Awash in dark, blue-grey lighting and set in a classically romantic international city, “From Paris With Love” doesn’t exactly scream action-packed CIA film. However, in spite of itself, director Pierre Morel manages to give the flick a bit of original edge before it collapses into a routine partners-in-crime fighting flick we all know and tolerate.
James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a fresh-faced, newly engaged assistant to a U.S. ambassador in France who is about to be assigned his first mission as a big-time CIA agent. Partnered with break-the-rules badass Charlie Wax (John Travolta), the two embark on what appears to be a run-of the-mill drug bust. The job quickly transforms into a mad dash to prevent a terrorist attack, with little explanation as to how the former mutated into the latter.
Shaved bald enough to make Mr. Clean jealous, Wax struts around shooting just about anything with a pulse. Tired of the rest of the world talking shit about the US? Wax busts hordes of Chinese, Middle Eastern, and even French drug dealers while peppering the action with one-liner gems like “Wax on, Wax off!” Meanwhile, Reece lumbers along the sidelines, occasionally grumbling about having to drag around a vase full of coke like a pack mule, gun sitting forgotten in his holster.
The film doesn’t task itself with explanations, but rather entangles itself in its own plot complications, tripping itself every time it changes from one Paris locale to another. Somehow the story falls back down the rabbit hole, reaching a semi-lucid climax with the discovery of Reece’s fiance’s (Kasia Smutniak) intentions to bomb the U.S. ambassador’s meeting.
Of course, Reece gives that manipulative French temptress what she deserves: one gunshot to the face, loaded with bittersweet irony.
Dashed with ill-placed, slow-mo action sequences and less than impressive combat, “Love” certainly won’t have “Watchmen” shaking in its heavily inked boots. Even so, the thriller’s haphazardly timed deaths add a much-needed shock factor, poking fun at Wax’s Terminator-like efficiency, as Reece dodges a rain of bloody, mangled corpses issuing from the top of a stairwell. The chuckles keep coming, thanks to a well-played performance by Travolta as woman-rider Wax and the shenanigans of desk-jockey Reece.
“Love’s” excess of blood, explosions and hookers throughout hint that writer Luc Besson has spent far too much time playing Grand Theft Auto, resulting in a film sans creative dialogue, heaped with flashy explosions and plenty of gun smoke. Ultimately, it’s the actors and cinematography that pick up the slack.
But never mind that; this is about violence, sex and kick-ass American good guys in Paris’ grimy streets. Even plot holes go down easier with a fistful of coke and a quart — or in this case, a liter of blood.
After a long seven months under construction, the Student Center’s best-loved saloon is dusting the dirt off its swankier, second skin.
One week from this Thursday on Jan. 14, Porters’s Pub will be hosting a grand-opening bash to debut their recently renovated kitchen and bar. In dutiful compliance with its lease agreement, the pub has revamped its historic digs with shiny new sports-bar semblances.
Since indoor facilities went under the knife last May, the pub has kept up appearances on its open-air patio, with a fully functional bar opposite the stage and servers to keep business running smoothly during development. Now that renovations are finally complete, owner Stephen Lawler and his team are expecting to attract a lager amount of students looking to grab a bite to eat or kick back after classes.
The latest construction is the first major renovation to the space since February 2008, when Lawler and Moses Muñoz took over management of the pub from its original owner and namesake, UCSD alumnus Rob Porter. Their original lease agreement with the university stipulated they must renovate indoor amenities on their own dime while the university would refurbish the roof and add new paneling.
As a student at UCSD in the early ’90s, Porter decided he wanted to re-open the Triton Pub — as it was known during the ’70s and ’80s — after a four-year hiatus.
When university officials began construction of the Price Center in the late ’80s, they decided to close the Triton Pub so they could advertise the space currently occupied by Round Table Pizza as the only on-campus location with an alcohol license.
Consequently, the owners of the Triton Pub decided they didn’t want to participate in the bidding war for the new space, and called it quits.
In 1992, officials rethought the closure, opting to re-establish the lease for a pub on the funkier side of campus. Porter, who had been interested in creating a student business and was eager to create a space for students to hang out, made an offer.
