on men with causes–The Cove, Garbage Warrior
September 15, 2010, 6:40 pm
Filed under: movies | Tags: , , , ,

I recently watched a pair of movies that included an empassioned man who learns something late in life.
The first one was Garbage Warrior, a movie about an architect who has been working building sustainable dwellings out in New Mexico. He uses glass bottles and natural recyclable materials. It was an interesting tale about a guy who made his own way in the world. Eventually he attracted a sect of followers and they built a subdivision of so-called Earthships. He gets taken to task for violating about every building code in the town, and he goes through the legal political system to try and get clearance to continue building his stuff. He’s an older dude now, and it was pretty poignant when you can see him grappling with his failures. Why don’t they understand me? You’re a wack job dude. You’re a wack job. Anyhow it’s a pretty interesting story.

The other story was about a guy who lived the high life. Made lots of money in CA. Got famous. He was a dolphin trainer. And when his beloved pet died, he had a revelation. And then he spent the next half of his life until this day fighting to reverse the industry he helped to build. It’s a documentary called the Cove, and it’s about a mass dolphin slaughter that takes place each year in a hidden cove in Japan. A few dolphins are selected for the various Seaworlds and places like that, and the rest are rounded over into the hidden cove and killed. 23,000 of them! A year! The meat is toxic (mercury), and not widely preferred. It’s so weird! Why do they do it? Such a weird and sad story. On a lot of levels. The man leading the charge to expose the practice–is also kind of a wack job. He’s haunted, though. And dedicated to the cause. Very interesting man. And by the way, the documentary as a piece of filmmaking is AWESOME! You need to watch it just because it’s a great narrative, a great film. How they captured the footage of the kill is better than any spy movie. Funny, smart. The crazy dolphin dude recruited a great team.

Two interesting movies, two interesting guys.

As a PSA that relates to issues that both these dudes could probably get behind I heard about this campaign….the PB & J Campaign. Eat a plant based lunch, reduce your carbon footprint, save a Tuna!


My new favorite tv show: American Pickers
September 8, 2010, 4:53 pm
Filed under: movies

Ok so i had a brief fling with ice road truckers one day when i wasn’t feeling well. But that was short-lived. The Good Wife, well I watched a whole season of that and it was ok. Jamie at Home–I’ll tune in anytime. Property Virgins and House Hunters, they’re always good. But now, my new favorite tv show–American Pickers. This is one cool show! Click on the link below to see what i’m talking about.

American Pickers — American Pickers: Getting the Boot — History.com Videos.

frank and mike the pickers

These dudes have a great time–they find really cool old falling down barns and sheds and spend their days rifling through dusty boxes of crap looking for cool stuff. Exactly what I love to do, minus the getting my hands dirty part that I don’t like so much. I wish I could tag along on the ride–they meet some neat people and find some really neat stuff.

Gasland–marcellus shale in PA
June 8, 2010, 8:36 pm
Filed under: marcellus, movies, pittsburgh, utilities

What does the happy couple get up to on a Saturday night? Doode and I went out to a screening of Gasland downtown. Marcellus shale is a hot topic in our area. Many people are being approached to sign leases for drilling on their land. It’s a lot of money. Our well guy said one friend of his got a check at signing for 800000?! It’s a lot of temptation. And when your neighbors are doing it, at some point it becomes a non-issue. You might remember our drive out to the east of the state, when we saw the signs of MAJOR drilling activity. In some really poor looking areas, lots of machinery coming in, rigs on the road, etc. It’s a really big deal.

But it’s also pretty scary….

There are major impacts to be thinking about, to the water table and to the air (I didn’t realize the air quality issues part). The process uses “Frac water” gigantic amounts of chemically infused water solution to fracture the shale to release the gas. It uses MILLIONS of gallons of water to drill a well. As one document notes, “If one well requires 2 million gallons of water for one fracking, that’s 366, 5,460 gallon tanker trucks hauling fresh water and 183, 5,460 gallon tanker trucks hauling waste.” This quote should alert you to the scary fact that they are only able to get 50% of this chemical concoction back out.

