Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"What Alien Life on Other Planets Would Look Like": do we care that they look like us?



What Alien Life on Other Planets Would Look Like” from “Be Amazed” (12 minutes).


Well, not like Mark Zuckerberg.

Two of the most interesting ideas were “energy beings” inside stars, formed by nuclear molecules created by the strong force.  I think there was a horror film in the 1950s where lightning is alive.

Another idea is that carbon dioxide becomes a super-critical fluid at high pressure and could support earth-like (deep inside volcanoes) bacteria on dry planets.

The film thinks creatures could fly in the atmospheres of gas giants or brown dwarfs.
  
Convergent evolution suggests that a planet really similar to Earth could develop similar creatures.
     
So could your super Clark Kent teen alien really come from another planet through a worm hole?
  
But do we really care what he looks like if this is possible?  We want him to be a better version of us.    
You can still theorize that angels are aliens, or that Jesus was one. 

Note: the was an announcement of the discovery of a cold dry planet around Barnard's Star, 6 light years away, a red dwarf. 



Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"When Humanity Becomes a Spacefaring Civilization": Will Mars become "The New World"?



When Humanity Becomes a Spacefaring Civilization”, by Computing Forever, is worth a look. A bit of a right-wing outlook, however. 


The speaker scoffs at treaties that claim that the entire solar system or even universe belongs to humanity.  He says that eventually a country (where from Earth or an alien planet or solar system light years away) that lands on another planet (even Moon) and can defend it will be able to claim legal title.
  
He also parallels the political process of colonization of the Moon and other planets (especially Mars) to the New World.  Living on Mars after terraforming, people will change physiologically in low gravity and simply become different. This could lead to new kinds of controversies parallel to those about race today.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

"The New Politics": sci-fi short: what if your "alien" lover is a hologram and you don't even suspect it?



Joshua Wong presents Aleisha Rose as the heroine in a Dust sci-fi short film, “The New Politics”. Some of my Facebook friends say they want a break from politics now, for spiritual renewal.


Aleisha plays Zara, who is preparing for combat in the People’s games.  She can grow her clothes on her body and even her wristwatch or fitbit.

She doesn’t know she is a hologram and a character in a real human’s video games.

Of course, if she were a white male, it could be interesting, especially if “he” could teleport himself around the way Clark Kent does.  Lose the metal wristband watch. A mockingbird will get named after you.
  
What if your boyfriend were a hologram and you didn’t know.  Let “Next Door Mates” do a film on that theme.

Friday, November 09, 2018

"We Are Not Alone": Is Oumuamua a spaceship from a dead alien civilization?



We Are Not Alone”,  Is Oumuamua an alien space ship?  Is the civilization that could have sent it still around? 

Clixroom presents an interview with a Harvard professor.

Interesting facts:  It accelerates more than the Sun can account for;  it has a constant spin so it is not outgassing like a comet.  It has the reflectivity of a light sail.


But we did not get signals from the objec
 .
The professor suggest we look for planets with dead civilizations.

The object seems to have come from an M-star, which may be one of the more stable ones without excess variation in solar radiation.  Such a star’s planets would be tidally locked.  That suggests such a planet would have been inhabited as a satellite civilization from somewhere else, a premise of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” (2012).

Wikipedia attribution link for gif by nagualdesign, CCSA 4.0. 

Thursday, November 08, 2018

"The Black Hole", from Dust films, convenient tool for burglars



Napoleon Ryan stars in the “super short” film “The Black Hole” directed by Phil and Olly, from Dust films, sci-fi for binge watching (and too much screen time, as my iPhone now keeps track of).


I can remember in the early 1980s that proficiency with xerox machines for presentations and walkthroughs was an important part of the workplace.  The name of this film could be an unfortunate pun.

The protagonist prints a dark spot with what looks like and all-in-one printer. He finds it an effective burglary tool, and it doesn’t remove any body hair when he sticks his arm through it.  But it can remove him altogether.  He’ll never create Napoleon Dynamite’s dance moves.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

"Straight A": In Japan, a gay college student with an American boyfriend must come out to his "ancestral" father





Todd Lien directs a short film “Straight A”.

In what appears to be a home in Japan, a college undergraduate boy has a rather athletic white American boyfriend, Kyle.


The boy’s father is still concerned about the family’s bloodline and has trouble accepting what is going on.

The father says he wants to be a friend of his son, like Kyle.

The dialogue between father and son is in Japanese with subtitles.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Copyright Office allows more filmmakers important DMCA exemptions, a welcome development



The Copyright Office has interpreted copyright law in a way favorable to most filmmakers.

