Disaster Animated: “Le Mans 1955” is a brilliant short film

Le Mans 1955” is a beautiful and horrifying short animated film by Quentin Baillieux, depicting the worst disaster in motor sports history, Pierre Levegh’s crash during the 1955 24h du Mans.  More than eighty people were killed and 180 were injured when Levegh’s car crashed into the grandstands. It has won several awards already and has been nominated for the 2020 Academy Awards.

The film is not 100% historically accurate, but mercifully, it barely touches on the crash itself.  The dead are depicted with sheets over them, not the true horror of bodies torn apart and the horrific fire (see below the fold for newsreel footage).  This is a human film about emotions and decency when faced of disaster.  One important true point: it was John Fitch’s outrage that led Mercedes to withdraw from the race.

John Fitch’s story is a fascinating one.  He was a World War II american bomber and fighter escort pilot, one of three americans to shoot down a Messerschmitt Me262 (the first jet airplane).  He took up motorsports after the war and was fairly successful.  But it was his post-racing career as an inventor that made the biggest impression, developing Fitch barriers (barrels of sand) and many other safety devices that have saved thousands of lives.  He also found a way to improve fuel efficiency in gas-powered engines, reducing waste of gasoline and diesel.

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L’enfant Terrible Tire: tuerie de l’École polytechnique, 6 décembre 1989

Marc Lépine entered a classroom at l’École polytechnique on December 6, 1989.  Despite Lépine being visibly armed, male students followed his instructions, separating themselves from women and leaving the room after he told them.  Not one of them made any effort to confront or stop Lépine.  How do they live with themselves?  To quote Mark Steyn writing in Maclean’s magazine in 2009:

As I [Steyn] wrote in this space three years ago:

“The defining image of contemporary Canadian maleness is not M Lépine/Gharbi but the professors and the men in that classroom, who, ordered to leave by the lone gunman, meekly did so, and abandoned their female classmates to their fate—an act of abdication that would have been unthinkable in almost any other culture throughout human history. The ‘men’ stood outside in the corridor and, even as they heard the first shots, they did nothing. And, when it was over and Gharbi walked out of the room and past them, they still did nothing. Whatever its other defects, Canadian manhood does not suffer from an excess of testosterone.”

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Justice Still Denied: The Bhopal Disaster continues, thirty five years later

The Bhopal Disaster happened on December 3, 1984, thirty five years ago this week. Capitalist greed by Union Carbide led to poor safety standards and maintenance. Toxic methyl isocyanate was released into the environment, affecting over 550,000 people.  The “official” death toll is nearly 3800 and roughly 40000 temporary or permanently debilitating injuries. Independent estimates claim 16000 dead, and many more may have been affected, poisoned and disabled by exposure.

Union Carbide fought for years to avoid legal and financial responsibility, such as saying Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) was a “separate entity”. Even after India’s courts assessed a US$470million judgement and a US court upheld it, Union Carbide continued to drag their heels on making payments until 1991.

Some UCIL employees have finally been held accountable in court in the 2010s, thirty years later (with fines, prison sentences) but those most directly to blame have been allowed to escape responsibility. Indian courts issues warrants for Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson but the US refused to extradite him. He would have faced ten years in an Indian prison for his crimes.

The Indian government has also been guilty of not distributing compensation to the victims directly, and have refused to test evidence from 35 years ago.

In 2018, The Atlantic covered the Bhopal Disaster’s lingering effects:

The World’s Worst Industrial Disaster Is Still Unfolding

In Bhopal, residents who survived the massive gas leak and those who arrived later continue to deal with the consequences.

In old Bhopal, not far from the small Indian city’s glitzy new shops and gorgeous lakes, is the abandoned Union Carbide factory. Here, in one ramshackle building, are hundreds of broken brown bottles crusted with the white residue of unknown chemicals. Below the corroding skeleton of another, drops of mercury glitter in the sun. In the far corner of the site is the company’s toxic-waste dump, shrouded in a sickly green moss. Not 15 feet away, a scrawny boy of about 6 tries to join a game of cricket. A few skinny cows graze next to a large, murky puddle. Strewn on the ground are torn plastic bags, yellowed newspapers, stained paper cups. And in the air, the pungent fumes of chlorinated hydrocarbons.

