Sunday, January 31, 2021

"El Rastreador del Coronavirus": Avi Schiffmann tells his story at 7000 feet at a conference in Mexico, after recovering from COVID19 himself

Mexico Popocatepetl


For today’s “movie”, I’ll present Avi Schiiffmann’s lecture “El Rastreador del Coronavirus”.  The vocabulary word is the same in Spanish and Portuguese, and means "tracker".  

Avi is the founder (“El fundador”) of one of the world’s major coronavirus trackers,  Try it on a mobile device

Avi gives a presentation at a conference in Puebla, Mexico, near Mexico City, at about 7000 feet elevation. The 16000-foot Popocapetl Volcano, which a good high school friend climbed in 1962 and almost fell to his death from except for grabbing a ledge, is nearby.   Avi had recovered from COVID19 himself quarantined with his mother at a family cabin in the Cascades (Geekwire story by Kurt Schlosser), so being able to function well and speak publicly at high altitude is a good test of recovery.   His mother is a physician and father a biochemist, so I guess dad brought food to them.  During his recovery, he made some impressive drone footage of the  snow-covered forests in the nearby Cascades.  I once had a personal epiphany in 1978 having lunch at the Snolqualmie Pass on I90, something that foreshadowed what would happen a few years later.  I have urged him to make a video on what a recovery is like.  It is not always easy, even for young adults.  There is also a legitimate medical question now as to whether young adults who have recovered completely from COVID_19  need and should take the vaccine, until all others have had it.

Avi says he got a text from a friend in China right as January 2020 started about the virus, when there were only a few cases reported publicly.  He looked into this quickly (not knowing Mandarin Chinese when looking at news articles -- although Mark Zuckerberg could have helped him read them!) and decided to code the tracker, and he says he taught himself the technology, even at the cost of sacrificing time for schoolwork.  (Now he is applying to top colleges as he is now a senior, having turned 18 in late October, and went skydiving for his birthday, according to his Instagram).  

No doubt, having both parents in medicine could have made a difference, as the entire family might have “put 2 + 2 together” and realized this threat to western countries, to fill up hospitals, would soon come.  No one else in the public media really understood this until the end of January. 

The Times of Israel says he started working on this in December, and an article in the New Yorker by Brent Crane says he launched it for the first time on Sunday, December 29, 2019.   The Seattle Times reports him as saying he was working on it in late December.  That means this text probably actually came in early December, and tech savvy teenagers in China knew something was “wrong” many weeks before the date it was reported to the WHO (Dec 31).  I’ve heard of others who say they had heard chatter online about the problem in the late fall of 2019. 

All of that, by the way, points to the need for WHO, in the investigation, to look at every sample collected anywhere in the world in 2019 (as early as March 2019 from wastewater in Barcelona, and a few times in Italy), and track the progress of the viral condons to figure out what had happened in Wuhan (and maybe other cities and countries) before Dec. 31, 2019. Laurie Garrett should really jump on all this with another Foreign Policy or Atlantic article (or maybe a book).  Frankly, from all the circumstantial evidence, China (and maybe the CCP) has a lot of explaining to do. 

Schiffmann mentioned a quote in a NYTimes article (by Eric Lipton, et al) where CDC staff members were “mortified” that a teenager had a major tracking website working before the CDC had its own bureaucratic act together (floundering on the test, and joining the WHO in getting the facts on masks wrong at first).  The audience in Mexico claps.

Schiffmann also notes he was able to get help from Cloudflare on the hosting and security free.  Matthew Prince, CEO, recall, had his own crisis of conscience over Charlottesville in 2017.  This time, he probably realized that the virus was being overlooked by Trump intentionally and jumping in and helping this project work was definitely good self-interest.

Toward the end of his presentation, he talks about “learning to code” and how to teach oneself everything.

The logical successor to this lecture would be a documentary for PBS, maybe even for one of the big film festivals like Sundance, SXSW, etc.  