In June 1992, shortly after graduating, Porter received a call from the university informing him that his proposal had been selected.
“Going to school, I always wanted a cool, little bit more of a hangout kind of a place,” Porter said.
In Porter’s day, the pub was one full, contiguous space — without the dividing walls that now define the stage room, kitchen and bathroom areas.
The university finished making renovations to the space in 1993, when Porter officially began managing the pub. At that time, the pub only consisted of the bar and bathroom areas — 1,300 sq. ft. at the front of the building.
In 1995 however, the university agreed to expand the lease, handing off the additional stage and patio areas to Porter’s community vision.
After over a decade at the Pub’s helm, Porter decided to move on. In 2008, Lawler and Muñoz officially took the wheel.
The new management team has hired fewer students than Porter, opting for a full-time staff behind the scenes in the kitchen and up front at the bar.
“The pub used to exclusively employee their students, or as in my case, UCSD alumni,” said Steve York, a former Porter’s Pub employee.
According to York, the decision to hire less students changed the pub’s atmosphere.
David McClearly, who recently graduated last year and still stops by twice a day, also worked at the pub from April 2008 to April 2009. According to McClearly, the pub’s menu expansion in early 2008 helped bring in a lot of customers despite the price increase on beers. He said he expects the recent renovations will do much of the same.
After the most recent renovations were officially finished by the end of Fall Quarter, many of the bar’s interior amenities have been upgraded. In the kitchen, a newly equipped char broil grill has expanded food options in order to accommodate more students while the new cooling unit (which keeps beers and other stored beverages cold) will allow the pub to offer a wider selection of beers. By Jan. 14, the team will be coming out with a new menu.
“Last week, I had my first carne asada burrito at Porter’s Pub — it’s been a long time coming,” said Porter. “We were making meals without a full kitchen, so we were naturally limited in our menu offerings.”
Though the pub’s foundational architecture remains much the same, most doorways have been expanded to accommodate patrons with disabilities. In the main dining area, a spotless gray wall divides the kitchen from patrons, studded with a pick-up window for food orders.
According to bartender Luis Saenz — a nonstudent employee who has worked for the Pub for about a year — a roomier kitchen structure and wider walkways between the kitchen, bar and seating area have made things easier on the staff. Not only that, but the new appliances have also made recipes more manageable for the pub’s cooks.
“Before, the cooks were making half that stuff up in their head,” Saenz joked.
The pub has also adopted a swankier, clean-cut aesthetic. Thanks to its mandatory upgrade, shoddy carpets were replaced with shiny new spill-proof flooring, the walls were painted a dark beige and Lawler threw up three new flat-screen televisions.
According to Lawler, he also hopes to install an additional wine rack for faculty, students and alumni who aren’t beer lovers.
Lawler said he hopes the renovations will provide UCSD students — 21 or not — with more reasons to stop by the pub. The venue will be opening earlier and staying open later, with breakfast available all day. In addition, Lawler said he’s looking to serve entrees inspired by traditional cuisine from the Mediterranean, the American South and other regions.
“We wanted to change things up so we could offer more to the student community,” said Lawler.
Now that the roar of construction has faded, Lawler and his team have a new concert series in the works, in addition to a winter beer garden (building off the momentum of this summer’s Reggae in the Garden).
“It’s going to be good,” Saenz said. “I can’t wait to get things rollin’ and get more people in here.”
Readers can contact Edwin Gonzalez at [email protected]
The fifth annual Chancellor's Challenge 5k run will commence this Friday at 12:15 p.m. Over 1,000 participants are expected.
In the past, the Challenge has been run exclusively on the cross country course, but this year things are going to change.
The new route begins by RIMAC and takes runners down through Marshall college, along Library Walk, then back up to the start/finish line with only part of the race going through the eucalyptus grove, the traditional cross country haunt.
The Chancellor's Challenge is much more than just a 5k run however, and last year it raised over $158,000.
""Right now, it looks like we are definitely going to beat last year's total of $158,000 and much of that is due to Charlie Robbins,"" said Brian Daly, who is in charge of donations and scholarships for this year's race.
