Sunday, February 28, 2021

“Multi-Species Civilizations and Co-Alien Habitats” by Isaac Arthur, gets beyond race


Langley Museum, Virginia, 2012 

Isaac Arthur explores “Multi-Species Civilizations and Co-Alien Habitats”, by Isaac Arthir.

Arthur starts out by invoking the world of the first Star Wars Movie (1977) with dozens of species, consorting with one another in that gay bar scene on another planet. 

Earth is “lucky” that there is just one dominant species, which is entirely interchangeable reproductively and biologically equal in capability.  Race is not as big a problem, as species equality if they were able to live together. This might not be the case in all alien worlds.

Actually, dolphins and orcas may be about the same as us in intelligence, but live in separate environments.  Even so, there are ethical and moral problems, with using these equals in amusement parks, or in the distant past as a source of whale oil.

But intelligent beings based on totally different biology are unlikely to share the same continental living spaces, despite all of Isaac’s claims.  Isaac’s ideas of breeding cats or dogs with human intelligence sound interesting, but then what about other apes. 

Our nation of intelligence is also limited by culture.  Your cat is smart in ways you are not because “they” can survive in the wild on the own when you cannot. And animals may understand our world better than we think they can, as when they warn us of gas leaks or approaching storms.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

“This Is What Happens to Your Brain as You Are About to Die”, animated, sounds like a dangerous temptation (also, "Flatliners")

Vertebrate-brain-regions small


This Is What Happens to Your Brain as You Are About to Die”, animated, from the Infographics Channel, Nov. 29, 2020.

The main point here seems to be that if your body dies before your brain does, your brain has a chance to shut down slowly.  The brain, even without oxygen, can shoot itself up with serotonins in the last few moments to make them pleasurable.  People talk about a “life review”.  Time may slow down and it may seem eternal.

On the other hand, if the brain is destroyed by traumatic injury (like a bullet or explosion), or even by a burst aneurysm, no such opportunity exists.  That is something that a terrorist could try to take advantage of.  It could also mean that violent suicide by weapon means there is no such afterlife preview.

The short mentions the two films "Flatliners" (1990, which I saw, and 2017) (tidbit review of 1990, Joel Schumacher, Columbia Pictures).  

Look at my review of Eben Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven”, Books blog, March 30, 2013. 

Hashem al-Gailhi reports "Your Brain Still Works After Death" (2018) and a few memory cells may work at the cellular level for up to two days, possibly growing cancer cells.  Yet bodies are often cremated within that time. 

Wikipedia embed of comparative anatomy of human and shark brains, click for attribution. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

"Alex and Jay": how roommates draw closer, with hesitation at first (short)


World Pride, NYC, 2019

Alex and Jay” is a short film from an integrated series about couples, “Gay Storylines”.

Alex and Jay are best friends and roommates, and supposedly straight or bisexual. 

Jay seems a little more open to it, but they tease each other, finally getting their first kiss done over a game of backgammon (nor chess).

Thursday, February 25, 2021

"A Concerto Is a Conversation", NYTimes op-doc about a black composer interviewing his grandfather from the Jim Crow era


Alabama, 2014


Ben Proudfoot offers a short film for New York Times Op-Docs, at Sundance 2021, “A Concerto Is a Conversation” (14 min).  There was a special occasion with QA in Los Angeles on Feb 24 (which I missed). 

The film is motivated by the world premiere (at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles) of a Violin Concerto by 29-year-old black composer Kris Bowers.  Most of the film he interviews his grandfather Horace, who left Alabama during the Jim Crow era and set up a clothing business in Los Angeles, using the mail for communication to stay out of sight.

The film has many black-and-white clips of life in the segregated South.

Bowers composed the music score for the film "Green Book". 

I will listen to the concerto soon and discuss it on my music blog.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Notorious deleted scene from "Amadeus" (1984)

Stephansdom Vienna July 2008 (27)-Stephansdom Vienna July 2008 (31)


“A Video Player” presents a deleted scene from Milos Forman’s “Amadeus” (1984, Orion Pictures), the canine concert (old legacy review). 

