Saturday, October 31, 2020

"MUM": experience of a non-hearing gay swimmer(s)


MUM  (9 Min) presents a meeting between two gay male swimmers, one apparently completely deaf, the other with some partial hearing, simulated in the film.

The effect is dusky, but it tries to simulate what it is like to live in their world.

There is a sequence where a lot is made just out of painting an apartment wall blue, then white.

The film has shown in many LGBT festivals, starting with Seattle.

The film is offered by the Trend/Style channel.

Friday, October 30, 2020

"Why Does America Have an Electoral College?": Animated short film explains (for the kids)


“Why Does America Have an Electoral College?”, is a short animated documentary from “History Matters”.

One of the interesting points is that the original compromise was supposed to prevent “mob rule” and populism. 

In modern politics, it seems to have the opposite effect.

The original intention of giving smaller states more clout seemed democratic at the time.  It was felt that rural people needed more representation.  One can see how that would invite a discussion of systemic racism now.

The animation work rather reminds me of Prodigy in the 90s.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

"Clearwater": a young woman honors social distancing when hiking near a creek, but that is not enough


Rob Jobbaz presents the short horror film “Clearwater” (6 min) for Dust.

A young woman (Joan Loluo) is hiking alone near a creek with many falls and pools (social distancing). A mosquito bites her (shown quite graphically).  Think dengue, or other arboviruses (maybe Zika). (Dengue is interesting and scary because of "antibody dependent enhancement", but I digress.) 

The mosquito takes her blood to an underwater monster who wants to use her DNA to make a copy of her. Well, the copy may not be exact!

I remember a trail in Shenandoah (Cedar Run, maybe), where one of the hikers wanted to take "the low road" and keep us climbing over rocks in a "clearwater" creek, rather than the smoother trail above. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

"6 of the Biggest Single-Celled Organisms", and a few are several centimeters long (wine bottles, underwater grapes)

Acetabularia sp 20110530a


If I find a video that shows me something from science that I didn’t know and is important, I like to showcase it, even if it isn’t a formal “movie”.

Today, it’s “6 of the Biggest Single-Celled Organisms”.

A few of them are several millimeters long, and sometimes have multiple nuclei. Actually one of them is several centimeters and looks like an underwater grape.  

One of them lives near volcanic vents and have spicules that capture prey, and resemble sponges.

The Acetabularia (“wine glass”) has all of its genetic material in a nucleus at the base, but then uses mRNA to control the cell, and can make new nuclei to reproduce.

Some of these “protists” are not necessarily animals or plants in the normal sense (except for the algae).

Does the slime mold belong in this discussion? 

Wikipedia picture of acetabularia, click for attribution 

Monday, October 26, 2020

"Jaunt": a very simple forest encounter between two attractive young men (micro film)

Jaunt”, by Rebecca Shoplaw.

This is a “micro” short film (two minutes).

Two young adult men leave a workplace for a gentle encounter in the woods.  No dialogue. Very simple.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

"2020 (A 1917 Parody)" : Two young men roam suburban Los Angeles foraging for toilet paper, out and about to protect everybody else from the pandemic and wildfires


Stephen Ford’s satire "2020 (A 1917 Parody)", 18 min, from Ascender Channel, gives us Colton Eschief Mastro and Michael Liberman as two roommates not allowed to work from home and tasked to run errands for everybody else.

This schmalzy music score was adapted by Jim Grimwalde from the score to the “1917” movie by Thomas Newman.

In a Los Angeles suburb, the young men dodge wildfire sparks and drones sent by police enforcing lockdowns.  They’re on a mission for toilet paper.  But they wind up making to a protest, which is still assembling despite the cops.

A real lockdown that was absolute probably would close a lot of Internet sites, too.  That’s something nobody has thought about.

There is a minor car wreck and one of the guys gets spat at with mask off, and presumably infected. 