Robbins, a former UCSD trustee, will match up to $15,000 in donations and has done the leg work behind many of the corporate sponsorships at this year's Challenge, including sponsorships such as a $15,000 donation from Fisher Scientific and $10,000 apiece from Audrey Geisel and the Doctor Seuss Foundation, and John Moores and the San Diego Padres.
""Charlie has just been terrific and we really owe him a big thank you,"" Daly said.
All the money that Robbins and others have raised goes to two scholarships.
The first is a research scholarship and the second is a community service scholarship.
The research scholarship is for students who mentor with a teacher and is competitive, meaning it is applied for individually.
The community service scholarship is for incoming freshmen. The freshmen are nominated by their high schools for what the schools perceive to be outstanding service to the community. The winners are then picked by UCSD.
Dynes is providing another $40,000 dollars in matching funds, which comes from unrestricted funds that, as chancellor, Dynes has control over and can spend toward the university as he sees fit.
This makes a total of $55,000 in matching funds to be provided by Dynes and Robbins, and assures that this year's Challenge will bring in at least $110,000 in added need.
Beyond matching up to $40,000 dollars, Dynes will provide $25 out of his own pocket for every person that beats him. However, this is not as easy as it may sound, for the Chancellor is one tough competitor
Last year the Chancellor finished 170th with a time of 23:42, a donation of $4,250, but that still leaves over 800 people who did not have enough in them to beat him.
Ken Grosse, assistant athletic director at UCSD, and coordinator of the athletic side of the race, says even some of the athletes who are competing in the event should be worried about Dynes beating them.
""Chancellor Dynes is out there every day running the course and getting ready for the event,"" Grosse said. ""He is serious about this. I know that the coaches and athletes that are competing are always saying, 'we've got to beat the chancellor,' but they need to be careful.""
Dynes also has a standing bet running with the A.S. president such that if the chancellor beats him, Doc Khaleghi must wash Dynes' car.
On the other hand, if Khaleghi happens to pull out the victory over Dynes, the chancellor has to donate funds for an A.S. barbecue.
In addition to the Chancellor's Challenge of $25 for every person that beats him, professor Frances Dynes Hellman is donating $25 for every woman who beats her, and Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences Ed Holmes will pay $25 to every person from Health Sciences who beats him in the race.
For those who want to participate in the race, there are many ways to apply. The application is available with Adobe Acrobat Reader directly off the Chancellor's Challenge Web site, http://www.ucsd.edu/5k, and there are application forms handy at RIMAC, Geisel, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Faculty Club.
All mailed applications are due by Oct. 25 and walk-in applications are being accepted at RIMAC on the 26 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
""This is really a great deal for students,"" Grosse said. ""You get a free t-shirt and food, plus you get to be a part of something that has really turned into a campus signature event.""
Registration is $5 for students and $10 for anyone else. ""Day-of"" registration is available and will be $10 for students and $15 for others.
""Every year the event gets bigger and better, and this year is going to be no exception,"" Daly said.
For more information about the Chancellor's Challenge or to sign up and see how you rate aginst the chancellorand others, go to the Web site or contact Brian Daly at (858) 822-8236 or Kyra Randle, who is charge of entrants and volunteers, at (858) 822-1537.
Program Vies to Bring Women to Engineering
UCSD engineering professors, in partnership with the San Diego Supercomputer Center, have launched a new educational project to encourage 12- to 15-year-old girls to develop interest in a future career in scientific fields.
The program, called the 'IT-E3 Tools' project, will allow San Diego County middle school students to monitor environmental factors near their schools and analyze the data they collect. The students will then be able to apply the concepts they will have learned to an online, multi-player science challenge overseen by the program's creators.
'Despite the fact that information technology touches every aspect of our lives, women remain a minority in engineering enrollment at U.S. universities and in technology careers,' UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering Associate Dean Jeanne Ferrante stated in a press release.
According to Ferrante, the idea was developed after Jacobs' 'Teams in Engineering Service' program, which has proven successful at attracting female participants.
