Friday, December 08, 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) **

Not as sharp or incisive as we've come to expect from Baumbach and it's hard to care about these characters. Kind of a waste of a very good cast.

Silence (2016) **

Well made but far too long. Or not long enough. May have played better as a 6 part limited television series. Still, resonant and thought provoking examination of faith.

Lady Bird (2017) ****

Stellar cast, terrific screenplay, thoughtful, subtle direction. The coming-of-age film to end all coming-of-age films.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Choosy Eggs May Pick Sperm for Their Genes, Defying Mendel’s Law | Quanta Magazine

His hypothesis – that the egg could woo sperm with specific genes and vice versa – is part of a growing realization in biology that the egg is not the submissive, docile cell that scientists long thought it was. Instead, researchers now see the egg as an equal and active player in reproduction, adding layers of evolutionary control and selection to one of the most important processes in life.

“Female reproductive anatomy is more cryptic and difficult to study, but there’s a growing recognition of the female role in fertilization,” said Mollie Manier, an evolutionary biologist at George Washington University.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What if consciousness is not what drives the human mind?

Everyone knows what it feels like to have consciousness: it’s that self-evident sense of personal awareness, which gives us a feeling of ownership and control over the thoughts, emotions and experiences that we have every day.

Most experts think that consciousness can be divided into two parts: the experience of consciousness (or personal awareness), and the contents of consciousness, which include things such as thoughts, beliefs, sensations, perceptions, intentions, memories and emotions.

It’s easy to assume that these contents of consciousness are somehow chosen, caused or controlled by our personal awareness – after all, thoughts don’t exist until until we think them. But in a new research paper in Frontiers of Psychology, we argue that this is a mistake.

We suggest that our personal awareness does not create, cause or choose our beliefs, feelings or perceptions. Instead, the contents of consciousness are generated “behind the scenes” by fast, efficient, non-conscious systems in our brains. All this happens without any interference from our personal awareness, which sits passively in the passenger seat while these processes occur.

Put simply, we don’t consciously choose our thoughts or our feelings – we become aware of them.

Martin Short advises Ramis School students to 'go see the greats' | Chicago Sun-Times

Short revealed that he has had long conversations with Martin Scorsese, who is working on a documentary about “SCTV,” the TV spinoff of Canada’s Second City that became a huge cult hit.

“Marty is fascinated with why some comedy is timeless, when certain other comedy and comedians have a short shelf life,” said Short, citing the late Eddie Cantor (“a huge star in his day, but would make you sick if you watched him today”) as an example of someone who faded.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Former teen idol David Cassidy dies at 67 - SFGate

Mr. Cassidy’s stock soared because of his androgynous good looks, but soon because of his vocals as well. Jones, of course, was a veteran vocalist who had starred in musicals such as “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific,” but Cassidy hadn’t been cast because of his vocal abilities. In fact, the show’s producers assumed he, like most of the young actors playing the Partridge kids, couldn’t sing.

The only ones watchable on the show were Jones, Dey and Cassidy. RIP David.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) *

Uninspired, uninteresting remake of a much better original with not nearly the star power. For fans of CGI scenery.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You've Ever Met

Having issued this warning, and having acknowledged that people in your address book may not necessarily want to be connected to you, Facebook will then do exactly what it warned you not to do. If you agree to share your contacts, every piece of contact data you possess will go to Facebook, and the network will then use it to try to search for connections between everyone you know, no matter how slightly—and you won’t see it happen.

Facebook doesn’t like, and doesn’t use, the term “shadow profiles.” It doesn’t like the term because it sounds like Facebook creates hidden profiles for people who haven’t joined the network, which Facebook says it doesn’t do. The existence of shadow contact information came to light in 2013 after Facebook admitted it had discovered and fixed “a bug.” The bug was that when a user downloaded their Facebook file, it included not just their friends’ visible contact information, but also their friends’ shadow contact information.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

How Matter Lost Its Mojo

Modern physics teaches us something rather different, and deeply counter-intuitive. As we worked our way ever inward—matter into atoms, atoms into sub-atomic particles, sub-atomic particles into quantum fields and forces—we lost sight of matter completely. Matter lost its tangibility. It lost its primacy as mass became a secondary quality, the result of interactions between intangible quantum fields. What we recognize as mass is a behavior of these quantum fields; it is not a property that belongs or is necessarily intrinsic to them.

Despite the fact that our physical world is filled with hard and heavy things, it is instead the energy of quantum fields that reigns supreme. Mass becomes simply a physical manifestation of that energy, rather than the other way around.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Bat (1959) **

Ultra low budget whodunit kept afloat solely by its two bona fide stars.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Get Out (2017) ****

Terrific genre-bending blend of horror/sci-fi tropes with social satire/comedy succeeds on all counts.

