“The Invisible Men”: documentary about grave danger for gay men on the West Bank, ironically partly due to Israel’s policies

Round-Up Saloon in Dallas TX

The Invisible Men”, 66 min, directed by Yaris Mozer, from Journeyman Films, Mozer, and Lev films, with the subtitles “Gay and Palestinian In Israel: Living Under The Radar”, appears on the Real Pride YT channel (April 2022), and it presents a little covered problem.  Gay men are often targets for religious-based persecution, even familial execution (“honor killings”), in some communities in Israel’s Occupied Territories on its West Bank, and cannot legally enter Israel. 

“The Invisible Men” film

Despite a relatively liberal policy on LGBT rights in Israel, the situation on the West Bank, underscored by Islam, is usually very hostile.  And Israel appears, according to the film, to have no policy of asylum for LGBT persons from the West Bank, simply because of its embed into larger security concerns over any Palestinians on the West Bank (as possible “trojans”), aggravated probably by Israeli West Bank settlements, which have been morally controversial for years.

It’s interesting that Israel, with its compulsory military service for both sexes, has accepted open gays in the military since the 1990s, long before the US was able to abandon its “don’t ask don’t tell” policy in 2011.

The film traces the lives of three gay Palestinian men, Louie, Abdu, and Fares.  Most of the attention is given to Louie, 33.  He does odd jobs off the books to survive illegally in Tel Aviv, but has to stay out of sight of police. He spends some time in the Jaffa area.  At one point he goes to a hidden disco party, barely visible to filmmakers.

Louie (and then the others) apply for asylum.  After some setbacks, at the end Louie finally gets asylum in a northern European country (probably Sweden) and starts a new life.

Here is a 2015 video, 5 min, from CNN Business, “Gay 24-year-old: I’ll be deported, then killed”.  Living in Edmonton. Alberta, Canada wanted to deport him because before coming to Canada he had literally been a member of Hamas as part of his family.  According to comments, he was eventually resettled in America.

CNN Business reports on asylum seeker from West Bank in Canada

I looked into the possibility of hosting an (LGBT) asylum seeker(s) (working with DC Center Global) starting in the summer of 2016 when I was still living in an inherited house in Arlington VA.  This possibility remained active until the spring of 2017 (after Trump took office) but it turned out I downsized and sold out in the fall of 2017.  Things have changed since then (the pandemic for starters) but later on I’ll give more details on exactly why I have handled certain things the way I have.

Generally, religious or tribal subcultures with a history of difficulties of survival themselves tend to be more likely to be vitriolic with homophobia, which, however masked by religious dogma, represents a concern that the tribe will not be able to continue reproducing itself. 

Now UkraineTakeShelter, started by two students at Harvard, would match perspective hosts to refugees from Ukraine, and there are some coming to the United States.  It is unlikely that a smaller one-bedroom condo would be suitable in most cases.  With refugees (as opposed to asylum seekers) social service organizations and congregations usually try to raise money to place families in new apartment complexes. (As of May 26 the site reports an “issue with Google”, not sure what that is about.)

(Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 12 noon EDT by John W. Boushka)

Catch up with news: Monkeypox, Covid19/21 improving public immunity, social impasse on schools and gender/sexuality/identity issues

Capulin extinct volcano, NE New Mexico 2022-5-21

OK, coming back home from an unusual vacation in remote areas in the SW, I’ve got some news to cover or opine on.

The news about monkeypox was promulgating the day I arrived in Dallas and then set out into the countryside.  It wasn’t as easy to keep up as usual.

I think the best presentation so far is NYC’s lung doctor Mike Hansen, so well known for his videos of Covid, May 24, 2022.  He says he has not seen interpersonal spread like this before.

Dr. Mike Hansen on monkeypox

Medcram (Roger Seheult) has a video May 23.

Medcram on Monkeypox

NBCNews offers an AP story discussing two gay male fetish raves in Spain and in Belgium.  There is even a quarantine of some people in Belgium.  Dylan Housman had penned a provocative story for Daily Caller May 20.

UK Pink News has some explainers (by Patrick Kelleher), referring to information from Grindr.

