Sunday, October 20, 2019

Watch squirrels stealing acorns for Wester 2019

Happy Wester!  To explain today, I'm going to be a good environmentalist and recycle.
For any new readers who don't yet know the story of Wester, I'm quoting For Winter Solstice 2016, the Archdruid and I discuss Discordianism and fake holidays.
[Me:] Oh, I'm familiar with Discordianism.  I'm single-handedly keeping alive a fake holiday called Wester, which is the first Sunday following the first Full Moon after the Autumnal Equinox.  When I first posted about it, my Discordian friend claimed it for Discordianism.  As far as I'm concerned, it's still a Discordian holiday.
[Greer:] Pinku-Sensei, yes, I thought I remembered you were a closet Discordian. Wester is funny; presumably that was the day that some messiah or other descended from the living?
[Me:] I agree, Wester is funny.  As for an anointed one descending from the living, sorry, that wasn't part of the Wester story that I heard.  However, the holiday has its own animal mascot, the Wester Squirrel, which goes around and gathers goodies to hide instead of hiding goodies to pass out like the Easter Bunny.
Speaking of squirrels gathering goodies and hiding them, BBC Earth caught them doing that and more in Squirrels Savagely Stealing Acorns | Spy In The Wild.

Our spy cam witnesses the claws come out as these fluffy-tailed rodent bandits scramble for acorns!
Spy Squirrel discovers how real squirrels use intellect and subterfuge to outwit other thieving squirrels.
This video should look familiar.  I embedded the preview of it in Silly Squirrels for Happy Wester 2017!  Time to be a good environmentalist and recycle again.
Serves that squirrel right.  That reminds me, it's time for a Wester blessing.  May the Wester Squirrel not steal anything from you and hide it!
Once again, Happy Wester!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Happy Sweetest Day 2019!

Happy Sweetest Day!  Last year, I leaned into the idea that Sweetest Day is a "Hallmark Holiday" in A history of Hallmark for Sweetest Day 2018.  This year, I'm going into the WXYZ archives to share Sweetest Day from 2013.

It was about time I embedded a video from WXYZ for this holiday.

Once again, Happy Sweetest Day!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Vox tells the story of Thomas Hofeller, the man who gerrymandered America

I haven't examined gerrymandering since May, when I posted 'Slay the Dragon' examines the campaign to eliminate gerrymandering in Michigan, so it was about time I do so again.  Fortunately, Vox gave me the opportunity by uploading The man who rigged America's election maps yesterday.  Watch.

The story of the man who gerrymandered America.
When Republican mapmaker Thomas Hofeller died in 2018, we learned exactly how far Republicans were willing to go to gerrymander political districts — and rig elections to give themselves majorities in statehouses and Congress.
While I ended up being wrong when I wrote "I'm much more optimistic about North Carolina's districts being remedied than Wisconsin's, although I'm hoping that the Supreme Court does find that partisan gerrymandering has gone too far," I'm glad to see the state courts do something about the issue now that the U.S. Supreme Court gave them the responsibility.  The door closed, but the window opened.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Carole Cadwalladr describes Facebook's role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy

While "The Facebook Dilemma" earned two Emmy nominations, it failed to win in either category.  However, the subject of Facebook's role in influencing voters is still a topic worthy of examination, as "The Great Hack" explores.  Carole Cadwalladr, the reporter central to the story of "The Great Hack" as she uncovered the role that Facebook and Cambridge Analytica played in the Brexit referendum, gave a TED talk on the subject earlier this year, Facebook's role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy.  Watch.

In an unmissable talk, journalist Carole Cadwalladr digs into one of the most perplexing events in recent times: the UK's super-close 2016 vote to leave the European Union. Tracking the result to a barrage of misleading Facebook ads targeted at vulnerable Brexit swing voters -- and linking the same players and tactics to the 2016 US presidential election -- Cadwalladr calls out the "gods of Silicon Valley" for being on the wrong side of history and asks: Are free and fair elections a thing of the past?
I heard this talk on the TED Radio Hour a couple of months ago and was properly appalled by the material, if not surprised, but it took a fellow Coffee Party USA volunteer and former director to call my attention to the transcript of the talk.  I'm sharing some of the key paragraphs near the end.
Our democracy is broken, our laws don't work anymore, and it's not me saying this, it's our parliament published a report saying this. This technology that you have invented has been amazing. But now, it's a crime scene. And you have the evidence. And it is not enough to say that you will do better in the future. Because to have any hope of stopping this from happening again, we have to know the truth.

