Thursday, October 29, 2009



After a matter is investigated in Congressional Committees, eventually

(a) A bill comes to the floor of the House and another comes to the floor of the Senate.

(b) These bills may be amended.

(c) If they are passed in each house of Congress, a Committee consisting of members of both houses creates a single bill using elements of the two separate bills from the two houses.

(d) This final, single, "compromise" bill must then be passed by each house.

(e) After the bill is passed, it must be signed by the President, and then becomes law.

The current bills from the House of Representatives and the Senate are now being amended before coming to a vote in each house. (We are just at step (a)).

Here is the text of the two HEALTH CARE bills. They are very long and complex pieces of legislation:

HOUSE BILL as of October 29, 2009 (1018 pages)

SENATE BILL as of July 15, 2009 (615 pages)

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At 3:55 a.m. EDT on April 23, a NASA satellite ("Swift") detected a gamma ray emission from an object believed to be about 13 billion light years from Earth. The event is believed to have taken place about 600 million years after the Big Bang when the universe was created.

Light takes 13 billion years to go 13 billion light years. If the object was 13 billion light years away from Earth when it exploded, it had to have travelled those 13 billion light years since the Big Bang (when "Earth" and the object, and everything else were all together in one tiny little space): that is, the object travelled 13 billion light years away from "Earth"in only 600 million years.

To get 13 billion light years away from "Earth" travelling at the speed of light would take 13 billion years, not 600 million years.


a -- it was (way!) closer to "Earth" when it omitted the gamma ray pulse than 13 billion light years (ie distance estimate is wrong)

b -- it emitted the light (way!) longer than 600 million years after the Big Bang (ie time estimate is wrong)

c -- "Earth" & the object were not in proximity at the time of the Big Bang (ie Big Bang assumptions are wrong)

d -- The object separated from "Earth" (way!) faster than the speed of light.

e -- something else (for example, light does not travel at "the speed of light").

Note that our Earth did not exist 13 billion years ago; "Earth" (in quotes) designates a sort of virtual place that would later be occupied by our Earth. Since the idea of the Big Bang is that all matter in our universe occupied a very small space, exactly what space "Earth" occupied is not relevant -- unless of course that is where the solution lies...

Right now, the leading explanation for how something could get 13 billion light years away from "Earth" in 600 million years may be something like this... (a) the whole universe expanded / inflated at a rapid rate shortly after the Big Bang; and (b) this is allowed by General Relativity: space itself can expand, separating objects faster than the speed of light; it's not that the objects are moving, it's that the space between object is expanding.

So d (carefully using the word "separated") may be the leading explanation...



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The website for making online payments to Dell Financial Services was and has been so bad (performance, organization, redundancy, navigation, lack of facilities, possibly misleading information) that -- given that it comes from a computer company -- one wonders if it is deliberately intended to cause the user to make mistakes and generate extra fees, or if it is functional stupidity, or if there is some other reason for the site to be so bad.

It should be one click to the payment page from the DELL website; it should easily allow multiple types of payment; payments should be credited same day; amounts to be paid should be clear and accurate...

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Sunday, October 25, 2009



At 6:00 on the first Sunday of each month, Nobel Laureate (Chemistry) Roald Hoffman convenes an entertaining session of Science Entertainment at the
Cornelia Street Cafe.

Here's the info for Nov 2009. Early reservations are recommended. (It usually sells out.) Some people on the wait list are likely to get in also (but mostly end up sitting in the back).

The food and drinks you can have (upstairs before or after, downstairs during the show) are quite good at the Cafe/Restaurant.

6:00PM Nov 1, 2009
Roald Hoffmann


"Molecules have shapes, and their geometries determine ultimately their every chemical, physical and biological property. Tiny electrons, scooting around the much bulkier atoms, and governed by the lovely logic of quantum mechanics, actually tell those big guys how to arrange themselves.

