Mouseunculus

brain

Mouseunculus: How The Brain Draws A Little You

Carl Zimmer in his excellent blog, The Loom:

Inside each of us is a miniature version of ourselves. The Canadian neurologist Wilder Penfield discovered this little person in the 1930s, when he opened up the skulls of his patients to perform brain surgery. He would sometimes apply a little electric jolt to different spots on the surface of the brain and ask his patients–still conscious–to tell him if they felt anything. Sometimes their tongues tingled. Other times their hand twitched. Penfield drew a map of these responses. He ended up with a surreal portrait of the human body stretched out across the surface of the brain. In a 1950 book, he offered a map of this so-called homunculus.

For brain surgeons, Penfield’s map was a practical boon, helping them plan out their surgeries. But for scientists interested in more basic questions about the brain, it was downright fascinating. It revealed that the brain organized the sensory information coming from the skin into a body-like form.

There were differences between the homunculus and the human body, of course. It was as if the face had been removed from the head and moved just out of reach. The area that each body part took up in the brain wasn’t proportional to its actual size. The lips and index finger were gigantic, for instance, while the forearm barely took up less space than the tongue.

That difference in our brains is reflected in our nerve endings. Our fingertips are far more sensitive than our backs. We simply don’t need to make fine discriminations with our backs. But we use our hands for all sorts of things–like picking up objects or using tools–that demand that sort of sensory power.

The shape of our sensory map reflects our evolution, as bipedal tool-users. When scientists have turned to other species, they’ve found homunculi of different shapes, the results of their different evolutionary paths.

Byzantium

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You can see what attracted a filmmaker like Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, The Butcher Boy) to a genre like vampires, which, thanks to the success of films like the Twilight franchise, is enjoying plenty of reimagining these days. Jordan’s moody, ponderous, and sometimes plodding Byzantium uses the framework of the undying breed of blood sucking undead humans to probe Proustian notions of time and selfhood, meditating on a familial miasma mired in an uneasy sexuality that plays out over generations.

Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and Clara (Gemma Arterton) are two vampires who are wandering around contemporary Ireland. Eleanor is forever 16, and Clara, her caretaker, is forever in a rapacious sexual prime. A murder sends the two fleeing Dublin and heading for a coastal town where they hang out and wander about, taking up refuge in an old empty hotel owned by the lumpy louse Robert Fowlds (Barry Cassin). Clara promptly turns the hotel into a brothel; she’s been running whorehouses for hundreds of years. The story follows Eleanor more closely, as she wanders through the town, her mind meandering through the present and the past. A chance encounter with a boy and an assignment for a writing class she literally wanders into prompts a more thorough going-over of her history as Clara ties to breach her loneliness and isolation by sharing her unbelievable story.

There’s much to admire about Byzantium, first and foremost its ambition, which tries to find something less sensational or melodramatic than the vampire story usual affords. Jordan sends us back into the tale of Eleanor’s mother, who was forced into prostitution, and for whom the prospect of vampirism – endless life at the cost of a soul – feels like both hope and retribution for a life stolen by the cruel forces of the world. There’s also a richness to the film’s visual tone, grey, cold, and damp. Blood is never bright red, just thick and molasses-like. Unfortunately, however, Byzantium never quite lives up to its ambition. There’s a jolty, unevenness in its story; the characters are thinner than they seem; and the meandering plot is often muddled with a plodding, heavy-handed exposition. Byzantium offers a lively concept, but with little blood flowing in its veins.

Examiner Interview With Ben Barnes…Exploring Decadence

This is the life of Ben Barnes: One day he’s in Brisbane, Australia, filming the family movie “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” in which he plays King Caspian. The next day, he’s on a very long flight (about 24 hours) to Toronto to promote the gothic thriller “Dorian Gray” (in which he plays the decadent title character) at the movie’s world premiere at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Weathering a marathon trip halfway across the world, jetting in for a gala movie premiere and after-party, and doing a round of interviews the next day on very little sleep would leave most people looking like they were run over by the plane by which they arrived. But somehow Barnes manages all of this whirlwind, exhausting activity with his wit and charm intact, and looking ready to step into a photo shoot (which he did right after this interview happened). How very Dorian Gray. Cue the eerie, organ-playing music. (That’s where the similarity ends though. Whereas Dorian could be described as vain and humorless, Barnes is quite the opposite.)

“Dorian Gray” (based on Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”) tells the story of the handsome young heir who arrives in Victorian-era, high-society London and is led into a hedonistic lifestyle by family friend Lord Henry Wotton (played by Colin Firth), who encourages Dorian to pursue pleasure at any cost. After seeing a painted portrait of himself and being blinded by narcissism, Dorian makes a devilish wish to forever look the same has he does in the picture. That wish comes true, but at a price: Even though Dorian does not age, becomes a celebrity, and is immune to physical deterioration over the years, his portrait (which Dorian eventually hides in his attic) starts to reflect the corruption and ugliness of his soul as Dorian becomes more depraved.

