Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona PA show how advanced the steam engine world really had been (in 3 short films)

The Railroaders Memorial Museum om Altoona PA (close to downtown, at 9th ave and 13th st) offers three films related to the Horseshoe Curve built in the 19th Century by the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The first film was “Working on the Mountain: Birth of the Curve” (22 min) gives the history of the building of the curve that climbs up about 600 feet onto the Allegheny Front near Altoona PA.  Unlike the Blue Ridge, the Front is an escarpment that has few breaks for rivers.

But the best film was the second one, “Altoona at Work: Era of Steam”, about 21 min, directed and edited by Peter S. Vogt.  The film describes how Altoona grew as a city of over 75000 in the early 20th century as the center for all the maintenance of steam engine trains for the Pennsy Railroad.  Much of the film focuses on what it was like in the 1940s, where the jobs were hard work, male, and very demanding, but also showed the our grasp of mechanical engineering technology by the 1920s or so was already quite impressive.

A whole world of culture, families, churches, and sports teams built around the railroad jobs, which started to go away in the 1950s (when I was a boy) as locomotives were replaced by electric and diesel, not made in Altoona.  So the film gives a practical lesson on how whole industries and their workplaces are not prepared for obsolescence, one reason why Trump won in 2016.

The third film was shown in the upstairs gallery and was called “Wrecks and Floods” and gave a history of some of Altoona’s disasters.  In 1893 there was a train wreck on the curve of a circus train that released the circus animals.  In 1925 there was wreck where a train slammed into town with tremendous destruction.  There was a third wreck in 1947 on the mountainside.  There have been numerous smaller incidents recently. In my novel “Angel’s Brother”, a back story of how one of the legacy older characters meets one of the “angels” follows a similar derailment, and I will develop this further.

Wikipedia notes that the Horseshoe Curve was a potential target of Nazi saboteurs during WWII. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

"Debunked: Socialism Has Never Worked" by David Pakman

OK, David Pakman deserves credit for a short film for his 20-minute “Debunked: Socialism Has Never Worked”.  Well, when I was a late teen I had to admit I had "never worked before" and was in danger of sinking into mooch-hood. 

The film is mostly animated and photoshopped and David, handsome as he is, never shows his face in this one.

Pakman gives credit to democratic socialism for creating desirable environments in the Scandanavian countries today (plus Finland), and says that during ancient history the Incas and the Babylonians had systems where government owned most of the means of production.  The Incas were destroyed by the Spaniards.   The Maya would be good to study.

Pakman did mention anarchistic forms of communism or extreme socialism. .
Pakman also considers Stalinist communism, Maoism, and even North Korea as “right wing” perversions of socialism.  Venezuela seems less clear.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

"Modern Educayshun" demonstrates wokeness in a math class

Neel Kolharkar offers us the 7-minute “Modern Educayshun”, from Conceptional Media.

Here is a small class that has given in to all possible demands of wokeness and political correctness, whatever its internal logical contradictions, which are many.

The film presents the idea of “minus privilege points” as part of a “social credit score”. 

“Sunshine” was pretty unattractive.

What is “the right not to be offended.”

And this was an advanced math class.  But it looked more like special education. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

"I Co-Founded Facebook. It's Time to Break It Up". Chris Hughes makes a short film for the NYTimes

“I Co-Founded Facebook. It’s Time to Break It Up.”  This is a short film by Chris Hughes (5 min) of Hickory NC, from the New York Times (op-ed, paywall).

We’ve heard the argument before.  But it is true, Mark Zuckerberg is answerable to no one. If he were an alien, there could have been no more convincing idea to conquer the planet.

The video is followed online with another video of a political meeting generated in 2016 by Russian fake news on Facebook.

Hughes points out that competition actually makes some companies stronger.  He suggests that WhatsApp and Instagram be spun off as separate companies.

Hughes looks his 35 years, compared to David Pakman, who doesn’t.
Hughes says he wants to see more companies launched in dorm rooms.  Maybe John Fish at Harvard will do just that.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"Almost Every Major Franchise Is Compromised" by wokeness

Computing Forever warns us that “Almost Every Major Franchise Is Compromised”.