And this “produced water” gets put into holding ponds for evaporation. Or it gets shipped to sewage treatment plants where it is simply put into the system in small proportions–ie…it is not actually filtered out just sent out at “acceptable” levels. Sigh. The industry is not regulated enough–and Bush passed a law to exempt the drilling from Clean Water laws. There have been issues in our area–for example a big fish kill. Algae showed up and caused the problem,”Our biggest concern is how the conditions were created in Dunkard Creek that allowed that algae to thrive,” Mr. Sternberg said. “If we see a saltwater algae in a freshwater creek, we know there must be something very wrong.” Something wrong indeed. Here’s a short article that outlines some of the issues. And here‘s a good report that links to some scientific studies of the water issues. As one resident noted, “You have to evaluate which is more important, the money or the water,” said a Dimock resident who declined to be named because he doesn’t want to antagonize Cabot, which he says will pay him more than $600,000 this year for the wells on his property.”

The documentary, in addition to talking about the water quality issues, talks about air quality. The compressors that move the gas vent out toxic stuff too. They run day and night and release harmful toxins into the air.

For more on the topic….a useful blog with good links…marcelluseffect (new york based). Texas has had a longer experience with this kind of drilling. For info on their issues…the Star Telegram has a blog.

quaint country living v. mumbai
April 28, 2010, 4:41 pm
Filed under: movies

On Monday got home to find that there was no water coming from the well, but that was instead a lot of rain water coming in from the roof–on two levels of the house no less. Sigh. The thought of having to manage more men doing (or more likely) not doing work around here is too depressing.

Reflecting on the utility debacle with the doode brought to mind the quaintness of country living. Yes each neighborhood has its own challenges–we’ve moved from the sideswipes and midnight oven dragging of Lawrenceville to the country charm of well and septic, and 3 months to get phone service on 50 year old wires at the end of a long trunk line. We wanted to move out here and we wanted to learn stuff. And boy aren’t we?!

I didn’t imagine that we could possibly ever have a connection with Peter Mayle’s Year in Provence, but alas, in some ways we can relate! All these guys are the same, the show up look at the job, and then they don’t do it! Yeah, naaah, the only we can do it is if…X. Etc. Etc. We checked in on a documentary on Sundance Channel (whew the cable still works which is cool) about Mumbai traffic. The link above has a nice summary by the filmmakers about it. Here’s a synopsis of the film:

“In the Indian city of Mumbai, 13 people die on public transportation every day. What’s more, traffic has increased so rapidly that the entire city becomes gridlocked during rush hour. The solution is a massive suspension bridge to be built off the coast, linking the north of the city to the south and providing considerable relief from the crippling and deadly traffic jams. But lack of funding has drawn construction of the bridge to a standstill, so the municipal government has come up with an alternative plan: to build split-level highways in 96 places around the city, in hopes of keeping the traffic moving. Mumbai Disconnected follows supporters and opponents of this project: a resident who is horrified by the building of the viaducts; a man who just wants to get to work every day, and sees a new car as the fulfilment of a lifetime ambition; and the vice president of the construction company that is erecting the bridge and the viaducts. Juxtaposition of these points of view creates an enlightening impression of an immense metropolis that is in danger of coming to a complete impasse because of conflicting interests.”

And the box blurb: Like a city on steroids, Mumbai is rapidly becoming one of the world’s biggest megacities. But it’s all happening on a narrow peninsula with an infrastructure on the verge of complete collapse. Every day, 10-12 people die from falling off the overcrowded public trains. On the roads, cars come to a stand-still in serial traffic jams. To make matters worse, the Nano, India’s new popular and affordable mini car, has just been launched. Through three interwoven human stories, we meet the people at the frontline of Mumbai’s infrastructural battle. One thing is certain: urban planning is not easy in the world’s largest democracy!

