No Impact Man

On Friday I went to a showing of the documentary No Impact Man that was put on as part of the school’s “family weekend” (remember, I work at a residential program for high school students interested in environmental stewardship, a.k.a. a boarding school). No Impact Man is also a blog and a book, but this was the first time I’d heard of it. It’s essentially the story of a family in New York City – husband, wife, and two-year-old daughter – who attempted to spend a year making absolutely as little environmental impact as possible. Not only did they give up exotic produce and gasoline-powered transportation, they gave up electricity. In Manhattan. It was a fascinating movie, not least because of the dynamic between the husband, the driving force behind the project, and the wife, who when the year began was addicted to reality TV, Starbucks, and designer fashion.

Of course, this movie about someone trying to truly live his values dropped into my brain at the same time that I’m still working my way through Barbara Kingsolver’s Small Wonder, a marvelous collection of essays in which she tackles, among other topics, her family’s ongoing attempts to live in an environmentally responsible way and be mindful of their place in the global ecosystem. And at the same time that I’m reading a report on ten years of surveys on environmental literacy in America that discusses the concept of “locus of control” – the difference between having an internal locus of control and believing that the actions and efforts of individuals can make a difference, and having an external locus of control and believing that meaningful change can only come from corporations and governments and other large organizations.

Anyway [I got interrupted halfway through writing this post and am trying now to regather my thoughts], the movie made me think about what it means to really live a life in line with one’s values. Isn’t there some value in that alone, whether or not one person’s actions really contribute significantly to building a sustainable society? (And there’s evidence to suggest they can and do.) I’m not planning on giving up electricity and toilet paper anytime soon, but there’s always more we can do. Buy less stuff. Eat less meat and more local, naturally-produced food. Only drive when it’s really necessary, and plan to do the most errands with the least possible driving when we do. Look for ways to reduce the amount of stuff we throw away (even if it’s recyclable – recycling takes resources too, and there’s a reason why “reduce” and “reuse” come before “recycle”).

A time is coming, maybe sooner than a lot of people would like to believe, when we’ll have to live closer to this way because there simply won’t be the resources left to sustain our current level of consumption. The more I understand the facts about climate change the more I believe I’ll see this within my lifetime. But who’s to say we can’t get a head start? For anyone interested in sustainability, I really recommend No Impact Man.

Finally, a Trailer for the Big Year Movie!

The movie version of The Big Year (a fictionalized adaptation of the excellent book of the same name, about three men competing to see who can spot the most bird species in a year) is set to be released next month, and there’s finally, finally a trailer for it:

I’m not gonna lie, the opening of the trailer (the actual trailer, I mean, not the bit with the actors talking to the camera) made me laugh out loud. “There’s going to be major fallout in a few hours!” A comedic reference to migration fallout in a movie trailer is not something I thought I’d ever see. But the really curious thing is… that’s the only dialogue reference to birds anywhere in the entire two-plus minutes. Yes, you see some shots of characters looking through binoculars, but they never even explain what a “big year” is, other than just a year of having wacky adventures. Even the synopsis is bird-less: “A a sophisticated comedy about three friendly rivals who, tired of being ruled by obligations and responsibilities, dedicate a year of their lives to following their dreams. Their big year takes them on a cross-country journey of wild and life-changing adventures.”

I’m assuming that there is, in fact, a fair amount of birding in the actual film, but that the powers that be didn’t want to market it as a movie about birdwatching. Oh well, I’m still definitely going to go see it, assuming it’s playing here in Middle O’ Nowhere, Wisconsin.

Totally unrelated reminder: Sunday is International Rock Flipping Day!

Jekyll Island on the Silver Screen

I thought I was done writing about Jekyll Island, but after watching two movies this week I realized I do have one more post left. First of all, last weekend saw the release of X-Men: First Class, chunks of which were filmed on the island as I blogged about here and here. (A friend sent me a link to an interview with the cast in which Kevin Bacon talks about filming “on a beach in Georgia” and how people kept sneaking photos of the set and blogging about it… heh heh.) If you go see it, there are two obvious Jekyll bits to watch for.

One, just before Erik and Charles meet for the first time, Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost and some other folks are hanging out on a boat at a dock in what the movie claims in Miami, Florida. This is in fact the Clam Creek fishing pier on the north end of Jekyll Island, and I hadn’t realized they’d done any filming there, so it was an interesting surprise. Two, the climactic scenes take place on a beach in what’s apparently supposed to be Cuba; that’s the beach at the end of the seawall between Captain Wylly Road and Shell Drive, and that’s the location I wrote about in the posts I linked to above. It was fun to see the wide shots of the beach during that whole sequence and know exactly how much of it was a set and how much was graphics! Although those are the only scenes where you can really recognize the location, some other things were shot in the area as well, including the exterior shots of the Las Vegas casino. I only know that because one of my coworkers was an extra in that scene.

The other movie I watched this week was Glory, about an African-American regiment in the Civil War. The entire second half of that movie was shot in the Jekyll Island area – I swear at one point they march past the bookstore inthe island’s Historic District. The beach battle was shot directly adjacent to the 4-H center where I worked. Of course, this was in the late 1980’s, long before I was there!

I know to those unfamiliar with the island this is all pretty meaningless, but X-Men: First Class is a fun movie and if you like superhero flicks you’ll probably enjoy it. Or if you like James McAvoy. Ahem.

