Category: Films

Invisible war victims

| April 1, 2013 | Reply

Glenn Greenwald writes the following as part of his article on an upcoming film titled “Dirty Wars.”

The most propagandistic aspect of the US War on Terror has been, and remains, that its victims are rendered invisible and voiceless. They are almost never named by newspapers. They and their surviving family members are virtually never heard from on television. The Bush and Obama DOJs have collaborated with federal judges to ensure that even those who everyone admits are completely innocent have no access to American courts and thus no means of having their stories heard or their rights vindicated. Radical secrecy theories and escalating attacks on whistleblowers push these victims further into the dark. It is the ultimate tactic of Othering: concealing their humanity, enabling their dehumanization, by simply relegating them to nonexistence.

The following excerpt is from the website of “Dirty Wars.”

As [Investigative Reporter] Scahill digs deeper into the activities of JSOC, he is pulled into a world of covert operations unknown to the public and carried out across the globe by men who do not exist on paper and will never appear before Congress. In military jargon, JSOC teams “find, fix, and finish” their targets, who are selected through a secret process. No target is off limits for the “kill list,” including U.S. citizens. Drawn into the stories and lives of the people he meets along the way, Scahill is forced to confront the painful consequences of a war spinning out of control, as well as his own role as a journalist.

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Creating a film in two days

| December 12, 2012 | Reply

The 48-Hour Film Project is a challenge to make a 4 to 7 minute film in only 48 hours, including writing the script, shooting the scenes and all editing the film, including the creation of a musical score. Very ambitious and intense. The
competing teams each submit films which are viewed and graded by judges. In 2011, a friend of mine, Jon Abrahams, was part of the team that won not only the local competition, but the international competition, with a film called “In Captivity.” His team’s film was featured in this Youtube introduction to the 2012 competition. Also featured here is an interview of Jon. This looks like a blast–I’d love to try it someday.

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Same and different people

| January 10, 2012 | 3 Replies
Same and different people

A friend of mine sometimes mentioned a thought that he considered disturbing: If you could rise up high enough into the air, human beings would all started looking the same, like a bunch of ants. One consequence of this perspective is that particular humans would seem expendable and replaceable.

Personally, I vacillated between thinking that human animals are exquisitely different from each other or disturbingly the same. Along came Donald Brown to convince me that we are deluded to think that people are meaningfully different from each other.

Last night my wife and I watched an unusual video that, to me, reinforced this idea that humans everywhere are largely the same. The video is title “Life in a Day,” and it was produced by National Geographic. Imagine 4,500 hours of video all all shot on the same day, edited down to 94 minutes. Here is a description of the project at the site where you can view the entire video:

Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and producer Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator) team up to offer this candid snapshot of a single day on planet Earth. Compiled from over 80,000 YouTube submissions by contributors in 192 countries, Life in a Day presents a microcosmic view of our daily experiences as a global society. From the mundane to the profound, everything has its place as we spend 90 minutes gaining greater insight into the lives of people who may be more like us than we ever suspected, despite the fact that we’re separated by incredible distances.

This is a compelling video that I recommend. It reminded me that most of what I think of as “happening” are the images and sounds I personally experience. For the most part, I don’t know what in the world is going on. While I live my life, and it seem important to me, 7 billion other people are living lives that they consider equally important. The video is a terrific reminder that we are each only a tiny part of a much bigger whole.

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“The greatest preventable holocaust in the history of planet Earth”

| February 24, 2010 | 6 Replies
“The greatest preventable holocaust in the history of planet Earth”

“The greatest preventable holocaust in the history of planet Earth”

That’s the judgment on what awaits us from Michael Ruppert, in a new documentary entitled “Collapse“.
The age of fossil fuels has been a blip in the scale of human history. We’ve only been using them a few centuries, and yet we are unable to remember a time when fossil fuels were not abundant and cheap. That age is now over. Recent experience has taught us that the end of this age was heralded by massive price spikes and has already caused the greatest economic dislocation since the Great Depression, or possibly even including it. Given that the growth of human population has so neatly coincided with the growth in the production of fossil fuels, human population now faces a analogous decline on the far side of the bell curve.

