Blue Angels movie streaming on Amazon Prime

We took our family to elite entertainment last month (movie theater) and then a Michelin-starred restaurant (Cheesecake Factory). Total cost after the inflation that the government says doesn’t exist: $300, which includes AAA-estimated mileage rate for the 12-minute drive in an exclusive luxury vehicle (three-year-old Honda Odyssey EX-L).

What movie was worth $300? The Blue Angels documentary, now streaming for free on Amazon Prime.

The movie showed that the Blues go to the desert in El Centro, California for three months of pre-season “winter training”. That’s three months away from family who are back at the home base in Pensacola, Florida. There is no explanation for this move, though presumably it has to do with potential rain or low ceilings in Pensacola washing out training days and perhaps also more airspace being available in this forgotten corner of California.

Nerds will be cheered to learn that the Blues like to use multi-color BIC pens during briefing sessions. Medical nerds will be surprised to learn that the flight surgeon also plays the role of critic/judge during training. In other words, a person with no significant flying experience watches with binoculars and writes down everything that the pilots are doing wrong.

Perhaps reflecting Americans’ lack of interest in anything technical, the movie doesn’t bother explaining the weight at which the F/A-18 is operated, the airspeeds for the various maneuvers, or the flight control inputs that are required. We don’t get a tour of the cockpit and an explanation of the controls and instruments. We don’t see the maintenance people at work or learn what the need to do to keep the planes airworthy. Nor do we learn if they bring a spare plane! We’re told that there are 6 performers, but “Blue Angel #8” is shown with no explanation of what her role might be (the Navy says
“Events Coordinator”). We don’t find out what the demonstration pilots use for ground reference, especially important in the converging head-on maneuvers. We can guess that it is “keep right of the runway” for land-based air shows, but how do they do it when performing off a beach? (The Blue Angels web site has the explanation in a Support Manual; boats in fixed positions are used to create a “show line”.)

The movie failed to inspire our kids to want to become naval aviators. In fact, they were put off by the description of the hard work that was required, the blackouts in the centrifuge, the entire year mostly away from family, etc. Speaking of blackouts, the Blues don’t use the g-suits that Navy fighter pilots normally wear. They are bracing their arms on their legs and don’t want to risk suit inflation moving an aircraft out of formation enough to hit another aircraft. So they need to use muscles to push blood back up into their heads for demo maneuvers that are up to 7.5g. (No Auto GCAS on the F/A-18.) Speaking of muscles, the movie is a good reminder that everyone should take a job where he/she/ze/they is paid to work out at the gym. The Navy pilots look great compared to the same-age civilians in the movie!

Related (what the movie could have been in an ideal MIT Course 16 world; the F/A-18 is also a fly-by-wire aircraft):

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Helicopter pilot’s review of The Holdovers

I’m a huge fan of Alexander Payne (not just because my cousin produced About Schmidt). If you’re not familiar with his work, try Election, Sideways, and The Descendants.

The Holdovers (streaming on Amazon Prime) is Payne’s latest and features a teacher who loves giving bad grades so I can’t relate to that part (I don’t think that teachers should be allowed to grade their own students!). A Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter makes an appearance so I will try to confine my review to what I know. First, the Bell holds a maximum of five people, including the pilot, and the movie suggests that at least six people go on a flight in the machine. The helicopter comes in because one prep school kid’s dad is supposedly the president of Pratt & Whitney and the machine is his corporate perk. But why would a Pratt executive travel around in a machine powered by an Allison (now Rolls-Royce) engine?

The arrival of the helicopter is handled accurately, with the pilot apparently doing a high recon before the off-airport landing. (Assess the following from 500′ above the ground: Wind, Wires, Way In, and Way Out; Shape, Size, Slope, and Surface)

A few points beyond the helicopter-only comments…

The movie, set in 1970, makes only a few concessions to 21st century social justice. No character is a member of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community. All of the Black characters are noble and exemplars of stable married life. Most of the white characters are deeply flawed and are either unmarried or divorced and remarried. The richer the white person, the worse he or she behaves (“he or she” because there were only two genders in the movie’s 1970). In fact, Paul Giamatti’s crusty teacher is too crusty for credibility. If he regularly gave a lot of mediocre students failing grades, the school would have axed him (or simply adjusted the grades he handed out). A private school teacher doesn’t have the union protection to do whatever he/she/ze/they wants as a public school teacher would. But it is still fun to watch him!

