Saturday, March 31, 2018

"Cat vs Octopus" makes you root for the feline as a proxy person



Is this “Cat vs Octopus” long enough to qualify as a short film? Maybe it's substance, not amount. 

  
What’s interesting to me his how the video has you rooting for the cat, because she is more like “us”.  She seems like a proxy for a person.  She seems to be investigating the creature the way a person would.  She understands it is alive, but fundamentally alien to her world.
  
The octopus has an intelligence similar to a dog or cat, but a much shorter life.  I didn’t realize the octopus can move out of water.  Cephalopod intelligence is an example of convergent evolution, but so is the intelligence of the orca, about the same as a human's, and posing a question of giving personhood rights to some animals.  The "brainpower" of the octopus is more distributed (into the peripheral nerves as on the arms) than it is for mammals or backboned animals.  It makes one wonder what the "consciousness" of the animal would feel like. 
  
The feline in this older, but longer video, is more reticent.

A dog will behave in a manner similar to a cat, as in this video

Wikipedia attribution CCSA 3.0 by Tomomri. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

"I Went Undercover in the Alt-Right", FB short film



“I Went Undercover in the Alt-Right”, link here on Facebook 
  
An African-American man manipulates his Facebook profile to appear to be sympathetic to white supremacy to see what kind of fake junk he would get thrown at him.
  

It’s a pretty riveting rendition.

In the Prager video above, Michael Knowles discusses “What Is the Alt-Right?” and explains how it has a lot in common with the Left In subordination of the individual to the collective.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

1950s propaganda film on homosexuals, "Boys Beware", shows how much things have changed



Boys Beware” (a “Sid Davis Production”) popped up on YouTube (10 min) as an example of a 1950s propaganda film warning boys on the dangers posed by “homosexuals”.

  
It’s pretty obvious immediately that the film equates male homosexuality (“a sickness of the mind” which “you can’t see like smallpox”) with pedophilia (maybe ephebophilia), like the 2013 Russian anti-gay propaganda law – which was a prelude to a lot of other bad things from Russia.
  
It presents several episodes of teen boys groomed by older men they meet outdoors in public places.  One boy gets probation merely for having ridden in a car with the man. 
  
It was filmed, in black an white, in Ingleside CA and says it had the support of a public school in Ingleside.  And boys are supposed to report strange men to “teachers” as well as parents.. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Recalling "The Wild Bunch", as the Old West faced the 20th Century


I seem to remember seeing “The Wild Bunch” when I was in the Army in 1969, when other soldiers at Fort Eustis said that Sam Peckinpah’s film for Warner Brothers/Seven Arts was the most violent western ever made.


The criminal gang wanted to make one last score as the West moved into the 20th Century (in 1913), but ran into equally ruthless gangs in Mexico – long before today’s immigration debate.  The director’s cut lasts 144 minutes.

  
The film was originally released in 70 MM, but was re-released with various improvements in Dolby in 1995. 
  
I seem to remember three particularly violent shootouts.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

"Baby Play and Pinball""


I have to give this gem of a short film a name myself.  I’ll call it “Baby Play and Pinball”, link..

You can do stuff like this with Brio train sets, too.  Here’s a family’s “Massive Track Tour”.

  
Also, try a Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnel in this video.  Having the toy trains battery-powered helps.

Back to more grownup stuff with the next post. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Atlantic Magazine's short film: "Rebranding White Nationalism: Inside the Alt-Right"



Atlantic Magazine did indeed create a lot of controversy at the end of 2016 with the 11 minute documentary “Rebranding White Nationalism: Inside the Alt-Right”, directed by Daniel Lambroso.  The film has an alternative title, “Inside Richard Spencer’s Alt-Right”.
  

The visitor is advised to play the film on YouTube and read “The Atlantic” ‘s own descriptive comments, which are quite extensive.

An excerpt from this film got “pseudo-deleted” (removed from the search index) by YouTube for a while as hate speech, but was restored after Atlantic complained.
  
The film does open with Spencer’s “Hail Trump” before it gets into documentary mode.  In the beginning, Spencer seems to be articulating merely a frustration with minority identity politics and intersectionality.  That would be OK.  But soon he seems to shift to wanting a white identity, and makes a bizarre suggestion for a return of the (Holy) Roman Empire as a “safe space” for “Europeans”, a kind of perversion of campus speech codes on a continental scale.  Another, elderly, supporter describes himself as a “tribalist”, but for white people.  The documentary does show some screen shots of “Daily Stormer” stuff, and mentions 4chan.  It also shows a scene from the Charlottesville riots, where Antifa is apparently fighting back physically.
   
