Archive for the ‘Books’ Category


Things that I find funny, even if nobody else does

July 19, 2007

1. In Michel Gondry’s movie The Science of Sleep, the protagonist Stephane spends many of his nights imagining himself as the host of something called “Stephane TV,” a sort of cable-access program about relationships, music, art, and everything else that interests Stephane. I had a similar dream last night except that, my imagination being inferior to Stephane’s, I was the host of a low-budget radio show. I said many things that seemed incredibly witty at the time, none of which I can recall except for this, delivered in my best public-radio voice: “If you’d like a transcript of today’s broadcast, here’s what to do: record it on a cassette tape or CD, then play it back later and type everything that you hear.”

2. You know those one-sentence summaries of movies that appear in TV listings? I love those. All films, no matter how thrilling or profound, sound equally prosaic. E.T.? “A group of Earth children help a stranded alien botanist return home.” The Godfather? “The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.” (Quotes courtesy of IMDB, the Internet Movie Database.) Imagine my delight, then, when I recently discovered that many of my son’s books come with their own one-sentence synopses. Madeline? “The smallest and naughtiest of the twelve little charges of Miss Clavel wakes up one night with an attack of appendicitis.” The Mitten? “Several animals sleep snugly in Nicki’s lost mitten until the bear sneezes.” Good stuff!

3. Aside from children’s books, the main thing I read these days is journal articles. Convention dictates that these articles be as flavorless as possible, so I had to smile today when I saw the following: “Orotidine monophosphate decarboxylase (ODCase, EC is among the most proficient enzymes known…. ODCase accomplishes the decarboxylation of OMP without the help of any cofactors and metal ions. This is a remarkable achievement in light of the fact that ODCase (from yeast) exhibits extraordinary rate enhancement of over 17 orders of magnitude compared to the uncatalyzed decarboxylation of orotidine monophosphate in water and at neutral pH, at 25 degrees C. ODCase is among those few special enzymes that have developed a very high level of sophistication in catalyzing decarboxylation….” (Reference: Poduch et al., Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 49: 4937-45, 2006.) If the epitaph on my tombstone is half as glowing as that, I’ll have lived well.