The Greencine Five, Part XII: Purple Butterfly, Happy Together, The Road Home, In the Year of the Pig, King of Chess


Purple Butterfly is a slow-moving spy thriller that takes place in Shanghai immediately before Japan’s invasion of China. Purple Butterfly is really good, but the lack of dialogue and the physical similarity of two characters leave some reviewers confused. The film centers around a Japanese intelligence service’s secret war against the Purple Butterfly Organization in a setting that could easily be transferred to Peshwar, or Bali. The set-up, that a Chinese factory worker is mistaken for a Japanese spy, sounds like a comedy. Instead, an increasingly dark story of betrayal, confusion, and revenge brilliantly defines the murkiness that is the fog of war.


Happy Together is a film by Wong Kar Wai, better known for his atmospheric “Hong Kong” trilogy (Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love, and 2046), as well as Chungking Express. Happy Together was released to controversy, as it his first homosexual romance. Those who enjoy atmospheric Chinese-language gay romance films will enjoy Happy Together.


The Road Home is Zhang Ziyi‘s break-out performance, and probably her best. The film is set in Manchuria before the Cultural Revolution, which is rememberd similarly to the 1950s in the United States: stable, prosperous, uniform, culturally conservative, and safe. It is the story of an illiterate farm girl and the teacher she falls in love with. The film’s style is consciously taken from Titanic (the most popular movie in the history of Chinese cinema), and even shares with it the use of flashbacks to tell the main story.


In the Year of the Pig is a pro-Ho Chi Minh documentary about the Vietnam War, produced in 1968. I was shocked at how different the style and tone is from Hearts and Minds, an anti-war movie films in 1974. Year feels like its policy film from the 1950s, where clean-cut men in suits criticize France, discuss why some American policy was reasonable at the time, and argue for the need for a change. If the speakers are indeed Communist-sympathizers, then it is striking just how serious and alluring that movement must have been. Alternatively, Year may the voice of a lost moderate-liberal position on foreign policy that has yet to reemerge.


King of Chess is weird. It looks like someone spliced together documentary footage of the cultural revolution, added a rock anthem soundtrack, and then proceeded to combine two featurettes (one about the rustification campaign, the other about a psychic boy and an evil professor in Taiwan) together. That’s because it is. The production of the intended movie collapsed early on, requiring the filming of another, parallel story to fill out the running time. My friend criticized it as the most boring we watched since The World. It definitely isn’t the best film we’ve watched.

Short Review of “Notes from China” by Barbara Tuchman

Over the weekend I read Notes from China by Barbara Tuchman. Notes from China was written after Stillwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945. Her criticism of the KMT government in that book (as well as Nixon’s opening to China) worked together to make the Chinese authorities identify her as a “friend of China,” and so Mrs. Tuchman became one of the first Americans to visit China after the thaw in relations.

Notes from China is a time-capsule. While much of the infrastructure of the Cultural Revolution is in place (Mao, the Gang of Four, Communes, Revolutionary Committees, Reeducation, Rustification, and so on), the naked violence had ended with the death of President Liu Shaoqi some year earlier. While Tuchman notes that the government is in control but not stable, she fears it will be many years until China moves from agriculture and embraces the world.

As Tuchman had spent four weeks in China before the World War, she is one of the few westerners (along with Sidney Rittenberg and Sidney Shapiro) to publish first-person accounts of China before and after the Communist take-over. Like the Sidneys, Tuchman is struck by the abolishment of extreme poverty, though she is much more critical of the total thought control.

Notes from China concludes with an essay that discusses Zhou Enlai’s request for a meeting between himself, Mao Zedong, and President Roosevelt in Washington, DC in 1945. The reasons for the request, the probable consequences of granting such a meeting, and why it was unlikely is discussed in an in-depth but very readible manner.

Notes from China is a great, first-person account of the late Cultural Revolution, and the reasons for the collapse of the KMT government in the 1940s.

