Thursday, June 17, 2021

"China's Freedom": aka, Things You Can Do in China

Guangzhou Twin Towers


China’s Freedom” or “Things You Can Do in China (You Can’t Do in America”, posted June 13, 2021, by the Living in China channel, run by a young man from the UK, similar in spirit to the Barrett Channel.

In a relatively small city in China’s interior, he shows you can drink in public (you can’t in the US) even though you can’t carry weapons (you can often in the US). 

He also notes that the public spaces are very clean (like Singapore’s).

He also notes there is almost zero street crime.

But there is no “freedom of reach” with political speech. Chinese society demands more mandatory socialization of everyone.  He doesn’t mention the social credit score.  Or the difficulty of many people in transcending and moving out of rural poverty.   

Wikipedia picture: Guangzhou skyline, Wikipedia embed, click for attribution 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

"Occupy Me": two gay men make their encounter a proxy for power and submission


NYC, Chelsea, 2016-9

Occupy Me”, (2017, 15 min) directed by Adam Fitzgerald, present two gay men in a quick “stage play” about who has power in their physical relationship. It stars Jaspar Binning and Max Rhyser.

The film has shown in film festivals in Madrid, North Carolina, Out on Film Atlanta, Inside Out Toronto, Qflix Philadelphia.

The title literally says what the issue is, and this is all definitely about cis masculinity.

Since the video is age-restricted, I’ll embed another one where a therapist talks about the topic.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

"The 'Working Together' Riddle": the ultimate "story problem" for algebra tests


Rehoboth Beach, DE 2021/6

The “Working Together” Riddle, a problem that ought to be solvable by "common sense".

This may play out like the classic high school algebra “word problem”.

The important idea is to identify the indivisible work unit to solve for.

This test problem sounds like it was designed for intentional communities or communes that try to get by without any fiat currency at all.

tofu warehouse at Twin Oaks, VA, 2012

Monday, June 14, 2021

"Sign": A hearing young man attempts a relationship with a deaf man in NYC

NYC June 2019 


Sign”, posted June 14, 2020, 7 min, by Bringing Art to Life, directed by Andrew Keenan-Bolger, presents two gay men, Ben (hearing) and Aaron (deaf) building a relationship in New York City, with many scenes on subways.

Then they have a fight, over pride perhaps.  Then they reconcile.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

"What's Delaying First Contact?": There's a simple answer to Fermi's problem


model train world, 2014/12

What’s Delaying First Contact?” from Unveiled, alternate title “4 Reasons Why We Still Haven’t Found Aliens”, or explaining the Fermi Paradox.

My own take:  Intelligent civilization is but a speck of time in the history of the galaxy. Other civilizations could have risen and fallen repeatedly over time and are too far away for us to find evidence of them.

It sounds pessimistic, but escaping from Earth would require my own “Second Epiphany” (or else a real one with aliens).  Check also this Washington Post op-ed Sunday June 13, "Contacting aliens could end all life on earth. Let’s stop trying.  Whatever the UFO report says, it’s time to set some rules for talking to extraterrestrials "

Friday, June 11, 2021

Johnny Harris explains "Why I Left the Mormon Church"


LDS temple Salt Lake, 1940s, family estate picture

Independent journalist Johnny Harris explains, on a 23-minute video today, “Why I Left the Mormon Church”.

He had graduated from Brigham Young University (Wikipedia has just posted personal data which shows him to be 33), and married (Iz) and had a child, and moved to Washington DC.  He had done missionary work, at his own expense, which is presented as knocking on doors and proselytizing, and said he was going through an internal mental review of his own faith, often on bike rides or runs. It struck him one day that he could not commit himself further to the collective cause of the church.  He confronted Iz, who first thought that could end their marriage, but then Iz joined him in the same separate introspection.  They would have to raise their boys to become much more independent thinkers.

He does review the four major ordinances of the Church as baptism, confirmation, endowment (a special ritual) and marriage.   Descendants can do rituals for your soul after you decease. The whole setup (eternal family) imputes a collective solidarity that “takes care of everyone” who has an otherwise rightful place within the church.  But this amounts to a right-wing form of “socialism” or the psyche.  In the distant past, the Mormons were a persecuted group, and could understand the idea of an identity of a lived experience of oppression, with an uncanny parallel to today’s woke Left, but with other groups. Harris does mention the homophobia of the LDS church of the past, and it seems directly related to the idea of social solidarity as expressed in reliable procreation within a family expressing traditional gender roles. 

So Johnny’s journey seems to be one of leaving tribalism for individualism.  He can do this with an entire family.  For an individual like me, it is more problematic.  That’s particularly troubling if I were taken out by someone else’s violence (which I have avoided, turning 78 in July, having avoided HIV and COVID).  With no community behind me, that’s the end.  No funeral, nothing, just erased. Maybe because of someone else’s indignation and anger. You really have to want to be saved.

 I visited the Sal Lake area once, in May 1981. 

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

"Why British People Can't Donate Blood in America" from Real Science



“Why British People Can’t Donate Blood in America”, from Real Science (May 15, 2021). 

This is relatively little known, but Americans who have spent more than 90 days in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s cannot give blood.

It started with an epidemic of mad cow disease in Britain in the 1980s. It is closely related to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans (or subacute spongiform encephalopathy). 

The cause of the disease is a misfolded protein, which (like a strangelet) causes other proteins it touches to be refolded.

The science of prions (“protein infectious molecules”) became known in a Discover magazine article in 1983, about the time AIDS was a mystery but prions have nothing to do with AIDS (fortunately).  Curiously “prion” chemistry might be significant in extraterrestrial biology if we ever find it (like on Titan’s lakes).

