Wednesday, August 29, 2018

"AMOS Health and Hope" charity in Nicaragua presents video of its work in the midst of Central American unrest and migrant crisis




Tonight the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC showed a brief video of the “AMOS Health and Hope” mission in Nicaragua, along with a presentation from Laura Parajon.


Baptists have long had missions in Nicaragua, as demonstrated about a decade ago with a program at FBC about the mission at Nacascolo (May, 2008), not too far from the big lake. Different Central American countries attract different churches, so no one of these churches would have a complete handle in the migrant problem leading to illegal immigration through Mexico into the US. 

 Nicaragua’s problems, following Reagan’s interdiction in the 1980s, seem to be typical corruption and inability to pay for everything in a socialist environment.  It’s not clear that the gang influences as it may be in El  Salvador.

The mission reports impressive results on the health of citizens and reducing child mortality.  The largest need for donations appears to be for training medical personnel.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"L Love You, Daddy" by Louis C.K. lost its distribution to scandal


From a little newspaper from Charlottesville VA today, I learned about a movie I had barely heard of because it was dropped by its US distributor last November, The Orchard, and then by most international distributors as well.
This was “I Love You, Daddy”, in black and white, written and directed by Louis C.K. 

In November 2017, Richard Brody, of The New Yorker, wrote a piece vindictively titled, “Why Louis C.K.’s ‘I Love You, Daddy’ Should Never Have Been Distributed in the First Place”.  The title suggests a sermon. Brody compares this black and white movie to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” and then gives a detailed analysis of the debauchery of the plot.  Louis himself plays Glen Topher, whose 17-year-old daughter China (Chloe Grace Moretz) becomes involved in an affair with a 68-year-old director Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovitch, whom a lot of us might “be”).

C.K. seems caught up in accusations from multiple women in the #MeToo movement.  These days, nobody can touch an artist even credibly accused. 
  
But Brody seems to believe that the movie deliberately tries so validate repressive values, by playing up George Gilder’s old idea (Brody doesn’t mention Gilder but should) that women really are superior to men biologically, so men need to make themselves superior politically.

Monday, August 27, 2018

"Fermi Paradox: Imperial Pragmatism": why we don't see alien civilizations yet



Science fiction author John Michael Godier (“Supermind”)_ gives us his take on the “Fermi Paradox: Imperial Pragmatism”.


He discusses the Kardashev scale of civilizations (Earth is approximately at 0.72) and then examines why we find no examples of Type 3 civilizations – based on the idea that such a civilization would put Dyson spheres around each star.

Well, maybe not all stars because many are too unstable.

Actually, he doesn’t consider the Bootes Void, a gap of darkness about 300,000 light years across, which could be an example of such a civilization.

Also, an expanding civilization able to leave its home star would probably invent AI and find a way to attach consciousness and identity (through quantum computing) to it. It might not need biological reproduction, reversing out idea of demographic winter. But it would have to overcome the political problems of deciding who moves out.

Godier notes that expanding empires tend to become too far flung and overextended to remain politically united, and typically break up into independent local units. 

But the biggest reason we don't find alien civilizations easily is that there is so much opportunity to miss them. Our own civilization occupies only a few thousand years out of 14 billion. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for map by Andrew Colvin, CCSA 3.0 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

"Bobcats in My North Dallas Yard": two of them



Bobcats in My  North Dallas Yard” presents two wild bobcats encountered by a homeowner near I-635. 


Bobcats are common in north Texas and will tend to hang around where they have found food or been fed. They have a good memory for people but cannot live inside as pets. Homeowners are not supposed to feed them. Their intermediate size and tremendous strength makes them dangerous, however amicable they often seem to humans. 
   
But one day this north Dallas homeowner say a large bobcat hanging out in his yard around his own house cat,  The cat returned one more time and appeared “tame” and having trouble hunting on his own.

Then a couple months later a smaller female bobcat started coming and regularly hunting for game in the yard.
  
Like foxes, wild cats stay healthy when they live on what they can catch. They develop diabetes on human food.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

"Steel Magnolias" examined medical challenges (juvenile diabetes) to one woman among a group of friends in the old South



The 1989 comedy drama “Steel Magnolias” also got mentioned in “Brotherly Love” and it looks like I rented it over ten years ago. The film is directed by Herbert Ross, written by Robert Harling, and distributed by TriStar Pictures (Sony).


