What happens when you don’t let Marvel and Disney dictate your movie choices?

I coulda cried. I went to the movies last night, and it wasn’t another goddamned comic-book super-hero franchise movie. All summer long, that’s all they’ve shown, and I am so tired of that crap. Please, please, no more movies where all tension and drama is supposed to be resolved at the end with a great big punchy slog of a fight with lots of CGI!

The Green Knight is not that movie. Instead, we get all the complexity and ambiguity of the medieval story, with dangly bits of the tale that hang there and make you scratch your head and wonder what that was supposed to mean, and at the end you have to think about what it was all about. It also doesn’t slavishly follow the old poem, and the director adds new surprises. That’s what I want more of in a movie — creativity and originality and complexity. I may have to go again later this week just to soak in the lovely imagery and pick up on the nuances.

The only negative, something that diminished but did not ruin the movie for me, was the audience. For some reason, the theater had a small mob of boys in their early teens who came in to watch, presumably thinking this was another goddamned comic-book super-hero franchise movie. They were visibly bored, constantly getting up to go to the lobby, whispering to each other, noisily chomping on their snacks. So spread the word: this is not an action movie. There isn’t a lot of sustained violence. The sexy scenes are muted and strange. Stay home, kids, you won’t like this movie. And theaters: I know you’re desperate for ticket sales, but you’re doing no one any favors by letting the kiddies into a movie they won’t understand.

P.S. There won’t be a sequel to The Green Knight. It won’t launch a franchise with a new addition to the story every summer. The studios may be unhappy with that, but it’s a huge plus as far as I’m concerned.

Nice big experimental animals

Prison populations are hotbeds of COVID-19 infections, and they’re full of surplus people society doesn’t really need, and gosh, a lot of them are black, even, so you know what we should do? An experiment!

An Arkansas doctor under investigation for prescribing an anti-parasite drug called ivermectin to jail detainees with COVID-19, even though federal health officials specifically warn against it, has said that those patients took the drug willingly. But several inmates at the Washington County jail say that is not the case — that they were given the pills with no indication of what they really were.

CBS News spoke with 29-year-old Edrick Floreal-Wooten over a video call from the jail on Friday. After testing positive for COVID-19 in August, he said he and other inmates went to “pill call” and were given several pills with the explanation that it would help them “get better.” He said he and others asked repeatedly what the pills were.

“They said they were vitamins, steroids and antibiotics,” Floreal-Wooten told CBS News. “We were running fevers, throwing up, diarrhea … and so we figured that they were here to help us. … We never knew that they were running experiments on us, giving us ivermectin. We never knew that.”

Except it wasn’t even an experiment. The doctor, Rob Karas, took it upon himself to dose the patients, despite the fact that every credible medical organization says it is dangerous and not recommended.

Karas, who has treated people at the jail for six years, confirmed prescribing the drug to CBS News on Friday, saying that vaccines are a “tremendous asset in the fight against COVID,” but that their availability “does not change the day-to-day reality of caring for sick patients.”

Karas said in an email he obtained ivermectin from a licensed pharmacist “in dosages and compounds formulated for humans” to give to COVID patients.

“I do not have the luxury of conducting my own clinical trial or study and am not attempting to do so. I am on the front line of trying to prevent death and serious illness,” he told CBS News. “I am proud of our track record in both of my clinics and at the jail in particular.”

Karas is now under investigation by the Arkansas State Medical Board. That’s weak sauce — he’s been poisoning his patients, and needs a rather more severe and immediate punishment.

But what the hey, they’re just prison inmates, they probably deserve some mild poisoning.

I just really like going to the movies, OK?

We have a lovely classy little movie theater in town, it was closed for a year and a half due to the pandemic, and now that it’s open again, I can’t resist. I have to spend one evening in a cozy air-conditioned theater with a mob of people watching whatever is showing that week, no matter how awful it is, which is how I ended up suffering through F9: The Fast Saga last night. I was not prepared — I might have seen bits and pieces of the Fast & Furious franchise on television before, but they were forgettable and left a minimal impression. Cars? Explosions? That was about it. But now I know better. This is quite possibly the worst movie I have ever seen, and I am a glutton for bad movies.

It was incredibly stupid. To my great shame, I didn’t understand half of what was going on, because the damn thing expected me to have absorbed all the lore of previous entries in the franchise.