There is a new indirect blood test oft CJD prion proteins in people who may eventually develop symptoms.

Wikipedia embed of laboratory stain or brain of infected animal, click for attribution 

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

"Ark": time dilation affects a couple in an "Interstellar-like" short film


Fireplace in "Therapy" NYC

In the short film “Ark” (8 min on Dust, directed by Sona Helmi, 2021), a young woman has returned from an exploratory visit to Earth 2, where people will relocate.

She has aged only 5 years, her husband 45 years and is now 79.

He doesn’t want to go, but she is willing to “freeze” him.

Monday, June 07, 2021

"Why Is Russia so Damn Big?", according to Johnny Harris

Map of federal subjects of Russia (2014)


Johnny Harris, now with a rather large independent journalistic video channel, talks about a lot of subjects we should know more about.

This one, from late March 2021, is “Why Is Russia so Damn Big?

The original founding of “Muscovy” had a lot to do with pushing back the Mongol invaders, beyond a mountain border the Urals (remember the intermission of “Dr. Zhivago” in 1966/)

Later czars (starting with Ivan) just wanted to go past the Urals because too porous in the South, so they gradually infiltrated the lightly settled tribal areas in Siberia and “invited” the tribes to join. Eventually, they took Alaska, which the US bought for a steal in 1867.  What if Russia tried to take it back?  (the 1982 TV movie “World War III”). 

Harris mentions that Russia is divided in 22 republics, many of which are almost autonomous except international affairs. So Russia is a federation, not a unary state like China.  That contrasts to the USSR which added 15 other semi-autonomous “Republics” which were unloaded into the CIS when the USSR broke up at the end of 1991. Particularly visual is is coverage of Sakha and icebox capital Yakutsk, with all the diamond sinkholes in the permafrost (which if it melts means a catastrophe for global warming). 

He mentions Chechnya and barely notes the serious problems there (not explicitly mentioning the extreme fanatical homophobia) and also the Navalny case.

Despite its decentralized nature, Putin is trying hard to repopulate Siberia and is very sensitive about low birth rates, which probably explains the Russian anti-gay propaganda law of 2013.

Wikipedia map of “federal subjects”, click for attribution.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

"How to Be Hopeless": Hour-long video by Carlos Maza would seem to refute the idea of personal agency



NYC, 2016/9

Here is Carlos Maza’s 56-minute trope from April 9, 2021, “How to Be Hopeless   There is also a longer, 2-hour livestream.

He bases his commentary on the 1947 book “The Plague  (“La Peste”), by Albert Camus, about a hypothetical pandemic in Oran in French Algeria and a man’s “escape” from it, so to speak.

He starts out by noting that most people believe they are the “protagonist” of their own “novel”, literally like The Protagonist of Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet.  This sort of intrinsic self-centeredness is really what of we could call “personal high agency”.  There is a belief that a successful, or at least a competent person, stays in control of things that can affect him, doesn’t make mistakes, and doesn’t contaminate himself by associating with losers.  (I’ll drop pronoun courtesy for the moment.)  Taken literally when faced with a pandemic, that could mean you are fit enough to overcome it if you get it. It sounds not like Darwin but probably Herbert Spencer. It isn’t hard to imagine the danger of this philosophy – by focusing on individual fitness as the moral indivisible, it invites fascism (and the era of Trump, culminating in January 6, which this video includes some footage of).

That’s not to overlook the idea that whole groups (starting with race) were designated as less fit by those in charge. At the other end, there is the idea of accepting your own ego-loss but to keep on fighting for the vulnerable, in solidarity with them because you admit you are no better than them. 

Then what happens to optimism with so many other personalities on YouTube (Tyler Mowery, Max Reisinger, John Fish) who seem to be in a position to take charge of things with enough care and acceptable distance from ruinous risk.  The far Left will insist this happens only with exploitation (“capitalism”) and so the individual is left to “pay his dues”, except that critical theory will throw him into a group anyway.

Maza made the video in April.  Physically, he looks good and has apparently avoided the pain of the disease personally and would certainly be vaccinated now. Maza, in fact, is said to be well-off despite his “socialism”.  He has done great work in the past for Vox (his interview of David Hogg was a masterpiece).  But then this feud with Crowder took everyone else down on YouTube with him in mid 2019, two years ago today, eight months before pandemic.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Chaos Theory: (Why a skipped heart beat doesn't kill you, and more, like why a faucet drip can be irregular)



Chaos! “This Equation Will Change How You See the World: The Logistic Map”.

Johnny Hymen, on Versatium, explains how natural systems (even heart rhythms) become chaotic and then recover.  He plots the behavior of systems under the equation x sub (n+1) = rx (sub n) times (1- x sub n).

equation in text 

He also explains the Feigenbaum constant approx.. 4.669, as shown in this embedded Wikipedia diagram.

It is a constant of nature that is derived strictly from math. Related to all this is the Mandelbrot set in complex numbers. 

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

"Why Do Terrence Malick's Movies Look Like That?" (Flight)


Roadside America, PA, 2011

Thomas Flight asks “Why Do Terrence Malick’s Movies Look Like That?”

He discusses Malick’s long hiatus from filmmaking, to do things his way, to connect his characters and stories to a deeper process within the environment.

He often uses wide angle lens, low shots, and back lighting, and his storylines may seem arbitrary, and more about circumstance and setting.

A couple of my favorites are “Knight of Cups” (March 17, 2016) and “Tree of Life” (June 3, 2011).

I suppose that his approach could work with the present day scenes in my own screenplay “Second Epiphany”, on the spaceship; they would not work with the backstories, which have to be very precise.