Monday, February 19, 2018

Movie and TV Presidents from the Wall Street Journal for (Not My) Presidents Day


Happy (Not My) Presidents Day!  I'm still in a mood to deal with fantasy instead of reality, so I'm posting the Wall Street Journal's Election 2016: Fake Presidents Edition to mark today's holiday.

The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign season may seem stranger than fiction, but is it really that bad? It could be worse, compared to other American presidents who exist in the reality of our smartphones and televisions.
I don't know if the fictional presidents would be worse.  Selina Meyer is not any worse than Trump in competence and character and she has better staff.  Plus, she's a Democrat.  Fitzgerald Grant also has better staff and really does try to make things better for Americans.  Frank Underwood is a very evil man, but he's also very competent and knows he has to at least been seen trying to make things better for the mass of people, even as he's killing off rival politicians.  None of them are my favorite TV President.  That honor goes to Tom Kirkman of "Designated Survivor."  He is the most decent character of the bunch and he's been learning fast on the job.  Watching him is the next best thing to watching Josiah Bartlett from "The West Wing."*

In the comments, I ask my readers to name their favorite fictional U.S. President.  If I get enough nominations, I'll post my readers' favorites.

*Many of the actors from "The West Wing" made a cameo at my blog in a video I posted first in Examiner.com article on Free Press endorsements and again in Second Year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Examiner.com.  The video is still up; I suppose that's because Bridget Mary McCormack will likely be running again this year.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

'War for the Planet of the Apes,' 'Coco,' and 'Game of Thrones' biggest winners at Visual Effects Society Awards


In Vox on figure skating, I said I would write about the MPSE Golden Reel Awards.  I even had a title, "'The Shape of Water' and 'Blade Runner 2049' among leading movie nominees at Golden Reel Awards."  Yesterday, I found a passage to quote and even picked out a preview image.*  Today, I woke up, found out that the winners of the Visual Effects Society Awards had been announced on Fat Tuesday and changed my mind.  Hey, this blog is my hobby and I do it for my own edification and enjoyment; if I don't want to do something, I don't have to.

With no further ado, here are the big winners from Deadline Hollywood.
Fox’s War for the Planet of the Apes took four prizes including the marquee Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature.
Its other three awards were for Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature, Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature, and Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Feature.  Its four wins bolsters my prediction that "War for the Planet of the Apes" is the favorite to win Best Visual Effects at the Oscars.  Hail Caesar!


Now for the rest of the live-action movie winners.
Blade Runner 2049 — which came into the gala tied with Planet of the Apes with a leading seven nominations — was the only other multiple winner of the film side, taking two trophies.
Those two awards were Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project for Los Angeles Police Headquarters and Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature for Los Angeles.  As an ex-Angelino, I can now say that Los Angeles can never be too fake.
Dunkirk and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 picked up one win apiece at the Beverly Hilton ceremony hosted for a seventh time by Patton Oswalt.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" won Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Photoreal Project for Groot Dance/Opening Fight.  I would have to agree.  That sequence was amazing to behold.  The one non-speculative fiction winner, "Dunkirk," earned an award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature.  I still fully expect it to be nominated as at the Saturn Awards in the Action category, along with all the rest of the winners.

Speaking of winners, Cartoon Brew, where I found the preview image for this entry, had the better coverage of "Coco."
Disney-Pixar’s Coco won all four of the event’s awards that are presented to feature animation: an overall prize for visual effects, as well as honors for animated character, created environment, and effects simulation.

The most-nominated animation film, Despicable Me 3, with five nods, was shut out completely, as was The Lego Ninjago Movie, which had four nominations. That’s hardly a surprise. In the last six years, the Walt Disney Company’s animated films have won 23 out of 24 possible VES animation awards; the sole exception was last year when Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings slipped away with the overall visual effects award.
I don't know if "Despicable Me 3" losing here and being completely snubbed by the Oscars would be enough to put it over the top at the Saturn Awards.  That happened last year with "Finding Dory."  I do expect it to be nominated.

Deadline Hollywood made an observation about "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."
Speaking of the Disney/Lucasfilm franchise, 2017’s top domestic grosser Star Wars: The Last Jedi came in with four nominations and left the Hilton with … bupkis. Including last year’s surprising VES shutout for spinoff pic Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, that means the behemoth series is 0-for-11 nominations in the past two years. This after The Force Awakens dominated the 2016 VES Awards.
I don't think "The Last Jedi" will win anything at the Oscars this year, either.  The Saturn Awards will be a different story.