When I was hearing the story break, my first reaction was to connect the dots with the recent scuffle in the Supreme Court, and the leak of Alito’s opinion (focused on abortion) undermining the idea of (not) finding modern “fundamental rights” to bodily privacy in the US Constitution.  The reports on monkeypox at gay events might underline the notion, advanced in the 1980s, that the “chain letter” aspect of gay male sex could eventually prove dangerous to society as a whole (through increasing immunosuppression allowing other diseases to incubate – and that idea has been mentioned with Covid) or the speculative idea that the disease could mutate to become more contagious.  The religious right tried (unsuccessfully) to pass a draconian extension of the Texas sodomy law back in 1983 (before the HIV virus was identified), when I was living in Dallas and could follow the news from my apartment in Harvey’s Racquet (at the time).  Possibly, one could argue, states could start passing sodomy laws again and then force a new challenge to Lawrence v. Texas (2003) in SCOTUS (although Alito warns near the end of the leaked draft, don’t count on it). 

The raves would have presented the opportunity for skin-skin contact, not necessarily sexual or genital.  The same sort of thing could have well happened in heterosexual parties.  So I would now think that the incidence in gay men may be circumstantial, and may not hold up over time.  Similar observations (in general) might have applied to Zika virus (but that is an arbovirus) a few years ago, where the most noticeable tragic result applied to serious birth defects in children from mothers who acquired it in pregnancy.

The issue of the smallpox vaccine is significant. CDC has an information page last updated in 2019.  I would check back here as it will probably be reupdated soon.  Routine vaccination for smallpox stopped in 1972.  I have a very small smallpox scar myself.

COVID19 has an epidemiology that is almost opposite from AIDS.  While at first we were hyperscared of surfaces and hand hygiene issues, the biggest problem seems to be aerosols with more prolonged exposure. Practical observations suggest that people living in congregate households are much more vulnerable to serious disease (in any age) than people living alone.  It seemed to go “against family values”.  Omicron, which arrived mysteriously (maybe from one immunocompromised person, or maybe from another animal reverse crossover) is almost another virus COVID21. 

My own hunch is that those fully vaccinated and boosted who then get a “mild” infection with Omicron probably do have pretty good practical immunity and can be out in public without much risk, as long as they have intact immune systems.  Covid is turning into an “opportunistic infection”.  I tend to agree with Chris Martenson and others that properly run trials of Ivermectin have not really been done, and this could still turn out to become a reliable treatment if allowed to. 

Bloomberg sums it up in a May 15 article by Naomi Kresge “How Omicron Infection Turbo-Charges Vaccinated People’s Immunity”,  link (paywall).  This News/Medical Sciences paper seems significant.

Do we know for sure about how people with fleeting breakthrough Omicron will fare over time?  Not with absolute certainty.  Maybe long Covid will still be a problem with those with a tendency toward other autoimmune disease.  Can repeated mild infections cause immune suppression?  Is there “original antigenic sin?”  We are not completely sure yet. But we are not seeing people with past Covid develop the secondary opportunistic infections (like PCP) that happened three decades ago with AIDS.

As a whole, Covid has refocuses some moral thinking, about the idea of “carrying” a virus that will not seriously hurt the infected person but which can jeopardize others more vulnerable (the original “Typhoid Mary” problem — she got locked up for years because of her danger to “contaminate” others, almost the thinking we see in China today with its Zero Covid).  Here’s a related perspective by Matthew Crawford on a UK “conservative” site called the UnHerd: “Covid was libearlism’s endgame”.

“Typhoid Mary: Most Harmless and Yet the Most Dangerous Woman in America”

I wanted to take a “non position” on the furor of school boards and “don’t say gay” bills. 

First, I tend to look at both sexual orientation and gender dysphoria as a set of inclinations, desires, and sometimes “chosen” behaviors.  I don’t think of myself or as others in my cohort as a group or pseudo-enthnicity. That is true even when these “traits” may have genetic or epigenetic explanations in many people.  Gender dysphoria in small children does happen but is quite rare (like one in several hundred) and I can’t believe it is appropriate to belong in lower grade school curricula, especially in conjunction with “indoctrination” as part of Social and Emotional Learning. But I also don’t think states should pass laws against it.  School boards and active parents should work this out.  Parents need to run for school boards.  

