Sunday, November 30, 2003

Kill Bill, Vol. 1

image piped in from


To be honest, I wasn't planning on seeing Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Kill Bill, Vol. 1. I have never seen any of QT's films and from what I have heard about them (they are very violent) I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like it.

I recognize that violence in movies is sometimes necessary. In a film like, Saving Private Ryan, the brutal realities of war are an integral part of the story. I know some people opted out of seeing the film because they felt they have enough understanding of the horrors of war without having to subject oneself to two and 1/2 hours worth of it in a film.

Sometimes violence has a cartoon bloodless fantasy quality to it. Having grown up in the television generation, the series, The A-Team, was of this variety. Some theatrical films are of this strain. I'm sure you and our movie literate readers could come up with a list of them.

Lastly, there is stylized violence as ballet and well choreographed mayhem. Not being as big a filmgoer as you and some of our readership, I'm under the impression some directors like QT have made bundles of money doing this. Let us know whose work to see and not to see.

One of our "blogparents" saw Kill Bill and posted this thoughtful and negative review of the film where lively comments ensued with most also being negative but a few defenders. In that post, there was a link to a site with lots of information on Kill Bill, vol. 1 and vol. 2 which is going to be out in the spring of 2004.

Why did I see this film which is getting such mixed reviews?

One, a friend I haven't visited with in a while wanted to see it so it was a convenient excuse to hang out. Two, one of my Hong Kong friends who is in the movie industry and who tries to keep clueless me in the know wrote this in an email:
I haven't seen "Kill Bill" but my colleagues love it because Tarentino uses a lot of symbols from those 1970s Hong Kong Shaw Brothers kung fu films. He even used the Shaw Brothers Company logo at the beginning of the film! Sure it is very bloody, but it is more on the fun side and trying to replicate those scenes in the 1970s Hong Kong kung fu films. Of course, both "Matrix" and "Kill Bill" hired Yuen Woo-ping as martial arts choreographer. Without him, these films wouldn't look the same.

So armed with these two reasons, I put down the cash to see the film. I was surprised to see the movie house was packed. Although, I suppose it had to do with the fact that it was theater #10 (comparatively small) in a 14-plex. The audience was so Los Angeles: every ethnic type you would expect in a Southern California audience, couples using the film as a date (?) night (!), groups of guys out for a night at the movies ranging from twenty-somethings to forty-somethings and indeed even a few (much fewer) girls night out groups.

Uma about to inflict some major mayhem in yet another film where pretty girls kick some tail and then some. Image piped in from

At the end of the film, we talked with a black couple who relayed their impressions of the film. They were quick to point out many musical and visual references to 70s American culture. We were quick to point out our roots growing up in the Chinese community in Los Angeles with a diet of Kung Fu movies from HK. We explained that the over-the-top fighting and excessive bleeding was the style of those movie. Their reaction to those scenes were a mixture of revulsion (it was like kinda totally gross) and laughter (it was comic book and slapstick silly begging to be mocked).

In my compare and contrast analysis, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg revived the old Saturday afternoon serial adventure films in the three Indiana Jones films with the added benefit of modern visual effects technology. They kept the style and updated the film making technology. QT has not made a 1970s style Kung Fu movie with better visual effects. Rather, QT has taken the style and melded it with the everything in the kitchen sink of his movie and culture saturated mind and his quirky hyper reality audio-visual style resulting in something some just love and other find annoying.

As for me, I found myself remembering the martial arts films of my youth sitting in a darkened sticky floored movie house of Los Angeles Chinatown. I wasn't a fan of the genre so I didn't see many but you never quite forget them with their fantastical fight scenes, brief moments of terse dialog about the warrior ethos and philosophical sayings about life and an over-the-top operatic quality to the swiss cheese story arc. It isn't meant to look real like tall tales with talking animals aren't meant to taken as real which leads me to my closing thoughts.

Because, speaking of talking animals, I loved Finding Nemo! It is entertaining and it has a good story about taking risks and the power of love. Films are entertainment and NOT morally neutral.

So what of Kill Bill? Indeed, it has many moments that are immoral. The film is clearly labelled from the begining as a tale of revenge. The bad guys in the film are wicked and deserved to be punished. At that level, I can root for the Uma Thurman character. In real life, the struggle of fighting evil is not allowing oneself to become evil in doing so. Unfortunately, there are only a few moments where that issue arises in Kill Bill.

At this point, Kari, have you passed out from sheer boredom or have fainted at the prospect that I may have actually (gasp) liked the film?

Well, add a little coffee in your mocha! And please don't faint when I give the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and say I am most likely going to see Kill Bill, Vol. 2.


Saturday, November 29, 2003

Public Service Announcement: Beware of Flu

Hi Kari:

Since both of us have some association with people in the health care professions, I think it would be good usage of our blog space to do a "public service announcement" about the dangers of flu. I would suspect that our readership being internet savvy is pretty in the know about current events so maybe this PSA isn't so crucial. However, we, as bloggers, have a platform and so using a little bandwidth for this is probably pretty reasonable.

With all the wonders of modern medicine, it is easy to think of flu epidemics as something from our less medically sophisticated past. For instance in 1918, 20 million people died worldwide from the flu. Though we have not had a pandemic on that order since then, flu typically kills 30,000 Americans annually.

This year's flu season appears to have arrived early and the stain appears to be more dangerous than usual as reported here and here.

For a complete FAQ, check out the CDC web site.

And lastly, Kari and dear readers, if you haven't got your flu vaccine shot yet, please do if at all possible.


Friday, November 28, 2003

Friday Fun

Hey Kari,

Trust you had a nice Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.

At our extended family get together, I decided to perform an unscientific but fun little experiment in wine tasting. Some Asians are pretty sensitive to alcohol and I'm one of those. When I partake which isn't often, I can only take small amounts and thus am not sophisticated.

I put brown paper to cover the labels. The three wines to be tested were Trader Joe's "Two-buck chuck" Merlot. The Charles Shaw wine collection has been all the rage in California because it is often sold for a mere $1.99/bottle. This has spawned many urban legends about the origin of this wine. Critics are divided on how good it is. Here is a favorable review.

The second wine was an Italian Merlot that I bought for $15.99/bottle. The third was a Chilean Merlot that sold for $6.99/bottle.

Seven people took part in the survey and here were the results:


Montes Merlot ($6.99)

Falesco Merlot ($15.99)

Charles Shaw Merlot ($1.99)













What do you think? Indeed, the sample size is too small, but I thought the results were interesting nonetheless. Perhaps this result might influence those hosting parties about how much money to spend on the wine they serve? Would be curious to know if any of our readership have tried similar "experiments?"