And maybe you think, "Well, it was just a few ads. And people are smarter than that, right?" To which I would say, "Good luck with that." Because what the Brexit vote demonstrates is that liberal democracy is broken. And you broke it. This is not democracy -- spreading lies in darkness, paid for with illegal cash, from God knows where. It's subversion, and you are accessories to it.
And what you don't seem to understand is that this is bigger than you. And it's bigger than any of us. And it is not about left or right or "Leave" or "Remain" or Trump or not. It's about whether it's actually possible to have a free and fair election ever again. Because as it stands, I don't think it is.

And so my question to you is, is this what you want? Is this how you want history to remember you: as the handmaidens to authoritarianism that is on the rise all across the world? Because you set out to connect people. And you are refusing to acknowledge that the same technology is now driving us apart.

And my question to everybody else is, is this what we want: to let them get away with it, and to sit back and play with our phones, as this darkness falls?
Democracy is not guaranteed, and it is not inevitable, and we have to fight and we have to win and we cannot let these tech companies have this unchecked power. It's up to us -- you, me and all of us. We are the ones who have to take back control.
It's been three years since I used the phrase "a 21st Century crime scene," but Cadwalladr calling social media "a crime scene" tells me its time to bring it back.  As for any commentary I might have on her talk, I think her words speak for themselves.  I don't need to add my own take; I just need to boost the signal.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

PBS Eons on conodonts for National Fossil Day and Hagfish Day

Happy National Fossil Day and Happy Hagfish Day!  To celebrate, I'm sharing a video about the closest animals to hagfish that are important as fossils, conodonts.  Watch The Most Useful Fossils in the World from PBS Eons.

For decades, one of the most abundant kinds of fossils on Earth, numbering in the millions of specimens, was a mystery to paleontologists. But geologists discovered that these mysterious fossils could basically be used to tell time in the deep past.
I've shown this video to two of my classes.  My geology classes watch it because it serves as a good explanation of index fossils, while my organismal biology class watches it because it describes a lost piece of biodiversity.  Besides, I think it's cool.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Vox explains how American CEOs got rich by buying back their companies' stock

I could not decide what to write about today until I listened to the October Democratic debate on the way home from work and heard Joe Biden mention corporations using their profits to buy back stocks instead of investing in their workers by raising wages and benefits.  I thought "Vox has a video about that."  So here is How American CEOs got so rich, which explains the history of stock buybacks and the role they play in increasing CEO compensation at the expense of workers.

For a long time, it was off-limits for a corporation to buy back its own stock. Not anymore.
American companies today spend billions on stock buybacks. So what does that mean for the US economy? And how did it help make American CEOs so unbelievably rich?
What struck me was the connection between CEO compensation and investor dividends to the closing of GM plants.  Plant closings are one of the issues in the ongoing UAW strike against GM.  So is getting rid of two-tiered wage scales and putting every worker on the same scale, which will increase wages overall, even if it might not benefit those on the top tier much if at all.  Is GM willing to reduce its shareholder and executive compensation so it can pay workers?  I'm guessing it's resisting that idea, which is why the strike is in its fifth week.  At least there are signs GM and the UAW are getting close to an agreement.  I hope that's so.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Thank the Canadians who helped the U.S. land on the Moon for Canadian Thanksgiving 2019

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving again!  This year, I am tying the original Thanksgiving to the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 by sharing The Canadians Who Got America to the Moon from Vintage Space.

The Canadians who helped get Apollo to the Moon...
Amy Shira Teitel has more in her accompanying blog post at Discover Magazine.
The news of the Avro Arrow’s cancellation reached Robert Gilruth in Virginia. Though now in his role as head of NASA’s Space Task Group, the group charged with leading America’s program to launch a man into space before the Soviet Union, he had been following the Arrow since its early development.

Before NASA’s inception, Gilruth had served as Assistant Director of the space agency’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the NACA). In that capacity, part of Gilruth’s work had been running wind tunnel and free-flight test of early models of the Arrow at Langley and the NACA’s firing range on Wallops Island. He’d been impressed with the Canadians whom he considered a uniquely gifted group of engineers: brilliant, mature, and the perfect mix of talented and professional. Hearing the Arrow program had been cancelled, Gilruth saw a chance to get those minds working on the problem of American space flight. The Space Task Group was close to falling apart under the pressure of figuring out human spaceflight, and with the future of space so uncertain, he was having a hard time finding people willing to take the professional risk of working for the space program. The Canadians, he thought, might fill the gap.