The film is supposed to be in the continuous shot style of “1917” and was difficult to make, took three months.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Yahoo! on "Why Movie Theaters Might Not Survive the Coronavirus" (two weeks ago)


Yahoo! Finance expounds on “Why Movie Theaters Might Not Survive the Coronavirus Pandemic”, two weeks ago.  As we know, Regal has closed indefinitely.

I made a field trip to an AMC in exurban Loudoun County today to see “The Empty Man”, which I will review on Wordpress soon. 

This particular theater, brand new, is open only Friday through Sunday.

I went to the first afternoon show of this horror film, and there was only one other person in the auditorium, so for a daytime showing social distancing was easy.

The theater is hard to find, in an artificial new urban section of Ashburn, VA, on a side street.  It’s hardly appropriate to carry the rewards card around. But they did have a plexiglass screen and a sanitary contactless way to buy tickets.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

"Seedling": what it means if the power goes out, electronics fail, and alien blobs appear


On the Dust channel on YouTube, Stevie Russell has an interesting short film “Seedling”.

On the English coast, a young married couple with a pregnant wife endure a severe storm with lenticular clouds.  Cell service goes out, and she can’t start her car, which suggests possibly an EMP attack or maybe a very severe geomagnetic storm from a coronal mass ejection.

The next morning the couple is on the beach (like in the Nevil Shute novel). She sees an air-floating alien, looking like a shape-shifting mollusk pass by.  Then, the TV and radio come back on inside, and her car fub will start the car. 

Then they learn that the aliens appeared only to pregnant women. Is this a variation of "Rosemary's Baby"?  There is a problem that short films like this really seem like incidental gimmicks, that don't get to probe into the consequences of these dilemmas. 

Picture: Ocean City, MD pier (mine, 2014) 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

"Mr. Clinton, the Cat": who dearly loves his owner, IT YouTuber Louis Rossmann


I’ll do an easy one today, “Mr. Clinton the Cat”.

Louis Rossmann, his human owner, has a computer repair shop in NYC and has a channel of pointed videos about IT.  Usually, Mr. Clinton is at his side, sometimes in his lap.

When Louis goes to work in his repair shop, Clinton will try to tear food containers open.  He is quite adept at opening doors and drawers and getting into things.

He is also very vocal, with constant meows.  Cats generally develop a “language” with their meows which is specific to the owner.

When I was in my first apartment in Dallas 1979-1980 in Oak Lawn, an unaltered male named Timmy adopted me.  He recognized the sound of my car (at the time, a Chevette, which broke down a lot) and would run to the second story (on a landing) apartment door when he heard my car return home.  At night, if he needed to go outside, he would come into the bedroom, meow and scratch the pillow.

He would also try to hide my car keys.

Monday, October 19, 2020

"I'm Going on a Date" (with myself): Connor Franta shows how to make a movie with one character


Connor Franta shows how to film thyself, in a witty monologue, “I’m Going on a Date”.

That’s in West Hollywood, with himself.

So this is how to make a monologue into a screenplay, with all kinds of unusual shots and diversions, while cooking lunch, a vegan pasta, from ingredients.  (What would Tyler Mowery think of the writing?) 

It is also a spot for Target’s “Good & Gather”.  I don’t recall seeing that trademark in northern Virginia Targets.

 If you want to learn to make high production quality video from a monologue, this video provides a pretty good example of the ideas.

The coffeepot picture above comes from the Angelino Hotel on the 405 when I visited LA in 2012.  There's another video (by Reisinger) that urges switching from coffee to tea (and John Fish likes tea, too). 

There was a book in 2000 by Katherine Kersten from the Center for the American Experiment in Minneapolis, “Close to Home: Celebrations and Critiques of America’s Experiment in Freedom” where the author was critical of “self-dating”, where individuals were overrunning family formation, which was becoming an afterthought. But that was years before Obergefell. And a pandemic like COVID had never been imagined.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

"A Very Realistic Day of Online School": just how effective is virtual college?

 A Very Realistic Day of Online School”, by Max Reisinger.