Suburbicon (2017) **

There's a kernel of a decent Fargo-esque noir here, but Clooney's idea of shoehorning a racial passion play around the plot baffles more than anything.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Candy (1968) **

Nice job by the lovely Ewa Aulin who essentially carries the film which starts off promisingly but eventually goes off the rails. Good cameo work by a bevy of movie stars helps but satire is one of the toughest of genres to pull off and this flick is no exception. Valiant try though.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The fax of life - Vox

“We don’t expect Amazon and Walmart to share background on their customers, but we do expect competing hospital system to do so,” says David Blumenthal, who coordinated health policy for the Obama administration from 2011 to 2013. “Those institutions consider that data proprietary and an important business asset. We should never have expected it to occur naturally, that these organizations would readily adopt information exchange.”

And this is the problem: health care providers are expected to act not in the patients' interests but in the health care providers' interests. What could go wrong?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Following (1998) **

Nifty neo-noir, sort of a proto-type for Memento.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Facebook translates 'good morning' into 'attack them', leading to arrest | Technology | The Guardian

The Israeli Defence Force has been open about monitoring the social media accounts of Palestinians, looking for “lone-wolf” attackers who might otherwise slip through the net. It reportedly does so automatically, using algorithms to look for terms such as “sword of Allah”.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Todd Rundgren on Meat Loaf's 'Bat Out of Hell': Producer Talks Spoofing Bruce Springsteen With Classic Album | Billboard

But I saw it as a spoof of Bruce Springsteen. Because the songs were sort of very basic changes, the themes were all... [Laughs.] By the time it was the '70s, the themes were kind of nostalgic. Even though Bruce Springsteen would represent them as still being real, the iconography was still out of the '50s, you know? It was switchblades and leather jackets and motorcycles and that sort of junk. So I saw the whole presentation as being a spoof of Bruce Springsteen, and that's why I decided to do it.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Wine Country fires: A deadly inferno’s first hours - San Francisco Chronicle

Firefighters estimate that at times, the flames raced 230 feet per second and, inconceivably, threw embers a full mile ahead of the fire front. It moved so fast that chickens, cats and other animals were charred where they stood, left standing like blackened statues.
The fires awed Bill Stewart, a UC Berkeley forestry professor.
“These fires are off the charts,” he said. “There just aren’t enough firefighters in the West to fight that much fire. ... Those trees, on fire, were pure ember machines that really kicked things into a new level. We’ll be studying this for years to come.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich Calls President Trump ‘Soulless Coward’

Speaking to The Nation’s Dave Zirin, Popovich lambasted Trump for his “never-ending divisiveness” and called him a “pathological liar” who is “unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically” to be president.

“This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others,” the coach continued.

“This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner — and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers — is as low as it gets,” he said.

“The people who work with this president should be ashamed because they know it better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) **

Another sequel-as-remake that looks gorgeous and has the wonderful Ms. Wright, but is much too long and has much too little of anything new to say. Just watch the original (any version) again instead.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Mudcrutch - I Forgive It All (Official Music Video) - YouTube

Next to this, the best video ever. Certainly the best thing Sean Penn ever directed.

Whatever Works (2009) ***

Sure it has the regular Woody tropes but it also has a lot of good one-liners, a New York Chinatown setting which we don't see a lot of in the movies, plus the great Larry David. Very enjoyable.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Never Let Me Go (2010) **

The performers are fine but the direction fails to bring out the metaphorical aspects of the story relying on a final voice over to spell it out for us.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tom Petty, 1950-2017 - The Awl

Depending on when and where you grew up, Tom Petty dying feels like America dying. While it’s easy to talk about what someone like Bowie or Prince meant because of the ground they broke and the perceptions they challenged, Petty was always just there, using the standard formula of rock as the foundation for a body of work that almost everyone had at least one or two favorites from. You never listened to Tom Petty and felt bad. Even the sad songs brought grace. (Of course, there was always more going on: These thoughts on the Confederate flag will are a necessary read and probably will be for a long time, unfortunately.) Even when he was on the surface there was something also floating below the surface, and that is probably no small part of what made him so successful. Tom Petty was 66.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Still of the Night (1982) ***

Polite thriller set among the New York upper crust, a Manhattan Murder Mystery without the laughs. Directed with style and more than a few homages.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Man in Vegetative State for 15 Years Responds to Nerve Stimulation

SO, DID THE MAN SUDDENLY WAKE UP AFTER 15 YEARS?

No. It wasn’t a scene from a daytime soap opera, but his progress was surprising. In medical terms, his condition shifted from a vegetative state to a minimally conscious one. After a month of vagal nerve stimulation, the man was newly able to respond to simple commands, such as slowly turning his head from left to right, Sirigu says.

He was able to stay awake for much longer than before while listening to a therapist read a book. And he responded to perceived threats, opening his eyes wide when someone suddenly approached his face, Sirigu says. People in a vegetative state show no response at all to such invasions of space.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Bob Costas defends Colin Kaepernick and the NFL protests after Trump's attack — Quartz

Kaepernick has repeatedly said that his protest had nothing to do with the US military. But even before Trump became president, American sports, and football in particular, have been increasingly militarized, almost becoming a brand extension of the US armed forces. The Pentagon pays the NFL millions of dollars each year to host patriotic events during games, which include full-field displays of the flag.

