TECHNICOLOR DREAMS & GENETIC NIGHTMARES – TOM CURLEY

RADIATE!

A few weeks ago my old friend Ben Taylor sent me a very interesting link to a story about archiving technologies . The story was about how all of our storage media eventually degrades. Film, tape, CDs, DVDs, flash drives, and so on all decay over time. Technicolor, the company that makes films so, technically colorful, has figured out a way to encode and store media on a DNA molecule! Here’s the article.

Basically, it’s not complicated. All of our media is now digital, encoded as a really long string of ones and zeros. DNA is a double helix molecule made up of four proteins CGAT. Cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymine.

teravivos.com

They can combine in an infinite number of combinations, which is why DNA is such a handy way to store all of life’s genetic information. We also have machines called genetic sequencers that can both read a DNA molecule and build one.

DNA-O-MATIC! web.uri.edu

So, what the TECHNICOLOR people did was figure out how to encode the ones and zeros onto a DNA molecule, then build that DNA molecule. How do you play back the material? Build a player that reads the DNA molecule and converts it back to ones and zeros. Burn it onto a DVD and put it into your Blue Ray player.

The cool part is that you can store over 700 terabytes of information on one DNA molecule! Which is pretty much every movie and TV show ever made. The other reason they did this was because they say the DNA molecule is stable and won’t degrade.

But here’s the problem.

DNA MUTATES!!!!!!!

rbssbiology11ilos.wikispaces.com

That’s how evolution works!

If DNA didn’t mutate, we’d still be four-legged lungfish crawling up out of the surf, looking up at the sky, land and saying: “Well, this is different. Hey Phil! Come on up here. You gotta see this!”

land fish

Now at this point you could argue that DNA usually mutates when cells reproduce.  Sometimes the DNA copies are n’t perfect and that’s what causes the mutation. But the Technicolor DNA molecules are just sitting in a test tube. They are not replicating.

Technicolor-DNA-Archive-2

That’s true. However — there are other things that can make DNA mutate, like radiation. A stray alpha, beta, or gamma particle could come along, hit the molecule, and knock out a quinine here, a cytosine there. After a while, things could change. Not immediately, but after a hundred, five hundred, or a thousand years?

A thousand years from now a group of historians, anthropologists, archaeologists and movie critics could get together to examine a recently discovered cache of late 20th Century movies and TV shows. They were  found buried in a vault archived with a quaint technology utilizing DNA by a long-forgotten company called Technicolor.

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HEAD SCIENTIST: As you all know the discovery of this cache of ancient media has given us an unprecedented opportunity to measure the accuracy of our historical records against actual recordings of history.  You’ve all had a month to watch and review media from the last millennium. What have you found?

SCIENTIST #1: Well, actually some their movies are quite good.  I just watched two fantastic movies, “Ishtar” and “Waterworld”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: Hmm. Our records indicate they were two of the worst movies ever made.

SCIENTIST #1: I can’t understand why. Did you know that Ishtar was the movie where Betty Davis said “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.!”  It only makes sense since they were all riding camels.  And Waterworld!  At the end, when Kevin Costner helped ET get back to his spaceship? I have to admit, I cried.

HEAD SCIENTIST: I see. What about “Star Wars’?

SCIENTIST #2: I saw the first three movies starting with “The Phantom Menace”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: And?

SCIENTIST #2: They were really good!  And funny! Casting Groucho Marx as Obi Wan Kenobi and Robin Williams as  young Anakin Skywalker was inspired!

HEAD SCIENTIST: And the next three in the series?

SCIENTIST #3: Not so much. Darth Vader and the Emperor win in the end and destroy the rebellion. It was really depressing.  The only rebel left alive was Jar Jar Binks.

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Citizen Kane”? Our records show that as being one of the greatest movies of all time.

SCIENTIST #4: I don’t know why sir. In the first place somebody named Jackie Chan played the part of Kane. He spent the whole movie kicking people and riding on a sled. But he did do his own stunts!

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Casablanca?”

