“Wired” offers major article on the grave threat of major solar storms, and proposes a simple technical solution

Model Railroad power station, Timonium MD, 2015-10

The mainstream corporate media is slowly paying more attention to the risk our civilization can face from solar storms. This may finally be out of self-interest.

Now, Wired Magazine(Conde Nast), on pp.80-89 of what appears to be the July-August issue for 2022, on p. 80 in print (I get a physical subscription mailed to my UPS business address), Matt Ribel offers a detailed booklet article with illustrations by Mark Pernice, “Star Destroyer”, as part of a “Back Channel” series. Online, the title is “Here Comes the Sun—to End Civilization”, link (subscription paywall) above. (An odd quote from the libretto of Schoenberg’s “Gurrelieder”, at the end, reviewed here April 13, 2022 ).  Ironically, the title of the magazine reflects why huge solar storm incident could be so destructive to our modern way of life, when the Carrington Event on Sept. 1, 1859 was not so (indeed, the War Between the States to come would be, for half the country).  There was another storm almost as large in 1921, and a more moderate storm in Quebec in 1989.  It sounds plausible that latitudes closer to poles may be even more vulnerable.

Paul Beckwith and societal collapse, July 2022

The article starts out by the author’s pretending to be a photon “in a crowded nightclub”, although dirty dancing might not find much to strip away.  At 27 million degrees there is no COVID or monkeypox.  But pretty soon he is back into the discussion of the problem.  A large enough coronal mass ejection, with the Earth in the “right” place, and hitting when the Earth’s magnetic field happens to be polarized in the opposite direction (call it “heterosexual”) will cause enormous direct currents on transformers in our power grids, particularly in parts of the country where the rocks are more conductive (like the Northeast).  And transformers are not very easy to replace.

We had a narrow miss with a large CME that blew off in the Earth’s path about one week early in July 2012.

I had written about this topic on July 8, one of Bret Weinstein’s podcasts,  with a comment Aug. 3 adding a particularly graphic video showing how the western world would completely collapse over about three days.  The collapse would start in space, then gradually shut down Internet and cellular and other communications.  After power failed, many basic functions, like drinking water would fail.  Cooling of nuclear power plant ponds could fail.  There is some debate as to whether magnetic storage of data would be damaged (as it would from certain EMP attacks, mainly level 1), but a video by Anton Petrov about  a years ago warned that it would.

Anton Petrov and solar sunspot cycles

The article discusses some of the worst-case scenarios mapped out by John G. Kappenman (who spent a lot of time at Minnesota Power), and a DHS study called JASON. 

Kappenman and others have said that transformers could be effectively protected by certain kinds of capacitors.  It would cost about $500 million a year for about a decade, or about $2 per American a year. That reminds me of reducing the downstream liability (literally) risk for a water leak in a high-rise building by replacing a shower head or cartridge. 

The article discusses the apparent insufficiency of NERC standards and the general lack of progress in American utilities to come closer to meeting to the recommendations regarding capacitors.

Major power lines near Woodbridge VA 2019-6

The experience of the Texas grid (which is separate from the rest of the U.S.) in February 2021 is shocking, and it isn’t clear why it was so close to total collapse.  The performance in California with respect to wildfires starting is not good either.

Physics Girl has a recent video on the topic from April 2022, and calls a coronal mass ejection “Sun vomit”.

She mentions our likely future dependence on electric vehicles and charging stations for climate change.

Physics Girl on solar storms

Years ago, I visited the North Anna nuclear generating station in Virginia, SW of Fredericksburg, not too far from the Twin Oaks Intentional Community.

Every 11 years we have about a 10% risk of a destructive solar storm, a risk which adds up over a century (risk higher at the height of the cycle, to be reached next in 2025).  Do the math. (It’s a good test problem.)

An article I recovered off my old blogging platforms links to video links of talks by Sam Feinburg (2017) and Taylor Wilson (maybe 2015).

I’d say, the solar storm problem may well be even more urgent than climate change, and it certainly matters a lot more than pronouns and bathroom bills (on “The Left” and “The Right”, both).

The author ends the article by asking the utility industry to add the capacitors. “Soon, please”.  I concur.

(Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2022 at 6:30 PN EDT by John W Boushka)

YouTube Content-id seems to leave music content vulnerable to scam “heist” claims; police use “background music” issue to discourage civilian filming of them

I take pictures of police action in Arlington VA from a safe distance; no music

There are troubling stories of scams attacking YouTube’s ContentID system, where parties (“rights management companies”) claim to own music they did not create and scam payments from YouTube creators. Matt Binder has a story (Aug. 14) in Mashable, claiming “This $23 million YouTube music royalties heist is a huge reminder that online copyright is deeply flawed”.  The word “heist” suggests a “smash and grab” job right out of “Oceans 11”.  Self-published music might be more vulnerable to fraudulent claims.

Hoeg Law (of Virtual Legality) has a Monday morning jam session on the problem (the real discussion starts at the 24 minute mark).

Hoeg Law discusses music copyright “heist” through content-id

More interesting is a story July. 1 by Morgan Sung, “Cops are playing music during filmed encounters to game YouTube’s copyright striking”

This gets back to the idea, yes, you have the right to film the police.  So police sometimes play presumably copyrighted music on a device so it will be in the background.  A content creator could go to the effort of editing out the music, but then the sound (and police and subject speech in an incident) would be lost.  According to the article, it is not necessarily clear that incidental background music might be allowed under Fair Use (and the CASE Act CCB could get a say at a case like this).  But YouTube is likely to mark it and sometimes may log copyright strikes (although what I have read about incidental music in four outdoor instances of mu own say, no, there is no strike, just loss of revenue to the rights holder who filed;  it would sound conceivable a troll could try to test the system). Moreover, a troll (non-owner) can try to file DMCA claims against such content, and these might result in (false) copyright strikes.

(Aug. 16): Leonard French reports an update on the Content-id issue (Schneider v. YouTube).

(Posted: Monday, Aug. 15, 2022 at 10 PM EDT).

“United Shades of America”: W Kamau Bell looks at US history and “stealing” of indigenous lands (not much yet on reparations); Tim Pool on political engagement for moderates and libertarians

WinStar casino and resort, Oklahoma, near I-35 and Red River on Texas border S of OKC and Ardmore

Sunday night, Aug. 14, W. Kamau Bell and “United Shades of America” aired an episode titled “What Is the Land Back Movement?”, CNN press notice.

The one hour episode looked particularly at Sioux held lands in western South Dakota, and other nearby states, especially the Black Hills. The episode started at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which I have visited twice, in 1974 and 1998.  Some of the episode showed some customs, such as one involving severed buffalo heads.

W Kamau Bell on indigenous people in film

Much of the episode concerned a treaty around 1868 which promised the return of captured indigenous lands.  Litigation ended with a scolding by the Supreme Court in 1980 but with a payout from the US Treasury of “only” $100 million instead of several billion.

In the meantime, the welfare of indigenous peoples has become bureaucratic, and legally obscure to most people (what does tribal autonomy really mean?)   Casinos appeared, which benefitted wealthier indigenous persons.  When I lived in Minneapolis 1997-2003, I often visited Mystic Lake Casino on Highway 160 SW of Minneapolis.  The Libertarian Party of Minnesota often had events there. In one instance in 2002, there was an incident with a party candidate bringing a concealed weapon onto the premises.

As with the well known issues of slavery, one could debate the idea of other reparations.  There is always the possibility that at some point, individual private citizens could be held legally liable, if there had been stolen lands of slave holdings in the ancestral chains above them.  But because most of these situations occur in “red states” and because inheritance and trust law is largely controlled by states, this sounds politically unlikely.

It is also important to note that indigenous peoples on reservations in western states were hit very hard by COVID, partly because of poorer health (especially Type II diabetes because of western diets and possibly weaker immunity because of genetics or lack of prior exposure to coronaviruses).

I wanted to share a Timcast (Tim Pool) video from Aug. 11. 2022, where Tim discusses the ramifications of a situation where a customer of a YWCA in Washington State was banned for complaining about a transgender employee’s bathroom use.  Tim says “the penalty for not engaging in politics is to be ruled by your inferiors”. 