To our dear readers who haven’t yet seen “Dorian Gray” and are curious to know what kind of decadent behavior is in the movie, it’s my duty to report that there are scenes with drug taking, bisexuality, nudity (nothing full frontal, but shots from the waist up and side) and sadomasochistic orgies. “Dorian Gray” has a 15 certificate/rating in the United Kingdom, which means that children under the age of 15 are not allowed to see the movie in theaters or buy/rent it on home video — in other words, the most risqué scenes leave just enough to the imagination that the movie won’t be labeled as “for adults only.” Having seen “Dorian Gray,” I can say that fans of the “True Blood” TV series should really like the sexual taboo/beautiful vampire/lusty immortality undertones in “Dorian Gray,” since some of the graphic scenes involve eroticizing blood — whether it’s Dorian sensuously holding the blood-soaked scarf of someone he’s just murdered or Dorian having sex with a woman while someone else cuts bloody wounds on her back. If you can handle seeing Barnes swinging a bloody weapon and stabbing someone to death instead of swinging a heroic sword and saving Narnia’s Pevensie kids, then “Dorian Gray” is your kind of movie.

As the Dorian Gray character, Barnes achieves the right balance of portraying a tragic thrill seeker whose physical appearance and celebrity status look perfect on the outside, but who’s really masking the torture of slowly losing his soul on the inside. It’s a wonderfully complex yet subtle performance in a gorgeously shot movie that makes some creative departures from the original novel and previous film adaptations. The day after the “Dorian Gray” premiere, I sat down with Barnes and “Dorian Gray” director Oliver Parker in Toronto. Barnes had to fly back to Australia soon after his “Dorian Gray” media duties at TIFF were over, but not even his jet-lagged state of mind could stifle his sense of humor. And filmmaker Parker was the perfect complement for it, as they told jokes and shared behind-the-scenes stories. Let’s hope these two work together again, because their teamwork is fantastic, on screen and off.


Ben Barnes and Oliver Parker in the Tastemakers Lounge inside the Intercontinental Hotel at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival


So how jet-lagged do you feel right now?

Parker: You’re not going to go to sleep, are you?

Barnes: I haven’t slept in about four days. He [Oliver Parker] is much more eloquent and interesting than I am anyway.

Parker: [He says jokingly] My theory is that he [Ben Barnes, in reference to Dorian Gray’s portrait] has a passport photograph which is disintegrating. There’s something very strange going on.

What do you think about the parallels between Dorian Gray and Michael Jackson? You know, a celebrity who doesn’t want to grow old, he goes to extreme measures to prevent aging, and his real face ends up looking like grotesque mask.

Parker: I know. I agree.

Barnes: I’ve read some articles about that: “M.J. is Dorian Gray.”

Parker: And also if you think of Never Never Land … It’s incredibly tragic and asks all those questions: How did it happen? And how much blame do we take? It’s tragic in real life.


Ben Barnes in “Dorian Gray”


Olly, “Dorian Gray” is your third film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s work, after 1999’s “An Ideal Husband” and 2002’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” What kind of fascination do you have with Oscar Wilde?

Parker: It’s kind of an obsession, really. I think there was a slightly different motive on this occasion [of making "Dorian Gray"]. I tried to resist this one for quite some time. I’d done the first two, which were very much in the movement from theater to film. When I first started making films, the first one was “Othello.” It came from a desire — naïve, perhaps, but heartfelt — to try to bring these stories to a wider audience and make them accessible, particularly, to a younger audience.

I’d been playing Iago on stage and was kind of frustrated at how kids would come in with their textbooks and be beating it along. I thought that people aren’t really listening to or hearing what a magnificent, sexy thriller that is. So that’s what started for me.

The same thing with Wilde. I played in [a] Wilde [production] before. I actually got rather frustrated in these productions. People would sit there and you’d start to do a line talk very slowly and the [vocal pitch] would get higher at the end of the line and everybody would laugh and go, “Ha ha!” And you’re like, “What the hell are they laughing at?”

And also what was kind of ironic about it, it felt like there’s Wilde, who’s the epitome of radicalism and subversion in his way, becoming the crown of convention. So part of the desire was to blow that up. This one ["Dorian Gray"] was different. I said no to directing this [at first], because I didn’t want to paint myself into a corner and I wanted to try to do other things. Fortunately, it takes a long time to get ready, and in the meantime, I made a couple of films, and by the time Toby Finlay, our ["Dorian Gray"] screenwriter came in, he really brought in a new energy, and he was really terrific to work with. And suddenly, it became irresistible.


Ben Barnes and Rebecca Hall in “Dorian Gray”


What do you have to say about the changes in the movie that weren’t in the original “Dorian Gray” book?

Parker: In a way, it was about having a healthy enough disrespect to be able to take it far enough away to make it cinematic. Having done a few adaptations myself, it’s always a battle with the purists, but I feel you have to be bold enough to move a certain distance away from the original in order to capture its essence. You have to have a perspective on it. It wasn’t written that way; it wasn’t written as a film …

What I find, in filmmaking, is you have to identify the thing, that essence that you really want to bring to the audience. And whatever it takes to get there, that means sacrificing some of the elements to the book that you might love in order to tell that story. In this particular [movie, "Dorian Gray"], it was more liberating because it was not [adapted from] a play, so the dialogue was … just one layer in the many potential visual layers. So that liberated us a lot, but it also made us tackle the story in a way to make it satisfy the narrative of the film.

When he [Oscar Wilde] wrote it, it came out of the tradition of that Victorian gothic horror, where there’s an inevitability about the hero’s descent into doom. The air is kind of leaden — it has to be — and gloomy. And I suppose the direction we were after was to exchange that dread and suspense and turn it into a gothic thriller instead of an old-fashioned gothic horror movie.

