All is Lost – Too Long for Netflix – The editors ordeal


After the Storm, 1844, Eugène Louis Gabriel Isabey 1803-1886

After the Storm, 1844,                                                  [Eugène Louis Gabriel Isabey 1803-1886]

This blog isn’t supposed to be yet another movie review blog, we go to other blogs ourselves for that kind of thing, but sometimes we feel so stymied by the length restrictions imposed by some of the new social media websites, in this case Netfix and their 2000 character limit, that we feel compelled to publish here what we wish we were able to say over there in the first place.  Two thousand characters isn’t much [if you are counting spaces as well], that’s less than about 400 words.  It’s difficult to express one decent idea  in that few words and two ideas starts to become a parody of editorial excess.

Today’s essay started as a reaction, maybe a negative one, to the Meme Merchants Cinema Society’s recent viewing of the otherwise critically acclaimed 2013 film All is Lost by American screenwriter and director J.C. Chandor [Jeffery McDonald]  staring Robert Redford in a tour de force solo performance, which is usually described with some emphasis as being without any dialogue – as if that’s supposed to be an intrinsically good thing.

The elves at Netflix had this to say:

In this harrowing drama — which has no dialogue — a man stranded alone at sea courageously battles a ferocious storm as he struggles to survive.

Pardon me if I disagree with that assessment.  Rotten Tomatoes  gives the film a 93% Fresh, which is very good, so I’m wondering where the divergence lies.

What follows is what I wrote and wanted to publish, with some expansion;  what I actually managed to publish at Netflix is right at the bottom.

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I Atticus Finch – Too Long for YouTube, again – Putting down a diseased arguement humanely


 [CCSA3.0 Atani Studios]

Operation Frantic: blood on the boarder lands                                     [CCSA3.0 Atani Studios]

Every once in a while I come across something said on the internet that is so egregiously backwards that it requires a reply so equal in incisiveness that it bursts the bounds of the host site’s normal reply mechanism and the social requirement for the polite give and take of civilized netiquette.  So, today you seem to be victim of another Too Long for YouTube breakdown because of some YouTube commenter who’s replies are so rabid in the defense of the Nazi cause I have momentarily let slip good taste – though hopefully not common sense.

At these moments I feel prompted to act in a way like Atticus Finch, in Harprer Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” when the gentleman lawyer is compelled to shoot dead with one well-aimed shot, a hydrophobic dog wandering the streets of his town before it can cause harm any innocent bystander – or itself continue to suffer with its fatal affliction.

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Heyerdahl and Parallel Evolution at the Talkshop


Going with the flow, Heyerdahl and Kon-Tiki

Going with the flow, Heyerdahl and Kon-Tiki

There is a recent post up over at Tallbloke’s Talkshop: Thor Heyerdal: Retrospective on an Adventurous Anthropologist, which charts the man’s life and career on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of his birth: October, 6th 1914.

The article at the Talkshop commented at some length on Heyerdal’s various ocean voyages to support his ideas about trans-cultural diffusion over very long ocean distances.

Heyerdahl in particular inspired by his experiences in the south pacific in French Polynesia was possessed by the idea that the similarities between the famous moai figures of Easter Island and certain sculptures of pre-Columbian Peru indicated the possibility that vayagers from Peru encountered the native inhabitants and this was attested to in the oral legends of the islands inhabitants the Rapa Nui.  Examining the possibility of a voyage by ancient Peruvians to Easter Island lead to the famous Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947.

Another, similar, idea that possessed Heyerdahl was that the similarity between the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians and the Mayans indicated a possibility of a previously unrecognized trans-oceanic connection there as well.  This lead to the various Ra expeditions between 1969 and 1970.

I had a comment started which rapidly became too large to post there without blushing, so I posted a much abbreviated version there and the full length analysis below.

Heyerdahl was a hugely determined and brave adventurer, a great man and a great inspiration, but not much of a scientist in my opinion.  Heyerdahl certainly did prove that it was possible for a Norske to build a raft and to drift across two different oceans following the trade winds  – knowing there is someplace to wind up and the possibility of a safe return via boat or aircraft – but not much else in my opinion.

As for embarking on his later quest to effect the transformation the chief of the pantheon of your own culture’s archaic religion to a historical ruler/king somewhere in central Asia, a lot of other people besides Heyerdahl have fallen into that particular folly.

The problem with Heyerdahl’s thinking, and which is pretty common even in academic anthropology and archeology is to mistake a morphological similarity due to parallel evolution with a line of decent – an easy mistake to make.

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In Moderation Limbo – Michael Mann’s legal fictions


 The treason trial of Aaron Burr

The treason trial of Aaron Burr, legal pleadings or legal fictions?

