Friday, May 31, 2019

"Spaceship Day": artificial intelligence writes a children's sci-fi short film screenplay

Austin M Connell treats us to a short film with screenplay written by animation generated by artificial intelligence.  Call it “Spaceship Day”.

Three kids in school bicker for status as to who gets to ride the spaceship and in what position.
Nevermind that the great beyond is undefined.  Will the spaceship use continuous acceleration to generate artificial gravity and use time dilation so that the kids reach the limits of the universe in 50 years?  Well, sorry, space keeps expanding.

This is the screenwriting analogue of Mozart’s “A Musical Joke”.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

"The Loneliness Epidemic": But are we really all that depressed?

The Loneliness Epidemic” (20 min) looks like it will be a lecture on the need for socialization.
Matt D’Avella interviews author Johann Hari (“Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope”)

We are a “lonely”.  There was a question: “How many close friends could you turn to in a crisis?”  A few decades ago the answer is five.  Today it is zero.

Like Sebastian Junger he believes humans evolved to live in a tribe, and now the individualists try to disband our tribes.
Yet, I am really non-tribal, and tend to admire other non-tribalists (as if that became a new tribe). 

You can always bring up the idea that social media allows us to do without really letting other people be more important in person -- the digital minimalism idea. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"The Rise of HIV" from SciDoc gives an excellent technical and medical history of how AIDS evolved

SciShow has an excellent documentary “The Rise of HIV”, in two parts, about 21 minutes.

The first part explains how HIV may have jumped species from a sick monkey in Cameroon in 1908, when natives ate the meat.  Eventually, through migration patterns, several varieties were carried by prostitutes in various parts of Africa, or were likely spread by reusable syringes in medicine. Because of a complicated migration, the virus settled in Haiti in the 1960s. It is though to have entered the United States in 1969 (Randy Shilts had written 1976, the Tall Ships, in “And the Band Played On”.) But it took more than ten years to affect the gay male community.  There was a particular incident in 1978, my last year in New York City, where I think I might have had a narrow miss.
The second video explains how the drugs to control HIV developed, starting with HIV and leading to the protease inhibitors, which have to be taken in combination to avoid the mutations, and they have to be taken faithfully.  The film discussed PrEP. Some people have different surface protein markers on their T4 cells, called CCR5, which makes it harder for them to be infected, which may explain why sometimes partners of people who died never became infected.

Monday, May 27, 2019

"Colonizing Space with Habitats": living in O'Neill cylinders is quite feasible,

John Michael Godier presents “Colonizing Space with Habitats” (13 minutes).

Godier examines O’Neill cylinders, the Stanford Torus, the Bishops cylinder (made from carbon nanotubes, large enough not to require a ceiling), and even the Dyson Sphere.

With the O’Neill cylinder, there is a coriolis effect, but is seems less important in practice than I would have thought.

Godier suggests that most of Earth’s people could leave to live in these “high frontiers” made from raw materials in asteroids (“strip mining”), although eliminating people (as in an earth evacuation to go to another planet). Earth could become a natural park again.
But different cylinders could become like countries with political rivalries.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

"What Is Time?": don't try to find out by thinking you can reverse the past

Aperture explains “What Is Time?

The video connects “the arrow of time” with the idea in the universe entropy increases. 

Entropy relates to unpredictability. If you live in a 200 sq ft micro-apartment, you are more certain of the location of an object than if you live in a 5000 sq ft mansion.

The arrow of time also refers to irreversibility. If you’ve committed a crime, you can’t pretend it didn’t happen just to get out of jail.  At a quantum level, however, irreversibility may not hold because of entanglement.  You need a "Theory of Everything" to work all this out. 
Entropy may be the reason life must evolve.  Life tends to develop formats that can hold and execute conscious choices to change things.  Choices have irreversible consequences.

Friday, May 24, 2019

"The Last Broadcast" is one of the grittiest homemade horror movies ever

The Last Broadcast” is a quirky and gritty horror film layered as a docudrama that I saw at the Bell Auditorium of the University of Minnesota in 1998.  It was one of the first digitally projected films ever shown in a theater.

The film was compared to “The Blair Witch Project” at the time, which we may return to later.
The plot concerns the brutal murders of three young men in the New Jersey Pine Barrens (south of Fort Dix) in December 1995. The young men were documenting the supposed existence of the “Jersey Devil”.  One of their own, Jim Suard, had an argument with the others and left and was later convicted of their death, perhaps wrongfully.

The style of the film is to play the “fact or fiction” question in layered fashion.

The film is directed and written by Stefan Avalos and Mike Weiler.