UPDATE: If you assign a first place vote 1 point, 2nd place vote two points and a third place showing 3 points, then the $6.99 wine wins with 11 points compared to the $15.99 which got 14 points beating out the $1.99 that garnered 17 points.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

All the Trouble in the World

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

Sat through a too-long but enjoyable Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce annual dinner last night. The audience’s fortitude was rewarded by the introduction of P.J. O’Rourke, the evening’s main speaker.

O’Rourke is a conservative, certainly, but of the cigar-chomping, hard-drinking variety that doesn’t come off as self-righteous to the masses. His aggressively un-PC style goes over well with a broad cross-section of society, and despite his clear partisanship, he’s an equal opportunity jabber:

“The Democrats are the party of government activism, the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller, and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then get elected and prove it.”

Last night O’Rourke spoke mainly about Iraq, where he was sent to cover the war by The Atlantic after parting ways with Rolling Stone. He read some of his remarks, or at least referred to them, from a stack of plain paper that had been folded down the middle, but he came across as completely natural and unrehearsed. I didn’t take notes, but he made many of the same points as in this recent interview for The Atlantic Unbound.

I read another O'Rourke interview recently that brought up the question I’ve seen bouncing around the internet recently: Why are most of the really funny political satirists conservatives? With the exception of the lame Al Franken and the infuriating but effective Michael Moore, who does the left have?

Anyway, I’m definitely much more of a square than O’Rourke, but I get vicarious pleasure in reading – and last night hearing – some of his droll rants. (For another taste of O’Rourke, try this review of Hillary Clinton’s memoirs.)

Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 24, 2003

Weekend Sports Round-up and a Recipe

Hi Kari,

First off, as a UCLA alum, I did watch for a little while. It was, unfortunately, like watching a hopeless high school football game where one side is bigger and faster than the other. It was symbolized in the opening drive where the famed ST-TNG phrase, "Resistance is futile" came to mind and culminated in the moment when the taller and bigger and faster USC wide receiver leaped over the top of the UCLA cornerback for a touchdown reception. Another moment was when UCLA finally scored by returning a blocked USC point after attempt for two points. When you can only score by bizarre plays, things are NOT looking good. For the full rundown of how USC might still NOT make the Sugar Bowl, check out this BCS analysis.

I'm awaiting UCLA men's basketball season. Alas, they aren't even forecasted to make the NCAA according to the Pac-10 poll. A sixth place finish would probably not be enough to get a NCAA bid unless the Pac-10 proves to be unusually strong this year. If UCLA pulls off a few stunners in some marquee games early in the season and any victories over Arizona or Stanford during the conference schedule could boost their resume. And, of course, Bruin faithful can always hope they will place better than sixth in the conference.

Michigan let Ohio State back into the game but eventually closed them out bursting the bubble of Buckeye fan fantasies of the Sugar Bowl dancing in their heads.

Meanwhile, your Kansas State team is showing itself to be probably the best three-loss team in the nation. What is the prediction of how they will fare against Oklahoma in their "home game" for the Big-12 title at Arrowhead?

Speaking of Arrowhead, what is up with the Chiefs? How did it come down to relying on ancient Andersen to get them over the last year's news Raiders? I haven't watched the Chiefs much this season. But I did see the MNF game when they barely beat the Oakland Raiders and I saw them last Sunday where they were the cardiac Chiefs over the Raiders. Couple those two games with a loss to the Cincy Bungles you got to wonder if the KC Chiefs won-loss record is deceptive? Are they trying to be the NFL version of the Ohio State Buckeyes by just barely beating people? I want to jump on the bandwagon as I have nobody to root for here in LA in the NFL!

Finally, here is the recipe for soy sauce honey marinated chicken.

I spent many years in grad school so simple and inexpensive cooking was something I learned to do pretty well.

On the night before, put 6 to 8 pieces of chicken in a baking dish. Chop up one bunch of green onions, chop up 3 to 5 little to medium sized pieces of ginger and mix these in with the chicken. Cover up baking dish and stick in refrigerator. Make marinade with 1 part soy sauce and 1 part honey. Mix it up in a separate container and put in the refrigerator.

The next morning, pour the marinade over the chicken.

In the evening, place the chicken with marinade into the oven at 350. As the mix bakes, periodically begin scooping out some of the marinade if there is too much. I happen to like the chicken swimming in the marinade for part of the baking process but eventually, I remove most of it. When done, enjoy chicken. The marinade in the baking dish is a nice gravy for rice or pasta.


P.S. HAPPY THANKSGIVING, Kari and dear gentle readers!!!

Friday, November 21, 2003

Friday Fun

Hey Kari,

Just a two short items to close the week and send you off to a nice weekend.


I am amazed at the interesting searches that bring up this humble blog. A recent searcher used Google to find information with the following search terms: einstein very long cat sound clip.


Well, guess what, I ran that search and found this web page with this quote from Einstein:

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat." - Albert Einstein, explaining radio

BCS mess?

Well, this weekend will be big as Ohio State takes on Michigan and USC faces off against UCLA. As a Bruin alum, it would be delightful if UCLA can derail the USC bandwagon. However, what UCLA probably won't be able to do on the field, the dreaded computers of the BCS might.

And how about this possible scenario: who gets the BCS championship game if OSU, LSU, USC and Oklahoma all have one loss? Who should get the BCS championship game?

Have a nice weekend and GO BRUINS!


UPDATE: My bad for neglecting our SEC partisan readers who will be keeping an eye on the Ole Miss vs. LSU game. If LSU runs the table they too will have a legit beef if they get excluded from the BCS championship game.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Biology Meets Art and Computer Graphics: Ecce Homology

Dear Kari,

A couple of weeks back, a computer friend of mine invited me to the opening night of an art exhibit at the UCLA Fowler Museum entitled, Ecce Homology. This multi-disciplinary project attempts to "visualize" artistically the most well known bioinformatics program called a BLAST search. BLAST stands for: Basic Local Alignment Search Tool.

BLAST is a computer program that resides at the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Institutes of Health.

When a researcher in Indiana identifies a DNA sequence of a gene she is interested in or a scientist in India has some fragmentary protein sequence, he and she will use the internet and enter that data and initiate a BLAST search to see if the sequence they have is similar to something cataloged in the database.

The Ecce Homology exhibit gives an artistic visualization of this process that happens over 100,000 times a day. The viewer of the exhibit stands in front of the wall where she is detected by a camera. Her motions are feed into a computer and a "BLAST" search is initiated as represented by light pulses that stream from the Y-axis of the display which has visual representations of genes in humans. These pulses of light move along the X-axis which has visual representations of rice genes. When a match is found, the pulses merge and brighten.

