Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, May 28, 2021

Four Things

I'm visiting with family over the holiday, and will probably not post or tweet until next Wednesday. I will sporadically check email.

1. At LeapsMag is an essay by medical researcher Monica Gandhi where she argues that we will likely not need booster shots against Covid. This is among the seven reasons she gives:

Image by Steven Cornfield, via Unsplash, license.
Even after antibody levels wane over time, strong memory B cells were detected in the blood of individuals six and eight months after infection in different studies. Indeed, the half-lives of the memory B cells seen in the study examining patients 8 months after COVID-19 led the authors to conclude that "B cell memory to SARS-CoV-2 was robust and is likely long-lasting."
The rest of the piece elaborates on this and other long-lasting aspects of our immune response to the illness or vaccines against the virus, and the fact that the virus does not mutate to a degree that would necessitate further vaccination in the way that flu viruses do.

2. On the heels of a very successful appearance to testify before the House of Representatives, Alex Epstein reports that:
I've created a 5-minute video, featuring just my testimony, to make it easier to share. [link in original]
The full video, which I listened to and recommend, is here.

Epstein also recently appeared on Chris Williamson's Modern Wisdom podcast:
If you want to introduce an open-minded person to a new way of thinking about energy and environmental issues, try this new interview I did on the popular Modern Wisdom podcast, hosted by Chris Williamson. I think it's my best interview yet.

Here's my favorite YouTube comment so far: "I still can't say I agree with everything Alex is pushing but this interview has certainly broadened my perspective ... there were a lot of arguments here that were wildly unsettling for me -- bravo for that." [links in original]
The fight for plentiful, reliable, and affordable energy has to be won one mind at a time: I urge my readers to view or recommend these to others.

3. If you follow my Twitter account, the below will sound familiar:
Fun fact I learned from [Adam Mossoff] on [the Yaron Brook Show]: Alexander Fleming's refusal to patent penicillin caused it to be LESS available as a medicine for some time. Many of the other facts were more eye-opening than fun.
The episode I refer to regards the Biden Administration's pledge/threat to support waiving intellectual property protections (often shortened to "patents" since it's shorter and easier to demonize) for the manufacture of coronavirus vaccines. Not only are "patents" not a bottleneck, these laws make possible the sharing of knowledge to mutual benefit among the players, large and small, in the pharmaceutical industry.

No intellectual property protection, no innovation -- and no translation of innovation into the effective products that we need.

I highly recommend this episode to anyone who is remotely interested in this idea, which is even worse than I thought it was when I first heard about it, and I called it "horrendous" then.

Ditto for a University of Texas Salem Center discussion on the same topic among philosopher Gregory Salmieri, infectious disease expert Amesh Adalja, and intellectual property law professor Adam Mossoff.

4. If the good news is the bad news, is it really news at all?

Google has a new feed reader out. See also: "Google Channels Lucy" and the related, "Dear Google Cloud: Your Deprecation Policy is Killing You." From the first:
Almost every fall during its 50 year lifetime, the Peanuts comic strip would run a variation of the Lucy and Charlie Brown football gag. The basis of the gag is that every year Lucy would talk Charlie Brown into trying to kick a football that she was holding and every year she would yank it away at the last second causing Charlie Brown to land on his butt. [links omitted]
So, umm. Yeah. I don't plan to fool with it any time soon. I did enjoy the Charlie Brown reference, though, so there is that.

-- CAV


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, saw an interesting movie that you might want to watch. I've recently been editing a book on Korean history in Korean film and have collected a list of movies to seek out. I found out that the first movie on the list is available subtitled on YouTube; it's a SF alternative-history thriller-action film from 2002 set in Korea in 2009 that is still part of the Japanese empire, which is a major superpower and all. The basic change in history leading to that is shown in the first three minutes or so of the movie: In actual history, Korea lost its full independence to Japan in 1905, and the first Resident-General of Japan was Ito Hirobumi, who was the author of the Meiji Constitution and the first Prime Minister of Japan. He was assassinated in Harbin, in Manchuria, in 1909 by a Korean patriot (An Jung-geun, very famous in Korea), which led Japan to annex Korea in 1910. In the film, the assassination was prevented, and the basic idea worked out there is that while Japan still annexed Korea (this was seen as a strategic necessity by all figures in Japan, as an uncontrolled Korea was, to use the phrase they preferred, "a dagger pointed at the heart of Japan"--and then it was also necessary to control the fist holding the dagger, which was Manchuria), only as Ito survived, he retained control of Japanese foreign policy over the military faction and maintained the Japanese alliance with the US and UK, as a result of which Japan was on the Allied side in World War II and retained its empire.