Review of ENIAC: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World’s First Computer by Scott McCartney

Yesterday I had the pleasure of finishing ENIAC: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World’s First Computer. The book is excellently written, and after a brief overview of earlier computing machines (including the lost work of Charles Babbage, analog computers, punch card calculators, and so on) focuses on the design of of the Electronic Numerial Integrator and Computer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by John Mauchly and Pres Eckert.


ENIAC is told in mostly chronological order, and focuses and five main battles

1. The attempt to fund the construction of ENIAC
2. The attempt to build ENIAC
3. The attempt by Eckert and Machuly to commercialize ENIAC
4. The battle for credit of ENIAC
5. The ENIAC patent lawsuit

Two books I read about Bell Labs, Life in the Crown Jewel and Crystal Fire, also go through the first three steps of Columbus and the transister, respectively. However, it is the post-ENIAC battles which make this book especailly fascinating.

The battle for credit is largely against John von Neumaann. Most of the initial confusion comes from the “First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC,” which Dr. von Neumann wrote with himself as the sole author. (EDVAC was designed to be an improved version of ENIAC.) Because of wartime censorship, von Neumann’s first draft, which was meant only for internal review, was shared with other labs but the offical report, which was formal, was classified and thus not shared. Ultimately, von Neumann did not invent the computer, but was perhaps the pioneer of computer science that is distinct from electrical engineering.

The second battle was oddly personal for me, because the company that eventually acquired ENIAC has been a patent troll for decades. After ENIAC, Eckert and Mauchly went on to found their own company, which was acquired by Sperry to form Sperry Univac. Sperry Univac was involved in shady patent litigation that slowed down the progress of computing greatly, and threatened to do so thru the 1980s. The same company, now named Unisys tried to do the same thing by patenting the gif graphics format on the world wide web.

ENIAC is an excellent work, and goes behind the scenes in the struggle to build the worlds first modern computer.

The Greencine Five, Part XI: Legong: Dance of the Virgins, My Life as a Dog, Sword of the Beast, Gaza Strip, Pickpocket


No movie is this good by accident. It is on purpose. Legong is not only an exotic and gorgeous film, it was one of the last silent films ever released. It was also one of the last which used two-color mixing (as opposed to the three-color approach which is the standard to this day). The story is a sweet tragedy about a love triangles between two girls (dancers at a local temple) and a young man (a drummer). The film is the sort of “south seas” picture that enchanted George Bailey and so many others. The film was made on location in Bali (now an island in Indonesia), with an entirely Balinese cast.


My Life as a Dog is a sad but sweet story about a young boy suffering the death of his mother. The film has certainly similarities to Goodnight Mister Tom and A Home of Our Own. The film is slow moving, but paints a convincing picture of rural Sweden in the early years of the Cold War.


Sword of the Beast is a story about Japan on the verge of the Meiji Restoration, but really about Japan on the verge of defeat in World War II. Samurai give their life for honor and reform, but everything is turned around by corrupt counselors, leaving only death and shame. The momentum for a better Japan is clearly there, but not much is to be done. The vendetta — that is, the war effort — is an excuse for everything. Slow on its surface, but fascinating in its context.

The centerpiece of Gaza Strip is something that never happened. The film very, very strongly implies that it is documenting the effects of a nerve gas attack on the residents of Gaza. Individuals appearing to be victims of the attack, as well as a woman implied to be part of Medicine sans Frontier, are interviewed. Looking online, the only references to this attack are other people questioning if it ever happened.


No movie is this bad by accident. It is on purpose. The director didn’t like characterization, because he thought it was phony, so he didn’t do it. He didn’t like acting, because he thought it was phony, so he had non-actors just repeat the actions a couple times. He seems not to like his main character, as the guy is a cringing, self-important, coward of a parasite. I wasted 86 minutes of my life I will never get back. Pickpocket is an awful film.

The Greencine Five, Part X: Take Care of my Cat, Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst, Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, This Divided State, Mean Creek


Take Care of my Cat is a Korean coming of age movie, which means it centers on students who graduate high school and begin their lives. The setting for the story is Inchon (site of Operation Chromite), about 20 miles from Seoul. The tone of the film is meloncholy and sad, as the world of school crumbles as new friends, new lives, and new careers intrude.


Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst should be watched with The Weather Underground, which I reviewed three years ago. The 1970s were seriously, seriously, crazy. The Hearst family was so willing to give into demands that state prosecutors threatened to charge them with being accessories. At the same time, the Symbionese Liberation Army disintegrates as its leader is killed into a rogue band of thugs. No “darwinian ratchet” here!


Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession is the clunker of this set of movies. It’s not actually bad, just not particularly interesting. It is almost a documentary about movie culture in Los Angeles in the 1970s. It is almost a documentary about arthouse movies. It is almost a documentary about the Z Channel itself. Instead it revolves around Jerry Harvey, Z’s programming chief and a generally unpleasant fellow.


This Divided State, made for less than $50,000, is a documentary about the controversy surrounding a visit by Michael Moore to Utah Valley State College immediately before the 2004 Presidential Election. Now that most of the issues of the 2004 election are moot, this film is best viewed as a study of the internal divisions of both the pro-Moore and anti-Moore factions.


Mean Creek is an American coming of age story, which means it centers on a group of middle and high school kids. It is good. Take the story elements of The Body / Stand By Me, but them in a blender, make the characters more realistic, and you have Mean Creek. The main conflict comes from a hot-headed, stupid, but well meaning older brother trying to protect his sibling from a socially blind, learning disabled, but well meaning high school bully.

Brief Impressions of “23 Minutes in Hell” by Bill Wiese

23 Minutes in Hell is a brief account, written by Bill Weise, that encompasses

1. His transportation to Hell
2. His imprisonment in hell
3. His wandering around Hell
4. His ascension into Heaven
5. His conversation with Jesus
6. His return to Earth

as well as a bible-based discussion on the meaning of his encounter.

Bill does not describe a Near Death Experience, but rather something very close a reptilian abduction combined with an encounter with a star-brother.

While UFOs are probably physically real, aliens and journeys such as Wiese’s are probably part of another (psychological, supernatural, or both) phenmenon all together.

Impressions of “iCon” and “Crystal Fire”

Recently I was able to finish two great books on the history of computers: Crystal Fire: The Invention of the Transistor and the Birth of the Information Age and iCon: Steve Jobs and the Greatest Second Act in the History of Business. Both are excellent books, and written from different perspectives. iCon is essentially a high quality business book, and goes in depth on the management wars and personality conflicts that followed Steve Jobs through life. Crystal Fire is the story of the invention of the transister, starting with early CRT research and continuing until they revolutionized the computer industry.

iCon cites The Second Coming of Steve Jobsby Alan Deutschman repeatedly, and is best viewed as an improved telling of that story. Jobs transition from an advocate of the Apple Lisa and a foe of the Apple Macintosh, to an advocate of the Apple Macintosh and a foe of the Apple Lisa, is an example of the behind-the-scene stories told in iCon

Crytal Fire revolves around the careers of William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain, three researchers at Bell Labs who would share the Nobel Prize in Physics for their invention. In light of Narain Gehani’s Bell Labs: Life in the Crown Jewel, it is fascinating that AT&T/Western Electric failed to be a leader in the semiconducter field because of its concentration on immediate application as opposed to research.

Both Steve Joos and William Shockley got along poorly with others, and their careers are marked by those who cut ties with them and left them. While Steve Jobs has done this by both appropriate the inventions of others (Apple II, Apple Macintosh, iMac, iTunes) and becoming a force in several markets, Shockley’s great triumph comes from the industry of competing firms he left in his wake. Shockley was a great trainer and a terrible manager. Thus, he identified the best talent, taught them how to run a semiconductor firm, and quickly lost them to start-up after start-up.

Interesting, the two stories converge in unexpected ways. A prominent character in iCon is Mike Markkula, who was CEO of Apple between 1981 and 1983, and would serve on the board until being forced out by Steve Jobs in 1997. Markkula joined the Apple saga as an angel investor with money he made while at Fairchild Semiconductor. Fairchild is the company formed by eight dissidents who the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory.