The audience asked about some of the artistic choices made by the project team. For instance, why did they opt for black and white and no color? They explained that the BLAST process is a high speed complex computer search and so they opted for a visualization that emphasized simplicity and had the representations move slowly.

Another audience member asked about the high degree of knowledge that the viewer must have to understand what is happening in the installation and that in some sense this exhibit is unlike other art works. The project team agreed but they pointed out the aesthetic appeal that can be tapped even without any knowledge or only partial knowledge of the whole concept behind Ecce Homology. Some audience members chimed in saying as non-scientists their reaction is that the images are simply beautiful to look at.

What do you think Kari? If such an exhibit were to arrive in a Kansas City museum near you, would you go run out and take a look?

I feel that so much of what happens in science is so mysterious to the general public that two things happen: people become afraid of science and become hostile or they have blind trust in scientists. Because of this concern, I welcome any attempts to bridge the world of the scientist with the general public. I applaud what Brian Greene did in the recent PBS Nova shows on superstring theory. And in the case of Ecce Homology, I tip my hat to Ruth West and her team in putting this together.

Yours truly,

Cheryl Kerfeld (crystallographer), Ruth West (artist) and Weihong Yan (bioinformatics)

The whole project team behind Ecce Homology. To read about them click here.

The computers behind the graphics of the visualization.

One of the visualizations of a rice protein.

At the end of the evening, the audience was invited to interact with the exhibit.

After the panel presentations, I had the chance to speak with Dr. Kerfeld for a few moments. I asked her about how they turn the abstract data about proteins into images. Think of proteins as a string of beads with the individual beads being amino acid molecules. There are 20 different amino acids that comprise proteins in all living things. She explained that certain amino acids were assigned certain thicknesses in the calligraphic representations, amino acids of positive electrical charge had certain shapes and brightness as did amino acids of negative charge. And finally, there are computer programs that predict bends in proteins and so those are taken into account yielding the curvy shapes of the images.

Thanks go out to my buddy Harold for telling me about the exhibit and for usage of these photos. To see more photos from the opening night click here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Red states, blue states: The Jacob factor

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

Here’s a weird fact: In 2000, in every one of the 30 states won by George W. Bush, the name Jacob was among the Top 5 names given to infant boys. In fact, Jacob was the No. 1 name in 22 of the 30 “red states.” In the 21 states (including D.C.) won by Al Gore, Jacob was in the Top 5 in 15, and No. 1 in 10 – or just less than half of the “blue states.”

The six that didn’t have Jacob in the Top 5 were California, Connecticut, D.C., Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. In each one, Gore trounced Bush. (See state-by-state results here.)

What does this mean? Is it statistically or sociologically relevant? Ideas, anyone? I have a few somewhat-educated guesses, but I’m interested in your hypotheses.

UPDATE: In 2002, Jacob continued to hold on to its chart-topping position by about the same margin over second-place Michael. At #5 with a bullet was Ethan, which jetted up from #17 in 2001 and #25 in 2000.

By 2002, Kari slipped all the way to #999 in infant girls’ names, behind the likes of #998 Nyasia, #948 Journey and #932 Unique (well, not exactly). Rene, you may be surprised to learn, ranked #417 among names for newborn boys, right behind Holden and Graham.

Kari (#999 and falling…)

Skiddley diddley diddley dee

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

Re-reading the recent post about my beloved iPod, I noticed that several songs that were on my random playlist had obscure or nearly nonsensical lyrics. Do those kind of songs appeal to you as well?

From Lyle Lovett’s “Fat Babies”:
Fat babies have no pride
Fat babies have no pride
Fat babies have no pride
And that’s okay
Who needs pride?

(Many of Lovett’s songs have quirky lyrics like that; my favorite is from “Penguins”: Penguins are so sensitive to my needs.)

From the Apples in Stereo’s “The Bird That You Can’t See”:
It’s like the bird that you can’t see
But you can hear the pretty music in the tree
It’s like the word that you can’t say
But you can sing the pretty music anyway

From Paul Simon’s “The Obvious Child”:
Well I’m accustomed to a smoother ride
Maybe I’m a dog that’s lost his bite
I don’t expect to be treated like a fool no more
I don’t expect to sleep the night
Some people say a lie is just a lie
But I say the cross is in the ballpark
Why deny the obvious child?

And of course, from Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher”:
Hi de hi de hi de hi de hi de hi de hi
Ho de ho de ho he ho de ho de ho de ho
Skiddley boo skiddley boo
Skiddley diddley diddley dee
Bourigie bourigie bourigie HA!

Usually what draws me into a song is the music, but if the lyrics are whimsical or ethereal, they’re music in their own right.

So, Rene and kind readers, what are some of your favorite obscure, fun, or nonsensical lyrics? (Click on the Comments link to share…)


Sunday, November 16, 2003

Matrix or LOTR? Eowyn or Arwen?

Hullo Kari,

Well, I finally got around to seeing Matrix: Revolutions. Expectations were down in the basement after the bloated Matrix: Reloaded. It was almost impossible for the third installment to be as abysmal.

Thumbs up with a 2.5 stars out of 4. This time the mind-numbing dialogs weren't as interminable and the CGI/FX set pieces were more effective this time around. And (gasp) was that weak attempts at humor? Reloaded took itself way too seriously.

Suffice to say the film was a salad bar of religious thought - a little Hinduism, a heaping of Taoism, a sprinkle of Christian messiah notions, doses of dualism and sprinkle in some Buddhist enlightenment shaken not stirred with some technological stuff and you get what you get - shake and bake post-modern philosophy.

As for the relative merits of the different philosophical threads, I leave that to other bloggers and brighter minds like yours.

Instead, I'll go with a more mundane and pedestrian compare and contrast essay tonight.

It doesn't take an expert on our personalities to know we agree on this: we share a passionate love for Lord of the Rings and something less than marginal affection for the Matrix.

Proof: I'll buy the DVDs for LOTR but not Matrix.

More proof: I get teary-eyed watching LOTR but not Matrix.

Still more proof: I'll embarrass myself blogging about my admiration for Eowyn and Arwen but not Trinity. Please know, I stood behind Carrie-Anne Moss in the checkout line of the market one evening and umm, she is, err very pretty!

But why do I love LOTR so much more? Why do you?

Both are tales of good and evil. Both are epic struggles involving one individual against the odds in the context of a far wider conflict. Both grow out of dissatisfaction with modern technology with Tolkien crafting a pre-modern mythology and the Wachowski brothers producing a post-modern science fiction fantasy.

