Saturday, December 7, 2013

Les Miz, the musical movie

"Les Miz" was on the Air Canada, seat-back media system on my flight yesterday from Calgary to Toronto, so I finally had a chance to see it.

Simply put, the musical performances were terrific, but the visuals and staging were not outstanding.

I've seen this show twice on stage, and the way it's presented there -- symbolically not realistically -- seems just right to me. Trying to present it on-screen, realistically, just didn't work.

The most significant example of this is in the final barricade battle scene. The way it is presented on stage -- using a stylistic barricade, and an awesome stage turntable -- is an incredibly heart-rending experience. It's just not reproducible on screen.

But the music is great. And the performers did a very, very good job. Much was made of the fact that the performers sang live on camera instead of pantomiming to a pre-recorded track, and this scheme really works well, allowing the singing performances to be striking and nuanced.

The musical performers at all levels were excellent. No weak spots.

Hugh Jackman's performance is no real surprise. And though Anne Hathaway is little known as a singer, she delivers one of the movie's most memorable singing performances with "I Dreamed a Dream".

The rest of the cast did great jobs too.

Eponine's "On My Own" is one of my favorites, and Samantha Barks performance didn't disappoint.

When this movie came out I remember some reviewers who were critical of Russell Crowe's singing of the role Javert. I disagree. His voice was strong and melodic. And he was just right as the straitlaced, give no quarter to anyone, inspector.

So I think this movie is worth seeing for the music and the performers. Be prepared to settle for a visual production that just doesn't click.

Cool Kid.

This kid's gonna go places.

"Trick Shot Titus 3 -- ft. Channing Tatum & Bradley Cooper"

Potential new mosquito repellents.

Researchers at University of California, Riverside have potentially found new ways to repel and attract mosquitos.

After initial research, which produced a more complete understanding of how mosquitoes are attracted to human skin, they then identified compounds which might inhibit or amplify this.

From the UCR news release:

Next, using a chemical computational method they developed, the researchers screened nearly half a million compounds and identified thousands of predicted ligands. They then short-listed 138 compounds based on desirable characteristics such as smell, safety, cost and whether these occurred naturally. Several compounds either inhibited or activated cpA neurons of which nearly 85 percent were already approved for use as flavor, fragrance or cosmetic agents. Better still, several were pleasant-smelling, such as minty, raspberry, chocolate, etc., increasing their value for practical use in mosquito control. 
Confident that they were on the right track, the researchers then zeroed in on two compounds: ethyl pyruvate, a fruity-scented cpA inhibitor approved as a flavor agent in food; and cyclopentanone, a minty-smelling cpA activator approved as a flavor and fragrance agent.  By inhibiting the cpA neuron, ethyl pyruvate was found in their experiments to substantially reduce the mosquito’s attraction towards a human arm. By activating the cpA neuron, cyclopentanone served as a powerful lure, like CO2, attracting mosquitoes to a trap.

I find this pretty intrigueing. I wonder if something might become available in time for next year's bug season?

I originally found this story in this article.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cold in Calgary

I woke up here in Calgary Alberta Canada -- where I'm visiting for work -- at 5am this morning, and checked the temp online. it said -20 and I thought, ok -20C is about 0F, which is what I expected...

...until I realized it wasn't -20C, it was -20F!!! It was -30C.