“[Patriotism] has been conflated with a bumper-sticker kind of flag-waving and with the military only,” Costas added, “so that people cannot see that in his own way, Colin Kaepernick, however imperfectly, is doing a patriotic thing.”


I find Costas repugnant, but in his own way, however imperfectly, what he is saying here is insightful. The USA is, and has been since we got the bomb, a military machine. War and violence are so ingrained and assimilated into the culture one wonders if it can ever be undone.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) **

Droll satire of upper middle class mores. Pretty tame.

Elisabeth Moss' Emmys-Night Swearing Has Storied Tradition in Scientology, Say Insiders | Hollywood Reporter

"Scientologists are urged to communicate with 'average people,' and to do so effectively you have to 'go down the tone scale.' So they all use 'fuck, fuck, fuck' every time they talk. It’s fascinating," Lugli explains. "The quote-unquote philosophy behind it is you match the tone level in order to communicate on the same level of the people with whom you’re communicating. If you’re too 'high-tone,' people will not understand you."

Not everyone requires swearing. Journalists and gay people, for example, are classified as "1.1" on the scale, which signifies "covert hostility," according to Lugli. "That means I have to communicate just slightly above you — which can be anger or hostility. That's where you get Tom Cruise telling Matt Lauer he's being 'glib,'" he explains. (The Church of Scientology and a rep for Moss declined to comment, but the church has denied animosity toward gay people.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ken Burns' VIETNAM WAR - Limits of 18 hours | HuffPost

"The American involvement in Vietnam began in secrecy. It ended 30 years later in failure. It was begun in GOOD FAITH, by DECENT PEOPLE, out of fateful misunderstanding, American overconfidence and Cold War miscalculation.” (My emphasis added)

Really?

The film is remarkable in its liberal use of the secret recordings of White House conversations. We hear the voices of President Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. These recordings reveal cynicism, paranoia, and deception that have little in common with “good faith” or “decent people.”

Conscious of their audience, the film makers are reluctant to be too harsh in condemning American motives. The theme, in effect, is that the American War in Vietnam was a bi-partisan, well-intended, accumulation of unfortunate mistakes made by six Presidents over 30 years.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Senate’s Military Spending Increase Alone Is Enough to Make Public College Free

One of the most controversial proposals put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential campaign was a pledge to make tuition free at public colleges and universities. Critics from both parties howled that the pie-in-the-sky idea would bankrupt the country. Where, after all, would the money come from?

Those concerns were brushed aside on Monday night, as the Senate overwhelmingly approved an $80 billion annual increase in military spending, enough to have fully satisfied Sanders’ campaign promise. Instead, the Senate handed President Trump far more than the $54 billion he asked for. The lavish spending package gives Trump a major legislative victory, allowing him to boast about fulfilling his promise of a “great rebuilding of the armed services.”

The bill would set the U.S.’s annual military budget at around $700 billion, putting it within range of matching the spending level at the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Images (1972) ***

Stylish puzzle picture (literally) from Robert Altman regarding a children's book author whose grip on reality is often tenuous. Beautifully shot in Ireland with the lovely Susannah York.

Dick (1999) **

At the time of release an amusing attempt to explain the 18 minute gap in the Nixon tapes, the identity of Deep Throat and a number of other baffling questions which arose during the Watergate scandal. Now it plays more like an alternative history since all the questions have been answered and as always the truth is stranger. Still it's well cast and well played with a great soundtrack of pop hits of the time.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Does God Play Dice? - 3:AM Magazine

How does the electron move then? It must exist in the atom. It must move in some way there. But more surprisingly, the textbooks of quantum mechanics provided no picture of the motion of the electron, and in fact, they did not tell us what electrons are at all. Moreover, I knew that the two great founders of the theory, Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, did not agree on its meaning either. I was determined to search for the answer by myself. Then I started on a lonely journey to “trace” the elusive electron, until now. I simply want to know the answer of a naive question. I simply think on it continually. But the exploration has completely changed my life. It shapes my way through the world and finally makes me become a philosopher, or more accurately, a natural philosopher, who aims at understanding the mysterious universe. A more detailed story about this journey can be found in my little book God Does Play Dice with the Universe (2008).

For me, doing philosophy is not only a profession, but also, and more importantly, a way of life. Life is transitory. Everybody is a mere mote in the universe. Yet God, the universe, gives us minds, and thus we can know and understand His thoughts. The most happiness is not beyond this. As the great Chinese sage Confucius taught us in The Analects, “Hear the Tao in the morning, and it would be all right to die that evening.”

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Gary Taubes on Calories vs. Carbs, The Case Against Sugar, and More | diaTribe

“Pharmaceutical companies regularly spend $1 billion to develop drugs to treat diseases that are related to obesity and diabetes, and that will often be used by a small percentage of the population afflicted.

“The US Fitzgerald, the destroyer that recently collided with a cargo vessel off the Sea of Japan, cost $1.5 billion and is one of 62 similarly expensive ships in its class. Our nation spends this money because we think it’s important to the defense of the US population and, well, world peace.

“Obesity and diabetes alone supposedly cost the US healthcare system roughly one billion dollars PER DAY.