Barnes: It ["The Picture of Dorian Gray" novel] wasn’t old-fashioned at the time. It was kind of shocking. It’s so difficult, I think, to shock on film nowadays — particularly if you want to appeal to that age group in which people are usually introduced to Wilde: 14, 15, 16 [years old]. If you want to appeal to that demographic and you think they deserve to see a film adaptation, you can’t be too explicit.


Ben Barnes in “Dorian Gray”


Ben, what was your family’s reaction to the more explicit scenes you had to do in “Dorian Gray”?

Barnes: Interestingly, my mum’s criticism, which a couple of people have had, is that you didn’t quite see enough sex and violence, and how far [Dorian] would go to push himself — the intensity of that. But, of course, we did shoot that [more explicit] film …

But the movie would’ve gotten another rating.

Barnes: Yeah, that would’ve pushed it into another rating, which is unfeasible.

Parker: The purists bounce over how much you show and how much you don’t.


Ben Barnes and Oliver Parker on the set of “Dorian Gray”


Ben, what was it about Olly’s directing style that brought out the best in you for “Dorian Gray”?

Barnes: I think it’s because he knows Wilde so well. Both myself and Colin [Firth], with the Wilde-ian dialogue, it was very interesting watching him negotiate that in the scenes, and I think Olly was very helpful to both of us in not making these epigrams and sounding as if they were written. It sounded like they were coming out of our mouths — not necessarily for the first time — because Wotton repeats himself again and again, and I [as Dorian Gray] repeat what he says.

That was the first thing. And the second thing was because Olly has been an actor himself. So he would come and talk to me, but then as he wandered away, I’d see him mumbling the lines to himself and you could watch those thought processes. And, of course, he knows how I felt, how I felt that pressure, feeling sick …

Parker: [He says jokingly] So you just copied my performance!

Barnes: Secretly!


Rachel Hurd-Wood and Ben Barnes in “Dorian Gray”


Dorian Gray was celebrated for his handsomeness. Ben, as an actor, a lot of what your fans and the media say about you has to do with how you look. Can you talk about the inevitable Dorian Gray comparisons you’re getting now that you’ve played this character in a movie?

Barnes: Certainly, there are comparisons to be made. We live in a youth-obsessed, aesthetically obsessed culture. That is no more evident than in the film industry. This ["Dorian Gray" story] is over a hundred years old. We haven’t really learned anything.

Do you think people get away with vanity more often now? Can “Dorian Gray” still be considered a cautionary tale for our time?

Barnes: We do, but it seems to be a more of a morality tale than it actually is. It’s seemingly about a man who exchanges his youth and looks for his soul, and ultimately that causes his downfall, when actually, Wilde himself placed great value on the aesthetic and looks. So I think that’s why the book largely goes on, because it raises these questions and debates and then it just leaves them out in the ether for us to discuss.


Ben Barnes in “Dorian Gray”


And it’s interesting that you had to tone down the movie, because Wilde also had to tone down his original version of “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Parker: Yes. He diluted the book, because when he was charged with indecency … they analyzed all his work, looking for clues that he was a poof. There was incredible intensity. You see the lines that he changed. They’re not particularly incriminating, but the whole book is incriminating. You couldn’t escape it. The whole thing is a testament to his desires and the notion of being … “abnormal.”

Ben, can you talk about how you went about playing someone whose soul is supposed to be rotting on the inside but on the outside he’s supposed to look perfect and be living the high life?

Barnes: We talked about that a lot. That was the part I was the most skeptical about. I was anxious about playing that kind of cynical, bored [person] that he becomes at the end, and bringing reality to that. But actually, when we came to shoot it, I found that thing came to me the most easily. And having seen it for the first time, I was convincing to myself.

I watched some other films of people. I remember watching “The Station Agent,” with Peter Dinklage, a dwarf actor. And a child had asked him, “What grade are you in?” And he says [in a world-weary voice], “I’m done with school.” And it’s so easy and natural for him, because he’s been asked these questions a million times. Nothing surprises him. And that’s how I wanted to approach the latter part of the ["Dorian Gray"] story.

We’re assuming in that montage, in the letters that Dorian has written back to Henry, that [Dorian] has seen and heard everything that is possible for him to see and hear, and has had every experience that it’s possible to have. So that nothing would surprise him, shock him, even make him react.


Ben Barnes in “Dorian Gray”


Parker: I think you put your finger on the real challenge to the part, which I think people, on the whole, don’t grasp. The slight gauge from the book to the film is that in the book, [Dorian] is a blank canvas. He’s the object and we’re all watching him. We don’t know what he thinks or what he feels, really. That’s why we took the “Picture” out of the title. It’s just “Dorian Gray.” We’re more interested in the character and making him the subject rather than the object — and him being the fellow that takes us on the roller-coaster ride.

And the fascinating constriction in that roller-coaster ride, you can’t show too much. We discussed if there was anything we could do with prosthetics and makeup. Is there something that changes? And in the end, it was all about the aging soul and the idea of what is it that makes us different.