For instance, Charlize Theron has a “role” in the story. She is, apparently, some evil mastermind everyone fears — we are not told why — and she’s introduced as a gorgeous woman caged in an isolated transparent box surrounded by mysterious glowing poles, like a laser warning or defense system, that had to be turned off before anyone could approach. This box was totally empty, except for the very well dressed Ms Hannibal Lecter, and I had to wonder through most of the movie…how did she go to the bathroom? She has a different outfit in every scene…how? These were the questions that dominated my thoughts about the movie, because she was so thoroughly irrelevant to the plot — so irrelevant that later, she’s shown to have been released from her box and is now running the whole bad guy operation. None of it makes any difference.

Otherwise, it’s just a whole lot of cars driving around fast with people shooting machine guns out of them. They have one wild twist in that they acquire these superpowerful electromagnets that the good guys install in their cars, and so with a twist of a dial they can yank guns out of people’s hands, or lift an entire street full of cars…which are somehow not drawn to the car with the supermagnet, but to bad guy’s cars, conveniently. Also, it doesn’t matter how much mass the supermagnet car is manipulating, it itself experiences no force. The violations of simple physics are numerous and offensive.

There’s also a rocket car they drive into a satellite.

One amusing moment: a character notes of John Cena and Vin Diesel that they figured out they were brothers because of the family resemblance. That jarred me right out of my musings about Charlize Theron’s privacy problem because what was that based on? Entirely on the diameters of their necks?

The stupidity of this movie can be summarized in one fact: this is apparently the tenth movie in the franchise, but they couldn’t count that high, so it was named F9.

Oh, well. The summer promises to be full of bad movies, so I guess it’s convenient that early on a floor has been set. It can only get better from here on out, right? If it doesn’t, maybe I’ll finally be cured of my movie-going habit.

Remember social events?

There is this meme floating around Facebook — sorry I can’t show it to you, because I don’t care — that puts up four movie franchises, like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, & Marvel, and asks you to pick only three. I enjoyed seeing all of them once, but sheesh, enough, I don’t particularly want to rewatch any of them, I’m not particularly interested in seeing any of them continued, I don’t need any spin-offs or alternative universe series (Star Trek did that, hated it, Marvel is apparently planning to play games with the time line, I hate that too). Give me something fun and creative that does not expect me to get invested in the next movie that will come out. That’s all I ask. I have simple tastes. Show me a monster from outer space eating spaceships, I’ll contentedly buy a ticket and eat my popcorn. I don’t need to know there will be a monster from outer space eating spaceships II. It’s actually a bit of a turn-off because I know executives somewhere are drooling over piles of cash and planning more without concern for the quality, and by the time we get to monster from outer space eating spaceships VII it’s going to be dreck intended to shear the sheep still lining up to see it. Or, inevitably, it will be bought by Disney. So just stop. Please, for the love of gods, I don’t need to see another Spider-Man or Batman origin story, OK?

But I do love going to the movies. Always have. I’ll go see whatever is playing at our local movie theater, which I hope manages to weather the pandemic. It’s been closed for a year now! I’ve had my vaccination, which will kick in with full immunity in about 6 weeks, and once the theater reopens I’ll be there every week, and I won’t care much what is playing. This video ramped up my nostalgia.

The drone pilot is really, really good, but it’s also a great perspective on just going to the movies. Also, it was recorded in Plymouth, MN, a suburb of Minneapolis — I’ve been there, but not to that particular theater. Now I want to go to the movies, any movies.

The same pilot also made a similar video of Bryant-Lake Bowl — I have been there, multiple times. I even gave a talk in the little auditorium attached to it, and I’ve been there for one of Rebecca Watson’s quiz shows, which were held as part of Convergence. It’s a great place, a center of community, where people get together to relax, have fun, drink beer, and talk.

I want that back. I want it back sensibly and safely, though (note all the mask-wearers). I’m not an extrovert, but I still would like to hang out in communities of my fellow ape-creatures, quietly, just sitting back and savoring the vibes.