India Today has a small gallery of photos from 1984.  The first is the hardest to look at.

Fascistbook Sucks: Another day, another reason to hate it

A short rant that some may interpret as a whine:

I’d quit fascistbook if it weren’t for the fact that nearly all my friends used it and it’s one of the easiest ways to contact other people (i.e. nobody has geocities pages and email addresses anymore).  No, don’t “suggest” alternatives”.

For the third time, I have been locked out of my account and “warned” for “violating community standards”.  My first two violations were for saying “white trash” and for saying “white men”, which fascistbook deems “protected groups”.  How long before I’m in fascistbook jail or permanently locked out?

My third “warning” came tonight.  I linked to a video (filmed in sprint 2019) showing the Israeli Terrorist Force throwing tear gas grenades into a tent where Palestinians were praying.  Apparently, factually depicting the Israeli military’s actions isn’t allowed.  Or maybe it was because I said,

Remember, folks: reporting the Israeli Terrorist Force’s actions is “anti-semitism”.

The really galling part: The link I posted was not the youtube linked below.  It was this video on fascistbook’s own site.  The video was posted without consequences, and a friend of mine who linked to the video had no problems either.

The Medicine Goes Down: And in the US, it will cost $150 per day

On World AIDS Day, December 1st, 2019:

Cipla is an Indian pharmaceutical company that manufactures generic drugs.  They don’t develop drugs, they make drugs which are out of copyright or can be made cheaply because copyrights don’t apply to certain markets.  As a result, they produce a lot of drugs that save lives in developing countries, but still make a huge profit.

The most common anti-HIV drug used in Africa is a syrup that must be given to infants daily.  It contains 40% alcohol and has a metallic taste, and children either don’t want to take it or vomit if they do.  Without it, the death rate amongst children with HIV would skyrocket.

Cipla has reformulated the medicine into granules the size of sugar and taste like strawberries, making it much easier (and more willing) for children to digest.  It can be mixed with milk or food.  The new drug will cost $1 per day, the same as the unpalatable drug.  In a developing country, that’s still a lot of money, but it gives the children a fighting chance.

And that $1 per day is a money loser.  Cipla’s chairman, Dr. Yusuf K. Hamied, said in 2001 the company was losing money on each child the break even point being $600 per year.  He plans to continue selling it cheaply to save lives.

This is called being a decent human being.

If it were sold in the US, pharmaceutical companies would gouge hundreds of dollars out of people, just as they did with PrEP.

New Strawberry-Flavored H.I.V. Drugs for Babies Are Offered at $1 a Day

About 80,000 babies and toddlers die of AIDS each year, mostly in Africa, in part because their medicines come in hard pills or bitter syrups that are very difficult for small children to swallow or keep down.

But on Friday, the Indian generic drug manufacturer Cipla announced a new, more palatable pediatric formulation. The new drug, called Quadrimune, comes in strawberry-flavored granules the size of grains of sugar that can be mixed with milk or sprinkled on baby cereal. Experts said it could save the lives of thousands of children each year.

“This is excellent news for all children living with H.I.V.,” said Winnie Byanyima, the new executive director of UNAIDS, the United Nations agency in charge of the fight against the disease. “We have been eagerly waiting for child-friendly medicines that are easy to use and good to taste.”

Cipla revolutionized the provision of AIDS drugs for adults almost two decades ago, pricing them at $1 a day. The new pediatric formulation will likewise be priced at $1 a day. The announcement by Cipla and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, an offshoot of Doctors Without Borders that supported the development of the drug, was timed to coincide with World AIDS Day, which is Sunday [December 1].

[…]

Cipla, founded in 1935, was the first generic drug company to offer H.I.V. drugs in Africa. In 2001, its chairman, Yusuf K. Hamied, upended the global pharmaceutical industry by offering to supply a three-drug cocktail to Doctors Without Borders for $1 a day.

At the time, multinational drug companies were charging up to $15,000 for their regimens and refusing to lower prices except in secret negotiations with a few countries and were working to block generic competitors from the market. An estimated 25 million Africans were then infected and thousands were dying every day. (The industry was also suing South Africa’s president, Nelson Mandela, over a law he had signed authorizing the government to cancel drug patents and award them to generic makers.)