Now the exemption to DMCA circumvention prohibitions allowed only to documentary filmmakers, will be allowed to all filmmakers, as long as the intention transformative, such as parody or to demonstrate historically significant information.

  
Techdirt has the story by Timothy Geigner here.  I would expect to see Electronic Frontier Foundation comment soon. 

Thursday, November 01, 2018

"Wherever You Are": In rural England, a grieving father looks for the companion of his deceased son




Gabirel Varita and Joan Montinenos direct “Wherever You Are
 .

In rural Britain, a grieving father (Guy Hargreaves) looks for the boyfriend of his deceased son. He uses an old ring rotary phone, so this film looks set in the past a few decades.

He is often riding trains, but there are many flashbacks where he and his son play with toy Thomas trains.
  
The film won awards at the Shropshire Film Fesitval.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"Misinfo Nation": short film from Mozilla, ought to be in the festivals



Misinfo Nation: Misinformation, Democracy, and the Internet” from Mozilla as a complimentary short film.


The piece takes the position that the barrage of false information in social media may not have as destructive a political effect as has been feared.  People who receive it are already in their echo chambers and have already decided on which candidates to support (such as Donald Trump in the 2016 election).  So the piece seems design to counter the view that social media threw the 2016 election to Trump.

The film defends individualized speech, and may be designed to counter the political pressure on platforms which is increasing and could lead to much less speech by individuals (even like me) than what we have come to take for granted in the past two decades.

The film doesn’t cover the radicalization cycle (say the way Brian Stelter keeps explaining it on CNN) as much as it might have tried to do.

This is an important short film.  Maybe it should be in a festival (like Tribeca next spring).

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"The Birdcage": recalling "We Are Family" indeed



Actor Reid Ewing just now, on Twitter, did an impersonation of Florida senator Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackman) from “The Birdcage” (MGM/UA),  a co-founded or the Committee of Moral Order, right out of the mouth of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. It's based on the play by Jean Poiret. 

  
I remember seeing this gay comedy directed by Mike Nichols in 1996 (at the old NEI in Merrifield VA, now replaced by the Angelika Mosaic), which starts with a boat goes across a sound toward Miami Beach, with “We Are Family” playing in the soundtrack.  Gay cabaret owner Armand Goldman (Robin Williams) and his gender fluid lover Albert (Nathan Lane) have a son they have raised, from Albert is heterosexual days (Paul Rosenfels used to say that most transvestites are straight). The son Val (Dan Futterman) will get married, and the Senator and wife (Dianne Wiest) will invade South Beach.
  
  
The film has a lot of satirical moments, pre gay marriage but when gay parenting was happening more. In one scene, a Louise teases Robin Williams’s hairy chest (remember “Mrs. Doubtfire’?) and also mentions gays in the military (this film was made during Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask don’t tell”.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Two feature films about Matthew Shepard



On the day after Matthew Shepard was interred at Washington National Cathedral, it’s well to note a film about his story, Tim Hunter’s “Anatomy of a Hate Crime” (2001), from Team Entertainment and MTV.  It is written by Max Ember.


Cy Carter plays Matthew, who was charismatic and yet perhaps naïve and innocent at the same time. I remember how that comes through the performance when I saw it while living in Minneapolis in 2001. The two assailants are played by Brendan Fletcher and Ian Somerhalder. Yet, Matthew could have been taken in.

  
In 2002 there was a second TV film from Canadian TV and shown on NBC, simply “The Matthew Shepard Story”, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, with Shane Meier as Matthew and Stockard Channing as his mother.

See also "Matthew Shepard Was a Friend of Mine", Oct. 3, 2014. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

"Barton Fink": Coen Brothers make a layered period piece film noir about screenwriting; where the external carnage becomes the screenplay



I mentioned “Barton Fink” today in reviewing “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”.  I remember seeing this black comedy back in late 1991 at the Shirlington Theater in Arlington VA, on a Saturday afternoon, in the middle of a workplace crisis.


The Coen Brothers film (directed by Joel, distributed by 20th Century Fox, without Cinemascope) deals with writers block in the screenwriting business back in 1941, but it has a David Lynch kind of look.


John Turturro plays the playwright, now hired as a screenwriter and holed up in a flop hotel (the Earle) where he thinks he can avoid writers block.  Pretty soon some bizarre events, especially involving the insurance salesman Charlie (John Goodman) next door, and later a novelist Mayhew (John Mahoney), and a secretary Audrey (Judy Davis) who claims to have ghostwritten most of Mayhew’s work. Then there is a lot of gratuitous violence that generates Barton’s script.
So this is some kind of layering.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"Why Colleges Tolerate Fraternities" (Vox, "Overrated")




Phil Edwards, a “nerd” narrates “Why Colleges Tolerate Fraternities”, 7 minutes, in Vox’s “Overrated” series.