In my own childhood, I developed dyspraxia, which is thought (in boys) to be associated with Asperger’s or “mild” autism.  I was “teased” for my inability to compete like a normal male physically.  That came to a head when I was assigned to Special Training Company for a few weeks during Army Basic in the spring of 1968 at Fort Jackson SC.  Possibly measles in 1950 before my seventh birthday contributed to this.  But I don’t think this makes me into a separate intersectional group of “people”.

I do like the idea of using new singular pronouns for persons or animals when non-binary or, more commonly, gender is unknown (that is, instead of “he or she”).  I think the Left does not like singular pronouns for non-binary persons because the singularity reinforces individual “failure” to conform.  Nevertheless, there is no reason why individual non-binary persons will not be “good at things” (like changing their own tires or oil, for example) in prepper-like situations.

Indeed, much of the cultural debate over gender identity (which is overrunning – like rain on top of snow —  the previous historical controversies about sexual orientation [that is, over not having one’s own kids and maybe over public health] has to do with the idea that non-binary persons often don’t satisfy the yearning of others to see sexual attractiveness (of either gender) in a conventional way. 

(Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2022 at 1 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“Scenes from the Glittering World” (film review), and a video on string theory dimensions

SE New Mexico 2012-5

On Monday, May 16, 2022, PBS Independent Lens presented the documentary by Jared Jakins, “Scenes from the Glittering World”, about life in a public school on a Utah Navaho reservation, one of the most remote schools in the US, for three indigenous teenagers: Noah Begay, Llii Neang, and Granite Sloan.  There are two other filmmakers: Roni Jo Draper, and Scott Christopherson. The original film (available for rental on Amazon for $5.99 (Stripes text), original distributor Soro Films) was reduced from 76 minutes to 56 minutes by PBS Independent Lens.  I wish PBS wouldn’t condense and manipulate the opening of movies it shows (link).  The film was shot with a wide aspect ratio.

pbs trailer scenes from a glittering world

There is a white older male teacher who tries to impress on the students that future generations depend on what they do.  Sometimes the kids are absorbed by modern “glittering” gadgetry (like computer games like Fortnite) living in shacks.  There is a moment where the controversy over introducing LGBTQ identities is mentioned.   The communities have faced dire danger from Covid because of the particular lack of immunity in some indigenous tribes as well as diabetes from American diets.

interview from Glittering World

The scenery is often breathtaking.  In one scene, the very distant San Francisco Peaks in Arizona apparently loom in the far distance.  The rocky formations in the scenery look almost like alien cities.

scenes from glittering wolrd

I also wanted to share the summer 2021 video from Engineering Made Easy, “11 Dimensions Explained” (23 minutes). 

11 dimensions and powers

The video hints at the “powers” that a conscious agent living with access to more (string theory) dimensions would have.  I included it because it just might be, at least in some science fiction scenarios, a key to “greater than c” space travel by jumping in and out of other metaverses.  I may need this idea later for my novel “Angel’s Brother” which is undergoing some restructuring because of current events.

(Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2022 at 11 AM by John W Boushka)

Johnny Harris’s video on Assange leads to some tangential questions

Chelsea Manning protest in 2019

I’ve noticed recently that journalists and writers normally refer to fully “transitioned” transgender adults (mostly male to female) with the feminine (she, her, hers) pronouns when describing their lives before transition, as well as referring to them by their new names when referring to pre-transition life history.

US Courthouse, Alexandria VA, 2019/3

They also refer to the person with the new (or current) name when describing the past.

In past blog posts, I have sometimes referred before-transition incidents with the previous names and pronouns.  I now wonder of this would be considered misgendering or deadnaming, even when writing about past events.

This whole question leads me to present a couple other videos and incidents.

Let’s look at Johnny Harris’s video of May 10, 2022, “Why He Matters: The Danger of Ignoring Julian Assange”.  Harris starts out by describing Assange’s “escape” to the embassy of Ecuador in London and hiding out in that confinement for seven years, before he gets into the actual leaks that got him “into trouble”, especially regarding information stolen by Chelsea Manning about the Iraq war.  Well, in fact, one of these was a forty-minute video of an American accidental war crime that I even carried on one of my Blogger blogs since April 2010 (until I closed it down in Jan. 2022).  It is called “Collateral Murder” and cannot now be embedded (age restriction from YT). 