Seriously, many older people (myself included) do disagree strongly with the more extreme positions on both far Left and far Right.  There is a tendency for the more moderate majority to leave actual politicking and fund raising for candidates to persons more polarized on the extremes, which reinforces cyclical and self-augmenting tribalism.  In fact, I write a lot of commentary about the possible significance of many political developments, while refusing to join one side or the other.  I discussed this dilemma here on Aug. 3.  Bur one has to be in a situation of some perhaps unearned privilege to speak out without climbing into someone’s lifeboat and being willing to sink with it (as if recused from the Titanic).  This could tend to work against speech set up the way mine has been over the long run.

Tim Pool talks about the need for “moderates” to be willing to participate more actively in politics

It’s important to realize, in the context of Pool’s video, that this refers to total political participation, not just voting. It means activities like helping others to get to polls, being willing to raise money in your name for “other people’s causes” that you may not personally be in sync with, because voting blocks cross manly lines when it comes to sensitive specific issues (for example, “social and emotional learning” for children vs. age-inappropriate gender-related material). It means not feeling “ashamed” personally of people you pinch hit for, even if you have thought of them as competitive “losers”. It can mean “getting over yourself” indeed.

(Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2022 at 11:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“The Phenomenon”: 2020 documentary about the evidence that UFO’s are real and alien

Brown Mountain, NC, site of UFO lights, 2016-7 picture

The Phenomenon”, late 2000, is a 100-minute documentary of the history of official investigations of UFO encounters.  It is directed by James Fox (and Tracy Torme), from Farah Films and 1091 Films. (There is a similar 2017 film “Unacknowledged”, to be watched later.) It can be viewed on Plex-tv (normally if you have other accounts like Amazon; there were 4 2-min ad interruptions).

“The Phenomenon” trailer

The film chronicles most of the major UFO encounters that have happened in the US (and some worldwide) since the late 1940s, with interviews of many military offices, congresspersons, and observers.

It starts with an account of a 1952 encounter by pilot William Coleman, who was making a Naval flight from Miami to Mississippi, and saw a large metallic disk flying close to the coastal lowlands below him. 

It soon goes back to cover Roswell in July 1947, with the account of Jesse Marcel, who would be “silenced”.   It also covers the April 1964 encounter near Socorro, NM (and White Sands) by police officer Lenny Zamora, who says he saw small humans around the craft.

The film proceeds to cover more controversial incidents.  In 1982, an encounter over Ukraine reportedly might have caused the launch of a nuclear missile (this was nine years before the breakup of the USSR, now the subject of war).  A physicist at Stanford University reportedly analyzed some of the construction material recovered from crashed saucers and reports it contains a much higher percentage of certain metal isotopes than any terrestrial aircraft.

There is a followup article in the New York Times Insider (paywall) by Lisa Kean and Ralph Blumenthal, “Do We Believe in U.F.O.s? That’s the Wrong Question” (2021).

The climax of the film comes with the presentation pf a “close encounter of the third kind” at the Ariel School at Ruwa, Zimbabwe in September 1994.  Apparently many children saw the beings, who were human in shape but smaller, had very large black eyes (were the compound eyes?).  The children (who included white children apparently from the UK) made drawings of the craft, the persons from the craft, and odd structures that looked like fungal fruiting bodies.   (The film climax in Zimbabwe provides a coincidence as I reviewed an important documentary from there Aug. 9.)

Between 1975 and 1978, while I lived in Manhattan, I made several airline-car-rental trips to Tonopah, AZ (40 miles west of Phoenix on I-10) where Dan Fry ran his organization “Understanding” and had April and October conventions.  The largest convention occurred in 1978 and was about “Man in space”, following the 1976 craft landing on Mars.  In May 1976 (as best I recall) I had an Understanding unit meeting in my apartment in the Cast Iron Building in NYC and attracted about 20 people (in pre-Internet days) to seat in my oddly shaped trapezoidal apartment (which Cash Jordan would have loved on YT).

I had made a vacation trip to the area near the Mogollon Rim in December 1975 a month after Travis Walton’s supposed capture and return (1993 movie, “Fire in the Sky”).  I did see one very bright object in the night sky driving south of the rim back to Phoenix.

“Fire in the Sky” trailer 1993

I also recall spotting an odd object over an athletic field at the University of Kansas in Lawrence in the Spring of 1967 when I was a graduate student there, and it got into the local paper.