The problem is that Hollywood needs to keep a big audience (especially in theaters) for its big, predicable and reproducible franchise material; since wokeness is popular, Hollywood has to bow to woke values, particular on race, and not only sexuality but gender fluidity.

At one time the “production code” would have prohibited intimating homosexuality, and now any hint of white preference is unmentionable. A conventionally cis gay male hero would be seen as too conservative. Expectations of "casting diversity" could compromise many scripts. 

Oddly, despite the bottom line, Computing Forever warns that many Hollywood executives are so deep in their left wing bubbles that they will risk profits to dive further into wokeness.
He has some special remarks for the Men in Black and remakes of Ghostbusters, and the idea of female James Bond characters. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

"The Real Story Behind the Apollo 11 Computer Error"; WSJ short film is pertinent now, 50 years later

I’ve presented some New York Times short films (including Oculus made with the help of Annapurna) but here is a short film from the Wall Street Journal today, “The Real Story Behind the Apollo 11 Computer Error”.

The narration concerns computer programmer Don Eyles, my age, who walked into an MIT lab in 1966 (at the same time I had started graduate school at KU) and asked for a job with no coding experience.
He wound up writing the memory-efficient “lapidary” assembler or machine code that the lunar module would use.  It was fit into six sequential pieces of “core rope”, each 36K, presumably each with its own register (rather like base register concepts in IBM mainframe assembler code which I worked on in the 1980s and 1990s and which the IRS still uses a lot of today – I know that from oral job interviews in the 2000s;  coding “out of addressability” was a good trick).  I actually wrote some similar shipboard code for NAVCOSSACT (Washington Navy Yard) in 1972, but never implemented it, as I took a job with Univac, and office mates went down to Charleston SC and boarded a ship later to implement it.  I had actually learned FORTRAN code in summer jobs at the David Taylor Model Basin (Maryland, on the DC Beltway) in three summers starting in 1965 and small computers existed then.
He says he almost became a life insurance salesman (like an agent?)  That’s ironic.

The core ropes were among the first use of integrated circuits in computers.  Up to that time, IBM (and to some extent Sperry Univac and Burroughs) had dominated the mainframe business market with systems that filled whole computer rooms (like the 1110 benchmark I worked on in St Paul MN in the spring of 1974).

The failure was caused by signals from nearby hardware with a switch that malfunctioned.
Eyles says this was a sickening moment, just three years after starting work. But Mission Control in Houston figured out that his code still worked and the problem was external and that the astronauts would be able to land.  The rest is history.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

"Bag": gay short film from the Philippines

Insight 360 and McFilms present a film by Chris Calahig, “Bag”, set in the Philippines.

A young man, coming out, has do separate romantic interest from straight friendship.  I know this one.  His best friend has to sort this out. 

The surroundings seem lush and modern, in a city with a lot of poor people. 
The film, under four minutes, has been in many LGBT film festivals.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Recalling "The Matrix" from twenty years ago

Gamespot and David Klein give a half-hour explanation of the three-film “The Matrix” franchise from Warner Brothers, the three films appearing in rather quick succession starting in 1999, so this is the 20th anniversary.

Gamespot gives a pretty good rundown of pre-history, of how the robots won a world war, and created a layered universe where humans were just class instances in one massive OOP reality simulation, which went through various releases.

I remember Neo pretty well (Keanu Reeves), as well as the California freeway pileup in film 2.

I also remember the broken and burned up “real world” surface near the end of film 3.  I think I saw these in the General Cinema (now AMC) auditoriums in the Mall of America upper level.

The “Mobil” – the subway train that connects reality to the simulation, is indeed an interesting concept. The “Mobil” makes little loops and keeps returning to its starting point in Film 2.  I think it was based on the Toronto subway.

Friday, July 19, 2019

"Arrangement": two straight men need help from each other to have girl friends (UK, short)

Arrangement” (Kinoburo), a film by Chadlee Shriker (UK, 6 min), is indeed a bit of a tease. 

Two supposedly straight men need an arrangement meeting in a stall to “initiate” each other before they will be ready for girlfriends.

This is indeed a rather odd concept.  That’s what fraternity hazing (or just college hazing, even “tribinals”) used to be for. Matthew Barrett and Laurent de Frontville star as the accidental couple.