That's it for movies.  Follow over the jump for the rest of the winners, including "Game of Thrones," which won five of the six awards for live-action television.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Instructions on how to deal with an active shooter


In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, my students asked me to do something I've never done before in class, explain how to react to an active shooter situation.  I did my best, telling them to try to escape first and giving them the first exit to the room and building and then where to assemble.  I then told them that if they couldn't escape to hide and found the best place in the room to hide.  I then told them to fight back and how to do so.  I mentioned this on my Facebook page and one of my colleagues directed me to this video from Boston College, which the college uses for training.


I'll be showing this to my students in the classes that I haven't given instructions to.  It's something I can do while advocating for Congress to fund gun violence research at the CDC and NIH, which I shared in October in response to the Las Vegas mass shooting, earning the post 8,851 additional raw page views and landing it in first on the all time list with 10,323 raw and 10,091 default page views.*  Despite the popularity of the post, I'm not optimistic about that happening soon in a land that loves guns.  Here's to hoping that changes.  In the meantime, stay safe, everyone.

*That lasted until December, when Vox explains how proportional representation can solve gerrymandering and help minor parties earned 12,750 default and 12,890 raw page views to unseat it. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Happy Year of the Earth Dog!


Happy Lunar New Year!  So long Year of the Fire Rooster.  Welcome the Year of the Earth Dog!  I begin the festivities with Syracuse.com explaining Chinese New Year: The Year of the Dog.

Chinese New Year is February 16, 2018. It's the first year of the earth dog since 1958.

What is the Year of the Dog? What sign are you?

Learn more about the 12 animals and the five elements that make up the Chinese Zodiac, as well as what type of personality you have based on astrology.
One of the people born in the Year of the Dog is Donald Trump.  Al Jazeera noted that, too, and asked Will Trump be unlucky in the Chinese Year of the Dog?

The millions celebrating the oncoming Chinese New Year are hopeful that it will bring prosperity and good luck.

But Chinese horoscopes say that the Year of the Dog, which is about to start, brings bad luck, and those born in the same zodiac year will face that bad luck.

US President Donald Trump was born in the Year of the Dog, and fortunetellers are saying that the bad luck of his birth year will hit him this year.

Al Jazeera's Adrian Brown reports from Beijing.
I hope his bad luck, in as little as I believe in it, doesn't rub off on the rest of us Americans.  As for Trump looking like a dog or the dog looking like Trump, here is a side-by-side comparison.


Woof!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Vox on figure skating


I concluded The science of the Winter Olympics from ASAPScience Part 1 with a program note.
I'll resume this series after a series of three holidays, Darwin Day, Valentine's Day, and Paczki Day.  Stay tuned!
I still plan on resuming my series featuring ASAPScience's Olympic science videos, but today I take a different tack with two videos about figure skating from Vox.  I begin with Why the triple axel is such a big deal.

Triple axels can turn skaters into legends. This is why.
...
In this episode of Vox Almanac, Phil Edwards explores the triple axel and why it's such a big deal. The figure skating jump is legendary among ice skaters, from Tonya Harding's 1991 triple axel to modern icon Mirai Nagasu's attempts in competition. It turns out that the physics of the triple axel makes it a uniquely difficult jump — and one worth learning about.

As a forward-edge jump, the mechanics of a triple axel requires technical acumen from skaters while they still try to maintain an artistically interesting performance. Pioneers like Midori Ito and Tonya Harding had to jump, ramp up rotation speed, and then land all while trying to look good. This effort set them apart from competitors like Nancy Kerrigan, but it wasn't easy to land a triple axel in competition.

And that difficulty might be why the triple axel endures as the pinnacle of figure skating performance — and why it's sure to light up the 2018 Winter Olympics as well.
...
Note: The video states Mirai Nagasu was the second American to land a triple axel in competition (this was recorded before her Olympic success). In 2005, American Kimmy Miessner completed a triple axel in national competition, though not world competition.
I was wondering when someone would compare Mirai Nagasu and Tonya Harding.  This video finally did.

Nagasu also figures in the next video from Vox, How figure skating scoring rewards risk over artistry.

The new figure skating scoring system is complicated and controversial. Here's how it works.
...
At the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to land a triple axel in an Olympic event, just the third woman ever to accomplish this feat. She failed to cleanly land the same jump at the 2018 US Figure Skating Championship, in San Jose California, but she still received 6.07 points for the jump, almost two points more than her teammate's perfect double axel, which received 4.09 points. Figure skating score is complicated, and the new scoring system has changed how competitors skate. But how does it work?
I used to be a marching band judge, so the debate over artistry versus technical merit versus clean execution and how to score all of them looks very familiar to me.  The same debate goes on in the marching arts and has for decades.  I wish the figure skating community luck in resolving it; they'll need it.