By the way, we’re slowly coming back. I see that Convergence is planning an in-person con in Minneapolis on 5 August, which should be OK — we’re all supposed to be vaccinated by then. I might still be a little nervous about attending, so I’ll play that one by ear. Skepticon is playing it safe and will be an entirely on-line con on 13 August, which is reasonable — they would have had to book the venue at about the time the pandemic was peaking (which does make me wonder where Convergence acquired all that confidence).

Ethics in Journalism

It’s getting hard to find, and apparently you won’t find it at the NY Post. They ran a sensationalist, titillating story about a NY paramedic who also opened an OnlyFans account to try and make ends meet, sneering at her “racy” content (curiously, also including a few “racy” photos for those who read the NY Post), and ending with a quote from a veteran paramedic who “blasted” her for her choice of a side job, and a quote from the website of her employer that forbids “inappropriate conduct”. The story is clearly trying to stoke Puritanical outrage and get her fired.

Well, Lauren Caitlyn Kwei has fired back at the “journalist”.

Lauren Caitlyn Kwei
December 14 at 7:35 PM ·
Over the past 3 days, my life and the intimate details of it have been made public for millions of strangers to read and judge. There are many people telling me what they think I should do and giving me advice I did not ask for. Let me be very clear: I did not want the NY Post to run this article, much less use my name. When Dean Balsamini first “interviewed” me, he did not tell me what this was about until after I disclosed most of my background. He did not include in his article that I started crying on the phone when he finally did tell me what he was inquiring about. He did not include that he played this “friendly guy” reporter who just wanted to get MY side of the story, since ya know, they were gonna run it anyway, with or without my input. I know my actions have consequences and I know some of you think I was naive. I truly believe whoever “tipped” the post does not know me personally because anyone who knows me knows the kind of person I am. Let me tell you who I am. This is me.
I’m twenty-three years old and from a small town in West Virginia. My mother’s family is from northern West Virginia and my father’s parents were immigrants from China. I am the eldest of 4 children and our family was one of the only mixed race families in my predominately white town. I graduated from Winfield High School in a class of 200, the largest at the time. During high school, I was active in show choir, GSA, NHS, and dance classes. I moved to NYC when I was 18 to pursue my lifelong dream of being on broadway. I completed AMDA, started auditioning, and then decided it wasn’t for me anymore. So I became an EMT. I worked as an EMT for a year then I quit because I couldn’t put myself through paramedic school on minimum wage. I went back to hosting at a restaurant to make ends meet while I worked a year through paramedic school, which was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. I graduated paramedic school in February of 2020 and have been working ever since. I struggled a lot during the height of the pandemic. I was suicidal a lot of this year. I had panic attacks at work and even had a supervisor tell me I should consider another profession if I didn’t grow a thicker skin. I am a damn good paramedic. I LOVE my job and I love taking care of people. I don’t want to quit my day job and get my bag on OnlyFans — I want to serve the city of New York. That’s all I have ever wanted to do. I have always believed in using my voice to speak for those who many not be heard I was raised to ALWAYS show kindness and compassion. The NY Post gave me a voice. So here I am, showing myself to the world. I’m here to tell you all that my First Responder brothers and sisters are suffering. We need your help. We have been exhausted for months, reusing months old PPE, being refused hazard pay, and watching our fellow healthcare workers die in front of our eyes, in our ambulances. At least three NYC EMS workers died by suicide this year and there has been very little action about the lack of mental health care accessibility for first responders. EMS are the lowest paid first responders in NYC which leads to 50+ hour weeks and sometimes three jobs. My brothers and sisters DESERVE CHANGE! Visit emspac.org for a Mission Statement and to see how you can help. How’s that for a story, NY Post?!
Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart for your donations, support, and love. I am so thankful and plan on using this platform to voice the needs of my NYC EMS family. This is just the beginning, folks.
Lauren Caitlyn Kwei

The real story is that young people all across the country are struggling to make a living and are particularly hard hit by this pandemic, even as the rich prosper even more. It is especially tragic that health care workers are made to suffer most even as we need them most. You don’t get to decry individuals making choices about how to earn an income while simultaneously supporting a system that demeans and diminishes their choices, while also setting irrational priorities that harm society. Who hurts us most, a woman taking her clothes off on camera or a billionaire sucking out all the wealth of a nation?

Oh, and fuck the NY Post.

Nice worm

So, there’s a new movie version of Dune coming out, and the preview just dropped.