My UFO Theory

Perhaps this is where I go off the deep-end, but I have developed a comprehensive theory of UFOs that accounts for Nazi experiments, the Foo Fighters, flying saucers, flying lights, and lost time. I first described this theory in a face-to-face chat with Catholicgauze. I became more convinced after listening to a podcast about the Rendelsham Forest Incident.

Basically, I assume that UFOs are a product of a series of government experiments on ultralight, nonkinetic “shock” weapons. That is, intelligently-guided UFOs (up to the late 1980s) shared several common features

1. they possessed much less mass than other, human-produced flying vehicles
2. they were incapable of physical attacks
3. they were designed to disrupt C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance)

The classic UFO came in several phases. The first phase was the Foo Fighters of World War II. The second phase was the ‘flying saucer’ of the late 1940s and 1950s. The third phase was the lights in the sky, of the 1970s and 1980s. The two gaps in UFOs – the 1960s and 1990s to 2000s — are accounted for by two now widely known (but once experimental) flying technologies: turboshaft helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Common Name: The Foo Fighters
Who was behind it? The Nazis
When did it occur: 1944-1945
Explanation: The collapse of Nazi Germany occured in the face of breathtaking innovations. Some of these concerned mililitary strategy, such as Nazi suicide troops. Others were primarily military, such as an increase in yearly German industrial production notwithstanding heavy Allied bombardment. Some were horribly cruel, such as the Holocaust. Another was the Foo Fighters.

German researchers, searching for ways to turn back allied bombers, decided to research ways of terrifying Allied pilots. The Germans developed ultralight manned craft, perhaps consisting of nothing more than a wing coated with nonreflective paint and a peddle-powered floodlight. On an individual level, the pilots would either turn back (best case, less likely) or drop their munitions in panic with minimal damage (more likely case). On an operational level, Allied High Command may determine that the Germans were on the verge of developing very advanced weaponry which would make the costs of an ‘unconditional surrender’ unacceptable high. Unfortunately for the Nazis, the pilots were jocks who were more curious than afraid, and the U.S. was developing the nuclear bomb (which would make more advanced aircraft irrelevant).

Common Name: Flying Saucers
Who was behind it? U.S. Department of Defense
When did it occur: 1947-1959
Explanation: In January 1947 President Harry S Truman rejected the Morganthau Plan and began outlining a Cold War strategy that accounted for the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan as allies of the United States. America was in the middle of a four-year nuclear monopoly, and American scientific prowess (buttressed by German exiles and emigres) was an important advantage. In a classified operation, perhaps partially subsumed by parts of Operational Alsos and Operational Paperclip, German researchers in ultralight non-kinetic flying shock weapons were brought to the United States. Following the apparent failure of the ‘flying lights’ Foo Fighters strategy, the flying vehicles were made to be visible in the daylight. Perhaps taking advantage of earlier U.S. research into Coanda Effect, the flying saucer debuted.

The first published sighting of a flying saucer occurred on June 24, 1947, outside Seattle. The first sighting kept the brightness of the Foo Fighters, though later revisions would lose the light. Another flying saucer crashed on July 8, 1947, in Roswell, New Mexico. The crew was comprised of Japanese Volunteers, chosen for their small stature and low weight, who decided to not come back to Japan in the 1947 repatriations because of the fear of shame of surrendering. (One such self-disappeared Japanese POW, Ishinosuke Uwano, was found in 2006 in Ukraine). The death of the test pilots would have been extraordinarily sensitive (for personal and diplomatic reasons), and was covered up, first with the weather balloon hoax, and later (either in a MIHOP or LIHOP action) with the alien mythos.

In the 1950s, flying saucers investigated as pat of a problem to disrupt C4ISR in nuclear installations. In the event of a nuclear war, even a five minute breakdown in normal base operations could materially impact the post-exchange balance of forces.