“Isn’t it worth spending this kind of money to find out whether we’re fooling ourselves about the nature of a healthy diet, particularly as these obesity and diabetes epidemics are blowing up worldwide?”

I’d bet in this day and age we could do five to ten randomized controlled trials for one day’s worth of direct medical costs from obesity and diabetes and, with them, answer reliably virtually all of the critically important nutrition questions.

Coming from my perspective – trained to think by physicists and having spent much of my professional life studying episodes in which scientists fooled themselves and so simply got the wrong answers – I do not understand why we wouldn’t do such tests, and why we wouldn’t want to argue that they’re necessary. They’re inexpensive compared to the money we spend on other vital questions and issues.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

John Cleese on Monty Python and Political Correctness

What are you working on now?
I have a show I’m working on at the moment called Why There Is No Hope.

Sounds funny.
It is funny. Some people immediately see the title as funny and other people go what?! There is no hope that we’ll ever live in a rational, kind, intelligent society. To start, most of us are run by our unconscious and, unfortunately, most of us have no interest in getting in touch with our unconscious. So if the majority of people are run by something they don’t know anything about, how can we have a rational society?

Woody Allen’s Lazy Filmmaking - The Atlantic

Allen’s laziness becomes most glaring as the shoot approaches and then unfolds. In Lax’s telling, Allen is disengaged prior to the shoot, sometimes leaving his collaborators (location scouts, costume designers, etc.) to spin their wheels. “Woody has paced himself to be at top strength when the filming begins” is how Lax puts it, “often to the frustration of those who want only to do their best work on his behalf but cannot always get his attention to make a choice on what he wants.” As for the shoot itself, Allen has confessed, “I don’t do any preparation. I don’t do any rehearsals. Most of the times I don’t even know what we’re going to shoot.” Indeed, Allen rarely has any conversations whatsoever with his actors before they show up on set. Those with smaller parts will not even have seen the full script, merely their own scenes. (Parker Posey showed up for her first Irrational Man shoot not knowing whether it was a comedy or a drama.)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Jim Carrey Tells Us What He Meant in That Bizarre Viral Interview

“I’m not the continuum. There’s no me. It’s just what’s happening. It’s not personal,” Carrey said. “Things are happening, and they’re going to happen whether I attach myself as an ego to it or not. There’s grooves that are cut pretty deep from my entire life. There’s still an energy that wants to be admired and wants to be clever, and there’s still an energy that wants to free people from concern, and now it goes further. I want to relate what this is to people so they can also glimpse the abyss! It sounds scary, but it’s not. Everything still happens.”

Twin Peaks (TV Series 2017– ) ****

Rambling, sprawling, all over every sort of narrative map you can think of, this 18 hour Lynch-fest is one of those love it or hate it affairs. Confounding and incoherent at times, maddening and frustrating at others, never less than interesting, fascinating and compelling. A glimpse inside the mind of a cinematic genius.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Cloud Atlas (2012) **

Exceptionally well paced multi-story epic, in ambition, not quite successful overall but many nice moments.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Terry Southern - Wikipedia

In April 1983, he was approached to work on a planned sequel to Easy Rider called Biker Heaven. He had little to do with the script, but he was paid about $20,000, which was several times more than he had earned from the original. Around this time Stanley Kubrick requested some sample dialogue for a planned film adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's book Traumnovelle which was to star Steve Martin, but Southern's bawdy submissions reportedly sabotaged any prospect of further involvement; Kubrick eventually made the film (as Eyes Wide Shut, with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman) shortly before his death in 1999.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Logan Lucky (2017) ***

Nicely crafted heist flick set among the economic lower classes, an "Ocean's 7-11", with a big heart.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) *

Essentially a movie about getting lost in the woods. It's as scary and interesting as that.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Atlantic salmon from Cooke Aquaculture have escaped in the Pacific — Quartz

It’s unclear whether or not these Atlantic salmon will affect the Chinook salmon population. The concern is that the Atlantic salmon will outcompete Chinook salmon for food, breed with them to create hybrids, or spread diseases like sea lice.
“What my research showed is that they do escape, they do survive, they will ascend rivers, they will reproduce with each other and they will produce viable offspring that are competitively equal or superior to Pacific salmon,” John Volpe, an ecologist at the University of Victoria, told the Globe and Mail.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Drive (2011) **

Critics adored this ultra-violent neo-noir revenge melodrama and it is well shot and designed, but the truly extreme gore, totally unappealing leads (maybe that's the point?) and predictable story didn't add up for me.

Great Expectations (1946) ****

Engrossing film features some superb performances, excellent photography and production.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Little Hours (2017) ***

Hilarious take on a Bocaccio tale with an expert cast of comic actors. The idea of merging period production design with a modern improvised script is done very well.