A Comment Lost in Limbo

Steve McIntyre. announced a change in moderation policy a few days ago at his blog Climate Audit in response to the recent Fokker Scourge of blog spam that has been sweeping the blogosphere.  Somehow I seem to have fallen afoul of the new anti-spam procedures, which is ok, but my most recent comment, presently in moderation limbo, awaits the Descensus Christi ad Inferos promised to posts that despite their possible sins, died in friendship with the moderator and await their present resurrection.

Hopefully Steve M. or some kind moderator will notice before the comment becomes completely irreverent – things move quickly in the blogosphere.

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Science Eats Her Young – Consensus vs Correctness, the Scientific vs the Political and the happy news of the unkown unknown


Karl Popper, the godfather of falsifiability [Φ phi studios 2014]

Karl Popper, the godfather of falsifiability                                                           [© phi studios 2014]

There is a new guest article up at Judy Curry’s blog, Climate Etc. by Will Howard titled Appeals to the Climate Consensus Can Give the Wrong Impression that is of particular interest to Meme Merchants because it is both relevant in scientific current affairs and is also relevant generally in the discussion of scientific epistemology in regards to how people generally are supposed to know what the state of the science is at any given moment.

The article was originally posted at The Conversation.  Will Howard is a Research Scientist at University of Melbourne  School of Earth Sciences and is also the Deputy Chair of the Australian National Committee for Antarctic Research.

On the current events front of science, there is a bitter and on-going debate about the supposed scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic global warming due the volume of CO2 emitted by human activity.  The debate rages far and wide about this supposed consensus: what is this consensus actually? how many scientists hold this ‘consensus view’? which scientists [or who's] really count in the matter?  who should do the counting? who owns the ‘consensus’, and what does all of this mean for the rest of us anyway?

No Meme Merchant is going to settle the debate about the specifics of the consensus about the catastrophic global warming debate – there are lots of places trying to do that – but we would like to take up a very confined look at the “what does all of this mean anyway?” specifically in regards to Mr. Howard’s article – before I launch into a rave about what’s so great about science as a way of knowing.

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Trollgate: Cultural Production, Amen to That – Culture, the Public Domain, and the Rights of the Artist in the Digital Age – Towards a Copyright of Creativity


asdf [cca2.0 knipstermann]

Full groove ahead, or the end of the public domain?                                         [cca2.0 knipstermann]

Lucia, possibly the smartest lady in the blogosphere [her partials are just as strong as the boys'] has had a series of posts up recently at her climate oriented blog The Blackboard that strays from her usual blog-fare:  toy worlds and the intricacies of modeling thermodynamic systems; betting quatloos on the monthly UAH temperature anomaly; how-to sessions on anti-bot script writing for self-hosting WordPressians; and knitting.

The subject of this series of posts at The Blackboard is one Linda Ellis, author of the 1996 inspirational poem The Dash, and her propensity to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act  and the OCILLA code to guard – very closely - the unauthorized use of her work on the internet.  Ms. Ellis’s behavior has been described by some in the blogosphere as “trollish“, and by some others as a “shake-down operation“, though I’m sure if you asked Ms. Ellis she would say she is only defending the integrity of her intellectual property and trying to make a living from her work.  To find out more about the specifics of the controversy at Lucia’s peruse the relevant blog posts of: 18 February, DMCA Takedown: Linda Ellis;  March 19th [which seems to have disappeared from the front page of The Blackboard], Don’t Post Linda Ellis’s ‘The Dash’; and March 27th, Linda Ellis DMCA follow up.  Lucia loves a puzzle and the most recent post from her fits that tendency to a T.  Lucia is also: feisty, smart, and doesn’t like the idea of someone gaming her.  There are some very good comments so it is worth at leas skimming those as well [Lucia attracts very smart commenters].

It is not the intent of this post to discuss the specifics of the legalities or even the ethics of the ‘trollgate’ controversy [feel free to comment at Lucia's], but in the usual Meme Merchants fashion take a slightly tangent tack and look at a few of the deeper issues of culture and society that form the basis and rational for intellectual property rights and law.

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The Conspiracy of the Like Minded-truth in data as big lie


The latest hack  [©METoffice 2014]  The official caption: Figure 3: Observed (black, from Hadley Centre, GISS and NCDC) and predicted (blue) global average annual surface temperature difference relative to 1981-2010. Previous predictions starting from November 1960, 1965,... 2005 are shown in red, and 22 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) model simulations that have not been initialised with observations are shown in green. In all cases, the shading represents the probable range, such that the observations are expected to lie within the shading 90% of the time. The most recent forecast (blue) starts from November 2013. All data are rolling annual mean values. The gap between the black curves and blue shading arises because the last observed value represents the period November 2012 to October 2013 whereas the first forecast period is November 2013 to October 2014.