An expert on la liaison chimique, Odile Eisenstein of the University of Montpellier, France, takes us by the hand into the world of molecular shapes, from the simple tetrahedron of methane to the less intuitive world of molecules containing metal atoms.

Gerard Parkin, who is rumored to make a living studying such molecules, will do some non-electronic magic.

And making shapes, exploring different forms of holding energy together, sometimes in "nonintuitive" ways, will also be expressed in the music of Todd Capp and his quartet. "

Cover $10

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Monday, October 19, 2009



Tali Shalom Ezer
Director of Surrogate
Photo by Eric Roffman

What I like about Surrogate (an Israeli film -- shown at HIFF 2009 -- directed by Tali Shalom Ezer) is that it tells a very simple story very well.

Lana Ettinger & Amir Wolf

A man (Eli, played by Amir Wolf) takes a series of sessions with a sex surrogate (Hagar, played by Lana Ettinger), who helps him become more comfortable with himself, with other people, and with the fact that he was molested by his uncle as a young boy.

Within -- or bursting out -- from this simple story (almost like an archetypal fairy tale) are a myriad of other stories, some of which I will suggest in the form of questions. The simplicity of the story allows the richness of the world of the movie to be invoked.

=>Is the relationship between the man and the surrogate a love affair? Is it a false relationship -- much like the relationship of the uncle to the boy? Will it help the man? Or hurt him by having a loving partner disappear after a false affair, like the uncle's "love" was false? Is it false to Eli? Is it false -- or real -- to Hagar?

=>Is Hagar training Eli to make love to her the way she likes to be made love to? Perhaps the way the director wants men and women to relate physically? Or not? Is Hagar taking control of the physical lovemaking only because that is good therapy?

=>Has Eli's mother really been unaware her son was molested -- or is she in denial?

=>What is the relation between Eli and his own nephew? Is he afraid to get close to the boy? What is Eli's relationship with his sister? Is there a physicality to the relationships between all the family members that promotes? or spites? the possibility of "inappropriate" relationships? Or impedes appropriate relationships?

=>How many love stories are being told? And what is the relation between sex and love in the relationship? (Positive? Negative? Unrelated? Not applicable?)
Eli & Hagar?
Eli & his nephew?
Eli & his mother?
Eli & his sister?
Mother and the rest of the family?
The director & ??? (The story seems so personal as it is told that it feels like the director is personally invested in these relationships.)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009



Shana Feste
Writer/Director of the Opening Night film, The Greatest
Photo by Eric Roffman

There's 107 films, a bunch of panels, and lots of parties, with usually 5-10 things happening at the same time, so I apologize for only experiencing a fraction of the action at HIFF 2009 (aka The 17th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival).

Here are some brief notes on some things I saw and did, people I met, and places I ate. Several of these will be the subject of in depth articles and, earlier, I wrote previews of the festival and of the Breakthrough Performers event, as well as an article on publicizing yourself and your film.

(Since stories in the blog appear in order from later dates to earlier dates -- the more recent the article, the higher it is on the page -- articles written after this story will appear above it, and articles I've already written can be found below by scrolling down on this page.)

Articles I'm working on include interviews with Emmy Rossum and Ashley Springer from the cast, as well as the writer and director of Dare; a retrospective of the Breakthrough Performers event; more about the Sloan Foundation; more photos and videos; and more detailed reviews of several films. These will be published over the next few days. Keep watching this site!

Here's a brief cruise through some highlights (for me) of the 2009 HIFF:

The Breakthrough Performer's event brings some of the world’s most exciting young acting talent to the Hamptons.

Alba Rohrwacher
Italian Shooting Star
And star of The Ladies Get Their Say
Photo by Eric Roffman

Three of the Breakthrough Performers were in Dare: (I'll have a detailed story -- with interviews -- closer to the release of Dare in November.)