They All Laughed (1981) ***

When the gruff taxi driver is Patti Hansen, you know you're in fairy tale of New York territory. If you go with it, this is a highly enjoyable meander through the highs and lows of romance.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Why selection bias is the most powerful force in education – the ANOVA

Or consider exclusive public high schools like New York’s Stuyvesant, a remarkably competitive institution where the city’s best and brightest students compete to enroll, thanks to the great educational benefits of attending. After all, the alumni of high schools such as Stuyvesant are a veritable Who’s Who of high achievers and success stories; those schools must be of unusually high quality. Except that attending those high schools simply doesn’t matter in terms of conventional educational outcomes. When you look at the edge cases – when you restrict your analysis to those students who are among the last let into such schools and those who are among the last left out – you find no statistically meaningful differences between them. Of course, when you have a mechanism in place to screen out all of the students with the biggest disadvantages, you end up with an impressive-looking set of alumni. The admissions procedures at these schools don’t determine which students get the benefit of a better education; the perception of a better education is itself an artifact of the admissions procedure. The screening mechanism is the educational mechanism.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Below Her Mouth (2016) **

Escapist romantic fantasy, easy on the eyes.

A Ghost Story (2017) ****

Ambitious and highly successful cinematic vision. Original, daring, audacious yet approachable and relate-able. Might be a classic.

One Day (2011) **

Since it's a romantic drama, the annoying and unappealing male lead hurts. A lot.

Dementia 13 (1963) *

Decidedly inauspicious debut for the Coppola patriarch. Thankfully he was able to get better.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

She (1935) *

Suffers from the horrific leads, yet still holds some interest thanks to the sets, effects and crazy Busby Berkeley style dance routines for the "native" rituals.

Palo Alto (2013) **

Promising debut for yet another Coppola is also a reprise in a darker vein. Adept cast, restrained, assured direction.

Friday, August 04, 2017

John Lanchester reviews ‘The Attention Merchants’ by Tim Wu, ‘Chaos Monkeys’ by Antonio Garcia Martinez and ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ by Jonathan Taplin - LRB 17 August 2017

What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

What the ctenophore says about the evolution of intelligence | Aeon Essays

It meant that the nervous system of the ctenophore had evolved from the ground up, using a different set of molecules and genes than any other animal known on Earth. It was a classic case of convergence: the lineage of ctenophores had evolved a nervous system using whatever genetic starting materials were available. In a sense, it was an alien nervous system – evolved separately from the rest of the animal kingdom.

But the surprises didn’t stop there. The ctenophore was turning out to be unique from other animals in far more than just its nervous system. The genes involved in development and function of its muscles were also entirely different. And the ctenophore lacked several classes of general body-patterning genes that were thought to be universal to all animals. These included so-called micro-RNA genes, which help to form specialised cell types in organs, and HOX genes, which divide bodies into separate parts, be it the segmented body of a worm or lobster, or the segmented spine and finger bones of a human. These gene classes were present in simpleton sponges and placozoa – yet absent in ctenophores.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Atomic Blonde (2017) **

Stylish, brutal take on the 007 genre boasts a couple of superb fight sequences, a killer 80's hits soundtrack and a spectacular lead who carries the picture all by herself.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What's On Tonight - The A.V. Club

Jay Leno’s Garage (CNBC, 10 p.m.): How is this still in existence? It was our understanding that the idea of people watching Jay Leno meander around the airplane hangar he laughingly calls a “garage,” pointing out just how very rich he is, and how that has translated into an embarrassingly tone-deaf display of one percenter opulence, was only appealing to CNBC executives who are getting bored playing Monopoly with the pensions of millions of working people. In short, it’s nothing but paternalistic propaganda for a hopelessly corrupt financial system that has bought and paid for its own political parties in a venal effort to transform the nature of daily life itself into something that should be “earned,” rather than an inherent right of existence. Wait a second, we just answered our own question. Anyway, this show is a fucking nightmare; go watch the new episode of I’m Sorry (TruTV, 10 p.m.) instead.

Not sure if this is an accurate description of the television show, but they've nailed the state of nation.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dunkirk (2017) **

Christopher Nolan's attempt at a (nearly) silent movie: minimal dialog, mostly unintelligible, constant, overbearing soundtrack music. Straight up war/survival picture, not done as well as others. Disappointing.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Riverside Murder (1935) *

Notable only for Alastair Sim's film debut, this is a lower "B" level whodunit with unusually shoddy acting for a British picture.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Mind Outside My Head | by Tim Parks | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

His favorite example is the rainbow. For the rainbow experience to happen we need sunshine, raindrops, and a spectator. It is not that the sun and the raindrops cease to exist if there is no one there to see them. Manzotti is not a Bishop Berkeley. But unless someone is present at a particular point no colored arch can appear. The rainbow is hence a process requiring various elements, one of which happens to be an instrument of sense perception. It doesn’t exist whole and separate in the world nor does it exist as an acquired image in the head separated from what is perceived (the view held by the “internalists” who account for the majority of neuroscientists); rather, consciousness is spread between sunlight, raindrops, and visual cortex, creating a unique, transitory new whole, the rainbow experience. Or again: the viewer doesn’t see the world; he is part of a world process.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates - ProPublica

Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term “expiration date” was a misnomer. The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they “expire” — just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.

Monday, July 17, 2017

3quarksdaily: How do we know where the carbon is coming from?