Within hours of the Arrow’s cancellation* (Maynard, Oral History) Robert Gilruth reached out to Jim Chamberlin with the offer of bringing former Arrow engineers to NASA to work on the fledgling space program. Chamberlin in turn put forth a number of his former team members to Gilruth for consideration, and the interviews started immediately.
On April, 9 1959**, the same day the world met the Mercury astronauts, the Canadians joined the Space Task Group at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. They didn’t all know each other; many met for the first time while getting fingerprinted to go to NASA.
By cancelling the Arrow program when he did, Deifenbaken inadvertently gave the American space program its most fortuitous break since when Wernher von Braun found and surrendered to American troops after the Second World War. In true Canadian style, the Arrow engineers never demanded accolades for their work, but many within NASA considered their contributions invaluable. Case in point: When John Glenn sat in the lead car during a ticker tape parade through New York City after his successful Friendship 7’s mission, Jim Chamberlain sat waving from the second car, an appropriately quiet Canadian move.
This story is one of many reasons Americans should thank Canada.  I'll begin by thanking Amy for writing this story and producing the video to bring it to the world's attention.  Thank you and Happy Canadian Thanksgiving from south of the border!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

'Game of Thrones,' 'Ozark,' 'Killing Eve,' and 'Succession'—drama series winners examine political intrigue

"Veep" wasn't the only program to receive a farewell tribute at the Emmy Awards for its final season.  "Game of Thrones" did as well.  Watch A Tribute To Game Of Thrones.

Seth Meyers introduces a tribute to the end of Game of Thrones.
Also like "Veep," the "Game Of Thrones" cast presented an award, in this case Supporting Actress In Limited Series Or Movie.

The Game of Thrones cast takes the stage to present the award for Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.
To see how that award turned out, read 'Chernobyl' dominates Limited Series with ten Emmy Awards.

The similarities end there, for unlike "Veep," "Game of Thrones" repeated its Emmy Awards from last year, earning two for the night and a total of twelve for the season.  I called both of them in Outstanding Drama Series Emmy nominees examine politics and family dynamics, beginning with Outstanding Drama Series, writing "I'm sure "Game of Thrones" will win this award one last time, repeating last year's victory."  Watch Game Of Thrones Wins Best Drama Series.

Game of Thrones takes home the Emmy for Best Drama Series.

As for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, I didn't even bother assessing the chances of the other nominees, writing "Peter Dinklage won this award last year and I think he'll win again this year, so off to the next category."  I took a risk being so dismissive of the other nominees, but I was right to do so as he won.  Watch Peter Dinklage Wins Emmy For Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series.

Peter Dinklage Wins Emmy For Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series For Tyrion Lannister in Season 8 Emmys 2019.
I support that message from Dinklage, especially since I've made a point of emphasizing the importance and portrayal of acceptance and diversity in entertainment.  His speech came up in Emmy Winners for 'Game of Thrones' Full Press Room Speeches from The Hollywood Reporter.

'Game of Thrones' won Outstanding Drama Series and Peter Dinklage won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series at the 2019 Emmy Awards. Watch their full press room interviews here!
Mark Kelly, brother of Scott Kelly, the subject of "A Year in Space," himself a subject of "Beyond a Year in Space," and candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona, guessed 90% of the ending?  I'm impressed.  I'm also impressed that Kit Harington was able to handle the final question about the controversy around the ending as well as he did.  Congratulations to Harington and the rest of the crew and good luck on their future endeavors in show business!

In addition to "Game of Thrones," other Emmy winners in drama also tackled themes involving government and politics, particularly "Ozark," "Killing Eve," and "Succession," while "Pose" examined social issues.  Follow over the jump for their awards.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Television Academy pays farewell tribute to 'Veep' while other comedies win Emmy Awards

Speaking of big winners, "Game of Thrones" took home the most Emmy Awards with a full dozen.  I'll see if I can manage to write up its wins as well as those of the other dramas tomorrow.  Stay tuned.
That was the plan I announced yesterday to conclude 'Chernobyl' dominates Limited Series with ten Emmy Awards.  However, I meant it when I wrote "I'll see if I can manage" to follow through; there was always a possibility I wasn't up for it for one reason or another.  So it shouldn't surprise my readers that I decided I would rather tackle "Veep" and the other Outstanding Comedy Series nominees today and save the Outstanding Drama Series nominees tomorrow for a big finish to the series.  At least I'm blogging about the Emmy Awards.

I begin by noting that the Emmy Awards paid tribute to "Veep" with a montage of the funniest scenes followed by a skit featuring the actors in character on last time.

The Emmys says farewell to the VEEP.
Yes, the bit doubled as the lead-in for an award.  That's what happens when an awards show has no host.

