Friday, July 30, 2010

In the Shadow of Man

When it comes to reading, I prefer to keep an open mind as to what kinds of books I read. I enjoy classics like Catch-22 and Watership Down alongside the mainstream fiction of Michael Crichton and Dan Brown. I can read Flan O'Brian's The Third Policeman one week, and Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot the next. By doing this, I feel I have allowed myself to break free of favoritism. I'm very glad I did, too, because over the last few months I've had some really great reads.

The book I want to highlight is one that took me by surprise. I found it while walking through Barnes and Noble one afternoon, in the Nature section. It's called In the Shadow of Man, by Jane Goodall. I had always known of Jane Goodall and her work, but never the details. In the Shadow of Man encapsulates the early years of her work with the chimpanzees of the Gombe nature preserve in Africa. Her experiences are brought to life in a vivid, undeniably moving narrative that is not normally found in a non-fiction book. I would rank her up with Carl Sagan as one of the most talented science writers of the 20th century.

What makes In the Shadow of Man such a great read is the honest, heartfelt manner in which Goodall describes her time with the chimps. She steers clear of anthropomorphism as well as she can, yet we cannot help but see a bit of ourselves in the chimpanzees she interacts with. They are individuals with personalities and flaws, who together build a complex, highly social society with eerie similarities to our own. I was taken aback by how moving an account of the death of a chimpanzee could be when chronicled in Goodall's lucid prose. I felt genuine sadness for them, and for Jane, who had watched them grow over the years of her studies into what we could call heroes, cowards, parents, and friends. The passages depicting friendship amongst the chimps are by far the most enthralling parts of the book. You realize the depths that relationships between chimpanzees can reach, nearly matching our own. It raises a multitude of questions as to what defines human, where is the line drawn?

The approach Goodall takes to answer these questions is one of the highlights of her work. She presents a powerful argument for the continuation of research and preservation of chimp culture on the basis that we can learn much about ourselves in the process. If you aren't much of a chimp person, or you just don't know much about them, I strongly encourage you to give this book a try. By chance I discovered it, and it opened my eyes to a topic I knew very little about. Also, take a stroll through Barnes and Noble sometime, you never know what you'll find.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I'm choosing to write about Inception first because it is still relatively fresh in my mind. I have seen it 3 times since its release a few weeks ago, each viewing at a separate theater. When I told my friends this, they shot me strange looks, and asked me how I could do such a thing. My answer is that Inception, while a groundbreaking summer blockbuster, is also an emotional and intellectual thrill ride. I cannot tell you how long I have waited for a movie like this to come along, a movie that challenges its audience to think, rather than be distracted by explosions, vapid character engagements and whatever else is usually found in the average summer movie package.

The plot line I will explain as simply as I can, without any spoilers. Leonardo Dicaprio plays Dom Cobb, a very peculiar kind of thief. He, along with his long time associate Arthur, enter the dreams of individuals and steal their ideas. The movie centers around a different kind of job, where instead of stealing ideas from someone's mind, Cobb and his team must implant one deep within their target's subconscious. How they do this is one of the countless things Inception does to blow its audience's minds, and to explain any further would be confusing to the reader, so I'll stop here. You'll have to see for yourself

Inception is unique in that it knows exactly what kind of movie it is, what story it is telling, and how to tell it effectively. It is said that Christopher Nolan, who also wrote and directed The Dark Knight, spent 8 years working on the script. I say it was time well spent. Nolan has crafted a wholly original piece of work, and has, in a sense. reinvented the heist film. I appreciate his attention to detail, and the way the movie handles itself so eloquently. In the day and age of Transformers and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (the title alone promises a bad time), Inception stands alone as a movie with brains.

I would be amiss if I didn't mention Hans Zimmer's score. Its a pulsing, trembling ensemble of brass horns, and somber electronic tones that really scoot the story along at breakneck speed. I always think of the scoring of a film to be the most important part, and I can tell Nolan feels the same way.

All in all, Inception works on, literally, multiple levels. It harbors a surprising amount of emotional depth for a summer movie, and I could't have asked for more. My guess is that Inception will be nominated for Best Picture, which it truly deserves. Quick note: If you leave the theater wondering if you're dreaming, you're not. You've just seen an awesome movie.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hmm. I apologize for the formatting of the last post. It's been awhile

Let's take it from the top!

In the summer of 2008 I started this blog as an experiment with the help of my math teacher Mr. McClain. I wrote moderately about movies,

the television show LOST, and other topics I deemed important. I was a genuine rookie, and as autumn slowly replaced summer, and school

became my top priority, I stopped. It has been nearly 2 years since my last post, and I promised myself I'd give it another shot.

So here I am, ready to write.

My plan is to continue this blog through out the school year.

I feel it will benefit me greatly to exercise my grammatical skills while writing for the school newspaper. As we worked

to schedule my classes for the upcoming semester, my counselor encouraged me to choose "career-oriented" classes.

I knew I had always wanted to write, so naturally the Elkhart Central

Blazer Pennant monthly newspaper was the class for me.

I was nervous at first, having my work read by the entire school. As it turns out, I seemed to have a knack for pennant writing,

and I received the Story of the Year award for "3D: The Future of Entertainment (?)."

I was enthralled at the prospect that my work was being recognized by my peers, and it has given

me the confidence to further expand my writing and explore new ideas.

So now, here I am. This blog will, over the course of this school year, fill with my thoughts, reviews, and rants. I plan to highlight the events of my

summer in the next few weeks, such as the Fourth of July, the LOST series finale (sniff sniff), my thoughts on the oil spill,

book reviews, and my two favorite movies of the summer, Toy Story 3 and Inception.

My next post will be arriving soon!