We can now distinguish between the three possible sources of added CO2. We can immediately excludes the circulating pool, because the added CO2 contains no 14C. Of the remaining two possible sources, carbon dioxide from fossil fuels will be depleted in 13C relative to a mineral standard, while carbon dioxide from mineral sources will not. So the question is, has atmospheric carbon dioxide become more depleted in 13C over time, as its amount has risen?

Unambiguously yes. We have been following the process in real time since the late 1950s. We have extended the record back a thousand years using air trapped in ice cores, and have verified the change by examining the carbon isotopes in tree rings, which we can date by direct counting. (Tree ring carbon is of course depleted in 13C relative to atmospheric CO2, but it is depleted by a constant amount, so changes between rings match changes in the atmosphere). What we find is that over the past two hundred years, after having been nearing constant for centuries or more, atmospheric CO2 has become progressively more depleted. And the degree of depletion is exactly what we would expect if the added CO2 comes from an organic source. But remember that we have already excluded any living source, because of the absence of added 14C. That leaves fossil fuels as the only possibility.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

3quarksdaily: Ravens have paranoid, abstract thoughts about other minds

Cementing their status as the most terrifying of all the birds, a new study has found that ravens are able to imagine being spied upon -- a level of abstraction that was previously thought to be unique to humans.

The ability to think abstractly about other minds is singled out by many as a uniquely human trait. Now, a study from the Universities of Houston and Vienna have found that ravens are able to adapt their behaviour by attributing their perceptions to others.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Beguiled (2017) ***

A Southern Gothic fable with the Sofia Coppola touch: lush, detailed atmosphere, emphasis on human interactions, especially the subtle unspoken kind, especially the ones between women when a male is up for grabs.

Haunts (1977) **

Mendocino location helps this ultra-low budget early slasher flick as well as the great Aldo Ray as the Sheriff. Creepy, but confusing and nonsensical at times.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Alchemist Cookbook (2016) **

Impressive shoestring budget horror flick mines the is-he-crazy-or-is-it-real trope for all it's worth. Rests mainly on the capable shoulders of Ty Hickson.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What Mass Extinctions Teach Us About Climate Change Today

Well, walk me through some of the other things you’re worrying about. Food seems like one part of the doomsday picture, but what else are you concerned about?
Well, heat.

I believe that there are going to be some places that become uninhabitable for humans.

How big a portion of the world’s surface do you think that kind of effect will hit?
Certainly Australia. Australia will be deemed uninhabitable. Already Australia — the outback produces not much in the way of crops. But there are kangaroos. I lived in Adelaide, and I’ve lived through some heat before, but we had 40 degrees centigrade [104F], and 42 [108F] and 43 [110F] for weeks on end. It really has an effect. You get depressed, you don’t want to go procreate because it’s too damn hot. You just can’t escape it.

Everywhere you go on the equator, there is some sort of drug — for the human population to try to get through the day. How do you get through living on the equator? It’s so damn miserable. So I think the equator will become uninhabitable. We don’t do well in heat.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Baby Driver (2017) **

Lively indie-noir starts strong but quickly devolves into close-ups, hyper-cuts, clichés and stale tropes. Disappointing.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Laughter in Paradise (1951) **

Exceedingly droll British comedy, enjoyably viewed as a showcase for some great character actors.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Syria: Trump‘s Red Line - WELT

The national security advisers understood their dilemma: Trump wanted to respond to the affront to humanity committed by Syria and he did not want to be dissuaded. They were dealing with a man they considered to be not unkind and not stupid, but his limitations when it came to national security decisions were severe. "Everyone close to him knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts," the adviser said. "He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: 'Do it.”’

Dyslexic maybe?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Shivers (1975) **

First full-length for director Cronenberg is a schlocky combination of horror genres done surprisingly well on a bare bones budget. He casts interesting looking actors and the mid-70's decor and fashions are a hoot.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cats Domesticated Themselves, Ancient DNA Shows

This is in contrast to dogs, the first animals to be domesticated, Geigl adds. Dogs were selected to perform specific tasks—which never was the case for cats—and this selection for particular traits is what led to dogs’ diversification to the many breeds we see today.

“I think that there was no need to subject cats to such a selection process since it was not necessary to change them,” Geigl says. “They were perfect as they were.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rogue One (2016) **

Much stronger film than The Force Awakens thanks to a better script and a slam bang finale, but hampered by too many major characters, unnecessary plot contrivances, too much blue in the color correction (like nearly all modern action flicks) and weird camera choices (why so much hand held?). The robot steals the picture.

The Liver: A ‘Blob’ That Runs the Body - The New York Times

After all, a healthy liver is the one organ in the adult body that, if chopped down to a fraction of its initial size, will rapidly regenerate and perform as if brand-new. Which is a lucky thing, for the liver’s to-do list is second only to that of the brain and numbers well over 300 items, including systematically reworking the food we eat into usable building blocks for our cells; neutralizing the many potentially harmful substances that we incidentally or deliberately ingest; generating a vast pharmacopoeia of hormones, enzymes, clotting factors and immune molecules; controlling blood chemistry; and really, we’re just getting started.