Picture: Mt Popo in Mexico, embed from Wikipedia, click for attribution.  If you want to prove you have recovered from corona, climb this peak (socially distanced outdoors, without oxygen -- I think my schoolmate in 1962 did that). 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

"Who Were the Neanderthals?", new documentary from DW



DW Documentary presents, “Who Were the Neanderthals?”, posted Jan. 23, 2021.  By Rob Hope and Pascal Coissot (42 min), indeed a lesson anthropology.

Most of the time Neanderthals lived in a colder climate than ours, even during Ice Ages.

Sea Level was about 400 feet lower than it is today.  The film focuses on a site on Jersey Island, off the coast of France, with a sea plain underwater.  

Neanderthals were nomadic, carved weapons and spears for food and animals for coats.  They knew how to adapt to land they had settled in.  They would live in clans of a few families.  They had only some thousands of people in all of Europe.

They would go extinct as a separate group about 40000 years ago. 

They understood the value of “population exchange” for genetic variety.

Modern humans, who were “black”, entered Europe 50000 years ago and withdrew.  Then they reentered about 42000 years ago and co-lived in the same areas and sometimes interbred.  The National History Museum explains that different species can, with some difficulty, sometimes interbreed (and still be distinct enough to be more than a race).  The Neanderthals seem to have been “white”, and simultaneously more advanced human civilization (with more intellectual problem solving ability and more language skills) started with those who (developing near the Equator) were “black”. Gradually the Neanderthals were “replaced” which sounds like a right-wing theory.  But living in a colder climate with less sun, natural selection still favored lighter pigmented skin in time, in Europe and northern Asia.  Even though humans from Africa were “culturally” superior 50000 years ago, in the next period of history, living farther from the equator and having seasons tended to encourage development of industrial technology and military superiority – hence colonialism and slavery.   Neanderthals had significant differences in bone structure, in metabolism and cellular immune function, which fit their environment.  When they interbred, some of these differences persisted and provided advantages to modern humans.  Neanderthals (“white” probably) were more different genetically from today’s “whites” than today’s “whites” are from today’s “blacks” (or other races), so skin color, in the grand scheme of things, means very little except in adapting to sunlight levels. 

Wikipedia embed of map of Europe during Ice Ages. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

"Colonizing Red Dwarfs" with Isaac Arthur

Synchronous rotation


Colonizing Red Dwarfs”, with Isaac Arthur, just added Jan 28, 2021.

I thought I would go back to some serial sci-fi documentary, as this was popular a couple years ago.

Red dwarfs can last trillions of years.  The main problem is that the ones that are stable now may have blown off the atmospheres of their eligible planets when they were younger and more “virile”.

Planets that are tidally locked are also less likely to have atmospheres. 

Yet, advanced civilizations are likely to have wanted to colonize them.

Wikipedia embed of illustration of tidal locking, click for embed.  Arthur describes tidal locking as more complicated than generally understood;  wobbles and mismatches and very long periods do happen.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

"Masquerade": In 1848 in rural Virginia, a slave and gay white man escape during a masked ball at the plantation

near Jamestown VA 2018

“Have a Sleepover Productions” presents “Masquerade”, directed by Andrew Hawkins (9 min).

In 1848, on a plantation in Tidewater Virginia, two gay men contemplate escape from the plantation to the city (presumably Richmond).

The black guy wants to pass as white.  The gay man has to pass as straight, but attends a masked ball at the Plantation (which reminds me of Twelve Oaks), which is ironic right now.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

How does gay soft core survive the pandemic? "The Elevator Interview"


LA at night, the 405, 2012

 The Associated Press explains how the porn industry can function during the pandemic.  Having very small sets helps.  And there is indeed rapid testing (antigen) with instant results before work.  Why don’t the rest of us have access to that?

I have to say that in the gay area, “soft”, where there are characters and a story and where the pace is deliberate, comes across much better.

