Sunday, December 10, 2017

What I Watched -- Casablanca

I have seen Casablanca before (although I'm not sure I blogged about it), but it's such a classic that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see it on the big screen when it came to town.  Plus, S had never seen it before!

Before the movie, we went to grab some terrible-for-us food at The Village Bar.  We succeeded mightily: chili cheese waffle fries (delicious), a cheeseburger (pretty good), and a mushroom and Swiss burger (eh).  We dashed over to the movie theater, arriving 15 minutes after start time, but just in time for the opening credits.

As movies go, this one is just about perfect.  It has a little bit of mystery, a love story, great music, historical interest, fantastic one-liners, and a winning leading man.

Bottom line: if you haven't seen it, you must (and on the big screen, if possible)!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

He Keeps Going, And Going, And Going....

My favorite little Mars rover, Opportunity, has survived the worst of another Martian winter, and even took a picture of his own long shadow.  Going on 14 Earth years!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What I Watched -- Narrative Shorts: I Do

More SLIFF short films!  All the ones in this series were related somehow to marriage.  As with all collections of shorts, some were better than others.  I can't remember anymore what order they were shown in, so here they are alphabetically:

Alpha.  I have almost no recollection of this film.  Which tells you something about it.

Annie Waits.  A girl just can't seem to find the right guy.  Not memorable.

BonbonĂ©.  An tale of perhaps the world's most unusual attempt at conception.

Evil Woman.  A surprising story of a long-time girlfriend who isn't what she seems.  Interesting, but weird ending.

The Girl in the Dress.  A coming-to-reality tale whose main characters are the scorned ex-girlfriend and Henry VIII.  Very amusing.

Halvmand.  A middle-aged couple tries to conceive.  It works, much to the surprise of one of them. It was an interesting meditation on what surely happens in some people's real lives.

I've Got You.  An airline stewardess meets a stranger in a bar.  The predictable one-night stand ensues.  The rest is slightly less predictable.

In a Heartbeat (complete film).  An animated tale of timid young love.  Adorable.

Make It Up.  Neither S nor I think this film made the final cut.  Usually they make an announcement if one of the programmed films was not included for some reason -- and they didn't -- but neither of us remember it.

Rattled.  A young Muslim man struggles through the process of finding a bride.

Vows.  An animated film about a wedding day that isn't quite what one hoped, but accomplishes the goal nevertheless.  Another winner.

Monday, December 4, 2017

What I Watched -- Food Evolution

S and I had a marathon day on the final day of SLIFF.  Our fourth movie (the first of three for the day) was Food Evolution, a documentary about the activists in support of and opposed to genetic modification in the food supply.

The first realization that one must have in order to meaningfully participate in this conversation is that we all eat a lot of genetically modified food, whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not. Genetic modification of plants has been happening since Gregor Mendel cross-bred pea plants 150 years ago -- and even before that, because he was only studying and quantifying what farmers were already doing.

Okay, glad we got that out of the way.  Now, on to the movie. The pro-GM spin (which was the dominant one) focused on genetic modification as a way to feed the planet's ever-growing population, even in the face of disease and drought.  It also addressed the question of whether the use of GM crops has caused an increase or decrease in the rates of pesticide use, and the toxicity of those pesticides.

The anti-GM spin was more diffuse -- probably intentionally so, given the angle of the movie. Some of them were in favor of organics, some were opposed to scientific meddling, some were just confused. Overall, the goal was to combat misinformation.

I was surprised that Monsanto played such a large role in the film. Though it would be hard to make a movie about genetic modification in the food industry without discussing Monsanto, merely saying the company's name inspires such vitriol that I thought they might try to avoid it, and just refer to Monsanto and their ilk as "Big Ag," or something like that. Not the case; it was dealt with head on.

Bottom line: a public win for the GM food movement.

Oh, and it was narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is one of my faves! And if he doesn't inspire confidence, who does?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Goals 2017 -- December Edition

Oh, December. How has another year gone by?

I'm going to get into the heart of winter by doing something I should have done last summer: finish unpacking!

I did a flurry of unpacking shortly after I moved. Then, as is so often the case, I got distracted by something more immediate and lost steam. Once that happened, I never got it back again. There remains a stack of boxes along one basement wall that needs attention. 

Now is the time!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Goals 2017 -- November Recap

I did make some progress in my effort to move from a paper file box to a digital one, but I certainly did not complete the task.  Mush more to do. 

Pro tip: there are some things that are just going to be too difficult to scan, also (for example, the 150-page owner's manual for my camera).  For such items, in an effort to continue my move towards the digital, I have had some success finding PDF versions on manufacturer's websites. If that fails, I'm stuck with paper.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What I Watched -- Doc Shorts: The Unexpected

Our third SLIFF film was actually seven films -- Doc Shorts: The Unexpected.