The plot concerns a social bond among some women in the south (Lousiana).  But the biggest part of the plot concerns the medical course of Type 1 diabetes by Shelby (Julia Roberts). She is determined to have children, and after giving birth a kidney fails, resulting in dialysis and then a kidney transplant.  But eventually she dies of infection exacerbated by immunosuppressive drugs.


The other “magnolias” are played by Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, and Olympia Dukakis.

In 2001, I worked with someone who lost his wife (who was only 36) to complications of Type 1 Diabetes;  she had undergone a kidney and pancreas transplant and a leg amputation and had been swollen by immunosuppression.  She died right after 9/11, having been put in a medically induced coma and never knew what had happened.  Sometimes Type 1 Diabetes is a bad scene.

There is a childhood vaccine under investigation to prevent Type 1 diabetes, which may follow infection with cocksackie virus B1, which normally causes only a common cold, but provokes an autoimmune reaction in people with certain genetic susceptibility.   Nick Jonas was diagnosed at age 13, and his management of it is described here

Picture: French Quarter, New Orleans, mine, Feb. 2006, after Katrina 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

"Ticket to Heaven": 1981 drama about a young man caught in a cult is still hard to watch




I should have seen “Ticket to Heaven” (directed by Ralph L. Thomas) and based on Josh Freed’s book “Moonwebs” back in 1981 when I was living in Dallas, but I don’t see record of it. It gets mentioned by “Brotherly Love”, a recent gay film.

You can tell from the title, this is about a religious cult, capture, kidnapping back, and deprogramming. David Kappel (Nick Mancuso), a school teacher, has a romantic breakup at home in Toronto and then attends a motivational event. Lured to San Francisco, he soon finds himself in a religious cult in the California valley.

He is surrounded by singing and chanting, and is never allowed to be alone. He is also deprived of protein and sleep, and is soon put to work raising money by selling flowers in the streets of San Francisco.  The indoctrination scenes are quite difficult to watch. On two occasions, he forces himself to vomit to adhere to the group's dietary and self-deprivation rules. 

The family and even employer plot his kidnapping, risking arrest and prison.  The actual kidnapping scene seems like a parody of a Hitchcock film. The deprogrammer (R.H. Thomson) is quite charismatic himself. 

  
The film is currently available free on YouTube, with reduced aspect from television. The only DVD’s are from third parties and are quite expensive. (Why isn't it in MGM's dvd library?) 
   
Roger Ebert was quite fond of its film, which was distributed by United Artists, a subsidiary of MGM at the time (after production by Canadian television).  Again, I remember the review but not seeing it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

"Film Your Marxist Professors" by going in cognito


"Film Your Marxist Professors" indeed an underground covert journalism assignment.

Sargon of Akkad, with a beard and British accent, treats us to a sequence of excerpts from college sociology and political science professors exposing their logical circles trying to defend Marxism.

  
He starts with a fattish female who insists that race is a purely social construct and that there are no differences among people, therefore we need deliberate racial preferences (???)   The sequence (24 minutes) continues with short clips until he reaches a growing fury of professors calling for revolution and overthrowing the system.  No such thing as “white democracy”?
  
This is indeed an interesting concept for short film.

Monday, August 20, 2018

"Fight!!!" Short film shows how a house cat finally finishes off her prey when she catches a home invader



Here’s a brutal three minute short film, “Fight!!!  Cat vs. Huge Rat”. 


A cat, on a farm, slowly chokes a huge rat.  But she takes her time at it, before breaking the rat’s neck. This is certainly horrible for the prey, who finally grows limp at the end.

This is how cats made friends with man.  Farmers needed them in ancient times to protect their crops from rodents. 

The evidence seems to be that larger wild cats (like bobcats) remember rural homes where they have found food before and tend to return, and can remember the people associated with each home.

Cats are great “doomsday preppers” and have good problem solving skills for hunting in the wild. They want their humans to learn from them.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

"The Billionaire Boys Club" flops in theaters, in competition with VOD, and with Kevin Spacey



The “Billionaire Boys Club” is said to have flopped its opening weekend, with only a few hundred dollars of ticket sales?

The theme – some spoiled rich kids in the 1980s (Beverly Hills) having a scheme that sounds deadly, sounds a little negative.

The film is directed by James Cox and is weighted down by Kevin Spacey.  It seems quite striking how indiscretion a few decades ago now means a life sentence to shame.  But that’s justice. No statute of limitations (under #MeToo). 