Readers: Who else saw this movie? What did you think? I wouldn’t say it is one of Payne’s best, but it is still better than 98 percent of what’s streaming today!

(We likely lost at least one great movie to California family law offering plaintiffs the chance to win a lifetime of ease following a brief sexual encounter. After three years of marriage, 34-year-old Sandra Oh sued Alexander Payne for divorce (Fox) and alimony (“spousal support”). The litigation to determine the profitability of her three-year marriage lasted for two-thirds the length of the marriage. The result was a gap in Payne’s filmography between 2004 and 2011. What did Sandra Oh do with the cash? Today she expresses her hopes for continued Hamas rule in Gaza (Variety), but it is unclear whether she’s donating funds to help the Palestinians liberate Al-Quds.)

If you’re interested in a possible route out of “more migrants; no more land” reducing living standards, check out Downsizing.


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Eden Golan vs. Fire Saga at Eurovision

Eden Golan in Sweden (note the big wheel):

Will Ferrell and a similar wheel as part of the Fire Saga act at Eurovision:

Separately, for fans of the Eurovision movie (one of the few bright spots of coronapanic!), here’s the official music video from Eden Golan:

It’s remarkable how faithful the film is to the real contest!

Separately, I wonder if Florida should get some credit for Eden Golan’s entry. I am not aware of any hurricanes in Israel and yet her song is titled “Hurricane”. I would pay Taylor Swift prices to see Eden Golan and Ron DeSantis perform a duet version!

Finally, shouldn’t those who want to ensure continued Hamas rule in Gaza have been happy that Israel was participating in Eurovision? The righteous say that Israel is committing “genocide” (extremely slowly?) in Gaza. If true, isn’t it better to have as many genocidal Israelis in Sweden where they won’t do any harm rather than in Gaza where they will kill Gazans (who are, according to UNRWA tweets, entirely unarmed and peaceful so it is actually a mystery as to how fighting continues because there are no Gazans shooting at the IDF).


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Annals of architecture failures: the luxury hotel with exterior corridors and no art

A few photos from a newish $500/night Marriott hotel in Newport Beach, California:

Note the circular waterfall in the middle of the driveway.

One of the more interesting features is a massive video screen above the bar at the end of the pool:

Why can’t we have this in every room of our houses?

The hotel is built around an open central courtyard and, thus, the corridors are exposed to the elements to some extent. Perhaps because of this, the architects and designers apparently decided not to put any art in the outdoor hallways:

The result is a bleak depressing walk from a fairly nice room to the very nice lobby. It makes the hotel seem cheap and old. I’m trying to figure out how they could have failed so badly. The indoor/outdoor structure isn’t that different from Spanish colonial architecture throughout Central and South America. A hotel with exterior corridors in Mexico or South America would have interesting stonework and, most likely, beautiful tiles and other decoration in the parts exposed to the elements.

On the bright side, we were able to enjoy looking at a Z06 C8 Corvette parked in front:

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Birth control pill sculpture wins a prize at a suburban Boston public high school

Here’s a prizewinner from the AP Art class at the Lincoln-Sudbury (Maskachusetts) public high school:

(I blacked out the student-artist’s name in case she one day becomes a Deplorable.)

I’m not sure if “penis made from birth control pills” is the title of the work or if it has a title at all.

Science shut down the high school in question completely or partially for 1.5 years. Part of this period was “hybrid” in which students gathered two mornings per week and then retreated to their suburban bunkers. Presumably SARS-CoV-2 was told not to spread during these handful of hours, but the virus would have rejected a demand to refrain from spreading during a full school week.

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Could Dune be improved if Godzilla joined?

I enjoyed the special effects in the Dune 2021 movie, but the plot seemed overly serious and challenging to follow. For the strike-delayed second part, I’m hoping that Godzilla will join the mix. Who agrees with me that Godzilla v. a sandworm would spice things up?

(Side note: I would be willing to pay 15 Bidies to see the Barbie movie if Godzilla were included.)

Here’s an April 2023 effort by DALL-E to illustrate the concept:

For reference, a photograph of the real Godzilla:

What about the plot? Is my lack of imagination an obstacle to a successful career as a screenwriter? GPT-4 to the rescue! The prompt:

Write a story in the style of the novel Dune in which Godzilla arrives on Arrakis and fights the sandworms.