I think part of it is character development. The LOTR characters are far more interesting and a number of them hold your interest. The Matrix has a few strong characters and the rest are cardboard cutouts who you really don't care about. Though Merry and Pippin aren't the "stars" of LOTR, you still want to know how they fare and root for them. Can one say that of any of the subordinate characters in the Matrix? And even the main character of the Matrix, Neo, doesn't compare to any of the main LOTR characters in my estimation.

What about the clarity of good and evil? The LOTR story at one level is clear cut: you know who the bad guys are. But at another level, it is more layered in that there is the struggle of evil within the heroes themselves. In the Matrix, the issue of good and evil is more muddled. Perhaps I'm just a simple minded golden retriever but the clarity of LOTR at a global level and the struggle at the individual level resonates with me.

Finally, the New Zealand as Middle Earth backdrop simply appeals to my sense of aesthetics. The Matrix world is just simply too drab to really capture my imagination and affections.

So off the bat, those are three things. What do you think?

And lastly, engaging in stereotypical male behavior, I have to say that of course Aragorn has to choose Arwen because she is his first love and it is the hopeless love appropriate for mythic stories.

I'm sure the male audience is split 50-50 between Eowyn and Arwen, the two strong willed, capable and oh, incidentally, beautiful women of LOTR. Though a very tough choice, if I had to choose, I'd have to go with Eowyn. I like her blend of strength and vulnerability though I obviously appreciate the wisdom and grace of Arwen also.

Of the other characters, I really like Gandalf because I like wise old guys (like Obi-Wan Kenobi) being a (growing) old guy. I also like Sam because he is so fiercely loyal.

Can't wait for Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Be well,

Friday, November 14, 2003

Mars Attack

image from

Dear Kari:

As someone who is astronomy astute, I'm sure you know there are many spacecraft on their way to Mars because of the recent close approach. Interestingly enough, our first posts when we started TTC were about that Mars opposition event and our love of astronomy. Thus, I figure you and our readership might enjoy hearing from somebody in the trenches of the great scientific spacecraft invasion of Mars that is going on right now.

I'm pleased to welcome to our blog space, a real life rocket scientist, my friend Robby. What follows is a little dialog we had about what is happening out there in outer space near Mars.

TTC: Which Mars spacecraft is your project group involved with?

R: I'm in JPL's Instrument Structures & Dynamics group, and we work primarily with smaller piece-part analyses. It's not a hard and fast division, but there's a sister group for doing the larger spacecraft-level assembly analyses. Together, we do all the structural analysis for whatever projects JPL is working on. Personally, I was involved with the Mars Exploration Rovers up until last fall. MER launched this spring/summer, and will land on Mars in January.

Currently, I've been working on an instrument for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, set to launch in 2005. Mars Climate Sounder is a camera for doing atmospheric measurements while MRO orbits the planet.

TTC: How many other spacecraft are heading towards Mars now?

R: Mars will be a very busy place in the coming months. JPL already has two spacecraft there, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey. Along with the January arrival of Spirit and Opportunity, the two rovers, the European Space Agency has a mission called Mars Express, with a British-led rover called Beagle 2, which should land on Christmas Day. Finally, after a very roundabout flight, Japan's Nozomi spacecraft should arrive at Mars in January as well. However, it has had problems and they are worried it may crash.

Both ESA and NASDA will be using NASA's Deep Space Network for some of the communication with their probes, and the DSN will be very busy. MGS and Odyssey will be used as relays.

JPL has a great page showing computer simulations of the current positions of all the Mars spacecraft. The reason that so many are arriving at about the same time is that the orbits of the Earth and Mars bring them close to each other every 26 months. That's why JPL has had missions in 2001, 2003, 2005, and likely for 2007.

TTC: Wow! There are SIX missions of which three will actually place something on the surface. I'm sure the missions have objectives in atmospheric science and mineralogy/geology. But I suspect the subject of most interest to the general public is life on Mars. What do you think about the likelihood of finding life on Mars or evidence of past life on Mars?

R: Gee, I'm just an engineer, not a scientist! NASA has decided to concentrate on finding water on Mars, aside from the frozen polar caps, thinking that any Martian life is most likely to be found in, or near, water. The atmospheric pressure and lower temperatures mean liquid water can't exist on the surface, but it could be buried somewhere. Science Online just ran a good article about it. Figuring out whether there is life on Mars is trickier than you might expect because micro-organisms from Earth might survive the trip to Mars as discussed in this blog post. I like to think that the good Lord would not waste all that red real estate, and that some cool microbiology is going on there.

TTC: We will be sure to check back with you again for updates! Thanks for filling us in on what is going on out there and keep up the good work.

If you are interested in keeping up-to-date on the Mars exploration, check out the various links Robby mentioned and here are a few more for you to bookmark.

Yahoo! News Mars Exploration category
NASA-JPL page devoted to Mars projects
The Planetary Society's Mars Exploration page
JPL Online gift shop

To mars and beyond,

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Gagne closes out with the Cy Young

Hey Kari:

Take it you weren't too surprised that Gagne took the NL Cy Young award? On the AL side, with Loaiza and the ChiSox collapsing at the end of the season, Halladay winning the Cy Young was no surprise either.

Congrats must go to your KC Royals where Tony Pena took AL Manager of the Year honors along with Angel Berroa winning the AL Rookie of the Year.

Hope that next year, our two teams will give us lots to cheer for and a first ever Royals vs. Dodger MLB championship!

Go Blue,

UPDATE: Check this out for current awards handed out so far. So who wins AL and NL MVPs? For the NL, as much as I can't stand the SF Giants, I have to say Bonds gets the it. He gets them to the playoffs then the opposition takes his bat away with walks. In the AL, A-Rod was great as usual but Delgado put up some good numbers too and so Delgado walks off with the MVP this year. What do you think?

UPDATE: Hmmm... I decided to look at some stats, the more obvious ones anyway, and Bond's numbers are good. However, Pujols and Sheffield have good numbers too.

UPDATE: A-Rod wins AL-MVP. He got 242 points vs. Delgado who got 210. Tomorrow, the NL-MVP will be announced.

UPDATE: Bonds wins the NL-MVP easily beating out Pujols and Sheffield.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003


Hi-De-Ho Rene,

I love my iPod.

You know what I’m talking about; you have an even better one than I. The initial work of converting the majority of my CD collection to digital files was a chore, but maintaining, reorganizing, and ultimately listening to all that music is now so much easier.