“We have mechanical ventilators to breathe for you if your lungs fail, dialysis machines if your kidneys fail, and the heart is mostly just a pump, so we have an artificial heart,” said Dr. Anna Lok, president of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and director of clinical hepatology at the University of Michigan.

“But if your liver fails, there’s no machine to replace all its different functions, and the best you can hope for is a transplant.”

Monday, June 12, 2017

Things to Come (2016) ***

Thoughtful, realistic depiction of a woman coming to terms with cold hard facts after a career of abstract philosophy. Beautifully shot with another compelling performance by Ms. Huppert.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017) **

Another comic book hero origin story is as silly and illogical as the rest but a bevy of beautiful and talented actresses makes it watchable.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

[Conversation] | Slow Crash, by Andrew Cockburn | Harper's Magazine

At least you have the satisfaction, if that’s the word, of events proving you correct. But we’ve supposedly now recovered from that disaster. Have we?

No, we haven’t at all recovered. That’s why Hillary lost the election. She said, “Look at how much better you are since 2008. Obama has saved you.” Trump said, “Wait a minute. Look at how bad you are. You’re not saved.” Everybody thought, “Who are you going to believe, your eyes or Hillary?” We haven’t recovered at all. Obama saved the banks and Wall Street, not the economy. From 2008 until today, the economy has grown by 2 percent, but the top 5 percent of the economy have got all of that growth. The economy isn’t recovering.

That’s why when the Department of Labor statistics gave the most recent employment figures, everybody commented, “It’s very interesting. Employment is up, but wages are continuing to fall.” It’s all minimum wage work. The debt ratio for most families is rising, not falling, especially for student debt, for mortgage debt, for automobile debt. The default rate is continuing to rise.

You Look Familiar. Now Scientists Know Why. - The New York Times

By noting how face cells in macaque monkeys responded to manipulated photos of some 2,000 human faces, the Caltech team figured out exactly what aspects of the faces triggered the cells and how the features of the face were being encoded. The monkey face recognition system seems to be very similar to that of humans.
Just 200 face cells are required to identify a face, the biologists say. After discovering how its features are encoded, the biologists were able to reconstruct the faces a monkey was looking at just by monitoring the pattern in which its face cells were firing.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Noam Chomsky: Neoliberalism Is Destroying Our Democracy | The Nation

NC: Social democracy, yeah. That’s sometimes called “the golden age of modern capitalism.” That changed in the ’70s with the onset of the neoliberal era that we’ve been living in since. And if you ask yourself what this era is, its crucial principle is undermining mechanisms of social solidarity and mutual support and popular engagement in determining policy.

It’s not called that. What it’s called is “freedom,” but “freedom” means a subordination to the decisions of concentrated, unaccountable, private power. That’s what it means. The institutions of governance—or other kinds of association that could allow people to participate in decision making—those are systematically weakened. Margaret Thatcher said it rather nicely in her aphorism about “there is no society, only individuals.”

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Logan (2017) **

Comic book pastiche of several other films is too long and relentlessly dark.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How to Be a Stoic - 3:AM Magazine

3AM: What are the most compelling parts of Stoicism?

MP: I can’t speak for others, but I find the fundamental idea that a life worth living is one during which one strives every day to become a better person to be compelling. The Stoics do this by mindfully practicing four cardinal virtues: practical wisdom, the ability to navigate complex situations in the best way available; courage, to do the right thing; temperance, so to always act in proportion to the need of the situation; and justice, treating others with fairness, as fellow human beings.

I also find some of the Stoic techniques to be very useful. For instance, the evening philosophical diary, in which I interrogate myself about the difficult parts of my day, reflecting on what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I could do better the next time around. Or the exercises in mild self-denial, like occasional fasting, or even taking a cold shower. They remind me of just how good my life normally is, when I can count on things like hot water and a nice meal, which are definitely not a given for everyone on the planet. Think of them as exercises in gratitude, but in practice, not just words.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016) **

Would have fit well as a couple of episodes in the series but suffers from cinema's inherent gravitas, as nearly all television shows turned movies do.

Monday, May 15, 2017

If Men Were Less Awful, Would SVU Be Wicked Boring?

I’ve been a man for 44 years. And many of my friends are men. And let me tell you what happens whenever women are not around. It becomes like a Mamet/Tarantino/Labute homage. Men think dirty things. About practically everyone and everything. And we are constantly thinking dirty things even when we’re not speaking about doing dirty things. When a man checks you out on the street he will then turn to the nearest other man on the street and give him a look like “Did you see that?” And you’ll shrug or smile sheepishly to him. Or possibly you’re too busy checking that same person out to even see that guy. Or checking out that guy. We’re always checking you out.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Excalibur (1981) **

The picture has not held up upon subsequent viewings, but remains a fine rendition of the Camelot myth. It's unfortunate it was released years after this.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

David Lynch Quits Movie Directing

Lynch confirmed that his last feature film will be 2006’s Inland Empire, which starred Laura Dern as an actress who loses grip with reality after she starts to inhabit her characters. Though he’s now back to working in television with the upcoming revival of his cult classic Twin Peaks, it’s yet to be seen whether Lynch will make a permanent move to television like many other influential mid-budget filmmakers.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Split (2016) **

Fairly well made take on the "psycho in the house" genre, a little talky at times, with nice performances. Really pushes the psycho-babble, seemingly to set up the sequel and/or to fit into Shyamalan's "universe".