Mozart (Tom Hulce, who can be quite silly) is asked by one of Mozart’s benefactors (keeping him out of debt) to give a piano lesson to his daughter, but then the dogs come in and react to the music.  Eventually the music migrates to one of the piano concerto finales (I think #18 but I’ll have to check).

I showed this to a social studies class when I was substitute teaching back in 2005, and the students who were under 17 were asked to close their eyes to the explicit scenes because the film was rated R, as per the regular teacher’s instructions.

Vienna picture: Wikipedia embed, click for attribution 

Monday, February 22, 2021

"The Problem with Hyper-Individualism" (this guy wants to recruit you into his mass movement as a true believer)


LIRR, 2019

Second Thought examines “The Problem with Hyper-Individualism”.

The title sounds like it should be a Martin Goldberg video, like "The Problem with 'Clean Your Room'". 

Well, he speaks up for mass movements, and at 9:00 he says, when you see yourself as in competition with everyone else, “you’re turning your back on what it means to be human”.

He show cameo shots of his favorite anti-heroes, like Elon Mush and David Rubin, oh, and Jordan Peterson, of course.

Here’s an old essay of mine from 2004, “Hyperindividualism v. Solidarity”.  Yet, I tend to think, mass movements are for losers.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

"What Makes a Movie Great?"


Philadelphia, 2018

“Now You See It” asks, “What makes a movie great?”,  4 minutes.

He talks a lot about “Citizen Kane” (which I saw in Dallas at the Inwood in the 1980s.

There is talk of close-ups and camera angles and stagecraft, but the greatest movies have a real effect on society and even get laws passed (he talks about “Jaws”).  Movies with the most effect included “Fight Club”, and “Philadelphia” (about AIDS), and “Juno” (pregnancy termination). 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

"Why Life Exists", by Isaac Arthur

DNA animation

 Why Life Exists” by Isaac Arthur, 30 minutes.

In summary, to dissipate heat, he says.

He gives examples of emergent behavior in mathematics, taking some from chess (why does chess theory work out the way it does) and then with games, like an ant moving from light to dark squares, eventually abandon the complex web it has created to migrate.

I think that life gives the universe the opportunity to limit disorder. Entities localize agency, the ability make decisions with self-interest, or layered within the context of a group (like a hive or colonial organism, even the slime mold).

Animated gif  embedded from Wikipedia, click for attribution 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Participant Media tries to show how film media can support activism on social justice, climate change

Fort Lauderdale, 2017, at sea level

Fastcompany has a nice article about Participant Media, and how independent film can contribute to activism.  While Participant is well known for working on documentaries with independent studios, it has sometimes worked with larger Hollywood efforts, such as “Judas and the Black Messiah”, which starred at 2021 Sundance and which opened in theaters and HBOMax for Black History Month.

The article shows several videos on the topic, based on the film “Last Call at the Oasis” (2011, Jessoca Yu), reviewed here in May 2012 (see label). 

The bullet points are . (1) Become a hub for activists (2)Give people tools to act locally (especially relevant with an issue like climate change) (3) Provide incentive for action (4) create content around the original content (which was my technique 20 years ago with gays in the military) (5) let the film’s message take on its own life. .

In the video below, Participant Media executive Holly Gordon is interviewed by Joel Stein. Participant Media

 Participant Media explains its status as a B-corporation.  David Hogg is doing that with his new pillow company (we need a short film about "Good Pillow" soon).

Here is Participant Media’s Take Action link.  

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Documentary "Rush to Judgment", about the media smear of Catholic high school students after a confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial in January 2019; I am trying to find out about availability

Covington, Kentucky


There is a documentary film, “Rush to Judgment: Encounter at the Lincoln Memorial”, directed by Steve Oldman, about the incident January 18, 2019, when students of the Covington Catholic School from Park Hills, KY, assembled  near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and were confronted by Native American activist Nathan Philips.  It has been shown at the Anthem Film Festival.

Rush To Judgment Trailer - Anthem Film Festival from Steve Oldfield on Vimeo.