Harris always refers to Manning as Chelsea and doesn’t convey the fact that the soldier then was Bradley Manning, legally male at the time when the leaks from the Iraq war started.  According to Wikipedia, Manning announced she was transgender in 2013, and completed transition surgery, litigated when she was an inmate, in 2018.  Manning had considerable grass roots protester-type support for recognition of her transition as early as 2013, but the gay press did not cover her case very much because of political opposition to “Bush’s war”. 

This leads my discussion to recalling the legal battle over Manning’s imprisonment for refusal to appear to a grand jury later in 2019.  Ford Fischer covered a lot of this for News2Share when other media outlets pretty much ignored it.  The Wikipedia article covers it.  I have a couple videos I took myself of the demonstrations outside the federal courthouse in Alexandria, VA in the good old days of March 2019.  I plan to edit and combine these into more professional videos later this summer, as I plan with some of my other mini-video sets (like on “stop the steal”). 

Video 1

Video 2

I can digress here one more time on Harris’s video, noting one conspicuous blue tattoo on one inner forearm (shows up later in the video).  Why does he disfigure himself? (He never impressed me as someone who would “need” body art.)  I love the orange beanie cap (as if paying homage to Tim Pool, but Harris has is own video style that adds a lot of in-the “visually compelling”-field fact finding to his subject matter, more than Pool usually does in his volume of Timcasts.)   Max Reisinger may well be on the path to developing a Harris-style reporting presence as he finishes his gap year.

Toward the end, Harris notes that “journalists” as such are not a legally recognized category with legal privileges (although there are such things as press passes). Journalism carries with the expectation of objectivity and intellectual honesty, which is both a duty and a privilege. That gets dicey when someone (like me) does journalism for self-expression, but is not willing to bond with others in a supposed marginalized group for organized “activism”. More about that is to come.

I’ll wrap up this one by making note of the Netflix film “Untold: Caitlyn Jenner”, directed by Chrystal Moselle.  This is part of Netflix’s “Untold” streamed film documentary franchise.  It had been reviewed on the “Media Commentary” site that has been sunset.  Again, journalists usually refer the Caitlyn as “she” for the entire life, although sometimes they will say “previously known as”, as with Chelsea.  It’s interesting that she wants to run for governor as a Republican and has some pretty sensible ideas as to how to prevent the GOP’s converting itself into ordered (or actually chaotic) fascism. As I recall, Caitlyn refers to her earlier male life in the third person, as a real person in the past. Time, after all, is a dimension.

trailer for Untold: Caitlyn Jenner

(Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2022 at 1 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“Pray Away” (Netflix film, review); notes from a day trip on SEL and metaphysical rights

Lake Tahoe, CA-NV 2018-9

Pray Away” (2021, an abbreviation of “pray away the gay”), directed by Kristine Stolakis and streamed on Netflix (101 minutes) traces the history of the ex-gay movement through the eyes of its practitioners. At the beginning and end the film warns that “conversion therapy” has been discredited by medicine and is often outlawed.

The film focuses particularly on Exodus International (which started in 1978 and dissolved in 2013), along with groups like Love won Out, Living Hope, and Focus on the Family.  There is particular attention to the career of John Paulk. The early scenes in the film feature 1980s meetings in Reno and at nearby Lake Tahoe, a curious location.

The movements tended to be characterized by aggressive behavior or the ex-gay proponents “ministering” to others about “God’s law” and finding salvation through ‘Him”.  There seem to be a particular attention in certain evangelical communities to religion as the center of life, without much other explanation.  I’ve always thought it was a bit of a paradox that the Savior is presented as an attractive young and athletic white male, when hero-worship or idolization (particularly) is sinful (or violates one of the Commandments ). 

I was familiar in the late 1980s with another group called “Love in Action” which was said to emphasized “giving up the gay lifestyle” while at the time offered services to AIDS patients.

Of course many societies (such as radical Islam) have condemned homosexuality on supposed theological grounds and gone out of their way to persecute it. 

Many societies are heavily tribal and are concerned about their collective survival in future generations. Particularly today (as in Russia), homosexuality would be seen as a threat to a group’s maintaining enough fertility (and it gets into ethno-racism with ideas like replacement theory). 