Here is an example of a soft film (must sign in, rated a soft R but you aren’t supposed to embed), that I will rename, “The Elevator Interview”, rather like an elevator pitch for a screenplay.

Two guys get trapped on a stuck elevator. At least there is no power outage and the light stays on.  The more aggressive guy was supposed to interview the other one for a direct sales job.

The interviewer speaks slowly and “inspects” and "puts the make on" his catch one button at a time (although button number 3 gets undone by itself).  

The video used to be on the “Gay Awesome” channel (about professional men in suits) which was deleted (Christmas Day) for trademark or copyright infringement, and was picked up by another one.

There is a review of “Pornstar Pandemic” on one of my Wordpress channels.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

"Wonderkid": a gay star soccer player hides out from his tormentors but still comes through

Football pitch metric

Wonderkid”, directed by Rhys Chapman, written by Marr Diss, presents a gay star British soccer player (Chris Mason) trying to avoid the subtle harassment of his teammates (30 min), om the Alexis Labtec channel.

The kid spends a lot of time sulking in hotel rooms, despite neatly packing and folding his clothes, and secretly making rendez-vous near Piccadilly Circus.  I don’t know if this could have happened during the pandemic, the film was released in July 2020.

There is one encounter toward the end.  Let your partner do it, I say. 

The soccer ("Association football") field diagram embedded from Wikipedia, click for attribution. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

"Fractal": curious sci-fi horror, very personalized


Model railroad 

Fractal” (19 min), from Bad Media Student (“Bad Robot”???), directed and written by Blake Hurford, looks enticing.  The title is interesting (self-replication of a pattern, common in nature). 

A young special ops student Maya (Skye Butcher) has finished her training and is sent back to her boyfriend (Zach Raabe), who had expected a relatively “conventional” relationship. 

She keeps relapsing into memories of her trainer (a fattish guy played by Jaxon Graham-Wilson) and deteriorates mentally.  Her genuine (and lean) boyfriend doesn’t notice the danger he is in, until too late.

I don’t think the physicality of the climax will be very clear to most viewers.

The film’s scenes are shot with different color filters to suggest various kinds of color-blindness.

There is some interesting background music:  a Chopin mazurka, and then some music that sounds rather like Max Reger.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

"I Can't Actually Believe This": comedy by Connor Franta ("Pigeons and Doves")


w Hollywood 2012

Connor Franta does another short monologue in his “Slice of Life” series, “I Can’t Actually Believe This”, alternative title, “Pigeons and Doves”. After publication he changed the title to "This Is a Lie

Connor uses pixie-like effects in his minimalist townhouse in West Hollywood, where he draws an analogy between the differences between pigeons and doves, and the dichotomy “Black Lives Matter” v. “all lives matter”.

There’s also the issue of his plants, which seem to be conscious life forms.

I have pigeons on my balcony, but it Is the crow, who will watch me work at my computer for 15 minutes at a time and return, like this unit is his.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

TRT World: "What Is Antifa?": can it morally barge in on "gentrified" outdoor dining?


Philadelphia, 2006

TRT World, from the Turkish Public Broadcast Service, presents a short narrated by Yunus Paksoy, “What Is Antifa?

Paksoy interviews Antifa activist Jason Charter, who makes three “demands”.

In the middle of the 11-minute film he migrates to interview Ford Fischer, who owns his own media company News2Share from Washington DC. 

Fischer points out that Antifa groups believe it is perfectly legitimate morally to protest in “gentrified” neighborhoods to point out to new residents and property owners that they have personally become part of the problem.

Later Paksoy presents some footage of the Capitol riots and then questions Charter about when violence against ordinary civilians is warranted.  He thinks he does have a right to barge into gentrified, privilege people having dinner and demanding allyship from them. He thinks that is not too much to ask given the circumstances. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

"Life on Gas Giants" (Dreksler), gas bag intelligent beings in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter?