And we talked about that notion of [Dorian] being like a Stradivarius, in the way he responds to every trill of the bow. He’s so alive to every experience and sensation — and by the end, he couldn’t hear a single note. The whole thing was dead. And I think Ben does that superbly. Some people might find it’s too controlled or too overdone. But I think it’s a really well-judged performance of keeping it absolutely internal.

It’s one of those things that’s so exciting about film acting. It’s like that pithy line, “Don’t just do something; stand there!” It’s really hard to do very, very little.

Remember those scenes in the library? ["Dorian Gray" cinematographer] Roger Pratt lit it so beautifully — using the light and dark and shadows to make an almost psychotic image of [Dorian]. And the stillness — you not even reacting when the door opens. You [as Dorian Gray] are beyond that sensation.

Barnes: You’re right. We did discuss changing the hair or some part of the [Dorian Gray] look, but I think the scariest moment of the film, for me, is when [Dorian] comes back through the door — having been away for 25 years — and Fiona Shaw [who plays Agatha in the movie] does this wonderfully naturalistic terror. Of course, if you hadn’t seen someone in 25 years and they looked exactly the same, your first reaction probably wouldn’t be awe and wonder. You’d be terrified! You’d think, “This is not possible.”


Ben Barnes in “Dorian Gray”


Ben, how did making the “Dorian Gray” movie affect how you want to be perceived as an actor and where you want your career to go?

Barnes: It made me realize how quickly I’m getting older. I’ve been playing 21, and I’ve just turned 28 [this year].

Work it, baby!

[Barnes and Parker laugh.]

Parker: Yeah!

Barnes: There’s a line in the movie, “Some things are more precious because they don’t last.” I think I’m trying to take advantage now.

Parker: You’ve got to go for it. As a director, you end up slightly playing the role of Henry Wotton. You’re kind of encouraging having that youthful appearance.


Ben Barnes at the “Dorian Gray” premiere at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival


What about the scripts you’re getting? You don’t want to be typecast as a “pretty boy.” What kinds of roles do you want to tackle that have more depth than just playing someone nice to look at?

Barnes: Almost every script that I’ve gotten has been for sort of the generic Hollywood type. I haven’t chosen them. All the ones I have chosen are because I’ve been fascinated with the source material or because of the script. And the variety is interesting.

I just shot a film ["Valediction"] in Boston, where I play a father who had kids too young, and then he has a car crash, and his kid is left in a coma and he’s trying to scrap some pieces of his life back together. That was modern-day and totally different.

I’m going to do a comedy in Ireland after I do the “Dawn Treader” film. It’s a variety. It’s escaping into the different psyches and the different genres that’s really exciting for me.

And actually, some of the most heart-breaking parts I’ve lost out on have been because they say, “Well, we want an ‘every man’ character. We don’t see you as that.” That’s difficult. That’s like reverse discrimination.


Ben Barnes


What can you say about the comedy you’re going to do in Ireland?

Barnes: I don’t know the name of it yet. That’s all I can say.

Let’s talk about the “Dawn Treader” movie. I know you can’t reveal any spoilers, but what’s in the movie that’s different from the book?

Barnes: They’ve stolen a couple of ideas from some of the later ["Chronicles of Narnia"] books. [It’s] a very difficult book to adapt, because it’s very episodic. It’s chapter by chapter. They go on the voyage, they go to one island, a bit more voyage, another island, a bit more voyage, another island. It’s very satisfying to read; every chapter by chapter, it’s very exciting. But it has no real through line. And so they have to kind of steal other elements to sew it all together. I think they’ve done it in a really clever, unobtrusive way.


Ben Barnes in “Dorian Gray”


Let’s hear the story about the portrait (painted by artist Paul Benney) that was used in the “Dorian Gray” movie.

Barnes: I wasn’t allowed to keep it. We had a couple [of portraits] done, but they didn’t seem to be special enough. So [Oliver Parker] employed this well-known portrait artist that I went and sat for, but I actually had to stand up the whole time … He was doing it very carefully. It was very helpful when I was doing the scenes where I was standing and being watched … It was interesting [doing the portrait], but it was kind of just dull, really, just standing there. It was incredible and beautiful to look at, particularly up close.

What I noticed was that far away from it, it kind of looked angelic, and as you moved closer, it kind of got more and more demonic when you looked in the eyes. I’m sure I’m not that interesting. I’m sure that was something [the artist Paul Benney] did in the way he created it. And I was so excited when [Oliver Parker] came in to see it for the first time. I said, “Look! If you stand here, it looks like this, and if you go close, it looks really scary!”

Parker: I don’t know if it was just the picture.

Barnes: Oh, I’m scary up close?

Parker: Yeah.

[Laughter]

Barnes: I think [Paul Benney] charges something like 10 grand a portrait.


Ben Barnes in “Dorian Gray”


Where do you think the portrait is going to end up?

Barnes: Yeah, where is it?

Parker: Well, at the moment, it’s in ["Dorian Gray" producer] Barnaby [Thompson’s] office.

[Barnes laughs.]

Parker: And actually, we had to do a Q&A at the National Portrait Gallery in London [on September 10, 2009], and we took Toby [Finlay] and Paul [Benney] along. It was really fascinating. They’re thinking of maybe putting it [the portrait] up in the foyer there.

Barnes: So they loved it.

Parker: All the real aficionados loved it.

