Category Archives: Film

And now for something completely different. . .


Would you believe a prescient animated documentary from the early 1970s warning us about the dangers of global warning, environmental pollution, overpopulation, and so many of the other worries dominating our thinking a half-century later?

Even better, it’s done in classic psychedelic style, drawn by artists from both sides of the Iron Curtain, executed at the height of the Cold War, with a narration by a grooovvvy Canadian professor sporting an oversized yang/yin medallion.

Yep, it’s another classic from the National Film Board of Canada.

So turn up the resolution to HD and turn off the animation slider to rid your screen of an annoying logo, then site back, relax, and enjoy:

Man: The Polluter

Program notes:

This feature-length animation is a richly illustrated cartoon film with an environmental message: how much longer can humans foul their own nest ignore the consequences? Made by a joint team of Canadian and Yugoslav animation artists, the film transmits its warning with unflagging humour, imagination, movement and design. In between animated sequences, Dr. Fred H. Knelman, Professor of Science and Human Affairs at Montreal’s Concordia University, comments on the importance of what is shown and on what lies in store if more responsibility is not taken on a global scale to conserve what is left of our vital resources.

Directed by Don Arioli, Zlatko Bourek, Hugh Foulds, Chuck Jones, Wolf Koenig, Boris Kolar, Frank Nissen, Kaj Pindal, Pino Van Lamsweerde, Milan Blazekovic, Nedeljko Dragic, Aleksandar Marks, Vladimir Jutrisa, Dusan Vukotic & Ante Zaninovic – 1973

Headline of the day: The medium is the message


From the Guardian:

No female film directors from two major Hollywood studios through 2018

Paramount’s last film by a woman was 2014’s Selma while 20th Century Fox has not released a female-directed movie since 2010, investigative report found

Coping with the inevitability of climate change


Given that global climate change is already happening, and the reality that political leaders lack the will or ability to implement measures to head off imminent impacts, what then?

That’s the subject of How To Let Go of the World -and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, the new documentary from Josh Fox, direct of the award-winning 2010 documentary Gasland.

Here’s how the reviewer for the New York Times sums up the film:

The film’s title will use up many of the allotted words for this review, so it’s best to be terse when critiquing “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change.” Hence, a one-word assessment of this documentary: Tough. As in, tough to watch. Tough to consider. Tough to ignore.

But beneath the despair Fox conveys a certain optimism in this discussion with Chris Hedges for the latest installment of Days of Revolt, Hedges’ weekly series for teleSUR English.

The optimism lies not in any conviction Fox has that quick, massive response may avert the worst impacts — he has none. Rather, his optimism stems from the ability of the human spirit to craft emotional responses that foster a spirit of community, responses mediated by song, dance, and the other arts.

From Days of Revolt:

Days of Revolt: Letting Go of the World

From the transcript:

HEDGES: I just want to interrupt–you in the film point out that it’s not like we stop at 2 degrees. That becomes essentially, once we hit 2 degrees, it just begins to accelerate.

FOX: The problem is we’ve already warmed the Earth by about a degree Celsius over pre-industrial times. We have enough heat and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and methane in the atmosphere now to bring us to definitely 1.5 degrees and perhaps beyond. Some of the projections for this year even bring us to 1.3 degrees, and we’re talking Celsius. Doesn’t sound like so much. But if you think about your freezer at home, if you take it from 32 degrees Fahrenheit to 34 degrees Fahrenheit, everything starts to melt and everything starts to spoil, which is what’s happening on the planet Earth right now. Everything that?s supposed to stay frozen is melting and that has created feedback loops and all the things we know will continue to accelerate.

HEDGES: Explain feedback loops.

FOX: So at the top of the Earth and at the bottom of the Earth, there are these poles which have white snow and ice, and white reflects heat and light and black absorbs it, right? So that heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space, because it’s reflecting off of the poles. As the poles shrink as we melt them, then all of a sudden there’s even less reflectivity. So that’s one feedback loop. Another feedback loop is that as we melt the permafrost, there’s all sort of methane trapped inside the permafrost that creates even greater greenhouse gas emissions. These things start to accelerate and spiral.

HEDGES: You also talk about the animal agriculture industry, which many people avoid, but is a major contributor to climate change.