At one time they were banned because of connection to the Masons and the fear of secrecy.

But as college enrollment soared after 1900, colleges found that fraternities were a good tool for “distributive discipline” (even if that started with hazing) and later a source of alumni money.
Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society, was a fraternity and got started at William and Mary (from which I was expelled in 1961 in the freshman semester, but I’ve covered that before, as well as the “Tribunals”).


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

"Pretty Privilege?": What if you have the perfect body at age 21 to be noticed on your first night out? I sure didn't.



In “Pretty Privilege?”, a cis-male with a perfect bod explains what it is like to another guy who is not so perfect.  He is like Macho Man from the Village People.  But the future ride may be all downhill from this point in space-time.


Some how this reminds me of Umair Haque’s criticism of capitalism, based on the idea that some people believe they are just “born better” than others. 
  
It would have been nice to be able to go into a bar at 21 with a perfect body. Had someone done so in 1981 or so, he might not be around today.

Update: Oct. 29, 2018

A match?  From Miami book fair, November, 2017?  (I went there, where my books were being promoted). A totally random coincidence.

The subject of the film is Eduardo Sanche-Ubanell who in on imdb and has made short films (one of them about the Everglades).  Maybe a future focus on reversing climate change?  Let us hope so. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

"White Lily": short film examines the importance of fantasy for people who travel alone




Dust presents a 9-minute short film “White Lily”, from Chrita Oldfield and director Adrian Reynolds.
   
  
A man on a space ship in interstellar space (it barges through some space junk) ponders what people will look like when he returns home in twenty more years.  He has a girl friend on board, but we gradually learn she is a hologram, designed to fit his visual fantasies.  One clue is that she names parts of speech instead of real words an articulating her sentences. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

"Ducks' Migration": a young college-age male couple is distracted by parents, as one of them watches birds more than people, for science


Ducks’ Migration” (13 min), by Geoff Mansfield, presents two teens, about college freshman age, building a relationship, under the nose of the parents. 

One of the boys is into birding and makes a point of being at a pond (in Central Park, maybe) when the mallard ducks migrate for the fall.


But the distraction of their parents’ concern over their relationship may interfere with the boys’ seeing the big event.  

The film could use better definition. 

There is nudity, but not complete. 

In the 1990s, I had a friend in “Adventuring”, the DC area LGBT group, who sponsored birding hikes.
  
The film makes a curious reference to Bastille Day in France.
 
 For another short film about a young male scientist (Dallas Taylor) and animals, look at July 19, 2017, about ocean mammals who would love him. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"Camp Horizons": short film about aborted reparative therapy at an Oklahoma camp




Paul Hower’s “Camp Horizons” with Matthew Hanisch as Aiden and Griffin LaVictoire as Lucas.


Aiden is sent to a reparative therapy clinic in Oklahoma (by rejecting parents) and is paired with a childhood best friend Lucas. You can guess what may happen. Both young men are very cis physically -- and that creates a certain irony. 
  
The film is apparently set near the Quartz Mountains in SW Oklahoma.  I took this picture in 2005. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

"Hyperlight": short film about faster-than-light travel poses a paradox about identity




Hyperlight” (16 min) on Dust Films, directed by Nguyen Anh-Nyugen, presents an interesting paradox about personal identity and consciousness.


A faster-than-light spacecraft is in orbit around a distant, icy world. It has encountered a failure as it came out of hyper-speed. 

Elmirissa finds her male companion lifeless, but then a duplicate copy of him appears alive.  She also finds out she has died and is a duplicate.

To get her companion back she must kill his copy.
  
Does your consciousness move to the copy when you come out of hyperlight travel?  Is it like a dream?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Star Wars writer fired from Marvel for behavior on Twitter (hiding behind "safe spaces"?)



Marvel Studios has fired a writer for Star Wars franchise, Chuck Wendig, for his political threads on Twitter. The story by Kate Gardner on Mary Sue is here.

The problem seems to have to do with his being trolled for creating some LGBTQ and/or non-binary characters. 


It’s unclear what happened behind the scenes with LucasFilm or even Disney.
  