The script (note that ChatGPT was smart enough to realize that Godzilla must win at the end of the movie):

In the vast expanse of the desert planet Arrakis, where the great sandworms roamed, a new force would soon join the eternal dance of predator and prey. The Fremen, people of the desert, had long revered the sandworms, creatures that were essential to the production of the most precious substance in the universe: the spice melange. But as whispers spread among the sietches, they could hardly imagine what was about to happen on their sacred home.

As the suns set over the horizon, their path illuminated by the dust and sand of the desert, a storm approached. Fremen gathered in the caves and shelters, readying themselves for the fury of the winds. The sandworms, though, reveled in the chaos, emerging from the depths to feel the storm’s might.

Amidst the swirling sands, a great roar echoed, carried by the gales. It was a sound unlike any the Fremen had ever heard, a resonance that shook the very core of their being. The sandworms, too, sensed this new presence, and for the first time in their long history, they felt unease.

From within the storm, a titanic figure emerged: Godzilla. The King of the Monsters had found his way to Arrakis, and with each thunderous step, the desert trembled. Though not one to shy away from conflict, Godzilla’s primal instincts urged him to survey this new land.

As the storm settled, the Fremen cautiously emerged from their shelters. They spoke of the great beast that had appeared, their eyes wide with awe and fear. Muad’Dib, their leader and messiah, listened to their accounts and pondered the significance of this event.

Meanwhile, Godzilla continued to roam the desert, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. The sandworms, feeling the tremors of his steps, were drawn to the surface in search of the source. The air was thick with tension as these ancient creatures neared the mighty behemoth.

When the first sandworm burst forth from the sands, its colossal maw gaping wide, Godzilla turned to face it. His primal instincts ignited, and the beast within him awakened. As the sandworm lunged, Godzilla let loose a torrent of atomic breath, engulfing the creature in a searing inferno.

The Fremen, observing from afar, gasped in astonishment. They had never before witnessed a being capable of felling a sandworm so effortlessly. Muad’Dib, his mind racing with the implications, knew that this force had the potential to change the course of their history.

One by one, the sandworms emerged to challenge the intruder, and one by one, they fell to Godzilla’s might. The Fremen watched as their world was transformed, their reverence for the sandworms now tinged with uncertainty.

But even in the midst of this titanic struggle, the desert had more secrets to reveal. From deep beneath the sands, a new presence stirred. It was the Maker of the Makers, the worm that had birthed all other sandworms. It was ancient and powerful, and it sensed the threat Godzilla posed to its progeny.

As the behemoth and the Maker of the Makers clashed, the sands of Arrakis were sundered. The Fremen could only look on as the two titans battled for supremacy, each vying to prove their place atop the hierarchy of the desert.

The battle raged for days, their roars echoing across the dunes like thunder. The sands ran red with the blood of the combatants, and the very air seemed to tremble with the force of their strikes.

Eventually, the impossible happened. The Maker of the Makers, weakened and battered, fell before Godzilla.

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Pussy Riot in Montreal

The Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art was ordered shut by Covidcrats in 2020 and allowed to reopen in February 2021. Just a couple of months later, the museum closed for a renovation that was supposed to be complete in 2024 but, according to the lady who sold me a ticket to the temporary exhibit space in a nearby underground mall, is now on track to be finished in 2028.

What’s in the temporary space? “Velvet Terrorism,” an exhibit on the decade-long protest by Pussy Riot against Vladimir Putin and Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.

From the brochure:

The first couple of rooms:

What was one of the punishments that a Pussy Riot member suffered? She was unbanked, exactly as the Canadian truckers who protested forced Covid-19 vaccination were unbanked by Justin Trudeau using “emergency powers” (NYT). (Separately, I met a Canadian who had gingerly approached some of the truckers at the time. “They were the nicest and most peaceful people you ever met,” he said. “I was afraid to stay too long, though, because I didn’t want to become a target myself.”)

Pussy Riot’s war under the sacred Rainbow Flag was covered:

(It is unclear to me how Putin can be considered responsible for “killings and kidnappings of gay, lesbian, transgender and queer people in Chechnya“. Russia has had tremendous difficulty in its attempts to control what happens in Chechnya, resulting in at least two full-scale wars.)

