Monday, April 23, 2012

T: Timeline & Testosterone

Timeline by Michael Crichton
Genre: historical, SF, suspense/thriller




General premise A group of archeology students goes back in time to rescue their professor from 14th century France, and find out that medieval times were even more brutal and ruthless than they’d thought.

It’s a typical Michael Crichton book – brilliant scientists with little common sense, backed by corporations with dollar signs in their eyes, and a bunch of well-meaning, highly-educated people stuck in the middle. Crichton is pretty much the only author I admire who did zero character development. At least, that’s what I remember of his books – thrilling stories, cardboard characters.
Gerard, looking hot
and mysterious.

I saw the movie first. It was terrible. It shouldn’t have been – I still don’t get how they messed this up. BUT. The premise was so intriguing that I thought, “I’ll bet the book is just incredible.” And it was my introduction to Gerard Butler, looking ridiculously hot in 14th century period costume. J

There’s a jousting tournament in the book, so I’ll put in a quick plug here for the History Channel reality TV show Full Metal Jousting. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a bunch of guys competing in a modern-day jousting tournament for $100k. When I first heard of it, I thought, “You can’t be serious!”

And then I immediately set the DVR to record it.

I loved it. The guys came from all sorts of active backgrounds – one firefighter, one polo player, a couple of marines, a couple of rodeo cowboys, and then a handful of horse trainers, show jumpers, and a whole bunch of Medieval Times knights. That last bunch, oddly enough, were apparently at a disadvantage, because even though they were the only ones to have handled a lance before, theatrical jousting is not about eliminating your opponent. It’s about looking great in a saddle and falling dramatically out of it without getting hurt. They had to unlearn how they sat, how they held the lance, what to do when they got hit.

The horses were awesome. So gorgeous. So much personality. They ranged from those that were dependable but kind of staid, to those that took off like bullets, but constantly fought their riders for control.

And I loved the modern take on medieval armor.
 
Speaking of “manly men”…

Testosterone on This American Life
Genre: radio


This American Life is hosted by Ira Glass, one of the best story creators of our time. I don’t know of anyone else doing quite what he does. His radio show puts stories together around a theme for each episode. I’ve heard Ira Glass speak live twice, I’ve listened to This American Life for years, but it wasn’t until I tried to analyze how they put together such enthralling stories around usually-normal situations that I truly began to appreciate his genius, and the subtlety of it.
 
I could spend all day recommending specific TAL episodes, but for “T” I’ll stick with Testosterone. The First Act was an interview with a man whose body stopped producing testosterone for four months before the doctors figured out what was wrong with him. He talks about how lack of testosterone meant lack of desire for anything. And how unexpectedly pleasant it was, because if you don’t want anything, then you don’t psychologically want for anything.

Act Two was about Griffin Hansbury, who started out as a woman, but got testosterone injections and now lives as a man. This one’s particularly interesting, because you can hear the interviewer’s horrified fascination as Hansbury “confirms” pretty much every stereotype you’ve ever heard about men vs women, and, as the interviewer puts it, sets gender relations back about a hundred years. I put “confirms” in quotes because the testosterone injections meant that for a while, Hansbury (who is 5'4" and smallish) was walking around with the testosterone levels of two linebackers, and so I’m assuming the effect was somewhat exaggerated. Hansbury talks about everything from the change in his interest in science to how hard it is to concentrate around women. But he also talks about how he’s gone from being this really cool woman everyone admired to being a nerdy-looking guy who’s now caught up in this very male fight for dominance every time he steps out on the street.

Act Three follows the staff at TAL after they decided to get their own testosterone levels tested for the show. First they ranked each other, guessing who would have the highest levels. Everyone agreed on which woman would have the highest (except that woman), but for the guys it was a toss-up, because they each had traits that tend to go with high testosterone (one of them created the show and was the boss, one of them was muscular and balding, one of them played lots of sports, etc), but none of them considered themselves to be “manly men” (like NFL football players or whatever). And as the day of the results grew closer, more and more of them agreed that this had been a terrible idea and it would forever change the way they related to each other – but they still wanted to know who “won”.

12 comments:

  1. Definitely agree with you on your Timeline book/movie comments! Terrible movie :-(

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    1. It seems to me that Crichton's books would make perfect movies - high action, and almost completely devoid of character development so the screenplay writer (or the actor) can put in whatever serves best. So I was a bit shocked that the movie was so bad. :(

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  2. Strange the way the movie often doesn't fulfil the potential of the book. I think it's because our imagination is better than anything moviemakers can create. Blog on!

    http://francene-wordstitcher.blogspot.com

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    1. I think it's strange, too. But I think it might be because movies try for too wide an audience and end up pleasing no one.

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  3. Crichton is one of my fav authors (I tend not to watch movies based on his books - they always pale in comparison)

    Happy A to Z
    baygirl32.blogspot.com

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    1. I love the depth to which science is involved in his plots. Other than Jurassic Park (& Timeline & Disclosure) I never make it more than ten minutes into the movies, because they're too scary and I'm a wimp. :)

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  4. I get a real kick out of Full Metal Jousting. The NatGeo channel had a jousting show too. I can't remember what it was called now but I really loved it. It wasn't a competition show; just a show about actual men who complete on an actual jousting circuit.

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    1. I'll definitely have to look for that show!

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  5. This American Life is just... so... amazing. I used to listen to it while I was at work, but I had to stop because I kept crying! So many of them are incredibly poignant, and all of them are thought-provoking and well-crafted. You're right, Ira Glass is a fantastic storyteller.

    Whoa. Quite a gush. :) I haven't heard this episode but I'll have to get on it!

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    1. I can't tell you how often my husband comes out and finds me sitting in my car in the garage, because I've pulled in halfway through the show and don't want to miss the few seconds it'll take to go inside and turn on a radio in the house. :)

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  6. Oh wow, Full Metal Jousting sounds hilarious and awesome!

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  7. Yeah, it was pretty great. :) I hope they have another season.

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