FOX: Of course, there’s so many contributors. Not just oil and gas and coal but yes, animal agriculture and deforestation is another major cause because trees basically bring carbon into them and exhale oxygen which we need to survive. So the more we cut down the forest, you get less oxygen and you get more carbon dioxide. What was most startling to me is the sea level rise projections. When you 5-9 meters of sea level rise, that’s basically say goodbye to Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C., Baltimore.

HEDGES: You show in the film what it will look like. What these cities will look like when huge sections of these cities are gone.

FOX: In New York it’s always interesting because whenever we show that map to people in New York, you see the Lower Eastside get eaten, you see Williamsburg, Red Hook and The Rockaways. And people always go, ‘Well, I live over here in Park Slope. I’m on a hill.’ I’m like ‘Okay that’s cool. Yeah you’re right, you know. The Brooklyn Bridge won’t be under water but the onramp will be.’ Now you won’t be able to take the subway. It’s so funny how we think these things aren’t going to happen to us and yet, that is extraordinarily startling.

So what does this mean, this 2 degrees? Basically what it means is if we’re already for all intents and purposes are at 1.5 or beyond, there is no scenario in which New York, Baltimore or D.C., Miami, New Orleans stays above water if we continue to develop and drill for more fossil fuels. And just today, the oil and gas industry had a huge auction in the SuperDome in New Orleans to ten more years of oil and gas drilling offshore. We’re talking about frack gas expanding. We have proposals right now for 300 frack gas power plants throughout the United States and people are battling them every single place we go. They’re battling the pipelines, they’re battling the power plants. Hillary Clinton speaks of natural gas as a bridge fuel. So does Barack Obama, by the way. What that bridge means is 30-40 more years of dependence on fossil fuel, the worst fossil fuel that there is for climate change. That’s not responsible action, that’s not what is says in the Paris Accords. You have an incredible contradiction right now among this administration that saying, ‘We wanna take on climate change. We wanna keep climate change well below 2 degrees,’ is what they said in Paris. And yet you have FERC permitting all these pipelines.

And now for something completely different. . .


A delightful subversive little animation from Crave, the directors and vfx artists collective of Roman Kaelin, Falko Paeper and Florian Wittmann:

Wrapped

Program notes:

“Wrapped” is a graduation short film from Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, created at the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction. After running at over 100 festivals world wide and winning numerous awards the film is finally online.

“Wrapped” delves into the clash between civilization and nature.

  • LA Shorts Fest / Best Experimental / 2014 / USA
  • Siggraph CAF / Best Student Project) / 2014 / Canada
  • Animago Award / Best Young Production / 2014 / Germany
  • ISFVF Peking Film Academy / Bronze Award / 2014 / China
  • Festival of Beijing / Outstanding Technical Achievement / 2014 / China
  • The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival / First Place, College Competition / Animation / 2014 / USA
  • Cinemaiubit International Student Film Festival Bucharest / Best Experimental Film / 2014 / Romania
  • VES Awards / Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project / 2015 / USA
  • Next Generation Short Tiger / 2015 / Germany
  • ArtFutura / 3D ArtFutura Show Award / 2014 / Brazil
  • XVIII Guanajuato International Film Festival / Mention Short Animation / 2015 / Mexico

Scientists get their shit together on Hannibal


So who was Hannibal, and what did he look like?

There was an image that folks conjured up before it was replaced by this one, thanks to a certain 1991 film:

BLOG Hannibalism Hopkins

That other Hannibal, Hannibal Barca,  conjured up images like this, from a 1959 film starring B movie Victor Mature:

BLOG Hannibalism 4

What did the real Hannibal look like? Your guess is as good as ours, though he probably resembled today’s Palestinians, since his North African city state, Carthage, was founded by settlers of ancient Phoenicia [called Palaistinê by the Greek historian Herodotus], with its capital of Tyre on the Lebanese coast.

The problem vexing Carthage was the rising city state of Rome, and both were heavily armed and battling for economic hegemony over the Mediterranean.

It came down to war, or rather two wars, and Hannibal led Carthaginian forces in the final conflict, the Second Punic War, 218-201 B.C.E.

Landing an army in Carthaginian-ruled Southern Spain, he marched his army, equipped with elephants trained for battle, over mountain passes in the Pyrenees and the Alps, destroying three Roman armies in Italy, with one battle, Cannae, costing the Romans their greatest-ever losses of as many as 78,000 killed and 10,000, the virtually complete elimination of the Roman army.