Mickey's Pets.  Mickey has been taxidermying animals for some time, but this is her first entry into the National Taxidermy Championships.  When her deceased peacock arrives in the mail, she gets to work making it look alive again, and we follow her through that process all the way to the competition.  This was both S's and my favorite.

The Day of the Wall.  This is a wordless depiction of an Italian festival which I don't really understand.  A few words may have helped out.  The best part was the little girl rocking out to the music in her head during the end credits.

6 Toes.  Did you know that polydactyl cats (with more than the normal number of toes) are colloquially referred to as Hemingways?  I didn't.  6 Toes is odd: part autobiography, part biography, part history.  Reasonably enjoyable (and delightfully short).

Balloonfest.  Back in 1986, the city of Cleveland attempted to shed its nickname ("the mistake by the lake") by making it into the Guinness Book of World Records by releasing 1,500,000 helium-filled balloons into the air.  They did it, but it didn't turn out quite the way they hoped.  Quaint and mildly amusing.

The Tables.  A world-champion table tennis player installed two permanent tables in Bryant Park, in the heart of Manhattan.  A diverse community has developed around them.  I liked this one a lot.

Molasses & Lemon.  An odd little attempt at comparing love and heartbreak, highlighting the similarities between the two.  More confusing than enjoyable.

Lost Paradise.  A facility originally built to house a nuclear warhead has been converted into a disaster survival bunker for the ultra-rich.  It was an interesting thing to learn about, but should have been about one-third as long as it was.

Monday, November 27, 2017

What I Watched -- What If It Works?

The second SLIFF show of the year was What If it Works?  The festival doesn't host many comedies; they don't lend themselves to the contemplative navel gazing that such festivals thrive on.

This one, though, with its additional subject of mental illness, made the cut.  And, boy, am I glad it did!

Where I think the film succeeded so well is in treating each person's mental illness respectfully, but keeping it light-hearted and funny.  Adrian's OCD is hilarious, but at the same time, you can easily see how his condition wreaked such havoc on his life.  Grace's multiple personalities are comically divergent, but come from a place of serious damage, which surfaces from time to time.

Bottom line: a totally adorable love story about two broken people.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sea Shepherds

There was a short film that preceded The Islands and the Whales, which focused on the animal conservation work that the Sea Shepherds do -- primarily, attempting to stop illegal fishing.  I had heard nothing about them before this movie (or at least don't remember it if I did).  As we were walking back to the car, S told me about a Animal Planet show, Whale Wars, which had been more or less cancelled back in 2013 after Sea Shepherd's founder, Paul Watson, was charged with several serious crimes.  There were a few more episodes aired in 2015, but it's not clear that any more will be produced.

As with so many organizations of their ilk, that the Sea Shepherds are polarizing.  Paul Watson and several others have been charged with serious crimes in some countries.  But they have also been given amnesty by governments of other countries.

There is no question that they take bold action to stop illegal fishing.  (Check out this fascinating article in The New York Times about their 111-day chase of one of the world's most notorious illegal fishing vessels, which was on Interpol's most wanted list.)  The question, I suppose is this: should the Sea Shepherds be taking such actions?  In all likelihood, what they're doing is illegal (hence all the criminal charges).  Is it worse than the illegal fishing?  Should ramming and sinking the fishing vessels be such a point of pride? (See the Appendix to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal's reversal of a denial of a request for injunction against the Sea Shepherds.)  Whose job is it to step in and prevent over-fishing, if the Sea Shepherds don't?  (There doesn't seem to be much argument that the over-fishing is, in fact, happening.)  And even if it's possible to identify the government or organization who should step in, will they?  Can we count on a government to do anything?

That injunction that was granted (link above) was sought by the Institute for Cetacean Research, a Japanese research organization.  The ICR claims that its whaling activities are permitted under the research exception to the International Whaling Commission's whaling ban.  But, if this 2007 New Yorker article is to be believed, "the institute has produced virtually no research of any regard, and all the whales that are purported to be under study are also butchered for the purpose of selling whale meat to the Japanese public."  Are they just exploiting the research loophole, knowing that no foreign government will call them out on their behavior?  The US government had an opportunity to make a statement, by upholding the denial of the injunction, but didn't (no surprise there).

It's a fascinating issue to read about.  Everyone has a perspective.  Photographs like these support one perspective.  The rule of law and desire for orderly and cooperative world operations supports the other.  Time will tell, I think, which one wins out.