This is going to be a controversial story. Maybe a Timcast? 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

"Babel" (2006) is an interesting networked-plot film in multiple locations




I tend to like films with intersecting stories around the world (like “Life Itself”), and one of the best examples is “Babel” (2006, Paramount) from Alejandro Gonzalez Innaratu.  It is the last of a trilogy of “death” films including “Amores Peres”, and “21 Grams”.  
  
The drama has interlocking stories in three major locations:  Morocco, Japan, and the US-Mexico border area.  It all starts when an American woman on a bus (Cate Blanchett) is accidentally shot by a boy while her husband (Brad Pitt) has to fend for her.


The story moves to Japan, were a troubled girl deals with a police investigation that leads eventually back to the man who provided the gun in Morocco, after considerable complexity involving her mother’s suicide.

And on the US border the American’s children’s nanny (undocumented) gets involved in complications taking the kids across the border for a wedding.

  
There is also a lot of backstory of the American couple who had lost a child to SIDS.
   
It's pretty clear how the title of the film is inspired by the story in Genesis. 

Look also at "The Edge of Heaven", June 24, 2008. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Some short films on "activists" by Ford Fischer (and an important documentary project)



I have presented and countered (with others criticism) Ford Fischer’s work for “News2Share” which he and Trey Yingst help start at American University in Washington DC a few years ago, on my “fr” blog (see Blogger profile, “Films on major threats to freedom”).

But I thought I would share is YouTube short from Providence, RI Saturday (during the same time as the Kavanaugh vote). Official name: “Clashes as ‘Providence Freedom Rally’ Clashes with Antifa”.


It’s all very combative. Someone threw urine in Ford Fischer’s face, and he says he almost vomited. 

 This little incident went around the Internet all day Saturday.

Fischer says some of the people in the crowd are “libertarians” who don’t grasp what they are getting themselves into.

Police got spray-painted in white by Antifa.
  
Fischer recently tweeted that he accidentally appeared in “The First Purge” (horror film, Universal, 2018), here.  But I have a cameo in “Major League 3” (sports comedy, Warner Brothers, 1997).
  
Providence (actually West Warwick) is the home of deceased documentary filmmaker Gode Davis (died, 2010).  His brother is trying to complete “American Lynching” with the help of PBS and I’ve had discussions with him about it (I have a small amount of footage). Gode was active in reporting the fatal West Warwick disco fire in 2003. 
  
Ford Fischer is also working on a documentary called “Transhuman”, Indiegogo site here.  Apparently this film will take up the issue of FOSTA (story). 

Picture: near Newport, RI, from my 2015 trip to visit Gode's brother, Greg.  

Monday, October 08, 2018

"Mythcon V" in Milwaukee: "Are Social Media Outlets Replacing Mainstream Media?", panel discussion "film"



On Sunday, September 23, 2018 I was having a nice sandwich lunch near Lake Tahoe, back on the California side (no slot machines)”, around 2 PM PDT, when suddenly my iPhone was filled with Twitter messages from Tim Pool (and others) over how Mythcon V had been delayed at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, WI (maybe 1800 miles away from me at the moment) because of bomb threats.  (Now, the Milwaukee Brewers are in the baseball playoffs, yes.) 

Then there was a volley tweets to the effect that the extremely confrontational and combative far Left knows it is dying and is getting desperate. I didn’t learn that the panel had gone on for a couple more days, before I flew home.

I guess it’s gotten worse this past week during the Kavanaugh hearings. 
But here is the one hour “film” of “Mythcon V”, the panel discussion “Are Social Media Outlets Replacing Mainstream Media?”. David Smalley moderated. The panelists were Steven Knight (“Godless Spellchecker”), Claire Knight (from Australia, “Quillette”), Jeremy Hambley (YouTube channel, “The Quartering”), and Tim Pool, formerly with Vice News and Fusion, now running his own Timcast channel on YouTube.   The session took place around 10:30 AM CDT on Saturday, September 22.


The biggest theme recurring through the one hour is the way the organized Left is prodding mainstream companies to hit back, by deplatforming at least the most objectionable content providers – namely (for now) Alex Jones.  (Frankly, I think Jones only made David Hogg more powerful by calling him a space alien.)  Some attention was paid to the power of credit card companies to shut down platforms.

So there seems to be a real power struggle, at least in my view. Pool pointed out that local news legacy media can no longer afford to hire court reporters to investigate corruption, and the competition with new media does not always work in the public interest.  The panel did mention the channeling by social media of sometimes false content into echo chambers, as a major problem, but did not give that aspect the attention I would have expected.  Claire and Pool noted that major newspapers no longer make their profits entirely from news operations, but use real estate to bolster the bottom line of their often holding companies to satisfy fiduciary responsibilities.