A change in leadership resulted in new Roman tactics, though Hannibal was able to hold much of Italy for more than a decade.

At one point he marched his army to Rome itself, inspiring a cry that was used to frighten children for years afterward, Hannibal ad portas!, Hannibal’s at the gates.

Hannibal, finding in Rome’s wall an immovable and unconquerable obstacle, contented himself with ruling most of the south half of the Italian peninsula.

When the Punic wars began Rome lacked a battle fleet capable to standing up to Carthage, but using technology from captured Carthaginian ships, the Romans, ruthless and pragmatic, soon caught up and eventually were able to defeat the Carthaginians at sea and launched invasions of Spain, and then North Africa itself, forcing the Carthaginians into a punitive peace. Hannibal was forced into exile, and later killed himself after he was betrayed to the Romans.

Carthage itself was destroyed in the Third Punic War [149 BC to 146 B.C.E.], unprovoked by them and launched by the Romans as and act of final betrayal and conquest.

Out of Hannibal’s remarkable life, one feat has captured the imaginations of historians and artists ever since, his march of an army, including those remarkable elephants, over a pass in the snow-bound Alps.

Hannibal's celebrated feat in crossing the Alps with war elephants passed into European legend: detail of a fresco by Jacopo Ripanda, ca. 1510, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Via Wikipedia.

Hannibal’s celebrated feat in crossing the Alps with war elephants passed into European legend: detail of a fresco by Jacopo Ripanda, ca. 1510, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Via Wikipedia.

But just where the Carthaginians made their crossing has been a matter of contention among archaeologists and other scholars.

But no longer, according to a team of scientists.

And they found their solution thanks to microbes left in horse droppings from the mounts of Carthaginian cavalry.

From Queen’s University Belfast:

Microbiologists based in the Institute for Global Food Security and School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast have recently released results that may have answered one of ancient history’s greatest enigmas:  Where did Hannibal cross the Alps?

Hannibal was the Commander-in-Chief of the Carthaginian army during the Second Punic War with Rome (218 –201 BC). He famously led his troops (thirty thousand men, just thirty seven elephants and over fifteen thousand horses and mules) across the Alps to invade Italia – bringing the Roman army to its knees.  While the great general was ultimately defeated at Zama in 202 BC, this campaign is rightly regarded today as one of the finest military endeavours of antiquity.  We can say, in retrospect, that these events ultimately shaped the future Roman Republic, eventually with Caesar morphing into the Empire, and therefore into European civilisation as we know it.

For over two thousand years, historians, statesmen and academics have argued about the route Hannibal took across the Alps. Until now, no solid archaeological evidence has been forthcoming. However, this week – publishing on-line in the Journal Archaeometry – Queen’s University’s microbiologist Dr Chris Allen and his international team of colleagues, led by Professor Bill Mahaney (York University, Toronto), have finally provided solid evidence for the most likely transit route that took Hannibal’s forces across the Alps via  the Col de Traversette pass (~3000 m).  This crossing point was first proposed over a half century ago by the biologist and polymath Sir Gavin de Beer, but has not previously been widely accepted by the academic community.

Using a combination of microbial metagenome analysis, environmental chemistry, geomorphic and pedological investigation, pollen analyses and various other geophysical techniques, the researchers have shown that a ‘mass animal deposition’ event occurred near the Col de Traversette – that can be directly dated to approximately 2168 cal yr BP, i.e. 218 BC.

Dr Chris Allen, from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “The deposition lies within a churned-up mass from a 1-metre thick alluvial mire, produced by the constant movement of thousands of animals and humans. Over 70 per cent of the microbes in horse manure are from a group known as the Clostridia, that are very stable in soil – surviving for thousands of years.  We found scientifically significant evidence of these same bugs in a genetic microbial signature precisely dating to the time of the Punic invasion.”

The research project was conducted in collaboration with a leading group of researchers, based also in the Republic of Ireland, Canada, USA, France and Estonia.

The one thing The Dude can’t abide: Plastics


Actor Jeff Bridges may be best known for his role as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, the laid back protagonist of the 1998 neo-noir comedy The Big Lebowski, in which his personal motto was “The Dude abides.”

