Giving Hollywood a Bad Name

My wife and I watched “Bird Man” the other night. It made me realize just how insular the movie industry really is. Here was a movie that movie insiders could watch and think, “I know someone just like this character or just like that character.” I’m sure several of them just loved it when the “bird man” let the NY Times theater critic have it.

It’s true of so many industries. When I was an insider in the high tech industry, I frequently ran into engineers who would dream up new products that had very little real incremental value over existing products. I would question them why anyone would buy this new product, and the answer was “because I want it. Everyone’s going to want it as well.” Of course, everyone didn’t want it.

Take sports. An ex-NFL or NBA player watches a game far differently than we average folks do. If someone made an movie from that inside perspective, they probably would love it although we might not “get” a lot of the scenes.

“Bird Man” reminded me of something a college freshman might write. Once I had such a person who was high on pot write an essay for me. It was filled with “truths” that apparently were self-evident. Once the student lost her buzz, she couldn’t explain any of these “truths” because they no longer made any sense to her either.

So, we watch a “method” actor go way over the top and scream and rage. So what? I know about method acting, and I still found that Ed Norton went on and on and on. In fact, the movie was filled with much too much talking. Everyone talked and talked and talked. It would have been refreshing if the daughter and the method actor had actually had sex, but no, all they did was talk and talk and talk. The fact that he couldn’t maintain and erection was symbolic to me of this entire picture that apparently most critics just love.  The actor couldn’t get it up because the entire film was a orgy of self-love. He didn’t have anything left for the woman.

UFOs: Say it Ain’t So, John

I was very disturbed today to read that John Pedesta has one real regret. He regrets that when he was in government he didn’t demand that the government disclose what it knows about UFOs. Think about why this very experienced politician said. The implication is that there is something to be disclosed. That flies right in the face of what the government has been telling us for years.

Podesta is very close to Hillary Clinton, so I wonder what would happen if he was asked to serve in her administration if she won. Would he continue to request full disclosure? I recently published an article from a government journal that implied that a message already has been received from space. That essay was written in the 1960’s. Who knows what has happened since?

I believe that scientists outside of government do not know anything. The scientists involved with SETI still seem very focused on looking for messages from space. The U.S. government announced a few months back that it was responsible for fooling people into thinking there were UFOs out there. Since few people believe anything the government says now, this “frank” confession struck most people as a way to suggest that people stop looking for unidentified flying objects.

I’ve already written about ex-astronauts who claim they saw alien activity on the Moon and were told not to say anything. Now we have a former very highly placed government official who claims there is something that should be disclosed. All of this lends credence to Alien Love, my science fiction novel that Booktropia will publish later this year where i suggest there has been a government conspiracy for years involving favored status for one particular group of aliens.

I’m not a conspiracy nut who claims that aliens gave us velcro in exchange for carte blanc to aliens to abduct people and experiment on them. I do believe that there is something to disclose, something that people have a right to know. Here’s the link to the article about John Padesta.

SETI Politics and First Contact with Extraterrestrials

I’ve been researching the whole notion of first contact with extraterrestrials for a book I plan to write on the subject. I came upon a note written by SF writer and scientist David Brin that I found quite upsetting. Apparently a very small group of scientists control SETI; they’ve ignored advice to broaden their group when it comes to developing policies that impact the entire world. Instead, they’ve take the step of actively broadcasting signals into space to attract aliens, rather than listen passively.

Imagine, if you will, you were able to go back in time to the moment when Cortez first appeared. Let’s say you’re one of the Montezuma’s advisers. Montezuma invites a very select group of two advisers into his palace. You and several other advisers beg to be admitted to offer your advice. You think these foreigners might be dangerous –be cautious, you scream. Montezuma listens only to his two most trust advisers and accepts Cortez as a God. The rest, of course, is history as the Spanish men wiped out the Aztecs.

The point that Brin makes in his essay is that it’s better to err on the side of caution. Maybe there’s a reason why the airwaves are so quiet. Even Carl Sagan, one of the biggest believers in Alien altruism, urged caution.

I’ve been part of many large companies where politics played a major role. It sounds like SETI is no different from other organizations. A clique controls things and doesn’t want to broaden itself by letting outsiders into the inner circle. The difference in the case of SETI, though, is that the end result could be far more serious than making a wrong decision that results in lowered profits for the company. We could attract the attention of the wrong type of aliens.

Don’t Let Your Son Grow Up to be a Scientist

My title is meant to be an echo of the song about not letting your son grow up to be a cowboy. How could we possibly have gotten ourselves into the fix we’re in today? We have one political party that is reviving memories of the Know Nothing party of the 1920s when it comes to science and common sense. Freedom not to vaccinate your children because you “own” them? That’s what Rand Paul said the other day. Chris Christie said much the same thing and then backtracked a bit as he thought about how far he could step back from his original statement and still be a viable presidential candidate for the modern version of the Know Nothing party.

Remember the Know Nothing party? People proudly proclaimed that they “knew nothing” and they were proud of that as they expressed scorn for northern intellectuals. The implication was that good old common sense was far superior to stuff you learn in school. So, at the same time that a significant sector of the American people deny climate change, the value of vaccines, evolution, etc., America is having problems finding children interested in science and then educating them.

We can’t graduate enough scientists; in fact, America has been importing scientists from other parts of the world for years. Unfortunately, countries such as China and Japan are now creating lucrative opportunities for their Ph.D graduates from American colleges to return home.

Why can’t we grow our own homegrown scientists? The answer is that we make science very dull during the very years when kids might become intrigued enough to make science their career choice. I’ve been hearing horrible stories of incompetence  when it comes to teaching middle grade science. Teachers who didn’t even minor in science wind up basically staying a chapter ahead of their students. High school teachers are almost as bad. At the same time, parents and their children have to take some responsibility for the dearth of scientists. Lax parents don’t go over homework and enrich their children’s education by exposing them to museums and technology exhibitions. They also don’t monitor the amount of time their kids spend playing games. Students also have to take some of the blame because they choose easy subjects.

I remember when I majored in Chemistry in college I watched many of my friends who were business or liberal arts majors finish their classes by noon while I spent entire afternoons in labs. Many students today don’t want to work as hard as science classes require, so they take the easy way out. One major university not far from me has a racial divide with asians filling its science classes while others crowd into easier classes.

So, we have public figures ridiculing science and scientists while students avoid science because it’s hard. It’s not an easy time to become a scientist even though we never needed scientists more. I’m not sure what it would take to change the situation. Perhaps if we have a major show stopper such as evidence of extraterrestrial life or a major breakthrough in medical technology that increases longevity, maybe students will see science as an exciting place to go. In the meantime, we really need the same industry that complains it can’t find homegrown scientists to adopt middle schools and high schools and offer financial and manpower assistance. Picture a real live chemist coming into a middle grade science class and showing off some amazing results.

So, if you read this and you are working in industry, encourage your company to adopt a school. If you have kids who think science is not “cool,” then take them to some science museums and show them just how exciting science can be. I never regret all the science classes I have even though I now spend my time writing. Science knowledge helps citizens understand major political issues revolving around science so that they can push their elected officials in the right direction. If more citizens had more of a science background, politicians would not be able to lie about climate change or try to dismiss what is self-apparent by saying that they are not scientists and so can’t say definitively that the climate is changing.