Before the show, Julia Louis-Dreyfus talked about the end Of Veep on the red carpet and admitted she was nervous.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus talks about ending Veep and what's to come.
She was right to be nervous; neither she nor the rest of the cast and its writers won a single award.  I wasn't surprised.  I wrote "The final season of "Veep" will have to be content with its Golden Coffee Cup for Best Comedy Series about Politics and Government."  That was premature.  "Veep" won for its sixth season; its final season will be eligible for the next awards, as I noted in August.
In this category, both the professionals and the Coffee Party's volunteers agreed; "Veep" was the best political comedy of 2017.  It will be around to defend its award in the next round, as the show's final season is eligible for 2018-2019, just as it is for this year's Emmy Awards.  Its toughest competition will probably be "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" — all of our volunteers have NBC, but not all watch HBO.
It might be the final award for the show proper should it win (the actors and others may have better chances at individual awards).  As I wrote in September, "I'm not even sure the Golden Globes will deliver for ['Veep' and 'The Good Place']; they were the first to jump on the bandwagon for 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' and might prefer 'Fleabag' or 'Schitt's Creek' over either."

One last time, farewell to "Veep."  Follow over the jump for the winners.

Friday, October 11, 2019

'Chernobyl' dominates Limited Series with ten Emmy Awards

I explained the common theme among most nominees for Outstanding Limited Series along with my opinion of their chances last month.
Four of the five nominees depict failures at some level of government, ranging from the catastrope of "Chernobyl" through the miscarriage of justice in "When They See Us" to the incompetence in "Escape at Dannemora" and "Sharp Objects," while the fifth, "Fosse/Verdon," is about show business.  The most nominated with 19 nominations as well as the most winning so far with seven Emmy Awards is "Chernobyl," the fictionalized story of the meltdown of the nuclear reactor, with 19 nominations.  "Fosse/Verdon" is the next most nominated with 17 nominations and the second most winning with three statuettes, followed by "When They See Us" with 16 nominations and one trophy.  "Escape at Dannemora" has twelve nominations while "Sharp Objects" has eight nominations; neither has any wins so far.

My personal favorite is "Sharp Objects," but I think its best chances are for Outstanding Lead Actress and Outstanding Supporting Actress.  It's not going to win this category.  Instead, I think this contest is among the three nominees that already have awards, "Chernobyl," "Fosse/Verdon," and "When They See Us" with "Chernobyl" favored.  However, I think it will be close, as "When They See Us" is just as well acted and about an issue closer to home, literally, while "Fosse/Verdon" enjoys the advantage of being about entertainment, albeit musical theater, not movies and television.  All things being equal, that would give it a good chance of upsetting the other two leaders, but I'm not sure all things really are equal.
I was right; things weren't equal.  Deadline Hollywood reported "In the Limited Series race, Chernobyl prevailed, taking three trophies including the top prize."  Watch ‘Chernobyl’ Wins Outstanding Limited Series at 2019 Emmy Awards.

The HBO miniseries took home the coveted award on Sept. 22 at the 71st Primetime Emmys. The show beat out fellow nominees ‘Escape at Dannemora,’ ‘Fosse/Verdon,’ ‘Sharp Objects’ and ‘When They See Us.’ While accepting the award, show creator Craig Mazin spoke about how he hoped the show would remind people of “the value of truth.”...‘Chernobyl’ was also nominated in five other categories and won best writing for a limited series and best directing for a limited series. The five-part series debuted on May 6 and concluded on June 3, where it quickly became IMDb's top-ranked TV show of all-time on June 5.
IMDB examined two parts of the story in the description above.  Watch Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgaård of "Chernobyl" Celebrate Their Emmys Victories With Creators.

#Chernobyl co-stars #JaredHarris and #StellanSkarsgård, along with writer Craig Mazin and series director Johan Renck, talk about how their Emmy wins are a celebration of their entire cast and crew.
I was skeptical about Renck's chances, but directing the best limited series put him ahead of Ava DuVernay, who I thought had a good chance.  On the other hand, I was rooting for "Chernobyl" to win the writing award, so I got my wish.

The next video begins with "Chernobyl" becoming the top-rated TV show on IMDB and delves into the premise of the show, How "Chernobyl" Splits Atomic Facts from Fiction | IMDbrief.

On this IMDbrief, we'll split atoms of fact from fiction in the stunning HBO miniseries, "Chernobyl.
That segment really helped me understand why and how "Chernobyl" came to be, so thank you, IMDB.

I expect lots more awards for "Chernobyl," including Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, and all the various guild awards, followed by the EMA Awards to finish out its awards show run.  However, the next honors may come from Coffee Party USA, as I expect "Chernobyl" to be nominated for the Golden Coffee Cup for Best Miniseries or Movie for Television about Politics and Government when I run the awards for the 2018-2019 season.  "Black Mirror" has serious competition.  I'm looking forward to it already.

Follow over the jump for the rest of the limited series winners.