But there’s one thing the Dude can’t abide, and that’s plastics, the chemical compound around which so much of 21st Century life seems to revolve.

We’ve posted frequently about the health and environmental hazards posed by various plastics, and Bridges sums up our concerns in a brief video from the Plastic Pollution Coalition:

Plastic Pollution Coalition – OPEN YOUR EYES – Overview Narrated by Jeff Bridges

An excerpt of an interview of Bridges by the coalition:

Plastic Pollution Coalition:  What motivates your long-standing support of Plastic Pollution Coalition, including lending your voice to our new video?

Jeff Bridges: My father Lloyd Bridges worked on a TV show called “Sea Hunt.” He impressed upon me as a child the importance of taking care of the ocean, and working together to do our part to reduce human pollution. Also, that we are all interconnected and responsible for the oceans around the world.

PPC: What about your own awareness regarding plastic—specifically, when did it begin, and why?

JB: It began with (PPC) turning me onto what a stupid idea plastic drinking water bottles are.

PPC: What changes have you made to reduce your plastic footprint?

JB: Personally, I do my best to drink my water out of metal containers. I use PCC “Rethink” bottles often. My family and I don’t purchase plastic water bottles at the store. We have a water filtration system to fill up our bottles.

PPC: On tour with Chris Pelonis and out with the Abiders? On set?

JB: When I’m working, on sets or stages, my contracts specify in the rider that no plastic bottles be used. When I’m playing with my band, we all use metal and non-plastic containers for drinking to be ecologically sensitive and show others that this is the way to go.

And in a notable instance synchronicity, the release of Bridges’ video comes at the same time as news about one particular plastic we’ve covered on numerous occasions.

First, some good news from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Del Monte Foods, which has vegetable processing plants in Wisconsin, says it is switching to food cans without liners containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical blamed for health problems.

>snip<

Wisconsin may be known as the Dairy State, but it actually leads the nation in the production of green beans, also called snap beans, processing 46% of the U.S. crop.

For years, BPA has been used as a coating material inside food cans, including vegetables and soups, to keep food stable. It also forms a barrier from the can surface, preventing corrosion and migration of metal into the food.

However, a 2009 Consumers Union study found that canned foods it tested were contaminated with BPA, and that green beans sampled had the highest levels. That study followed an award-winning investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that was among the first to call public attention to the potential dangers of BPA and similar substances.

And the not-so-good news, via the Los Angeles Times:

California plans to delay state-required warnings on metal cans lined with the chemical BPA, arguing too-specific warnings could scare stores and shoppers in poor neighborhoods away from some of the only fruits and vegetables available — canned ones, officials said Thursday.

Instead, the state on May 11 will require stores to post general warnings at checkout counters about the dangers of BPA and note that some canned and bottled products being sold have liners with the toxic chemical.

The decision and rationale of the California Environmental Protection Agency are angering some community and public-health groups.

It’s “ridiculous. It’s paternalistic,” said Martha Dina Arguello, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. “I just can’t imagine that it’s a better idea not to let us know what’s in our food.”

The mysterious marquis & some curious twists


Following up on yesterday’s post of the first of two articles we wrote about a Swedish scam artist who claimed to be the heir and claimant to the title of the Marquis de Lafayette, here’s the second part, published 17 April 1979 in the late, great Santa Monica Evening Outlook.

But first, a hint of what lies head.

Following the text of the second story, at the end of today’s post we’ll bring you two updates, first covering a criminal indictment in which our Sunset Strip aristocrat is charged with playing a key role in conning a church and two famous Hollywood actors in a classic “front fee” con.

Oh, and the indictment was brought by a federal prosecutor who subsequently became one of the nation’s best-known authors of legal thrillers [Hint: his initials are S.T.].

And second, the allegation that the very same “aristocrat” was the central figure to pull a scam on. . .Nigerians, in one of the most unintentionally delightful reverse plot twists we’ve seen yet.

And now on with the second part of our report for the Evening Outlook:

Marquis, Thai consul differ on loan action

Editor’s note: This is the second of two articles on an “offshore bank” run by a Sunset Strip aristocrat.

The Marquis Erik de Lafayette says his “offshore bank” nearly closed a deal to loan $750 million [$2.86 billion in 2016 dollars] to the government of Thailand.