Nicholas Sandmann was singled out by the media because of his “smirk”, an artefact of the photography, and his standing mute when Philips tried to confront him.  Later the context of the incident was discovered, relating to other activists (Black Hebrew Israelites) who had created commotion. Sandmann would be interviewed by NBC's Savannah Guthrie. Independent journalist Tim Pool discovered a lot of the context by examining the videos in detail all day on January 19. 

Sandmann wound up suing several media networks for defamation and winning some awards.

I am trying to find out if I can get a streamed or DVD copy to review.  The Federalist has a long column by Gabe Kaminsky, and Filmthreat has a review.

Sandmann seems "conservative" on Twitter, but there is a striking parallel to his history as that of David Hogg (the Parkland shooting survivor).  Both teens, well educated, stood up and fought back to abuse.  

Downtown Covington KY skyline, Wikipedia embed, click for attribution,.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

“Continent Sized Rotating Space Habitats”, really big artificial space worlds for a High Frontier


Model World Layout 2016

Continent Sized Rotating Space Habitats” is an interesting  video from Isaac Arthur, posted July 2020, and it follows up on earlier videos about O’Neill Cylinders.

Arthur discusses structures like the Topopolis, the MesoCylinder, the MkKendree Cylnder, and Banks Orbital.

He suggests the use of graphene as a structural material for very large space habitats with their own internal “geography” and nations or politics.  In some cases, a “Nile River” waterway through the torus would be desirable politically.

He mentions David Niven’s “Ringworld”.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire will hire Gina Carano with this Daily Wire media company for a feature film, after Disney fires her over "un-woke" tweet


My own shadow

Ben Shapiro, using his company the Daily Wire, will fund a film for Gina Carano, after her firing for supposedly inappropriate metaphors about the Holocaust.  It was a meme of not offending your neighbors?  But the subject matter for the film has not yet been disclosed.

There are stories in many sources, including Times of Israel and the CNBC.

Tim Pool’s video discusses what I call the Left’s “quid pro quo” demanding you actually join up with them or get cancelled.

He also mention Ben Shapiro’s “Run Hide Fight” (directed Kyle Rankin) which I may watch when it goes online.  Apparently it is distributed by Daily Wire, which I had not been aware distributes films. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

"Spassk-Dalny", what far eastern Russia looks like (near the Pacific Ocean, China and North Korea)

Спасск-Дальний 6

The “Yeah Russia” channel offers a 17 minute video “Life in a Small-Town in the Far East of Russia”, mainly Spassk-Dalny, filmed by Natasha. It is spelled “Спасск-Да́льний” in Russian alphabet.

The town is named after an Eastern Orthodox hero, and the suffix means “far”.  It is north of Vladivostok.  (Think of the name of the chess grandmaster Boris Spassky.)

She mentions you can take a bus to China without much hassle.  But the town is not too far from the 11-mile border with North Korea that is little known, and not covered well by Google Maps (Business Insider story illustrated, paywall). 

The town itself has about 39,000 people, and has one industry, cement and limestone, and it used to have over 60,000 in the 1980s, before the fall of the USSR.

The town has a movie theater, that was open, even the restaurant for indoor dining;  the only noticeable nod to Covid-19 was hand-sanitizer in the lobby.  Russia is very unwilling to talk about Covid.

The people in the town look “white” (Caucasian) rather than Oriental, which may result from the Russian settlement policies in Czarist times and later with the USSR (including people from Ukraine).

The city has various parks and low-rise buildings with pastel colors.

Natasha says that in Russia, large cities take care of their downtowns and tend to let the outskirts stumble.

Wikipedia embed of town square, click for attribution.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

“Long Covid and the Loss of Smell” from DW



Long Covid and the Loss of Smell” is another short doc from DW News. 

Rachel Herz  Brown University gives an interview about anosmia, loss of smell, and sometimes parosmia, distorted smell.  There are related disorders for taste.  I may have had some parosmia for about three days at the end of March, and it resolved itself. 

Disturbances in the sense of smell happen when the virus enters supporting cells for the olfactory nerve, as these cells have ACE2 receptors.  This symptom may happen two days before a PCR test would return a positive result, so self-isolation should always happen. Often, when this is the first symptom, there are few other symptoms.

The video did mention taste, and gave the example of a woman whose job required taste.  She could taste something with wine and vinegar, but could not discern the difference.

