dancing and in this case, you go to see men with etched abs and chesticles (DWTS fans will understand)and some cheek flashing. For those who appreciate the male form, there’s a lot of it and this time, their purpose in life is to make their female audience feel like royalty, even if only for a brief moment.

 

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