Hollywood says it is okay to be racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQIA+ half the time

“Oscars Announce New Inclusion Requirements for Best Picture Eligibility” (Variety):

For the 94th and 95th Oscars ceremonies, scheduled for 2022 and 2023, a film will submit a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form to be considered for best picture. Beginning in 2024, for the 96th Oscars, a film submitting for best picture will need to meet the inclusion thresholds by meeting two of the four standards.

If these standards are important, why does a film need to meet only half of them? Would we say that a person was a virtuous anti-racist if he/she/ze/they went to only half of the local KKK gatherings?

What are America’s victim groups, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences?

•Women
•Racial or ethnic group:
•Asian
•Hispanic/Latinx
•Black/African American
•Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
•Middle Eastern/North African
•Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
•Other underrepresented race or ethnicity
•LGBTQ+
•People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

(Only “LGBTQ+” and not “LGBQTIA+”?)

Also… when is victimhood measured? At the time that the victim is hired? At the time that the victim first works on the film? At the time that the victim completes work on the film? At the time of the Academy Awards? We wouldn’t deny, I hope, that gender ID is fluid and changeable. Hollywood itself loves to give us examples of people who change their LGBTQIA+ status from negative (cisgender heterosexual) to positive (e.g., homosexual). Racial identification is fluid. Most recently in the news, Jessica Krug, whose brilliant Ph.D. colleagues accepted her as a Black woman (NY Post):

Finally, what actually qualifies under the LGBTQIA+ banner? The actor tells the producer that he/she/ze/they had sex in an LGBTQIA+ manner? How does that move the needle with the general public unless the actor has sex in an LGBTQIA+ manner on screen? Rock Hudson, for example, allegedly identified as LGBTQIA+, but his on-screen characters were cisgender heterosexuals. Why did that advance the LGBTQIA+ movement compared to simply hiring a cisgender heterosexual actor?

(Even a movie with an all-Asian (a victim category for Hollywood) cast and a female lead is objectionable currently: “Disney Wanted to Make a Splash in China With ‘Mulan.’ It Stumbled Instead.” (NYT, complaining that Disney did some filming in a Muslim area of China (wouldn’t the revenue actually be good for Chinese Muslims?)))

Related (going through old posts to see if any of them involve movies that would qualify):

Full post, including comments

Midnight in Chernobyl: Helicopter heroes

Suggested reading for 9/11, in which I hope we remember those who ran towards the stricken towers rather than following instinct and running away: Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster Kindle Edition, by Adam Higginbotham. This follows my general rule that the only good popular books on science and engineering are written by British authors, who tend to assume that their audience is actually capable of comprehending some of the technical and scientific points.

The heroism in the book is inspiring. I was partway through this book when a scheduled flight to Upstate New York came up. There was a 40-knot headwind which would, I knew, combine with the mountains and hills to form turbulence. The FAA had issued a warning for moderate turbulence below 10,000′. The trip was a favor to friends who wanted to look at an antique wooden boat for sale. I thought about wimping out on two hours of bumps, but then said “If the Soviet firefighters and nuclear plant ran toward Chernobyl Reactor 4 rather than away, I can handle a bit of discomfort.”

A lot of the workers in the plant behaved heroically, trying to resupply what they thought was left of the exploded reactor with cooling water. They knew that they were going to receive lethal doses of radiation, but they strove to reach manual valves and controls in hopes of saving fellow citizens. About 60 of these men died within a month (Wikipedia).

Although there was no shortage of heroes following this explosion, I had never realized the heroic actions of Soviet helicopter crews. They flew directly into the worst of the radioactive cloud to drop, by hand, bags of boron-containing sand, straight down into the ruined core. “Historians estimate that about 600 Soviet pilots risked dangerous levels of radiation to fly the thousands of flights needed to cover reactor No. 4 in this attempt to seal off radiation.” (Wikipedia, which also notes that the efforts might not have yielded significant results; as with coronaplague, when the guy running the helicopter operation was told that it was futile, he said “we have to be seen to be doing something”)

From chernobylgallery.com:

It is a good book. I haven’t seen the HBO series. What do folks think of it?

Circling back to 9/11, the New Yorker ran a good article on Rick Rescorla, who went into the World Trade Center to get people out.