Fig 1 – The latest hack from the Hadley Centre                                                        [©METoffice 2014]    The official caption:  “Figure 3: Observed (black, from Hadley Centre, GISS and NCDC) and predicted (blue) global average annual surface temperature difference relative to 1981-2010. Previous predictions starting from November 1960, 1965,… 2005 are shown in red, and 22 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) model simulations that have not been initialised with observations are shown in green. In all cases, the shading represents the probable range, such that the observations are expected to lie within the shading 90% of the time. The most recent forecast (blue) starts from November 2013. All data are rolling annual mean values. The gap between the black curves and blue shading arises because the last observed value represents the period November 2012 to October 2013 whereas the first forecast period is November 2013 to October 2014.”

Update – I’ve added a new figure Fig. 4a below, a version of the AR5 SOD Fig. 1.4 with the “grey swoosh” redacted.

Today, after giving my opinion on the subject of Syria, my sister told me I was being, “Negative, pessimistic, and paranoid” – all possibly true – but being a scientist I am driven to that position by the apprehension of the evidence.

Later in the day I came across the above graphic from the UK MetOffice’s 2014 Decadal Forecast over at Tallbloke’s Talkshop in an article entitled MET- Office: New four year ‘decadal’ forecast spaghetti.  This is what fellow WordPressian Tallbloke had to say:

Ed Hawkins tweeted up  the latest offering from the MET-Office this morning. It’s a “Decadal forecast”, which runs from now to the beginning (not the end, Ed) of 2018. Stop tittering at the back there! But compounding matters, the ‘forecast’ is a spaghetti of similarly coloured lines. I said STOP LAUGHING!

I thought the MET-Office was getting out of doing these longer range forecasts they’ve had so much trouble with them the last many years, not that I pay any attention to them since it seems that Met Office Global Forecasts Too Warm In 13 Of Last 14 Years.  And, if that’s not enough just scratch the surface of this iceberg.

Actually, that wasn’t the very first thing I noticed, what I noticed immediately was the curious way that the graph was constructed, namely that visually the tag end of the graph from 2010 on functions as graph within a graph. Its actually a little like a fractal – self-similarity at different scales  Maybe you noticed that too.

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The Real Scope of the Problem – Energy Access – Iron Age to Modern Age in a single generation – Avoiding the drawbridge mentality


The true scope of the problem  ©Center for Global Development

The true scope of the problem                                                             ©Center for Global Development

FAIR WARNING - you may have some reading to do.  This article is mostly a slim collation of other articles you may want to read if you want to bring yourself up to speed on the subject of ‘energy access’ and energy poverty.

The other day Pielke the Younger unwittingly, handed me the perfect graphic to illustrate the scope of the problem that lies at the crux of the good humored dispute I have been having with Willis Eschenbach from WUWT regarding Willis’s scheme for The Powerhouse School Concept.

The Graph of the Day: Africa Power Needs, at the top of the page originally came to Pielke the Younger from an article titled: How Much Power Does Africa Really Need? by Todd Moss,  Todd is director of the Emerging Africa Project at the Center for Global Development.

Willis’s rural power generation and transmission scheme for the rural poor arose out of his insight that Expensive Energy Kills Poor People, an insight with which I am in total agreement with Willis.  The problem I see with Willis’s scheme is that it doesn’t go far enough to solve the real problem of energy access in the developing world.  I commented at Willis’s article at WUWT and expanded upon that comment here with my article Powerhouse School Project-unintended consequences of what works.

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Fisked by Willis – Further Comments on the PowerHouse School


Pleasant journey in bear country ©tipiman 2001

Pleasant journey in bear country, note the PV pannel on the trailer.                          ©tipiman 2001

I was fisked today [in a gentle way], it was actually a small honor in this case, the author of The Powerhouse School Concept bog post I wrote about yesterday, Willis Eschenbach, did me the honor of taking some of his time to respond to my comment almost point by point. I actually appreciate this kind of critique, and in this case also garnered some appreciation for some of the points I was making and general agreement on others.

As far as I know Willis hasn’t figured out that the ping-backs to his post are coming from here and hasn’t read either of these two posts.  Or, maybe he has better things to do.  Of course he is welcome to comment or guest post here.

I think the greatest bone of contention arose between Willis and I over my insisting on emphasizing the importance of economic development for the adults in his community based scheme, which Willis seemed to interpret as a downplay of his scheme’s educational aspect.  This was not my intent at all.  My intent was to express that both were equally important and that there was a danger of one undermining the other.

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Powerhouse School Project – Willis Eschenbach – the unintended consequences of what actually works


Willis Eschenbach, one of  the regular authors and commenter over at WUWT has a thought provoking new article up: The Powerhouse School Concept, This article is a further development of his thoughts on bringing low cost electricity to the rural poor of the world who are suffering grave hardships, disease, and excessive mortality due to their reliance on expensive or dirty biomass fuels and coal.

