Movie Review: Pandas (2018)


Title: Pandas
Release Date: April 6, 2018
Director: David Douglas and Drew Fellman
Production Company: IMAX
Summary/Review:

The world’s cutest animals get the IMAX 3D treatment so audiences can enjoy seeing the big balls of fluff from China larger than life and right there in front of you.  The documentary is narrated by Kristen Bell, herself and icon of cuteness, and has cheerful soundtrack composed by Mark Mothersbaugh.  That is when there aren’t pop songs playing, such as the musical cue when a trio of panda cubs toddle around to ZZ Top’s “Sharped Dressed Man” (I guess because their black & white patterns resemble a tuxedo?).

But beneath all of this cuteness there is a more serious story here.  The habitat of the giant panda is shrinking and the species is endangered.  At the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding we meet the scientist Rong Hou, known as the Panda Mother, who has lead efforts to successfully breed giant pandas with over 200 cubs born. The next step is reintroducing pandas to the wild so Rong Hou visits New Hampshire where Ben Kilham takes in orphaned black bears and cares for them until they can survive in the wild on their own.

Adapting Kilham’s methods to the panda cubs at Chengdu involves bringing in another American, Jacob Owens, and Chinese scientist Wen Lei Bi to work with the cubs.  One cub named Qian Qian is determined to be a good candidate for introduction the wild, and Owens forms a close bond with her over a year spend in a 50-acre, protected reserve.  Finally, Qian Qian is ready, and a small gate is opened to allow her into the true wilderness.

A dramatic moment occurs when Owens is visiting family in America and the signal from Qian Qian’s collar shows that she hasn’t moved in 24 hours.  Wen Lei Bi leads a team that hikes deep into the forest where they find Qian Qian trapped in a tree, and they have to spend several days giving her food and water until she’s healthy enough to return to the reserve for care.  The film ends on a moment of uncertainty as a lot of effort went into introducing Qian Qian into the wild but it’s unclear if she will ever be able to survive there or if this approach will work with other great panda cubs.  But it’s good to know that there are people trying.

Rating: ***1/2

 

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Photopost: Washington, D.C., so far…


I’m in Washington, D.C. for the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting. I didn’t have room to pack my good camera but I thought I’d share some smartphone photos.

What I’ve done so far:

  • Arrived for the Archive-It Partner Meeting held in the Conservation Pavilion at the National Zoo! I presented, thus fulfilling my childhood dream of working in a zoo, at least for 15 minutes.
  • While at the zoo, I visited with the Great Pandas, Cheetahs, Gorillas, Orangutans, Tigers, Lions, and my favorite, North American River Otters.
  • Ate grits with waffles at Lincoln’s Waffle Shop.
  • Visited the National Museum of American History. Highlights include an exhibit on the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign and The Nation We Build Together where two character interpreters from the era of the Greensboro Lunch Counter protest recreate nonviolent direct action training with the guests.
  • Took in a D.C. United soccer match at their new stadium with a large and vociferous crowd. Wayne Rooney scored twice in United’s 4-1 win.

Related post: Washington, D.C. (October 2012)

Photopost: Camping at Wolfe’s Neck Farm


Last week we celebrated the end of the school year with our somewhat annual stay at Wolfe’s Neck Oceanfront Camping in Freeport, Maine. We tented in the woods by Casco Bay, roasted marshmallows, biked nearly everywhere, shopped in Freeport, visited the Wolfe’s Neck Center farm, and most significantly, we went hiking with goats!

Related posts:

Photopost: Father’s Day on Stellwagen Bank


On Father’s Day, my kids celebrated a whale of a dad by taking me on a New England Aquarium Whale Watch. We were lucky enough to see majestic humpback whales, a mama and a baby, trying to catch a snooze on a clear and calm day. When we returned to Boston, the kids hadn’t reached their fill of nautical adventures, so we took the MBTA Ferry from Long Wharf to the Charlestown Navy Yard. There we saw lots of Big Dogs, steel sculptures by Dale Rogers, and played on the playground.

Related Posts:

Podcasts of the Week Ending May 26


99% Invisible :: Curb Cuts

An important history of the disability rights movement and how curb cuts ended up benefiting society in a broader sense than originally intended.

WGBH News :: On ‘Melnea Cass Day,’ Remembering The Boston Civil Rights Activist And Her Legacy In Roxbury

A day for a great Bostonian.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Don’t Call Me Extinct

The story of rehabilitating the scimitar-horned oryx population.

Upon Further Review :: How Actor Jesse Eisenberg Doomed the Phoenix Suns

A funny story of how a young fan’s guilt over a letter to his favorite basketball player.