As a bit of film-making, it has many positives. The scenes in modern Seoul [*] that use special effects to Japanize the advertisements and such were impressive, and some of these touches are quite effective--the famous statue of Yi Sunshin, the Korean admiral who defeated the Japanese navies when they invaded in the 1590s is replaced by a statue of the Japanese warlord who ordered the invasions, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, for example. As a thriller, it is basically a by-the-book Korean police thriller with lots of action (note, this is not a negative criticism in my book!), and as a time-travel alternative-history movie, it meets the usual problems that presents with some sort of logical consistency fairly well, though the ending didn't quite wash for me.

First thought: The part I liked best, of course, is the historical counterfactual the movie relies on. Naturally, only the minimal touches needed to set the stage are presented (I would like to see a map of East Asia in that timeline, for example), but still, the alternate history is plausible; I don't buy it entirely, but it is plausible enough that my inner historian (who has a very loud voice) was so intrigued by the baubles on display that he didn't ruin my enjoyment of the flick.

[*] A nice example here of the details definitely intended for an East Asian audience: It is called "Gyeongseong" rather than "Seoul" in the Korean subtitles, though not in the English, as that would be too confusing for those not familiar with the history--Gyeongseong was the Korean pronunciation of the Japanese name for "Seoul," Keijō, under colonial rule, and thus is a perfect example of the little touches in the movie that would basically set a Korean audience's teeth on edge, as intended. Similarly, the simple use of Korean or Japanese in different scenes is blatant to the intended audience but not to Americans.

[Here endeth Part the First.]

Snedcat said...

More generally, it's an interesting confluence or pastiche of a number of threads in Korean movies as well as reflecting some real issues in history. First, there's the whole issue of Korean collaborators with Japan (the Chinilpha) that have been treated in several movies, though not always very well--it's usually some feckless employee of the Japanese colonial forces in the 1920s or 1930s who through some machination or other ends up suddenly discovering patriotic feelings he has never before in the movie or his life evinced in the least. This movie has a Korean member of the JBI with a Japanese name [*] and striving to be fully Japanese come to the realization that he's taken a wrong path through a somewhat more understandable process than usual--and with understandable motives for doing so. (It's never quite explained in any of these movies how these tools of Japanese colonialism suddenly gained access to the inner circles of the Korean patriotic cells, who were pretty canny in that regard as a matter of sheer survival.)

Moreover, there's a bit of a fad in Korean TV and film for alternate histories in which, for example, the brief and ill-fated Korean Empire didn't end in 1905 or 1910 but lasted until today, with Korea currently a constitutional monarchy, which allows a combination of the unending royal costume dramas of Korean TV with the unending modern goings-on and modern heroines of Korean TV. This movie doesn't go that route.

Also, it's a very Korean movie. Koreans do love their anti-Japanese patriots, and the movie gives them those in spades. As well, it gives them notional proto-Korean ancestors in Manchuria practicing some sort of shamanism 5,000 years ago (my inner historian growled a bit at that, but it's not entirely loopy) that opens a door in time (my inner scientist shook his head at that).

In any case, the final scenes (especially the one at the Independence Hall, which I enjoyed visiting when I studied in Seoul) are very "Hollywood," in the sense of unearned happy endings grafted onto effective films.

Plus, the music's quite effective. So there you go, watch it or not, but it's an interesting movie if you do.

[*] There was a policy for Japanization promulgated in 1936, I think, that banned teaching Korean in favor of Japanese, and before then there was a push for Koreans to take Japanese names. This was the major reason for so many Korean women's names ending in -ja, the Korean reading of the Chinese character for 'child' (Chinese names were enforced in Korea from 572 AD, curious historical factoid, after which native Korean names entirely disappeared), as that was the character used in Japanese women's names ending in -ko. This custom survived after 1945--I was once introduced to a Korean woman who was named following a very traditional character naming cycle within her family in which by the workings of different cycles for first and second characters she received the name Jeongja, where jeong is Chinese jing 敬 'respectful', so her name was in Chinese characters equivalent to a common form of the Japanese name Keiko. However, in Korean (not in Chinese; the tones differ) her name is homophonous with the word for 'semen' (jingzi in Chinese, first tone on the first syllable). When I was introduced to her in person, I said with an expressionless face, "And your name is Jeongja, right?" She said very firmly while staring me down, "My name is Jeong."

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the movie recommendation.