Mine is a 10GB iPod, which is still only about 2/3 full with about 1,700 songs from more than 150 CDs. (More digitizing awaits me.) I bought a cheap little FM transmitter that converts the iPod into a personal radio station. With the “random” function running, my car stereo belts out eclectic selections, one after the other, all of which I like, and very few of which are ever on “real” radio.

This morning, the iPod served up, in this order:

1) “Fat Babies” by Lyle Lovett
2) “Across the Avenue” by Freedy Johnston
3) “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
4) “I Won’t Stay Long” by Sixpence None the Richer
5) “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plans” by Fred Astaire
6) “Wayfaring Stranger” by Johnny Cash
7) “What is This Thing Called Love” by Billie Holliday
8) “Hey Boy! Hey Girl!” by Louis Prima
9) “Sweet Jesus” by Gary Chapman
10) “Los Peces En El Rio” by the Gipsy Kings
11) “Flight of the Passing Fancy” by Squirrel Nut Zippers
12) “Roxanne” by The Police
13) “Here in America” by Rich Mullins
14) “Two of a Kind (Working on a Full House)” by Garth Brooks
15) “Loudly Let the Trumpet Bray” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolathe
16) “Burning Love” by Elvis Presley
17) “The Obvious Child” by Paul Simon
18) “Smooth Criminal” by Alien Ant Farm
19) “Over Time” by Lucinda Williams
20) “The Bird That You Can’t See” by Apples in Stereo

The best hits and obscure gems from my collection, all on my car stereo, on personal radio station KARI-FM. What could be better?


Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Veteran's Day

Dear Kari,

On Sunday, at my church, the pastor asked if there were any veterans in the congregation so we could recognize and honor their service. A couple of handful of graying men stood up, the remnant of that generation Tom Brokaw took to calling "The Greatest Generation."

Because we both lived in DC for part of our lives, we know of the memorials there to remember the sacrifice of so many. Thus, on this Veteran's day, today, I'll share some web links from the National Park Service for our readers to look into should they wish to.

Vietnam War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
World War II Veterans Memorial

Let's pray for the day when we will beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and nation will not take up sword against nation nor train for war anymore. But until that day is realized, let's remember and honor the service of our veterans and of our men and women serving the cause of freedom, justice and peace today.

Here is a quote at the Korean Memorial to close this post:


Be well,

Sunday, November 09, 2003

LA Scene: Disney Hall's Special Friday Night Series

First Night of First Nights

(Fifth in a series of occasional posts on Los Angeles life)

Dear Kari,

I know I've have been blogging Walt Disney Hall like crazy. Well, I finally went there to attend an actual concert last Friday night.

I had dinner with my friend at Tesoro Trattoria before the concert. It was a nice Italian place with good food. Service was okay but not great. They were busy that night and seemed a little frazzled. Decor and atmosphere was nice. Its proximity to the Disney Hall was a huge plus. All we had to do was walk about four blocks north on Grand and we were at the Hall.

We enjoyed looking around the Hall inside and outside. There was a certain buzz in the air among the sell-out crowd. Lots of ohhs, ahhs and wows as people looked around! We settled into our seats and I have to say that was one nitpick with the design: leg room was in short supply. "Budget" seat life just like on airplanes!

The other nitpick I have was the sound system for speaking voice. The First Nights program included some narration and spoken dialog by actors on stage and at times it was hard to hear. I don't know if it was due to sitting behind the orchestra that caused the problem or if acoustics optimized for music meant that the speaking voice was harder to hear.

I've now mentioned "First Nights" twice and you may be wondering what that was all about. There was a book with that title that described the premier nights of five famous classical works placing the works in their historical context. Thus, the LA Phil has designed a four-concert series based on that concept.

John Delancie, Q of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, was the writer, director and narrator for the evening. Along with Delancie were actors and ballet dancers on stage at various times to illustrate the points of the backstory to the Rite of Spring.

Delancie explained that on May 29, 1913, Stravinsky's groundbreaking work, The Rite of Spring, was performed in Paris at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees to a raucous reception. He said, it is hard describe so let's just show you.

At this point, Salonen, the LA Phil Music Director, signaled the orchestra to play a volatile passage in the Rite of Spring as ballet dancers performed. Soon, there were shouts, boos and exclamations of disapproval raining down on the stage from all sides by the other actors in the First Nights production. The audience quickly caught on to what was happening and laughed and participated. Thus, the first First Nights event began.

It was an entertaining storytelling device and educational to boot. The narration was often keyed to images on the big screens with photos and paintings of Paris, people of the era and art of the time. The actors on stage played the parts of Stravinsky, the ballet choreographer, the orchestra conductor and the Theatre owner and ballet dancers. They played out on stage the process of the development of the Rite of Spring from concept to initial sketches on piano and various decisions leading up to the fateful night when the work premiered.

The theatre owner wanted maximum shock value so he demanded that three fairly familiar works be played before the final event of the Rite premier. He ordered that a Chopin piece precede the Stravinsky work. Thus, the "concert" at this point "began" with the Chopin. It was nice and melodic and soothing. The work finished and Salonen and the LA Phil launched into the Rite of Spring.

For all the hoopla about the building's architectural novelty, the bottom line is the sound. I have to say from all reports and from my ears, they made the dream come true. The Rite has passages where the music is carried quietly by one or two instruments and you can hear them. In other parts, there is an avalanche of sound and yet, the instruments don't pile up into one big noise. Instead, you hear and feel the music with a clarity never heard in the old venue, the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion.

90 years ago, as the Rite played on its First Night, audience reports indicated the booing, hissing and disparaging remarks drowned the music out such that the ballet dancers were losing track of the beat of the music. As the final booming notes faded at LA's First First Nights, the crowd roared its approval with a standing ovation.


Thursday, November 06, 2003

M-Theory and the Matrix

Hi-De-Ho Rene,

So, after my recent post, did you catch The Elegant Universe on Tuesday? The program left amateurs like me with the impression that we might actually understand what Brian Greene and "Einstein's successor" Ed Witten are getting at. With metaphors in the form of slices of bread, pool tables, and wormholes in Manhattan, theoretical physicists have all the fun. All in all, it was a nice popularization of a difficult concept.

In contrast, my sister and I decided to take a flyer and see the final Matrix installment last night. The Matrix series started out as a popularization of mildly difficult philosophical concepts, then was purposefully muddled in the sequels to remove any chance of comprehension. I enjoyed the original Matrix, although I saw it on tape, about a year after it had opened, so some of the images and ideas were already familiar. The second one was ridiculous, with great SFX but laugh-out-loud quasi-philosophy and plot holes galore. We had so much fun dissecting it that we felt compelled to see Revolutions last night.