Given the laws of physics as we know it, one wonders how beings get here in the flesh in reasonable time. Wormholes in space-time? Maybe meta-universes? (“The Man from Taured”, Aug. 2.) One time in Sept 2012, a few high school-college age people I knew from a local church were walking along a major Arlington VA highway when one of them stumbled into the street., as I coincidentally approached. The car died. No accident. The car started again. Did someone have Smallville-like “powers”? I wonder. Feels like living in a simulation. “Smallville” (as well as “Kyle XY” and NBC’s “The Event’) raises the question as to whether an alien “human” (if “they” exist) is guaranteed legal personhood if the person demonstrates human capacities. But orcas can do that.

I’ll also include the trailer for the 1994 Paramount film “Roswell: The UFO Cover Up”, Director: Jeremy Paul Kagan; Starring: Kim Greist, Kyle MacLachlan, Martin Sheen, Xander Berkeley, Dwight Yoakam, which I saw on cable that year at home. (Those were the days, deep in my IT career, leading soon to writing my first book.) I visited Roswell and the UFO Museum (and landing site 25 miles to the north) in April 1998.

“Roswell” 1994 trailer

(Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2022 at 7:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“Bullet Train”: instead of mystery, a loud, black comedy about hit-persons

One Loudoun, Ashburn VA, in front of Alamo Drafthouse

Today I saw the bloated dark comedy film “Bullet Train”, directed by David Leitch, based on the action novel “Maria Beetie” by Kotaro Isaka, screenplay adaptation by Zak Olkewicz (and it wouldn’t have been easy), for Columbia Pictures.  

The protagonist is a mercenary codenamed “Ladybug”, this time openly a he-man, that is, Brad Pitt.  His contact had been Maria Beetle, who is played by Sandra Bullock at the end of the film.

model railroad at Dulles Airport expo, 2019-12

The rest of the setup is indeed complicated by various Japanese and international underworld foes.  Ladybug is supposed to recover a satchel containing ransom money from the bullet train (Shinkhansen) from Tokyo to Kyoto (450 Km), but that is only for starters.

The style of the movie is farcical, populated by cartoonist pop images.  This is in stark contrast to many other films set on trains, such as “Strangers on a Train”, “Murder on the Orient Express”, “Transsiberian”, and especially “Snowpiercer”.  Also throw in “The Cassandra Crossing”. This 127 minute film by comparison is just a wild ride.

At the end comes the spectacle of the train wrecks, destroying a town. The plot in enriched by a snake on the train, whose bite contains a venom causing fatal bleeding. 

It was interesting that the Alamo Draft House (Loudoun, VA) preceded the show (in the largest, Imax auditorium) with an 1950s ad for Lionel model trains.

The end credits offer a compelling and rhythmic concert overture by Dominic Lewis. 

Some have compared Pitt’s role in this film to his role as Jerry Welbach in Gore Verbinski’s “The Mexican” for Dreamworks, 2001, a character who carries the eponymous gun across the border while a girl friend encourages him to give up criminal ways.   

(Posted: Friday, August 12, 2022 at 11 PM EDT)

D’Indy’s Second Symphony; re-viewing Debussy’s Martyre

Sitka (I think) KS, 2022-5

Today, some music.

InvertedNinthChord posts the score of the Symphony #2 in B-flat Major by Vincent d’Indy, Op. 57, 1903, Performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud.

Listeners may be familiar with the earlier “Symphony on a French Mountain Air” for piano and orchestra. (There is an early “Italian Symphony” in A, no Opus, that is now regarded as #1.) But the B-flat symphony, as “French” (rather than Viennese or German) music, seems particularly distinct.  It’s slower sections, as in the opening, hint at Debussy-like impressionism with use of the whole tone scale and parallel harmonies, with a haunting effect especially in the woodwinds (something that could possibly interest the just intonation advocates).  This is also the case in the slow movement.  But it will often work its way up to triumphant post-romanticism, as at the end of the first movement and then in the final coda. Often there are original harmonic twists even to the very end, where the melodic line reaches one whole step above the tonic to settle back with a final thrust, as if to suggest consummation. This is sensuous music.