One catch: the book is unfilmable. I will be stunned if this turns out decently, but I’ll probably watch it anyway, if movies exist then.

Hey! What’s Paul doing with Spiderman’s girlfriend? Let’s see how effective his killing word is against a web-slinging wall crawler — I’m there for that, for sure.

The Scots version of Wikipedia is written by an American teenager

An American teenager who, by the way, doesn’t speak Scots. They copy Wikipedia articles written in English and use a dictionary to change a few words here and there, and they’ve been doing this at such a steady pace they’ve churned out tens of thousands of articles and hundreds of thousands of edits, and are the sole author on about a third of that version of the wiki.

The problem is that this person cannot speak Scots. I don’t mean this in a mean spirited or gatekeeping way where they’re trying their best but are making a few mistakes, I mean they don’t seem to have any knowledge of the language at all. They misuse common elements of Scots that are even regularly found in Scots English like “syne” and “an aw”, they invent words which look like phonetically written English words spoken in a Scottish accent like “knaw” (an actual Middle Scots word to be fair, thanks u/lauchteuch9) instead of “ken”, “saive” instead of “hain” and “moost” instead of “maun”, sometimes they just sometimes leave entire English phrases and sentences in the articles without even making an attempt at Scottifying them, nevermind using the appropriate Scots words. Scots words that aren’t also found in an alternate form in English are barely ever used, and never used correctly. Scots grammar is simply not used, there are only Scots words inserted at random into English sentences.

Wow. As a kid, this person must have stumbled into Wikipedia editing, discovered a formula for getting credit as an “author” by rote copying, and then turned it into a matter of personal prestige. He probably thinks he’s making a legitimate contribution, but it’s “simply English, spelled poorly, likely intending to resemble a stereotypical Scottish accent.”

This is my problem with Wikipedia, and why I tell students it’s not an acceptable source for their papers. The lack of professional oversight means some people’s enthusiasms take over and are used as a substitute for expertise, and you can never be sure when that has happened, so you have to double- and triple-check everything the wiki says — you can use it in an initial exploration, but mainly to pluck out additional sources and rely more on authenticated publications.

This is the first I’ve heard of such wholesale fabrication, though.

This is going to sound incredibly hyperbolic and hysterical but I think this person has possibly done more damage to the Scots language than anyone else in history. They engaged in cultural vandalism on a hitherto unprecedented scale. Wikipedia is one of the most visited websites in the world. Potentially tens of millions of people now think that Scots is a horribly mangled rendering of English rather than being a language or dialect of its own, all because they were exposed to a mangled rendering of English being called Scots by this person and by this person alone. They wrote such a massive volume of this pretend Scots that anyone writing in genuine Scots would have their work drowned out by rubbish. Or, even worse, edited to be more in line with said rubbish.

Now I’m wondering what Wikipedia will do about this massive vandalism. Are they just going to rely on crowd-sourcing the cleanup? Will they even try to do a cleanup?

Bioethics has teeth

I told you that He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who had been carrying out gene editing on human subjects, was doing bad science and violating lots of ethical restrictions. I was right, obviously, because he was immediately repudiated and arrested by the Chinese government. You might be wondering what happens if you break the rules of bioethics — isn’t it all just an agreement between peers not to meddle in experiments that might cause trouble for each other? Well, now we know: He Jiankui has been tried and sentenced. He’s being fined over $400,000, and is going to prison for three years. Two of his colleagues are also going to jail. They’re also going to get a lifelong ban on doing scientific research with human subjects.

This isn’t just Chinese totalitarianism at work, either. It’s the same in most places.

Robin Lovell-Badge at the Francis Crick Institute in London told the UK Science Media Centre that a prison sentence and fine would also have been the likely penalties if someone had conducted similar work in the UK.

Maybe not everywhere, though. The people who carried out the Tuskegee syphilis study were not punished; the doctors who were paid to tell the public that smoking was safe were not punished; Andrew Wakefield is still roaming free, and is even making movies to spread disinformation; you can lie all you want about climate change. Jiankui seems to have picked the wrong victims, or lacked the corporate backing, to make his violations of human rights ignorable.

P.S. I think a hefty fine and a few years in prison would be the minimal punishment for Wakefield, who is responsible for the deaths of who knows how many children.