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Mickey Rourke Wrestles his Way Out of B-List Celebrity Status


The Wrestler

THE WRESTLER

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

“20 Years Later,” indicates the title across the bottom of the screen in the opening shot of “The Wrestler.” Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is sitting in an empty locker room with his head down and his back to the camera. A promoter enters the frame and hands him a few measly bucks. This first scene says it all.

Set in the bowels of New Jersey, the film documents a washed up professional wrestler’s struggle to eke out a living as he continues to compete in the independent circuit. Gone are the glory days of his youth, when he headlined sold out stadium shows. “The Ram” now supports himself by working at the deli of a supermarket. But that’s not the worst of it - his battered body is falling apart after years of wear and tear, and no one besides an aging stripper gives a damn about him (but that’s just because he’s the only customer who still buys lap dances from her). It’s been a tough life and he has the scars to prove it, both physical and emotional.

“The Wrestler” is the devastating portrait of a man resigned to mediocrity after his fame and success eludes him, and there’s no one who fits that description better than Mickey Rourke. He was born for the part and Darren Aronofsky’s decision to cast him was a stroke of genius.

Rourke was one of the most promising young actors of the 1980s, but his career quickly fell from grace when he built a reputation of being difficult to work with and was subsequently exiled from Hollywood. He has since expressed regret about the way he behaved himself and vowed to make a comeback. This is it. And it’s not just the familiar material that accounts for his dazzling performance. Rourke is (and always has been) very talented at expressing heartfelt emotion behind a hardened physique. In this movie, the hurt and humiliation seems etched deep into the lines of his face.

If it sounds like a one-man-show, that’s because it is. The film is fascinating in its depiction of the contradictions and oddities of the bizarre wrestling sub-culture - which appears simultaneously masculine and effeminate, artificial and real - but it’s mostly all about Mickey. The pacing lags whenever it takes its focus even slightly off the titular character to develop the supporting female roles, played by Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. Their petty problems are an annoying distraction from the much more interesting principal subject. It doesn’t help that they aren’t given the pick of the litter in terms of lines. The dialogue in general is often clunky, with lots of unnecessary chatter and unnatural pop culture references. The spotty script pins down “The Wrestler,” which unfortunately settles for being a good film with occasional moments of greatness.

Rating: 60/100

Busan- What is going on.............

Busan, 5/3/09.Wow, a month since I last wrote.......feels like yesterday!What's been going on here? Well similar to my friend Fil, I tend to find that most weeks here consist of the following.......The week is usually devoted towards waiting for the weekend, although Thursday nights are regularly bolted on, which makes Fridays' teaching rather difficult.........Friday is usually a great night with...

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

The Busan Boys...

Busan, 5/3/09.The Busan BoysDuring my time here, I have had the fortune to be part of one of the best drinking crews I've ever had. Why is this? Maybe because unlike college or University, we're all here for similar reasons ( Economic in some cases, cultural in others). Most of all, we're all teachers, which, while not being a failsafe towards sparkling conversation, means we all have a similar ba...

Busan- What is going on..........

Busan, 5/3/09.Wow, a month since I last wrote.......feels like yesterday!What's been going on here? Well similar to my friend Fil, I tend to find that most weeks here consist of the following.......The week is usually devoted towards waiting for the weekend, although Thursday nights are regularly bolted on, which makes Fridays' teaching rather difficult.........Friday is usually a great night with...

The Busan Boys

Busan, 5/3/09.The Busan BoysDuring my time here, I have had the fortune to be part of one of the best drinking crews I've ever had. Why is this? Maybe because unlike college or University, we're all here for similar reasons ( Economic in some cases, cultural in others). Most of all, we're all teachers, which, while not being a failsafe towards sparkling conversation, means we all have a similar ba...

The Busan Boys...

Busan, 5/3/09.The Busan BoysDuring my time here, I have had the fortune to be part of one of the best drinking crews I've ever had. Why is this? Maybe because unlike college or University, we're all here for similar reasons ( Economic in some cases, cultural in others). Most of all, we're all teachers, which, while not being a failsafe towards sparkling conversation, means we all have a similar ba...

Busan- What is going on.............

Busan, 5/3/09.Wow, a month since I last wrote.......feels like yesterday!What's been going on here? Well similar to my friend Fil, I tend to find that most weeks here consist of the following.......The week is usually devoted towards waiting for the weekend, although Thursday nights are regularly bolted on, which makes Fridays' teaching rather difficult.........Friday is usually a great night with...

Watchmen and In Bruges in Theatres Everywhere Thursday


Watchmen

WATCHMEN

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Starring: Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup

Release Date: March 5

Zack Snyder, the fanboy turned auteur, is back with his latest project, the adaptation of the popular graphic novel “Watchmen.” It looks like it’s going to be another commercial success thanks to the army of geeky acne-laden teenage boys who are going to line up to see it. It’s got everything it takes to please this crowd: explosions, costumed vigilantes, and a sexy female lead in spandex. Personally, I thought “300″ was overkill - too much CGI and gratuitous violence. And someone really has to tell Snyder to tone it down on the slow motion. At the very least, I hope his new movie makes good on the promise his last one  failed to deliver - to entertain. I’m really not expecting anything else from it.