The finale, moreover, is a complete introduction and fugue,  The basic theme is slow and makes for easier counterpoint, but the lively motives are then superimposed. 

Some years ago I had posted a discussion of Debussy’s “The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian” (Le Martyre de saint Sebastien), a mystery play (essentially oratorio with some spoken passages) in five movements, running about 70 minutes, chronicling the life of a 3rd century martyr who escaped death once and supposedly could protect people from plague, an ironic idea now. I think I have the Bernstein (probably Sony) CD.  The entire work is much more effective than the orchestral suite extracted from it.  The impressionism is balanced with the ability to build to impressive climaxes, especially at the very end.

(Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2022 at 3 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

Matthew Cappucci’s “Looking Up”, the life of a young adult (Harvard-MIT) weather nerd

Storm west of I-35 n of OKC on May 23, 2022, torrential rains from warm front approach

The most natural way for me to introduce Matthew Cappucci’s book “Looking Up: The True Adventures of a Storm-Chasing Weather Nerd” may be to recount a recent travel narrative of my own, in just a bit.

Old Town Books, Alexandria VA 2022-8-9

The publication details are: Pegasus Books, ISBN-978-1-63936-201-1, hardcover, 293 pages, 24 pages of color photos   (Amazon SiteStripe link).

Fox5DC interviews Matthew Cappucci

For my own experience first:  From May 19-24, I made an American Airlines trip with car rental, unusually expensive due to COVID circumstances [I needed to revive and use my AA miles or lose them] , from home in northern VA (this time out of Reagan) to DFW, and drove up 287 from Forth Worth, thru Wichita Falls eventually to Amarillo, then through the Oklahoma Panhandle to see Black Mesa, then through NE New Mexico past the volcano stubs, to Trinidad CO, where we had snow flurries Saturday night May 21.  Then I took US 160 back to Kansas, went through Greensburg (which had a terrific tornado in 2007), stayed in Wichita, then headed down I-35 to return to Dallas.  On the way down, I ran in to someone significant at a stop, total coincidence, then witnessed the eastern edge of a storm, drove through torrential rains from a warm front, ate at a Waffle House in Moore, OK (the most exposed town in the nation to high end tornadoes), visited the Arbuckle mountains (there is a zip line which I did not try), then back to Dallas, to the same Comfort inn at Loop 12 and 35E, with a Waffle House next to the property, that I stayed the first night.   Trouble is, Comfort Inns offer their own complete breakfasts for free, which you can’t beat.  (That’s why I usually book them.)   I did get to the Waffle House late when it was open only for takeout, and the items were greasy.  I had to drive to a RaceTrac (like a Wawa) two blocks away to find healthier foods (delicious yogurt/fruit dessert combos).

another interview

Now I love to name specific streets in Dallas, having lived there nine years in the 80s, in areas varying from Cedar Springs to Park Lane (north Dallas) to Lake June (Pleasant Grove).  There is no numeric/alphabetic system for naming streets in Texas Cities, like there is in Salt Lake City, or Washington DC or NYC for that matter.  Cappucci mentions Richardson, known for its school district (it’s post segregation but “de facto” and would prompt discussions of anti-racism) – Plano (where EDS lives) is even fancier.  I worked for credit reporting company Chilton in Oak Lawn, but now (after two mergers) it is Experian, 25 miles north on US 175 in McKinney. Really, I was all over the state the years I lived there and have returned numerous times.  The fact that the politics have gone to shreds is a tragedy.

Gibbous moon over Alexandria VA 2202-8-9

The lifestyle there was good in the 80s with Reagan, but we saw the catastrophe with the power grid there in February 2021.  Even with climate change, the state has its blue northers. I might have moved back in 2017 and gone through this.

Now, during that weekend, Matthew was chasing storms up north, then headed down I-35 to Texas.  For part of the weekend, it seemed like he was always on a tether  about 300 miles long.  While I was driving I-35 in OK and witnessed the eastern edge of a huge storm, he was heading out to Lubbock for Monday night’s tornado outbreak, which materialized (post book publication) from the same storm.  