The Dreksler channel describes “Life on Gas Giants” (Sept 2018)

Organisms like bacteria could float in the atmosphere indefinitely because of the strong winds below, in a zone of reasonable temperature and pressure.

Larger, bag-like and possibly quite large organisms could evolve (something like our own coelenterates or even octopi) and might even be intelligent and self-aware.  But it would be hard for them to find materials to build things (with ocean bottom organisms on Earth can do).

Wikipedia embed of comet collision with Jupiter in the 1990s, click for attribution. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

"Coronavirus Complications: Life After the Virus" (DW Documentary, Germany)



DW Documentary presents “Coronavirus Complications: Life After the Virus”, from Dec. 2020.

Filmed in Germany, the documentary examines the course of patients who go to the Schoen Klinik in Bavaria.  People who thought they had mild cases find their endurance and breathing capacity severely reduced even months later.  This is being reported more recently.

People go down to it for physical rehabilitation of their lung capacity.

Maria is a physician and is unable to meet the physical demands of the job with emergency treatment of patients.  On the other hand, Christopher finally recovers well enough to train for a marathon, after six months.

Recently, medical journals have reported that even asymptomatic cases often show significant damage on chest X-ray.  Among people whom I know, this has not really been confirmed. 

Wikipedia picture embed from Bavaria, click for embed 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

"What's Up with those COVID-19 Variants?" from Sci-Show

SARS-CoV-2 without background


SciShow asks, “What’s Up With Those COVID-19 Variants?” (January 12).

In six minutes, the short covers the B1.1.7 variant (UK) and B.1.351 (South Africa).

The variants have spike protein changes, making them attach to ACE2 receptors more easily, and another change that may make it harder for the immune system to recognize that a cell is infected.

The UK mutation may have occurred in a single patient who was ill a long time.

People with these variations seem to have several times the viral loads in their nasal passages.

An increase in transmissibility will increase the death rate downstream a few weeks later because of more cases.  The sudden explosion of the UK variant in early December 2020 has led to a new strict lockdown. 

Image, embed from Wikipedia, click for attribution. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

"Here Comes Frieda": a young woman expects a lottery ticket to grant her an escape from a category 6 superstorm


My model O'Niell Cylinder, 2015

The DUST short film “Here Comes Frieda”, directed by Robin Takao D’Oench, presents a young woman Lilly (Ellie Wallwork) cowering in a basement apartment in a big city as a superstorm, category 6, approaches.

She has bought a lottery ticket for a lifetime in a paradise in low orbit (presumably an O’Neill Cylinder). It’s 2040 and climate change is closing in.

But other people come to her apartment to take the ticket away from her, or to show it fake.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

"What does a Producer actually do" when making a film?


Random glove

Crimson Engine explains “What Does a Producer ACTUALLY Do?” (2018/2/13).

The producer runs the entire infrastructure to make the movie, but does not provide money.  The producer uses money raised by others, which are often financial entities on Wall Street.  The producer hires (and more rarely fires and replaces) the director.

He discusses the Executive Producer, which is a more flexible concept having to do with supporting the project and raising money.

He explains a PGA Title, which requires being on the set for 80% of the set days.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

"The Reimann Hypothesis: Explained": a math professor turns an unsolved math problem into interesting animation

Farey diagram square 9


Quanta Magazine presents Rutgers University mathematics professor Alex Konorovich explaining “The Reimann Hypothesis” (2021).

It’s hard to describe this for a short film review page.  It has been simulated on computers with trillions of computations, but it hasn’t been proven logically.

It will help predict the distribution of primes. Imagine a city, maybe in a science fiction movie (maybe in an O’Neill cylinder) where every building represents the number of floors equal to the number of prime factors of some prime number, with the streets arranged in a grid matching these numbers.

Proving the theorem and related ones (there is even a “Mobius function”) leads to some amazing animation.  It also corresponds to how quarks and bosons or the parts of baryonic matter behave.