In the 1945 movie “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” the altered portrait wasn’t revealed until the end. But in your “Dorian Gray” movie, we see the portrait as it morphs into a monstrous thing. Can you talk about why you decided to do that?

Parker: It was quite tricky when you talk about designing that. First, you have to decide if it should be more stylized, almost hyper-real. When you do something on film, should it perhaps be something that should be more three-dimensional and less painted? We tried that, and actually it looked flat.

The more [we] worked with some of the ideas of the paint strokes and the maggots and infestations … somehow there was more depth and texture. In the end, it was valuable to have a real painting. And I think that given the whole thing is based on this extraordinary device in the story, I just wanted to inspire the credibility of it.


Ben Barnes and Rebecca Hall in “Dorian Gray”


When you decided to make “Dorian Gray” less of a gothic horror film and more of a gothic thriller film, did you worry about having any melodrama seep into the movie?

Parker: Some of that I embraced. Some of it I thought that there are times when it was kind of fun. It’s inherent in [the story]. There was a moment early on when I thought, “Is this a period drama with one weird bit of supernatural?” If you extracted that [idea of the portrait mirroring Dorian Gray’s soul], is there anything strange in the story? …

So much of it is about if you are the subject or the object: if you’re being looked at or are you looking … I came to think “What is the antagonist in the story?” If you’re going to make a thrilling story, you need to know who the bad guy is. The beauty becomes the beast, which is the fascinating paradox in this story.

I wanted the feeling that Dorian is inculcated by Henry with this philosophy that Dorian is a superman and is impervious to emotions, and he starts to believe he s a god. And then what happens, Dorian starts to crumble, he starts to crack, he starts to feel remorse. And his whole world view is shattered. And instead of being the person who is looked upon by these subjects and they will fall at his feet, suddenly you don’t know where to look because someone is going to get you. And suddenly, we don’t know who to trust.

Those gods, if you like, that have been blessing Dorian, those supernatural agents turn against him. The supernatural is threatening and becomes the power that animates the picture.

Barnes: Colin and I would argue over who was playing the villain. He would say, “Every choice you made was manipulated by me. So I’m the über-villain.” And I said, “Well, how many people did you kill in the film? None. I win!”


Colin Firth and Ben Barnes in “Dorian Gray”


So much of “Dorian Gray” is about pushing and crossing the boundaries of integrity. In terms of your own integrity, is there anything that you won’t do as an actor or filmmaker?

Parker: Professionally? [He says jokingly] I won’t ever do another Oscar Wilde film. I have to do three or none at all. I’m forfeiting a pledge. [He says seriously] No, I don’t know. I love trying different things and I hate to say no. I say no a lot of times to scripts and things, but I can’t predict what they are. I love the idea of doing a period film. I love really silly comedies. I’ve been doing the “St. Trinian’s” films with Rupert Everett in a dress.

Barnes: That is scary! [Laughter] I’ve always said for a long time that the only genre I wouldn’t really touch would be horror, because I don’t really like horror films. And yet this ["Dorian Gray" movie] almost turned out to be one. But I never really saw it as one until we kind of got going with it. I don’t think it really fits into one particular genre. It has to be a period film, but in order for it to be subversive like the book was, you have to subvert the genre a bit. It has to be a bit thriller, it has to be a bit horror. [He says jokingly] You can see it in “Dorian Gray 2,” when I wake up again.


Ben Barnes in “Dorian Gray”


Ben, “Dorian Gray” was the first time in a movie that you had to do things like get naked, kiss a man, and do orgy scenes. What was that whole experience like for you?

Barnes: Oliver Parker made it as difficult as possible. My very first day [of filming on the "Dorian Gray" set], I went into my trailer and I immediately came out of my trailer and said, “Oh, my costume’s not in my trailer.” And they just said, “Well …” It was in the morning. So my very first shot was nude — which was very unkind, I thought.

How naughty of you, Mr. Parker!

[Parker smiles mischiveously.]

Parker: I know. [Laughter]

Barnes: But every experience is invaluable.

Parker: You just had to go for it.

Barnes: Ben Chaplin [who plays Basil Hallward, who paints Dorian’s portrait and kisses him in the movie] would tease me mercilessly. We’re two straight guys, and he’s done kissing [scenes] with men before on stage and on screen. And he was teasing me mercilessly that day. He said, “Don’t worry! I won’t use tongue!”

Well, you know, kissing a man for an acting scene seems to be a rite of passage for British male actors, just like doing a Shakespeare production.

Barnes: Right! It’s just one of those things. You’ve just got to take the bull by the horns with all those experiences, because that was a way into that character.

[Says jokingly] And how do you really feel about orgies?

Barnes: [Says jokingly] Now I want to do them in every film. I love them. Lock the door!

The Art of Branka Jukic

Branka Jukic was born in Croatia and educated in Germany and England, where she trained and worked as a Photographer. Her work is unique and  intriguing due in part to it’s ghostley feel. For her commercial work, she has won numerous awards, the prestigious D&AD Award being one of them. She has exhibited in Great Britain, Croatia and the Netherlands.