But the film has other likeable stars, like Ansel Elgort.

The film has a rather obscure distributor, Vertical Entertainment.

The film is already available for rent on YouTube and Amazon.
  
Hollywood Reporter has a story on the abysmal release numbers. 

There was a two-part TV movie of the story on NBC in 1987.

But you can watch a true story of the heists on Crime Documentaries (45 min) here. 
   
Somehow this narrative reminds me of the Menendez brothers. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

"The Blues Brothers" co-starred Aretha Franklin back in 1980



I vaguely remember seeing “The Blues Brothers” while living in Dallas in 1980. At the time, the John Landis film (with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as the Brothers who try to get their old Catholic boarding school saved, was said to be one of the most expensive films ever made (for Universal).


Arehta Franklin, who passed away today at age 76 from pancreatic cancer, played Mrs. Murphy.


I do remember the final chase scene, with its geographical inaccuracies.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

"Inside Hong Kong's Cage Homes": indeed part of the People's Republic of Statist Capitalism



Johnny Harris shows us on Vox, “Inside Hong Kong’s Cage Homes.”


As on the rest of China, all the land is own by the government (except for one Anglican church. The government auctions lots to builders at high prices so it doesn’t have to charge other taxes and can pretend to be a free market haven for business.  (Singapore is a bit like this, and so is mainland China now.)  About 75% of the land in Hong Kong is not developed -- by deliberately restrictive zoning. 
  
People sometimes live in spaces as small as 75-120 square feet (families a little larger) and share kitchens and bathrooms, much as in dorm living.
  
By NASA - NASA World Wind Software, Public Domain, Link.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

North Anna Power Station, documentary film at visitor center from Dominion Power



I toured the North Anna Power Station, which is one of two in Virginia owned by Dominion Power today.
  

The visitor center features a 10-minute film, which focuses on how spent fuel rods are cooled under water and stored underground on site.

But I embedded “North Anna: One Year Later” which refers to the 5.8 magnitude earthquake near Mineral Va, very close to the power station on Aug. 23, 2011. 

Staff says that Dominion Power is a regulated monopoly in Virginia, so it has to get approval from the state for cybersecurity improvements, which are underway. Presumably this might include removing any hidden malware supposedly placed by the Russians in some utilities as far back as 2012 by sabotage. Actual power generation is separated from the Internet, like military systems;  also there are security procedures not to allow the reading of most removable media.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

"Why Americans (are bad at) Soccer (Well, the Men)", by Vox



Why Americans Suck at Soccer (Well, the Men)” is an entertaining 7-minute Vox Video by Phil Edwards and Mona Lalwani.



Women’s soccer does well in the USA.  The obvious reason could be competition with American football, which is a more complicated game in some ways (more chess like). But the real reason was that political infighting in the 1920s, followed by depression and war, caused American soccer to fall through the cracks.

American pro sports feature more stoppages, more ways to score, higher scores, and perhaps more entertaining physics.  In baseball you have the fact that home teams can design their own outfield dimensions, within limits.

I’ve always thought pro football should have a way to score one point (besides a conversion). Maybe a touchback (where a ball is actually downed in an end zone) after a punk or kickoff should be allowed.

High school physics and math teachers could make up amusing exam problems based on the physics of sports.  How fast does the teen Clark Kent have to run to catch his own forward pass?
But I’ll bear this video in mind if I visit Audi soccer field in Washington soon.  I’d like a new Town DC around there.

Picture: DC United Game at RFK, 2014 

Friday, August 10, 2018

"Crash" by Paul Haggis remembered as a dangerous weekend approaches


The book “The World without Racism”, by Edeah Clark, makes a reference to the 2004 film and best picture, “Crash”, by Paul Haggis.


The film presents a daisy chain of incidents in post-Rodney-King Los Angeles, where one character’s perception of another character leads to a scene and another plot thread about this secondary character. The film posts that the victims of racism often practice racism themselves.  The filmmaking and screenwriting style resembles Robert Altman. 


The plot does start with a car wreck in the first scene where Det. Walters (Dpn Cheadle) was working with partner Ria (Jennnifer Esposito).  Soon there is a major carjacking.  Later there is a sequence where a character Anthony (Ludacris) hits a van accidentally, steals it, and discovers illegally trafficked people in the back.
  