Some viewers will find this video disturbing.

Milo Yiannopoulos talks about this on CNBC, here (Sept. 2016).

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"The Dreamers": Bertolucci's 2003 film set in the 1968 Paris demonstrations takes "maleness" to the edge



The Dreamers”, Bernaldo Bertolucci’s 2003 film, based on Gilbert Adair’s novel “The Holy Innocents”, seems to need a retrospect here, although I rented it a decade ago.

The title seems current because “dreamer” means something now in immigration.

In the film, Michael Pitt plays Matthew, and American student in Paris in 1968 during the riots.  He is boarding with two flaky fraternal twins, Isabelle and Theo (Eva Green and Louis Garrel).


The twins get pretty wild at times, and eventually Matthew spies on them.  He gets caught and trapped at about 51:00 in the film and gets undressed from above and below by the twins.  Later, Isabelle wants to use a razor on his crotch (at 74:00) as "proof of love".  Is this Lorena Bobbitt stuff?  Or the reverse of “Boxing Helena”?



But Matthew is a bad boy, skipping out on the riots and demonstrations.  How is he avoiding the draft?  Student deferments would end in 1969.

The DVD commentary indicates that Matthew is gay in the book but that isn’t in the film (from Hanway and Fox Searchlight).
  
The full film is here but requires age-verification sign-on.
  
Picture: By Yann Caradec from Paris, France - BNF et l'UPMC vues de la Tour Saint-Jacques, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Monday, March 19, 2018

"The Godfather" films: the issues are still with us today



Recently, a Facebook friend reported that he had watched The Godfather films at home, and he gave a ringing 4-stars to the first film, dating from 1972, as directed by Francis Ford Coppola, from Paramount Pictures, 195 minutes.  The screenplay had been written with novelist Mario Puzo.
  
I remember seeing this film in an older theater in Manhattan on 57th Street in 1973, when I was commuting into the City many weekend days while living in New Jersey (I would ten go to the Ninth Street Center on a Saturday, for cherry picking). 
  
  
What strikes me particularly is a conversation where Marlon Brando’s character says he specializes in “services” that legitimate businesses are not allowed to indulge themselves in.  Prostitution is one of them.  Think about the Backpage issue, the Internet, and the serious challenge to Section 230 now (and the way federal law is now being increased to include prostitution as well as sex trafficking per se). Another was pornography, at least based on adult consensual sex.  I actually would see “Deep Throat” with a trick in January 1976 on Times Square. (I may do a post on this one later;  doesn’t look like I have one yet.)
  
The story revolves around his son’s rise to power (as played by Al Pacino).
  
I do remember the wedding scene near the beginning (all arranged, or was that Film II?), and particularly a violent execution at a New Jersey Turnpike toll plaza, as well as restaurant assassinations  Ponder these films today also in connection with the gun control debate. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

"Hecarim: The Outlaw of the Rift": short is the first of a gamer series




Once Upon a Time: Hecarim: The Outlaw of the Rift”, by “Lulz Lol” (first of a series).


Note the quote of Reid Ewing’s video and song “Traffic Jam” (2012) at the end.  It’s time for me to drive the 405 again (that is, after renting a car at LAX). Reid shared this new video recently on Twitter.
  
I’m not a specialist on games or Japanese Danganronpa, but the video game does present a tribal, medieval world on another planet, with armies of little characters.  There is a place called “Summoner’s Rift” (as if out of Canterbury Tales).  The name of the chief sounds Roman. A look at authoritarian worlds, to be sure.



  The film reminded me of a sophomore English assignment back in 2004 when I was working as a substitute teacher.  The assignment (after having read a Grimm's Fairy Tale) was to write a short story fairy tale.  They all had to start with "Once upon a time"  Like " ... there lived a banana".  You know that that was. 


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Lost in Expression": low-key short film about a gay-bi fraternity pledge fending off an old boyfriend (at UNC)



A fraternity pledge (Jace, played by Casey Mills) has to fend off a clinging ex-boyfriend in Bruno Rose’s short film “Lost in Expression”.