Old School: Producing 8-bit and 16-bit audio in DOS

There are many operating systems available nowadays, and not just the usually suspect OSes (windows, mac, linux, android).  Popularity does not determine usability; many functional operating systems remain in development (*) and are used as everyday operating systems.  There may be limitations (e.g. no multitasking) but there are also strengths (e.g. less risk of malware operating in the background).

As an everyday OS, DOS lacks nothing: web browsers, text editors and word processors, programming language interpreters and compilers, multimedia programs, and of course, games.  Since around 2000, the biggest downside and limitation to using DOS has been the lack of audio drivers. Since VIA’s AC’97 “soundbridges” came along, few or no chip makers have made DOS compatible drivers.  People have been limited to scouring second hand stores, recyclers and resellers for old Adlib, Roland, Soundblaster and Gravis sound cards.  Older cards may have worn out from wear or humidity, and unscrupulous people have been known to sell broken cards.

In recent years, several DOS compatible sound devices have appeared, both 8bit and 16bit, which are compatible with both old and modern PCs.  There are only two limitations: (a) some require a built in parallel port, which is becoming rarer, and (b) most replicas use an ISA slot, which few companies place on motherboards anymore (ISA daughterboards are still available).

Below the fold are starting points on where to find OSes and sound cards.  There are no links to “wares” sites, though some are named. There are also links to commercial sites, which I hope is allowed.

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Die, Boomers, Die: The more, the sooner, the better

Business Insider (and other capitalist trash media) are making specious arguments about the housing market as baby boomers finally start to die. They’re trying to justify keeping the inflated housing market inflated and ownership in the hands of the wealthy rather than deal with reality and solve problems.

First lie: “younger people won’t want these homes”. Seriously? The Tiny House movement is primarily driven by capitalist greed pushing wages down and making home ownership impossible, not because younger people are obsessed with tiny things. Young people are environmentally aware, unlike boomers, and know that the most environmentally friendly house is one that’s already built.

Second, so what if these homes are in retirement communities? They are not isolated and in the middle of nowhere, they are suburbs. Create affordable public transit to cities, and people can travel to work and shop. Plus, you can always build businesses where people live.

Third, what is this “debt” they speak of? Baby boomers OWE women, Black people, People of Colour and all post-boomer generations who have been ripped off and cheated for decades. Boomers owe society for their decades of racism, redlining, unfair and underpaid wages.

When it comes to dying baby boomers and the hundreds of thousands of unoccupied homes and apartments, the best solution is redistribution. Confiscate all those empty houses and apartments and give them away. Allow people apply to win debt-free homes and give them away by random draws.

Giving millions of “boomer” houses to Black people, mortgage free will help (though not fully) pay reparations for 70 / 400 years of racism, gentrification, redlining and unfair business practices. Give the millions of empty apartments to Millennials, GenYs and GenXers who want a small place to live.

The boomers can’t take their wealth with them when they die. Give it to people who need it and can make better use of it.

Let’s Remember: Billy Tipton, 1914-1989, Jazz legend and Transgender Man

Another item I wrote on facebook, from last December:

Billy Tipton was born Dorothy Lucille Tipton on December 29, 1914, and died on January 21, 1989. Tipton and wife Kitty Kelly had three adopted children.  I’ll be honest and say there is no documented proof about Tipton’s gender identity, but I will only refer to Tipton as he, because that’s how he lived.  He left no documents behind saying whether he was Transgender, or living in drag to have a musical career. Queer Music Heritage and Making Queer History have biographies of his life.  Hannah Judd (University of Pennsylvania) wrote a paper on Tipton’s life.

Tipton was a top notch pianist, saxophonist and songwriter in his 20s.  However in those days (1930s-1960s), women were not considered musicians, they were only singers, if that.  Most times, women were forcibly kept out of the “old boys’ club”.  Tipton was a player who wanted to perform.  Taking the name Billy, Tipton lived and worked as a man, unknown to the music industry or even his wife and adopted sons.  He formed the Billy Tipton Trio, recorded numerous albums, and worked with Frank Sinatra and many other famous acts of the era.

Selected songs from youtube:

September In The Rain

The Man I Love

Don’t Blame Me

Begin the Beguine

Take The “A” Train


This short news documentary on Tipton (youtube) is not the best, the reported asking inappropriate and invasive questions of Tipton’s wife, but for the most part sums up Tipton’s life.