The director says the movie was motivated when he was carjacked (with his wife in the car as the incident started and a bizarre sequence followed) when they went to a Blockbuster video.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

"Spending a Day on Earth 1 Billion Years in the Future": it looks like Venus today




Dreksler Astral gives us a sobering look at our non-future with the short “Spending a Day on Earth 1 Billion Years in the Future”.


The temperature is risen to 70-100 degrees Centigrade and the oceans have evaporated.  All life has stopped and the surface of the Earth may resemble Venus.

It’s a good question how long civilization lasted or whether it escaped (although very selectively) to Mars or even other solar systems.

All remnants of man would be buried by feet of dust and rocks.

The obvious question is, did this come from global warming?  Well, it is climate change, but from eventual natural processes that man cannot stop. The day is now 28 hours as the Earth’s rotation slows. The Sun has gotten hotter. The Moon is farther away.  The Earth’s tectonic plates have stopped moving. Some of these predictions I have never heard of.

So ultimately global warming cannot be stopped, as the Sun changes.

But we do have thousands, maybe millions of years, before these kinds of changes would happen. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

HBO short film shows the life of an "Incel"



HBO Now and Vice News have a six minute short film:

This Is What the Life of an Incel Looks Like The slang for “Incel” means “involuntarily celibate”.
  

A young man of 23 lives alone in a room, doesn’t work, smokes a lot, and doesn’t leave his chat room.

He describes “involuntarily celibate” men as normally “meek”.  He also defines a couple of other related terms.  The film mentions Elliot Rodger and his 2014 rampage in California, and displays his “manifesto”.
  
Some incel chatrooms have been banned on major sites and moved to places like 4chan. There is a belief that the most attractive or aggressive men monopolize the opportunities for other men to find women.  I can remember that issue coming up in my own “therapy” at NIH in 1962, which I’ve written about on other postings.  Ironically the young (white) man in the film would be viewed by conventional society as “attractive”.  I would wonder about any connection to "schizoid personality". 

Monday, August 06, 2018

MoviePass "rations" consumers to three movies a month



Since I review a lot of movies (and books) on my blogs, people have even approached me about MoviePass.
  
But because of cash problems, MoviePass announced today that starting Aug. 15, the pass would allow (only) three movies per month (typical story )
 .
   
I generally a wide variety of indie films, including some on Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and Vimeo, especially private screeners.  I don’t go to all the major studio comedies and high profile films so I don’t know if the pass would have done me good. It did seem a lot of theater chains joined. 

Getting people into theaters is an issue.  Many shows that I go to have only two or three other people in the auditorium (sometimes it's me alone). I wonder how some of them stay open.  Many have limited their hours on school nights.

One problem -- many small films show in only one theater in an area.  Often in this area that is inside the District of Columbia or Maryland, but not Virginia. 

Saturday, August 04, 2018

"Lunatique": Doomsday preppers, in black and white, in a city ruined by alien invaders




Lunatique”, a short film by Gabriel Kali Mucci (13 minutes, Brazil) from a channel called Dust.


A woman and her boyfriend seem to be the only survivors in a ruined city.  The woman puts on a space suit and goes out and hunts for invading aliens.  A poor ferret in a cage depends on them fir food.  The couple uses a ham radio to try to find out what has happened, a doomsday prepper tool. 

 The city seems contaminated by radiation.
  
The film is “almost” all black and white.

Friday, August 03, 2018

"Grotto": a college student returns to his straight friends at a "spin the bottle" pool party (short)




Grotto” (7 minutes) is a micro-short film by Dave Scala.


Marco (Ben Getz), now 20, returns home after his first year of college (that means he started a year late). With some supposedly straight friends by the pool, he plays spin the bottle.  The friends think he can’t swim, because he didn’t as a boy. But the game pairs him with a 24 year old swimmer Ben (Adam Jepsen). After they dunk together (as a thunderstorm starts), Ben brings him “out”.

This short has been in several gay festivals, including Palm Springs, Boston, and Long Island.

Today I also re-visited “Prora” (May 20, 2015 here), which I was surprised I hadn’t recalled more. It’s re-posted now as of 2018 by the director on YouTube. There is a "making-of" video by director Stephane Riethauser that is almost as long as the original film. 

The film reminds me, curiously, of a short story I wrote in tenth grade English (1958) about a swimming pool lifeguard when faced to respond to a drowning an a nearby explosion at the same time.  I got a B on the story.