Professional laughers

I was agreeing with a friend that the canned laughter that is heard on TV comedies is an abomination The worst ones are the really canned ones, laughs that are pre-recorded and then played at the times when the writers think the audience should laugh. These annoying laughs become even worse if you yourself are not watching the program because the phoniness becomes more obvious. If people are watching a program while I am in the next room, the canned laughter becomes so annoying that I have to move to a distant room just to get out of earshot.
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Documentary on solving Fermat’s Last Theorem

Blogging will be light during the holiday break but if you too have time on your hands, I think many people will find enjoyable this 46-minute documentary made (I think) in 1997 that looks at Andrew Wiles’s quest to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem. I did not understand almost all of the sophisticated mathematics involved but that did not matter.
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How Ken Burns would have told the Star Wars story

I must admit that I am not a big Star Wars fan. For example, I do not know who Boba Fett is, a character who seems to pop up frequently in discussions about the film, and this ignorance undoubtedly puts me beyond the pale. But I know enough and recall enough of the first three films (#4,#5,#6) to enjoy this imagination of how the same story could have been told by this eminent documentarian.
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Michael Moore talks about his new film

On Stephen Colbert’s show he discusses his new film Where to Invade Next which hasn’t opened yet and that looks interesting. He goes to various countries, mostly in Europe, to find out their good ideas so that we can adopt them. I had not been aware that in Portugal, for example, they have not arrested anyone in the last fifteen years for drug offenses, even if it is the possession and use of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. He claims that drug use and drug-related crime have decreased in that time.
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Down with Elmo!

I am a big fan of the children’s TV show Sesame Street. I don’t watch it anymore but I used to watch it every day with my children when they were young and I got very fond of the characters on the show, particularly the Muppets, because the program was clever and funny. My children are all grown up now but I still watch some of the clips online where they parody popular culture
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Star Wars mania and the powerful desire to be first

I just do not understand the desire that some people have to be the first to get or do something that seems so trivial, and even if that lead is so fleeting and intangible. For example, the people lining up for days in advance, or paying others to do so, just for the privilege of getting a new iPhone on the day it is released, when you could wait a few days and get it at your leisure. But it seems to matter greatly to some to be the first.
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Film review: Best of Enemies (2015) and the current state of political discourse

1968 was a turbulent year. Marin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy had both been murdered, opposition to the Vietnam war was at its height, the Tet offensive had shattered the US government’s claim that they were winning that war, and racial tensions were soaring. It was in this volatile environment that the two political parties held their nominating conventions. The 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago was notorious for mayor Richard Daley imposing what was essentially a police state, with tanks and armored vehicles patrolling the streets and the violent clashes that ensued. Haskell Wexler’s film Medium Cool (1969) captures the mood well.
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Film review: Gaslight (1944)

Last night I watched this old film that won an Academy Award for Ingrid Bergman. She played Paula Alquist, an orphan who was raised by her aunt, a famous opera singer who was strangled in her London home by a killer in pursuit of expensive jewelry that had been gifted to her as a reward for her performance. The case was never solved and the jewels never found. Paula was just 14 at the time and she was immediately sent away to Italy to study music under her aunt’s tutor, and the London house was mothballed but not sold or rented.
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