Tipton’s silence cost him, refusing to go to doctors and have his secret exposed. In 1989, a treatable stomach ulcer caused him to bleed to death at home, in the arms of one of his sons.  It was only then his secret was discovered.  Tipton left no will and no paperwork or diaries.

Let’s Backtrack: Tandy’s Deskmate was released in November 1984

Tandy Radio Shack was not the first company to release a desktop shell, preceded by the Apple Lisa, Visi On, Xerox Alto and others.  But for most of a decade, it was one of the best on the market.  Deskmate for TRS-DOS was first released in November 1984, the first version for MS-DOS came out in 1986.

Deskmate was a boon for PC users who had limited computing skills, limited budgets, and wanted an all-in-one suite.  (I knew what I was doing on computers, and I still liked it.)  Deskmate was intuitive and contained impressive tutorials.  It contained a simple word processor, spreadsheet, calendar, address book, calculator and many other functions.  Later versions (v3.xx) included Draw (a paint program), 8bit music composition and playing software, and telecommunications programs.  About the only thing it was missing was a Tiny Basic interpreter.

Remember: This was in the 1980s, before the world wide web, when people still bought software in specialized stores.  Tandy graphics and sound were still amongst the best on the market, almost the defacto standard.  Deskmate came bundled with Tandy IBM-clones (which were usually better and cheaper than IBM PCs), but it was so popular that Radio Shack sold it in boxes to other PC users.

Toastytech lists Deskmate amongst its gallery of GUIs, and Winworld will let you download a copy (though you didn’t hear that from me).  The Internet Archive will let you test drive Deskmate to see what it can do.  Fly Videos on youtube has a non-speaking (with music) walkthrough of Deskmate’s abilities.

Version 3.05 was the last version of the shell, a/k/a Deskmate v3.69, released in 1991.  Windows v1.0 and v2.0 were substandard compared to Deskmate 3.69, but when Windows v3.0 came out, Tandy saw the writing on the wall and stopped development after WinMate, their last release in 1991.  If you’re running a DOS machine (yes, some do), Deskmate is still a usable program today, thirty years on.

Here’s a shot of the main screen, courtesy of Toastytech.  More images can be found below the fold.

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Real Life Intrudes: Excuse my dust

Everything goes to hell all at once.  Excuse a month of silence, I let myself get overwhelmed.  Between Hallowe’en (five parties), local politics (a REAL Manchurian candidate seeking Taiwan’s presidency), Hong Kong constantly in the news, multiple Pride Parade events, parties for two friends departing (for one, her engagement), and human crises (the women’s support group, of which I’m now an administrator), it’s been a busy time.  And then there are the flying cars….

One side note (or snide note, if you like)…  Someone I used to know turned into a TERF about eighteen months ago, completely “red pilled” (i.e. an MRA advocate, openly racist, etc.).  I don’t know if it’s galling or laughable, but I’m told her hang out of choice now is a bar known for…unsavoury men, shall we say.  I wouldn’t go there.  It’s owned by someone from the UK would likely be a Boris Johnson and Donald Trump fan.  She no longer frequents the places that LGBTQIA people go to, so no great loss.  Good riddance, TERFy McTERFface.

 

Let’s Remember: Louis Riel, 1844-1885

Louis Riel was born on October 22, 1844, one hundred and seventy five years ago today.  On November 16, 1885, he was hanged after a farcical show trial with incompetent defence lawyers.  Riel is an example of what happens when an ethnic minority stands up against a government willing to use violence to either subjugate or eliminate people (see also: NODAPL, Ipperwash Crisis of 1995).
Riel’s story is a complex one, both hero and villain.  To many Metis and First Nations people, he stood up against prime minister John A. McDonald’s nationalism (A for alcoholic).  To the French, he was a victim of anti-catholic sectarianism and anti-French attitudes in Ontario.  To others, he would be described today as freedom fighter or terrorist, depending on your point of view.
Riel fought the Red River Rebellion against the Canadian government, wanting Manitoba’s independence from both Canada and the US (contrary to Ottawa’s claims of the Metis wanting to join the US).  McDonald used Riel’s execution of Thomas Scott as a pretext for military invasion of Manitoba and the show trial against Riel. Like some Indigenous peoples in other countries, the Metis suffered and were marginalized until they were no longer a recognizable group, assimilated into the Canadian populace.
There is a LOT more to the history than that.  I don’t have the time or expertise to tell it fully.

