Friday, August 31, 2018

The Shark Bite Donut: Dunkin's Disappointment

If you are like me, then all things ocean grab your attention.

So when we dropped by Dunkin Donuts for a treat, the Shark Bite donuts were an unexpected surprise and immediately a must-have. And while I'm quick to admit the actual donut isn't nearly as pretty in reality as in the advertisements, this simple glazed donut with white frosting and small shark-shaped sugary sprinkles is tasty.

Once the sweet tooth is satisfied, though, I wondered why the donut was even available? Well, Dunkin realized that Shark Week is now one of the most popular television events of the year - so much now that the company decided to celebrate like other seasonal holidays with a themed donut.

But the conservationist in me was disappointed. Dunkin chooses not to provide any information or support (that I found - PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong) about sharks themselves, leaving me with a feeling of nothing more than capitalization and pure exploitation on the popularity of the subject.

No business is required to go beyond their strategic plan and of course the purpose is to make money, but I have to admit when companies go that extra mile and reach out for the greater good, they will receive my patronage far more often. The Shark Bite donut made us smile for the day, but it nothing more than that.

Maybe I am naïve for thinking that a little research would show Dunkin Donuts supporting the cause for shark conservation, but alas, the company has been a sponsor of Discovery's Shark Week for several years now and that appears to be the extent. So in the end, I even have to give credit to The Discovery Channel's ability to market their week of shark-related programs instead of Dunkin's desire to make an impact.

Guess I'll stick to making my coffee at home.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Movie Review: The MEG

I read the original MEG book not long after it first came out and hit the NY Times bestseller list. I have waited YEARS for this film. That being said, the review is meant for people who didn't read all or even a single book in the series. I HATE spoilers, so you are safe to read the books and watch the movie. Enjoy!

I squealed during this movie.

Yes, I enjoy shark movies. From the iconic music of Jaws to the hilarity of the Sharknado series, I am a fan of sharks. But I also realize that not all of these movies are equal. As a marine biologist, I get peeved when I see films of hammerheads attacking humans in the same way a birder is annoyed at the red-tail hawk's cry that plays when an eagle flies by on film.

But I can get behind The Meg.

Like Jurassic Park in its infancy, the film takes elements from the book(s) and creates new characters with names you already know. There is enough tie to the original story to keep MEGHEADS happy without making newcomers feel like they are missing out on an inside joke.

The star power is mostly on Jason Statham's shoulders, but there are still other actors that are just recognizable enough to feel familiar, but still able to slide into the role of each character. I was a bit concerned at first with the casting of Meiying (the little girl), but her weirdly endearing performance grew on me by the end of the film.

If you want an action film, here you go - The Meg fills the screen with intensity and larger than life stunts. While the current 17,000+ ratings on IMDB give it only a 6.2 / 10, and Rotten Tomatoes ranks it a paltry 5.5, one must first accept what they are going to see. IT'S A SHARK MOVIE.

If you are expecting to have your inner monologue forever shift into deep reflection, this is not the film for you. It is an action movie - expect explosions.

As a long-time shark and movie lover, the marine biologist in me was thrilled with a few homage moments to the film that started it all. But I was beside myself with glee when a line from Finding Nemo worked its way in too! Even the moments spent explaining the horrors of shark finning are important ties that keep you moving forward in the story.

From a special effects standpoint, the submersibles and gliders felt cutting edge but realistic. The "bubble" expected in a movie sub could never withstand the trench depths, so the creators used cameras to create a full scene inside the cockpit. That was just plain brilliant.

If you are afraid of sharks, this is not the film for you -sorry. If you prefer a golden chainsaw as a means of protection from finned predators, then be aware The Meg manages to bring prehistoric creatures to life without going cheesy.

But if at the end of the movie, you had fun - then I highly recommend trying out the series of MEG books. The last installment just found my doorstep today.

Here comes the personal stuff now

I met the author years ago. Well, I didn't meet him the first time. I went to a late night Barnes and Noble book signing for Steve Alten but his schedule was mixed up and he missed the meet and greet. I spent over an hour instead talking about his books with other fans until the store closed.

Alten reached out and won my heart forever. He not only scheduled a new signing, but sent me an autographed poster as an apology. It still hangs in my son's room now. This man worked for years to create a fun series with an injection of science - always pushing his readers to ask more questions once the book is shut.

Whether it is his tenacity to write diverse novels, or his training regiment to continue fighting Parkinson's' disease, Steve Alten plays a role that inspired me to start writing in the first place. So, thank you, Steve. I loved your movie and hope to watch a documentary on you someday too.