On the other hand, some indigenous societies have recognized non “reproductive” individuals as a kind of separate priesthood but sometimes do not allow them full personal freedom but expect them to take care of others (such as with eldercare). 

Much of our moral code has to do with prohibiting activities which are harmful.  But some of our code demands participation in activities seen as essential to survival of the group (start with conscription).  This is another side of moral thinking.  

The film did not particularly focus on AIDS and gay men in the 1980s, and the right wing did.  I talked about this a lot in Section 7 of Chapter 3 of my first DADT book.

This would be a good place to present a video “Born This Way: The Science Behind Being Gay” from Real Pride, June 2021, 46 minutes.  (It had been linked on a site now taken down, but now linked here in the non-WP portion of the new site.) The video presents the theory of epigenetics (later born sons) and the idea that the X chromosome could carry a gene that makes women more fertile if they have two copies but that could interfere with heterosexual desire in males, possibly increase fertility for the whole tribe.

I do want to share a couple short videos from a day trip.

In this one I briefly discuss what I have found about SEL, or Social and Emotional Leaning programs getting put in by school systems in lower grades.

SEL Programs in schools

In this one I talk about “metaversal rights” and whey you have to be prepared to “fight”.

Metaphysical human rights and the need to fight sometimes

(Posted: Friday, May 13, 2022 at 3 PM by John W. Boushka)

“When Claude Got Shot”: story of redemption after two pointless crimes in Milwaukee (review)

Amusement park near Charlotte NC, flyover, 2018-9

On Monday, May 9, 2022, some PBS stations aired the Independent Lens film “When Claude Got Shot”, directed by Brad Lichtenstein (PBS link).

Claude Motley is a black business owner in Charlotte, NC who had moved from Milwaukee. When he goes back for a high school reunion, he is carjacked by a 15 year old Nathan, who shoots him in the jaw during the crime.

Surgeons do a remarkable job of repairing his jaw to where it heals and is not that noticeable what had happened, but of the expense falls upon Claude as he gets into medical debt.  However, two days after the original crime, Nathan gets shot by a nurse defending herself and winds up paralyzed for life.

The film tells the stories of Claude and Nathan in parallel, in complete circles and perhaps character arcs. Nathan, black, has been raised relatively well and gone to a good school but seems to have turned to crime because of peer pressure and brain immaturity.  Nathan refused to cooperate well with the Wisconsin criminal justice system and winds up in adult prison in a wheelchair.

Claude resumes like in North Carolina and studies for the bar, which he does not pass.  But he has an opportunity to meet with Nathan in prison for a restorative justice session.  Claude goes through a forgiveness rite, and Nathan says that by the time he had turned eighteen he did not understand why be was so stupid at fifteen.  This is what Dr. Phil talks about as brain growth; many younger teen boys simply can’t see around corners.

{Recommended Milwaukee Picture} Wikpedia

Of course, we can ask how teenagers are getting their hands illegally on weapons all the time, as is happening in all big cities.  We are back to the world of MFOL (David Hogg). 

I have a script called “Williamsburg and Charlotte”.  This film might have been called “Milwaukee and Charlotte”. 

I have visited downtown Milwaukee twice, in 1992 and 2000.  The libertarian group Mythinformed sometimes has sessions in the Pabst Theater there.

The film aired at SXSW.   The production companies include 317 Productions and Black Public Media.

(Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2022 at 2 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

“Mother” (short film review); some notes about trans-affirming care

Selma, AL 2014-5

In my new blogging environment, some posts may cover more than one topic.

Today, I want to share a short film from 2013, posted by TwistedReverie, om Arabic, apparently filmed in Pakistan, titled “Mother”.  There are subtitles but the closing credits are in Arabic script only (not on imdb).  The video quality (as to resolution) could be better.  The story is that a young man leaves his mother at an outdoor place with a note to give to others, and in the end we learn he does not want to have to care for her.  It is certainly a comment on filial piety.

The other topic concerns the mess in red states over, not just the “don’t say gay” laws, but specifically the anti-trans issues. 

Alabama, for example, has passed and a federal court has let stand a very draconian law felonzing the medical treatment of kids under 18 for gender dysphoria (Reuters).  Some states seem to want to stop even “social transisitions” while school boards in blue or even purple states have encouraged it (with pronoun and bathroom rules). 