 To see the enlarged images  click on Branka  Jukic @ http://www.outsiderart.co.uk/modernbrit.htm

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AWARDS, EXHIBITIONS and PUBLICATIONS

 

1987 Hamilton’s Gallery (with Andrew MacPherson and Paul Kasmin)

1989 Inclusion in AoP Awards Book and Exhibition

1990 Inclusion in AoP Awards Book and Exhibition

1990 Inclusion in Special Photographers Company Exhibition “100 best photographs”

1991 D&AD Silver Award “for the most outstanding photography”

1991 AoP Gold, Silver and Merit Awards

1992 Judge for the AoP Awards London

1993 Judge for the Dutch Panl Awards, Amsterdam

1999 Inclusion in AoP Awards Book and Exhibition

2001 Inclusion in AoP Awards Book and Exhibition

2003 Exhibition at the Burnett Gallery, Richmond Surrey

2003 Exhibition at the Galeria Racic”, Zagreb, Croatia

2004 Exhibition at theGaleria Viseslav, Nin, Croatia

2008 Exhibition at the Sand Gallery, Groening, Holland

2009 Exhibition at the Sand Gallery, Groening, Holland

2009 MA Show, London Metropolitan University, London

Walking Dead 400

Back in 2012, Telltale Games took the world by storm when they adapted Robert Kirkman’s critically acclaimed Walking Dead comic book series into an emotionally driven 5-part episodic point and click adventure. The Walking Dead was not only a true embodiment of Kirkman’s vision, but it had also succeeded in pushing the boundaries of sophisticated storytelling and impactful decision-making in video games. After going on to win numerous Game of the Year awards at the tail end of 2012, the talented team over at Telltale decided to give the fans more Walking Dead content before the eventual release of season two. The Walking Dead: 400 days is the end result of this venture and by all accounts this DLC episode delivers a satisfying, yet brief glimpse into what’s ahead. Here are a few more reasons why this package is worth your time and your money.

400 Days is one single episode comprised of an anthology of stories taken from the lives of five separate characters throughout different time periods within the first 400 days of the zombie apocalypse. The centerpiece of each person’s connection lies within a billboard filled with photos, names, and notes located at a nearby Georgia pit stop. The five characters include Vince, Bonnie, Russell, Shel, and Wyatt. Right off the bat, the player has the ability to experience each individual’s unique story in any order that he or she desires. Each short story takes approximately 15 minutes to complete, with the finale sequence rounding out the episode at about 90 full minutes of content.

400 Days proves yet again that the writers over at Telltale are masters at creating compelling characters under deeply intense circumstances. Given the short nature of each individual narrative, characters are forced to make tough decisions quickly and in all instances the consequences are felt immediately afterward. Although Lee Everett and Clementine aren’t a part of this episode, several other characters from season one are mentioned including a rather uncomfortable reunion with one in particular.

Interesting enough, the central theme of each story falls back on the desperation of humanity and just how far one would go to survive in any and every situation. The final element that brings this altogether lies in just how fully developed each character and the supporting cast members already are from the very beginning. Bringing all these dynamics full circle are what made season one special and this serves as the perfect prologue to season two.

In terms of gameplay dynamics, 400 Days doesn’t particularly do anything new and quite honestly that’s not a bad thing. Whether it’s a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors or hiding to avoid an adversary, Telltale seems to have all bases covered on giving the player a handful of challenges to encounter. Of course, some of the same technical hiccups that plagued the earlier episodes are here as well but never do they distract from the core gameplay experience. Also worth noting, both the graphics and sound remain consistent with the previous entries in the series.

The one negative gripe that I do have against The Walking Dead: 400 Days lies in the simple fact that the conclusion is a bit anti-climactic and leaves you wanting more. By the time you have completed the game, you’ll have several questions pertaining towards how this group of five ultimately came together. There is also a mention of several supporting cast members who were killed off during the time lapse and this is never fully explained in detail. Could it be that season two will offer flashbacks to explain various plot holes, or will it instead push the story forward? Luckily we won’t have to wait too long to find out.

The Walking Dead: 400 Days is a superb anthology of stories about survival within a zombie-infested world. While the ending may provide more questions than answers, there is no doubt that Telltale has crafted another powerful episode full of intense drama and characters that you can’t help but care about. If you’re an owner of season one, then do yourself a favor and download this episode ASAP.

This review was based on a digital review copy of The Walking Dead: 400 Days for the Xbox 360 provided by Telltale Games

The Case For Lilith

   
 The Case for Lilith

(An overview from the book by Mark Wayne Biggs)

