Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My personal all-star cast of Mary McCarthy's "The Group"

I just finished Mary McCarthy's "The Group" - and absolutely loved it! The book is about eight women who graduated from Vassar College in the 1930's and their lives, fates and choices after graduation. Quite wonderful and gripping. A real recommendation for anyone interested in that period and the role of women in that time, possibly a must-read for all "Mad Men"-fans.

I must admit that in the beginning I struggled a bit with the many protagonists of similar age and background. To make them more graspable, I imagined having to cast them for a movie-version of the book. I disregarded how well they would fit age-wise and imagined them all to be in their mid-twenties.

So, here it is, my own all-star cast of "The Group":

Kay Strong (“thin, hard-driving, authorative”) – Keira Knightley
Mary Prothero, “Pokey” (“cheerful society girl, very rich and lazy”) – Heike Makatsch
Dottie Renfrew (religious, quiet, follows the rules of society) – Kate Winslet
Elinor Eastlake, “Lakey” (“intellectual, impecable, disdainful”) – Anna Chancellor
Polly Andrews (“fair-haired, the quiet type who knew everything”) – Carice van Houten
Priss Hartshorn (idealistic, easily influenced) – Rachel McAddams
Helena Davidson (“the droll member of the group”) – Emily Blunt
Libby MacAusland (“tall, pretty blonde,” ambitious) – Kirsten Dunst

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sherlock’s magical microscope OR ‘is this a tricorder which I see before me?’

In BBC’s up-dated version of Sherlock we see him do wondrous things with a simple microscope. The scene that intrigued me most is from the Hound of the Baskervilles where he infers from one look through the microscope that a sugar sampled has not been spiked with a yet unidentified hallucinogenic drug. So, I kept wondering, what has he been looking for through that microscope? Trace-amounts of a white powder among the equally white sugar crystals? Changes in the crystal structure? Chemical composition? And all this with a traditional microscope??

Let’s look at the facts: what we have is a rather simple looking device that allows precise analysis of a wide variety of samples with minimal sample prep. That can be used by anyone moderately schooled in the art. And which provides incredibly precise detail on molecular structure, chemical composition and cellular anatomy. Sounds like science fiction? But also strangely familiar? Exactly. The famed Star Trek tricorder. And, as we know, when all other possibilities have been eliminated, whatever remains…

Well, let’s not nitpick, but rather sit back and enjoy. Science that actually delivers results. Successfully. The first time around. I love fiction.