The film was shot as a UNC student film in Wilmington NC.  There is a false ending, and the credits start, and then an epilogue with a reconciliation.

I’m not so thrilled about the obesity and tattoos.  But this is a relatively low-key film.

Picture: Mine, on US-17, north of Elizabeth City. NC.  Was in Wilmington myself just once, in 1993, Memorial Day weekend, on the way to visit an uncle in Myrtle Beach SC. But that was a very important weekend in my life (led in some ways to my first DADT book.) 

Monday, March 12, 2018

"Complicit": documentary short provides shocking statistics on sex trafficking




Here is the 2011 short film “Complicit” by Michelle Nehme, mentioned March 9.


The 19-minute film offers many brief interviews with trafficking victims and show some acting in a play. The film was shot in Austin, TX and McAllen, TX (near the border).

There are many shocking statistics presented.  Many victims are runaways who pimps find in public places like shopping malls.  A typical age is 13.  By definition, a crime occurs with the purchaser of sex when the victim is under age of consent, and trafficking would obviously be closely connected to child pornography. The life expectancy for a minor victim can be as low as 25.  80% are US born.  But the statics provided in this short film are shocking.

The film does not go into how the trafficking continues on the Internet on certain websites, but the feature (discussed Friday) may do so.  I’m now told that the feature is due in 2019.

The current bills FOSTA and SESTA in Congress could have a significant downstream effect on Internet users who have nothing to do with this practice personally. Is this a sacrifice many people will be asked to make to protect more victims? 

Picture: downtown Austin, my trip, Nov. 2011  

Saturday, March 10, 2018

"Colonizing Venus": it may be easier than Mars




“Colonizing Venus”, apparently the second film in the Outward Bound series with Isaac Arthur, starts out by proposing floating cities high in the atmosphere of Venus.


The film starts out by reminding us that we didn't know how hot the surface of Venus is until the 1960s. 

But eventually true terraforming of Venus might be possible, and easier than Mars.  The trick is to build shades and place them at Lagrange points for the orbit of Venus. Gradually, with less sun, the atmosphere of Venus cools and the carbon dioxide liquifies into an ocean under pressure. As the atmosphere cools further it might freeze. 

Venus is almost tidally locked.  But mirrors could reflect the sunlight around the atmosphere to simulate earthlike days.


  
I had a harder time following how you get a livable surface.  The carbon dioxide has to go somewhere. Respected science points out that Venus is so volcanic that the surface is replaced every few hundred million years.  And it’s possible that Venus had a runaway greenhouse effect about a billion years ago, and might have had life before that.  Perhaps a real tragic apocalypse. A warning about our own climate change.

Picture: Model of Venus from Meteor Crater museum near Odessa, TX, my visit, Nov. 2011. 

Friday, March 09, 2018

"American Love Story": film near completion deals with sex trafficking (now a topic in Congress with regards to Section 230)



As Congress nears the passage of controversial legislation that could expose tech companies to more downstream liability when they inadvertently provide a platform for sex trafficking (these the bills known as FOSTA in the House and SESTA in the Senate), a documentary film on sex trafficking moves into post-production.
  
  
The film is “American Love Story: A Community in Search of Freedom”, by Michelle Nehme. 
   
The trailer does seem to call for a total societal or community commitment to stop trafficking, and that could have a real impact on how the laws contemplated in Congress are ultimately implemented, interpreted, and enforced, and could impact speakers who have nothing to do with trafficking.
  
The link for the film itself is here. 
   
The director says she also has a short film “Complicit  which I couldn’t find. But the title perhaps hints at the role of the Internet and its permissive culture, which the bills in Congress would attack. 
  
I’ll review the entire film in detail when I can get it, like on Netflix or Amazon or a screener.  Paying a fair film rental is no problem.  (I hope my site for review doesn’t get taken down some day out of downstream liability concerns!  That’s the irony.  Here’s a detailed discussion explaining why)

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Arc Gene (and mammalian consciousness, and The Garden of Eden)



Here’s a Facebook video about the Arc Gene, which infected an animal about 400 million years ago. 
  
The video says that the animal was a mammal, but I don’t know if mammals were around yet (mammals developed after the dinosaurs were destroyed by an asteroid strike on Belize 65 million years ago).

But the viral genes were passed through RNA into central nervous system cells and became essential to communications within the brain and between the brain and the automatic nervous system.