SCIENTIST #5: Horrible! Ronald Reagan as Rick and Joan Rivers as Ilsa? What were they thinking? No chemistry!

HEAD SCIENTIST: OK, what about television?

SCIENTIST #6: Quite frankly only one show stood out and it was brilliant.

HEAD SCIENTIST: What was it?

SCIENTIST #6: “Gilligan’s Island.”  Orson Welles as the Skipper, Brad Pitt as Gilligan, Marilyn Monroe as Ginger,  Sally Field as Mary Ann, Helen Mirren and John Barrymore as the Howells and  John Wayne as the professor! Brilliant casting. And who knew Arthur Miller could write comedy!

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What have you done Technicolor?  What have you done?

 

WINDOWS, CHAIRS, BULLETS AND BODIES

So there we were, watching an old western movie. A major shootout was underway and Garry looked annoyed. “Why,” he asked me, “Do they always break the glass? Why don’t they simply open the windows? And why are the guys on the roof always the first to get shot? And why doesn’t anyone fall over unconscious when hit with a chair? And how many bullets do those colts hold?”Garry immediately wrote his western loving friends on Facebook.

QUESTION: “Given the cost and scarcity of panes of glass in the old west, why — instead of breaking the glass before shooting — don’t they just open the windows?” 


Garry: I’m watching an old “High Chaparral” episode and I want to know — why do they always break the windows before the shootouts? Couldn’t they open the window first? Glass was expensive! And how come the guys on rooftops always get shot first in those shoot outs?

Marilyn: I never thought about the windows. Not only are they expensive, but they’d be pretty hard to get. I mean, did they make that stuff on the ranch? Or did they have to haul it from back east?

Texas Tom : This reporter is nowhere near the movie expert you are. However, my sense is they always break the windows for (first of all) the visceral sound effect of the shattering glass, which also is a much stronger macho gesture than simply opening a window. Besides, opening the  window just might require one or two more seconds than smashing the glass –which can also be interpreted as an act of absolute crazed panic and desperation — and shows the blood curdling anger and hostility of the glass breaker’s killer instinct.

As for always shooting the guys on the roof first, my sense again runs to the most bang for the moment answer. Having a stunt man tumble a story or two from a roof, balcony, overhang or whatever has a much more visceral (there’s that word again) impact on the  viewer’s brain and gut than simply shooting a guy standing  in front of you, or  on the same level with you.  It’s a much more dramatic way of saying “this is the real deal here”.  – T. Texas Tom: Champion Cap Gun Fighter of the Entire West

Garry: Damn, you are so much more cerebral than me. You sound more like a Pilgrim than a Texican. Mebbe it’s because we’re on a fixed income that I wince when they break the windows rather than opening them to spray lead. That’s another thing. You would think they would be more economical with their bullets. Let the bad guys use up their ammo and shoot when you have a clear target. I guess the Duke would be pissed if he heard this austerity rant.

Jordan: Do you think they only manufactured breakaway glass and furniture back in the old west?  Thought stuff back then was made to last?

Marilyn: You’d think the chairs would collapse if you sat in them. Balsa must be sturdier than I thought.

Garry: Yeah, I used to laugh my ass off at the six shooters that never ran out of bullets. Also, Roy, Gene and our other heroes being chased by hordes of bad guys who could shoot over their shoulder with precision and nail three bad guys with one bullet.

Texas Tom: Hoot, Gene, Roy, and Tex — those old guys would chase the bad guys and shoot for a whole reel without ever reloading. We used to laugh about that never-ending stream of bullets. They never fired their last bullet.

Marilyn: No one ever went into town to buy bullets, either. They must have had their own armory. Even the Lone Ranger never told Tonto to go into town and buy some ammo. I bet bullets came free with guns. Get a gun, come back any time for a box of bullets. That’s another thing. No one ever bought a gun. Did you ever see one of these guys go into a gun store and buy a gun? They always had guns and if one got blown away in a shootout, they had another immediately in hand. Then, another. 


And there you have it. A conversation about guns into which the NRA never enters.

