Friday, May 07, 2021

Without Remorse: EXTREMELY "Loosely Based On"


After more than two decades in development hell, the movie "loosely based on" Tom Clancy's 1993 novel Without Remorse debuted on Amazon Prime Video last week (those are not affiliate links).

Here's how "based on" the book the movie is: Both lead characters are former US Navy SEALs who begin the story with the name John Kelly, who end it with the name John Clark, and who have love interests by the name of Pam.

That's really pretty much it.

Which is not to say that Without Remorse is a bad movie. I liked it, despite several typical action movie suspension of disbelief problems. Example:

* SPOILER ALERT *

Kelly and some other SEALs endure a transport aircraft shootdown (by a Russian fighter) into the Barents Sea (average water temperature in its warmest area -- 40 degrees Fahrenheit) and not only survive, but subsequently waltz into the Russian port of Murmansk in not-quite-broad daylight aboard a Zodiac raft.

* END SPOILER ALERT *

That kind of thing.

I find the choice of story change ... odd.

The novel seems tailor-made for a film adaptation catering to today's "human trafficking" moral panic. 

That whole story line -- the MAIN story line -- is absent from the film.

Instead, the film starts off looking like it's going to be 100% post-"Hillary-lost-because-PUTIN" Russia-baiting bullshit.

Fortunately, it rises above/beyond that, and even makes a good (and very non-Tom-Clancy-esqe) point about the actual nature of things near the end.

I don't want my 110 minutes back or anything. It was a fun ride, and presumably will tie into the Amazon / John Krasinski reboot of the "Ryanverse" if that reboot can recover from a disappointing second season. It sets the tie-in up pretty well, especially if can keep Michael B. Jordan on board in the Kelly/Clark role.

Personal jinx moment: Very early in the film, Tamara and I simultaneously asked the same question -- "what's a leppo?"

1970 Album of the Week, May 7-13: Let It Be, by The Beatles


Really, could there possibly have been any other choice this week?

Well, yes, I suppose it could be one of two other choices: The Jackson 5's ABC or the triple album Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More. Kind of an incredible week in music. But this one's my pick.

Let It Be is the Beatles' final studio album ... sort of. It was their last studio album by release date, but most of it was recorded before September 1969's Abbey Road (and "Get Back," which was initially supposed to be the previously recorded album's title track, was released as a single in April 1969).

John Lennon left the group (without announcing it) the week before Abbey Road's release, with the previously recorded work still in production/mixing hell.

The three remaining Beatles -- George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and whoever secretly replaced Paul McCartney after his fatal car accident in late 1966 or early 1967 -- got together in January of 1970 to put the final touches on Let It Be.

Finis, sort of. While legal disputes kept The Beatles intact as a legal entity until 1974, and several live albums and compilations have seen subsequent release, McCartney's replacement double announced his departure from the group a month before Let It Be's debut.

Let it Be is the final album. The final recorded song, and the selection I've chosen to share, is George Harrison's "I Me Mine" ...


The Beatles - I Me Mine (Official Music Video) from Kitsuツ on Vimeo.


Thursday, May 06, 2021

Let's Talk About Those Vaccine Research and Development Costs


The US government is now officially on board with "waiving" the patents on several COVID-19 vaccines. Other regimes, and Big Pharma, not so much:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in against a U.S. proposal to waive patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines, casting doubt on whether the idea has enough international support to become a reality. The U.S. plan would create "severe complications" for the production of vaccines, a German government spokeswoman said Thursday in an email. Without the incentive of profits from research and development spending, drugmakers might not move as aggressively to make vaccines in the future, the industry has argued.

Via Operation Warp Speed, the US government's vaccine development initiative:

  • Johnson and Johnson received $1.45 billion
  • AstraZeneca received $1.2 billion.
  • Moderna received $2.48 billion.
  • Novavax got $1.6 billion.
  • Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, $2.1 billion.
  • Merck and IAVA only took $38 million, because they apparently never got very far and gave up in January of 2021.
Excepting Pfizer, the research and development funding for COVID-19 vaccines wasn't invested by those companies. It was provided by government.

And on top of government funding for research and development, those companies got advance-guaranteed sales and the "running start" advantage for subsequent sales that comes with being first to market.

Even if "intellectual property" wasn't a bullshit anti-property-rights statist fair tale, the supposed property rights in these patents should fall to the government -- or, more to the point, to the taxpayers -- who paid the way, not to the companies that are already getting over big-time on your dime and will continue to do so, patent protection or not.

The patents shouldn't be "waived" for some particular time or some particular purpose. They should be overturned completely and put into the public domain.

Since It's a Public Comment Anyway, Might as Well Post it Here


At its June 21st meeting, the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization for the Gainesville Urban Area will, as it does annually, review the latest draft of its Public Involvement Plan.

I've entered a public comment on that plan, specifically the section on recruitment for advisory boards. That section reads as follows:

When there are vacant positions on either the Citizens Advisory Committee or the Bicycle/ Pedestrian Advisory Board, a display advertisement is published in the Independent Florida Alligator, The Gainesville Sun and the Gainesville Guardian. The deadline for applying for a vacant advisory committee position is not less than four work weeks after the advertisement is published. Sample display advertisements are shown in Appendix E.

My comment (or, I guess, suggestion):

Look for a publication more widely read in the northeast part of Gainesville, or use some kind of billboard advertising there, to publicize advisory board vacancies. I notice that of the bicycle/pedestrian advisory board's members, only one lives east of Main Street, and that one lives south of University. The northeast section of the city is completely unrepresented, and probably more in need of representation on bicycle/pedestrian issues than any other area in the MTPO purview, with the possible exception of the UF campus area.

