Friday Five

1. I’m a new member of the Secret Science Club. Really. What is the Secret Science Cub? It’s a (free) monthly lecture / experiment series in Park Slope with notable science dudes speaking about their areas of expertise. July features Yale psychologist and cognitive scientist Paul Bloom, author of  How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like. He”ll be discussing things like: What is at the root of our attachment to sentimental objects? Why do people pay top dollar for items owned by celebrities? How do humans derive enjoyment from art, music, and stories?

Did I mention the alcohol and tunes? (Because who doesn’t want to see a bunch of brainiacs get drunk and try to dance?) The place is always packed, no matter what. One month the topic was black holes. It was standing room only. Black holes! So come on out an get your geek on, just try to keep it a secret.

2. RIP Harvey Pekar. Pekar chronicled his life and times in the acclaimed autobiographical comic book series, “American Splendor,” portraying himself as a rumpled, depressed, obsessive-compulsive “flunky file clerk” engaged in a constant battle with loneliness and anxiety. A bio pic by the same name was made a few years back starring Paul Giamatti as Pekar. It won the Sundance Film Festival grand prize. He was authentic as authentic can be. Pekar called his series, “day-after-day activities that have more influence on a person than any spectacular or traumatic events. It’s the 99 percent of life that nobody ever writes about.” One of a kind.

3. Workers at the World Trade Center site uncovered an 18th-century cargo ship buried about 30 feet below grade. The land being cleared hadn’t been dug out for the original WTC, so this is virgin territory as it were. Archeologists couldn’t get to the site fast enough. They think that the ship’s hull was used as landfill. Land in lower Manhattan was already scarce by the mid-1800’s and timbers were often used to expand the island and to create piers all along the Hudson. (In fact much of the area near Battery Park is built on land excavated from the original WTC.)  The most amazing part is that the construction workers even realized they had stumbled upon something important. Looks like a bunch of muck to me.

Lower deck of the ship and possibly the stern at the top of the photo. From the NYT.

Standing on the lower most deck. From the NYT

A leather shoe, which seemed to be for a right foot. From the NYT

4. Have you seen The Last Station? It’s an historical drama about the last year of Tolstoy’s life. Christopher Plummer is Tolstoy, who is trying to divest himself of material possessions despite having tremendous fame and wealth, and Helen Mirren is his wife, who is trying to secure her future and that of their 13 children. The story is told through Tolstoy’s secretary, Valentin (played by James McAvoy). Valentin is an avid Tolstoyan but sees some of the flaws when the plan is basically to “do as I say, not as I do.” The NY Times reviewer A.O. Scott didn’t like it at all, but I thought it was great. At least worth a rental. His main complaint was that the acting was overwrought, which makes me wonder if he’s read any of Tolstoy’s works (not that you need to in order to enjoy the movie). Anna Karenina is a complete soap opera. The characters are over the top dramatic martyrs. This ain’t your momma’s Victorian-era novel. So check it out. It’s fun and interesting and challenges the definitions of love.

5. I took Reggie to dog beach early one morning. It’s an area of Prospect Park where dogs are allowed into an area of the pond. Several labs had already beaten us to the punch and were swimming all around when we arrived. I hadn’t brought Reggie here in quite a while. When he was sick, the vet didn’t think it was a good idea and then winter came. Reggie is a spaniel and spaniels, like labs, are supposed to LOVE the water, but he doesn’t do a lot of spaniel things. He doesn’t fetch or carry things or chase birds (although he did flush a deer once when we were visiting my mom). So I wasn’t sure if he would even go in. But I waded in up to my ankles and he followed. He stood there for a few minutes with his legs in the water and watched the labs fetching balls and sticks from the middle. He didn’t make a move to go further, but it seemed like a success. When we got out he raced around like a nut, all happy with himself.

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