Monday, April 24, 2017

Caterpillar found to eat shopping bags, suggesting biodegradable solution to plastic pollution

"The caterpillars are not just eating the plastic without modifying its chemical make-up. We showed that the polymer chains in polyethylene plastic are actually broken by the wax worms," said Bombelli.
"The caterpillar produces something that breaks the chemical bond, perhaps in its salivary glands or a symbiotic bacteria in its gut. The next steps for us will be to try and identify the molecular processes in this reaction and see if we can isolate the enzyme responsible."
As the molecular details of the process become known, the researchers say it could be used to devise a biotechnological solution on an industrial scale for managing polyethylene waste.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cormac McCarthy on the Origin of Language

A logical place to begin would be to define what the unconscious is in the first place. To do this we have to set aside the jargon of modern psychology and get back to biology. The unconscious is a biological system before it is anything else. To put it as pithily as possibly—and as accurately—the unconscious is a machine for operating an animal.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mr. Jealousy (1997) ***

Teeters on the brink of rom-com cliché territory but eventually comes down firmly in Baumbach land. Owes more than a little to Woody and Whit.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Seconds (1966) ****

Ahead of its time, pioneering camera work, outstanding performances from mostly career character actors, this adult fable has a number of exceptional sequences and a couple of clunkers, yet remains a compelling and riveting experience for viewers d'un certain √Ęge.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Phil Spector (2013) ***

Solid leads and some tight writing overcome an uncharacteristic reliance on closeups by director Mamet.

Never Forever (2007) **

Vera Farmiga shines in this formulaic soaper with a peak at the Korean-American community of NYC.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Ghost in the Shell (2017) **

Not as spectacular as expected on the FX side nor the action sequence side. Scarlett looks great but is not given very much to do. It's as if a large chunk of the script was left on the cutting room floor. What's left is watchable but not compelling or coherent.

Hush (1998) **

Really blows an opportunity for a much better film with two great female leads.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Goodreads | Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists

In the heyday of European imperialism, conquistadors and merchants bought entire islands and countries in exchange for coloured beads. In the twenty-first century our personal data is probably the most valuable resource most humans still have to offer, and we are giving it to the tech giants in exchange for email services and funny cat videos.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Gary Taubes, the Man Who Knows Why America Is Fat | GQ

Is the "French paradox" bullshit? Do French people actually eat a high-fat, bread-filled diet and remain skinny?
Historically, the French seem to lag about 100 years behind us in sugar consumption. We seem to use about twice as much sugar as the French. When I lived in Paris in the '80s, I saw that for the most part women of a certain age did not eat bread. Also French white bread has a lower sugar content than in America. It has about 2 percent sugar, where white bread in the U.S. can be 10 or 12 percent. So it's really not a paradox if you look at sugar consumption, only when you look at fat consumption.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (2003) **

A showcase for Ms. Mirren, in more ways than one, in a not very well written nor directed film.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

None Of Us Will Change Our Minds About Trump Or Any Other Fucking Thing

"The basic understanding that psychology has come to embrace,” Kruglanski said, “is that our opinions, impressions, and attitudes are ‘motivated.’ In other words, our opinions are not formed by information alone, because information can be manipulated and distorted. The dog that wags the tail of information is personal motivation. We assume we want the truth, but very often we want something else: to make a decision so that we can move on. Certainty is critical to this process, and the dynamic applies to everyone; we all hold views and make decisions based on our motivations.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) **

Easily the most violent film to glorify a non-violent hero you could possibly make. The cast is fine and the direction is heavy-handed and repetitive, trying to shell-shock the viewer into a feeling of relief at the end of its marathon running time. It succeeds.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hot air?

It seems, therefore, that flatus can cause infection if the emitter is naked, but not if he or she is clothed. But the results of the experiment should not be considered alarming, because neither type of bacterium is harmful. In fact, they're similar to the ‘friendly’ bacteria found in yoghurt.

Conclusion: do NOT let Dr. Karl shop for yogurt!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

New video of events before fatal Ferguson shooting in film - SFGate

Previously released surveillance video shows Brown strong-arming the store's co-owner, Andy Patel, and pushing him as he left the store during the second visit. Patel reaffirmed his version of events on Sunday, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Brown "grabbed the cigarillos and stole them."