But new media does need to support itself (and this could get into campaign finance and issue advocacy law, as I have been discussing recently in other blog posts) and there is some shift from ads (and “clickbait”) to paywalls and simply using crowd funding. 

Quillette made somewhat on an impression on me, with respect particularly to science reporting and expanding on the bureaucratic limitations of legacy media – not only on climate change (suddenly a big story in major media today on a dire new IPCC and Global Carbon Project report) but possibly less reported issues like power grid security.  I may share my own work on this with Quillette soon, based on the potential interest Claire showed in the panel.

The panel also discussed the proposedInternet Bill of Rights”, as Kara Swisher recently outlined in the New York Times here.   But on an international level it breaks down.  It’s more than just the US First Amendment (Pool said that the First Amendment incorporate five different rights – they’re not all exactly the same thing). Everyone was aghast at Google’s capitulation to get business in China. 
  
There was a fleeting reference to the recent controversy in Europe over the Digital Common Market and Copyright Directive (Articles 11 and 13) without specific mention by name.  These could have more effect even on US new media than they realize now.  There was also a reference (without name) to the proposed new decentralized Internet architecture (“SOLID”) proposed by Tim Berners-Lee and being developed at M.I.T. in Cambridge, MA.   

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Vox short film explains why social media sites self-destruct



Why Every Social Media Site Is a Dumpster Fire” with Carlos Maza.


This video from Vox pretty much explains why social media sites incentivize extremist content, that tends to appeal to “tribalism” in most people.  (Carlos looks pretty hot in the video!)

Siva had pretty much covered the same ground in “Anti-Social Media”.

It leads you wondering, do some people have less of the tribal genes?  Maybe introverts? Maybe those with some mild autism?  Strong individualists?   Maybe those with “schizoid personality” which may not be such a bad thing.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

"I Lost All My Friends in the Culture War": It can happen, maybe worse



OK, this soliloquy by a young woman who names herself “Critical Condition” gets to count as a movie once: “I Lost All My Friends in the Culture War”.


She was raised in Christian conservatism, left home as a young adult, and began to make friends with more liberal people, even “the hippies”.

But as the outside culture war heated up, she says, her views, almost by default, got to be seen as falling into the well of “hate speech.”  She found herself solo in both social media and real life, it seems.
  
I can remember after my William and Mary expulsion of 1961 my father said I would lose all my friends. I did not.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

"The Good Waiter" is a curious gay male drama about the "proletarian" workplace for young actors in LA



George Bamber’s “The Good Waiter” (2018/2016, 14 min) is a curious short film with an ironic and a bit devilish plot, about the world of “the proles”.


The film was written but the two male leads.  Kevin (Kevin Grant Spencer) seems like an upcoming young actor and tennis player who has a nice job as assistant manager in a Glendale CA restaurant, working for Kim (Michelle Grisaffi).  One day a naïve young man and another aspiring actor Drew (Matthew Ludwinski) shows up to train as a waiter.  Drew seems awkward at this proletarian job.  (I once overheard comments about a waiter in Martinsburg, W Va – “his movements are slow”.)  Kim says that the way you fire someone is let him finish training and then just not put him on the schedule.

Kevin invites Drew on a “hike” in Griffith Park – that is, after Drew takes off his shirt (“thmooth”). 

The expected “men kissing” starts (this isn’t “Next Door Mates” but it could go there) as they climb an old evergreen tree common in southern California.  In a maneuver eerily reminiscent of a similar scene in John Knowles’s “A Separate Peace”, Drew suddenly falls down into a small canyon.
Kevin then botches work and Kim has to fire him – but then Drew rises from the dead and is working in the restaurant as Kevin drives by.

The film has a curious prologue (“If we’re going to do this, no second chances”) that may be explanatory. “The Good Waiter” is not exactly the same as “The Good Doctor”.
  
Picture: Near Civic Center, San Francisco, where I ate before an important meeting Sept. 19.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The other film called "Crash", as actor James Spader explores body damage fetishism



Here’s the “other” film called “Crash”, in 1996, NC-17, from director David Cronenberg, based on the novel by J.G. Ballard (Fine Line Features).


James Spader plays TV director James Ballard, who gets into a serious car accident. He discovers a subculture of crash survivors with hideous injuries, ranging from burns to amputations, who fetishize their damage.


There’s one young woman with artificial limbs joined right at the hip.  I remember that. I saw this at the old Shirlington Theater in Arlington well before renovation. 