There was some humour in this ultimately sad and globally frightening tale. We could relate with the whole job responsibility issue. They’re trying to build a bridge and they’ve run out of money to finish it–shot pans to guys hand carving leaves into a couple of the piers that have been built!

mumbai disconnected

Priorities people! Ah we can relate to that!

One *humorous* segment in the movie:  The world bank has said that mature trees must be saved and relocated as part of their road funding. Guy goes to check on success of the replanting efforts. These are huge trees. Guys are ripping them out and driving them somewhere. Guy goes out to the place where the trees are replanted. Ok, so says here you have 64 trees. So, where are they? They count up and find that there are 34 trees planted (and most are dead). How do you “lose” 30 huge trees? Uh?? So many levels of accountability and some guys just figure hey let’s just keep on driving. We can sell these for firewood or whatever. Whoosh. Trees are gone! And in Mumbai–they left at .15 miles per hour. The supervisor guy is freaking out. Kind of like my cable guy. Speaking of whom, I’m so curious to see if they’ve come out to “finish” their job this morning.

Ok so here’s a trailer to the broader series. There are pieces of the mumbai one interspersed throughout the trailer. It’s a pretty important and scary topic. Very depressing.

food movies
February 26, 2010, 11:48 pm
Filed under: chickens, food issues, meat, movies | Tags: ,

A while back there was a run of food documentaries and movies. I did not see them all, but saw a couple. My favorite and the one you should definitely make time to see is Our Daily Bread. This is a really fascinating tour through the various production systems for our food. It’s filmed in Europe and it is so cool! The machines they’ve created to do these jobs–amazing. The jobs people still do–amazing. It’s a pretty level headed movie. AND, get this, there is no dialogue. That’s right, it’s an arty movie, and it just moves from one product to the next. If you only see one food movie, make this the one. Get yourself in a relaxed frame of mind, sit and learn. Good stuff. Some of it frightening, but useful to know. It’s very interesting, hard to watch but totally worth it!

Here’s part where they’re harvesting olives.

Here’s a link to youtube where you can watch some other segments.

Fast Food Nation, on the other hand, is not a movie I can recommend. I saw it a bit after I saw the one above. Sigh. Mainstream, which was good right, but he blew it. Too overly dramatic. Too much on the gross out. He really didn’t need the whole demoralized illegal immigrant workforce in there. I’m sure it’s true, but it distracted from the other points of the food industry. In contrast, the workers in Our Daily Bread are shown doing honorable work- it’s just a job. It’s not the humiliating disgusting work that is proposed by Mr. Linklater.

color in movies
January 31, 2010, 11:00 am
Filed under: movies | Tags:

We watched 500 days of summer last weekend. It was an ok movie, but one of the best parts was this dance sequence. I really noticed the use of color in the scene.

This weekend we watched Playtime. 1967, what a funny movie. Mr. Hulot. Very film school. But funny because it’s so old. Modernism gone bad. Skyscrapers, reflections in glass, uncomfortable chairs. It had a cool color scheme. All cold steel blue and grey. It’s a fun thing to watch. Reflection on being human vs. the environments we build.

And towards the end it gets really 60s wacky as a new restaurant opens and the people start drinking. Funny stuff.

Here’s a scene at the restaurant–check out the air-con blowing on the lady’s back. Ew! Also some great dance moves in here. They party so hard they rip the place apart!

One other color movie I strongly remember is one with Julianne Moore. Far from Heaven. 2002. The colors were wonderful in this. All jewel tones, reds and oranges. A hot movie. Fall leaves. Great. I guess thematically there is not a big connection to Playtime, but similar reflection on an era, lots of interiors. Conventions/ vs. messiness of human life. It was a pretty good movie as I recall, I do like the actress, and it was a pretty movie too.