The film and DVD come from Wavelength Releasing.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"Venezuela Embassy Standoff": Ford Fischer documents the confrontation over "Code Pink" and its occupation for Subverse

Venezuela Embassy Standoff”, a film by Ford Fischer from News2Share, for Subverse.

The 25-minute film chronicles the confrontation between Guaido’s new government in Venezuela and the remains of the Maduro administration.  A group called the Embassy Protection Collective and Code Pink tried to hold the fort.

Gradually, food supplies, and water and electricity were cut off.

There is controversy over whether Maduro’s government (essentially communist) was illegal after the end of January.
On the other hand, some say that the US’s eventually entering was illegal.

I visited the protests twice.

I like the sign that the embassy is carbon neutral!
Here is Part II.  Eventually the activists are arrested.

Ford calls the standoff a proxy for the whole situation in Venezuela itself. Venezuela is starting to send LGBT asylum seekers (was mentioned in a meeting at the Capitol today).
There was an odd “threat” made during the standoff which Fischer reports on Twitter. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

"Wrestle": On Alabama, high school students grow through this intimate sport

On Monday, May 20, 2019, PBS Independent Lens aired Suzannah Herbert’s film “Wrestle” (86 min), about a high school wrestling team in Alabama, a tournament, a tough-love coach Chris Scribner, and the challenges that many of the young men face at home and in the community, link
The film has shown in several festivals, like Denver, Hot Springs, and Oxford (MS).

There is a moment of triumph at the end for one of the team members.  The film emphasizes that the sport is both an individual and a team sport. You have to make weight, have discipline. And it can be intimate. It's an unusual sport. 

The film takes place in Huntsville, in the northern part of the state near the YN border, where the NASA space center is.  I visited that in 2014, and earlier in 1989, where there was an underwater training exhibition then.
There is a theatrical release by Oscilloscope.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

"A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez": the 12-year Green New Deal

A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez”, an animated short film by The Interceptm 8 minutes, directed by Kim Boekbinder and Jim Baat.

AOC narrates an optimistic Green New Deal in which humankind and start to reverse climate change in 12 years – or else.

She points out that Exxon started doing studies on carbon dioxide emissions in 1977, just four years after the Arab Oil Embargo of 1073 when the mantra was to produce more oil and gas. By the late 1980s, people were starting to notice the possibility that climate would be a big issue.

She also explains her “socialist” agenda.  She points out that her native Puerto Rico lost more people to Hurricane Maria than NYC did in 9/11.
There are some reports that California may ban internal combustion engines in the future and allow only all electric.  How can you have adequate range?

Saturday, May 18, 2019

"Disc of Love": Can a CD player infect a car?

Ryan Davie offers a new gay short film, “Disc of Love”, from Australia.

A young man is sad that his lover his leaving for bigger things (I know the feeling) and he gives him a compact disc (remember those?) to play in the car.
The CD infects the car’s system and teleports the young man to the car, where he becomes a monster.
The problem is, all of this is inside a dream.  Row your boat.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

"Unbreaking America: Solving the Corruption Crisis": short film from Represent Us, and a call for action

Represent Us with Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Silver give us a short film “Unbreaking America: Solving the Corruption Crisis” directed by M. J. Delaney (13 minutes).

The two hosts explain why normal political participation gives average votes very little say in policies that get passed.  There are several problems:  Gerrymandering, a partisan duopoly, and elimination systems that require politicians to raise astronomical amounts of money from special interests to win, which feeds the paid lobbying (K Street in Washington) industry.

There are three “lines” in the film.  One is a flat line of zero slope showing that the level of popular support for any policy (say Medicare for all) has almost no effect on whether it passes.  The other is that national changes occur when enough states make their changes.  Lawrence cited both interracial marriage and then same-sex marriage as examples of this process.  The third line is user participation.
The ending of the film does suggest starting a movement, knocking on doors, and the like. But the underlying ideas are important.  The group “Better Angels” comes to mind. It is hosting a closed viewing party premiere May 17.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"The Fallen": Make-a-wish project gives a kid a chance to make a superhero movie, shown by AMC

Local Washington DC stations report that a 10 year old with cancer (now in remission) Mason Bronner, made a short film “The Fallen” as a superhero movie as part of a make-a-wish project.  NBCWashington story here.

The film was premiered at the AMC Uptown theater tonight in Washington DC. (with its giant curved screen).   

It was also reported by WJLA.
Picture:  DC Zoo, nearby

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

"Artificial Gravity": half-hour explanation explains what it would be like to really live on an O'Neill Cylinder or Stanford Torus

“Artificial Gravity”, by Cool Worlds (same publisher as yesterday) examines the practicality of life under rotational artificial gravity as a “fictional force”.