Cronenberg tries to use this fetishism to rejuvenate his own sex life, but he has to cause crashes himself. Do not imitate his behavior.  

Thursday, September 27, 2018

"Is This How It Ends? EU Copyright Directive Has Passed"



This counts as a short film.

Is This How It Ends? EU Copyright Directive Has Passed


“Computing Forever” sees the Article 11 and Article 13 issues as a way to control social media and the spread of information, because the EU fears more Brexit’s. 

He does fear it will affect any company doing business in the EU (unless the company can break itself up).

“They want power more than they want freedom”.

His interpretation is that the Copyright Directive comes from the Left.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

"Life in Nazi Germany": animated documentary short from "Armchair Historian"




Life in Nazi Germany: Part 1: Animated History” by the Armchair Historian, Brit Johnson, sponsored by Brilliant.


The film depicts everyday life for civilian Gentiles in Germany in the 1930s with animation. Johnson points out that at first Gentile men did not notice much change in their daily lives, but women were strongly prodded to produce more children.

Later young adults were required to spend six months of social manual labor before men were conscripted.  The Nazi’s tried to unify all “Christian “ churches and handed out radios for all German families, and finally tried to give away “people’s cars”.  This really was “socialism” for the “preferred people”.
 
 I think a film like this gives us reason to ponder today's alt-right and its aims for collectivism to benefit on those "born better", as Umair Haque has written on Eudomedia on Medium. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

"The Dancing Sowei" in Sierra Leone (short film shown at art museum at Stanford University)



The Cantor Museum on the Stanford University campus offers, on the second floor, a shocking short video “The Dancing Sowei: Performing Beauty in Sierra Leone.”

The film describes family culture in the west African country, which includes rites of passage for both sexes and the obsession with making women marriagble to men. The customs may include female circumcision. The West is aghast at this, but there is a question as to whether previously colonial powers should change culture that is “African.”

  
Shown here in video is a similar British Museum film “Sowei Mask: The Spirit of Sierra Leone”.
Sierra Leone has a sodomy law that applies to men only, but is supposedly not enforced.
  
In 2000 Sebastian Junger wrote about the civil war in Sierra Leone, which was hit hard by the 2014 Ebola epidemic.
   
The Anderson Collection Museum, right next door, also has a short film on the subject of art collection, for the sake of collection (like my record collection and then CD’s when I was younger). There some discussion of abstract art forms, particularly of Jason Pollock and others, and of the differences between East and West Coast art. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

"The Gelmer Funicular" ride



Here’s a micro-film for your weekend: “The Gelmer Funicular”, in Switzerland, Facebook link here.  
  
Note the super roller coaster effect, but moreover the increasingly steep slope (second derivative in calculus) of the train tracks.


The film quality reminded me of the roller coaster opening of “This Is Cinerama” in 1955 at the old Warner Theater in Washington DC.  Don't get motion sickness watching this!

Wikipedia attribution link under CCSA 2.0 for photo by Kecko. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

"The Battle of Algiers" plays at the Castro in San Francisco



The Castro Theater in San Francisco was showing “The Battle of Algiers” and I indeed had seen it in 2004 shortly at the Landmark E Street in downtown Washington DC shortly after the theater opened.
  
  
The black and white film was directed in 1966 by Gillo Pontecorvo and later restored for distribution by Rialto.   It shows the (Muslim) resistance of residents against French colonial occupiers, whose tactics included suspending due process.


Perhaps this film helps explain the growing resentment of the West in much of the Middle East, beyond Palestine. 


Algerians were then legally French citizens.  There is one sequence in the film with a clock that resembles a similar idea in "High Noon".

The film can be rented on YouTube for $2.99.  The restored version is available from the Criterion Collection in Blu-Ray (expensive).

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"Waltz Across Texas": mental perambulations as I fly across the Lone Star State



Having flown across the Texas Panhandle yesterday from DFW on the way to San Francisco, I thought I would recall the 1982 indie film “Waltz Across Texas” which I saw in Dallas when I was living here (in the old AMC Northtown, I think, or maybe Northpark 3-4).
  

Ernest Day directs a film in which an eastern geologist (Terry Jastrow) falls in love with a Texas “wildcatter” (Anne Archer). 
  
The film was a little "Giant". 
  

This film was unusual in that real life people starred in a quasi-true story.

   
The film came from Atlantic Releasing and Aster.

The second picture above is supposed to be Palo Duro Canyon, the escarpment int the Panhandle, but the pic didn't turn out well. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

"String Theory Explained": animated short



Kurzgesagt presents “String Theory Explained: The Nature of Reality”.


