Month: December 2013

“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”

marie antoinette

On Christmas day my daughter and I went to a 4:30 movie at the Bethesda Row Cinema in Maryland and thought we’d be two of a handful of non-Christians left to wander a near-empty theater in search of the very best seats. In fact, the place was as crowded as a cattle pen, with people everywhere clamoring for wine and artisan coffee in the newly renovated movie house. Having thought at the last minute to buy our tickets online, we were able to find seats easily enough, though we didn’t have to look very hard. It turns out they had been assigned to us—as they would have been had we gone out for a night at the opera.

Bethesda is ranked as one of the wealthiest and most highly educated communities in the nation. Located just outside Washington, DC, it is also 83 percent white, and the theater audience was a reflection of that statistic—with only one person of color standing out as I scanned the crammed rows of Caucasians.

I’m not sure if assigned seating at tony movie theaters is a new trend, but it worries me. Bethesda Row has long been one of the few places in the DC Metro Area to show independent and foreign films. Now, the theater will be even less accessible and welcoming to a more general and diverse audience than it was before, since people who don’t know to buy their tickets online (or who don’t have access to computers so they can do so) will most likely find that many movies will have been sold out by the time they get to the box office. If we can’t have easy access to thoughtful, well-written, well-acted movies, how else can we prevent ourselves from becoming the zombies and vampires that currently grace the commercial silver screen?

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Also I am a strong believer in igneous rocks.

quantum theory

I’m just about all Zoosk-ed out, having averted a fair number of mini-dramas in the few months I’ve been on the trendy dating site and having had my fill of deceivers, flatterers, and Republicans. This morning, though, I couldn’t help but be delighted by the profile of a 5’9″ Caucasian Sagittarian who enjoys “videos like the secret” and who “also [is] a strong believer in quantum physics.” Granted, it’s pretty heady, mysterious stuff, that quantum physics. But, what’s not to believe about a branch of science that deals with discrete, indivisible units of energy called quanta and that explains nuclear fusion?

Equation

On the ethics of vaccine challenge studies

malaria vaccine

The National Institutes of Health ran an ad in today’s express calling for volunteers to participate in a malaria research study that could run for as long as a year:

This study tests if an experimental vaccine is safe and can prevent infection following exposure to the malaria parasite. If the vaccine does not prevent infection and volunteers develop malaria symptoms, they will receive immediate treatment which is curative.

Having witnessed the brutal effects of the disease in my father, who, after serving in New Guinea during World War II, returned to the States infected and without benefit of a “curative,” I am of two minds about a study like this. Certainly I would have wanted him to be spared the suffering he endured with each redoubled bout, and certainly I would want us to find a vaccine for a disease that currently has in its grip an estimated 219 million people worldwide.

Yet, I cannot help but question the ethics of conducting a research study in which healthy people are infected with a deadly disease in order to test the efficacy of a new vaccine designed to prevent the sickness (though, yes, thanks to volunteers in such studies, I have not contracted smallpox or other dreaded illnesses). Honestly, I can’t even get past an image of myself waiting in a steely room for an Anopheles mosquito to come whining around me in search of a blood meal.

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