Emmy Rossum
Rising Star & star of Dare
Photo by Eric Roffman

Emmy Rossum has grown from a great singer who -- though slightly stiff -- held her own as star in the film of Phantom of the Opera, to a beautiful, tall, smart and accomplished actress in Dare, in which her character essentially emerges from a cocoon, transforming from a geeky moth to a sexual, high-flying butterfly.

Zach Gilford (who, unfortunately did not show up in the Hamptons, because he was filming Friday Night Lights) navigates a tricky role as a sensitive and disturbed bad-boy hunk.

Rooney Mara
Rising Star and star of
Dare and Tanner Hall
Photo by Eric Roffman

Rooney Mara, in a small role in Dare, and in a similar character with a bigger role in Tanner Hall, exhibits a fascinating combination of wisdom, recklessness, joy, maturity and childishness. The writer and director of Dare have fashioned a sensitive and sophisticated triangular story, with Ashley Springer (no relation to the Springer PR family) a smart, young, funny actor, playing the third side (with Emmy and Zach) of the triangle. (This being a closed triangle, the film is of some interest to gay audiences, although its universal and original story about self-realization is of interest to all ages and all types of people.)


Amy Redford and Alan Alda
At the Sloan Celebration
Photo by Eric Roffman

The Sloan Foundation has a program whose objective is to support the presentation of science and scientists in films and theater. At a retrospective celebration of ten years of Sloan participation at HIFF, Alan Alda gave an absolutely brilliant talk about the relation between art and science. Amy Redford, who will be directing a script the Sloan Foundation has been supporting, gave a brief, but cogent description of how a good film could be made from the story of Hedy Lamarr, who in addition to being a beautiful movie star, was the co-inventor (the beautiful co-inventor -- inventors can be beautiful) of frequency hopping ( U.S. Patent 2,292,387), a technology of great importance in technology today (such as cell phone transmission systems).

Lily, Lily (in English exhibition renamed My Words, My Lies, My Love) is a brilliantly written love story with David Bruhl and Hannah Herzsprung. David and Hannah both deliver superb performances, David as a shy waiter who suddenly becomes -- through fraud -- Germany's most celebrated author, and Hannah as a smart, warm/cold muse, loving, but edgy.

(Note: Hanna Herzsprung was a Rising and Shooting star at the Hamptons the last two years. Her Vier Minuten ends in a concert hall that looks just like the lecture hall where Lily, Lily begins.)

The Surrogate is a deceptively simple or deceptively complex love story, or not a love story. More about this in a dedicated review later. It was paired with Ten: Thirty One, directed by Gabe Fazio, which was the best short film I saw at the festival.

Suzanne DiDonna (l)
Star of Ten: Thirty One
With director Gabe Fazio's eye (r)
And Polish actress (and Gabe's wife) Joanna Moskwa's lips (c)
Photo by Eric Roffman

With Dirty Oil, a documentary by Leslie Iwerks, about the hazard of harvesting Shale for oil, Babelgum (strange name, but interesting site), heralded its venue for high-end web video. Shale harvesting in the US has been suggested as a source of abundant domestic oil, and this documentary is particularly important because the issues it raises need to be considered to prevent thoughtless and irreversibly dangerous choices from being made.

Leslie Iwerks
Director of Dirty Oil
Photo by Eric Roffman

The three biggest troubles with YouTube and similar sites are that (1) they publish anything, (2) the highest traffic goes not to the best, real films, but the silliest, most easy to gape at filmlets. And (3), there's no good way to find really good films. Babelgum is an attempt to collect really fine films, some acquired, some, like Dirty Oil, self-produced. Watching the films is free; Babelgum is supported by advertising. And they are devising players for every possible outlet, including hand-held video players like the iPhone to make watching the films a ubiquitous possibility.

In a panel discussion of new modes of distribution for new filmmakers, VOD was described as an up and coming revenue source. Also emphasized by all the panelists, was the importance of social networking as a vital tool for marketing.

Mira Nair hosted a benefit for her foundation, Maisha, whose objective is to develop filmmaking skills among Africans.