He appears to be attending freshman college in North Carolina from home in Carrboro (UNC?)

In a neat but very full upstairs bedroom with a fridge, the wifi keeps going out as he tries to do the art history lecture.

He then takes a break to cook lunch (from ingredients), before a podcast.

The visual effects and accelerations resemble those in John Fish’s videos. 

And he appears to own an online clothing store  Perspectopia.  It appears he is still 17. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

"Life Beyond" from Melodysheep, with its "Museum of Alien Life"

ALH84001 structures

Protocol Labs, with Will Crowley narrating, provide “Life Beyond” (67 min),in two parts, from the Melodysheep channel.

Part 1 (30 min) is called “Alien Life, Deep Time, and Outer Space”.

Part 2 (37 min) is called “The Museum of Alien Life”.

The series starts with the duality that both the idea of our being alone in the universe, and the universe having “life” everywhere, are frightening.

The second film is more engaging. It gives as an animated look at what life could look like on a small tidally locked planet (more common), or on a large planet.  The gravity on large water worlds is irrelevant because water would have about the same density as tissue. Cold worlds without oxygen might be able to support silicon-based life (Titan).

The film proposes the idea that self-replicating structures conveying information could exist in the upper atmospheres of brown dwarfs, in space (plasma crystals) or inside neutron stars.  Other papers have suggested quantum life with plasma inside regular stars (Michelle Starr from Science Alert).  

Picture: electron micrograph of 1996 Martian meteorite thought to have fossilized bacteria. (Wikipedia embed, p.d., NASA, click for info).

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

"Track and Trace": Zachary Denman short film warns about AI contact tracing and rapid tests in order to reopen from coronavirus

Paternoster Square

 Zachary Denman offers “Track and Trace” (4 min), the first of a series of short films about the dystopian world that could result from the coronavirus.

In London, everyone carries a “track and trace” app on their smart phone, which tells them where they are allowed to enter, based on all kind of health information including rapid tests at home, oximeter, temperature, blood pressure, etc.  It’s all run by artificial intelligence.

And the people who can’t comply are locked up in mental institutions.

They don’t remember freedom.  But the economy works again. 

 Picture: London Stock Exchange, p.d., Wikipedia embed, click for attribution. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

"2020: End of the World": Intended video series: the pandemic was the result of aliens (and methane lost from Mars)


Dyshant Parkoor and Prashant Raj present the two-part comedy “2020: End of the World: Aliens Apocalypse?

More parts will be added later, and you don’t realize it is a series until you start.

In India, a young man barges in on a friend with a briefcase filled with odd artefacts and a book.

It seems as though the pandemic has something to do with methane being lost on Mars and impending solar storms.  As predicted in the book, the aliens arrive, and the friend is captures, in a machine that will remove his arms.

It’s all pretty difficult to describe.  The subtitles are in part English and part alien language

From DK Films.

Monday, October 12, 2020

"Gay Werewolves: Vampires in Washington State", from Andrew Goes Places


“Gay Werewolves: Vampires in Washington State?”.  Andrew Neighbors (an optometrist by trade in the Bay Area) indeed “goes places” even in a pandemic.

Today, he and Sean (who has a birthday) explore the hidden coves of what I think is in Olympic National Park, Washington, where I have been once, in 1996.  They mention the Hoh forest.

There’s no mention of the wildfires (which were probably at least 100 miles away).  And everyone in his pod of people seems to be remaining healthy. It helps to be able to live alone. 

In the meantime, they can prance the Halloween underbrush and look for a Pacific Northwest version of “The Blair Witch Project”.   

The music score contains some piano by Debussy (Arabesque) and "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Rimsky-Korsakoff.

Wikipedia attribution for CCSA 3.0 license for photo from Hoh Forest, Walter Siegmund. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

"The Laws of the Universe" from DUST: well, if you can teleport you can get out of jail (when the aliens come)


The Laws of the Universe”(14 min) is offered by Chris Mangano and written by Adam Aresty, for DUST.