And as we all know, aggravated petty theft is punishable by death without trial.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Paterson (2016) ***

A film about our need to find patterns and meaning and if they are not there, to make them up. Typically well made Jim Jarmusch film.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Raymond Chandler: A Biography - Tom Hiney ****

However bleak his life could be, Chandler tried never to give up the possibility of happiness, or lose sight of the human comedy in his failure to find it. He felt jinxed in the struggle, but he was resolved to approach the world with something more than pessimism.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Why words can bend the truth: the disturbing fact about memory | Oliver Burkeman | Life and style | The Guardian

One of the most quietly unsettling findings in psychology, for my money, is “verbal overshadowing” – a weird fact about memory that’s liable to make you wonder if anything you believe about your life is really true. The finding is this: putting your experiences into words – talking about them with others or writing them down – makes you less likely to recall them accurately. If you were to witness a mugging, say, then scribble a record of what you’d seen, you’d be more prone to misremember than if you’d written nothing.

3quarksdaily: Akeel Bilgrami on fascism and the ‘movement vacuum’

Here is my worry about the reaction to the Trump victory today. The hand-wringing and the hysteria about his election and post-election pronouncements, though perfectly understandable and justified—since he is monstrous on a whole range of issues—nevertheless may have the effect of giving the impression that there was some real intrinsic merit to the political establishment that Hillary Clinton represents. That would be complacent. My own view is that it should go without saying that Hillary Clinton would have been better than Trump, but if it goes without saying, then don’t say it. Because to keep saying it may give rise to the complacence that the political establishment in the U.S. has intrinsic merit.

Monday, March 06, 2017

The Simple Truth About Consciousness

In some respects, some non-human animals are probably more conscious than we are, either because their sense organs are more sensitive or because they have senses we lack. Some birds can directly detect properties of the earth’s magnetic field; elephants can detect subtle seismic signals; sharks, platypuses, and electric eels can sense electrical fields. What we have in common with all of them is that each of us is a brain floating in a nutrient bath and connected to a body and sense organs. Whatever the species, the brain owner in such a system is probably conscious during most of its waking hours.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Is Consciousness an Illusion? | by Thomas Nagel | The New York Review of Books

You may well ask how consciousness can be an illusion, since every illusion is itself a conscious experience—an appearance that doesn’t correspond to reality. So it cannot appear to me that I am conscious though I am not: as Descartes famously observed, the reality of my own consciousness is the one thing I cannot be deluded about. The way Dennett avoids this apparent contradiction takes us to the heart of his position, which is to deny the authority of the first-person perspective with regard to consciousness and the mind generally.

Nagel starts his review by laying out Dennett's argument, then forgets about it once the word "illusion" is used. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that Dennett says consciousness is an emergent property at the manifest level of reality and does not exist at the scientific level. It is a real thing at the manifest level.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

I, Anna (2012) **

A noir pastiche that doesn't hold together well is more of a showcase for the two leads who do not disappoint.

Americans By Heart: Undocumented Latino Students and the Promise of Higher Education.

What was often omitted in this partisan rhetoric was the fact that many who are classified as undocumented or illegal were brought to the United States when they were young, and have grown up, attended high school and lived most of their lives in America. Of the estimated 11.9 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, 9.6 million are from Latin American countries with Mexico accounting for the largest share at seven million (Gonzales, 2009). Sixty percent of undocumented immigrants between the ages of 18 and 24 have completed high school, and nearly half of these high school graduates within this age range have or are enrolled in a college or university.

Oscars Stage Manager Details PwC Accountants’ Incompetence: ‘They Froze’ (Exclusive)

Each PwC partner had a complete set of envelopes, and each was supposed to have memorized the winners in each category. Leonardo DiCaprio, who presented the Best Actress award, entered from stage left and received the envelope from Ruiz; when it came time to present Best Picture, Warren Beatty received an envelope from Cullinan — but the PwC partner mistakenly gave him the spare Best Actress envelope that bore the name of Emma Stone and “La La Land,” rather than the Best Picture envelope that bore the name “Moonlight.”

Natoli broke down what happened next: “I was in the wings stage left with Jimmy [Kimmel] when they announced ‘La La Land.’ We watched for about 10 more seconds, and during that entire time Martha was no more than five feet away from us. When ‘La La Land’ was announced, she did not try to get my attention, she did not say anything. And she’s supposed to have memorized the winners.”

Friday, February 24, 2017

David Brent: Life on the Road (2016) **

Doesn't reach the heights of The Office but it's a worthy sequel for the most part. The push for pathos near the end is an awkward drawback.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

For Rose

There has never been a time when you and I have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist. As the same person inhabits the body through childhood, youth, and old age, so too at the time of death he attains another body. The wise are not deluded by these changes.