 Note: June 13, 2021:  The film was reposted with some music edited out at the end, after YouTube took it down.  The filmmakers claim that they had a license from the band to use it. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

"Klassikko": a Finnish satire where an author becomes the man he wants to be by writing a fictional diary

Since I visited two Finnish museums in Ohio last weekend, I thought I would resurrect the satire movie “Klassikko” (“The Classic”, 2001), directed by Kari Vaananen (Sputnik films), which seems to be an applicable satire about making self-published books sell.  I saw it in a film festival in Minneapolis in the Bell Audtorium at the U in 2002.
A writer, Kari Hotakainen (Martti Suasolo) gets pestered by his publisher when his novels don’t sell well, and he sinks to a midlist author status.  But personal accounts in the form of diaries (like English letters novels) do sell, so he is urged to write a fictional autobiography.  It all sounds pretty self-indulgent.
The writer considers buying a used sports car and dickers around with another woman chasing chum who provides the role model for woman chasing he wants to become.  The term MGTOW probably wasn’t in much use in 2001.  He starts becoming the character has has constructed himself to be, almost like he was an actor.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"Counting from Infinity": can a documentary about number theory be entertaining? Yes, if the professors are

Monday July 15, Maryland Public Television presented the film “Counting from Infinity: Yitang Zhang and the Twin Prime Conjecture” (2015) from Zalafilms, directed by George Paul Csicsery.

The controversy started with a lecture and paper from the University of New Hampshire in 2013 by the protagonist.

This refers to the existence of a minimum number for which there are infinite prime numbers less than that difference between them. The mathematical proofs (on computers) keep shrinking that minimum to a few hundred now.  The concept is counterintuitive;  you would expect this number to diverge but it does not.

This led to the involvement of the Polymath group at Berkeley, and some papers by young Oxford professor James Maynard from England.
I took number theory in my first semester of graduate school at the University of Kansas in 1966.  I can recall the (India-born) professor saying “Is it not?” all the time, not quite used to idiomatic English. I can remember hour examinations in grad school; you can’t solve four problems you haven’t seen before in that amount of time.  Final exams were much easier than hour tests.  (Some of the videos on Harvard student John Fish’s channel get into problem solving on exams.)

Monday, July 15, 2019

"Berlin in 1945": Silent film of WWII destruction of civilian lives

The Berlin Channel presents “Berlin in 1945” in color and HD, silent film, about 7 minutes, from Chronos.

Early in the film, you see people drawing water from wells and passing pails of water in assembly lines. You see a woman still keeping house in an upstairs apartment of a building with a wall blown away, like looking at a dollhouse.

You see the transition from the British to the Soviet Union zone with a picture of Stalin.

Then there is an aerial shot of the destruction near the Brandenburg Gate.

I visited Berlin in May 1999, and went to the Connection Disco, which had a rather sickening concentration camp display downstairs.
I would take a night train from Berlin to Cracow and visit Auschwitz-Birkenau the next morning, by cab.

By KK nationsonline - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Sunday, July 14, 2019

"Allegro Train Review, and Russian-Finnish Border Crossing"

Since I visited a couple of Finnish cultural centers in Ohio (part of my own book research for the novel) Saturday, I thought I would select a video of the Allegro train that connects Helsinki with St. Petersburg.

The best short video available now is by Ekain Munduate and is called “Allegro Train Review and Russian-Finnish Border Crossing”.

The border check isn’t made to sound like a big deal, and the announcements are in Russian, Finnish, and English.  Russian rail gauge standards is slightly narrower than Finland’s, which causes problems with some freight trains but not with the Allegro, which runs at 220 km per hour, with a 3-1/2 hour journey including border check  (390 km).

Yet I would wonder about tourists going into Russia from the West, if they had made themselves controversial online in social media or even with other writings.
I haven’t heard much about this. 

By Otto Karikoski - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Friday, July 12, 2019

"Solar Pounder": a lot of issues covered in 3 minutes in this soft-core LGBT short

Solar Pounder”, a micro short by Body Czech, at least starts out by pretending that selling door-to-door is still viable.

“Decotah”, a tall blond salesman knocks on doors selling solar systems for home roofs.
The homeowner is straight, but his wife is in the other room.