Condo near Alexandria VA and rainbow and red coloration of building at sunset after severe T-storm July 2022

I also wanted to note the isolation of the US 160 drive back to Kansas, with only a few tiny towns, and no cell service in some parts, on Sunday morning.  If you break down, you’d better be handy with changing tires, etc., which I am not, even with rentals.  I want Matthew to do the US 160 drive on a future trip.

Now, for the book.  Cappucci provides no table of contents or index, and does not even number the chapters!  I counted 29 of them (varying greatly in length).  He was mystified that I thought this was unusual for a book. 

The writing style is detailed as to autobiography.  His career at Harvard (crossover to MIT) was indeed unusual for an undergraduate, as he was allowed to design his own curriculum, and a lot if included storm chasing and then international travel.  He winds up taking the reader to Chile (the observatory, although he misses some of the desert, he gets to see some of the controversial pre-Inca culture), then to Vietnam (still communist but open), where he bought some shirts!, then  Alaska.

Black Mesa, OK; you can see it from the North along CO highway 160, too

In fact, I visited Hawaii (Oahu, Maui, and Big Island) and drove up one volcano on Maui, then Alaska, on a Braniff (extinct) triangle fare in 1980 and got as far as the slopes of McKinley on private plane, but not to Fairbanks (I ran around with another passenger – an attorney I met on the plane — who had rented a car and I would have gone if I had one more day).  I did see a coastal glacier park.   On the way home, I got to fly over Mt. St, Helens, which had erupted three months before. (I also drove there in a rental on another trip in 1990).  (On Big Island, you can drive Mauna Loa only on a 4-wheel drive truck, not a normal rental vehicle.)

Matthew’s travels (not exactly Gulliver’s of Jonathan Swift, there are no Lilliputians in Matthew’s life) settle down near the end of the book as he describes the paradoxes of his job search, and how he wound up writing weather columns for the Washington Post and working for Fox5DC.  He offers many side stories, like his first airplane parachute jump (an instructor is tethered to the customer — several YouTube celebrities I know did this, even for 18th birthday ritual; a bartender whom I know is trying to become an instructor in VA, and Fox News international correspondent Trey Yingst regularly “jumps out of planes”, in Israel. )

A reader could well visit the YouTube channel of recent Harvard graduate John Fish, for comparison to another interesting experience of a Harvard undergraduate (including a “D1 Story” which is important on its own right for college sports and freedom of speech). . 

It’s pretty easy to imagine a film based on the book.  It would be logical, say, for National Geographic Documentaries be interested.   

I will say that Matthew is always non-political (which is good behavior on a station with conservative ties).  In his columns, he does describe how the intensity of some storms (especially torrential rainfalls and floods, v. extreme droughts) relates to human-induced climate change, all the way back to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” (2005).  But at the books-signing party at Old Town Books in Alexandria VA last night, he suggested that there be some “winners” from global warming, mainly civilizations farther from the Equator and at higher altitudes.  Civilization as a whole will eventually adapt.  I would note that some of the most severe heat waves have occurred very distant from the Equator (like the heat wave in British Columbia around the time of the summer solstice in June 2021, or most recently in western Europe and the UK in July 2022;  Russia had a heat wave in August 2010;  Heat waves in Siberia, melting permafrost, could release methane and accelerate climate change).

Indeed, on a general level, many other Internet columnists will disagree, that the world can adjust, without revolutionary technological change on the one hand, or enormous individual lifestyle privations on the other (or both).  Yup, look how protestors (like Xtinction Rebellion, sometimes filmed by Ford Fischer on his News2Share channel)  epoxy-glue themselves to highways and get arrested;  they think it takes that self-sacrifice for future generations (or their own).  In fact, even with the “easiest” outcomes,  many regions of the planet will be severely displaced and migrate; moreover, authoritarian political leaders are likely to return to hyper-nationalism and conquer and obliterate other people’s so as not to have to share the world’s likely dwindling resources with them.  Vladimir Putin’s recent (irredentist) behavior provides a template.  There could be incentives to destroy the infrastructures of competing countries with EMP pulse attacks, short of nuclear war.  So this possibility, along with the fact that our discussion of climate change hasn’t paid enough attention to space weather (the possibility of another Carrington event, which we barely missed in 2012) would get a lot attention in any new book by me (if it were non-fiction).  What I plan, actually, is fiction, but I’m wandering off track.