The video gives the virus credit for “consciousness”, which seems to have a quantum aspect in the microtubules inside neurons, gradually integrating for the organism.

A failure of the gene could lead to autism, schizophrenia, or later in life, ALS.
  
Here’s a similar video called “The Garden of Eden Virus”.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Timothee Chalamet at 18 plays a charismatic sign spinner in a short film by Erik Barnes



The 2014 short film “Spinners”, directed by Erik L. Barnes based on his own short story, written with Cami Delavigne, features an 18-year-old Timothee Chalamet working as a sign spinner, “Jace”, with pal Derek (Ify Nwadiwe), in an economically depressed town in the California Central Valley, on the edge of the desert.


A single mom with a small girl comes by.  The two men try to do a business transaction.  The mother has handguns in the car trunk and the girl finds them.  Things go wrong.
  
Yet Jace seems up to the challenge.  He certainly tries to do what he can to get the gun taken out of play.  His personality in the film is rather assertive, yet in one scene a passing bully seems to call him a “fag”. 

I believe Chalamet really does play piano pretty well.  I wonder if he could try one of my sonatas. 

Picture: 2012, mine (near Bishop CA on US 395). 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

"Colonizing Mars": very likely with rotating ramas and domes, and maybe cyborgs later



Isaac Arthur for Patreon, in the Outward Bound Colonization Series, presents “Colonizing Mars” (34 minutes).


Colonists would first live in ramas orbiting around the planet, with artificial centripetal gravity approximating that of Mars. People would go down to the surface in nanotube elevators to work.

There are several schools of thought on how to do this.  One is to build domes over many areas (even canyon valleys), where the people live, as well as inside hollowed out “mountain skyscrapers” and lava tubes. Another is to terraform the entire planet, and this might involve bioengineering humans or other life to live in a new environment with much less air.

There is plenty of oxygen on Mars, but finding nitrogen is a problem.
  
The video pays relatively little attention to the possibility of current microbial life on Mars.
  
Future videos in the series will discuss the Fermi paradox and address the question as to how common human (or cetacean) intelligence is in the Galaxy.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

"The Shape of Water" wins; Chalamet dazzles with his white tux; other thoughts on the Oscars; Andraka's latest news





Well, “The Shape of Water” won “Best Picture” and a lot else.  I had predicted “Dunkirk”. I had really liked "Three Billboards".  Here's CNN's list of the winners.   (Sorry, Trump, there are no losers.) 

Timothee Chalamet became the youngest ever to be nominated as a leading role actor, for “Call Me by Your Name”.


Chalamet showed up to the ceremony in a white tuxedo with his mom.
  
His talents range from soccer to piano, to multiple languages. (Although Freddie Highmore has one up on him – Highmore speaks Arabic).  When someone is that precocious – you suspect reincarnation. Nice to get to start over with a young adult’s body and previous lifetimes’ wisdom.
OK, it’s nice that a horror movie wins best picture. 
  
Someone at the Oscar ceremony touted the virtue of “intersectionality”.  Terrible.  I expect Trump to tweet about that one. You can have inclusiveness and non-discrimination and diversity without getting people to look for groups to pout over with claims of common oppression. . 

On top of all that, I’ll share Jack Andraka’s newest shortfilm – his pancreatic cancer test can detect some other tumors and may be closer to approval.  It’s from CNN as a “Tomorrow’s Heroes” short.
   
Physically, at 21 a young man usually looks a little beefier than at 17, no matter how precocious. (Bryce Harper knows that.) But Jack sounds like proof of reincarnation (like Taylor Wilson).  It’s nice to have a new body and pick up where you were before. 
  
Of course, as I ponder this, think how much wild animals know things that we don’t.  If a stray cat, fox (Loki on YouTube) or crow has ever made friends with you, then you know how much knowledge and capability in developed animals (higher mammals and even some birds) really is hardwired.  That’s not to mention the orca.  But I guess hardwiring matters more for humans than I thought. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

"Amsterdam": gentle gay short film set at a party in Australia



Let March start with the gay short film “Amsterdam”, by Sam Langshaw.

At a party in Australia, with lots of sugary treats and behavior, two attractive young men meet and start a conversation.  One of them is headed for Amsterdam.


The phrase “VFL” (Virgin for Life) is used.
  
This is “Ninth Street Center” talk stuff.  This gentle film could use a little more of a payoff (11 min). Definitely PG-13.