symphony of science – “we are all connected”

From the same people who brought us the amazing “if you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe” video is this marvelous bit of music video:

It looks like they’re making this a regular thing. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), my inner science groupie? Is squeeing with glee.

BTW, this goes out to Janiece, who is in NerdLove with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Then again, who isn’t?

if you wish to make an apple pie from scratch…

you must first invent the universe.

I am completely and totally in love with this.

The science groupie in me is squeeing all over the damned place.

H/T to Bad Astronomy and Thordr commenting on Stonekettle Station.

thinking about it…

While I’m firmly on the heterosexual team, there have been some women for whom I’ve considered switch-hitting: Gillian Anderson, Queen Latifah, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Heather Graham (but only from Lenny Kravitz’s music video “American Woman” and Scrubs) and SarriahNeighbor (see point #3).

I think I may have added someone onto the list:

58430687

Day-um!

Even more amazing – she’ll be 60 next month. 60! I should look so good now!

I’ve got a little list–I’ve got a little list…

pimping down under…

So, do y’all remember when I filmed an episode of Dominick Dunne: Power, Privilege & Justice in March? Well, it’s finally going to be broadcast on Friday, September 18th on truTV. Yay!

Funny thing is, I’ll be out of town, visiting my mother for her birthday (which is Friday), so I most likely won’t be seeing it (no, I don’t have Tivo or any other DVR – I don’t watch a lot of TV because I don’t have the time or patience for it). My sister and her family — with whom I’ll be staying — do have truTV, but I can’t see me watching myself kill a man and handling S&M paraphernalia in front of her devoutly Christian family. Actually, I think my mom, sister and brother-in-law would think it funny, but the possibility of my nieces being around would make it a little weird. I guess I’ll just have to find another way to record it!

Anywho, mark it on your calendars!

pleasures of reading…

After too long away from reading on a regular basis, once again I find myself devouring books. It helps that most of what I’ve been reading has been pretty good, if not excellent.

Not surprisingly, Sherlock Holmes kickstarted my current reading jag. For Christmas CuteFilmNerd gave me the second volume of Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories (he couldn’t find the first volume; he also got me The Complete Granada Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett, who is my favorite Holmes – just edging out Basil Rathbone), which was great, since it helped to replace my volume of The Complete Sherlock Holmes which was lost in The Great Storage Unit Letting Go of Aught-Seven (stupid finances – that book was a present from my parents and had my senior prom corsage pressed in it – I still miss it). I found the first volume and off I was a-reading.

I hadn’t read the stories in ages and was pleased to rediscover such wonderful tales as “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet,” “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” and “The Adventure of the Red Circle,” amongst others.

Then onto Transparency by Frances Hwang, a lovely, lyrical collection of short stories about Chinese-Americans – both immigrants and native born – struggling to find a comfortable place between two worlds…and not always succeeding. My follow-up was Hot Toddy by Andy Edmonds, about the life and murder of Thelma Todd, a notable 1930s comedic actress. The story was fascinating. The writing? Not so much. The book starts out with Todd’s murder and the resulting Grand Jury hearing, then segues very clumsily into Todd’s life. Too many liberties with what the author assumed people were thinking at specific times, such as when on the witness stand. I kept reading because the story intrigued me, but I often wrestled with the urge to slap the writer.

Next I thought I would cleanse my palate with A Hole in Texas by Herman Wouk. I’d never read his stuff before, but since he was a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, I figured it oughta be good. Plus the subject was one that appealed to me: an obscure NASA scientist thrust into the harsh media glare thanks to the apparent discovery of the Higgs boson by the Chinese. Turns out Wouk had the obscure NASA scientist working at my beloved space center – Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Even more amazing to me was that Wouk had the scientist working on the Terrestrial Planet Finder, which made its first appearance on page four and popped up here and there in the book. As I know a number of scientists and engineers who work on that project (I had even temped there for a couple of weeks in 2006) and I help out the secretary of the guy who heads up the program office under which the TPF is run (which she reciprocates – we share a cubicle, so it’s a good thing we get along so well), I found it rather trippy. The byproduct of working at a high-profile organization, I suppose. Hell, I’m still slightly freaked out from reading about my building’s destruction in Lucifer’s Hammer even though I love the book.

Unfortunately, as much as I loved all the science stuff in A Hole in Texas, I didn’t like the book much. It was a bit soapy and the dialogue didn’t ring true. By necessity the characters – especially the protagonist in regards to the Superconducting Super Collider – were forced to be Exposition People and it didn’t feel organic at all. In addition, the scientist at the center of everything felt like a bit of a male Mary Sue, with three different beautiful, intelligent women strongly attracted to and/or in love with him.

Wouk’s brother Victor was a Caltech alumni (and one of the pioneers of electric and hybrid cars), so it’s not surprising that JPL be the NASA space center involved. I do find that interesting.