Berkeley author George Lakoff says, 'Don't underestimate Trump' — Berkeleyside

But a worldview is exactly what Lakoff is talking about. “Ideas don’t float in the air, they live in your neuro-circuitry,” Lakoff said. Each time ideas in our neural circuits are activated, they get stronger. And over time, complexes of neural circuits create a frame through which we view the world. “The problem is, that frame is unconscious,” Lakoff said. “You aren’t aware of it because you don’t have access to your neural circuits.” So what happens when you hear facts that don’t fit in your worldview is that you can’t process them: you might ignore them, or reject or attack them, or literally not hear them.

This theory explains why even college-educated Trump voters could ignore so many facts about their candidate. And it also explains why progressives have been ignoring Lakoff’s findings for more than two decades. Progressives are still living in the world of Descartes and the Enlightenment, Lakoff said, a neat world governed by the rules of logic. Descartes said, “I think therefore I am,” but Lakoff claims that we are embodied beings and that 98 percent of thought is unconscious.

Our thoughts are chemical in nature, and occur within the confines of a physical body: we are not 100 percent rational beings.

Friday, May 05, 2017

The Quantum Thermodynamics Revolution | Quanta Magazine

Understanding entropy as a subjective measure allows the universe as a whole to evolve without ever losing information. Even as parts of the universe, such as coffee, engines and people, experience rising entropy as their quantum information dilutes, the global entropy of the universe stays forever zero.

Renato Renner, a professor at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, described this as a radical shift in perspective. Fifteen years ago, “we thought of entropy as a property of a thermodynamic system,” he said. “Now in information theory, we wouldn’t say entropy is a property of a system, but a property of an observer who describes a system.”

Moreover, the idea that energy has two forms, useless heat and useful work, “made sense for steam engines,” Renner said. “In the new way, there is a whole spectrum in between — energy about which we have partial information.”

Entropy and thermodynamics are “much less of a mystery in this new view,” he said. “That’s why people like the new view better than the old one.”

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

[Weekly Review] | May 2, 2017, by Joe Kloc | Harper's Magazine

U.S. president Donald Trump, who once hosted a radio show on which he discussed how there was “no question about it” that Britney Spears had “gone down” in sexiness because she got married, gave himself an “A” for his performance in his first 100 days in office, a time period during which he implied Frederick Douglass was still alive at a breakfast celebrating the start of Black History Month; said on the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day that Georgia representative and Freedom Rider John Lewis was “all talk”; commented at the National Prayer Breakfast that he wanted to “pray for” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “poor ratings” on The Celebrity Apprentice; accused former president Barack Obama of “wiretapping” Trump Tower in Manhattan, which the FBI had legally surveilled for two years as part of an investigation into the money-laundering ring of a Russian mafia boss known as “Little Taiwanese”; ordered the launching of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles valued at $60 million at an airfield in Syria, which he described as an attack on Iraq that he carried out while eating “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake” and which his secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, referred to as “after-dinner entertainment” that “didn’t cost the president anything”; and played golf more than twice as often as the previous three presidents combined, despite having once criticizing Obama for golfing “while America goes down the drain.”

Monday, May 01, 2017

Why You Should Read Fiction

Contemporary literature is full of broad gaps. The author Margaret Atwood notes that her own writing was influenced by Beatrix Potter, whom she describes as a master of oblique discourse. In The Tale of Mr. Tod, Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit are in pursuit of Tommy Brock, a badger who has captured Benjamin’s children in a bag and is headed home, where he will likely eat them. On the way, the two rabbits pass the house of Cottontail Bunny, and ask if her husband, a black rabbit, is home, presumably to ask for his help in confronting Tommy Brock. In response, Cottontail says nothing about her husband, but simply states, “Tommy Brock had rested twice while she watched him.” As the two rabbits continue their pursuit, Peter says, “He was at home; I saw his black ears peeping out of the hole.” Benjamin replies, “They live too near the rocks to quarrel with their neighbours …”

Atwood writes, “At the age of four, I quickly grasped that Cottontail had lied, but the ‘rocks’ remark took some thought. Finally, I got it: Tommy Brock has a shovel, and those that live in burrows too near the rocks are easy to catch by digging. Long-term craft lesson: no need to spell everything out because the reader is the co-creator of the story and can be depended on to pick up the dropped clues.”

Atwood was undoubtedly a precocious 4-year-old, but there is evidence that average children can pick up such dropped clues, and that this process not only activates mentalizing networks in the brain, but that it hones these skills even more than the explicit labeling of mental states.


Ms. Potter is right up there with Shakespeare AFAIC.

Faces of Century Shows Then-and-Now Photos of People at 100 Years Old

Marie Fejfarova, 101 years old (“she burnt all material memories of her life”)

My new hero!

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 âge.

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.