It was better than expected (Reloaded having drastically lowered the bar), but still pretentious enough to provide some guffaws. Because Morpheus is reduced to a supporting character, he doesn't get the chance to utter nearly as many pearls of insipidness ("I have dreamed a dream, but now that dream is gone from me," or "Some things do change"), but he gets to reprise a couple beauts. As for the plot, I don't think it gives too much away to say that, after seeing Revolutions, I'm convinced that the second film was completely unnecessary. Other than a handful of plot points and characters that could just as easily have been introduced in #1 or #3, Reloaded has been rendered pointless, introducing ideas that were dropped without explanation in Revolutions. POTENTIAL SPOILER, IF YOU'RE AN INTUITIVE TYPE: And I hope it doesn't give too much away to say that the conclusion of Revolutions has a major flaw -- it doesn't really resolve what was set up in the first picture, although I guess we're supposed to think it does. Matrix 4, anyone?


Soak up the sun: vitamin D and you

Dear Kari:

I'm gonna soak up the sun
I'm gonna tell everyone
To lighten up (on sunscreen)

No, Sheryl wasn't singing about vitamin D but she may be onto something.

One of the recent findings in the field of vitamin D research is that many of us may be vitamin D deficient.

What people may not know is that the first step in producing vitamin D in our bodies is a UV light dependent reaction in our skin. In the old days, when society was much more agriculture based, people were outside for many hours a day working the fields, or if one was a hunter, one would be running around outside chasing after supper. Today, with our information and service-based economy, we are inside almost all day long hence not getting much sunlight and because of fears of skin cancer we are all covered up and doused in sunscreen when we are outside.

The hints that something was amiss were reports of babies coming down with rickets (weak bones) as summarized in this article. This was notable in African American children which lead doctors to suspect that the mothers were vitamin D deficient thus the breast milk was deficient. The darker pigment of African Americans makes the first step of vitamin D production less efficient. Combine that with an indoor lifestyle and the reduced amount of sunshine living in northern latitude, you have the "perfect solar storm" in reverse.

Because of these findings, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued this policy statement on vitamin D supplementation for infants and children.

The other day, I heard a lecture by Bruce Hollis, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. He told us that the old standard for the bottom end of "normal" 25-hydroxyvitamin D (the form of vitamin D that is the best indicator of overall vitamin D status) in adults was 15 ng/L. It will now be upped to 30 ng/L. This new recommended level should resolve the rickets issues. However, he went on to suggest that that level might be still too low for other reasons.

Vitamin D remains a molecule of interest to medical researchers because of its potential anti-cancer effects. So far the data on that front remains unclear. However, some researchers are doing studies to see if vitamin D deficiency (not so low as to cause the obvious bone problems) might leave people more susceptible to cancers. Thus, 30 ng/L maybe fine to keep bone problems away but higher levels might actually be preferable.

Stay tuned over the next few years as these issues get sorted out.

In the meantime, take your supplements and Hollis suggested, allow yourself 10-15 minutes of sun before putting on the sunscreen.

I'm gonna soak up the sun
Got my (spf)45(not) on
So I can rock on

Be well,

Monday, November 03, 2003

Art: Online Art Gallery

Online Art Gallery


A little while back I mentioned taking some time out to photograph an art exhibit thus providing for an opportunity to have a dialog about it. Well, at last, it is done!



I've had a small number of conversations with Lynn Aldrich and found her passion for her craft inspiring and her honesty about art's place in society and the life of faith thoughtful. When she mentioned that an exhibit of her work would be coming up soon, I broached the idea of developing a web based discussion about it and was delighted when she agreed to the idea.

The process of art involves people dropping in for a look and then taking away their own interpretations and impressions without meeting the artist face-to-face. Part of that often will take the shape of a "party game" of telling stories about the art. A picture or object is seen and then speculation takes place. This is part of the enjoyment and understanding of art. This stimulates creative discussions and often if two or more individuals are participating they can come up with completely different ideas. Of course, this takes merely a few minutes and nothing is written down and in nearly all cases the artist never knows of the myriad of random comments that get made.

When Aldrich agreed to this project, she asked me not to read the exhibit catalog (I only read the page that gave the titles to the works, materials used and dimensions) that has some essays about the works by her and other artists. She wanted the art work to speak for itself. This ground rule was an explicit statement of what implicitly happens when an artist hangs her work in the gallery.

However, this web "dialog" departs from the usual art process in that the artist gets to see in writing the thoughts of two viewers. We will also get to see brief comments from the artist. This is a luxury an art viewer and artist normally don't get.

My background is that of a molecular biologist. My extended comments are marked (R). To further simulate the experience of a typical art visit, the essays below also include some brief remarks from Beth, my friend who is a philosophy of religion graduate student. Her comments are marked (B). Aldrich's comments are marked (LA).

Now, please come into the gallery via the internet.

The exhibit entitled, "Research and Development" runs from October 11 to November 8, 2003.
Carl Berg Gallery
6018 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tuesday - Saturday 11am - 6pm

Photography notes: Images were captured on traditional 35mm film -- Fuji 1600 and Kodak 400 ASA print film -- in a Pentax ZX-M and ZX-5N with 28mm, 50mm and 135mm lenses. An 80A color correction filter was used along with a tripod. Samy's Camera in-house photo processing was used.

(1) "Far Out" (2002) Modeling compound, gesso, acrylic, oil on lampshade, 14" x 28" x 10"

(2) "Worm Hole" (2003) Fake fur on cardboard tubes, 48" x 48" x 25'

R: When I stepped into the Carl Berg Gallery, to the left was this yellow orb. Emotions are states of mind and associated with colors. We think of being red-faced with anger, green with envy and feeling blue. Cartoon smiling faces are yellow circles with two dots for eyes and an upturned arc for a smile. When I saw the fluorescent yellow, I felt a warm welcome.

The other thought that came to mind was the yellow orb of the sun in the sky. The color hung there. Upon closer inspection, you'll discover this object was a lampshade with the inside painted the bright, happy yellow color. A playful optical illusion by the artist.

B: The exhibit is entitled, "Research and Development." How does this theme connect the works of art?

R: Good question. This work appeared to be a continuation of Aldrich's explorations of the usage of color on the interior of lampshades that create optical illusions and evoke a response in the viewer. To see another example of this type of work, go to this Calvin College exhibit and see the work entitled, "The Violet Hour."

Perhaps she thinks of her body of work as in progress: developing new concepts, refining old ones and researching new ways to create visual stories? "Violet Hour" might be like an earlier exploration of communicating ideas with that media. She is an experimentalist.