I'll be back with more about the Olympics after Lunar New Year and reports on the nominees of the Golden Reel Awards.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

'Fifty Shades Freed' tops the box office for Valentines Day


Happy Valentines Day!  Three years ago, "Fifty Shades of Grey" topped the Valentine's weekend box office.  This year, the climax of the trilogy, "Fifty Shades Freed," whipped its competition at the box office, an estimated $38.8 million.  That's not all.  Newsy reports Fifty Shades' franchise passes $1 billion.

Between the "Fifty Shades of Grey" premiere and the highly anticipated (if disappointing) climax this weekend, the franchise has made $1 billion.
It beats last year's results, when "Lego Batman" spanked "Fifty Shaders Darker."

As I noted about both the first installment and the second, the songs are the strongest part of this movie.  The one I could find with the most views, Liam Payne, Rita Ora - For You (Fifty Shades Freed) has as many views as the dollars earned by the movie in North America during the opening weekend, 35.5 million.


I expect at least one Grammy nomination for Best Compilation Album, if not for one of its songs.  (ETA: I also expect this film to be nominated for at least one Razzie, like "Fifty Shades Darker" was this year.)

I mentioned "Fifty Shades Darker" being beaten by a superhero movie last year.  That's going to happen this weekend, as SyFy Wire reports Black Panther: The album expected to top charts, film eyeing $170 million opening.  Wow!  Stay tuned to see if both of those predictions come to pass.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

'Get Out,' 'The Handmaid's Tale,' and 'BoJack Horseman' win WGA Awards for Fat Tuesday/Paczki Day


Happy Paczki Day AKA Fat Tuesday! I promised "The next award show I plan on writing about will be the WGA Awards on the 11th" at the conclusion of 'Coco,' 'Rick and Morty,' and 'Samurai Jack' among Annie winners. I also said I would write about "the winners of 2018 WGA Awards" at the end of Two videos from PBS Eons for Darwin Day.  It's time to follow through with the news from Deadline Hollywood.
Jordan Peele’s Get Out and James Ivory’s Call Me By Your Name won the marquee film awards tonight at the 70th annual WGA Awards, in concurrent shows in New York and Los Angeles. It puts both screenplays on the frontrunner list for the Oscars.
Here's what I wrote about the Original Screenplay nominees in early January.
"The Shape of Water" and "Get Out" have been nominated in every major awards show so far, the 2018 Critics' Choice Movie Awards, AFI Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and SAG Awards.  I should not be surprised that their excellence began with a great original script.
Other than cheering all the speculative fiction nominees one, I didn't make a prediction.  I got closer in 'The Shape of Water' and 'Blade Runner 2049' lead speculative fiction nominees at the Oscars.
This is a close category that I can't call until the WGA Awards on February 10th.  Still, I'm glad to write that "Get Out" has a very good chance.
Now I can say that "Get Out" is favored at the Oscars.

I was not as optimistic about the chances for "Logan."  Here's what I wrote at the start of January.
"Logan" is the sole speculative fiction nominee among the adapted screenplay nominees.  I'm pleased but surprised.  If I thought any superhero movie would have earned this honor, it would have been "Wonder Woman."  As The Hollywood Reporter noted, it was eligible.  Still, it can now stand beside "Deadpool" as a superhero film worthy of a WGA nomination.
I made a more detailed prediction when I discussed the Oscar nominees
.Hey, look, "Logan," the first live-action superhero film to earn a screenwriting nomination at the Academy Awards.  That's an honor that could have gone to "Deadpool" or "The Dark Knight" first.  I'm happy for the writers, but I think this award will go to "Call Me by Your Name."
That's exactly what happened here and what I even more strongly expect at the Academy Awards.

That's enough of the movies for now.*  Follow over the jump for the television winners.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Two videos from PBS Eons for Darwin Day


Happy Darwin Day!  Just as I did last year and the year before, I'm celebrating Charles Darwin's birthday with a series of PBS videos on the subject of evolution.  This time, I'm not sharing clips of a television program, but videos from a PBS Digital Studios project, PBS Eons, which explores the history of life on Earth primarily through fossils.  As a paleontologist, I approve.

I begin with the one video so far in which Darwin is mentioned, 'Living Fossils' Aren't Really a Thing.  That's true even though Darwin himself coined the term.