I spoke earlier about the “parts of a book” and chapter and section numbers, and the like.  My own three DADT books have them galore.  In the third book (2014) I experimented by dividing the book into “non-fiction” and “fiction” (the latter offering two indirectly connected short stories), but in the autobiographical chapters I usually start with very vivid detail about what will turn out to be a significant (maybe life-changing) incident, say leading to a story-circle revolution.  I will tend to venture then into philosophical, legal or moral interpretation.  Here, Cappucci will follow up on vivid travel details with descriptions of the science behind violent storms, or, toward the end, the way the television and weather forecasting job markets behave.   Sometimes, like around p. 169, he gets into why planetary climate is changing.

(Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2022 at 3 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“President”: instructive documentary about a 2018 election in Zimbabwe, maybe foreshadowing our issues in 2020?

BLM demonstrators near White House in June 2020, shortly after George Floyd incident

If you see that a film is given the title “President”, you might think it is about an “average person” running got president in the US or a western country.

“President” trailer

No, Camilla Nielsson’s documentary presents Nelson Chamisa’s candidacy for president in Zimbabwe’s presidential election in 2018.  The country had been through turmoil. A military coup had removed Robert Mugabe in 2017, but seemed to be as corrupt.  Chamisa (then 40, and having recovered from a violent assault a decade earlier that had fractured his skull) did believe he could restores some kind of democracy to the country. 

The whole film (2 hours) aired on PBS POV Monday August 8, starting a half-hour early at 9:30 AM.  The film has had a theatrical release from Madman Gilms and Greenwich Entertainment and looks sharp in full wide screen, 2.35:1. The closing credits were followed by a brief statement by the director.  

A great deal of attention was given to the alleged corruption in the country’s election system, with gaping holes in security that allowed for deliberate mishandling of ballots.  The same sorts of accusations, without basis, were made in the US with Trump’s “stop the steal” meme after the 2020 election, and we know where that led (and the crackdown in social media, especially Youtube, on election misinformation). 

sts rally 201105 at Republican GQ on Capitol Hill

In the film’s middle there is some graphic street violence, and at the end there are enormous hearings on the election.  Ultimate Chamisa’s efforts don’t prevail.

Wikipedia articles present LGBTQ rights in the country as in peril (like Uganda) and as (religious) social values in the country as patriarchal, suppressing women, where men seem to depend on this social conservatism to feel up to carrying out their own marriages.  Chamisa was not an improvement on this issue.

Wikipedia picture of Harare Parliament buildings.

This is a good place to mention the 1987 Universal film “Cry Freedom”, directed by Richard Attenborough, about a journalist Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) who befriends a black anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko (Denzel Washington) and who has to flee South Africa himself to write the book about Biko (this is several years before Mandela).  I remember seeing it at Northpark in Dallas in 1987.

“Cry Freedom” trailer

(Posted: Tuesday, August 9, 2022 at 10 AM EDT)

“Cancelled: Dubai’s Palm Islands”, and “Bee Conscious” (two short docs)

Key West FL, 2017-11

Bright Sun Films presents a 13-minute episode from “Cancelled”, “Dubai’s Palm Islands”, posted July 29, 2022, narrated by Jake. 

Cancelled: Dubai’s Palm Islands, short film

The islands were to be created with sand and laid out either in palmetto isthmuses, or in one area a true archipelago creating an approximate map of the lands on Earth.  It was to look like impressive artwork from space.

Only one palmetto was completed, in 2008, as demand has fallen and much of the rest of the work hs delayed, leaving sand islands and structures in the water.  The lands are reported by NASA to be sinking. Not mentioned is that climate change can cause the waters to rise, although this area does not normally have severe storms.

IMAX in Focus presents “Bee Conscious”, (June 2017), an 8-minute documentary about colony collapse disorder.

The film maintains that western civilization could collapse in five years if honeybees went extinct, and they are threatened by pesticides and, yes, novel viruses.  Personal consumer habits can affect bees. 

Bee Consciousness, short film (has been shown in Imax)

Lars Chittka has a major Perspective in the Washington Post (paywall) July 29, 2022, “The consciousness of bees: Experiments indicate that bees have surprisingly rich inner worlds” (link) .  Does a colony of organisms have its own consciousness?  That is, a hive?  There are colonial organisms called siphonophores  (Portuguese man-o-war) and even slime molds that would test the idea, and they might be common on some extrasolar planets (maybe even Titan).