In an animated video, the author explains why elementary particles are affected by being stared at (so are people).  Three of the forces have particles, but gravity is really a set of geometry rules for space-time. Then he explains why strings are useful in quantum theory, but it turns out we need six dimensions of them.  Will this lead to a “Theory of Everything”?

These two pictures provide an optical illusion of what is level (from my trainset), the second one especially.  Inside an O'Neill cylinder (as in my screenplay "Epiphany") this concept is very critical as to how artificial gravity really would work.
 

Friday, September 14, 2018

"How Technicolor Changed Movies", shorts




Vox, in an 11-minute short narrated by Phil Edwards, explains “How Technicolor Changed Movies”.


No, the Technicolor process started before “The Wizard of Oz” (1925, or 1939) and its transition scene.
The short explains the three plate process of relative black and white corresponding to the three added pigments (cyan, yellow, magenta).  Cyan wasn’t added until the late 1930s.

Later processes, like Eastmoncolor, needed only one plate.  It would be a good question how Fox’s Color by DeLuxe worked.

Vatalie Kalmus became the major executive.

Hollywood was capable of homophobia in the early days.  I remember hearing about a “purge” at Technicolor in 1965.

Vox also offers as a supplement a 4-minute short by Estelle Casavelli, “Color Film Was Built for White People. Here’s What It Did to Dark Skin”, link.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

"Poland Is Pushing the EU into Crisis": short from Vox



Sam Ellis and Liz Sheltens narrate the short “Poland Is Pushing the EU into Crisis” for Vox.


The PiS party, originally part of Solidarity, has turned to the right and stripped the judiciary of its independence. But the EU will have trouble keeping Poland out because Hungary will veto an expulsion. The film shows recent white supremacy demonstrations in the country, motivated by the migrant crisis.  

I visited Poland in 1999, taking a train from Berlin to Cracow, visiting Auschwitz-Berkinau, and then taking a train to Warsaw for one night.

The New York Times has a Sept. 12 article by Steven Erlinger and Patrick Kingsley on Orban and Hungary today here.

And the Atlantic has a big article by Anne Applebaum: "A Warning from Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come" in the October 2018 issue. 
  
The film seems ironic given the recent vote in the EU on the Copyright Directive.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"BEARiSH": short film about the chubby community


Haven’t done a gay short film for a while.  Here is “BEARiSH” by Christopher Tyra.


It’s pretty much about a chance encounter “within the bear community”.

These men are bears more because of bellies than hair. 

But in my own days in Manhattan in the 1970s, many encounters were not any more intense than this.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

"Enemy of the State": 1998 film predicts NSA surveillance world after 9/11



Continuing author Said Vaidhyanathan’s discussion characters played by Gene Hackman, from the private-eye-for hire in the analogue era to the retired NSA agent “off the grid” (Lyle), I’ll re-introduce the second of these films, “Enemy of the State”, 1998, directed by Tony Scott for Touchstone Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films.


The film indeed takes a cynical view of “politicians”. Rep. Phil Hammersley (Jason Robards) wants to protect Americans from privacy invasion already apparent with new technology associated with the young Internet, and  former NSA honcho Thomas Reynolds (Jon Voigt)  pushes more surveillance on Americans out of fear of terrorist threats – and in that sense the film is prescient of the world after 9/11 three years later – it’s rather remarkable that writer David Marconi (and apparently novelist Vince Flynn, whom I met personally when living in Minnesota)  could anticipate the danger Americans were living under.  Reynolds has Hammersley killed, and then tries to frame lawyer Robert Dean (Will Smith) who has been working to trail a drug dealer, and happens to film the murder.  Lyle becomes Smith’s rescuer, so to speak.


This film is credited with predicting the modern government “surveillance state”.  It also predicts how the government (or a foreign enemy) could microtarget an ordinary person who stands out too much.
  
I recall seeing this film about a year after moving to Minneapolis, probably in the old Cinema Cinema complex (now, probably AMC) in the Mall of America.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

"The Conversation": 1974 Coppola thriller showed how surveillance worked in the analogue days



I’m reading Siva Vaidhyanathan’s “Antisocial Media”, a blue-book (like for taking exams) and Siva early on mentions the 1974 film “The Conversation”, directed by Francis Ford Coppola for Paramount.


The film is a good exercise on the mentality of analogue surveillance in the decades before the Internet. Gene Hackman plays Henry Caul, living in San Francisco, a private eye and former G-man who run his own surveillance business with manual wiretaps but who is extraordinarily finicky about how he relates even to the people who hire him (who include Martin (Harrison Ford) and his relationship with the “Director”, after whom Ford named his production company.