Some weeks back, there was a TV cop show on which a guy got killed having his head slightly blown off by a blank. Turns out, while a blank is blanker than a standard bullet, if you stick the gun in your ear and pull the trigger, you’re just as dead as you would have been with the real deal bullet.

Go figure, right?

DEVIL IN MISS JONES

Halloween was always a special holiday for my group of friends. From the early 1970s, we held an annual Halloween party. Each year, we descended on a friend’s parent’s summer house in the Berkshires. The house was not huge, but we were young and found places to sleep, even if it was on the floor or a hammock on the porch.

Those were the days before DVDs or even videotape — long before big screen televisions — so we rented a projector, screen and a movie. The occasion called for a horror movie. We tended to the classics: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman (poor Larry Talbot) … but lacking one of these, any horror movie would do.

It was the centerpiece of our weekend’s entertainment — in addition to the pleasure of getting together to see each other.

The last year we had the party in the mountains, just before most of us got married and settled down, the guys in charge of movie rental were late getting to it. All the familiar films were gone. So, in the spirit of trying something new, they rented “The Devil in Miss Jones.”

It sounded like a horror movie to them. The Devil? Halloween? Right?

Given the audience and our condition — drugs and alcohol flowed freely in those halcyon days of yore — the movie had predictable but hilarious (depending on what you find funny) results. I won’t go into lurid detail, but I think it was our absolutely best ever Halloween party. Subsequent parties became more elaborate. Bigger, almost like virtual reality rides at a theme park.

But the year we watched “The Devil in Miss Jones” brought us closer in ways we would not soon forget. I certainly haven’t, especially since that party was when Garry and I grew really close. Now we are fused at the hip and share those special memories. Do you youngsters ever wonder what grandma and grandpa are giggling about over there on the recliner?

So you see? Things can turn out fine, even when they apparently go awry. Thank you Georgina Spelvin and Harry Reems. It was your finest effort!

THE LIMITS OF LOVE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love my husband but we have a mixed marriage.

I’m a total Rom Com/Sit Com/Doctor/Lawyer Show kind of girl. Tom is a Super Hero/Sci-Fi/Tolkien kind of guy.

When we were first together, I’d religiously watch all his shows and movies with him. And he’d watch all of mine. After 18 years together and 14 years married, that isn’t going to happen anymore. Our relationship has reached a new level, where it can survive intact, even if we go off separately to watch our favorite guilty pleasures.

Tom won’t watch endless cooking competitions or HGTV house makeover shows anymore. I still love him. I won’t watch every superhero movie or TV show (there are a lot). He still loves me.There are some areas of crossover. I genuinely like some of the early super hero movies, like the original Superman and Spiderman. I even liked the first Transformer movie. I love time travel shows of all kinds.

Tom truly loves “When Harry Met Sally”, my favorite movie, and others of its genre. So he gets a couple of free passes for that. He also likes some of my favorite TV shows, like “Grey’s Anatomy”, “The Good Wife”, “NCIS”, “This is Us”, etc. We both were addicted to the on demand series like, “House of Cards”, “Grace and Frankie”, “Outlander” and “The Crown”.

So there is common ground. But there’s one other thing we’re not going to be doing together any time soon. And that’s video games. I cannot share any of Tom’s enthusiasm for violent video games. Even though I don’t participate, I’m still subjected to the incessant noise of gun battles blaring through the house at all hours. Some of these games go for realism in the form of adding the sounds of dying and wounded humans, animals and mythical creatures. I find it very disconcerting.

I’ve reached my saturation point with the new virtual reality play station games, complete with magic goggles and wands. I appreciate the amazingly advanced technology. But the glasses make me dizzy and disoriented. I like to be able to see my own hands and feet. I like to be sure where I am in my house, not stumbling around in some weird fantasy-scape. I just can’t cross that Rubicon with Tom into the virtual reality hologram world of tomorrow.

DUCK!

