Friday, April 20, 2018

"O'Neill Cylinders: Islands in Space": what "Rendezvous with Rama" would look like if filmed

O’Neill Cylinders: Islands in Space “, by Isaac Arthur, in the Outward Bound series, examines the possibility of humans living inside rotating cylinders (or other structures) with artificial gravity, such as described in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1979 novel “Rendezvos with Rama”, which Morgan Freeman has shown interest in producing as a film.

The inspiration for the concept seems to be Gerald T. O’Neill “The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space” (1976), written about the same time as the first Mars Viking landing, when Dan Fry was having multiple Understanding conventions out west of Phoenix in his saucer city at Tonopah (no longer there – now a cotton farm).

An O’Neill cylinder could be strong enough if as long as 20 kilometers and wide as 5 km, and they could be strung together with connectors.  They could be best placed at Lagrange points around the Earth and Moon, especially L4 or L5.  This was a proposal of Keith Henson, also known for controversial legal battles with Scientology (where he wound up sentenced to jail).  

There have been many other proposals in science fiction, such as Babylon 5, and truly large structures like the Bishop’s Ring, or Millendrec Cylinder.

Artificial gravity can make the cylinders livable, and artificial skies and topography can be constructed. Politically, they might become like quasi-sovereign city-states. They might become common when the cost of living there is less than the cost of living in a big city – maybe in a few hundred years or less.
My own screenplay “Do Ask Do Tell: Epiphany” describes one building and rotating upright on Titan (moon of Saturn) but with much stronger internal gravity than Titan’s.  It would look interesting in a movie.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Bill Nye: Science Guy": Feature film on PBS POV

PBS POV produced “Bill Nye: Science Guy” itself as a feature film (85 minutes), aired Wednesday April 18 at 10 PN EDT, with a brief director interview afterward (directors are David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg ).
The documentary showed Nye as a science teacher, well known for his 30 minute show, and family man. Before it visits the Genesis Ark Encounter theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky, south of Cincinnati, setting up a confrontation with creationism.
Neil de Grasse Tyson (from Columbia) appears, and Carl Sagan is sometimes shown in clips.

Later Nye shows footage from a solar sail “space ship” driven by photons.

Nye claims it is morally irresponsible to teach religious doctrine alone as if it replaces science.
The film also examines the climate change debate, using Greenland ice core samples to make the point.  The deniers simply view their world differently, more in terms of immediate visible experience controlled by social structures around them.

Picture: March for Science rally, Washington DC, April 14, 2018. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Collision! Free Speech and Religion" examines a moral dilemma in Europa; pitting individualism against tribalism

Danish human rights lawyer Jacob Mchangama narrates his short film (19 minutes) “Collision! Free Speech and Religion” (2013) from “Free to Choose”.

The documentary traces some specific controversies:  the persecution of the Baha’I after the Iranian Revolution (I used to live right next to a Baha’I center in NYC) over the idea of the finality of a Prophet; demonstrations by Westboro Baptist Church in the US at military funerals over allowing gays in the military (“don’t ask don’t tell” repeal in 2011), and particularly the Jylland- Posten Cartoon Controversy in Denmark in 2005, which Flemming Rose has written a lot about ("The Tyranny of Silence", Books, Feb. 3, 2015). 

European governments in the past ten years have tightened the legal climate clamping down on hate speech against religious groups, including especially Muslims.  The moral justification might be that many people have little individual opportunity and have only their tribalist associations to live for;  libertarian individualism leaves a lot of people out.

Mchangama (along with Russell Miller) spoke on a Cato forum today on the situation in Europe with limitations on free speech, which I will cover soon on Wordpress.  One shocking revelation at the end was that in some countries, it is possible for a citizen in that country to be prosecuted for insulting the head of state of another country!  Erdogan of Turkey has already attempted one such prosecution in Germany!
 Here is the link for the entire short film. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

"What Lies Upstream" documents the 2014 Elk River chemical spill into the Elk River

On Monday, April 16, 2018, PBS Independent Lens aired the documentary “What Lies Upstream”, directed by Cullen Hoback.   The PBS link is here.

The film covers the massive chemical spill that left 300,000 people, including many in Charleston W Va, without drinking water for weeks.  The event occurred in January 2014 and is known as the Elk River Chemical Spill

The spill was initially noticed by residents from a licorice-like smell.

The scandal could be compared to what happened in Flint, MI, which is discussed in the second half of the film. There are other problems, as in Pittsburgh, and Garland TX. Other areas have lead poisoning results that have reportedly been hidden from the media. 

The settlement was reached in Dec, 2014, here

The filmmaker interviews residents, including one who claimed her son was six months behind in mental development. 