Anywho, yesterday I finished The Insufficiency of Maps by Nora Piecre. Gorgeous and heart-breaking in its simplicity, Pierce tells the story of a small Native American girl living on the edges of society with her schizophrenic mother. In the process she employs the style of writing that I enjoy reading most: simple words and sentence construction that, when strung together, become gentle, searing poetry. Hwang’s writing in Transparency is much the same. Simply lovely. It took me one and a half days to read each of these books.

This morning I began Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. It started out interesting enough. There is some changing of tense, which usually bugs the crap out of me, but Franklin does it well. Her prose is not as simple as Hwang’s or Pierce’s, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s still well written. Adelia (the protagonist – a female medical examiner during the 12th Century) is real and even admirable – her intelligence and straightfoward demeanor in a time when women were considered nothing more than chattel and accessories feels like a satisfying, “Fuck you,” to the superstitious England of the day.

As can be evidenced by this rather long post, my recent spate of reading has gotten the writing portion of my brain churning again. Let’s cross our fingers that the churning keeps on keeping on and that the ideas actually make their ways from my brain to my fingertips.

musical interlude…

CuteFilmNerd and I spent the July 4th weekend away from the computer and earning a little extra money. Nothing exciting, but it did entail us not being within communication distance of each other, with our iPods keeping us sane and helping the time pass by.

I listened to a lot of Real Time with Bill Maher podcasts, but I also listened to a little music. And the music that really helped me out? Marian Call. A geek girl with a lovely voice, a wicked sense of wordplay and a typewriter as one of her musical instruments, her music makes me smile, laugh and cry, sometimes in rapid succession.

At the moment, the only album of hers that I have is Got to Fly, a tribute to geeks everywhere, though the songs are inspired by Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. You don’t have to be a fan of those shows to enjoy the songs, because they are immediately identifiable to anyone who has lived life.

The opening song is one that geeks the world over can relate to:
http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer.swf/track=3127770191/size=venti/bgcol=000033/linkcol=CCFFFF/

There are some lovely songs on the album, such as “Dark Dark Eyes” and “In the Black” (a fan video – approved by Marian Call – can be found here).

But the song that kills me every time – the one that I identify with the most – is “Good Old Girl”:
http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer.swf/track=2956828037/size=venti/bgcol=000033/linkcol=CCFFFF/

Wow.

If you’re a fan of gorgeous music that is simple yet complex, with a lovely voice and sense of whimsy, buy Marian Call’s music. You’ll be glad you did.

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CuterFilmNerd and I also spent the evening of July 4th at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and watched Jaws in the cold night air with fireworks going off in the background at another location (I don’t know where). It was weird and kinda creepy and fun and I’m happy we did it – I’d never been to any of the Cinespia screenings before, though I’d certainly heard about them.

In many ways CuteFilmNerd and I are very well suited for each other, which is why we’re together and why, when a certain song popped up on my iTunes today, I felt moved to email it to him:

the deed is done…

…I have “killed” my “lover.”

In other words, I filmed the TV show on Friday and it was great! The show is Dominick Dunne: Power, Privilege and Justice on truTV. I’m the main criminal in the bit, with two drugged out accomplices. The case that I filmed is based on this case (in fact, my character is the woman in the photo and the man in the photo is the person she murdered). I was in nearly every scene and, in the scene where there’s a struggle between me, the victim and the two accomplices, I sustained a huge bruise on my left knee where my leg kept hitting the side of the bed during the multiple takes. In addition, I got to take a bunch of S & M gear and spread it out over the crime scene, to make the murder look like an S & M scene gone horribly awry. As I told one of the crew members when he showed me the gear, “This’ll make my mama proud.”

We filmed in a gorgeous old house in Long Beach that I just wanted to take home with me. And everyone was a joy to work with. No one got in my eye line, so I didn’t have to curse them out. Very professional crew. And the director was a lovely Frenchman who never lost his cool, even when I almost accidentally killed a cameraman when I sat behind the wheel of car at the end of the long shoot.

I don’t know yet when it’ll be on TV. From what I can gather, I’m fairly sure the title of my episode is “Strange Bed Fellows” and it looks like the episodes for 2009 won’t start airing until October, which is a hell of a long wait. Still, I certainly wouldn’t mind doing this again!

woohoo!

Today? Is turning out to be a great day.

First, my federal tax refund showed up in my bank account. Badly needed funds in the nick of time are always welcome.

Second, Central Casting (yes, it really exists) called me from out of the blue, saying they had submitted my photo to a non-union TV show that is filming on my Friday off (which I get every other Friday) and the folks at the show decided I was the one for them (it’s a re-enactment show, so memorizing dialogue isn’t necessary). Of course I accepted, because I’m no dummy.

I’ve worked with Central Casting before – as an extra back in 2001 – and I loved it, working on Judging Amy a couple of times, as well as ER, NYPD Blue (where I almost ran over Dennis Franz with my car on the set – driving like a true New Yorker), Thieves, Spin City and a few others.  When I started getting every other Friday off last year, I signed up again, because I thought it would be a fun thing to do.  I never got around to actually calling Central, because my Fridays off turned out to be filled with doing things I couldn’t otherwise get done during the work week.  Which is today’s call was such a pleasant surprise. Plus they’re going to pay me above the going rate for an extra.