I’ll cite for discussion a discussion of puberty blockers from an obviously reputable place, the Cleveland Clinic.   There is a discussion of an unusual condition of premature puberty where they are medically appropriate regardless of psychology.  The article says also that they are never given until puberty starts.

I would add that we know that generally normally puberty encourages continuation of brain development.  For some boys, issues like dyslexia or ADD sometimes improve with puberty.

Generally, drug (or possibly surgical) interventions for minors are pretty rare to start with, so states should not be going out of their way to score political points by banning them against medical advice. However some advocates on the radical left do seem to glamorize openness to their use.

Here are a couple more videos to site.

In Dark Horse Podcast Clips, May 6, 2022. Bret and Heather (and the cat and dog) encourage temperance in bringing up these topics with children in school, whatever the laws.

On UK channel Triggernometry, therapist and university graduate student James Esses gets canceled for questioning left-wing dogma recklessly encouraging aggressive gender transition treatment for minors.

It does seem that some of the battle concerns moral perceptions or philosophical beliefs surrounding fidelity to sex observed (or “assigned”) at birth.  Conservatives seem to see full development according to birth sex (laying aside intersex) as morally virtuous, partly because men and women are supposed to share certain gender assigned risks for their society (men go to war to protect women and children  — look at Ukraine now – and women bear risks in childbearing – look at the abortion issue now.  People (myself included) do not feel “attracted” to non-binary people usually, and may want to protect their inner value for the attractions they do feel. Along these lines, Esses notes that the far Left does not want to see transgenderism or non-binary status spoken of as a medical or psychiatric issue or disability; they want it to become a new identity to be proud of. But if it requires medical intervention, as argued by Leonard Sax in “Why Gender Matters” (2006, Harmony), then the Left stumbles into a logical contradiction, just like mathematicians do in proof by contraposition.

(Posted: Monday, May 9, 2022 at 10 AM EDT by John W. Boushka)

The films and TV/video series of filmmaker Andrew Jenks (esp. “Dream/Killer”)

Strong Hall, KU, 2005 (one state W of Mo)

I’m usually not as interested in whole (television) series for important content as films, because a viewer has to commit so much time to one topic.

Nevertheless, I see that Andrew Jenks, who has directed at least three of his own documentary films, including “Dream / Killer” about the wrongful conviction of Ryan Ferguson , has worked as executive producer for the new Amazon series on the issue, “Unlocking the Truth”, with episodes directed by Adam Kassen.

In fact, the series stars Ryan Ferguson and Eva Nagao as journalists investigating other wrongful conviction cases.

I watched the first two episodes yesterday ($2.99 each on Amazon).

Unlocking the Truth, Andrew Jenks

The pilot, “Gates of Hell”, starts with Ryan’s account of his own sudden arrest while driving from college in Kansas City in March 2004. A high school companion had “dreamed” that he and Ryan had committed a murder while drunk in Columbia, MO. The episode shows Ryan being interrogated by police, who have a political motivation to get a conviction even with no physical evidence. The episode then breaking recounts his father’s and family’s efforts to get the conviction overturned.

Ferguson says, this can happen to anybody. I recall that about 15 years ago ABC 20/20 presented another case in Illinois about murder during sleepwalking recalled by a dream.

The episode then moves to another case in Missouri, that of Michael Politte, convicted for murdering his mother when he was 14 in December 1998.

In reviewing a series like this, I probably don’t want to get into “speculation” as to other suspects myself (as no one else has been convicted), but MTV goes into an alternate theory here which is covered in the video.

The second episode “Ain’t No Change in the House of Pain” continues the Politte case and introduces the 1995 beating of Jill Marker in Winston-Salem NC, leaving her in a coma, and severely disabled even today, with defendant Kalvin Michael Smith, as explained on MTV here.

Many of the scenes show Ryan and Eva interviewing other witnesses. It’s odd to see a “television’ series shot in 2.35:1.

It’s great to see Ryan (his fitness site, which should please “Blogtyrant”) become a journalist (like Clark Kent) after ten years in prison, years taken away from him by force.

Ryan’s story has also been covered on NBC Dateline. The “Innocence Project” has produced some important films through CourtTV, such as “The Exonerated“.