In Bruges

IN BRUGES

Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Collin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes

I had the pleasure of seeing “In Bruges,” a dramedy about two hit men hiding out in Bruges (duh!), back in the States when it came out this summer. It’s a little too silly for its own good, but still very entertaining and totally worth checking out for Collin Farrell’s surprisingly impressive range.

Release Date: March 5

REMINDER:

“The Wrestler” (Darren Aronofsky) and “Frost/Nixon” (Ron Howard) also come out Thursday.

An Umbrella in the Laboratory

I've just entered my third month of the Ph.D here and getting into the swing of things. It takes around six months to a year in most labs until you can work completely independently. This is because there's a lot of know-how involved and the fine tuning of your methods really means the difference between an experiment working or failing. Some experiments take a few hours to do, but the more complex ones like a Yeast 2-Hybrid can take a couple of weeks in their entirety.

One feeling that you get used to pretty quickly is the one that comes after realising that you'll have to repeat a week's worth of work because you didn't get the results you were looking for. These troughs of feeling are compensated by the highs that you get when your experiments work nicely. When your experiments work, you feel like an invincible genius.
In the photo above, Chen Jing is cutting out a band of stained DNA with a razor blade. The gel that the DNA is sitting in is fluorescing pink. If you stain DNA with the right stuff, it becomes fluorescent under UV light. That's also why she's wearing the face shield, to protect her from skin damage.

On the left is Se-kyung and on the right is Hoon. Hoon is my senior in the lab and I have to learn a lot of methods from him. However, he is very 'traditional' in a Korean sense, which I would best describe as displaying a rigid adherence to a hierarchical social structure to every last detail. Korea in general does have a more formal system of etiquette and respect based on age, but Hoon is a little more intense than your average Korean. His demeanor as well as his large fingers (which can make the intricacies of scientific work difficult at times) leads me to believe he may have been historically misplaced and actually belongs to the age of gladiators.

We're learning to get along with each other as time goes by.

In the last photo you may have noticed Se-kyung with an umbrella. When I first saw this here I did find it amusing, but since taking this photo I've seen it enough times and also had to use it myself. When you need to take a photo of something scientific, you need to do it carefully. Everything in the frame has to be lined up and zoomed in to the same measurements, on a tripod and with an umbrella to shield against reflections.

Last week I attended a 2 day safety course with a lot of other new students. It was all in Korean, which meant I only understood about 5%, but it was interesting to observe the lecture room behaviour here. Korean students will often put their heads on the table during lectures and fall asleep (they even have a special verb for it: opdeurida). The lecturing professors, who I have to admit do appear boring even by lecturing professor standards, just continue on with the lecture like everyone's listening.

There was a test at the end, which was fairly straightforward. The content was a little silly at times, with such worthy safety advice as "If there is an unlabelled chemical on the bench, do not taste it" and "Don't store your lunch in the hazardous chemicals cabinet."
Safety education is vitally important to lab workers, but perhaps they also need to be testing us for common sense.

We do a fair bit of recycling here, which is good for the finances as well as the environment. I was mildly surprised to learn that they even recycle the toothpicks that we use to spot bacteria onto the petri dishes.
But I recently found out that this isn't done to save money. Do you know the two kinds of toothpicks that there are? The nice ones have pointed ends, while the cheaper ones are roughly cut and have a semi pointed end and a thicker one. The cheaper toothpicks are actually more useful to us, because the thicker end is a perfect size for scooping up a colony of bacteria, but the nice toothpicks are too pointy. In Korea they only sell the nice toothpicks, so the lab ordered some cheap toothpicks from overseas. Because they're not easy to come by here, we recycle them.

If you're thinking of a new business idea, try selling cheap toothpicks to Korean labs.

Earlier I mentioned one of the longer experiments called a Yeast 2-Hybrid. The theory behind it is fascinating and elegant, but getting it to work can be a nightmare. Basically it's a way to test if two different organic molecules interact with each other. Molecular interactions are behind almost every little thing that goes on in nature; from growing hair to producing acid in your stomach. By figuring out which molecules are interacting with each other, we can draw up a diagram and get an idea of what's happening in the bigger picture.
What a Yeast 2-Hybrid does is manipulate yeast cells so that they will live or die, depending on which molecules are interacting inside them. A good example of this is 'poison resistance', which is when the yeast can only survive poison if they have the correct interaction going on. In the photo above you can see that most of the yeast spots are nice and white, meaning that they survived. But there are two spots that are opaque, which means that they were unable to survive the poison. This tells us something about what is going on with the molecules that we are studying.