Of course, anyone can enter a public comment. I was interested in doing so because I'm a newly minted MTPO representative on the Alachua County / Gainesville / MTPO Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and thus received notification of the upcoming meeting and a link to the plan even though I'm not, strictly speaking, involved with making or passing approval of the plan.

Let me expand a little bit on the actual comment/suggestion:

The northeast section of Gainesville -- that is, north of University Avenue and east of Main Street -- is both "the poorer part of town" and "the blacker part of town."

While it does not (according to the demographics maps at City-Data.com from which I'm getting my numbers) have the highest rates in town of transportation to work on foot or by bicycle, it does have reasonably high rates of such. Whenever I'm in that part of town, I see more people who are obviously on foot or biking because that's what they've got, rather than for exercise/convenience/environmental reasons, than are obvious to me in other parts of town.

Yet, so far as I can tell (I did make a point of asking a city planner about it when I went out for the annual Ride With The Mayor last Saturday*), that part of town isn't getting anything like "its fair share" of funding love when it comes to making it easier and safer to get from Point A to Point B on foot or on a bicycle. The University of Florida area is by far the biggest focus. Which is fine and, so far as it goes, largely merited. But:

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and (to mix my cliches) that's a two-way street. If there were some northeast Gainesville residents on the advisory board raising a ruckus, their part of town might get more of what it needs. And if the recruitment process for that board made more noise in that part of town, there might be people from that part of town hearing that noise and applying to fill board vacancies.

To be clear, I am not positing current institutional racism as a reason for no northeast Gainesville representation on the board. I have no reason to believe that the organizations involved are, in this day and age, set up to avoid involving the community members in question in transportation planning. However, the residue of past institutional racism may have left a communications gap here that needs some attention.

* Yes, I know I didn't blog about it. Fun ride. Quite a few participants. Saw several street projects relevant to bicycle / pedestrian convenience and safety. The ride was single-digit miles, but the ride to and from the ride was 30+ miles. Hadn't biked that far in a while, and I did all but a few hundred feet of the ride in without tapping my bike's battery power. So I was sore for a few days.



BOHICA, Biden/Afghanistan Edition


First the Biden administration reneged on the US end of the Afghanistan peace deal and failed to complete the US withdrawal by the May 1 deadline.

Now the Biden administration is launching airstrikes against the Taliban in Helmand province.

And when the Taliban respond in kind, the Biden administration will no doubt tell us that, regretfully, US forces have to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely because, you know, the Taliban hate us for our freedoms.


Is There a Possible Compromise Here?


Not all murders committed by police involve firearms -- see, for example, George Floyd and Eric Garner. But firearms seem to be a big part of the police murder toolkit, and after the latest incident of cops gunning down a four-month-old, it seems to me that a de-escalation compromise is in order.

Yes, I understand that some people would prefer to eliminate police entirely, or at least "de-fund" them (I'm down with that). But assuming that's a bridge too far in terms of realpolitik, how about this:

We still have cops. Maybe even as many cops as now.

But they don't get, as a matter of course, to carry guns on duty. Firing offense if detected, death penalty offense if used.

Maybe allow an on-call reaction/response team with firearms that can swing into action only after a specific request and a judge issueing a warrant specifically authorizing it and setting out the limits, but regular patrol officers get to carry, at most, a nightstick and a can of pepper spray. 

Tasers? Temporarily off the table, but maybe a bargaining chip.


My New Business Plan


Under a new (but probably soon to be overturned) Florida law, social media platforms that aren't owned by Disney risk a fine of $250,000 per day for banning statewide political candidates.

I hereby declare myself (for the fourth time, so you know I'm serious!) a candidate for the vice-presidency of the United States.

My open offer to Facebook, Twitter, MeWe, Minds, et al.:

For only $25,000 a day -- a 90% discount! -- I'm willing to avoid posting content on your platforms that would, per your rules, lead to me being banned.


Wednesday, May 05, 2021

If Nobody's Willing to Pay More than $49.99, I'm So There


Blue Origin is taking bids for a seat on its first astronaut crew to space.

Got my fingers crossed that my fifty bucks will beat the field.

But I'm guessing it won't.


Saturday, May 01, 2021

It's Been Quite Some Time Since I Talked Up Kiva ...


... and I should do it more often. It's really simple: Through Kiva (affiliate link, but not lucrative for me -- more of a statistics-keeping tool), you make $25 no-interest loans, generally to small business owners in poor countries.

Over the years, Tamara and I have loaned a total of $1,100 to 44 people/groups in 26 countries.

That doesn't mean we've ever been "out" $1,100. At the moment, we've got loans totaling $100 out in the system at various stages of repayment. Whenever we notice that loans we've got at least $25 back in our account, we just loan the money out again. We've only ever had one borrower default, for a lost of $8.62.

When people in poorer countries create new wealth and prosperity through production of goods and services, all of us are better off than we were before. And if you believe in karma or something similar, this seems like a good way to generate the good kind.


I Said I Planned to Get Back to the Theater ASAP ...


... and I finally did so last night after scoring free tickets to see The Fast and the Furious. Apparently Regal is going to do the free tix thing every week with the next films in the franchise, leading up to the premier of F9, so I may just see them all.

The original is 20 years old, but I'd never seen it before. I'm not going to try to review it other than to mention that it is, in fact, a movie, and that I had fun watching it.


Thanks For Asking! -- 05/01/21


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