An inmate (who is black) waits for his parole hearing in a jail cell in Los Angeles.  When they don’t come for his, his mother calls and tells him to look at the TV.  A spaceship hovers over downtown LA, and it seems people are being sucked up.

No one can help him get food until a white jailer shows up, with a flashlight device that lets him teleport himself. The inmate gets out of prison by wrestling the device away.

I am reminded of the film “Skyline” (See cf blog, Nov. 14. 2010).

Thursday, October 08, 2020

YouTube sponsored: "Creators Talk About Coping"


 YouTube had said it would do a webinar for creators today, which I could not find on my Google calendar, where I thought I had placed it, but in the Studio page I did find this “film”.

Dr. Ali Mattu (clinical psychologist) leads a zoom discussion with Hallease, Cyndee Black, and Connor Franta on how to make effective content, that meets what advertisers can support, but still seems original enough  -- in these times when free speech has become so hotly contested.

The full title is “Creators Talk About Coping During These Difficult Times”.

The first two months of 2020 were OK, until the country collapsed in mid March under the pandemic. An earlier video by Franta had said it was “weird”.

Franta had made a visit back to Minnesota (he moved to W Hollywood on his YT career) shortly after the George Floyd death and protests.

Some of the recommendations had to with personal pursuits – artistic endeavors, music, growing plants, pets, etc.

People are using apps to keep them from opening certain things when they need to be focused and working (screenwriter Tyler Mowery has talked about this).

A club or bar to go dancing  -- “that doesn’t exist anymore.”  Will it?   Connor “I want to go to a bar” (The Abbey).  “I miss the chaos.”  Fauci: “Bars are bad”.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

"How America Bungled the Plague", by Johnny Harris and the New York Times

The New York Times (Opinion) has a 20-minute short Sept. 29, “How America Bungled the Plague”, narrated and produced by the very handsome Johnny Harris.  Nicholas Kristoff and Adam Elick contribute.

The film seems to argue that America should have followed the examples of Italy, France, and Spain and locked down entirely.  He could have mentioned New Zealand.  I have argued that no large country (not even China) completely locked down this way.  In Europe, different countries had different rules (Sweden was the most lax) much as different states did here.  And European cases are coming up now, but it is true that several states had horrible spikes this summer.

It is also true that US leaders played down the threat.  As late as March 3, Di Blasio encouraged New Yorkers to go out on the town. Pence kept saying “the risk is low”.

And it is true that Bush and Obama had pandemic preparation plans that mentioned coronaviruses but that were largely ignored.

It’s also true that Trump cut down on spending on vaccine development and preparation in 2018, and Trump has himself played down the virus, as we know now from his own course with it.

With a truly draconian lockdown, my own Internet activity could not have been kept, and it could not have been brought back after the end.  I personally fared better but a lot of people in service and performing arts are wiped out. 

There is an argument, which may be workable in smaller countries like New Zealand, that if you lock down hard enough and compensate everyone to stay home for one month (even shut down “unnecessary” web and social media sites) you could bring everything back quickly because the virus “dies” during the lockdown period (two incubation period cycles minimum).

But in the long run, Sweden is turning out relatively well.

I am 77.  I am at risk.  But it is easy for me to work at home.  I do my own grocery shopping (with an N95 clone mask) and other errands and ride elevators in an apartment building every day (with mask).  I go places by car, but alone, and generally do only takeout food from drive-ups.   So far, OK. 

But this virus is like a cancer.  One person may have a very mild case (or it may still cause longhauler effects not expected even if mild), but in certain environments (indoor spread) can spread it to dozens even if asymptomatic.  The exponential infection cycle re-ignites.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

"Easy": a modern, peaceful David and Jonathan story

Robert E. Guthrie presents “Easy”, a 4-minute microfilm.

Two high school seniors are in love.  Jonathan (Christian), shimmies down a staircase pole (I’ve never seen that in a house) to his lukewarm dad on acceptance.

