Mars Is Humanity’s “Backup Plan”

(p. C3) The stated goal of the U.S. Mars program is to create a permanent base there. That is difficult to imagine in the planet’s harsh environment, which was depicted with such stark realism in the 2015 film “The Martian.”
But there are possibilities on the planet for making bases more viable. Mars explorers could use natural lava tubes in extinct volcanoes to create an underground base shielded against harmful radiation. Underground deposits of ice discovered in recent years could be used for drinking water and to provide oxygen for breathing, as well as hydrogen for rocket fuel. In theory, astronauts could eventually establish agricultural stations to create a self-sustaining colony, using genetically modified plants that could thrive in a cold environment rich in carbon dioxide.
A new spirit of exploration and discovery is certainly part of the push for this new space age, but concerns about the future of the Earth are also a motive. There is a growing realization that life on the planet is extremely fragile, that killer asteroids, super volcanoes and ice ages have nearly extinguished life in the past, and that climate change may spin out of control. Even if the Earth remains habitable, we know that one day the sun itself will expire.
So the choice ultimately will be simple: Colonize outer space, or perish. We need an insurance policy, a backup plan. The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program. We may need ours to evade their fate.

For the full commentary, see:
Michio Kaku. “To the Moon, Mars and Beyond.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018): C3.
(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated Feb. 6, 2018, and has the title “SpaceX Rocket Launch Is Latest Step Toward the Moon, Mars and Beyond.”)

Kaku’s commentary is related to his book:
Kaku, Michio. The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth. New York: Doubleday, 2018.

Russian Movie Director Bravely Criticizes Putin

(p. A8) MOSCOW — While shooting “Loveless,” an Oscar nominee this year for best foreign film, Andrey Zvyagintsev repeated virtually every scene again and again — 12 takes on average, according to his cinematographer, sometimes as many as 28.
The differences between takes often proved undetectable to others, said the cinematographer, Mikhail Krichman — even to the core crew that has worked on all five of his films. But the director sought some fleeting “magic.”
It might be several leaves fluttering off a tree in the background, Mr. Krichman said, or the angle at which snowflakes struck a window. “These kinds of things deliver the magic of the scene, and he uses them to decide to take it or not for the movie,” Mr. Krichman said of Mr. Zvyagintsev. “That makes him very different from other directors.”
. . .
His role as social critic, . . . , is another reason the art-house crowd tends to respect Mr. Zvyagintsev. He is one of the few high-profile artists still brave enough to openly criticize the Russian government.
He has disparaged the recent crackdown on the arts, including the house arrest of a prominent theater director and the use of censorship for the first time in years to ban a foreign movie, “The Death of Stalin.”
“We believed that in 1991 that we were present for the burial of the C.P.S.U.,” he said referring to the one-party state of the Soviet Union. “The burial did not take place. Instead, the corpse rose from the coffin and is walking around and frightening us once again.”

For the full story, see:
NEIL MacFARQUHAR. “A Master of Depicting Russia’s Underbelly on Film.” The New York Times (Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018): A8.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has a date of Feb. 23, 2018, and has the title “A Russian Master of the ‘Dark Side’ in Film.”)

“Reject the Dark Side: Free the Net!”

(p. C5) HEALY Matt, what’s a culture/politics tidbit most people don’t know?
FLEGENHEIMER Washington’s most prolific consumer of pop culture is very likely … Ted Cruz. Amateur “S.N.L.” historian, ’80s movie buff and instigator of a Twitter feud with Mark Hamill over net neutrality. He explained the meaning of “Star Wars” to Luke Skywalker. It was very Cruz: @HammillHimself Luke, I know Hollywood can be confusing, but it was Vader who supported govt power over everything said & done on the Internet. That’s why giant corps (Google, Facebook, Netflix) supported the FCC power grab of net neutrality. Reject the dark side: Free the net! Ted Cruz 12:25 PM – Dec 17, 2017
ROGERS ’80s movie buff?
FLEGENHEIMER “The Princess Bride”! Life on the campaign trail with Ted Cruz was basically months of “Princess Bride” imitations with an occasional discussion of Obamacare.