I’ll have to dye my hair back to its previous reddish color (on Valentine’s Day I dyed it a dark brown – whoops!), but I have photos of me with that color (dating a photographer comes in handy!), so I should have no trouble matching it.

Yeah, I’d say today that I’m a happy girl.

Whee!

musical interlude…

Haven’t done one of these in a very long time. Let’s change the format slightly:

While I watch a fair bit of TV, and even like some of it, there’s only one series currently on air for which I have an unbelievable amount of love: Scrubs. It’s crazy, loopy, corny and humanistic all at the same time and, even when it’s not very good, it’s one of the best shows out there.

It’s also got some great songs woven throughout the series, one of which is above. Scrubs has got to be commended for bringing Colin Hay back into the American limelight. Granted, in his Men at Work days, I liked his work well enough, but didn’t think much about it. However, Hay’s acoustic renditions of Beautiful World and Overkill are fantastic. I can hum/sing Overkill for days on end. And I have.

However, Beautiful World hits me in an unexpected place. The first time I listened to the lyrics I teared up, thinking about how sad it was that the protagonist of the song was merely settling for less:

And still this emptiness persists.
Perhaps this is as good as it gets.

That used to kill me.

But not now.

Somewhere over the last few weeks I listened to Beautiful World and thought, “Maybe he’s not settling for less. Maybe he’s just finding the joy in the little things.” And I brightened up a little.

Because sometimes the little things? Are the only places a person can find joy.

Silly sweet TV shows. Beloved music. Frightfully gorgeous musical movies. Stunning sunsets and landscapes. Staring out over the rolling ocean waves. Stroking and scratching kitties and puppies. Cuddling. Laughter.

The big things? Can disappear in an instant. Break a person’s heart. Make a body wonder why and where and when. Can come close to destroying someone who never saw it coming.

But the little things? They’re nearly always constant. They can usually be found even in the worst of times, if only for brief moments. Even after nights that are straight outta Overkill – nights where the thoughts and fears over the big things are so overwhelming that one is literally immobilized, uncertainties turning into terrors, the sneaking suspicion that one’s mind is just broken and why won’t it shut up, shut up, SHUT UP and let you sleep? One doesn’t want to take the pill, because it’ll just prove that you’re not as strong as you thought, not as strong as you used to be.

But one needs to sleep. One needs to calm the ghosts, however briefly, knowing that they’ll just come back again soon, and fall asleep in the arms of one’s love.

Because the little things? Will also return. And they’ll bring joy again.

it’s an idea…

As y’all know, I fully support the writers in the strike, but I do miss the humorous insight of my pretend boyfriend Jon. Too bad I don’t have a basement…

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So I saw Sweeney Todd last night. As I suspected, I didn’t hate it or find it badly done. Tim Burton and company did a fine job. Was it perfect? No. As a Sondheim fanatic who’s worked on two productions of the show and for whom Sweeney Todd is my second favorite musical (Sunday in the Park with George is #1, also by Sondheim), the chances of me finding absolutely nothing wrong with it is pretty slight.

But it was very faithful to the source material, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter – if less melodramatic in the roles than I’m used to – still did well, both acting-wise and singing-wise. Alan Rickman was, of course, fantastic (then again, in my eyes it would be difficult for him to do wrong). I didn’t care much about the young lovers Anthony and Johanna, but I rarely do anyway – that’s nothing to do with the actors. At least the actress playing Johanna actually looked like a teen – rarely a given.

All of the other characters were nicely acted (including Sasha Baron Cohen as Pirelli). Plus recasting Toby as a child (instead of the simple minded adult in the stage version) worked well and added a chilling dimension to certain scenes. The child actor playing Toby (Ed Sanders) was terrific.

I loved the cinematography and set design, as I tend to do with Burton’s movies, and the way the musical was made purely cinematic pleased me to no end. And the ending? I know this musical like the back of my hand and I was still on the edge of my seat. Well done.

My issues with the movie are actually quite minor. One or two scene transitions could have been more creatively done (especially with an early scene where Sweeney is singing about the past, which then brings us to the past) and there was some graininess in some of the later scenes, which were especially dark. I also had some problems with the loss of some songs and lyrics. In most of the instances I understood why the songs and lyrics were cut (though I felt that, in one instance – the first scene with Anthony and Johanna – it hurt the scene a bit), but I missed them nevertheless, especially since it would have meant that I got to see Christopher Lee sing. Long-time readers know I’ve been a Chistopher Lee fan since I was five.

Still, I’m happy that Anthony Stewart Head still had a cameo, even if his original role as the Ballad Ghost was cut. Sondheim himself was very much involved with the production, which helped to keep it on track. And the thing that makes me really happy about the movie? Having Johnny Depp as the lead will insure that people who are not familiar with Stephen Sondheim or his music will see this and, perhaps, discover a whole new world of brilliant music and lyrics. Since this was a faithful and handsomely mounted adaptation, that can only be of the good.

The movie opens tonight in general release. Go, Sweeney, go!