(Posted: Monday, August 8, 2022 at 10 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

“What Really Happened at Uvalde?” CNN special documentary report with Anderson Cooper

Hill Country near Uvaldem TX, my photo, 1985

Sunday night, Aug. 7, at 8 PM EDT, CNN aired a special report documentary film, ‘What Really Happened in Uvalde?”, press release

The documentary examines the events of May 24, 2021 with the mass shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a town south of San Antonio at the southern end of the Texas Hill Country.  I actually visited the town myself in February 1985, when I was living in Dallas (1979-1988).  I most recently visited south Texas (the border area) at the end of May 2018. 

CNN clip with Uvalde bodycam video

Wikipedia describes the events in detail at this link.  The incident is the third deadliest school shooting in US history.  The perpetrator was 18 year old Salvatore Ramos.  Wikipedia gives an account of his biography (not covered in the film) as someone with many social difficulties and bullied at school.

The film provides actual coverage, with the sound edited out and many details blurred, giving the look of almost of an animated film.

The perpetrator, after violence at home, had taken his grandmother’s truck and crashed it near the school grounds, attracting attention. Nevertheless, he got over the fence and got into the school through a door where apparently an automatic door lock did not work.  He brought AR15 rifles.

Soon he had command of at least two classrooms, 911 had been called, and police were in the school, as shown.  But police did not enter the classroom to confront the shooter for over an hour, during which the fatalities and injuries (documented in the article) occurred, probably immediately.

The film shows governor Abbott of Texas in his first press conference praising police, and then the next day totally embarrassed and tongue-tied as he had to explain how he had been misled an unable to.  The governor himself appears to have a law enforcement jacket on during the interview.

The controversy that has arisen deals with the question why the police did not immediately enter the classroom, rather than wait over an hour.  The police did eventually shoot and kill the perpetrator, but this needed to happen immediately.

Questions parallel to this have occurred at other incidents, particularly Parkland, FL in 2018, where a school guard did not challenge the intruder as necessary (AP story 2019, there are many accounts and there is litigation).   In many incidents it is probably impossible for law enforcement to physically arrive in time to prevent the casualties.

The press has made a lot the duty of law enforcement officers to risk their own lives and permanent maimings to protect the public, most of all children.  Putatively, they sign up for this and take an oath for it.  But does that extend to teachers?  That question would come up in the debate over arming teachers, and whether that would come to be “expected” of all teachers.  I worked as a sub 2004-2007 in Virginia but would not be willing to deal with this myself.

The question also moves to the issue of conscription, especially of males in some countries, and the self-sacrifice demanded of young men especially (as in Ukraine and Russia) over abstract nationalistic (or irredentist) goals. 

A lot has been made of whether raising the minimum age to possess certain weapons would prevent incidents like this.  A lot is made also as to whether citizens should possess military-style weapons at all, as generally in other western countries they cannot (outside of military responsibilities like in Switzerland and Finland).  But then ponder how that leaves a population in a country like Ukraine and what has happened.  Abstractions about gun policy don’t work on their own.

What is relevant about the debate is that there is no one particular intersectionalized “oppressed group” at heightened risk.  True, sometimes it is children and young people.  Sometimes (Buffalo, El Paso) it is racial minorities – it wasn’t this case.  Anyone can fall to gun violence.  And when death is sudden, there is no opportunity to the “life review” as with a peaceful death in old age, now starting to look like what eternal life really means.  In the US, there are just too many guns laying around.  And there is no way to remove them without compromising legitimate rights to individual self-defense.

I want to mention here that filmmaker Sandi Bachom’s film “True Believers at the Insurrection: One Journalist’s Eyewitness Account of the Attack on American Democracy” on Jan. 6, 2021 (poster).  It s now a Flicker’s Rhode Island International Film Festival. I’ll try to find out if there are any showings coming.

This 18-minute video seems like a good extended trailer for the film.

Sandi Bachom video of Jan 6, 2021

(Posted: Sunday, August 7, 2022 at 10:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)