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June 2011 (136 posts)
Twenty years ago this month, Thelma & Louise entered the public imagination—two ladies on the run in a beat-up, now-iconic Thunderbird. Looking back, Thelma & Louise, in that it redefined who women were supposed to be. Gee, the film showed us, women can drink and smoke and drive fast and end up in the predicament usually reserved for heroic, handsome cowboys—boxed in a canyon with no way out.
In 1991, there was much debate over whether or not the film was sexist, if the male characters were cookie-cutter, if the film was trying to say that all men messed up all women, all the time. Even then, as a teenager, I thought that seemed a little dopey. Nobody thought that male outlaw movies were anti-police.
Then again, I was growing up with single mother who worked 10 hours a day. We needed Thelma and Louise. We needed to be Thelma and Louisa—peeling out of our driveway in order to make it to school on time (for once), sloshing a mug of Mom's instant coffee all over our legs.
With the advent of DVDs, the director Ridley Scott was able to showcase another ending for the movie. Instead of Thelma and Louise holding hands, soaring gloriously off into the thin, blue air of the unknown, a helicopter descends, and Harvey Keitel rushes to the edge of the canyon to look down at the destroyed car—and women—below. He then picks up a Polaroid that fell out of the Thunderbird, a picture of the two outlaws at the beginning of their trip, made up and dressed up and smiling.
This brings up so many icky questions. For example, how did the photograph happen to flutter back so conveniently? Why are "happier times" in the movies signified by women wearing a fresh, glossy coating of lipstick? More to the point, Dana Steven's insightful essay in Slate concludes that "ending with the horrified Keitel at the cliff's edge would have made Thelma & Louise into a head-shaking reflection on the terrible fate society visits on women." Further she adds, "choosing to end instead with the heroines' shining-eyed farewell, followed by the freeze-frame of that eternally buoyant car, allows Thelma & Louise to dwell forever at that odd moment in movie history when women won the right to be just as crazy as men."
Meandering around on YouTube, I found several alternate alternate endings to Scott's choice that users had created. After the jump, see what one adds onto the newly released Keitel-helicopter finale...
Do deadlines make you feel like you're unwillingly starring in an action movie and you have to choose between the red wire and the green wire while a giant clock menacingly ticks off seconds? Well, what if instead of controlling a bomb, those wires were connected to something that would release colorful balloons and confetti from the ceiling and shower everyone around you with joy just in the nick of time?
That second option is the idea behind the Twitter feed Kickstarter Hero (@ksr_hero), brainchild of Kickstarter developer Tieg Zaharia. Kickstarter is a site where you can back creative projects ranging from the functional (an incredibly simple smartphone stand) to the whimsical (an inter-species dance performance) to the downright inspired (this vertical garden is a recent favorite). Projects only get funded if 100 percent of their request is pledged by backers, so Kickstarter Hero catalogs the ones that need a little extra boost—"anything that may have fallen through the cracks," Zaharia says—and calls attention to them before their fast-approaching deadlines. There's a built-in thrill to helping someone make their creative idea into a reality, but getting to feel like Keanu Reeves in Speed while you do it? Well, we think that's worth at least $5.
For all of the recording innovations jazz and country guitar legend Les Paul introduced in his lifetime, here's one he probably never saw coming. Paul passed away in 2009, but he would've been 96 today. In his honor, some musical wizards at Google have turned their logo into a guitar that you can actually strum with your mouse. Not only that, but you can record your song too. With apologies to Mr. Paul: my rendition of "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
Even those people who are tone deaf and so lacking in rhythm as to be unable to find the beat in a Katy Perry song have taken comfort that in a planet-wide dance-off, they'd outlast most other species on earth.
That admittedly and pitiably small consolation just went "Oh! Oh! Oh!" and shot across the sky-y-y-y. This was made clear in an article on the research of neurobiologists Aniruddh Patel and John Iversen in the Brain special issue of Discover magazine. Patel explains to Discover that our sense of rhythm may have evolved from the brain development that allowed us to learn to speak. Therefore, Patel says, the only other animals that can boogie to a beat would be those that are advanced in "vocal learning," or the ability to mimic the sounds of others: parrots, an Asian elephant and Snowball the sulfur-crested cockatoo, a YouTube phenom whose dance moves and habits were studied by Patel and his team.
