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.