Prometheus: The Home Movie


In an interestingly serendipitous sequence of events, within three days last week, Mbot set fire to a paper Spiderman napkin, Husbot and I saw Prometheus, and the family caught a discoverment at the Arizona Stomach Center entitled “Combustion.” What do these things have in common? Read on.

The first event occurred just after Nanny and the bots set the table for my birthday party. Uncle Marty and Grandma were coming over for dinner. Nanny was busy in the kitchen boiling lobsters. (She was not wearing earplugs, as, fortunately, their screams are silent. (Z, that was for you.) I was shucking corn. The bots were behaving, by which I mean kind of watching Caillou and kind of playing with balloons and kind of doing crafts. I laid out the cheese and crackers, I opened the wine. I moved a giant candle to the center of the table–a table whose center is farther from its edges than bots’ arms are long–and lit it. The bots tried to blow out the three flames from their positions on the chairs. They couldn’t. I told them to stop trying. That fire is dangerous. Blah, blah. blah. Then I turned around to do whatever I had to do to continue getting dinner ready.

Moment later, as I was taking a serving plate down for the corn, I heard Mbot’s voice. “Uh, Mom? There’s a fire on the table.”

I whirled and yes! Lo and behold, there was a fire on the table. A small one, exactly the size of a paper Spiderman napkin. I rushed over and lifted the single unburned corner and dropped it on the serving plate that was still in my hand, then dropped it into the sink and turned on the water. And then I attempted to explain how he could have hurt himself, and us. Blah, blah, blah. He remained unfazed. So Nanny had a go at it. She explained that he might have hurt Junepbear by mistake. And that’s what got through. There was crying, and promises to never play with fire. My heart rate was still about 160. I washed the serving plate and piled lobster on it. The guests arrived and dinner was served while Uncle Marty and Husbot discussed Prometheus, Ridley Scott‘s prequel to Alien, which Uncle Marty (an author and screenwriter) had just seen at the IMAX in 3D.

The next day, Husbot decided we had to see it. And here is my completely uneducated review: It was okay. There were problems. It was also confusing. But fun to discuss and try to make sense of. Prometheuswas the name of the spaceship that arrived on a distant planet seeking the origins of mankind. Students of mythology or art history will know that Prometheus is the name of the god who took fire from the heavens and gave it to man. As punishment, he was chained to a rock, and every night an eagle flew down to eat out his liver, and every day it grew back. This happened for all eternity.

It’s an old, old story. Shown here: Prometheus bound, Laconian black-figure
amphoriskos C6th B.C., Vatican City Museums (via

One thing about the movie isn’t confusing. One of the morals of the story is: Don’t play with fire. Not to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet, but fire, in this case, is the biological weaponry that a superior race with a god syndrome (or are they god???) had developed in order to destroy whole planetfuls of other carbon-based lifeforms. Perhaps in order to start from scratch with the hope of a better outcome (a world without the color mauve? Without reality TV and the Hilton sisters?)

Of course, the characters don’t KNOW at first that the animate sludge on the distant planet peopled by large dead guys will turn into large gross monsters that will shoot large gross appendages down their throats. (Again, I hope I’m not ruining something for someone.) The humans are seeking knowledge, and that is their downfall. Like knowledge, fire is a thing that must be used carefully and that can destroy more than paper Spiderman napkins and stuffed bears.

Which brings us to the Stomach Center. We visited it the next morning because Nanny had never been. The bots loved showing her the waterworks, the exhibit on nanoparticles, the giant telescope you look through and see your own eye projected on a big circular screen on the ceiling. Mbot wanted to see the kitty brain. No one except Nanny was brave enough to go into the giant stomach (from which the Arizona Science Center takes its bot-given name). I won a game of Mindball against Nanny, but solely because I knew she was worrying about where the bots were while we were playing, and so I didn’t have to worry about where the bots were. And then a demonstration began, about combustion.

Mbot dragged me to an empty seat and sat, riveted, while two college students explained the three sides of the fire triangle (fuel, oxygen, and heat).


They poured alcohol into a clear plastic twenty-gallon water bottle, pumped in air, and dropped in a match. Mbot jumped about two inches at the fireball that momentarily filled the bottle. Then they threw lycopodium powder into the air and aimed an acetylene torch at it. Then they held a flame to Peter Cottonball and we all watched as it was reduced to a blackened puff of its former self. Then they explained how to use a fire extinguisher. And then, they told everyone in the audience to put their hand over their heart–Mbot did so immediately–and solemnly repeat after them: “I promise to never play with fire.”

Mbot repeated it. “I promise to never play with fire.” Then he glanced sideways up at me, and added, “Again.”

And the next day he was back to his discoverments with liquids, pouring his cup of milk at breakfast into the mouth of a deflated balloon to see if it could be done (yes, to a point), and if, after it was done, he could drink out of it (yes, to a point). As I was mopping up, I banned (again) all discoverments involving liquids to the bathtub.

But it doesn’t look like there will be any more discoverments involving fire. Not until he gets his first chemistry set, or falls in love.

Mindball: Are You Calmer Than Your Three Year Old?

This cool hat will tell you if you think like a three year-old. Mbot does.

We celebrated Memorial Day by visiting The Stomach Center (Mbot renamed The Arizona Science Center) where, thanks to a game called Mindball, I proved that I can consciously calm my brain more effectively than Mbot can calm his (a fact I know Husbot would question).

Which was a remarkable feat, because, by the last day of a three-day weekend filled with fabulous fun family time (and no time to myself, except for two hours that morning during which I washed the dishes, did four loads of laundry, and cleaned a bathroom), I was feeling anything but calm. I was torn between feeling grateful and joyous at having such a wonderful family (and such good weather for zoo-going, bike-cruising, and water-parking) and feeling stressed and panicked at not having had any time to write. At all.

But here is the Mindball brain-activity read-out, which backs up my claims of my ability to calm myself, although at the moment the picture was taken, only Mbot’s brain activity was being charted, in the window at the left.

How do you play Mindball? See that long plexiglass tunnel on the table? Inside is a metal ball. A player sits at each end of a table, puts on a funky hat with a cord coming out the top, and tries to think calm thoughts. “I am sitting on a beach. I am listening to waves. I have a babysitter for the entire day.”  The ball rolls away from whoever is calmer and more focused. If the ball reaches your end of the tunnel, you lose.

Mbot lost four times in a row, but not for lack of trying, kind of. He switched chairs once, just to make sure I wasn’t sitting in the Magic Chair of Calm. (I wish!) Distractions abounded. All around us were people and other interactive exhibits, one of which replayed, about every three minutes, the sound of a car crashing. I finally had Mbot stare at the ball, place his fingers in his ears, and sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” softly to himself. It was really, really cute, but his brainwaves still went through the roof.

I was starting to worry that Mbot had ADD, and then calmed myself remembering that he’s supposed to be this way–he’s three. But it set me thinking, and on the Mindball website, I discovered that the same brainwave technology– EEG Feedback Training— is being used with great success to help children and adults with Attention Deficit Disorder.

It made me think, too, of the effect of writing on my brain. It must stimulate my alpha waves. Focusing on communication and self-expression through the written word must calm me, allowing me to focus more, which calms me more–a self-perpetuating zen state. I don’t have a Mindball machine to back up this theory, just years of experience. I wish refereeing disputes over who had the green water pistol and who had the red one had the same effect.

So, wonderful weekend memories, and a sigh of relief at sitting back down at my computer. What was your weekend like? The ball’s in your court.