Thursday, February 27, 2014

Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law: The Missing Science by Helen Epstein | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

"Sexual preference may be analogous to the immune system. In the 1950s and 60s, Peter Medawar, Gerald Edelman, and others discovered that everyone’s immune system is unique. The complex collection of genes that determine how each one of us will respond to a particular germ are incredibly diverse and no two of us have exactly the same set of such genes—not even identical twins. That’s because the building blocks of our immune systems are created partly upon conception when sperm and egg meet, partly during embryonic development, and partly after birth in response to real-world germs."

Computer Chess (2013) ***

A trip down memory lane for computer nerds d'un certain âge with amazingly detailed performances, art direction and cinematography, even at the risk of rendering the film un-watchable for all but the devoted. The script is variable with several head-scratching moments and it doesn't quite gel into a whole, but if you can get into it, it's a hoot.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Priest of Love (1981) **

Poorly made biopic of D. H. Lawrence is confusing and seemingly disjointed throughout. Good actors doing good work, but doesn't add up to much. Nice to see Ava back on the screen in a too brief role.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Homeland Security Wants to Scan Every Single License Plate - The Wire

"To immediately damper any comparisons to the NSA, Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for the DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) stressed that the private company the agency chooses to use will store the data, not the government. Because that makes it so much better.

"The data gathered could also 'only be accessed in conjunction with ongoing criminal investigations or to locate wanted individuals,' and suspects that pose a threat to public safety. Gathering data from license plates would also reduce the time needed to perform surveillance, Christensen said."

Sadly, not from The Onion.

Emma Watson: Noah left me exhausted, delirious and ill - Telegraph

“'Because the film has a pro-environmental message, Darren didn’t want anyone drinking from plastic water bottles on set… so that made things slightly harder,'” she told Wonderland magazine.
'Everything we used had to be recycled or recyclable. Having no water bottles on set at five in the morning, when you’re exhausted and delirious, wasn’t ideal.'"

Um, Emma darling, there ARE a few alternatives to plastic water bottles that might have helped. Perhaps a few persons on "the bus" could have got one for you?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Nothing Lasts Forever (1984) **

Given a bit more polish and/or a respectable budget, this may have been a great film. As it is, it seems to be a heartfelt homage to 30's era "B" film fantasies that is in over its head. Lots of star cameos and interesting, clever quirks keep things watchable.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks' Most Devious Scam Yet | Politics News | Rolling Stone

"But banks aren't just buying stuff, they're buying whole industrial processes. They're buying oil that's still in the ground, the tankers that move it across the sea, the refineries that turn it into fuel, and the pipelines that bring it to your home. Then, just for kicks, they're also betting on the timing and efficiency of these same industrial processes in the financial markets – buying and selling oil stocks on the stock exchange, oil futures on the futures market, swaps on the swaps market, etc.

"Allowing one company to control the supply of crucial physical commodities, and also trade in the financial products that might be related to those markets, is an open invitation to commit mass manipulation. It's something akin to letting casino owners who take book on NFL games during the week also coach all the teams on Sundays."

via @robotwisdom

In Bruges (2008) **

Didn't really get the connection between the high concept of the film and anything resembling a purpose, but the actors are fine and the scenery is finer which makes it fairly enjoyable most of the time.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun? | David Graeber | The Baffler

"Zhuangzi was right. So was June Thunderstorm. Our minds are just a part of nature. We can understand the happiness of fishes—or ants, or inchworms—because what drives us to think and argue about such matters is, ultimately, exactly the same thing."

Perhaps, but also it might just be that what we call "play" in ourselves is actually also "an expenditure of energy...directed toward some goal, whether it be obtaining food, securing territory, achieving dominance, or maximizing reproductive success". It's a more comforting thought to accept "animal" play because that helps confirm our "free will" illusion.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Review: Schulz on The Sixth Extinction -- Vulture

"Meanwhile, we Homo sapiens traveled out of Africa en route to everywhere, encountered the Neanderthals in Europe, had sex with them, and, directly or through competition for resources, exterminated them. Some 30,000 years later, we rediscovered them, via their remains, in a cave in limestone cliffs in a valley in Germany. That cave no longer exists. Those cliffs no longer exist. We quarried the limestone, smelted it with coke and iron ore, and converted it to steel.
"What species does this? Only ours. Somewhere along the line, thanks to some twist in that 0.3 percent of uniquely human DNA, we became the sort of creatures who could level cliffs and turn stone to steel; 'the sort of creature,' Kolbert writes, 'who could wipe out its nearest relative, then dig up its bones and reassemble its genome.'”

Peter Frampton on Beatles Tribute: 'A Lot of Not-So-Dry Eyes' | Billboard

"'It doesn't get better than that,'" Frampton says. 'You think you know them because they're ingrained in your soul -- until you start to listen to them and work out the parts. They're very, very clever. It was eye-opening as we all went, 'Ah-ha!' Don found this place where you can download just about every Beatles number, the multi-tracks -- which shouldn't be out there, but they are -- and we were able to isolate our parts so we were able to come up with exactly the right parts for the songs. I think it was, like, 19 or 20 songs we learned for all the shows, total, so we had our work cut out for us.'"

In other words, "piracy" saved the day yet again?

Why Nutrition Is So Confusing -

"And they do what are called observational studies, observing populations for decades, documenting what people eat and what illnesses beset them, and then assume that the associations they observe between diet and disease are indeed causal — that if people who eat copious vegetables, for instance, live longer than those who don’t, it’s the vegetables that cause the effect of a longer life. And maybe they do, but there’s no way to know without experimental trials to test that hypothesis.

"The associations that emerge from these studies used to be known as “hypothesis-generating data,” based on the fact that an association tells us only that two things changed together in time, not that one caused the other. So associations generate hypotheses of causality that then have to be tested. But this hypothesis-generating caveat has been dropped over the years as researchers studying nutrition have decided that this is the best they can do."

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Two Jakes (1990) ***

Too slowly paced, but a number of nifty directorial touches and top notch performances keep things interesting in this complex noir sequel to Chinatown.

Friday, February 07, 2014

From Up on Poppy Hill (2011) ***

Impeccable animation of a completely realistic story that illuminates a side of Japanese culture rarely seen on film.

MASH (1970) ***

Modern sensibilities are not kind to this flick which from today's perspective looks like a mean spirited, deeply misogynistic frat boy comedy. Still it's an important film and for its time was innovative and shocking in it's blend of ribald humor and gory medical drama.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Harold and Maude (1971) ***

Quirky black comic fable deserves its iconic cult status. Nice compositions and long shots by director Hal Ashby makes lovely use of Northern California locations. Very impressive to teens, adults will find it less so but enjoyable.