The Reel Activist

Director of Pay 2 Play: Democracy's High Stakes, John Ennis, at a protest.

Director of Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes, John Ennis, at a protest.

I love it when a filmmaker takes on a subject of activist passion. Rather than going door-to-door, lobbying the local residents to sign a petition or getting them to listen to a verbal pitch being read from a manuscript, activist filmmakers look to reach further outward, beyond the local community, through a medium for the masses… to tell the story they want to by creating a message for all to see, for all to digest, to incite debate and, most of all, to bring about more activism. There’s power in such films, from the little to the big. They can make a lot of noise! I call these people… the storytelling masters of their cameras… The Reel Activists.

Before you go getting into a snit over my use of the word “reel”, I use it not because such activists are real (which of course they are), but because they’re filmmakers attempting to reel in your attention to a subject of importance by using their movie reels.… Read the rest

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Four B-Grade Science Fiction Films in the Public Domain

Inspired by Open Culture’s new post, “The 5 Best Noir Films in the Public Domain,” I did a brief search to see which other films reside in the public domain.

Behold the wonder that is b-grade, public domain sci-fi.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

The Brain that Wouldn’t Die entered the public domain after American-International Pictures failed to add copyright information to the new title card.

Completed in 1959, the film was officially released in 1962. Directed by Joseph Green with an estimated budget of $62,000, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die follows a grief-stricken doctor who keeps his decapitated girlfriend’s head alive while he searches for a replacement body. The girlfriend, Jan Compton (Virginia Leith), is understandably pissed that the doctor won’t let her die. So, she communicates telepathically with a mutant locked in the laboratory, willing it to kill the doctor.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 covered The Brain That Wouldn’t Die in episode 513 and was the first film watched by Mike Nelson after he replaced Joel Robinson.… Read the rest

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NY Times Claims Evidence Supports Artificial Sweeteners Over Sugar

The New York Times has a column called the Upshot in which the august news institution uses facts and statistics to prove something that is usually contrary to popular opinion. This week it’s focusing on artificial sweeteners, claiming that they are healthier for humans to consume than sugar. I regret to say that I remain wholly unconvinced having witnessed an alarming emergency room hospital visit for a dear friend suffering from aspartame poisoning (the good news: the piercing headaches and ringing in the ears went away within three days of ceasing aspartame intake, but not before CAT scans and spinal tap). Is anyone buying the Upshot’s “evidence”?

In the last few years, I’ve watched a continuing battle among my friends about which is worse for you: artificial sweeteners or sugar. Unless you want to forgo all beverages that are sweet, you’re going to run into one of these. Rather than rely on anecdote or myth, we can inform this debate with research.

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Welcome to Life: The Singularity, Ruined by Corporations

It’s easy to fantasize about what the singularity could bring us. YouTube user Tom Scott has created perhaps the most likely — and most depressing — scenario of what our technological futures could hold.

You die. Your consciousness is uploaded to the Life Network and now you have to choose from three tiers.

Tier One — Uninterrupted simulation.
Tier Two — Advertiser supported offer. You may see targeted advertisements from sponsors in the sky and other places.
Tier Three — Value offering thanks to commercial partners. Complicated mental processes, such as creativity and self-awareness, may be dulled or disabled in times of high server activity.

And it only gets eerier…

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Autonomous Weapons: an Open Letter from AI & Robotics Researchers

A Who’s Who group of over 1,000 scientists and technologists, including such notables as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Steve Wozniak, has issued an open letter warning of the dangers of Artificial Intelligence and autonomous weapons. Published at Future of Life Institute, here’s the text in full:

Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.

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Credit: ZullyC3P (CC)

 

Many arguments have been made for and against autonomous weapons, for example that replacing human soldiers by machines is good by reducing casualties for the owner but bad by thereby lowering the threshold for going to battle.

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Stop CISA: Join EFF in a Week of Action Opposing Broad “Cybersecurity” Surveillance Legislation

How do you kill a zombie bill like CISA? Grassroots action. That’s why EFF and over a dozen other groups are asking you to join us in a Week of Action to Stop CISA.  The Senate is likely to vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) in the coming weeks, and only you can help us stop it.

We keep hearing that CISA and the other “cybersecurity” bills moving through Congress are “must-pass” legislation. But just like the original version of CISA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), we think grassroots activism can stop this legislation in its tracks.

CISA is fundamentally flawed because of its broad immunity clauses for companies, vague definitions, and aggressive spying powers. Combined, they make the bill a surveillance bill in disguise. The bill may even make things worse for Internet users in several ways.

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You Will Die, Heroin is Better For You Than Alcohol, and Other True Things About Sex and Poop

YWD_cover_1012_300You may think Robert Arthur is weird. But he isn’t. You are. You’re the one with the problem. Trust me on this.

In You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos, published by the consistently awesome Feral House, Arthur writes about our culture’s ridiculous phobias and beliefs that often cause tedium, suffering, and death. Our government and the media use these taboos to lie and mislead by pushing panic for votes and views. By doing so, they thwart our pursuit of happiness. Arthur’s book is not simply a novel exploration of sex and drugs, but also of individuality, liberty, and what things around us mean.

I talked to Robert about excrement, sex, drugs, and death.

This book has been kicking around in different forms for years now. How did you start this process, and how did it find its way to Feral House?

I began writing You Will Die when I was living in an abandoned schoolhouse in south central Pennsylvania after law school in 2001.… Read the rest

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Which Of The 11 American Nations Do You Live In?

No doubt there will be some argument about Colin Woodard’s classification of the eleven nations that America is truly comprised of, but he makes some fairly astute points about the divisions and diversity of the United States (and some of Canada), summarized by the Washington Post:

Red states and blue states? Flyover country and the coasts? How simplistic. Colin Woodard, a reporter at the Portland Press Herald and author of several books, says North America can be broken neatly into 11 separate nation-states, where dominant cultures explain our voting behaviors and attitudes toward everything from social issues to the role of government.

“The borders of my eleven American nations are reflected in many different types of maps — including maps showing the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the county-by-county breakdown of voting in virtually every hotly contested presidential race in our history,” Woodard writes in the Fall 2013 issue of Tufts University’s alumni magazine.

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All Roads Lead to Zen…

pots

At end of shift yesterday, while I was cashing-out my day over at the bullet-proof glass at Citizen’s Cab, a night driver named Harry – relaxing in a musty old car seat up on the rustic porch/driver’s lounge, was waiting for his cab to come in. From the porch, Harry all unsolicited bellows over to me,

“Hay! Sack! Ya kno wha tha secrit ta makin’ monee is now?”

I bite, “No, Harry. What’s the secret?”

“Ya gotta tink pos-Y-tive!”

Ah, a bit of old school San Francisco…

Well, I have been practicing watching my breath of late, on account of Maya – my upaguru Zen meditation teacher ride from recent blog fame. But instead of really meditating as I lie there in bed, watching my breath winds up super relaxing me and I just end up falling asleep real fast. But, that’s ok. Consequently, I’ve come to stop abusing night-time cough syrup to get down at night, again.… Read the rest

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