Since I discontinued use of Blogger Jan 3. three reviews of Jenks’s films there are no longer available. I’ll summarize quickly.

Dream/Killer” (2015) presents the wrongful conviction of Ryan Ferguson, who was convicted in Missouri of a murder of a sports editor based on the testimony of someone whose “evidence” was based on a dream. That concept has occurred in a 20-20 episode in the past. The Innocence Project gives some details here. Ferguson speaks to the camera in the film, which is said to have given a black eye to careless or opportunistic prosecution. The film is on Netflix now.

(Feb, 4, 2022: I found these additional notes from a review on Blogger, Movie reviews, Jan. 22, 2016, on an account I used to run):

Dream/Killer” (2015), a documentary by Andrew Jenks, takes on the issue of wrongful convictions, specifically of Ryan Ferguson, now 31, who spent ten years in prison for a murder he did not commit after being named by an acquaintance, Charles Erickson, as a co-accomplice in the attack on a Columbia, MO sports reporter Kent Heitholt on Halloween Night, 2001. I’ve covered the case in two other posts, on the TV blog Nov. 18, 2013 (a coverage of an NBC Dateline episode, in connection with the Innocence Project) and the Issues Blog, Nov. 14, 2013.

trailer for Dream/Killer by Andrew Jenks

The case is bizarre because Erickson, who did not remember the incident and had been out drinking (underage) and using drugs, and going to parties, accompanied by Ferguson and others, that night. Apparently the bars and parties were at some distance from where the murder occurred.

Nevertheless, Erickson had some “lucid dreams” and believed he and Ferguson had committed the acts. He contacted police, who, with prosecutors, manipulated Erickson into a confession and plea deal to testify against Ferguson.

Ferguson maintains he was never even at the scene (was 17 at the time) had lived normally until 2003, giving the murder almost no thought until the arrest came out of the blue.

ABC 20-20 has reported on somewhat similar case in Illinois where a conviction was obtained based on a dream.

There was no physical evidence connecting Ferguson with the crime, and the “eyewitness” testimony used for the conviction was flimsy and later retracted, as the film shows. The prosecution made some “Brady violations” and withheld information from the defense.

The film focuses on the persistence of Ryan’s father, Bill, to will his freedom. In time, Bill would hire attorney Kathleen Zellner, who worked pro bono on the case. A first “habeus corpus” appeal did not work, as the system had to protect itself, but in 2013 the Appellate court in Kansas City vacated the conviction. Zellner had to use unusual skill and cunning in handling the fact pattern to prevail. It also took a huge public relations campaign, volunteers, and billboard ads to put political pressure on the system and expose it. Was the win on final appeal just based on the law? Or “solidarity”? It’s disturbing.

The film shows a lot of court footage (I’m surprised recording and public use was allowed), both from the original trial (in smaller aspect) and even police interrogation footage, as well as later appeals footage, with many interviews of both Bill and Zellner as well as one female witness.

There are YouTube videos about efforts to free Charles Erickson, who would also appear to be wrongfully convicted.

The film also shows how Bill and his wife Leslie traveled to northern Europe, Africa, and Australia and used their street smarts to pay their way with odd jobs before coming back to Missouri and having their family. Bill has a close bond with his children and Ryan grew up to be very athletic.

The director, Andrew Jenks, appeared with Ryan on the Meredith Vieira Show on January 21, 2016. Jenks said that this kind of set up could happen to almost anyone (as does Zellner near the end of the film).

The official site for the film is here (Cinedigm). I rented it for $4.99 HD from Amazon and watched it the morning of the Blizzard of 2016, as everything started shutting down. The film was an official selection at Tribeca in 2015.

The idea that a fictitious narrative (as of a dream) can defame someone and even put someone in criminal peril has been considered on my main blog under the “implicit content label”. Self-libel in fiction is possible and can even be legally dangerous.

It’s Not Over” (2014) looks at the lives of three young adults affected by HIV and AIDS. In the US midwest, Paige was born with the infection incurred by her mother. In India, Sarang is a theater director and gay rights activist, demonstrating that modern protease inhibitors control the disease and enable normal life (and may provide clues as for more drugs to create coronavirus early). In South Africa, Lucky teaches in a country with a large percentage of people infected. In Africa, AIDS was much more a heterosexual disease when it appeared in the 1980s.