LA: This whole idea of Rene's to do an on-line conversation is a welcome adventure. I'm somewhat apprehensive that my verbal contribution will dissolve the dialogical energy, since I'm the one who made the visual stuff. I'd much rather watch you guys "go for it" because I've already stared at these things for the longest time in my studio and feel pretty myopic at this point. I'll just say that I strive for complex analogies embedded within simple constructs. And for me, the activity of being an artist is an ongoing investigation of existence (research) resulting in the production of material objects (development).

R: As I entered the first large room of the gallery, my eye was immediately drawn to the large object on the floor. It was a series of connected tubes of increasing diameter. At the small end, a lit light bulb sat.

Colored materials lined the interior of the tubes. At the light bulb end the materials were dark colors. As the diameter expands and moves away from the bulb, the colored materials were lighter.

Having grown up watching too much science fiction, I thought of a worm hole, the hypothetical distortions in the universe that can connect very distant locations. Click here to read more than you'll ever want to know or understand about them.

The choice of including a light bulb at one end and light fabric at the other may have some meaning? Thus, both ends were illuminated but in different ways. The light bulb's intensity was not sustained all the way to the end of the tubing. Yet, the fabric at the other end was a light bright color.

To see three more pictures of this object, click here.

We often think of light metaphorically as illumination of the mind or understanding (the light bulb went on above their heads) and so this worm hole connecting two distant points was illuminated at both ends. Perhaps this is a visual story of the inter-relationship of ideas. In this case: how two distant ideas can be connected in some way and be illuminating simultaneously in different ways.

B: Maybe this is a symbol for inner transformation caused by the "light of the world" (Christ metaphor). This process of transformation/sanctification takes time. At the end of the process, we are made like Christ, bright/yellow and holy. We are bigger people--hence the larger spheres.

R: I like that idea. Perhaps that is the connection between the two distant points? I'll be very curious to hear the narrative of the artist about this complex piece.

LA: I can only say that I am humbled and inspired by your theological interpretations, as well as by your acute perceptual observations of physical objects, a practice I had assumed would be underdeveloped in the on-line generation. In "Worm Hole", as in other works, I am not interested in narrative reads but rather in more slippery, layered metaphors which you are already tapping into. I consider the various materials themselves to generate meaning which is always already present (something like Incarnation). My job is to make decisions about how to present this meaning (scale, arrangement, amount, site, etc.) while interfering as little as possible.

(3) "Fling and Catch" (2003) Thread, paper tape, dimensions variable

(4) "Sea Change" (2003) Sponges, scrubbers, brushes, scouring pads on plastic tub, 25" x 23" x 18"

R: The next object I examined was the corner one. It was practically impossible to capture it on film. Aldrich told me that the pro photographers had trouble with it too. It was colored threads and white tape. Was it conceptual art? A couple of years ago, I was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles and there was a series of panels with pencil marks. The docent explained that the marks were placed within certain "rules" set by the artist. Thus, the work was conceptual because it could be reproduced anywhere by following the rules governing its produciton. The rules provided some constraint, yet flexibility to yield variety and interesting patterns. Those rules were not obvious and so the marks seemed random and in a sense they were, yet, they fall within the confines of the "rules."

Were there some "rules" to the selection of colored threads? Their length? Their positioning? These three dimensions, degrees of freedom, defined this object. Merely three, yet in various combinations chosen by the artist, the result was something beautiful and intriguing.

With the title, "Fling and Catch," perhaps Aldrich was paying homage to Jackson Pollack who was noted for dripping and splashing paint. Here Aldrich is tossing threads and taping them down. Pollack's work seemed random but nobody can replicate his work. There was, as it were, a method to his madness.

What does this say about the nature of what is aesthetically appealing? Total symmetry induces boredom. Total chaos induces revulsion. What does that say about how life is to be lived?

LA: In "Fling and Catch", I was thinking about how spiders will seem to fling themselves out into the middle of nowhere and try to catch on something when I came across a poem by Walt Whitman which mentions that very phenomenon ("The Noiseless, Patient Spider"). So I made a couple of rules for myself in the construction of the piece -- each thread will be a unique color (the largest version has all 200 colors of sewing thread made by Coats and Clark). Every thread has to start on one wall of a corner and cross in a straight line to the opposite wall without altering the trajectory of the other threads.

R: There seems to be some ironic humor in the bright colors of these mundane objects. What could be more mundane than doing the dishes, the thankless chore of daily life? Yet, here before the viewer was a tub socked full of various dish cleaning accessories and its bright colors radiate a cheery feeling. Is the artist merely having some fun? Could the artist be making a bigger statement?

In an exchange before my photo shoot, I asked Aldrich about the conventions of titles for art works to which she said:
As far as titles go, I do select my titles carefully and consider them part of the work. They might nudge the viewer in a particular direction or open up a window on meaning. However, the work has to be interesting to look at without the title, and some viewers probably never even read the titles.
The item above was entitled, "Sea Change." I began to think tangential and in symbolic terms. Change and transformation require hard work and often daily effort (like washing dishes). For some odd reason I thought of the Shawn Colvin song, "Sunny Came Home" (1998). That song has a haunting sound and tortured lyrics. Within the song itself, there is no backstory, we don't know why Sunny needs to gather her children, burn her house down and flee. We only know that to resist change would cost more than changing everything drastically. We only know that in the end, there is a sense of liberation in making the change:
Oh light the sky and hold on tight...
The world is burning down,
She's out there on her own -
and she's alright.
Sunny came home...

Perhaps "Sea Change" was a picture of life change, of cleansing, of transformation and a bright and hopeful one at that? After we experience transformation in life, we can look back with some humor and recognize the multitudinous implements that helped bring it about. Don't we often say of interesting people that they lived a colorful life?

B: This to me looked like a tide pool with sea anenomes in it. Who knows what it could mean but it made me laugh!

LA: Yes, I think this piece is humorous. It also brings up questions of reality and illusion, biodiversity and the wonders of commercial product design. Beneath the whimsy, is my (ineffectual) but sincere longing to "clean up" the oceans.

(5) "Clean Water Act" (2003) Hose, pipes, acrylic on wood, 34" x 26" x 4"

(6) "Serpentarium" (2002) Garden hose, cable ties, plastic, 30" x 25" x 25"

R: The next object seemed to me like the "Far Out" piece: an optical illusion. Up close, I can see that it is cut up pieces of PVC pipes, hoses and other assorted round tubular objects of varying diameters, thicknesses, height and colors. But looking straight on, I see bubbles. Imagine a big aquarium with lots of bubbles rising up along the glass. In fact, so many bubbles that that is about all you see.