I’m not the only one freaked out by the new technology. As soon as Tom put on the headset with the glowing lights, one of our dogs went berserk. She would not stop barking at him as long as he had his gear on. I had to take her out of the room. If howling did anything for me, I’d be right there with her.

At least this newest toy comes with headphones so I don’t have to listen along at top volume. And Tom looks hilarious in his sci-fi get up! That’s worth a few laughs. Maybe watching him play games in an imaginary universe and listening to the dog go nuts could be a new form of entertainment for me too!

WHY ARE YOU WEARING THAT THING?

“How come Gibbs is wearing a coat in Arizona in the summer?”

I was talking to Garry. It was an NCIS rerun. We watch a lot of reruns, though this new fall season of TV is shaping up better than I expected, so maybe there will be new shows to watch.

YLE Wardrobe

The question about costumes comes up often and on various shows. One of the more common “huh” moments is when the male lead is wearing a coat and the female lead is skimpily dressed. No explanation needed for that one.

More weird are when each cast member is dressed randomly, apparently without regard for the story in progress. One is wearing a heavy winter coat, another a light denim jacket. A third is in shirtsleeves. Some are clothed in jeans or other casual stuff while others look ready for Wall Street … or a cocktail party. Women are supposedly hiking and running from or after serial killers while they wear 4-inch spikes. My feet hurt just looking.

Garry and I have done a tiny bit of movie “extra” work so I’m guessing it goes like this:  “Go find something that fits in wardrobe and be on set in ten.”

Everyone hustles off to wardrobe, which looks like a jumble sale or the clothing racks at the Salvation Army store. Most of the clothing in wardrobe probably came from some second-hand source or other. Everyone dives in looking for something that fits. As soon as they find an outfit … any outfit … they head for a changing booth, then off to be on set before someone yells at them. Stars get slightly better wardrobe or wear their own clothing. Wearing ones own clothing, both on TV shows and movies is quite common. I understand why.

NCIS Filming

The real question is not why everyone on a show is poorly or inappropriately dressed. It’s whether or not the people who produce the show think we won’t notice. My theory is they don’t care if we notice or not. They are cheaping out on wardrobe figuring if you and I notice at all, we won’t care or we’ll keep watching anyhow.

It’s a bottom-line driven world and wardrobe is one area where corners can easily be cut.

The thing is, we do notice. You don’t need to be a professional critic or especially astute to see the incongruities of television costuming. Movie costuming is often no better. Whoever is in charge figures if you’ve noticed the clothing, you are must be watching the show. They’ve got you. Why worry?

The thing is, the overriding disdain for viewers adds up over time. Eventually it feels like a virtual slap in the face. As a viewer, I have to assume they think I am astoundingly unobservant or plain stupid … or so hooked on their product they needn’t worry about retaining my loyalty. They are wrong.

NCIS Filming

This nonchalance extends beyond costumes. Sloppy editing, crappy scripts, stupid plots that include blatant factual and continuity errors … Ultimately, we do stop watching. Because it’s obvious they don’t care so why should we?

You notice it on long-running shows that had good scripts and editing but suddenly don’t. The quality of the show starts to slide. Producers are baffled when loyal fans stop tuning in.

It isn’t baffling to a normal person but is apparently incomprehensible to producers and network executives.

The most surprising thing is when quality stays high for longer than two seasons. Few shows survive more than 3 anymore. An embedded disrespect for viewers is, in my opinion, the root of much of the illness besetting the television industry. They either treat us like morons or discount us because we are too young, too old  or some other incorrect and undesirable demographic.

If you are under 18 or over 49, you literally don’t count. There are other, subtler forms of discrimination. Someone decided young people and old people don’t buy enough stuff. No TV for us!  Reality never intrudes into the decision-making process. I’m pretty sure I buy a lot of stuff and so does my granddaughter. Her and her friends are always shopping.

They should be nicer to us. We are, after all, the customers. Aren’t we?

THE DUMBEST BAD GUY IN THE WEST

Open Range (2003) stars Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, Abraham Benrubi and a lot of other people, but notably Michael Gambon (Professor Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter) as the stupidest villain in the old west.