The public were invited to write down and post their thoughts in response to the exhibition. Most seemed to have been written by Anglophones. Almost nobody seemed to be thinking about Vladimir Putin, Ukraine, the lives of 2SLGBTQQIA+ Russians, or any of the other issues raised by Pussy Riot. Here are some of the notes that were off the main topic:

What were a plurality of the signs about? Here’s a sampling:

Although the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”), which is the elected and overwhelmingly popular government of the Palestinians, is not famous for celebrating Rainbow Flagism, there was the inevitable…

If Al-Shifa Hospital gets fixed up, the Montreal museum visitors are imagining gender affirming surgeries happening there:

Those who identify as feminists also want to see a corner of the world ruled by the guys who raped, maimed, and murdered women on October 7 (nearly all women who were born long after the events of 1948 that is the root of Arab grievance, so it is unclear how they can be blamed for the Nakba):

Ironically, after viewing an art show about criticism of Vladimir Putin, patrons were motivated to trumpet their alignment with Vladimir Putin’s position regarding Hamas (it is unclear that Putin supports “river to the sea liberation” (i.e., the elimination of Israel) but he is more supportive of Hamas than the typical national leader in Europe or North America).

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Burning Man 2023 Debrief

A friend washed off all of the Playa mud and shared his experience of Burning Man 2023, Rain Edition.

What was great? He arrived on Thursday before the official event began and enjoyed a week of “Unnaturally perfect weather; no dust.”

His favorite art was a gigantic cube made from intermediate bulk carriers (IBCs). An IBC out of IBCs. Each cube had a light and became a pixel. “People could climb it. A few broke ankles,” he said. “The perfect example of ingenious art that is awe-inspiring by its simplicity and beauty out of materials that can be reused after it is taken apart.”

Overall, though, he felt that the art was not as awe-inspiring as in previous years. “There was a proliferation of laser-cut sh*t all over the Playa, including the otherwise-magnificent Temple. That’s a lazy way to build something intricate.” Perhaps this is because some of the A-listers didn’t show up this year. Unlikely in a typical year, tickets were easy to come by. What else wasn’t so great? “There are still too many plug-and-plays. The ebikes. They move too fast and the riders are like Tesla drivers: annoying people in a hard-to-explain way. Burning Man bikes are supposed to be crummy and hard to pedal. It shouldn’t be effort-free to move around.”

How about the art cars, now that Mayan Warrior has been destroyed by fire? (“They spent at least $8 million on Mayan Warrior”) “Titantic’s End is an art car iceberg is supposed to raise awareness about climate change. It has an interior room chilled to 32 degrees, lasers, massive sound, and everything else than can be done with an unlimited CO2 budget,” my friend noted. “We were not impressed.”

After a week of good luck, the rain began on Friday morning. With only shreds of mobile phone service, which immediately collapsed as soon as the event began in earnest, attendees had limited access to weather forecasts. “Rich people had Starlink, but everything went down after it started raining. The rangers told us no more rain coming and it f**king poured for days,” he said. What would he have done if he’d been better informed? “We would have partied way harder at the beginning and then left Thursday night.” Was it that bad? “It was a crisis made for social media and schadenfreude, but really not that different from going on a ski vacation and getting injured after a day or two. Some people kept partying, but we were discouraged so we stayed in our tents. Nobody could drive an art car, bike, or even walk in shoes. You could walk barefoot, but it was nasty.”

Dare we touch on the bathroom situation? “Porta-potties never became completely full, but were really gnarly, even for hardened ravers. We ended up finding a plug and play with $10K composting toilets on the last day. They had graciously opened their toilets to everyone. People had been prepared to pee in bottles and poop in trash bags, but it didn’t quite come to that.” Was the situation inevitable? “Toilet pumping and camp water deliveries stopped Friday morning. The cops had heavy equipment and super off-road dune buggies, but they just disappeared. Maybe they could have parked a pump truck at each station and kept pumping, for example.”

Was he sorry that there wasn’t a muscular response from President Joe Biden? “All the camps were sharing. Nobody went hungry or thirsty. The vibe was a little like Central American post-earthquake.”

What about the escape? “We tore down and mooped over a couple of days and I made a run for it but the rented car got stuck. I managed to walk back and pull myself out with my team and our biggest truck and return to our now-empty campsite for a cold and wet night. The next morning, Monday I guess, I mapped out the best route by foot, around bad streets and stuck vehicles. I deflated the rental car tires and went for it, but still got stuck. Some a**holes aggressively yelled obscenities at us for trying to escape, other people came out and pushed us. Once I got to K street, I cut out on playa and just plowed thru the swampy parts and banged my way out onto the gate road and out.”

What about the fact that the gate was closed for both in and out? “I heard that people were being stopped and could not get out, but when i decided to blast my way out early Monday morning there were no cops in sight. The gates were open, but not advertised as open. A campmate who arrived in a Toyota Land Cruiser managed to get out on Sunday night. He has a lot of experience off road and had traction pads with him.”