So it sounds cynical. A lot of straight men give a little to make the sale, even to other straight men.
But why does the homeowner have that disfiguring tattoo covering his left forearm?  That seems stereotyped in some of these “shorts”. 
It stays _G-13.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

"Memento": Christopher Nolan's early thriller is a delicious plot layering experiment

Christopher Nolan’s early 2000 film “Memento” is interesting to me because it uses different presentations to show flashbacks in different time tracks. The technical term is sujet or syuzhet.

The protagonist Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) has anterograde amnesia, and is faced with solving a mystery of who killed his diabetic wife (Carrie-Ann Moss), from polaroid photos.

The film presents two timelines.  A forward timeline of what he can remember is in black and white. 

 A reverse timeline of what he cannot is reconstructed in color from photos, and the two timelines converge and meet in the middle.

He also pastes photos to his own body, shaving his thigh to get them to stay on like stickypads. In fact, he also uses body art (tattoos or deep ink drawings) on smooth skin as memory aids. 
In my screenplay “Epiphany”, the current timeline (in an O’Neill cylinder) is in sepia color;  the real past events on Earth are in full color, and the imagined fiction backstories are in black and white.
The film was released by New Market (one of its first releases) but produced by Summit.

By Dr Steve Aprahamian - Picture of a chart created in Microsoft Excel, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Second picture:  somewhat similar color-coded backstory analysis of my own screenplay 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

"The Prestige": Christopher Nolan period piece does ask good questions about the work of Nikola Tesla

Of some importance in science fiction is the 2006 film “The Prestige” by Christopher Nolan, with the title referring to the last phase of a magic act which offers a payoff to the audience.  It is based on a novel by Christopher Priest.

It is set in the 1890s in London, with two major lead magicians, the aristocratic Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and the working class Alfred Borden (Christian Bale).

The film invokes a speculative experiment with teleportation when it introduces Nikola Tesla (David Bowie), the inventor (later associated with alternating current and electrical engineering).  Angier spies on Borden and wants to produce the trick of teleportation. Eventually we learn that Borden was a pair of twins but they seem to share an identity.  There is some question in the plot as to whether a “new” Angier gets created by teleportation, or if there is anything in quantum physics or information theory that makes this theoretically possible.

The film was produced with New Market Films, which was normally an indie distributor ten years ago. It was also produced by Touchstone Films and distributed both by Disney and Warner Brothers. But the film tended to be shown in theater chains that prefer independent or art movies.

Picture: Reno, my visit (2018) 

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

"Beloved" was an unusual horror film in 1998 based on slavery-related guilt; recalled by recent film about Toni Morrison

The recent attention to author Toni Morrison in the recent biographical film, reminds many of the 1998 horror film “Beloved”, directed by Jonathan Demme (Touchstone Pictures).

Oprah Winfrey plays a former slave after the Civil War, living near Cincinnati, terrorized by the poltergeist of the child (she believes) whom she had killed years before to prevent the child from going into slavery.  Paul D. (Danny Glover) drives away the spirit from the plantation.

I vaguely recall this film at the Mall of America near Minneapolis in the fall of 1998.

Monday, July 08, 2019

"Quantum Immortality" described in a whiteboard lecture

"Werothegreat" presents “Quantum Immortality” (15 minutes)

The speaker writes on a white board, and compares human beings as conscious entities to elementary photons, trying all possible paths in life at once, and living as long as it is physically possible.

In a way, this sounds like a “dangerous” belief.  He gives an interesting diversion where he compare human life to photosynthesis which he describes as a quantum process.

He also describes the plot of the 2006 film “The Prestige” where Telsa makes a quantum immortality experiment out of himself.

Intuitively, it seems to me that I exist simply because I must (the Anthropic Principle) somewhere.  The Earth could have been in any galaxy, it just happens to be here.  Intuitively, it seems hard to believe that once a conscious individual is aware of the self, that “they” can completely disappear. If you know that you are dead, you are immortal.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The E8 Lattice and Lie Group: does this generate "The Theory of Everything"?

Is the E8 Lattice the True Nature of Reality?” Or is this “The Theory of Everything”?