General relativity maintains that gravitational force and force from acceleration are indistinguishable. That creates the concept of permanent acceleration (until you run out of fuel) as in "High Life". 

But the artificial gravity of a rotation structure (an O’Neill Cylinder or the more modest and narrow Stanford Torus, both associated with “The High Frontier” by Gerald O’Neill) is complicated by the vertical or radial coriolos effect, which would certainly create curve balls in baseball.

He also discusses canal sickness.

Rotational instability is a problem for the O’Neill cylinder but not the torus.

The concepts shown in this film will be very important for my screenplay, "Epiphany", based on my own "Do Ask, Do Tell" books. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

"Why We Might Be Alone in the Universe", and why we might not be forever

Why We Might Be Alone in the Universe”, a British short (24 minutes) by Cool Worlds, an examination of the “Rare Earth” hypothesis.

He talks about sextillions of stars in the Universe and multiples of planets thereof.

It all depends on the actual probabilities?

He can’t estimate the probability that a self-replicating system starts.
Of course if the universe lasts more trillions of years, there could me much more time for it to start again if it hasn’t.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

"Mickey and the Bear" will deal with filial responsibility when the parent is addicted

Mickey and the Bear”, directed by Annabelle Annatasio (83 min), was the other important film at the Maryland Film Festival that I missed due to schedules.

The protagonist Mickey Peck (Camila Morrone), 18, struggles with unelected family responsibility in her last year of high school, as she has to take care of her widower Iraq War veteran father, addicted and with PTSD, played by James Badge Dale.

She has her own goals of going to college on the West Coast, which her filial responsibility deprives her of. And her boyfriend (Ben Rosenfield) wants to get her pregnant.

The film was shot in Anaconda, MN, which I visited in 1981 (it snowed in May). 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

"Frances Ferguson" (preview, SXSW) seems an echo of my own dangerous script "The Sub"

While at the Maryland Film Festival in Baltimore yesterday, I noticed a writeup for a 75 minute black comedy called “Frances Ferguson”, directed by Austin-based Bob Byington.

The film concerns a female substitute teacher Frances (Kaley Wheless) who becomes infatuated with a physically mature student (Jake French), tries to set up a motel meeting, gets arrested, convicted, sent to prison and labeled a sex offender.
I missed the film (schedule conflict) and cannot a website or indication of availability, so I can only offer a preview. But because I had written a screenplay short around a similar concept that led to an incident in my own substitute teaching career in 2005, I want to see it.  For more details, please see the “Bill Boushka” blog, story on July 27, 2007.

The film, however, seems to have many differences from my concept.  Frances doesn’t even know what subject (biology) she is supposed to cover when she shows up.  Her behavior shows she is very apathetic to normal ideas of morality. The prison visit by her mother, shown in the trailer, seems to show that.

Ironically, however, she picks out her target after “teaching” natural selection in biology, a politically divisive idea in today’s polarized political climate.  She is also bored in her marriage (husband by Keith Poulson). She thinks normal marriage is a prison by itself.

I hope this little film shows up on Amazon soon. 

I’ll link to reviews by John DeFore (Hollywood Reporter) and Film Threat (Chris Gore) at SXSW in Austin in March 2019.

Friday, May 10, 2019

What do Marvel and Disney plan to follow the "Avengers Endgame" with?

There was no “preview” of a post-Avengers movie in the end-credits (reviewed on my Wordpress blog), but “Everything Always” predicts a permanent “Galactus” for "Phase 4".

There will be a differentiation between “earth” threats and “cosmic” threats.

EA talks about “branch reality” (even post infinity stones) as the only way to save ordinary humanity.
Marvel and Walt Disney Studios have too much going for them to let go of this.  There are always more plots.  But can “everyone” be saved, or only the most privileged? 

But at least this movie didn't end with a king-and-pawn ending and a stalemate.  Maybe the next movie will have a scene in one of Greenwich Village's little chess studios (or the Marshall Chess Club, which I visited in 2014). 

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

"To the Edge of the Universe in Under 50 Years" with constant acceleration and time dilation

Anton Pretrov examines “To the Edge of the Universe in Under 50 Years”?

The idea is a fuel supply that maintains constant acceleration of at least 1 g. The acceleration provides artificial gravity, which is better than a rotating cylinder. The longer it travels the more the time dilation.

So you can get to Mars in 30 days, to the middle of our galaxy in about 7 years your time , and the edge of the universe in 50 years (not allowing for space expansion). What you see ahead of you is blue-shifted and behind is red shifted.
This idea could allow selected astronauts to go very long distances to find another Earth when ours is uninhabitable – but who gets to go?