Book Review: Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna


Around the World for a Good Book selection for Finland
AuthorArto Paasilinna
TitleYear of the Hare
Narrator: Simon Vance
Translator: Herbert Lomas
Publication Info: Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2010), originally published in 1975, translated to English in 1995
Summary/Review:

This delightful novel tells the story of Kaarlo Vatanen, a journalist from Helsinki traveling in the northern countryside of Finlan, whose car hits and injures a young hare. Vatanen finds the hare, nurses it back to health, and adopts it. This prompts him to leave his job, his wife, and sell his boat to fund his life as he and the hare travel farther north in the Finnish wilderness where they have various madcap adventures.  It’s clear that it’s full of satire of Finnish people and culture albeit I don’t know enough about Finland to get the references.  More broadly it has the very 1970s themes of self-discovery, counterculture vs. the emerging globalization of business, and the absurdities of the Cold War.  There is another story from the 1970s, possibly a British one, that this reminds me of but I can’t recall what it is.

Recommended books:
Rating:

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 2


The Story Collider :: The Bats and the Bees

A reluctant field researcher finds purpose in showing drunk 17-year-olds how to tag bats with microchips, and a bee researcher who is allergic to bees.  Science!

Radiolab :: Stereothreat

Research into the effects of negative stereotypes and the difficulty of replicating that research.

Hit Parade :: The Queen of Disco Edition

Things I learned about Boston’s own Donna Summer: 1. she got her start in the Munich production of Hair where she became fluent in German, 2. she wrote or co-wrote most of her songs, 3. she and her producers basically invented electronic dance music, and 4. she continued to have club hits into the 2010s.

Afropop Worldwide :: A Brief History of Funk

A brief but beautiful story of funk with many funky classics and interviews with Bobby Byrd and George Clinton.

Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate

A new podcast that tells the story of the Watergate scandal with an as-it’s-happening approach focusing on long-forgotten key players in the scandal.

30 for 30 Podcasts :: The Lights of Wrigleyville

The story of the contentious battle between theChicago Cubs and their residential neighbors to install lights in Wrigley Field in the 1980s.

More Perfect :: Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man

The story of a legal case that underlies our current crises in policing in America, and the legal fiction of the “Reasonable Man.”

Photopost: New England Aquarium


My daughter and I took advantage of the chilly holiday Friday to visit the New England Aquarium.  The Giant Ocean Tank is always awe-inspiring and we got to see divers film the animals up close and listen to them answer questions.  We also spent considerable time at the shark & ray touch pool, the tidepool touch tank, and with the penguins.  As a novice photographer, I found that adjusting for white balance and shutter speed in the Aquarium was challenging, so there’s not so many great photographs, but still a record of our fun visit.

Related post: Photopost: Whale Watch

Book Review: The Secret Lives of Bats by Merlin Tuttle


AuthorMerlin Tuttle
TitleThe Secret Lives of Bats 
Publication InfoHoughton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Summary/Review:

I remember one time as a child playing lawn darts at dusk in my neighbors’ yard.  I lost sight of the dart and then noticed that it seemed to be flying up, only to realize that it was actually a bat.  My friend and I ran screaming indoors, not realizing that game we were playing was probably more dangerous than our neighborhood bats.  Over time, I grew to admire bats partly for their contributions to a healthy ecosystem, but mostly for being marvelous creatures.  In this wonderful memoir, Merlin Tuttle, founder of Bat Conservation International, details his lifelong love of the flying mammals and constantly running up against the fear and hatred of bats in his fellow humans.  As a child, Tuttle crawled through local caves to tag migrating bats, his descriptions giving me vicarious claustrophobia.  All through the book Tuttle extols the virtues of bats, from consuming tons of pestilent insects to spreading the seeds of plants, and even affecting the mating rituals of frogs.  In addition to traveling the world to study bats, Tuttle taught himself how to photograph the animals, inventing tricks of the trade to create compelling photographs published in National Geographic, or elsewhere.  If you love bats, you’ll love this book, and if you fear bats, well this book may change your mind.

Rating: ****

Photopost: American Museum of Natural History


Last weekend my son & I made a whirlwind visit to my mother in New York and we stopped by to visit the American Museum of Natural History. Highlights include:

  • the 3-D movie Earthflight where it felt like birds flew threw the theater and included an exciting sequence of gannets, dolphin, and fish all interacting underwater.
  • the mind-blowing comparisons of sizes of cosmic objects in the Rose Center of Earth and Space
  • The Willamette Meteorite (my son still doesn’t believe it’s real)
  • paleontoligical remains of dinosaurs and ancient mammals of unusual size

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Related post: Photopost: American Museum of Natural History (2015)