The Thai government’s official representative in Los Angeles denies any loan was ever negotiated and contends the man with whom a Lafayette associate negotiated is now a fugitive from Thai justice.

According to Rodprom Patheung, Thai consul in Los Angeles, Lafayette and associate H.D. Anderson had no authority to deal with the Thai government, nor did Pasarn Wanaprabhal — the man now sought by Thai law enforcement agencies.

Mrs. Rodprom said she first became aware of Lafayette last October when her government directed her to inform Lafayette that he was mistaken in believing he was negotiating a loan, and that a letter naming Prasarn as the government’s agent in the loan was a “false paper.”

The Thai consul said Lafayette turned over a copy of the Hong Kong letter and other correspondence with Prasarn after she went to his office and formally requested return of the document. Lafayette apparently still has the originals of the documents, she said. Lafayette said Anderson, who lives in San Francisco and Reno, has the originals.

Lafayette showed a copy of the Prasarn letter to the Evening Outlook. That document bears the seal of the Royal Thai government and the signature of Poonpol Thevit, acting consul general at the time the document was prepared Feb. 2, 1977.

The Poompol letter names Prasarn as official representative of the Thai government to “secure Cash Loan from International Financial Institutions or ant Organizations from Democratic Countries for an amount not exceeding U.S. Dollars two billion. . .”[$7.61 billion in 2016 dollars].

The document also bears a certification from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs attesting to the authenticity of the diplomat’s signature.

Lafayette also displayed two mandates from Prasarn, one dated Jan. 30 1978 authorizing Lafayette and his bank to negotiate a $676 million loan. The second was dated April 26, 1978, in the amount of $750 million.

Lafayette acknowledges giving the copies of the documents to Mrs. Rodprom. He said the consular official became involved “only because there was someone in Thailand who had made some misrepresentation.”

Lafayette said he contacted the Thai government first, which Mrs. Rodprom confirmed. “He sent a Telex to the prime minister.”

However, Mrs. Rodprom said that after Lafayette sent the Telex, she was instructed by her government to tell Mr. Lafayette that he was not authorized tin any way to arrange for loans, and that in fact no such loans were contemplated.

“That doesn’t mean he [Lafayette] was doing anything wrong,” she said, explaining that she had received no evidence of improper activities on Lafayette’s part. “But that paper was not authorized by our government.”

Lafayette insists that he and his partner Anderson are dealing with Thai officials “at the highest levels” and that “consuls aren’t always told about these things.”

Mrs. Rodprom said that is not the case, according to communications she received from the prime minister’s office.

Anderson, a management consultant who divides his time between San Francisco and Reno, was associated with Lafayette on the abortive Thai loan.

Anderson said that the mandates were genuine, and that Prasarn was a diplomatic courier whose arrest was probably ordered after the loan fell through.

Anderson said he went to Thailand to negotiate the loan in May of 1978, and that arrangements were almost complete when heads of different branches of Thai government started fighting with each other over the division of the loan monies.

“The air force generals wanted to buy more aircraft, the admirals wanted more ships, and the gas and oil people wanted to build underwater pipelines and so forth,” Anderson said, adding that he broke off negotiations because he was being drawn into internal politics.

“That’s suicidal, getting involved in the internal politics of any Oriental country,” Anderson said.

Lafayette also has an official letter from Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, introducing him to Thai Prime Minister Kriangsak, and declaring that Lafayette “represents important financial institutions” and that the mayor’s office has a “great interest” in the outcome of Lafayette’s mission to Thailand.

According to a spokesman for Bradley’s office, the mayor receives three to four requests a month for letters of recommendation under his signature and seal.

Normally these requests are investigated, the spokesman said, “but in this case nothing was done.”

According to Bea Laverty, Bradley’s appointments secretary, the mayor’s office would normally have called the Thai consulate for confirmation, but at the time the request was made, the consul was out of the country.

Lafayete hand-delivered his letter of request to the mayor’s office on April 25, and had the mayor’s letter in hand the next day. “He was in a real hurry,” said the mayor’s representative, who added that normally several days elapse between the time a letter is requested and the date of its completion.

“There was no reason to believe there was anything out of the ordinary,” said Mrs. Laverty, who said that Lafayette was on a list supplied by the Thai consul for invitation to a February, 1979, Los Angeles reception for the Thai prime minister.

There’s much, much more after the jump. . . Continue reading