And in science, one experiment is never enough proof. What you need to do is repeat the experiment until you can convince your professor and the community that your results are meaningful. A good way to do this is to have experiments with different methods. If your experiments have different methods and use different stuff, but the results indicate the same conclusions, then you have a stronger basis for making a claim. This is why real scientists know that things like global warming and evolution are beyond reasonable doubt. These two 'theories' are supported through an immense range of scientific disciplines, from molecular mechanics to ecology and atmospherics. When such broad, independent and scientifically reliable sources all conclude the same thing, you can be confident that it's more trustworthy than someone who wrote a book saying it's all a big conspiracy.
Anyway, in the photo above is the same experiment but done with different chemicals. In the dish is essentially the same colonies of yeast, but they've been given chemicals that will turn blue if the result is positive. We can see that the same pattern emerges as in the previous photo, which gives us a more trustworthy result. Isn't life grand?

It was Se-kyung's birthday this week, so we celebrated with a cake and some Chinese food. Se-kyung is finishing up her master's degree this year. It's going to be Heather's birthday next week, so I'm probably heading back to Busan for the weekend.

Here's a fried fish cutlet lunch that I had a while ago. The serving sizes are actually quite good and just enough to fill you up without going overboard. If you want more though, you can go back to the counter and get refills for free. The price of this meal was only W2,500 (about $2.50 Australian!).

It was also graduation day recently. A whole lot of vendors came to the campus selling flowers, food and photography services. I look forward to the day when I graduate, but I guess I have a lot to learn before I can consider myself proficient in the field.

The professor took us out for a nice dinner last week too. We went to a traditional Korean barbecue place to welcome our newest lab member, Keonwoo. One day I'll hopefully get a photo of the professor to post here. He's one of the smartest people I've ever met and quite friendly, but I still haven't struck up the courage to snap a photo of him. Maybe one day when he's not looking, you'll get to see a photo of the back of his head.

I'm still on the waiting list for the dormitories and my old place expired. So Hong-sup organised some new accommodation for me at the New Zen koshiwon. These types of places are popular with students because they're cheap and usually conveniently located. Mine is 30 seconds away from the shuttle bus stop.

Koshiwons have shared facilities like kitchens and washing machines which give them a more communal atmosphere than regular lodgings, known as officetels.

And here's the reason why they're so cheap. My room has enough standing space for one, but not enough floor space to do push-ups on. But it helps to keep the place tidy at least. I have free internet and a little TV too. Some people live permanently in these sorts of places, and I'm sure I could live here for a year or so. It's not so good for having friends over though.

My room is one of the 'deluxe' rooms, which means I don't have to share my bathroom. The showerhead actually sprays over the whole bathroom area, including the toilet paper (which was an interesting discovery).

I packed all of my stuff from my previous place and carried it over. Instant noodles are the quintessential student food of our generation.

The view out the window isn't particularly spectacular, but sometimes I can see kids playing in the alley below. I stopped watching them after they discovered me leering down at them one day. I guess I'm not really a creepy old man, but there's no point in practising.

Maybe I should buy a periscope.

And one of the more comical things I found was this glow-in-the-dark exit sign above my door. Even in pure blindness, it would be difficult to not find your way out of the room.

The area I'm in, which is named after the university's subway stop, has a more suburban feel to it. Conveniences are everywhere and I don't have to walk far to find what I'm looking for.

On the weekend I found a Vietnamese beef noodle shop. These are popular in Korea, and the taste is fairly good. But in Australia, there's a large Vietnamese community, so the beef noodles back home are excellent.

Back to the lab again. These days I'm pulling 8:40am until midnight as hours on occasion, but there are others here that do it more regularly. I always was a workaholic, so it doesn't bother me much. I enjoy the freedom that I have in organising my own timetable.
The machine in the photo above is called an autoclave. Because we need most of our equipment sterile before we use it, most things are autoclaved regularly. This machine applies high pressure, steam and heat to whatever is put inside. The result is that no bacteria can survive, and even viruses are broken down. Many people don't know, but bacteria and viruses are about as different as fish and rocks. Well, maybe not fish and rocks. More like fish and water.
You can see that the lid of the machine kind of looks like a submarine hatch. That's because this kind of seal is the best design for high pressure environments.

And if you autoclave things the wrong way, this is what happens. In this photo, the plastic lids of the test tubes melted and fused onto the tubes themselves, as well as the rack. We had to throw these away.

In the last blog post, I told you how we can get foreign DNA into bacteria by simply giving them a heat shock. Another way to do it is with this machine in the photo. It's called an electroporator and what it does is apply a short zap of electricity to your bacteria. What you do is plop the bacteria into a special tube with metal sides and mix them with the DNA you're interested in. The electrical charge pierces the cells and carries the DNA in with it, because DNA is negatively charged. But it all happens so quickly that the holes in the bacteria seal up fast enough that some of them can survive.

Here's our newest Ph.D student, Keonwoo, helping me to prepare the electrocompetent cells. Keonwoo is a funny guy and we get along well. He smokes a lot of cigarettes and his voice sounds a little like Smegol, but he's very chilled. His English name is Keanu, due to the similar spelling, but I pointed out that this was because the spelling was wrong. According to the revised romanisation of Korean, his name should be spelled Geonwoo. So I sometimes call him Geanu Reeves.

The weather has been warming up nicely, but the other day we had precipitation that was a mix between snow and rain. I'm sure there's a proper name for it, but I called it Snain. When spring fully arrives, I hope to start jogging again.

That's all from me! See you next time.

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