Common Name: Turboshaft Helicopters
Who was behind it: Kaman Aircraft / U.S. Department of Defense
When did it occur: 1951 – Present
Explanation: On December 11, 1951, the Kamen K-225 became the first turboshaft helicopter in the world. The Turboshaft Helicopter rendered the Flying Saucer irrelevant, as it opposed greater offensive, defensive, and shock value. While knowledge of what a Flying Saucer actually was would render the ship harmless (no one is scared of balsa wood), knowledge of what a Turboshaft Helicopter was left the fear intact (it is a flying machine designed to kill you). While the emergence of the Alien Mythos saved the Flying Saucer project for a number of years, the greater lethality and economies-of-scale of the Turboshaft Helicopter ended research into ultralight non-kinetic shock weapons. However, the invention of the controlled laser on May 16, 1960, combined with unknown research into Tritium, would lead t a reemergence of the flying lights phenomenon.

Common Name: Lights in the Sky
Who was behind it: U.S. Department of Defense
When did it occur: 1951 (first public sighting) – 1970s/1980s (mass sightings).

Three sub-phases of the Lights in the Sky were the Earliest Flights, Intersecting Lasers, and Black Triangles. Two related aspects were Missing Time and Cattle Mutilations.

Research on self-illuminating flying lights in the sky may have began as early as 1951, as demonstrated by the Lubbock sightings: The Lubbock lights “appeared to be about the size of a dinner plate and they were greenish-blue, slightly fluorescent in color. They were smaller than the full moon at the horizon. There were about a dozen to fifteen of these lights…they were absolutely circular…it gave all of us…an extremely eerie feeling.” Unlike the Foo Fighters (which created curiosity) and the Flying Saucers (which inspired awe and the Alien Mythos), the Lights in the Sky succeeding in evoking disquieting emotional reactions. These early lights in the sky continued the ultralight design of the Foo Fighters, though with the addition of radioactive self-illuminating decals.

The invention of the laser allowed the separation of the light source and the position of the light. Unlike the Foo Fighters and the early lights in the sky, systems that incorporated lasers created entirely new possibilities. For instance, in the Rendelsham Forest incident, lights in the sky appeared to fly through objects. That is, the emitted light travelled in an arc at a certain velocity, was not projected during the time that the arc would intersect with a physical object, as was projected once the arc passed the object, making it appear that the light continued through the object. Using an unknown method (perhaps intersecting lasers, whose constructive interference would allow them to pass the threshold of vision in their intersection, but not elsewhere), lights could also appear to soundlessly circle houses, barracks, bunkers, and other sensitive areas. Tests were conducted both on military personnel and on civilian populations, to investigate the breakdown of police, fire, and military communication networks during lights in the sky sightings.

Flying Triangles are comprised of three lights in the sky in a stable formation to form the points of a triangle, with another light in the middle. Light pollution is generated to make it impossible to see the stars behind the triangle forms by the outer three lights, while the presence of the fourth light tricks the observer into imagining seeing the underside of a craft. Unlike the Foo Fighters, the Earliest Lights, or the Intersecting Lasers, Flying Triangles could appear to be massively large. Therefore, even for observers who did not believe the Alien Mythos, Flying Triangles could be perceived as serving as enemy ultraheavy lift capacity.

Common Names: Missing Time, Cattle Mutilations, Conspiracy Theories
Who was behind it: U.S. Department of Defense / others
When Did It Occur: 1970s – now

However, like all such UFOs to that point, Flying Triangles were kinetically harmless. Three aspects to the Lights in the Sky emerged around the 1970s that served to either physically disrupt C4STAR or increase the fear of doing so. These were Missing Time, Cattle Mutilizations, and Conspiracy Theories. These related phenemona do not neatly fit into the timeline of ultralight shock weapons, as they may be ancillary tactics that serve as force multipliers for ultralight shock weapons. Missing Time may be similar to photosensitive epilepsy and the bucha effect, caused by exposure to some patterns of light sources used in the Lights in the Sky. Cattle mutiliations may have been an attempt to study the propagation of information about horrific attacks against inessential personnel. Conspiracy theories, such as MJ-12 (and related ideas of both a Deep State and exopolitics) were created (either through MIHOP or LIHOP) to divert attention from the ultralight shock weapon program, which would have been rendered harmless if people realized they were physically harmless.