The video describes olfactory retraining and believes most people can regain most of their sense of smell. 

The doctor said it was not clear yet how often loss of smell and taste occur with the new variants.

Wikipedia embed, click for attribution 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

"Closeted": A gay teen insults a girl friend he was never serious about (short)


Upper Michigan, Sept 2019

Diana Marti has a short film “Closeted”, from the Interlochen Center for the Arts (July 2019).

A white teenager (Carson Fisher) is asking for advice on heterosexual dating from an Asian and then a black friend.  Then he admits he doesn’t get it up with women.  I sort of remember this issue coming up in that last William and Mary semester.

He walks in on a family setting with his girl friend and kisses the Asian guy,  That creates some consternation.

Friday, February 12, 2021

“How Dangerous Is South Africa’s Coronoavirus Variant?" from DW Documentaries

Cape Floral Region Protected Areas-114212

 DW News and Documentary offers a timely analysis (15 min), “How Dangerous Is South Africa’s Coronoavirus Variant?"

Penny Moore,  Wits University, is interviewed in depth.  Younger people are getting it probably because of behaviors and the way the virus is reported.  The AstraZeneca vaccine was not found to be very effective in stopping mild disease from this variant in young people, but it hasn’t been studied in old people to see if it stops serious disease.  It is similar to Johnson and Johnson, which does.

There is also discussion of whether coronaviruses normally become milder as they evolve over a long time.  They may.  The four common cold viruses are mild because children are exposed to them early in life and develop deep cellular immunity to prevent serious damage.

Wikipedia embed of South Floral area, click for attribution.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

"The Unusual Case of Mary Mason": short film in which Travis Walton appears, about an apparent alien impregnation and then disappearance

The Mogollon Rim northeast of Payson, Arizona


The Unusual Case of Mary Mason”, from CrownSix Films, directed by Nicholas Quezada, 30 min, 2015, is notable for a guest appearance by Travis Walton (previous post).

Mary Mason (Cierra Weaver) is believed to have killed and buried her 5 year old son because she thought he was an alien, and she claims he was re-abducted by a UFO in northern Arizona.

The film has a middle section with a flashback 5 years before, where she and her boyfriend and friends went on a hike on the Arizona Mogollon rim to an artefact that looks like a slab from 2001.  While theyu are picnicking, a UFO comes and abducts them. When they wake up, Mary is missing momentarily.  Then, of course, she is pregnant.

The son has powers (like in Childhood’s End).  At the end, we find out she wasn’t wrong.

Picture: Mogollon Rim in winter, near Payson AZ, embed from Wikipedia, click for attribution

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

"Fire in the Sky" (1993), and a psychiatrist's view of Travis Walton's account

Apache Abbas


Todd Grande recently made a video about the Travis Walton UFO abduction incident that supposedly happened in northern Arizona, near Heber and Snowflake AZ in early November 1975. 

The incident was recreated in the 1993 film “Fire in the Sky”, from Paramount, directed by Robert Lieberman, which I believe I saw at the old AMC complex at Bailey’s Crossroads in Northern Virginia at the time.

Grande is very skeptical of Walton’s account for reasons having to do with his reported behavior at other times.  But I visited the area in a rental car in December 1975 and met a journalist in Heber who believed the account. 

Picture: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest near the site of the abduction, click for attribution 

Monday, February 08, 2021

"The Assassination of Movie Theaters" by pandemic


AMC Ashburn VA Oct 2020

“The Assassination of Movie Theaters”, 10 minutes, described by Sidebean.

The video talks about the deal between Universal and AMC Theaters, which rather saved it.

It also talks about Warner Brothers and HBO Max.

The consumer is changing and interested in consuming media immediately.  It is no coincidence that Warner Media belongs to ATT, which would have benefitted from instant streaming.

So then what happens to the blockbuster, which people used to want to experience on a big screen?  That is what used to make the studios and whole business profitable.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

"The Three Laws": a moral dilemma in space

Harpers Ferry

Paul Andrew Goldsmith presents “The Three Laws

The filmmaker plays an AI android who has too much of his own thinking to follow orders as programmed.