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

"Out of State": Hawaiian native men sent to a private prison in Arizona and rediscover their own roots

Ciara Lacy’s film “Out of State” was aired in abbreviated from on PBS Independent Lens on Monday, May 6.

The documentary traces the lives of some convicts from Hawaii shipped to privately owned and run prisons in Arizona.

Several of the men develop an interest in native dances and culture and envision new careers when they get out of jail, only to find that the programs they were counting on were cancelled when they return.
The men are heavily tattooed and aggressive, and from a culture that I personally have practically no communication with.

Wikipedia picture attribution: 
By Joe Parks from Berkeley, CA - Saguaro National Park, CC BY 2.0, Link

Monday, May 06, 2019

"10 Ways Alien Life Could Be Radically Different from Earth", by a known sci-fi author (Godier)

10 Ways Alien Life Could Be Radically Different from Earth's”, by John Michael Godier, a science fiction author.

The first example he gives is life with chemical makeup similar to DNA and RNA but different in chirality.  Our own chirality on Earth (as visible) may be the result of chance. Open up your college organic chemistry text to explain the concept. 

The talks about how photosynthesis would work on M-star planets, and says it might be based on retinol and be purple in color.

He also notes that on planets with very long seasons or ice ages, organisms could not simply hibernate but actually die and reanimate, maybe with new consciousness. There is a jellyfish on Earth that can revert back to “childhood” (like Benjamin Button)  and regenerate without reproduction.
He also talks about azotosome pseudo-cell membranes in worlds without oxygen.

He talks about “Snapchat”-like life on a neutron star (like the 80s novel “Mission of Gravity”).
He even says that plasma inside a star might be able to form reproductive structures, as plasma membranes have been observed.

He says that phosphorus is scarce in the universe (maybe explaining the Fermi paradox) and that arsenic is more common. Mono Lake in California may have arsenic-based bacteria.

He does explore the idea of silicon life (that was a high school science fair project for me in 1960).
Life could exist with RNA only.

He does focus particularly on Titan, which could have paper-like floating colony organisms analogous to our slime molds.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

"The Disembodied": B-movie from the 50s hints at a tantalizing male vulnerability

I can remember being tantalized by an old black-and-white movie series on Saturday nights in 1963, and one particular title was ‘The Disembodied” (1957), from Allied Artists, by Walter Grauman.

One interesting tidbit is that the series apparently got its name from the Pittsburgh Chiller Theater were supposedly it was shown.

A photographer (Paul Burke) gets involved in a jungle accident where a man is mauled by a tiger, and the party winds up in a “resort” where “voodoo queen” Tonda (Allison Hayes) is trying to entice men into losing their sense of identity and murder her scroogy husband (John Wen graf).

The 66-minute film is considered “bad”, but I seem to remember scenes were men would approach her and become aroused or tantalized by the prospect of their own destruction and physical 
desecration, as if they could be replaced by something else and remember who they had been. There was a line “she is voodoo queen” repeated with each man. 
The cast of the people in the house was said to be “diverse”.

Friday, May 03, 2019

"The Lie We Live" for the purposes only of corporations

The Lie We Live”, by Spencer Cathcart, Freshtactical.

We’re brought up to be obedient workers, but “to not make a difference”.

The big corporations own everything, for nothing.

In the end, a young man with an iPhone asks whether screens will save us or finish is.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

"The Library of Alexandria" on the Nile; how its fires set back human progress

The Library of Alexandria: The Crime that Set Human Civilization Back 1000 Years”, a video by “Bright Insight”.

In the ancient era, when Alexandria, at the mouth of the Nile (north  of Cairo) was the leading port city for ships to stop for trade, magistrates would go on board and confiscate scrolls, and copy them by hand, and put them in the library, and return copies to the ships.

About 700,000 scrolls were stored there at one time, until Julius Caesar started a fire that accidentally burned it down, and destroyed two thirds of the contents, around 47 BC.  There would be several more fires in the following centuries.  It was conquest and imperialism (a common crime in the eyes of the Left) that led to this catastrophe. 

The videographer argues that we might have created technological civilization hundreds of years sooner and be living in space now.  Or we could have destroyed ourselves with nuclear war or climate change sooner. 
Content that did survive included the theory of Euclidean geometry.

The tragedies of the library would seem comparable to an electromagnetic pulse attack on modern civilization by an enemy, or even a Carrington-sized solar storm hitting the Earth today.  We are not prepared for that.   

The title of the YouTube channel corresponds to a property of the Rosenfels idea of "psychologically feminine".
There is a related post on the Book Reviews blog about libraries today. 
Wikipedia attribution: By CarstenW - Own work, CC BY 3.0,