Common Name: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles / Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles /
Killer Robots
Who was behind it: U.S. Department of Defense
When did it occur: 1916 (invention of UAV) – 1960s (first armed
drones) – 1970s (Project: HAVE LEMON) – 1991 (Gulf War deployment) –
2001 (Afghanistan public debut) – Present
Explanation: Just as the Turnoshaft Helicopter rendered the Flying Saucer irrelevant, the UCAV rendered the Lights in the Sky irrelevant. UAVs in formation cold duplicate the effects of the Lights (such as Flying Triangles, etc) with greater maneuverability and economies of scale. Further, while knowledge of what Lights in the Sky actually were would render them harmless, knowledge that UCAVs are actually Killer Robots make them more terrifying. For the first time in the history of war, a non-human intelligence that felt no pain, held no honor, experienced no regret, and knew no fear patrolled the skies and rained death down to the earth. While UAVs and UCAVs are typically under remote human control (in additional to nonhuman automatic systems), the human is likely to be in a comfortable air conditioned room and be emotionally detached from the events in battle.

When the Alien Mythos first became attached to the UFO phenomenon, many began believing they could face armed attack from nonhuman enemies. The UCAV makes this belief a reality. As such, the UFO (as an ultralight non-kinetic shock weapon) is an obsolete technology, and will be into the indefinite future.

The Audiovisual

Last night went out with a good friend to see You Were Never Lovlier, an absolutely terrific Fred AstaireRita Hayworth film from 1942. I had never seen a movie with Fred Astaire before, but after You Were Never Lovelier he ranks up with William Holden as an amazing star I had never seen until recently.

Then tonight watched four episodes of Kenra, a 2000s series starring Kendra Baskett née Wilkinson.

I’m pretty sure I prefer the 1940s.

The Greencine Five, Part IX: Bounce Ko Gals, LOL, The Bow, Heimat, Black Snake Moan

It has been nearly two years since I was a member of Greencine. While the price is higher than NetFlix, Greencine has a much wider selection to choose from. Thus, even when I watch movies that are available on both NetFlix and Greencine, I discover more with Greencine, because the broader collection means that it is easier to follow one movie to another, and see webs of connections between movies. NetFlix and Greencine may both have the biggest hit from Korea in a year, for instance, but Greencine is more likely to have that director’s lessor work, as well.


Bounce Ko Gals is a story on two levels. On the first it is about Lisa, a Japanese-American about to leave Tokyo, and her adventures with teenage Japanese prostitutes. On another it is about generational change, and the way the “aesthetics” change over time. This is seen both in the relationship of the whores to pimps-and-customers, and also their mutual disilluionment with the dreams of generations born before them both.


LOL has no plot. The story is weak, and the characters are unsympathetic. It looks remarkably like a senior project for an ambitious film school student. And it gets one thing person: what around means in a world where everyone has cell phones, text messaging, laptops, and internet access. After watching LOL, my wife and I caught each other engaging in some of the “bizarre” (to an earlier generation) behaviors depicted in the film.


The Bow is very similar to Why Has the Bodhi-dharma Left for the East, which I earlier reviewed. However, while the Bodhi-dharma requires a great deal of patience in its slow moving story of a buddhist master and acolyte, The Bow has the good sense to introduce a love triangle. The story of an old man, young girl, and young man is told almost without dialog, though with heavily archery and buddhist symbolism. The film slowly moves from realism to magical-realism and ends with a quotation that helps explain the motivation of the old fisherman.


I watched disk 1 of Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany two years ago. Disk 2 continues the story in two episodes, the first from the mid-1920s to 1933, and the third taking place in 1935. The first of these episodes pains a picture of a society very similar to the rural life in modern China. The second of these, in which the Nazi Party cements its grip by a thousand only vaguely interesting moves, chronicles the transformation of Germany from a dysfunctional republic to a tyranny.


If The Bow retells Why has the Bodhi-Dharma left for the East, Black Snake Moan retells the The Bow. The similarities are incredible. A three-way love triangle, a setting in an economic backwater (Korean fisherman, the American South), religious themes infuse both films. While The Bow is heavily buddhist, and preaches that the desire is the beginning of suffering, however, Black Snake Moan is Christian, and dwells on the need for grace given the presence of sin in all human beings.