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Avatar

| January 16, 2010 | 8 Replies
Avatar

Okay, so I contributed to the James Cameron Self Love Fund and saw AVATAR. Yesterday we went to the 3-D showing (no way I would spend money on the normal view, I can wait for the DVD the way I do with 99% of the movies I see anymore). I’ve had a day to think about it now and I’ve come to some conclusions, which are hardly profound, but I think worth saying.

Let me say up front that I wasn’t bored. Visually, this is a stunning achievement. But that’s what everyone is saying. It is, in fact, the best 3-D I’ve ever seen. Often in the past the effect is minimal and the cost in headache high. This was neither. And it fully supported the visuals rather than masking mundane or poor image elements. Pandora, the planet involved, is magnificently realized. Cool stuff. Real gosh wow.

The biology is problematic. You have a wide mix of lifeforms analogous to Earth. Some big lumbering critters like hippos or rhinoceri that also have features of a dinosaur, and some small things that are clearly wolves, and one big nasty cat-like thing that’s like a sabertooth tiger. It’s unclear if any of these creatures are mammalian, but it doesn’t matter much. Dinosaur analogs. Most of them apparently four-legged. But the “horses” the natives ride are six-legged, reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ thoats. How does that play out in evolutionary terms? Well, maybe that’s a quibble.

How then do you evolve humanoids out of this? Well, maybe that’s a quibble, too. This film is not about science on any level, regardless of the few bits of dialogue suggesting there are, you know, scientists, and that there is a studyable cause to any of this.

Because the story, basically, is hackneyed, cynical, and cliched.

[more . . . ]

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John Adams and Modern Perceptions

| August 30, 2009 | 3 Replies
John Adams and Modern Perceptions

We just watched the last episode of John Adams. I got the DVD from the library and we went through it in one week, all seven installments. I have to admit, the last episode brought tears. The partnership between John and Abigail was well-portrayed and deeply moving. The older I get, the more I find the strongest story resonance with depictions of deep, deep friendships, especially those that exist between lovers, spouses, life partners. I cannot imagine losing Donna, who has become exactly that for me, in spite of the fact that I have friends of longer acquaintance, good friends, too.

The casting was incredible, the make-up superb, the writing first class.

What struck me most about this as well was the marvelously-nuanced dramatization of the fundamental differences in political philosophy between Adams and Jefferson. I can’t help but think that when Adams declared that “the true history of our revolution is lost” he must have been thinking of the initial partnership and later dissolution of like-mindedness between himself and Thomas Jefferson, whom Joseph Ellis depicts an an American Sphinx.

Adams is here portrayed as an idealist who cannot separate his philosophy from his pragmatism. In the first dozen years of the new republic, there was enormous public sentiment for France and when that country descended into the frenzy of its own revolution gone mad, that sentiment demanded that we support the revolutionaries. The irony that France supported us when it was still a monarchy and now those very people that had backed us (granted, as a move in their own war with England) were the victims of the mob ascendant was lost on most people, and apparently even Jefferson, who wanted us to embroil ourselves immediately and deeply in support of the revolutionaries. Washington—how lucky they were to have him—refused. He was a militaryman by training and he understood how to assess the chances of success and how to go about surviving a conflict in which you are outmatched. He had seen more than his share of defeat in a long career and knew well that ideology needed a strong hand to keep it in check, lest it carry you over the precipice. He refused to side with France, believing that neutrality was the only way for the United States to survive. Adams shared that belief.

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Compassionate Fangs

| June 3, 2009 | 4 Replies
Compassionate Fangs

Last week I received my DVD of Dreams With Sharp Teeth, the new documentary about Harlan Ellison. I’ve watched it a couple of times now, thoroughly enjoying it. Neil Gaiman makes the observation in the film that Ellison has been engaged in a great big piece of performance art called “Harlan Ellison” and I think he’s spot on. Harlan—he is one of the only writers who ever worked in the realm of fantastic literature to be known almost immediately by his first name—is very much part and parcel of his work. You don’t get the one without the other.