Superhero Movie Dune Restoration

Last December I posted a photo of a movie set that had been constructed here on Jekyll for the movie X-Men: First Class (or, as my friend Michelle has taken to calling it, “X-Men: Filmed on Rebecca’s Island”).  They built a big plane crash on the beach, complete with imported palm trees to make it look more tropical than it actually is.  Let’s revisit and see what that beach, soon to be seen on movie theater screens around the world, looks like now that the film crew has been gone for a while.

They’ve replanted the dunes with grass, bunches planted in neat rows with straw in place under them.  I’m assuming the grass is sea oats, Uniola paniculata, a salt-tolerant pioneer plant common on primary dunes that helps hold them together with its long roots.

Just north of the restoration area is the beginning of the sea wall.  I’m glad I live on the island’s south end, where the beach is still relatively untouched.

The Lesser of Two What Nows?

It’s been years since I’ve seen the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, but two scenes stand out in my memory.  One is when the ship’s captain takes the wounded ship’s surgeon, who is also an amateur naturalist, to the Galapagos Islands to recuperate.  The other is the scene with the weevil joke.

Capt. Jack Aubrey: Do you see those two weevils, doctor?
Dr. Stephen Maturin: I do.
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Which would you choose?
Dr. Stephen Maturin: Neither; there is not a scrap a difference between them. They are the same species of Curculio.
Capt. Jack Aubrey: If you had to choose. If you were forced to make a choice. If there was no other response…
Dr. Stephen Maturin: Well then, if you are going to push me… I would choose the right hand weevil. It has significant advantage in both length and breadth.
[the captain thumps his fist in the table]
Capt. Jack Aubrey: There, I have you! You’re completely dished! Do you not know that in the service, one must always choose the lesser of two weevils!

Until recently I had never, to the best of my knowledge, actually seen a weevil, but then I started noticing these tiny insects around frequently.

I do mean tiny – less than two centimeters long.  If it gives you a sense of scale, those crystal-looking things it’s standing on are individual grains of sand.

Thanks to BugGuide, I know now that it’s Pachylobius picivorus, the pitch-eating weevil.  Apparently it feeds on young pines, especially in disturbed areas.  So what was it doing on the beach on the south end of the island, away from the area where most of the island’s pines are?  Maybe the wind blew it here?  I like the dotted line patterns on its back, but I don’t know if they have any significance.

I’m going to submit this post to the beetle carnival, An Inordinate Fondness.  My first time participating!  Also, the second plover from yesterday’s ID challenge remains a mystery – pull out your field guide and take a look! Never mind, the mystery has been solved.  Go look if you’re wondering.

Making Movie Magic

The big topic of conversation in these parts has for the past couple months been the fact that Twentieth Century Fox is filming scenes for X-Men: First Class right here on Jekyll Island.  Apparently, after what has seemed like endless preparation, they actually did some shooting today – the huge construction cranes that had been at their site had mysteriously vanished this morning, and when we tried to take some kids to the north end beach via bus this afternoon we discovered that the section of the beach front road near the set was closed off.

Here’s what the set looked like when a coworker and I walked up the beach to investigate last weekend.

That’s the one photo I managed to snap before the security guard noticed me and told me no pictures.  (Hey, I’m officially a paparazzo!)  Apparently the movie involves a plane crash at some point.  What’s interesting – and what makes this post at least tangentially relevant to this blog’s theme – is those palm trees visible behind the chunks of airplane.  Those are not our native cabbage palms.  Every single one of those was brought in by the production company when they constructed the set, and they seem to be tropical species that would normally be found significantly south of here.  I wonder where this scene is actually supposed to be set, and where they got all those palms, and what on earth they’re going to do with them after they finish.  Also, temperatures here the last couple nights have definitely dipped to around freezing – if these tropical plants are damaged by the cold, will it hold up filming while they come up with something to replace them?

Just some food for thought.  The movie comes out in June and stars James McAvoy, Kevin Bacon and January Jones, none of whom I’ve actually spotted, though clearly they must be lurking here on the island somewhere.  Fox, you’re welcome for the free publicity.

Environmental Education à la… Spongebob?

When you think of educational television for kids, this may not be the first thing that comes to mind:

Yeah, I can’t believe it either, but lately I find myself using Spongebob as a point of reference when teaching kids about the natural history of marine invertebrates.  It started when I told a class that the clam whose shell I was holding was a filter feeder, and started to explain what filter feeding is only to have one of them pipe up say, “Oh yeah, like Spongebob!”  Apparently the cartoon occasionally shows him filter feeding just like a real sponge.  Now I find myself doing some Googling to figure out whether Mr. Krabs is a hermit crab or a true crab.  If he’s a true crab, has he ever been depicted molting, I wonder?

It isn’t just Spongebob, either; the other bit of pop culture that seems to come up regularly is Finding Nemo.  When I take kids to the salt marsh we talk about how the marsh serves as a nursery for baby fish, who are much safer from predators there than in the open ocean.  “Like how Nemo was supposed to stay on the reef?”  Yes.  Exactly.  Where the barracudas couldn’t get him.

Honestly, if it teaches kids something about nature, I am all for it.  Just so long as they understand that sea stars don’t really wear swim trunks!