Related:

  • the cause of the accident (Chernobyl Gallery)
  • “How HBO Got It Wrong On Chernobyl” (Forbes): 2 immediate, non-radiation deaths; 29 early fatalities from radiation (ARS) within 4 months from radiation, burns and smoke inhalation, 19 late adult fatalities presumably from radiation over the next 20 years, although this number is within the normal incidence of cancer mortality in this group, which is about 1% per year, and 9 late child fatalities resulting in thyroid cancer, presumably from radiation.
  • Wikipedia: There is consensus that a total of approximately 30 men died from immediate blast trauma and acute radiation syndrome (ARS) in the seconds to months after the disaster, respectively, with 60 in total in the decades hence, inclusive of later radiation induced cancer.[2][3][4] However, there is considerable debate concerning the accurate number of projected deaths due to the disaster’s long-term health effects; long-term death estimates range from up to 4,000 (per the 2005 and 2006 conclusions of a joint consortium of the United Nations) for the most exposed people of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, to 16,000 in total for all those exposed on the entire continent of Europe, with figures as high as 60,000 when including the relatively minor effects around the globe
Full post, including comments

Forgeries in the reopened art museums?

Today is the day that our biggest art museum, the Metropolitan, will supposedly reopen. I wonder if art museums will survive given that people now have to (a) book in advance, (b) show up at a precise time, and (c) wear a mask. It might be more pleasant to stay home and walk unmasked around the neighborhood and/or be entertained with a screen.

If you want to get back into the art world, let me recommend this Washington Post article on Gaugin forgeries.

It is possible that a real Gaugin is more offensive than a fake one:

And yet, today more than ever, Gauguin is a highly divisive figure.

To his admirers, he was one of the last great romantic adventurers, a former stockbroker who sloughed off bourgeois conventions and voyaged across the world to live out a dream. He was, they say, a visionary artist who was determined to learn from other cultures, and who used his expanded awareness to make some of the most ambitious, original works of the modern era.

To others, however, he was a scoundrel who traveled to French Polynesia and shamelessly stole creative ideas from cultures he barely knew. These critics also see a man who abandoned his wife and family to father children with teenage girls in the South Seas, relationships that he got away with due to his colonial prestige but that can clearly be seen as more sinister today.

Eating organic food and breathing unpolluted air nearly killed Gaugin and he was sick and weak before dying at age 54, but there are a fair number of works attributed to the artist in the year before he died.

A school group at the National Gallery of Art back in 2016. They won’t have to endure this kind of excursion now that they’re all fully virtual!

A sculpture that might have to be canceled:

Related:

Full post, including comments

Richard Jewell movie

Who has enjoyed Richard Jewell, a Clint Eastwood movie streaming on HBO?

It is a great example of how to make a compelling movie even when the outcome is known in advance. (The story concerns the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and the security guard who found a suspicious backpack. Richard Jewell’s actions might have saved 100 lives. He quickly went from hero to main suspect as a team of 20+ FBI agents pursued the “look for the keys under the street light” method.)

For pilots and anyone else who has to make decisions with incomplete information, it is an interesting demonstration of our human ability to convince ourselves and to fit new information into our existing way of explaining an event. The FBI was hugely over-committed to their theory that Jewell, whose personality quirk of zealotry-in-law-enforcement was both the thing that motivated him to notice the backpack and also the thing that made him seem like a possible unhinged murderer.

Recommended.

Full post, including comments

Visual artists will switch to outdoor sculpture due to plague?

With art museums closed or compromised (regulated pre-arranged visit times, masks, etc.) and art galleries damaged by the destruction of American retail, will visual artists switch to outdoor sculpture?

If most people with money flee the cities to suburban or country estates, and then spend a lot of time imprisoned in their yards, that’s a big market for attractive sculpture, right?

From the Storm King Art Center, now somewhat reopened (good day trip due to being adjacent to a near-infinite-length runway at KSWF; Dia:Beacon will reopen August 7):

(you may be able to park next to Donald Trump’s family Boeing 757 at KSWF, which is where it lives)

Full post, including comments

History lessons from the musical Hamilton

The price of a ticket to Hamilton finally came down to something I was willing to pay: $0 (already subscribing to Disney+).

So far I’ve learned that taxes in the American colonies were sky-high and King George was arbitrarily murderous.

Who else is watching? Now that we’ve seen it, does it seem like it would have been worth $2,000/seat to see in the theater? (If we assume that the streaming Hamilton is as good as the live one, comparable to the assumption that our state and local overlords would have us believe regarding K-12 schools, everything else on Disney+ is essentially free until everyone in our family is dead. The cost of four tickets to Hamilton on Broadway, back in the year 2019, would pay for at least 50 years of Disney+?)

