QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded

SF Film Festival 2024

The San Francisco Film festival gets smaller every year. It's now down to five days, plus a few more "encore" days. I watched four of the films in this year's line up, one documentary and three fictional.

Porcelain War
Janet Planet

Porcelain War is a is a much more hopeful film about the war in Ukraine than the recent Oscar winning 20 Days in Mariupol, and possibly the most beautiful film you can imagine being made inside a country at war about the people trying to keep on with their lives there. After the film, both co-directors Brendan Bellomo and Slava Leontyev, plus cinematographer Andrey Stefanov (and little dog Frodo[*]), were there to talk about how the production was done. Bellomo had previously met these people and was planning a film about their art before war broke out. Then they changed the subject matter. Because of the deep involvement in the war by two artists, and the working relationship with a third artist, this is a lovely film about art in wartime with some slightly awkward cuts to artists waging war.

Four out of four bombs dropped by a whimsically painted DJI drone.

[*] No questions were directed to Frodo and he did not speak on his own.

Janet Planet is a film about an 11-year-old girl one summer in 1991. Her mom is divorced and has a series of relationships that constitute the major chapters of the film. It's from A24 and a first time movie director and follows in the footsteps of A24 giving a chance to first time directors to tell stories of girls (eg, Greta Gerwig's _Lady Bird_). This would fail a gender reversed Bechdel Test, if that sort of thing bothers you. What bothered me about the film was just how slow it is. At one point, near a major plot event, we see some blintzs get put in a microwave and cooked for 30 seconds. The camera just stays there immobile watching the food cook. I can see the message there: 1991, home alone in the woods, no friends, no video games, no cellphone, no cable TV: life is slow and you watch your food cook. It's not an thing kids today (and there were a lot of under 30s in the audience) really know. But it is a little tedious. Afterwards, over the next few days, I did find myself thinking a lot about the film, but boy was it slow to watch.

Two out of four frozen blintzes.

Dìdi makes an interesting contrast to Janet Planet. This is about a boy one spring and summer in 2008, at the end of 8th grade up to the first few days in high school, in Freemont, California. His dad works in Taiwan, and he lives with mother, his paternal grandmother (Nai Nai), and his older sister, about to head off to dental school. The boy goes by different names with different people, "Dìdi" ("younger brother") to his family, "Wang Wang" to some of his friends, "Chris" to others. He is trying hard to fit in and become more popular, definitely falling into the tag along friend in his social groups, and having some rough times getting along with his family. And so the movie follows his failings and growth at that time when socialization was in person, on Myspace, on Facebook, on Youtube, and on text messages by flip phone.

Three out of four hasty Google searches.

Thelma is a delightful film that manages to deftly juggle the concerns of seniors (Thelma is 93 and played by a 94 year old actress) and a loving hommage to Mission: Impossible. It starts with Thelma discussing Tom Cruise doing all his own stunts while they watch a clip from MI Fallout, which is meta-relevant in that June Squibb (long a supporting actress, now in her first starring role) did "many" of her stunts for Thelma. "Stunts" in the Hollywood union rules sense of stunts, at least, and not really challenging for the able-bodied. The story concerns a common scam that targets seniors, and Thelma's quest to recover her lost money after falling for it.

Three out of four hearing aids.

Links for other movies mentioned:
20 Days in Mariupol
Lady Bird
Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Banana bread

This is a very forgiving recipe that has a lot of room for slighlt wrong amounts, different sized bananas, and tolerance for coooking time. It's a bit of a slow cook but not tricky at all. We make this a couple of times a month, sometimes doubled recipe and freezing some.

Start off with

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar

Cream together. I use a stand mixer but whatever.

Add in and mix well:

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas

Next add and mix:

  • 2 cups flour (up to 1/2 cup whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or chocolate chips

In our household, adults always use walnuts and kids always bake it with chocolate chips.

Pour into oiled/floured loaf pan. Or multiple pans. Or make muffins.

Bake 45 minutes to an hour at 350°F. Use the clean toothpick test. Smaller cooks faster, so cupcakes may be 30 minutes, big loaves closer to the hour mark.

Long Silence Again

With no feedback from people reading, it's really hard for me to maintain motivation for writing. So I stop and write in places I do get feedback. That's been Net News (eg Usenet and Usenet like) forever and Mastodon-flavored Fediverse recently.

I created a Mastodon account perhaps four years ago, but due to the "no feedback" thing, and not knowing anyone else on the platform, it got little use until Musk started his Twitter purchase and then Twitter destruction. So Twitter link no-more on Contact section and Fediverse QAZ link instead.

I've also revamped the robots.txt file, because of other Internet "enshitification". Google is useless as a search engine now, time to drop their bot. At the same time, I added some more "SEO" related bots and the one "AI" bot I've noticed ("ChatGPT", which people tell me is phonetically the same the French phrase "Cat, I farted", « Chat, j'ai pété »).

Part of the prompt for robots.txt was a persistent highly personalized campaign from some Internet advertising company urging me to put ads on my site through their service. I suspect one of the "SEO" metrics company was how I came to this guy's attention. Better to just block those bozos. Web advertising is just a downhill spiral to the worst profit motives on the web.

Mini Monopoly

Years ago I found some miniaturized games for sale. I don't remember how many were available, but I got Scrabble, Mousetrap, Etch-a-Sketch, and Monopoly. The Scrabble set had a tiny bag for letters, but not a complete set of letters. Mousetrap did have the full rube-goldberg trap, but lacked other pieces. Etch-a-Sketch worked. Monopoly came with a couple of markers (metal, magnetic, to stick to metal board) and dice, but lacked money, property cards, houses and hotels, and the various draw cards. Those small games still appealed to my taste in shrunken versions of things, working or not.

Now I find out there's a new maker of miniaturized games, going by the name "World's Smallest". And they have a Monopoly, too.

World's Smallest edition on right, older mini version on left

Side-by-side the older gimmick version (dated 1998) and the new World's Smallest (dated 2020) version. The board is about 3" square (around 75mm) on both. The quarter helps provide scale.

World's Smallest edition packed for storage

All of the game components (including the board) fit inside the 3" × 1.75" × 0.5" case. The older edition had a pull out drawer instead of a folding box. The drawer has much smaller storage capacity.

It's playable in the most technical sense. There are all of the pieces to play the game, but there are many ways this falls short. The houses are not the same scale as the board, so you can't fit two on a property. The Chance and Community Chest cards are also much larger than one would expect given the indicated spots for the draw piles. This board is cardboard, and the markers are plastic: no magnets to hold them down. The money is very hard to manipulate with one's fingers. And many people would want a loupe to be able to read the property cards.

Playable or not, if I saw a smaller edition, I'd still be tempted.