Life at times is not what it seems. Here objects associated with the transport of water when looked at a different way look like objects that transport air.

When I found out the title of the work was, "Clean Water Act," my impressions went in another direction. I looked at it again. I thought: coral. One indicator of the health of an ocean eco-system is the health of its coral. These tubes with their colors and sizes together formed a texture that made me think of coral.

B: Perhaps it takes many different hoses owned by many different types of people to actually have a successful clean water act. It takes participation on the local level--individuals need to be involved; represented by the many different individual hoses. Does this have anything to do with the "living water?" Living water being another Christ metaphor.

R: Having seen a photo of "Garden Story" which was exhibited at Calvin College, this piece looked familiar. The garden hose as snake in Eden was a menacing image there. That impression was provoked by this work as well. It is even more frightening because the plastic tie "teeth" stick out of the maw of the monster.

I must again confess to having seen too many science fiction films because as I walked around and looked at this object, I found myself remembering the film Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi - Episode Six. For fans of the film, do you remember the crazy looking creature in the desert of Tatooine that was about to be feed Luke, Han and the rest of our heros?

These were my impression before I saw the title to this object. After finding out that it was called, "Serpentarium." The sense of fear became greater. Planetarium, an enclosed place to see stars projected on a curved dome. Aquarium, an enclosed space with water and creatures that live in water. Terrarium, an enclosed container where soil and plants interact to form an environment. Key word: enclosed. Imagine being trapped in something like a Serpentarium? Drat, those movie images come to mind again! Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy and Marion are trapped with a bunch of snakes underground?

Trapped. And trapped in ordinary materials: garden hose and plastic ties. I was talking with a friend a month ago. He was observing: people understand that the mass murderer is evil, the violent person is evil and other really obvious things are evil. But what we don't understand is that evil is also the little things like selfishness, ingratitude, unforgiveness and indifference. These little things are like the rot that makes houses collapse and the mold that spoils food. The temptation of the Garden was not some terrible and obvious overt evil and so it is often for us today.

B: Why does Aldrich use lamp shades and garden hoses? She has been doing many works with these materials.

R: Research and development?

(7) "Pools and Windows" (2003) Gold leaf paint, acrylic, oil on book pages mounted on museum board, 87" x 148"

(8) "Dark Glass" (2002) Corrigated plastic, fiberglass, 37" x 27" x 10"

R: This object was huge. It was made up of individual panels. For a moment, I thought it might have been magazine pictures cut out and pasted on top of the gold paint but upon closer inspection, I think it was the other way around with the paint covering the photos. In some cases, the image that shows through was a swimming pool, in others a window showed through. In some cases I think there was a picture of the sky and the gold paint formed the frame of the window. I didn't check every panel in the work but I'm guessing no two panels were alike. To see six more images of different panels up close click here.

What was the message here? Since there were so many panels, would each panel have a story? Or were they all variations on the same theme?

Given that all the panels were different, perhaps there was some kind of message about individuality? People who own nice homes can choose their windows and swimming pools as a reflection of their individual tastes. But in a home, there are many other items that can reflect the owner's personality. What is it about windows and pools? Windows are the portals to view the outside world. Pools are the place of leisure. Might there be some message about those choices? What do they tell us about the person or society making those choices?

Then there was the choice of gold colored paint. Would the meaning of the art work be different if another color was choosen? Gold is the color of wealth. Wealth interacting with choices tells us about people/societies and their values.

B: Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Does beauty need anyexplanation?

LA: In some ways, this work, "Pools and Windows," is actually an overt cliche of beauty, with an inherent accompanying sadness over that problem -- heavy gold leaf paint over pages of "heavenly blue" designer swimming pools for the rich and famous. I wanted to title this piece "Poolside Baptism with Light Therapy", but I didn't trust my instincts. The reality is that I live in a city (El Lay) where people walk around looking fabulously refreshed, physically and spiritually, but it's a desert.

R: The final object in this tour of the Aldrich exhibit was on the south wall. It looked like plastic materials of varying degrees of opacity. The lightest one was on the top and the progression was toward darker pieces. It would appear that was an optical illusion like "Far Out" and "Clean Water Act."

The item was entitled, "Dark Glass," further suggesting the optical illusion intent for the item was made of plastic. But the combination of the plastic together formed the optical characteristics of a dark glass. Click here for two more views of this object.

St. Paul described our earthly life as looking through a glass darkly. Because of this, some people would say religious faith is anti-thetical to reason. But is that really true? In life, we are always working with partial knowledge. If we could only decide upon a course of action with 100% certainty, we would never act. As a scientist, the idea of degrees of certainty about what we perceive is something I interact with daily. We use our partial knowledge to form a hypothesis and proceed to experimentation and then re-evaluate.

Having sat in jury duty once on a criminal case, I had to face the practical application of the phrase, "beyond a reasonable doubt." Interestingly, in law, there are degrees of certainty also. Criminal law has the strictest standard, "beyond a reasonable doubt." In civil law, the standard is the looser, "preponderance of the evidence." And in an pre-trial hearing, the standard is "probable cause."

What standard of certainty do we ask for when we have to make decisions in our lives? I suppose that is why one virtue promoted by Christianity is humility. We see another human being through dark glasses and can't know their full story. We see the future through dark glasses and can only plan knowing plans can be changed.

LA: Utopian modernists said we could know everything and make it fit into a master narrative. Contemporary postmodernists (after their thinking filters down to the masses) say we can't know anything because whatever I think up is as good a guess as whatever you think up or anybody else. But somewhere in-between is St. Paul who, simultaneously acknowledges both knowledge and mystery as the complimentary attributes of reality.

About the artist

Aldrich was born in Texas but grew up in many places being from a military family. She obtained a BA in English Literature from the University of North Carolina. Later, she earned a BA in Fine Arts from California State University at Northridge and then a MFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Her work has been exhibited in numerous galleries, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the San Francisco Art Institute, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and many other venues. Her art has been profiled in various publications such as Los Angeles Times, Artweek, New York Times, L.A. Weekly, and Artforum. She has taught at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She works at a studio in downtown Los Angeles.

Click here to see some other works by Aldrich that can be found on the Internet.

I thank the staff at the Carl Berg Gallery for the opportunity to photograph this exhibit and Lynn Aldrich for arranging the photo shoot and discussions about her work.

The Carl Berg Gallery opened in the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles in late September of 2003 and has a wonderful space for displaying art. If you are ever in the neighborhood, contact them with the information below to see what is on exhbit and enjoy a visit.
Carl Berg Gallery
6018 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tuesday - Saturday 11am - 6pm