Donald Trump said about Flint incident, “now the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint.”
Lax regulation on discharges, influenced by lobbyists, goes back to the Clinton years.  Scientists cannot publish data on the problem, according to whistleblowers interviewed in the film. 
The 2017 film also has distribution from Gravitas Venturas.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

"This Waxing Game Got Crazy (it hurt)": white male symbols of masculinity may not survive the pummeling of these videos

This Waxing Game Got Crazy (It hurt)” from the Dobre Brothers in Los Angeles starts out innocently enough, for the first seven minutes or so of a 16-minute video, as they go shopping, and come up an online version of Trivial Pursuit, and about the same time, some depilatory strips, like in “What Women Want”.

So, back in their apartment, the boys play the game.  If you miss a question, a little area of your bod gets waxed.  One of the boys is poor on test taking and get it three times.  Well, not everybody knows that the Sun makes helium, but one of the kids is pretty good at math done in his head.  I wondered if they could be challenged with a chess problem.  

At about 9 minutes, one of the kids mentions the shame of “bald legs” and that girls won’t go for it.  Well, there are competitive swimmers and cyclists, and some of them reproduce themselves. They’re concerned that it won’t grow back (it will be slow) – but the real danger would be from a laser pencil.  Or maybe some pharma company comes up with a cream that changes the way hair follicles react to body hormones (a kind of reverse rogaine),  I could imagine such a “med” could be useful in hospital hygiene for medical personnel.  All of this is “dangerous”.  Oh, I suppose the guys have read Holden Caulfield's worldview in Sallinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" and an early comment about old guys' legs. 

A similar video “Horrific Waxing Challenge” from Callux (10 minutes), as two young men in Britain (with Cockney accents reminding me of Michael Caine in the 1960s spy thrillers) challenge each other with little games (spin the button, race up stairs) and the user has to undergo a wax strip on some conspicuous area of the young male body. It’s rather tortuous to sit through the ten minutes and wonder how well white male “trappings of biological virtue” will survive such an onslaught, but they will recover.
All of this reminds me of the “tribunals” at William and Mary in September 1961, which I skipped out on.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

"The Libertarian to Alt-Right Pipeline", video from Reason Magazine

Zach Weissmueller of Reason Magazine challenges us with a short film “The Libertarian to Alt-Right Pipeline

Zach, who says he is in his early twenties himself, notes early in the video that libertarianism often appeals to young adults, especially white males, as they go through phases, and that something like “populism” can become the next “cool” idea.

But he also gets into the question “is the enemy of my enemy my friend”?  He notes that Barry Goldwater back in 1964 was viewed as “libertarian” and entering the presidential race to oppose the civil rights movement.  (Goldwater would later, in the 1990s, support the lifting of the ban on gays in the military with his famous “shoot straight” op-ed.  Remember Johnson's nuke 1964 campaign ad?)  Reagan had many libertarian impulses but attracted the libertarian segment by attacking misuse of welfare (which Clinton reformed in the 1990s).

Weissmueller notes that other supposedly libertarian figures have sometimes courted strange political bedfellows, as with Milton Friedman courting Pinochet in Chile.

Toward the end, Weissmueller notes that for historical reasons and specific problems (systemic racism of the past), “people of color” are more likely to believe in collective political values and identity politics (even intersectionality) than many white people.  But the Alt-Right is gaining some traction by claiming that the rest of the world is turning so collective that white people need to do so also, or else “be conquered”, although that sounds like the echo of a Marxist argument.

There could be one more, subtle reason.  Individualists often do not like to be coerced into relating directly to people whom they see as not intact.  But that is becoming more socially necessary as inequality plays out and becomes more personal.  Zach notes that some libertarians have a hidden fascist streak inside their own inner cores, which I think he could present a defense against dealing with “real people as people”.  It’s all to easy to want to dump all losers even if you become one yourself. 
Picture: Mine, Road to Nowhere tunnel near Bryson City NC.  Yet a Facebook server isn’t far away (in Forest City).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"Fascists on the Rise" looks at the return of fascism in Hungary, going back to the 1990s

Fascists on the Rise”, a 10 minute short film from Journeyman Pictures in 2017, reviews the history of extreme right-wing fiture Albert Szabo in Hungarian politics back in the 1990s.
Szabo had also become an Australian citizen before returning to Hungary. But when he talks about Hungary he speaks through a translator.  His ideas are very definitely identarian and “racist” and ehtno-nationalist (alt-right). 
The film refers to a pro-fascist government in Hungary back in 1944, and talks about the fa right parties in Hungary in the 1990s with articulation of Holocaust denial.
The film is useful given the rise of quasi-fascism in Hungary today and the politics of Viktor Orban.