The program will be funded by a National Science Foundation grant, which will award $1.2 million over the next three years. Students at Gompers Charter Middle School and UCSD's Preuss School are among those chosen to participate in the project.
The Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center has announced that its education program will operate out of the Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD. Scott Ashford, an assistant professor of geotechnical engineering, has been named as the director of P.E.E.R.'s education program.
P.E.E.R is a partnership between nine West Coast universities that primarily researches the engineering methods used to protect structures and land from earthquake damage. Since establishing its education committee in 1998, P.E.E.R. has offered research opportunities to undergraduate students from the participating universities.
The National Science Foundation annually grants $300,000 to P.E.E.R.'s education committee, which in turn has set up internships for qualified students. Another P.E.E.R. program is the ""Earthquake Engineering Scholars Course,"" where 30 students from affiliated universities visit different campuses over four weekends for a crash course in earthquake engineering. The education committee also discloses new developments in earthquake engineering to middle-school science teachers so they can use such information in their curricula.
UCSD to hold conference on Africa's changing politics
A conference assessing the transitions of democracy, state formation and identity in modern Africa will be held March 8. The event is scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Santa Cruz-San Francisco room of the Price Center.
The conference will examine the political control and the post-colonial building of African states that have led to political and economic crisis. Speakers from UCSD and several other universities will be on- hand to discuss the shift from authoritarian to democratic political systems over the last decade, emphasizing how violence, communications, human rights and globalization efforts have changed during this period.
In particular, the nations of Botswana, Congo, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa will be considered as case studies.
UCSD's African and African-American Studies Research Project and the newly established Institute for International, Comparative and Area Studies sponsor the conference. Admission to the event is free and open to the public.
Study claims problems with sweaty palms are genetic
UCLA scientists have presented strong evidence that hyperhidrosis, the condition commonly known as ""sweaty palms"" syndrome, is a genetic disorder that has gone largely unreported in the medical world.
According to Samuel S. Ahn, the principal researcher and a professor of vascular surgery at UCLA, a dominant gene may cause the condition. Ahn said, the medical community generally believed the syndrome to be stress-related.
The study suggests that as much as 5 percent of the population may suffer from excessive sweating from the hands and feet -- more than the 1 percent proposed by some older studies.
The UCLA report also recognizes that sweaty palms play a significant role in daily life and careers. Examples stated that exceptionally sweaty hands could impair a banker from handling money or a police officer from handling a gun correctly. The study also suggests that the rates for genetic inheritance of the syndrome from a hyperhidrosis sufferer to its offspring are high -- between 28 and 50 percent depending on the situation.
Funding for the research came from the California Vascular Research Foundation. The full text of the study can be found in the February issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery.
'Jihad vs. McWorld' author to speak at UCSD on March 11
Benjamin Barber, a distinguished political scientist who wrote the popular book ""Jihad vs. McWorld,"" will present a lecture titled ""Can Democracy Survive the War between Jihad and McWorld?""
The lecture is part of the Helen Edison Lecture Series and will be held March 11 at 7 p.m. in the Price Center Ballroom.
Barber examines how the colliding forces of globalism and tribalism are influencing the world, especially in the current climate. His book was first published in 1995 and has garnered attention after the Sept. 11 attacks.
It looks like a red door from the storage room of a high school drama department — roughly painted and cheerfully vandalized. The first indications that this door is more than just that are the images of two medieval saints scratched into the reflective windowpanes. Then there’s the ancient fertility figure with pink polka dots on its left side jutting out from the bottom of the door, sitting on some faded piano keys. The work, titled “1 Billion Saints,” is displayed in Angelbert Metoyer’s exhibit at the University Art Gallery, which opened in January and will run through March 19.
Encouraged to cultivate his art from an early age, Metoyer participated in various art competitions and eventually studied at the Atlanta College of Art and Design. Since then, he has been featured in several group and individual exhibits and has obtained a cosmopolitan following. Two of the pieces in the exhibit, “Hollywood” and “Olydon,” are owned by San Diego Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards, and other prominent fans of Metoyer’s works include Dr. Dre and Oprah.