Also… Happy Treason Day!

An NBER paper:

There is no doubt that the colonies paid very low taxes. For example, in 1763, on average, a citizen in Britain paid 26 shillings per year in taxes, while a citizen in New England paid just 1 shilling per year (see, for example, Ferguson 2004). Along the same line, Walton and Shepherd (1979) present an index of per capita tax burden for 1765: Great Britain 100, Ireland 26, Massachusetts 4, Connecticut 2, New York 3, Pennsylvania 4, Maryland 4, and Virginia 2. Moreover, after the Seven Years War, the British Parliament tried and failed to impose new taxes on the American colonies …

The third wave was the Townshend Acts of 1767, which were customs duties on British products imported into the colonies. The measures were intended to raise 1% of colonial income, a relatively small economic burden. Moreover, they met the criteria that only external trade should be taxed.

I’ve seen some other sources that calculated the tax burden for American colonists at 2 percent of income, lower than the most efficient countries today, such as Singapore (14 percent). For reference, the U.K. collects about 33 percent of income in taxes today while the U.S. is at 27 percent (but we spend 38 percent!).

Regarding the other history lesson, did King George ever actually order any colonist killed, like Admiral General Aladeen in The Dictator did?

Fallingwater, more or less on the Proclamation Line, west of which the colonists could not steal land from the Native Americans without rebelling against England:

Correction from Joseph Boyle: The British actually did steal more land (via “treaty”) in the years between 1763 and 1776. The Purchase Line of 1768 reflects this theft. (This correction notwithstanding, the British did seem to be more inclined toward honoring treaties and less inclined toward slaveholding than were the colonists.)

Full post, including comments

Norwegian TV series for the Age of Corona: Occupied

A (tenured professor) friend recommended Occupied, a 2015 Norwegian TV show on Netflix that is surprisingly timely. In the first episode, the prime minister has to decide whether it is better to die on one’s feet or live on one’s knees. Citing the priceless nature of even a single human life, he decides that Norwegians must accept subjugation by the EU and Russia.

(The initial plot premise doesn’t make obvious sense. Norway shuts down its oil and gas production in a noble effort to save Spaceship Earth from climate destruction. The EU wants Norwegian oil and gas and brings in the Russians to force Norway to turn it all back on. But since the Russians compete with Norway in oil and gas production, why would the Russians want to pressure Norway? Wouldn’t the Russians be better off just selling EU its own production at a higher price? This is never explained, but if you can suspend your disbelief on this one point, the rest of the series makes sense.)

As the episodes unfold, Norwegians gradually surrender what had been their rights. Just like Americans facing the threat of coronaplague, about half of the people simply assert that their rights have not been eliminated, just slightly adjusted (e.g., children who get a weekly email from a teacher and two hours/week of Google Classroom hangout are still receiving their right to an education) while a clandestine resistance emerges of people who want their former constitutional rights as they were previously understood.

I’ll be interested to hear what readers think about whether this movie captures the mindset of government leaders around the world today when it comes to dealing with the threat of coronaplague!

(My Dutch friend: “All of the rights that Americans fought and died in multiple wars to defend, they gave up in one governor’s press conference.” The screenwriters thought it would take a war for people in a Democracy to lose their rights, but a respiratory virus turned out to be sufficient to erase liberty!)

Related:

Full post, including comments

From which file sharing service will people pull videos out of the memory hole?

“BBC remove Fawlty Towers’ iconic ‘Don’t Mention The War’ episode from UKTV streaming site” (The Sun):

The streaming service which is owned by the Corporation, have decided to take down the episode that also features racial terms.

This is the latest “classic” British TV show to be removed from a streaming service owned by the BBC, as broadcasters continue to re-assess old British television content.

This Fawlty Towers episode in question was first broadcast in 1975, also features Cleese’s bigoted character who was in hospital and was shocked when he was treated by a black doctor.

Where will people find the content that their morally superior overlords have decided needs to be stuffed into a memory hole? Is BitTorrent sustainable or can it be shut down easily by governments and ISPs under the rubric of protecting copyright (i.e., the right of the owner to block anyone from ever seeing something again)?

People are pirating copies of movies already, right? How are they doing it? Will the mechanisms of today still work in 20 or 30 years?