“It’s Not Over” trailer, Andrew Jenks

Andrew Jenks, Room 335” (2008) is an example of “participatory documentary”.  Jenks lives in a retirement home to experience the social climate of people dealing with infirmity and old age — when he was 19.  I saw this film wile living with my mother, about two years before she passed away in a difficult time.

(Originally written and posted by me at various times from 2014-2019 on now closed sites; reposted here Thursday May 5, 2022 at 2 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

“Try Harder!”: documentary about students at a prestigious San Francisco high school

Market Street San Francisco 2018-9

PBS Independent Lens aired the film “Try Harder!”, directed by Debbie Lum and written by Spencer Nakasako, depicting the lives of the top performing AP senior high school students at Lowell High School in San Francisco, the best public high school in the geographically small city in area.

Many of the students happen to be Asian descent, and some are concerned that quotas at top schools may go against Asian students who demographically have the best academic performance, with white slightly below, and black and Latino often seriously compromised.

The film has many classroom scenes and glimpses of calculus problem sets.

Students do talk about the pressure on them, both in course work and standardized tests, where their future opportunities and station in life can depend on how well they do on these, in a meritocratic society.

I can relate this back to the 1960s and the Vietnam-era draft and student deferments, where “staying alive” (itself a 1983 film with a shaved John Travolta) could depend on academic performance, and could teachers. Professors, of even graduate assistant instructors (which I worked as at KU) a lot of “power”.

It’s also true that this kind of pressure for young people exists in China.

The film follows one particular white male student, Shea, who in the final scene shows himself learning he got into Stanford. 

In the summer of 2021, popular video channel owner Max Reisinger made a lot of his not getting in!

The theatrical release was from Greenwich Entertainment; the PBS URL is this.

(Posted Tuesday May 3, 2022 at 1 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

“Hatching”: sunshiny avian horror from Finland

Cocktails at Pitchfest

After the pitchfest at the Marquis Marriott near Times Square Saturday, I ambled over to 42nd street, and saw Hanna Bergholm’s (IIja Rautsi is the writer)new horror film from Finland, “Hatching” (“Kalucka”), at the AMC  (the Regal across the street still seems closed). It took about five escalators to get to the auditorium.

In an over sunlit suburban community, a raven enters a home and destroys the living room chandaliers.  The mom (Sophia Heikkila) gets mad and goes out an breaks a neck of the bird (maybe the wrong one), and the daughter Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) goes out into the woods and finds the bird, finishes the mercy killing but takes the egg.

Well, the egg overgrows and hatches an enormous creature who can gradually metamorphize and even replace other people.  So the film reminds me of “body snatchers” .  But the bird simply accelerates the dissolution of the family’s life.

Mom pushes her daughter in gymnastics and tumbling – genuine women’s sports – and her husband looks rather foopish and non-binary.  Another family member, an uncle, is manlier and runs a repair shot in his old fixed-upper house.  The movie simply has to build on more fantastic encounters as the monster expands, at one point into a girl with the entire check torn back to the ears.

Mom had run a “mommy blog” called “Lovely Everyday Life”, as if consumerism was all that mattered. Mom had been no Dooce (Heather Armstrong), whose story would make for a movie. I wonder if her blog would have followed the recommendations of Blogtyrant.

The film had been a hit at Sundance 2022 and will move to Hulu May 9.  The US theatrical distributor is IFC Midnight.

The film was shot in Riga. Latvia.  The overly sunny environment adds innocence to the satire.

The film was indeed shot in an area of the world that could fall under Russia’s eyes.  Latvia (NATO) used to be an SSR republic, and Finland (may join NATO) was at war with Russia early during WWII.  I visited some Finnish communities in Ohio and upper Michigan in 2019, and they all said Russia is dangerous.

crow visits on the balcony and watches me work on the computer

There is a crow who comes to my balcony and watches me sometimes. When I had the house, another crow who seemed to live in neighbor’s tree, got to recognize me and actually chased me inside the day of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. I called him “Timo” and I wonder if he learned his name. Crows will definitely bond with people.

(Posted: Monday, May 2, 2022 by John W Boushka at 3 PM EDT)