Of all the ancient Jewish myths, the story of Lilith is undoubtedly the most fascinating.  According to her legend Lilith was
the first wife of Adam.  But she was a failed mate who rebelled against her husband and fled from the garden to become
the mother of demons.  Her legend has influenced more modern monster mythologies than any other Jewish myth.  Her
tale was not only the original source material for medieval beliefs in succubae and night-hags, but as the mother of
estries she also lies at the root of modern vampire lore.  Her creation story also fueled ancient Jewish notions about
Golems, and has thus helped inspired the modern version of this myth, Frankenstein.  Although Lilith is not widely known
amongst those normally considered well versed in scripture, given the validity of her legend, her prominence in the
Bible more than matches her prominence in modern monster mythologies..  As we shall see, Lilith is the first Sotah, the
archetype of the adulterous wife who turned aside from her husband and who was subjected to the supernatural bitter
water trial.  She is the Serpent who caused Adam and Eve to fall.  She and her seed are the chess pieces of Lucifer’s
struggle against God and man.  Her firstborn, Azazel, is the infamous seed of the Serpent.  He is locked in epic battle with
the promised seed of Eve.  Due to his exalted position Azazel plays a prominent role in Israel’s Yom Kippur ceremony.
He is the recipient of the sacrificial scapegoat, or literally, the goat “to Azazel”.  There are intriguing evidences that in
her quest to conceive Azazel Lilith was responsible for bringing upon the earth the race of Nephilim, the giant offspring
of angels and women, and as such she was the ultimate cause for Noah’s flood.
According to commonly known versions of her legend, Lilith was created by God from the soil of the earth at the same
time as Adam.  She was intended as Adam’s mate, but Lilith was rebellious against her husband.  She quarreled
continuously with Adam and refused to sexually submit to him from an inferior position below.  At her rebellion’s
culmination she unleashed her long hair and shouted the ineffable name of God.  She thereby supernaturally sprouted
wings and took flight from the garden.  After her departure Adam became lonely and sought to recover his errant wife.  At
his behest Jehovah sent three angels to return her.  They found Lilith in the midst of the Red Sea.  But she refused to
return with them.  She chose instead to become the mother of demons.  She did this not only by mating with demons, but
by also stealing semen from men at night while they slept.  Because of Lilith’s refusal, the angels cursed her that every
day 100 of her demon seed would die, and for Adam God created Eve as a replacement for his rebellious mate.  In
revenge Lilith resolved that she would visit Eve’s children in childbirth and kill those whom she found were not
protected by the names of the three angels.

As we shall see, there are deeper mysteries to Lilith’s legend that may be derived from a careful study of the Biblical
text.  These details confirm tenets held by the Zohar of Kabalah concerning Lilith.  The Zohar is perhaps the most
important book on Lilith outside of the Bible.  The Zohar explains Lilith’s rebellious nature.  It states that after God had
formed Adam’s and Lilith’s bodies from the earth, Lilith became animated by the defective light of Lucifer, whereas Adam
became animated by the holy spark of God’s perfect light.  From Genesis it is apparent that Lucifer’s defective light
entered Lilith through a defiling mist which erupted from the ground and watered her body.  This preempted God’s spirit
in animating her.  Therefore Lilith is said to be created from filth and sediment, whereas Adam is said to be created from
dry dust, as he was untouched by the defiling mist.  He was animated by God’s perfect light that entered him with the
breath of God’s holy spirit filled his nostrils.

According to the Zohar and numerous Biblical evidences, Lilith later returned to the garden under the title of the
Serpent.  Genesis reveals that the Serpent Lilith deceived Eve into eating of the forbidden tree and thereby caused her
and Adam to fall.  Because of this God cursed the Serpent Lilith and her seed.  He declared that a doomed rivalry would
exist between Lilith and Eve and between their seed.  Lilith would bruise the heal of Eve’s seed, but Eve’s seed would
crush the head of Lilith.  Lilith being identified as the Serpent also links her to Leviathan, which Job 26 and Isa 27
describe as a winged serpent fleeing before God.  Leviathan is commonly held to refer to the Serpent of Eden, and thus
Lilith.  From a study of Leviathan we learn again that Lucifer is intimately fused with Lilith, and that Lilith was created in
the same fashion as Adam.  She was a golem fashioned from the dust of the earth and animated by Lucifer’s defective
light.

Lilith’s legend is ancient and preceeds Judaism.  Her first mention is found in a Sumerian king list which dates from
about 2400 BCE.   That list states that the father of the great hero Gilgamesh was a Lillu demon.  The first substantial
written record of Lilith comes in the epic Gilgamesh and the Huluppu Tree (circa 2000 BCE).  In that epic the demoness
Lilith and a snake haunt a great tree situated in a holy garden of the gods.  As we shall see later, this tale has strong
parallels with Genesis’ story of the garden of Eden and tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Lilith appears by name only once in the Bible.  This comes in Isaiah 34, which describes her as a bird like demon who
dwells in an utterly desolate land once at the ocean’s floor.  She is intimately fused with a snake, and she is a killer of
younglings.  There is also a reference to Lilith in Proverbs 30 under the title of Alukah.  Proverbs’ heavily mystic
passages speak of two types of barren women given over to the power of Alukah .  Alukah serves as a source of cursing
and death to one barren woman and the catalyst in granting a promised seed to the other.  As we shall see, Alukah has
strong parallels to the cursing agent in the bitter water trial of the Sotah.  According to the Zohar this agent is the spirit
of Lilith.  In the Middle Ages legends became prevalent that Alukah was the mother of estries – female bird-like winged
monsters whom were said to devour children and drink their blood.  Esteries are the earliest known incarnations of the
modern vampire legend, and their similarity to Lilith are obvious.

Lilith makes a handful of appearances in the Talmud (circa 400 CE).  Her mentions are painfully brief, as the writers
assume she is known entity to the reader.  One Talmudic writer warns that she comes in secret at night to men in their
sleep, much like a succubus or night hag, to steal semen from them.  Another writer holds that she stole semen from
Adam in such a manner, and with this she inseminated her first seed.

Lilith’s legend struck a cord in medieval Christian circles.  Michelangelo depicted Lilith as the Serpent in his famous
paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and she is likewise depicted as the tempting Serpent in a carving on the
Notre Dame cathedral in France.  Lilith appears in many other artworks of the era as the Serpent.