He walks over to a local coffee shop and sees his boyfriend David (Jewish), who works there early. His parents are much more accepting,

Monday, October 05, 2020

Regal Cinemas closes all US, UK theaters, apparently until spring 2021

Cineworld, which owns Regal Cinemas, has announced that it will close all Regal cinemas in the United States and the UK, as in this CNBC story

The decision by Disney to postpone the next Bond release into 2021 is a catalyst for the decision, but surely the unrelenting pandemic and the increasing information that large gatherings indoors are responsible for most of the spread is driving the decision.  The closures will surely last until early Spring, unless there is more rapid progress than expected on vaccines and immediate treatments, or there is some breakthrough like “rapid testing” smartphone technology (a little bit like South Korea’s or Taiwan’s approach).

“Tenet” did not do as well as hoped (and I don’t think it is quite as compelling as “Inception”).

Sunday, October 04, 2020

When "tiling the plane" on a household floor pattern, you need "The Infinite Pattern that Never Repeats"

Al71Ni24Fe5 TEM


The Infinite Pattern that Never Repeats”, a presentation by Paul Steinhardt on the problem of “tiling the plane” to infinity” (as in flooring), on the Versatium channel. Indeed, what a geometry lesson. 

The concept is called “Penrose tiling”, which I will defer to Wikipedia for explanation.  A related problem is how “quasi crystals” form in nature.

The picture above shows a typical mineral quasicrystal in nature, Wikipedia embed (click for attribution and chemical formula).

One can certainly imagine board or computer games based on this mathematics. Kadi Runnels explains how tiling can he used to explain the speed of light and relativity here

Saturday, October 03, 2020

"It's About Time!", to climb into a refrigerator (no, don't do it)


It’s About Time!”, by Isaac Carlton (5 min, Dust channel), presents a young man, played by Cody Osell, in the 1980s, typing a letter, in a small room in a farm house with the gadgetry of the day.

A refrigerator, with a candle on top appears in his yard.  Inside, there is a sign, “get in”.  It’s an invitation for an unstoppable loop in time travel.

It will then go through its defrost cycle.

Friday, October 02, 2020

"How to Prepare for PitchFest": I expect to see these start up online (virtual, Zoom) soon


Author Solutions (a company in Indiana that owns several POS self-publishing brands) offers a video “How to Prepare for PitchFest”, dating back to 2012.

The video gives five major tips.  It actually starts with a pop quiz of being able to identify three famous films from their loglines (including “Tootsie” and “Armageddon”).

It also shows a practice pitch session with other authors, getting feedback.

The actual pitchfest is a like a speed-dating setup (and there is a script I have seen in Minnesota, “I Hate Speeddating”, at a table reading there in 2002 by a guy named Brent when I was living there, but I haven’t seen the film show up;  I also remember the "table reading" programs at the Jungle Theater near Lake Street, as well as the ISPMSP evenings at Bryant Lake Bowl nearby).

It’s pretty obvious that the industry can’t host in-person pitchfests very well until there is a Covid19 vaccine (or something equivalent like a home rapidtest system).  I think we will eventually see them organized as online events on Zoom or equivalent.

In February, 2020, I was to attend a pitchfest in Beverly Hills, CA (and fly from East Coast) and I cancelled out because of my own COVID and “quarantine trap” concerns.  I’ve explained that elsewhere.  The material in my books appears as “backstory” material in my screenplay, and that situation is more difficult to pitch.  Here is my discussion of it (note the supplementary statement).

Tyler Mowery (Practical Screenwriting) has a discussion of exposition, including backstory and “dream sequences” here.  Generally they have to be handled carefully and the material in them needs to have a bearing on the “top level” plot and that plot’s major characters.  (“Inception” is interesting.) This could be difficult do organize in a pitch.  I have gotten some feedback online suggesting that documentary may be more efficient in covering the issues in the book (compare “conscription” to “quarantines” during the pandemic).  So that’s where I am right now.  Stay tuned.

Picture: Brown County, Indiana, Aug. 2012