Crocodiles, horseshoe crabs and tuatara are animals that have persisted for millions of years, said to have gone unchanged since the days of the dinosaurs. But even the most ancient-looking organisms show us that evolution is always at work.
Looks like I'll have to stop using the term and show this video to people who still do.

I conclude with a video I plan on showing to my students this week, A Brief History of Geologic Time.

By looking at the layers beneath our feet, geologists have been able to identify and describe crucial episodes in life’s history. These key events frame the chapters in the story of life on earth and the system we use to bind all these chapters together is the Geologic Time Scale.
I mention all the concepts and nearly all the people involved in my lecture on geologic time, so I may as well use a professionally produced and informative video to introduce them.  I hope my students like it as much as I do.

I plan on sharing more of these videos in the future.  In the meantime, stay tuned for posts about Valentine's Day and Paczki Day before returning to The science of the Winter Olympics from ASAPScience and the winners of 2018 WGA Awards.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The science of the Winter Olympics from ASAPScience Part 1


I concluded CDC reports worst flu season since 2009 with a suggestion to myself.
Enough about flu for now.  Tomorrow will be an entertainment entry.  Since sports counts as entertainment, I might post something about the Winter Olympics.  Stay tuned.
I posted three entries about the 2014 Sochi Olympics, all of them about science and engineering, The physics of figure skating, More science of the Olympics from Discovery News, and Science and engineering of the Olympics from the NSF.  I'm continuing the science theme for this year's Winter Olympics.  I could return to the NSF for their 2010 playlist, but I decided to go with ASAPScience's 2014 playlist instead.

Here's the first of the videos, Amazing Olympic Facts.

Because of the excitement surrounding the Olympics, we decided to make a series about the psychology, physiology, biology, chemistry and physics of the games! Join us every day for your daily dose of Olympic science.
The very first fact about the composition of Olympic medals, recalls the Seeker/DNews video "Are Olympic Gold Medals Really Made of Gold?" I included in More science of the Olympics from Discovery News.  I tell my students about that in reference to gold medalists biting their awards.  Let's see how many of my students see that sight and remember my little lecture.


As for the rest, many of them are previews of coming attractions.  Follow over the jump to see how many appear in the next five videos.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

CDC reports worst flu season since 2009


A week ago, I reported the CDC switched from nuclear war to flu as epidemic declared just before false alarm in Hawaii.  This month, the number of flu cases reached the peak of the 2009-2010 Swine Flu epidemic, which means this is the worst flu outbreak in the U.S. since I started writing this blog in 2011.  No wonder the CDC switched from nuclear detonation to flu!

I have four videos about the outbreak to share with my readers.  The first is This flu season could be worst in a decade from CBS News, which has the best headline and states all the important facts.

The CDC said Friday one in 10 deaths in the U.S. is currently caused by the flu or pneumonia. It's already one of the worst seasons on record, and it may not peak for several weeks. CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports.
The acting director of the CDC appears again in the next video, A Pediatrician’s Tips On Protecting Your Family From Flu from NBC Nightly News.

63 children have died this season, compared to 20 within the same period last year. The CDC says at the current rate 34 million Americans will get the flu this season. One pediatrician shares secrets on how to stop the spread at home.
I wouldn't be surprised if more than 60,000 Americans die and one million are hospitalized when this epidemic is over in May.  Also, this flu season will likely have lasting effects on how Americans stifle sneezes.  The response to the 2009-2010 Swine Flu epidemic included teaching people to sneeze into their sleeves.  This one will teach people to sneeze into their shirts, too.

Flu victim Gabriella Chabot figured prominently in both of the above reports.  CBS Los Angeles posted a KCAL segment on her memorial yesterday, Friends, Parents Attend Touching Vigil For Teen Killed By Flu.

Gabriella Chabot would have turned 15 next week. Tonight, people who knew her tried to come to grips with her loss. Tom Wait reports.
My father ran a business in Thousand Oaks when I was kid and I would go to his office with him on weekends, so this story hits close to home, literally.  Also, this is the first time I've labeled a post with obituary, pandemics, and kids.  I hope I don't have to do that again; the combination hurts.

I conclude by providing the local perspective with WXYZ's latest report on the outbreak, Metro Detroit suffering under harsh flu season as weeks still remain.

The deadly flu epidemic isn’t easing up anytime soon. Several more deaths have been reported in just the last few days including a White Lake man and a 12-year-old boy here in Michigan.
This segment had even more useful statistics, even though they did not include the latest ten pediatric deaths.

Enough about flu for now.  Tomorrow will be an entertainment entry.  Since sports counts as entertainment, I might post something about the Winter Olympics.  Stay tuned.