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.)