A related oddity for you: Thee Headcoatees (not a typo) were a garage-punk band from England.  In 1992, they released the song “Louis Riel”, a rewrite of the song, “Louie Louie”, incorporating events from Riel’s life.  Have a listen.

The Polls Closed: A tolerable result

First past the post sucks, but we can live with a minority government.  Depending on how the undeclared ridings go, there could be two possible coalition governments: Lib/NDP or Lib/BQ.  Keeping the Clowns out and the Liberals under control is tolerable.

The Bloc Quebecois are separatists who put Quebec first, but are reasonable on most other issues.  The downside of a large number of BQ MPs is that they might be willing to form a coalition with the Clowns if that were an option; the NDP never would.

The Parade Routes: Taipei’s Pride Parade announcements.

The organizers of the Taipei Pride Parade have announced this year’s route, with two major changes from previous years.

First, they have changed the starting point.  Almost every year, the parade starts at Ketagalan Boulevard (a large traffic circle near a park and the national government building) but that is now the ending point.  It will start this year at City Hall, using Sun Yat Sen park as a place for people to gather, and proceed to Kegatalan Blvd.  It’s not a problem in terms of physical space needed as Yixian Road by City Hall is quite wide.  But people may end up going to the wrong place if they don’t pay attention to the announcements.

Second, this year will be a single route, though most of the 5.5km route is along Zhongxiao Road, the largest east-west road in the city.  Two years ago, it was split into two routes, and last year into three.  Are they expecting a drop in attendance because marriage equality is now law?  Not bloody likely.  I hope the decision is only based on how much traffic flow was impeded.

Kegatalan is where the marriage equality protest was held two years ago.  An estimated 250,000 people showed up.

More below the fold….

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Forced Out And Paved Over: There’s nothing gentle about gentrification

Vancouver is planning to do what other cities have done, like Taipei and Seoul: tear down viaducts and create spaces for people instead of cars. Viaducts are built with a plan, and very rarely are they built on empty land.
Vancouver’s were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s under the rightwing Social Credit government (commonly known as “socreds”).  A freeway project was cancelled in 1972 both by public protest and the short lived NDP provincial government.  The Socreds were cut from the same cloth as the rightwing extremism of today, but doing it in the 1960s to 1980s.  (Pardon me for too many political posts lately.)
In order to enact their “urban renewal” plan, the Socreds had to forcibly remove the people living in the neighborhoods around False Creek.  And which neighborhoods were they?  Poor and non-white people, of course, including the African-Canadian community.  (I didn’t know that Jimi Hendrix’s grandmother lived in Vancouver.  Cool.)  Funny how urban planning just happens to be where the most vulnerable and least powerful are, and why it was designed for white people living in middle class suburbs to drive into Vancouver for work.

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A Title Well Earned: The ‘Greatest Canadian’ was born today

Tommy Douglas was born in Scotland on October 20, 1904, 115 years ago today. He died February 24, 1986.

In 2004 he was named the Greatest Canadian ever, primarily for his founding of Saskatchewan’s socialized medicare plan that made health care affordable and save countless lives. 

CBC: The Fight for Medicare

In the early 1960s, Saskatchewan doctors reacted with anger and frustration, culminating in a bitter strike when the province tried to bring in Canada’s first universal health insurance plan.

In Saskatchewan, Premier Tommy Douglas and his socialist party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), had been in power since 1944 and had been the first government in the country to provide hospital insurance for its citizens.

[…]

After 23 days on strike, the Saskatchewan doctors returned to work. But hostilities remained long afterwards; patients resented their doctors’ desertion and doctors continued to object to government involvement in medical care. Nevertheless, a 1965 survey found that most doctors favoured continuing the plan.

The Saskatchewan government had opened the door to universal health care. Within ten years of the Saskatchewan strike, the entire country was covered by medicare.

Many resented socialized medicine at first, but it’s part of what defines Canadians today and we’re better off for it.

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