Mind you, Open Range isn’t a bad western, as these things go. It’s pretty standard, with a rather better cast than most westerns. All the good clichés are included and the movie builds up to a massive shootout between Duvall and Costner against Gambon and his thugs.

Open Range Poster

Here’s the plot. It contains spoilers, but I feel safe in saying the movie has no surprises, so really, there’s nothing to spoil.

Old West, 1882. “Boss” Spearman (Duvall) is an open range cattleman, who, with hired hands Charley (Costner), and Mose (Benrubi) (et al), is driving a herd cross-country. Charley, a former soldier who fought in the Civil War, feels guilty over his past as a killer. 

Boss sends Mose to the nearby town of Harmonville for supplies, a town controlled by ruthless land baron, Denton Baxter. Mose is beaten and jailed by the marshal (owned body and soul by Baxter). The only friendly resident owns the livery stable.

Boss and Charley worry when Mose doesn’t return. The get him out of jail but are warned to not free-graze on Baxter’s land. Mose’s injuries are severe, so Boss and Charley take him to Doc Barlow where they meet Sue Barlow, the doctor’s sister.

Killing and skullduggery follow. Charley and Boss vow to avenge the various murders and injustice. Charley declares his feeling for Sue and she gives him a locket for luck. 

Boss and Charley are pitted against Baxter and his men. A gun battle erupts in the street, with Boss and Charley heavily outnumbered … until the townspeople begin to fight.

It’s a shootout of Biblical proportions. Epic. Costner is the troubled hero, which is just as well because he directed and co-produced the movie. Gambon, a murderous Irish immigrant with a killer brogue, is a brutal tyrant with no compunctions about slaughtering anyone. Everyone. He owns the sheriff, he owns the town. He has a lot of cows, but it’s not enough. It will never be enough.

He is the consummate villain of the old west, an out-of-control, power-mad cattle baron. You just know there’s going to be a lot of killing.

Skipping over the early individual killings to get to the big battle, it’s now the final quarter of the gun battle. It’s a high body count. I’ve lost count and I swear some of the actors died more than once, but maybe it’s just me.

The first seriously stupid bad guy moment comes when Baxter’s ace hired gun stands in front of Costner — who is loaded for bear and hates the son-of-a-bitch — and taunts him. So Costner shoots him through the head. One shot, dead center of his forehead.

I look at Garry and say “Well, what did he think was going to happen?” The fight was on.

A few minutes later, corpses litter the landscape. Heads are exploding right, left, and center. The townsfolk is unhappy about being under the thumb of Baxter, the power-mad cattle baron, but they’re too wimpy and cowardly to do anything about him.

Until Baxter, the asshole, stands up in front of the whole town (they’ve come out to watch the shootout because they don’t have anything else to do) and tells them that as soon as he gets through killing the good guys, he’s going to start killing them. “All your children will be orphans” he rants.

Say what?

Guess what happens next? Right you are! The townspeople, realizing they have nothing to lose, pick up their guns and start killing Baxter’s men. What a shock.

Costner marries the pretty sister of the doctor. Duvall offloads the cattle. Costner and Duvall take over the saloon and everyone lives happily ever after. I assume they bury the corpses.

This one gets my vote for the dumbest bad guy in the west. But maybe you know something I don’t know …


ON READING THIS AGAIN 

If SCROTUM is the power-mad cattle baron … and “Baxter” is Bannon, the gun-crazy killing machine, while the rest of the “crew” are the usual morons with big guns and few brains — are we the cattle?

You could follow the plot almost exactly, just change cities. Just wait for it, wait for it. SCROTUM will make one of those speeches … you now, how “he knows everything and only HE CAN FIX IT” — Alex Baldwin could play the role . Then Costner could shoot him between the eyes. Great ending. Kevin could be president. Why not? Hasn’t he done it before? Pretty sure he did or maybe I’m thinking of Michael Douglas … hard to remember sometimes. And there’s always Morgan Freeman.