Arvin Ash explains multi-dimensional algebra if the E8 Lie Group.

This looks like a great board game. 

Will the Hardon collider find one of the 24 undiscovered elementary particles?

See also April 26 with similar short by Joe Scott.

By derivative work: Pbroks13 (talk)Cyclic_group.png: Jakob.scholbach - Cyclic_group.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Friday, July 05, 2019

"The 40-Year-Old Virgin": an irreverent satire that a decade later seems to have hidden "political" significance

I had done a big writeup on this comedy on my legacy “doaskdotell” site, but I thought I would recap the 2006 comedy “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” by Jude Apatow, originally from Universal (now YouTubeMovies) here.  I remember seeing this in the old AMC Courthouse in Arlington VA before it was renovated.

Steve Carell, then about 42, wrote the script for his own depilation, where he plays a nerdy 40-year-old who has never “gotten laid”, and is challenged by Trish (Catherine Keener).

The famous scene in the middle shows women waxing his chest with various strips, to where he looks like, as the script shows, a “man-o-lantern”.

In fact, this process of violating male body sanctity is shown relatively rarely on camera in film.  There are tacky YouTube videos about the topic, of course, but they are almost never shown in a “dramatic” context in gay short films.

Swimmer and bikers "do it", of course (in competitive situations).  Head shaves as fund raisers showing empathy (cancer) are common and almost expected, but so far they've never gone below the neckline.  You wonder.  In the distant past, this sort of thing could happen in college and fraternity initiations. 

It’s also a good question, why would his (Carell's) girl friend want him to look “less” virile?

The pundits used to weigh in on this.  David Skinner wrote his famous piece for the Weekly Standard “Notes on the Hairless Man” in June 1999.  This topic took a dark turn in 2001 when there were sporadic reports that the 9/11 terrorists had shaved their own bodies that morning (another Skinner article). This supposition was shown in the Discovery Channel film “The Flight that Fought Back” (about Flight 93) in 2005, directed by Bruce Goodison.

The controversy continues with Anthony Weiner’s prosecution, which wound up accidentally affecting the 2016 election, possibly being the “ball four” that walked in the winning run for Donald Trump.
It’s also true that about eight years after this comedy/satire film was a hit, the subject of incels took a dark turn (in June 2014) with the spree by Elliot Rodger. It is still viewed as a disturbing topic online.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

"Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser": why improbable events occur and we sometimes luck out

Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser”, an experiment by Eugene Khutoryansky, narrated by Kira Vincent (26 min).

This rather intricate animated experiment with quantum waves tell us why being stared at matters. Sometimes you can change something by looking at it.

Others says that this is a way of getting information from the future.

I would say that his experiment explains uncanny coincidences.
I have had a few events in my life where the coincidences were so improbable that they seem to have been intentional.  One of them happened when I was working as a substitute teacher. Another was when a woman who was looking after an estate house right after mother died and I was on a business trip was there at just the right time. Other examples seem to happen in sports, like improbable ninth inning rallies in baseball. Others might explain “Clark Kent” like powers.

Arvin Ash has a similar video, and note how it ends

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

"Can You Swim in Shade Balls?" You don't need to peak

Can You Swim in Shade Balls?” from Veritasium.

I guess this is a more light-hearted topic.  A swimmer (not competitive near) swims in a reservoir covered with black plastic shade balls to moderate water temperature in the hot California sun (and discourage algae growth).
At leas the doesn’t have to “peak” and shave his bod or something, which is something else someday. 
I’ll stumble onto a YouTube video about, if YouTube doesn’t self-destruct first.

Monday, July 01, 2019

"How Stars May Have Just Solved the Fermi Paradox" -- it's common sense, too

Second Thought proposes “How Stars May Have Just Solved the Fermi Paradox”.  That’s been around since 1950.

It’s relatively simple.  Stars revolve around the center of the galaxy. At times they get relatively closer just as planets in a solar system do. So an advanced civilization could wait for a “good time”, to quote a good friend from the past on how “bumping frequency” in a large city helps people build relationships. (Or it leads to glances).
The short also maintains that If a civilization had visited us before the comet/asteroid strike that destroyed the dinosaurs, all traces of it might have been wiped out.