Friday, March 16, 2007

Darwin and the Three Hundred Spartans

I just got back from seeing "300" which as probably everybody knows is about the Spartan defense of Greece at Thermopylae. I am not sure if many people in the general population were aware of this battle and if they did, I'm not sure if they realized its significance. I was really looking forward to seeing it. It was interesting...more of a surrealist version of the battle than an historical account. For people used to the special effects in the movies today, it might not seem so outlandish. The king of Persia, Xerxes, was really, really something else. I found his seven foot, shaven, bejeweled, pierced, androgynous figure with its enhanced voice, most...well interesting. I also was trying to place the accents on the actors, but never could quiet place them. With all my reservations, I enjoyed it greatly. I guess the thing that I was most disappointed with was that the battle scenes showed less of the coordinated action of the Spartan phalanx and more of individuals fighting separately. The battle scenes themselves, however, were quite awesome, sometimes in slow motion and resembling an intricate dance. I recommend it highly and give it four stars (****).

I just got in the mail two books on Darwin. Actually one book, the first in a two volume biography by Janet Brown, was about Darwin, and the other was by Darwin. Or rather it was a compendium of his books: From so Simple a beginning: Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, with a forward by that eminent biologist Edward O. Wilson. I have read Brown's excellent second volume (got it on sale at Half-Priced Books) and enjoyed it immensely. I look forward to pleasant hours ahead.

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