In their experiments with Snowball, the bird was videotaped reacting to music that was sped up and slowed down under a variety of circumstances (in isolation, with verbal encouragement, with another person). The videos showed that Snowball can not only synchronize his moves to different tempos, but can do it when no one else is in the room (although he danced the most when he had a human partner). This cockatoo loves mainstream pop like Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga, and he's a huge fan of the Backstreet Boys (wonder if he knows they're on tour this summer? I'd love to see him get pulled up on stage to lead the crowd in a dance to "Everybody").
What about the salsa-dancing retriever, you are undoubtedly wondering? When I shared this video with my husband, an enthusiastic freestyle dancer, he dropped the phone. Patel tells Discover that he suspects booty-shaking pets like this are reacting to cues from their human trainers, instead of innately responding to the beat. So for now, in this species-wide dance-off, the cockatoo is the true champion—at least from a scientific perspective.
But the story isn't over yet! Patel and Discover are looking for other examples of animals that can dance to a beat. If you have a video of an animal grooving in time to music, please send it to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Go to the greenmarket at least once a week for fruit (strawberries now, cherries in July, peaches in August) and vegetables (especially arugula and corn). Though, I refuse to fall for those pricey zucchini flowers...at least not too often.
2. Always have home-brewed iced tea in the fridge.
3. Eat more no-cook dinners, whether it's a chilled soup, cold roasted chicken, a hacked meal or a big salad.
A few years ago, I learned a painful lesson about what not to wear while sightseeing in the summer. As part of my unofficial tour guide uniform for a friend's visit, I slipped into a pair of old Reef flip-flops. I misinterpreted the deep indentations (classic indications of overuse) as signs that they'd been comfortably broken in by a jungle trek in Thailand and a day of beach hopping around Nantucket. I figured they were the best things to wear to walk around town (what are flip-flops but topless sneakers, right?). That night, a throbbing pain in my right ankle kept waking me up. A podiatrist later diagnosed the pain as Achilles tendinitis, and recommended that I wear a soft cast...until Labor Day! My summer was officially a flop.
When walking farther than a quarter of a mile, I now stick to running sneakers. But they feel clunky in warm weather, so I asked Hillary Brenner, DPM, a podiatric surgeon and a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association, to help me find some breezy alternatives. We asked Dr. Brenner to helps us rank ten summer shoe styles in order of how likely they are to knock you off your feet and cause injuries, starting with the most foot-friendly and ending with the Freddy Kruegers of footwear (can you guess what they are?).
More than half (56 percent) of women who use anti-aging facial skincare say they're not sure these products work, but they use them anyhow, reports the marketing research company NPD Group. This is a sad state of affairs, don't you think? Here's one way to be sure to get what you pay for.
Stress is something Joan Borysenko knows something about. She's a Harvard-trained biologist and author of the new book Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive. For 10 nonstop years, she juggled completing her clinical research, running a working farm (yes, that meant feeding chickens), raising two kids, writing a book and running 25 miles a week. In her two free minutes each evening, she secretly smoked cigarettes behind a tree in her front yard. Then came the back pain. After that, a scary feeling that she was sleepwalking through her life, immune even to her kids' excitement about riding their new pony through the woods.
She, the stress expert, was at the point of nonfunction.
Borysenko was a perfect example of how trying to do more than you can do for too long can result in a host of problems: emotional exhaustion (say, feeling numb inside when you know you'd normally feel happy or sad), recurring physical effects (back pain, constant colds, headaches) and a sense of spiritual emptiness that leaves you isolated from others.
This state can look a lot like depression. In fact, it might be easier to think of yourself as depressed; you can seek treatment from a doctor for that. Recent research, however, has found that although both result in a loss of motivation and pleasure, if you're burnt out, you can usually reclaim your everyday happiness—from taking great delight in a piece of crispy morning bacon to enjoying your hours at work or as a parent—once you make some fundamental changes. So the question is, How fried are you and what do you need to do about it? Go answer these questions to find out.