Much of the plot centers around his belief that a couple he is shadowing will be murdered.
   
The film is curious in that it is filmed in the old 1.37:1 aspect ratio.  I think I saw it in NYC in the summer of 1974 during the Nixon Watergate hearings, before I moved into the city myself on September 1, 1974.
Wikipedia: Public Domain, Link

Monday, September 03, 2018

"Inside a Communist Building"


Inside a Communist Building”, by “Vee” (17 min, 2018).

In post-Communist Romania, a building contractor examines an abandoned high-rise apartment building before renovation.


The building was constructed in 1977 and had very poor maintenance, and very small studio aparments for families.  Typically the government would tell a family where to live based on the husband’s job (assigned by the government) and “give” the family a “home”. 

There is no air conditioning and the summer temperature is often over 85 degrees.  The smell is bad because of deteriorating plumbing. The walls are thin so that people could hear their neighbors talking if they talked about politics.  I remember my own father saying that this was what life under Communism would be like.
  
By Not credited - Romanian National History Museum - www.comunismulinromania.ro, Attribution, Link


Saturday, September 01, 2018

"Why Genius Doesn't Matter": Tom Bilyeu debriefs young nuclear scientist Taylor Wilson in his "Impact Theory" series


In a series called “Impact Theory” Tom Bilyeu interviews nuclear scientist Taylor Wilson in a 45-minute segment called “Why Genius Doesn’t Matter: The Curiosity Kid”.  It appears to have been made in December 2017.  It popped up on Facebook this morning as everyone was talking about the passing of John McCain. Here is the link.   (Okay, yes, I remember "Deep Impact" (1998), as noted below.) 

Taylor, to refresh everyone’s memory, built a nuclear fusion reactor at home (creating a “sun”) when he was 14, in 2008.  He used uranium that he personally picked up in the Nevada desert.


Now 24, he apparently directs a research project at a company in Reno, NV closely connected to the University of Nevada.

Some of the Facebook comments pointed to Einstein and Mozart and claimed, well, talent does matter.

Wilson says the most important thing is curiosity.  I can remember in 1999, when I was working at my old hangout temporarily to be closer to mother after surgery, a colleague said I had displayed “an astonishing lack of curiosity” when I didn’t download things that would have been illegal given company policies on a work computer.  Well – I think Taylor’s remarks are more about focus.  It is really hard to be good a more than one thing.  But gifts in science and math parallel gifts in music.  Note a few of the young pianists these days making charismatic videos on YouTube.

Wilson says that science is the one field where you get rewarded for not knowing what you’re doing. Hopefully you’re not the mad scientist making “Young Frankenstein” (1974) or nurturing “Donovan’s Brain” (1953) while the disembodied organ controls the stock market telepathically.

Wilson is optimistic that the world will use science to solve its problems.  Man is the only life form that can alter its destiny deliberately, for good or bad.  You pet cat who “owns” you can’t figure out how to stop an asteroid (or large comet) from blasting Earth, but man can. (I don't think we could stop a gamma ray burst -- and a few solar storms could be severe -- see the end of this post.) I can remember back in the 1970s how Paul Rosenfels would talk about the honor of being human.  Wilson did not explicitly discuss political divisiveness or Trump’s apparent anti-science and anti-intellectual behaviors, but it was clear he thinks these can be overcome.  (It seems as though “Trump” is the name never mentioned in respectable circles.)

Wilson does say he wants to become a parent and have children, but it isn’t there yet.

Wilson also mentions that a relative died of cancer when he was a boy, just as was the case with Jack Andraka, who went on to invent a new diagnostic test.

Bilyeu had just read the book “The Boy Who Played with Fusion” written with Tom Clynes.
  
Taylor is a member of the Helena Group.  His website is “SciRadioactive”. He says he has not had much time for social media in the past couple of years but plans to offer more updates on the site and probably feed them into social media relatively soon.

I am going to gamble here, that Taylor finds this post.  If he does, I want him to read my essay on Medium about the power grid, “Mainstream media needs to take electric grid(s) seriously;its peril is more immediate than climate change”.  I wonder what he thinks of this issue and if he has specific knowledge as to how to parry the danger.

I guess that Taylor Wilson is more proof that "the young people will win" (or are winning).  But no one can stay biologically young forever -- yet.

(Note: I believe Taylor has worked for HBO and Vice Media, also.)
  
(Note: from now on, most “interviews” in series will probably be placed on the TV reviews blog.  But today it was easier to fit this in where it would have been before.)