Which is not to say the work doesn’t stand on its own. It does, very much so. No doubt there are many people who have read the occasional Ellison story and found it…well, however they found it. Anything, I imagine, but trivial. If they then go on to become fans of the stories, eventually they will become aware of the person, mainly by virtue of the extensive introductions Harlan writes to just about everything he does, secondarily by the stories told by those who know, or think they know, something about him, either through personal experience or by word of mouth.

He’s fascinating to watch. Sometimes it’s like watching a tornado form.

Harlan was born in 1934, which makes him 75 now. This seems incredible to me, sobering even. He will always seem to me to be about 40, even though I have seen him now for years with white hair and other attributes of age. The voice has gotten a bit rougher, but he’s just as sharp as ever.

I have been in his actual presence on two occasions. In 1986 he showed up in Atlanta at the world SF convention that year and I have a couple of autographed books as a result. He dominated a good part of one day for us. The second time was in 1999 or so, at a small convention called ReaderCon in Massachussetts, where he was guest of honor. On that occasion I had lunch with him and few others and that lunch remains memorable, because I got to see the man when he isn’t On. That is, it was before the convention began and he was, so to speak, “off duty” and was more relaxed, less hyperbolic. And it was a great pleasure. It is easy to see why people are drawn to him.

He is something of a contradiction.

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I once saw Lex Luther do it . . .

| April 10, 2009 | Reply
I once saw Lex Luther do it . . .

Can human beings cause earthquakes? Scientists are seriously debating this issue. Some are suggesting that the immense amount of water piled behind the Zipingpu Dam triggered a nearby fault that killed 80,000 people in China. The story is covered in the January 16, 2009 edition of Science (available online only to subscribers.). The reservoir began filling in 2004 and the 7.9 earthquake occurred in 2008.

The article cites seismologists who claim that you don’t need much mechanical disturbance to trigger it an earthquake.

Removing fluid or rock from the crust, as in oil production or coal mining, could do it. So might injecting fluid to store waste or sequester carbon dioxide, or adding the weight of 100 meters or so of water behind the dam.

Some scientists suggest other possible occurrences. For instance, they suggest that the water piled behind the Koyna Dam caused a 6.3 trembler that killed 200 people in India in 1967.

I do realize that earthquakes can be lethal, so I shouldn’t sound as though I’m making light of them. The reason for the title is a chapter of the original Christopher Reeve Superman Movie. In the movie, Villain Lex Luthor started an earthquake by aiming an atomic warhead cruise missile along the San Andreas fault. That part of the movie is something I wondered about for many years. Can humans set off earthquakes? Based on this article in Science, the notion is at least plausible.

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Rush Limbaugh IS a “Brainwashed Nazi.”

| April 9, 2009 | 4 Replies
Rush Limbaugh IS a “Brainwashed Nazi.”

I’ve long subscribed to a rule which says that in political discourse whichever side calls the other side a “Nazi” first loses. The “Nazi rule” means that if you use it, you lose it. The “Nazi rule” holds true almost universally. I say “almost” because the one calling the other a “Nazi” first loses unless the first one using the term “Nazi” has it right.

Recently, a caller on Rush Limbaugh’s show identified himself as a Republican voter, a veteran and opposed to torture and blamed Rush and his ilk for the recent electoral woes of the Republican Party. The caller, ”Charles from Chicago”, called out Limbaugh for his support of torture and blamed Limbaugh and others which supported torture for why the American people have left the GOP in droves.

Rush begged to differ and Charles called Rush a “brainwashed Nazi.” Rush blamed people like Charles for the Obama win, and didn’t stop there but, called Charles “ignorant” among other things.

First, “Brainwashed” is the intensive forced indoctrination of new beliefs to have them supplant old beliefs.

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