Who cleaned up the mountain of muddy trash that he left behind? “We did a full pack and moop before we left. We left a guy behind with the 4×4 truck and 8000 lb. trailer and supplies. He stayed till Temple burn left the morning after. So we cleaned up; not like the f**kers who ‘walked it out’ leaving all their sh*t behind.”

Summary? “We were well prepared so mostly it was the loss of part of the event and being stuck at camp a few days, but I got out right before Exodus so other than the nail-biting stress of getting to pavement, it was totally easy drive.”

What about the folks who waited for the official opening of the gate? He sent me this photo of Exodus:

Will we get a more thorough dissection of what could have been done better from the burners who know the event best? My friend says “No. People aren’t comfortable complaining about the Burning Man organization. They get over it or stop going.” Does it matter that failings won’t be examined? “In the end, Burning Man is like California. It’s so resource-rich that no amount of mismanagement can ruin it.”

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Biden on the picket line: time to watch American Factory again

Loyal readers may recall my review of the Academy Award-winning documentary American Factory. After a Chinese glass manufacturer has been gulled into investing $500+ million in pre-Biden money, all of the Democrats in the region, including Senator Sherrod Brown, show up to exhort the workers to unionize and extract higher wages from the foreign chumps.

“Biden to become first sitting US president to appear on picket line at UAW strike” (The Guardian):

Joe Biden will become the first sitting US president to appear on a picket line on Tuesday, making an appearance in Michigan in an effort to show solidarity with striking members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, which is locked in an escalating dispute with America’s three biggest carmakers.

Biden’s trip is designed to burnish his self-proclaimed credentials as the most union-friendly president in US history and possibly also to earn the explicit backing of the UAW, which has yet to endorse his bid for re-election.

Biden voiced support for the strike by Ford, General Motors and Stellantis workers, which was entering its 12th day on Tuesday, and had announced he was dispatching his labour secretary, Julie Su, and Gene Sperling, a senior White House adviser, to help the union reach a settlement with company bosses.

In other words, this is a Presidential version of what is shown in the movie with, if memory serves, members of Congress and the governor. Will I be taking my own advice and watching the movie again in honor of our muscular leader? No. I canceled my Netflix subscription after the 2nd or 3rd price increase during what we are informed is a period of near-zero inflation.


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Movie recommendation: Sorcerer

What’s going on with various unions in Hollywood being forced to strike? Roughly 99.7% of Hollywood executives are Democrats (source). Why won’t committed Democrats pay workers a fair wage?

While it is sad that the Netflix Cleopatra (3% audience score) spinoffs might be delayed by the refusal of Democrats to pay their workers properly, the public can still watch Sorcerer, the recently deceased director William Friedkin’s favorite among his movies (French Connection and Exorcist are the best known).

From Friedkin’s obituary in the NYT, a Ukraine connection and also one to the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community:

William Friedkin, known to his friends as Billy, was born in Chicago on Aug. 25, 1935, to Louis and Rachel (Green) Friedkin. Both parents were Jews who had left Ukraine early in the century with their families to escape the tsarist pogroms. His mother, who was known as Rae, was an operating room nurse; his father worked a variety of low-paying jobs.

“The French Connection” was rejected by every studio in town before Richard Zanuck, in his final days at 20th Century Fox, gave it the green light. Convinced that the film required a street-level documentary feel, Mr. Friedkin spent weeks on the beat with the two police officers who had broken the French Connection drug case. He said he paid an official at the New York Transit Authority a $40,000 bribe to overlook the rules and allow the famous chase sequence to be filmed.

He later called “Sorcerer,” in an interview with Indiewire in 2017, “the only film I’ve made that I can still watch.”

The lurid “Cruising” (1980), with Al Pacino as a New York City detective who goes undercover in the city’s gay S-and-M bars to solve a murder, aroused the fierce opposition of gay activists, who objected to the film’s portrayal of gay men and who picketed the location shoots, much to Mr. Friedkin’s dismay.

Another great movie from this guy: To Live and Die in L.A. (you wouldn’t have wanted to be hoping to get anywhere near where they filmed the car chase on the day(s) of filming!)

Trigger warnings: the employer of the main characters in Sorcerer does not comply with OSHA regulations; seat belts are not always worn; the roads and bridges that they traverse were not approved by Pete Buttigieg.

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