Mira Nair
Photo by Eric Roffman

The film, 8, shown at the benefit screening consisted of 8 short films by eight directors on the eight Millennium Goals. Mira's film, along with Wim Wenders' and Sissako's (the lone African filmmaker), were the most interesting; Mira's, in particular, going beyond a simple exposition of the depth of the problem. Too many of the films were profoundly disturbing (which was, no doubt, intended) , but too simplistic descriptions of these serious problems: hunger, maternal health, devastation by current and future climate conditions, and 5 more.

During the festival I did need to eat and sleep (though rarely).

VUE, one of the sponsors at the festival, is a new "Swiss luxury herbal water." (More in another post.)

Spokeswoman for VUE
At the Chairman's Reception
Photo by Eric Roffman

The parties made it possible to meet filmmakers, and for sponsors to promote their products. Appetizers were mostly very good at most parties, though you had to be in the right place to snatch them before the tray was emptied. I liked the espresso bar a lot.

Photo by Eric Roffman

Gurney's Inn hosts the annual Opening Night Party. I stayed there last year and this. It's a beautiful hotel, and I liked it very much. This year I had a huge two level suite, which gave me lots of room to work, and a great view overlooking the water while working. The photo above is the view just outside my room.

At Della Femina I had a terrific meal at the bar, and a pleasant conversation with an ex-Wall Street executive and his wife. (We talked films & the festival... He said little about Wall Street and the Bear Stearns collapse... except that he wasn't responsible!)

I liked the appetizer snack at Turtle Crossing, a Tex-Mex hangout. The service was very friendly and there's a chocolate lollypop when you leave.

The Clam & Chowder House Restaurant in Montauk served a simple fish sandwich. The fish was a delicious, moist, perfectly broiled fluke.

My last meal in the Hamptons was desert and coffee at the bar at c/o Maidstone (I don't know why they have the c/o). It was a nice, tasty way to end the festival; the bar patrons, and the bar maid were all great to chat with.

The saddest part of the festival is thinking about all the films I did not have time to see because of conflicts with other films, panels, and parties.

Gus Reininger
Director of Corso
Photo by Eric Roffman

Corso is one of the films I most regret missing. The writer/director/producer, Gus Reininger, is an old friend from Wall Street that I haven't seen in decades, and the film -- about the last of the beat poets -- sounds fascinating. (Gus was co-creator of the NBC TV drama, Crime Story, and writer or producer of many other films and TV episodes; this is the first film he has directed.)

The Award winning films are worth catching when you can!

Golden Starfish Award for Best Narrative Feature: The Misfortunates, directed by Felix van Groeningen

Special Jury Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Actor: Paprika Steen,

Golden Starfish Award for Best Documentary: Long Distance Love, directed by Magnus Gertten and Elin Jonsson

Special Jury Award: Mugabe and the White African, Lucy Bailey & Andrew Thompson

Golden Starfish Award for Best Short: Dust Kid, directed by Jung Yumi

Best Film of Conflict & Resolution: Rabbit a la Berlin, directed by Bartek Konopka

Audience Award for Best Narrative Film: The Young Victoria, directed by Jean-Marc Vallee

Audience Award for Best Documentary: Waking Sleeping Beauty, directed by Don Hahn

Audience Award for Best Short: This is Her, directed by Katie Wolfe

Zicherman Foundation Award for Best Screenplay: Felix van Groeningen for The Misfortunates

Kodak Award for Best Cinematography: Ruben Impens for
The Misfortunates

Kanbar Indie Award: Antonio Campos for My Adventures in Ladies’ Undergarments

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Prize: Agora, directed by Alejandro Amenabar

Roc Skincare Gold Standard in Filmmaking Award for a feature female director: Cheryl Hines for Serious Moonlight