                                  
Checkout:
Lilith
The Screenplay
A drama covering the legendary events of
Lilith in the Garden of Eden
 

Six terrifying ways crows are smarter than you think…

 

Mankind has a long and checkered past with crows and ravens:

They have been feared as symbols of death, because they’re all black and scary,

revered as creators of the world because, well, it was either them or the seagulls,

and worshiped as trickster gods, because of their baffling intelligence.

Intelligent enough, in fact, for us to start worrying … 

#6.They Can Remember Your Face

Next time you see a group of crows, look closely. Try to remember which one is which, and see if you can tell the difference between them the next time you pass. Odds are good that you can’t; they’re crows, which makes them all big black birds. On the other hand, every last one of them very likely remembers you as the weird human who kept staring at them. We know this, because researchers in Seattle performed an experiment with some crows around their college campus. They captured seven of the birds, tagged them, then let them go. And they did it all while wearing creepy skin masks, because it was funny: OK, so the scientists weren’t just playing out horror movie fantasies — they were testing whether the crows could recognize human faces or not. It turns out they can. To a frightening degree: Whenever the scientists walked around campus with the masks on, the crows would “scold” and dive-bomb them… because along with the ability to recognize us as individuals, the researchers also learned that crows can hold a grudge. And pretty soon, it wasn’t just the first seven crows reacting. Other birds, ones that hadn’t even been captured in the first place, started dive-bombing the scientists as well. In case you think they were just telling each other “get the guy with the mask,” they weren’t: The test was repeated with multiple people wearing multiple masks, and without fail, the crows left the masked men who hadn’t messed with them alone, but went murder-crazy on the mask that had been worn while messing with them.

Quick, in Point Break, which Presidential mask did Swayze wear? No idea? Don’t worry, we’re pretty sure Johnny Utah didn’t know half the time, either. But the crows would have. “Wow. It’s an honor to meet you Mr. President.” Pretty soon, every single crow on the campus knew which masks meant trouble, and wanted the guys wearing them dead. When they didn’t wear the masks, however, the crows left them alone, because even they can’t see through disguises … yet. Oh, and also none of the scientists were ever seen again. Researchers believe that the ability to recognize humans is an extension of the crows’s ability to recognize each other, which helps them to warn one other about potential predators. This also means that if — oh, let’s stop kidding ourselves here — when they rise up against us, the crows will remember who threw out those tasty bread crumbs and who thought it was funny to spray them with the hose (in all fairness, it was pretty funny, just maybe not “worth having my eyes pecked out” funny).

#5.They Conspire With One Another

So, how did those crows above — the ones that were never even captured in the first place — know to harass the masked scientists? The answer is simple: They were told. All that cawing isn’t just noise; they’re talking to one another, and doing so in a very advanced fashion. Scientists debate whether or not crows actually have what we call a language. But why it’s a debate at all is somewhat baffling: Those same scientists also readily acknowledge that crows have regional dialects, a difficult thing to have without a language. I say, is that a west London accent I detect in that screaming gibberish? And it’s not just that they’re capable of identifying threats within their visual range and relaying that information to one another: Some of the crows never actually saw the person in the mask, but they knew about him all the same. Even subsequent generations of crow, whose only experience with the “masked scientists” was from stories told ’round the crow campfires at midnight, displayed the exact same antagonistic behavior when encountering the masks. So, not only do they recognize us as individuals, but they have the means to describe us in detail to one another, even across generations. You know what that means: If you’ve ever fucked with a crow, even if it was just the one time, decades ago, his children might be out there right now, plotting bloody revenge against you.

#4.Memory

In Chatham, Ontario, crows began using the town as a sort of rest stop along their migration route. The end result was hundreds of thousands of birds taking refuge in the city, and because Chatham is a farming community, and crows tend to ruin crops, you can imagine that there were problems. It got so bad that the mayor declared war on them, hopefully by screaming those exact words into the air before hefting an axe and charging at their nests. The townspeople set out, hoping to bag at least 300,000 of the 600k birds currently ruining their livelihood. Unfortunately for Chatham, word spreads fast in crow communities. The first day after the announcement was made, hunters went out and shot a crow. One. And it may not have even been a real crow… The rest flew off and, presumably in a dark room lit by a single ceiling lamp, began to spread word about the incident. After that, the Chatham crows always made sure to fly high enough above settled areas to avoid getting hit with bird shot. No more were killed that year. At all. One crow dead out of more than half a million. They’ll be back any minute now That’s the end result of an entire human city setting out in an organized fashion to exterminate some crows. We don’t have the statistics on this, but just playing the odds, we’re pretty sure more humans than that died in the hunt, or else just choking on a taco after being startled by a crow. This behavior is not isolated to Chatham, either: Crows have been known to change their entire migration pattern to avoid farms where even a single crow has been killed in the past. Generations upon generations later, they still remember specific houses where one measly bird has died. Sure, they’re only avoiding those houses for now — those houses that they remember, those houses that they know have taken one of their own — but there’s just something deeply unsettling about the possibility that there are millions of crows out there right now that know your address…

Read more: 6 Terrifying Ways Crows Are Way Smarter Than You Think | Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/article_19042_6-terrifying-ways-crows-are-way-smarter-than-you-think.html#ixzz1npxP3UDB