Illustration is a Farey diagram, Wikipedia embed, click for attribution.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

"Never Alone": If you lose a love, just imagine he is there


NYC 2016

Jesse James Rice presents “Never Alone” (2020), with Brian Sounalath and Jordon Sorenson.

A distraught man comes home and sees his ex-boyfriend at every turn in his house. 

Then a female friend comes over to hang out and make his face reality. The song “Roar” plays in the background.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Producers want to see brief synopses of proposed films before they see scripts or even long treatments


Mason Locke Weems and George Washington, VA

Shane Stanley (the Film Courage channel, from Oct 20, 2020, explains “Producers don’t want to read your screenplay; here’s what they really want.”

They don’t have time for full scripts.  They want a logline and two-page synopsis, one paragraph per act.  If appropriate (for a layered film) they may read a detailed treatment which could run twenty pages and shows all the backstories and character arcs.  You should copyright all your materials first before you send it to them (with the copyright office was well as Writer’s Guild. If the treatment is based on a previously published book, the connections (and changes) and legal stuff would have to be clearly stated. 

He also talked about the value of art work, and talked about that kinds of films are perceived as making money.  Exotic locations help.

Tyler Mowery (Practical Screenwriting) has a 24-part thread on Twitter today on screenwriting advice. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

"Just Ask Him": In high school, a shy student "confronts" his extroverted role model

DC United at RFK, 2014

 Just Ask Him” (2020), a short film by Brian Tognotti.

Andrew (Donovan Napoli) is a rather shy teen who wants to make a soccer team, and meets a more outgoing guy Ricky (Rio Davilla-Smith) in class.

It will turn out that both are in the closet, but Andrew needs to get up the courage to ask for a date, and to try out for the team. 


Saturday, January 09, 2021

Why many film school graduates never have a career in the film industry


driving to downtown LA, 2012

Shane Stanley explains “Big reason why many people will never have a career in the film industry” for Film Courage.

You have to hang out, offer to work for free (as an intern) and meet everyone and make yourself useful.

You have to become a prole.

Film school may not make that much difference. The video was release in December 2020.  How do you hang out during the pandemic? 

Is this the way to get “Epiphany” made? 

Friday, January 08, 2021

"The Mistake I Made When Hollywood Stole My Screenplay" (Shane Stanley)


Hotel room on the 405, in 2012

Shane Stanley explains “The Mistake I Made When Hollywood Stole My Screenplay”.

He says register your work with the copyright office, not just Writers Guild West.

When the film comes out, the Monday before the Friday opening, you file a complaint.

I wonder how likely this would be with my own “Epiphany” screenplay.  So many charactersm so complicated.  But one good idea I’ll share here:  a guy could to an intentional community, in resignation after the world falls apart, and offer to build them a system to turn work credits into cryptocurrency.

This writer says, don’t share their work (even in Zoom sessions)?  Is it really that likely to happen?

To be “ripped” is a common slang among videographers and some screenwriters.

There is a different culture between people who write for a living and people who write out of ego.



Thursday, January 07, 2021

"This Is a Test" of how your afterlife starts


my train set 

This Is a Test”, by Nathaniel Hoopes (16 minutes) on the DUST Channel.

Well, in an IT shop, we would have said, if it works, it’s production, otherwise it’s a test.

An obese man does string-theory dimensional travel to various locations in his life, carrying a pet jellyfish in a bowl, and sometimes using a Sony HD camera with a small screen. 

The effect is that of a David Lynch movie, reminiscent of Eraserhead and with a song that reminds me of the Lady in the Radiator.

Perhaps this is what happens at Death, time stops and you loop through your life infinitely. If your brain is still physically intact.

The end credits roll so fast you can't read the actor's name. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

"How I Became Confident", Nate O'Brien makes Philly look interesting


Philadelphia, Drexel U, 2018

On this crazy day when the Capitol was attacked, I’ll share a film a little more uplifting, “How I Became Confident”, by Nate O’Brien.

