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.