For the full commentary, see:
MATT FLEGENHEIMER and KATIE ROGERS. “‘S.N.L.’ Kimmel. Covfefe.” The New York Times (Weds., December 27, 2017): C1 & C5.
(Note: ellipsis, bold and caps, in original.).
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date DEC. 26, 2017, and has the title “Kimmel, Covfefe, ‘Wonder Woman’: Washington on Pop Culture in 2017.” The commentary/discussion is credited to Flegenheimer and Rogers, but Patrick Healy also participated. There are a few minor differences in how the print and online versions present the Cruz tweet. The quote above, follows the print version.)

Rising Hurricane Costs Due to More Rich People Choosing to Live on Coast

(p. A15) “An Inconvenient Truth” promoted the frightening narrative that higher temperatures mean more extreme weather, especially hurricanes. The movie poster showed a hurricane emerging from a smokestack. Mr. Gore appears to double down on this by declaring in the new film’s trailer: “Storms get stronger and more destructive. Watch the water splash off the city. This is global warming.”
This is misleading. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change–in its Fifth Assessment Report, published in 2013–found “low confidence” of increased hurricane activity to date because of global warming. Storms are causing more damage, but primarily because more wealthy people choose to live on the coast, not because of rising temperatures.
Even if tropical storms strengthen by 2100, their relative cost likely will decrease. In a 2012 article for the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers showed that hurricane damage now costs 0.04% of global gross domestic product. If climate change makes hurricanes stronger, absolute costs will double by 2100. But the world will also be much wealthier and less vulnerable, so the total damage is estimated at only 0.02% of global GDP.

For the full commentary, see:
Bjorn Lomborg. “Al Gore’s Climate Sequel Misses a Few Inconvenient Facts; Eleven years after his first climate-change film, he’s still trying to scare you into saving the world.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 28, 2017): A15.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 27, 2017.)

Disney Stories Give Happiness to the Poor

(p. 1B) If the arts community had been blossoming in north Omaha when Adrienne Brown-Norman was growing up there in the 1960s and ’70s, she may never have moved to California and become a senior illustrator for Disney Publishing Worldwide.
. . .
“Of course, though, I would not ever have met Floyd.”
That would be her husband, Floyd Norman, the now-legendary first African-American artist at Walt Disney Studios.
Floyd Norman, 82, began working for Disney in 1956 and was named a Disney Legend in 2007.
. . .
The Normans recently collaborated with legendary songwriter Richard Sherman (“Mary (p. 5B) Poppins”) on a picture book called “A Kiss Goodnight.”
The book tells the story of how the young Walt Disney was enchanted by fireworks and subsequently chose to send all of his Magic Kingdom guests home with a special kiss goodnight of skyrockets bursting overhead.
. . .
Walt Disney later picked Norman to join the team writing the script for “The Jungle Book.” Disney had seen Norman’s gags posted around the office and recognized a talented storyteller.
“I didn’t think I was a writer, but the old man did,” Norman said. “Then I realized that maybe I am good at this.”
Norman named “The Jungle Book” as his favorite project, because he worked alongside Disney.
. . .
“What I learned from the old man was the technique of storytelling and what made a movie work,” Norman said.
“I had an amazing opportunity to learn from the master. If you were in the room with Walt, it was for a reason. There are a lot of people who wanted to be in that room but didn’t get an invitation.”
. . .
One day at the studio the Normans recall pausing to watch the filming of “Saving Mr. Banks,” the story of Disney’s quest to acquire the rights to film “Mary Poppins.” Norman had worked on the movie and was interested in seeing Tom Hanks’ portrayal of his old boss.
“Tom Hanks rushed from his trailer in full costume to meet Floyd, shouting, ‘Where is that famous animator?’ ” Brown-Norman said. “You don’t expect a man like Tom Hanks to come running up. Then Tom wouldn’t let us leave. He wanted to know more about Walt, and if he was getting it right.”
. . .
“What I enjoy is the love of Disney that made so many people happy,” [Floyd Norman] said. “Maybe they were poor. Maybe they were in a bad home, but they tell me Disney stories gave them an escape. They gave them happiness, and that’s what I like.”