O’Brien, 22, makes videos with financial advice for teens and young adults, does intriguing selfies around Philadelphia, and makes the City of Brotherly Love look intriguing, even mysterious.

It is not another borough of New York City.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

"A Woman's Work: The NFL's Cheerleader Problem" on PBS Independent Lens (abridged)


Raven's home stadium, Baltimore, 2010

 Yu Gu directs the documentary “A Woman’s Work: TheNFL’s Cheerleader Problem”, an 80-minute documentary truncated to about 50 minutes to fit into one hour on PBS Independent Lens on Monday January 4, 2021.  The film is written by Elizabeth Ai and Jennifer Arbold. Feminism and pro football collide.

There are around ten lawsuits against various NFL teams by the women, who at first had to deal with not being paid regularly. Then there was the question as to whether they were employees or contractors.

The job involves a lot of physical fitness sessions, and I even wondered about Washington’s have a female assistant coach.

There was plenty of script that maintained that women always have two jobs, including in the home.

Monday, January 04, 2021

"The Rise of Bitcoin", major documentary showing how cryptocurrency got started


coins at home

The YouTube channel Plot11 offers “Digital Economy Infotainment”, and on Dec. 18, 2020 it posted “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin”, directed by Nicholas Mross, as a YouTube Original.

It seems to be a prequel to “The End of Money as We Know It” (2015) which I reviewed on Wordpress.

Bitcoin is essentially an open accounting system posted on a decentralized public ledger called a blockchain, allowing users to process what amount to “labor credit” in relation to a finite supply of computing power,’

It was supposedly envisioned in 2008 by a person using the name Satoshi Nakamoto.  At the end of the film, a person named Dorian with that last name is entertained by denies connection to the project now.

The very first transaction using bitcoin was supposedly a pizza order.

The film traces particularly the developing of two trading exchanges, Mt. Gox, which would go under, and Trade Hill.

The film traces the careers of some entrepreneurs, including Charlie Shrem, who would be arrested and imprisoned for two years for abetting the operation of Silk Road, on a charge relating to unlicensed financial transfers (didn’t make a lot of sense).  The film also briefly covers the imprisonment of Ross Ulbricht.  The film points out that having a digital currency (and even tools like TOR) doesn't mean you will use it illegally. 

Sunday, January 03, 2021

"At the Intersection of LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter", short film by the Los Angeles Times


West Hollywood, 2012

The Los Angeles Times has a short film “At the Intersection of LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter”, posted July 2020, with Erika D. Smith, Lillian Faderman and Alexei Romanoff, 6 minutes,

I can rather let the film speak for itself.

However the tone of gay rights has changed since 2010 (end of “don’t ask don’t tell” and even 2015 (Obergefell and gay marriage) and today, with the pandemic and then the unrest after a number of police actions against some individuals of color.

This year, the pandemic precluded Pride celebrations as we known them and largely (though not completely) closed bars and discos; but large protests associated with Black Lives Matter grew.  Various influencers in the gay community were encouraged to vigorously support BLM on their social media pages, often unaware of the apparent Marxist connections (as with Patrisse Cullors).

The film maintains that Stonewall started among people of color, not white gay men, who are quite separate in many cultural beliefs.

Friday, January 01, 2021

"The FLOW State of Life" (from "Perspectopia")


Chapel Hill, NC, 2017, my visit

Max Reisinger, owner of “Perspectopia”, offers a six minute outdoor meditation, “The Flow State of Life”, otherwise titled “Every Time I Walked Back to Get My Camera in 2020”.

With lively varied speed photography of the self, he describes how his life changed when he went to high school in France for a year, and then came back to North Carolina for his senior year (combined with college start) and started his clothing company.

There’s a lot or organized stuff in his production room, which would not please minimalists.

Some of the ideas are similar to the college videos on John Fish’s channel (Harvard).

I think this could make a nice entry for DC Shorts2021.