Has anyone asked Kevin? His career hasn’t been doing all that great. This might be a terrific piece, proving comedy is hard, but worth it. We could have a good, long hysterical laugh. I know I sure would.

I’m laughing already.

HOW HARRY POTTER CHANGED THE WORLD

Read! by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


In an introduction to the 8th movie, celebrated author of the seven Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling, talked about the 13 year adventure from the time the first Harry Potter book was published until the time the 8th movie was finished. In case you did not know, the 7th book was long and made into two movies. They probably should have made books five and six into two movies each, but I digress.

harryPotter

The really remarkable thing about the series was not that it made eight movies, turned Daniel Radcliffe into one of the richest people in England and Rowling into a Billionaire. It is not that Radcliffe and his costars, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, are now the most famous wizards of all time, or even that a wonderful theme park was opened in Florida to celebrate the worldwide phenomenon. The remarkable thing is that it got generations of people to read. They were not reading because they were assigned these books. They were all reading because they wanted to do it.

The movie adventures came as a result of a global desire to read about Harry Potter.  It was not just hitting the New York Times bestseller list. It was rocketing through the roof.  Books were flying off the shelves like Harry in a game of Quidditch. If you don’t know that reference, than you missed out on something most of the world knows.

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was finally published, almost exactly ten years after the first book was published, I wisely put a copy in reserve so I would not have to stand in line for the midnight release or miss out on getting a copy.

When I went to pick up my copy the following day I said to the clerk, “It must have been crazy here last night with all the kids screaming and pushing their way through.”

“The kids were not the problem,” she told me, “It was all the 20-year-olds pushing and shouting.”

It was the earliest generations of little wizards that were standing in line. Just imagine, some of them had waited half of their lives to find out what happened to the “Chosen One.” Many stayed up all night, not playing video games, but reading.

Yes, people all over the world were reading about Harry Potter, the boy wizard.

Nothing has captivated the reading public in that way since and perhaps nothing ever will again. It was the perfect mix of magic and wonder. And as Harry grew to be an adult, the stories grew to be more serious and complex. As Harry grew up, so did the reading public with him. No series had ever brought along a generation of readers from youth to adulthood merely through the pages of books.

It was the power of the books and the opinions of the followers of the boy wizard that the movies had to live up to. That is why movies five and six disappointed so many Potter fans. The books had spun the imaginations of readers into a marvelous vision of what these stories were and the movies had to cut much of the story to keep the length manageable. Reading had already painted the picture, but the movie screen did not display the scenes painted on the canvas of the mind.

Harry-Potter-And-The-Deathly-Hallows-Part-2

Thus book seven became movies seven and eight. There was no way to turn the long book into a two-hour and 25 minute movie. The only smart thing to do was exactly what the public was demanding. Film the entire book.

When book seven hit the shelves it sold 15 million copies in the first 24 hours. It has been translated into 120 languages. I bet you did not know there were that many languages. In its first week out, not only was it number one, but the other six books were in the top 20 best sellers. Everyone was loving to read the most fascinating series ever.

What about now? What about the next generation of readers? Will there be a next generation of readers? If you read the Potter series, then you know the joy of a good book. Many of us know the joy of many good books. If I had not already run up my word count with my joy of Harry Potter, I might list some of the great reads I have encountered in life.

There is nothing like a good book. It would be highly unfortunate for future generations if they did not know that. Harry Potter proves it, not just by the sales numbers but by the reaction of the reading public to the movies. Yes, they wanted the boy wizard to come to life, but they already knew what he should look like and what was happening at all the locations in the story.

Radcliffe may have come to be the Potter we saw as we read the books, but our imaginations took us to worlds only the mind can take us. Movie makers knew by book seven, they had to try to deliver something they could not, movies that matched the stories that already played out in our minds.

Teach your children or your grandchildren or your little brother or sister to read. It is not just about learning the words, it is about engaging the mind. They will find that a good book holds more excitement and wonder than a You Tube video or X-Box game. It is better than Instagram, Snapchat, facebook live. The pictures that books generate in the mind are the best pictures of all time.