Wouter Barendrecht Award for Pioneering Vision: Big River Man, John Maringouin


Andrea Wozny
Producer/Director of To Timbuktu
Photo by Eric Roffman

Finally, one of the most important reasons filmmakers come to the Hamptons is not to show a film, nor to see a film, but to develop a film. One new producer, for example, is Andrea Wozny who was in the Hamptons to move her project along: It's To Timbukto, about a singer from Mali, and, like Sissako's Bamako, also touches on issues of the world's economic treatment of this African country.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009



Penelope Cruz in Almodovar's Broken Embraces
Spain, 2009; 128m
Photo: The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Sony Pictures Classics

Several mysteries, a few love stories -- some twisted, a tragedy, beautiful cinematography, and pitch perfect acting by the delightfully spectacular Penelope Cruz and the whole cast make Pedro Almadovar's Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos) a perfect closing film for the NYFF.

Related, in some of its philosophical concerns (including the deep and wonderful power of compulsion in love and life), to the opening night film, Alain Resnais’s Wild Grass (Les herbes folles), Broken Embraces has a better ending (as the ending of festival should have), plus great heart and great soul.

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Monday, October 05, 2009



One of my favorite features of the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) is the series of events centering around the Breakout Performers (BP's). Each year several young and very promising American and foreign actors are honored as Rising Stars (US) and Shooting Stars (EU).

The public events include films with these young actors, panel discussions and parties. (There are also private events for the BP's including "mentoring" with established professionals.)

The last two years and this coming year the honored
BP's have been really special. (I'm trying to track down who the earlier -- up thru 2006 -- BP's were.)

Here's a preview of this year's BP's... after we meet the BP's at the festival we'll add more to this story!

The Rising Stars this year are Emmy Rossum, Emma Stone, Rooney Mara, and Zach Gilford.

Emmy Rossum is 23 (9/12/86)and 5'8". She studied at Columbia University.She is a terrific singer, starting in the Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus as a child, and starring in Phantom of the Opera. She also had roles in Mystic River and The Day After Tomorrow. Her first starring role was in Nola, a film directed by Alan Hruska (who we interviewed after liking his film, The Warrior Class, one of my favorite films at the Tribeca FF a few years ago). Here's a picture of Alan in his office with a picture of Emmy in Nola on the wall.

Emmy Rossum in a poster for NOLA
on the wall of director Alan Hruska's office.
Photo by Eric Roffman.

This year she'll be seen at
HIFF in Dare (along with Zach Gilford and Rooney Mara).

Emma Stone is 20 (11/6/88) 5' 6". Her first feature was Superbad. She was funny as the host ghostess in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. She was also in The Rocker, The House Bunny, and Zombieland.

She'll be seen at
HIFF in Paper Man with Jeff Bridges. She has Easy-A (from the director of Fired Up) now in post production.

Zach Gilford is 27 (01/14/82). He went to Northwestern. He's a (real life) trip leader for teen adventures... but he's best known for his role as Matt Saracen in Friday Night Lights. (Last year, his teammate Tim Riggins (ie Taylor Kitsch) was a Shooting Star.) Zach is in post production now for The River Why.

Rooney Mara (about 24) is part of a famous football owning family, and the sister of Kate Mara who was a Shooting Star last year. She was educated partly at NYU and partly in a traveling program visiting South American countries, and is developing a non-profit organization related to international issues. Rooney is in two movies at HIFF, Dare and Tanner Hall. She has several pictures in post production or getting ready for release.

The Shooting Stars are Alba Rohrwacher (
Due partite -- Now called, in English, The Ladies Get Their Say) from Italy, and Cyron Melville (Love and Rage), from Denmark.

More about the present and former Breakout Performers after the festival.

NOTES: OCT 10 --

1 - HIFF calls them Breakthrough Performers, not Breakout Performers.
2 - Zach Gilford didn't make it because of Friday Night Lights shooting conflicts. Emma Stone did not arrive in time for the Panel.
3 - Samuli Vauramo, from Finland, one of Europe's Shooting Stars, did arrive, flying in from Rome for a day or two before going right back to Rome to continue shooting a film with George Clooney.

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