John Cleese in 2019, from the Daily Mail:

'Finally got it right': John Cleese revealed he 'finally got it right' with his fourth wife after a string of failed marriages - and admitted he still only feels 43 despite his 80th birthday fast approaching

Related:

  • “Gone with the Wind removed from HBO Max” (BBC)
  • “John Cleese’s Alimony Payments Are No Laughing Matter” (HuffPost): In a new interview with the Sunday Morning Herald, the 74-year-old funnyman opens up about his 2008 divorce, touring, and the perception that he’s financially set thanks to his success with “Monty Python.” … “I will have paid my ex-wife, I think it is $23 or $24 million. That’s an awful lot of money. And when you have to pay it over a period of seven years, even if you sell a lot of properties — like I had five and I now have one — there’s still a lot of simple, hard work to be done just to earn the rest of it.” … The former couple has no children. [see Real World Divorce on England]
  • “Berkeley Will Delete Online Content” (20,000 lectures withdrawn from the public due to “receiving complaints from two employees of Gallaudet University, saying Berkeley’s free online educational content was inaccessible to blind and deaf people because of a lack of captions, screen reader compatibility and other issues.”)

Full post, including comments

Time to watch Jar Jar Binks instead of Harry Potter?

“Harry Potter Fans Reimagine Their World Without Its Creator” (NYT):

When J.K. Rowling was accused of transphobia about two years ago for “liking” a tweet that referred to transgender women as “men in dresses,” much of the Harry Potter fandom tried to give their beloved author the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it really was just an accident, a “clumsy and middle-aged moment,” as Ms. Rowling’s spokesperson said at the time.

[now] First, Ms. Rowling took aim at an article that referred to “people who menstruate,” suggesting that it was wrong to not use “women” in a misguided attempt to include trans people. When she received negative response to this, she then published a 3,700-word essay on gender, sex, abuse and fear: “I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators.”

The Times itself seems to reject the idea of more than a handful of gender IDs:

Each fan must make her own choices for herself then.

Is it acceptable to start and end a list of pronouns for “fans” with “her”?

This is a “news”, not “opinion”, article in the Times. It is apparently a proven fact that TERFs are wrong:

Ms. Rowling’s essay, which was published on Wednesday, rails against the term T.E.R.F., or trans-exclusionary radical feminist, describing it as a slur used to silence women like herself on the internet. She repeated a number of pieces of misinformation that are common talking points for this loose association of people, and made the claim that the “movement” led by transgender activists is eroding the notion of womanhood and “offering cover to predators like few before it.” As a sort of explanation for that fear, Ms. Rowling recounted memories of a sexual assault in her 20s.

Here’s the real question for me: how hateful does a hate-filled author have to be in order to justify watching Jar Jar Binks?

Full post, including comments

Team America saved our country from Covid-19?

One of the finest achievements of American cinema, Team America: World Police, features a group of heroes who have one yardstick for determining success or failure: the number of terrorists killed. The movie opens with the team declaring victory over a small group of jihadis in Paris. They’re satisfied with their results, but the citizens of Paris are unhappy about all of the city’s monuments being destroyed.

Now that our cities are in ruins, I’m wonder if the same logic has been applied in 2020 regarding coronaplague. Americans now care about one thing only: the number of people killed by Covid-19. It doesn’t matter how old or sick these people were before coronavirus got them. Every life that can be saved from Covid-19 is worth an unlimited amount of (a) deaths due to withheld non-Covid health care, (b) family and life destruction due to unemployment, poverty, and kids kicked out of school and imprisoned in small apartments with a miscellaneous collection of adults (“Fewer than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage.”), (c) dollars borrowed that the children being denied educations, playgrounds, and friends will have to pay back, etc.

Isn’t it the same in Europe, you might ask? No! They took a more balanced approach. Yes, coronaplague was bad, but as soon as they figured out that schools weren’t primary drivers of plague, they reopened their schools (except in Sweden, where the schools never closed). Maybe the Europeans will suffer a handful of additional Covid-19-tagged deaths are a result, but they are looking at more than a single number to measure how their nations are doing. How about India? A brief lockdown followed by a swift reopening. Brazil? “sorry for all the dead, but that’s everyone’s destiny.” (even Trump can’t say stuff like this!)

Readers: Was Team America prescient regarding our national tunnel vision? We have a slightly lower death rate nationwide compared to Sweden (where I live in Massachusetts, though, the death rate is more than 2X never-shut Sweden’s, as we enter Month 4 of shutdown).

Full post, including comments