A research vessel gets a signal, and the android insists on responding to it because one human life is in danger on a nearby ship, maybe.

But if it is a false alarm, the mission of the ship is in danger, and so is all humanity.

Then something happens to this ship.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

"A Complete Guide to YouTube Growth" (Nate O'Brien)


Philadelphia 2018

I’ll call this a movie today, and share Nate O’Brien’s “A Complete Guide to YouTube Growth”.  Actually the formal title is “How I Gained 800000 Subscribers on YouTube.”

Youtubing in a sense has replaced blogging, since about 2013 or so, as something that you might make a living out of if you’re good enough, well, like Pew Die Pie.

He gives an interesting discussion of the importance of non-verbose thumbnails (as opposed to video titles). 

There are two things you need: production quality, which O’Brien talks about (I would lose the “sweater weather” mug), and expertise in a subject matter.

Some channels get successful without political controversy.  Look at John Fish (Harvard college channel), Max Reisinger (running a clothing business as a teenager).  That’s because they are appealing to start with and are addressing the issue of how to succeed at things without blatant salesmanship or manipulation.  There is a need, however, to address how to adapt to severe problems in the outside world, such as COVID now.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

"Pandemic 19", video diary of three doctors in the early days of COVID


NYC/NJ from Freedom Tower, 2015

World Films, PBS and WETA present a 29-minute film “Pandemic 19”, directed by Young Chang and Annie Katsura Rollins, link.

Three young doctors vide us video diaries of  March and April of 2020.

One of them, the man, moves from the Bay Area to New York. The load of Covid patients is light in the Bay Area (Gavin Newsome’s “shelter in place”) but intensifies quickly in NYC.  The film gives the exponentially rising case count several times;  by March 31 it was already twice what had been reported officially from China.  He talks about the extreme hygiene necessary on the job, never touching your face. 

A female doctor talks more about the patients, and the day she extubated two patients.

But another female from Canada, an emergency room doctor, loses her job as the ordinary emergency room loses “business”.  But why didn’t she go to work in a COVID emergency room?

They also talk about improvising masks in the early days.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Christopher Nolan expected to break ties with Warner Brothers over HBOMax deal


A big theater in Cleveland, 2012 

Cortex Videos discusses “Christopher Nolan Is Leaving Warner Brothers

Warner Brothers is the distributor for his recent major films.  Nolan is concerned about WB’s decision to go to HBO Max streaming simultaneously with theatrical release, obviously motivated by the long time in many months it is taking to get out from under the pandemic

 A Nolan film is always a visual spectacle and does "world-building" and begs to be experienced in a theater with wide screen, Imax, Dolby Atmos, maybe 3-D, etc.  New filmmakers are not usually in a position to hold those expectations. 

The commentary distinguishes between “franchise” and “non-franchise” films, and Nolan does both.  In the world of trademark law, and as business practicality, that’s an important concept in planning a film, especially in sci-fi:  does the author of the idea envision a sequel with the same characters?   Is a first film a “Pilot” for a franchise?  I don’t think that’s necessarily a wholesome concept for new filmmakers.

But the entire industry, obviously reeling with the disruption of the pandemic, considers Nolan to be one of its most important contributors.

Monday, February 01, 2021

"The Boy Who Can't Forget": in Britain, young adults with perfect photographic memories for life; genetics?


apartment complex in Dallas, had been Harvey's Racquet, 2018

The “Only Human” channel presents “The Boy Who Can’t Forget” (46 min), posted in Dec. 2017.

The film presents a 20 year-old British lad who can remember every day of his life, at least back to infancy.  He is a walking perpetual calendar, and can name the weekday of any date.  He is not a savant or autistic, and is socially normal with friends (the film later on tended to hint that he is gay).

The film presents a young woman, and several other people.

Late in the film, Auerelian (if I heard his name right) travels to Italy to have an unusual brain scan to examine how his brain works during these recollections.  They found unusual connections through the corpus collosum.

Possibly the brain changes are epigenetic, but they would seem to be beneficial.

I had a coworker in Dallas with a totally photographic memory in the 1980s (in mainframe computing).  One of his hobbies was cooking, and he was gay.