Survey for Divergent fans

Louise Freeman is conducting another survey on empathy, this time for fans of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series.  Please help out by going to this link and answering 15-20 minutes worth of questions.  Anyone 13 years old or older and a native speaker of English is eligible!  Many thanks!

“Heavensbee? Heavensbee?” On the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman

Sad news this morning that Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Hunger Games‘ movie franchise’s Plutarch Heavensbee was found dead this morning at the age of 46,  of an apparent drug overdose. Our heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones.

Mr. Hoffman had received many accolades for his film roles and his portrayal of the Gamesmaker-turned-revolutionary was one of the many welcome additions to Catching Fire. He had been set to reprise the role in Mockingjay.

I don’t know how far along the filming for the first Mockingjay was, but it will be interesting to see how the filmmakers cope with the loss.  Recast the role?  Kill off the character, perhaps introducing his assistant Fulvia Cardew to take his place as Propos-maker in District 13?  Even more interesting would be to take one of their other popular Capitol figures, like Claudius Templesmith or Caesar Flickerman and have them turn traitor and join the revolution as part of the rebel’s PR team.

Can anyone think of any other creative solutions?  This is certainly a bigger challenge than the loss of “Crabbe” for Deathly Hallows, Part II.

Update: Lionsgate has released a statement that Hoffman’s work on the Mockingjay films was nearly complete. So, perhaps the filmmakers will be able to piece it together, a la Brandon Lee in The Crow.

Top 10 Reasons You Will like the Catching Fire Movie better than the Original.

I think we’ve hit that ever-so-rare Wrath of Khan phenomenon, where the sequel to a movie far surpasses the original. And, though I know our Headmaster had his issues with it, the Hunger Games franchise certainly did not start from as low a point as Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

I hit the 8:30 showing with my seventeen-year-old daughter and two of her friends last night, breaking my usual rule of no post 10-PM activities on a school night.  And, I am glad I did because I think this will go down as a memory my daughter and I will treasure. There was a unanimous consensus that this movie was a better and more faithful adaptation of the book.  Personally, I have always thought Catching Fire, though quite good, was the weakest of the trilogy.  It would not surprise me if the movie turns out to be the strongest.

So, without further ado, and appropriate spoiler warnings, here are the top  10 reasons you will like this movie better.

[Read more…]

Did Roth miss the Epigenetic Boat?

This post is a follow-up to Chana McCarthy’s keen insights in her guest post.  Allegiant was not the book I expected; and I must admit it is not love at first sight. But, having read the bombshell ending yesterday, and with a little recovery time I am liking it more and more. I am eager to go back for a re-read, so I can’t hate it too much.  I’ll come back with a post about what I did like later.

Right.

But, like Chana, I was most disappointed in the science of it, particularly when the psychology and neuroscience were so well handled in Divergent and Insurgent. The “genetic engineering study gone bad” is simply not believable on any level, even from the basic test they do in the lab. Helllooooo? If you need to do a genetic test on someone, it is far easier to take a cotton swab and scrape out some cheek cells than it is to inject your subject with some sort of micro-computer-packed serum.

Wrong.

I’m quite sure that the technology of basic cheek cell harvesting, of the type practiced in 9th grade biology classes all over, is not going to be lost over the next 300 years, no matter how many Purity Wars we have. The compound scientists may be reasonably well off financially, but there is no need for them to waste resources on a complicated serum when a Q-tip will do.

Second, if you have the technology to go in and “knock out” certain genes (for cowardice, low intelligence or whatever) it stands to reason that you would have the technology to reinsert the original sequences. It’s done with mice all the time. A basic understanding of DNA replication should make it clear that there is no reasonable mechanism for “healing” genes over time… the only way to “heal” a mutation is to rewrite the DNA sequence to get the original gene back: not something to be done one step at a time, over generations.  In fact, assuming the “experiments” started out with a population of diverse broken genes (some intelligence, some courage, etc) the last thing you want to do is isolate them and let them interbreed with each other for generations.  You are just as likely to wind up with people carrying multiple mutations that they inherited from different parents as you are to see people “healed.”  There is only one good reason for isolating genetic undesirables together: to make it easier to exterminate them all.

Interestingly, there is one hot new area of science that could have been used to make a bit more sense out of this storyline: epigenetics. Which is, in a nutshell, modifying not the DNA itself, but how it is packaged, to make certain genes more or less expressed or silenced entirely. [Read more…]

Help one of your Hogpro Faculty on a research project.

Hunger Games readers and movie fans are needed for a study being conducted at Mary Baldwin College on empathy for fictional characters. If you are age 13 or older and a native speaker of English, you are eligible to participate. It will involve taking an anonymous online survey (Click here for the link) and should require no more than 30 minutes to complete. This study is approved by the Mary Baldwin College Institutional Review Board.

PS.  If you run into any problems with the survey, please alert me at lfreeman@mbc.edu  Thank you, friends!