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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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#185 September 18, 2013

Sheila writes: San Francisco-based Jenny Parks is a scientific illustrator, who specializes in drawing wildlife, animals, dinosaurs. She also loves science fiction and cats. The bio on her website states: "Somehow, she found herself with a bit of internet fame with the illustration ‘Doctor Mew’, and has been baffled ever since. With a BFA in illustration from the California College of the Arts, and a graduate degree in Science Illustration from UC Santa Cruz, she now resides in San Francisco as a freelance illustrator, fulfilling her destiny to make a living drawing cute, fuzzy things." Her "Catvengers" series has been linked to all over the place, and I find them whimsical and hilarious. Behold Jenny Parks' Cat-Hulk. See more of her cat series by clicking the "Cats" tab on her site.

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Apatow on how to learn nothing from a near-death experience

If there is a King of Comedy right now in Hollywood, that would be Judd Apatow. I have a list here of a dozen comedies he has produced and/or directed just in the last five years, and I left out the titles I didn't like. He has been writing since he was a kid, producing since he was 23, and then he directed "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005) and "Knocked Up" (2007) himself. He is only 41. I think he's hitting his stride.

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The human race on a key ring

Richard Dawkins observed in The Selfish Gene that from the point of view of a gene, a living body is merely a carrier to transport it into the future. I believe we are now entering the century of the Selfish Mind. Man has always been a creature restlessly seeking a reality beyond himself. We cannot know what a chimpanzee thinks about when he gazes at the stars, or what ideas a dolphin has about air. But we know what we think, and we have traveled so high in the atmosphere we cannot breathe and then beyond. We have placed humans on the Moon, sent our devices to other planets, and our signals reaching out to the universe, not to be received until after our extinction, if then.

The earliest hominids must have had complex ideas, but they were trapped inside their minds. Out of the desire to share those ideas with other minds, they devised symbols, sounds and speech. I see you, I see this, I think this, I want to tell you. Many species make sounds--at first to warn or to frighten, then to express more complex needs. We don't know if speech itself was a goal, because we cannot be sure if they had a conception of what that might be. But from its first "words," mankind found itself driven to improve and extend its self-expression. I will not rehearse here the forms that drive has taken. A short list will do: Symbols, drawings, signs, writing, printing, analog information, now digital information. The storage, manipulation and transmission of digital data was a threshold step as crucial as the bone used as a tool in "2001." The bone became our key to the physical domain. The transistor chip became our key to the digital domain.

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