The Bhagavad Gita

Friday, February 17, 2017

Fifty Shades Darker (2017) **

Well produced, watchable soaper.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Sully (2016) *

It's bad when a 90 minute flick could have been much shorter. Not much of a story so we get to see the crash, sorry "water landing", 3 times amid a dramatic crisis made for Hollywood.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The intolerance of the left: Trump's win as seen from Walt Disney's hometown | US news | The Guardian

This right-to-obnoxiousness raises a fascinating point: these men saw liberals as loudmouthed Pharisees, intolerant moralists who demanded that the rest of the nation snap into line – an exact reverse of the John Ashcroft stereotype liberals used to hold of conservatives.

Everyone I spoke to that morning seemed to take for granted that liberals held some kind of unfair moral- or decibel-based advantage over conservatives. Hillary voters were “the vocal ones”, a man told me. “Conservatives were afraid to speak up because of criticism from liberals,” he continued, “and by God, we showed them.”

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Homebody Finds the Ultimate Home Office - The New York Times

His mornings, he said, are spent as they were in Trump Tower. He rises before 6 a.m., watches television tuned to a cable channel first in the residence, and later in a small dining room in the West Wing, and looks through the morning newspapers: The New York Times, The New York Post and now The Washington Post.

But his meetings now begin at 9 a.m., earlier than they used to, which significantly curtails his television time. Still, Mr. Trump, who does not read books, is able to end his evenings with plenty of television.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Seymour Hersh Blasts Media for Uncritically Promoting Russian Hacking Story

While expressing fears about Trump’s agenda, Hersh also called Trump a potential “circuit breaker” of the two-party political system in the U.S. “The idea of somebody breaking things away, and raising grave doubts about the viability of the party system, particularly the Democratic Party, is not a bad idea,” Hersh said. “That’s something we could build on in the future. But we have to figure out what to do in the next few years.” He added: “I don’t think the notion of democracy is ever going to be as tested as it’s going to be now.”

Friday, January 20, 2017

La La Land (2016) ***

Well crafted homage to the traditional Hollywood musical succeeds on nearly all counts but can't overcome the uninspiring and unconvincing leads. Too bad.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

There is nothing inevitable or natural about chronic disease | Aeon Ideas

Indeed, evidence suggests that lack of chronic disease in these groups flows from how they live, how they move, how they eat. Diet looks to be an especially powerful driver – adoption of a Western diet, rich in processed foods, has mirrored the development of chronic disease worldwide, and prospective studies with healthy and diabetic subjects have documented the powerful influence of food on health.

The Debt as a Share of GDP Joke | Beat the Press | Blogs | Publications | The Center for Economic and Policy Research

Of course the interest burden of the debt is just one way that we make commitments for future generations. When the government grants patent and copyright monopolies it is allowing companies to charge prices that are far above the free market price for their products. This is effectively a privately collected tax. The sums involved are quite large. In the case of prescription drugs alone we pay $430 billion a year for drugs that would cost around $60 billion in a free market. The difference of $370 billion is almost 2.0 percent of GDP, a sum that is more than twice as large as the interest burden on the debt.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The case for eliminating sugar. All of it. - Vox

The other point you make is also very important. Clearly there are people who live very long, happy lives eating significant amounts of sugar. Maybe it even makes them healthier, who knows. Anything is possible. I get emails from these people regularly now, often explaining that they are living proof that my theory, as one such [correspondent] put it two days ago, is bullshit. If I’m in a punchy mood, I write them back and say something along the lines of, “My Uncle Max smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, lived to be in his nineties, and died of old age. Does that mean cigarettes don’t cause lung cancer?”

And the same logic holds. The fact that some people clearly tolerate sugar, if not thrive on it, is simply not evidence that those of us who are obese and/or diabetic didn’t get that way because of the sugar we, or our mothers, or our mothers’ mothers consumed.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Joy (2015) *

A strong lead performance and an all star cast are not enough to overcome this poorly written and over-directed attempt at a modern fable. Frustrating.

The Edge 20th Anniversary Annual Question

However, one lesson from substrate-independence is already clear: we should reject carbon-chauvinism and the common view that our intelligent machines will always be our unconscious slaves. Computation, intelligence and consciousness are patterns in the spacetime arrangement of particles that take on a life of their own, and it's not the particles but the patterns that really matter! Matter doesn't matter.