I’m in complete agreement with Willis that, “Expensive Energy Kills Poor People”.

Enviornemtal policy academic and blogger Pielke the Younger had a series of articles on the subject in the fall of 2012 for instance here:  Against Modern Energy Access.  Pielke the Younger wrote:

Access to energy is one of the big global issues that has hovered around the fringes of international policy discussions such as the Millennium Development Goals or climate policy, but which has been getting more attention in recent years. In my frequent lectures on climate policy I point out to people that 1.3 billion people worldwide lack any access to electricity and an 2.6 billion more cook with wood, charcoal, tree leaves, crop residues and animal waste (an additional 400 million cook with coal).

The “success” scenarios of climate advocates hoping to power the world with carbon-free energy almost always leave a billion or more people in the dark and several billion cooking with dirty fuels. Sometimes, magic is invoked to suggest that “electricity can be brought to everyone” without appreciably increasing carbon emissions. Of course, if we could bring electricity to the 1.3 billion without any access with no effect on emissions, then we could probably do it for 6 billion others.

In response, amplifying Pielke the Younger’s argument in comments I wrote:

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Comment on Kloor – Trusted Influentials – Rising in the reasonableness ranking


Science journalist Keith Kloor, has an article up at his blog Collide-a-Scape at the Discover.com website titled: Trusted communicators who shape the GMO Discourse.  Kloor seems to be a fairly sensible fellow, and is a journalist who is generally rising in the Meme Merchant’s quality blogger index.

Lately, KK has been on a sort of anti anti-GMO tear, that is trying to roll back some of the fear, hysteria and disinformation that is surrounding the entire anti-gmo movement.  In today’s case he talks about the role of people he terms “influentials” in shaping the debate within the anti-GMO movement:

Influentials are the information brokers that have major media platforms and big receptive audiences. For example, on the GMO issue, top influentials include Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Dr. Oz, and Vandana Shiva. Each of these influentials have been responsible for spreading or endorsing nonsense about GMOs via social media and other highly trafficked venues.

Its not the point of this blog post to take on the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms in general, or even the anti-GMO movement in particular.  I am much more interested in the notion of “Trusted Communicators”, why do we trust them?  And why do we continue to trust them even if they have been demonstrated to be wrong on many occasions about what they are saying?

Trusted is not the same as trustworthy, as I’m sure we can all agree – at least in principle.  But when it come to your own cherished beliefs however…

Kloor quotes Princeton social scientist Linda Fiske:

People trust people they think are like themselves. This is human nature. They trust people who they think share their values and goals.

I would paraphrase Ms Fiske slightly, ‘People trust people who think like themselves’. People like having their world view reinforced, its very natural.  People don’t like cognitive dissonance, they don’t like doubt or uncertainty.  An excess of doubt or uncertainty can make decision making difficult, or even day to day functioning.  People walk out the door every day with the expectation that they will not be run over by the bus or a planetesimals will fall out of the sky and wipe out civilization.  We tend to reserve doubt for critical situations, and ones where we expect to need it.

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First thoughts on Henry C.K. Liu – The Race Towards Barbarism – Jewel in the Crown


Barbarian at the gate  ©AsiaTimesOnLine

The slope-browed-retro-troglodyte                  ©AsiaTimesOnLine

Tolling through the AsiaTimesOnLine archives I came across a highly provocative item by Henry C. K. Liu, a writer the Meme Merchants have followed for a number of years. What came up today was the first installment of a series he wrote back in July 2003: The Abduction of Modernity, The Race towards Barbarism.  I say provocative in two senses:  being thought-provoking in Lui’s inimitable way, and also provoking some very strong disagreement.

Before I was halfway through the article I found myself doing a kind of point by point rebuttal, the genesis of this piece, which I had to eventually push mentally aside in order to finish the article.  The article was so thought-provoking that I feel I have to give myself a kind of ‘intellectual time out’, before I  proceed with a more serious analysis or criticism of the article.  Mr. Liu is a very smart and thoughtful writer, one has to at least try to meet him at his own level.

This morning in way of introducing the topic I will anticipate that much of the further discussion on the subject will revolve around two rather different world views, one the so-called ‘modern’ Western world view and the other the traditional Eastern Confucian world view.  To be fair to Mr. Liu, the point of at least the first article of this series is precisely the nature of that ‘modernity’ and its relationship to Western civilization.

A strong dichotomy it appears.

Of the many possible dichotomies of civilizations you can draw, one is the dichotomy of a civilization that sees what is noble and valuable in the individual as what is in conformance with the cultural model, and another civilization who’s culture sees what is rare and valuable in the individual as everything that is different from the cultural model.

One of those world views, I propose, is ‘modern’, the other is not.

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