For the full story, see:

Kevin Cole. “Legendary Animator Spread Love of Disney.” Omaha World-Herald (Mon., Aug. 7, 2017): 1B & 5B.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed name, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the title “During Native Omaha Days, Disney’s Floyd Norman and Adrienne Brown-Norman reflect on careers.”)

The book mentioned above, co-authored by Sherman (and illustrated by the Normans), is:
Sherman, Richard, and Brittany Rubiano. A Kiss Goodnight. Glendale, CA: Disney Editions, 2017.

Founder Movie Is Unfair to Entrepreneur Ray Kroc

(p. 1D) McDonald’s franchise owner Jim Darmody of Omaha notes that the Hollywood film about Ray Kroc doesn’t always put the self-proclaimed “founder” of the fast-food chain in a good light.
“The movie makes it seem like he stole something from the McDonald brothers,” Darmody said. “But I can’t fault him. He bought it from the brothers and made it a dynasty.”
. . .
(p. 3D) Ray Kroc not only made a fortune that his wife turned into philanthropy, Jim said, but also created opportunities for people like himself.
. . .
Darmody said the McDonald’s Corp. has an excellent inspection program at stores for consistency and cleanliness.
Communities, he said, also have benefited from the presence of McDonald’s.
Kroc died in 1984. His widow, Joan Kroc, who died in 2003, left her $1.5 billion estate to charity.
. . .
. . . in a 1993 phone interview, Dick McDonald told me that he and his brother had no regrets about selling to Kroc for what later seemed a pittance.
“Neither of us had any youngsters who would go into the business,” said Dick, who had come up with the idea for golden arches. “I guess we could have stayed and piled up millions. But as my brother once said, ‘What can we do with $40 million that we can’t do with three or four million — except pay a lot of taxes?’ ”
. . .
Darmody, who has flipped a few burgers, said he learned some things from the movie, including how the brothers came up with the speedy production system. But without Kroc, he said, McDonald’s wouldn’t be what it is today.

For the full story, see:
Michael Kelly. “Following in the Footsteps of Founder.” Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., March 2, 2017): 1D & 3D.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Mach 4 [sic], 2017, and has the title “Kelly: McDonald’s franchise owner in Omaha says ‘founder’ Ray Kroc created opportunities for people.”)

People Root for Billionaires If They Believe They Also Could Become Billionaires

(p. 22) “Billions” manages the feat of making you want the guy who has everything to have even more.
“People still root for billionaires because it reinforces the idea that they can do it too,” Mr. Kirshenbaum said recently. “People don’t want to be in a place where there’s not a lot of magic left in the equation.” Political analysts have long given this explanation for why poor or working-class people vote against tax increases for the wealthy: They want to believe that some day they, too, will have assets to guard.
. . .
Like the TV series, the film “The Big Short” puts you in the position of wanting the investors — or at least the investors depicted on the screen — to win. The movie channels your anger at the banks that came up with the perilous financial instruments that devastated the economy, but it leaves you no room to despise the charmingly eccentric rogue geniuses who made hundreds of millions of dollars shorting the housing market. All that hard work, the culling of documents and the fact-gathering trips to endangered Sun Belt real estate markets — it would be so wrong if they didn’t triumph in the end. Institutions are greedy; people are merely obsessed.

For the full commentary, see:
GINIA BELLAFANTE. “Big City; Rooting for the Robber Barons, at Least Those Onscreen.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., MARCH 20, 2016): 22.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date MARCH 18, 2016, and has the title “Big City; Rooting for the Robber Barons, at Least on the Screen.”)