Metoyer incorporates many symbols in his work. Most of the pieces have numbers with connotations (3, 7, 13) as well as numbers without such (6, 8, 14) floating around them like alphabet soup. His juxtaposition of such numbers challenges the viewer to rethink the traditional meaning of numbers.
“Angels in Space” also challenges tradition in that it reverses the traditional left to right direction of time; it shows a chronological devolution from right to left in the form of three toddler figures. The first child’s angelic wings and smooth lines turn into double chins and wrinkles that show time’s perversion of individual purity.
But the main theme of Metoyer’s work seems to be layering various civilizations and human experiences. In this sense, time adds richness to the body of preserved work. His pieces are a sort of artistic yearbook, on which people from different times and places have “autographed” their artistic legacies. He employs a wide variety of media, including disembodied pages of books, sheet music and even bird down.
Savannah mammals in “6 Moments (1-12)” show cavemen’s first attempts at art; the winged horse Pegasus and the ferryman Charon represent ancient Greek mythology, while different angel and saint figures reflect Christian art. Instead of a typical setting, these figures are enveloped with colorful noise that frames them effectively and sets them apart as entities in themselves.
These images culminate in the centerpiece of the exhibit, the epic “The House of Warriors.” Standing at approximately 13 feet by 13 feet, the work incorporates the mythology of his other work as well as various geometric figures transcribed within one another, which gives it an ancient Mesoamerican feel. The rich complexity of the mythological images portrayed in the piece shows that element of timelessness. Against the backdrop of established images, Metoyer adds his own mark, including the trio of toddlers and the numbers. In choosing to represent warriors, ubiquitous in ancient art, he connects disparate civilizations in a satisfying manner. If only they sold posters like this on Library Walk.
A pleasant surprise is “#7 (Shaman’s Wedding Dress),” a white wedding dress lit up from the inside with Christmas lights. Small Polaroids of human faces, safety-pinned to the dress with roughly cut red ribbon, seem to symbolize embryonic seeds of the shaman. What is special about this piece is that Metoyer completed it in January at UCSD while overseeing the assembly of the exhibit and used student curator Rachel Faust’s and various other UCSD students’ faces in the work.
April 17, 8 p.m.
The animated diary of a spunky expatriate, 'Persepolis' airs out all those childhood memories of the Islamic Revolution. Based on the French graphic novel that made creator Marjane Satrapi a New York Times bestseller and columnist, it follows the boom of religious fundamentalism in the '80s through precocious eyes 'mdash; before they were draped in floor-length veils, not long after the fall of Iran's monarchy in the days of disco. (EG)'
Belly Up Tavern
April 30, 9 p.m.
While Rufus Wainwright's ecognizable, hauntingly ducet tenor brings happy tears to the eyes, the introspective hurt-puppy lyrics it carries are an even greater strength. Dipping into French theatrics, songs like 'Poses' unveil a red-velvet cabaret: 'All these poses of classical torture/ Ruined my mind like a snake in the orchard.' Clearly, they haven't ruined his achingly good looks. (SM)
The UCSD School of Medicine will lend a hand in the advancement of neuroscience research by providing better access to public data and tools under a new contract with the National Institutes of Health, announced Oct. 24.
The school will oversee the Neuroscience Information Framework, an online inventory of data, resources and tools available to students, scientists and anyone with Internet access.
Along with co-principal investigators Jeffrey Grethe and Amarnath Gupta, UCSD professor of neuroscience Maryann Martone will lead a collaborative project with researchers at Yale University, the California Institute of Technology, George Mason University and Washington University.
“With this new contract, we are deploying an open framework for use by scientists at all levels, as well as the general public,” Martone said.
The contract — an initiative of NIH’s Blueprint for Neuroscience Research valued at up to $10 million over the next five years — aims to integrate expertise from the fields of neuroscience, information technologies and knowledge management to enhance and maintain the NIF.
“The Neuroscience Information Framework is a vital component of the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a member of the cooperative Blueprint effort. “It is a pioneering endeavor to meet the enormous challenge of enabling neuroscientists to discover and share the ever-mounting, diverse inventory of tools, data, resources and knowledge generated through the Blueprint and neuroscience research efforts worldwide.”